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, October 31, 2011

An Ode to NaNoWriMo

In honor of 2011 NaNoWriMo -- and a positive sign that, yes, I am just a bit crazy! -- I wrote a NaNo poem.

For your reading pleasure ... or, at the least, for your amusement:

An Ode to NaNoWriMo

Twas the night before NaNo
And all through the house
Not a thing was cooperating
Not even my mouse.
The synopsis was outlined in my head with care
In hopes that my 50k words soon would appear.

My family was nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of hot meals danced in their heads. 
Hubby slept soundly, while I in my sweats
Had just settled down for one last brainstorming attempt.

When from the depths of my weary brain there arose such a clatter
I sprang up from desk to see what was the matter.
Away to the kitchen I flew like a flash
(What? You don't go for munchies when you're doing the "stressed out" dash?)

The light in the kitchen cast a soft glow
As I started the coffee and dug out the chocolate stash hidden below.
When what to my sleep-deprived eyes should appear
But a dark figure with an ominous leer.
With a long leather whip and a threatening mutter
I knew in a moment it must be my dreaded Internal Editor.

More vicious than hailstones, his accusations they came
And "Ed" howled and he shouted, and he called me awful names!

"You failure! You loser! Now why are you trying?
Oh, misspeller! Plagiarizer! Why don't you quit?
To the top of the waste basket! To the bottom of the recycle bin!
You've wasted your plotting! Delete every word of it -- delete it all now!"

As plots before a critique group wither and die
When they meet with an overzealous crit partner's laser-like eye,
So all my characters and subplots and climaxes crumbled
With a shove of the Internal Editor's hand -- sending them all a-tumble.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard with relief,
The hemming and hawing of my hesitant belief.
I threw back my head, looking Ed in the eye,
"I can do this," I said, "one word at a time!"

Yes, I was dressed all in sweats, from my head to my feet.
I'd ignored my poor family, my desk was a mess.
But I was a writer -- a NaNoWriMoer, no less.
And I would write 50k words this November by doing my best.

Ed's red eyes, how they glared. His gnarled hands how they fisted.
His feet, how he stomped. His voice, how he blustered!
His nasty mouth spit out one last warning:
"Touch the DELETE key once and you won't last until morning!"

His leather whip he held tight in his hand
And smoke circled his head like a wreath.
He had a thesaurus and a Webster's dictionary
That he shook as he snarled and sat down beside me.

He was gloomy and griping, a right cantankerous old guy,
But I laughed when I saw Ed, in spite of myself.
A taste of my chocolate and a sip of my brew
Soon gave me to know there was nothing Ed could do.

He spoke not a word as I went straight to my work.
Filling the page with, well, less than my best, to be honest.
But I stuck cotton in my ears and ignored ol' Ed
Forward motion is my goal -- not perfection.

He sprang to his feet, gave a last harmless growl
Stomped out of my office and off down the hall.
But I heard him exclaim as he disappeared from my sight:
"You NaNoWriMoers are crazy! You can have your lousy first draft! Good night!"

Storycrafters 1, 2 and 3: The Ride of My Life

2009 Storycrafters Retreat (Lisa Jordan is missing from this photo)

I'm still pondering how Storycrafters 2009 changed my life.

Susan May Warren asked attendees to pray before arriving for her first seminar of its kind. Boy, did our prayers get answered as those days inspired us. At the end, we exchanged contact information that spanned the country. To my shock, before inspiration faded, we found ourselves joined at the hip as we relentlessly fanned each others' writing sparks into a steady flame.

We walked into that seminar room room as strangers. We left and became so connected that our closeness inspired a blogging group named for Susie Warren's least favorite word: the Ponderers.

There have been two Storycrafters retreats since then. I didn't expect to return, but my home is only 21 miles from the annual location. When several of the original Ponderers returned, I couldn't stay away. After all, each new retreat means a chance to plot a new book, right? Right!

Nor was I attending this year. Instead, I was saving for the 2012 Deep Thinkers Retreat in Florida, as any right-minded Minnesotan would. But same song, second verse. I'm still only 21 miles away, as close as the proverbial moth to a flame -- except this flame is constructive, not destructive.

