I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Monday, May 30, 2011

Author Interview: Anne Greene (and book giveaway)

Today we welcome novelist Anne Green to the MBT Ponderers blog. Her latest book is Masquerade Marriage (White Rose Publishing, October 2010).

How did you achieve initial writing success?
My first book contract resulted from finaling in the ACFW Genesis contest. My publisher judged my entry, requested the manuscript and sent a contract. I'm a great proponent of writing contests--though I entered many before landing a contract. I'm thankful God turns the water of my talent into His fine wine, like Jesus at the marriage in Cana.
My advice to unpublished novelists? Keep writing, keep submitting. When rejected, pick yourself up, put your broken heart back in place and keep going. Agents can be harder to gain than publishers. Attend conferences with editor appointments, like ACFW.

Your historic novels relate to real-life events and places. Are your characters also based on real-life?
Lovely question. I'm a part of all my characters, including the villains. We all have a dark side we don't let surface. My dear husband, a real life hero, is part of my heroes. Otherwise, my characters are imaginary.

What is your favorite part of writing? Least favorite? How fully do you develop lots before you begin?
My favorite part of writing is the first draft adventure. I'm a total seat-of-the-pantser. I have two vague characters and a setting in mind when I start. With my historicals, I also have the inciting incident--and my characters develop as they respond to that. I simply record what they say and do--like watching a movie. I always keep in mind each scene's goal, motivation and conflict. I don't consider alternate endings, or if the book might have been better if I had done something else. My characters usually find themselves in such bad places, without obvious exits, so I'm relieved when they achieve happy-ever-after.
My least favorite part is publicity, like book signings. I prefer sitting in my cave, writing. But I love interviews where I speak directly to readers, hear feedback and discover what they'd enjoy seeing in the future.

Do you often have a sense of what you'll write next?
I love my characters thoroughly and always plan a sequel or series. I'm planning a three-book series for Masquerade Marriage, as many fans want to see more of Brody and Megan.

Which is your favorite published book so far? 
I love every book and character. That question is like asking parents which child they love most--Impossible to answer.

Visit Anne at her blog. For a chance to win a copy of Masquerade Marriage, leave a comment below, answering the following questions: Have you ever attended a masquerade? What did you wear? If not--if you could attend a masquerade, who would you be?

~Delores Topliff

Friday, May 27, 2011

Disappearing Car Doors and Readers' Expectations

An article recently came into my e-mail inbox that bragged about the latest and greatest in automobile technology. I clicked on the link and watched as car doors automatically folded underneath the car so passengers could get in and out with the greatest of ease. Hooray for technology!

The only problem with that marvel of automobile science? It assumes one would always want the door to disappear and for the inside of the car to be exposed to the elements. I suppose next the brilliant minds that be will install pop-out umbrellas.

What's the point of all this?

Sometimes writers assume that just because they have the ability to write something off the wall, readers want it.

I have no doubt there are flashy people who would pay $200,000 for disappearing doors just for the bragging rights. That being said, the overwhelming majority of car shoppers spend far less money for a car with conventional door hinges. In fact, they demand it.

As writers, we need to be aware of what our readers expect to see in our books. I'm not talking about whether the bad guy dies a well-deserved, agonizing death or whether he ends up behind bars. You're that author--that's your call. But the reader does expect--and has the right to expect--certain things like:

  1. relating to what's happening in the story
  2. feeling an emotional response
  3. understanding the characters 
  4. identifying with the characters' challenges
  5. coming to some kind of closure at the end of the book--and not just because you typed "The End" after the last word in the story
Just like most car buyers all over the world, I promise you that readers won't pick up your book, flip through the pages, and expect for doors to disappear. They just want a good book that entertains them--one that takes them where they want to go in comfort.

So, if you are truly a writer--please, don't make the doors disappear!

~Reba J. Hoffman

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Value of Vision

Vision. Planning. Finish line.

Why is vision so important? Vision gives people direction. Vision propels people forward. Vision gives you a reason to plan the route you're going to take to get where you want to go. If people can see the oh-so-important finish line, they work toward it.

My favorite Scripture about vision is Habakkuk 2:2, which says, “Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.” (KJV)

After working in the corporate world, I now work for the family business. I see how important it is to have a vision and a plan for what you want to accomplish. In the family business, we post numbers every week to compare our actual numbers to the company goal. It helps my staff know how well we’ve done--or how far we have to go.

