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, July 30, 2012

Dancing In The Rain

Hi!  This is Alena Tauriainen

Recently I was getting ready for a double party for my children.  We built our house and I’ve been s-l-o-w-l-y decorating. 

With the party coming up, all those pictures I bought but never hung?  They got hung. 

One of the art pieces had this quote by Vivian Greene.

“Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass...It's about learning to dance in the rain.”
Like you, I want the storm to pass and pass quickly.  I also want to be at peace during the storm. 

Wow!  If I can learn to dance in the middle of the storm, how awesome would that be?

You know what dancing in the storm says? 

I trust God.

How freeing is that?
Have you read Proverbs 3:5 in the Amplified version?  Just in case you haven’t here it is.

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.

I love when it says, “and be confident in the Lord”.

It doesn’t matter how you phrase it, whether it’s putting your trust in, being confident in or learning to dance in the rain, it still boils down to the same thing…having faith in God.   

How about you, are you dancing in the rain?

Friday, July 27, 2012

My Secret Weapons and Gadgets

I admit it, I have secret weapons.

Every writer does. We have gadgets and new fangled things that help us make writing more productive, accurate and hopefully easier.

Here are six of my most used and favorite resources:

And no, it's not the thesaurus or dictionary. Although  the link should take you to a pretty good one online.

Check your story’s date. Chances are, you’re writing either in the past or future, but not in the right now. In order to keep the timeline of your story in order, you need to keep documentation. That’s where your calendar comes in. You can go to several websites where you plug in the year your story is written in and then you can print out the entire year calendar. I recommend printing out one month per page like an actual calendar. Write in the spaces what each character did and when. Even if it never makes it into the story.  

You can also print out calendars that will tell you when the full moons and new moons are as well as sunrise and sunset for that time of year. This lends a bit more authenticity to your tale. Especially for you historical writers out there.

What about the area where your story takes place. Does it really have hills or is it flat?

Google Earth is a free gadget that uses current (within 3 years) satellite photos. Be careful with this one. Some bodies of water or other landmarks did not come into being until the 20th century so you still need to do your homework on historical sites for that city and state.

  I got this tip from writer DiAnne Mills when she wrote her Leather and Lace historical romance. All kinds of info can be gleaned from this source and if your library does not carry it and you like to write historicals, you can pick up a set for around $200 on E-bay for a 26 volume set.

I have a site I use to calculate what something was worth then compared to now and vice versa. It helps when you're trying to figure out how much your hero would have paid for that ring back in 1855. Or how much that horse would be worth by today's standards.

5. Civil War Archives
I write historicals and for that authentic feel, I like to browse letters of soldiers so I can get a feel for the language of the times, as well as movement of troops etc. There's a lot of info here that good people took thousands of hours to document.

6. Words of the Times
No matter what timeline you write in, chances are you want to put expressions into the character's mouth that by etymology research, they could not have said. At least in that way. A good Etymology source should be open on your desktop at all times for quick reference. Why? Because like other kinds of research, we have some pretty smart readers out there who will know.

Okay, I've given you my top 6 now what's yours?

ginger r. takamiya

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sisterhood of Friendship

Lisa JordanI have a friend I've known for 40 years. I met her when I was about three years old, but I don't remember our first meeting. I do, however, remember how she impacted my life. 

Our birthdays are two days apart, so we shared parties when we were younger. We had similar interests like playing with our Barbies. We had our differences--she doesn't mind snakes while I'm freaked out by them. Some of our fondest memories are spending so much time at my grandparents' farm down the road from my home.

As we grew older, we created our own circles of friends, but continued to remain close. I cried when she got engaged on my birthday and rejoiced with news of her first pregnancy. She knows some of my darkest secrets, spent time in the pit with me, and extended a hand of grace to help me out. And still loves me. My friend has grieved with me, fought with me, laughed with me and rejoiced with me. She understands me like no one else does.

My friend is my sister Lynn. 