Let me share a story with you: At age 10, after hearing tales of big kids braving the terrifying 39th Street Hill, and hating to be afraid of anything, I inched my bike closer and closer to the brink of the town's steepest hill until ... one day I went so far that pumping my brakes wouldn't stop me. I began the most hair-raising ride of my life, nearly losing the outside edge of the big clover-leaf curve linking that street to the six-lane highway rolling north to Seattle, above the steep ravine where a dead man had been found months before. Had he sailed over the edge? My wobbly bike -- and wobbly me -- finally stopped on the shoulder. I walked the bike to a safer road.

This month was Storycrafters time once again. Once more I couldn't stay away. As a 2011 Genesis finalist now, I attended and plotted a new book that gelled only days before. I wouldn't dare return to this "hill" without the loving encouragement of the Ponderers group birthed two years ago at the inaugural Storycrafters. They've even changed my name from Delores (sorrow, pain) to Dee -- more like a bubbling brook.

How about you? Are you pondering and ready for amazing change? Who helps you accomplish change in your life?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ponderer in Print! Interview with Lisa Jordan

With the official launch of our very own Ponderer, Lisa Jordan's first novel release only days away, I stole her away for a moment to get her thoughts. It's been quite a journey for Lisa to go from dream to her book being available on Amazon.com. Here's a look at her experience:

1) Now that you're seeing your first book on Amazon.com, how does that make you feel?

With Lakeside Reunion releasing on Amazon and days from the official release date, I feel like a bride-to-be counting down the days to her wedding. I’ve dreamed of this for so long, and now it’s finally becoming a reality. I’m also humbled that God would use little ole me to touch readers’ hearts.

2) Regarding the period from contract to publication, what are some of the challenges you faced?

Not having a housekeeper or personal chef meant I had to pull myself away from writing to clean my house and cook for my family. Do they really need clean towels or food? Really, though, it’s been a juggling act—my full-time job as in-home childcare provider, church obligations, MBT responsibilities, writing—promoting book 1, revising book 2 and plotting book 3—and staying caught up on what Gibbs and the team are up to on NCIS.

3) How did you overcome those things?

I’m a List Maker (Blessed are the list makers for they shall organize the earth). I have a daily to-do list that I sometimes ignore, but for the most part prioritize what needs to be done. I use stolen moments during the day to do social networking, small household tasks, and then spend a couple of hours each evening after dinner to work on my current WIP.

4) Now that you've published your first novel, what's next for you?

Last week, I signed the contract for my second novel, Lakeside Family that will be released in August 2012 by Love Inspired. I’m finishing those revisions, and then I will begin plotting my third novel so I can write the rough draft during NaNoWriMo.

5) What words of wisdom would you like to share with those writers who would like to see their novels on Amazon.com?

Stay focused on your end goal by learning the craft and don’t be in a hurry to get published. Take time to learn your strengths and weaknesses. Find your voice—don’t try to copy other authors. And most importantly, give it all up to God. He knows the desires of your heart and will order your steps.

We are very proud of you, Lisa, and wish you well on your release.

Reba J. Hoffman

Lisa's Bio: Heart, home and faith have always been important to Lisa Jordan, so writing stories that feature both comes naturally to her. She has been writing contemporary Christian romance for more than a decade. Her debut novel, Lakeside Reunion, will be released in November by Love Inspired. Her second novel, Lakeside Family, will be released in August 2012 by Love Inspired. Happily married for over twenty years, Lisa and her husband have two young adult sons. When she isn’t writing or caring for children in her in-home childcare business, Lisa enjoys family time, romantic comedies, good books, crafting with friends and feeding her NCIS addiction. Connect with Lisa on Twitter, Like her on Facebook and sign up for her newsletter on her Website.

Don't Miss: Lisa is holding a scavenger hunt and lakeside photo contest to promote her Lakeside Reunion release. Visit her Lakeside Reunion Contest page for more information. *Please note the Scavenger Hunt form has been updated to include more bloggers.
The token for this blog is a duck.

