Sunday, December 29, 2013

Grow Your Creativity


I ran across an article that addressed the fact that the smartest people in the world who learned code were also into the arts, from painting to musical instruments. Learning code is a useful skill but can also be a rewarding hobby creating different spheres of knowledge.

Instead of common coding one can break new boundaries, using tools that allow the two working together.  To be creative in any field these days requires knowledge of technology. This leaves the grunt work to the computer so humans can focus on the creative work.  Once you foster your creativity you can pursue an artistic endeavor.

The history of Nobel Prize achievers were up to twenty-five more times likely to sing, dance, write, do woodworking, photography or music. All who claimed one of these created an intuition which gathered creative imagination. A number of studies show the similarity between art and science. An example is like a drawing that becomes a painting or novelist writing a number of rough drafts to find the one that works best.

Albert Einstein once said that “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life on terms in music”  

Friday, December 27, 2013

Learning to Trust

I received an interesting text the other day from a budding author who lives in my hometown. She has written a book and wanted to know how to get it published. This is not unusual because I have had a number of acquaintances ask this same question, or versions of it, over the years.

I am not comfortable dispensing here’s-how-to-get-your book-published advice until I have had a chance to look at the manuscript, if possible. So far, the ones I have proofread for others have needed revision. In some cases, a LOT of revision. I do not claim to be a good editor, but I have gained a certain amount of insight based on my own journey and know that a manuscript laden with grammatical and spelling errors, along with POV and plotting problems, will not fly.

Anyway, I texted the young author back and volunteered to proofread her manuscript before proceeding to the next step. Her reply was: I’m not comfortable sending it to you. I’m private about my work. My mother looked it over and now I need to know how to get my book published.

Her response reminded me of my own concerns about someone stealing my work or plagiarizing my story ideas. There was a time I worried a great deal about sending my manuscript off to publishers, only to find my book published under someone else’s name a year later! That never happened, of course. But I’d heard stories.

I texted the young woman with some general advice and concluded with: You are going to have to trust people at some point. Reputable agents and publishers will not steal your ideas, but authors should do their homework in advance and know as much as they can about the agency they are approaching. Checking out editors and publishers online, as well as reading testimonials and endorsements from other authors, can help budding authors avoid certain pitfalls. Having to pay money up front for publication, representation, or a review tells something about the nature of the agency.

Truly, I wish the young woman luck. But where she wouldn’t even let me—a friend and neighbor—look at her work to offer a “professional” opinion, I’m not very hopeful. At some point in her journey toward publication, she is going to have to develop trust.

Do any of you have other advice I could pass along to her?

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. Let me wish you a Happy New Year and the best to you and your loved ones in 2014.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

And So You Are My Son - Lena Nelson Dooley

Readers, this is an excerpt from my ebook 24 Christmases, which is available in both epub and Kindle format.

And So You Are My Son

I have loved your mother for a long time. She first captured my heart with her big brown eyes when she was a little girl. I was quite a bit older than she was, so I should not have noticed her. But one day as I was rushing home from the hill outside town knowing I was almost late for supper, I ran around the corner of her house just as she walked out the gate. In my haste, I knocked her to the ground. Stopping short, I began to apologize as I lifted her to her feet. I will never forget the way she looked at me. She did not cry. Her eyes just got bigger and bigger. For many days her eyes haunted my thoughts. Soon I decided to wait for her to grow up before I married.

And grow up she did, into the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Her eyes were always the center of her beauty for me. Some days they were laughing eyes, merrily twinkling. Other times the depth of wisdom that greeted me there was overwhelming. Oh how I feared her father would give her to someone else.

One day my eyes sought her among the other girls, as they often did. Without knowing why, I sensed a change in her. My heart swelled with loving her until I thought it would burst. Then I realized she was nearing the age to marry. That moment I started planning how to approach her father.

I knew I was only a carpenter, and she deserved so much more. That is what I told her father, but he did not turn me away. He did say he wanted to give Mary the chance to accept or reject my offer. That was not usually done, but I was glad. I remembered many times looking up from my work to find her gazing at me. Although I loved her and wanted her desperately, I loved her enough to let her go if she did not want me.
The time of waiting seemed endless. My agony intensified as I thought of more and more reasons I was not worthy of her. Then the summons came.

