Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wise Words to Close Out 2010

Do you keep a collection of quotes? I do. I keep lists and files of stuff that catch my fancy, and surprise, surprise—many of them are pretty phrases or wise words.

This is my last post of 2010, so I’m leaving you with a few of my favorite quotes:

Enjoy when you can, and endure when you must. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. ~Theodore Roosevelt

Whatever we worship, short of God, is sure to be our undoing. ~Mignon McLaughlin

Have a heart that never hardens, a temper that never tires, a touch that never hurts. ~Charles Dickens

Never confuse thoughtlessness with malice. ~Robert Charles Whitehead

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. ~Philippians 4:8


What about you? Do you have a favorite quote to share?


Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Goodbye 2010, Hello 2011

I welcomed 2010 with a sense of optimism and enthusiasm. I had a list of goals to accomplish, and some of them have been duly crossed off.

The year 2010 unfolded with promise at the dawn of each day. Some days I lived up to the promise, some were disappointing. I tried to do my best, but I know there were days I skated by. Some moments were fabulous, others not so good.

I laughed, I questioned, I tried. Some days held proud successes, and others were total failures. I loved with abandon on some days and guarded my heart on others. I had days filled with joy, and too many days held captive by grief.

The year 2010 was another year to live and love and labor, to win and lose. As it shrinks away, I’m not stirred by sentimentality at seeing it evaporate. It will forever be one of those years that serve as a time marker for my family. Someone we loved has passed, and that’s what will stand out most in our minds when we recall 2010.

In three days the New Year will be ushered in with noisemakers and fireworks—another year with promises that will bloom and with treasures of love and friendship to savor.

I wish you a sweet and challenging 2011. I wish you a year to enjoy success, a year to delight in love and friendship.

I hope you grasp 2011 with purpose and squeeze every ounce of meaning and joy and accomplishment out of it. I hope that this time next year when 2011 is about to become another memory, you have thoroughly used it up and wrung it out with the business of living.

Have a blessed 2011, and live it well and with meaning!

Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man. ~Benjamin Franklin

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! I wish you the best of the season. Joy. Hope. Love. Peace.

Reflect on the true meaning of the day--that Jesus came to this world as a babe to save the lost and lonely. He bridged the gap between man and God so that we can have communion with the King of Kings, Lord of the Universe, and Lord of our hearts.

Savor moments with loved ones, smile at a stranger, make a Christmas wish. And please remember that Christmas must be found in your heart, not beneath a tree or wrapped in shiny paper with bows.

Have a merry, blessed Christmas!

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?
~Dr. Seuss

All the best to you and your family.

The photo is a scene from my Christmas village. In the top center of the image, Ebenezer looks through the window of Old Fezziwig's with the Ghost of Christmas Past, and Bob Cratchit walks by with Tiny Tim on his shoulder.

*If you'd like to be on my newsletter list, please send me an email. My Christmas newsletter went out yesterday, but I'll be glad to send you a copy.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Moms--need encouragement?

Last week I got a brochure in the mail about the 2011 national Hearts at Home conferences. This year's theme is Mom Revolution. Moms, if you need encouragement and refreshment, check out the Hearts at Home website and plan on attending one of the conferences.

A few months ago I had the pleasure of attending a joint event sponsored by Hearts at Home, MOPS International, and Focus on the Family. That's where I first heard of the Mom Revolution 2011 Conferences, and now registration is open.

I'm looking forward to experiencing the Western Conference this coming October in Colorado Springs. It looks like it's going to be fabulous. Pencil it into your schedule so you won't miss out! See you there.




Thursday, December 16, 2010

Divine Humanity

For as long as I can remember, my mother put this reproduction antique post card on the table next to our nativity set each Christmas season. The nativity set was passed on to me a few years ago. In the box was the post card with a sentiment written by Phillips Brooks, a man known as the greatest American preacher of the 19th century and author of the Christmas hymn, O Little Town of Bethlehem.

Each year when I read the post card, a thrill of joy bubbles up from my heart. At this beautiful time of year, I wish you a similar thrill of joy. . .

“Lift up your eyes to the great meaning of the day, and dare to think of your humanity as something so divinely precious that it is worthy of being made an offering to God.

Count it as a privilege to make that offering as complete as possible, keeping nothing back; and then go out to the pleasures and duties of your life, having been truly born anew into His divinity, as he was born into our humanity on Christmas Day.”

Since I was a very young woman, I have given myself, heart and soul, to my Lord. I offer each of my days to Him. And in a most humble way, I think of my writing as something so divinely precious that it is worthy of being made an offering to God as well.

*This is a re-post of previous years, but I love it so much I trot it out every holiday season.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It’s the sentiment, stupid.

I’m one of those people who usually put some brainpower into my gift giving. After all, it’s easy to toss out some money and fulfill an obligation, but it’s more meaningful when you consider the personality of the recipient.

For me, giving gifts is more rewarding than receiving gifts. When I was a child, a neighbor family used to give “big” gifts for Christmas: easy chairs, pianos, televisions, etc. Things weren’t like that in my home, but it didn’t diminish the joy of Christmas at all.

The best part of the Christmas season is expressing affection with family, friends, and neighbors. I know it sounds corny, but for me, it’s true. I love to stop and visit, chat and admire the pretty decorations we display, and get face-to-face and heart-to-heart with those I hold dear.

On the left is a snapshot of three of my favorite Christmas gifts. :)

Christmas is worth celebrating because Jesus came into the world, and because I chose to be a Christ follower, my world is richer, deeper, and more joyful. Jesus is the reason for the season. He is the gift.

