Sunday, December 30, 2007

Necessary Decompression





Christmas is always a busy time for most folks. Our family also celebrated a wedding. So after Midnight Mass, Christmas Tea, and lots of out of town guests...we had a wedding.

The bride and groom above are preparing for a ministry over in Africa this summer. We are all very excited for them!

But now that our holiday, celebrating the birth of Jesus, and wedding parties are over, we slept through church. We hadn't planned to. We all planned to get up and go in as usual on a Sunday morning.

Sometimes, your body just gives out. Sometimes you just have to listen inside to the sound of your own heart and the sluggish response of your system. That is why God gave us one day a week to pull out of the rat race. He knew way ahead of time that we couldn't keep going full speed without time to regroup.

As I lay on my pillow this morning, I realized I needed to honor the gift of my body. I needed to refuel just like my car. I was out of gas;-)

So today, I am letting myself sit and reflect on all the parties and events from the last week. I'm also looking ahead to the future. I'm doing it with a recognition that a new part of life has started for my son, his wife, and our family. Soon there will be grandchildren and our other kids will marry.

But for now, I get to decompress by reflecting on all that has happened in such a short time.

Take some time to reflect on your last week. That time allows your mind to file away everything that needs to be stored. Without reflection, you stay too wired emotionally. It's like leaving live wires exposed until they spark a fire. Emotional fires just aren't worth the damage.

Reflection allows decompression for your emotions. A very important factor for learning to rest. It's a great way to prevent an emotional flare up at a time when you want peace and love to surround your family.

So honor the gift God gave you. Get a little bit of private time to rest by reflecting.

Angie

Sunday, December 23, 2007

How do friends help you rest?



Today while Christmas shopping, a long time friend called to say she was in town. Man, was I excited! And tired! I was in the mall with my step-mom, had been all afternoon, when my friend called.

Both of us were getting pretty worn out and thirsty.

Janet happened to be visiting from out of state and stopped to eat at a restaurant in the mall. How cool is that?

Somehow, in seeing someone I missed, I walked out of the restaurant completely refreshed. My step was lighter, my heart felt giddy. I'd just had a couple of hours of respite from the rest of my stresses. In fact, there wasn't enough time to visit before she had to go on for all the others that wanted to see her. I felt so selfish wanting to keep her with me.

Even that little bit of time rested my mind. I'm so much more relaxed.

If you haven't taken time lately for your friends, find a way to work them into your schedule. Time may pressure you, but the load is lighter when you giggle and share life with someone who cares.

A great gift too, time. :-)

Angie
PS You can visit me over at http://godusesbrokenvessels.blogspot.com for my daily blog.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Relaxing into Laughter



Life is so busy for everyone these days. We run, run, run from one appointment to the next. We race to work, through work, and to all our errands after work. Then we rush through dinner and off to whatever activity or commitment we have that night.

I once was told that I had an addiction to adrenaline. Huh? Turns out I must have because I raced around so fast no one could keep up. I was constantly on auto speed mode. I worked full time plus extra shifts regularly. I thought I was just doing what had to be done.

After recognizing that work-a-holism isn't necessarily more productive, I had to decide how I wanted to live. I didn't want to spend all my time on work.

It became important to me to decompress. I didn't know how. I only knew one speed-ultra fast, full force. What could I do?

I also realized I hadn't laughed in an unknown amount of time. What happened to that happy, laughing girl I had once been?

I needed a richer life, not a busier life. Something I think others might need too.

Any change is hard. The best way isn't always cold turkey. Consider baby steps to learning how relaxation can fit into your life. For me, it was wishing I could laugh again. One step at a time. I began going to movies that I wanted to see. I literally snuck away from everything. I went by myself.

Alone? Go to a movie alone? Yep! For me, this is an awesome way to unwind. I don't have to worry about being heckled for tears at a sad spot or bugged if I hide my eyes. I don't worry about if someone else wants to see it. I also don't worry about how to fit anyone else's schedule around mine.

One of the most fun things I do now to relax is play hooky from everyone else! I love sneaking off to see some movie I want to see without anyone knowing. It's part of the fun:-)

I've learned one thing. I relax, laugh, and sometimes hilariously get caught by a friend or family member. When I do, I "swear" them to secrecy with a wink. Each time, the person has smiled and enjoyed joining in on my secret.

I'm sure there are a lot more people in my hometown that are "in" on my secret than are not by now, but I've learned that laughter is something I need to make sure is in my life. Going to a movie, my first baby-step, was a leap into a new me that I like a lot better. I am able to find new and more varied ways now, but it all started with a matinee.

Do you feel all tensed up? What about cramped shoulders and neck? How long since you've really laughed? Do you get accused of being too serious or working too much? Hmmm, is it time to consider some alternatives?

Try it, just once. Go to a movie YOU want to see. Go with the idea in mind that you are going to enjoy private time. (You don't need anyone else to enjoy private time) :-D
Angie

Please visit me over at my daily blog

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Spirit of Giving

I've never been famous, but I have had the opportunity to observe growing fortunes and draw some conclusions:

Wealth accentuates a person's weaknesses -- I know many say that money changes people, and that's true, but not to the degree that I think people believe it's true. But wealth does accentuate a person's core weakness: money is the tool that allows them to give in to their selfishness, misplaced ambitions, idiosyncrasies, (it also allows the opportunity to highlight their strengths…but who pays attention to that. ;0 ).

Which brings up point 2: Nobody cares what the poor man does. If he is condescending and rude we chalk it up to personality flaws and dismiss him, but it's hard to dismiss a wealthy person. By virtue of their fortune we give them our attention. Yet though they have our attention, our attitude toward them changes as their wealth increases. And this was the most surprising observation I made.

Point 3: The perceived wealth of one individual changed the attitude of the surrounding friends before it wrought change upon the wealth holder. The rich person's intimidating zip code ended friendships without any other instigation, his good suggestions were tolerated (whereas before they'd been eagerly considered), and the financial help offered was received with a sense of "entitlement". People were no longer as grateful for his kindness...because many believe that a gift from a wealthy person doesn't really cost the giver that much.

This last point is worth dwelling on as we enter the Christmas season: "For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."(Emphasis, mine.) And even though God owns the cattle on every hill, the gift of His son cost the Giver more than we will ever understand.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Christmas Tree Day




Today our family introduced our Japanese exchange son to the tradition of putting up the Christmas Tree. We went to an old tree farm here in town. Chose, cut, and brought home our chosen beauty.

It is really fun looking at our traditions through the eyes of someone who has no idea why we do them. Things we take for granted like is it always a pine you decorate or the simple act of hanging ornaments.

Having someone who doesn't know-and asks questions-really reminds us not only why we do things, but helps us examine our reasons for some of the traditions we do as a family.

The most restful time for me though, is sitting by the tree with all the house lights off and all the tree lights on. There is this sense of fullness, peace, and awe. For the next few weeks, I will find reasons to send everyone off to bed so I can sit by the shining tree all by myself.

I'll rest there, safe in the waiting of Advent. I'll ponder the future and past. I'll wonder what God has in store for me, my family, my friends. I'll anticipate, dream, set future hopes.

Advent-a time of anticipation. Anticipation is an excited waiting and expectation. The beauty of it is that you cannot DO anything, but wait. Slow down, anticipate, and hope with a sense of awe.

Somehow, that is a glorious way to rest in this rushing, racing, roaring world. Do you think that a few times this season, you could settle in to anticipate the Lord by your tree?

Twinkle little lights, imitate the sky, point my heart to the true hope of the world.

Angie
Visit me over at my daily blog too:-)

Friday, December 7, 2007

Wanna Play?

I'll give you the first line; you give me the title and author. Ready?

I'll start with the easiest one in the history of good first lines, but after that, I'm going to make you pay attention.

1. "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

Okay, now let's get serious! No more freebies!

2. "As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where there was a den, and laid me down in that place to sleep; and as I slept, I dreamed a dream."

3. "How dreadfully old I am getting! Sixteen! Well, I don't see as I can help it." 
(If you need help with this one, visit my blog. This is my favorite book. It's one of those books women should read once a year, and men should read to understand women.)

