Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The January Challenge: 10,000 in 31 days

My CP was maxing out on her 2nd trimester brain drain during NaNoWriMo. So, she decided to work for the January Challenge instead: 10,000 words in 31 days.

           by permission: www.freedigitalphotos.net
                                           
I'm all in! Let's go girl!

And just like NaNo, I'm "ramping up" in December. So, I'm starting a little early, but 31 days is 31 days right? The more words, the better.

Totals:
October "ramp up":                9,444
November NaNo total:         10,983
December "ramp up":             5,044
January 1:                                1,347
January 3:                                2, 233
January 4:                                   635
January 5:                                   423
January 6:                                   405
January 7:    drum roll please,  4,343!!!   I love coffee and prayers from friends!!!
January 8:                                 1,130
January 14:                               1,252---January total: 11,768!!



Anyone else care to join the challenge, take up your keyboard and follow us! Post your totals for fun, and good luck. Let the races begin!
(the only sure thing to slow me down--are taxes and FAFSA forms!)

by permission: www.freedigitalphotos.net

Monday, December 26, 2011

WIPping Up Your Plot: First Draft



I'm stellar at character therapy (okay, maybe exaggerating there), but when it comes to plot weaving and pacing, I feel like I need a course for the galactically challenged.

I love to dream up a great premise for a new WIP (work in progress). I love to look at a picture like the old house above and wonder who lived there, what lives did they lead?

I love the "meet-cute"--remember in the movie the Holiday when Arthur Abbot is explaining to the main character, played by Kate Winslett, that the meet-cute is that first moment when the leading lady meets the leading gentleman, their eyes connect--and there's that first spark. Before that moment, she was just going about her life, trying to make sense of it. But in that moment, she becomes the leading lady in her own story. To me that's not being over-romantic, or ridiculously mushy. It's beautiful. God made everyone to be the leading lady or leading gentleman in their own story.

(I digress) Ok, so you get it, I love that part.

I love seeing how the leading lady and gentleman's everyday lives collide and connect, like attracting and opposing magnets, dancing around each other until they figure out how it works.

So, what's the issue with plotting?----I get STUCK somewhere soon after the meet-cute! Ugh.


What do you do when you get stuck?
So far, this is the recommended plan:
1) Cry on your crit partner's shoulder--and pray that God sends you a crit partner whose strengths build up your weaknesses. Your CP can see the holes in your plot, tell you if your twists and turns are too cliche, unbelievable, or too slow and lacking tension.

2) Get organized. Some writer's use a software writing program like Scrivner. Or you can use the old fashioned note card system and write out your plot points, and arrange them visually so you can see the overall picture. Keep a notebook or word documents and files of your story development and outline.

3) Know your skeleton. Nope, not the kind hidden in the closet. I mean, have a framework for your plot points. Do some craft reading from the experts. I like James Scott Bell's Plot & Structure, Michael Hauge & Christopher Vogler's DVD: The Hero's Two Journeys, and Donald Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel.


4) Get inspired when you get stuck. Sit back and reread your WIP start to finish. Stop your writing mid scene and pick up there the next day. Read something old and favorite, or a favorite author sitting on your TBR pile. Watch a favorite movie. Do some research on the setting, occupations, fashion, or the history of the era you're writing.

5) Start asking yourself more questions about your MC's. Why? is the best way to find the motivation for your character's goals and actions. If you don't like the answer you get, feel like it's too flat, cliche, and unbelievable--switch it up, up the stakes, twist it further.

This all helps, but I'm still feeling like my WIP has whipped me.
It feels more like the time I thought I'd learn to quilt. I bought all the fabric with my grandma Emma. I traced and cut all the pieces and stacked them in neat piles, arranged by color. I pieced the first two or three blocks for the flowers of the Grandmother's Flower Garden, then stalled. The bigger it got, the harder it was to hold it all together. So, I shipped it off the Grandma Emma and she quilted the rest of it and returned it to me for our wedding--a beautiful finished product.

Donald Maass says in Writing the Breakout Novel, "It is tough to build surprises and hold readers in thrall when following a strict formula." He explains the best way to surprise readers is to embark on a plot that is "expandable, possibly long and certainly complex" leaving room  for the story to "go in unexpected directions, take detours, add layers, surprise us."

I feel excited yet overwhelmed by the great possibilities my WIP might have if I let my story evolve.
But then Donald Maass makes me feel normal in the next paragraph stating: "it can be a scary prospect, this buisness of writing large. In midmanuscript a breakout novelist can feel lost, ovewhelmed by possible scenes and the challenge of tying up every thread."

Then he said the words that iced the cake for me:
"breakout novels sprawl."

Yes! that's precisely it!  I'm about to go sprawling! Hurling and unfurling is more like it.
Uh-oh, trembling, I see this is all explained under the heading entitled Inventing Your Own Advanced Plot Structure. YIKES!  I'm not advanced yet. I want to shrink back. Outlines, conflict, layers--oh no! My shoulders slump. I sigh and inside ask myself why I am doing this at all. Doubts creep in closer---until I think of my MC's stuck in the middle of their untold story. Until I think of the greatness of story and how it holds the power to create meaning, to transform lives, to beckon souls, and send forth a beacon of light in the darkness.

I square my shoulders, its time to punt.

I hope this inspires you, and I'd love to hear from you:
What helps you plot when your WIP has whipped you?
What keeps you writing when doubts creep in?
How do you deal with the sprawl?





Wednesday, December 21, 2011

19th Century Frocks & Frills: Researching Fashion

Where do you go to research historical fashion for your fiction?

Do you get swept up into the world of yesteryear when you start your research? or fantasize about what it would have been like to wear those long beautiful evening gowns of the 19th century?

Well, personally, I really don't like to wear dresses. But I am fascinated by the amount of artistic creative work that went into fashion a hundred years ago, and wouldn't refuse the chance to try on one of those gorgeous gowns. And like today, a hundred years ago the degree of high fashion or utility of a garment reflected so much about the person wearing it. And that's what draws me, the-not-so-fashionista-woman, into researching fashion for my current WIP.

by permission www.freedigitalphotos.com

In my new WIP, Lena has just lost her courage for the future, and Riley is just finding his--set in northern Wisconsin, 1894.


Alright, now onward to the fashion.

Lena first.

