Friday, September 30, 2011

Fiction Friday: Writing Likable Characters

Last week we asked our characters who they are. This week we're asking: Does anyone like you?

That's a question we have to answer for our characters. These two posts will help to determine how to make sure that the answer is a resounding YES!

Captain America's Ten Step Guide To The Likable Hero

Creating Sympathetic Heroes, Part I

I will never forget one of the biggest pieces of feedback I got from my editor after she read She Makes It Look Easy was "I don't like your main character. She's insecure, she whines, she's not good at anything she does. I just feel depressed when I read her." I had to go back and figure out how to make it so my reader didn't feel that way about her. Because if readers feel that way, they will put your book down. I hope that these posts will help you create likable characters so you never have to hear what my editor said. If I can save one person from that fate, I've done my job.
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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday Thought: Towards Healing

Yesterday I ran a guest post from my friend Mary DeMuth. Today I am providing a link to a video by her that I hope you will watch. If it doesn't apply to you, then perhaps you know someone who needs this information and encouragement. Take a few minutes to hear what she has to say. It's worth listening to.

(I would post the video here but apparently my computer has developed an allergy to all videos by YouTube. If I try to load one, it shuts the whole thing down.)
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Psalms For Moms: Sing (A Guest Post)

I read today's post in my dear friend Mary DeMuth's newsletter and immediately emailed her to ask if I could use it as Psalms For Moms guest post, to which she graciously said yes. Visit Mary and find out about her wonderfulness at her site. Access her September newsletter in its entirety (and subscribe for yourself) here.

I will shout for joy and sing your praises,
for you have ransomed me. Psalm 71:23

"Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." Henry David Thoreau

Will you die with your song still inside? Will I? Is there something only you can sing to the world that must be sung, but fear has held you hostage? The Lord tells us all, it's time to sing.

But sometimes I fear I've lost my voice.

Yesterday I read this in Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. The setting is that Much-Afraid, a scarred and scared woman is trying to venture to the high places. In this point in her journey mountainward, she is in the mist, nothing all around her but her companions Sorrow and Suffering. And everywhere she walks, she hears the voices of her enemies, trying to discourage and destroy her. Finally, after the voices threaten to stop her, she decides to sing.

"There was perfect silence as she sang. The loud, sneering voices of her enemies had died away altogether. 'It is a good idea,' said Much-Afraid to herself jubilantly. 'I wish I had thought of it before. It [singing] is a much better way to avoid hearing what they are saying than putting cotton in my ears, and I believe, yes, I really do believe, there is a little rift in the mist ahead. How lovely, I shall sing the verse again.' And she did so. (page 162).

This touched me. It reminded me. It helped me.

I am called to sing.

Particularly when the voices inside and around me are hollering terrible things. My job is to refrain from stifling myself and be brave enough to sing a song to Jesus.

Today was a terrible day. Yesterday too. The day before was even worse. When I ran along the neighborhood and music flooded my earphones, all I could do was cry. I heard music but I didn't sing. Couldn't.

But then I read this small little verse and I remembered:

I will shout for joy and sing your praises,
for you have ransomed me. Psalm 71:23

God has ransomed me.

I must sing.

And so must you.
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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Two For Tuesday: Blogging Tips

Here's a post for those of you who are bloggers-- or want to be.

This post is filled with ideas that will serve as a springboard to get you blogging-- especially if you've hit a slump and need some new ideas. Get out a piece of paper and make a list of posts you want to write, adding personal, specific details as they come to mind. Use this list whenever you sit down to write.

This post is by Michael Hyatt about how to write a blog post in 70 minutes. The tips he gives are good for any kind of writing-- whether a devotion, a blog post, an article, essay or book. I especially like the point about starting the night before. I do that but had never really thought about what I was doing.
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Monday, September 26, 2011

A New Blogging Schedule

One of the things I thought a lot about during my month off in July and my different schedule in August was what I wanted to do when I came back to posting on a regular schedule. I knew I wanted to make some changes as I get tired of the same old thing.

And so, here's what I am going to try-- a new schedule just to keep things from being the same old same old around here.

Mondays: Either Menu Plan Monday (with the occasional recipe thrown in for good measure) or a Simple Woman's Daybook entry. This will vary according to what I am in the mood to write. The past two weeks I've done one of each so you can go back and see what I am talking about if you missed them.