Dressing with particular care, I presented myself at their gate. As I was invited into the house, my eyes searched the corners of the room for her. My heart fell when she was not there. I knew she had turned me down. Then her father greeted me. As I returned his kisses on each cheek, my heart was thudding in my ears. He kindly cut through the remaining formalities and joyfully told me we were now betrothed. My leaden heart soared, and I was both laughing and crying as she came shyly into the room.

We were so happy as we prepared for our coming marriage. I built all the furniture for our house next to the carpenter shop.           

I had just begun to build a special chest for Mary when she came to see me that day. As she slipped into the room and stood quietly watching me, I sensed something.

She hesitantly told me what the angel had said to her, and I was shocked. She said she had waited until she was sure she was carrying a child before she told me. The one thing that was so precious to me about Mary was her innocent purity. I was not sure I even believed in angels, so I could not grasp what she was saying—except that she was having a baby. Well, I knew it wasn't mine. I felt as if someone had kicked me in the stomach as hard as he could. I almost doubled up from the pain. It must have shown on my face, because Mary rushed away with tears streaming down her cheeks.

I dropped what I was doing and sank onto a nearby stool. I guess I sat there for a long time. When I realized what time it was, the sun had set and darkness had engulfed me. I began to wonder who the father of the baby was. My mind darted from one man to another. I tried to guess who he was. I wanted to kill him for stealing what I had waited so long for. Finally, I went home in defeat.

If I had planned to bury the pain in sleep that night, I was mistaken. Tossing and turning on my bed, my mind was filled with Mary—as a child . . . as my betrothed . . . pure, then defiled. Finally, I decided to put her away privately. I did not want to have her stoned even though she had betrayed me.

I closed my eyes and willed myself to go to sleep. Then a light so bright my eyelids could not shut it out filled the room. A man was standing at the center of the light. He told me to take Mary as my wife, because the child she carried was the Son of God. He told me we were not to become one until after You were born.

The next day, I told Mary about the angel visiting me. We were soon quietly married, but there was gossip about us. I resented it for Mary—and for me. I was not sorry when we had to come to Bethlehem.

The trip was hard on Mary. I tried to make it as easy as possible, but I knew she was exhausted when we arrived. The search for a place to stay was frantic, but this stable is snug against the cold. I was happy for the privacy when You were born.

As the hard pains gripped Mary, there was not even time to search for a woman to assist her. Being a man, I did not know anything about birthing a baby. I could not have done it without God's help. It was in the very act of helping Mary birth you that you became my son. That was the only part I had in your coming, but such a special part. And so you are my son ...

                                                © Copyright 1986 Lena Nelson Dooley

My husband and I wish you a Merry Christmas and God's blessings in the new year.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Making Excuses

What’s Your Excuse
We make so many excuses for not submitting our writing. I don’t have enough time. I have too many other obligations. I’m too young. I’m too old. I’ve had too many rejections. I don’t have an agent. Any sound familiar? 

Debbie Macomber spoke to these excuses at one of our ACFW conferences and age was one of the excuses. If I had used the excuse of age, I would never have been published. My agent believed in me and kept submitting my manuscripts. When I wanted to quit, friends encouraged me to keep on.
When God calls us to a task, He expects us to finish it. If we’re obedient to that call, He will give us what we need to complete it because He who began the work in us will carry through until it’s completed. Galatians 6:9 tells us not to grow weary when we’re doing God’s work because we’ll reap a harvest when God sets the time.

So many younger authors were getting contracts and having success that I wondered if He’d forgotten how old I was getting. Well, God doesn’t forget. He doesn’t sleep. He never quits work. He’s always there willing to help us reach our goals when we call on Him for help. The Lord does expect us to do our part. That part is to put ourselves in that chair and write.

Do whatever it takes to write. If you’re serious, God will help you find the time. At other times He may tell you to wait a season and take care of other things first. Listen to His voice and calling. Write as much as you can when you can. Be patient, and pray for His guidance in all that you do. Jeremiah tells you to call on Him, and He will answer and tell you great things you do not know. Jeremiah also tells you that God has great plans for you, plans to give you hope and a future. So press on to what God has called you to do whether it is to wait for a season to begin or to work hard now, for pressing on will lead you where you need to go.

