Tuesday, April 29, 2008

From the Middle of Nowhere to the Center of Everything.

Last night, my husband said something to the effect of, "In two days we've gone from the wilderness to the center of the world's news." From Saturday through Monday, we did a couple of things that were not exactly our normal routine. And boy, were those two things different!

Monday night, we sat in the studio at CNN with Nancy Grace as she did her show live. (I apologize in advance to my sister, Frankie, and Dave for the following photo. I don't usually subject them to appearing on the blog, but this picture is just too good. Plus, Nancy showed us on camera for about two seconds, so we've already made fools of ourselves, anyway.)

Nancy and I have known each other since we were six. I lost touch with her for years, but it's been fun to reconnect lately. She invited me, Dave, and Frankie to come to her show. What a fascinating experience, to see all the feverish activity that's going on around Nancy while video clips or commercials are playing. How she juggles all that information, and the folks talking at her in her earpiece, and clips and callers and guests is beyond me.

Our destination the weekend before was a little bit different from a bustling place like CNN. Dave and I, his boss and boss's wife went hiking. We stayed at the Len Foote Hike Inn at Amacalola Falls State Park.

To stay there, you must hike the five-mile trail to the inn, so the plan was to hike up there on Saturday, spend the night, and hike back down. (Again, I apologize in advance for the photos. I took these with my cell phone, and apparently I always hold the cell phone sideways when I snap the picture.) I took this one in back of the Visitors' Center, just before we started out, which shows that you're near the start of the Appalachian Trail.

I was a little nervous about this trip. Dave and the others are experienced hikers and campers. I'm experienced at taking elevators and staying in hotels. I was afraid I couldn't keep up, and they'd be sick of me by Sunday. But we took our time, and it was fine.

Still, I've never been so happy to see anything as I was to see the Lodge about three hours after we started the hike.

Especially since, right before we reached the Inn, we saw a sign that said, "Please don't feed the bears." If I had realized there was a possibility that I might provide food for a bear on that trail, I probably would have waited in the van!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Overload Syndrome

God is truly looking out for me. My church's library is fairly small, and yet when I was feeling frazzled a couple of weeks ago and hoped they might have a book that would help, I found two about dealing with overload.

The first is called The Overload Syndrome: Learning to Live Within Your Limits by Richard A. Swenson, M.D. I think Swenson is my long-lost twin brother, because this man sounds exactly like me. Except for being a successful doctor and actually managing to publish a book. But on this overload thing, we're right in tune.

Swenson starts off talking about his own brush with overload and what he did to change things. He goes on to say this kind of busyness is a fairly recent phenomenon, peculiar to western culture (particularly American) in this day and age. I had wondered about that. How, I wondered, could I feel so stressed and overburdened all the time when, frankly, my parents worked a lot harder than I do? And when I don't even have children?

Swenson was quick to explain. Change in society, in the way things are done, came about fairly slowly for hundreds of years. Then suddenly, things started changing at a head-spinning rate. I know this is true. My father tells me stories of how they lived in his childhood on a farm in Florida, plowing with a mule and picking cotton by hand. It's probably not all that different from the 1800s. But how things have changed since then!

You would think all this progress would make things easier for us, and in some ways, it does. But there's a downside, says Swenson. We've been taught to constantly want more and more, faster and faster. We push the envelope. We push our limits as far as debt and time and energy, until we're way beyond them.

Swenson goes on to talk about the concept of margin--a wonderful idea that means you allow some breathing room between your load and your limits. But he says we've been conditioned to think we're being lazy or doing something wrong if our schedules aren't full up with good things. Swenson has a totally different take on it. According to him, if we have overloaded our schedules with our plans, God may not be happy about it.

"Margin allows availability for the purposes of God," says Swenson. "When God taps us on the shoulder and asks us to do something, He doesn't expect to get a busy signal." (p. 18)

Swenson quotes a theologian named Henri Nouwen. "In the spiritual life, the word discipline means 'the effort to create some space in which God can act...." Discipline means to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn't planned or counted on." (p. 18)

Wow! That's completely different from my idea of discipline--that every moment must be productive, accomplishing something I had planned. And what's one of the symptoms of not leaving that margin in our lives? According to Swenson, we start to resent friends or loved ones when they need us, when they interrupt our plans and ask us for help.