4. "Lee Chong's grocery, while not a model of neatness, was a miracle of supply."

5. "In an old house in Paris that was coved with vines,
Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines."

Bonus question: (If you get this one, I will give you serious kudos! I only know about five people who have actually heard of this book. But it was written by one of the greatest [and most famous] Christian writers of all time. Fell in love with it in high school.)

Bonus: "I am old now and have not much to fear from the anger of gods."

Have a great weekend thinking up your own history-making first lines. :)

Monday, December 3, 2007

What's Your Mission?

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On this Mission Impossible Monday, what are your thoughts centered on?
Do you have a mission?
Sometimes we get caught up in all the things we need to do, especially at this time of year.
Christmas cards, Christmas shopping, parties to go to, places to visit, people to see...it can get overwhelming.
Even more so if you're already struggling to get through hard circumstances, or just get through today.
I really treasure the verse 'I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.' Phillippians 4:11
I love the book of Phillippians - what encouraging words we have to hold to when things seem to be unraveling!
How wonderful that He didn't say we can do a couple of things, or some things. He tells us we can do ALL things!

As writers, we're often on an up and down course that sometimes seems never-ending. When rejections come,
it's hard not to be discouraged. When good news comes, we ride the waves with glee.
One thing I've learned over the years is perseverence. Don't give up! You have a dream, stick with it and follow
it wherever it leads you. But only if you know for sure it's God's dream for you too. If it's not His best, then I suspect
you may find it slipping out of reach. But if you keep your thoughts focussed on Him, I know you'll hear HIs voice and
be able to discern His will for you.
I pray today, whatever your mission is, you will give it over to God.
As we go into the Christmas season, remember the Reason.
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Jesus.
He came to us in the flesh. He came to set us free.
Through Him we can do ALL things.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Introducing Christy Barritt

I had the honor of being an influencer for Christy Barritt’s debut novel. I’d never been an influencer before and wasn’t sure what all it involved, but I did know it meant a free book. With a heroine who does cleaning jobs—okay, crime scene clean-up, but that’s pretty close—how could I resist? So I didn’t. Hazardous Duty, a chick lit mystery, was a really fun read (you can find a review on my website http://www.jennesswalker.com/ ), and Christy is an amazing writer. So, without further ado, let me introduce Christy Barritt.

JW: How did you get into writing?

CB: Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved stories. I’ve always had a great imagination and I spent a lot of time spinning tales. I remember writing my first “book” when I was in elementary school. It was about a turtle named Myrtle. In high school, I wrote my first complete novel! I continued pursuing my passion to write when I went to college and studied communications. After graduation, I got a job at a Christian publishing house. After working there three years, I left and began to work on my own writing again. I’ve been doing that ever since.

JW: A turtle named Myrtle? Now that sounds like a great read. Do you have a specific purpose for writing?

CB: Lately, it’s been impressed on me that I need to write in order to express truths. I’ve got a big heart for Christians who have been hurt by the church and I think my writing reflects that. I want to portray Christians honestly, so we can look at ourselves and realize the areas that need improvement. I also write to bring a sense of adventure and humor to those who read. Most of all, I write because I know that’s what God’s called me to do.

JW: Tell me about your writing space and routine. And how has having a child changed that routine?

CB: I wish I had some great and inspiring stories to tell you about my awesome writing space and routine. HOWEVER—my routine right now is mostly that I write on Tuesdays and Thursdays while my mother watches my 16-month-old, Eli. He’s banned from my cluttered little office, you see. At first, he just went through my drawers and disorganized them, pulled books off my shelf and gleeful poured dirt from my potted plant onto the carpet. The other day, however, he turned off my computer. The hard drive is on the floor and someone brilliantly designed it so that the “on” button lights up.

JW: Oh, no. Please say no…

CB: Well, little Eli just couldn’t resist. He pressed it. In doing so, I lost pages of work. Now, HE’S BANNED! I’m still trying to figure out how to balance writing with having a child. It’s challenging.

JW: I hear ya. It’s hard enough babysitting a dog who likes to poke his head in front of my screen and press mmmmmmmmmm. Okay, got a little carried away there. Challenging or not, you do a great job! Now, you do a lot of articles, novels, and non-fiction books. Do you have a favorite?

CB: Fiction is definitely my first love. I love the whole story world and creative process. Non-fiction helps to pay my bills, though!

JW: So how do you get the ideas for your stories?

CB: Everywhere! And honestly, one of the reasons I love writing for the newspaper is that I get so many “ideas” from the people I’ve interviewed (not directly, mind you). For instance, my next book (The Grim Sweeper) deals with an Elvis Tribute Artist. I got the idea after interviewing an Elvis impersonator for a story. When I saw how ga-ga some women were going over this man, I knew I had to use a fake Elvis in one of my stories. Usually, I have so many ideas that I don’t know what to do with them all. It’s hard to narrow them down. But somehow, I do. I usually pick the one that I can’t get out of my mind!

JW: I definitely hear you on that. So, Christy, you are one busy woman, but when you’re not writing, what are some of your favorite things? To do, to eat, whatever.

CB: My favorite things…I love singing and playing the guitar. I love musicals and dogs (I even have two!). I also love watching people and being a student of human behavior. My favorite thing in the whole world lately is just watching my son learn. It’s amazing! Really!

JW: My dad tried to teach me how to play the guitar. Those lessons went about as well as the stick shift lessons. I could give advice from that, but I’d rather hear some from you. Two bits of random advice—one writing-related and one not.

CB: Writing advice: Keep at it! Writing requires a lot of determination and perseverance. Use your setbacks to make you stronger. Rejection letters can often offer good advice to make you a better writer. Pushing ahead in seasons of dryness will strengthen your character. Learning the basics of the craft will make you more knowledgeable. One bit of non-writing related advice would be to enjoy the journey and not get distracted by whatever your end goal is. Life is short and we have to make the most of each day. I recently found myself in a situation where I’d taken on too much, and I was just miserable. All of the things I was doing would led me steps closer to where I wanted to be professionally, but it wasn’t worth it to feel so tired, lonely and overwhelmed.

JW: Thanks so much, Christy, for sharing with us. Folks, check out Hazardous Duty, a chick lit mystery that will keep you guessing…and laughing. And be watching for the sequel to be released from Kregel. I had a sneak peek at The Grim Sweeper, and it’s even better than its title. To learn more about Christy, check out her website at http://www.christybarritt.com/.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Revise Us, Oh Lord

Yes, I know it's supposed to be revive. And, since I haven't quite woken up yet, that one is pretty applicable, too. But since we all appear to still be on Thanksgiving vacation and in non-blogging mode, I'm just going to pose a question, even though it probably doesn't fit under the Wednesday Wonders or whatever heading. Ready?

I adore first drafts. The whole wonder (there we go; it fits under the heading now) of creating new characters, seeing how they'll interact, watching new words and new worlds appear on your computer screen...I love, love, love it. So many possibilities, then there's the rush as you finish, and typing The End feels so great.

I dread extensive revisions. I'll do them. I know they're necessary sometimes. But the temptation is strong to either put it off or scrap it altogether and start something new.

So what do you do to find the discipline and right mind-set to chop your baby to pieces and sew it back together, confident that the stitches won't show and it'll be more beautiful than ever when you're done? Do you have a certain method you follow? Or a quote you tattoo on the back of your hands so you can see it when you type? A prayer you chant? Do you not allow yourself to eat chocolate until the whole things over and sent far away?

Please share your thoughts. And if you're one of those who love the revisions stage...well, I can send you my baby, okay? :-) Maybe we could start an assembly line...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Call To Prayer

Yesterday, our pastor's home burned to the ground. His family (wife and four boys) are fine, but the house was a total loss. 


I can't stop thinking about the sweet and desperate hope we have fixed on heaven, about our status here on earth as pilgrims and strangers. Stuff suddenly seems much more like... stuff. And I suddenly seem like I'm holding on to it all much too tightly.


