Friday, January 29, 2010

LOVE TO CREATE

This past week I've been working on a brand new novel. Much of the fun--at least for me--is in shaping the hero and the heroine, deciding which qualities need to shine through from the start, and which characteristics need to be polished as they develop throughout the story. Admittedly, they're pretty rough right now, but it is a rough draft after all!

Whenever I think of well-crafted heroines, I think of Jane Austen's. On that note, here is a quiz to see exactly which one you are! I have to be honest...each time I take it I'm someone different. LOL! I like the description of Marianne Dashwood, so I'll keep it. Just don't ask me to sing.

COME BACK AND TELL US WHO YOU ARE!!!

You are Marianne Dashwood of Sense & Sensibility! You are impulsive, romantic, impatient, and perhaps a bit too brutally honest. You enjoy romantic poetry and novels, and play the pianoforte beautifully. To boot, your singing voice is captivating. You feel deeply, and love passionately.

I am Marianne Dashwood!


Take the Quiz here!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

BECCA BY THE BOOK

This is my favorite installment of The Getaway Girls series. Written from the POV of an unsaved woman, who makes a bet and ends up committing to 25 dates with a Christian man, there are certain issues that may cause you to say, "Ooo, my!" LOL, but I loved it. Some of the situations and verbage an unchurched person faces when they get in with us "churchies" is so realistic. Great as part of a series, or as a stand alone.




This week, the



Christian Fiction Blog Alliance



is introducing



Becca By The Book



Zondervan (January 1, 2010)



by



Laura Jensen Walker






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:






Laura Jensen Walker is an award-winning writer, popular speaker, and breast-cancer survivor who loves to touch readers and audiences with the healing power of laughter.



Born in Racine, Wisconsin (home of Western Printing and Johnson’s Wax—maker of your favorite floor care products) Laura moved to Phoenix, Arizona when she was in high school. But not being a fan of blazing heat and knowing that Uncle Sam was looking for a few good women, she enlisted in the United States Air Force shortly after graduation and spent the next five years flying a typewriter through Europe.



Her lifelong dream of writing fiction came true in Spring 2005 with the release of her first chick lit novel, Dreaming in Black & White which won the Contemporary Fiction Book of the Year from American Christian Fiction Writers. Her sophomore novel, Dreaming in Technicolor was published in Fall 2005.



Laura’s third novel, Reconstructing Natalie, chosen as the Women of Faith Novel of the Year for 2006, is the funny and poignant story of a young, single woman who gets breast cancer and how her life is reconstructed as a result. This book was born out of Laura’s cancer speaking engagements where she started meeting younger and younger women stricken with this disease—some whose husbands had left them, and others who wondered what breast cancer would do to their dating life. She wanted to write a novel that would give voice to those women. Something real. And honest. And funny.



Because although cancer isn’t funny, humor is healing.



To learn more about Laura’s latest novels, please check out her Books page.



A popular speaker and teacher at writing conferences, Laura has also been a guest on hundreds of radio and TV shows around the country including the ABC Weekend News, The 700 Club, and The Jay Thomas Morning Show.



She lives in Northern California with her Renaissance-man husband Michael, and Gracie, their piano playing dog.





ABOUT THE BOOK






Sales clerk, barista, telemarketer, sign waver...



At twenty-five, free-spirited Becca Daniels is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. What Becca doesn’t want to be is bored. She craves the rush of a new experience, whether it’s an extreme sport, a shocking hair color, or a new guy. That’s why she quit her bookstore job, used her last bit of credit to go skydiving, and broke her leg.



And that’s why, grounded and grumpy, Becca bristles when teased by friends for being commitment-phobic. In response, Becca issues an outrageous wager—that she can sustain a three-month or twenty-five date relationship with the next guy who asks her out. When the guy turns out to be “churchy” Ben—definitely not Becca’s type—she gamely embarks on a hilarious series of dates that plunge her purple-haired, free-speaking, commitment-phobic self into the alien world of church potlucks and prayer meetings.



