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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Pacing in a story

This was an article I wrote on pacing in a romance or a romantic suspense, but so many of the points are true for any type of story. A writer must hold the reader's attention with a compelling plot and compelling characters.

Where do you start a story? You have a few pages (for some a few paragraphs) to catch an editor or reader’s attention. I know of some readers who will read the first page or so of a book and if you haven’t gotten her interest she won’t buy it. It is one of the important decisions for a writer when telling a story. If you start too soon, you might lose your reader. Pacing is important. Too slow and the reader will put your book down. Too fast and you will confuse the reader and leave out details and feelings that need to be in your story.

So where do you start? I like to start in the middle of a scene or at a change in your hero or heroine’s life. In my newest book, Once Upon a Family, which will be out next April for Love Inspired, I started when the heroine has to pick up her troubled teenage son from the principal’s office (he’s the hero) at the new school her son’s attending. She has to deal with yet another problem involving her son. Another opening where the heroine is facing something new in her life is with my Love Inspired Suspense out in January 2007, Heart of the Amazon. Kate, a prim and proper secretary of a church, must go into a bar in a small town on the Amazon to hire a guide to help her search for her missing brother. She’s never been in a bar and doesn’t drink. Then when she meets the best guide in the area, she meets her worst nightmare--everything she isn’t. Talk about opposites!

A word about prologues. I don’t usually have one. Unless the story really should begin years before, don’t do a prologue but start with chapter one even if it is months between the first and second chapter. A lot of readers skip prologues. A lot of time the information in a prologue can be fed into the body of the story in pieces. If you can avoid a prologue, you probably should. I just read a wonderful romantic suspense that started with a prologue of two pages. There was no time difference from that prologue to the first chapter. The first chapter picked right up where the prologue left off. I would have had that scene in the prologue as the first scene in chapter one or even the whole chapter one. In romantic suspense books, sometimes the chapters are very short.

Once you’ve gotten your reader past the first fourth to third of the book, you are plunging your story into the dreaded middle. This is where your plot can fall apart if you don’t have enough story to hold it together. I always try to have at least one big pivotal point that I’m writing toward that will peak in the middle. Example: In What the Heart Knows my heroine’s son is displaying bizarre behavior which is the reason she becomes involved with the hero. This behavior leads to the son running away. The hero and heroine get a lead and go after him. They find him and bring him home. The son is diagnosed with schizophrenia. This all happens in the first two thirds of the book.

In my next three romantic suspense books coming out in early 2007 with Love Inspired Suspense, there is a pivotal point about half to two thirds of the way through the story then the story takes a new direction and I must build toward the final pivotal scene.

During the middle is when I find pacing slows down. Be careful and make sure that you have at least three good reasons to have a scene. I had a sharp editor once who kept emphasizing how important pacing was in a book and I agree with her. Keep the story moving forward. That doesn’t mean you don’t have scenes where a lot of action isn’t taking place. We have to get to know your characters, often without a lot of high drama.

In romantic suspense books it is easier to keep things moving along at a fast clip, but that can have it’s pitfalls, too. While your protagonists are dodging bullets and running for their lives, they must get to know each other and fall in love. If you keep things moving too fast, the reader won’t believe in the end that they really love each other. So if a scene doesn’t serve at least three purposes then cut it or combine it with another one. Remember in an inspirational romance we want to focus on the romance, the characters’ faith journeys, and whatever external plot you have developed for the story as well as the internal conflicts.

Now to the end of your story. The whole book has been building for the big finale--otherwise called the black moment where you make it appear that there is no way the hero and heroine can get together. During the black moment it becomes obvious that they can’t find any common ground to stay together. Usually this isn’t a mutual decision although it can be. Usually it is one character driving the scene--backing away from the relationship. There are a variety of reasons for this and you will have established them as your story develops. Example: In Tidings of Joy coming out this October for Love Inspired, Chance leaves Tanya because he isn’t free of his past. He walks away because hate and guilt crowd his heart. He doesn’t feel he can give Tanya the type of relationship she deserves.

Then not long after the black moment you need to have the resolution where the hero and heroine get together. The black moment should happen within the last two chapters of the book. In the resolution and the few pages that might follow you have to tie up every loose end. A lot of subplots I have already tied up by the time I get to the black moment and resolution. I like the focus of those last scenes to be on the romance between the hero and heroine (even in romantic suspense books).

I have epilogues in my books. This is a two or three page scene which will farther wrap up my story and hopefully give the reader a warm feeling that all is well with my couple in the future. I personally like short--I emphasize the word short here--epilogues. Once I didn’t have one in one of my Love Inspired books and my editor wanted me to put an epilogue in.

Are there any questions on pacing and the structure of a story?