So what excuses have you used to keep from submitting?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Fiction Writing Tips

I'm constantly adding to my list of writing tips as I attend conferences and workshops. What works for another writer may not work for me, but I'm willing to try anything to make the process smoother and my writing better.

Here are some tips that have worked for me – in no special order:
  1. You don't have to be in the mood or wait to be inspired. Just sit down and start writing. Even if it's not good, there might be something you can use later.
  2. If the middle starts to sag, put your character in a situation that appears impossible to get out of. Then have fun making it work.
  3. Employ all of the senses, but don't feel that you have to do that in every scene. It should come natural and give your readers the feeling of "being there" without sounding forced.
  4. Add enough description to give the readers a mental picture but not so much that it bogs down the story.
  5. Write the first draft as quickly as possible. Then take time to polish and finesse your characters and scenes.
  6. Don't be afraid to delete a scene that doesn't work because if you don't do it, your editor will.
  7. Get to know your characters before you write the book. Even if you don't use all of the information in the story, you'll be able to show motivation for their actions without it coming across contrived.
  8. Use language that is easily understood by most readers. If you feel the urge to write longer words, make sure the meaning is clear in the context of the sentence.
  9. Read as much as possible. Most good writers are also avid readers. Don't limit yourself to just one genre. If you're a romance writer, read mysteries, westerns, or speculative fiction.
  10. When you are writing a long section of dialogue or an extremely active scene, read it aloud to check for flow and pacing.
  11. Give yourself some time away from the computer, or you run the risk of burning out.
  12. Be prepared for long periods of alone time, but when you are able to, get together with friends and family. Becoming a hermit isn't good for you.
  13. Stay as healthy as possible. I like to eat healthy food with an occasional indulgence and do at least a half hour of exercise everyday.
  14. All writers deal with a certain amount of self-doubt—even successful, established authors. When this happens to you, use it to make your writing better. In other words, never wallow in doubt, but you also don't want to sit back and bask in your own brilliance.
  15. Write something everyday. Even if it's just a paragraph, it keeps the story fresh in your mind.
  16. Submit your manuscript to editors or agents. Then wait. And wait. And wait a little longer. Don't call them two or three weeks after submitting and expect an answer. Remember that editors and agents have mountains of manuscripts (and other work) on their desks, and they do the best they can to get through the submissions. It's always a good idea to start working on your next project, in case they want to see more.
Now I'd like to hear from other writers. What are some tips you'd like to share?

Speaking of sharing, now I'd like to share some pictures from the last ACFW Conference with a couple of my favorite authors.
Lena Nelson Dooley and me (Debby Mayne)

Martha Rogers and me
I hope y'all have a blessed Christmas and a safe and happy New Year!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Writing and Your Health!

I just launched my third book in “The Chronicles of Jonathan Steel” last week. The book launch was plagued by bad weather with a threat of freezing rain. Then, I got up Monday morning with a pain under my right shoulder blade that brought me to my knees. All week, it has progressed and I KNOW exactly what it is.

Four years ago, I had similar symptoms and found out I had a herniated disc in my neck. These symptoms were far too similar. I had surgery at that time and my neurosurgeon told me something very interesting. He said that soon we would have an epidemic of herniated discs in the neck. Why? Because we live in a world of digital devices. He said the constant movement of our head and neck as we text, type, read on digital devices, and study our computer screens produces weakening of the discs.

So, here I am four years later and I found out this morning I have a herniated disc at the level above my surgery — very common occurrence unfortunately. Usually it happens at about 8 years after surgery, but I have been writing away on my blog and on my books and texting and reading on my iPad, etc. Now, I am looking at repeat surgery and I covet the prayers of my fellow authors.

This blog will be short. I cannot type for very long and I never finished setting up Dragon dictation! But, I will shortly!

So, my message today from this blog is simple. Be aware of the dangers of our digital age. As authors, we spend a LOT of time in front of our computers. Study the best ergonomic solutions for keyboards, desks, chairs, etc. And, if you have any tips on keeping a healthy lifestyle as an author, share them in today’s comments.

I’m off to see the neurosurgeon! I’ll bring him a signed copy of “The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos”!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Midnight Christmas Eve - Lena Nelson Dooley

About three months after God told me in 1984 to become a professional writer, He told me to use my gift to bless other people at Christmas, instead of sending Christmas cards. So that year I wrote my first short Christmas story. I'm sharing the one today that I wrote in 1996.