Is vision and planning any different for us as individuals? For our families? For our writing career?


Many of us created New Year's Resolutions. We're already into the second quarter of 2011. Have you accomplished your goals? If so, Whoo-hoo! Do you need to step up your efforts? You can do it. Are you looking at your list of resolutions, shaking your head in despair? Why? You can do this. Adjust.

Let me encourage you. Life happens. Don’t just look at where you are now. Be practical and do the things that are within our control. Make S.M.A.R.T. goals.  This stands for Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Okay, I changed "relevant" to "realistic." I want to do so many things, but I have to be realistic.

One of my goals is to finish my college degree so I can teach college-level students. I would absolutely love to finish within the next five years. Umm, it’s not a realistic goal with my other obligations. Family. Work. Church. And my passion: writing.

How do you need to adjust your writing vision and plan in order to see your vision manifested? I’m running this race with you and together we can reach the finish line. See ya there!
Alena Tauriainen

photo by arinas74/stockxchng.com

Monday, May 23, 2011

Kiss UR E-mail

If I receive another e-mail with an address from gods-princess@anyserver.com or from our-names-morphed-into-an-email-address@not-original.com or from somestrangename@wheredidyougetthat.com, I'm going to ... hmmm, nothing original comes to mind. But trust me, I'm not going to be happy.

Okay, I know some of you may not like this blog post. I’ll admit I'm ranting a bit. I know many of you are fond of your creativity. Or you may find change difficult. Just stay with me for the rest of this post.

Imagine the editors and agents who receive tons of e-mails from prospective clients. They also have to wade through spam mail. Now take a peek in your spam folder. See any similarities to your e-mail address?

Way back in the fourth grade we learned how to write a return address on an envelope's upper left hand corner. Doing so meant the receiver knew who the letter was from. Now think about your e-mail address in that corner instead. Would you want to open the letter if you'd never met luvs2golf@anyserver.com?

Your e-mail address is your calling card--your nom de plume, if you will. Agents and editors look at it. Someone once said, “You only get one chance to make a good first impression,”--and that includes your e-mail address. What kind of impression does gluvsdogs@ make? So, someone whose name begins with "G" loves dogs.Or maybe someone likes to put gloves on their dog. So what? E-mail addresses like this scream unprofessional!

Can I tell you another secret? Your friends don’t like your fun, funky e-mail address much, either. Every time they want to send you an e-mail, they have to wrack their brains to remember whose e-mail address is whose. Something simple like bettysmith@pickadomain.com lets Betty’s friends know who’s emailing them. It also lets the agent she just queried know that Betty's not a spammer and that she takes her career seriously.

 When it comes to your e-mail address, just KISS it. Just Keep It Simple Sista.

So tell me, what do your friends' e-mail addresses say to you? What does your e-mail address say to others?

~ Ginger Takamiya
clipart by phillipmartin.com

Friday, May 20, 2011

It's The End of the World As We Know It

I thought we had until December of 2012, but apparently the date for the end of the world has been moved up.

To tomorrow.

According to a small Christian movement led by Harold Camping of Family Radio, tomorrow is Judgment Day. Using two passages from the Bible and a calculator, Camping has come to the conclusion that Christ will return sometime on Saturday afternoon. To be clear, I believe the Bible says that no man can know the day or hour of Christ’s return, and Camping has been wrong before (back on September 6, 1994). But the news stories and billboards and newspaper ads and guys standing on the corner with signs got me thinking about my last day.

Regardless of religious beliefs, we all have a last day, and none of us knows which day it will be.  I’m not trying to be morbid or depressing; I’m just stating a fact. And as I thought about Camping’s claim, I thought about all the things I hope to do, but haven’t. I thought about all of my dreams, all within my reach if I’m willing to focus and work at toward them, but haven’t.

We are all on this earth for a reason, for a specific purpose. Have I fulfilled mine? We are all at this point in the timeline with a job to do. Have I done mine?

I believe I am a writer. I have incredible people around me who believe I am a writer. I have the ability, I can make the time, and I have access to a treasure trove of resources to be successful.  So what am I waiting for?

It’s something I’ve been pondering ever since Lisa wrote about wanting something badly enough. Do I want it? Do I want it badly enough to stop making excuses and get it done? Or am I a wanna-be?

