Thursday, October 25, 2012

Moved

This blog has been permanently moved to a new address and is now combined with my dear friend and cohort in writing and professional coffee drinking--Jaime Wright.

Find us at Coffee Cups & Camisoles where we aim to laugh, talk about books, and life.
Come by and leave a comment, we want to get to know you!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Historical Romance Treasures

I want to invite you all to head on over to my new shared blog with Jaime Wright at coffeecupsandcamisoles.blogspot.com

I have a free give away for Historical Romance this week! We have some new releases just out from Jody Hedlund, Sarah Sundin, and Julie Lessman. Stop by this week for details on the give-away and feel free to lurk over coffee at Coffee Cups & Camisoles!


Coffee Cups & Camisoles is a new place for readers, writers, bookies, laughs & coffee lovers to hang out and chat. Join us and...

Coffee up!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Reader's Pick

by permission: www.freedigitalphotos.net

I'm so excited to announce that following my WWCP (writer's weekend with my critique partner, Jaime Wright)--that we will be combining our blogs into one. To launch our new blog, we'll be kicking it off with a basket of free books very soon!

If you could pick your favorite historical romance books for the give away what would they be? What historical time period is your favorite? I've been writing in the 19th century, but recently I've been reading in the 18th century.

If there were warm drink surprises included in your reading extravaganza basket, what kind would they be? What's your favorite brew? I'd have to say on a cool fall evening, I'll need a hot cup of Twinings English Breakfast, decaf--I know, wimp.

Where is your favorite place to curl up with a new book, a great brew, and a thick throw?
I love to sit on the couch, snuggle with a throw next to the fire. There's nothing better.

So, be watching for further announcements about October's kick off for our new website and the chance for free historical romance book drawings. Yes, there will be two drawings. Mine, and Jaime's.

Details about the drawing to be announced closer to the date.
Watch for keywords: Coffee & Camisoles.

by permission: www.freedigitalphotos.net


So, please comment here and list the books you'd hope might be in a basket give away!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Writer's Weekend Countdown

I'm trying not to think about all that I'll be missing at this year's ACFW annual conference...the worship, the keynote speaker, the food, the networking, opportunity...OH snap!

<shake self out of it>

Slurp coffee.

Breath in, breath out.

Goals? What, back to reality? Check.

Yes, my CP and I have once again decided several months ago, (Ahem, cough, could it have been after Genesis?)--not to attend the annual American Christian Fiction Writer's conference. We are planning our second annual Critique Partner Writer's Weekend--CPWW!!  You too, could attend your very first annual CPWW!

So, we are 16 days to count down and I'm feeling a little panicked. Part of the good that comes from committing to attend a conference is the forced deadline to write a one page, practice your elevator pitches, and have a synopsis ready on the off chance (dreammmming onnnnn) that an agent or editor will ask for it. Yes, the pressure pushes you outside your comfort zone. And this is good. 

But, the CPWW will be all about comfort I assure you! Coffee, chocolate, snuggles under a throw while watching a period piece, sharing recent reads, deserts, pizza, and pajamas.

So, what's to push me/us while we are zoning in comfort?

Ok, check list of goals and ideas.

1. Reread her current WIP (while drinking coffee)
2. Skim my current WIP (will need chocolate here)
3. Brainstorming session focused on mashing out the problem areas of plot, structure, character
    consistencies. (insert more coffee)
4. Bring a craft book to work with; pick a craft topic and apply it to our WIPs (over desert--pumpkin
    pie? apple?)
5. Discuss current trends in publishing. (tea time)

Intermission: watch inspiring romantic movie (Pride & Prejudice, Out of Africa, Last of the Mohicans, etc)

6. Talk about/research if we should consider spending our money on a professional edit review of
    current WIP's. (no desert, play with kids--time to pinch pennies!)
7. Review recent reads, and TBR pile. (prepare to sprinkle giggles between sips of coffee!)
8. Critique our blogs and online presence--ugh (let's go for a hike now!!)
9. Review our Genesis reviews. (ice cream? pizza?)
10. Make a timeline of goals before ACFW 2013. (binoculars please, I can't see that far ahead!)

Finale: theatre here we come--gonna see The Words.

Ok, so maybe I won't have pushed myself out of my comfort zone like at a conference--only out of my waistband! But, last year's CPWW was just the kick in the pants I needed to launch a great winter of writing. If all goes well, I hope to finish WIP #2 this winter and think about whipping WIP #1 into shape and up to my current level of craft.

Rumor has it ACFW 2013 is in Indy (Indianapolis, IN)--and I plan to attend.
Maybe I'll have to fast from coffee for the slush fund!

What goals will you shoot for if you can't attend ACFW this year?

Leave a comment (here or on Facebook) or a goal on your list and enter a drawing for free copy of Laura Frantz's new release, Love's Beckoning
Comment deadline for drawing is Sept 12, limited to continental USA.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Life As I Know It

...will never be the same.

Tonight is the last night my daughter sleeps under my roof before leaving for college. I recall the first night we brought her home from the hospital. The baby monitor was on full blast. I heard every sigh, snuffle and sneeze. I heard her uneven newborn breaths as her lungs were still adjusting to life in this new world. Just when I thought she wasn't breathing, then the hiccoughing sounds of rapid succession of air into her tiny lungs gave me a sense of relief. I dozed fitfully through the night, hypervigilant for any irregularity or problem.There was so much we didn't know, so much we could never foresee. No baby book can tell you all you need to know.

At a certain point it's just time to jump in. To take a step forward. To jump off the cliff of tight control. Sure there is the security of a good routine, but usually it's false because life can change at any moment. A sudden fever, vomit in the van, yellow poo all up the behind just as you're ready to walk into church. A tearful re-teaching of the math lesson she didn't get. An unexpected diagnosis. Tearful sobs brought on by the stinging words of a friend. The uncertainty in her eyes as she wonders if she's captivating enough to capture the heart of a wonderful man some day.

All the little moments you wonder if she's going to be okay.

What a confidence I am privileged to have to know that Christ works all things together for His good. What a joy to know we can take all the complexities of parenting to the Father. What a deep and abiding blessing to know His love covers a multitude of sins and mistakes.

That night we brought her home, there was of course a sense of knowing that life as I knew it would never be the same. And tonight, that sense returns once again. And though I know she'll come home again and have many more nights under my roof, it still won't be quite the same.

And isn't that a good thing after all? There is so much fullness of life to live, I'd never want to hold her back and keep life the same forever.

It's just two ends of the parenting spectrum I'm feeling today. And what a blessing it's been. What a privilege--to be a parent.