She likely took some, but not all of her clothing with her from Chicago. She was raised with wealth since her father was a Civil War surgeon. But after her father's death she lost her savings and the home she was raised in to fund her dream, I imagine that she has given away or stored most of her more elegant clothing and likely has a few very serviceable pieces she wears to travel north, and for day to day work. She is probably given a nurse's gown or has one made when she agrees to work for Dr. Reese. So, she may appear as an odd mixture of wealth, vocation, and very plain dress wear--and of coarse, she is a woman who looks beautiful in anything she wears!

For my research, I stumbled upon a great website from my Jane Austen blog link, Victoria & Albert Museum at: http://www.vam.ac.uk/page/0-9/19th-century-fashion/
I imagine that Lena might have worn a traveling suit like this one I downloaded from V & A:
used by permission: copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London
This is an 1895 day jacket and skirt used to travel. This one is made of cotton for light weight and warmer weather, so I assume Lena's travel suit would have had a similar cut and style, but would have been made of wool to travel to Wisconsin in January of 1894. This beige color, according to V & A's description, was a popular color for travel as it did not show the dust of the journey as much as other colors.

And for her day dress she might have worn something similar to this dress also found with a description on V & A's website:
used by permission: copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London
This day dress was made in 1889 and sports a waist length bodice. It is paneled with satin, edged in ribbon, and trimmed in back with a made up bow. The bodice is lined with the same green silk that makes up the skirt's petticoats. Both the bodice and skirt are boned and the collar and cuffs are faced with gold beaded tulle.

This dress was made in Paris, but I suspect Lena's dress is made in Chicago or New York, and is made from lower quality or warmer materials.

But for the nurse's uniform, I found a nice link to a medical museum in Youngston, OH:http:  http://rosemelnickmuseum.wordpress.com I think I'll have to stop and visit this medical museum on the way to Laurelville,PA this coming summer!

They have a nice display of an 1890's nurse's uniform Lena might have worn:



On the other hand, Riley looks to Lena as if he's stepped straight off the stagecoach still dressed in his black Stetson, cowboy boots, and oiled canvas slicker--a picture of masculinity and strength. Lena sees him as out of place and a generation behind in style--but his charisma and the fact that he embodies her dreams of a man, do little to make her want to change him.

Riley's aura and garments are a bit tougher to research. I did find a picture of Texan cowboys in 1891, some modern descriptions of oiled canvas, and a black frock coat he might have changed to for a nice evening out.
used by permission: copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London
This 1890 type of frock coat was likely worn by both the elderly doctor and by Riley when he took Lena to dinner. It is longer than some coats, double breasted, made of heavy wool with a sateen lining and a velvet collar.

Or he might have worn something like this western wear found at:http://westernemporium.com/mens_oldwest_clothing.php?from=link


I'll have to keep looking for more cowboy clothing descriptions.

So, would you read on to find out more about Riley and Lena? Can you "see" them better now?
What helps you research for your historical writings?  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Turkey & Sweet Potato Pie

What's your favorite Holiday food?

Hands down it's turkey and sweet potato pie for me!
It's sort of like Mennonite Girl meets Southern boy--all in one meal!

I love this pic, my Dad is the boy beside my grandpa.

When I got married, I knew how to cook a ham and how to cut up a chicken, but I had no clue how to roast a turkey. Growing up, Thanksgiving was a holiday that was more full of deer hunting than turkey dinners. I was probably out in the garage watching them bring in the deer instead of in the kitchen helping with the food! (yep, I was a tomboy) Don't get me wrong, we ate turkey. But my memories are more of Dad cleaning his gun, laying out his hunting clothes, waiting for him to get home from the woods and then eating a nice meal.



So after I married Ted, he and his buddy, Duane, followed the same hunting ritual I was used to during the Thanksgiving holiday. It was Duane's wife who insisted we teach ourselves how to roast a turkey. It looked difficult, but we were pleasantly surprised and delighted that we could easily rival our mother's cooking skills with a little practice and the help of step by step instructions from Esther H. Shank's Mennonite Country-Style Recipes & Kitchen Secrets. My copy of that cookbook, given at our wedding, is nearly falling apart!

My friend and I have taken turns cooking the bird ever since. That was twenty-one or so years ago, and I think we missed only a few holidays with them. So, last year I insisted my daughter not leave the house for college without having the excellent skills of turkey roasting! There's nothing like the smell in the house on the day the turkey roasts, no matter the occasion. It brings many warm memories to remembrance.


Sweet Potato Pie is a close second to turkey. And you have to pronounce it with a little Southern twang in your voice--it makes it taste better!



Ted's Aunt Pam made this sweet potato pie when we visited them in Florida at Christmas in 1997. I'd never tasted or even heard of this recipe before--it wasn't in the Mennonite cookbook for sure! (definitely Southern) Our sweet potatoes were always candied with marshmallows and I hated them. But Aunt Pam's recipe was divine!

Aunt Pam's Sweet Potato Pie
2--30 oz Sweet Potatoes drained and mashed
1 1/4 c. white sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1 c. evaporated milk
1 t. vanilla
1 stick butter melted

Combine sweet potatoes, sugar, eggs, cinnamon, milk, vanilla, and butter. Mix well. Place in 9x13 in greased pan.

Topping:
2 c. chopped pecans
2 c. brown sugar
6 T. butter (do not melt)
2/3 c. flour
Blend until crumbly with a pastry blender. Place over the potato mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 min until bubbly.

And like Julia Child says: "Everything is better with butter!"  It's true in this case. 
What's your favorite holiday food or food memory?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Stepping into Yesteryear: A Favorite Memory

Have you ever literally stepped into yesteryear? 


  
Ancestor, Hans Herr's House

I did when I was ten years old. It was quite unexpected, but I was delighted beyond words. Now, that memory holds a treasured spot in my heart forever.


My great grandmother, Annie Martin Newswanger, died at age 93. I'd never met her, but my mother decided I'd at least learn to know a bit about her when she took me along to the funeral in 1977. I was squished into a four door sedan with four adults, three of whom were old and one who smelled like moth balls and wore old lady coke bottle-thick glasses. And I had to wear dresses the whole week--ick! We drove straight through to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I was less than excited.

Great Grandma Annie Martin Newswanger Sensenig

I've mentioned before that I'm of Mennonite faith. Now, you'll have to understand that Mennonites come in a wide variety, and my particular variety is that I dress like the rest of the world--no bonnet, no plain dresses. However, my grandparents were more conservative. My mother and her mother would have driven cars, but worn plainer clothing, long hair, and coverings. But the previous generation, like Great Grandma Annie, had horse drawn buggies, no electricity, and they spoke Dutch. This wasn't foreign to me, as I've had Amish neighbors and friends.