Back cover copy: Bed-and-breakfast owner Lindsey Porter prays she won’t run into Stephen Chase when she returns to Shelby Lake. Five years ago, the cop jilted her to marry another woman, and Lindsey fled town. But no sooner does she hit city limits than Stephen pulls her over for a broken taillight. Despite the past, he’s still able to stir up Lindsey’s old feelings for him. Now a widower and single dad, Stephen recognizes a second chance when he sees one. And he’ll do anything to make Lindsey trust in God and take a risk for love—again. Read an excerpt of Lakeside Reunion

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Book Review (and Contest): Baby, It's Cold Outside by Susan May Warren

What's not to love about a book that has a little bit of everything?

And, oh yeah. Best-selling author Susan May Warren's trademark engaging storytelling. 

I've already handed my copy of Baby, It's Cold Outside off to one of my friends. I'm willing to share a bit early Christmas cheer! And I also was intrigued by the different characters -- especially Violet, who dared to be herself and go against the "traditional" life expected of women back in the 1940s.Violet has her reasons for choosing to serve in the Women's Army Air Corps (WAAC). The question is: What will Violet's choice cost her?

So what's Baby, It's Cold Outside about?

Hope finds the hopeless when a storm hits.

It's Christmas weekend 1949, and despite the threat of a storm, the townspeople of Frost are determined to continue their holiday traditions, if only as a means to forget the war that they had all just suffered through. But the suffering hasn't ended for Dottie Morgan, who lost her only son in the war. She's preparing to wallow in her isolation for the weekend, when Violet, nearly a spinster at age 29, dares to make a request that will force Dottie to publicly revive the memory of her dead son.

When a storm traps the two women at home with a strange young man who has an unbelievable confession and a neighbor with more to do with Violet's past than she would like, no one can predict how this Christmas will give them all a second chance.

Read an excerpt here and find out the story behind the novel.

CONTEST INFO: Baby, It’s Cold Outside – warm up with a Kindle Fire from Susan May Warren

Warm up to Christmas early this year with Susan May Warren's Baby, It's Cold Outside! To celebrate the release of her new Christmas book with Summerside Press, she and the publisher are giving away a Kindle Fire and hosting an early Christmas Party on Facebook!

Read what the reviewers are saying here.

One festive winner will receive:

  • A brand new Kindle Fire
  • Baby, It's Cold Outside by Susan May Warren
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. Giveaway ends on 10/26!

But, wait there’s more! Join Susan May Warren on 10/27 for merriment and a few early Christmas presents at her Baby, It's Cold Outside Christmas party! Grab your Christmas sweaters, socks and pj’s and join Susan and a few friends for a fireside chat about her recent books (Heiress & Baby, It’s Cold Outside), holiday traditions, favorite Christmas recipes, a trivia contest and more! Invite your friends and don’t miss the fun!

RSVP here and we'll see you on October 27th at 5 PM PST / 8 PM EST!

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Monday, October 24, 2011

Scared of the unwritten word

I'm not generally a fearful person. Snakes don't bother me, and if I see a spider I simply kindly request that Charlotte find a new home...in the toilet. Heights don't freak me out too much as long as I'm standing on something firm – like, say, a mountain – and I don't even mind speaking in front of a crowd.

Rats, sushi and bungee-jumping do sorta creep me out, but they're easily avoided.

My to-be-written second book, though? Oh, the fright! We're talking newest-orphan-in-Miss-Hannigan's-orphanage terrified.

Each time I try to sit down to work on my new WIP, my fears multiply like a whiz kid in grade school practicing his times tables. I'm scared my characters lack depth. I'm scared I've got a tired, overdone plot. I'm scared my voice is lost underneath clunky scenes and clumsy storytelling.

In this state of fear, I've recently turned to my faithful standby: procrastination. 

You know, procrastination can actually prove to be quite productive. In recent weeks I've reorganized the items in my walk-in closet by season, color and frequency of use. I've tried out my new Stir Crazy popcorn popper (thanks, Mom and Dad) and enjoyed every buttery, salty kernel while delighting in my new Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers dvd set. I've sat down with all my bills and my checkbook and attempted to rethink my budget. (Keyword, attempted. Remind me to marry a man with financial savvy.) Ooh, and I've even pulled out a business card from a local dentist's office and considered scheduling an appointment. (Note: I considered it. Didn't actually do it. Dentists bring out the “Waahh, do I hafta?” in me.)