Remember the parable about the guy who gave talents (money, equal to about 20 years of a laborer’s wage!) to his three servants? Two of the servants put theirs to work and doubled them. The third buried his in his back yard. When the master came back, he saw what the first two had done and said, “Well done good and faithful servant!”  When he saw that the third guy had buried and basically wasted his talent, he was a little irked and took the servant’s talent away. I don’t know about you, but I want to double my talent, not lose it! But that means putting to work the talent I’ve already been given.

Do I think tomorrow will bring the end of the world as we know it? Nah. But I think I need to live as though every day is my last day.  I need to work as though my master is coming back tomorrow to see what I’ve done with my talent.

Your turn: Do you have a talent you need to go dig up and put to work?  What would you do differently if you knew the exact date of your last day? 

~Heidi Larson Geis

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Identity crisis

I’m having an identity crisis. This wasn’t apparent to me until I caught myself listening to a successful author at a book signing talking to a fan. The fan told the author that she planned on writing a novel – and like many, just hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

When the author asked what genre the fan hoped to write, the woman’s lips puckered and she answered, “It’s, well, if I had to characterize it…it’s a historical science fiction mystery with a little bit of romance thrown in. I think.”

The author’s hand swept out across the bookstore’s shelves. “So, where are they going to put it?”

“Put what?”

"Your novel, when you try to sell it.”


Let’s face it, sometimes it feels premature to consider for those of us who haven’t landed that first fiction contract (kudos to our very own Beth...check out Monday’s post!). But it’s a relevant question to be asking yourself as you write and rewrite. Where do you see yourself on a bookshelf?

Some authors are able to successfully cross multiple genres as they publish novels. But most don’t.

Then what’s my identity crisis? I write contemporary romance. I read historicals. If I want to write what I love, love, love to read, as my bookshelf reflects, I might need to rethink what I’m writing.

So have I wasted 70,000 words on a contemporary romance? Of course not. There’s nothing as crummy as your first attempt at a first draft. I have characters wandering aimlessly through scenes. My plot has a terrible case of scoliosis because I’m still learning how to build a straight spine and write a tight story full of tension. But my efforts have not been wasted. I learned how to craft a novel.

But as I start thinking about the next one, the question the author asked her fan has me pondering marketing. Where do I want to be put?

Where do you see your self on the bookshelves? Why did you choose that genre? Do you write what you love to read?

Happy Writing,


CONTEST WINNER: gypmar, who is writing writing the personal essay on the working/stay-at-home mom dilemma, won the red Moleskin journal!! Email Beth at beth@bethvogt.com with your mailing address!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Debut Author Interview: Beth K. Vogt & Contest

Hi, I'm Roxanne Sherwood and this is one of my all-time favorite posts. Nearly two decades ago, I became friends with another young mom, Beth, who was an aspiring writer like me. During a once-in-awhile get-away from our kiddos, we sat in a restaurant dreaming of being published. It's my joy and privilege to announce Ponderer Beth Vogt received "The Call." She's sold her first novel, Wish You Were Here, to Howard Books, in a two book deal. It's slated for May 2012.

Beth, we'd love to hear the story of The Call.
In March, I got the most interesting email from my agent, Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary. It said: Not to give anything away, but today or tomorrow might be a very good day. My email response: Oh. My. Word. 

What's Wish You Were Here about?
Here's how I pitched the contemporary romance at ACFW last year: Can the wrong kiss lead to Mr. Right? What happens when a woman impulsively kisses her fiance's brother five days before the wedding? Which is the mistake? The kiss? Or the wedding?

How did you create such strong characters as Allison, Daniel and Seth?
Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. I went to the 2010 My Book Therapy (MBT) Storycrafters Retreat and learned about discovering my characters' dreams, their wounds, the truths they need to learn. I also endorse the MBT exercise of asking "why" until you get to the bottom of what motivates your characters.

You first published in nonfiction and said you thought in headlines and that you didn't understand me or other fiction writes who heard "voices." Tell us how you switched to the "Dark Side," as you like to call the fiction world.
I blogged about this over at my blog, In Others' Words. (And my apologies for misunderstanding fiction writers for so long!) I was burned out--not an ounce of "want to" left in me. I dug out two Christian Writers Guild assignments from the Apprentice course and decided to have fun with them--that's all. And I got carried away--all the way to a contract--three years and many drafts later.

