Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Tagged by Allen (grrrrrrrrrr)

Allen tagged me for this book meme thingy. I have to list 15 facts and personal preferences about books. Here goes. WARNING: It's late, I've been with sick kids all day, and my body may collapse at any moment. I cannot be held responible for the quality of this list. Read at your own risk.

1. Books have pages. (Oh wow! That was an easy one.)

2. I like to read books. (Well, duh...)

3. The oldest book in my possession is in German and is over 100 years old. (Keller's Kleider machen Leute by Gottfried Keller)

4. I always use a bookmark. (Stole this one from Allen)

5. I cut my teeth on King and Saul. Now I munch on books by Brandilyn Collins, Colleen Coble, Ted Dekker, and too many others to name.

6. I always take books with me to doctor's appointments. There's a myth to this too. If I take one, I get called in quicker. They don't want to see there patients content to wait. If I don't take one, I wait...a long time. See? Test it, it works.

7. Books are treasures. My house is lined with shelves full of them. This household reads!

8. My youngest daughter's favorite book was about a brown bunny and it was called, yep, Brown Rabbit.

9. When I'm looking for a new book and it's an author I don't know, I read the first page or two. If I'm not hooked by then, it goees back on the shelf.

10. My reading stack grows faster than I can read them. And I keep buying more books! (No, this does not negate number 9)

11. I always read one fiction and one nonfiction at the same time.

12. Confession time. I never read books twice. Not as a rule but as a fact. I keep books I love, thinking I'll read them again, but then I don't. (Except for the Bible, LOL)

13. I prefer to buy my books than go to the library.

14. I love character driven stories but prefer suspense or supernatural. (I am not a chick-lit girl!)

15. The first book I read that taught me reading could be for pleasure was Johnny Tremain, given to me by my eigth grade english teacher. Bless his heart!

That was fun! Ok, now I'm tagging Camy Tang, Ron Estrada, and Pammer.

45 Master Characters

As you can see at the side bar the word count for my WIP changed and the non-fiction book I'm reading has changed also. I always try to read one fiction and one nonfiction at the same time. Keeps life interesting.

I have to say 45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt is a definite must for a writer. Ms. Schmidt breaks down characters into eight archtypes for females and eight archtypes for males. Then she breaks down each archtype into heroes and villians. Under each breakdown she gives character description, then answers these questions:

What does the character care about?
What does the character fear?
How do other characters see this "character"?

Then she discusses developing the character arc and gives a list of assets and flaws. You can identify not only your character, but also the character types that work well with yours.

And there's more. Ms. Schmidt talks about supporting characters and goes in depth about the male and female journeys. She even includes worksheets for this at the end.

Every page of this book is full of valuable information. By page twelve I was competely hooked. The questions on this page alone helped me flesh out my characters with a depth I'd not experienced before, and I can already see a difference as I write my characters. I can hear them.

So, if you want to deepen your characters, this is the book to help you. I just read Donald Maass' book, Writing the Breakout Novel and found 45 Master Characters to be a great companion to what Maass refers to as "larger-than-life characters."

On a scale of five stars, I have to give this book a five. I know I'll be using it over and over again.

Friday, November 25, 2005

A Turkey Carcass

The bones are picked clean. There's nothing left, except the remnants of a once fabulous or tolerable meal in the fridge. Family and friends have gone home, for the most part, or perhaps an occasional one or two will linger. The cook collapses in a chair, marveling over the feat of his or her creation, or what went wrong.

Then there are those of us who left the cooking to another and ventured into the unknown and accepted a most gracious invitation. The meal was wonderful, the company divine and the whole day more relaxing for the simple fact that we were relieved from kitchen duty for the first time in years. For just that alone, we are thankful.

We've come home to a cold kitchen and an empty refridgerator, still glad to have, for once, been free of the hectic cooking of the one day of the year we are required to coordinate an impossible number of dishes at once. A year to breath, catch up on rest and look forward to Christmas.

Hmmm, it was close to perfect. I almost made it, free of the fixings and fixing. Yet now a turkey sits in my fridge, waiting to be a late Thanksgiving feast tomorrow, just so we can partake in those wonderful leftovers and turkey sanwiches.

What is this, you ask? Simply this. The ramblings of a fool who thought she had gotten away. Alas, my kitchen awaits.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Dreaming Evangelism

I drive my car into the bar as if it were the most normal thing to do. I get out of my car and look around. My car vanishes. To my right two people sit in a booth, casually talking. One glances at me, then returns to his animated conversation with the person sitting across from him.