This irrepressible Getaway Girl will have you cheering her on as she “suffers” through her dates, gains perspective on her life’s purpose, and ultimately begins her greatest adventure of all.



If you'd like to read the first chapter of Becca By The Book, go HERE

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

SOMEONE STOP THIS SNOW....


....because it's making me fat.


OK, it's indirectly, but I still blame the weather.




Last week we had record snow in our town. So much, in fact, that the roofs of several buildings collapsed (including a bookstore--wah!), school was cancelled for 4 days, almost all businesses shut down, then this week school was on late schedule twice. As a family we broke two shovels, had to clean off the roof twice, got majorly stuck once, and endured an endless rotation of wet clothes, floor mats, gloves, hats, and snow suits. Of course I'm thankful it wasn't worse for us, like it was for this business and for other families.



54 inches of snow last week.....and more expected today.


Because of all the chaos, our regularly scheduled workouts were pushed aside in favor of unburying ourselves. Precious hubby insists on doing most of the shoveling, which is fine, but without my weights class/step class/core class/treadmill, I'm ballooning. It's just not possible to make it when all our schedules go wonky.


I've never been a fan of the great outdoors, so the problem is, what exactly do I do to keep my svelt figure? (Those of you who've seen me in person, quit laughing!) Averaging one workout per week isn't going to cut it. Yes, I do a few weights at home, but there's no way I'll punish myself in the same manner as that cruel instructor!


How do you stay in shape during the winter? Or, like me, do you put on a few extra pounds?

Monday, January 25, 2010

MAN COLD

This is dedicated to all the dragon-slayers in our lives. Is this true for the men you love?

Friday, January 22, 2010

MIXED MARRIAGE & GREAT FOOTBALL



I may have told this story a time or ten. I was born and bred of the Packer clan, raised to believe green and gold were the only colors worth wearing, and that cheese was good. I could recite Vince Lombardi sayings in my sleep. Then it happened....

I married a Viking.



Would this mixed marriage survive? Now, if it's not purple it's not a color, and all I can say is that I'm uber-glad Brett Favre converted too.

This weekend the Vikings take on the Saints for the NFC championship. Talk about a great football weekend! Many a pundit has already predicted a Saints victory, but I'm clinging to hope and confidence in the man who plays with a cape. Good ol' #4, Favre.

(Side note: he was the inspiration for the bad guy in my 3rd book. Not that he's a bad guy--obviously--but his apple-pie looks. Another side note: Kurt Warner was the inspiration behind the book I just finished. Football players make for great "models.")

I once heard a psychologist say that men enjoy sports just for the sake of the sport. Women will tend to enjoy more if she knows something about the players. For example, if you point out a player and say he cheated on his wife, she'll start rooting for him to get knocked on his behind. Or if so-and-so recently had a baby and labored with his wife for 36 hours, then a woman will cheer him on against the other team. In my case, this is entirely true. It's all about the connection.

Question for you: which team do you root for and why? Or do you not watch football...and why?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

THE SWEET BY AND BY


As a longtime Rachel Hauck fan, I'll admit to being curious about this collaborative effort I'd been hearing about. While there is definitely a different flavor to this book, the craft and storytelling are absolutely as stellar, as I had come to expect. Vintage shop owner, Jade Fitzgerald, has a tough decision to make right before her impending wedding. Enter the hippie mother, a pushy future mother-in-law, and haunting choices from the past, and you have the opportunity for many things to go awry before the big day. The heroine grew on me, as she’s a much nicer person than I. A few times she made decisions that I couldn’t fathom, but it all came back to who she was and what she wanted out of life. Deep and painful issues were explored, and it was an interesting look at mother/daughter relationships, and how father/daughter relationships (or lack of) can impact a young woman’s life. I wasn't totally crazy about so many flashbacks, but they really are seamless and add to the depth and characterization. Though it could have veered into being an "issues" book, it was a good story of redemption and forgiveness, and what it really means to bury the past. I’m looking forward to the next book from Rachel Hauck and Sara Evans.

