Friday, April 27, 2007


YAY, BETSY!


Savannah Dodson thinks this cruise will be the honeymoon she never had. But once on board, her husband delivers a blow that threatens to drown her heart forever. Can Savannah and Austin find the grace they need to save their marriage? Or will it sink to its death beneath tumultuous waves?


If you want to read an uplifting story this weekend, download a copy of The SS Grace. It made my heart all warm and fuzzy, and better yet, our friend Betsy wrote it! Click here to get your copy.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

IMAGINE THIS...

You're on the plane to your favorite vacation destination. (For imaginary purposes, let's pick St. Lucia in the Carribbean.) You're relaxing, magazine in hand, while the flight attendant serves you chicken cordon bleu--um, make that boneless chicken wings, with an extra side of bleu cheese (hey, it's my imaginary trip!)

Suddenly, the plane is going down! People scream, luggage flies! Oxygen masks fling out of the overhead compartment, and as soon as you secure yours...well, you still panic, after all, you're going down! Out of the window you see flames! Finally, you crash land, and you really do have to use your seat as a floatation device!

There you are, bobbing in the water, one of only a handful of survivors. Thankfully your carry-on survived, and is secure on top of your cushion. Look! In the distance, a small island! You and your fellow castaways paddle to shore.

On land, you catch your breath and thank God for His blessings, despite the fact that you are now marrooned on a deserted island with strangers. You tear open your carry-on and guzzle your Diet Coke, because it was a long way to shore. Then you pull out your Bible, no worse for the wear, all things considered, and clutch it to your chest. "Yes, yes, my Bible made it!" Then, you pull out the only other book you brought with you. It's fiction, and probably the only other book besides the Bible you'll ever read again. Especially since none of the other survivors thought to grab their carry-ons as the plane went down.

I brought Wuthering Heights. What did you bring?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

SPEED READING 101

How many times have I said, "Wow, there are SO many great books out there, I wish I could read faster!" And how many times have you said the same thing? So I took a lil' online test to see exactly how many words per minute I'm reading, and you know what? I'm exactly average at 230 WPM, with a 91% comprehension. (I'll give you the link in a minute.) After finding out that I'm average, I decided to do some research and see if I could improve, and that's what I'm sharing with you today.

~HINDRANCES TO READING FASTER:
  • Subvocalization: (sounding out words in your head.) Children are taught to read letter-by-letter, then word-by-word. They are taught orally, since it's the only way to observe progress. Once most people start reading to themselves, they never stop enunciating each word in their head and pick up some speed.
  • Too many eye stops. If you watch someone's eyes as they read, they usually move from left to right, then down the page. Also, the eye tends to go backwards to pick up lost material. The more the eye stops, the less words per minute. One book went so far as to say that all eye movement is a total waste as far as productive reading goes.
  • Low reader expectation. It's one of those things people don't consciously think about improving. Did you know that "real" speed readers soak in up to 1000 WPM?

~TIPS FOR FASTER READING:

  • Eliminate distractions. The more chaos/noise/chatter in the background, the slower a person is able to read. (How many times have you had to re-read a sentence because of interruptions?) Also, get comfy, and have the proper lighting.
  • Use peripheral vision and begin block reading. Instead of the word-by-word method taught to children, expand your field of vision to take in more words per blink. And instead of allowing your eyes to stop every few words, keep moving. This will take practice. There are books available with eye drills if reading faster is something you're serious about.
  • Read from directly from the page to your brain--in other words, quit subvocalizing, or sounding out words in your head. Instead of going from mouth to ear to brain, go from eyes to brain. This, too, will take practice.
  • Turn pages faster. Studies showed many readers wasting time turning pages. If possible, lay your book flat, and have your thumb ready to turn the page without skipping a beat.
  • Use a marker. I've read two differing opinions on this one, so take your pick. Using a pencil or the tip of your finger MAY help you keep your place and increase speed.

There are other tips that pertain to reading non-fiction, but I won't go into that here. And keep in mind that not everything is intended to be speed read (like critiques, LOL!) But increasing your speed will allow you to get to more of those wonderful books out there. Oh, and all of my research indicates that speed reading actually INCREASES comprehension instead of reducing it. (Think of a movie: you get more out of it watching it all at once, rather than in pieces. The slower you read, the more interruptions you'll face.) There are tons of resources out there that go into more detail and give practice exercises.