Tuesdays: Two For Tuesdays-- I will write about two things that are on my mind that are related in some way. This might mean verses, quotes, links to posts, authors I'm enjoying, recipes I've made lately... there will be no rhyme or reason to it, which I think will keep it fresh. I enjoyed doing the Top Ten Posts but felt I had exhausted that topic in the year I did it. Two is easier to come up with than ten.

Wednesdays: Will remain "Psalms For Moms" posts. This seems to be a popular post and I still have plenty of Psalms I haven't touched on yet.

Thursdays: Will remain the "Thursday Thought"-- I am going to try to keep Thursdays short and sweet, focusing on good quotes and things that will get you thinking, but not belaboring them.

Fridays: Will remain Fiction Friday. I could talk fiction every day of the week, so I am showing restraint in limiting it to just Fridays.

I hope you like this new schedule. I am excited about changing things up and will look forward to sharing with you in this new school year!
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Monday, September 19, 2011

The Simple Woman's Daybook

I am taking the rest of this week off from blogging as I am going to be traveling a lot this week. I hope you all have a great week! If you are stopping by after reading the devotion at Proverbs 31, welcome! I hope you'll stay and poke around for awhile. Glad to have you! I will be back next Monday, when I will be announcing my new blogging daily schedule. I hope you'll come back for a visit then.

Outside my window... sunny as I write this-- blue skies, wispy clouds, still warm with just the barest hint of fall in the air

I am thinking... about the week ahead-- today I head home from one event and Wednesday I journey to another. I never travel back to back and I hardly travel at all anymore so this is a strange week for me.

I am thankful... for the time I will get to spend with friends I don't see often while I am at these events.

In the kitchen... pizza, Chick Fil A, sub sandwiches-- easy dad-friendly fare

I am wearing... black and white polka dotted pajama pants and a black top

I am creating... updated recipe files. My recipe binder got too full and so I had to go to Office Max and buy the biggest size binder they sell. This new one is 3"-- plenty of room to hold recipes galore! And it's pink!

I am going... to St Louis on Wednesday! Never been there before and looking forward to it.

I am wondering... about my new novel. Soon I will be finding out what I will be writing-- a decision that will be reached with the help and input of me, my agent, and publisher. I am excited about the possibilities!

I am reading... The Art Of Forgetting by Camille Noe Pagan, Grace For The Good Girl by Emily Freeman, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, The Writer's Compass by Nancy Ellen Dodd-- I never read just one book at a time. I've usually got at least a nonfiction self-help type book, a writing instruction book, and a novel going at any given moment.

I am hoping... my kids do well in school this year. I've got one embarking on his first year of college, one working hard to get into college as it's her senior year, and one beginning high school and hopefully believing the adults who are telling him that freshman year counts.

I am looking forward to... learning at the workshops I will be attending at ACFW.

I am hearing... nothing. Silence really is golden.

Around the house... Packing and unpacking (anyone else feel compelled to start singing the theme song to WKRP In Cincinnati whenever they hear that phrase?). Lists. Errands. Cleaning.

I am pondering... character names. I like to glean from Facebook. Check out the people your friends are friends with for some great suggestions. Also mastheads in magazines have great character names. I can remember being a young teen and poring over the Southern Living masthead to get my character names-- that's a habit that never died out.

One of my favorite things... Greek Pastries. I can't always pronounce them but I do love nibbling on them. Last week we had our annual date night at the Greek Festival in our city and enjoyed it as always. We picked up lots of goodies and the children were grateful we came home bearing sweet gifts.

A few plans for the rest of the week: Travel.

Want to visit other Simple Woman's Daybook editions? Check out her site for links.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Fiction Friday: Persistence Pays Off

Last Friday we talked about being determined in our writing. Well I am going to continue that theme this week by sharing a snippet from this interview with Danielle Steel that was featured on Goodreads. I have to admit this interview made me grow in respect for her-- I had sort of dismissed her as not a serious writer and that was presumptuous of me. Someone who is as successful as she is must have something going on! I especially loved her comments about ghostwriters.

Anyway, this is the part that I wanted to share with you. It inspired me to keep at it. I hope it does you as well!

