Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Snow days at Carolyne Aarsen's place

Right now, I'm sitting at my computer, looking through the large window of my cozy office at the snow-covered trees and I'm feeling pretty good. I'm right where I want to be. I'm at home. I don't have to go brush snow off my car, shiver inside while it warms up and then navigate snow-covered roads to get to work. Every day that I see snow on the ground, I feel blessed for this gift of working at home. As well, I get more work done these months than any other months of the year. Things get quiet up here in January and February. Yes there are still church obligations and meetings, but somehow there's a sense of closing in, of social circles getting smaller. When it gets dark at 5:00 in the evening and doesn't get light until 8:00 in the morning, you don't go out unless you have to. And when the wind howls and snow ticks at the windows, we don't need much of an excuse to stay home, curl up in a chair, wrap an afghan around shoulders and just be at home. Or sit at my computer and transport myself to wherever the current book I'm writing takes place. To everything there is a season, Ecclesiastes tells us, and I love the ebb and flow of our lives and seasons. While there are times I wouldn't mind getting away from winter, I look forward to it coming after a busy summer and fall season. So today, while the snow is sifting around the house and the sky is a soft grey, I just smile, turn up the heater a notch and keep working. And thank the Lord for the blessing of each season.
Carolyne Aarsen

Revisions: Cleaning out the closet of your manuscript

Since I'm deep in the middle of revising my December 2009 book, Yuletide Protector, my mind is overloaded with images of cleaning. When revising, the type of writer you are will determine the amount of revisions you'll need in your book.

I'm a self proclaimed puzzle writer. I write in pieces. As I've mentioned in many blogs and workshops, I see scenes in my head and write them down as the come to me. Some are very vivid and some are bare bones. They're almost always out of order. My hard drive is full of story ideas that have beginnings and endings written and nothing in between. In creating my books, I piece my scenes together like a puzzle, adding scenes as they come to me and later figuring out where there are holes in the landscape of my story that need to be filled in.

I liken revising this way to cleaning my closet. You know, sometimes you have things in your closet you forgot you put in there. A purse, a pair of boots from college you forgot about and old pair of jeans that are a few sizes too small but you can't part with, and all the other items you use on a daily basis. If your closet is like mine, there are definitely things that don't belong in there along with things that are good, maybe even real good, but need a little updating to make them fabulous! My manuscripts are the same.

My first step is what I call "checking the hangers." I go through each scene and I check to see if there is enough information there to A. warrant having the scene B. to make the scene enjoyable while propelling the story forward and C. see if there is TOO much information that will bog down the flow of the story. (Kind of like having too many pairs of slacks on one hanger.)

The next step is "counting the hangers and getting them in the right order." Those of us who are puzzle writers will almost always have holes and have scenes that are in the wrong order. Rearranging the "closet" is part of manuscript cleanup.

Once the hangers are in order, I fill in the holes. You know, you have a great outfit but you don't have a pair of heels to go with it? (I'm learning that I need to go see Lenora because she's the gal with the shoes!) Same for the manuscript. For me it's usually a transition scene that needs to be added.

The toughest part for me is tossing things out. You know you have things in your closet that don't belong there, but you just can't part with them. I tend to fall in love with scenes and it may take me a while to figure out why something isn't working. In the end, after hemming and hawing, the problem is usually that I have to cut a scene in the story because it's just not fitting right. So I toss it.

Once the tossing, counting, and rearranging is done, I step back and assess my work by reading through the whole book start to finish. I usually set aside a block of time when the kids and my husband aren't around so I can read straight through the manuscript and get a real feel for the flow. I tweak as needed, add a word here and there and then I print. I've learned that if I don't print right then, and send it off, I'll find something else to work on in the story and I'll never let it go. It's kind of like never inviting anyone over because you're never quite sure if your house is clean enough for company. So I avoid that. I like company.

Make sure you check out my blog on Friday at the Craftie Ladies of Suspense website! Many blessings, Lisa Mondello

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Mommy Balancing Act

My name is Dana Corbit, and my life is out of balance. Wow, that feels so good to get that off my chest. Does anyone else in the room want to share? Oh, you want me to go first? Fine, I discovered this week that I’m struggling with Mommy Balancing Act. Am I addicted to my lack of balance? Er, well, maybe, but for the sake of today’s discussion, we’ll just say I’m struggling with it.