Margaret Daley
Margaret's web site
Margaret's blog

Announcing: Mid-Week Motivation

Thanks to Heather Young who's done an awesome job with the Works for Me Wednesday, but she's taking a break to focus on her family and are prayers are with her as she does!

But don't despair, we've got a great new column coming! It's called Mid-Week Motivation, and I think the name and menu says it all! If you'd like to contribute all or in part of the menu please email! We'll also be looking for a menu coordinator. So if you're a member of the webring and have been blessed by this ministry, please consider coordinating the menus, even if for a short time!

And if someone would like to create a great graphic for the Mid-Week Motivation Menu then send them on. If we get more than one, we'll have an old fashion vote for the winner!

Mid-Week Motivation Menu

Starting Your Day Out Right!
Short Devotion

Is Your House in Order?
Cleaning, parenting, marriage tips, etc.

Afternoon Pick Me Up
Writing inspiration

What's For Dinner?
Quick dinners, crock pots, etc.

A Restful Night's Sleep
Scripture for a restful sleep

Monday, October 30, 2006

Carnival of Christian Writers--Premier!!

Welcome to our first carnival! As you journey the fair grounds, enjoy the cotton candy and be sure and leave comments and tell them the Carnival of Christian Writer's sent you. We're pleased to present to you posts from Editors, Authors, and readers all focusing on writing. Please keep your hands and feet inside at all times and buckle up for your safety. Enjoy the ride...

Oh--and please start thinking about submitting for next month's Carnival!

Fiction Acquisitions Editor at Waterbrook, Mick Silva starts us off with Reality Check #5: Safe Books Are Not. If our reading material offends Christians, let them be offended and welcome in the riff-raff.

Jennifer at Snapshot, is saying it loud and saying it proud,"I am a Writer!"

Jennifer Tiszai at Sonoran Saga ponders a Writer's Imagination as she takes us into the Arizona Desert to experience a flat tire--writer style.

Mike Snyder and his unique sense of humor are on display as he contimplates being a "flawed manipulator" in his offering: Original? I think not.

After reading some depressing statistics in Publisher's Weekly, author Dena Dyer reveals why she writes.

Author Polly Boyettepresents Life is a Buffet: One Small Step

Author Tricia Goyer knows just what it takes to edit a novel and what happens once it leaves the writer's hands?

Gina Conroy explains what happensWhen You Give A Writer A Laptop.

Thoughts and Advice on the Writing Life can be found at Myra Johnson's Writer at Random.

Fiction Editor for Relief Journal, J. Mark Bertrand's The Peripatetic Novel takes John Gardner's talk about the "method" of fiction, combines it with thoughts on the peripatetic school of philosophy, and attempts to discover how the way we write novels might influence their thematic complexity.

Author Mary E. DeMuth presents Commercial or Literary or Both? posted at RelevantBlog.

Author Camy Tang presents Carnival of Christian Writers – the Hook posted at Camy's Loft.

At L'Chaim, Heather scratch-n-sniffs the incense of words with The Words We Use.

Fiction Acquisitions Editor at Howard Books, Terry Whalin explains potential benefits for authors and the publishers with his entry: Amazon Shorts Connect With Readers.

Mary at Home-steeped Hope shares how her inner conflict over writing has recently come full circle in Dancing With The Voices.

Michelle Gregory tells us about how she started writing during National Novel Writing Month (NanoWriMo).

Jennifer Cary shares her epiphany concerning editors and what it takes to "pass the test."

Michelle Pendergrass goes into the closet.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Two Questions That Change Everything

© Staci Stallings

When you're living with the Holy Spirit, there are many moments when things aren't going the way you thought they would be. That's hard. I know. Because when you put everything in His hands, things are supposed to work out the way you wanted them to, right? I understand. Really I do. What I challenge you to see, however, is that sometimes God knows what we want is not really the best of what can be. He sees that, and He has heard you say you're putting it in His hands and that you trust Him, so He believes you will be patient enough to wait for His perfect timing.

But the truth is, sometimes it just doesn't feel that way. Sometimes His timing drives you completely crazy. Sometimes it is nearly impossible to believe that it will ever happen. Sometimes you just want verification that something is happening because it looks like nothing is happening.

A friend of mine was in exactly this dilemma the day we talked. She had made the leap, had sent in the manuscript to the big publisher, and had even gotten back a reply that wasn't an outright rejection, which in the publishing world is cause for serious celebration. Then the requisitions editor added a little phrase that for two months had grated across her patience. "I will get back to you as soon as possible."

She said, "How long is 'as soon as possible' anyway? I thought that would be like a couple weeks tops. Now it's been two months, and still I haven't heard anything. I'm thinking maybe I should write him and tell him to either publish it or reject it, so at least it's settled and I can go on with my life."

