Friday, December 21, 2007

See You in 2008!


The Christmas craziness officially begins for me today. Thanks to help from Wendy (see above), all the wrapping is done. Now I start running around all over the place to see people and hand out gifts. Fun but very busy.


Tonight we head to Florida to spend the weekend with cousins and celebrate an early Christmas. Next week I have friends visiting from all over the place. All this to say, no blogging until things settle back down, which will probably be around January 3.


So in the meantime, I wish you all a merry and safe Christmas. And let's make a promise to take some time out to remember what this is actually all about. That the "Word became flesh and dwelt among us," first in the form of a tiny baby in Bethlehem.


I don't know a better way to end 2007 than with that thought!







Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Of Mice and Perseverance

Humorist Dave Barry once wrote that if we were ever serious about getting to Mars, we should just spread a rumor that there's food up there. The racoons would figure out a way to get to it. Animals are persistent like that when it's something they really want. Which leads us to today's guest blog by none other than my husband, Dave:



Well, "The Queen" has been persevering with me for almost 18 years now. She needs to just wait until I am old, then she will have something to write about on the subject of perseverance!

Anyway, she asked me to write this story on perseverance. Last week when the weather warmed up, I headed up to North Carolina to do some hiking. I started out at Natahalia National Forest and left my car at the trail head there. It is common for hikers to do that...to leave their cars at the trail head for several days at a time. Sometimes vandals and thieves know this and take advantage of the situation. That is what happened to me last week.

I stopped off and picked up a box of graham crackers somewhere along the way. I ate one of the three packages, and left the other two sealed in plastic. They stayed in my car with the windows rolled up and the doors locked for almost 4 days. When I returned from my hike, I pulled one of the packets out of the box to eat it, and noticed the corner had been eaten off--obviously by mice.

So, this is how it goes: when a car pulls up to the parking area, the mice living there know that there is a good chance that it will be there for several days. They also know there is a good chance there is food inside somewhere. Since they have several days to find a way to get in, get at the food, and then get out, they begin looking. They may even look for days before they find a way in, but eventually they do (as my graham crackers can attest). The perseverance of searching every nook and cranny on the car finally pays off and the reward for the mice is a feast!


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Does This Bother Anyone Else?

This is a little off-topic for me, but I just have to bring up a pet peeve of mine--something I've never heard anyone else mention.

It's on my mind right now because I've watched more TV than usual the past couple of weeks. I usually don't watch much television, partly because I don't have time and partly because I can't find shows I want to watch. But I've been wrapping presents and finishing up some homemade Christmas gifts, and I enjoy keeping one eye on Christmas movies while working. So I was reminded again of one of my complaints about TV today.

Apparently it isn't enough that we're subjected to about twenty minutes of commercials out of every hour. Now, the channels run commercials across the bottom of the screen, right during the show. I particularly love it when you're watching a dark, moody drama, and you get to some intense scene. Someone is about to confess to a secret love, or the killer raises the knife to strike. And there comes a dancing frog across the bottom of the screen advertising tomorrow night's episode of Idiot Pets and their People, or something like that. Frankly, the mood is broken for me.

Not only does this annoy me as a viewer, but if I were the writer or producer of the television show, I'd be livid. You pour your soul into creating a story, a vision that will totally captivate your viewer. And the folks who present it make every effort to interrupt, distract the viewer, and get them thinking about upcoming shows rather than whatever they're watching at the time. And really, what's the point? Whatever is coming on tomorrow night, they're no doubt going to ruin that, too.

As I said earlier, I've never heard anyone else complain about this. So let me hear from you. Does this bother any of you? Or have you just gotten wise and given up on television, anyway?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday Fun

We had a famous visitor at the Library yesterday!


Yoda was obviously in the Christmas spirit, judging by his hat and the book he checked out (A Christmas Carol).




I'll bet old Yoda would have set Scrooge straight even faster than the three spirits did.



Thanks to my colleague Felicia (THE Felicia of Fluffy Flowers, no less) for taking these great photos.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

On a More Personal Note

When my now-husband-Dave and I got engaged, we had a long-distance relationship. Boy, was it long distance! He lived in Baton Route, LA, and I lived in Atlanta. And yet, here we are together, happily married and living in my hometown, a smallish place a couple of hours from Atlanta. Here's the amazing part. Although having both Dave and my family all in one place was one of the desires of my heart, I did absolutely nothing to arrange it.

When we got engaged, we didn't know for sure where we would be living, but Dave was able to get a transfer to Atlanta and we lived there for about 10 years. That was fabulous, but it gets better. He became interested in another job in his organization--sort of a one-man office that served a large part of the state. The job would require a move to a small town in the northern part of Georgia. I said that if he managed to get the job, I would move there, but I wasn't particularly excited about it. I would be a little further away from my family, away from my Atlanta friends, and would miss out on a lot of the fun things Atlanta has to offer.

Still, I was ready for a change. I had recently made a career move that wasn't making me particularly happy. In fact, I had gone from a small mom-and-pop firm that was like family to a huge, stressful, tense corporate environment. At the end of a day at that place, I would often be at the point of tears. That year, God kept bringing me over and over to Psalm 126, and these verses would jump out at me as though God were speaking them right into my ear:

"Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him." (v. 5-6, NIV)

Psalm 126 is about people in bondage being set free, and returning to their homeland. Every time I read it, I felt God was assuring me he was going to release me from that job and bring me to something better. But I had no idea just how literal his promise to me was. Dave put his application in for the new job--and we discovered that the one-man office was being moved from the small town in north Georgia...to my home town! When I found that out, I could feel God smiling down on me, as though saying, "See, I told you!"

Of course, like David in yesterday's post, even while God was behind the scenes working all this out, I had occasion to wonder if anything was ever going to happen. Particularly when, after it seemed that Dave had the job, we were notified that the position was being abolished and it seemed that everything had fallen through. But then, a few weeks later, everything fell back into place. They managed to keep the position, and Dave got the job.

So here we are, seven years later. And these have been seven of the best years of my life, with Dave and my parents and sister and my nice little town all here together. Some days, when things aren't so wonderful, I try to remind myself of what God has done. Because if I had TRIED with all my heart and energy to arrange all this, I would have gotten nowhere. But God had no problem with it at all.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Point of Doing What You Love

Yesterday our pastor (Chip Miller) talked about receiving a call from God to do something--or having a vision to achieve something for the Lord, something you're sure he wants you to do. He then went on to say that we often get the "what" of a calling before we get the "how." In other words, God may let us know what he wants us to do long before he shows us how that's going to happen.

Chip mentioned several illustrations, but one in particular made me sit up and take notice. He talked about David--how he was called as a youth and annointed to be king of Israel and then...nothing. Not for quite awhile, anyway. One reason this illustration struck me was that I was already planning to do a blog post about David, and along those same lines.

A few years ago, another speaker was talking about David, and how his call to be king wasn't fulfilled for a long time. So what did David do during that time? Did he fret over how to make it happen? Did he plot a political uprising, or try to rally people to support his cause? No, he went about his usual business. He tended sheep. He played the harp and enjoyed his music. And ultimately, God used that talent, that interest, to help move David into the kingship. When the current king, Saul, needed soothing music to steady his nerves, his servants had heard of David and his skill on the harp. They brought him to Saul. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Sometimes it's easy to berate ourselves for "wasting" time. For writing stories, for taking joy in music or sewing or whatever creative drive God has given us. But let's never forget that God may use those very interests and talents to accomplish great things--in our lives, and in his plan.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Books and Future Shock

In reading my library journals yesterday, I came across a couple of interesting things. First, there's a group called The Institute for the Future of the Book. They introduce themselves this way in their mission statement: "The printed page is giving way to the networked screen. The Institute for the Future of the Book seeks to chronicle this shift, and impact its development in a positive direction." I laughed at their description of themselves as a "think-and-do tank" as opposed to a plain old think tank, meaning they're not only looking at talking about the future of the book, but they're actively involved in the changes.

As part of this, they've had several "networked books" authored through their site. This is a pretty new concept to me. These authors seek public response and input BEFORE they publish their book in its final form, so they can react to suggestions, include input, and change errors as part of the process.

One of the current projects is a book called The Googlization of Everything: How One Company is Disrupting Culture, Commerce, and Community...And Why We Should Worry. The author, Siva Vaidhyanathan, will literally be putting the book together online. He will share related articles and ideas, chapter headings, etc., and asked for public input--which will affect the final form of the book.