Lynn and I look nothing alike. She's petite with dark hair while I'm curvy with lighter hair. During the summer, she browns like a biscuit. I sizzle like bacon. 

Despite our physical differences, we have many commonalities. We value faith, family and the importance of being a voice for those who can't speak for themselves. 

Lynn is one of the greatest women I know. Not just because we're related, but because of who she is. 

She is an amazing mother. Fifteen years ago, God blessed our family with Lilly, my precious niece who has special needs. Lynn's world revolves around her daughter and ensuring Lilly has the best care and education. She refuses to settle. 

Her petite frame possesses a crusader's heart. When her teaching position was eliminated last year due to budget cuts in our district, she sobbed--not for her job, but for the kids who could potentially fall between the cracks...those whose voices may not have had an opportunity to be heard. Thank God, she remains in the same school, but in a more permanent classroom. Her students adore her because she listens and makes them feel important. 

She is a woman of God who embraces her role to be the salt and the light in dark places. She empowers others to live up to their potential. She mentors women, young and older, to accept the gift of God's grace unconditionally. 

When God opened the door to my publishing career, Lynn was one of the first I told. She squealed with me, cried while reading my novels and continues to support my dream. 

After writing LakesideFamily, I told Lynn I had dedicated the book to Lilly, my niece. I didn't tell Lynn I had dedicated it to her also. She is my hero. When I grow up, I want to be like her. 

Sisters function as safety nets in a chaotic world simply by being there for each other. ~Carol Saline

Your turn: Do you have a sibling who is also a close friend? If you don't have a sister, do you have a friend whose bond is like that of a sister? How does your friendship bring out the best in you?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Scary Prayers and Patience...Again.

Note: Melissa here, and I've got a minor confession. Nothing Judge Judy would balk at, but a confession, all the same. This blog entry is a re-post of one originally published in October 2010. And I'm re-posting it because, I'm sorry, two years later, I'm still wrestling with that pesky patience thing. Maybe, just maybe, I'm not alone...

There are some things one just doesn’t want to pray for. And by “one” I mean “me.”

Like humility. Seriously, I worry that the moment I pray for a spirit of humility, I’ll:

a) plop spaghetti all over the one nice white shirt I own (yes, it’s happened); 
b) send an email with a blush-inducing typo (yes, it’s happened);
c) accidentally wear my fuzzy slippers to work (uh, it's almost happened).

Or self-control. Really, the day I pray for self-control will probably be the same day a coworker brings a plate of double-fudge brownies to work. And I, convicted by my own prayer, will have to say no. Oh, the pain.

Or patience.

Ahh, now that’s a biggie. 'Cause what better way for God to teach me patience than to make me wait. Grr. 

Patience is a huge part of a writer’s life—whether we like it or not. And mostly, I’m of the “not” persuasion. Just being frank here: I want it all now. I want an agent and a book contract—hmm, make that a multi-book contract—and the ability to stay at home and write full time. And for that last one to happen I either need to truly hit it big—like John Grisham big—or pull a bank job or marry a guy with a decent income. (Of the three, the last is probably the most plausible—and legal. So, men, step up. I’m nice, I really am.) 

[Update: I do have an agent now--the fabulous Amanda Luedeke of MacGregor Literary, Inc. And I've also recently pinpointed my potential spouse. You may have heard of him--Tim Tebow. In addition to writing, I'm busy learning football plays these days so I can be a good wife. King Lemuel totally left that out of Proverbs 31.]

But in all seriousness, writing without patience is probably a bit like getting your tooth pulled without laughing gas. Doable, but a whole lot less enjoyable.

Someone—maybe my mom?—once told me that patience isn’t waiting. It’s waiting with a good attitude. And perhaps that’s the trickiest part of all: choosing to wait with peace and joy. The kind that says, “God, I truly trust your timing. And while I wait, I’m going to approach each step of my writing journey with hopeful confidence. I’m going to take joy in the small accomplishments—whether it’s a good critique or a productive writing day or an encouraging email from a fellow writer.”