Your manuscript began with a serious thread on cutting, then became romantic suspense with a kidnapping, finally turning contemporary romance with some humorous elements complete with llamas--all on your way to discovering your voice. Many authors struggle with finding their voice. What advice would you offer them?
Wow, you remembered all that? All those versions were my newbie attempts to create tension. Need tension? Kidnap somebody, right?
My voice showed up the more I relaxed into the story, and that happened as I gained confidence as a fiction writer. That took time and listening to others who were encouraging me. Sometimes I had to believe what they were saying--that I could do this--more than I listened to my doubts.
Even when I speak to women's groups on challenging issues, my humor usually shows up. And while there's a little fun with llamas, there are some serious themes in Wish You Were Here. And my journalism training still affects my fiction. I tend to write tight.

You're one of the elite few who've sold their first books. How did you learn your craft? 
Everyone has their story. Mine could have the subhead: Never say never. I said I'd never write fiction--and here I am, flabbergasted with my first sale. Crossing-over from nonfiction to fiction was challenging. I felt so comfortable writing nonfiction--I knew that world. There were times writing Wish You Were Here overwhelmed me. Would I ever get it right? I wanted to quit. Finding a supportive critique group is key. And attending--and re-attending--all of the MBT coaching retreats. That's where I found community and learned how to write a deeper story.

Me & my husband Rob

You wear many hats: editor of Connections magazine, writing a bimonthly column for MOMSnext e-zine, helping with Voices, the MBT e-zine, and being the mom of a 10-year-old, as well as three adult children. How do manage to write too? 
There's a lot I don't do--like cook every night and clean house every day. And file. And do crafts. And sometimes life is c-r-a-z-y when I'm dealing with multiple deadlines. I prefer blocks of time to write, and some days that doesn't happen. Sometimes I write in the carpool line at my daughter's school--no interruptions!

How has your family supported you?
My kiddos (+ one daughter-in-love & we're adding a son-in-love in July!)
I've always wanted to write, but there were a lot of years when I didn't. When I finally said, "Now," my family didn't hold me back. My husband has read so many drafts of my novel--and he'd rather read a thriller! My son critiqued my pitch sheets and scenes--he's a writer too. And my two oldest daughters give me feedback and take their youngest sister out to dinner so I can write. Most of all, they believe in me and celebrate with me and cheer me up when I'm discouraged.

Beth, thanks so much for letting me share your news with our readers. You've worked hard to become a novelist. I can't wait to hold a copy of Wish You Were Here and attend one of your book signings. I believe this is only the beginning of a wonderful career and wish you much success!

Contest: For a chance to win a red Moleskin notebook--one of Beth's favorite ways to write drafts of scenes when she's sitting in her car--leave a comment below and tell us about your current work-in-progress (WIP.)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Expect the Unexpected

In my last post I was on my way to Nevada, ready to start over in an area of the country 2300 miles from where I was born and raised. Starting over has had its challenges, opportunities, and surprises. My emotions have run the gamut from joyful anticipation to nail biting anticipation. Sounds like a novel, right? Here’s a hint - it’s being scoped out in my Book Buddy! ;-) I’m just hoping real life doesn’t throw me a black moment!

But it has had its surprises. One morning while driving south out of Carson City to the little town of Minden where I live, I slipped on my sunglasses hoping to block out the bright Nevada sunshine. The temperature outside was in the upper fifties so I opened my car window to let in the fresh, spring air. Ahh, smell the sunshine, the scents of spring awakening the budding lilacs and other spring-flowering bushes.

But wait! What is that on my windshield?


Yes. Snow.

Hold on. It’s May. Its almost 60 degrees. It’s so sunny its blinding. Ahhh…..

Now think about your favorite books. What is it that keeps you reading? What is it that makes you almost crave the ending, like a drink of water after a long walk on a desert plain? I just recent read a book by a well-known publishing firm and I thought I’d never ever get to the end.

And I don’t mean that in a good way.

It was boring, it was predictable, it had ordinary conversation, like, “Hello, how are you”.


Donald Maass said to think of a scene and write down ten things that could happen in it. Usually your first two or three are the easy ones, the predictable ones . . . ones that make your readers yawn! But when you dig down in an effort to find the unpredictable, it will surprise your readers and keep them wondering what in the world the writer will come up with next.

