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

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tickled Pink

Confession: I’m incredibly ticklish. I do turn pink, well, red, actually, upon being tickled too long. It’s an unfortunate reality that my family has exploited on more than one occasion, and a trait I seem to have passed down to my two year old daughter.

I never really gave the expression “tickled pink” much thought, but my grandma always used to tell me she was “tickled pink” when I came to visit. As a kid, I always wondered when she would turn pink and why nobody was tickling anybody when we arrived.

Image from twentywords.com
Every day on our way to daycare and school, my daughter and I drive by the LovePower Church in Minneapolis. On the exterior of the building, there is a one-story mural of Jesus with his arms spread wide. This past winter, she noticed the mural for the very first time and asked who it was. When I told her Jesus, she paused and then said, “Hi Jesus. I tickle you,” and reached out to give Jesus a tickle.

In that moment, as she tickled Jesus, I pondered the expression tickled pink with fresh eyes. My daughter does tickle Jesus “literally” with her chubby fingers. But she also tickles Jesus in that tickled pink, deep down, joy bubbling up making Him antsy with delight just because she’s His kid kinda way. And that makes me smile because I know it makes Jesus smile.

Have you ever reconsidered an expression or idea based on what you saw through a child’s eyes?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Melissa Tagg, One of My Favorite Authors!

We welcome back, Melissa Tagg, to the Ponderers! She’s on deadline for another book, but she took the time to answer some of our questions.
First of all, bring us up to date on what’s happening with you!
I’m a former reporter and total Iowa girl, as well as the author of Made to Last and Here to Stay. In addition to my homeless ministry day job, I’m also the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy. When I’m not writing, I’m generally hanging out with the greatest family and friends ever, watching old movies and daydreaming about my next book. I’m passionate about humor, grace and happy endings.
Which writers inspire you?
I could list a ton of writers here, but I’m going to go with a few who have most impacted me personally, both as a writer and an individual. Susan May Warren. Rachel Hauck. Beth Vogt. Lisa Jordan. Anne Mateer. Five women I so, so, SO look up not only for their amazing writing, but also their faith, kindness and encouragement. All five have, in different ways, invested in me—through teaching, mentoring and prayer. And of course, I adore their books!
What are you working on at the minute?
This week I’m beginning rewrites on my third book, From the Start. I’ve really struggled writing this one. Part of the reason, I’m sure, is that just like any author, I want to get better with every book. But I also wonder if there’s something God has for me in this story that I haven’t grasped yet…and maybe that’s why it’s felt a little more elusive than the other books.
But challenges aside, I’m really excited about the story itself. I’m pairing a former football player and a romance writer. Both are jaded in their own way, but they’re also a ton of fun…especially when they’re together. J
What genre are your books?
Contemporary Romance is the main genre. I often say Rom-Com because I want my stories to be equal parts humor and romance. 
What draws you to this genre?
I love to laugh and I love to go awwww, so Rom-Com was a logical choice for me. Plus, as much as I adore historical fiction and oftentimes wish I could write it, my voice fits contemporary so much better. Too, a few years ago I attended a MBT retreat and Susan May Warren asked us what movies we watch over and over as a way of discovering what genre we most fit into. I realized that I re-watch old 1930s and 40s classic rom-coms constantly…so it only makes sense to write in that genre!
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
Currently I have a day job, so my writing time has to be squeezed in around that. I’m an early-riser most mornings, so I tend to get up around 5 a.m., have a little quiet time and then get cracking by 5:30ish. I like to squeeze in a good hour to hour and a half of writing before work. Then in the evenings, I try to write for a solid two hours…unless I’m in a deadline-crunch, in which case it can stretch to three, four, five hours. J I also generally write at least two Saturdays a month.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
By nature, I’m very much a plotter. I like to have a plan and know where I’m going with a story. To do that, I use My Book Therapy’s “Book Buddy” and the awesome teaching of Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck. But lately I’ve noticed a need to be quite a bit more flexible with the story—especially when drafting. The most amazing part of writing, to me, is when the characters come alive and start telling their own story. So though I do plot, I’m finding that I fall somewhat in the middle of the plotting/pantsing spectrum.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
For me, in general, the hardest thing about writing is balancing it with the rest of my life—day job, friends, family, blogging, marketing, etc. It’s quite the juggling act.
Now if we’re talking technically—the writing itself—the hardest part for me tends to be plot pacing. Which is why I write and tear apart and rewrite and tear apart…etc. I’m a firm believe that every single scene in a book needs to propel the plot forward. So I’m constantly finding myself deleting entire scenes that might be cute and fun, but don’t do anything to further the actual story.
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
Honestly, the hardest thing about writing Here to Stay was the pressure I felt to do Blake justice. Blake first appeared in my debut novel, Made to Last, and I heard many people say he was their favorite character. So I really wanted him to live up to people’s expectations.
My challenge? In MTL Blake was a fun-loving side character who was quite the goofball. In HTS, I wanted to keep that entertaining side to him, but also show his deeper layers. That required a lot of digging on my part.
Thanks, Melissa for bringing us up to date! You can find our amazing friend in these places:
Twitter: @Melissa_Tagg
G+: +MelissaTagg

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Do You Ever Want to Quit?