I wish you peace, love, and joy this Christmas and the time to share those sentiments with people who are special to you.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Light a Candle

Tonight is The Compassionate Friends’ 14th Worldwide Candle Lighting. If you want to participate in remembering children who have died at any age from any cause, then light a candle for one hour at 7 p.m. local time.

Believed to be the largest mass candle lighting on the globe, the Worldwide Candle Lighting creates a virtual wave of light, hundreds of thousands of persons commemorate and honor the memory of children in a way that transcends all ethnic, cultural, religious, and political boundaries.

I’ll be thinking of my nephew Michael tonight and of all others who have lost a child.

Friday, December 10, 2010

‘Tis the season to be nasty?

Merry Christmas! Happy Chanukah!

Extending the greetings of the holidays is risky business these days. Apparently some people feel put upon to have to endure the kind thoughts and warm wishes that are shared this time of year.

Grinches and Scrooges are hijacking society. Whatever happened to live and let live? In modern America people who protest religious Christmas displays are old news. How very sad. I truly believe that people of faith are among the last people group to whom it’s okay to be biased and discriminatory. It’s PC to bash the believers. Sigh.

Another example of the Grinch in action happened this week in the UK when a rare thorn tree, a symbol of Christianity, was vandalized. The perpetrator hasn’t been caught, and in all honesty it could be an anti-monarchist, an anti-Christian, or someone who’s an atheist.

It is unfortunate that such ugly actions take place during the season of love, light, and perpetual hope. And all I can say in response is a heartfelt, “Merry Christmas!”

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

This or that?

Choices. Some are infinitely important, others not so much. One that comes to mind with the Christmas season is angel or star. Know what I’m talking about? It’s a question of what to use to decorate the top of your Christmas tree. We go with angel. Just saying.

My darling husband and I are beginning to dream about our next vacation choice. I’m not a cruise-kind-of girl. Give me solid earth, perhaps a spot with a nice beach and tropical weather. BTW, I also have an irrational fear of pirates. Yup, that made my travel agent laugh till she cried.

So when we go on a getaway vacation, it’s usually a tropical beach. Today I glanced at the news and saw another cruising nightmare—rough seas. Check this out.

Yes, I'm pushing for my next tropical vacation to be on a beach, under a palapa, with a good book. How about you? What’s your dream vacation?

Monday, December 06, 2010

Ho, ho, holidays!

Thanksgiving was a little more than a week ago, and now the Christmas season is ticking along.

Saturday my husband and I did ALL of our Christmas shopping, wrapping, and boxing (to ship). When we arrived home, our neighbor was putting the finishing touches on his exterior Christmas decorations—wearing a delightful Santa cap complete with mouse ears. :)

Our outdoor decorations went up Black Friday. Now the inside of our home is decked out, and I love it. We got a new, artificial tree this year. We’ve done real trees for a long time, but the convenience of a pre-lit tree spoke to me this year. It’s got so many lights that the entire living room glows in the evening. Lovely.

Besides decorating my home, I also think about decorating my heart for the Christmas season. For me, a bit of introspection is an important part of preparing for Christmas. Sometimes I listen to (and sing along with) Christmas carols, and soak in their meaning. The other night I sat in the glow of my Christmas tree and thought how Jesus is the light of the world, and more importantly, the light of my world. I also plan on spending time meditating on the prophetic names of Jesus.

What about you? Do you decorate your heart for Christmas?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sometimes Life's a Puzzle

I’ve been quiet for too long on my blog. Sorry.

Other than an ad for a writer's seminar, I’ve not posted since August 2nd. I’ve meant to, but tragedy struck my family in mid-August, and it seems I lost my words.

On August 14th my 23-year-old nephew Michael was killed in a freak incident. The grief my family is experiencing is deeper than words. And because most of the language I could use to explain the situation seemed trite, I kept quiet.

Four months have passed. It seems impossible that the sun rises and other families go about their business and experience happiness while my family grieves. But life goes on, with or without our whole-hearted participation.

My niece Jen put it best when she said we lived in a happy bubble. We were aware of problems others’ had and of the tragedies that punctuate the news, but thankfully we were blissfully removed from the sorrowful side of life. But with Mike’s death our happy bubble has burst, and now there’s no way to go back to living in that happy, carefree place.

During the cooler months my dining room table usually holds a jigsaw puzzle, and each of us take our turn at putting it together. We started our first puzzle of the year, and the other night I sat down to check it out.

Someone had connected the puzzle’s perimeter, but there remained 1,300+ pieces to be sorted and put into their proper place. I stared at the void in the middle of the puzzle outline and stirred the hundreds of little pieces with my fingers.

Completing the puzzle seemed like an impossibility—sorting through the hundreds of colored pieces to detect which are the flowers, which are the cobblestone street, which are the choppy seas, and which are the purple-hued sky. But I knew if I kept at it, the puzzle would form.

The question of why Michael’s life was so short is a puzzle. But I have faith that someday the pieces will come together. I have faith that someday when we recall Mike it will be with a happy heart instead of a broken heart. I have faith that Mike’s death didn’t come as a surprise to God, and that He welcomed Michael with open arms. I have faith that with each brilliant sunrise and with each magnificent sight that is set before us, God is urging us to grasp with joy that tiny piece of the puzzle that is life and continue to trust Him.

Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (The Message)

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Storycrafter's Seminar

I'm so looking forward to an upcoming one-day fiction seminar!

It's called The Storycrafter's Seminar. You should consider going. I'll be there!