The man just described my life!

I'll probably tell you more about this wonderful book as I read on. For now, though, it's a tremendous help to realize that I'm not alone and that it's okay to admit I have limits. That maybe, just maybe, God hasn't wanted me to be pushing so hard, anyway.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Queen Visits the Faire

I knew I was going to enjoy the Renaissance Festival this past Saturday when I found this t-shirt right inside the gate. Obviously, these people understood royalty, and I would no doubt feel right at home.

Of course, I was a bit miffed when I attended the joust and saw that some other young upstart was sitting on the pavilion and calling herself Queen. Imagine!

I've been taking my niece, Kristi, to the Renaissance Festival since she was a little girl. Now she works there as a Kissing Wench. I'm so proud! (I really am, actually. She's about to get a degree in Theatre and Performance Studies. I discovered that the actors playing these characters rehearse for weeks and are chosen for their ability to improvise.)

You knew I'd have to find a few pirates, didn't you? Even I was surprised to find Captain Jack himself!

This guy was a bit of a shock after Jack Sparrow, but he was pleasant enough if you could get past the toothy smile.

All in all, a very pleasant way to spend a Saturday. Even if my sister did force me onto a kiddie ride--a big swing in the form of a ship. The most embarrassing part was that I had to beg the lad pushing it to slow down, ere I threw up on him. (At least I used proper Renaissance language for it.)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Settling on the East Side? Part 2

When I ended yesterday's post, I mentioned I was getting a little uncomfortable by all the messages I seemed to be getting about crossing the Jordan into my Promised Land of writing. I feel a definite need to stop striving so much and trying to compete with every other high-powered writer in the world, but was God trying to tell me to stop whining and go forward no matter what?

I picked up my Bible for the day's reading in Numbers 32, where the Israelites are finally preparing to cross the Jordan River and fight. Representatives of the tribes of Reuben and Gad came to Moses and said, "If we have found favor with you, please let us have this land as our property instead of giving us land across the Jordan River."

Okay, now I was interested. Some of the Israelites were asking not to cross the Jordan, but to be given land where they already were?

Moses didn't seem too happy with their request. In fact, he blasted them. "'Do you mean you want to stay back here while your brothers go across and do all the fighting?' Moses asked the Reubenites and Gadites. 'Are you trying to discourage the rest of the people of Israel from going across to the land the Lord has given them?'" Moses reminded them that their timid ancestors had done the exact same thing. They scounted out the Promised Land, got scared of the people living there, and decided to stay where they were. Moses warns the Reubenites and Gadites that the Lord was furious with those earlier scouts, and he'll be furious with them, too. (Numbers 32: 5-10, NLT)

Uh-oh. So was the the Lord furious with me for my timidity, my lack of energy? Gulp.

Part of my quandary as I've been praying about my writing is that I set out with this blog to try to encourage other writers and dreamers who might be having a hard time hanging in there and completing their journeys. So if I admit I need to slow down, or that I can't keep up a certain writing pace, will I discourage everyone else? If completing the journey to the Promised Land was becoming God's message to me about staying the course, these verses seemed to make that a very real possibility--that I might be discouraging folks instead of encouraging them.

But then I read further.

The people of Gad and Reuben protested to Moses. "We simply want to build sheepfolds for our flocks and fortified cities for our wives and children. Then we will arm ourselves and lead our fellow Israelites into battle until we have brought them safely to their inheritance...But we do not want any of the land on the other side of the Jordan. We would rather live here on the east side."

They weren't out to discourage or desert their brothers. They planned to fight with them and stay the course. But they had a feeling their inheritance from God was going to be a little different. And when Moses heard that, he calmed down. He thought their request was reasonable and granted it.