That’s the kind of patience I want. And that, okay, yes, I’ll pray for. 

How about you? Is patience ever a struggle? What are you waiting on? What helps you maintain a good attitude while waiting?

Melissa Tagg

Friday, July 20, 2012

My Kids Made Me Cry Today

Warning: this blog gets a bit personal, so if you hate such things, see you again on the next post.

Don’t let these smiling faces of my kids fool you. They can make a grown lady cry!

I felt a bit blue today wondering if I would ever be able to write again. As many of you know, I had a brain aneurism over a year ago which left me with short-term memory issues. (I prefer to think of it as a brain explosion since that makes it sound like perhaps I got more brains instead of fewer.)

During my pity party, I thought of the great Love Chapter in the Bible that speaks of the gift of prophecy and knowing all mysteries and all knowledge, and having the faith to move mountains. It speaks of faith, hope, and love, but concludes with these words: “the greatest of these is love.”

Suddenly it hit me that even if I could never continue my dream to write, I can still do the greatest thing in the world: love. I felt so cheered about this that I sent a text to my three kids telling them that I can still love.

Here’s what they sent back to me:

Sarah: “Yay! And you can still write too. Maybe not at the speed you wanted to but you can do it. I’ll help you.” (Wow, how fun is that? Writing with my daughter!)

Thomas: “Mom, you can still write! Will take a little more work and focus but you can still do it.” (I told him of Sarah’s offer to help, and he texted again.) “Yes, and the best is that the Lord will help you.” (Is this great kid really mine?!)

Danny: “You can write too! I read your Ponderer’s messages, and they are great!”

I never knew my son read this blog! (Winking and waving at you now, Danny.)

These great responses from my kids left me teary-eyed and encouraged. What can I do?

Well, excuse me while I go and dust off that manuscript!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


 I’ve been doing a bit of self reflection lately. As a new mom, sometimes it seems like I’m barely holding on. I can do everything, but I can’t do everything well. Something always has to give. Sometimes it’s the housework. A real dinner. The hairdo. The dog’s walk. The bedtime story. And sadly, sometimes it’s the time, or lack of time, I make for my friends.

Confession: I’m the girl who could be perfectly happy in her cubicle at work pounding out emails alone with her iPod and her thoughts. All. Day. Long. I really think I could completely avoid human interaction without trying too hard. But, thankfully, I have friends at work who pop into my cube. Friends who tug the ear buds out and want to hear about my life and share theirs. They make my work life the richer for it.

We all have friends who call just to say hi or say “thinking of you” in a text or on Facebook. But what I’ve been pondering this week is am I that friend? More often than not I wait for my friends to reach out. When was the last time I went to a coworker’s cube just to say hi? When was the last time I invited a friend out to dinner? Friends are some of my most treasured blessings, and I rarely tell them so.

Some of those blessings: meet fellow Ponderer Jen and her husband, Ben!
(And dear hubby, of course!)
Since I am under no illusions that after writing a blog I will transform into Superwoman—able to do the housework, dinners, my hair, doggie exercise, the bedtime story and be SuperFriend simultaneously, I’m going to attack from a different angle. I believe I can do ONE thing well this week. (Okay, I can probably do more, but it’s all about achievability here, people!) This week I’m going to focus on being a friend. I can commit to sending out a note to congratulate my friend on landing an agent. I can genuinely care about my coworkers lives at work. I can tell my friends I’m thankful for them. And I will.

Next week I’ll focus on the housework (I have people coming over, so that would be a good week to add that to the rotation…) Each week I’ll choose ONE THING I want to do well. Hopefully, little successes will build confidence and some of this will become a habit!


P.S. Note the hat in the picture, this takes care of the hairdo, too!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Would You Be Ready?

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

Twice this week I’ve been asked if I have my passport ready. And I’m sad to say I do not. I did not even know I could apply for a passport on line until I wrote this blog.