Please pray for this family to our God who is great, and good, and infinitely wise. Beg His comfort and grace for them, and the abundant meeting of their physical needs. Pray for the restoration of their family pictures and keepsakes. Pray that we would all see eternally, with eyes of faith.


"For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen." 
-Romans 11:36

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Flowering Tea





One of my favorite things to do for a moment of rest is to have a cup of tea. Every now and then, it helps to make it a special one.

The little glass teapot above has a special hand-sewn flowering tea. It's made with white tea leaves, chrysanthemums, and silk. As hot water is poured over the tea ball, the leaves slowly blossom into this beautiful floral arrangement.

I love to share this with someone because they always enjoy the tiny show. Then we always enjoy a really good pot of tea. I think it's important to find moments like this to savor. What better way than over a special flowering tea? It's a small miraculous moment of unexpected joy.

If I could offer you anything today, I would offer you moments of unexpected joy.

Angie

You can visit Angie's daily blog over at:
God Uses Broken Vessels

Friday, November 23, 2007

TWAS THE MORN AFTER THANKSGIVING

Twas the morn after Thanksgiving
and all through the house
not a child was stirring.
Not even my spouse.

I sat at the counter
and scanned through the ads
Hmmm. Did I dare?
Or was I raving mad?

I poured me some coffee
then wrote a quick list
the sales were too good--
I just couldn't resist!

I turned out the light
and slipped out the door
if I hurried, I'd make it
to Penneys by four.

When I got there, the lot
was already packed.
I was faced with the truth...
I really was quacked.

The people were pressed
at the entrance like rats
they pushed and they shoved,
grown-up-fourth-grade-brats.

There was nowhere to park
except miles away.
What on earth possessed me
to come shopping today?

Inside, no one greeted me
or gave me a smile,
clothes were strewn over
every visible aisle.

Employees were wide-eyed
and red-faced with stress
while shoppers grabbed items
like mad-men, obsessed.

I got stepped on and poked
as I pushed my way through
if I stayed in this lunacy
I'd leave black-and-blue!

I searched for the items
marked down on my list
NOT ONE was available?
I began to get pis--

But wait! One latte maker
sat alone on display.
YES! Maybe it would
be my lucky day!

I lunged and reached forward
took it right off the stand
and then someone snatched it
right out of my hand.

"OW!" A sharp elbow
jabbed the side of my head.
That's it! I turned on my heel
and I fled.

Well, as fast as I could
through that lunatic throng
I fought tears and pressed on.
I had to stay strong.

One hour later,
I burst through the doors
with nothing to show for my efforts
but sores.

As I slowly limped back through the lot
to my van,
I came up with another,
much safer, plan.

Back home, my family
still snoozed in their beds,
while visions of elbows
still danced through my head.

After popping some asprin,
I sat down in my chair
and fired up the computer
to do my shopping from there.

The morn after Thanksgiving
was supposed to be fun
but instead it turned out
to be a dangerous one.

So what about you?
Did you dare to go out?
Or did you opt for computer,
the much SAFER route?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving



Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here at Writers' Rest. For those of you who don't have a holiday tomorrow, we hope you have a wonderful day full of thanksgiving, too. We'll be back after the festivities.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The wonder of it all...

Nothing causes wonder in the heart of a woman than discovering she's pregnant! I experienced that joy (and anxiety!) last week. I'm 6 weeks along, and other than a few mood swings and aches, am feeling wonderful! There is much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving season. =)
Psalm 139:13
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.

Already, I'm in awe of what God is doing inside me. There are moments of fear, of course, and moments of "oh my goodness, how in the world am I going to carry this baby to term and then raise it for the rest of its life?!?" but everyone assures me that's normal!

The most amazing and awe-inspiring part so far has been feeling the presence of Jesus stronger than I've felt in a long time. In the moments of stress, or pain, or fear, He is there. In the moments of peace, confidence, and trust, He is there. In the moments of sickness, of sleeplessness, of frustration, He is there. Anytime I allow worry to gain a foothold, I hear the voice of my Saviour clearly saying "It's okay. I've got this." And He does!

Even typing this I can't help but cry! Its been quite a journey already, and geez, I have 7+ months to go! =)

This holiday season, what brings you in awe of our Saviour? What is He doing in your life that makes your knees tremble and your spirit soar and your heart practically want to burst with praise and thanksgiving? What is He doing in your writing? For me, its been an adventure already, because my concentration is just GONE! I'm learning discipline with my writing and my word count goals, but I'm also learning grace and learning how to ease up on myself! What is He teaching you today?

This Thanksgiving, don't just focus on the turkey and the pumpkin pie and all those tasty treats (oh but by all means, dig in!) but also take the time to FEEL. To PRAISE. To WORSHIP.

To be in awe.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

We have a winner!

We had ten people enter to win and my little guy drew the winning number out.

Mrs. Ranch is the winner! Congratulations!

Email us here at Writers' Rest: awritersrest (at) gmail (dot) com with your email address and we'll pass your information on to Mary DeMuth.

Please contact us by Monday to claim your prize, or we'll have to draw another winner. Thank you.

Thank you to everyone who participated. If you are interested in the 50 page tutorial, you can find it on Mary DeMuth's website. It's a great price for what's bound to be an excellent resource.

Monday, November 19, 2007

"Every Good Thing...

...and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights." James 1:17

Top ten things I'm thankful for right now, in random order:

1) The kissable curve of my son's cheek. I'm addicted.

2) Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves- they are the color, flavor and scent of fall. (Have you ever gotten the dust of spices on your hands and rubbed it between your fingers? They feel luxuriant - heavier than their weight. I can see why past civilizations traded spice as currency.)

3) God's favor- given without regard to desert, given wholly. I am the woman reaching out to touch the hem of his garment, desperate for mercy.

4) Nat King Cole- the Christmas Song album- audible chocolate.

5) The shape of trees when all the leaves fall off.

6) Imagination- the incubator of compassion and wonder. The furnace of curiosity. (Thank you, Father, for sharing Your imagination!)

7) The sparkle in my daughter's dark eyes when we make up stories together.

8) Thanksgiving leftovers.

9) God's gentle intervention in my short-sighted plans. He reminds me that He is wise and good, and He has eternal ends in mind.

10) Books, of course. Books, books, books. We are lavishly rich with them!

What about you??

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I took a break today


Did you?

Today is the day for rest. Yes, there are things to do all day, every day. But did you carve out a little time to rest today? Rest your mind, your body, your emotions?

I made myself a latte with sugar-free peppermint/chocolate syrups. Sat down and finished a really cute book called, Hollywood Nobody. I'm reviewing it. (Loved it.)

What I loved? Sitting down to thoroughly enjoy a hot drink on a cold day with a good book. I think you should try it too sometimes. When it's all cloudy and wet or snowing out, it's the perfect day for a hot drink and a good book! (That photo above is my hometown on a rainy day.)

What other ideas would you like to share about resting your mind, body, and emotions?

Post away:-D

Angie
Visit me daily over at God Uses Broken Vessels

or you can always contact me through www.angelabreidenbach.com

Friday, November 16, 2007

Creativity Breeds Creativity

Does writing weigh you down at times? Maybe you're wrestling with the critic inside and you're losing. Maybe you've edited until your eyes are crossed and you fear it may be a permanent situation. Or maybe you've had deadlines breathing down your neck until you resemble the hunchback.

It may be time to recharge the creative battery. Step back from your work and give yourself permission to seek out a different outlet. Paint a picture. Make a card. Bead a necklace. Bake a pie. Color in a coloring book.

What you create doesn't matter and neither does the final project. Give yourself permission to experiment and play. Step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Touch your senses with colors, textures, smells, tastes and sounds.

When you come back to your work, you will have a fresh perspective and your sensory feast will reflect in your writing.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Introducing Donna Fleisher

I have a very special interview today. Not because I’m such a great interviewer, but because it’s with Donna Fleisher. During these next couple weeks, we thought we’d thank the mentors and cheerleaders who have supported this community of writers during our writing journeys. And this amazing lady has been both a mentor and a cheerleader to me. She edited my first novel, taught me a LOT, and has been a cheerleader ever since—although I believe she prefers jeans to the teeny-tiny skirt…



On that note, let me introduce Donna Fleisher.