In an interview, Vaidhyanathan explained, "What I am after here is instant peer review. I want the readers of the blog to give me instant feedback and corrections on the claims I am making as I propose them. When I am all done with the manuscript, I want to have confidence that most of my claims and assessments have been tested among a very informed public. I am not allowing readers to alter my text. I am allowing them to comment on my text and argue with each other about the direction I am going in." (interviewed by Wendy Melillo, Adweek, October 15, 2007)

I think this is an excellent approach to writing nonfiction books. It makes sense to get as much input as possible during the writing process, before everything is more or less set in stone. But what about fiction, I wondered? I have vaguely heard of some fiction writers putting their novel online in the form of a blog or wiki as they write. It might not be bad to have reader input during the process--but would publishers then say the book has already been published and not be willing to accept it? The difference between a novel and the project that Vaidhyanathan is doing is that he isn't posting the actual book--just ideas, chapter headings, small excerpts, etc.

I'm interested to hear what you all think, especially as this might apply to fiction writing.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Waiting for Christmas

Do you ever feel that Christmas comes rushing at you like a locomotive--even worse, a locomotive you didn't expect? How does that happen? One minute, it's October and I'm snickering at the Christmas stuff in stores, because it's still AGES away. And it seems like a few days later, I'm rushing around in a panic because I can't possibly get everything done before the big day.

It wasn't always that way, though. I remember when I was a child, Christmas seemed to take forever to arrive. Even in December, even as we sat at school making construction paper ornaments, the days seemed endless. Three more weeks? That was practically a lifetime, especially when I was waiting for a new Barbie doll and a stack of Nancy Drew books.

Twice in the past week, my church has equated the Advent season with waiting. Tom Anderson, one of our pastors, wrote a beautiful article in our church newsletter, the Pipeline. He said,
"Advent is a time of waiting in a culture that has grown impatient, it is a time of hoping in
a dark, dangerous place where despair seems too often just around the corner, a time of preparation in a 'fast food, microwave' driven world. It is a time to stop, to watch, to wonder, but most of all, a time to wait.

"We wait for the birth of God into the world, for what the prophet Isaiah longed for, when from
exile he cried, 'O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains
would quake at your presence.' We wait for nothing more and nothing less than God in the
season of Advent, knowing that above and beyond all of our needs, none is more radical, more
profound, and more essential than this One..."

Our bulletin/worship program last Sunday featured an excerpt from The Worship Sourcebook, (Calvin Institute for Worship): "The season of Advent, a season of waiting, is designed to cultivate our awareness of God's actions--past, present, and future. In Advent we hear the prophecies of the Messiah's coming as addressed to us--people who wait for the second coming. In Advent we heighten our anticipation for the ultimate fulfillment of all Old Testmanent promises, when the wolf will lie down with the lamb, death will be swallowed up, and every tear will be wiped away."

This reminds me I need to slow down, to enjoy that sweet season of anticipation. To remember the "reason for the Season." To acknowledge the beauty of waiting on God.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Winner of the Treasure Box


Congratulations to Brandy, who won the box of handmade treasures for Christmas! Brandy found this blog through Fluffy Flowers, which contributed some of the goodies. So Brandy, email me at robing8300 at gmail.com with your snail mail address and I'll get the treasures on their way to you.




I want to thank everyone who entered--all the faithful who have been reading all along, and the visitors who came over because of the contest. I hope all of you will stick around. I try to offer lots of encouraging thoughts, some fun stories and pictures, and great contests. We'll probably start up another big contest in January. Maybe there will be another amazon.com gift certificate up for grabs soon.




So thanks again!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Contest Reminder: Packing up the Treasures




I'm getting ready to pack the box full of handmade Christmas goodies. The Fluffy Flowers creatures couldn't wait to jump into the bag and get going:


If you are the lucky winner of this box of treasures, you'll be receiving from Fluffy Flowers: a Blueberry Fruitcake mitten creature, sporting his Santa hat for Christmas; his friend the Sweater kitty; and a package of Christmas postcards. From me there's a totebag with a pretty cameo embellishment; a sachet bag filled with dried lavender buds; a flashy red beaded necklace just right for those Christmas parties; and a beaded watch.




So remember, leave a comment by December 1 to be entered into the drawing for this box of goodies. One entry per comment.


Good luck!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Review of Searching for Eternity




I just finished reading Elizabeth Musser's new book, Searching for Eternity, and I got a pleasant surprise at the end. I'm mentioned in the acknowledgements! She thanks me for providing information. I thought this was particularly considerate of her since I really didn't do much. I sent her a little info on microfilm and its history. It wasn't a lot, and I'm not sure it was particularly useful. But I was thrilled to see my name. (Finally, I made it into print!)

Seriously, though, you need to read this book. I've read four others by Elizabeth, but in my humble opinion, this is by far the best. Here's a reminder what the story's about: "Following his father’s dubious disappearance, adolescent Emile de Bonnery is forced to leave his native France for Atlanta, Georgia, never suspecting what awaits him in the South of 1964—culture shock, racism, and friendship with a strange girl named Eternity Jones. He brings with him to America an odd collection of ‘treasures’ used by his father during the French Resistance. With the aid of these ‘treasures’, Emile and Eternity find themselves on a journey through abuse, betrayal and prejudice which will ultimately lead them into a spiritual quest for healing. Spanning four decades, their journey unfolds like a spy story and its conclusion shows what happens in the midst of complex human relationships when an adolescent goes searching for eternity."

There were so many things going on at so many levels that I couldn't wait to keep turning the pages. First of all, the mystery of Emile's father's disappearance runs through the entire book. There's the spiritual story of people suffering abuses in different times, places, and cultures--from Emile's suffering at the hands of racist bullies, to Eternity's abuse from her mother and men, to victims of the Holocaust and war. Such different levels and kinds of suffering, and yet they share similar struggles over leaving the past behind and starting life again.

And then there's the love story between Emile and Eternity. They meet when they're thirteen and form a deep, lasting bond. Both are outcasts at Northside High School in Atlanta--Emile because of his heavy French accent and European ways, and Eternity because of her paradoxical love of culture and "trailer trash" family. A tragedy tears them apart while they're still young, but circumstances keep drawing them together over the years. They're never able to break away from one another, but terrible events in Eternity's past won't let them be together, either. I couldn't wait to get to the end and see what finally happened between the two of them, although I was almost afraid to.

On a more trivial note, I enjoyed reading about familiar places in the Atlanta area. The story continues from 1964 up until the early nineties, and I was in Atlanta during some of those times. Characters ate at my favorite restaurants and attended churches I've gone to. It felt like a trip through my past as well.

Searching for Eternity is a unique, complex story. How many other CBA books have you picked up that start out with a thirteen-year-old French boy as the protagonist, and that cover a mystery and a love story spanning several decades? I strongly urge you to pick up a copy. If you want more info on Elizabeth and her books, here's her web address: http://www.elizabethmusser.com/

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Happy Thought for the Holiday

Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, "Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain." And God granted his request. (I Chron. 4:10, NIV)

Most of you are probably familiar with the prayer of Jabez. It was all the rage a couple of years ago to pray the "Jabez prayer." Not long ago, I had a thought about it.

God granted Jabez's requests not only for enlarged territory, but also for God to keep him free from harm and pain. But how did Jabez know that God had granted his prayer? He had to have faith that he had received God's answer, that God was good. Jabez had to keep trusting in that answer every day of his life. Otherwise, it wouldn't really have made any difference. Without faith, Jabez might have started every day in fear and dread, expecting the worst, even though God had granted him the best.

I want that kind of faith. I'm a pessimist by nature. I come from a family of pessimists. In my family, if anyone asked, "Are you going to do such-and-such this weekend, " the answer would be, "If nothing happens before then." The implication was that we fully expected something to happen--and we didn't mean something good.

So I've had to work at the kind of faith that expects God's love and protection every day. Thanksgiving has a lot to do with that. If you constantly thank God for what he's already done, you're reminding yourself of his goodness, and it's easier to expect it the next time. Have you ever noticed in the Bible how many times God reminds the Israelites, "I am the God who brought you out of the land of Egypt"? He's constantly reminding us, "I've taken care of you before. I'll do it again."