The first time I was asked, it was by the singing group, No Other Name. Their songLead Me To The Cross” was chosen by the Southern Baptist International Mission Board to promote missions to Northern Africa and the Middle East. During the concert they asked a question I haven’t been able to get out of my mind.

“What would it mean to you if someone traveled around the world to tell you how much Jesus loves you?” Because I've always known about Jesus, I can't even imagine a life devoid of Him. But so many people have never heard His name even.

No Other Name doesn’t just give lip service to the Great Commission—they follow it up by organizing mission trips to different parts of the world. They even have passport applications on the table with their CDs.

The second time I was asked, it was by two people from my church who had just returned from a mission trip to Tanzania. Their description of the people and the living condition of the people in that part of the world shook me out of my complacency. In the village where they went as medical missionaries, one well supplies water for about five thousand people.

But I’m too old…or too young…or too…our excuses go on, don’t they? Mine do. One might be too young, but how old is too old? I have a friend who took her first mission trip to the Philippines when she was 76. And our very own Ponderer Delores Topliff has been on mission trips to the Philippines three times, Mexico, Israel, and South Korea…and to a tributary of the Amazon where Colombia, Peru & Ecuador meet.

I know we all can’t go halfway across the world to be witnesses for Jesus, and maybe God hasn’t called you to a foreign mission field, but He might. Would you be ready?

Pat Trainum writing as P. T. Bradley
http://www.ptbradley.com/http://mbtponderers.blogspot.com/@PTBradley12012 Romantic Suspense Genesis Finalist
I asked God to teach me patience and He gave me a book to write

Friday, July 13, 2012

Fiction Friday Q & A with Davis Bunn

Heidi here, trying to stay cool in Spokane Valley! Today I'm sharing a Q&A with one of my favorite authors of Christian fiction: Davis Bunn. Ten years ago I purchased The Warning and The Ultimatum (The Reluctant Prophet series) bound together in one hard cover book.  It was the first I'd heard of Bunn, but once I started reading, I was hooked. 

I soon discovered that Bunn wrote a variety of faith-based fiction genres, from historical romance to modern thrillers to tender holiday novellas. Needless to say, whenever I see a new release, I immediately add it to my “must read” list. This month I hit the jackpot with not one, but TWO new Davis Bunn releases, and the opportunity to review (and blog about) both books. It’s good to be me!

Today we're talking about Rare Earth, the second book in the Marc Royce series by Davis Bunn. It's hot off the presses, as it was just released by Bethany House on July 1st. Normally, I wouldn’t blog about a sequel, but in this case, Rare Earth honestly stands on its own.

I'll admit, at first glance, I wasn't sure how much I'd like Rare Earth. I'm so glad I took the time to read it! Not only was it well written, but it reminded me to look outside my little corner of the world. As usual, Bunn has thoroughly researched back story and presents a fictional plot within actual events. I've never been to Africa, although after I finished reading it, I actually felt like I had. The main character is a solid hero, one I admired so much I am passing this book on to my teenage sons. They will love it, since it's packed with action, danger, and intrigue. It even has a little bit of romance, but not so much that my boys will hate it. In my opinion, one of the best parts of Rare Earth is that the ending left room for Marc Royce to return!

About Rare Earth 
Marc Royce stares out of the helicopter, a sense of foreboding rising with the volcanic cloud. Below, the Rift Valley slashes across Africa like a scar. Decades of conflicts, droughts, and natural disasters have left their mark.

Dispatched to audit a relief organization, Royce is thrust into the squalor and chaos of Kenyan refugee camps. But his true mission focuses on the area's reserves of once-obscure minerals now indispensable to high-tech industries. These strategic elements—called rare earth—have inflamed tensions on the world's stage and stoked tribal rivalries. As Royce prepares to report back to Washington, he seizes on a bold and risky venture for restoring justice to this troubled land.

But this time, Royce may have gone too far.