I humbly thank you my God and Father. And I praise you for the confidence in knowing she's in your care.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Branding for Writers

Branding....no not with a  hot iron on the ranch!  (although that would be a great setting for a great story--but I digress--need more coffee!)

I'm talking about what brand an author or writer has. It's a certain voice, or genre. It's an appeal to a particular audience. It's what the readers know they will get every time they pick up a book from that author. It's something dependable, predictable, and most importantly--sellable!

Publishers, I'd imagine--since I don't have one yet, want an author they don't have to work unreasonably hard to sell their work. Although I personally thought vampires fell into that category, there apparently is an audience out there who thought differently. There needs to be an established or establish-able audience for a debut writer to be worthy of a risk to the publisher.

Chip MacGregor's blog today got me thinking. Visit his blog to get your juices and thoughts pondering,
http://www.chipmacgregor.com/blog/marketing-and-platforms/do-i-need-to-have-a-writing-brand/, or follow the link at the sidebar on my blog-page.

So, what's your brand? 
What's my brand?
Hmmmm.

Well, that's easy--at first glance anyway. Historical Romance right?

I'm only on my second book, so perhaps one can't have a brand yet with only two books. As they say, one or two plot points on a graph don't make a trend. But let's look at what I have so far: both are historical romances set in 1890's. Both are in rural settings that depict country life in a small town--it's what I know. And after all, we are told to write what we know, right?

My themes are rural, historical, simple living, and faith. Ugh, sounds so boring...how is that different than a thousand other wannabe writers hoping to catch the eye of a publisher or agent? There seems to be a fine balance to be struck between not being too different, or too much the same to what is already on the shelves.

So what makes it stand out as sellable--without selling my soul to make it so?  
Hmmmmm.

I'm Mennonite, ahem, not Amish. No bonnet. Yes, we have electricity (laptop, hello). My tagline on my blog, Twitter page, and Pinterest is--Mennonite girl without a bonnet. Its sort of like the saying "you can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl." There's no bonnet, but you can't take the bonnet out of my worldview.

My husband is a beekeeper. Our honey jar labels have an Amish buggy on them. The honey is made in northern Indiana Amishland, but any Amish or Mennonite here would smirk if we heard someone say the honey is Amish honey--sort of makes you think of honey bees with bonnets and suspenders! LOL.

My husband thinks that if I'd just put a bonnet on my characters, my work would sell faster. But I just can't do it. Why? I think it's something sort of opposite of "I can pick on my little brother, but you can't." It feels more like "You can write about Amish or Mennonite (while we sort of snicker), but I can't write about my own." (and kudos BTW to any author who can write it, I'm only taking an inward inventory here!) And yet strangely, several of my characters are based on real Amish people I know--God rest their souls. But in my book they don't wear bonnets, they aren't Amish. It's the essence of who they were that influenced my writing--not their bonnets. But is that enough? And for who? To put a bonnet on them seems to betray them in my mind somehow.

So, is "Mennonite girl without a bonnet who writes historical fiction" really a brand?
Hmmmm--no answer here.

Perhaps I just haven't written enough yet to know my brand. I mean I am regularly tempted by Colonial Quills writers to jump the fence to a different century! Would that mess up one's brand? It would still be historical romance right?
Hmmmm.

What have you learned about brand? How has your brand changed? 

Have you compromised to establish a brand?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Breaking Back Into Your WIP

I'm officially ending my writing slump!


used with permission www.freedigitalphotos.com

When your oldest graduates from high school, or other important life events occur, it's good to pay close attention to your spirit and soul. But when reprioritizing your life halts your flow of writing, or other things, how do you jump start it again??


1. Send an urgent prayer request for chocolate, coffee, and prayers of inspiration to your critique partner! (nonwriters: you got it, call your praying people!)

2.  Reread your WIP. You've got to get your mojo-flow back! 
It's important to get the overall plot flow back into your head and heart. Resist the urge to get caught up in major edits. Stick with the quick read through, and fall in love with your WIP again--a critical thing that makes you want to come back to it. (nonwriters: what is your life story about, what chapter are you in? Maybe it's time for a book review of your life? Is it time to fall in love again, with Jesus? your spouse? or love yourself better than you have before?)

3.  Reread your plot notes and character sheets. Reacquaint yourself with your characters to remain consistent. Some where between being a plotter or a pantser, you want to find your grove again. Part of my restart problem was that I had stopped my WIP at a point when I didn't know where I wanted to go next and my characters weren't sharing their secret motivations with me. This is both good and bad. It's tough to restart in a dead zone. However, it made me really dig deeper into their POV to re-identify their goals and motivations. (nonwriters: who are the important characters in your life, how have they motivated your faith? If you are in a deadzone, how can you dig deeper?)

4.  If the plot bunnies are still illusive, or you think you heard the voices of your characters--but still aren't quite certain--start listening to music. Keep waiting for your characters to talk to you. Then jot just a few notes of their thoughts so you won't lose them if you can't squeeze in time to write. (nonwriters: if life is still just a bunch of bunk and fluff--fall on your knees and worship your Creator.)

5.  The crucial moment--put your butt in the chair! Plan to be there for a while and get a pillow for your bum. I like to reread the last two chapters right before bedtime. Then think of it again right when you get up. Get a fragment of a scene in your mind, then just sit down and pants it. Here is where you turn off your internal editor. I like to even type with my eyes closed. Didn't your piano teacher or typing teacher ever make you do that? Don't think about your fingers, or the spelling, or the edits, or the formatting. (nonwriters: don't be afraid to step out in faith. Maybe don't over-think things so much, especially if you've done all the above.)

6.  Next, set a goal. My last goal was getting to the break point in my plot before Genesis Contest and completing that. Since I didn't place in the contest, I've decided not to spend the money for ACFW conference this year. Instead, I'm setting another date for a writing weekend with my crit partner. We both hope to finish our WIPs before then and be ready for some deep crits, cuts, revisions and edits.  Then I'd like to study more on writing excellent proposals, perhaps even rework my previous WIP so those are all in place for ACFW 2013. (nonwriters: what dates and goals are on your horizons? What do you want your life to look like in 5 years? 10 years? 15 years?)

What do you do when you get stuck in your writing? Or if you're not a writer, how do you get yourself out of a "slump" when you've lost your mojo-flow??

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Nurses Rock: A Day In The Life Of Anne Love, NP

I started my day at 8:00 a.m. with medical staff meeting where we learned Indiana University School of Medicine now has a four year program at the South Bend campus. We drank fully loaded Starbucks as the room filled with about thirty doctors with as many years of education as years worked in their careers. We listened to the professor try to drum up support as I skipped past the donuts since I'd just walked 30 minutes at 7:00 a.m. The difference between me and the docs in the room was class loads like Histology, Physiology, and Pathology, and several thousand hours of clinical training.