I preface my statement with the reality that I am reaching crunch time on a deadline. Those of you who share my joy and misery of book writing might be able to commiserate directly, but any of you who balance your lives as wives, mothers, daughters and employees might be able to relate as well. I feel as if I’m holding this huge balance scale with only two sides and then trying to throw one hundred-percent effort in each direction without knocking either of the balance plates on the ground. Let’s just say my scale is on the fritz.

My failure was clearest this week while my daughters were home from school on this parent-torture event called the “Mid-Winter Break.” Now did I mention I’m on deadline? So each moment when the scene for my characters was snapping with attraction was also a moment when I wasn’t playing Apples-to-Apples with the girls. And each moment when I was shopping for cool hair accessories or watching delicious chick flicks with the girls, I wasn’t giving my heroine the chance to find the person who will fill the empty place in her heart.

Oh, and did I tell you I’m on deadline? The result was guilt and plenty of it. You know guilt, that special gift God gives all moms.

Well, I probably should begin my Ten-Step Program soon, but I have other priorities right now. I need to get the girls ready to go back to school tomorrow and I have a book to finish.

An award-winning author and an award-winning journalist, Dana Corbit has written ten books for Steeple Hill Love Inspired. The busy wife and mother of three adolescent daughters enjoys doting on her recently adopted cats, Leonardo and Annabelle Lee.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Reflecting on Our Blessings

About twenty years ago I read a book that at the time was a best seller. The sheer volume of the book And Ladies of the Club intimidated me when I first picked it up, and the story didn’t grab my interest right away. My boss at the time told me if I kept reading I would be hooked, and I was. By the time I’d finished, I felt like the characters were my best friends, and I understood their lives as if I’d lived them myself.

The book told the story of two young Indiana women who married at the end of the Civil War. It chronicled their lives through the birth of their children, problems in their marriages, the arrival of grandchildren, and their advancement into old age. These women lived out their lives in their small town and never deviated from the role that was expected of women in that time.

I thought of this book recently when I had a letter from a woman in Texas. This dear lady has corresponded with me frequently since she read my first book. On the day she wrote, she said it was her last day to be 79 years old. The next day she would enter a new decade in her life, but she wrote that she didn’t mind. In fact, she said, the years with zeros in them had an important place in her life. At 30 God called her to be a missionary and she had to begin college. At 40 she learned to drive. At 50 she hit the half century mark. At 60 she had her ears pierced, and at 70 she said she felt her strength failing like Samson did when his hair was cut. She ended by saying—Who knows what 80 will bring?

As I read her letter, I thanked God for the opportunities He’s given to women of today. I’m so thankful God blessed me with a wonderful husband, children, and grandchildren. But I also thank Him for the great blessings He provided for me as a teacher and principal in the public schools. Now as I teach college students who aspire to be teachers, I feel He is helping me impact generations to come. My prayer also is that He will take the words He’s given me and plant seeds of hope in readers I will never meet. I’m thankful that those words found their way into the heart of a sweet woman in Texas who has become a blessing and an encouragement to me.

How has God blessed you? I would love to hear what He’s done in your life.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Unexpected Gifts

Birthday Blessings

My birthday was on Valentine's Day. I tried to ignore it since I was turning (gasp!) 40 which really bothered me. I woke up in a melancholy mood and feared it would last all day.

Within moments I heard about the deaths of two women, mothers both, in their 20’s and 30’s. Suddenly turning 40 looked MUCH better than the alternative.

Refreshed and ready to tackle Mount Laundry now, I took ten steps, bent wrong at the waist and popped my hip. EXCRUCIATING pain. I had a major reconstruction of my hip area that’s problematic if I move wrong. Guess what? I moved wrong. And I knew I’d pay for my bad body mechanics with the sum of pain all day.

I have an extremely high pain tolerance, but this hip pop and ensuing pain caused me to bow over and sob on the spot. Haven't cried like that since I slid down a steep hill and scraped my behind and legs on an enormous cactus patch in New Mexico.

Unaccustomed to hearing me cry like that, my family rushed to see what was wrong. I like to be private with pain. Not a good thing I know. I went from sobbing to laughing because I couldn't get away from the doters because I couldn't walk at the moment. I tried. More pain! LOL! Stuck, I stooped there sobbing, "I'm okay! Go on. I'm fine, really!" While inside I silently screeched, "Can a gal's birthday get any worse?"