(Read the first THREE chapters of Rare Earth here for free!!)
Q & A with Davis Bunn                   
When you finished writing Lion of Babylon (book 1 in the Marc Royce series), did you just keep going with the storyline and wrote Rare Earth at the same time? Or was there a time gap in between?
Normally by the time I complete a story, I have been living with the characters and the tale for about a year. What I need more than anything just then is a break. I don’t need to stop writing; I just need to write about something else. The emotions for a new book have to be fresh. The characters are not just continuing on. They are starting over. The emotions and the concepts and the tension and the theme are all brand new. The names stay the same. The rest of the universe shifts on its axis.

Marc Royce is not your typical hero. Where did you find your inspiration for his character?
As I started researching the first book in this series, Lion of Babylon, I took a flight where I was seated next to this very remarkable woman, an amazing combination of hard intelligence and great gentleness. She was reading a pocket New Testament. We started talking, and it turned out that she was a special operative, formerly with the State Department intelligence division, and now working with the Department of Defense Intel. I found myself drawn by this incredible paradox of ruthless focus and very intense calm.

Soon after this flight, I had an opportunity to meet a senior figure in the CIA. I had never had any contact with the intelligence community, and all of a sudden I was finding one door after another being opened, because both of these people—the DOD Intel officer and the CIA agent—took it upon themselves to help introduce me to their worlds. I have found this happen on a number of occasions, and these ongoing miracles humble and astound me. I drew on these people as the basis for structuring my hero.

What can readers expect to find in Rare Earth?
All my books hold to one key aim—to create a story that carries a moral, and together result in an impact or challenge or inspiration or comforting assurance that remains long after the book is set down. That, to me, defines a worthy effort.

What kind of character is Marc Royce?
 He carries his faith into a world that likes to think Jesus no longer plays a role. He sees himself as the ultimate outsider, wounded by the loss of his wife, searching for a place he can call home, and an ideal worth living for—or giving his life for.

What type of research did you do for this series?
I worked in Africa for four years early in my adult life. I was not a believer at that time. I came to faith four years later. I taught in Kenya last year, the first time I had been back to sub-Sahara Africa in almost twenty years. Going back to Africa now, as a believer, has opened my eyes to many things. Seeing with the compassion of sharing faith and seeking to serve means that I do not merely observe, I share with them. I hope this comes across in my story.

Research is a huge component of all of my stories. But with Lion of Babylon and Rare Earth, the situation was quite different. In both these Royce novels, I was combining knowledge gained in my previous business life with the perspective gained from my walk in faith. It has been quite a fulfilling experience, personally, to revisit these lands and see them through the eyes of our compassionate God.

Which character was the most difficult to write?
There is a Luo chief in Nairobi, a strong leader who has had everything stripped from him except his faith. He is the uncle of another great man, another leader. To have two people from the same tribe, and create individuals that stood out as unique portraits, was very challenging. I feel that I have done a solid job with them. I look forward to hearing what my readers think.

What was your favorite scene to write in Rare Earth?
It is very rare that a first scene holds such a powerful connection for me. Generally it is one where there is a revelation between characters, or a defining moment when a person’s eyes are truly opened to the eternal for the first time. 
But in Rare Earth, when I shut my eyes and envision the story, it is that first scene that blazes into light. Travelling on the UN chopper from Nairobi, watching the volcano take shape upon the horizon. Marc Royce has been sent out there to fail. And to die. I really am pleased with that opening sequence.

I’m giving away a free copy of Rare Earth and a copy of Hidden in Dreams, which I've spotlighted in my August blog post. Leave a comment below and I'll enter you to win Rare Earth. Leave a comment on my August post, and I'll enter you to win Hidden in Dreams. If you comment on both, I'll enter you twice! I will draw names on August 24th.

Legal stuff: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Prayer and Forward Motion Along the Writing Road

By Beth K. Vogt

There are times my journey along the writing road is more of a plod than a sprint. I drag myself forward, determined to focus on the finish line – be it a deadline or a conference or even a 300 word blog post. Interruptions feel like personal affronts meant to derail my dreams … and really, is that my voice? The one snapping at my husband that he doesn’t understand what it’s like to be a writer who works from home – when truly, he is the most understanding of men?