In front of me sits an older woman at a small table, alone.

To my left the bartender is wiping down the counter with a white rag. He finally notices me and says, “You’re supposed to tell something to that lady over there.”

I glance at her. Her head hangs over a bare table. “But I don’t know her.”

He shrugs and walks away.

I look down and notice I’m wearing a nametag, except it’s upside down. I realize it’s not my name but these words on it:

Are you ready to get serious about Jesus?

This is the tail end of a dream I had several years ago. I’ve never forgotten it for obvious reasons. Lately it’s been on my mind again.

Originally, God used this dream to convict me. The evening before I had driven through a blizzard to get to a Christmas party with my Bible study group. Needless to say, when I got there, I was relieved to be alive and ready to relax. I said a brief hello to one of the member’s husbands, who I knew wasn’t a believer, then spent the rest of the evening entertaining myself.

That night I had this dream, but I didn’t put two and two together until the next morning. I knew the dream had meaning, but I didn’t know what. In my prayer time, God convicted me of my oversight.

Later that same morning, the unequally yoked group that I was part of had a date to meet. It was at the house of the woman whose husband I had neglected. I knew I would have to ask her for forgiveness. As soon as I arrived at her doorstep, I did. She then told me how her husband had wanted to leave early the night before because he didn’t feel welcome.

I was convicted again. A room full of Christians and the poor guy never felt welcome. Now you see why I’ve never forgotten that dream.

How does this apply to writing? It makes me ask these questions. Do our words reach the downtrodden person sitting alone? Do they reach the Christian, who’s ready to quit doing thing’s Jesus’ way because it’s just too hard? Do we offer a light in a hopeless world? I think we do, and will continue to as long as God is the one at the keyboard as well.

Something’s moving and changing lately. I’m not sure what it is, but I can feel it. The dream has been more prevalent lately, more readily remembered than usual. I know God’s at work, I just don’t know what he’s doing yet.

But I do know one thing. I’m ready to get serious about Jesus. How about you?

Friday, November 18, 2005

More Thoughts About Info Dump

Wow, awesome comments, people! Thank you. All this input has really given me more food for thought, so to speak. I even received some great comments from some fellow ACFWers privately.

I’d like to clarify, though, that the question is not whether or not to market ourselves. That’s something I’ve long accepted and quit resisting. We may not like it, but we see the necessity. It’s part of the whole shebang.

The question is, HOW?

The more I consider what I myself will have to do down the road for promotion, the more I question what I see out there. Let’s look at just one, say the author newsletter. This can be a very effective tool. Coming from an advertising background, I’ve designed and implemented my fair share of institutional newsletters. When they are targeted at the right audience, the results are great. So there’s the rub. Are they really effective for us as writers? Who are they being sent to? Or are they just adding to the marketing bandwagon everyone’s jumping on? (Any commentss from pubbed authors out there who can shed light in this area are greatly welcomed.)

I heard DiAnn Mills once say in reference to websites that they shouldn’t be just about the writer. They should give something back. Those aren’t her exact words, just my interpretation, but they have stuck with me for months. The message is pretty clear though.

The very mission we serve in writing our stories should carry over into our marketing strategies and tools.

So, for now, here are my conclusions thus far in the marketing dilemma:

Be Prayerful. Enter any marketing idea prayerfully. No matter how great an idea may be, if God doesn’t like it, he will stop it cold. God has given us a mission. The Great Commission in Print, I call it. If we take this mission and turn it into self-glorification, then we’ve missed the mark.

Be Intentional. Carefully consider what we do. Let’s not just throw our stuff out there without being sure it’s the right method and above all, the right timing. The Jesus Films are an excellent example of that. Bill Bright had the idea in the 1950s. Did he do it then? No. The timing wasn’t right. Twenty years later it was. Now these films have reached millions. (Our Journey has a great article about that featured today.)

Be Considerate. Keep in mind the people who will be exposed to your plan. Will it just clutter their boxes and their time? Or will it help, inspire, and/or direct? Again, I think this comes back to motivation. Why are we doing it?

If these people don’t mind, I want to use two as an example of effective marketing while helping other writers. Gina Holmes has an awesome blog. Author interviews are some of the most educational, inspirational and encouraging methods I’ve seen, and she does a great job with the information she putting out there. Another is Forensics & Faith. Brandilyn’s blog is truly a writer’s educational tool. Lots of pertinent information and lots of purpose.