I understood her frustration because when you're living in the world, on your own, seeing things from only your perspective, and believing its all up to you, frustration will naturally occur. Why? Because no matter how right things are now, they could always be better. Yes, you got the manuscript finished. Yes, it was the best you've ever done. Yes, you didn't get the form letter rejection that most often get sent to aspiring writers.
In fact, he liked it. In fact, he said he may ask for more. In fact, this is exactly what you've been praying for since you first typed in that very first word, and yet... Now what?

It's important at moments like this to keep two questions in mind. These two questions in the midst of "This is driving me crazy!" will go a long way to settling your spirit and helping you to see what's really going on. They won't give you more patience but somehow they make patience less necessary.

The first question is this:

Where is my focus?

As life has wrapped around you in a menagerie of directions, have you let your focus fall back into worldly pursuits? In short, is your focus on you or on God? Ah, great question. If your focus is on you, nerves, anger, and impatience is readily evident. You begin to ask questions like, "What should I do?" "How long should I wait?" "What am I doing this for?" And you begin to doubt yourself and your dream. "Maybe this isn't even worth it." "Maybe I should never have even tried." "Maybe I'd be better off trying something else."

When your focus is on you, life is hard. Really hard. No matter what you do, it's never as much as you should have done. No matter where you are, you should be over there. No matter what, life could always be better, and you have a sneaking suspicion that if you could just figure out what everyone else knows, it would be.

On the other hand, when your focus is on God, you trust that you are where you are supposed to be, that things are happening that you can't see that will make the entire enterprise turn out far more wonderfully than you could ever have imagined. So, where is your focus?

The second question is this:

What is God trying to teach me through this experience?

This is a nice question mostly because it distracts your mind and gives it something other than cataloging how awful this is and dragging your focus back to you. However, it's also a very helpful question for a lot of other reasons. The most important because every situation can teach you something if you are open to the lesson and if you are looking for it. Many people get so caught up in getting to the goal they've set that they close themselves off to other ways success might actually be happening.

For example in my writing, I wanted to sell a lot of books so money would not be a problem My efforts went to making this happen. My time was devoured by it. It consumed me. Then one day I stopped my headlong pursuit of "success" long enough to ask what God was trying to show me through the waiting. Immediately I saw two things. One, the money was not a problem. It just wasn't coming from me but from my husband's booming business. Solve one. Secondly I began to see what I had learned in the waiting.

One of the biggest was getting a really long, hard look at the life of an author with the success I thought I wanted. Jetting off every weekend to book signings or speaking engagements, attending conferences and book fairs. I'm not saying those things are wrong for everyone. But they are wrong for me.

Another was bending who you are in order to get a publishing company to like what you wrote enough for them to publish you. Now many readers don't realize how completely a manuscript can be changed from inception to completion to publication. In fact, my first novel "The Long Way Home" was published with the help of an editor. I will be forever grateful for the things he taught me, but one of those lessons was how little control the author has over what finally goes out.

My editor, for whatever reason, was colon crazy. He would put colons into the manuscript for no apparent reason. He just liked them. After awhile he admitted that some he had put in just to see if I would catch them. I did, but what I didn't catch was how thoroughly he had stripped my voice out of the manuscript. By the time it was finished, it sounded just like every other book on the market. Some call this making a book "marketable," but I'm not so sure. The more I look at what this process does, the more I am convinced the one thing it does with precision is to eradicate the unique voice God gave to the author.

Of course it's always done under the guise of making the work "better" and "marketable" by the world's standards. To which I have to ask, "Where is God in this?"

So, for me, I'm glad God didn't give me the world's definition of success with my novels. I would no doubt have run myself and my family into the ground over it. That's one of the things He taught me, and one of the lessons I know I would have missed had not learned to ask the two questions that change everything.

Don't miss out! All who subscribe to Homeward Bound at by Oct. 31 will receive a free online book by Staci Stallings. Sign up today. You'll feel better for the experience!

Saturday, October 28, 2006


My husband thinks I'm a little on the, uhm, unique side. I pretty well confirmed that he's right. I made myself a cozy little office in our storage closet. Yep. I sure did.

If you're cheering my sheer genius (or pure desperation)speak up! That means that you've wanted somewhere, anywhere that you can go to escape. I cannot be the only one. If I am, don't ruin my delusion. Play along, ok?

I've had my BOC time. Thank you, Mary DeMuth, for the use of your phrase. BOC=Butt on Chair. I've had my butt in this chair but I've been doing anything but writing. Reading blogs, sending emails, helping with the upcoming Carnival of Christian Writers, chatting, balancing my checkbook--ACK!!