At times like these, when I find myself looking for the exit ramp off the writing road, God always provides encouragement. How? Usually he directs another writer to form a human barrier and block my path, while reminding me that God is bigger than all this. That I’ve been here before. That I’m not doing this writer’s life alone.

Tacked up on the wall beside my desk is a prayer sent to me by one such writer friend. Camille Eide and I met last year at the ACFW conference. (Along with the My Book Therapy retreats, this is a must-attend conference for me.) From the get-go, I liked this woman. She’s talented, yes indeed. But more than that, she’s real. And she writes honest.

Last January I wrote a blog where I apologized to my family and friends for having to live with writer-me. Today I share with you the words Camille prayed for me:

Please bless the work of our fingers and the sacrifices of our time with family. Guide the words our hearts tumble out, may they make Jesus a little clearer to someone and be eternally worth every moment spent arranging them on the page.

No matter where you are in your writing journey – pre-published or published, slogging along or running like an Olympian – may you embrace the hope woven through Camille’s prayer. Take time to ask God to guide the words your heart tumbles out. Ask that the words you write are used to bring others one step closer to Jesus. Ask God to remind you that your moments spent writing are never, ever wasted.

How’s it going along the writing road for you? What helps you keep moving forward?

Monday, July 9, 2012

First time meetings? Friends you haven’t met yet

By Delores Topliff

Years back I learned that some people I initially viewed as homely (as in Abraham Lincoln homely), had such inner kindness and spirit, I soon viewed them as lastingly handsome or beautiful. I’ve learned to suspend judgment, waiting for God to show me what's inside and regard introductions as opportunities to explore. Stand and admire when meeting new people, as when entering an art gallery. Michelangelo looked at marble blocks asking God to show him the shapes imprisoned inside, awaiting release. Now when I meet people, I also ask God to show me what He’s placed there.

I initially met most  of the Ponderers at best-selling author Susan May Warren’s first Storycrafters Retreat and remember first impressions: 
  • Reba was wise but humorous. 
  • Heidi a spontaneous storyteller and gifted humorist. 
  • Ginger championed romance with hints of mystery. 
  • Alena conquered NYC and then Texas, producing vast material to write about. 
  • Beth was a professional and stylish doctor’s wife—maybe common ground since both my sons are doctors. 
  • Amy was local, I knew her slightly, but found there was much more below the surface. 
  • Jen was a nurturer and Susie’s friend. 
  • Melissa was the sweet girl next door with killer plots. 
  • Marie was a hard worker devoted to historic detail. 
  • Jennie was a master gardener and master plot-designer. 
  • Lisa was a tender-hearted romantic putting family first. 

I'm richer for learning to withhold judgment. Though my initial Ponderer reads were incomplete, God now has added much more. Is it because Susie asked retreat attendees to prepare the soil by praying for 30 days prior? Did anyone besides God anticipate what He would initiate there? Besides church camp at age 12 where I became a Christian, I haven’t personally attended any event so strongly impacting my life with lasting relationships. 

The best friendship formula? Common interests. Christ-centered lives seeking inspiration and expression through writing. Committed prayer. Yup, that sums it up—a perfect definition for Ponderer friends.

Now it’s your turn. What qualities do you see as essential to friendship? 

Friday, July 6, 2012

May I have a little continuity, please?

 Hi, Roxanne here. Have you ever watched a movie and noticed a flaw? Takes you out of the magic and reminds you that you’re sitting in a crowded theater, doesn’t it? Google movie flaws, mistakes or continuity errors—and forget about wasting time playing Hearts or Solitaire or (my mom’s favorite) Bejeweled, which for some crazy reason she always calls “bedazzled”—because you easily lose track of time until someone calls you for dinner or begs you to get off the computer and make the meal.