All this...but I just can't face that blank screen.

I'm scared. At the root of that fear, I'm certain, is worry that I just plain can't do it...can't write this book.

Thankfully, the Bible has something to say about that: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” - 2 Timothy 1:7.

Fear – except for the reverent kind we're supposed to have toward God – never comes from God. Instead, He's given us power – which I think is often displayed through our talents; love – which is the essential ingredient in every single worthwhile pursuit; and self-discipline – something a determined writer can't be without. I may not feel brave in the face of a new story, but I can feel confidant that God will never, ever abandon me in this writing journey.

So, well, I can organize my cupboards or scrub the bathtub or veg out to another classic film...or I can take Timothy's encouragement to heart and write. 

I bet I'm not the only one who struggles with fear of the unwritten word. How do you overcome the blank screen terror?

Melissa Tagg

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Countdown is On...

To the ACFW 2012 Conference in Dallas, Texas? Don’t be silly! (Although, it’s 335 days away. You know, in case you were wondering.)

The countdown is on for NaNoWriMo 2012!! The NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth begins at midnight on November 1st. So, if you’re planning to join the roughly 200,000 people writing a novel (defined as at least 50,000 words that string together in a somewhat cohesive story) in November, you’d better grab your chocolate, stock up on caffeinated drinks, and fill the freezer with meals for your family because you now have less than eleven days.

My October 2010 blog post details NaNoWriMo (as does Lisa Jordan’s) and all the reasons to write a novel in 30 days. In addition, visit the new and improved official NaNoWriMo website for a plethora of fabulous information.  The rules are simple; you can spend hours, days, or even years researching your novel, but you cannot begin work on the 50K brand new words (in your brand new WIP) until 12:00:00 am on 11.01.11. Fun, yes?

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo since 2008. I’ve always gone into it as a Pantser, with rather mixed results. This year I am going to try something new. This year I’m going into November with a Buddy. MBT's The Book Buddy, that is.

This year, I am spending October pondering my story with Charles Dickens. Yes, I named The Book Buddy…doesn’t everyone? Chuck, as I like to call him, is helping me sketch out a plan for my story in hopes that the time I spend churning out 50K words in November will produce something useful. Trust me; nothing I’ve written in my previous three NaNoWriMo adventures has been worth keeping. 

Chuck’s first 30 pages help me brainstorm my story and flesh out my characters. Chuck’s questions allow me to see my protagonist’s journey while discovering the villain, subplots, and layering along the way. The next 20 pages focus on each of my three acts, with several pages devoted to getting my inciting incident just right. The appendix of The Book Buddy is packed with worksheets designed to help me plan as much (or as little) as I like/want/need.

Finally, when I surface in December with a completed first draft, I can come back to Chuck for help improving the POV, dialogue, Storyworld, emotional layering, and word painting. He will even walk me through writing a stunning synopsis, a perfect premise, and the quintessential query letter. 

Obviously Chuck doesn’t actually speak, which is probably a good thing since it means he can’t sidetrack me with talk of Beyonce’s baby bump or last night’s episode of The Mentalist. He does his best to keep me on the pathway to victory. When he is silent, the 2011 MBT WriMo is available for interaction with actual human writers. I hope you’ll join us for fellowship, writing tips, daily encouragement, weekly devotionals and, of course, fabulous prizes. (Including a brand new 3G Kindle Touch!!!)

Here's the best part: if you sign up for NaNoWriMo and then post on the MBT Voices NaNoWriMo forum, you will be given a link to purchase The Book Buddy at a special discounted rate offered only to NaNoWriMo participants. I know, right?!

Even if you are already knee-deep in your current WIP, please join us at MBT for MyWriMo! Sign up as a “Personal Goals Participant” in the forum and enjoy fun and accountability as you work toward whatever personal goal you choose. (Not to mention, special personal goals prizes!)