Featuring Susan May Warren
RITA Award Winning Novelist and Writing Coach

Saturday, November 13th, 2010—8:30 am - 4 pm
Registration check-in and continental breakfast begin at 8:30 am, seminar begins at 9

Graystone Castle Event Center
(formerly Radisson Graystone Castle)
I-25 & 120th Avenue
Thornton, Colorado

Have you always wanted to write a story but didn’t know where to start? If so, the Storycrafter's Seminar is for you! RITA Award-winning author and writing coach Susan May Warren will teach you story structure, go step-by-step in the character creation and plotting process, then show you how to apply it to your story. She’ll brainstorm your idea, share essential secrets of storytelling, and finally, you'll take home a plan that will act as a map for your novel. With time for writing, as well as learning, it’s a day for writers of all levels that will jumpstart your novel onto the road to publication.

Speaker

Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning author of twenty-five novels with Tyndale, Barbour and Steeple Hill. A RITA winner, as well as a four-time Christy award finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Book of the Year. A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!. She is also the founder of www.MyBookTherapy.com, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice. A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at www.susanmaywarren.com.

The event will be held in Thornton, Colorado, 12 miles north of downtown Denver and 30 minutes from the airport, in the Graystone Castle Event Center (formerly Radisson Graystone Castle). Admission to the event includes:

  • Storycrafter's workbook
  • Continental breakfast
  • Deli lunch buffet

Monday, August 02, 2010

Truths for Mature Humans, kind of . . .


One of my darling daughters sent me the following “Truths for Mature Humans.” Some of them are universal, but some seem more suited to a generation younger than mine. Regardless, I’d like to share these truths and the thoughts they generated.

1. I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.

Perhaps this is true, but I think it’s likely something a 20-something would think of first.

2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.

Uh, huh. This is universally true, although there are some folks who still won’t admit they’re wrong. That's when you have to be the bigger person and give them grace.

3. There is great need for a sarcasm font.

Yes, indeed. There is a great need for a sarcasm font, but it should be used very carefully. Remember the first rule of etiquette—don’t make anyone else uncomfortable.

4. How are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?

Corner-seam tip to corner-seam tip. It’s an art, but one that can be learned.

5. Was learning cursive really necessary?

Wow. This is such a younger-generation thing. You were raised knowing keyboarding skills, unlike older generations that actually hand-wrote notes and letters.

6. Map Quest really needs to start their directions on # 5. I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

Exactly!

7. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

Interestingly, I believe they used to do this 30-40 years ago. At least in a general way: an accident, a short/long illness, natural causes.

8. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

Perhaps you’re not eating well enough, you need some vitamins, or you need to reevaluate what you pack into your day. It’s not “normal” to be tired all the time. (I know of which I speak, being 50+ and feeling energized during the day.)

9. Bad decisions make good stories.

Amen to that! Just make sure you learn from your mistakes.

10. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don't want to have to restart my collection, again.

If someone were to create a Facebook page to "like" on this topic, I'd like it.

11. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page technical report that I swear I did not make any changes to.

Yikes. A universal fear/truth.

12. "Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this - ever.

Time to respect the laundry duties. Buy a home dry cleaning kit and a wooden-dowel clothes rack. You can survive your wardrobe requirements.

13. I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello? ), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to voice mail. What did you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone and run away?

Ahh. Technology. When I was a kid the telephone was tethered to the wall and there was no such thing as voice mail.

14. I think the freezer deserves a light as well.

Brilliant idea!

15. The only time I look forward to a red light is when I'm trying to finish a text.

Tsk, tsk, tsk. Don’t text and drive!

16. I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

It’s a learned skill, I believe. In the meanwhile, drink plenty of water.

17. I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars team up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers and sisters!

Agree! Do those jerks think they’re better than everyone else, and they don’t have to stand in line?

18. Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.

Time to slow down!

19. Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, finding their cell phone, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey - but I'd bet everyone can find and push the snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time, every time!

Yes, a universal truth.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

No sense being dumb if you don't show it. . .

And, boy did I show some dumb this morning.

In nice weather I walk an hour a day outside on the Cherry Creek Trail, which runs by my neighborhood. It's a beautiful spot. I've seen ducks and egrets in the creek, deer, coyote, and the occasional wild turkey roaming across the prairie. Sometimes we'll see a bull snake. It's not a big deal, other than they're four feet long and scary looking.
We've been told that bull snakes were introduced into the area to keep down the rattle snake population, which is a good thing in areas widely populated by humans.

Well, today I saw a 4' bull snake. It was easing its way across the path. Not wanting to slow down, I pounded my feet to get the snake to move faster.

Except there was one problem. The snake wasn't a bull snake -- it was a rattle snake. Yikes!! That snake coiled up in a flash, twitched its tail and sounded its telltale rattle. Yes, I quickly got on my way.

Wikipedia says the range of a rattle snake is two-thirds of its total length, and that it can strike literally faster than the human eye can follow. It looks like I was a pretty lucky dummy.

Friends, I have learned some lessons from my mistake. One, respect ALL snakes, and two, practicing your patience is an art that is never perfected.

Wikipedia also says, "Most species of rattlesnakes have hemotoxic venom, destroying tissue, degenerating organs and causing coagulopathy (disrupted blood clotting). Some degree of permanent scarring is very likely in the event of a venomous bite, even with prompt, effective treatment, and a severe envenomation, combined with delayed or ineffective treatment, can lead to the loss of a limb or death. Thus, a rattlesnake bite is always a potentially fatal injury. Untreated rattlesnake bites, especially from larger species, are very often fatal. However, antivenom, when applied in time, reduces the death rate to less than 4%."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Happy Thoughts

I took a short nap today -- not something I often do. I must have needed the break because I feel so rested and at peace despite the fact that I should have been pounding out my word count. I think I had some pleasant dreams.