To conclude, I think Ron and Robin are both right to the extremes. Yes, we are called to write and yes, all these other activities will make us better writers. But if you leave God out of the equation, you’re just left with an overwhelming mess.

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Information Overload: To Dump or Not to Dump

There’s an issue on my mind of which I spoke to a dear friend about—a burden in my heart you could say. What do you think she said? “Why don’t you blog about it.” I laughed, then realized it was great idea. So, here I am about to share this burden with you.

Times are different today for writers. We have to market ourselves and promote our work before our first novel ever hits the shelf. Contests, newsletters, websites, marketing gimmicks—even short video clips. The web is filled with sights offering writing helps, insights, book promotions of the most unique kinds and a mishmash of inspirational self-helps.

As a hopefully-soon-to-be-published author, I find myself in an interesting predicament. With limited time in a day to write and perfect my craft, I am inundated with a plethora of information to the point of being overwhelmed. Reading takes time and time is in short supply these days. (Remember, I just turned 40. LOL!) We all have lives that need some level of attention as well.

I myself am on the very same track, trying to market my “future” book, but I wonder if we are doing new writers and ourselves a disservice. Personally, I can spend an entire day reading all the sites, blogs, and newsletters as well as reading books in my genre and on writing, and not write a single word. I could do this day after day. I could entrench myself in everything writing related, everything I’m being told I should do, but not write at all. There is so much, too much, in my currently perturbed opinion.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think most of what’s out there is very beneficial. And I do believe it is up to the individual to determine how much time is allowed to spend on the “business” of writing. So many published authors have graciously dedicated parts of their websites with a lion’s share of their hard-earned knowledge. (Now tell me if that isn’t just contrary to the worldly push of get ahead, even at the expense of others.)

My concern is this. As an unpublished author, I want to learn as much as I can, yet I realize there is no way possible to read, do and see it all without sacrificing my writing. Thus the dilemma—what do I intake that will best benefit my goal of becoming published and more importantly will honor God on this path He has placed me? Discernment is definitely a key issue and necessary practice here.

Insert large sigh here…

But here’s my point. Don’t we as writers need to be careful that we don’t become part of the information overload? Are we just doing a newsletter, contest, marketing gimmick (you fill in the blank) just to do it, just to do what we think we should be doing?

Again, I’m not saying these things are bad, but we have to be careful what we put out there, just like we take care over what goes into our books. If we’re doing these things, just to do them, then we are just part of the info dump that’s already become an overwhelming surge. We have to examine our motives and bring them under God’s lamp—just like we should be doing in our writing, our lives and our relationships.

These could just be the ramblings of a frustrated writer or this could be an alert to something bigger. The danger here is getting so caught up in the marketing and the pressure to know as much as we can, that we become a part of the pressure surge that pushed us in the first place, and will in the end overwhelm other writers.

This upsurge is not only overwhelming, it’s discouraging. And the last thing I would want to do is discourage another writer.

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

40 and Blessed

Thank you for all the birthday wishes. The party was wonderful—so great to sit with friends and family and enjoy one another's company. We ate dinner on the patio of a great little Mexican restaurant, and Mike even tied balloons to my chair.

Over the course of the last week, I have been showered with gifts and cards galore. Between family and friends, I've receieved over thirty cards. What does that tell me?


Sorry for the shouting, but I just don't see how else to describe it. Saturday, I sat alone doing my bible study while my hubby took our two girls shopping. (Yes, for birthday presents. LOL! Sunday was the actual day.) Anyway, I went out to the malibox and found four cards from totally unexpected sources. I read each one, stood them in front of me, and cried. It was almost too much.

I was overwhelmed by such caring and to be remembered, well, my heart jusy about burst. See, the thing is, I don't deserve it. Not at all. I didn't earn it either. Again, I see it's all about relationships. That's what life's about. That's what God's about.

Overwhelemed, humbled, shown again just how amazing God's grace is. And this is just an earthly example that flowed over me. Can you imagine what God's love is like? Oh, wow. I don't think I can wrap my brain around it.

I am so incredibly and richly blessed. For each card, e-card, e-mail, personal note, present and song of Happy Birthday—thank you, thank you so much. You have blessed me beyond belief. I would say I'm the luckiest woman on earth if I believed in luck, but I don't.

I believe in God.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Big 40

Book Update: 79.7K
Goal: 80 to 85K, almost there!
Deadline: Ok, now I can really say next week, for sure.
Current Reads: 45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt/Fame by Karen Kingsbury

Yes, I'm still reading the same two books. Fighting with a couple scenes consumed a lot of my reading time this week. But, as you can see, the numbers show I'm almost done! Woohooo! I've added 2k since my last post, so that buys me some consideration, right? If you disagree, kindly keep your comments to yourself. LOL! Just kidding.