To kick off the NaNoWriMo prize party, The Ponderers will give away a copy of Susan May Warren’s The Book Buddy to one lucky winner. To be entered, leave us a comment with your November writing goals and what we can do to help you reach them between now and Monday (24th) at 6 pm PST. (*Naming your Buddy is optional.)

One last thing: I’ve included recipes with my last two blog posts because I love food. So, in honor of The Book Buddy (and his/my love of chocolate) I decided to include the recipe for a yummy NaNoWriMo-appropriate treat. Enjoy!

9 cups Corn Chex®, Rice Chex®, Wheat Chex® or Chocolate Chex® cereal (or combination)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1.  Into large bowl, measure cereal; set aside.

2.  In 1-quart microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter uncovered on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 30 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Pour into 2-gallon reseal-able food-storage plastic bag.

3. Add powdered sugar. Seal bag; shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container in refrigerator. 

Makes 18 servings. What? Who are we kidding? This maybe makes 6 or 7 servings.

~Heidi Larson Geis

***BY THE WAY:  The winner of last week's drawing for Jenny B. Jones' latest book, There You'll Find Me, is . . . (drumroll) . . . SKY!  Sky, your TBR pile just got a little less meager!! Please email your mailing address to melissatagg@yahoo.com and she'll send you the book pronto. Congratulations, and thanks to everyone who commented!***

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pondering packaging...and ketchup

This month I’ve been pondering packaging – where my new story idea fits in Susie May Warren’s list of six basic plots I learned about at the premiere Storycrafter’s Retreat:

Overcoming the monster: Hero on behalf of a greater good sets out to take on and slay some evil, deadly foe.

Rags to riches: Someone faces external obstacles of society or personal opposition, and the story ends with her finding the real “riches” within herself, and in the end, getting her dreams.

The great quest: The story’s about the journey, the friends made along the journey and how they band together to accomplish a task, win the treasure or the war.

Home again, home again: Stories about people leaving the world they know, being changed by the experience, and then taking those changes home and adapting them to their world.

Beast to beauty: About a person forces to go into a “prison” of some kind. They are finally redeemed by either an outside liberator, or by personal enlightenment.

A tragedy is a takeoff of this without the happy ending, the dream turns into a nightmare and they are destroyed.

See the light: the stories about people who are forced to re-examine who they are, or are in the middle of a misunderstanding, and they must find a new perspective to come through it and see the light.

How is it possible that all the stories ever written can basically be boiled down to six different categories and still be interesting?


I got a gift from a fellow ketchup lover this week. It’s little travel packets of ketchup, but instead of being the itty bitty squeeze packs you get at fast food restaurants, this packet is 3x as big, with the option to squeeze the ketchup out, or peel the top and dip your nuggets. Genius. Really. Why didn’t I invent this?

Yet, it’s still just ketchup.

This got me pondering…how can I package my story idea to make it unique and memorable, even though it will still fall into one of the six basic plots outlined above?

How about you, where does your plot fall? What makes it unique?

Happy pondering,


Monday, October 17, 2011

Guerrilla Marketing

Gone are the days when writers can crank out great novels and sit back on their laurels reaping huge royalty statements.

What? Huge royalty statements are mostly a figment of vivid imaginations? It figures. A published author once told me never divide a royalty statement by the number of hours put into a manuscript. Too depressing to see what you really earn per hour. In fact, the more you learn about the publishing industry, the more you understand what Gene Fowler wrote: "Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." (Read here for the fascinating metamorphosis of that quote.)

But bleeding your life's blood onto your paper--or computer screen--isn't enough. (And don't drip on your Mac or PC.) Once you're fortunate enough to get your baby published, you've got to market the little darling. In other words, you've got to find readers who you hope will pay full price, not find it on eBay. At a discount. Two days before it hits the stores. Like an author did.

According to my good friend Wiki (online encyclopedia Wikipedia), guerrilla marketing was created as an "unconventional system of promotions that relies on time, energy and imagination rather than on a big marketing budget."

Well, that last phrase is certainly good news for writers. Because after that not-huge-at-all royalty statement, who has a lot of money for marketing? Yet it must be done because if you don't market your book, chances are no one will. Publishers today don't have much of a budget to promote your book until you have a large platform. (Translation: number of readers.) Yeah, a Catch-22.