Why is it so hard some days to get anything done at all? Again, please don't ruin my perfectly good fantasy that there are more people out there who feel this way. I have stories swimming around in my head constantly. Yet, I'm messing around doing things I shouldn't be doing, or at least I should write first and then play.

So I decided I'd fix it. I cleaned out the storage closet, well, I didn't exactly clean it all out. Half of it. I placed an old school desk in there with my back toward the messy side and I put a card table beside that covered with some nice black fabric. I put some wood crates on it and my writing books, I hung a shelf and put my important inspiration pieces on it, and set up the laptop. This is all very calculated. I have to have my back to the chaos of mess behind me, I have to have stuff that is important only to me around, and I need to have my internet privileges taken away from me.

I took pictures, but they're not available yet so when I get them I'll show you my wonderful new hideaway. I am thrilled about this and my husband patted me on the head and told me he still loved me.

My thoughts grew hot within me and began to burn, igniting a fire of words
Psalm 39:3

Michelle Pendergrass is a coffee-lover who lives in Knox, Indiana where she homeschools her son, Zane. She blogs at Just A Minute. When you visit, please note that her son is most definitely weaned and has been for some time now. Some names just stick.

©2006 Michelle L. Pendergrass - All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 27, 2006

Carnival of Christian Writers

Thanks to Heather who created the perfect button for our carnival! If you're participating in the carnival please copy this button and put it on your submission with a link back to the post on Monday!

Fiction Friday: Plot, part I

When we are talking about a plot, I am compelled to say: SHOW DON’T TELL. You might study some of your favorite movies. A movie has to show you what is going on. It’s the nature of the beast. Also, while you’re at it, study books on your keeper shelf to see what that author did as far as plotting went. Go through it scene by scene to see the progression of the plot. Another thing you can do is do that with your own book even if you’ve only completed part of it. Stepping back and looking at your book scene by scene can tell you if you’ve done what you should--address the goals, motivation and conflict and have at least three reasons for the scene. If not, cut the scene or change it until you have accomplished what you need to.

Remember when plotting keep in mind your characters’ goals, motivations and conflicts (that’s what a story is about--if not it isn’t a story that will hold a reader’s interest). A character has a goal because of a motivation but the conflict gets in the way of that goal. A character’s motivation should run through the whole book--something the protagonist doesn’t have is the best. The goal needs to be strong enough that the character will act against his best interest. Through conflict your character grows and is tested. This is where you can play up the faith element and have your character grow spiritually. The conflict should require your character to make choices and sacrifices. Debra Dixon wrote an excellent book called Goals, Motivation and Conflict about these three elements of a story. I highly recommend you get a copy and read it. By understanding and developing these three elements of your main characters you will have your plot for the story.

As I said at the first some writers outline thoroughly before writing a word while others write by the seat of their pants. I write in between those two methods. I have a good sense of my two main characters and sometimes secondary characters, depending on the story. I know what my beginning will be and my end. I also know what my high points will be (derived from what the conflicts are).

I like for a plot and the characters to percolate in my mind before I begin writing. I want to get a sense of who these people are and what they want to do (as well as what I want them to do). I also use this time to brainstorm with my critique group or myself. I love to brainstorm ideas about my book or anyone else’s. I look at it as a giant jigsaw puzzle that needs to be put together--sometimes one slow piece at a time. Some plots flow quickly from me, others take a long time.

After I’ve done this I sit down to write my first three chapters, then my outline to submit to my publisher. I will say when writing my outline for the rest of the book I realize that it may change over time. Never lock yourself into a plot. Learn to listen to your characters as they develop in the story. I often find they usually know what’s best, especially as I get to know them better.

Margaret Daley
TIDINGS OF JOY, Love Inspired, October 2006
HEART OF THE AMAZON, Love Inspired Suspense, January 2007

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Button Help Needed!

In anticipation for the new Carnival of Christian Writers, I've been wanting to make a button, but my button know how is soooo limited, well actually it's nonexistent!

So if any of our readers (or relatives or friends of readers) know how to create one and would like to help, drop me an email! I know exactly what I want, but don't know how to do it!

Operation Christmas Child: Shoebox Fun

Tears gathered in my oldest daughter’s eyes as she implored me, saying, “Mommy, please, just don’t give me as much this Christmas, these kids need things more than I do.” She needn’t have begged, I was all for the idea.

Operation Christmas Child. With the National Collection Week in mid-November, there’s no time like now to start planning your box. Choose a gender, an age (2-4, 5-9, 10-14), and spree thee to the nearest Dollar General. Flip-flops would be a versatile filler, just size-guess according to the bigger end of your age range. Another fun idea would be to buy a sports ball and deflate it. Stick the small pump in alongside it and just picture the grand times to be had by all. Arts and crafts, personal hygiene products, a stuffed animal to hold close…

OCC is a great way to encourage the gift of giving in your children every Christmas. Each year Samaritan’s Purse collects boxes from all over and sends them overseas to boys and girls ages 2-14. You pack your box with a specific age/gender in mind, and label it accordingly. The best thing about these boxes is that Samaritan’s Purse includes in each one a Gospel booklet that’s followed up with a discipleship program. Over 7 million children received these last year.

