Thursday, October 27, 2011

Brain food for writers (Really!)

To be more productive, should writers chew gum, drink coffee, and nibble on chocolate?

I never heard a writer crave chewing gum, but there’s a lot of talk out there about drinking coffee and snacking on chocolate while in the midst of the creative process.

A study found chewing gum was associated with higher alertness, reduced anxiety and stress, and improvement in overall performance on multi-tasking activities.

As far as “smart foods,” science has endorsed the idea that some food can indeed play a role in your cognitive abilities. Anything with caffeine will help boost energy level, help you to focus, and aid in concentration. Sugar (glucose) enhances alertness, fish with omega 3 fatty acids enhance memory, and avocados, rich in monounsaturated fat, contributes to healthy blood flow and helps to fire up brain cells. Walnuts contain antioxidants that increase memory. We are warned though, that too much caffeine or sugar will backfire and actually make you jittery (and perhaps overweight).

So tomorrow when you sit down to write, consider chewing gum, drinking coffee, and snacking on chocolate. And for lunch have some salmon with a few slices of avocado, a handful of walnuts, and a glass of orange juice. Then maybe you’ll pen that breakout novel.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Novel Beginning

I’m a sap for a good first line or a good beginning to a story. As a reader, if I’m not captured in the first two pages, I usually don’t finish the book.

Just for fun, I’m going to occasionally write a story’s beginning. Not that it’s a story I’m working on, or a story that will ever go further than a few paragraphs. Just a new beginning—for the fun of it. Here’s my first just-for-the-fun-of-it novel beginning:

Love’s meant to be tested, right?

The rising sun squatted beneath the car’s visor, piercing her eyes with painful brilliance. Judith sipped tepid coffee from a paper cup and punched down on the accelerator. The late model sedan roared with power, turning the prairie landscape outside her window to a blur of warm gold and soft green. No matter how fast she drove, it wasn't fast enough. The tires ate up the miles of pavement separating them, carrying her back to him—back to a life she had never wanted to leave.

She’d thought of Ken often and of their last day together—the way the sun emphasized the gentle planes of his face, the way the breeze lifted his hair, the fire in his eyes when she told him she must leave.

“Return to me, next week, next year, next decade, in 30 years, just return.” He'd said.

She’d nodded her agreement, too emotional to trust her voice to speak what was really on her heart—the desire to stay—in his arms, in his life.

She braked the car, avoiding an antelope sprinting across the highway. A sigh seeped from her lungs. She adjusted her sunglasses and prayed it wasn’t too late. After all, a lot can happen in seventeen years.


Well, any thoughts on where this story may be heading? Would you read on? You can be truthful, I've got thick skin.

Photo credit: johngard from

Thursday, October 20, 2011

New Agent in Town!

You'd have to be deaf not to hear all the buzz about the new literary agent that's making a big splash in publishing--Barbara Scott with WordServe Literary.

Barbara has been a book editor for 13+ years and has more than 30 years of publishing experience, ranging from newspapers and magazines to books. Among her many published works, Barbara is the co-author of best-selling novel Sedona Storm, as well as the sequel Secrets of the Gathering Darkness, both published by Thomas Nelson.

Because I have an "in," (I'm also represented by WordServe, a client of Rachelle Gardner), I was able to wrangle an interview with Barbara:

What’s the best way for a writer to connect with you?

The best way to contact me is with a short 250- to 500-word query sent to my e-mail address at However, I strongly advise writers to attend writers conferences where they can meet and network with published authors, editors, and agents. Face-to-face appointments are terrific because you have an agent’s attention for 15 minutes. Since in the last month I’ve received hundreds of e-mail queries, many of which I haven’t yet read, you can see how advantageous it would be to meet someone in person.

What do you look for in a query letter?

I need to know what kind of book you’re pitching. I recommend using the subject line to let me know whether you’re pitching a contemporary romance or a speculative novel. For instance, the subject line would read: QUERY – “Man in the Moon” (title) – romantic comedy (genre).