JW: Before we get into your whole writing career and life story, I have a question of utmost important to ask you. Who is your favorite—Hoops or Yoyo?

DF: I don’t even know which is which, but I don’t think they one would be near as funny without the other. They seem to feed off each other. Actually, I think Hoops is the more dominant one. Which probably means I like Yoyo better.

JW: Rooting for the underdog, eh? That sounds like you. (Side note: If you don’t know who Hoops and Yoyo are, you are very deprived. Contact me, and I’ll send you an e-card.)

JW: Next question is the standard one. How did you get into writing? Did you always want to be a writer, or did it just kind of come like a little light bulb on that brilliant head of yours?



DF: I didn’t always want to be a writer. I never even considered writing until 1996. Suddenly I realized a few things: First, I need to read. Second, no novel out there will satisfy my unbelievably picky, pathetically narrow, absurdly demanding taste. Third, if I want to read a novel that will satisfy my taste, I need to write it. Fourth, if I don't write it, I'll burst. Fifth, what bad thing would happen if I gave it a try? I mean, would the sky fall? Would the ocean dry up and blow away? Would life as the world knew it grind to a halt just because this bored aired-out little Christian girl living by the beach wanted to write a novel? This was my main thought: It'll be fun!!!! Oh, man, I had no idea.



JW: And for the rest of her amazing writing story, check out The Entire Adventure on her blog at http://www.donnafleisher.com/. Because this woman’s long-winded and I ain’t gonna post the entire 500 or so pages here. Instead, why don’t you tell me about the latest project you’re working on.

DF: The latest project I've completed is a six-hour course on either CD or cassette on "Bringing Fiction to Life: On writing powerful Christian fiction." I'm so jazzed about it, cuz it'll make my job as freelance editor soooo much easier. And I can (hopefully) sell it on-line and at conferences and such.

JW: Speaking of editing…I heard you're taking down your writing shingle for now and replacing it with a bigger one for your editing business. Any comments?

DW: Yep, you've heard right. For now the writing shingle is tucked away in my attic. Well, actually, it isn't, cuz I don't have an attic. Let's just say it's safely in storage. When (probably not if) that time comes when another story idea starts to work inside me (sorta like a bean burrito would ... no, actually, not like that at all), I'll be ready to pull that shingle back out of storage and let it fly once more. (Do shingles fly?) Until then, I'm totally excited about the opportunity to work with new novelists. There seems to be oodles of them out there.

JW: Well, if I could, I’d send them all your way. Everyone, she does a fantastic job. There. I put a plug in for ya. Maybe that means you’ll send me your newest book. LOL. Speaking of Standing Strong, this is the last book in the Homeland Heroes. You couldn’t decide which character was your favorite. Do you have a favorite book in the series?

DW: Ouch! Do I really have to choose? Well, okay...Warrior's Heart. That one was my problem child. So to speak. But it came together and I think it worked. No, actually, I'd have to say Wounded Healer,cuz that's the one that I brooded over for so long. (Thanks to Nick Harrison for the b-word.) Well, no, probably not Wounded Healer, cuz Valiant Hope was a special book to write, especially when Margaret Becker allowed me to use her amazing song "Who Am I?" at the end. But, then again, Standing Strong does wrap everything up, and I am fond of the epilogue at the end. So I'd have to say...I can't decide. Sorry, lady.

JW: Well, we tried. How about some easier favorites? Food, hobby, book, verse…whatever.

DF: Ahh, let's see. Food? Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and Skippers. And whatever my brother is grilling at the time. Hobby? Beachcombing, especially for sand dollars. Author? Camy Tang. Susie Larson. Book? Okay, I'm helpless. I don't read enough to have a favorite. If I could be totally honest without coming across as pious ... I'd say the book of Hebrews. That's one book I could read over and over. Growing up, my favorite book was the Sears Christmas Wishbook.

JW: Ha! Me, too. Here’s my last question: Give us some random advice. Writing-related and otherwise.

DF: Bits of random advice. Hmm. Writing related: As you're typing, make sure the Insert button hasn't been pushed. In other words, try not to delete what you've previously written with every keystroke of new material you're typing in. Hey, been there, done that. And it ain't pretty. Not writing related: Take time for a walk on the beach. Let the sand squish up between your toes. Breathe deep of the lush, fresh, ocean breezes.

JW: Thanks, Donna, for sharing. And thank you for all you’ve taught me, for your encouragement and humor and example. And most of all, for your friendship. I am so thankful that our paths have crossed. Hopefully someday they’ll cross in person.

To learn more about Donna or to contact her (for her editing services!!), check out her website at http://www.donnafleisher.com/. She is the author of the Homeland Heroes series: Wounded Healer, Warrior’s Heart, Valiant Hope, and just released, Standing Strong.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

7 Wonders of my Writing World

Okay, so there are more than 7 wonders in a writer's world. But, using the letters in WONDERS, I'll give you seven that are most definitely part of MY writing world on this Wednesday.

W - WORDS - Duh, right? Words are definitely a huge part of my writing world. Without them, I would be out of this world...groan... But, you know? We writers LOVE words. Play on words, word phrasing, definition, crossword puzzles, word searches, Text Twist, Letter Linker, Book Worm (yes, I am a Gamehouse.com junkie!). But I suppose that because words are so much a part of my life, I'd better love them.

More importantly, I love to dig into THE WORD, which gives me strength, encouragement and hope every day - particularly on those difficult days when I wonder if I should banish words altogether from my world.

O - ORIGINALITY - This basically translates into creativity. Is my writing fresh and original? Or does it feel stale and blah? Story formulas may have the same components but am I adding them to the mix in a way that's not been done before? Or does my story sound a little too much like the author's I read last week? Creative ideas are everywhere. This is my absolute favorite part of my writing world.

N - NETWORKING - Let's face it; in today's world, writers need to network. Personally, I think it's fun! Introducing myself to other authors, commenting on agent's and editor's blogs, joining groups and loops, getting my name out there so when my book does come out, people will say, "I've heard that name before!" And guess what? You may not realize it, but I'm networking right now. hee hee...sometimes you've got to be sneaky about these things...

D - DISCIPLINE - I may love words, but this is my least favorite one. Probably because I am so NOT. Forcing myself to sit in a chair and just write is painful for me. Once I'm there, I'm fine. Time slips away and I crank out those pages. But getting there...that's the biggie. Especially when I'm taunted by laundry, emails, blogs, computer games and reality TV. So I may have to work extra hard to keep discipline a part of my writing world, but it'll be worth the effort.

E - EDITS - Sigh. What would my writing life be without edits? Um...one big mess of grammatical errors and plot holes? Pretty much. Not to mention my published writing life would be non-existent. Yes, editing is a part of the writing life, like it or not. But what a feeling when you see the results of those changes. It's like taking a wrinkled shirt from the dryer and running a hot iron over it. Presto! The haphazardness has been transformed into sleek and put-together. I wouldn't wear a wrinkled shirt any more than I would send out a non-edited piece of work.

Okay...I better stop here. All this talk about ironing is bringing on thoughts of attacking that huge pile in my laundry room. And we all know about my battle with discipline...

R - RESEARCH - My second least favorite word. Some authors love research but I'm not one of them. I'd rather stick with the creative part of writing. But that isn't realistic. Even in the most fluffy of fiction, there is bound to be some research required. In my current WIP, I have done research on South Haven, Michigan, music of the eighties, civil suits, day spas, and much more. If I want my readers to believe what I'm telling them, I'll need to do the research. There's no way around it. Bleh.

S - SLEEP - Sleeping on the job? I see those fingers wagging. But it's true! I find I do my best writing when I'm well-rested and refreshed. I get up very early (before 4:00 this morning) and do my best writing then. If I try to come up with something when I'm tired and irritable, frankly, my work stinks. And then I have to go back to the edit part of my world a little more frequently. The more polished my work is up front, the less time I'll need to spend on editing, and the faster my book will be on its way to that agent.