Here's the link to the speed reading test, and scroll down to the bottom half of the page. Let me know how you fare!

Monday, April 23, 2007

FACEBOOK...

Like I needed to join another online thing. But I have to say, this is WAY fun! Facebook is an online networking place where you can join groups, or just hang out. Or do nothing. (But it's more fun if you do something!) They even have a way for you to poke your friends, LOL. Now, I know you're looking for another online place to hang out, right? OK, even if you're not at least check it out. Click here to visit my page. When you join, add me as a friend, because I need friends (SNIFF)!

Speaking of online groups to join--if you're not already part of ACFW, what on earth are you waiting for? It's one of the best things you'll EVER do for your writing. NO JOKE! And when you sign up, tell them I sent you.

Oh, and remember to stop by here again tomorrow, I'll have a post that you'll like, that is, IF you like to read!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A BIGGER LIFE


Joel Carpenter did not plan for his life to turn out like this. He never meant to be a single dad, working at a hair salon in Eden Plain, Texas. But after making a careless choice four years ago, his marriage was permanently shattered. Now at twenty-seven, he finds himself juggling custody of his preschool son with Kari, the ex-wife he still loves, and sharing Sunday dinners with a group of other single dads.


Joel regrets the choices that brought him to this place, but it's not until the worst happens that he learns how much he still has to give. In the midst of deep tragedy, he learns that forgiveness is way more important than freedom. Hopefully it's not too late!


A BIGGER LIFE is a story of love in the midst of heartache, and friendship in the midst of real, everyday life.



In 1997, Annette was working as a home health nurse. She traveled the back roads from house to house, caring for ill and injured, homebound people. Because of her unique position in the lives of relative strangers, she often found herself bearing solitary witness to intimate behind-the-scenes situations full of grace and meaning. The desire to honor both a particular patient and a poignant scene involving the woman and her husband prompted Annette to write a fictionalized story, The Anniversary.



That first story appeared as a column in the Houston Chronicle newspaper and as an essay in Today’s Christian Woman magazine. Later it became a chapter in Annette’s first and best-selling book of short stories, The Whispers of Angels, that has sold more than 100,000 copies.

Since then, Annette has penned four more books of stories, two volumes on parenting, and the Coming Home to Ruby Prairie trilogy.

Annette and her husband Randy, a High School teacher and coach, make their home on a wooded lot in Quitman, Texas. They are the parents of two young adult children, Russell and Rachel, both out on their own. Wally, a grateful, rescued mutt provides warmth and entertainment and keeps the Smith’s empty nest from feeling too lonely.

In addition to writing, Annette continues to serve part-time as a registered nurse. She finds the people she works with and the patients she cares for provide great inspiration for her fiction.
WRITING SPACE...OR LACK THEREOF

My space is too small. It used to be enough to have a few binders full of notes, writing instruction, and snippets from writer's magazines. Then I added a whole drawer. When I outgrew those, I graduated to a crate. Now, however, I have binders, a drawer, crate, bookshelf, and a table.

Needless to say, I don't have an office, and regardless of the fact that I do almost everything online and have computer storage files and a jump drive, I still have scads of papers EVERYWHERE. I keep all my RWR's, I have printouts of my novels, copies of proposals I've sent to agents, craft books, idea notebooks, blah blah blah. (I'm sure you do too!)

It's time to reorganize. I'd love to hear how you've organized your writing space so I can glean ideas before I start. A. What do you feel OK about throwing away (I don't like to part with anything writing related!) and B. How do you organize what's left? Ideas? Anyone?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

HERE I GO AGAIN...

Yep, you guessed it--the start of another WIP. After much debate, I put aside all my fears about "losing my voice" and decided to genre jump, you know, try a little something new. Romantic Suspense.

But here's the thing: I can't be a pantser with this one. (Well, I guess I could...) I wasn't exactly a pantser with my chick lits either, I started with a well-defined protag, goal, motivation, and conflict, and your basic three disasters, black moment and resolution. Of course it was all subject to change once I got going, and switch it up, I did. In fact, some of my main characters went through many name changes, occupations, and basically looked like they had Multiple Personality Disorder--but that's beside the point.