After the twelve hour drive to Lancaster, we arrived on a dark cold night in November. I was sleepily pulled from the car, given my suitcase and followed my mother through the door of my great Aunt Mattie's house. She was a spinster, with a long narrow face that had smooth wrinkles, like the wrinkled skin of an apple that had sat past its prime--yet she was lovely. She wore a long black dress, a covering, and old fashioned wire-rimmed glasses. She carried an oil lamp and led us through the dark house past the cast iron stove, and to the stairway. The stairway was narrow, as were the steps that wound to the left where at the top and on the left was our room. She set the oil lamp on a plain bed stand for us and bid us good night. My eyes widened when I looked at the bed, covered in a handmade quilt softened by the cast of the yellow lamp light that lit the plain room. We slipped on our nightgowns and climbed beneath the quilt.



The quilt wasn't the novelty for me, as I'd grown up sleeping beneath the one my grandmother made for my mother's wedding. My delight swelled when was realized it was a straw tick bed--a mattress filled with straw--that was the novelty! It crunched beneath our weight, but was quite comfortable, especially when our feet touched the foot warmer under the sheets at our feet. Aunt Mattie had wrapped bricks with flannel and after warming them by the fire, slipped them to foot of our bed. Now I was certain I had nearly turned into "Half-pint" of the Little House on the Prairie.

The next morning, I followed my mother to the kitchen where Aunt Mattie had made us oatmeal. The kitchen was filled with warmth radiating from a monstrous black cast iron stove that must have been a hundred years old it seemed to me. I watched in wonder as she used a handle and hot pad, opened the door and put in some wood. Then she lifted a round cover and added water to the tank my mother explained was the reservoir that heated water next to the firebox. When she inquired what I'd like for breakfast, I asked for toast--my usual fare. She set a metal tower with wire guides over the burner that opened to the fire, sliced homemade wheat bread and set it on the "toaster".  It actually tasted different, a little odd to a young girl used to Nickel's white bread popped into the toaster every morning. Yet, it was worth the oddity to me.

That was only the first day of wonders on that visit. Perhaps I'll post my memories of the funeral next time.

I treasure those moments at my grandfather's sister's home. That was thirty some years ago, yet I remember it like yesterday--and as if it were a hundred years ago.

What memories inspire you? 
What memories are most treasured?
Have you ever stepped into yesteryear? 
Or a wardrobe of imagination?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Final NaNo Word Count

                                                          by permission from www.freedigitalphotos.com



My final word count for November's National Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) was 10,983.
I had "ramped up" in October with 9,444.
Though I didn't make the 50,000, it was more than I thought I could do.
The grand total, drum roll please---20,427!
WIP now has a whopping 32, 555 words.

                                               by permission from www.freedigitalphotos.com


Doesn't this picture look romantic? Current WIP is set in the north woods of Wisconsin in 1894. I think the sunsets must have looked like this timeless one.


What pictures fit the settings for your dreams and works in progress?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Word of God: Speak Peace to Me

                                             by permission www.freedigitalphotos.come


I wonder how many words I spoke today. I wonder how many words I heard today. I worked a 13 hour day today and in thirty minute drive home tonight, the silence was comforting. It was a place where I sought to throw all my unrest, self doubt, questions, worry, and fatigue at the feet of Jesus. It was a place where I felt poured out and spent after a long day.

I've been staring at a blank page for chapter 17 of Lena's Courage for several days now, wondering if I'll find words for it.

The scripture for our worship meeting tonight was Phillipians 1: 3-6:  "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel form the first day until now. And I am sure of this that he who began a good work in you  will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."

Sigh. Less of me. More of you God.

As I meditated on the day, I flipped the radio on when Mercy Me came on:



John 1:1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

NaNo: zero words today. God: one word--"peace".

                                                          by permission www.freedigitalphotos.com

Good night. Peace.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

NaNoWriMo and Counting: Part 2

Wow, NaNo is hard but fun.

All my creativity is being sucked into my WIP, and no amount of coffee will make this blog installation very witty because its midnight.

So here are the word totals so far.
(October: 9444--the ramp up to NaNo)
November 1: 1000
                  2: 1744 (1844-total)
                  3: 0
                  4: 0
                  5: 1047 (2891)
                  6: 1249 (4140)
                  7:  372 (4512)
                  8: 0
                  9: 1895(6407)
                 10: 0
                 11: 0
                 12: 0
                 13: 2127 (8534)
                 14: 0
                 15: 0
                 16: 0
                 17: 0--researching though :o)
                 18: 0--more research about the history of women doctor's
                 19: 914 (9448)
                 20: 0
                 21: 0
                 22: 0
                 23: 0
                 24: 0
                 25: 0
                 26: 0
                 27: 0
                 28: 0
                 29: 0
                 30: 1535 (10,983)

October + November = 20,427!!! Yeah!

How are you doing with NaNo? Does knowing everyone else is trying to keep plugging away help keep you writing?

Addendum:
Zero words today, but all this writing drew my husband's attention to the poor state of being my office was in:




So, now it looks like this:




Oh, and I call my light my "John Boy" light. Anyone remember the hanging light that John Boy of the Walton's sat under to write every night? I love it. Can't you just hear that lulling narration?
--night John Boy.


What conditions do your surroundings need to be in before you can relax?
What view do you enjoy while you write?



Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Researching 19th Century: A Primary Source--Dr. Chase


Where do you look for primary source information to research your historical works of fiction?

A primary source is considered an actual document from someone who lived in the time period you are researching. Most genealogical research centers in your local library will have compiled histories obtained from primary sources for that locale. Other examples include the family Bible, the U.S. Federal Census, personal letters, wills, and probate records, which are court documents for things like guardianships.

used w/ permission: www.freedigitialphotos.net

I love to research family history and have had a lot of practice doing it since I was thirteen years old. But how do you find out about the more tedious details of daily living to help flesh out your understanding of historical time periods? How do you find more accurate details to help make your historical fiction more interesting and reflective of the time?

used w/ permission: www.freedigitalphotos.net

I stumbled upon a fantastic primary resource in an antique mall last spring. I'd read about pioneer homes of the 19th century having a volume of works for the purpose of having access to common medical treatments of the time. Much of frontier and rural America did not have ready access to a local physician, so this volume was heavily used by families and written in an easily understandable manner for common folk. I'd dreamed of finding one of these. I'd combed the internet but didn't know a title or author's name to use for the search. Last March while on a retreat with our Sunday School class in Shipshewana, Indiana, I stumbled on a copy of Dr. Chase's Last Complete Work.  Aha! I'd found it! Tingling with excitement, I purchased my $35 copy copyrighted in 1903. It is a 3rd edition, a Memorial Edition compiling all the former works he'd ever published which date back to pre-Civil War.