Anyway, I've realized the last few days that I'm not as cool about turning 40 as I thought. And I think it has a lot to do with expectations. I'm not going to go into detail but I think you can follow where I'm headed with this.

Sometimes we have expectations of ourselves at certain stages, what we'll be doing, what we'll look like, or what we'll have accomplished or even overcome. Seems like expectations really gum up the works though when they aren't met.

We mope and mourn over the loss (or should I say failure?), then create a whole new set of expectations. Do we never learn?

I loved turning 30. I was just so relieved to be free of the crap of the twenties. Little did I know the thirties had their own crap. I think the key here it to just enjoy whatever stage we're at. Hmmm, why does this sound familiar?

Paul said he'd known all ranges of wealth and poverty and had learned to be content in every state. I always thought of that as a materialistic reference, but I now see we can be in "wealth" or "poverty" in our attitude. I suspose that means my attitude has been a state of poverty the last couple days. Time for a reality check.

Sunday I turn 40. Tomorrow night I'm going to celebrate with my friends and family as I prepare to turn the decade clock. I will stop looking at it as the end of opportunities and see it as the beginning of a whole new chapter in my life. I'm ready to let go of what could have been and move on to what can be. Only this time, I'll leave the expectations behind.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Short but Sweet and a Thousand Words Down

Book Update: 77.8K
Goal: 80 to 85K, still!
Deadline: Oh, I'm so close! Next week for sure.
Current Reads: 45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt/Fame by Karen Kingsbury

I'm only on page twelve of 45 Master Characters. This book is awesome! I've already got two pages of notes for the protagonist for my next book. Can't wait to start on this new book. I love the idea. Stay tuned for that one.

I actually managed a thousand words today despite a run to Target and constant interruptions. Tomorrow will most likely be a bust between church, children's choir, adult choir, and a trip to Michaels for a school project. Oh, what joy. Story land will jsut have to wait.

Have a blessed Sunday!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Laughter and Tears All in Two Minutes

Book Update: 76.8K
Goal: 80 to 85K
Deadline: Umm, sometime soon? LOL!
Current Reads: 45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt/Fame by Karen Kingsbury

Ok, ok. I know it's small, but considering I was gone all day, 500 words isn't too bad. I'll get moving more tomorrow.

Something's afoot. I can feel it. Not sure what's up, but something feels off kilter. Don't know what the big guy upstairs is up to, but I sure am glad He's in charge.

Oh, got several cool birthday presents today. Pampered by a friend this morning over coffee. She brought me fresh sunflowers, sunflower earings, and cupcakes! Then I got home and found a box at my door. Opened it up and found a pink t-shirt with the words, "I'm too sexy to be 40." I laughed my you-know-what off. Then found a beautiful box that had the words "forever true, forever friends" printed inside. That's when I cried. LOL!

Overwhelmed. I am overwhelmed but the blessings of my friends. They are incredibly awesome.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Are we there yet? (Now say it 3 times in a row.)

Book Update: 76.3K
Goal: 80 to 85K
Deadline: Friday? Um, considering I won't be home most of the day, NOT!

So, let's shoot for the weekend. DH is out of town, so I plan to work, work, work. As much as my kids will let me.

Getting there, getting there. Not much farther. So close. The mantra goes on and on in my head. The end is in sight. I'm praying for guidance, strength, endurance, and WORDS! LOL!

Yeah, those pesky little units made of letters. They're kind of important. And I need more of them. Lots more, 'cuz after this one, I've got a 50K book that needs to go to 90K. Can you say, "woe is me?" I sure can.

Goodnight, dear ones. Darkenss has fallen and so have my eyelids.

Ciao for now!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Little by Little

Book Update: 75.6K
Goal: 80 to 85K
Deadline: Friday? Still hoping...

Ok, as you can see from the numbers, I managed to add over 1,000 words today. That's pretty good for a slowpoke like me. Especially since I had to backtrack a bit into other chapters I thought I was done with and add a new conflict. Oh, how lost I would be without my crit buds to help me work it out. They know who they are.

I've decided to enter this manuscript into the Golden Heart. I better get my fingers to move faster. Kind of hard to type with my right index finger bandaged from a burn. Halloween left its mark on me. LOL!

It's late, I'm tired, and this day is toast. See ya on the bright side.