Craft your letter to appeal to my emotions in that first sentence or two. Ask yourself, “What makes my book exciting, unique, romantic, suspenseful? How can I convey that in a way that is memorable?” Agents want to find a gem among the stones. Make me want to read more and ask for your proposal. You might want to browse through a bookstore and read the back cover copy on a number of books. Those descriptions are what make me want to read a book.

What’s your ideal fiction client? Non-fiction client?

That’s an interesting question that I answered yesterday for a fiction writer I’m signing to our agency. Here’s the answer I gave to her: “My dream author is someone who has a heart for God, whether they write in the general markets or the Christian market. That author is teachable, dependable, creative, and has a sense of humor. I like to have fun in my work, but I take it seriously and work hard. Life is too short for constant conflict.” Of course, they also need talent. These days, publishers want fiction authors to write blogs and be actively engaged in social media like Facebook and Twitter. The number of followers you have makes an impression.

Non-fiction writers not only need to express their ideas with clarity and by using interesting stories, but they also need a platform. They should be a well-known speaker or an expert in their field. Non-fiction authors should be comfortable giving media interviews and know how to communicate the essence of their books. In other words, they should be able to play a key role in marketing their books.

How do you know if an agent is a good fit for you? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Is the agent a good communicator, or do you feel intimidated? Agents get 15% of a book’s sale, so they need to be more than a salesperson. Will that person help you to grow your career? Are they willing to brainstorm book ideas with you? Will they give you advice on how to craft a proposal? Is that person experienced and well-connected? I’ve known some authors who haven’t heard from their agents in a year. Just because someone offers you a contract doesn’t mean that they’re a good fit for you.

What’s the best advice you’d give a writer looking for an agent? Network. Network. Network. Join writers organizations and read trade magazines. Talk to other writers, especially published ones. Read your favorite writers’ blogs and find out who agents them. If you can afford to spend $20 a month, get a membership to Publishers Marketplace ( where every deal made is posted and you can search agents by name or search genres for agents who have sold something that might be a perfect fit.

What’s the best advice you give to your clients? Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. If you know that you know that you know you’re meant to write, don’t stop. As an editor I acquired writers who had written five or six novels before they were published. Work at your craft constantly and trust God that He will open the doors for you to publish at the right time.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

True Confessions of a Word Lover

I think it's time to fess up. Sometimes I'll Twitter or Facebook a phrase or idea to see how it's received, and then I'll use it in one of my novels. Yup. I do stoop to that level.

I play word games by myself all day long. If I see/hear/smell/taste/touch something, I often try to come up with the best words to describe whatever it was I heard/smelled/tasted/touched. (Truly, it's silly, crazy, word-loving madness in my brain.)

Here are some tidbits that may find their way into my fiction:

It's so windy in SE Denver today. Grit is flying through the air, and tumbleweeds are bouncing across the street like giant cotton balls.

Pondering one of life's mysteries-- like why we meticulously iron anything made of linen.

The world is turning a soft shade of gold here in Colorado. Today as I drove down my street burnished leaves floated around my car and danced across the road.

The wind is distracting company today. It's howling down my chimney, rattling my windows, & pounding the walls. Even my aspen's trembling.

Windy, windy, windy! Pounding the house and whistling down the chimney. Feels like an uninvited guest just showed up.

Just peeked outside to see winter's cold glare glancing my way. It looks like snow's about to fall.

I love the way the autumn light slips through the leaves of my maple tree and dances across my wall.

The garbageman just went down our street tossing trash cans on their sides here and there like a grumpy toddler pitching a tantrum.

And I can't put my finger on the original text for this one, but it's already been incorporated into my wip: A delicate dusting of snow lay on what appeared to be a Victorian city. The sparkling white powder looked like confectioner's sugar passed through a sieve and sprinkled over the world.

It pleases me when friends notice my phrases and enjoy them. I keep a file of "pretty words," and I occasionally look through them and select one for a scene. Right now I'm thinking how my character will be ironing one day and wonder why she's so meticulous about ironing linen . . .

Image credit:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

What do you think of fairies?

Lately I've been thinking about fairies.


