Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
Last Friday I talked about my Idea Doc, a document on my computer that I created to house all my ideas.
This Friday I am going to talk about my Story Notebook. I don't have a fancy name for this notebook. It's just a spiral notebook, usually a five subject with a vinyl cover so I can really beat it up and it won't fall apart. This thing gets drug all over the country so it needs to be durable.
Here's what I include in my story notebook:
Character Sketches-- I jot down ideas for what the characters look like, their backstory, their likes, dislikes, etc.
Things That Could Happen-- If I get an idea for something that might happen in the story, I put it in that notebook as soon as I can. I carry a notebook in my purse to jot down notes when I am out, then make sure to put that idea in my Story Notebook as soon as possible when I get home.
Ideas For Other Stories-- If I have an idea for a book I am thinking of writing in the future, I jot those down too. I just make a heading at the top of the page indicating what book idea it's for.
Editing Notes-- In this notebook I make my lists of what I need to do according to what my editor said in her macroedit letter. Sometimes her thoughts are more global, like "Strengthen the relationship between this character and this character." I make a list of ways I can do that, scenes I need to write, etc.
Story Structure-- This is where I flesh out the story in a rough outline: this happens, then this happens, then this happens. It's very rough but it helps me see the trajectory of the story.
Freewriting-- I might just jot down a rough scene that I want to flesh out later. But the image or the feelings for that scene are occurring now and I want to capture them before they are gone like the wind, which is common for me as I get older.
Notes I Take From Writing Books I Am Reading-- This is just quotes, questions to ask about my story structure, my character development, ideas I can use in my writing, etc.
As you can see, this idea notebook is not set in stone. There's no right or wrong way to do it. There's nothing that's off limits to go in there. It's just a repository for my thoughts, bound between two covers, held together by a thin, coiled wire. Oh, and dreams.
**In January there will be a free writers' conference offered at Lifeway's Ridgecrest Center. The only cost to you is your lodging and food. This is a good deal if you live within a reasonable drive from the mountains of North Carolina. Details can be found here: http://stuartmarket.blogspot.com/2010/12/writers-advance-bootcamp.html
Thursday, December 16, 2010
I don't know what we will do to mark the day. I know that Curt's been thinking about it a lot. I know that we feel very blessed that he is employed one year later. He's joked about taking biscuits to his former office (he had brought biscuits into the office that morning and his boss actually asked him for a biscuit after he fired him... true story!). I will be attending the P31 Christmas get-together and getting to see a friend of the ministry who has walked through the trial of breast cancer this year. I will get to celebrate with her that we've both come through our trials with changed perspectives, a broader scope that makes us better people.
Most of all, I intend to smile a lot tomorrow, and to thank God throughout the day-- not just for the provision of a job, but for the lessons we've learned. One year later we've grown. One year later we've experienced Him in a whole new way. One year later we have more to be thankful for. One year later we know that He is the answer. We knew that one year ago, but we've lived it one year later.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
3 The LORD has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
4 Restore our fortunes, LORD,
like streams in the Negev.
5 Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.
One of the girls in my online writing group sent this Psalm out to another writer who was having a rough day. We all appreciated reading it, as it meant different things to different ones of us. I thought it was an approprate Psalm to share with you guys, as it expresses the hope of great things to come, the value of dreaming of a bright future. Sure we might be weeping now, but we have a harvest of joy waiting just ahead. For those of you who are struggling with finances or marriage or parenting or just... life, let this Psalm be your prayer today, praising Him for what's to come and trusting that it is, indeed, just ahead.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
2. Attend a performance at a church as a family. Many churches offer free musicals/plays with talented musicians and performers.
3. Plan a different goodie to bake with them each day. Buy a Christmas Cookie cookbook or peruse websites for recipes. Post a list on the fridge of what you're going to bake each day. Involve them as much as possible. Then make a production out of packaging the goodies really fancy and taking them to neighbors, friends, pastors, etc. Kids love to deliver goodies to neighbors!
4. Find one easy craft you can do with them. Years ago we glued little balled up tissue paper to cut out circles from paper plates to make wreaths. It wasn't hard or terribly messy, and the kids loved it. Find something like that you can do.
5. Take them to see Santa. Go out to lunch afterwards.
6. Go to the dollar store and let them pick out something for each family member. Let them wrap the gifts and put them under the tree.
7. Check out Christmas books at the library. Read them aloud. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson is funny and will take you a few days of reading to get through. Well worth the read if you haven't read it! (I have a list of our favorite titles in my Christmas ebook, A Recipe For Christmas Joy.)