I never remember reading this before or hearing it in sermons or in all those other places about crossing the Jordan--that some of the Israelites asked for and received an inheritance on the near side of the Jordan.(v. 16-19)

What exactly does this mean for me as I try to figure out what I'm supposed to do? I'm still praying and pondering, but for now, I've drawn a few things from this:

God does have a promise for me, a destination. Something I'm supposed to achieve.

I am not supposed to give up, wallow in doubt, and quit--thereby discouraging everyone else who's on this difficult writing journey.

On the other hand, it may be all right for me to show that there's more than one way to do things. More than one destination ahead of us. I put a lot of pressure on myself when I try to be just like everyone else in my huge online writers' group. When I try to turn out just as many manuscripts as they do, and go to all the conferences, and write a blog, and read writing books, and think of nothing but how I will discipline myself and publish. No matter what.

But all our lives are different. The stresses and demands, the amount of energy we have, all of it.

God has a promised land for each and every one of us. But we won't necessarily end up in the exact same spot.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Settling on the East Side?

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that this year, I'm on a quest to find out what God wants me to do about my writing at this particular time in my life. Specifically, should I keep on the path I'm on--striving to turn out a daily word count, to follow all the rules, to throw myself into trying to get published? Or should I allow myself to relax a little, take life and writing a bit more slowly, and try to rediscover the joy in this gift?

When I started praying about this, I seemed to immediately be bombarded by allegories about the Children of Israel crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land. You know how that is, right? When God seems to be trying to get your attention by sending you the same Bible verses or story everywhere you turn? That's what happened with this. I heard about crossing into the Promised Land in Sunday Schools and in sermons. I read it in two or three books. Of course I read about it every day in my Bible reading, because the Israelites are just now reaching the Promised Land in my one-year Bible. (Which is going to take me 18 months to read this time around, apparently. But that's a different story.)

But that's not all. I'm in a rental club for audio books, and I've had Believing God by Beth Moore on my wish list for months, but it was never available. Suddenly, there it was in my mailbox. Guess what Beth proceeded to talk about at great length? How the Israelites didn't believe God right away. Hence the wandering and settling for less all those years, rather than claiming the destiny He had for them.

Here's the craziest thing of all. The novel I'm currently working on is called Jordan's Shadow. My niece read a portion of it during this same time period and asked me why I called the character Jordan. I told her it was because when this mysterious girl with no memory shows up in the story, she goes around humming "On Jordan's Stormy Banks" all the time, so they call her Jordan. And the song plays a part in the story. Remember the lyrics to that hymn?

"On Jordan's stormy banks I stand
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan's fair and happy land
Where my possessions lie.
I am bound for the promised land..."

So here I am, praying about the direction for my writing as I work on this book, and God seems to be bombarding me with messages about believing him and not being afraid to cross that river and claim what he has promised for me. It's even in the very thing I'm writing!

I started to feel a bit uncomfortable. Maybe down inside, I really have been wanting permission to slow down. And God seems to be telling me, "Stop whining and doubting like the children of Israel. Cross that river. Do what I called you to do!"

But then the story took a little turn from there. I'll tell you about that next time--hopefully tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Tax Day Story

If you're stressed over your taxes today, I thought I'd tell you a little story about what's going on with me. It might make you feel better.

No, I'm not trying to meet the tax deadline today. We've already filed. Already paid. Twice in fact. That's right. TWICE!

On March 31, I efiled our tax return and paid what we owed--a fairly substantial amount, at least for us--with my debit card. I only get paid once a month and that was payday, so I bit the bullet and sent the money. I received a confirmation email that our tax return was accepted. Received a receipt for the payment. Went to online banking and saw that the payment had gone through, taking most of my balance with it, on April 2. All was well.

Then came April 9. I check my online banking every morning just to make sure everything is okay and I haven't forgotten to record something. On April 9, I got quite a shock. I was severely overdrawn. Overnight, my remaining money for the month had disappeared.

You've probably guessed it by now. My payment to the IRS had gone through a second time.