Sometimes my manuscript could also use some sleep. Setting it aside for a few days is often the wisest thing to do. Or sometimes putting it to sleep is even better. Some things I've written were born for the shredder or a dark and lonely file drawer. Shudder.

So what about you? What words would you use to describe your writing life?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Non-Fiction Book Proposals, Mary DeMuth, and A Contest!

Do I have your attention? Good.
Our friend Mary DeMuth has some great advice on writing that non-fiction book proposal, and you can even get it free! Just leave your name in a comment on this post from today until next Monday. Then we'll draw the names and announce the winner on Tuesday!
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Nonfiction Book Proposals that Grab an Editor or an Agent by the throat (in a good way)! Have you been languishing in the frustrating land of nonfiction proposals? Don't know where to go next? In this fifty-page tutorial, Mary walks you through two proposals and empowers you to write one that sells. Terry Glaspey, Director of Acquisitions and Development for Harvest House Publishers says this about Mary's proposals: "Mary knows how to write a proposal that gets an editor's attention: well-organized, persuasive, and with the information I need to make a decision." Interested? Cost is $10 bucks.

Are you ready to write a nonfiction proposal
that grabs attention?

First things first: You need to know a few things before you start.

1. Know your passion. I’ve alluded to this earlier. A good book proposal emerges from a passionate idea. Examine yourself. Think about the topics you get passionate about when you talk to folks. Talk to others who know you well. Share your book idea and see if they catch your passion for it. It’s a huge undertaking to write a proposal, so be sure you have the passion to carry an entire book.
2. Know your book. What genre is your book? Where it would be shelved in a bookstore? How well do you know what the book will be about? Do you have access to good research, great interviews? How unique is your book? Will a pub board find it unique?
3. Know your immediate audience. The first audience of your proposal is actually the agent or publisher you’re querying. Find out everything you can about the agent or publisher. Do they specialize in the genre you’re writing? Do they take new authors? How many? Have you attended a writer’s conference and spoken directly to the editor or agent? What kinds of books are they looking for? Purchasing a market guide is a great first step. Analyzing books already represented or published is another great step. (If an agent already represents three mom authors, chances are he/she won’t want to take on another mom author.)
4. Know the bookselling industry. Do you know what is selling in the industry? What has oversold? What trends are up and coming? Go to bookstores and walk the aisles, sign up for newsletters and updates from the publishing industry, go to conferences, talk to booksellers. It’s absolutely imperative that you know what you’re getting into before you embark on this journey.
5. Know yourself. Writing a proposal is the first step in a very long journey. Do you have what it takes to count the cost of bringing a book to fruition? Can you take constructive criticism? Do you have the time it takes to not only write the book, but to edit it in a timely manner and promote it when it releases? Do you have a critique group to support and help you through the process? Author Jan Winebrenner says publishing a book “is like giving birth to an elephant—only more painful.” Are you ready for that?

Excerpted from Nonfiction Book Proposals that Grab and Editor or an Agent by the Throat (in a good way!) by Mary E. DeMuth. You can purchase the download here: http://www.maryedemuth.com/store.php

Mary E. DeMuth helps people to turn their trials into triumphs. An expert in Pioneer Parenting, Mary enables Christian parents to navigate our changing culture when their families left no good faith examples to follow. Her parenting books include Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture (Harvest House, 2007), Building the Christian Family You Never Had (WaterBrook, 2006), and Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God (Harvest House, 2005). Mary also inspires people to face their trials through her real-to-life novels, including Watching the Tree Limbs (nominated for a Christy Award) and Wishing on Dandelions (NavPress, 2006). A pioneer parent herself, Mary and her husband, Patrick, reside in Texas with their three children. They recently returned from breaking new spiritual ground in Southern France, where they planted a church. You can find her on the web here:

www.marydemuth.com
www.relevantblog.blogspot.com
www.pioneerparenting.blogspot.com

COMMENTS ARE CLOSED. WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED TOMORROW (TUESDAY)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mission Impossible Monday: Standing still

One of my favorite Old Testament stories is about Moses and the Israelites when they’ve just left Egypt. They’d only been gone a short time when God directed Moses to turn back and camp by the Red Sea. God planned to harden Pharaoh’s heart and have him send armies to pursue the Israelites – not so the Israelites could be destroyed, but so they could see God perform a miracle and so the Egyptians would see that He was Lord.

Moses did as he was told, and God took the plan from there. Pharaoh sent all his horses, horsemen and troops to overtake the Israelites. The Israelites were stuck between Pharaoh’s army and the sea – and neither option looked good. They immediately began to whine at Moses, demanding to know why he’d brought them out into the desert to die and claiming they had wanted to stay in Egypt as slaves. “It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” they cried (Exodus 14:12b).

Then Moses gave an incredible answer: “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:13-14).

What happened next? God told Moses to hold his staff out over the sea, so Moses did. The Lord drove the sea back with a mighty wind and dried the ground so the Israelites could cross in safety.

Not exactly the answer the people had expected, but it sure did work! And God definitely showed everyone exactly Who He was and what kind of power He had.

I wonder how hard it was for the Israelites to stand there, watching Pharaoh’s army bear down upon them and wondering what in the world was going to happen next. Did they have enough trust in Moses yet to believe the message he passed on, or did they still tremble in their sandals? Then when the wind came and the sea parted, did they nearly collapse in shock, or did they jump for joy? And how did it feel to walk through two tremendous walls of water that you knew were only being held in place because of God’s hand?

Lots of questions, and lots of lessons to be learned. But how does it all relate to writing? In quite a few ways, when I’m honest with myself.

I write because I believe God has called me to, just as He called the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. It looks like a grand thing and I’m excited about doing it, but sometimes my excitement can get in the way. I want to plot and plan and whip out things to submit. I love an idea and can hardly wait to put in on paper and share it with someone. I hope and pray for acceptance instead of rejection, and do whatever I can to “help” the process along.

But maybe that’s not my job sometimes. Maybe my job is to listen for God’s voice and just stand still. Stop worrying about plot points or character bios or how to write for a particular publisher. Stop wondering if I’ll ever need an agent and who that person might be. Stop trying to plan it all myself. Wait for God to take over.

Of course, sometimes I fall to the other extreme, and want to stop when God wants me to go on. I get discouraged when someone rejects an article or query, or when a reader gives me comments that aren’t what I’d hoped for. I let writer’s block get the best of me or let other things take away my writing time.

For whatever reason I find myself there, I need to turn away from the army that’s bearing down and look at the open, dry ground instead. I need to remember that if God has called me to this, then it is my job to follow His direction and do the best I can with the gifts He has given me. No matter how many rejections or disappointments I might face, God has laid out a path for me to follow – straight through the seemingly impossible obstacles and on to the version of the Promised Land He has for me.

I don’t know exactly what’s there or when I’ll arrive, other than it will be just the way God wants it. The God who has the power to move heaven and earth is the same God who will see me through. I just have to be still – and then follow.

What kinds of writing obstacles are in your way this week? Are you stuck between the army and the sea, wondering what to do or which way God wants you to go? We’re here to encourage and uplift each other, and consider it a privilege to pray for each other. Share your requests with us in the comments section, and know you’ll be in our prayers this week.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Rest Is Fascination




I went to Virginia City, MT this summer several times to see my son perform with the Virginia City Players. I found myself completely fascinated with the town and all the restoration happening.

All the buildings have been "rescued" from other spots around Montana in order to preserve the Old West history of the state.
Walking around the picturesque area spurred idea after idea for books, stories, and fun mental meanderings.



I realized that I'd walked miles and miles over the weekend and never once felt tired. I lost track of time and place. It was rest based on fascination of the old buildings, the people who'd once lived in them, and the laughter at the shows.

I thoroughly enjoyed exploring this little corner of Montana.

What fascinates you so much that you don't feel the passage of time or effort?

