Friday, February 26, 2010

The MasterCard Pickle Jar Commercial's Commentary on Culture

I like a good commercial, and historically the MasterCard “priceless” commercials have really hit the spot. I've considered them honest, insightful, and playful.

I’d consider the newest MasterCard “priceless” commercial a hit but for one word that is in the script. That one word is a commentary on our culture, a commentary on what’s considered normal and everyday. Now, I’m not what one would consider a culture warrior, I’m more a cultural observer. And this observer is disappointed.

The commercial shows a guy twisting and turning, trying to open a pickle jar. Have you seen the commercial MasterCard calls “Pickle Jar?” If not, go take a peek.

Did you catch the word I’m objecting to? It’s very subtle. The word is boyfriend. I wouldn’t have thought twice about the commercial if that word was husband.

Here’s the script: “Gym membership for February: $68. Gym membership for March: $68. Gym membership for April: $68. Finally convincing your boyfriend he should go with you: priceless.”

A sociologist will tell you that a culture that values marriage over cohabitation is stronger and healthier. Why did MasterCard choose to use the word boyfriend? Wouldn’t it have been just as clever with the word husband? Does their choice of noun reflect our culture?

I’m not na├»ve. I know that many people live together outside of marriage. I’m not even going to take on the why-they-do or why-they-shouldn’t. That dialogue has been around for decades.

What I want to know is why did MasterCard use the word boyfriend? Did they think no one would notice? I did.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Writing is NOT a Solitary Endeavor

If you're a writer, do you belong to a writers group? If not, perhaps you should consider seeking out a group to join.

Writing is a tough profession, one with plenty of challenges and rejection. Just learning the craft takes a huge amount of effort, and then you also have to learn about the industry.

A writers group is a place to be accepted and encouraged while you learn, perfect your craft, and submit for publication.

I’m a member of an amazing local writers group, Words For The Journey. BTW, If you don't live in the Denver area, there's another WFTJ -- in Southeast Texas.

The WFTJ writers are cheerleaders, encouragers, counselors (when needed), teachers, and critiquers.

Each week at WFTJ we have a lesson on some aspect of craft or marketing. It’s like going to a weekly seminar. We also have the opportunity to share our work for a group critique.

Once a month, WFTJ hosts a guest speaker and holds our meeting at a local Barnes & Noble. Our speakers are agents, editors, multi-published authors, or an authority on some aspect of the industry.

I also belong to an online writers group, American Christian Fiction Writers. I truly believe I wouldn’t be published today if it were not for ACFW.

I ACFW joined in 2001, and I credit them with helping me to hang in there while I learned the craft. And of course there’s the big plus, which is their yearly conference.

Come on. Life’s hard enough without going it on your own as a writer. Find a group and get plugged in.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Off the Page

On Friday I was a guest on "Off the Page," a local TV program that features Colorado authors. It was fun (as always) to discuss books and writing. The program's host, Stacey McKenzie, was well prepared and made the interview a snap.

The other guest on the program was Amanda Cabot. I didn't know who the other author was, and it was such a pleasant surprise to discover that it was Amanda. She hosts the Front Range Writers group in Loveland. I spoke to that group last October and wasn't able to meet her because she was out of town that day, so you can imagine my delight in finally meeting her face to face.

Publishing is such a small world.

I understand the segment I'm in will air in Broomfield and Denver counties in March and will also be on the county's website (you have to scroll down to Off the Page.)

The shows are are a fun way to get behind the scenes into the author's head. You should give yourself some time to enjoy viewing some of the segments.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Fiction in Real Life #2 (Out of Her Hands)

I think it's fun to see how real life sneaks into fiction. Many authors take something familiar and weave it into their novels. A few weeks ago I posted about Linda's favorite chair from both Searching for Spice and Out of Her Hands.

Both of my books are set in my hometown. I call the town Pine Grove, which is not its current name, but was a previous name of the town.

Today I'm going to give you a peek at the decorations on Mainstreet during the holidays.


On page 304 of Out of Her Hands my characters have parked their car and are walking through the park to the restaurant on Mainstreet I called The Gray Pony. By the way, I wrote this from memory, after having seen these lovely decorations for years. My town likes tradition, and doesn't change the theme. Thank goodness. Here's how I wrote it:

"I feel as if I’ve stepped into another world as we wind our way through the lit-up park to the street. Strands of illuminated white icicles dangle from the edge of the gazebo’s roof, and clear lights strung on garland are draped around the charming pavilion. Gigantic white snowflake lights hang high above, suspended from the lofty cottonwoods, some blinking as if they’re an illusion in the night sky. The trunks of the tall trees sparkle with a cloak of tightly wound white lights. The entire downtown twinkles in the December air, and even the Victorian streetlights dazzle passersby with necklaces of greenery accented with red velvet ribbons."