Can't you just see where this is going? Yes, that's right. I was now going to have to communicate with the IRS and try to get my money back.

I spent an hour on the phone with them and with folks from the bank that day. An hour in which everyone agreed it was the same transaction, same transaction date, same amount, and same reference number. Everyone admitted it was a simple mistake.Want to guess how simple it's been getting my money back?

The rep on the phone told me they would get right on it and the money should be back in my account within a week. I frankly thought a week was unacceptable. And why should it take so long? Folks don't seem to have any problem taking money OUT of my account. If I go shopping on my lunch hour and buy something with my debit card, the charge has gone through by the time I'm back at my desk. And if the clerk at the mall makes a mistake, I simply hand them my card and they reverse the incorrect charge.

So why can't the IRS do that?

The story gets even better. Yesterday was the fifth day since I was told I should have the money back within a week. I got home and checked my mail. I had a letter, with a form attached. An affidavit that I must complete, sign, and return to them swearing that I have a right to have this money returned.

Uh...excuse me? They take my money, and suddenly I have to swear on an affidavit that the money is mine?

But at least they appear to be working on it.

Hmm...Maybe I shouldn't have published this until after I get my money back.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Winner of Sharon K. Souza book

The winner of Sharon K. Souza's book, Every Good and Perfect Gift, is Sherrie Ashcraft. Congratulations, Sherrie, and thanks for entering! Just send me your mailing address and I'll get the book on its way to you.

So what shall I give away next? Hmmm...

Keep watching and find out what I decide!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

My Miracle Notebook, Part 2

Here's the conclusion of the story I started yesterday:

The drive home from the conference took a couple of hours, and something interesting started happening in my heart and in my mind. Recently, I had been trying to sell my work in the secular market. But years before, I had been aiming for the Christian fiction field. I started to remember with great nostalgia the Christian conferences, the Christian editors. Oh, I got rejected there, too—but at least the people were kind. At least they provided fellowship and spiritual support.

I remembered a couple of rejections on my current novel that said it was “too traditional,” or something similar. Did that mean too Christian? Could it possibly be fitted for a Christian market? I could hardly believe it, but within two hours, I was already thinking of trying again. Could it be that instead of telling me to quit, God wanted to redirect me? To direct my path?
I prayed all the way back to my neighborhood, and when I was almost home I made a decision. One more try. I would do some rewriting on this novel, try it in a Christian market, and let God show me once and for all whether this door in my life had truly closed.

I stopped in a Christian bookstore close to my house. I hadn’t read Christian fiction for awhile and didn’t know who was publishing what. I browsed and looked at the prominently displayed fiction, the bestsellers, the ones that seemed closest to my writing. That’s when I took out the notebook.

I had bought this cheap little thing at the last minute to take notes during all the wonderful sessions I planned to attend at the conference. So it was, of course, blank. Now, on page one, I wrote down two authors’ names for future reference. One of them was Terri Blackstock. I didn’t buy anything that day, but soon afterward I started reading her books. I was impressed not only by her work, but by how far Christian fiction had come since I last read it. I felt encouraged to start my rewrite.

Not too long after that, my husband returned from a trip to visit his family in another state and asked, “Have you ever heard of Terri Blackstock?”

Dave had told a friend of his family about my writing woes, and she mentioned she knew Terri, who might be able to give me some advice. To make a long story short, that’s exactly what happened. Terri read a sample of my work and encouraged me to keep going. She suggested I might need an agent to help me find the right market, and she referred me to someone. I signed with an agency a few months later.

Now, does this story have one of those magic happy endings, in which I sign a contract and become a best-seller overnight? No. Things have still been agonizingly slow. In fact, it's been about four years since I signed with that agent. But God has provided the strength and direction to keep me going and wait for his timing.

I had frankly forgotten about the notebook until one day when my patience was once again wearing thin and I was starting to question everything. I pulled out the notebook to scribble down a phone number or something trivial, and there it was on the front page—Terri Blackstock’s name. Written as I stood in that bookstore on the darkest day of my writing life. Written at the very time when I wanted to quit. God knew things were moving when I thought everything had come to a crashing halt. He even had me write myself a reminder of that fact!