In the beloved 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s hair changes length within a scene, and in another, she wears black shoes instead of the ruby slippers, along with 307 other recorded mistakes.

Least you think we’ve too sophisticated to make errors today with multimillion-dollar movie budgets and available technology, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaba (2004) had a whopping 299 goofs.

Apparently, the continuity girl is playing too many of the above mentioned games or taking coffee breaks or anything but doing her job. Perhaps, she’s a continuity man in these days of political correctness. Never heard of a continuity girl/guy? According to the Collins English Dictionary at dictionary.com, a continuity girl "is a girl or man whose job is to ensure continuity and consistency, especially in matters of dress, make-up, etcetera, in successive shots of a film, especially when these shots are filmed on different days.”

But rather than pointing fingers or laughing at movie errors, admit novelists make mistakes too. As a reader, don’t you wonder how it happens? How many times did the writer/agent/editor read the manuscript? I recently had the opportunity to read the fast draft of my friend’s novel. She was writing on deadline and didn’t have time to compare the proposed timeline with changes she’d made or keep track of minute elements. So I checked her manuscript for errors—guess I was her continuity girl.

How do authors keep track of the details as they write?

Note cards. In the beginning, I wasn't savvy enough to keep all my info online and note cards were just no brainer easy. One card/scene, which I'd sometimes color-code. I’d even spread the cards along the floor so I could see holes in the plot.

Notebooks. One award-winning author simply keeps pertinent information in a little notebook she carries in her purse.

The Book Buddy by Susan May Warren. A fabulous workbook that helps you think through and organize your book. 

Spreadsheets. Other authors use spreadsheets to easily track all the details. Among the benefits: you can be ultra organized; everything is always at your fingertips, it's easily carried on your thumb drive, and there's unlimited storage space.

Novel-writing software. There are dozens of programs out there. Some, like Storybook, are free. Others may cost but are worth their investment with the man-hours saved when scrounging a manuscript for minute details. One published author doesn’t know how she managed before Scrivener, which offers a 30-day free trial.

Wikispaces. Created by the people who brought us Wikipedia, "Wikispace gives you a place to share work, ideas, pictures links, videos and media—and anything else you can think of." Even though the pages were created to be shared among users, they can also remain private. One historical author of dozens and dozens of novels couldn’t keep track of names, places or events she’d used in previous books and wanted to refer to again, so she created a Wikipage for each of her books.

Who is the continuity girl in your life? How do you keep track of the details?

~ Roxanne Sherwood

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

God bless America! It's Jenness here, hoping you get to enjoy time with family and friends today to celebrate Independence Day! Don't you just love summer?

Most of the time I do. But one early summer years ago, I was depressed, stressed out, and way too busy. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, but something needed to change. Then along came a girls’ night out. I don’t even remember what we did—nothing special or expensive or adventurous. But the next day, I do know I felt like I could breathe again. Finances were still tight, and I still had too much on my plate, but an evening with my friends helped lift the load. I could see the silver lining again.

Sometimes a phone call will do the trick. Sometimes a fun email or online chat with one of my amazing writing buddies. But sometimes girls just gotta have fun. J If you’re feeling a little over your head this summer, maybe it’s time to schedule in some girl time. I doubt you need ideas, but just in case--and because I love lists--here are ten things you could do.   
1. Go to a new restaurant together. Pick one that’s fun and different—hibachi, or tiki hut style, or a hole-in-the-wall family-run Italian place. Even if the food’s bad, you’ll have fun making memories.

2. Watch an old favorite movie together and quote it or sing along. Ever After and Princess Bride are a couple that come to mind that come loaded with lots of high school slumber party memories.

3. Do a popcorn or lemonade bar or something light and fun that your steak-and-potatoes husband would never go for. (Look on pinterest for ideas, if you have no idea what I mean. Lol) My friends and I did a crepe bar once. The hostess made the crepes and everyone brought toppings to put on them—bananas and nutella, strawberries and cool whip, etc.