This book contains everything! The contents page lists not only medical helps but also food for the sick, cooking recipes, and other information for the "departments" of toilet, dairy, domestic animals, agriculture, mechanical, and bee-keeping. It was basically the internet of the 19th century--it was the place you looked to find an answer to your questions. Eureka!

Now if you think that publishing is changing now, just think, this article states that Dr. Chase's publications were second in sales only to the Bible in 1864. The building pictured above is the publishing house in Ann Arbor, MI, that Dr. Chase built to publish his own works. Here is a link to an interesting article.http://www.aadl.org/gallery/buildings/hhaa084.gif.html

Though his original work was only a 16 page pamphlet, the Memorial edition I purchased is 865 pages long including a wonderful index.  I've posted the link on the right hand side of my blog of an online access to read this book for your works of historical fiction and general interest. Here also, is the link: http://www.archive.org/stream/drchasesthirdlas00chas#page/n9/mode/2up 

Also, while researching a little more about Dr. Chase, I found the transcript for a nice piece from NPR radio about how the 19th century pharmacist influenced the local soda fountain. Here's the link: http://wap.npr.org/news/Science/140093866

Have fun!




Sunday, November 6, 2011

NaNoWriMo and Counting

Well, nothing fancy tonight. Only a word count tally.

I'm working on my second novel, Lena's Courage, a Christian Historical Romance. It's set in 1894, northern Wisconsin in a fictitious town.

Lena is a doctor sent north to "rest" after spending her fortune to care for the poor to the point of personal illness. Riley is a cowboy who's hung up his star when his best friend is killed. He's drifted for ten years and has come home to settle his final debts--the care of his friend's teenaged fatherless son. When Riley runs into Lena while chasing the boy down after he's stolen candy from the local general store, her hand is severely cut--ruining her future plans to become a surgeon. Lena has lost her courage, Riley is just finding his. What courage will it take to risk sacrificing a future in medicine or love?

Okay, that's my first shot at a back cover hook--very much a first draft since it's now 11pm (really midnight if you count the time change!)

I'm on chapter 14.

NaNoWriMo=National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words from November 1-30.

So here it is:
November 1: 1000
                  2: 1744 (1844 total)
                  3: 0
                  4: 0
                  5: 1047 (2891)
                  6: 1249 (4140)
                  7: 372 (4512)
                  8: 0
                  9: 1895 (6407)
                10: 0
                11: 0
                12: 0
                13: 2127 (8534)

Thanks to the challenge by my critique partner, Jaime Wright, I would have never signed up for this. j
What challenges have you set for yourself? How are you doing?

Also, feel free to critique the feeble attempt on the book cover hook.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Poco a Poco: Little by Little--NaNoWriMo

How does a happily married, busy mother of two teens who works full time get anything done?

                                        used with permission: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net
                                       

I know I'm not the only woman in the world managing this balancing act every waking moment of everyday, 365 days a year, seemingly 24-7!  So, how do you do it?

At my first writer's conference, I was blessed to sit beside a wonderful woman who had the gift of encouragement and I experienced that moment when you are absolutely certain that God just breathed through that person directly to you. She said something so simple, yet it rang so profound to me at that time in my life when I felt very overwhelmed. I mentioned to her that it felt as though only the thing I focused on for a short time seemed well organized and satisfying, but always at the expense of everything else falling to pieces. If I'd gotten all the laundry done and put away, then the bills didn't get sent. Or if I'd stayed late at work and finished a stack of unattended correspondence, then supper didn't get made. Or if I'd managed to walk on the treadmill for thirty minutes, I sacrificed my devotional time. I was vexed with guilt. I felt as if I was constantly going around putting out fires, never in control of the wind that fed them.

She said, bring more balance by doing little by little of each thing.  Ah, "poco a poco"--little by little. Sort of like the little engine that could?

I could have kissed her feet!  Those words seemed so simple, but they felt like a life preserver to me at the time!

Now, I've learned I can do a mile on the treadmill in 12 minutes, which I do five days a week. I keep a Bible at my workstation, and read a Psalm or several New Testament verses before or during the work day. I pray during my 15 minute commute. I do laundry a little each day--it may only be putting a short stack of folded towels away. I try to make the bed daily--even if the rest of the bedroom is strewn with an assortment of clean and dirty clothes. I make breakfast everyday for my family, except on weekends--that way if I'm home late from work, or didn't have time to preplan supper, or have no groceries in the fridge, at least we've started the day well. Plus, breakfast is my time with the kids when evenings are spent shuffling everyone in different directions.



So, how does poco-a-poco apply to writing?

I'm so glad you asked!  Its NaNoWriMo this month.  National Novel Writing Month--when you are challenged to write a novel in a month. The goal is to write 50,000 words between November 1 and 30th. I know, it seems mountainous for sure. But I say to this mountain--MOVE!  So, taking poco-a-poco into account, I'm writing a novel this month, little by little. I'll post my word counts daily and see if how close I can come. Learn more about NaNoWriMo at http://www.nanowrimo.org

I started by forging a path to the desk in my office last night:



BUT, I shall not be overwhelmed. I shall not be riddled with guilt. I shall not let it get me down if I don't meet my goal. And I shall still walk on my treadmill everyday. Ok, the laundry might be the mountain that won't MOVE this month. But that's ok.



So, how do you balance your life, love, work, faith, health, hobbies?  What secrets have you found to cope with 17-18 hour days, and short nights? What sabbath do you take and when? Are you taking care of yourself well--even if its little by little?



Take time to see the blessings each day. This beautiful dawn-scape greeted me yesterday morning as I went out the door, arms full of travel coffee mug, lunch, purse, and keys that I just stopped and stared in awe of God's gift--until I felt the coffee dripping down my pants and onto my shoes!  Thankfully my coffee, pants, and shoes were all brown, so no worries. I hurriedly scrubbed them a little, snapped a pic and hopped in my minivan with a smile. Thanks God.

NaNoWriMo Word Count:
November 1: 1000 words.
              2nd: 1744 words.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Requiem: Grasping the Oxymoron of Senseless Loss

I feel a profound sense of loss this week as we mourn the loss of our brother in Christ.