Sometimes I take out this notebook and look at it, just to remind myself of his love and his presence. And when things feel so unbearably slow or uncertain and I can’t feel anything happening at all, I think about the notebook and ask myself, “I wonder what He’s up to today?”

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

My Miracle Notebook, Part I

Reading Sharon K. Souza's words last week put me in mind of a story I wrote up a couple of years ago, telling about my darkest day in my writing journey--and the incredible turnaround that God brought out of it. So I decided to share the story with you. I'm posting Part I today, which ends on sort of a discouraging note. Tune in tomorrow for Part 2--the part where God steps in and does something amazing.

I have a miracle notebook. It looks pretty ordinary. In fact, it’s a dollar-store special. But to me it’s a treasure, absolutely awe-inspiring. God used it to show He was right beside me on a day I would have sworn He was hanging out on the far side of the universe. It reminds me He was working out his plan for me at the very time I was ready to give up.

I started that fateful day full of optimism—which is not to say I wasn’t also nervous. It was the beginning of yet another writers’ conference, and my quest to become a published novelist had gotten a bit long. When I was only seven years old and discovered the magic of reading, I decided I wanted to write books for a living. At eighteen, I sent my first full-length novel manuscript (co-authored by my cousin) off to a publisher and discovered the magic of rejection. No problem. I was only eighteen. Then nineteen. Then twenty. . .

Now I was forty-three. Yes, that’s right. Twenty-five years since I put that first manuscript in the mail. I had learned the value of writers’ conferences for learning and for networking, but I have to admit that conferences were getting pretty tough for me. There I’d be, packed in with a herd of bubbly, excited writers seeking their fortune—none of whom, I suspected, had experienced twenty-five years of rejection. Normal people who go through that sort of thing quit and stay home. But not me. I always came back for more.

Without fail, the other writers I met fell into two categories. First came the helpful , friendly type who had just decided to become a writer eighteen months ago. Since then, she had published several articles in her church newsletter and was therefore a professional and would be happy to share her secrets of success with me. I wished I could share newsletter-lady’s contentment and enthusiasm, but doggone it, I wanted to be a novelist!

Then there would, of course, be the authors who had accomplished everything I wanted to. Usually with great ease. Need I say more?

I approached each conference with increasing desperation. Look here, Robin. Do you know how much this thing is costing? You won’t be able to afford another conference for two or three years. You must sell a manuscript NOW! With that kind of pressure, plus my previous track record, is it any wonder I found it hard to bubble and smile along with the other writers?

But this time would be different. First, I had spent serious time in prayer, offering to God to give up the whole notion of being a novelist if that wasn’t what He intended for me. I truly felt he had answered that I should go forward. Second, I shored up my confidence by remembering how close I had come to success in the past, the positive reactions I had received from editors and agents about my writing. Above all, I reminded myself I had never had a bad experience at a conference, never had anyone tell me my writing just wasn’t good enough.

Well, never say never.

I bubbled, I schmoozed, I collected email addresses from editors and invitations to submit my work. I was bolder and more confident than ever before. Unfortunately, this all occurred during the first half hour of the conference.

Immediately afterward, I met with the editor assigned to critique my sample chapters. This woman worked for a publishing company and also had a business “doctoring” people’s writing. Ironically enough, I had hired this woman’s doctoring partner to work on this very manuscript a few weeks earlier, and she had been very enthusiastic about my work. Another good sign. Maybe this would be the day when the editor would take off her glasses, lean toward me, and declare, “Forget the critique. My company wants to publish your novel. Sign here!”

She did indeed take off her glasses and lean toward me. But then she frowned and sighed. “I’ve found some problems with your work.”

My heart sank a little. Okay, it dropped to my ankles. “Really?”

“You see, stories must have conflict. Do you understand what I mean by that?”