I took these photos on December 31st, 2008. This is another photo. It was taken later in the evening after darkness fell. You can see from the picture above how large these beautiful cottonwood trees are.

I love my little town park. Nearby are coffee shops, restaurants, neat shops, and a Baskin Robbins Ice Cream parlor. This past summer my Words For The Journey writers met here to have our author portraits taken by Pauline of Fat Tuna Photography.

If you read my books, is this how you imagined it would look?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Book Report - Thin Places // Character's New Name

Occasionally I'll do a book report at my writers group, Words For The Journey.

We met yesterday, and I planned on telling everyone about Mary DeMuth's new memoir that's just released, Thin Places. Well, surprise, surprise -- our WFTJ Director, Michele Cushatt, had the same idea, so Thin Places received a double endorsement from the leadership at WFTJ this week.

Here's my review:
Mary DeMuth's moving spiritual memoir ushers us into her heartbreaking childhood and her triumphant relationship with a loving God. So often we ask why such things happen. Mary's response is that in the thin places of need and brokenness she was met by God's sheltering love and presence.

I'm not one to usually read memoirs, but I'm happy I read this one. Mary's beautifully moving prose opens up a universal truth that nearly every life has - and needs - these beautiful thin places.

Bravo, Mary. You've opened a door to truth and healing for many people. Thank you.

In other news, I'm changing the name of my main character in the wip I'm calling Absolution from Julia to Maura. Thank you to everyone who voted on my name choices. I really appreciate your input.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Touching Lives

And the winner is . . .

Thank you for participating in my Valentine’s Day book giveaway. Congratulations to LaDonna, the winner of Searching for Spice.

Happy Presidents’ Day to you.

We too often go about the busyness of life without really touching one another’s lives.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about living intentionally. I usually have a dislike for cool buzzwords that come into our culture, but this one might have some meat to it. For me, living intentionally is all about relationships—your relationship with God and your relationship with those around you.

I’ve been making an effort to s-l-o-w down a bit to enjoy conversations with friends and family, to give a little more of my time to help someone else, to be available to be a friend. To be honest, sometimes I’m anxious about volunteering my time for someone else. After all, like everyone, I’m busy too.

But here’s the thing, I’m trusting God to redeem the time spent in the busyness of life, and I've found I’m able to meet life’s deadlines and demands.

How about you? Can you join me in my experiment to be more giving, more conversational, and maybe even make more eye contact with those you blow past during the course of your day?

Who knows, perhaps the one reaping the benefits will be you. What do you think?

Friday, February 12, 2010

My Thin Places

I enjoyed a charmed childhood. Nothing in the way I was raised prepared me for the crushing heartache I experienced a dozen years ago when I was cruelly betrayed and rejected by people I’d loved all of my life. That ordeal thrust me into a very dark place.


As horrific as rejection is, it was a wonderful experience with God. He became more real and present than any time before or since. As I faced each day weighted with grief, I met God in the thinnest of places, and He portioned out grace. Not in bucketfuls, but grain-by-grain as that’s all my wounded heart could digest.


I healed.


In the past year I’ve felt a nudge to open myself and reveal my story, giving hope to those suffering betrayal and rejection. Because speaking of my pain made me puddle into tears, I entered counseling to overcome my emotions.


Driving home after one particularly moving session, I saw something soaring in the distant sky. A magnificent hawk beat the air, flying directly toward me. My heart stirred as he drew nearer and hovered momentarily over my car offering me a clear view of the writhing snake suspended from his powerful talons.


Thus, I encountered another thin place with my God. Illustrated by that majestic bird, He showed me my pain wasn’t meaningless, and I would overcome. The snakes and snares of my past were powerless to affect my future. My heart rejoiced.


“In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free.” Psalm 118: 5

****

259 words


This post was written in response to a challenge by Mary DeMuth. Mary's new memoir, Thin Places, has just released.

Here's my review. In this spiritual memoir, Mary reflects on the "thin places" of her life; places where she was acutely aware of God's presence.


This challenge I participated in is also a contest to win a Kindle. You’ve got until midnight tonight to submit your entry.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What's in a name?

I’m nearly finished with my wip that I’m calling Absolution, and I realize that I need to change my main character’s name. Her name started out as Libby but changed to Julia. I have another central character whose name starts with J, and now I’ve got to change “Julia” to a name that does not start with J.

She’s 44 years old, married with one child. She's a bit headstrong (determined), loyal, and works from home as an advertising copywriter. The theme of my story: The hardest person to learn to forgive is yourself.

Here’s a short list of contenders:

Zoe

Evelyn (Most of the time she'd be called Evelyn, but sometimes it would be Evie.)