Midnight Christmas Eve

Dave Farris clenched his eyes closed as tight as he could, but he could still see that darn light. Why hadn’t he looked around before he chose this broken-down hotel to spend the night? The Christmas star on the top of the steeple of the church across the street hadn’t seemed very bright from the street, but up here on the third floor it was a beacon shining through the cheap drapes as if they weren’t there.

Christmas! Dave had given up celebrating Christmas when he gave up going to church. And he’d done that just as soon as he moved out of his grandparent’s home.

His parents hadn’t taken him to church. When he was just five years old, his parents had gone skiing with some friends. The two of them had been out in the snow late at night when they were covered in a freak avalanche. That’s when he had gone to live with his grandparents. And they’d been good to him—even though they made him go to church.

He hadn’t minded it too much when he was little. They had a lot of fun in all the activities, and even the services weren’t too hard to sit through. But he just couldn’t believe a loving God would take both of his parents away from him when he needed them so much.

His grandfather had even paid his way through college. He just had to keep living with them until he graduated. They couldn’t afford for him to go away. But that was one of the good things about living in a college town. Had it really been ten years since he had left them? Ten years! Back then he had been sure that in ten years he would be at the top of his field. But things changed so fast he had trouble keeping up.
He rolled over and threw his arm across his eyes. There. Finally he couldn’t see even a glimmer of light from that star. He was just dozing off again when it started.

Music. Christmas music. But not regular carolers. It sounded like angels—if he had believed in angels. Nah. It couldn’t be. But the lilting sounds danced around his room and lodged in his head, tugging at his awareness.

Since he was awake anyway, he might as well check it out. When he put his bare foot on the floor, he realized there was some kind of hard floor covering, not warm carpet, and sometime after he had crawled under the covers, the heat had gone off. Shivering, he pulled the blanket from the bed and wrapped it around his shoulders Indian style, but that didn’t help his cold feet. He walked to the window and stood first on one foot and then on the other as he parted the tissue thin drapes.

According to the clock on the front of the bank, it was almost midnight—and this was Christmas Eve. On the snow-covered lawn of the church, there was a lot of activity. He hadn’t noticed the weathered stable when he came in. It had been pretty dark. Now the whole church yard was lit by what seemed to be a million lights. And the stable had footlights flooding the interior with a warmth that encompassed the occupants and spilled out.

There in the manger lay a real live baby. He could see it’s legs kicking from all the way up there. As a beautiful young woman dressed in a flowing robe leaned toward the baby, her long dark hair obscured the baby from his sight. A man in what had to be a biblical costume hovered over them. Shepherds were kneeling in the snow, and angels were singing from a platform high above the stable. There were even some animals staked out near the stable. Dave could see a couple of sheep, a donkey, a cow. And in the shadows a camel hunkered.

The most amazing thing. People. All kinds of people were milling around talking to the shepherds, to Mary and Joseph. It even looked as if someone was trying to say something to one of the angels.

It was not enough that he was almost out of money, so he had to stay someplace cheap. But he had a whole Bible story going on right outside his window. And it was so loud he couldn’t sleep.

Dave had seen live nativity scenes before, but they had been tableaux. Pretty pictures that people looked at from afar. What were all those other people doing down there?

Without conscious thought, he pulled on his clothes. It wouldn’t hurt to go see what was happening. After all, he couldn’t sleep. Maybe a walk in the night air would help.

When he reached the street, he was soon swallowed up in a milling crowd. But ignoring those around him, he pushed toward the warmth spilling from the stable.

“Love has come ... God sent His only Son ... Emmanuel.” Words and an unfamiliar melody flowed around him.

“God! If it were only true.” Words, spoken in disgust, became the prayer of his empty, weary heart. As Dave stood looking down at that baby in the manger, all the sounds faded from his awareness, and a still small voice spoke peace to him.

It is true. The words reverberated through his broken spirit. Dave, I love you.

As Dave fell to his knees and began to sob, bells pealed. The angels sang, “Hallelujah!”

Then Dave became aware of another man kneeling in the snow beside him—his strong arm lending strength to Dave.                                        © 1996 Lena Nelson Dooley, All rights reserved.

This story is my Christmas gift to you this year.