Wrap your shoebox and lid separately. We choose to buy plastic Rubbermaid containers (shoebox-sized) simply because they can be reused by the recipients. If you’d like, place a photo of your child in the box. We were touched by a shot in the Samaritan Purse magazine showing a young girl kissing the picture of her giver over and over.

Their website has all the info you need on drop-off locations and gift guidelines. You can even mail your box (es) directly to Samaritan Purse if there’s no drop-off nearby. They ask a $7 donation be included in each box to help cover shipping/handling costs plus printing/distribution costs of the Gospel storybooks. And get this, if you feel you simply don't have time to shop and assimilate a box, you can "adopt a box" and donate $7 for its shipping costs.

Three or four years ago, in lieu of exchanging care packages, an out of state friend sent us a special card printed by Samaritan Purse. It informed us that they’d sent an OCC box in honor of our family.

What better gift this season, than a gift that keeps on giving?

Mary is an old-fashioned thirty-something wife, homeschooler, and aspiring writer. Her blog, Home-steeped Hope, feeds her love/pursuit of the written non-fiction word while her women's fiction "dreams" wait TBR (to be revised)...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Discovering Food Allergies Part 2

When I was 5 weeks pregnant with our second child we moved away from western PA to northern Massachusetts. There we attended Haverhill C&MA church and met our good friends Bea and John, who had three children, the youngest of which was 3 years older than Rachel. We started attending the small group that met at their house and became quick friends.

My husband was working away from home for the first time since we married so I spent a lot of time visiting Bea, who homeschooled her two girls (8 and 6) and boy (5). I watched and listened as she talked about her children's numerous food allergies, as she discussed the benefits of homeschooling, and all the other bits of wisdom she had gained in her 8 years of parenting.

She started noticing that my 2 year old (Rachel) would have moments of sweetened, and moments of absolute hyperactivity, with the added benefit of bright red cheeks and the inability to cope with anything. She, with her natural intuition in such things, started watching what she was eating at her house and mine. She asked if she ate a lot of foods with red dye. Well, yes, she did. She was finishing potty training and got a Twizzler every time she made it to the potty. Bea suggested we take her off anything with Red 40 and see how she did. We tried it and were amazed, until one day she had the same reaction and had had NO Red 40. We looked at what she had been eating. The culprit ended up being Blues Clues applesauce, dyed blue of course. We added Blue 1 to the list of no-nos.

After some research I found that Red 40 and Blue 1 both are known allergens as well as triggers for hyperactive behavior. We praised the Lord that we discovered them when we did. We later discovered that her siblings (and father) had the same reaction. My husband does not get hyperactive from Red 40 though we have found that it triggers depression and spells of irrational anger.

With Rachel and Issac we find head banging, intentional overstimulation, and hyperactivity. With their sister, Esther, we note repetitive verbal ticks, inappropriate laughter, and physical ticks. We have also learned that not only do enzymes not help with the digestion of chemicals, including Red 40 and Blue 1, but that watercolors, markers, play-doe, chalk, and other dye containing items can trigger reactions.

Just last week we were wondering what was wrong with Issac, who had spent the last few days running around the house, covering the entire living room--back and forth, back and forth, in moments, head banging, and other behaviors. This was while Rachel was in the hospital and only one of us at a time was home to observe the behavior. Finally, we realized that his grandmother had given him a play-doe set for his birthday. Normally this is fine as we avoid all but yellow play-doe. On this case he was not. It took several hours after playing with it for it to cause a reaction (his skin had to absorb it.) The same thing happened today at church. I went to pick him up and found him bouncing off the walls. I went into the familiar conversation with the teacher: "What did he eat,? What did he play with?" In this case the culprit was colored chalk.

Usually a dose of Benedryl does the trick. Sometimes a combination of bath and Benedryl are necessary. At least we know what to look for and can react appropriately.

Heather Young is a saved by grace, homeschooling, mother of three, wife of one, writer, artist, and web designer who drinks way too much coffee and spends too much time at her computer. She writes for Graced by Christ, Laced by Grace, Everyday Miracles, and Writer....Interrupted. Someday, God willing, she will finish one of her WIP and attempt to get it published, but not until God says the timing is right.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Giving Your Writing Journey to God

LIKE MANY OF YOU, I have been working toward being a novelist my whole life. It’s taken years of hard work and God to get to this place and it’s only been in the last few years that God has moved the waiting pieces together.