Wide-eyed, they scooted away. An hour later my laundry was sorted and both machines were running with every member of the house pitching in without me asking. My sister called and offered to come conquer Mt Laundry. Then my teen niece emerged with food she'd cooked for my family so I wouldn't have to. Picture golden breaded chicken breast tenders, corn, cooked carrots, real mashed potatoes AND a decadent yellow birthday cake with THE thickest layer of homemade chocolate icing you've ever seen!

Then Romance B(u)y the Book's blog owner informed me I'd won a 250 dollar Border gift certificate. Most writers are avid readers.

Could a gal's birthday get any better?

I think the sweetest thing God did for me on that day was show me how very much I have to be thankful for. And when I started to wallow in a melancholy mood, He gently steered me to realize all I have to be joyful for.

In my upcoming release, Ready-Made Family the heroine was put in a place to have to depend on others. I wrote that book when I was in the midst of healing from hip surgery. My author copies showed up just in time for my birthday and helped me to remember just how far God has removed me from that season of chronic pain. My birthday turned out amazing mostly because I was reminded by God and those around me just how loved I am. And how blessed I am to have the family and friends that I do.

Now, I’d love to hear from you! What has been your favorite birthday and why? What about your hardest? Funniest? Best gift you ever received? Best gift you ever gave?

Don’t leave me talking to myself here. I’ll not hold up under the boredom. LOL! Talk away!

Blessings, Cheryl Wyatt

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Maverick Preachers

I'm Victoria Bylin and I write westerns for Love Inspired Historicals. Welcome to the LI Authors blog!

For just a moment, imagine you own a mansion. It’s called Swan’s Nest and you share it with four friends. You’re a single mother. And you're in Denver in 1875. It's past midnight when you hear a thud on the front porch. This isn't the first time you've had trouble in the middle of the night. Long before you arrived in Denver, you learned about danger in the dark.

That’s how The Maverick Preacher starts. It's my February release from Love Inspired Historicals, and the heroine’s name is Adelaide Clarke. Adie's got her hands full with a baby, a business and a secret. I loved telling her story. She turned into a good friend, and I was happy to introduce her to Reverend Joshua Blue. The book is named for him. Or more correctly, he was written to fit the title. Josh’s faith is strong, and he’s not afraid to break from the crowd.

The Maverick Preacher is officially dedicated to my husband, but it also belongs to the men and women who have knocked scales from my eyes. My husband and I have attended churches of all sizes. One had ten members. Another has 10,000. The leaders in these churches all have something in common. They preach God’s grace.

Reverend Joshua Blue is that kind of minister. He’s unafraid to speak his mind, and he loves people just as they are. He's suffered, and he knows what it means to need forgiveness. Josh has been at the top of the heap and the bottom of the barrel. He's had quite a time of it, but that trip has made him generous, dedicated and wise. This book is my way of saying thank you to all the brave souls in ministry.

Has there been someone in your life--a minister, a friend, a voice on the radio--who’s helped to open your eyes? Is there a moment, maybe a Bible verse, that hit with sudden clarity? I’d love to hear your story!

Monday, February 16, 2009

From Secular to Inspirational Romance

THE MARSHAL TAKES A BRIDE is a special book for me. It marks my first foray into the world of Inspirational fiction. To understand why that is so huge, I have go back a bit. I have one of the best first sale stories I’ve ever heard, but I also have one of the longest dry spells between a first and second sale as well.

In 2001, I entered a manuscript in the inaugural Romantic Times/Dorchester Publishing New Historical Voice Contest. There were over 300 entries so I didn’t think I had a prayer of making the finals. Besides, I was in the midst of a cross country move and didn’t have time to fret over it. Three days in my new home, and still living out of boxes, I received a “forwarded” letter from Dorchester that said the editors liked my entry but couldn’t make any promises of a sale. If I was still interested in being considered for the contest, could I send the full manuscript for further consideration?

I panicked. The letter was two weeks old. Surely, I was out of time. I dug out my computer (it was under countless other boxes) and quickly printed the entire manuscript on a rickety old printer. I mailed the full manuscript that same day by over night delivery.

Less than a week later, the manuscript was named as one of three finalists in the contest. The first fifty pages were posted on the Romantic Times Web site for readers to vote on their favorite. Booksellers made up the other half of the voting pool. I found out I had won the contest at the Romantic Times Convention when the editors from Dorchester Publishing revealed my book cover in full poster size on stage in front of all the conference attendees.

