Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Book ideas popping up . . .

Right now I'm working on revisions for two novels, but I can't stop myself from thinking, what if? 

What if is the question that nurtures a blossoming idea.

Ideas are bubbling up in my brain for the next novel I'll write. Finding an idea is easy for me, deciding which idea I want to put time and effort into is more difficult.

An old poem that I had memorized in my romantic youth has been calling to me. It's titled If thou must love me, let it be for nought, and it is one of the poems found in Sonnets from the Portuguese. Have you ever read it? It's quite lovely. Sonnets from the Portuguese is a collection of poems that Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote for her husband, Robert Browning.

Here are the words to the poem that is tripping through my mind:

If thou must love me, let it be for nought 
Except for love's sake only. Do not say 
"I love her for her smile—her look—her way 
Of speaking gently,—for a trick of thought 
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought 
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day"— 
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may 
Be changed, or change for thee,—and love, so wrought, 
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for 
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry,— 
A creature might forget to weep, who bore 
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby! 
But love me for love's sake, that evermore 
Thou may'st love on, through love's eternity.

This poem will just be a jumping-off point in my writing process, and it may never find its way into my novel. But it's important backstory for me and for my character. I can nearly see her face as she looks out a window on a stormy autumn morning. She's pensive, hopeful. A soft smile plays at the corners of her mouth while she watches rain strip colorful leaves from a black-trunked tree. She runs her hand through her short brown hair . . .

Do you have a favorite poem that speaks to you? What is it?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fiction impacts the reader

I have always been addicted to reading fiction. Books have taken me to other worlds and have helped me to figure out my world.

Now there's proof that fiction is beneficial. Check the links below.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Refreshing your Creativity

As a creative person, do you ever feel the need to refresh your creativity? I sure do.

Writers can get overwhelmed trying to find a new way to communicate the ordinary and everyday moments that make up life. As Solomon said in the book of Ecclesiastes, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (verse 1:9)
The lovely and inspiring Colorado prairie. 

Aargh! What’s a writer to do?

First, don’t panic. True there is nothing new under the sun, but you can make a concept feel new with your particular way of communicating an idea.
Sometimes it just takes a (brief) break from writing to get your creativity sparking. Here are a few ways to get the creative urge back:
• Read. Often after reading a good book I get the urge to sit down and write. Enjoying the way another author turns a phrase or characterizes the people who populate a fictional world can get you thinking about how you would write a scene or breathe life into a character.
• Listen. Music can evoke a mood or take you to a different world. Sometimes when you listen to music you can hear it from the point of view of one of your characters or you can create a character who would be moved by the composition you’re listening to.
• See. Taking a field trip to a museum can open your mind to many art forms. I enjoy renting the audio commentary available with some art exhibits. You get information on a new culture or a different period of time. You learn what the artist was experiencing when that piece was created or what the artist was trying to express.
• Inhale. Take a walk and concentrate on the fragrances you encounter. Whether it’s a city street or a prairie trail the scent of your environment can trigger a memory or a wish that set your imagination and creativity in motion.
• Taste. Go out to eat. Imagine how your character would feel about the restaurant, the food, and the company. Listen to the sounds around you. Design a scene for the reasons some of the other diners are eating there. Let your imagination fly.
• Be. Sometimes giving yourself permission to sit and relax in a hammock or a chair in a busy shopping mall and just think and observe can unlock creative ideas.

What about you? Do you have any suggestions for unlocking creativity?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A good read: Glamorous Illusions by Lisa Bergren

Yesterday I finished reading Glamorous Illusions by Lisa Bergren.

This is the first book in a series -- thank goodness! I was reading the book on an eReader, so I didn't realize I was close to the end when it finished. I felt one of those pangs of sadness when a book or a movie you love is about to end.

Lisa writes beautifully, and the story was intriguing. I fell in love with the characters and their journeys. From the dusty farms of Montana to the glorious sights of England and Paris, Lisa draws you in with her well-written prose.

Here's the description:
It's the summer of 1913 and Cora Kensington's life on the family farm has taken a dark turn. The crops are failing and worse, so is her father's health. Then a stranger comes to call and in one fateful afternoon, Cora discovers that her birth father is a copper king-a man who invites her to tour Europe with her new family. As she travels across America, then on to England and France, Cora faces the hardships as well as the privileges of assuming the family name. And though now she knows more of her true identity, she soon discovers the journey is only beginning.

So, Lisa -- when does book # 2 release?

Have you read this book (yet)? What books have made you sorry that they came to an end?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Are you a door holder?

Are you a door holder?

Do you notice someone behind you and pause to pass off the door? I know, I know—you’re in a hurry. You’ve got something to do/somewhere to go. We all do.

I always do the pause and pass. And when someone does it for me, I’m appreciative.

A few days ago, I was going into a store behind a woman and her teen daughter. She slowed to toss something in the trashcan by the door, and I know she saw me. But when she passed through the door, she let it slam in my face.