So with that happy thought, I'm going to sign off for this week. We're making a nine-hour trip to Mississippi to spend Thanksgiving with my husband's family. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, that God will keep you safe whether you travel or stay home, and that we'll all truly be thankful.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Finding True Stories to Add Color to Your Writing

I've learned a neat little trick lately when I'm looking for background or research material for my novels. I want to read true stories written by people who've gone through the same things my characters struggle with. Sometimes you can find biographies that are helpful, of course, but I've been frustrated using those. It takes a lot of time to plow through a whole book on one person's life, and then you've only gotten one story, one perspective.



I've discovered there are lots of books out there that are crammed full of personal stories about people who have gone through a certain kind of experience or illness or trauma. And one good way to find those books when searching a library catalog is to add the phrase "case studies" to your search.



The term "case studies" is one of those terms that library catalogers use as an attachment to the main subject headings. If you just stick it into your keyword search, the catalog will locate books with the term in the title, subject heading, etc. I just played around with WorldCat (a really neat combined catalog from thousands of libraries that I told you about earlier) and tried things like "schizophrenia case studies," "domestic violence case studies," "poison case studies"--you get the idea.



Of course, as with any keyword search, you come up with a lot of junk to wade through, too. You know another trick you can use in library searches to get rid of all that irrelevant stuff? Zero in on one book title that looks good. Click on its title and open its catalog record. Look at the "Subject Headings" or "Related Subjects" that are listed. These aren't keywords; they're the subjects the librarians use when cataloging the books. In most catalogs today, the subjects are hot links, and if you click on one, you'll bring up a list of just the books with that heading. You should now have a very focused list.

In a story I'm working on, a character has a bout of memory loss after an injury. First of all, I didn't want it to come across like an old episode of Gilligan's Island or I Dream of Jeannie--you know, get conked on the head, memory flees. Conked on the head again, memory returns. Second, I'm struggling with one part of the story. I was so excited last night to start reading a chapter in this book that was so similar to my character's experience. I now know so much more about how she should behave during the ordeal. Not only that, I got ideas for making a couple of scenes so much more powerful because of this real woman's experience.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Just in Time for Christmas, Win...

...a box of handmade treasures.

This is a giveaway I've had in mind for awhile, and yet, Christmas has somehow sneaked up on me and I don't have all the details worked out. So today, I just want to let you know in general what I'm planning.

I want to fill a box with goodies, all of which will be handmade. Several items will be made by my good friend at Fluffy Flowers. She creates fun little creatures, Christmas postcards, all sorts of goodies. I'm going to include some jewelry that I will make--probably a necklace and earring set; a beaded watch; and a bookmark. Other possibilities are a tote bag, sachets, etc.

I'm planning to hold a drawing on December 2, so I figure the winner can use these items for stocking stuffers, or else have a nice little basket of cheer to keep for themselves.

So leave a comment between now and December 1. Each comment will be worth one entry. If you don't want to leave a comment, you can also email me at robing8300 at gmail dot com.

When I get the treasures collected, I'll share some pictures with you and more details. Have fun!

Friday, November 9, 2007

A Haunting Read

A couple of weeks ago I listened to an audio book that had quite an effect on me. I still think about it a good bit, and to me that's the mark of a powerful book. It intrigued me for a number of reasons, and since many of you out there are writers (and readers), I wanted to tell you about it: The Lost Boys by Orson Scott Card.



I first read one of Card's books earlier this year because of a challenge from Andy Meisenheimer of Zondervan. I met Andy at ACFW last year and, knowing that he's a fan of Card, showed him my autographed copy of Ender's Game (which I got when I took a writers workshop from Mr. Card years ago). But then I had to confess to Andy that, although I owned this treasure, I had never actually read it. Andy chided me no end for that and assured me this was one of the best-written books I would ever come across and could learn from it. So I took the challenge, read it, and loved it.



Ender's Game is science fiction, and Card has written plenty more of those. But I was curious about some of his other books that sounded like my work in progress--set in the contemporary world, but with hints of the supernatural and creepy. Which led me to The Lost Boys.



It's about a family who moves to a small town in North Carolina where there's been a rash of disasppearances of young boys. The family has two young boys, naturally. The book starts out in a fairly familiar way for a book of this nature: a prologue from the anonymous killer's p.o.v., describing how he came to start kidnapping children, and how he discovered it was necessary that they not be able to tell tales afterward. Definitely a dark beginning, and wouldn't you just figure you'd know exactly how the book would go from there?



I figured there would be scenes of the still-anonymous villain kidnapping one or two other children to set us up, a few disturbing and violent scenes with the victims, and then the eventual kidnapping of this family's son. It would be fast-paced and plot-heavy, with a climax of the protagonist's child being saved from the kidnapper/killer at the end. I felt pretty safe in assuming this since I've read a number of books that fit that description.



Boy was I surprised.

For most of the book, the disappearances sort of lurked in the background as the family went about the difficult adjustment to a new culture (moving into the deep South), job, and school. The story was filled with conflict and tension, but it mostly came from skirmishes and wars with cruel teachers, sneaky bosses, and scary co-workers. My heart bled for sensitive little Stevie, who tried so hard to fit into his new school and please everyone but seemed to be more crushed and withdrawn with each passing day. Naturally his parents were worried when, instead of making real friends, he started playing with an imaginary boy--then two, then three. The list of names continued to grow until one day, the parents saw a newspaper article listing the names of all the boys who had disappeared. The names were the same as Stevie's "make-believe" friends.

At this point I tried to imagine just where this story was going and how it would end. I managed to figure out who the serial killer was, but that still didn't help me predict the conclusion. At one point, just before the end, my mouth literally fell open as I realized what was happening. Since I was driving and listening to this on CD, it's a wonder I didn't hit a mailbox or something. It wasn't a happy ending, but it was right. I thought back over the rest of the book and could see where it came from. As I mentioned before, I'm still thinking about it.

Oh, for the ability to make my creepy little book turn out like this! With real characters that readers would care about so deeply--and with an ending that makes their jaws drop.

One more interesting thing about The Lost Boys. Orson Scott Card is a Mormon, and so were the family in this story. Card painted a portrait of a close-knit family whose first priorities were church and family, who openly discussed their beliefs, prayed about tough decisions, and went with the ethical route even when that appeared to be a disastrous move to make.

At first I thought, why can Orson Scott Card do this in his novel--while most books that show evangelical Christians in the same way have to be segregated into a special segment of publishing, a special section in the bookstore, etc.? Then I remembered Ender's Game and books that came earlier for this writer, where ethics played a huge role but characters didn't talk so openly about a particular religion or belief. John Grisham did something similar--he had huge success with books like The Firm and The Client, and then he published The Testament, in which a drunken lawyer has a conversion experience that could have come straight out of a CBA (Christian Booksellers' Association) novel.

Do you think this strategy might work for more Christian writers? Write great stories, gain a following out there in the secular world--and then be able to write more overtly about faith issues without being segregated into that special section of the store?

Just a thought to muse on for this weekend.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Jane Austen Had to Persevere?!?

I just read the most amazing post on Melanie Dickerson's blog. She's reviewing Nancy Moser's book, Just Jane, about Jane Austen. I've definitely got to read this book. I love Jane Austen anyway, but I had no idea she, too, apparently struggled with waiting to be published.

I'll let Melanie tell you more. Go check out her blog post:

http://melaniewrites.blogspot.com/2007/11/just-jane-by-nancy-moser.html

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Picture's Worth...Well, You know

I'm running very late with my blogging this week. I did something revolutionary. I worked on my novel before blogging. With me, I have to fall behind on something. It's a rule.


I wanted you to know I'm still here, though, so I decided to share a picture with you. (That's worth at least a thousand words, so they say.) My husband took this with his cell phone last week when he went camping in the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina (while I was home working in the library).


Oh well...enjoy.

Hopefully I'll be back tomorrow with some encouraging words. Actual words.

Friday, November 2, 2007

50,000 and Counting

In spite of all the trouble I've had lately reaching that elusive "write-every-day-and-achieve-a-certain-number-of-words" routine, I was thrilled to discover this week that I broke the 50,000 word mark on my novel in progress. Maybe even better, I think I've had some decent ideas for how it should end.

My first draft is really sort of a long outline. I'm a seat-of-the-pants writer, so frankly the ending is going to be a surprise to me, too. I can't wait until I can start the second draft, know where the thing is going, and start turning it into a "real" book.