Blurb:

Jade Fitzgerald left the pain of her past in the dust when she headed out for college a decade ago. Now she's thriving in her career and glowing in the light of Max Benson's love.

But then Jade's hippie mother, Beryl Hill, arrives in Whisper Hollow, Tennessee, for Jade's wedding along with Willow, her wild younger sister. Their arrival forces Jade to throw open the dark closets of her past--the insecurity of living with a restless, wandering mother, the silence of her absent father, and the heart-ripping pain of first-love's rejection.

Turns out Beryl has a secret of her own. She needs reconciliation with her oldest daughter before illness takes her life. In the final days leading to the wedding, Jade meets the One who shows her that the past has no hold on her future. With a little grace, they'll meet in the middle, maybe even before that sweet by and by.


CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR COPY!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

PANDEMONIUM

Ever had one of those days?

This morning I opened my husband's pay stub, only to find that we'd somehow been signed up for the Cadillac health insurance plan, rather than the base-book-I-hope-we-don't-have-a-catastrophe plan.

I'd checked the wrong box on the form and it was going to cost us--I sucked in a giant, fearful breath--an EXTRA $2900 a year. Now that's a big mistake.

Add to that the fact I had someone coming to look at our home, a few phone calls, and trying to situate my kids (outside in a storm) so they wouldn't be underfoot during the showing...and it was a recipe for pandemonium.

Be still and know that I am God.

Huh? Who had time to be still? I had last minute crud to clean, and...did I mention that I made a TWENTY-NINE HUNDRED DOLLAR MISTAKE?!?!?!

The potential buyers came through--it was their 2nd visit--and really loved our lil' place. Woohoo--now it was time to fetch my kids out of the winter storm, and make a few panicked phone calls to the benefits department. I was ready to beg, plead, and bribe my way out of this. (You just know how well that'd go over.)

Be still and know that I am God.

But this mistake was HUGE! Anxiously, I waited a return call from the benefits lady. When the phone rang, I braced myself for the worst. Oh my, what if I had to go back to work? {insert shudder} And there's no way I'd get to go to conference. I was going to take it like a big, crying baby.

As it turned out, the benefits department had made a mistake, and are now going to refund the extra $....make that $$$$$.....they took out of hubby's check. WHEW!

Why didn't I just be still? I may not have passed the test, but I'm pretty sure I will get another opportunity.

Fess up--do you get before God first, or do you panic like me?

Monday, January 18, 2010

AND THE WINNER IS....

Deborah M!!!

You've won a copy of Stephanie Morrill's, Out with the In Crowd. Congratulations, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did :D

Friday, January 15, 2010

OUT WITH THE IN CROWD


Amazing follow-up to last year's, Me, Just Different. Skylar Hoyt continues navigating her journey as a new believer, still surrounded with shades of her old life. Between her little sister's pregnancy, parents in turmoil, and a new boyfriend, Skylar has her hands full.

This book is SO good, that my daughter and I practically wrestled over it. She got it first, but I had to find out what was causing her to tear up and laugh out loud. Once I started, I finished in one afternoon/evening--THAT's how engaging Out with the In Crowd is! On a personal note, author Stephanie Morrill is a lovely person and her heart for God shines through her work.

Here's your chance! Leave a comment, and I will draw a winner for Out with the In Crowd on Monday!!!!

Blurb:

Skylar Hoyt may have vowed to change her partying ways, but it's not so easy to change her friends. Even though the old Skylar is gone, she's still not sure who this new Skylar really is. Add to that two parents battling for her loyalty, a younger sister struggling wtih a crisis pregnancy, and a new boyfriend wishing for more of her time, and Skylar feels like she can't win. After all, how do you choose favorites among the people you love most?