I've never pretended to be all that a doctor is. I've just always wanted to be the most awesome nurse I could be. There is always more to learn.

8:40 a.m. I looked through my morning lab results, made patient calls, and did prescription refills. I listed all the labs and immunizations due for everyone on the schedule for the day to make the day go smoother. Then my nurse and I looked through the schedule together and talked about what each person might need for the day, before we gathered three of us staff and held hands to pray for our day.

By 12:00 noon we'd done about 4-5 school physicals, had 3 patients no-show, and followed up hypertension, hyperlipidemia and GERD. I'd done lots of education from sexually transmitted disease prevention, abstinence, sports safety, concussion/re-concussion risks, helmet use, balanced diet, joint health, birth control, to vision and scoliosis screenings.

Then we all gathered around the staff room lunch table about twelve of us to enjoy a carry-in meal of chicken noodles, salad, fresh berries and angel food cake, blueberry buckle, and coffee. The comaraderie around the table was warm and good, like a great work family. I know it sounds too good, but it is true.

Good healthcare starts with people who care about people.

1:30 p.m. started the afternoon with my physician partner doing school physicals while I saw acute work-ins. It was an unusually slow afternoon--a reprieve from the usual for me. Though my physician partner sees patients every 15 minutes, I have 20 minutes slots and tend to move slower--some by default, but mostly by intention. I saw several people with upset stomachs, colds, someone with foot pain, and then drained an infected abscess. The lag in the schedule allowed me to finish my electronic charting, all my lab and x-ray follow ups, make a few patient phone calls and be ready to leave by 5:15p.m.---also unusually early end of day for me.

I hopped in my 100 degree, humid van, cranked up the air and motored toward Middlebury, past the office I'd done some clinical hours and three years work right after graduation from my master's program. The sky was clear, the fields through the country were mostly green as I passed a few Amishmen on bikes along the way. I was reminded of God's faithfulness. I learned a lot at the Middlebury office while I worked there under the tutelage of a very sharp clinical physician educator and mentor. I whipped my now cooled van into the Essenhaus Restaurant parking lot, excited for the supper meeting planned for a long time nurse colleague's early retirement due to Multiple Sclerosis.

5:37p.m. I was late, but weaved my way through tourists visiting northern Indiana's Amish land who'd come there to sample the food and browse the shops. I saw our gathering from afar and my heart overwhelmed with recognition of so many faces I'd not seen in 8-10 years--some I'd not seen in 20 years, and some faces of those who've passed on were missing.

Women. All who'd shaped me. Impacted me. Taught me. Pushed me. Encouraged me. Stood by me. Cried with me. Prayed with me and for me. Walked the halls of Goshen Hospital with me. Held the hands of the broken and dying with me. Educated me. Worked long laborious shifts of all hours of the day and night with me. Hands who'd pushed IV meds, changed dressings, and done chest compressions of resuscitation along side me.  All who'd showed me how to care--deeply and well. 

A room full of about 40 nurses--my sisters. I love each of them dearly. My eyes burned and my soul and spirit remembered in waves, the days and moments we'd had at Goshen Hospital where I'd worked 15 years before finishing my masters. Hugs for everyone, laughter and greetings passed around for everyone before we passed a meal family style together, like communion. The room filled quickly with the noise of chatter while we caught up.

White hair, red, blond, and brown. Some names I couldn't say right away. Some faces who hadn't changed a lick. We went around the room and shared our years of work, and what impact this particular nurse and mentor had had on all of us. We discussed the changes in healthcare, work ethics we learned, and drank our coffee and ate our raspberry cream pie.

All total, the number of years of experience in the room was over 721 years!

I have lacked in clinical training hours and the intense patho, histology and other indepth medical courses required of physicians--and looking around that room, I'd do it all the same again. There are moments when I wish I'd had a more rigorous anatomy course, but that wasn't one of them. I can always collaborate with my awesome physician partner and there is always a resource book to look up the position of the hallicus longus or the pharmacokinetics of a drug.

But there is no book, no page you can turn to in order to obtain what filled that room. 

Quite simply, nurses rock, and I'm quite satisfied to be one who reflects all that was instilled in me by these great and humble women.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Interview With Karen Witemeyer

I'm happy to tell you that Karen Witmeyer joins us today for an interview about her latest release, Short-Straw Bride (June 2012). You can get your very own copy on the shelves of your local bookstores--I know, because I've just spied it there!



So, pour a cool glass of ice tea, take your laptop to your favorite sweet spot and learn why you should be the first to support Karen--and your local bookstore--by ordering your copy! I'm sitting on my back patio listening to the birds, the fountain in our koi pond, and the cool breeze in the trees--while I sip on fresh lemon-iced tea. MMmmm--I wish I could share it with all of you!


Karen holds a master's degree in Psychology from Abilene Christian University and is a member of ACFW, RWA, and her local writer's guild. She is the author of A Tailor-Made Bride, which was honored as one of the Best Western Romances of 2010 by the Love Western Romances Web site, as well as landing nominations for a RITA Award and the National Readers' Choice Award. Short-Straw Bride is her fourth novel. She lives n Abilene, Texas, with her husband and three children.

So, Karen, tell us please:

1. Can you remember the exact moment the idea for Short-Straw Bride popped into your head? What inspired it?

The idea actually came to me one afternoon during my son's baseball practice. I deicded to get some exercise and walk around the neighborhood while he played. The idea hitting me mid-stride as I walked. I had been toying around with an idea inspired by the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, but I hadn't quite figured out how to work out the marriage of convenience part. Then it hit me: Wouldn't it be fun if the brothers drew straws to see who married Meredith? But we couldn't let chance completely decide her fate. That wouldn't be very romantic. So then I brainstormed about how it might be possible to rig a straw draw. Over the course of that walk, I managed to concoct a workable scheme and even came up with the book's title which my publisher ended up keeping.

2. What was the most fun part about writing this book? toughest? (as a new writer, I always struggle with the middle) What is the toughest part of plot construction for you?

I think I had the most fun crafting the Archer brothers and developing their separate personalities. I loved the scenes where they were all on stage together and could tease and pick at each others the way brothers do.

The toughest part was probably the plotting stage. I like to have all the major plot points nailed down before I start writing, and since this book had a lot of action scenes, it was challenging to come up with new predicaments to put my characters through that I hadn't already used in previous books. Once I had all the major points figured out, though, it went relatively smoothly when it came time to write.

3. With everything you know now as an experienced writer, what is the one thing you would have loved to know before you were agented/pubbed?