So if there are others of you out there having a hard time writing as much as you think you should, and you're feeling discouraged, take heart. I may not be able to "keep up with the joneses" and turn out 2,000 words a day, but I've finished five other novels and I'll finish this one, too. I'll get there. And so will you!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Stopping and Starting

As I was driving home from work the other day my thoughts started to wander. I was tired and there was nothing interesting on the radio, so I just started noticing things, including how many times I had to put my foot on the brake. Stop signs, traffic lights, roads clogged with traffic--I just wanted to go home, but I kept having to put my foot on that darn brake and wait.

As my car came to a stop at an intersection with a busy highway, however, I realized how grateful I am for my brakes. Without them, I would have shot right out into that traffic and gotten creamed! Sometimes it's far more important to be able to stop than to be able to go. As much as I'd like to dash straight home from work without a single obstacle in my path, I'm not going to have a successful journey by just pressing my foot down on that pedal and refusing to let up until my house is in sight. I have to slow down at the school zones, jam on brakes if a pedestrian steps into the street, stop at the lights and wait my turn.

So why is it, I wondered, that in my writing journey, folks seem to advise me to head for that goal (finishing a manuscript, publishing, whatever) full speed ahead. Don't slow down. Don't let obstacles get in your way. Divide up that word count and produce what you are supposed to every day, no matter what. Don't ever quit. Press on to the finish line.

Advice like this can be energizing. But sometimes it causes me some guilt, and I'm not sure it's always right. I have several email buddies who are also unpublished writers, and I noticed something strange. Without comparing notes, all of them have mentioned to me in the past week that they feel God is telling them to slow down or stop altogether for a time on their writing. He's calling them to do other things for awhile--concentrate on family, or jobs, or other good works for his kingdom. Since I've been having the same experience, I thought this was a pretty amazing "coincidence."

I believe God definitely does call us for different activities and priorities in different seasons. A lot of us aren't going to get that first publishing contract in one year, or with the first manuscript. We're going to be in this for the long haul. That doesn't mean we aren't going to reach the goal. But we may have to stop at some stop signs, or sit backed up in traffic. We may have to talk to a hurting friend for a couple of hours instead of turning out that thousand words we had planned. I don't think God will mind. In fact, that's probably just what he had planned for me that evening.

So my prayer for all of us is that we allow God to show us the right road--and the right speed--for our journeys.

Monday, October 29, 2007

My Old Baby!

Today is my cat Cera's birthday. She is now 19 years old, which is a very respectable age for a cat.

Nineteen years is a long time in her owner's life, too. When she was born, I was a single girl in my twenties. Now my husband and I frequently discuss retirement plans.

In honor of Cera, I thought I would rerun one of my favorite posts from last spring--the affair of Cera and the terrible haircut (which still hasn't grown out properly, by the way.) Enjoy!


You're looking at a bad, bad girl.

Her name is Cera, and normally she's so sweet and meek that all the other cats bully her mercilessly. But just try to groom her, give her medicine, or basically make her do anything else she doesn't care for, and she turns into the Incredible Hulk.


I want to make it clear that Cera isn't a mean cat. She's just very fearful of, well, everything. So she tends to panic easily and make everything far worse than it should be. I've given up on keeping the mats out of her long fur. Brushing and grooming is a nightmare for both of us. So, once a year she has to go to the groomer to get her hair cut off.

At eighteen years old, Cera has a wide experience of groomers. None of them are particularly fond of her. Some have invited us never to come back. One refused to take her, period, just because she had heard of her from another groomer. At one grooming palace, they kept a database of their dangerous, biting clients. Cera was the only non-dog creature on their list.

So last week, it was time to make her yearly trek to the groomer for a haircut. When it came time for me to pick her up, I called to make sure she was ready. They hemmed and hawed a bit, then managed to tell me the awful truth. She was half done. Yes, that's right. They had shaved half of my poor cat and then given up in complete defeat. They say they're willing to try again on another day, but first she needs time to calm down. (So do they, I imagine.) So in the meantime, I have a half-shaved cat. I don't know if a picture can truly do this justice, but I'll try to give you an idea.

What's the point of my telling you all this--other than the sheer entertainment value? Well, I've often thought what a wonderful life Cera has--and yet, she makes her life miserable out of fear. If she'd let me brush her, she wouldn't have to go to the groomer at all. If she didn't fight the groomer, she wouldn't be faced with two trips instead of one. I often wish I could tell her all this so she would calm down. It's not that I'm trying to withhold information from her and make her suffer. She just can't understand my language. It's too complicated for her.

I often wonder if God doesn't think the same thoughts about me. Why do you make yourself so miserable, Robin? Haven't I always taken good care of you? You're making things so much harder on yourself by fighting my plan. And I'm sorry I can't explain all these strange happenings to you. But I just can't put it into a language you can understand. It's just too complicated for you.


Wow. I'm going to try to trust more. I don't want to end up like Cera.











Friday, October 26, 2007

Miralee Ferrell and God's Perfect Timing

Today's guest is author Miralee Ferrell, whose first book, The Other Daughter, has just released. Miralee is all over the blogosphere right now, but when I invited her to visit The Queen, the focus of my interview was a little bit different. Miralee's journey to publication seems nothing short of miraculous to me. As someone who believes that God called her to write, but has spent about 30 years trying to publish, I'm fascinated by God's unique timing for each of us. So I asked Miralee to reflect on God's timing--in her life and in ours.



First, Miralee, will you tell us a little bit about how you came to be a writer. It's an amazing story!


I know a lot of writers say the Lord told them to start writing, and I'm among them, but my circumstances were a little out of the ordinary. Two-and-a-half years ago I attended a church service and sat under a visiting minister who I trust and respect. I went forward for a small prayer need, can't even remember what, now. He began to pray for me and stopped and looked me in the eye. "The Lord just told me you're supposed to be writing. I have no idea what...short stories, poetry, fiction...but it needs to be published." That was the jist of his message and I took it home and spent two weeks praying it through.



As Miralee tells it, when she got the idea for her novel, she wrote the first draft in five weeks. Through a series of almost miraculous events, she found an agent, completed rewrites, and contracted with a publisher in less than a year. Miralee, before that incredible service where the speaker told you God wanted you to write, did you have a desire to write novels? If so, when did that desire begin, and what form did it take?


No...it never occurred to me that I might have the ability or talent to write fiction of any type. I'd written a few pieces of non-fiction prior to this, but the idea of writing fiction was almost humorous to me, when it was first suggested. But once the idea took hold, it started racing like a wild fire and now I can't imagine not writing fiction!

So many writers have a long, long road to publication. Do you have any speculation as to why things moved so quickly for you?

Gee...I hope I won't be answering all these questions, "not really", LOL! It sounds a bit spiritually 'stuck up' to suggest that God wanted it to happen this fast, as there are so many wonderful Christian writers whose careers have moved much more slowly. I can only say that God spoke to me in a prophetic word that He wanted me to start writing and He wanted it published. I moved out in obedience and left the results in His hands.

I'm always fascinated by God's individual timing for our lives--and how perfect it is for each one of us. (Not that I don't have to remind myself of that almost daily!) Do you think you would have been able to write this book at a different time in your life? Why--or why not?


Another tough question to answer, but I think I'd have to say...probably not with the same depth of understanding. So many of my life experiences have gone into my writing, including the thoughts and feelings of some of my characters...both in The Other Daughter, and in the two books I'm currently working on. Besides, my writing, editing and marketing is a huge time drain and I can't imagine having worked it in to my life when we owned a growing business and we were raising our children. I'm definitely glad the Lord didn't choose to give me the instruction to begin writing ten years ago.



Do you feel there's a particular reason God wanted this story told at this time?


I don't think "at this time" is as important as just getting it told. There really aren't many books on the Christian market that deal with the difficult balancing act that happens in an unequally yoked marriage. Toss an illegitimate child into the mix that turns up on your doorstep, and there's a lot of stress to deal with. Unfortunately, there's more of that in the church than we'd like to think.....Christians married to non-believers and children fathered out of wedlock....and even as Christians, those situations must still be addressed.



As an unpublished writer myself, I know sometimes I struggle with whether God actually called me, or whether this dream of writing is something I came up with on my own. Your calling was perfectly clear--and if you did doubt, events are certainly giving you confirmation that you're on the right track! Do you have any advice to folks like me who need to determine whether God really wants us to write?


I have one way I test anything that I believe the Lord has asked me to do, or spoken to my spirit. My Peace level....am I constantly troubled and in turmoil about my decision, or is there peace regardless of the circumstances? I can have everything seeming to be against me in the direction I believe the Lord has called me to go...but if my spirit is settled with a deep sense of peace, I can know it's from Him. On the opposite side, I can have everything seeming to be perfect...but if there's a sense of unrest and a total lack of peace, I need to check with the Lord again.