Bio:

Stephanie Morrill is a twentysomething living in Kansas with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband and their daughter. She loves writing for teens because her high school years greatly impacted her adult life. That, and it's an excuse to keep playing her music really, really loud.


Leave your name and email address, and I will draw a winner on Monday. But if you can't wait that long, CLICK HERE to order your copy today!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

THIS IS THE YEAR...

...where faith and favor will intersect. At least that is my prayer!

I don't often blog on personal stuff, but we'd appreciate your prayers as we attempt to sell our home. You see, God's word has come to pass:

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. ~~Malachi 3:10~~ ((Emphasis mine))

We are busting at the seams, and we literally do not have enough room to contain the blessings poured out on us. So now we need to enlarge our tent ;-) Today someone is coming to look at our place, and I'm praying all goes according to His plan.

Please pray with us that God lines up the buyer, finances, and timing just right.

Thanks!

Monday, January 11, 2010

ABANDON SHIP!!!

“Where does she park? Do you see her car?” Sydney craned her neck, then bobbed and weaved as though dodging an invisible line of sight.

“There’s a small lot around back, but her designated spot is right there at the foot of the stairs.” I pointed to the empty space, yawning like a cavity between two other cars. It was almost midnight, and though I held no illusions my daughter was always tucked in bed by ten, I was starting to wonder what, exactly, she was doing out so late. Was she safe? Did she have it out with the mystery guy? Was she laughing and joking and carrying on with him like nothing happened?

“Wait, I see something.” Sydney peered through the darkness.

“What?” I followed her gaze toward the front door.

“Here, hand me the binoculars.”

“You carry binoculars?”

Sydney reached across me and fished around in the glove compartment, allowing receipts and wrappers and tissues to fall out in the process. Then she yanked out a small pair of binoculars, peeled off a packet of ketchup, and threw said packet on my foot.

“You never know when these will come in handy.” She brought the lenses to her eyes and adjusted the focus. “Every woman needs a pair.”

***

The above is from one of my favorite scenes in my NANO novel, where the heroine is spying on her young adult daughter. I'm almost sorry the story going to the backburner--so far on the backburner, in fact, that the fumes from the trash are wafting dangerously close.

You see, while I've enjoyed working in 1st person, and indulging in long-winded passages and far-out characterization, the truth is I don't think it'll have a place in the market. At least not yet, coming from an unknown. This is one time where it hurts me more than it hurts my characters, as 60,000 words are now just loitering on my hard drive.

It's time for a fond farewell. Hopefully someday we shall meet again, and in the meantime I'm developing a story that I think has more potential in the here and now. I'm a little sad, but I know that I may hang out with these characters from time to time when I'm in the mood to pick on someone. (Oh, if the heroine only knew what I know!)

My question to you is, have you ever abandoned a novel? How far into it were you? How'd you feel about dumping it?

Friday, January 08, 2010

I'M A KITE!

Yet again, I've been pegged by a simple quiz. Though I never really played with kites, the description fits. WHAT ARE YOU?





You Are a Kite



You've always been a dreamer, and you started dreaming at a very early age.

You can get lost in a fantasy. As a kid, you were happy to let your imagination go wild.



The smallest things can spark the biggest ideas. You can get lost in your own inner world simply by flying a kite.

As a kid, you didn't even really want toys. You would much rather play make believe than play with an expensive toy.


Thursday, January 07, 2010


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Love Finds You in Holiday, Florida

Summerside Press (November 1, 2009)

by

Sandra D. Bricker



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

For more than a decade, Author Sandra D. Bricker lived in Los Angeles. While writing in every spare moment, she worked as a personal assistant
and publicist to some of daytime television's hottest stars. When her mother became ill in Florida, she walked away from that segment of her life and moved across the country to take on a new role: Caregiver.