It will keep them in the book. It will make them want to buy your next one too.

The snow? Yes, it was snowing that warm spring day in Nevada. But the road I was on paralleled the mountains and although the snow wasn’t falling from a cloudless sky, it was being blown off the mountain tops to the valley below.

Jennie Atkins

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Interview With Catherine West

Today I have the awesome privilege of interviewing my even-more-awesome long-time critique partner, Catherine West.

Educated in Bermuda, England and Canada, Catherine holds a degree in English from the University of Toronto. When she’s not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or tending to her roses and orchids. Catherine and her husband live on the beautiful island of Bermuda, with their two college-aged children. Catherine is a member of Romance Writers of America, and American Christian Fiction Writers, and is a founding member of International Christian Fiction Writers. Catherine’s debut novel, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, released in March 2011 through OakTara Publishers.

Cathy (the blonde in the picture, in case you were wondering...) and I met through the ACFW forums, tried to practice pitching together by instant message (her sarcastic comments during my first attempt were what endeared her to me), and were conference newbies together in 2006. She's represented by the esteemed Rachelle Gardner. Yesterday's Tomorrow is set during the Vietnam War and is gathering quite the collection of 5-star reviews. Yay! But instead of gushing more about my dear friend and writing buddy, I'll just go ahead and let her "speak."

JW: Cathy, you know you are officially a guest of the Ponderers' site, so this question is a must: When you need to ponder, what do you do?

CW: When the words won’t come, I leave the computer and head outside either to play with the dog, do some gardening or go for a walk. I also find watching movies very helpful, provided they’re good! Oh, and reading. A good book definitely gets those creative juices going again.

JW: What would be your dream writing retreat? (Besides any My Book Therapy one, I mean. :-) )

CW: Wow, that’s fun to imagine! Of course I have to say I’d love to go on a writing retreat with my favorite critique partner – her name rhymes with Dennis – you may have heard of her. I’d just love to hang out with other authors, spend time brainstorming and talking about writing. I wouldn’t care where, as long as it wasn’t too cold.

JW: Or maybe we could just all come to you. I'm sure Susie and Rachel would be game. I know I would! Next question: What was your favorite scene to write in Yesterday's Tomorrow?

CW: Ha. Love this question. Hmm. I have so many. :-) I guess if I had to narrow it down, without giving too much away, I’ll say the scene where Luke finally realizes how he feels about Kristin. It’s that moment when all bravado, tough guy exterior and get out of my face gruffness is stripped away and he’s just Luke. Real, honest and totally exposed. You can tell he’s a bit terrified. And she loves it. I also loved writing (and re-writing and re-writing…) the ending.

JW: Ah yes. Good stuff. Although I do like Luke's gruffness. :-) Yesterday’s Tomorrow is filled with vivid descriptions and details of living in Vietnam during that time period. What did you do to research this book?

CW: I did lots of things. First, I compiled a list of books related to the Vietnam War and also journalists who covered the war. I found several that were extremely helpful and I read them over and over again. I was fortunate to be put in touch with a Vietnam veteran who was willing to share things with me, and he was instrumental in helping me get a real sense of place, setting and authenticity for my story. I also spent hours and hours browsing military veteran websites, studying photographs and reading first-hand documentation. To say I lived, slept and breathed Vietnam is a bit of an understatement. When I started dreaming about jumping out of helicopters and dodging sniper fire, I took a break. :-)

JW: Probably a good idea...athough I hope you took notes! Do you think you'd write another book in that same setting--a sequel, maybe? Or during another historical time period?

CW: I’m not really partial to historicals. When the book was first completed, it wasn’t even pitched as an historical, so I found it interesting to see it in that category now that it’s published. I definitely have interest in doing a sequel, but we shall see. :-)

JW: But think of all the cool themed launch parties you could throw! (Note to readers: she had a 60s party for Yesterday's Tomorrow. Great pics, including her husband with bling and a 'fro. Fun stuff. You can find the evidence on facebook.) On a more serious note, what do you want your readers to learn or be reminded of when they finish your book?

CW: I think the biggest takeaway from Yesterday’s Tomorrow is forgiveness, hope and restoration. We may never understand why things happen the way they do, and perhaps we’re not supposed to, but I believe we’re called to forgive, and that often starts with ourselves. Hope is something we all need to survive, and I think it can be found in even the bleakest of situations. And of course, when we forgive, both others and ourselves, we allow God to restore us to wholeness through His unfailing love, grace and mercy.