4. Start a once-a-month (or more) tradition. My bestie and I often go yard saling on Saturday mornings with her mom (also a good friend). We try to wake up, laugh, haggle (or get scolded by her mom the pro for not haggling), compare purchases, and most importantly, grab a McDonald’s sweet tea and sausage burrito halfway through the trip.

5. Nothing new here, but go grab something at Starbucks and sit outside to chat. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time, doesn’t cost much, and can really lead to some great conversations.

6. Do a photo shoot. It’d be a great time to go to whatever scenic places are in your area, find out what kind of poses work for you without the pressure of having an actual paid photographer, goof off together, and maybe finally get a couple of good shots to put in those empty frames you’ve never gotten around to filling that are hanging around your house. (Yes, I have some of those empty ones. But the frames are so pretty! J)

7. Go shopping together. Again, this is a no-brainer. Except a recent shopping trip with friends ended up with something new for me. I don’t have any sisters and am usually a loner when it comes to shopping. But four of us went to a quiet shop and ended up taking over the dressing room area—modeling for each other, giggling, giving opinions, talking each other into purchasing too much, and just having a great time.

8. Have a spa night. Nothing expensive. Everyone can pool together their pampering items and just hang out while listening to relaxing music while soaking their feet in whatever water-tight containers you can round up.  

9. Craft! One of my friends has voted for this to be our next girls-night-in event. She hasn’t quite convinced the rest of us that this would actually be a stress relief and not the total opposite. J But if you’re a crafty group, this is a great idea.

10. Make a home video. This one might be a little much, but it produces hysterical results. I’ve done this twice. Once when traveling for a summer with three other girls. The other time was in college when a good friend moved out of state. My bestie and I made a crazy movie to send her. We still quote from it occasionally. (But no, I will not post it. Ever.)

So there you go. Now it’s your turn! What ideas would you add to the list?

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Faith to Dream Big, Pray Big

By Paula Boire, writing as Sara L. Jameson

Batterson believes in setting “God-ordained, God-inspired” goals that are quantifiable, specific, and discerned through a season of prayer and fasting. He likens our goals and dreams to the Israelites encircling the walls of Jericho and urges us to circle God’s Scriptural promises prompted in us by the Holy Spirit; Scriptures that speak to those goals or challenges and to cover them in prayer until we have our answer from the Lord.  (Think Daniel and the angel Gabriel detained because of spiritual warfare.)

We writers have our own Jerichos, walls that must crumble to see our dreams and goals realized. Perhaps it’s the dream of winning a literary award, signing with an agent or favor with an acquisitions editor or the publishing committee or mastery of an elusive craft technique or meeting a deadline.

Like those of us who are Type-A personalities, Batterson wanted his dreams fulfilled swiftly: “I didn’t want it to be the slow climb of an unknown writer out of obscurity. I wanted to write a New York Times bestseller. . . . I am genuinely grateful it took a dozen years and a half dozen unfinished manuscripts to finally publish my first book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. If I had written it at twenty-five instead of thirty-five it would have been all theory and no substance.” (p. 141 The Circle Maker)

Obviously God has His own timetable for each of us as authors. For some, doors open at twenty-five; for others, perhaps at fifty or sixty or seventy.

For Batterson the non-specific dream of becoming a published writer yielded no results; his goal is to write twenty-five books, an NYT bestseller, and a work of fiction. The fruit of these projects form part of his spiritual goals of leading people to Christ and living off 10% of his income and giving 90% of the money to the Lord’s work. What are the prayer-divined goals God has given you?

Batterson’s motto: “Work as though it depends on you, pray as though it depends on God” and his admonition of the Scripture, “we have not because we ask not,” can encourage us as writers. (p. 177, The Circle Maker)

Where are your dreams today? Do you have specific God-given goals as a writer? Or are you wandering in the wilderness of indecision, plodding along on a “sometimes” manuscript, or uncertain of God’s direction in building your career as a writer? If so, may we circle you with prayer for a breakthrough?