Then I thought I'll do this again [write another novel after the success of her first], but then I wrote five others that nobody ever wanted. I have no idea what made me pursue this. I think just stubbornness. I had no thought of becoming famous, and I had made practically no money on the one I sold. But I just always had another story that I wanted to tell, and while those ones were not selling I just kept writing more. And finally the seventh one sold again. I had five unpublished in between my first and the next published book.

I always use it as an example for young writers because persistence is the most important thing. Had I given up anytime between number one and number seven, I would never have had the career I have today. I really think it's important to keep at it and keep with it. And people are very unkind about unpublished authors. You know, the minute you say you're a writer, they say, "Have you been published?" and if you haven't, they think that doesn't make you a writer. But you're a writer if you're writing. And it may take longer than you want to get published. But keep at it. I think persistence wins the prize in almost anything.
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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thursday Thought: Grace For The Good Girl Review And Giveaway!

Grace for the Good Girl addresses the common experience of many Christian women who are trying hard to live a performance-based life instead of resting in God’s grace. We can live in a loving relationship with God by receiving His love, rather than striving to be a “good girl."

I am reading this book because I am a good girl, a rule follower. I know how to toe the line. I am the one asking for clarification of the rules when they are announced. I'm also the one who gets aggravated with those people who completely ignore the rules. I am comfortable with rules. They make me feel safe.

So this book has been good for me-- to shake me up a little. I thought that being a good girl-- obeying the rules (or at least knowing what they are) was a good thing. And I fell into several of the traps that can come along with that mentality, which Emily Freeman outlines in her book.

Here are some quotes I underlined:

  • If I am trying to please God, it is difficult to trust God. But when I trust God, pleasing Him is automatic.

  • God longs for us to place our trust in Him rather than in ourselves. One way to do that was to give us a law we could not keep to show us how very perfect He is. And there, in our weak and helpless condition, we would finally agree with Him. We need Someone to act on our behalf.

  • Worship, not work, flows out of the hearts of those who believe.

  • You have trained people to think you have no needs, but you are secretly angry with them for believing you.

If you're a good girl, you might want to pick up a copy of this book or leave a comment to win one! I will choose a winner and notify her privately so make sure I have a way to find you via your comment.

I am reading a chapter each morning for my quiet time-- and trying to ignore the fact that having a quiet time is a "good girl" thing to do. Just to be a rebel I am not answering the questions at the end of each chapter. At least, I am not writing the answers down. So there.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Psalms For Mom: Re-Writing

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to His eyes." Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

I just finished a pretty extensive re-write for my third novel that took me most of August. While I knew it was necessary, I didn't relish the rewriting process. I rather wanted to avoid it, wishing the editing fairy would make an appearance.

Today's Psalm tells us that God is doing that work in our lives. He's editing, streamlining, shaping... into the best possible story He can tell. He's the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2)-- which means He won't stop til He has the best possible product.

But that doesn't mean the process is easy. Editing is hard and awkward and sometimes painful. Editing is unpleasant. I haven't met an author yet who has told me he or she loves the editing process. But I also haven't met one yet who has told me they could turn in a stellar product without that process.

Today I want to submit to the process, to open the book of my heart to Him and let Him start trimming away, adding and deleting as He sees fit. One thing I love about this verse is that God doesn't just muscle His way in. He waits for us to open ourselves up to Him-- to say, "Here. I've made a mess of this. Will You make something beautiful?" We have to want Him to rewrite our lives.

Are you ready to open the book of your heart to Him?
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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Journaling Tips

Throughout the month of August I posted journaling prompts. I hope it got you guys thinking... and writing! In light of that, I decided I would offer some journaling tips for those of you who are starting journaling-- or thinking about getting more serious about it.

1. Find a journal that works for you-- whether that's a composition book you bought for a buck or a fancy schmancy leatherbound dealie. I like a 5X7 size spiral bound journal with a durable cover-- and it's even better if that cover is pretty. You just want something that invites you to write. If it seems too ugly, utilitarian or fancy for your personality, it's not going to work.

2. Struggling with something to write about? How about unsent letters? Write a letter to someone you've lost, someone you need to talk to but don't have the courage, someone you need to confess something to, apologize to, etc.