JW: I love it. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

Everyone, don't miss this unique book! Learn more about it here. Watch the book trailer here. Learn more about Cathy here. Oh, and she's running a contest. Don't miss it!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Wait, I'm not supposed to say "pants?"

Sometimes it's glaringly clear to me that I'm a small-town girl from Iowa.

Like when any non-Midwesterner laughs at me for calling soda “pop.” Or when, in a bigger city, I attempt to smile at a passerby only to get either a) the head-down, averted-eyes reaction or b) the “What're you looking at?” furrowed brow.

But my biggest “Whoa, I really am Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm!” realization took place during my first few days in London, when, as a college junior, I spent a semester studying abroad. From serious street-crossing confusion to trying to figure out their coins to getting scolded for calling my jeans “pants” instead of trousers”...I just didn't fit in at the beginning.

Which wouldn't have been so bad except for the fact that it felt like all the rest of the study abroad students came more prepared than me! Seemed like they'd all packed knowing black is the color in London. In contrast, yeah, pretty sure Rainbow Brite would've approved of my suitcase contents. Others were already throwing around British words like “knackered” and “rubbish.” And was I seriously the only one to halfway hyperventilate when I realized I'd need to master the Underground system?
The Underground...looks confusing, right?!

I felt so...behind.

Many writers, I'm sure, understand that feeling. How easy it is to look at other writers around us and think, “I'm the tortoise, they're the hare and, forget Aesop, the hare is totally gonna win!” We look at the authors who snagged an agent years ago or the ones who seem to have all the connections or, sheesh, how about the ones with the already-recognizable names...and we (okay, I) feel like a cloddish Clydesdale plodding in the dusty wake of a hundred wild stallions.

It's a discouraging feeling, yes.


Can you think of a single Biblical hero or heroine who started out “ahead of the game?” Go ahead, think about it. We've got...

...Noah: a laughingstock among his peers
...Moses: not all that great of a public speaker
...Esther: both parents dead
...David: lowly shepherd
...Joseph: despised by his brother, accused of crimes he didn't commit
...Mary: practically a child, reputation soiled by her pregnancy
...Matthew: not-so-popular tax collector
...Peter: brash and mouthy
...Paul: a murderer of Christians

That list barely scratches the surface of the flawed, “back of the pack” people God chose to work through in Biblical times. And you know what, he'll do the same today through us writers...no matter how far behind we might feel, no matter how we might compare ourselves to others.

It's the simple, crazy truth that God, in his perfect time, is more than capable of giving a great, big push to the ones who need it most.

So whatever finish line you're reaching for – a finished manuscript, interested agent or editor, published book – hang in there. If you're feeling "behind," just remember you're in good company! Besides, if I can learn to say "trousers," anything's possible, right? :)

Melissa Tagg

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sometimes You Have to Want it Badly Enough

With the help of SparkPeople and accountability partners, I’m striving to lose weight. Again. My weight has been a constant battle for the past 15 years . Part of my weight increase stems from health issues, but some comes from liking food and disliking exercise.

Losing weight is more helpful this time because I have a tangible goal—Lakeside Reunion, my debut novel releases this fall. I would like to have a stronger, healthier, and smaller body by my book launch party on November 5.

With SparkPeople and Leslie Sansone’s Walk Away the Pounds, I’m able to stay within my nutritional limits and strengthen my body in a way that doesn’t feel like work. This time, I want it enough to make it happen.

The same goes with writing.

You’ve heard people say “I want to write a book someday.” The difference between those who do and those who don't is writers write.  

Many wanna-be writers have plenty of reasons—lack of time, lack of ability, lack of inspiration.  

Time is tough when you’re juggling family, work, and life, but it can be done. Several years ago, I worked full-time, went to school part-time, cared for my family, and still wrote. It wasn’t easy. I wanted it badly enough so I did it.  

I hosted a My Book Therapy chat last year about Carving Out Writing Time. FlyLady says you can do anything in 15 minutes. One of my favorite writing tools is a downloadable timer. My Book Therapy offers amazing resources to learn the craft of writing. And inspiration is everywhere.