8. Try to find a live nativity to visit. Come home and read the story from the Bible.
9. Check your local library or community center for special craft classes or activity days they are having for kids. These are usually free or have a small fee.
10. Get some families together and go Christmas caroling. Involve the kids in selecting the songs, making a special snack and a pot of wassail to come home to.
Monday, December 13, 2010
(Ok, confession time: I will be writing some every day. I can't help it. It's fun for me. I know... it's a sickness. And I am enjoying enjoying writing again. During the edits I hated it and thought I'd never do so with joy again. Since Christmas is about joy, why not do something that's bringing me exactly that?)
But I digress... this is not "Fiction Friday," this is "In A Food Mood" Monday. Sorry!
Today for "In A Food Mood" I thought I'd share a link to a cookie recipe that I intend to bake with my kids while they're home. These look so much easier than the tedious cut and decorate kind. I love doing those, but if time does not lend itself to doing those, these are a nice alternative.
But wait, there's more!
Here is a bar recipe that I am going to send to my kids' school for the cookie exchange the parents are putting on for the teachers. Isn't that such a neat idea? Perhaps all schools do this and I am just late to this party because my kids were home with me for so many years. But I think blessing the teachers with homebaked cookies when they don't have time to make them themselves because they are busy teaching and loving on our kids (ideally) is so great! Each parent only has to send in a dozen so that makes this idea very doable. We'll even have some to keep for ourselves... which is a plus, or not, depending on how you look at it.
Here's the recipe:
1 cup margarine, melted
2 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed
2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
12 oz. pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips
Mix margarine and brown sugar together. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Slowly stir in flour and chocolate chips; spread into a greased 13X9" baking pan. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes, cool completely before cutting into bars. Makes 2 dozen.
This recipe comes from the Comfort and Joy cookbook published by my favorite cookbook publishers, Gooseberry Patch. Give yourself a gift of one of these fun Christmas cookbooks this year!
Friday, December 10, 2010
Here is what goes into this document:
1. Current projects-- anything I am under contract for.
2. Ongoing commitments-- this includes any blogs I regularly submit to, magazines I am writing articles for on a regular basis, etc.
3. Books I have written (just because I like to see them listed out).
4. Quotes or lyrics from songs that I might like to use as epitaphs (epigraphs? epithets? the quotes at the beginning of the book, you know what I mean) in upcoming books.
5. Titles I think of. (I might have no idea what kind of book it would be, but it's just a cool sounding title, so I capture it just in case later an idea that would fit with that title comes to me.)
6. Names for characters. (If I hear a cool name I might like to use in the future-- male or female-- I put it in there.
7. Book ideas. In this section I write the title of the book and then a paragraph that reads like back cover copy. This is a way of cataloguing ideas for the future. Sometimes two ideas become one. Sometimes I will be working with a new character or a new scene and will need an idea, so I will pluck something out of another book idea. After all, I am not writing future books, I am writing current books. So I have learned not to save ideas for later.
I will often open this file and just spend some time updating it-- jotting down new ideas and making changes. This document is fluid, constantly being tweaked. I have been very glad numerous times that I have it. Perhaps you'd like to create one of your own!
Next Friday I will talk about the notebooks I keep for developing these ideas. See you then!
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Today I am going to knock out the rest of the questions you all sent in when I asked for questions. My intention was to answer just one a week, but I feel like this has drug on long enough. :) So I am going to answer all of these. Hope you have a cup of coffee handy cause this might take awhile...
I would like to know if you have a couple tips/tricks on saving money in order to become financially free at some point. I would love to be free from debt but right now it seems like we can barely buy groceries.
The best thing I can tell you about saving money is that you have to constantly ask yourself "Is this necessary?" I found that much of what we spent money on was not necessary when we really sat down and listed it all out. So we started cutting everywhere we could. To this day I basically spend money in two places: the grocery store and putting gas in my car. And that's pretty much it. Why? Because I still really ask myself if something's necessary. I also learned to pray for specifics of what we needed. I included several stories about that being part of my spiritual walk in our book Learning To Live Financially Free.
I will say that making a menu using the sale ads from your local grocery store can be very helpful, having meatless dinners can save money, and breakfast for dinner once a week saves money too. Also I have several friends who've made a hobby out of cutting and using coupons. These ladies save TONS of money on groceries by doing this. Unfortunately with the other things I do, I simple can't add that to my life so I don't know much about it. I do know if you google "saving money with coupons," there are a number of sites that will teach you the ins and outs of that. My friend Sherri has a great site to check out http://www.luvabargain.com/
I hope this helps.