When I was younger, I thought I wanted to write Christian Historical Fiction. For me, Jeanette Oke, Lori Wick, and Francine Rivers represented the sum of good fiction. Later (about a decade ago) I became an English major and was introduced to other kinds of writing and at that point in my writing journey, I learned that literary or mainstream writing never shared space on reading lists with Christian Fiction.

As I studied other types of writing, my own writing became better, but I had no idea what path I should take. Which brings me to the verse I chose for this reflection when I delivered a different version of it at the 2006 ACFW Conference. It’s from Proverbs 3:5 and 6. “5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

After graduation, I moved away and soon found myself in a situation where I had no writing community, let alone a path I knew I was supposed to follow. I wrote what I could and tried some different things, but because I also found myself divorced and living as a single mom, writing couldn’t be a top priority. During this time, I had a fight with God. God seemed to being say “no” to me at every turn.

That was a tough time, but I learned lots and through taking that journey with my daughter, I learned about life. I met others worse off than me and I was put into the shoes of those I’d judged before. I felt I'd become the judged in the eyes of many. Then God gave me my story. I sat down one day and wrote a few paragraphs, it might have been a few pages. I then closed the file and didn’t open it for a few years.

After I met my husband, Albert Forkner, my life changed. He is a real life hero rivaling any I'd read in a historical romance, I have to admit. With him in my life to support me, I opened that file and reread those words I’d written as a single mom; and they came alive. I knew that story. I’d been there. It wasn't historical romance, but it was the right story.

When I started the book, I didn’t think about publishing. I just wanted to see if I could finish it. I eventually got in contact with my agent through a relative. I sent my manuscript to this relative who knew me well, just to receive encouragement. This relative went a step further and chose to put my manuscript in front of an agent who represents a very prominent CBA author and works for an agency representing several music industry artists with big names like Amy Grant. When she told me what she’d done, I was terrified. I remember worrying that my writing would end up making her look bad in her job! I would surley embarrass her!

Well, I haven’t made her look bad yet (although there is still time - grin). The day my agent called to ask if he could represent me was an exciting day. I mean, it’s not like I had agents calling me every day, let alone someone as amazing as him. In fact, I wasn’t even looking for one. That was just another piece of the puzzle God moved into place at just the right time and the next piece was that Ruby Among Us was sold to Waterbrook of Random House.

When I was a divorced, single mother living miles from home struggling to make ends meet, I never dared to dream my writing would one day be so blessed. So, just remember this, no matter where you are at, God is sovereign and you can’t mess him up. If I can’t, then nobody can!

Tina Ann Forkner writes contemporary women’s fiction for Waterbrook Press, a divion of Random House. Her first novel is due out in 2007. Ruby Among Us is a story of intergenerational relationships and God's permissiveness and providence in the lives of its characters. Tina is an Executive Assistant for a technology company by day and has a special interest in women’s ministries that meet women where they are at. She has written poetry and juggled a modicum of freelance writing projects over the years. Visit her at

Monday, October 23, 2006

Introducing: Margaret Daley

Let's give a big welcome to my friend, Margaret Daley, a multi-published writer of inspirational romance and inspirational romantic suspense. She writes for Love Inspired and Love Inspired Suspense. Besides being a writer, she is a high school teacher of students with disabilities and grandmother to two adorable girls.

Please welcome her to the group by visiting:
Her blog
Her Website

Guest Blogger: Michelle Gregory

For twenty years, I was a fiction writer who avoided writing: I'd read at least a dozen books about writing, I wrote in a journal, I shared family stories in my scrapbooks, and I blogged. But deep down inside of me, I knew I was a writer, and I almost never gave that side of myself a chance to be heard.

After reading No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty, and perusing the National Novel Writing Month website, I thought that anyone who would commit to writing 50,000 words in thirty days was crazy. I certainly never thought I would be one of them. However, the idea kept pushing at me until I finally added my name to the thousands of others from around the world, many of whom had typed their fingers off in previous years.

I approached my husband and children, expecting them to talk me out of it. They were more excited about it than I was. As November 1st approached, it was only their enthusiasm and the fact that I'd told several friends about my madness that kept me from turning tail and bolting out the door. On November 1st, my internal critic brought everything to a lurching halt. It was only God’s grace and sheer determination that made me write a thousand words that day.

As I subjected my hands and neck to daily cramping spells, I discovered that the story inside of my head was frantic to get out. By day three, I had 9000 words. By day twelve I had 31,000. And by day seventeen, I had passed the 50,000 word mark and the story wasn’t even half-finished.