I would have liked to know how busy my life was going to become. At any one time I could be marketing a new release, writing the next book, brainstorming/researching the future story ideas, working on catalog copy for the current WIP, writing blogs and answering interviews, not to mention working my full-time day job and raising three kids. Whew! It's exhausting. (This is a pretty accurate picture of what June has been like for me.) However the rewards are fabulous. Reading 5 star reviews on Amazon, interacting with readers, meeting other authors, attending conferences, and of course seeing that new book hit the stores. It's a crazy journey and incredibly busy, but if you work hard, organize your time, and pray A LOT, you can get it all done.
Then again, if I had known all this before I was published, I might not have been so eager to pursue publication. LOL

4. It's interesting that our Sunday School lesson yesterday was about land and Jubilee. I learned that the Israelites were not supposed to view their land as a thing to be owned for private gain, but it was to be an viewed as Yahweh's land, given as an inheritance for sustenance and salvation--a gift to be tended, instead of a possession to be guarded and protected for selfish profit. This fits very similarly with your hero, Travis' view of his land, that he needed to protect it at all cost. What inspired you to develop this theme about land, and protecting what's "ours" at all cost?

I wanted the Archer brothers to be reclusive, and to do that I needed to give them some serious backstory. Having lost his parents at a young age, Travis had to fight the outside world to keep his family together and to protect the birthright he and the boys had been given. In his eyes, keeping his family together was tied to holding the land. If they lost the land, they would lose each other. So it wasn't actually the land itself that he protected at all costs (this is shown later when he has to chose between Meredith and the land), but it is family he strives to protect at all cost. He has to learn to surrender control to God and trust him to protect his loved ones before he's willing to open up the land.

5. I loved the way you portrayed the "young love" between Meredith and Travis. Young love is often fraught with misunderstanding as the two learn to communicate. Perceptions of love and faith cannot be assumed. Neither participant can be a mind-reader, nor can one's faith substitute for the other's. Though I'm sure the young readers in your audience are wise enough to know no one can "change a man"--Meri must trust that God has her best interests at heart in her relationship with Travis and she must still step out in faith that God will bring about His plan. This balance is tough to get in real life and in experienced marriages, but you've portrayed this delicate balance between them well. If there is one thing you'd like young readers to learn about love, what would it be?

God must be at the center of all relationships, but especially in relationships between a husband and wife. One of the verses I asked to have read at our wedding was from Ecclesiastes 4:9-10.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
God is that third strand, the center strand around which the other two entwine. He will hold us together when life tries to tear us apart. Without him at the center, it is all to easy to unravel.

What a great reminder to give us all.

Thank you Karen! I hope I've lit your curiosity about how Travis and Meri overcome their obstacles to find a love that is deeper than the land and longer than the short straw that started it all! 


You can learn more about Karen at:
Now Available: Short-Straw Bride (June 2012, Bethany House)
Also look for: To Win Her Heart ~ 2012 RITA® Finalist for Best Inspirational Romance
Head in the Clouds  and A Tailor-Made Bride RITA® Finalist for Best First Book
http://www.karenwitemeyer.com 
http://petticoatsandpistols.com/








Thursday, May 31, 2012

Metaphor---What's it for?

If I could master one thing in my writing, I'd choose---Metaphor.

Why?

It comports meaning, transports the mind, inspires hope and illuminates the soul.
It changes. It invites. It whispers.

What is metaphor? Doesn't that take you right back to visions of your 7th grade English teacher lecturing at the chalkboard? (I happen to love my 7th grade English teacher--Ms. Yoder, I'll never forget)

That distant memory should bring to mind comparisons of metaphor to simile. While simile uses the phrases "like" or "as"--metaphor compares two different things that by that comparison conveys a meaning not obviously or previously noted.

Jesus used simile all the time: "the Kingdom of Heaven is like"  --- a mustard seed, a hidden treasure, etc.
Or in poetry, we see it: "My love is like a red, red rose, that has newly sprung in June."~by Robert Burns

We might even say that in novel writing simile is too cliche, such as the phrase "as quiet as a mouse". It shows us something, but overused and uninteresting we pass over it unmoved.

But metaphor compares two different things to communicate meaning. Sometimes it is quite simple, like this example:   "Tommy is the lion king of his class." Tommy is a boy, not a lion. We think of lions as strong, and the lion king as the strong leader of his pride. Now we think of Tommy in a much different light. We now know something about him without saying or telling us "Tommy is strong."

But I'm really not wishing to capture the talent of the metaphor on a one sentence scale. I'm dreaming of it on a much grander scale of story telling. Or perhaps we should call it "story-showing" because I think capturing the metaphor on that scale has something to do with the "show don't tell" skill set.

For example, "Bill's teeth were hardened blue cheese nuggets, speckled with green and black." Now, when I read that, I see it! Not only do I see his teeth, I see a haggard old miner, aged beyond his actual years, teeth rotting out, beard unkempt, hair dried and brittle from poor health, but a grin bigger than Texas as he holds up a nugget of gold--his condition a price he's willing to pay for his treasure. This is much more interesting than being told "Bill's teeth were rotten."

But enough of grammar, the master of metaphor in my life is Jesus.

We studied John 13 last week in Sunday school class. Jesus says to Thomas, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one can come to the Father but through me."

The Way. Hmmm--what does that really mean?? If He would just tell us plainly how to follow Him, we could go there. But even we can understand when Jesus tells Thomas its not that simple. He came to show, not tell.  His whole life is his Way, and the Way of the Father. Love, faith, hope, forgiveness. Like Thomas we see things so simply. Why love someone who doesn't deserve it? Why have faith in something unseen? Why hope for the impossible? Why forgive when the other doesn't deserve it? And furthermore why forgive, since I have a right to remain angry because I was right and he was wrong? We know what's wrong, we know what's right, but like Jesus' disciples we often just don't understand. We are aware of this Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil--we see the good and the bad but feel helpless to grasp for the Tree of Life--to break our sorry cycles of misunderstanding, to be shown a more excellent Way. To be drawn into greater Truth than we know, a richer Life than we live.

Eugene Peterson, author of The Jesus Way describes metaphor:

"Metaphor does that, makes me a participant in creating the meaning and entering into the action of the word. I can no longer understand the word by looking it up in the dictionary, for it is no longer just itself. It is alive and moving, inviting me to participate in the meaning. When the writers of scripture use metaphor, we get involved with God, whether we want to or not, sometimes whether we know it or not."

My simple prayer for my writing is that God will help me show that He is the Way.

I want to show not tell. People have been told and lectured until the life has ebbed out of them, crammed down their throats until they choked on it. We don't need more telling. We want more showing. More metaphor. Something we can sink our teeth into and find sustenance. Transported to a place of transformation that invites us to deeper understanding of Love, Hope, Faith, and Forgiveness.




Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hormones---S'more-Moans; and Other Changes

I've always said hormones don't make you into someone you're not--they just exaggerate everything that you are.

Recently, my dear friend met with a bout of baby blues and we texted long distance trying to bouy her spirits. The overlap of her experience with mine was no mistake. No, I've never suffered post partum blues. But as my daughter's 18th birthday loomed on the horizon, I've been busy preparing for the launching of child number one. I've been proudly cruising along like an organizational cyclone. I created a folder for her senior year, complete with a calender page for each month from last summer until she leaves for college. All the deadlines and checklists were in place, carefully being checked off one by one.

     --taxes
     --FAFSA
     --SAT retakes
     --senior pics
     --open house invitations
     --cap & gown paid for
     --tent, table, chairs rented
     --paper products
     --photo albums for display
     --college applications, acceptance letters and matriculation fees sent
     --one last college visit
     --call financial planner for meeting about financial aid
     --food for open house

You get the idea.

I was sailing along, not only proud that I'd felt rather emotionally put together over this launching and letting go, but wondering why emptying the nest is considered so hard to do. Why, I'd even survived her spring concert and the senior night song as they were all announced and held hands to sing their senior song. I smiled full of joy and pride, as my daughter's face crumpled into a tearful sentimental remembrance that nearly kept her from singing. And still, not a tear from me. I was rather enjoying it, and proud of my daughter's progress, all the while thinking one only needs to be organized to make this whole shebang turn out successfully.

Urrr, wrong.

Enter hormones (peri-menopausal slash PMS--oh yeah)--and my daughter's prom. I turned into a blithering idiot needing to buy stock in Puffs or Kleenex, while texting my baby blue friend hoping for some sympathy. My beautiful girl had moments of doubt. Strong, confident, clear-minded and determined to celebrate, she ventured onward--but not before needing to bolster her slightly faltering strength with a pep talk from mom.


It had hit. The self doubt as a parent and the sudden realization that I have only three more weeks to get this parent thing right. Of course, I knew that wasn't true, but that my husband and I have spent her lifetime investing, praying, crying, trying, laboring over raising her up right. But in that moment, I faltered too.

Had we done ok? Would she really be alright?

My heart trembled as I asked her to forgive my mistakes and failings as I explained that her father and I, and Jesus, love her unconditionally no matter what, but the world out there that she's about to embark on--it doesn't love her, and it judges harshly and with conditions. And though we and her Savior have never demanded perfection, this world will require that she learn how to compete to achieve her dreams and aspirations. Prom had suddenly embodied everything to me about this world. Of course she knows she's the daughter of the King, and of this one thing I'm confident that it will bolster her through life's failures. But not without pain. Pain that I can't shield her from, whether in the nest or out.

Then I realized that these silly things called hormones come at such times of momentous, sweeping, intense change. And that this change involves great emotion, turmoil, and travail just as it did at her birth. And none of us are quite ready for such changes. We thought we were ready to drive and have our own keys. We thought we were grown up when we left home. We thought we were ready to become parents.

But in reality we probably weren't, and that's ok--because really no one ever is.

Then I remembered the faces of the other seniors during that senior night song. A few were teary-eyed along with my daughter. But honestly, most of them looked nearly stricken with fear and uncertainty, shocked by the sudden changes they are about to plunge into.


Eighteen years ago, I was two weeks overdue. I had a check list then too and it had been checkoff more than twice by the time I was that overdue! My daughter finally arrived after a difficult labor and 2 1/2 hrs of pushing, with much labor and travail. And so it repeats the process once more on this end of the journey of life.

Hormones. Moans. Changes. All part of being a mother.

Perhaps God knew we'd need to be stripped of all certainty that we have the world by the tail. Perhaps He knew we should be asking Him if we'd be okay, if we'll be alright. Perhaps He needs us to recognize that only as sons and daughters of the King, will be able to change--and be alright.






Sunday, April 29, 2012

Hans Herr--My 18th Century Immigrant Ancestor

Is there a Historical Romance writer or reader who wouldn't enjoy a trip to visit their ancestoral homestead?

I just traveled with my dear mom to Lancaster, Pennsylvania for a week long visit with her first cousins. In addition to visiting family, we signed up for a genealogy conference at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society. We learned and saw lots of fun things--and of course--ate great home cooked food!

We stayed with my first cousin (once removed), Ella and her mother Emma who is 93 years old. Since they are Old Order Mennonite, I was off the "grid" for my trip. Except for one day at the hotel for the conference, I had no internet or television. It was a great reconnection with my roots.

If anyone else out there is a fan of the television series, Who Do You Think You Are?--I felt as if I'd embarked on my own investigation!

The highlight of our trip was a visit to my 8-times Great Grandfather Hans Herr's homestead. It still stands as the oldest house in Lancaster County, and since they held church services in this home, it is considered the oldest Mennonite Meetinghouse in all of America. Built in 1719, this house became the home of my ancestors for 150 years to follow. This was a great freedom to stay in one place and practice their faith peacefully after having been persecuted for their faith in Switzerland since the Reformation in the mid 1500's.


In the 1710, 10,000 acres of land was granted by William Penn to nine Mennonite families who came by way of the ancient native path called the "Great Conestoga Road". Penn was given the land by King Charles II, as payment for a debt owed Penn's father. Though the King of Britain had given this charter to Penn, it didn't mean he'd paid the Natives already living here for the charter! Several Native American tribes still occupied the neighboring lands, from tribes including the Shenk's Ferry, Conoy, Lenape, Mohawk, Nanticoke, Seneca, Shawnee, Sesquehannock, and primarily the Conestoga. Another of my Mennonite immigrant ancestor's history recounts a telling that Hans Groff lived peaceably with his Native neighbors, speaking their tongue as fluently as his own mother tongue, and traded goods with them on a regular basis. Visit the website, www.hansherr.org to read about a present day peace-making venture with the Native Americans near the Hans Herr Museum.


Above the entrance, it fascinated me to see the date 1719, along with Hans' son, Christian Herr's initials, "17 CH HR 19".  I also loved to think that my 8-times Great Grandfather cleaned his boots on this iron crafted piece at the entrance steps of the house.



The house had a root cellar that would have stored cabbage, turnips, apples, onions, smoked meats, and their main drink of the time--apple cider. This kitchen hearth is original and very large. Behind it in the adjoining room was the "kachelofen"--a brick and plaster part of the hearth that held heat for hours after the hearth fire had gone out.


The kachelofen that extended into the "stube" or family room, made it the warmest room in the house, and likely the place that church meetings took place. On the table in the stube is a stand called a rush light. It used the stem of a bullrush or cattail which was soaked in fat or grease and once lit, provided flame free light and was less expensive than candles.