Tell us about the most favorite Christmas gift you ever received.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Switching Horses Midstream

I really enjoyed Bruce’s article: “To Be or To Have Been—POV and Tense.” It came at a time when I was wrestling with a new novel, one in which I decided to do some experimenting. I began writing in the first person, present tense. Several noted authors write or have written in this style, so I decided to give it a go.

 Writing in the present tense is SO immediate, and it is easy to get lost in the character’s head. It is also easy to get hung up on the mundane—expressing the character’s thoughts and feelings to the point that the storyline falls by the wayside. (But what an easy way to fill the word count quota that Charisma House requires!)

Forty pages into my draft, I decided I couldn’t take it any longer. It just wasn’t working for me. Present tense is just too . . . present! I got lost inside my character’s head. Did the reader actually want to know THAT MUCH about what my main character was thinking and feeling at this precise instant?

So I spent the rest of the day converting the manuscript back to past tense. Now as I look over what I’ve written, I feel there is a better, more natural flow. And I’ve been able to climb out of my main character’s head and focus on advancing the storyline. There's nothing inherently wrong with first person, present tense. It’s just not for me as a writer.

Now regarding POV. My original draft of The Return of Cassandra Todd was written in the first person, past tense. But after consulting with my editor, I decided that my approach was too limited because I had two principle characters and wanted to give them each a personal voice. So I spent three months and rewrote the novel, switching to third person. It worked much better and I was pleased with the results.

So why is my new manuscript written in the first person when all my other published ones are in the third person? I still want to grow and challenge myself as a writer. I don’t want to always be limited to one style. Besides, the storyline for my new novel really lends itself well to the first person POV. We’ll see how it goes. Who knows? Once my editor gets a hold of it, I may be doing another three-month rewrite!

Has anyone else ever changed their mind partway through a manuscript and switched to a different POV and verb tense? Come on now, ‘fess up.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The New Girl In Town


 I have a love hate relationship with social media but this was one of those times that it came in handy. I saw on FB that Brandi had moved to Texas! Better yet she lives only forty-five minutes away from me. So we set up a time to meet at Starbucks and talked for hours about her move to the area and of course writing! It's great to have another Charisma writer in the area to talk to about the industry, our books, and the ups and downs as an author. We took a last minute picture before we left.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Writer's Platform and Promotion

Something I've heard ever since I became a published author is, "What is your platform?" At first I had no idea what people were talking about, and I'm still not sure, but I have a somewhat vague idea. I think it has something to do with the author's visibility and interaction with readers. I would appreciate any other authors who know better than I do to chime in here with some comments.

Anyway, the concept of platform seems to have changed over the years. When I first started seriously thinking about it, I considered my website, blog, speaking engagements, and book signings to be my platform, and publishing professionals accepted that. However, now I think much more is expected. With so many people electronically connected through the Internet and mobile devices, we have even more opportunities to be in front of readers. The key is to stand out in the very large, very loud crowd.

Social media has entered the scene, demanding almost as much time as actually writing the book. Most of us have Facebook accounts, Twitter handles, LinkedIn pages, and whatever else we stumble upon that has an audience. When I first started out on Facebook, I wasn't sure what I was doing, but over the years, I realized that most other authors were as clueless as I was. So I decided to relax and pretend I was at a party and just have a good time communicating whatever is on my mind. That's something I know a little bit about, plus it's a whole lot more fun than fretting over my "platform."

Now I think that a writer's platform is most effective when we give readers a peek into our lives, enabling them to relate to us as individuals rather than the elusive author. For example, many of my readers know that I have two granddaughters who have totally captured my heart. One reader has emailed me photos of her grandchildren because she knows I'll understand.
My precious little granddaughters Sophia and Emma

People who have read some of my Florida-set books know that they're authentic because that's where I live. One of my books, Sweet Baklava, has a bunch of Greek recipes in the back, and I hear from people who have tried them. Love Finds You in Treasure Island, Florida features a hero whose parents have age-related conditions, something my husband and I went through with his parents. I got a ton of email from readers who had gone through the same thing.

My Class Reunion series (Pretty Is as Pretty Does, Bless HerHeart, and Tickled Pink) is set in Mississippi where both of my parents were born and raised. The fictional town of Piney Point is next to the real city of Hattiesburg where I went to school at the University of Southern Mississippi. I've actually connected with some of my former college friends through those books.