The point is that I don't feel the freedom to pants this time, even a little. Can you imagine what a train wreck I could create that way? I'd have villains running amok all through the pages. Anyway, I'm doing my prep work. Research. Tons of research involving maps, environmental issues, viruses, and the secret lives of recluse artists. I have the beginnings of an outline, and I want to make sure I have all my plot points in a row before I begin. (Although I have written bits of the first chapter.)

I know I've posed this question to y'all before, but please humor me and clue me in again. What kind of preparation, research, outlining do you do before you hit the keyboard?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Gotta Love Hoops & Yoyo

Friday, April 13, 2007

CORAL MOON


From the back cover:

The figure remained still as stone. Leslie couldn't even detect a breath.
Spider fingers teased the back of her neck.
Leslie's feet rooted to the pavement. She dropped her gaze to the driveway, seeking...what? Spatters of blood? Footprints? She saw nothing. Honed through her recent coverage of crime scene evidence, the testimony at last month's trial, the reporter in Leslie spewed warnings: Notice everything, touch nothing...

Leslie Williams hurries out to her car on a typical workday morning--and discovers a dead body inside.

Why was the corpse left for her to find? And what is the meaning of the message pinned to its chest?

In Coral Moon, the senseless murder of a beloved Kanner Lake citizen spirals the small Idaho town into a terrifying glimpse of spiritual forces beyond our world. What appears true seems impossible.

My take:

Oh. My.

I'm not squeamish, nor am I easily scared, but this one got to me--it was all too real. Seriously, I threw the chores aside to read this book (something I don't usually do.) Don't read this one with your back exposed, but even having your back to the wall won't protect you. And just what do I mean by that??? Get the book and find out! Don't forget to visit Brandilyn Collins' site. NOW!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH...

A lot of discussion on the ACFW loop lately has focused on how worship and writing are intertwined. It's encouraging to read the responses and see how God is working through each person and how our spiritual lives enhance and influence what we write.

But what if it's not going so well? We've all heard how it's important to write through the hard times and push through chaotic circumstances. But what about when the going gets tough spiritually?

I don't know about you, but I'm definitely more spiritual some days than other days. Today, not so spiritual. Oh, I know everything goes in cycles, and the whole ebb/flow thing. But what I'm talking about is when you've barked at your spouse, honked at the driver who cut you off, and ranted over dumb stuff (just a few examples, a-hem, not necessarily mine.) That's when I--I mean the "universal" you--feel so inept at writing CHRISTIAN FICTION, that you can't put fingers to keyboard.

The easy answer: repent, and then write. But some days it just ain't gonna fly--not the repenting part, the writing part. Tell me, has this ever happened to you? Or can you get over it (whatever "it" is) and write?

Monday, April 09, 2007

WHERE, OH WHERE HAVE MY HOBBIES GONE???

I used to have hobbies other than writing. (Although, for the record I don't treat writing as a hobby!) When I started staying home after the birth of our second child, scrapbooking was the hobby of choice. Selecting the pictures was the best part, and oh, the feel of the paper beneath my fingers. I loved sorting, cutting, arranging--and the joy and accomplishment that came with the finished page. (Of course, I'd forgotten all of this until I read an email from Betsy this morning!)

Sorry to say I haven't scrapped in over a year, maybe longer. I also don't exercise (not that I enjoyed that the same way as scrapping!) or experiment with cooking. Most of my "extra-curricular activities" have been pushed aside for writing. And I'm pleased with my choice--it all comes down to priorities, and writing is in line after God and family. But if I had the time I'd pick up the glue, double-stick tape, and stickers all over again. In fact, maybe I can sneak in a page or two this week.

What are your hobbies?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I'm Glad I'm Not Dan Brown....

Skewed theology aside, I'm glad I'm not Dan Brown. Readers flocked to the stores to buy The Da Vinci Code. And if having a bestselling book wasn't enough, dozens of writers wrote commentary on the material in his book. The country was abuzz with discussion. Debates ensued, a movie was made, and alas, even more books were sold.

So why am I glad I'm not Dan Brown? Because as an author, HOW DO YOU TOP ALL THAT?

You see, I am at the bottom of the food chain. I don't have an agent, nor a contract. I don't have looming deadlines, and I don't have to worry about sales numbers. Marketing--what's that? Unlike Dan Brown, I don't have to worry about disappointing a worldwide readership after turning out a smash hit.

All in all, I have no place to go, but up!
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