The bedroom holds a rope bed and straw mattress, with a feather bed on top for warmth. Though the immigrants had precious little furniture when they arrived, they prospered and by about 1750 many had schranks like this one for their clothing. Until then, they may have only had a trunk.


The plaster has been left off part of the ceiling in this room to show the insulation used. They wrapped long planks of wood with rye straw and caked them with clay mud. The rye straw was bitter to rats and mice, and the dried clay acted as insulation and a firebreak between floors and rooms. The children would have slept in the first attic that was also used as storage, while the second attic served as additional storage and could be heated by an iron stove.



"Even though there appear to be gaps between the shingles, the roof is watertight sidelap as well as an overlap. The roof shingles are quite long and have a some of the tools used to build houses like the 1719 Herr House are located in the attic. These include broadaxe, used for hewing logs into beams, and a froe, used to split shingles. After splitting a shingle it was shaved down using a schnitzelbank-, which held the shingles in place for working." 

(from The Swiss Herr Family of Lancaster www.horseshoe.cc/pennadutch/families/herr/herr.htm#hhm)




I was also fascinated with the windows, shutters, latches, and hingework. They must have had a blacksmith in the family, or nearby.





There is a local story that one night the Herrs warmed a hunting party of Natives for the night beside the kitchen hearth. Having been persecuted themselves, I wonder what kinship they might have struck with the Natives, and I'm glad to know there is currently an effort to restore a right relationship with them.

And of course, my writer's mind was flying fast and furious about what possible stories might abound...

If you travel to Lancaster, take time to see this wonderfully restored piece of history and visit www.hansherr.org.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sealed With a Kiss

I was made to love. 

Weren't we all? Made in the image of our Creator.

I suppose that's why I love a great romantic story. Epic--as my teens would say.

I just finished a weekend of watching three full performances of Footloose. My son was in charge of stage left--RRRrrr. My daughter played the mother of the main character--Ren---and she was beautiful--RRRaaarrr.

Since my husband and I dated in the 1980's, I reveled in all the glory days and songs, costumes, and even silly old phrases and dance moves I'd forgotten. It was so EPIC! :o)

But one scene stands out for one reason....
the sweet anticipation of love discovered.

It's the scene on the bridge where Ren and Ariel sing the hit, Almost Paradise. Ren, the rebel, who challenges all the rules, loves Ariel, the preacher's daughter, who yearns for real love and deeper intimacy than the empty rules handed down to her as faith. Each night Ren and Ariel played it better and better--of course it helped that in real life this couple is already dating. But the kicker was on the third night of a packed auditorium when they finally lean closer, closer---and closer----and FINALLY KISS---I hear behind me somewhere a young girl's loud whisper of anticipation--"yES!"  Then a contented sigh that followed. Sweetness of two meant for each other.

My English teacher in high school said there were only three stories in the world---love, war, and death. Well, he might have been right, but I'll take LOVE every time!

We were made to love, to yearn, to seek....to hope.

And everyone in that auditorium knew it too--whether old, young, or in between.

I left the school with a contented sweet remembrance of days gone by---of love dreamed of, hoped for, prayed over.

Then during worship Sunday morning, I suddenly remembered that kiss. Often we tiptoe to the edge of it. Wonder what it might be like to plunge into a completely committed relationship with our Lord, lover of our souls. He yearns for us. He knocks on the doors of our hearts---and we tremble with all the same questions we have in love. Will He really love me for who I am? Can I really trust Him with all of me? How will I know it's really Him--the only One for me?

And when we lean in, closer, and seal it with a kiss---I think He says---yES!

Monday, March 19, 2012

What Makes a Book Hook You?




As a reader, what makes you reach for a book on the shelf?

I love Historical Fiction. As I browse Pinterest for pictures that move me, and catch my eye, I stumbled on one that made me think--great book cover! I clicked until I found the photographer's website. Her work was copyrighted, and guess what--she works for the book cover industry. It made me think about what catches a person's eye while browsing the bookshelves of the local bookstore.

It made me wonder...


What are readers looking for in a historical fiction?
What makes it great?


Well, I'm unagented. I'm unpubbed. I'm a quasi-newbie. BUT, I am a reader. So, I'm answering as a reader.

First.
When I browse a bookshelf, I look at the cover. Like a great antique needs some original patina, to me, a great historical should have a sense of patina on the book cover. Patina forms on the surface, produced by age, wear, exposure, or polishing. I like a little something more original than "girl in field". I like the cover to have some level of intrigue. Sometimes less is more, like not showing the heroine's face--it begs the question, what is she like? It makes me want to know what formed the patina of her character.

Second.
I read the back cover and hope for something different than what's been overdone in the past. I love a well written story about a prairie school teacher, but I'd be more likely to read it if it had a fresh twist. I want to read a story about a time and place I love--or a place I have never been--or a place that has some little known history that runs through the plot line. I can also be drawn in by an interesting occupation of the hero or heroine--especially one that will reveal the historical times. One of my favorites is Tamera Alexander's From a Distance.

Third.
I like a full length novel I can sink my teeth into. I love well developed characters that are believable. Once I've made my purchase, nothing will disappoint me more than characters who do or say things that don't ring true with a well thought out character. I like characters who rise up off the flat page and become more than black and white print on the page. A great character can do unbelievable things--and we can still believe it.

Fourth.
I like a writer who can keep the reader--ME--engaged through the middle. I have trouble with distractions or sagging middles. I probably have some ADD, so if that happens, I might not finish the book--and I certainly won't buy another book from that author unless it comes highly recommended. I'm always intrigued by an author who can weave well in the middle--without me guessing what will happen next--which I always try to do. So, I love it when I'm wrong and something even more interesting that I imagined starts to unfold.

Fifth.
I love it when the theme is one that isn't trite, or worn out. But, that said, I'd read any well written book with the theme: she can't trust him, he has a haunted past, she's a widow, he's a man out to redeem himself, etc--IF, they are written well. But, recently, I was excited to read a book with a great look at colonial America's struggle with the theme of liberty. This was Love Finds You in Annapolis, MD by Roseanna M. White. The lessons her characters learned were not only timeless, but something we could stand to remember more often than we might, two hundred plus years later. It made me ponder. It made me thankful. I came away pushed and stretched.

Theses are things I am striving for in my writing, looking for on the shelf, and hoping for in my reading.

So, what do YOU look for in a book?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Launching & New Beginnings

Posies & Petals GC by lubsy1uk

Posies & Petals GC, a photo by lubsy1uk on Flickr.

Spring has sprung in our neck of the woods here in Indiana. The daffodils are blooming and the pond frogs are singing--and my oldest daughter is preparing for graduation. The blog-front will be quieter for the next several months until we launch her and the open house is over in June. My heart is full and brimming as I think of the blessings of these last 18 years, and I can see that the launching is not really an end, but a beginning!