Jim Miller, husband, father of three, brother in Christ, professor of biology, lover of model airplanes, all things science and humorous--and apparently Star Wars too, was brutally murdered in his home on October 8, 2011 during a home invasion where his wife was seriously injured as well. His children were not home at the time, yet suffer the emotional wounds of this attack.

I had him as a professor of Pathophysiology at Goshen College as did many nursing and pre-med students over the last three decades. My daughter is very close friends of Jim and Linda's daughter and has spent time in their home. Many in the community have been touched by his quiet gifts and qualities. Many are left to try to understand the senselessness of his loss, and the utter brutality committed in a peace-loving home and community. To date, this was a random act of violence by a young man with unknown motives, where the attacker has not yet been captured.

This is my requiem for Jim.

Webster defines requiem as a mass for the dead, or solemn chant or musical composition in honor of the dead. The word is Middle English from Latin, meaning, re--to rest, and quis--quiet; to quietly rest. It was first used in the 14th century. Synonyms include: dirge, lament, threnody, and elegy--all fitting descriptors of the lament we carry.

I am whisked to another time of loss when my dear friend's father died while our Hesston College chorale toured through Europe singing and visiting sites of Anabaptist (Mennonite) history. At Reit-im-Winkl, Germany, in the midst of the most beautiful evening in the Alps, we learned of his untimely end. I can still hear, and see in my mind's eyes and ears, our singing of Mozart's Requiem in that small Geminde (church) with the accompaniment of that old pipe organ--our sorrow palpable and perhaps best expressed in words as foreign as our grief. The following YouTube link is a wonderful rendition:


I had Jim for Pathophysiology, one of my favorite classes and subjects. Pathophysiology is the study of the physiology of abnormal states. Defined by Webster, pathologic means--being altered or caused by disease; being such to a degree that is extreme, excessive or markedly abnormal. And Pathos--is Greek for the emotion and experience of suffering.

One of the things I remember clearly from that class in 1988 was when Jim said that only 1 in 4 pregnancies results in a viable birth. I was amazed that I had assumed all of living and breathing humanity had not faced such terrible odds just to exist from the start. I was amazed and thrilled with the notion that in spite of such terrible odds of things going terribly wrong, my experience was with things going right, and that in spite of how easily things can be so pathologic, that very often they are not--making life a much greater miracle than I'd even imagined or contemplated before.


Life is an oxymoron--a combination of contradictory or incongruous elements. And lives filled with such oxymorons as the beauty of life, and the ugliness of pathos, death and suffering--require great faith.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the grief of such a terrible loss, and the heinousness of the act that took our friend.  Yet, Paula D'Arcy says that all darkness is held in the light--a spiritual definition that challenged my scientific belief that light and dark are separate and do not coexist. Rather, she challenges that all dark valleys of death are ultimately held in His light and shall not overcome us fully. Just as John 1:4 & 5 says: "In him was life, and that life was the light of men, The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overpowered it."


Elegy is a song or poem expressing sorrow for the one who is dead. 
I came across Wilfred Owen's "Has Your Soul Sipped?" that captures the irony of violent death and the clarity that the dead soldier's smile has not been overpowered by the ugliness of his death. I share this poem here as an elegy to Jim--remembering that the line "sweet murder" is meant by the writer as a complete and utter oxymoron that I can only celebrate here knowing that Jim's death would never be described so, but that his LIFE goes on in us, the peace he stood for, the faith he lived--is the sweetness that touches us in his death--and is the sweetness the writer was grasping for. It is this that exemplifies that this dark valley is still held in light, and this great darkness shall not be overpowering.

Has Your Soul Sipped?

Has your soul sipped
Of the sweetness of all sweets?
Has it well supped
But yet hungers and sweats?

I have been witness
Of a strange sweetness,
All fancy surpassing
Past all supposing.

Passing the rays
Of the rubies of morning,
Or the soft rise
Of the moon; or the meaning
Known to the rose
Of her mystery and mourning.

Sweeter than nocturnes
Of the wild nightingale
Or than love's nectar
After life's gall.

Sweeter than odours
Of living leaves,
Sweeter than ardours
Of dying loves.

Sweeter than death
And dreams hereafter
To one in dearth
Or life and its laughter.

Or the proud wound
The victor wears
Or the last end
Of all wars.

Or the sweet murder
After long guard
Unto the martyr
Smiling at God;

To me was that smile,
Faint as a wan, worn myth,
Faint and exceeding small,
On a boy's murdered mouth.

Though from his throat
The life-tide leaps
There was no threat
On his lips.

But with the bitter blood
And the death-smell
All his life's sweetness bled
Into a smile.

by Wilfred Owen



We smile only knowing that His light and love triumphs all, and this is the sweetness that says, oh Death, where is thy sting? Let us rest quietly knowing this sweetness--but if your soul has not sipped of this sweetness, then you must search on more ardently for the Light.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Kindred Spirits: My Writer's Weekend with my Critique Partner

Never underestimate divine appointments when you go to a writer's conference.


My first ACFW conference was Denver 2009. My name tag said, Newbie, or something like that. My agented, experienced roommate had a place to sit at her agent's table at dinner, leaving me to wander until I spotted a table of other newbies and slid into the only chair left. That's when I met Jaime and our interest kindled over the historical romance genre we had in common.

It takes time to find a good fit for critique groups and partners. 

I was told by mentors to be patient and keep praying. After another 6-9 months Jaime and I started to burn up the internet with Facebook instant messages, and brainstorming on winter nights by the fire, hundreds of miles from one another. By the time ACFW Indianapolis rolled around, we couldn't wait--and then came the giggles, lattes, brainstorming in the lobby while we skipped a lecture session--and the gears clicked into place! We shared the same silly stupid humor when we asked Chip MacGregor if the lady-heroine, was spelled the same as the drug--heroin; and somehow couldn't stop giggling about why dead bodies were okay in mystery novels but not in buggies or bonnet books, or apparently historical romances!?

Who knew God could make me laugh so much when He answered my prayers with so much fun and humor?? ROFL.





So when we couldn't get to St. Louis this year, I booked a train and we hatched up a weekend to get together.



The coffee was brewed, the movies were rented, the fire was stoked and our wits and dreams we vented.
Pizza, eclairs, cinnamon rolls, and breadsticks--bring on the carbs, let's watch movies just for chicks!