What's needed is a great book on the complexities of marketing just for authors like Guerrilla Marketing for Writers 100 No-Cost, Low-Cost Weapons for Selling Your Work by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman, Michael Larsen and David L. Hancock.

An endorsement for the book says:
"As a veteran author myself and president of a PR firm specializing in author promotion, we know what it takes to promote a book. Every author on the planet should read Guerrilla Marketing for Writers and devour every word. In this age of lightning-strike attention spans, this book will keep you glued to every page. If you write a book, be sure to read this one first."
--Robyn Spizman, president of the Spizman Agency and author of more than sixty how-to books.

If that doesn't have your fingers skipping over to Amazon right now--Wait! Not this second, please. After you're finished reading this post--I don't know what else will convince you that you need this book. Seriously, stop shoving this part of your career into the back of a closet like those size 8 jeans you still dream of wearing one day. So while you're trying to write and publish the best books you possibly can, don't forget to add some of the 100 guerrilla weapons to your marketing arsenal. In doing so, you'll gain readers by marketing your book as diligently as you wrote it.

~Roxanne Sherwood

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pondering The Write Technology

Technology. Ugh!

My move to Nevada has put me into the black hole of Internet access. Ugh!

I live just outside of Carson City. In fact, the only thing dividing me from the actual city limits is a mountain. You’d think I moved into either the middle of the Bonneville Salt Flats or some third world country! My only option? Get a new cell phone with wireless access.

Now the fun begins!

Is that what you call it? Really? Who would have thought twenty years ago that our phones could take pictures, send emails, and clean our house? Oh, it doesn’t clean our house? Bummer. Well, give it time.

Technology is growing at an unheard pace. If we could track its velocity in miles per hour, it would rival the land speed record or maybe break the sound barrier!

Everyday a new software application is developed. (I’m still hoping for the one that cleans my house.) You can find apps to help you balance your checkbook, find your car in a parking lot, and burn fat. Although its guaranteed, I highly question the last one. (You set your phone on your tummy while you watch TV and it causes you to flex your stomach muscles.) Somehow I don’t think it’s going to turn me into Demi Moore. Personally, I’d rather flex my muscles by hauling a bag of books to the beach. But even that has succumbed to the invasion of technology. My cherished novels have been reduced to specks on a silicon chip.

Change is also affecting hardware, you know the pieces parts that make up your computer. Every year hardware is created at a fraction of the size of its predecessor. When I started my career in Information Technology, computers had a room number. Now, the memory that those machines used can be held on the tip of your finger.

The hardest part is keeping up with it all. As writers, we are not geeks. Our speech isn’t dotted with computer acronyms or works like ram, gigabytes, or nanoseconds, but we use computers daily. Some of us, me included, find it hard to keep up with the changes to our favorite software programs. Who didn’t spend time looking for their favorite options in Word when Microsoft moved everything to the toolbar at the top and categorized them? Very few.

The next generation is already growing up knowing more than us because of the vast resources at their fingertips. And who would have thought that networking would be reduced to entries in Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn?

Our world is changing. Gone is the handwritten note, the manuscript punched out on a Royal typewriter, and our memories! I should say my memory. I could once recite everyone’s phone number by heart. Now I remember very few. All because they are stored in the memory of my phone. But computers are here to stay. They are in our cars, our phones, our refrigerators and our lives.

So why am I pondering this now? Starting in January's MBT Ezine, I will be heading up a technical column called The Write Technology. My vision is to talk about the things that writers struggle with when it comes to their computers and associated software. I'd like to show you tips and tricks, review writing software, and have a periodic grab bag of questions.

So to start me off, what question(s) do you have when it comes to computers? What areas would you like to see addressed? How would this column benefit you the most? What subjects would you like to see covered? If you don't have anything at this moment, but think of something later, you can always send your questions to me at the email address below.
Happy computing everyone!

Jennie Atkins

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pondering the Dog That Ate My Homework (and Other Themes)

It’s almost one a.m. I’m sitting in a dark house, huddled over my laptop, unable to sleep, thanks to the caffeine from my late-night Sobe indulgence and a Christmas brainstorming session that won’t take a break. Oh, and the little fact that between the aforementioned brainstorming session and an evening cleaning job, I forgot to prepare my blog post for today. Can I blame it on the dog, too?