A couple of questions on a totally different track: I noticed that you're considering different genres for future projects. Have you had any resistance from your agent or editors about that?


No, not at all. Of course, romance is close enough to women's fiction that it's almost considered an offshoot. I think those are two genres where you can pop back and forth quite easily without much repercussion from your readers. Also, I'm not established yet in a genre. While The Other Daughter is women's contemporary fiction, no one really knows me yet. So if I put out a romance set in the 1880's old west, I may pick up an entirely different set of readers. Hopefully, both sets of readers will end up crossing over, and I guess the direction I end up going will be somewhat determined by sales numbers. Unfortunately, that seems to be the way it goes. I'm leaning toward staying with contemporary for the long haul tho, as historical novels aren't my cup of tea....I'll freely admit I'm too busy for the research they take.



How did your husband and family feel when they first learned you were writing a story loosely based on a real event in their lives?


My husband has never had a problem with it, and neither has his daughter, Trish. I'll admit I didn't share it with her until I had the contract, as I wasn't sure how she'd respond, but she was thrilled. She wouldn't have minded having more true to life details where her life was concerned, but there are few if any similarities between the 13 yr old Brianna who appeared at the door, and the 18 yr old Trish who wrote us a letter years ago saying she might be my husband's daughter.



Our daughter Marnee was a bit more reserved about the idea. She wasn't too sure how thrilled she was that mom chose to write about a subject that had potential for misunderstanding. She worried that people would think the story was a picture of our family or our lives. I understood her concerns but felt strongly that this story was one that had tremendous spiritual potential....to help bring healing to others who've experienced similar things in their marriage. She's fine with it now, and my entire family has been very supportive, including our son and our kid's spouses.

Thanks for the wonderful, in depth interview Robin! You asked some excellent questions and I hope your readers enjoy a bit of a peek into my world!



And thank you, Miralee, for these thoughtful answers. I'm expecting great things from this book. God is so obviously in it.



And now for a tiny bit of housekeeping. Miralee is holding a drawing for a copy of The Other Daughter at the end of her blog tour, which continues through November . Whenever you leave a comment at one of the posts on her tour, you'll receive another entry into the drawing. Here are a few recent and upcoming blogs on the tour. (For a complete list, see Wednesday's post.)

In October:
24th Cecelia Dowdy---New Christian Fiction Reviewshttp://www.ceceliadowdy.blogspot.com/
24th Tiffany Amber Stockton--A Fiction-Filled Lifehttp://www.ambermiller.com/
25th Bonnie Way---The Koala Bear Writerhttp://thekoalabearwriter.blogspot.com/
25th Stormi Johnson---Write Thoughtshttp://writesthoughts.blogspot.com/
27th Delia Latham---The Melody Withinhttp://themelodywithin.blogspot.com/
28th Jennie McGhan---Jen's Life Journeyhttp://www.shoutlife.com/cmpctjen
andhttp://jenslifejourney.blogspot.com/
29th Susan Lohrer ---Inspirational Editorhttp://www.inspirationaleditor.blogspot.com/


You can read the entire opening scene of The Other Daughter at Miralee's web site:http://www.miraleeferrell.com/

The Other Daughter has now released, so you can find it in stores near you, or order from http://www.amazon.com/ or http://www.christianbook.com/

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Upcoming Interview with a Brand New Author


The girl standing at the door took a deep breath, pulling her suitcase a little closer to her trembling legs. "My mama's dead. He's my daddy."

Susanne Carson knew that she could trust the love of her life—her husband, David—until she discovered a strange, unkempt young girl on their doorstep, claiming to be David's daughter.

Not that their marriage had ever been perfect—David's decision to embrace the Christian faith had strained their relationship. Susanne may not have agreed with his beliefs, but at least she trusted him. Had David been hiding this not-so-little secret from his past? He wanted Susanne to believe in his God, but believing hadn't done much to keep David out of another woman's arms.

As David confronts the truth of his past, Susanne must face her own moment of truth as her marriage is taken to the breaking point and the life of one young girl is left in her hands.

That's a brief description of Miralee Ferrell's very first book, which just released. Miralee's been a good blogger friend ever since I started "The Queen," so I've been following the progress of this book. I thought I knew the whole story, but I found out lots of interesting things about Miralee, this book, and its connection to her life when I got involved in her blog tour. Come back on Friday and read my interview with her.

Also, you can read the entire opening scene of The Other Daughter at Miralee's web site:
http://www.miraleeferrell.com/

The Other Daughter has now released, so you can find it in stores near you, or order from http://www.amazon.com/ or http://www.christianbook.com/


Last but not least, here's a listing of dates for Miralee's entire blog tour. She's doing something really neat--she's holding a drawing at the end of the tour for a copy of The Other Daughter. Whenever you leave a comment at any of the blog tour stops, you'll get an entry into the drawing. So check them out:

Oct. 20th, Karen Phillips---Sky-High View
http://sky-highview.blogspot.com/

LaShaunda Hoffman—See Ya On The Net
http://lashaunda.blogspot.com/
http://sormagtours.blogspot.com/


21st Angie Arndt---The Road I'm Traveling
http://psmcmanus.blogspot.com/

22nd Deena Peterson---Deena's Books
http://deenasbooks.blogspot.com/

22nd Teresa Morgan---Teresa Morgan's Blog
http://www.teresamorgan.blogspot.com/

23rd Rose McCauley---Stories of Faith, Hope and Love
http://www.rosemccauley.blogspot.com/

23rd Pattie Reitz----Fresh Brewed Writer
www.xanga.com/pattierwrandhttp://freshbrewedwriter.blogspot.com/

24th Cecelia Dowdy---New Christian Fiction Reviews
http://www.ceceliadowdy.blogspot.com/

Tiffany Amber Stockton--A Fiction-Filled Life
http://www.ambermiller.com/

25th Bonnie Way---The Koala Bear Writer
http://thekoalabearwriter.blogspot.com/

Stormi Johnson---Write Thoughts
http://writesthoughts.blogspot.com/

26th Robin Grant---Queen Of Perseverance
http://queenofperseverance.blogspot.com/

27th Delia Latham---The Melody Within
http://themelodywithin.blogspot.com/

28th Jennie McGhan---Jen's Life Journey
http://www.shoutlife.com/cmpctjen
andhttp://jenslifejourney.blogspot.com/

29th Susan Lohrer ---Inspirational Editor
http://www.inspirationaleditor.blogspot.com/

30th Carla Stewart---Carla’s Writing CafĂ©
http://www.carlastewart.blogspot.com/

31st Christina Berry--- Posting with Purpose
http://www.authorchristinaberry.blogspot.com/

November

1st Bonnie Leon---Bonnie's Blog
http://www.bonnieleon.blogspot.com/

2nd Jan Parrish---Bold and Free
http://www.caregiverscorner.blogspot.com/

3rd Tina Helmuth---The Ink's Not Dry
http://tinahelmuth.blogspot.com/

4th Teresa Slack---ShoutLife Blog
http://www.shoutlife.com/teresaslack
http://www.teresaslack.blogspot.com/

5th Pam Meyers---A Writer’s Journey
http://pammeyerswrites.blogspot.com/

6th Betsy St. Amant---Betsy Ann's Blog
http://www.betsy-ann.blogspot.com/

7th Megan DiMaria---A Prisoner of Hope
http://www.megandimaria.blogspot.com/

8th Christa Allan---CBAllan WordPress
http://www.cballan.wordpress.com/

9th Susan Marlow---Suzy Scribbles---Homeschool Blogger
http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/SuzyScribbles/

10th Jamie Driggers---Surviving the Chaos
http://www.survivingthechaos.blogspot.com/

11th Cindy Bauer----Christian Fiction Author & Speaker
http://www.cindybauer.blogspot.com/

12th Angie Breidenbach---God Uses Broken Vessels
http://godusesbrokenvessels.blogspot.com/

13th Patricia Carroll---Patricia PacJac Carroll
http://patriciapacjaccarroll.blogspot.com/

14th Toni V. Lee---Spreading Truth Through Fiction
http://tonivlee.blogspot.com/

15th Camille Eide---Faith Inspiring Fiction
http://camillecannon.blogspot.com/

16th Lisa Jordan---Musings
http://lisadjordan.blogspot.com/

Monday, October 22, 2007

Friendship Bread


I mentioned my recent shopping trip with frequent visitor and commentor Kathleen, and how intimidated I was by her beautiful craft projects. I forgot to mention that, as I was leaving her house, she gave me starter and instructions for Amish Friendship Bread.