I thought I’d really made it. I had just sold a book to a New York publishing house in a very public manner. I was going to get national exposure in the Romantic Times magazine. I was on my way. Er, right? Nope.

EXTREME MEASURES was my first and last book with Dorchester. I never sold another secular romance. In fact, for five years I couldn’t buy attention for any of my manuscripts! I had hit the big time only to fizzle out as a one-book-wonder.

I knew it was time to rethink my career path and decide what I wanted to do with my life. Did I want to keep writing or do something else entirely? I had a son starting his senior year in high school and a daughter starting her first year in middle school. I decided to focus on my family. I knew I would never get that time back.

I also began attending intense Bible studies, mostly Beth Moore studies. Her words convicted this shaky Christian to re-evaluate her daily faith walk. I realized that it was time to reconsider what types of books I was writing and why I was writing them. From that point forward, I decided to honor God with all of my efforts. I immediately stopped calling my writing a career and started referring to it as a ministry.

God has blessed my ministry ever since. Luck? No way. It’s all God! Like Paul says, I boast only in the Lord.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

All I got for Valentine's Day was a bad cold

We're the queens of romance, right? Our heroes are to die for. Our heroines snag the men of their dreams. So our lives should reflect an elevated aura of love, shouldn't they?

So how come all I got for St. Valentine's Day was a rotten cold? Where's the love?

Okay, I confess that my honey did baby me. He told me to stay in bed, he took the dog for her run, even got pizza last night so I wouldn't have to cook supper since I didn't feel like keeping our date to go out to eat. That was sort of special.

But I was hoping for flowers, an enormous card, a great big box of candy. Nada!
After 35 years of marriage I should know better. My guy doesn't do those kinds of things.
But he tucked the covers around my feet when they were cold. He kissed my forehead and told me he loved me. He even brought me a hot cup of peppermint tea. Love comes in many forms. Flowers and chocolate don't last long, but a guy who tell you that you look beautiful when your hair looks like a punk rocker's and your red nose could belong to W.C. Fields, that's the kind of love that last 35 years. Maybe even 50.

How did your Valentine's Day go? Did you get flowers? Come on. Make me feel better. Tell me what a wonderful, romantic day you had.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Technology saves the Day!!

I gave my kids cell phones because I wanted them to be reachable. But I told my son to use the house phone when he was at home to save our minutes.
Yesterday, he was talking to his girlfriend on our house phone. I needed to remind him of something, so I texted him using my computer. Our service provider allows that. I don't have the brain capacity to learn such a high tech computation.
He answered, adding that he was going to bed soon, as he felt 'garbagey'. New word, but rather apt, I suppose. He was a bit under the weather. I'd noticed that much when I went downstairs to the inner sanctum of the basement's TV room to tell him to clean that pig sty up.
Well, this morning, my husband flicked on his bedroom light and told him to get up. It was what we do every school day.
I added my voice to that order when I got up.
Nothing happened, which in itself is the norm. He's a teen. Jumping out of bed early on a school day is against their personal code of honour.
Finally, his older sister came downstairs.
"What's with Alex?"
"He's not up yet," I answered.
"He's sick."
"How do you know?"
She shrugged. "He texted me."
Oh. He texted her across the house. Hmm. I went into his bedroom, and found him peeking out of his blankets. "I'm sick," he whispered hoarsely. "And you and Dad don't care."
"Why didn't you tell us?"
"Too sick to talk."
He was warm, and a bug had been flying around his school, so this wasn't unexpected. I told him to go back to sleep, I'd deal with him later.
When I returned to the kitchen, I asked my daughter what her brother had said in his text.
"He wrote, 'I'm sick. Help. Save me.'"
So, I pondered, technology has saved the day. We would have kept yelling at him until someone got mad and it set the whole house on edge, especially since I had to drive my daughter to her university classes within the hour.
"So the cell phones earned their keep," I commented. "Don't you think that's nice?"
My daugther gave me one of those unsympathetic, older sister looks. "He's faking it."
Technological changes may be new and exciting, and we're grateful for them, but there are some things that never change.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

To our readers in Australia...

Every once in a while events in the world make me stop and pause from my day and thank God that I'm not a part of the tragedy somewhere else. The news of the Australian fires has done that this week. I know we have a few readers from Australia who frequent the Love Inspired Authors blog and the Craftie Ladies of Suspense blog. Our loyal readers are dear to us and we want you to know that you and your fellow Australians are in our prayers. If you're able, check in and leave a comment so we know you're okay.