Since no one can be everywhere all the time, I've narrowed down my focused promotion to what I can do in one to two hours per day – usually first thing in the morning. I do this to promote my books as well as some of my other writing, including my Etiquette page. When I'm feeling extra social, I go back to Facebook and Twitter to share my life with "friends" and followers.

My fan bases for all of my writing overlap. I've received emails from my fiction fans, stating that they've learned a lot from reading what I write about etiquette, and I've heard from readers letting me know that they've discovered my books. One reader even asked me to write a book about an etiquette expert. I just might do that in the future!

I think that the most important element of any author's platform is authenticity. Be yourself. If you try to do anything else, you'll wind up frustrated and exhausted.

Now I'd love to hear from other authors about their platforms. What do you consider most effective?

I hope everyone has a very happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 25, 2013


As I begin editing my fourth book, “The 10th Demon: Children of the Bloodstone” it is painfully obvious I will not get a chance to catch my breath from just completing the third book, “The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos” available within the next two weeks. After completing the edit on the third book I am now very much aware of the difficulty of maintaining consistency and continuity in a book series. I am far enough into the fourth book (and planning the fifth book) that I now cannot remember exactly what I have already revealed in the first three!

My daughter and I as Doctors from Doctor Who
In fact, my book series is much, much BIGGER ON THE INSIDE! I am a Whovian and if you have been paying attention at all to events going on in the world, then you may have been aware of a certain 50th anniversary of a certain science fiction television show that debuted the day after President Kennedy was assassinated. What? No, who?

Doctor Who, for the uninformed is about a space alien with two hearts who travels through time and space in his TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space) camouflaged as a 1950’s British police call box. The box may seem small on the outside, about the size of a porta-potty (and, it is sad that the porta-potty is the only American object to compare with a blue police box!) but due to extra dimensions, it is BIGGER ON THE INSIDE. Sort of like those stretchy pants I buy that has an extra bit of elastic hidden in the belt line!

I was thinking about the bigger on the inside line, always uttered by the Doctor’s newest companion today as I watched the 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor. (Yes, I am writing this on Nov. 23rd and I am dressed as the War Doctor, sonic screw driver and all!) The metaphor is apt to also describe the storytelling that goes into a television show that has lasted 50 years. Imagine trying to keep all of those story lines straight!

World building is an important part of every story. Sometimes, the building is made easier by the setting. I placed my books in a familiar city, at least familiar to me. But, there are other “dimensions” to my story that play very much outside the lines of ordinary reality. And, this is the challenge to every novelist. How do you keep your characters consistent? How do you maintain their “voice”, their actions, their personality? How do you keep their history and their plot lines straight? Here is what I do to keep my books from drifting too far out of their dimensions:

1 — Character sketches. I outline each major character before I begin writing. This is an exhaustive sketch if they are major characters. I usually identify an individual whose physical appearance is the model for my main character, whether ordinary friends and relatives or an actor. For instance, my original concept for my main character was a very strong, physically imposing and aggressive person. I have a good friend named John Steele. At one time, John and I worked out at the gym together before the demands of my second child ended my workout career but maintained the sanity of my wife! I decided to name my character closely after John Steele and each time I wrote about him, I would visualize my friend pumping iron or smashing a racquet ball. Thus, Jonathan Steel was born. And, I stayed with the name.

More than just this physical aspect, I outline each character’s history, personal experiences, flaws, strengths, etc. For my third book, “The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos”, I chose to write each scene from the first person point of view of each one of my six main characters. This forced me to develop their “voice” and to describe their physical movements and actions.

2 — Storylines. I choose a simple piece of legal paper turned in the portrait orientation and I begin to sketch out plot lines. Each line is a single plot development. Sometimes these plot lines do not extend to the end of the story. At other times, they intersect, merge, or diverge. By plotting these lines against a timeline, I can make sure that multiple story lines are occurring in the right pace, the right order, and I can make sure that bits and pieces of parallel story lines are foreshadowed in the others. There is nothing worse than putting a character in a dangerous situation and leaving him or her there for days and not giving the reader some hint as to what is going on behind the scenes. I know there are software programs that give you the tools to accomplish both #1 and #2, but I like to sketch it all out by hand.