Frankly, the bread starter intimidated me, too. You were supposed to do stuff to it every day. Sure, most of it was pretty simple--as simple as mashing the ziplock bag. But did I mention you had to do it every day?


I've explained before how much trouble I seem to have with routine, and doing things on a set schedule. Sure enough, when I reached Day 6 and was supposed to add some ingredients, I realized it about 11:00 at night. You wouldn't believe how I scrounged to come up with a cup of milk. (I will confess that part of it came from a can.)


Somehow, the bread not only survived, but was fabulous. The picture up at the top is proof that I actually stayed the course and baked this bread.


Even more fun, the day for baking fell on my husband's birthday. I bought him a cake (I couldn't bake one, because I was busy with the bread), but he liked the Friendship Bread better. I should have just stuck a candle in it.


And now I have four bags of starter to share with some lucky folks. Don't you wish you lived close by?

Winner of Demon: A Memoir

Sally Bradley is the lucky winner of Demon: A Memoir, autographed by author Tosca Lee. Congratulations, Sally--and thanks to all of you who left comments and entered.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ten, Twenty, Thirty...and that's as far as I'm going

Rose McCauley tagged me for a new game that's going around. You have to tell what you were doing ten, twenty, and thirty years ago.

Wait a minute! How dare someone assume I was doing ANYTHING thirty years ago! Oh, who am I kidding. As you will see, I was doing plenty.

Thirty years ago--1977--was a big year for me. I graduated high school. After being the most sheltered little homebody in the world, I went away to college in the big city of Atlanta. Star Wars premiered. (As anyone who knows me will tell you, this was possibly a bigger deal to me than graduating high school.)

Perhaps the biggest thing about 1977 was that I mailed off my first completed novel manuscript to a publisher. My cousin Susie and I wrote it together, starting when I was about 16. So I have officially been attempting to publish a novel for 30 years now.

I didn't realize it at the time, but 1987 (20 years ago) was going to be the start of a big transition for me. I'd spent several years living in Atlanta as a single girl and having a great time. This was my geeky phase I've mentioned before, during which I had loads of weird creative friends and went to science fiction conventions and wore costumes and all that. Orson Scott Card was a frequent guest at these conventions, so it took me a long time to realize that he had actually become a pretty huge writer. He was just another guy at the cons. I even took a writing workshop from him.

I wrote a fair amount back then and occasionally popped something off to a publisher, but mostly I just enjoyed it. I walked around in a fog on my lunch hours in downtown Atlanta planning out my next scene. I wrote Star Wars stories and published them in fanzines. I shared stories with writer friends, and even sat around in all-night writing sessions with them. Anyway, this was a great time for me, but by 1988, it wasn't as satisfying and it was time to move on. I started feeling more drawn to God and serious things, and started thinking I wanted to get married (which was going to happen fairly soon, although I didn't meet Dave until 1989).

Ten years ago was a fairly calm time. I was married and living in a suburb of Atlanta. Dave had agreed to take on some extra financial responsibilities (like my health insurance) so I could work part time and write more. I worked about two miles from my house (as opposed to the nightmarish commute to downtown Atlanta I had done for years) and felt like a small-town girl, because I worked, shopped, and lived right there in little Fayetteville. I worked for a married couple--a former police detective and his wife--who had a private investigative firm. Don't get excited. I was a secretary, not an investigator. Still, it was fun reading and typing up their reports, and again, I had a great time. The theme of "waiting" was starting to get to me, though. Part of the reason I was working part time was that we were going to be starting a family. As the months went by, it became apparent that wasn't going to happen. And I had now been trying to publish a book for TWENTY years--and thought that was unbelievable!

And now, here I am in 2007.

That was kind of fun. I would pass the fun along to some of my other blogger friends out there, but I don't know any who have been alive for 30 years.

Oh well, if you want to visit other folks who were tagged, you can visit Rose's blog to see a list:

Rose McCauley, Christian Author: http://www.rosemccauley.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Guiding and Providing

Ever ask God to give you a sign? Ever have him respond--literally?

I was driving home from work yesterday, and as I mentioned in my last post, I'm exhausted this week. Maybe that's part of the problem, but I feel lousy all over--physically and mentally. I'm behind in everything. When I do manage to sit down to write, nothing comes.

So I was putting myself through my weekly tirade to God. "Maybe you don't even want me to write. Obviously I can't handle as much as other people. I'm incompetent, or lazy, or something. I don't have enough energy. Other folks can turn out three novels a year and blog and hold down jobs and raise children and support orphans in developing countries and..." Well, you get the picture.

I looked up during this tirade and saw this sign:

'Nuff said.

Don't you love God's sense of humor?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Weekends, Weekends

I usually post on Mondays, but I'm having a hard time of it today. Frankly, I'm exhausted. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that in addition to working full time during the week, over the past four weekends I have attended:

  • two conferences
  • two fairs
  • two mammoth shopping trips with friends
  • a play written and directed by my brilliant niece, Kristi
  • and a partridge in a pear tree.

No, wait. That last part isn't right. But the rest is. And with the exception of one of the fairs, all these events were out of town, ranging from Dallas, Texas to Savannah, Georgia plus a couple of trips to Atlanta.

You wouldn't believe the things I've seen during all this. A five-week-old baby zebra prancing through the crowd, leading folks to the petting zoo. Actors in pig costumes. Horse-drawn carriages circling the squares in Savannah, with moss dripping from the live oak trees. I should show you pictures of some of this, right? That would be lovely, except I didn't take any. Actually, I took one on my camera phone of the baby zebra--then got a new phone and left it on the old one. If I were trying to do this as a living or aiming to become a journalist, I'd be in serious trouble.


Kristi tried sending me some photos of her play, which I tried to use, but they kept turning out too dark. Sorry, Kristi! Oh well, she's doing so many things lately, I'll take lots of pictures next time. This girl amazes me. In addition to working and getting her degree in theater and film, she wrote, produced and directed a film last summer for a project called "The Woman's Angle," showcasing women directors in Atlanta. Check out this review of her film called Changing Baby. Last weekend she performed at a story-telling festival, and that was a couple of weeks after the play she directed. I was about to brag that she got all this creative energy from her old Aunt Robin--but I'm having trouble just writing this blog post.

Last weekend I made a trip up to Atlanta to meet Kathleen, with whom I became acquainted through this blog. Other than the fact that I got lost on the way up, I had a great time. Since we're both serious bargain hunters, she took me on a tour of fabric outlets, used bookstores, and thrift shops. Of course I came home with another stack of fabric I have no time to sew.

Kathleen also gave me a goody bag that blew me away. She obviously has picked up on all my interests from this blog, because it featured just about all of them. She handmade a tote bag for me that is simply amazing--featuring a pieced parrot and a parrot pin (because of my infamous picture in which I am covered with parrots). Inside were Pirates of the Caribbean soaps, vintage-looking point protectors for my knitting needles, a toile note pad, and more parrot goodies. Since I still have the tote bag and all the goodies in my possession, maybe I can actually manage to show those to you:


I'm rather partial to the "Swashbuckler Soap," myself.

Kathleen also invited me to come for a sewing get-together sometime, but after seeing how good she is, hmmm. Maybe I better stick to buying the fabric and dreaming.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Win an Autographed Copy of Demon: A Memoir


I briefly met Tosca Lee, author of Demon: A Memoir, at the ACFW conference in Dallas. I actually started up a conversation with her before I realized who she was, because I had to complement her very chic outfit. I'd love to have those boots she was wearing! But then, she was Mrs. Nebraska, so she obviously knows a thing or two about style.


I reminded her I wrote a review of her book for Novel Reviews awhile back (April 19, to be exact), and she actually remembered it. After we chatted, she graciously autographed a copy of Demon for me. Since I already have a copy, I decided to pass this one on to you.


By the way, in case you're thinking from the title that this is a horror novel and don't care for those, think again. It does have scary moments, but it's really a sort of spiritual history of the world and humankind, as a demon tells his story to a man who he hopes will write his biography. We see the angels and Lucifer before they fell, the creation of man (pitiful mud creatures as he calls them), their fall and redemption. If you want to know more, you can check out my review.


If you'd like to receive this autographed copy of the novel, leave a comment before next Friday, when I'll announce the winner.


Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Elizabeth Musser on the Ups and Downs of Writing and Life

Today's guest blogger is author Elizabeth Musser, who has some great thoughts to share about perseverance--in writing and in life. I won't give much more of an intro, since I did that Monday. If you missed that post, be sure to take a look at it. I shared some information there about how I came to know Elizabeth, and about her new book, Searching for Eternity. Here's Elizabeth:



Recently I received a short email from my agent: “I’ve struck out with every publisher on your novel….”

I’ve been writing novels for 13 years now. I’ve known that amazing thrill when the publisher asks, “How would you like to write a book?” and I’ve known the terrible disappointment when he says, “Your numbers just aren’t good enough. We’re taking the book off the market.” I’ve collected rejection slips as well as readers’ glowing letters, I’ve signed books at a crowded church event, and I’ve sat alone at a table at the front of a bookstore where no one stopped by to buy my book.

Ups and downs, ups and downs. It reminds me of learning to post on a pony. At the beginning, the rider just can’t seem to get it write—excuse me—right. But eventually, instead of bouncing all over the saddle and getting very sore buns, she learns the rhythm of the pony, and she posts up and down, up and down, almost automatically.

I wish it were that easy in my career. At times I find myself on a crazy wild stallion who is galloping uncontrolled into the wilderness with me holding on for dear life. My emotions go all over the place. One minute I’m excited about a new idea for a story or thrilled with the progress I’ve made on a chapter, the next I want to give it all up and hide my head in the sand, not with the horses but the ostriches.

For me, perseverance is a lot about knowing what to care about. Over the years, one of the blessings of persevering has been learning how not to care. Yes, I care about writing the best book I can, I care about doing careful research, and I care about communicating well with my publisher and agent and readers.

But there are things I have to force myself not to care about: the list of best sellers when my book is not among them; the review of my book that is less than stellar; the sales that sag; the rejection, again and again and again of a manuscript. These details are part of the writer’s life, but if I am not careful, the negative things can drown out the joy of writing and can almost paralyze me.

That’s why I find myself going before the Lord on my knees and asking Him to help me make wise decisions. How much time do I spend on marketing, how much money on conferences and books, how many websites do I visit? Often, for me, I simply need to write. I don’t need more information, especially since it changes every day in our cyber friendly world. I need to do my part. Write.

Over the years, I’ve developed a battle plan. I protect the time I have to write by not answering the phone, by refusing to look at the emails first, by telling my friends that I am not free in the mornings because I am writing. I’ve learned that instead of staring at a blank page, it is helpful to get up, stretch, and take a walk. Let the inspiration come through nature. In short, I do my part, I work hard, I entrust this fragile career into the hands of the Greatest Publicist in the galaxy, and I wait. This is hard.

I also have a few trusted friends who will tell me the truth when I am discouraged. They remind me of my calling, and they encourage me to seek God and keep going. I have learned to hold my career lightly, being ready to give it up if God calls me into something else.

So far, each time I have offered it back to Him, He has clearly shown me that for now I am to keep going. Persevere. On the good days when the words flow and on the bad days when I feel stuck. On the days when an email brings good news and on the days when a phone call destroys my self-confidence.

When people ask me what suggestions I have for the aspiring writer, I say ‘write, write, write and pray, pray, pray.’ This is what I do. I cannot not write. I keep going. And I pray. Long, long ago, God planted a seed in my heart, a desire to sprout a book. As with all of God’s creations, He chooses to let us spend time underground, developing roots, tenaciously grabbing the soil until one day, we are ready to push our head out and offer up our creation to Him. As I do this, each morning, I am reminded of why I write. I write because the Word became flesh and spoke to my heart. In my small way, I want my words to reflect His Word and call others into the wild ride of life in Christ. A trot on a pony, a gallop on a stallion, a pause to sip cool water by a stream. Persevere.

Elizabeth Goldsmith Musser, October, 2007
www.elizabeth.musser.com


Monday, October 8, 2007

A Wonderful Writer--And Friend


Sometimes when I hear other writers talking about their mentors, I get a little jealous. How did they manage to find these talented, successful writers, and convince them to be their mentors? Why doesn't anyone want to be my mentor?


Then I realize, I have a wonderful mentor in Elizabeth Musser. I just never called her that until a couple of minutes ago.


I first became aware of Elizabeth and her books when I was living in a suburb of Atlanta a few years ago. Dave and I attended church with Elizabeth's sister-in-law Janet and her family. During a gathering of our two families one evening, Janet told us about her talented sister-in-law, and next thing I knew, I was flying through the pages of Elizabeth's two historical novels about the Algerian War for Independence from France: Two Crosses and Two Testaments. Back then, I didn't particularly enjoy Christian fiction. A lot of it seemed too sweet and simplistic. Elizabeth's writing was more complex and edgy. She wasn't afraid to tackle difficult subjects. Her work started me thinking about trying to write for the Christian market again--something I had tried before and given up on.


I couldn't easily meet Elizabeth face to face at that time, since she was (and still is) living in France, where she and her husband are missionaries. So I emailed her, and we started up a correspondence. Eventually I got to meet her when she visited family in Atlanta and had a book signing.


I can't begin to describe how gracious Elizabeth has been to me. She's read one of my manuscripts and offered advice. She's encouraged me when my spirits are flagging. Last year she was able to attend the ACFW conference, and I had such a blast hanging out with her. I've told you all what an introvert I am. Elizabeth would pull me over to someone and say, "You need to talk to this girl. I've read her book. It's wonderful." Or words to that effect. I have to say, it's much easier to talk to someone about your novel after an intro like that!


Okay, so why am I bringing this up now? First because Elizabeth has a new book coming out this week. I'm going to read it and review it here and eventually share a copy with y'all, but right now I've only read the first chapter myself. It's called Searching for Eternity, and here's what it's about: "Following his father’s dubious disappearance, adolescent Emile de Bonnery is forced to leave his native France for Atlanta, Georgia, never suspecting what awaits him in the South of 1964—culture shock, racism, and friendship with a strange girl named Eternity Jones. He brings with him to America an odd collection of ‘treasures’ used by his father during the French Resistance. With the aid of these ‘treasures’, Emile and Eternity find themselves on a journey through abuse, betrayal and prejudice which will ultimately lead them into a spiritual quest for healing. Spanning four decades, their journey unfolds like a spy story and its conclusion shows what happens in the midst of complex human relationships when an adolescent goes searching for eternity."


I also wanted to let you know that Elizabeth will be doing a guest blog this Wednesday. Even though Elizabeth is a successful author, she has shown me that everyone hits obstacles and rough spots. We unpublished souls are not the only ones who face doubt, who experience disappointment and goals that just can't seem to be accomplished. Wednesday she's going to be telling us about some of those experiences, and what God has shown her through them.


I know she'll inspire you--the way she always inspires me.


In the meantime, if you'd like to know more about Elizabeth and her books, you can visit her website at http://www.elizabethmusser.com/. (The photo at the top is of Elizabeth at ICRS in Atlanta this past summer, with a poster of her upcoming book.)

Friday, October 5, 2007

Yours, Mine, and Ours

I noticed something recently. Whenever I talk about writing, even when I pray about it, I refer to it as “my writing.”

You may not think there’s anything odd about that. It started to jar on me, though, because I’ve tried so hard to give my writing—see, there I go again!—to God. I want it to be whatever He wants it to be. And I’ve tried very hard to turn over to Him all my dreams of publication, too. So why is it still “mine.”

For the past few days, especially when I pray, I’ve tried very hard to call it “your writing.” It’s amazing what a difference that makes in the way I think, in the way I feel. As a writer, I should know the power of words, right? But sometimes I’m still amazed.

See, I’ve always had trouble believing that God cares all that much about what I write. I’ve never had that problem in any other area of my life, but somehow I’ve always felt that I came up with this dream of being a novelist, and I invented these characters that I love, but that God somehow thinks it’s all silly and petty.

But once I’ve given it to him, it seems different. If it belongs to him, it’s his responsibility, too. He’ll make a way for it to succeed, or he’ll decide if that shouldn’t happen. He’ll give me the energy and the time to do his writing, as long as I’m willing to cooperate. I even started to think that he loves my characters as much as I do!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Now for the Ridiculous and Embarrassing

Before I completely move away from the subject of the ACFW conference I attended a couple of weeks ago, I have to tell you a little bit about the fun I had on the way to Dallas. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) You knew I couldn’t go all the way from Atlanta to Dallas without a few misadventures, right?