I'm a bit of a homebody. Sure, I enjoy going out and spending time with friends, but my best days are those spent at home. Right now I'm writing on my Adirondack chair in my little backyard.

I love the sounds of my neighborhood -- a car door closing, voices of neighbors greeting one another, my lovely fountain, the breeze through the Aspens, and of course, the nearly ever-present hum of lawn mowers (this is suburbia, you know).

This little piece of earth is my happy place. Right now my garden is blooming with different types of lilies. They're shades of yellow, orange, and pink. My favorite is pictured below. It's the color of the first blush of sunset, before the sun sinks low enough to create an explosion of bright orange and pink.


I've always craved a quiet, gentle place to relax. Now I realize that I've created such an oasis in my own backyard. I'm like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. I understand that all I need is right here at home.

How about you? Where's your happy place? Is is close to home or is it found on an adventure?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Welcome Deborah Vogts

I had the pleasure of meeting author Deb Vogts last summer at a publishing event. She's a wonderful, down-to-earth gal, one that you feel you've known longer than you actually have known her. We hit it off. I picked up a copy of her first novel, Snow Melts in Spring, and fell in love with her writing.

Her second novel, Seeds of Summer (the second
book in the Seasons of Tallgrass series) has recently released. I'm enjoying reading it very much. Deb has a way with words and I love the way she describes the setting for her novels, the Flint Hills of Kansas. Beautiful.

She's agreed to stop by and visit, and she's answered some questions:

1. Tell us about your latest novel, Seeds of Summer. - Seeds of Summer is the second book in the Seasons of the Tallgrass series. It’s a heart-warming contemporary romance set in the Flint Hills of Kansas where a former rodeo queen abandons her dreams in order to care for her deceased father’s ranch and her two half-siblings, only to realize with the help of a young new pastor that God can turn even the most dire circumstances into seeds of hope.

2. What’s your favorite turn of phrase or word picture, in literature or a movie? This is a quote I’m actually using in my third book, Blades of Autumn, taken from Skimming the Cream by Zula Bennington Green (Peggy of the Flint Hills). I think it describes the setting for the book amazingly well . . .

“The Flint Hills are simple and quiet and timeless. They belong to the people who live there, to men who ride in seasoned boots and weathered hats, to men who farm the little valleys and pasture the big hills, to women who look out their kitchen window every day at a familiar curve of sky. And to any soul attuned to beauty and peace.”

3. What’s your favorite holiday and why? - Christmas. I love all the symbols and family traditions that accompany this most precious holiday.

4. What is the most surprising discovery you’ve made on your journey of publication? “Reader mail.” This is something I never equated into the “author picture.” I LOVE getting letters or emails from my readers. That has been such a huge blessing to me.

5. Which compliment related to your writing has meant the most and why? Right before Seeds of Summer released, my publisher ran a special promotion on Amazon to give away my first book, Snow Melts in Spring, as a free Kindle download. I thought this would be a great thing! Little did I know there might be consequences for doing this—poor reviews by those not expecting a Christian romance. On the very day I received my first 2 star review, I also received an email from a soldier in Bagdad, who had read my book as part of that free promotion—and loved it. The words he wrote in his email served as inspiration to me that God was in control, no matter how many poor reviews I might receive. If you’d like to read the email, I blogged about it here: http://deborahvogts.blogspot.com/2010/05/reader-mail-letter-from-soldier.html

6. What makes you happy? – The scent of a rose or the approach of rain, a newly planted garden, baking bread, playing the piano, spending time with my family, driving into the Flint Hills, hearing from someone who enjoyed reading my books!

Bio: Deborah Vogts and her husband have three daughters and make their home in Southeast Kansas where they raise and train American Quarter Horses. As a student at Emporia State University studying English and journalism, Deborah developed a love for the Flint Hills that has never faded. In writing this series, she hopes to share her passion for one of the last tallgrass prairie regions in the world, showing that God’s great beauty rests on the prairie and in the hearts of those who live there.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Note From Alison Strobel

Hey there! I just wanted to say thanks to my fine blog hostess and to her readers. I have been really excited to see how many people are thinking of picking up the book because of the reviews they read during the blog tour.

And thank you to everyone who entered the contest! I'll be drawing a winner on July 18 and posting it on my blog. If you haven't stopped by my blog or website yet, I hope you'll pop over sometime and say hi in the comments or on the guest book.

Also, if you're interested in hearing about my next releases and any other exciting news that happens to come up, please sign up to receive my announcements--the sign-up is on my website. I have another novel coming out in September, two more next year, and two children's books that my husband and I wrote (the first of which comes out August 1), so there will be plenty of news coming, and I try to host contests now and then on my blog, too.

Thanks again! And if you do decide to pick up The Weight of Shadows and give it a read, please come tell me what you thought of it. I mean it. :)

~Alison

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Just Observing

When you’re out and about, even if it’s only your backyard, I think it’s important for a writer to be a good observer. Noting what you see, hear, feel, smell, or taste adds to your mental database of adjectives and phrases you can use in your work someday.

I’ve been noticing the prairie grasses on my (almost) daily walks. They’re nearly up to my waist and surround the concrete path that is the Cherry Creek Trail. The other day a breeze was blowing. Some of the grasses have flat fronds with a hand-like shape and others are thin and tapered, looking deceptively fragile.

As the wind stroked the grasses the ones with the flat fronds waved to me as though I were a trusted friend, while the thinner grasses bowed down like I was passing royalty.