Leigh

Audra

Maura

Please, help me out. Which name do you like best?

Monday, February 08, 2010

Love is in the air & BOOK GIVEAWAY

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, the annual holiday celebrating love and affection.

I’ve got my door decoration hung. Yes, I know it's a corny one, but that's okay.

I’m anticipating some delicious chocolate. (I’ve learned from experience that despite my numerous notes hung on the fridge listing gifts I’d rather get, my darling husband always comes home on Valentine’s Day with multiple boxes of candy. For me, for my daughters, for snacking.)

Since it’s that love-in-the-air time I’d love to give away a copy of Searching for Spice. Leave a comment and I’ll draw names on Sunday (Valentine’s Day).

I like to have fun and celebrate occasions. I’ve got one of those big heart-shaped cookie cutters. When they were little, my kids would always get a heart-shaped sandwich to take to school. And sometimes I’d do a red-themed dinner. One that I recall was chicken paprika. It wasn’t so great, but it was the thought that counts, right?

How about you? Do you commemorate the day in any special way?

Friday, February 05, 2010

The Grocery-Store Blues

It’s confession time. I don’t like grocery shopping. At all.

I just returned home from doing my grocery shopping, and if I were a paranoid person, I’d think some folks were out to get me.

You know that lady that pushes around the screaming child? Somehow she always shadows me through the store. Yea, she was there today.

What about the person at the deli counter that has a list longer than Santa’s naughty and nice list? Yea, I was behind him today.

And don’t you just want to clear your throat loudly when that gal monopolizes all the space in front of the asparagus so that you can’t select yours until she’s finished inspecting every bundle? Or is that just me?

So I was antsy at the store. It was busy today, maybe people stocking up on Super Bowl food. I don’t know. Then I was reminded about that verse in Philippians (2:14) Do everything without complaining and arguing. Could that even pertain to grocery shopping? Gulp - yes. So I purposed to practice my patience throughout the rest of my shopping trip. It wasn’t always easy.

The good part of the experience was when I realized that although I couldn’t control the other shoppers, I could manage my own attitude. So I did.

What’s your secret? How do you handle annoying circumstances?

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Fiction in Real Life #1

A friend stopped by the other day. It was the first time she’d been to my house, and she walked from room to room as if she were looking for something. Turns out she was. She knew that the characters in my first two books shared my home, and she wanted to imagine them coming down the stairs or sitting in the living room.


So much of real life sneaks into the fiction authors are creating, so I decided to occasionally show a photo of a location or an item from my books.


This is Linda’s prayer chair from both Searching for Spice or Out of Her Hands.

It had belonged to her grandmother and when she needed a quiet moment she would settle herself into the Victorian antique and pray.


This chair actually belonged to my grandmother. We never met, she passed away only months before I was born. When I inherited the chair it was covered in chipped, black lacquer. It took me weeks of patient work to strip the gooey stuff from the intricately carved wood. We had it reupholstered about a dozen years ago.


The pillows are some that I made. I’ve always had a creative urge, and for a time I worked with designers to make custom pillows and table coverings.


These days I string together words to make stories. Speaking of, I better get back to my characters. I left them in suspended animation about to have a revealing conversation.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Sometimes Life's Messy

A little over a year ago I wrote a post titled You Can’t Always Get What You Want. It was about wanting to purchase a new kitchen table to go with some remodeling we’ve done over the years. The table I had was screaming 1990s and killing me.

Anyway, I resisted the urge to buy the gorgeous Italian mosaic table (Yeah, I’ll go with that story. The real truth is in the other post.), and I refinished my old 1990s table with a beautiful coat of purple and dark brown paint.

Boy did it turn out great. See?

It looks sleek and glamorous and chic (IMHO). We refinished the table in November of 2008 and I’m still thrilled with it.

I was cleaning off the table yesterday and couldn’t help but notice how smudged and scratched it had gotten. It’s been rubbed up.

But, surprisingly, it doesn’t bother me one bit. All the scratches and marks were from sharing meals and living life with my family over the same table that we’ve gathered around for more than 15 years.

So here’s the thing: sometimes life’s messy. In the give-and-take of living we rub up against one another. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s wonderful when family and friends step in to give you the perfect piece of advice or offer a cautionary word. I think that kind of rubbing has a polishing effect.

My table illustrated that fact to me. It’s scuffed and scratched, but still beautiful because it’s my sturdy, reliable table. I hope that the scuffed and scratched me is still as appealing to my loved ones, and I know that those I care for aren’t any less valuable because of their scuffs and scratches.

Sometimes life’s messy and we get a bit scuffed up, but that's okay. Scuff marks just add character.