Oh wait. I don’t have one.

So…here I am. Pondering what to ponder and wondering if I’ll be breaking some hidden Ponderer guideline if I don’t get this done in time. Will I get booted from the club? I was late to the party, anyway--not meeting my fellow Ponderers until the second My Book Therapy retreat. And what about my conference flubs? Last month at ACFW, I was too tired to hang out some nights. Didn’t express my feelings well on a somewhat controversial topic. Got a little defensive when I couldn’t even stutter out a practice pitch and everyone else had just come through Susie’s fantastic Pitch and Promote workshop.

So here I am, wondering if this is the last straw. Do they still want me? Maybe they’ll finally really take a look at all my failings and imperfections. And then they’ll figure it out—that I’m not meant to be a Ponderer.

That no matter how hard I try…I’m not good enough. I’ll never be worth it.

You ever feel like that? Maybe, maybe not. But I know others who have. Cole. Jake. Sari. Lizzy. All characters from my novels. Oh, their struggles are so different from mine, so much more serious. But in the end, it seems to all boil down to this…


We don’t deserve it. We can’t earn it. But Jesus is there, holding out His nail-scarred hands, wanting to give us this amazing gift. Unmerited favor. Unconditional love. There, for the taking.

Someone once told me that if a preacher frequently chooses the same topic to preach on, maybe he’s the one in need of the message. So tell me, is there a common theme that keeps popping up in your stories? Take a look and see if God is trying to remind you of something.

P. S. Thanks, Ponderers, for being gracious. And for indulging a little bit of melodrama. I tend to get that way after midnight. :-)

~ Jenness Walker

Monday, October 10, 2011

Interview with one of fiction's funniest: Jenny B. Jones

When I'm a fan of something or someone, I'm a fan. Like Punky Brewster and her pigtails, when I latch on, I latch on tight. And I'm pretty sure I knew from the first page of the first Jenny B. Jones novel I ever picked up, I'd found something to add to my faves list. Both her YA and adult novels blend seriously funny with seriously poignant...and I can't get enough. 

So when I had the chance to meet Jenny B. Jones at the recent ACFW conference, I was a tad --fine, ridiculously--excited. And I'm thrilled she's joining us today. Her latest novel, There You'll Find Me, released this month from Thomas Nelson. So check out her interview and make sure to read to the end for a giveaway!

1) Okay, so I just finished There You'll Find Me and loved it! I love the hilarity in your books, but also the depth of your characters. How do you balance funny and serious--do you have to work at it or does it come naturally?

First of all, thank you. I really appreciate the kind words--I don't take that lightly. Especially for a book that's not my usual fare.

It is a balance--the humor with the serious. And I think it comes from my own gut and personality. I can't handle too much serious and heavy in my own world, so when I'm creating it fiction-wise, and I've taken the characters down in that dark place, I've got to pull them back up with some light. There always has to be hope and light, and usually in the form of humor. I want all my books to be entertaining. Not depressing.

2) TYFM is set in Ireland, and I believe in your Acknowledgements you mention you visited Ireland. Do you have a fun/funny travel story or favorite moment from your visit?

Unfortunately I don't have funny stories from Ireland. I think I posted some funny pics from the trip maybe on my blog back in the day. (search Ireland, I guess.) This isn't funny really, but when you travel international or incur a big time change, you want to not go to sleep as soon as you arrive at your international destination, if it's still day. For example, we left America early on a Tuesday morning. We arrived in Ireland the next day in the morning. We hadn't slept. We looked awful. But to synchronize your body and internal clock so you're not wasted the whole trip, you can't go to sleep--nothing more than a wee nap, anyway. So we arrive at our first B and B in the afternoon. And we've been up almost two days straight. It's too early for the family to let us check in, so we just slept in their driveway for a few hours in a car no bigger than a roller skate. Having to wake up from that nap was one of the most painful experiences ever. I could've just laid there and bawled.