Many blessings to you all, Lisa Mondello

Friday, February 6, 2009

Writing from Real Life

Sometimes real life is funnier than something we can create. I was reading through one of my manuscripts that I'm revising for possible publication, and I found a scene that came from real life. When the kids were younger, my husband stopped our daughter Brenda from wearing white shoes early in May. Our son Dave stood nearby questioning why she couldn't wear them. Their dad said, "People don't wear white shoes until after Memorial Day. " Dave cocked his head wearing a deep frown. "Dad, is that in the Bible?"

I couldn't have thought of a funnier line on my own.

When I was up in northern Michigan -- Alpena, to be exact -- and spent an afternoon with my cousin, we took her out to lunch. I didn't pay attention to the name of the restaurant, but when we went inside and I saw the menu, I laughed. It took me back so many years when my sister and I were teens and had a date with two young men who were friends. They took us to this restaurant, called the Olde Owl Tavern and Grille. Owl, I suppose, because they stayed open late.

We looked at the menu (click on it for a better view and then use the back button to return to the blog). I noticed my sister had become quiet. Her face had taken on one of those screwed-up looks as if she wasn't happy with her options. I looked at my date and said,"What do you like?" His eyes glimmered, and he said, "I'd recommend the Owl burger deluxe. It's really good."

I decided to order his recommendation, then looked at my sister. She gave us a glazed-eye look and said, "I don't think I want that. I've never eaten owl."

I laughed so hard and so did they. She was mortified. I had to explain the burger was named after the cafe and not what was in it. I wonder what she thinks about ordering a Big Boy.

I commemorate the occasion by having my husband take a photo of my cousin and me outside the infamous and memoriable Olde Owl Tavern and Grille. I cherish those wonderful memories and I'm sure you cherish yours, too.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Story Behind What Sarah Saw

In November of 2007 I was asked to be part of the Love Inspired Suspense continuity series for 2009 called Without a Trace about murder and a missing person. Steeple Hill asked me to write the first book, What Sarah Saw, in the series. This was my third LIS continuity series for Steeple Hill. I’ve been fortunate to work with some great authors because doing a series where each authors (six of us) have a different story but must tie these stories together is difficult. Our books will stand alone with the romance between the hero and heroine (which is resolved by the end of the book) and usually a mystery/suspense thread that is in your book only will be resolved, too. But there are other elements of the story that will continue into the next book and often all the way through all six stories.

So the first thing the other five authors and I do is set up a yahoo group so we can easily discuss the series. After we get the bible (an overview of the series and each book with certain details that must be included in the different stories), we begin to brainstorm the series and individual books. We iron out the details and make sure they flow from one story to the next. We come up with secondary characters who can be used in different books. We flesh out the villain(s) and map out the suspense and mystery elements in each story. Although we are giving a framework to work within, there are a lot of aspects we have to come up with. We share our synopses and our stories after they are finish to help the authors after our book.

I love to brainstorm, but I have to admit doing a continuity is a challenge. I have enjoyed the challenge that tests my writing in a different way from when I come up with everything in a story. I have to fit my story and characters within a framework that holds the hold continuity together. The bonus is working with some great writers and learning from them. The other authors in this series are Robin Caroll, Shirlee McCoy, Patricia Davids, Roxanne Rustand and Terri Reed. See what I mean by a great lineup of authors. Getting six creative minds working on the same problem is wonderful, and there are so many interesting tidbits that develop from that. Our villain blossomed with a full-fledged past and motivations that caused the mayhem in each story.

On top of that nice bonus of working with those authors, with this continuity series I was asked to write a prequel called When Night Falls about my hero and heroine who had a past. They had met in New Orleans a year before and had dated for a while but a child kidnapping case that had gone badly broke them apart. You can enjoy this novella by clicking on this link ( a free download of the story. If that doesn’t work, cut and paste the link to take you to the download, a gift from eHarlequin and Steeple Hill.

What Sarah Saw will be out the second week in January. It’s available right now at eHarlequin. The back blurb is:
The only witness when a single mother mysteriously vanishes is her three-year-old daughter. FBI agent Sam Pierce needs to question little Sarah. Yet child psychologist Jocelyn Gold will barely let him near the girl. Or herself. The tragic conclusion to a kidnapping case broke Sam and Jocelyn apart the year before, and their hearts still haven’t healed. But for the child’s sake—and the mother’s—they must join forces to uncover just what Sarah saw.