Once upon a time...long, long ago, all a writer did was to write and maybe go to a book signing here and there. Then came the MEDIA EXPLOSION and now writers are expected to have a blog and respond to comments, be a presence on Face Book, Tweet umpteen times a day, have interesting Pinterest boards, not to mention Flickr accounts and---wait a minute while I catch my breath. 

And get this: writer's are expected to do all of this BEFORE they are published.

Do you ever burn out? On one of the loops I'm on, a writer posted that she was ready to throw in the towel. She believed God had called her to write and she'd been doing just that for many years, submitting to publishers and getting zero response. She was tired of getting rejections and questioned that maybe she wasn't supposed to be writing at all if no one was going to ever read her book. She reasoned that perhaps her time could be better spent doing other things for God.

I know how she feels. I wrote for 34 years before being published in novel form. At times I questioned whether or not I was wasting my time, but in the end I kept writing. 


Because every time I was ready to give up, God sent some form of encouragement to me. And in my heart, I knew that was what I was supposed to be doing. He also promised me that my mother would hold my book in her hand before she died. My mother was 91 at the time. On January 13 of this year, my mom held my book in her hands and even read some of it. She passed away 18 days later. 

I discovered something else this year--it's not just the published books that make a difference in someone's life. I met a lady at a conference where I was speaking and she bought my book. After she read it, she emailed me, telling me how much she enjoyed it. Then she went on to tell me that she'd discovered a few errors and that I might want to fix them. While it was too late for this book, I was touched that she cared enough to point them out to me. Since she was experience in a area of my current heroine's expertise, I quickly emailed her back and asked her to proof my manuscript before I turned it in to my editor. And she did. 

What a difference her help made! After I turned the manuscript in, I wanted to do something nice her, and since she came to the writer's workshop, I thought she might like a book on the craft of writing. But she very nicely turned me down. Said after reading my manuscript, she realized how much work went into writing a book and thank-you-very-much-but no-thank you.

Then she went on to tell me that she believed God brought her to the workshop just to meet me and to get to read my manuscript. Turned out she had the same unresolved issues my heroine did and seeing it through the eyes of my fiction character helped her to come to terms with her problem. And her life would be richer for it. 

I read her email and cried. And I don't usually cry over ANYTHING. But in that instant, I knew why I write. If one person is changed or helped by my words, that's enough. 

How about you? Why do you write? Or do anything that you are passionate about? Share your thoughts in the comment box!

Patricia Bradley
Follow me on Twitter: @PTBradley1
Follow me on FaceBook: www.facebook.com/patriciabradleyauthor

Shadows of the Past from Revell February 2014 
Available at CBD: http://ow.ly/qIx2k and Amazon: http://ow.ly/qIx90 and B&N: http://ow.ly/qKdSL 

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

Thursday, May 8, 2014

My View on Going to the Dentist

By Jennie Atkins
The other day while walking out of work, I told a woman I was leaving for a dentist appointment. Expecting the normal answer of, “Oh, I hate the dentist!” you might say I was quite surprised when she said, “I love going to the dentist.”
I should add here that I know her well enough to say she isn’t into masochism.  But her view of the dentist came from a different angle than mine—called experience--or lack thereof.
Growing up, due to a very small jaw and large teeth, my teeth grew in wherever they found space. Needless to say, they weren’t perfectly aligned.  It took pulling multiple teeth and wearing braces for y-e-a-r-s, to put them in place.  Add to that soft teeth that attracted cavities like people catch the common cold, I’ve seen the inside of the dentist office more than I care to talk about.  (I know…too much information.)
But my reason for talking about it is, the woman who enjoyed going to the dentist was born with genes that gave her perfectly aligned, cavity free, pearly whites. So going to the dentist was about as easy as a walk in the park.
These diverse backgrounds are what can add to the underlying tension in our stories.  How different would a person who had picture perfect Christmas holidays react to someone who only remembered Christmas as a time when her father got drunk and knocked down their Christmas tree?  Or, how would the person who’d lived in a home where abuse was frequent look at a loving family where hugs and kisses were the norm? How would a homeless person (or someone doing his or her best to scrape together a few cents for food) look at a well-to-do person?  What would each of these people feel because of their personal experience?
The crux of our stories are based on growing through the conflicts.  There is a reason the heroine can’t trust the man who likes to add a little “spice” to his eggnog at Christmas.  For him, indulging once- a-year seems like nothing.  But for her it’s a huge obstacle. Or, at least a small one that adds to the trust issues she has with him.
Whether these conflicts are what drive our stories to the ultimate black moment then to redemption, or whether they are stumbling blocks, it adds layers to what the characters in our stories have to overcome to find peace, love, and deliverance.
Your turn:  What are some ways you ratchet up the tension in your stories?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

And the results are in ...