Like Lizzie and Jane of Pride and Prejudice, whispering under the sheets, we sat each curled under our quilted blankets and dissected Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley--inuendos, facial grimaces, unfurled hands and kisses--just how did Jane Austen make her readers love him?!  Fast-forward, rewind, we want to see that again!

We quickly learned that we compliment each other's strengths and weaknesses. I push Jaime to know her characters motivations more deeply, I make her answer the "why?" until it tingles with truth and believable anticipation. But she pushes me to make my nice characters have something to do that makes my reader interested enough to keep reading.

What fun have you had on a writer's weekend? How do you compliment your critique partners?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Genre: Why Do You Read It? Why Do You Write It?

I was forced to watch Star Trek growing up--my brother loved it and often had control of the remote before there was one. I enjoyed all the Star Trek movies growing up, but my real love is historical romantic fiction.

                                [imagine Spock & James T. Kirk pic here]
                                (pic not posted due to copyright: live long and prosper)                                                        

So, why did I gravitate to read and write historical romantic fiction instead of sci-fi or fantasy?

I think it started in second grade when Mrs. Andrews read Little House on the Prairie to us. I wanted to be Laura Ingalls. I had a sunbonnet and a centennial style cap just like Laura. I mean who didn't want to be "half-pint"?  I even sneaked the cap for my school picture after I'd seen people wearing them in the 1976 centennial parade that year. Though I haven't done that since then, I think fiction writers have a penchant to dress up like the characters they love.  Sigh.....


Was I nuts then? (or nuts now for posting this pic?!) or did I just resonate with something deeper?

There is something about history that grounds a person and ties you to your roots. I think its a basic human need to be and feel connected. At age thirteen I helped my mother search our family history and sat captivated by the old style script of the census records we viewed on microfilm. My curiosity grew intense. Who were these people, what lives did they live? What made them move or live where they did?

I learned the best way to search a family member's history is to follow them decade by decade through the census. Soon, a picture of their lives appeared on paper and I began to wonder more about them--and not just wonder, but imagine what might motivate their choices.  Choices to move, to marry, to work, to be educated. Then, if you put that individual's life in the context of the historical setting of the times they lived in, you get a sense for the culture they lived in.

This is an 1880 Wisconsin census page. I used this to research for my first book, Elizabeth's Key (still unpubbed). The census is great for getting good name ideas, or plot ideas.


The family listed first in this 1880 census is a couple aged 57 and 52 and a 22 year old adopted daughter and a 13 year old "chore boy". The head of house is from New York, his wife is from Massachusetts, and the adopted daughter and the chore boy are from Canada. They live next to the Lars family from Norway.

So, don't you want to know their stories? How did they adopt the woman from Canada? Is the "chore boy" an indentured servant? Could they even communicate with their neighbors, or was there a big language barrier? How would they forge a friendship with neighbors they couldn't speak with?



When have you looked at a historical document and imagined a story about the person?


What makes you love the genre you read or write?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ah Rejection, How I Love Thee, Let Me Count the Ways....

Yep, I just got my first official proposal rejection. Sigh.

Strange, I thought I'd feel more dejected. But part of me felt like I'd just joined the ranks of the most esteemed authors who've been rejected before they finally landed an agent and published that long dreamed about first book. Like a right of passage into a club or something.

OR, I'm just delusional, and writing fiction will only ever be a fun hobby with great friends, fun conferences, and a wonderful network of other servants of God. That's not so bad either, right?

So, what's lost? Only my pride. Richard Rohr says we should pray for at least one humiliation a day--not to destroy our self esteem and render us incapacitated servants, but to keep us from prideful self destruction. I figure my first rejection should count for a whole weeks worth of pride-ectomy don't you?

So now what? I did take the liberty to ask the editor for some feedback--not an in depth critique mind you. But more like this:

Dear Mr. Editor, 
Did you reject my proposal because it was:
--written by obviously inexperience writer who needs lots of craft work, vs. this idea stinks, wouldn't sell.
--I loved your premise, I'm too busy to take it on, but you should shop it around.
--I loved your premise, but you really need to pay a professional editor to fix it first.
--it stinks, would never sell, its been done before, vs. needs plot restructure--keep polishing.
--great idea, but shop for an agent, and look to a different publishing house.
--shelve it and never look back, then take a class--writing 101-- before you start book 2.
--keep your day job, and pray for those who can.


So, what have you done when you've received a rejection?



Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Brain Fried

Wednesday:
My dearest Crit Partner has posted her status as "brain dead" last week on her blog. I'm right up there with "brain fried".  I'm attending a weeklong medical conference this week. I was contemplating posting a challenging blog this week, but I'm afraid if I tried, I might start talking about hypertension, diabetes, and ADHD. So, unless inspiration and the need to escape the medical mindset hits me, I'll be lurking on FB and the blogs I follow.

Thursday:
As I sat listening to the keynote speaker, Irish tenor, Ronan Tynan, I was inspired to think of God as both the Great Physician and the Great Author. Ronan Tynan, a bilateral below knee amputee due to childhood disabilities, went on to become a Special Olympics gold metalist, joined the Royal Opera, and then to medical school when his voice gave out. He moved our audience of family physicians and health care providers to tears of laughter, then of sentiment as he told how he cared for his parents in the last days of their lives. Then he once again returned to singing when he joined the Irish Tenors.

He has worn each of his career "hats" with honor and amazing determination.

Who could have written such an inspiring story, or told it so well?

I am both health care provider, and author.

God is both the great healer and author. Its not that as the author I get to control my characters as much as it is that I get to show how they become transformed. It's truly transformation I desire in my patients and in my characters--that whatever holds them from experiencing physical, emotional, spiritual health, could be understood and overcome. As the Great Author, I don't believe God wants to control our destiny or our story any more than He wants to just walk this journey with us. As author, I see Him as allowing me to experience only that which can transform me into a more whole person.

Stories are inspiring. I pray only to be inspiring, no matter what "hat" I'm wearing.

Perhaps true inspiration is showing, not the telling?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Can't go to ACFW St. Louis?--Plan a Writer's Weekend!

Can't afford to go to a big writer's conference? 


Mourning the fact that your schedule just can't include the national ACFW conference in St. Louis this year?

So, make a smaller budget, and change the schedule and the company to something that fits! That's what my crit partner, Jaime Wright, and I just did. I booked tickets on Amtrak to her house for a Friday morning, and we'll have Friday night, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning. Now, instead of crying in our coffee while everyone else is feverishly preparing one-sheets, we are so psyched and pumped for our little get away. And we've agreed to split the cost so it will work for us.