3 — Physical mapping. I like to draw and I sketch out the layout of buildings, rooms, outdoor locations, and cities. My fifth book in my series, tentatively titled, “The 9th Demon: A Wicked Numinosity” is set in London, England. While on vacation there in 2009, I specifically sought out locations for the scenes in my story. I took exhaustive pictures of them and marked locations on physical maps. I made copious notes of the sights, sounds, smells, and other references for future writing. Some sights inspired entire passages in the story.

4 — Write About What You Know. I make sure I do my research on my subject matter. You can’t write a story set in a city if you know nothing about that city! Fortunately, the Internet has revolutionized our ability to research information and location. For instance, in my second book, “The Twelfth Demon” I wanted to set a scene on a lake in Romania at the foot of a mountain that looked like a fang. Did such a thing exist? I found video footage set on a lake near Transylvania. While watching the video of a boat cruising along the shore of that lake, what should show up in the background but the perfect mountain setting for my finale! I was able to pull up topographical maps from that region and satellite images from Google maps. Using the video footage I was able to describe the appearance of the mountain from the lake accurately and realistically!

These are just four suggestions on world building. By paying attention to these details and maintaining continuity and consistency through the narrative, a writer is able to create a book, AND a book series that is truly, BIGGER ON THE INSIDE!

What secrets can you share about building the worlds in which your stories are set?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Living a Life of Thankfulness

Let me introduce you to my newest great grandson, Holden Allen Andrews.

So often, we live in such a hurry that we don't have time for thankfulness. When that's true, we begin the have expectations of what others in our lives should do ... with us, for us, about us.

Expectation is the opposite of thankfulness.

It has taken me a number of years to move from living a life of expectations to living a life of thankfulness.

When a person walks with the Lord daily and understands that God has plans for his or her life, plans that make a difference in the world around them, thankfulness is a natural outgrowth. It didn't come quickly or easily to my life, but my life is better for it.

I'm thankful that God created me with specific talents and abilities He planned to use at different seasons in my life. I'm thankful that He loved me enough to send His Son to the cross to make a way for His Father and me to have a deep connection that brings great delight into my life.

I'm thankful for the family He placed me in, both as a child and then as an adult. For the precious children He blessed James and I with. For the amazing grandchildren who are now living for Him. For the two great grandsons who bring abundant joy into our lives. Just think about the Christian legacy that will touch generations just because the Lord created and loved me.

Today, I'm thankful for central heat on this cold, damp day in Texas. For a snug house and vehicles to keep us out of the weather.

I'm thankful for writing industry professionals who recognized the talent God placed in me and chose to publish my books. For my amazing agent. And for my readers who encourage me and love me, not just my books.

I could spend the whole day enumerating things I'm thankful for. I don't have to search for them. Their presence gives special meaning to my life.

In this season of Thanksgiving, I pray that you take the time to actually give thanks in the midst of the fabulous food, family gatherings, parades, and football games.

So tell me what you're most thankful for this year.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What I've Learned Since Publication

Now that would fill a book. With the help of a good editor, my writing is improving, and that is a great feeling, but I never realized the work that went on behind the scenes of a book on the part of the author. Proposals were written, contracts offered, contract signed, deadline set and manuscript finished. That was it.

Then it actually happened, and all the things I’d heard others talk about with no idea what they meant came to pass. All the steps previously mentioned took place and I breathed a sigh of relief. Then my manuscript went to the first editor who read for content, continuity, and clarity. The manuscript came back with comments that lead to revisions and rewriting portions of a manuscript I loved just as it was. Then I see how much better it can be, so rewriting and revision passes back and forth.

Finally the manuscript is submitted to the copy editor who now checks for GUM. Not the kind you chew, but the grammar, usage, and mechanics of the story. This can go either way with a long list of questions and corrections or with a few brief comments and questions about certain areas.

Whew. I’m finished. Not so fast. Now the galley proof comes, and it must be read word by word. No skimming here because I know the story. Yikes, where did all those corrections and changes I have to make come from?

When that feat is accomplished, I breathe another sigh of relief and sit back to wait for the books to arrive. Then I hear about marketing and promotion. What! I have to get out and promote that book so people will buy it so I can earn back the advance? Well, they know me, so they’ll buy it. Hmm, I don’t have that many friends in the world.