May God bless you with curiousity and fascination,

Angie
PS Please come visit my personal blog over at:
http://godusesbrokenvessels.blogspot.com

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Being Thankful...

I know we're supposed to lighten up on the weekends, but I just wanted to take the opportunity to say how very thankful I am for my children.
On Fridays I volunteer down at Bermuda Riding for the Disabled. Yesterday, one of our little girls had a seizure. We had to call 911 and it was pretty scary for a moment. She was okay, but as her mom pulled up and raced out of the car, I caught her look of sheer terror. I can't imagine what that feels like.
I've been so blessed to have healthy children. The struggles we've faced have been minor compared to what the parents of this little girl and others like her have to cope with on a daily basis.
And I know this is a writing blog, but many of us writers have children, so it's all related, right?
Anyway, on to my children... I have two. My daughter is almost eighteen and she's in college, and I miss her terribly! My son is fourteen and is here at home.
I've truly been blessed. Raising children is NOT easy. Those of you who are parents know what I'm talking about. Those of you thinking about becoming parents...trust me, you have no idea what you're in for.

Looking back, I can now remember the sleepless nights, temper tantrums, shouting matches and enforced time outs with a smile.
We're not done yet - fourteen year-olds are still a handful! But we've come a long way from the day we brought our babies home from the hospital.
Oh, I thought I was going to be the best mother in the world. Really, I did. It was going to be a piece of cake!
Uh huh.
However, with eighteen years of experience under my belt here's what I've learned:

There is no such thing as a diaper that does not smell.
There is actually NOT a written rule that says Husbands are not allowed to change diapers.
Sleep is overrated.
Children really do have a variety of cries. A tired cry, a hungry cry, a sick cry, a HELP! cry, and the cry that means absolutely nothing - they're doing it just to annoy you. (This usually happens in church, the grocery store and the mall. Oh, and at your in-laws house).
The world will not stop revolving if I say NO.
My child will not die if I say NO.
Never utter a threat you cannot or do not intend to follow through with, such as - "You're grounded forever!"
Grandparents have it way too easy and enjoy watching you suffer.
Washable markers are not washable.
Vomit stinks. I don't care who it comes from. It stinks. Always has, always will.
The best feeling in the world is my child's hug.
The best sound in the world - "I love you, Mommy."
If someone hurts my child, all reason and manner of rational thinking cease to exist.
My children are not perfect.
My parenting skills are not perfect.
Teenagers are your parents revenge.
I cannot protect my children from the world, but I can teach them how to live in it.
Prayer is the most powerful weapon I have to protect my children with.
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
So can my children.

Lord Jesus, I'm so thankful for the precious gift of healthy and happy children. I pray for all the moms and dads out
there who struggle, and I rejoice with them because they are not alone. You are there, Father, helping us every step of
the way. After all, our children are not really ours, they're Yours.
Protect them from evil, bless them with joy, and reveal Yourself to them in Your time.

Amen. Happy Saturday. Go give your kids a hug and tell them how much you love them.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Re-con Mission

I'm composting right now. Percolating. Tilling. Whatever you want to call it. Sorting through pages (and pages and pages) of notes from four years of keeping this project in the back of my mind. Now it's finally time to write the thing, and I'm overwhelmed by all the threads I'm trying to pull together. Not to mention notebooks.

Do you have any idea how many different notebooks I have to jot down ideas in? A little one for my handbag, one for my backpack, one (or six) by the bed, one under the couch, and a journal in the car. Keep in mind most of these are half-empty, randomly jotted with . . .whatever. The notebook are populated with mental riffraff, all trying to bring down the "Establishment"through sheer disorganization. If these notebooks are any indication of what's going on inside my brain, we're all in trouble. I have to go back through them and drag in for questioning all the rebels that may have info on my current WIP. So far they have tried to confuse me with conflicting plot points, character motivations and bits of scene that have no home. (I'd love to hear your composting stories. What do you all do in the pre-writing stage?)

I'm having fun, though. I'm turning into quite the interrogator.

The surprising thing was, interspersed throughout my recalcitrant ramblings, I found these little gems gathered from people I really need to be listening to. So here it is, the point of my post:

It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, but why he does it. -A.W. Tozer

What makes one story more "finished"--more "real" and "alive"-- than another is not a matter of adjectives per sentence, it is the accuracy and relevance of whatever description you do use.
-Monica Wood (Description)

The stories that astonish us, the characters that live forever in our memories--those are the result of rich imagination, perceptive observation, rigorous interrogation, and careful decision-making. When it comes to storytelling, invention is the mother of astonishment, delight and truth. -Orson Scott Card (Characters & Viewpoint)

When we see a natural style, we are quite amazed and delighted, because we expected to see an author and find a man. -Blaise Pascal

...What (we remember) would turn out itself to be a remembering. The books or the music in which we though the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things--the beauty, the memory of our own past--are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. -C.S. Lewis (The Weight of Glory)

Feel free to share more wisdom in the comments section. I have plenty of room in my notebooks. :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Add this book under your tree!!

BOO, HUMBUG!



Summary:

Readers have come to love the eccentric characters from Skary, Indiana, in Rene Gutteridge’s popular Boo! series. Now, in Boo, Humbug! they’re back – and they’re stirring up a large amount of holiday havoc!It’s Christmastime in Skary, and the town is planning an original production of A Christmas Carol with a horror spin.

As showtime approaches, things go very awry for director Lois Stepaphanopolis. She panics when she discovers that her marketing director loathes Christmas and that the audience has been promised not Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but the real Christmas story. Can the actors pull off the improv of all improvs and convince their community to embrace the true meaning of the Christmas season? Boo, Humbug! offers readers a delightful glimpse into small town, community life with heartwarming humor and winsome characters. And in the end, the true meaning of Christmas shines out bright and clear, in a decidedly un-Skary way.

My review: When I first saw that Boo, Humbug! was coming out, I screamed. Literally. Rene's BOO series are one of my favorite series of all time. Not only is Rene a talented author, she's hilarious! Rene brings romantic comedy to an entirely new level of fun. The townsmembers of Skary will live in your heart long after you close the book. They're fresh, real, vibrant...I feel honored to have been a short part of their lives! =)

Boo, Humbug!
was charmingly witty and the perfect wrap-up to a delightful series. I read this book in one evening while curled up on the couch with a blanket, a Diet Coke, and a whole warm case of Christmas fuzzies. If you haven't met Wolfe, Ainsley, Melb, Oliver, Marty, and the whole gang - what in Skary are you waiting for??? =)




Even better - take it a step further, and grace someone's Christmas tree with a whole pile of BOO books...Boo, Boo Who, Boo Hiss, and now, finally - Boo, Humbug!







Author Bio:

Rene Gutteridge is the author of 10 novels, including the Boo series, the Storm series, The Occupational Hazards series and My Life as a Doormat, a Women of Faith selection for 2006. She has been published over 30 times as a playwright, and holds a degree in screenwriting, graduating magna cum laude from Oklahoma State University . Rene is married to Sean, a musician, and they have two young children. They make their home in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma .

To purchase your own copy of holiday fun, click here!

Or better yet, I'm doing a giveaway of THREE copies of this fantastic story! To enter the drawing, simply leave a comment on this blog or on the same review blog on http://www.betsy-ann.blogspot.com/ with your favorite Christmas tradition!



*Drawing will be held Friday, November 9th.*

Wednesday Wonders ... aware of the Lord

Genesis chapter 28 tells of Jacob leaving his family to travel to Paddan Aram in search of a wife. One night during that journey, he dreamed of a staircase resting on earth and stretching up to heaven, with angels ascending and descending on it. The Lord stood above the staircase, and spoke to Jacob: He confirmed that He was the God of Abraham and Isaac and that He would go with Jacob and watch over him. “I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you,” God said (Genesis 28:15b).

The next verse says that when Jacob awoke, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”

How many times are we the same way? I’m often guilty of zooming through my days without paying as close attention to things as I should. I’m too worried about getting the kids on the bus ... running all my errands ... figuring out a way past writer’s block ... knocking out a deadline.