In order to pursue my dream, I gave up time with my children, time with my husband and time with friends. I put aside nagging household projects. I gave up home schooling because I realized I couldn’t write non-stop and educate them simultaneously. And I let go of the notion that my first draft had to be stellar.

Althougth I am not joining this year, I know that it was one of the best things I have ever done. I hope you too can release your writer. In my opinion, there is no better way than to give NaNoWriMo a try.

© Michelle Gregory, 2006

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Renewing My Mind

Romans 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

I used to sit in church and pray that God would just "zap" me and make me the person I really want to be. But after thirty plus years I'm learning that God doesn't work that way - for most of us.

For years I've struggled with certain things, personality flaws so to speak. I've blamed it on my Italian New York upbringing, my parents divorce, the critical people in my life, etc. While that may be part of who I am, it's not the whole me and I don't have to continue to be the person of my youth.

I'm learning that just because I read a parenting book or go through a 12 week Bible study, doesn't mean at the end I will be miraculously transformed. I can't begin to tell you how many books I've read on the same subject and I still struggle with the same things. transformed by the renewing of your mind. Renewing. I guess I could break out all the concordances and go back to the original Hebrew or Greek to find out the origin of this word, but to me it means continual. I need to feed my mind continually so my heart will be bathed in the truth and love of Jesus Christ. Reading a book on parenting isn't going to change me. But when I continue to read books, meditate on scripture and pay attention in church, then my mind will be renewed on a continual basis. Then I will be able to stand against the enemy as he throws his fiery darts my way.

Do I still wish God would just "zap" me and end all my struggles? Sure. But I don't pray for it as much as I did before. I don't except to be miraculous transformed, instead I continue to renew my mind and one day "when He appears, we (I) shall be like Him, for we (I) shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:2)

Gina Conroy is a homeschooling mom of four, founder of Writer...Interrupted, and writes about how she struggles to balance it all her on her blog Portrait of a Writer...Interrupted. If you happen to figure out how to do it "all" before she does, please leave her a comment!

Last Call for Carnival of Christian Writers

There's less than a week to get your entries in for the FIRST Carnival of Christian Writers which will debut HERE on Monday, October 30th. The deadline for submission is Saturday, the 28th at noon CST. For a submission form and guidelines please click the link in the red box on the sidebar!
Can't wait to see all those great writing posts!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

While I Was Sleeping

Most ideas for my books come in dreams. Dreaming is like watching a movie for me! I dream in plots and stories some time.

Other ideas I believe God just pops into my head. Not to sound super spiritual, but it’s true. Some of the stuff I come up with is because I wasn’t trying to come up with anything at the time.

Here are a couple of examples of how I have used my dreams and ideas from God in my WIPs.

After attending a romance writer’s meeting a couple of years ago, I asked God to give me a romance idea since romance writing wasn’t something I was particularly interested in, but I wanted to be a part of this writing group. That night I had a dream about a retired football coach, and an idea for a romance was born.

After reading a suspense book, I asked God to give me an idea. It came to me while I was in the car. A simple “what if” idea and Whallah! My current suspense.

While I sat in church one day, a scripture jumped out at me. No, not literally! I wanted to know more about this person in the Bible. So I went home and started writing a Biblical fiction novel.

Months ago I woke with a crazy dream. I wrote it down and it has supernatural suspense written all over it.

My recent idea came while reading a chicklit novel. I woke up at 4:30 am from a dream and couldn’t get back to sleep. I decided to get up and write. I ended up with the first chapter to a momlit novel.

Don’t knock those dreams. They can be inspiration from God or possibly indigestion from the late night pizza you ate. But either way, for me they make great material for my books.

So where do you get your ideas from?

Gina Conroy is a homeschooling mom of four, founder of Writer...Interrupted, and writes about how she struggles to balance it all her on her blog Portrait of a Writer...Interrupted. If you happen to figure out how to do it "all" before she does, please leave her a comment!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Fiction Fridays
Researching Your Novel

In researching for my four WWII novels, I've interviewed veterans and
Holocaust survivors--some of whom had NEVER talked about their experiences,
even with their wives. I conducted these first interviews in person at WWII

--I first connected with the men after hearing about the experiences of a
specific recon unit who liberated two concentration camps in Austria. I
contacted them through letters, and soon received responses from six men
from this unit willing to be interviewed. They invited me to their yearly
reunion, and I jumped at the chance.

--I was amazed by how open the men were to sharing their story. I think they
were thrilled that someone cared about THEIR experiences. At the reunion I
made appointments. A writer friend went with me, and we filled our schedule.
It was my first experience with interviewing concerning sensitive issues,
but I use the same procedure today for my novel or article research.

--When it comes to the interviews, I set up my notebook computer to record
them with Audio Grabber. After getting the recording started, I turned my
full attention to the person. I don't jot notes or read questions. Instead,
I maintain eye contact and ask questions.