        Delores E. Topliff

It's not the Kentucky Derby, but the ACFW stable of unpublished authors has run nearly as long and hard a course as that accomplished group. On Monday, May 5th, shortly after Noon Central time, the semifinalists for the 2014 Genesis Writing Contest were announced. You may view the official list on ACFW's website at:http://www.acfw.com/genesis/2014_genesis_semi_finalists.

These semifinalists will now move on to the second round of judging. Watch for an announcement of the three finalists in each category around mid-June. All other entrants will be receiving their scored entries back within the next week or so. Congratulations to all our semifinalists and thank you to all who entered Genesis 2014 this year. 

If you didn't enter this year, roll up your sleeves, sharpen your pencils (er, dust off your computer), and work hard to enter next year . . .


Robin Archibald
Sally Bradley
Kimberli Buffaloe
Lindsay Harrel
Brandy Heineman
Tanara McCauley
Holly Michael
Carrie Padgett
Linda Sammaritan
Jennifer Sienes

Historical (Through Vietnam Era)
(Because of a three-way tie, Historical has 12 Semifinalists)

Heidi Chiavaroli (double semifinalist)
Pat Jeanne Davis
Mark Fisher
Kathleen Freeman
Jennifer Lamont Leo
Dana McNeely
Joanna Politano (double semifinalist)
Cynthia Roemer
Terri Wangard
Lora Young

Historical Romance (Through Vietnam Era)

Misty Beller
Paula Bicknell
Patricia-Riddle Gaddis
Kristi Ann Hunter
Robert Kaku & Gail Kaku
Elizabeth Lukinuk
Rachel Muller
Marilyn Rhoads
Delores Topliff
Abigail Wilson

Janice Boekoff
Andrew Huff
Mary McCay
Marion McNair
Timothy Moynihan
Dena Netherton
Deb Read
Dennis Ricci
Chris Storm
Bob Sweet


Renee Blare
Nicole Deese
Beatrice Fishback
Sarah McDaniel
Grace Olson
Crystal Ridgway & Destanie Ridgway (Co-Authors)
Craig Savige
Christine Schimpf
Chandra Lynn Smith
Peggy Trotter


Jennie Atkins
LeAnne Bristow
Ashley Clark
Susan Crawford
Tari Faris
Laura Hodges Poole
Sherri Murray
Dena Netherton
Laurie Tomlinson
Andrea Michelle Wood

Romantic Suspense

Nancy Blosser
Loretta Eidson
Emilie Hendryx
Jackie Layton
Michelle Lim
Sara Luther
Carolyn Miller
Linda Rodante (double semifinalist)
Chris Storm

Short Novel

 Meghan Carver
Peggy Miracle Consolver
Candee Fick (double semifinalist)
Nicole Jarrell
TC Larson
Kelly Anne Liberto
Sally Pitts
Crystal Ridgway & Destanie Ridgway (Co-Authors)
Preslaysa Williams


 T.J. Akers
Carol Eaton
Megan Ebba
Jennifer Gallagher
Clint Hall (double semi-finalist)
Margaret Hamlin
Lauricia Matuska
Don Palmer
Luke Scott

Young Adult

Erica Collins
Jennifer Dyer
Carol Eaton
Jessica Edgerton
Sara Ella
Glenn Haggerty
Karley Kiker
Ashley Mays
Sarah E. Morin
Kristen Joy Wilks

Pam Meyers
Genesis Coordinator

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Pianissimo confessions of an egghead

Delores E. Topliff
           During my more egghead days, I loved teaching John Ciardi’s critical essay, “Robert Frost: The Way to the Poem.” Through many pages Ciardi discusses the complicated composition steps and patterns Frost followed through an entire night in his New Hampshire farm house kitchen to write what became his beloved sixteen-line poem, Stopping by woods on a snowy evening. Here are its opening four lines:
Whose woods these are I think I know
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow . . .

Frost sat up all night considering the problem of repeating a word rhyme eleven lines after its first use—To rhyme, or not to rhyme, that was his question. Scholars have wished for wastebasket drafts of his early attempts, but none exist. Frost said he sat down after supper to work on a long piece of blank verse that never worked out. Totally absorbed, he finally looked up to find it was dawn. He rose, walked to his kitchen window, and stood looking. After a few minutes, everything he had tried and practiced for hours distilled into the sixteen lines of “Stopping by woods. He then simply returned to his same kitchen table, and wrote them down.

Committed writing is like piano practice, especially the daily discipline of scales. Wrists held correctly, and fingers in place, we move up and down the keyboard using correct posture and rhythm. Similarly in writing, after much consistent practice, perhaps even when our efforts seem wooden and labored, there comes a dawning moment when we see through a creative window and all comes into place. What had been labored practice becomes lyrical music—not repetitive discipline, but inexpressibly lovely music bearing little resemblance to the long practiced labors coming before.

Keep practicing, knowing that at surprising moments, with God’s help, all previous efforts invested in our craft move beyond our learning to become perfect expressions of the incomplete imperfect pieces that came before it— inspirational miracles.

What about you? Which writing or craft practice have you followed that suddenly became amazing breakthrough? Keep it up—poetry and music is ahead.