One of Sandie's passions revolves around the rights of animals. She's been involved in fundraising for Lost Angels Animal Rescue for several years now; in fact, a portion of the proceeds of Love Finds You in Holiday, Florida will go to help the non-profit group with their expenses. And Lost Angels paid her back in a big way: They brought a free-spirited Collie named Sophie into her life after the loss of her 15-year companion Caleb.

It was her 8th novel that opened the door to finding her way as a writer.

In Sandie's words: "I guess most people would see my career as a publicist as a sort of dream job. But giving it up turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me!" she declares. "Not only was I given the gift of getting to know my mother as an adult woman before she passed away, but I was also afforded the blessing of being able to focus completely on my dream of a writing career. I'm a Christian woman, first and foremost, so it was a bit of a dream-come-true when Summerside Press chose me as one of two authors to launch their new Love Finds You line."

ABOUT THE BOOK

Lawyer Cassie Constantine has no plans to stay in Florida. She's here just long enough to sell her late husbands vacation house, a tacky bungalow she's always despised then she'll hightail it back to her gracious Boston brownstone.

But the place needs more work than Cassie bargained for. What's more, her widow status is like a target on her back and the elderly matchmakers around town manage to sidetrack her mission at every turn.

Holiday is a landmine of golf tournaments, ballroom dancing competitions, shuffleboard and day trips. But the biggest obstacle of all? Richard Dillon, the stuffed shirt she's paired with on the dance floor.

Cassie had always considered herself uptight but Richard won't take a walk on the beach without his socks and shoes! There's one little problem he makes her heart beat faster than the rhythm of the quickstep. Can Cassie and Richard let loose long enough to have a little fun?

If you would like to read the prologue and first chapter of Love Finds You in Holiday, Florida, go HERE.


Watch the trailer:

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

10,000 HOURS

Last year I posted about the 10,000 hour rule. The basic idea, laid out in Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers is that 10,000 hours is about how long it takes to achieve mastery in any area, based on a study of people at the top of their fields. While the case studies outlined pertain mostly to music and computers, Gladwell asserts that the same rule can be applied to all areas (he even briefly mentioned fiction writing.)

In my previous post, I calculated how many hours I'd spent on fiction writing. While I believe the exercise was an eye-opener, I made a serious miscalculation. I arrived at my figure in the most simple way possible--by estimating how many hours I thought I wrote every day and multiplying by the number of days I'd written (approx.)

Where'd I go wrong?

My error was estimating. This year, instead of estimating how long I've sat in front of the computer writing productively (as opposed to goofing off and cruising message boards), I decided to use a more precise method: words per hour.

During NANO I discovered I write, on average, 800 words per hour. If I'm cruising I hit 1,000, but that's the exception, not the rule. To date, I've written:

4 full-length novels (80,000 words)
1 category (60K the 1st/2nd drafts, 50K for the 3rd.)

Assuming 3 drafts per book:

80,000 x 4= 960,000
60,000+60,000+50,000=170,000

TOTAL WORDS WRITTEN: 1,130,000 words

1,130,000 (total words) / 800 (words per hour) = 1,413 hours ACTUAL writing

Adding in 10 hours per month on studying the craft for 66 months= 660 hours studying (magazines, online classes, conference classes, craft writing books)

Grand total: 2073

GULP. I went backwards from last year. HAHA! Oh well, it's only theoretical, but at least I have a more clear idea how far I am from true mastery. PLUS, it allowed me to quit comparing myself to other writers who have written for 5.5 years like me but gone further. Not everyone puts in the same amount of hours per day, and not everyone puts out the same word count per hour. Though I'm disappointed in my efforts thus far (only 8 true hours per week, on average, dedicated to writing for the past 5.5 years)--I'm also freed.

Here's the bonus: using what I know, I'm able to reasonably demand 1600 words a day from myself and know that I can write 1 full length and 1 category (or a similar combination) this year. THAT makes my 2010 goals make sense.