But what stuck out the most about the trip was the incredible kindness and hospitality of the Irish. Living in the South, I see kind and hospitable, but the Irish are just in another league. And oh, the accent. I could listen to that all day. While the town of Abbeyglen in the book is fictional, all of the landmarks are real.

3) TYFM is the YA follow-up to your contemporary adult novel Save the Date. Did you know as you were writing Save the Date you'd be writing Finley's story next? Can you give us a glimpse of your story-crafting process?

Jenny B. Jones (left) with Gina Conroy and someone who's pretty
popular around here, Susan May Warren. :)

I'm a seat of the pants writer, so I didn't plan on a Finley in Save the Date. But by the middle of the book, I kept thinking, "My next book is a YA. Why not let Finley have her story?" It was kind of hard to do for There You'll Find Me because it set a lot of ground rules for the story--things I couldn't change. Finley had a bratty past. Finley had grief. Finley had grief she hadn't really dealt with.

As far as story crafting for most books, it usually starts with ideas for characters. Then pieces of dialogue. It rarely comes to me in these visions of a complete plot. I wish.

4) I loooove both your YA and adult novels. What are some of the biggest differences in writing YA versus adult (assuming there are some!)? Is one harder/easier?
Thank you. : )

There's less of a difference than you'd think. The 30-year-old heroine still has drama, still can't figure out boys, and endures the occasional bad hair day. She just has a later curfew. And maybe a house payment.

5) Shucks, I just turned 30. I thought the bad hair days might be over. Okay, so in TYFM, Beckett Rush is an actor in vampire movies. Are you a Twilight fan? And if so, I have to ask: Team Jacob or Team Edward? (Personal confession: I've not cracked open a Twilight novel nor gone to any of the movies...and yet, I'm very firmly in the Team Jacob camp. Mostly 'cause if I have to choose between excessive hair or pale, sparkly skin and the possibility that the dude would bite me, well, hair wins. )

I have read the Twilight series. I really liked the first book. But as for Team Jacob or Team Edward...I'm Team Potter. A guy who can use his brain, make good friends, and care about his reputation AND the fate of the world? That's a standup dude.

...5b) Slightly more serious, who are some of your author faves or books on your TBR list?

Proof that I did in fact
meet Jenny B. Jones!
Oh, gosh, my TBR list is ridiculous. My TBR pile is ridiculous. I have One Day by David Nicholls that's been sitting by my bed for about six months. I just finished Wonderstruck by the fabulous, amazing, incredible author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a YA, but a must-read for anyone with a pulse and a heart. I have had Jennifer Donnelly's Revolution on my table for the better part of a year. A Beth Moore book. I'm really good at buying books and not reading them. I read mostly general market fiction, but some Christian fiction authors I enjoy are Christa Allan, Rachel Hauck, Kristin Billerbeck, Nicole O'Dell, Cara Putman, Ronie Kendig, Robin Miller, Marybeth Whalen, Susan May Warren, Susan Meissner. I could go on all day with that. How about you?

6) [Pause. Searching Amazon.com for The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Impulse buying.] I love it when you share bits of your students' brilliance on your blog! As a teacher and a writer, do you have any tips for those of us who are balancing jobs and the writing thing?

Hire a cleaning service.

Use your crockpot.

Win the lottery.

8) Your website "About Me" bio includes a few fun facts...but you stop at the letter "F." Can you give us G, H, I? (Another confession: I had to sing the alphabet in order to type that question...)

That's totally me. Whenever I open a dictionary, I completely lose all sense of alphabet.

G. I hate coffee.

H. My favorite genre to read is historical romance.

I. I think there is something biologically whacked about me in that I'm incapable of keeping fingernail polish on. One hour WITH all those fancy top coats and junk--still chipped off. And it's not because I'm doing manual labor. . .

Thanks so much for joining us today! Okay, so I promised a giveaway. Here we go...I'll draw a name from the comments section for a copy of There You'll Find Me. All you have to do? Answer the question Jenny asked above - what's in your TBR pile? Or, ask a question for Jenny (she's available later in the day to respond to questions). The contest lasts through this Friday, October 14, at 5 p.m., and the winner will be announced next Monday.

Melissa Tagg