So today, for Wednesday Wonders, let’s look beneath the surface. In what ways is God around you, even when you’re not aware of it?

Here are a few from my corner of the world:

-- The leaves on the maple trees in our neighborhood as they change from green to goldish to flaming red

-- When my children wake up on their own in happy moods instead of grumpy because I’ve had to pull them from sweet dreams

-- The breeze that whispers against my face

-- The increase in my productivity when I ask Him to guide my writing

-- That extra ounce of patience that miraculously surfaces when I’m at the end of my rope

-- The song on the radio that has exactly the message I need to hear

God is all around us every day, in big and small ways. Take time to look for Him in places you might not ordinarily think of Him being – and you’ll find Him there.


Thank you, Lord, for blessing us with your presence even when we don’t realize it. Open our eyes and hearts in new ways to see you all around us – wherever we are and whatever we’re doing. Help us be aware of your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Time to Win...A Time to be Humbled

Let's face it: when we enter a contest, we're in it to win. And when we final, or actually win, we can't wait to tell the world how God has once again confirmed our calling in life. Because...hello... winning a writing contest is definitely confirmation that God wants us to write.

But wait a minute.

What about those who don't win? Or don't final? Are they receiving confirmation too? Confirmation from God that they should throw in the towel, send their WIP's to the recycle bin and sell their ninety-four writing reference books on eBay?

I don't think so.

And I'm not just saying that because I just found out I placed fourth out of four finalists in a recent chick lit contest. Trust me - for about an hour after I got the news, I seriously considered the aforementioned options. I honestly thought I had a chance at taking first place. And when I learned I didn't, I was devastated.

But, as a few beloved friends reminded me, contests are subjective. And judges are human too (which I was really relieved to hear because if a four-legged animal scored my entry dead last, it may just have pushed me over the edge).

After entertaining thoughts of quitting for good, I have decided to keep plugging away at my manuscript. For two reasons.

One: I like the story. Yes, it needs work. It needs revision. But I like my style and my voice. I really think it has a place...somewhere...in Christian publishing. In fact, the judging agent requested the full manuscript (which brings me to a whole other topic of WAY differing opinions from two judges reading the same manuscript. That's for another day). But I am trying to keep reminding myself that there are other people besides my mom and me who really do like my story.

Two: God wants me to. And I don't say that glibly. I truly believe writing is one of my callings in life and I am determined to follow it. Regardless of how my manuscript placed in this contest. (And in case you're wondering, yes, I really am thankful I finalled at all, even though it doesn't seem like it at the moment).

The thing I'm taking away from this experience is not only a tougher skin - which is mandatory in this business. I'm also developing a more tender heart. Tender to what God is trying to teach me. Maybe it's something technical about my writing itself. Maybe it's just to simply trust that He knows what's best for me. And winning wouldn't be it this time.

There is a time to win and a time to be humbled. And neither affects our God-given purpose.

Yes, winning would have been nice. But God has a purpose for my writing, regardless. And my heart confirms it.

So what about you? Has winning (or not winning) a contest changed your perspective? If you came in dead last, would you still believe God has a purpose for your writing or would you be tempted to give up on your dream?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Mission Impossible - When the story just won't end...

I'm just now coming up for air on the other side of a huge revision project. My agent suggested some changes that I immediately agreed would make my suspense story stronger. I set myself a deadline and got to work...

What day is it, again? J/k. =P

At first, I found it difficult to find the balance needed between disciplining myself to work and meeting my goals, and at the same time keeping myself distant enough from it to enjoy life in the meantime! For example, one Saturday I couldn't decide if I would attend my friend's family fall party as I had the past several years in a row because of these revisions. I hemmed and hawwed and finally decided to keep my commitment to my friend. I worked on the revisions that morning, and went with her in the afternoon. The time away from my computer was very refreshing and the time with my friend priceless. The next day I was fresh and ready to start again!

So it was a bit of a struggle, and a seemingly endless project. Incorporating one idea inspired another, which brought to mind a NEW motivation and a NEW conflict and a NEW layer...and on and on it went until I was afraid this MS would be 1,000,000 words!

But this past week, as I continued to make change after change, and "played dominos with my WIP" (you know, because one scene-change affects another which affects another, like a domino effect?) I realized that I was making it much harder than it needed to be. Yes, discipline was necessary and without it, I would have never met my goals as I did. But instead of locking myself in my office and denying all forms of Diet Coke until I reached a certain word count, I branched out a little.

For instance, one recent afternoon I went with my husband, sister, and my parents to the zoo in a Texas town about 2 hours away. My sweet father brought along his lap top, so guess who revised during the drive there and back? =) I found I was able participate in the family fun and jokes in the car, as well as make progress on my chapters.

Better yet, the change of scenery really inspired my creativity!

So don't make your mission more impossible than it needs to be! If you find yourself facing a huge project or deadline (from yourself or from someone else!) set goals, but don't forget to also set time to play. Reward yourself, but don't deny yourself. Try something new if you get stuck and see if that unlocks the gate of creativity!

And just remember, NOTHING is impossible with our Lord. No deadline, no revision, no story that seems to never end is too difficult for our God to help us with. He's there, waiting to guide us and give us the right words if we simply remember to ask.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Rest Is Play

I love the idea that rest is play. Laughter is playful rest. It relaxes you, rejuvinates you, and lowers all the stress triggers.

I watch funny movies, go hiking, play games with my family. I'll also go to live theater, read a book, or do synchronized swimming. Okay, I have to admit that blogging is play for me too, lol. Recently, my kids taught me how to folf. (Up in Montana, there are several mountain frisbie golf courses. We call it folfing.)



Have you tried archery? It's amazing for creating a single-minded focus. It's me and the bullseye. I can't think of anything else. I kid you not, after archery, I feel like I've had a good night's sleep. Like my son says when he rock climbs, "All my worries fall away because it is me and the rock." (As long as it's his worries and not him falling.)

Some play is active and some is passive. There's purpose in both.

How do you play? What refreshes you? (Sometime I'll post about the benefits of getting a therapeutic massage.)

If you don't play regularly (not talking about being lazy here) what could you do today to experience rest through joyful release of tension? How will you let your cares fall away?

Wishing you a wonderful playday,
Angie

Friday, November 2, 2007

Writing wish list

There’s been talk this week over on the ACFW email loop about ways we can use our writing and creativity to make gifts for people on our Christmas lists. For today’s Friday Free for All, why don’t we turn the question around? Now let’s think about …

What kind of writing-related gift would you like someone to give you this year? A laptop? Alphasmart? Stock in Mead because of all those little notebooks you carry everywhere? Some people – like my mom – are industrious enough to already be asking for wish-list ideas. What are you going to tell them?

My answer will have to be the same as last year: a weekend away to write. Now I’m not talking about any ordinary weekend when I also pack for my husband and kids. I’m talking about a weekend when I go away by myself to write. The “by myself” part is the key for me – time alone, away from the everyday distractions of laundry, cooking, chauffeuring, phone calls, “real” work, and everything else that fills my days. No matter how well-intentioned my family might be when I set aside time to write, something always comes up that needs Mama’s attention. That would be why so much of my writing happens in the middle of the night, when everyone else is asleep and I can finally have some uninterrupted time … until my daughter begins sleepwalking. Sigh.

So last Christmas I asked for a weekend away. I didn’t get it until February, but that was OK – I knew it was coming, and I planned for and prayed about it for weeks! I left on Friday after taking our daughter from preschool to my parents’ house. Then I headed to a bed and breakfast about an hour away. I worked on my WIP, wrote copy for a new website I wanted to launch for girls, planned out talks for a half-day women’s retreat I was leading later that month. I spent time on Bible study homework, I prayed, I relaxed, I talked to and listened for God. It was one of the most rewarding and refreshing times I’ve ever had. I returned home Sunday afternoon with a real sense of accomplishment and with joy.