TRY IT:

Word count per book, multiplied by number of drafts= TOTAL WORD COUNT
Total word count, divided by average word count per hour= NUMBER OF WRITING HOURS
Add in 10 hours per month (or your best real guess) for writing "education" to get your final number

Of course, it's all approximation, but a helpful tool for those of you who are like me, and like to quantify and measure.

What'd you get? OR, how do you determine your daily word count/yearly goals?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

THE SILENT GOVERNESS



A brilliant combination of romance, mystery, and secrets in the latest historical from Julie Klassen. Tense moments kept me on edge the entire book, and I liked it so much I ordered a previous novel by this author! If you enjoy Regency, I highly recommend The Silent Governess. Check out the blurb:

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Silent Governess

Bethany House; Original edition (January 1, 2010)

by

Julie Klassen



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Julie says: My background is in advertising and marketing, but I am blessed with a dream job—working as an editor of Christian fiction. I have been writing since childhood, but Lady of Milkweed Manor was my first novel. It was a finalist for a Christy Award and won second place in the Inspirational Reader's Choice Awards. My second novel, The Apothecary's Daughter, was a finalist in the ACFW Book of the Year awards. I am currently writing one novel a year.

I graduated from the University of Illinois and enjoy travel, research, BBC period dramas, long hikes, short naps, and coffee with friends.

My husband and I have two sons and live near St. Paul, Minnesota.


ABOUT THE BOOK


Olivia Keene is fleeing her own secret. She never intended to overhear his.

But now that she has, what is Lord Bradley to do with her? He cannot let her go, for were the truth to get out, he would lose everything--his reputation, his inheritance, his very home.

He gives Miss Keene little choice but to accept a post at Brightwell Court, where he can make certain she does not spread what she heard. Keeping an eye on the young woman as she cares for the children, he finds himself drawn to her, even as he struggles against the growing attraction. The clever Miss Keene is definitely hiding something.

Moving, mysterious, and romantic, The Silent Governess takes readers inside the intriguing life of a nineteenth-century governess in an English manor house where all is not as it appears.

If you would like to read the prologue and first chapter of The Silent Governess, go HERE. You can also sign up as a Follower when you get to that page, and get announcements of the first chapters for all the great books we tour!

Monday, January 04, 2010

NOW IS ....

2 Corinthians 6:2 (New International Version)
For he says,
"In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you,
now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.

There are two scriptures that jumped out to me while praying about 2010 goals. The one above (love it love it love it!) and this, James 4:13-15:


13Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." 14Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."

This past year I learned a thing or two (or ten) about the sovereignty of God. While I make my plans (goals), God's will WILL prevail. It's vanity to think I can control this or that, no matter how much I plan and pursue. I bear this in the forefront of my mind as I laid out these measurable goals--some things are achievable by me, some things are influenced by me, all things are subject to His plans.

My goals are broken into 3 categories: home/family, personal, writing. All goals listed are measurable (either they happen or they don't.) First I prayed and wrote them out, then I decided how to take action on them, THEN I decided how to keep track of them to stay accountable. Finally, they all need to be covered in prayer.

HOME/FAMILY:

*Sell home--place ads, keep clean, answer phone (haha, I'm infamous for ignoring the ringer)

*Buy home--frugal living, especially until we move

PERSONAL:

*Start each day with Bible time--get up earlier (ouch, but necessary)

*Lose 10 more pounds--workout 3-4 x per week. Plan meals. Dump ice cream.

*Read less--reduce from 2-3 books per week to 5 per month (odd, I know!)

Writing:

*Write 1600 words, 5 days a week, 49 weeks this year=392,000 words

*Begin agent search. Again. (Yes, for those who didn't know, I parted ways with my agent about a month ago.)

***On Wednesday I will post more specifically about how I arrived at 1600 for a writing goal, include more details, and I will have something for you to try with your own stats***

Now that I've shown you mine, I'd like to hear yours! What are your specific goals this year? What are you doing to make sure you stay accountable?

For those who comment , I will pray for you and what you share, and I ask you to do the same for me :D

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