I’m fairly certain that someday I'll create a scene that features those winsome grasses.

*The photo above doesn't show the grasses I'm talking about but it's one of the views on my walk. I took these photo a few years ago. Fortunately, the scene remains the same.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Welcome Alison Strobel


I'm happy to welcome author Alison Strobel to my blog. I've had the pleasure of reading her most recent release (courtesy of her publisher, Zondervan), The Weight of Shadows.

Alison agreed to answer some questions for us --

Tell us about your latest novel, Weight of Shadows.

The Weight of Shadows is about Kim, a young woman who is haunted by guilt and desperate for a family. When she starts dating Rick, a fellow foster child, she thinks she’s found everything she needs--someone to love her, and someone to whom she can spill the secret that weighs on her so heavily. What she really ends up finding, however, is a way to pay penance for her sins when Rick begins to abuse her. But when he turns on their infant daughter, Kim must decide if her needs are worth putting her child in danger--and how to ensure Rick doesn’t use her secret against her if she decides to leave.

What’s your favorite turn of phrase or word picture, in literature or a movie?

Oh gosh, I have a terrible memory for things like that--but I can tell you that Terry Pratchett is, in my opinion, the king of word pictures and figurative language, so whatever ones I’d hoped to remember forever were probably from his books. :)

What’s your favorite holiday and why?

Christmas! I am a sucker for Christmas. I love the music, I love giving gifts, I love the traditions and teaching my children about why we celebrate it. It’s a thousand times better if there’s snow, too. There usually was when I was growing up in Illinois, but my years in California really gave my love of Christmas a run for its money. I just couldn’t get into it when it was warm enough to have Christmas dinner outside. And Christmas lights on palm trees? Just not the same. I’m really happy to be back in a place where the holiday gets the proper atmospheric costuming. :)

What is the most surprising discovery you’ve made on your journey of publication?

That Christian readers can be incredibly judgmental of authors based on what they write. Not all of them, obviously, but I’m always stunned when I or another author I know get slammed for writing realistic stories. If we portray an un-Christian character in a way that is absolutely believable, given who that character is and what their worldview is like, or if we make a Christian character make a really bad choice, there are readers out there who will question my/the author’s very faith because we dared to put something “un-Christian” in the book. I understand if readers don’t like to read about certain types of behavior, and I always feel badly when something I've written makes someone uncomfortable, but to question the state of my soul because I wrote about, say, a non-Christian who was a womanizer and a drunk is beyond ridiculous.

Which compliment related to your writing has meant the most and why?

I’ve had people tell me they’ve stopped reading in order to pray for the characters because they became so real to the reader. I take that as a huge compliment! I work really hard to make the people in my books believable and easy to relate to, and when I get feedback like that it tells me I’m hitting the bull’s-eye.

What’s your favorite meal to cook?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Cook!? Yeah, I don’t so much do that. At least not well. My favorite dish to eat that I know how to cook would be homemade mac and cheese. But I wouldn’t say I enjoy cooking it--or anything else for that matter. I really wish I did enjoy it, though.

Describe your perfect “day off.”

Sleeping in, having a breakfast of Cheerios with milk and brown sugar, spending the morning reading a really wonderful book in a very comfortable chair and spending the afternoon crocheting in the company of good friends. And somewhere in there would be a blended mocha. And maybe some cake.

What makes you happy?

My kids’ laughs and kisses. Dinner alone with my husband. Hearing how one of my books has touched someone, or made them think. Girls’ night out.

A piece of jewelry, the fragrance of lilacs, and the song of a mourning dove – make a scene.

The setting: An upscale funeral home in Massachusetts, present day, early May, Sunday morning. The room is prepared for a memorial service, with rows of folding chairs filling the room and the walls lined with lilacs. The windows to the room are open to the garden outside, where a mourning dove can be heard in its nest in one of the many cherry trees that decorate the property. At the front of the room is an open casket made of mahogany and lined with pink satin. An easel beside the casket holds a poster with two photos: One is from WW2, depicting a young woman with a bright smile wearing a smart servicewoman’s uniform. The other shows what we assume is the same woman, aged a great many number of decades, with thinning silver hair set in curls and a face that reflects a handful of sorrows. Her smile is small, but sincere; her eyes seem focused on something far in the distance. Above the photos are the words Gabriella “Gabby” Trane ~ October 29 1919 - May 10, 2008.

The action: Chrissy Corbel is going to her great aunt’s funeral today. She hasn’t spoken to this aunt in six years, since a falling-out between her and Chrissy’s mother at a family reunion. Her mother refused to attend the service today, but insisted Chrissy go to represent their side of the family--as well as to ensure that the broach her mother wants is not buried with the deceased. If it is on Aunt Gabby--which it is--she is to figure out a way to get it off and bring it home. It is a very valuable piece, fashioned by Carl Faberge in the 19th century, and Gabby stole it (according to Chrissy’s mother) from Chrissy’s grandmother twenty years ago just before she died. Chrissy’s mother believes it to be hers, and procuring it will not only allow her to “avenge” her mother, but will also provide her with the money she needs, after she sells it to the Smithsonian, to finally pay off the debt she owes to the IRS.

Chrissy arrives at the memorial service late, and it is in full-swing when she finally walks in. The room is packed--Aunt Gabby was a popular lady--and she sweats through the whole service wondering if she’s really going to have to steal jewelry off a dead woman in front of a crowd. When the service ends people linger and converse, and she spends the next hour dodging estranged family and humoring little old ladies who instantly recognize Gabby in Chrissy’s face and want to talk with her. When she finally gets close enough to the casket, she realizes the broach is indeed pinned to the lavender pink tweed jacket someone chose as Gabby’s burial outfit. Panicked that she really will have to commit theft, she falls back and regroups with a cigarette outside, where she recalls the incident that led to the division between her mother and her aunt. When she goes back inside after psyching herself up for the robbery, she realizes the broach has already been stolen.