If you recall, I left for the conference right after the incident of the frog in the night. My critter adventures continued when I got to the Atlanta airport. I had about half an hour until my flight started boarding. I found a great seat with a view of the planes taking off and landing, and plenty of room to stretch out and relax. For about two minutes.

A gaggle of teenagers suddenly appeared and plopped down all around me. They were sort of loud, but that wasn’t the problem. A couple of them started squealing and giggling and pointing under a seat across from me. One of them yelled down to the others, “Look! A mouse!”

Sure enough, a mouse was running back and forth under a seat across from my purse and my toes. I wondered if he was actually a pet mouse that someone had dumped, because he seemed hysterical. I didn’t wait long enough to think all that much about his roots, however, because he kept shooting toward my ankles. I decided to relocate myself before I got to know him any better.

Things went pretty smoothly for awhile after that, until right after I got into the Marriott Quorum. That’s when I realized I’d left my book in the seat back on the plane. It wasn’t just any book, either. Remember me telling you about getting a book called Insulin Murders through Interlibrary Loan at my library? It took me a long time to get up the nerve to request the book from our ILL staff person, because it sounded like such a weird thing to be interested in (you fellow writers out there will understand). Now I had to call up the airline and ask if they’d found it.

The customer service guy on the phone was very nice. Then the moment came. He asked the title of the book. I told him. His response: “Ha ha ha….okaaaaay.” For 30 minutes he tried to track down my book. The folks at DFW said they didn’t have it. The plane had returned to Atlanta by then, and he couldn’t get anyone at the gate on the phone. I finally decided I would check in person in Atlanta when I got back the next Sunday.

So I walk up to the woman at the airline’s lost and found. She asks for the name of the book. I tell her. She looks at me blankly. “What was that?” I tell her again. “Okaaaaaay.” She couldn’t find it, of course. I went through all that for nothing. Or actually, less than nothing. I actually ended up worse off than when I started. Somehow, while trudging around the airport looking for my book, I lost my sweater.

And now I get to tell the ILL person at work that I—a librarian, a guardian of books—lost that weird book she ordered for me. I’ll have to pay for it, of course. I’m beginning to wish I had just done that to begin with.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Contest Winner!

After spending what felt like forever cutting up little scraps of paper with names, I now have a winner for the drawing. And the winner is...Brittany J., a subscriber and frequent commentor. Congratulations, Brittany, and thanks for reading the blog.

As for everyone else, thanks so much for participating. Be sure to stick around. More giveaways will be coming soon.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Prizes and Contests Everywhere

Happy Friday! A great time to talk about winning stuff.

First, we're down to the wire on the Queen's contest. The drawing to win a $50 gift certificate to either amazon.com or Bath & Body Works will be held Monday, Oct. 1. It may be pretty late Monday, because I have to work, but I want to give you all day Sunday, September 30 to leave those last comments (each one is an extra entry) or subscribe. I originally said the deadline was going to be September 29, but I decided to extend it, mostly because I'm too lazy to tackle it this weekend.

Second, here's an announcement that involves shameless self-interest. Camy Tang is having an amazing contest on her website. She's giving away iPods, books, all kinds of good stuff. I've already entered, and most of you probably have, too. But if you didn't know about this contest and want to enter it--please remember you heard about it here. Why? If you say I referred you, I get three additional entries! Have I mentioned to you before how much I'd like to win an iPod?

I told you it was shameless self-interest. Have a great weekend! And good luck in the drawing on Monday.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Timing is Everything

It's funny how much God has been talking to me about timing this past week, including the night before I left for conference. My devotional Bible brought me to an entry entitled "Timing is Everything." (From the NIV Women's Devotional Bible 2.) For a reference, it used the famous chapter that says (to paraphrase) "a time to be born, a time to die, a time to tear down, a time to gather stones together." The point of the devotional was that what may be right at one time in your life isn't right at another. If we try to force things before God's timing is right for us, things probably won't turn out well.

This worried me a little, with the conference coming up. Oh, no, I thought. Is God trying to tell me I'm going to have to do even more waiting on my dreams?

I didn't take my devotional Bible to Dallas, since it weighs a ton. I just hoped the Gideons would be faithful and leave one in the hotel room, and sure enough, they did. I picked up with that same chapter of Ecclesiastes and read through that book. I don't know whether that was the best choice of subject matter. You know how Ecclesiastes is, right? Lots of "vanity, vanity, all is vanity," and life can sound pretty depressing. And sure enough, I did encounter "more of the same." In other words, the same stuff that's kept me from writing success before--writing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Mixing genres, a real no-no. "Missing the market," even though I try to study them and do the right thing. I kept wondering, what is God trying to say to me--through his word and through this conference?

I always get conflicting advice about my writing at conferences. It takes me awhile to sort it out after I get home and choose which suggestions I should listen to. The main conflict this time came as to what I should work on next. My agent feels I should write romance novels, because it's easier to break in there. Someone else whom I respect told me I should go forward with my current WIP, even though it apparently mixes genres shamelessly. But I'm passionate about it, and it does seem to intrigue people.

Now that I'm home, I've returned to my devotional Bible. Last night, the devotional took me back to Ecclesiastes. This time, the words jumped out at me in a beautiful way:

"Whoever watches the wind will not plant;
whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.
As you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the body is formed in a mother's womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
the Maker of all things.
Sow your seed in the morning,
and at evening let not your hands be idle,
for you do not know which will succeed,
whether this or that,
or whether both will do equally well." *

Isn't that fantastic! Here's the less lovely interpretation that I took from it: "Robin, get to work! If you keep looking at those clouds, fretting over more waiting, mixing genres, not getting it right, you'll never get anywhere. As to which book to write--why not both? I'm not telling you which will succeed. But stop feeling sorry for yourself and get busy!"

Suddenly, I'm over that post conference fog and ready to get back to work.

* Reference is from NIV, Ecclesiastes 11:4-6

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Home at Last!

In a way, it's hard to believe it's been almost a week since I posted. Then again, I feel like I was away for a month. I've now been to Dallas twice and have seen nothing except the airport and the Marriott Quorum. It's hard to find time to breathe, let alone leave the hotel.

For me, the highlight of this conference was meeting several people I had known only through emails or phone calls. I finally met my agent, Janet Benrey, face to face. She was so gracious and gave me a great big hug and a lot of encouragement, as well as some advice on what direction my writing should take next. Here we are at the awards dinner Saturday night.

I briefly met several people who have visited the blog--like Christa Allan, Tiffany Colter, Michelle Hutchinson, and Cathy West. Rose, if you're reading this, I glimpsed your name tag as it was walking out the door of the bookstore and tried to yell, but I was trapped working behind the cashier's table and couldn't manage it. I never managed to connect with you again. I didn't manage to find Sherrie, either. Drat!

The Saturday night awards banquet was one of the last official functions, and as I arrived I was thinking that I still hadn't spotted Sally Bradley. It was harder to identify anyone Saturday night, because most folks refused to wear the big tacky name tags when they were all dolled up for the dinner. But I saw someone across the hallway that looked like Sally's picture, so I followed her and introduced myself. I ended up sitting with her during the ceremony so we got to talk a bit. As I commented on her blog today, I was very disappointed that she didn't win the Genesis award for her category (romantic suspense), but I still felt like I was sitting with a celebrity when they flashed her picture up on that huge screen.



As for the workshops and classes, my favorite was the late-night chat hosted by the Thomas Nelson folks. They moderated a discussion about what exactly Christian fiction is--and what it should be. I was happy to hear the new direction that Thomas Nelson is taking. There might even be hope for some of my strange stuff to slip into that door one of these days, who knows? Randy Ingermanson's workshop on marketing was also excellent. For anyone interested in fresh ideas for marketing their writing on the Internet (even if you're not published; Randy holds it's never too early to start marketing yourself), I'd recommend getting the conference CD's.

And last, you'll be pleased to know that I did get up the courage to wear the Queen pin. I actually stuck it to my name tag. On the one hand, it worked as I planned fairly often, so I got to discuss the blog and give out some bookmarks. On the other, so many other folks were sporting bizarre attachments to their nametags that I didn't get as much notice as I'd hoped--or feared. In fact, the bookstore was selling all sorts of ribbons for the name tags, and would you believe one of them said "Queen"? They were sold out by the time I got to the bookstore, but I saw a couple of people wearing them.

I was indignant, of course. Clearly, there can only be one Queen.