So, now I'm wondering:  How does one prep for a writers weekend with your CP?


Pray--always pray.


Shop for coffee to take along. Find out what Jaime's favorite flavor is. :o)

Be flexible.
I'm praying my train connections go without delays. I'm hoping to see a spontaneous song and dance in Chicago's Union Station during my layover!  I'll be sure to video it and post it to FB if it happens--unless of coarse--I'm dancing too!

What do I want the most out of the weekend?
The best thing about getting together is that magic that happens when we brainstorm together and feed off each other's ideas--pushing each of our stories to a much deeper level. That creative process grounds my story idea and fleshes out the unknowns of my characters. It forces me to answer the best question about my hero and heroine--"why?"  When you have to explain what motivates your character before you truly know all the fine details, its surprising what you find out about your story.

Creative minds think differently.
As in any relationship, we all bring our strengths and weaknesses. My CP balances me. Where I am too structured and so much of a plotter that I've shut down my creative process--she is a pantser, just bubbling with ideas that push me when I'm stuck. When she's pantsing her plot's pants off, I'm asking her why and what motivates her characters and their choices.

Instead of One-Pages and Pitches----
I'll be preparing plot outlines, and character sheets to discuss with my CP. I'll have a list of questions about my story. And I'll also be prepared to listen to my CP's questions, hopes, and dreams.

Still bummed you're not going to ACFW in St.Louis?



Well, how can you use your time while you're thinking--but Lord, it will be a whole-nother year until I'll have a chance to meet agents!?

If you're agent shopping, I suggest you visit the ACFW website, click on the agents page and study who will be there. Write down what type of works they are seeking, what genre? what age group--YA, vs. adult fiction? Know what they are NOT accepting. After the conference is over the agent page will go down, so study it while you can!

If you went to a previous ACFW conference, SAVE your booklet, it highlights the agents and editors who were at the conference. While I'm praying about an agent this year, I've referred back to those agent profiles while I research on them. Plus, I wrote "notes to self" while at conference, and those are good to review.

While I'm waiting for the Lord's leading to the right agent, I'm visiting the websites of agents. I'm also interviewing authors. Most authors are happy to say a few words of wisdom about how they landed their agents and what their working relationship is like. So, when I read a book I love, I check the acknowledgements for their agent's name.


So, until Dallas 2012, I'll have a lot of time to interview authors and gather wisdom....Sigh....




What will you be doing at home this year if you're missing ACFW?


Share your writer's weekend goals and stories.



Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mennonite Girl in a Hummer--Hurricane Katrina & Rita

Tonight, Hurricane Irene is rolling up the eastern seaboard, and I'm having flashbacks to the only hurricane experience I know--Katrina and Rita in 2005. I can still hear the wind howling through my memories!


I was privileged to be part of the medical team sent with Operation Hoosier Relief, sent by Gov. Mitch Daniels to help after Hurricane Katrina. We went with a multidisciplinary team made up of doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers, psychiatrists, pastors, Indiana State Police, pharmacists, Indiana Health Department workers, epidemiologists, and the Indiana National Guard. We slept in army tents on the parking lot of the Coliseum in Biloxi, Mississippi--just a short walk from the beach. We spent 18 days there providing free medical care and maintaining and supporting the infrastructure. There were checkpoints, curfews, and looting. The devastation and debris I witnessed cannot be conveyed anymore than conveying the actual beauty of the Rocky Mountains to someone who's never seen them. The people were grateful.




But one of my most memorable experiences there was surviving Hurricane Rita--in a tent! Friday morning before she rode in, we heard the levies had broken again in New Orleans, tornado warnings were issued, and flood warnings were issued for all coastal counties--especially those in trailers and tents, like us. As Rita bore down on the coast, we were told since we weren't in the direct path, we wouldn't evacuate. We had two types of tents, those with inner frames and ours that was more the circus type with just poles, ropes, and stakes. We were told by the National Guard that our tents could sustain winds of 30 m.p.h., but the people in the frame tents should go to the four corners of the tent and hold the tent down if the wind was too intense. For us with stake tents--well, we just prayed, but were told if the weather was too bad, we could run from our tents to the Coliseum--which was totally destroyed from the 30 ft storm surge of Katrina and now hauntingly empty and growing mold everywhere--plus, it was about 150 yards from our tent.



The Guard pulled big guard trucks on both sides of our tents and tied guide wires to our poles to reinforce our tents for the night. During the day and early evening on September 23rd, everyone was on edge, so we all piled into the recreation tent to play games in order to take our minds off the coming storm. Not only were we tense, but that day in clinic we could feel the tension rising in the local people who'd already been traumatized by Katrina. Looting increased again. The Indiana State Police began patrolling at night every 15-20 minutes on the perimeter of our camp--Camp Indiana. The first wave of "storm band" winds came in the late afternoon and evening when I happened to be in the framed tent. We did as we were told and hung on for dear life to the frame while the wind gusted and the driving rain came. The storm bands last about 10-15 minutes but feel like forever! By the time it went through, we were standing in about 2 inches of water.



Then came the longest, scariest night in my life. We went to bed in our pole and stake tent--us women had dubbed it the "Orphan Tent" since there hadn't been room for us to join the other women in the frame tent when we first arrived at camp. Our tent housed all the women doctors and nurse practitioners and was on the perimeter of Camp Indiana, next to the guys tent. We slept on cots and had intermittent electricity that lit one or two light bulbs and let us charge our cell phones. We went to bed at 11:30 p.m. and were awakened at 12:30, 2, 3:30, 5, 7, and 9 a.m. with severe wind and rain. I just prayed all night long that God would put angels at all our tent stakes to keep them in and keep our tent up. I've never in my life heard such howling as the storm bands approached, then hit our tent with a blast, flapping the canvas of our tent ferociously.



After each band passed, all us women in our tent, and the guys next to us, piled out of our tents to check the stakes. The guys had hocked a mallet from the Guard and went around each tent to pound the loosened stakes back into the ground. We also made a mass trip to the potty johns in the middle of the night--everyone gathered around the potty john while someone went--to make sure it didn't blow over while we were in them! Good thing too, because by morning many potty johns at our camp lay on their sides!







We never had to run to the Coliseum during the frightful night, but our Command Center told us the next morning they had clocked winds of 71 m.p.h.---and our tents were rated for only 30 m.p.h.--yet none had collapsed but the empty recreation tent.