Thanks for stopping by, Alison. I enjoyed reading The Weight of Shadows, and I encourage my friends to read this thought-provoking novel. It's not an easy book to read because the author tackles a difficult subject head on. The best part of The Weight of Shadows for me was that it caused you to think of how the choices we make impact not only our lives, but others around us too.

You can visit Alison online at her blog. If you're interested in winning some books or a gift card, you can enter her blog tour contest by leaving a comment on this post. On July 18th, which is one week after the close of the tour, she'll choose one comment from a randomly selected blog to receive either autographed copies of her first three books or a gift card to their favorite bookstore.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Want to know what your problem is?

“Want to know what your problem is?”

The voice came from my right. I turned to find a pleasant-looking woman smiling at me, waiting for my response to her question. Her voice held both confidence and compassion, her eyes sparkled, and her posture was welcoming.

Having never been approached by a stranger with such an interesting question, I was intrigued. My author’s brain scrambled, creating several scenarios from the unusual interaction. (Perhaps this is a prompt for a future novel!)

Wouldn’t life be grand if someone could size you up, determine your needs, and offer a solution so easily?

Well, of course I said yes. After all, who wouldn’t want a pleasant, confident woman defining my problem and subsequently solving it within seconds of laying eyes on me?

I wish this fairy godmother had given me the secret to happiness or the key to security. I wish she could have looked into my heart and found the perfect prescription to making my day more blessed. But that didn’t happen. Easy answers and quick fixes, though desirable, are not common to the human condition, and that’s okay. If life is too easy the rewards might be cheapened. I’m fine with the fact that to achieve you have to work. To maintain relationships you have to be available and giving. To enjoy the fruits of your labor you have to, well, labor.

Are you wondering what my problem is?

I was in a store trying on a dress and looking in the three-way mirror in the dressing room when she approached me. The dress was about 99% perfect, but there was something off. She knew right away—the shoulder seams needed to be taken in an inch. She stepped up behind me and pinched the fabric up on each shoulder.

Now she didn't give me the secret to making a million dollars or the method to achieve world peace, but I just returned from the tailor and in approximately two weeks I’ll have the perfect summer dress.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I'm Re-inspired!

A week ago today I drove to Colorado Springs to attend the Glen Eyrie Writer's Workshop. It was fabulous. A plus is that the workshop is held in beautiful Glen Eyrie, property crowned with a magnificent castle.

The GE workshop is an opportunity to get instruction in a small, more-intimate setting. There were only 60 writers and four instructors. Angie Hunt, Nancy Rue, Kathy Mackel, and James Scott Bell were the instructors. On the opening night the instructors discuss what area they will be specializing in. Angie did nuts and bolts of writing, Nancy concentrated on relationship (between characters and the readers), Kathy was all about story, and Jim taught about aspects of a novel.

I chose to to go to Kathy's sessions. Wonderful! That lady is a plot doctor. She gave me great insight and encouragement.

I had attended the GE Workshop once before, in 2007. It was nice to go back to see old friends and meet new ones. The theme this year was re-inspired. Great choice.

The photo below is special. It's the members of my local writing group, Words For The Journey, with Jim Bell.

I've already got the 2011 dates on my calendar: June 12th to 15th. Perhaps you might want to check it out.

Monday, May 24, 2010

How to sell your story

So, you’ve conquered the mountain and written your novel/memoir, and now all you have to do is find an agent or an editor who loves your work. Sounds simple, right?

Unfortunately it’s not all that easy. As much work as you’ve put into your story, I’m sorry to tell you that there’s a lot more work ahead of you. You have to create a catchy elevator pitch (a 15-second description of your wip), write a query letter (to ascertain interest from an agent/editor), write a synopsis, and make sure you have some dynamite opening pages in your story.

Guess what? I’ve got a great tip to helping to learn how to create those necessary components—this Thursday, May 27th, at 1 pm Eastern time (my!) literary agent Rachelle Gardner will present a live 90-minute webinar, “Sell Your Stuff: How to Get Your Novel or Memoir Published.” The webinar is being produced through Writer’s Digest.

Rachelle is one of the best literary agents in the market today. She is a part of WordServe Literary and publishes a blog that’s been included in Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites list. This woman knows her stuff, and now she’s going to share her insight and knowledge with the attendees. Not only that, but attendees will have access to the presentation for one year—that way if you have to leave in the middle or if you want the info as a reference, it will be available.

The webinar will include top instruction, a free query critique, an opportunity to ask questions, and five lucky attendees will be chosen at random to win a 20-minute personal phone call from Rachelle.

The cost of the webinar is only $79 and you can register here.

Keep in mind that education and instruction are a part of the writer's journey. This webinar is a great opportunity, and you should consider investing in your craft, yourself, and your story.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Colorado Christian Writers Conference

I arrived in Estes Park yesterday for the CCWC. It was hard to believe the calendar said May 11th while driving through so much snowfall.


Last year I went to CCWC for one day and wore short sleeves. My friends and I were sitting on a deck and scootching into the shade. I think I even got a bit of sunburn. What a difference between this year and last.

I'm so excited for all that I'll learn this week and the friendships I'll make. I'll update Twitter and FB as I can.