My writing goals are sitting on the back burner for now. I plan to critique my crit partner's latest chapters, and finish plotting out the last half of my book. Once my daughter graduates and begins her summer job, I'll be able to pick up my writing and look toward the Fall and ACFW conference in Dallas. I'd love to have the last half of my current WIP completed by then. So, as my 16 year old gets his license and my 18 year old daughter jumps from the nest to stretch her wings, my hope is that writing may help fill my moments. 

Happy Spring time to all. I pray your endings are only the start of great beginnings!

What are your new beginnings?  Writing goals? 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

This I Believe....

...about copyright law and the digital age...

Reading copyright law and TOU (Terms of Use) policies on popular websites where copyrighted material might be shared, is worse than using MS-DOS, or doing your own long form income taxes--I'd rather read about the Kreb's cycle or the immune response, or scan the package insert (PI) for disclaimers on safe prescription drug use!! Even the most conscientious user of publicly posted information on the web could make an unintended error in interpretation.


I know, because after reading Jennifer Hudson Taylor's blogpost yesterday at Hartline, I read the attached discussion of the current law and fine print of TOU from Pinterest and Tumblr. Ugh! Seriously, you'd need a law degree or retainer for a copyright lawyer to interpret these things!


Anyone who used MS-DOS, dreamed of a user-friendly world where the not-so-tech-geek with average intelligence could use a home computer not only with ease, but with enjoyment. I hope copyright law and TOU policies will one day catch up with the complexities of the world wide web.


The first laws in America were passed in 1783--229 years ago!


Taken from (to give proper credit): 
NOTABLE DATES IN AMERICAN COPYRIGHT
"compiled by Benjamin W. Rudd 
January 8, 1783. The earliest copyright statute 
in the United States was passed by the General 
Court of Connecticut under the title 'An Act 
for the Encouragement of Literature and 
Genius.' Dr. Noah Webster, famed lexicog- 
rapher and one of Connecticut's most distin- 
guished men, was directly instrumental in secur- 
ing its enactment." (source: http://www.cpyright.gov/history/dates.pdf )

Many states quickly passed laws of their own. I'm quite certain Noah Webster never dreamed of the world wide web. I'm not an expert in copyright law, but just an average person with the desire to abide by the law. I believe the intent of copyright law was designed to give credit to the original artist or author who produced published written works and protect him or her from others who would infringe upon the author's right to gain from their own works. 

The first Federal copyright law was passed in 1790 and had provisions for limitations: the period of protection was for only 14 years and an author could renew his protection at the end of the first term "if he was still living."  The very fact of limitation implies that there might be exceptions and circumstances affecting the provisions. Certainly the first framers of this law didn't comprehend that the average life span would stretched to seventy plus years. Nor did they comprehend a digital world where Pinterest boards might be popularly viewed as something akin to sharing a favorite magazine clipping with friends--a paperless way to organize previously clipped recipes, pictures, articles, and research.

The article linked in Jennifer's blog yesterday was from a lawyer, who was similarly confused about the TOU policy for Pinterest in regards to copyright interpretation. Now, if a lawyer is unclear, what are the rest of us supposed to think? Ignore the public chat, or take down all my boards and jump off Pinterest for good? I'd like to hope there is a happy middle ground where user friendly policies can be understood and used. 


In writing nonfiction works, if the author quotes a source, she should put it in quotes or give credit to the source. In research and educational works, we are required and taught to site works properly in the bibliography. All this to give credit where credit is due. So, are public websites like Pinterest, where the original source can be linked, or the pathway to the original can be followed--is this like crediting the source? 


I don't have the legal answers.


I haven't decided what to do about Pinterest, but I've stopped pinning until I decide. I've pulled my "follow me on Pinterest" button on my blog until I learn more. I did send an email to a photographer to ask permission to pin or post her work on my boards and blog.


I did read the TOU on Tumblr. In the five years Tumblr was been up and running their website states they've had over 10,000,000,000 posts--I believe that's TRILLIONS!!  Do you really think that the number of potential authors, photographers, artists involved would like trillions of emails requesting permission to use those trillions of items for personal enjoyment and nonprofit use?? So, what actual percent of repinned, or reposted material needs a formal permission from the originator? If the originator doesn't block his or her work from being shared or pinned online, does that imply permission?


Answer please....someone...tell us in plain English....


Until then, Lord, please hasten the day where TOU's and copyright law won't give me the headache that MS-DOS and the IRS do!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Grandma Annie's Old Order Mennonite Funeral

2012-01-07_Boy's Benches by Mark Burr
2012-01-07_Boy's Benches, a photo by Mark Burr on Flickr.

When I was ten years old, I traveled to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania for my Great grandmother Annie's funeral. I had dreaded the trip where I had to wear dresses the whole week, but quickly forgot my discomfort when I was enchanted with feeling as if I'd stepped into the prior century.

I had already fallen in love with Laura Ingalls, had my own sunbonnet, and a "half-pint" size of curiosity about things of the past. So, after wakening from a night's sleep on a hay tick bed, watching my Great Aunt Mattie stir up the fire in the wrought iron cook stove and make me toast without a traditional electrified toaster--I was quickly enthralled into the conservative Mennonite world of my distant relatives.

I remember the evening before the funeral was spent at Grandma Annie's viewing, or wake. It was a closed casket made of plain pine wood that sat along one wall of the darkened home filled with plainly dressed Old Order Mennonite relatives who spoke in quiet hushed Dutch mixed with English. The language wasn't too foreign for me since I'd had Amish babysitters growing up, but I can't speak Dutch, so I listened and observed quietly curious.

The next day we piled into my Grandpa John's truck, ready to head to the church. When we turned onto the pike that lead out the church, I remember that morning as a frosty, sunny morning with little color left on the trees, but the green of the grass hadn't yet faded fully. The view that is cemented upon my memory is of a long line of buggies that followed the horse drawn hearse that lead the slow plodding procession.

Once we got the the church, a white washed plain stone building surrounded by plain cemetery stones, we entered the church for the service. Instead of two long rows of pews on either side of an aisle, as I was used to at my home church, this church held plain pine benches that faced a platform in the center of the far wall. The benches faced the platform from three different directions. Several men in black straight coat jackets sat along the benches upon the platform. Me, my mother, and my grandparents made a small minority of English dressed among the majority who were plainly dressed in black and white.