I'm always marinating a story idea. It takes me a while to ponder a plot or the beginning of a book before I actually start writing it. And I'm intrigued with the idea of writing about fairies. I always loved fairy stories as a child.

Here's my jumping off idea: Juliet is delighted to inherit Aunt Lucy’s home. But when she moves in, she discovers she’s not alone. Those house fairies Aunt Lucy claimed cleaned up the messes weren’t the crazy ramblings of an eccentric lady—they’re for real!

I've got a few wrinkles to iron out, and a few more ideas to flesh out the plot, but I'm excited to wander into that fictional dream. I think Aunt Lucy's house fairies can teach Juliet a thing or two about love, acceptance, and contentment.

I was checking out some quotes about fairies. They tickle me. Take a look:

Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.
~William Butler Yeats, "The Land of Heart's Desire," 1894

Fairies are invisible and inaudible like angels. But their magic sparkles in nature. ~Lynn Holland

Spread your wings and let the fairy in you fly! ~Author Unknown

Nothing can be truer than fairy wisdom. It is as true as sunbeams. ~Douglas Jerrold

So? What do you think?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Weird commercials bug me!

Is it just me, or is anyone else creeped out by the Toyota Prius Family commercial? They call it the People Person, but the mutant/human giant creeps me out. Do you realize the giant's nose is actually someone's butt? The lips are a pair of legs.

Aren't commercials supposed to create desire within the consumer? To be honest, it caught my attention, but not in a positive way. When I mentioned the commercial to a friend, she claims she saw it, but thought it was a commercial for some kind of nasal issue. Ha, ha!

Take a look and tell me what you think.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Is it ever okay to butt in?

Do you ever think there's a good reason to butt into a situation? With family? With strangers?

Today I was shopping in a large department store. A young woman about 60 -70 feet away from me was calling out for Lily. I glanced at her--she had an infant in a carrier on her chest and was going through a rack of clothes. There was no immediacy or alarm in her voice.

After about 10 seconds I abandoned looking through the rack and turned around to see if perhaps Lily was near me. Sure enough, one aisle over, a toddler (maybe three-years old) was admiring a jewelry display. I approached and asked if she was Lily. She gave me an adorable smile and nodded. I called out to Mom that Lily was over here. Then the grandma came over took Lily's hand and walked away.

I went back to the clothing rack I'd been looking through, and another shopper caught my eye and raised her eyebrows. I told her I'd have at least thanked someone if they found my child. Her response was she'd never allow her toddler to walk away.

It ended well. Lily was reunited with her mother. Although about five minutes later I heard Mom calling for Lily again.

I left the store feeling a sense of unease. Should I have said something to Lily's mom and grandma? Nothing bad happened. But in today's world it could have. Bad things occur and change lives in a second.

A long, long time ago I was shopping with my three children -- all preschoolers. It was a stressful grocery trip. I apparently told one of my kids if they didn't behave I'd killed them. Of course that was simply an expression -- an expression borne of frustration. Have you ever shopped with three children four and under??

An older, well-meaning woman overheard me. She paused and put her hand on my cart, stopping our progress. With a light in her eye and a soft smile, she gently said, "You know, dear. They put people in prison for killing their children."

She sure stopped me dead in my tracks! I hadn't realized how irritated I'd become, and I was grateful for someone stepping in and giving me a gentle rebuke and a good chuckle.

What do you think? Does it really take a village? Should you on occasion become a buttinski?

Photo credit: jeltovski from

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Sequels – it’s never too late.

Apparently so.

The first three episodes of Star Wars were released between 1977 and 1983. And then the next three episodes came out between 1999 and 2005.

Now Stephen King has announced that he’s writing a sequel to his 1973 bestseller The Shining. He’s calling it Dr. Sleep, and it features Danny Torrance, the little boy from the original novel. Apparently Danny is 40 years old now, and he works as a hospice orderly, but his real vocation is to help patients make the journey from this world to the next using his special powers. King also includes The Tribe, a traveling group of psychic-energy-sucking vampires.

Here are some clips of King discussing Dr. Sleep and reading from the unpublished book:

What favorite characters from novels would you like to live again through a sequel?