Also, we have a winner! Congratulations to JoAnn Bennett who won a personalized copy of Candace Calvert's Disaster Status.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Writers and Editors Needed

So a few weeks ago when I was in Mexico I went to the buffet closest to the beach for lunch. Because it’s the beach buffet, people tend to dress less, uh, well, less.

I was in line behind a young man who wasn’t wearing a shirt. He had tattoos on both arms, and a large (maybe 7”x12”) tat in the middle of his back. It was lovely—a stylized cross with a crown of thorns and the words, “King of Kings.”

It would have truly been lovely if his tattoo artist or the person who designed the tattoo had a basic knowledge of the possessive apostrophe. You see, this unfortunate fellow will go through the rest of his life with a massive punctuation error written on his back because the phrase was written like this: King of King’s.

Ugh. The way it’s written implies possession, not King of all kings.

This experience, plus the several images online with Tat-fail examples, point out a possible new market for writers and editors: tattoo parlors. Obviously they have a need. Why don’t you give them a call?

BTW, the error in the photo is the lack of an "e" in the word awesome. Also, if you're going to get a tattoo, please be sure to do a spelling, grammar, and punctuation check before you put anything in stone, or rather in flesh.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

I took a break in paradise

I spent last week lazing on a beach in Mexico doing what I like best, hanging out with loved ones, reading, and plotting. I even dreamed of the book I'm starting.


I'm in the middle of the photo below, all covered up, wearing sunscreen with SPF 50, and I still got a burn. Sigh.



The handsome guy in the white baseball cap is my delightful beta reader, reading through the book I just finished.

Oh, and I brought some friends along, here's a photo of two of them on the beach:

I'm going to be posting more photos on my Facebook page soon. If we're not yet friends, please feel free to friend me.

Two of the books I brought with me are Michal by Jill Eileen Smith (about King David's first wife -- fabulous) and C.J. Darlington's debut novel Thicker than Blood. I couldn't pry it out of my daughter's hands (she loved it), so I'll be reading that one here at home.

Guest author Candace Calvert

I had the pleasure of meeting Candace two years ago in Minneapolis at the annual ACFW conference. We hit it right off. The second novel in her Mercy Hospital series is available now, and I asked Candy to stop by and chat.

If you'd like the opportunity to win a personalized copy of Disaster Status, please leave a comment. I'll draw the winner's name next Wednesday.

1. Tell us about your latest novel, Disaster Status.

Disaster Status is the second book in my Mercy Hospital series and continues the story of nurse Erin Quinn introduced in Critical Care. I think the back cover copy gives readers a good sense of the drama to come:

“Charge nurse Erin Quinn escaped personal turmoil to work on the peaceful California coast. But when a hazardous material spill places Pacific Mercy Hospital on disaster status and stresses staff, she's puts to the test. And thrown into conflict with the fire department's handsome incident commander who thinks her strategy is out of line.

Fire Captain Scott McKenna has felt the toxic effects of tragedy; he's learned to go strictly by the book to advance his career, heal his family, and protect his wounded heart. When he's forced to team with the passionately determined ER charge nurse, sparks fly. As they work to save lives, can they handle the attraction kindled between them . . . without getting burned?”

2. What is the most surprising discovery you’ve made on your journey of publication?

Despite the competition (in contests, for agents, book contracts, etc.) there is such awesome support in the writing community—particularly in the CBA. Two years ago I attended my first ACFW conference and felt “at home” from the moment I arrived. Cheerleaders, prayer warriors, helpmates and mentors . . . friends--it’s wonderful. Aspiring authors shouldn’t feel intimidated; so much encouragement is there for them.

3. Which compliment related to your writing has meant the most and why?

A woman let me know how much she enjoyed Critical Care, then went on to say, “Finally, a book I can share with my teenage daughter and my mother!” I love that! And I’ve been delighted to hear from readers who’ve said that reading the Mercy Hospital books has prompted their decisions to explore nursing as a career—I can’t think of anything better.

4. What’s your favorite meal to cook?

(Grinning) Ask my Twitter Followers—they’ll swear I post my updates by tapping the keyboard with a wooden spoon! I get much the same thrill out of cooking as writing; it’s a creative, colorful and satisfying process filled with sensory detail and imagery—much like a good scene. I guess my favorite thing to cook is party food, an array of pretty appetizers in an artful display on tabletops, breakfast bar, side patio tables . . . wherever my guests can mingle, nosh, chat. Some “munchies” I’ve had fun with include: Grilled Portabella Mushroom Spread, Ole Squares, Roasted Corn and Lobster Dip, Crab Quesadillas, Ham Wrapped Asparagus Spears, Fire and Ice Salsa, Santa Fe Nuts. And little dessert bites of course—including frosted Christmas gingerbread shaped into cactus, armadillos and the map of Texas! Cooking makes my heart go pitter patter for sure. In fact, I’m typing with a wooden spoon right now.

5. What makes you happy?

Soul-deep happy: Being a child of God and knowing that He has a loving plan for my life.

Grin-on-my-face, heart happy: Our children and grandchildren, hiking and bird watching, gardening, sun on my face, seeing my handsome husband in a tuxedo smiling at me from the rail of a cruise ship, dancing the Two-Step, letters from readers, making a cozy home . . . and wielding that wooden spoon.

6. A piece of jewelry, the fragrance of lilacs, and the song of a mourning dove – make a scene.

Riley Hale set her stethoscope on the sheet of paper to stop it from blowing off the visitors’ table and across the hospital parking lot. She tucked a windswept strand of blonde hair behind her ear. As was its nature, the Texas weather was changing; a muggy promise of rain and now initial nudges towards an infamous “thunder bumper.” She tried to remember if fluctuations in barometric pressure wreaked the same Emergency Department havoc as a full moon. But what did it matter? Riley had less than an hour left in her ER shift, so maybe she’d get lucky and—

“Studying?” Sarah Burke arrived beside her, blue eyes intense as always. She jabbed a finger toward the flapping paper under the stethoscope.