So now it’s the task of seeking out blogs for guest spots, setting up tweets and spots on Facebook, and all that other social media. I pass out bookmarks and mail postcards, visit bookstores to ask about book signings, write guest blogs as well as my own and offer free books, and seek out speaking opportunities where I can pitch my books and sell them.

Egads! I have another deadline to meet. How do I find time to promote and write? I’m still trying to find the answers to that little question. I have to get organized and get all my ducks in a row. It’s finally beginning to sink in, so maybe I’m going to make it in this world of writing and publishing after all.

How do you balance your time and take care of all the business that comes with writing? 

I'm giving away a copy of Love Stays True, my latest release, to some lucky reader who comments and answers the question. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Unique Book Club Experience

Beth’s article reminded me of a unique book club experience I had recently. It wasn’t a group signing, just one of my own. I was invited to be the guest author at a book club that consisted of a group of women who lived on local farms and ranches. The women had been meeting for many years faithfully—one of the members even kept minutes of each meeting and recorded every book they had studied.

The drive to the meeting was interesting. It took my wife and I far out into the country, along winding roads and down into a deep river valley. Cattle roamed the pastureland freely and posed a hazard, especially as the sun began to set and we realized the cattle were Black Angus!

During the drive, I thought to myself: What kind of book club experience will this be, way out in the middle of nowhere? How many will attend? Well, it turned out to be a wonderful experience, with all but one member in attendance. They were exceptionally cordial and complimentary, and even asked me to pose for pictures with them afterward. But the biggest surprise of all was as my wife and I were preparing to leave, the book club members handed me an envelope. It contained a $50 gift card.

I’ve attended several book clubs in the past, but I’ve never been given a gift before. Just the opportunity to speak to book clubs about my books was gift enough. But this kind, isolated group went the extra mile. They even invited me to come back again so they can discuss my second book. I’m going to take them up on it!

Have any of you had an unexpected experience at a book signing?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Book Signings

      I had a great time at the Author Fair this weekend. A group of us were asked to participate and I was honored to be a part of this great event. A part of the proceeds were donated to the Library and many if us donated one of our books to the library. There was a wide variety of genres which made it all the more interesting. My husband, daughter and son stopped by as well as friends and author friends. I like being part of a group at signings so you can meet other authors as well as readers. This group was one of the best I've been to and I hope to be a part of it again next year.

Question: Do you like your own book signings or do you like a group signing?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Some of My Favorite Blogs

As most writers do, I love information about a wide variety of things. In addition to faith, my interests range from fitness and healthy eating to fashion and writing, so I read blogs everyday while I enjoy my morning coffee. Remember that blogs come and go, so always be on the lookout for a new one to replace any that disappear.

Here are some of my favorite blogs:
  • Steve Laube – All of the agents with the Steve Laube Literary Agency take turns writing blog posts that can benefit all writers. My agent, Tamela Hancock Murray, is with this agency.
  • Women of Faith – Various bloggers share their faith, lives, and experiences with truth and a touch of humor.
  • A Christian Writer's World - One of my fellow Charisma House authors Lena Nelson Dooley interviews authors. This is a great way to discover authors you don't already know.
  • Fit Mom's Blog – Although I'm a grandmother who can't do half the things this blogger writes about, I enjoy reading it and being inspired to stay fit.
  • My Revolution Bootcamp – Here you'll get some quick and doable tips to stay fit.
  • Living Better 50 – Read blog posts by and for "mature" women of faith.
  • Friendship – friendship expert Cherie Burbach offers interesting insight and tips for friends.
  • Seekerville – A group of Christian authors and guests share their experiences in the writing world.
  • YumYucky – Get some great recipes from this healthy food blog.
  • Gluten-Free Goddess – You'll find more recipes, only these are all gluten free and absolutely delicious.
  • Fashionable Over 50 – This blog shows that fashion isn't just about what you wear; it's how you wear it and how you feel when you're wearing it.
  • No-Nonsense Beauty Blog – Get some great tips on how to look your best.
  • Rachelle Gardner – Another agent who blogs is willing to offer frequent tips and inside information about the publishing world.
  • Novel Rocket – Enjoy this blog by, about, and for Christian writers.
  • About Words – Be the first to learn about new words that have been added to the dictionary. Some people might not understand the value of this blog, but wordies will get a kick out of it.