3. Journals are also a great place for goal setting, dreaming, strategizing, etc. Just seeing your hopes in black and white can be the inspiration you need to finally take action. A study done by Kaiser Permanente on 1700 people trying to lose weight, those who wrote down their foods in a journal lost up to twice as much as those who did not.

4. If journaling in the broad sense of the word overwhelms you, consider creating a journal with a specific focus. For example, a weight loss journal, a spiritual journal, a travel journal, a cooking journal, a creative journal, a gratitude journal, a reading journal (write about books you're reading), a dream journal, etc.

5. Don't feel like you have to write every day. Sometimes I only write once a month in mine. If I am not in the mood sometimes I just can't force myself to be. But I am always pleasantly surprised when I push past those feelings of resistance.

6. Don't feel like you have to write in complete sentences-- or write at all. Draw arrows, charts, outlines, or write bullet points using fragments.

7. Don't censor or judge yourself on what you're writing. Shut off your inner critic and just let the emotions come to the surface. Don't worry about language, grammar, or being pc. A journal isn't the place to say what you're "supposed" to say.

8. Go back and re-read your writing from time to time. I've been amazed sometimes to read something I wrote months ago that I thought I was just now figuring out. It's amazing how short our memories can be!

9. Need some inspiration? Read books on journaling. Type in "journaling" into the Amazon search field and you'll get a surprising number of results.

10. Don't count your blog as your journal. Blogs are great but just the fact that they're public doesn't mean that they're going to inhibit what you feel free to say.

Remember, journaling is just taking notes on your life. What do you want to remember? What's important to you? What stands out? That's the stuff you should journal about!
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Monday, September 12, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

Thought I'd share my menu plan today as we kick off a new week.

Pork Tenderloin with Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, Buttered Corn

Grilled Pork Chops, Roasted Potatoes, Green Beans

Grilled Chicken in Homemade Pomodoro Sauce over Penne Pasta, Salad

Roast in the Crockpot over Egg Noodles, Salad

Grilled Chicken, Pasta Salad, Lima Beans

Asian Chicken over rice, Steamed Broccoli

Many of the recipes for this menu plan were from the Gooseberry Patch cookbook, Super Fast Slow Cooking. I got mine at Cracker Barrel but you can order it online via the link I provided. One example of an easy and delicious meal is "Dad's Pork Tenderloin." Put the pork tenderloin in the crockpot and sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper. Mix a can of Cream of Mushroom, a can of Golden Mushroom, and a can of French Onion Soup together and pour over the meat. Cook all day and serve the meat with the gravy over mashed potatoes or rice or egg noodles. So good! So easy!

How about you? What's for dinner at your house this week? Want more inspiration? Head on over to and click on her "Menu Plan Monday" link.
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Friday, September 09, 2011

Fiction Friday: In Defense of Determination

The other day as I was running, I was thinking about Chris Daughtry. Ok, so I was listening to Chris Daughtry, which is what got me thinking about him. Chris Daughtry has gone on after American Idol to be one of the most successful musicians ever launched from the show. (And my personal fave) And yet, he didn't win. In fact, he almost didn't even get pushed through by the judges in his initial audition. You can watch it here.

Simon told him no.

But Simon didn't know. He may have had experience. He may know a lot about the music business. He may have picked a lot of hit singers. But this time, he got it wrong.

These thoughts got me thinking about those of us who let that one "no" stop us. We let one person's opinion determine whether we're going to be a success or not. We don't become so determined that nothing-- and no one-- can stop us. We don't believe in ourselves enough to push past the people who have the power to hinder us. We stay stuck in this place when the possibility for success is there all the time.

And so I give you Allison's story of publication success. See what her first agent said. But don't stop reading there. Keep reading. Just like Chris didn't let Simon have the last word, Allison didn't let her first agent have the last word either.

One of you needed to read, and think about, this today. One of you is about to quit when success is waiting just around the corner. One of you is believing the words of someone who-- while they might know a lot about the business-- they don't know everything. They can get it wrong. You've got to believe in yourself enough to keep writing, keep submitting, and have a good dose of toddler-style determination, too. Whoever you are, I hope you do.
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Thursday, September 08, 2011

Thursday Thought: Jesus, My Father, The CIA And Me

Ever reviewed a book you didn't read?

That's what I am doing today.