After thirty-something years of writing and an English degree? Aloud I said, “You’re saying my story doesn’t have conflict?”

She lowered her voice to a whisper, as though she hated to say it. “I think you tried, but it’s very. . .shallow.”

The whole interview only got worse from there. She asked if I had ever considered taking a writing class so I would understand the process. I asked her (yes, I admit, I was not taking this in the proper humble spirit) if my graduate work in the Master of Professional Writing program at the University of Southern California counted. She even started to point out specific sentences that were awkward and showed poor writing skills—the very sentences her “doctoring” partner had helped me rewrite.

Finally I made it out of there, absolutely crushed. I crawled into my car in the parking deck and sat there, stunned, for ages. I thought that eventually, I would start to recover and be able to go back inside.

But what was the point? Obviously, when I prayed about giving up on writing, I misunderstood God’s answer. He had been trying to tell me to quit, but I hadn’t listened. I heard what I wanted to hear. So now he was shouting at me. And I heard Him. This was the end. I cranked up the car and started home.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Sharon K. Souza's Long Writing Journey

Sharon K. Souza's new book from Navpress, Every Good and Perfect Gift, deals with two issues that have struck my family pretty hard: infertility and Alzheimer's disease. So I'm looking forward to reading her book and I'm excited to be giving away a copy of it. (Just leave a comment on this post to be entered into the drawing.)

I was also happy that Sharon discussed her writing journey with me so frankly. It's always helpful to me to know that other writers have faced discouragement and doubts and have overcome them. If you need some encouragement today, read on:

Thanks for visiting my blog today, Sharon. Can you tell us how long you've been writing?

I've been writing seriously for 20 years, though I've had a love of reading and writing as far back as I can remember. I think the first time I toyed with the idea of writing a novel and actually sat down with pencil and paper I was in my early 20s. And yes, when I first started writing I wrote by hand. After I got my first computer it was quite some time before I could sit down at a blank screen and compose. I started by typing into the computer what I wrote by hand. Then I would edit that. Eventually I could actually write at the computer, and now I wouldn't think of doing it any other way.

Can you tell us a little about your road to publication?

When I began my first serious attempt at a novel Christian fiction as we know it was a fairly new genre. That first novel was set during WW2, and it took about 2 years to write. At the time I had a 13 year old, a 12 year old and a 10 year old at home, I was an associate pastor's wife, and employed during the school year, so like many of us, my writing time came at a premium. While most everything on the Christian fiction shelves at that time was historical fiction, most of my rejection letters said editors were looking for contemporary fiction. So I rewrote my novel, using Desert Storm as the time period. That took another year. And while neither version will ever see the light of day, it was an excellent learning experience.

During that same time I wrote and sold a number of articles for our denomination's weekly magazine, I spent 3 years as publisher and contributing editor for a monthly newspaper our church produced, I worked on three non-fiction books with another author, and continued to write more novels.

In 2000 I finally received a contract for a suspense novel I'd written, and boy was I thrilled. Under the terms of the contract, the company (which shall remain nameless) had 3 years to publish the book. I went through all the normal processes from cover design to final edits, and just before the contract was due to expire -- still without a finished product -- the company went bankrupt. That was bad enough, but I had agreed to purchase a certain number of those books myself, had paid the money in advance, and lost every dime. Any legitimate traditional publisher (those not specifically marketed as subsidy publishers) will never ask an author for money for the production of their book. I hope this information prevents another writer from falling into the trap I fell into.

In 2004 I published my Christmas novella, A Heavenly Christmas in Hometown, with WinePress. I chose the self-publication route for that book because it's difficult to find publishers for seasonal books. I was very pleased with the product, but continued to seek traditional publishers for my other novels. In 2006, I received a contract for Every Good & Perfect Gift and Lying on Sunday (to be released 9-1-08) from NavPress, after connecting with an editor at Mt. Hermon Christian Writer's Conference. Attending that conference opened doors that nothing else had ever accomplished.

Has there been a time you felt particularly discouraged about your writing dream, or felt like giving up? How did you get through that?