Now it’s your turn. Whether you want to share something realistic or shoot beyond the stars, what would you love to find at Christmas that would help your writing? Dream on, and enjoy this beautiful day God has blessed you with!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Upcoming News and Reviews

Happy November 1st! Can you believe it's holiday season again? Okay, so I can. Something about the wind and rain brought on by the tropical storm has me playing Christmas music and making soup. And yes, it did turn out fairly decent. (Patting myself on the back.)
Anyway. Since I was so busy making soup and trying to figure out my blogger password, there's no interview for the day. But we do have several authors lined up that we're excited about--Deb Raney, Tosca Lee, Susan May Warren, Sharon Hinck, Christy Barritt... As we get this blog up and running, is there anyone YOU want to hear from, or any books you'd like for us to review? Let us know, and we'll see what we can arrange. Meanwhile, have a blest day!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Wednesday Wonders...ironing out the W's.

If you're anything like me, you tend to worry - and I usually Worry with a capital W!

Sometimes I catch myself thinking "God, don't you see this problem over here? Why aren't you doing something about it? What is your plan here?"

Sometimes, wrapped up inside that Worry are a whole bunch of other capital W questions. "What". "Why". We naturally crave answers, we want to know what is going to happen and when it's going to occur. We want to see our problems smoothed away on an ironing board, right besides our husband's button-down shirts and our own khaki pants. But when we doubt God's "what" and "why", we're ultimately doubting the Who behind it all - and that's where everything falls apart.

Matthew 6: 25-30

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.

Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?"

Today, will you join me in casting your Worries aside? Let's fight back against the destructive force of worry by prayer and praise.

Financial trouble? Marriage strife? Children giving you grief? Concerned about making your pending deadline, or afraid you're never going to get far enough in this industry to ever HAVE a deadline? Dump that burden on the Lord's capable shoulders and focus on the good in your life. You have blessings, probably more than you can count. Why not start trying, and give the enemy a little grief, instead? Hey, its much more productive than counting sheep. =)

1. 2. 3. 4...

Join me at the foot of the cross today, and let's lay these problems down to the One who has all the answers already ironed out. If we focus on the Answerer, rather than on the answers, we can see past the wrinkles and know that in His timing, all will be pressed and revealed.

And our mouths will drop at the Wonder of it all.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A bowed head prevents a stiff neck

Do you pray before your write? Do you praise before you write?

These questions recently went through my head as the result of a recent online conversation of American Christian Fiction Writers.

Unfortunately, I've neglected to do both, far more than I care to remember. Yet it's only through prayer and praise that we will ever truly find success, not in the world's eyes, but God's eyes. Through prayer we humble our hearts before Him acknowledging that we can't do it without Him, and through praise, we humble our hearts before him acknowledging that we didn't do it without Him. (Like we did it at all!) Both bring us closer to him...and after all, that should be the primary purpose behind everything we do, including our writing.

Today I will praise God...for the beautiful fall colors that the Michigan weather brings. For the life and friendship of my grandmother, who passed away 10 years ago today. And for my many online friends that compose my writing community.

Finding a Different Place to Bloom

Sometimes, creativity flows like barbeque sauce at a tailgate party, like mullets at a Nascar race, like coffee at a writer's conference . . .

And sometimes it . . . doesn't. For those delirious, dull-eyed moments, I would like to offer a helpful little tool: juxtaposition!


Think of the tenderness between the desperate characters in Les Miserables. Charlotte's death during the county fair in Charlotte's Web. Two opposing elements find a way to work together. Whether it is in a theme or a moment, juxtaposition infuses ordinary stories with exquisite tension.

So what about your story? What if your character confessed her undying love at a funeral? What if he's composing his resignation letter at a birthday party? What if the dormant flower garden signals life instead of death? What about slow dancing in the emergency room. Journaling at a bus stop. Childbirth in a stable. Lovely trash.


Try one of these:

1) Write a scene where two seemingly opposite things occur at the same time. Or,
2) Describe something generally thought of as ugly in a beautiful way.

How can you have fun flipping stereotypes in your story? How will fitting opposites together push you to imagine differently? What connections might materialize?

So let that creativity flow . . . like . . . dishwater after a week-long writing blitz, maybe?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Good Intentions

Ugh. It’s Monday.

I suspect that this morning, millions of snooze buttons are being pummeled, a bazillion groans are being emitted and oodles of covers are being pulled over heads. Anything to prolong the agony of facing a brand new work week.

But not me. I love Mondays. It’s true! And it’s not only because it’s my day off and the kids are back to school and I have the house to myself for the day (what writer doesn’t relish that silence?).

I love Mondays because I have the whole week ahead of me in which I will make huge progress on my novel. I will write my little heart out….10,000 words, minimum, by Friday. I will develop blisters on my fingertips from all the writing I will do.

I am novelist. Hear me type!

Unfortunately, my intentions will probably fall a little short. And I will blame it on the laundry, message board forums, and the new fall television season.

And then on Friday, when serotonin levels all over the nation are skyrocketing, I will likely be sulking when I look at my weekly word count and realize I have only typed 1,000 words—nowhere near the 10,000 I projected. And I will berate myself for failing. Again.

So today is Mission Impossible Monday. And we all know that God is the God of the impossible. But as cool as it would be for Him to pinky-pin me to my computer chair and force me to write my book, He normally doesn’t work that way. I will need to decide to stick my buns in that chair and write. Not just intend on doing it. But do it.

I know. Bummer, right?

Proverbs 12:11 says, “Hard work means prosperity; only fools idle away their time.” (NLT)

Yikes.

I suppose I could reread this verse to say, “Actually sitting down to write my book will get my book finished (and hopefully published!). But wasting time with unimportant distractions that take me away from writing…well, um, I guess that would make me a— gulp—fool. Not to mention, keep me an unpublished novelist.”

Double yikes.

I recently heard the saying, “God won’t do anything for you that you can’t do yourself.” I suppose it wouldn’t do much good, then, to request prayer for pages in my novel to get supernaturally written this week (but I bet those pages would score well in the Genesis contest!). But it might help to ask God to give me a little extra discipline and focus and a little less propensity for distraction and procrastination.

And if CSI is a repeat this week, that will help too.

So what about you? Do you need an extra dose of discipline? Are you like me and want to actually reach a goal this week instead of just setting one and falling short? It IS possible, you know.

Would you care to join me in praying for a little more focus this week?

Heavenly Father, forgive me for idling away my time. Help me to focus my thoughts and actions in the right direction today. As I begin a new week, show me how to manage my days so I can finish the things you want me to do and toss aside the unimportant things that get in the way of achieving my goals. May everything I do honor and glorify You and bring me closer to fulfilling the possibilities and purpose You have for my life.

In Jesus’ precious name,

AMEN!

Throw those covers back. Replace that groan with a shout of praise. It’s Monday -- there’s a possibility with your name on it! Maybe even 10,000 words by Friday!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Rest Is Creative



Like any other job, writing takes a lot of creativity. Creativity is exhausting. What do you do to refill that creativity you are pouring out?

I think we automatically assume that the word "rest" means sleep or sitting down doing nothing. But true rest is something that takes you away from the norm and reenergizes you.

I love taking photographs of Montana. I love blogging about it so I carry my camera everywhere with me. It's fun and makes me feel joyful. The photo above is one I see often driving in and out of my hometown. I realized I look at that scenery every single time I drive by it. I watch it change by the seasons.


This is a view of the same field, in June, a little closer up.

It thrills me to see it. I'm never bored. And every single time, I feel lighter. I feel God's glory, power, and amazement at His creativity. Whether deep green grass or blue mountains and golden cottonwoods, the wealth of color stuns me.

Somehow seeing things like this...I realized one day that God is the creator of creativity. How funny! How long did it take me to figure out that the Creator was creative?! I just think that's hilarious! The best thing is that soaking in God's creativity never fails to recharge me.

My camera stays with me for fun, play, and hobby.

What do you do to recharge? What hobbies keep you relaxed and playful?

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you had a restful moment here:-) If you'd like to visit with me more, please hop over to my personal blog:
http://godusesbrokenvessels.blogspot.com

May God bless you with a joyful recharging today,
Angie
Psst, and a good rest:-)