Men sat on the right hand side, and women on the left. I told Mom, it was good Dad had stayed home in Indiana! Black hats lined the outer walls on the right side--black bonnets to the left, hanging from pegs that lined the walls of the parameter. We sat in a hushed silence followed by prayer in Dutch from a leading elder or deacon who stood on the platform. Each of the men took turns preaching. I thought English sermons were long, but multiple sermons in Dutch topped the cake! Then we sang and I hoped I might hear something familiar. But no. No four part harmony. No shaped notes or regular "sheet music" of the usual hymnal I'd grown up with--just a small book written in Dutch with only one word I could read: the Dutch word for Jesus typed in German script.

Finally, the group stood and filed outside the church to a small graveside where Grandma Annie's coffin sat near a pile of dirt. There was no tent, no fake carpet to hide the dirt pile or the fact that she was returning to the dust from whence she'd come. It was cold and windy by then but I was still enthralled by the events. The deacons read more scriptures and prayed again before six strong men lowered the casket with ropes and then shoveled the dirt back into place. Grandma Annie was in her 90's and lived a long and good life. I don't recall many tears shed, just a solemn gratefulness for her life and love. I learned she'd been a tall, slim, graceful lady who loved Jesus--not surprising to me since my Grandpa John had similar character.

My only memories after the funeral were of a wonderful meal served in the home of my mom's cousins. Long tables had been set up all through the house with full place settings. The meal was simple and good, I think I recall Lebanon Balogne sandwiches on fresh homemade wheat bread.

I cherish such a memory and hope you enjoy the sharing of it here. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Platform or Territory?

As an unpubbed unagented new writer, 
                            what emphasis do I put on "platform"?

Four years ago I didn't know was WIP was let alone a writer's platform. I mean, aren't those like shoes--platform shoes? 

I mean at that first writer's conference I went to and listened to Chip MacGregor talk about platform, I didn't even know he was an agent or that I needed an agent. I must have looked like a school girl with ADD and a bubble cloud sticking out of my head with a floating image of a literal stage platform. He must have wanted to stop speaking, walk over to me and POP that little elementary bubble cloud and tell me to educate myself before I made a fool of myself, which I probably did. Sigh. 

Well, I now know about the wonderful ACFW network, and what WIP, MC, and POV mean. 

But I'm still having trouble with this platform concept. Yeah, yeah, it's all about marketing and numbers right? Sales, sales, sales, sales, sales! So, I plunged into blogging, learned how to check my statistics on Google Analytics, and now I'm learning about Pinterest and Twitter. Pinterest is the most fun by far. I read blogs and try to participate in a positive light. I even tried my first book give away and author interview. Yipee!

And the results?  "Survey says...." In eight months my blog has gone from non-existant to having 969 visits, of those 296 unique visitors from 23 countries. In the eighth month I have 42% new visitors which is progress. I have fun looking at the cluster maps to see where on the globe someone might have read my post. I learned that 19th century fashion is a huge landing page that gets all sorts of hits. The most hits come from Google, then Facebook, followed by blog referrals, and Pinterest. But I'll have to give Pinterest more time to evaluate since I've only been on for a few weeks. And today I tackled Twitter and learned that I'm a complete novice, so far I have no clue what I'm doing there.

Live and learn, you are never too old.

BUT, and yes, there's always a but---then I read Amanda Leudeke's post on Chip MacGregor's blog in January about growing a platform and she was quoting some really scary numbers needed to gain the glance of editors, agents, and publishing houses. She's talking about numbers in the "tens of hundreds of thousands". We need to have:
           --monthly unique visitor count at least 30,000 (sound--loud buzzer--you're out!)
           --Twitter followers pushing 5,000 (striking out again!)
           --Facebook group pushing 5,000 (yep, you guessed it--OUT!)
           --Public Speaking 30 times a year to total 10,000 (does teaching Sunday School count?--ugh)
           --eZines--post on regular basis with 100,000 readers/month (what's an eZine?!)

These are really overwhelming numbers. But one comment on that blog post challenged that it's more about engagement than numbers (oh, yes, my little deflated heart thinks it might have a chance here). He said "build the relationships and the numbers will come." This got me thinking...

So, just like when I hate church talk about filling pews with numbers of people, I'd rather talk about people, whether its one or 100,000. As I click the "follow" button on Twitter and Pinterest, I wonder about being a follower, or being followed. I know that Jesus wants followers, not just fans. He wants followers that are totally committed through the thick and thin. Fans might hang out for the fun, food, and miracles, but hit the road when the going gets tough. I remember the prayer of Jabez that asks God to increase my territory, and I remember that it's not about me. It's not my territory. It's His. And so are the numbers....

...and the platform.

My job is to write. To write well. To be faithful. To love those He puts on my path on this journey.

I'll keep doing the hard work of platform. But my focus will be on His territory.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sunshine for the Senses

I was disappointed when I woke up this morning and the sun wasn't shining, but behold a blanket of white had fallen overnight. It was very beautiful, but I was even more excited when the sun came out this afternoon.



Don't you long for a taste of summer sun in the middle of January and February?

I do. Probably because I live here in the midwest.

Last week I bought a quart of fresh blueberries imported from Chili. The first bite was the most incredible taste of summer sun I could imagine. It was magnificent! Transporting! I called to my daughter right away and we ate handfuls from the box, not even washed--and rolled our eyes and inhaled the smell and savored the taste.

So, this morning when the sun didn't shine, I forfeited writing time to whip up none other than--you guessed it--Blueberry Teacake for breakfast. The smell filled the whole house and my family was thankful for the treat.


Recipe from Mennonite Country-Style Recipes by Esther H. Shank

Blueberry Coffee Cake

Beat together: 
2 eggs
1 1/3 c. sugar
1 c. oil
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix in separate bowl:
3 c. flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Add to wet mixture, alternately with 1 c. milk
Fold in one quart bag frozen blueberries (or huckleberries). Pour into greased 9 x 13 baking dish.
Bake one hour at 375 F.

The dish is already half gone! It didn't taste quite like summer or those fresh berries from Chili. But it made me remember the summer fun we had picking the blueberries, and it made me remember the times we picked huckleberries in Michigan with my Grandma. My Grandma Emma always had a huckleberry buckle (cobbler) ready to eat when we arrived to northern Michigan to visit.



If you've never had huckleberries, they are wild, much smaller, and much richer in taste. But you can make anything with huckleberries that you would make with blueberries.

Smells and tastes possess the power to transport us to another time and place. As writers, we should remember to evoke the senses in positive ways and remember a few long forgotten smells to pull the reader into the story. Some favorite smells are turkey dinner, brownies in the oven, yeast bread baking, the smell of fresh cut hay, fresh peaches and strawberries.....mmmmm......is your mouth watering? Were you thinking of other times and places and happy moments?

What smells and tastes transport you? 
Have you remembered to include all the senses in your writing?