It wasn’t a huge deal. I’m strong and can open my own doors, but her lack of etiquette saddened me. I’m old enough to remember a kinder, gentler society where you were expected to hold the door for another. A time when people made polite small talk when checking out at the grocery store—instead of continuing a cell phone conversation.

A kind gesture or a kind word can make all the difference in someone’s day. 

I think we should make the effort to connect in small, civilized ways, don’t you? Especially now when we’re bombarded by the season's negative political ads, and offended by unkind political updates popping up on Facebook.

What small gesture makes you appreciative of others? How do you extend kindness to strangers you pass in your day? Let's think about it, okay?

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Writing Life

Have you seen this? 

It's been a poster on FB for a while, and it sure made me chuckle. I'll admit to four (maybe five) of the vignettes. Truth is a novelist incorporates their life experiences into their books. 

Not everyone is a novelist, but everyone has a reason for doing what they love. What drives your passion?

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Advice from famous authors

Writers and would-be writers are always looking for wisdom from those who’ve gone before us.
I’ve assembled some thoughtful comments and put them in a Q&A format for you to enjoy.
 Question: When is the best time to begin a writing career?
Answer: "Today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so get on your way." ~Dr. Seuss
Question: From where does our writing ability come? Is it inborn? Learned?
Answer: As Mother Teresa said, "We are all pencils in the hand of God."
Question: Is it difficult to learn the craft of writing?
Answer: "Yes, it's hard to write, but it's harder not to."
~Carl Van Doren
And here's more advice on writing from other authors:
"Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go."
E.L. Doctorow
"Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It's the one and only thing you have to offer."
~Barbara Kingsolver
Question: How much time should a writer commit to his/her craft?
Answer: "The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn't behave that way you would never do anything."
~John Irving
And as author Ray Bradbury said, "Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you're doomed."
Another thought to ponder is, "Either marry your work - take it seriously and do it every day - or date it - write only when you feel like it - but know which you are doing and the repercussions of both."
Question: Is writing all about sitting at a computer and pounding out a story?
Answer: Not necessarily so. As Victor Hugo said, “A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is visible labour and there is invisible labour.”
Question: What about word count? Is there any advice on pacing yourself?
Answer: "The faster I write, the better my output. If I'm going slow, I'm in trouble. It means I’m pushing the words instead of being pulled by them."
~Raymond Chandler
Also, "If the doctor told me I had six minutes to live, I'd type a little faster."
~Isaac Asimov
Question: Must you have all the answers when you sit down to write your story?
Answer: "Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."
~E. L. Doctorow
Question: How do you know you've reached a level of success?
Answer: "Success comes to a writer, as a rule, so gradually that it is always something of a shock to him to look back and realize the heights to which he has climbed."
~P.G. Wodehouse
Question: Is there a secret to becoming a successful author?
Answer: "The secret of becoming a writer is to write, write, and keep on writing."
~Ken MacLeod
And I leave you with a final thought: " May I never grow too old to treasure 'once upon a time.'"

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Read some award-winning novels!

A few weeks ago I attended the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Dallas. Each year at the ACFW conference there’s an awards gala. The gala celebrates unpublished authors with the Genesis Award, and published authors (whose books released the previous year) are honored with the Carol Awards.

These are wonderful books, and I’m pleased to share the winners with you!

The 2012 Carol Award winners ~

Debut Novel:
Fairer Than Morning by Rosslyn Elliott (Thomas Nelson)

Long Contemporary:
The Search by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Revell)

Long Contemporary Romance:
My Foolish Heart by Susan May Warren (Tyndale)

Long Historical:
Fairer Than Morning by Rosslyn Elliott (Thomas Nelson)

Long Historical Romance:
To Win Her Heart by Karen Witemeyer (Bethany House Publishers)

Falling to Pieces: A Shipshewana Amish Mystery by Vannetta Chapman

An Accidental Christmas from A Biltmore Christmas by Diane T.
Ashley/Aaron McCarver (Barbour Publishing)

Romantic Suspense:
Lonestar Angel by Colleen Coble (Thomas Nelson)

Short Contemporary:
Lakeside Reunion by Lisa Jordan (Love Inspired)

Short Contemporary Suspense:
Nightwatch by Valerie Hansen (Love Inspired Suspense)

Short Historical:
The Deepest Waters by Dan Walsh (Revell)

Speculative Fiction:
Broken Sight by Steve Rzasa (Marcher Lord Press)

Fallen Angel by Major Jeff Struecker/Alton Gansky (B & H Fiction)

Women’s Fiction:
Dandelion Summer by Lisa Wingate (Penguin Praise/Berkley)
*For the first time ever a book won with five perfect scores of 10. Since I was one of the five judges who found perfection in Lisa Wingate's book, I can personally attest that it's a wonderful novel. (I would have liked to give it a score of 12, but we couldn't go above a 10.)

Young Adult:
The Merchant's Daughter by Melanie Dickerson (Zondervan)