The truth is I didn't read this book. But two people close to me did, and it's because of them that I am sharing this book with you. When I got the offer to review the book, I said yes, thinking that I would give it to my husband to read and then review it in time for Father's Day. But then, well, summer happened. I still don't know how we got from June to September but... we did.

And my grand plans for a Father's Day review never happened.

But in the midst of that my oldest son graduated from high school. And as I was writing in his card I felt that little nudge from God to give him that book-- the one I had intended to give my husband.

Now my son typically isn't the type to read a book I give him or take my advice at all. So I will be honest, I felt pretty silly giving him this book. I knew he would think it was stupid (though he'd be polite to my face) and he'd stick it in a corner and forget all about it. And the book would never get read and it would be just one more thing that didn't happen this summer the way I thought it would. I would be a reviewing failure.

But I know that nudge from God. And I have at least learned that-- even though I might not think it's the best idea-- it's best to do what He says. So I gave my son the book with his graduation card. (And his iPhone which he was, incidentally, way happy about.)

And that was the end of that.


He went to the beach with some family members and took that book with him. And that stinker read that book. Cover to cover. And it rocked him. It reached him. It changed him. He was amazed by it. He called me when he got home from the beach and told me all about how much that book had meant to him. And this is not a kid who gushes. About anything.

After he read it, my husband wanted to read it. So he read it. And then he gushed about it. He loved it. He talked to me about it. He said he totally understood why my son loved it so much. And he's not one to gush either. About anything.

And so that's my review-- I have not read Jesus, My Father, The CIA And Me. But two very important men in my life have. If you're looking for a book for the man in your life, and God is nudging you after reading this post, then I'd say it's a good idea to follow through on that. Then pray they read it and surprise you.

I am so glad I did.
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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Psalms For Moms

"This I know, that God is for me." Psalm 56:9

Do you believe that God is for you? Or do you secretly think that He is really against you? I think of that scene in Bruce Almighty where everything that happens Bruce blames God, looking at the sky and saying "Seriously? You let this happen?"

I have to admit that there were times when I first started trying to have a quiet time on a regular basis that I had the same thoughts run through my head. Something would go wrong and I'd look at the sky, my finger pointed accusingly. "Didn't you see me having my quiet time this morning? Couldn't you let this happen to someone who didn't?"

I had a lot to learn about relationship and unconditional love. I couldn't let my circumstances determine God's feelings for me. And I couldn't let the things around me determine whether He was for me or against me.

Instead I had to focus on the truth of this verse: This I KNOW... God is FOR me.

Do you believe that? No matter what? Maybe today you will start shifting your perspective in that direction-- dwelling on truth and letting your feelings catch up. The truth is, He is for you. Try repeating this verse when things go wrong the next time and see if that changes the way you feel.
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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books I Should Read But Haven't

This post got me thinking about creating my own list of ten books I should read, but haven't. Mine is less classic books and more current books that have caused a stir in the literary world. It's not that I don't want to read these books-- I do-- it's just that other books, for various reasons, have found a spot at the top of my TBR (to be read) pile. I call the list below my "highbrow" books-- meaning you have to think to read them. What does it say about me that I tend to read the books that don't make me think very hard? Wait... don't answer that.

1. Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann

2. Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

3. Hotel At The Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

4. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

5. Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay

6. Peace Like A River by Leif Enger

7. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

8. The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry

9. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

10. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
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Friday, September 02, 2011

Fiction Friday: Idea-lly

Therese Fowler wrote this very interesting post about where ideas come from... and what to do when one doesn't work as well as we initially thought it would. A thought-provoking post that's worth the read.

Note: I will not be posting on Monday because I will be celebrating Labor Day with my family. Hope yours is restful and happy! See you back here on Tuesday with a new top ten list.
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Thursday, September 01, 2011

Thursday Thought

"Mommy, I had a dream last night that somebody loved me," my five year old said to me this morning, an impish smile playing at her lips.

"Oh, really?" I answered as I poured her cereal. "Who was it?"

"God, you and daddy!" she answered proudly. She thought about it for a moment. "So does that mean my dream came true?"

I smiled at her. "Absolutely," I responded.

I love seeing life through my children's eyes-- the innocent reminders they give me, unknowingly communicating such deep spiritual reminders. This morning I was reminded that my dream came true. God loves me. Maybe you needed to hear that too.
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