You may be going through challenges in your life right now—job changes, losses of loved ones, health issues. This post isn’t meant to make you feel guilty about not writing. Those stresses make it hard to focus on a fictional happily ever after. Capture those feelings in an emotional journal to use when you do have time to write. You’ll be able to provide a deeper emotional journey for your characters and a stronger reading experience for your audience.

Stretch your writing muscles. If you want to write, find 15 minutes in your day, and write something. Keep at it each day and soon, you'll see the fruits of your labor. 

Your Turn: Are you a writer or someone who plans to write someday? If you’re a writer, how do you write through the tough times? If you’re not writing yet, but want to, what steps do you have in place to get started? How can the MBT Ponderers help you?

Lisa Jordan

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Sole Tree

This tree grows alongside the highway near my home. Yep, it’s growing straight out of a rock formation. I like this little oak that struggled to live and is now thriving. It reminds me of the stories of my heart, and the struggle I have in getting them on paper, like the one I’m working on now—Disappearing Act.

Early on, a few areas of the story were well defined, like the tree. Other elements were like the dark objects in the branches. Unclear, muddled ... blobs

The story was triggered by a news report about a woman with amnesia who finally went to the police after five years. Instantly, I wanted to know why someone would not go to the authorities if they had a total blank about their lives. Disappearing Act was born.

Scenarios popped into my mind. Maybe my heroine woke up and there was a dead man next to her ... with knife in his chest. And, maybe she was holding a satchel of money in her lap. That would tend to make someone not report amnesia. Disappearing Act began to take shape and characters developed.

While the heroine might not understand who she is, I, as the author had to know. I knew that even if she never regained her memory, the core of who she was did not change. What were her values? What was that one thing she wanted, but believed she could never have? What lie did she believe before she lost her memory? Because all characters have lies they believe that tie into their greatest fear.

Slowly, the story and characters came into focus, and I was able to see those parts that were unclear. I’m a long way from being finished, and sometimes Disappearing Act takes unexpected twists and turns.

Like the Sole Tree.

Admit it. You thought those were birds in the tree, too, didn’t you?

How has your WIP taken twists you didn't expect?

Pat Trainum
I asked God to teach me patience and He gave me a book to write

Photo curtesy of students who buy new tennis shoes and fling them up into the little oak. There are now approximately a hundred pair of shoes dangling over the highway.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Writer's Laryngitis: When You Lose Your Voice

I had a bad case of laryngitis last week. Writer's laryngitis, that is. I completely lost my voice. For lack of words, I stalled on my work in progress (WIP).

I evaluated my symptoms. Was I suffering from writer's block? Nope. That's when you stare at the screen and don't know what to write. I had a three-page synopsis to use as a road map, as well as a 50k word rough draft from NaNoWriMo.

Was it writer's fright? No. Writer's fright is akin to stage fright, where you freeze up on your memorized lines. But after the MBT Deep Thinkers Retreat,  I knew my hero's and heroine's Dark Moment, Lies, Inciting Incidents and their Ds (Denial, Disasters and Devastation).

But when it came time to write, nothing. No words.

Words for my novel flowed until author Rachel Hauck, aka Madame Mentor, challenged me to go deeper with my story. Her goal? For me to push past the first layer of my heroine's personality and write a multi-faceted woman, rather than a one brush stroke version.

I like to be challenged. Really. But what stumped me was how to assimilate Rachel's push to write a deeper story while still retaining my voice. For a while, it felt like to do one--go deeper--I'd have to lose the other--my voice.

And that's when writer's laryngitis hit.

There seemed to be a huge chasm between my voice and where I wanted to be as a writer. My attempts to get across the gap strained my voice until one day I had no voice at all. I sat down to write--and produced nary a word.

There's no simple cure for writer's laryngitis. No gargling with salt water. I just stopped writing. When I confessed my struggle to Rachel, her response was: You won't lose your voice as you learn to write a deeper storyYour voice will come through because it's your voice.

I should have known that, right? But sometimes it's easy to lose sight of the simplest truths. Rachel's encouragement was the ultimate cure for my laryngitis. I learned that pushing myself to be a better writer doesn't mean sacrificing voice--but rather refining it.

Share an insight about your writing voice in the comments below for a chance to win a fun AquaNotes pad! It's perfect for those times when the voices start talking to you while you're in the shower!