“Sort of.” Riley hoped her shrug was casual; this course of study was nothing like the nurses’ required continuing educations classes in cardiac life support, pediatric emergencies and hazardous materials. It’s for me, my soul. I need this outlet. “An assignment for an online class . . . in novel writing.” She wasn’t at all surprised by the immediate wrinkling of her teammate’s snub nose.

“I know, I know--” Riley glanced toward the doors of the ER—“Who needs fiction when we’ve got this colorful drama 12 hours a day?”

“Right. Well . . . let’s see.” Sarah plucked the paper, scanned it, and then read the last part aloud. “‘A piece of jewelry, the fragrance of lilacs, and the song of a mourning dove—make a scene.” Her gaze met Riley’s, brows rising as if Riley had succumbed to barometric lunacy. “A scene?”

“A few paragraphs,” Riley explained, “using that sort of . . . romantic imagery. You know: a sight, a smell, a sound. It’s a prompt designed get the creative juices flowing, help a writer show off her ‘voice’, and --”

The ER doors slammed open behind them and a bearded staff nurse jogged out, stethoscope bouncing on his chest. “Code Three coming! Two teenage males, gunshot victims. One under CPR. Rival gang members--police will be crawling all over this place. ETA three minutes. Better get in here, ladies. Our ‘Doc Rambo’ is shouting orders like he’s still in a Kandahar MASH unit.”

They jumped to their feet as lightning flashed across the sky, accompanied by an immediate and deafening rumble of thunder. Ambulance sirens followed like shouts of ‘Bravo’ at a symphony. Sarah handed Riley her stethoscope and groaned. “Here’s your ‘jewelry,’ and”—she raised her voice above the storm that now qualified as a genuine Texas thunder bumper—“and I’m afraid that’s the sound of your mourning dove, girl.” She jogged toward the ER doors and Riley followed, saying a silent prayer for the victims and their families—such a sad waste.

Sarah looked back over her shoulder as the doors opened. “Can’t promise you lilacs, but there’s smelly slab of garlic pizza in break room calling our names . . . if Rambo doesn’t get it first.”

Jewelry, scent of lilacs, the peaceful cooing of a dove. Romantic, but not my reality . . . here or anywhere.

She tossed Sarah a tight smile. “Pure poetry, pal.”

In seconds they would be part of a life-and-death scene. God would write the ending.

***

Thank you for hosting me here on your blog, Megan. Your questions were fun—and challenging. I enjoyed answering them and having this opportunity to connect with your readers. I welcome them to “scrub in” with my Mercy Hospital series!

Blessings,

Candace

BIO:

Candace Calvert is an ER nurse who landed on the “other side of the stethoscope” after the equestrian accident that broke her neck and convinced her love, laughter--and faith--are the very best medicines of all. The inspirational account of her accident and recovery appears in Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul, and launched her writing career.

The author of a madcap cruise mystery series in the secular market, Candace now eagerly follows her heart to write Christian fiction for Tyndale House. Her new medical drama series offers readers a chance to “scrub in” on the exciting world of emergency medicine, along with charismatic characters, pulse-pounding action, tender romance, humor, suspense--and a soul soothing prescription for hope. The second book in her Mercy Hospital series, Disaster Status, has just released.

A native northern Californian, Candace is the mother of two and proud grandmother of six. She enjoys cruise travel, Bible study, bird watching, hiking, gardening, cooking, and being her husband’s biggest karaoke fan.

website: www.candacecalvert.com

blog: http://candacecalvert.blogspot.com/

Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Candace-Calvert-Books/164196907024?ref=ts

Twitter: http://twitter.com/CandaceCalvert

Monday, April 26, 2010

Time out!

I'm pushing toward completion of turning Out of Her Hands into a screenplay. Learning to write a screenplay is a new challenge for me, and I'm going to devote some quality time to this new endeavor.

To give this effort my best, I've decided to take a time out from social media.

I'll be back online in the beginning of May. Have a few good, productive weeks!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Expectations

When I awoke yesterday it was raining and so very dark outside. The heavy clouds pressed close to the earth and motorists were driving with lights on.

I had several errands to run, and I resigned myself to enduring the gloomy, wet day. I left the house early wearing a flannel jacket, fortifying myself against the elements.

After my first stop I came outside, hopped in my car, and headed south. I looked up to the sky and witnessed what felt like a miracle. Looking to the southwest I saw a patch of brilliant blue in the sky—right over Pikes Peak. It was spectacular. The sky above me and to the north and east were still dark and menacing, but there was a promise in the sky right in front of my eyes

By the time I came out of my second appointment, the skies were mostly clear. The day was so lovely I felt as though I had traveled to Eden. The morning rain had washed the atmosphere. The skies were crystal clear, and the snow-capped Rocky Mountains looked like a mirage against the blue, blue sky.

The change in weather created a lightness in my heart. As I was driving, it hit me—my expectations had colored my perception of what the day held. I was so relieved to see the heavy clouds dissipate and the bright sun cast shadows on the greening landscape. Of course two hours later it rained, hailed, and a tornado passed overhead. But it was quick and then the clouds parted.

I guess there’s a lesson to be learned here. Don’t rely on your expectations or allow them to rule your thoughts because you just might end up being 100% wrong. Know what I mean? Has that ever happened to you?