Many, many times. It was a long journey from that first manuscript to my first contract, with some major disappointments in between. I can't tell you how many times I questioned my ability, my call, the possibility that I would ever be published. I knew in my heart that writing inspirational novels was my passion, but I got to the point that I seriously doubted it was what the Lord meant for me to do. And yet the thought of not writing them would bring me to tears.

My family has been a great source of encouragement. Without their support and cheerleading I never would have kept going. And I held on to a favorite verse from the Bible: "For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Phil. 2:13). I came to fully believe that the passion I had for writing Christian fiction was indeed from the Lord--who also loved to tell stories. Once I settled that in my heart, then I just had to be the best writer I could be, and I had to leave the results to him.

Do you have any advice for writers who might be discouraged today?

Do all you can to hone your craft. Practice may not make you perfect, but it sure makes you better. Find a critique partner or group that will honestly evaluate your work. Find a writer's conference to attend. Take advantage of those conferences that allow you to submit your work to a critiquer for a professional evaluation, or to an editor if the piece is ready for publication. Above all, don't quit. You'll never achieve your goal if you do.

Okay, time for a plug for your new book. What's Every Good and Perfect Gift about?

DeeDee and Gabby have been friends since the sixth grade, when headstrong and courageous DeeDee began mapping out their lives. But after twenty years with her husband DeeDee changes her plan. Nearing forty years old, she wants a baby - now! Two years of infertility, prayers, and outrageous behavior finally results in the birth of DeeDee's demand.

Gabby is present for all of it, noting the increasingly strange behavior of her lifelong friend after the baby's birth. Then comes a diagnosis that threatens to shatter their world. Gabby must find the strength and faith to carry DeeDee and herself through the dark unknown, but is she up for it?

Were these characters based on real people?

The concept of the story was based on a real situation in regards to the Early Onset Alzheimer's. But the characters are not based on real people. I do typically use people I know/have known and then take their personality traits/quirks to extremes--almost like a caricature--in order to make the character as interesting as possible. Almost always my daughters will recognize something of themselves in my make-believe world. It makes for fun conversation.

What inspired you to write Every Good & Perfect Gift?

I wanted to write a book about a "Jonathan and David" type friendship between two women, knowing that I was ultimately going to tell the story of a young woman who is diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer's. I have a close friend who, at the age of 42, began to exhibit many of the symptoms portrayed in the book. Since completing the book I've learned that another close friend has been diagnosed with EOA. What are the odds?
In determining what course the friendship between Gabby and DeeDee would take, I asked myself: What is the greatest way one woman can express friendship to another? The answer: By helping her have a child if she's unable to, which one character is willing to do if it comes to that.

Thanks so much, Sharon. I'm looking forward to reading the book, and I wish you all the best with it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Winner and a New Giveaway

The lucky winner of the $25.00 gift certificate to amazon.com is...

Tracy Ruckman!

Congratulations, Tracy. Enjoy. As the rest of you know, I do these giveaways pretty often, so I hope you'll stick around and try again.

In the meantime, I have a great new book to give away. It's Every Good and Perfect Gift, by Sharon K. Souza. Here's what it's about:

DeeDee and Gabby have been friends since the sixth grade, when headstrong and courageous DeeDee began mapping out their lives. But after twenty years with her husband DeeDee changes her plan. Nearing forty years old, she wants a baby - now! Two years of infertility, prayers, and outrageous behavior finally results in the birth of DeeDee's demand. Gabby is present for all of it, noting the increasingly strange behavior of her lifelong friend after the baby's birth. Then comes a diagnosis that threatens to shatter their world. Gabby must find the strength and faith to carry DeeDee and herself through the dark unknown, but is she up for it?

I'll be interviewing Sharon Souza on Friday. If you'd like to read this book, leave a comment today or Friday, and I'll announce the winner next Friday, April 11.

And be sure to come back for the interview. Sharon's been on other blogs lately, but I asked her some special questions about her writing journey. Very inspiring stuff.