I'm so deeply burdened about debt and finances that I can hardly breathe. I feel like an anvil is on my chest. Not sure where to even start when we are barely scooting by.
My heart hurt for you when I read this question. I know that feeling! And I know a lot of other people do too. Please go back and re-read my post from yesterday. Spend some time journaling your feelings. Write in your journal as if you were writing straight from your heart to God's. Give it all to Him. Keep praying, keep working towards getting out of the mess you're in. It takes time, but it is possible. Curt met with a financial counselor who told him the only thing she could see for us to do was to claim bankruptcy. He came home and said he felt like God was telling him that wasn't the answer. So on faith we didn't and instead we made the commitment to do whatever it took to get out of debt. With God all things are possible. Even scaling that mountain of debt you're standing in front of.
Check out our book or Dave Ramsey's site or Crown Financial for more specific information and encouragement for your journey. There is hope. There is freedom. I promise.
I want to hear your strategies for keeping your house clean with all those kids and all you do!
I would like to say that my house is clean all the time. But I have committed to being totally honest and real with you guys so I won't say that. I will say that my house is NEAT pretty much all the time. Here are a few things I've learned to make that happen:
Never walk by something if you can go ahead and put it away. A little saying I heard (don't remember the source) is "Don't put it down, put it away." Usually there are only a few steps difference in putting something in its proper place. Those few steps are worth it, in my opinion. I am working on teaching my kids the same thing-- this works well sometimes and not at all other times.
Along those lines, have a designated spot for everything. You can only put things away if there's a place made for whatever it is. This might take some time on the front end-- buying containers, organizing cabinets, cleaning things out, etc.-- but once it's done, it's fairly easy to stay on top of.
Also, get rid of things. Purge regularly. Donate things to Goodwill or local ministries. If you have more than one of something, do you really need and use it? This will do a lot to eliminate clutter and make things easier to organize.
Many hands do make light work. Between all of my kids and me, we can clean a house in short order! The trick is involving the kids and giving them regular chores. We had a chore chart that worked well for a long time, dividing the house into zones (kitchen zone, living area zone, bathroom zone) and giving each child a different zone for 10 days. There was a list of what we expected for each zone posted on the fridge. This is worth trying if you have at least 3 kids who can help. Now I pretty much just write down chores I want done and assign a child to each one. When they walk in from school, the list is on the kitchen counter waiting for them. They have their snack and they know before they get to go play they must do their assigned chore. It works well! These chores might be put toys away, stairs (I put stuff I've gathered that goes upstairs in their rooms on the stairs-- they have to take it all up), shoes (putting away the shoes that have collected by the back door), a particular bathroom cleaned, the floors vacuumed, the kitchen floor mopped/swept, dusting, etc. Nothing takes more than 15 minutes. They know it's part of living here. They can put in 15 minutes out of a whole day. And we all reap the rewards of a peaceful, uncluttered living environment.
I do laundry every day. I have one basket for the whole house. When that gets full, I do the laundry. Not very scientific, but we never run out of clothes either. The kids for the most part fold the laundry and put it away. Sometimes if I have time or am feeling especially generous, I do it. Curt thinks I never should. Some of y'all have heard his rule: If there's something the kids can do then I never should. I like that rule.
I guess the moral of this answer is, keeping the house clean is a family affair. I am definitely not the only one making a mess, so I shouldn't be the only one cleaning it up.
I have a question about writing...but about a children's book (don't know if you can answer or not)! I have written the words to a children's book and would like to have it illustrated. I know one or two people that can draw, but wasn't sure how to put it together? Do they just draw on white pieces of paper or is there some sort of bound book I need to get?
I must admit I know nothing about children's publishing. I haven't written children's books and it's a whole different segment of the industry. The good news is, my friend Van has! Check out her blog to get to know her. She self-published her book, From The Pound To The Palace, and used a local high school student to do the art work. I love that idea!! She could tell you the specifics of how she did it if you contacted her.
I am speaking at a children's writing convention called Write To Ignite as the keynote speaker in February and I would love for you to attend! Check out the details here: http://www.write2ignite.com/
Phew! Done! If you've read this far, thank you!! It's a good feeling to finish up these questions. I appreciate each person who sent one and I hope that my answers have been helpful in some small way.