I'll never forget serving after Katrina, but Rita holds a totally different spot in my memory. In all my life I've never felt such a clear calling and unbelievable open doors to go serve as I did when Katrina hit. I had no idea I'd live through a hurricane when I left my husband and children at home. When we answer God's call, and we are sure we are on His path, all is well with our souls. It was nothing short of God's hand at work.

So, dear writer friends, when you set out on a path to publish your books, know that God might call you to be an "edge walker" and walk a path that is stormy.


But if you know it's Him who calls you, then walk on.

(and yes, I'm Mennonite--nope, no bonnet!)


What storms of life challenge you? 
Let us pray for all involved with Hurricane Irene.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Confessions of an Unpubbed, Unagented Writer

How serious are you about getting your work published? And what are you doing to get there?

I've been writing fiction for twelve years, but I never told anyone until I'd finally completed my first manuscript--and that was at the ten year mark. Once you tell someone you've written a book, the word is out--you've made your first confession. When the word is out, you've committed it to your reality--so, what else can you commit yourself to? I can't speak for your journey, but I'll share what I've learned so far about mine.

Always pray.

I listen for that still small voice to stir in my spirit, recognizing the voice of my Shepherd, until I know what I need to write. Of coarse it's never perfect the first go around, but I just take a step and start typing. It takes FAITH to sit at the computer and let the words flow to the page.

Set goals.

My first goal was to complete my first manuscript in my fortieth year and not see forty-one before it was finished. This is a true confession--now you roughly know my age. Once completed, I could take my writing more seriously. My first draft was handwritten on paper, and my first experience with editing was to type it into a Word document. Next, I began to search the web for information to learn how one goes about publishing a book. All I could see in my mind's eye was John Boy from the Walton's with that lightbulb hanging above his head, remembering how publishing happened in the old days. Thank goodness for the internet! I searched the web until I found a small affordable Christian writers conference close to home and wrote the check. I printed off my entire 120,000 word manuscript and packed it in my bag with trembling. I signed up for a one on one ten minute review with Doc Hensley and wondered how ridiculous I was for doing so. It takes FAITH to step out of your comfort zone.

Conferences are vital for networking.

I learned more in two days than I had in the prior ten years, and more in value than I could glean from surfing the internet. When you attend your first conference, be prepared to feel intimidated at first. But I was delighted to find so many other so-called introverts who loved to talk about writing! It's one thing to meet the person beside you in a lecture, but do not waste the opportunity to meet The Big Guys (and Gals)--sign up for critiques, meet agents, editors, mentors, get business cards, emails, blog site names. In a new setting I like to scope things out from a safe distance, but God had other plans--I found the only seat left for me at the evening dinner was between the two speakers--Doc Hensely and Chip MacGregor. It turned out to be a great opportunity I would have missed left to my own inclinations. Never underestimate who God puts beside you--step out in FAITH and hold out your hand.

Critiques are hard to take at first.

At this small conference I learned about the importance of membership in American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and wrote the check for the state and national groups. This opened an invaluable connection with a host of writers, editors, and agents who are willing to help mentor new writers. I joined a critique group and started sending off my chapters for review. I learned about "track changes"--a way to make comments on the work you are critiquing. But more importantly, I learned that having your "baby" critiqued is a bit painful, but necessary. On the advice of Chip MacGregor I sent my work to My Book Therapy by Susan May Warren for a paid critique. I learned that chopping off the first five chapters of backstory was not only necessary, but made my story much better. I learned about "hook" and how to pull the reader into your storyworld. Taking the advice of the experts takes FAITH that they are telling you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.

Carving out space to write.

Chip MacGregor calls this BIC time--butt in chair. You must find a space and time to actually do the work. I cleaned out an old closet that had a window because it had actually been built as a nursery next to our bedroom. We closed off an unnecessary door, and put in shelving and organizers. I shopped for a tiny desk and put it together along with an office chair my son assembled for my new itty-bitty office space. Then I saved for a laptop--one of the most valued tools I've purchased by far. My Book Therapy had given me the diagnosis--I needed to rewrite the ENTIRE book, a complete overhaul. Starting over takes FAITH that what you want to convey to the reader is worth the effort. So I set my goal--one year to rewrite, and I'd also signed up for my first national ACFW conference in Denver.

The publishing world can be both crushing and exhilarating.

If two hundred people at my first conference intimidated me, I was blown away by the nearly five hundred people at the Denver ACFW, the six hundred the following year in Indianapolis. Doubts start to creep in when you are seated by successful published authors you've read, but never before put a human face to their work or their journey to get published. Be sure to take in as much as you can, but take time to be in your quiet space with God. USE the prayer room and attend the Harp and Bowl worship. I met people in person that I'd only previously connected to on the ACFW email loop. I learned how to make a one page and pitch it to an agent and an editor despite my inner quaking and shaking. I had an opportunity to meet with Tracie Peterson to ask her questions about my WIP (work in progress). Don't let self doubt eat all that God is doing by your FAITH in Him. Words are powerful, and Satan knows how to persuade you not to use them. Keep stepping out in FAITH.

Relationships come in time and with patience.

I utilized the group critique set up by ACFW, but working full time I've found I cannot put in the time to critique two others for every one critique I get back. So, I started praying for critique partners that I clicked with and could exchange one for one. One night I was stumped with some plot brainstorming and saw that Jaime Wright Sundsmo was online on Facebook. I struck up an instant message conversation about plotting and before you know it, the ideas were flowing back and forth. We connected regularly and met up at ACFW Indianapolis and did a lot more brainstorming over coffee and with lots of giggles and joy that we'd found someone each of us clicked with. I met with others at Indy who've helped me with my laptop documents, how to write a proposal letter and more. I keep praying for more personal connections and keep holding FAITH that God will connect me with who He wants for me.

Future goals--finding the balance.

I'm wondering if I can manage this "platform" that I will need if I'm published. I work full time and don't plan on quitting my day job anytime soon, even if my writing is successful. Now, I'm praying that if God wants my work published, it will happen. I'm praying I will be able to balance my faith, family, work, and the time it takes to blog, network socially, and travel when needed. Today, I'm working on learning more about blogging. I learned you can download free blog page designs quite easily. It's fun, but I'm not working on a deadline. I have FAITH that God will help me find the balance between the fun and the work of writing.

God bless your journey as He's blessed mine. The wonderful thing is, if I never get published, I will still have gained so much from the journey!