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Psalm 146:7, He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the
hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free.
Today I have a devotion running at P31. It's a devotion that I felt when I was writing it was going to be very important for someone out there. If that's you, don't be afraid of the journey you are about to go on. It's a hard one, but it's worth it. Take steps to do whatever it takes to get out of debt, to live free. Once you're on the other side, you will be SO glad you gutted it out. We are.
In keeping with the theme of the devotion, I wanted to share a verse from the Psalms about being set free. Many of you are feeling the oppression and captivity that comes with being a slave to your creditors, constantly working to pay them off, their hold on you robbing you of your joy. Curt and I know how that feels and that's why we shared our story in detail in our book Learning To Live Financially Free. We wanted to offer hope-- to share that there is a way out. It's not magic and it's not instant. And sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better.
But it does get better.
You have to make a plan and work the plan. You have to come together if you're married and not come apart. You have to work hard and go without. It's not easy. But it's worth it. Because at the end of all of your hard work, there is freedom waiting.
Our journey out of debt (4.5 years) was one of my biggest times of spiritual growth as we learned to seek God and depend on God like never before. He wants you to live a life of freedom. Very rarely does He send along miracles that instantly get you out of debt. Like any good parent, He's a Father who knows we won't learn our lesson if we get rescued and don't have to walk out the consequences of our poor choices. But He also will protect you and give you just enough to keep you going when you get down along the way... because you will. But it doesn't have to stay that way. He sets the prisoners free. If you are feeling imprisoned by debt this Christmas, let this be the impetus you need to change, just like it was for us years ago as we sat in a cold car and talked about what it would look like to be debt free.
I can tell you that I am glad we did whatever it took. You will be, too.
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
I have to admit that there's something I love about curling up with a Christmas novel. I usually don't like cheesy sappy romances but when Christmas comes, I am all for them! In fact, the cheesier and sappier, the better. So here are some great new (and some old) Christmas books for you to check out from your library or add to your collection (I included the Amazon links for each one). If the idea of curling up with a cup of something hot by a warm fire for a heartwarming story is your idea of a good time, you've come to the right place!
The Christmas Letters by Lee Smith. I pulled this out the other day and read it in two treadmill sessions. It's more a novella than a novel. I love the premise. It's one of those ideas I wish I'd thought of. Three generations of women tell their family's stories via those Christmas missives we all love to hate. Lee Smith is one of my favorite authors and was a huge influence on me as a young writer. She's a great writer, plain and simple.
Comfort And Joy by Kristin Hannah is the story of a woman who gets in a plane crash and wanders into the lives of a widower and his son after she stumbles from the wreckage. A sweet story about trusting and loving again, this book held my attention to the end. That's saying something. It requires a certain amount of suspending your disbelief... but isn't that what Christmas is all about?
Christmas At Harrington's by Melody Carlson. I read this this year. It's a sweet story about a woman who's been released from prison and starts a new life in a small town. Through the gift of a stranger, she lands a job as "Mrs Santa" at a department store and her life-- and others-- are changed as a result. It's a good story and I enjoyed the fact that most heroines are not recently released prisoners, so that adds a unique aspect to the story.
The Treasure of Christmas by Melody Carlson is a 3-in-1 collection of Carlson's previous novellas. This one is sure to keep you busy reading all the way to the big day. The stories in this one include The Christmas Bus, The Gift Of Christmas Present, and Angels in the Snow. If you have a friend who likes Christmas novels, this would make a great early Christmas present for her!
The Joy of Christmas by Melody Carlson is another 3-in-1 collection of Carlson's previous novellas. The stories in this one are An Irish Christmas, All I Have To Give, and The Christmas Dog.
Christmas With Tucker by Greg Kincaid is the prequel to the book mentioned below, but it came out this year. This tells the story of the dad in A Dog Named Christmas... and why he's so guarded about having a dog for a pet.
A Dog Named Christmas by Greg Kincaid was a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie last year. A story about a developmentally delayed boy who fosters a dog for Christmas so the dog won't have to be in the pound. He gets so passionate about this fostering program that he lobbies for his whole town to also foster animals for the holiday.
I'll Be Home For Christmas by Julie Cannon. If you love WWII novels, you'll love this book from the new "When I Fall In Love" series by Summerside Press, a series of books that all revolve around famous songs. Cute idea! Of course it makes sense that they would do this famous Christmas song as one of their first books.
Call Me Mrs Miracle by Debbie Macomber is not one I've read, but it's on my list. Debbie has inspired me through her non-fiction: Knit Together and God's Guest List (just read that one a few weeks ago). This story is a Hallmark Channel movie this year so be on the lookout for it!
On Strike For Christmas by Sheila Roberts. I read this last year and I remember it being a cute, entertaining read. It kept me turning pages til the very end and that's saying a lot. I guess I could identify with the idea of going on strike for Christmas a little too easily. :) This book has been made into a movie that comes out this year on Lifetime, I think. I also saw that she has another Christmas title out this year called The Snow Globe. Looks interesting.
I've been playing with a Christmas novel idea this month while I am in the Christmas spirit (ie, in the mood to write about Christmas). So far I've written 15,000 words of it and am liking how it's coming. Maybe someday my novel will be on someone's top ten Christmas reads list.
What books have I missed? I'd love to hear your faves!
Monday, December 06, 2010
Here is a recipe from my collection you might like to make this Christmas! It's a favorite at our house!
Chocolate Chip Toffee Grahams
11 whole graham crackers broken into squares
1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (chop in this and kids can help!)
1 (6 oz) pkg mini chocolate chips
Arrange graham cracker squares in a single layer in a cookie sheet with rim lined with foil for easier cleanup.
Combine butter and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until butter melts. Bring to a boil and boil for two minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cinnamon and pecans. Pour over graham crackers and spread evenly to edges of pan. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with mini chips. Cool five minutes, separate cookies and transfer to waxed paper lined cookie sheets. Refrigerate until chocolate hardens. Store between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container. Makes 2 dozen.
And finally, a shameless plug for my Christmas ebook, A Recipe For Christmas Joy. I have tons of recipes in it for everything from Christmas dinner to goodies to gifts you can give from your kitchen, not to mention our family's favorite traditions that you can implement at your house! And the best part is, it's a download so you get it as a file right away-- no waiting for shipping! I just love instant gratification!
Friday, December 03, 2010
1. Ideas don't come from watching television
2. Ideas sometimes come from listening to a lecture
3. Ideas often come while reading a book
4. Good ideas come from bad ideas, but only if there are enough of them
5. Ideas hate conference rooms, particularly conference rooms where there is a history of criticism, personal attacks or boredom
6. Ideas occur when dissimilar universes collide
7. Ideas often strive to meet expectations. If people expect them to appear, they do
8. Ideas fear experts, but they adore beginner's mind. A little awareness is a good thing
9. Ideas come in spurts, until you get frightened. Willie Nelson wrote three of his biggest hits in one week
10. Ideas come from trouble
11. Ideas come from our ego, and they do their best when they're generous and selfless
12. Ideas come from nature
13. Sometimes ideas come from fear (usually in movies) but often they come from confidence
14. Useful ideas come from being awake, alert enough to actually notice
15. Though sometimes ideas sneak in when we're asleep and too numb to be afraid
16. Ideas come out of the corner of the eye, or in the shower, when we're not trying
17. Mediocre ideas enjoy copying what happens to be working right this minute
18. Bigger ideas leapfrog the mediocre ones
19. Ideas don't need a passport, and often cross borders (of all kinds) with impunity
20. An idea must come from somewhere, because if it merely stays where it is and doesn't join us here, it's hidden. And hidden ideas don't ship, have no influence, no intersection with the market. They die, alone.
Thursday, December 02, 2010
I was wondering if you have any tips/tricks for organizing a very small space! I live in a small home with two children. We love to read/craft/play games/etc...all this takes precious space we don't have...any ideas would be appreciated! :)
These moms blog about organization and crafting. Spend some time on their blogs and I think you'll be inspired in both areas!
Go Mom Inc.
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
"Praise the LORD, my soul,and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all yourDavid could have focused on his failures. Instead, he remembered and focused on God's forgiveness. He could have focused on his diseases. Instead, he remembered and focused on how good God had been to heal them. He could have focused on the pain of the pit. Instead, he remembered and focused on the fact that God had pulled him out of it.
sins and heals all your diseases,who redeems your life from the pit and crowns
you with love and compassion," Psalm 103:2-4
Difficulties are going to come. Walking with God sometimes means walking through trials. But instead of focusing on your situation, remember God's goodness. Let it permeate your thoughts and emotions. Because whatever your past performance or present struggle, God is with you to help, save and heal. He will, because He is a good God.
EXCERPTED FROM MY PASTOR, STEVEN FURTICK'S BOOK SUN STAND STILL, p. 87