--I start by asking easy stuff such as when they joined their military,
about basic training, friendships, etc.

--I make sure I have a basic knowledge of their role in the war so I can ask
knowledgeable questions. For example, "What type of emotions did you feel
when your tank crossed the border into Germany?"

--After the person has covered the basics I ask, "What memories still replay
in your mind even 60 years later?" This is the question that brings the most
emotion. Many, many men have broken down sobbing. Some apologize and tell me
that cannot share their memory. Others do so, but it takes a while for them
to warm up.

--Which leads to the most important thing I do . . . sit and listen. I don't
try to fill the silence with my words. Nine times out of ten, the men (or
women) open up, and they share things with me that they've never shared
before. (And many tell me it's a sort of healing for them.)

I've been privileged to talk with Holocaust survivors too. Most of these men
and women have told their stories many times--and it's easy for them to open

My most amazing interview was with a survivor who was in his early teens
when he was in a number of concentration camps. He had not spoken to many
people, and when we shared his experiences he literally jumped from his seat
and started "acting" out how they marched, how they stood at attention, how
the guards beat him, etc. I felt like I was there, and it greatly impacted

Interviewing with Care and Consideration
By Tricia Goyer

I've continued to interview other people for other situations, and being
genuinely interested and caring is key. I offer tissue or hold hands for
someone having a hard time. I don't rush. I also let the person know later
how much their story impacted me.

The greatest thing has been the men's response when the read the final
product-whether it is my novels or my monthly veteran's column. They're
excited to know their experiences matter and their stories will live on.

Tricia Goyer

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Special Kids, Special Needs...Thermometer

The last few weeks have been rough for one of my twins. Ryan has always been the one more prone to show symptoms of stress in response to rupture of the status quo. It got so bad for the little guy, that one day alone, he wet himself four times. FOUR!! *sigh* I think that was one of the straws that broke me. Forget the fight he had with his brother at school, forget the way he'd assault his siblings at home with angry words and sometimes, fists. I talked to the Special education teacher and told her he was completely melting down at home. I prayed A LOT, asking the Lord to show me what happened to my precious boy who'd been doing so great in his new school.

Well, I wasn't quite ready for what God showed me. It was me...well, not completely *me* but our entire lives. They'd been in some state of "upheaval" for weeks. I was gone for nearly a week to the ACFW conference, then when I returned, our family drove to Arkansas to bury my husband's grandmother...then I was challenged with the last weeks of my college class, along with the stress of rewriting the ending to a manuscript that a publisher wanted. Sadly, I confess I wasn't the mom I wanted to be in this defining hours. Tired, stressed, know, when life interrupts and demands you bow to it? :-D

So, I've expended great energy toward "doting" on my sons. I mean, they're not getting away with murder or anything, but I'm HEARTILY emphasizing the positive bheavior. For example, the other night, I was putting the boys to bed. Ryan started melting down. So, I turend to Reagan and said, "I"m so glad you're lying in bed and being quiet for us to say your prayers." To my pleasure, Ryan grabbed his attitude and drop-kicked it to the curb.

My point? We are the thermometer in our families. It's a tough fact. But it's true. Yeah, that puts a lot of pressure on us, but this is what God designed us for--motherhood. :-D Our kids are like magnets to our attitudes. What we feel will be reflected in them. If we're down and depressed, that mood filters to them. I'm not saying this to offend anyone, but it's just something God has made real to me these last couple of weeks. I readily admit that our temperature and my magnetic attitude falters at times...c'est la vie. :-D OH! And Ryan's doing much better in case anyone was worried. *wink*

So, what's the temperature like at your house this week?
Ronie Kendig is a wife, mother, and writer working on her degree in Psychology. She currently lives in Texas, homeschools and is in her final semester of college. An avid writer, Ronie specializes in fast-paced fiction in various genres. You can visit her online at her website or blog.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Discovering Food Allergies: Part 1

I have had more than a few people ask how we discovered our children's food allergies and Gina pointed out that that would make a great WFMW post but since Shannon is not posting a WFMW today I will just tell the story and how it worked. I have a suspicion that because of the steps taken, that it will likely be a series of posts instead of just one as there were several steps to our discovery, which lead us to different aspects of the food allergies. The best way I can think of telling it is through story, which may make it longer, but may clarify a few things.

The second time I met my husband I was on break while working at McDonald's. (For those who don't know, the first time I met him was at work and I asked him, "Shamus??? Did your parent's hate you to give you a name like that?-- He was very gracious despite my rudeness and we did end up talking again after that. :)) He came down to the breakroom to wait for his time to sign in. I was eating an ice cream sunday and offered him some. He replied, "No thank you, I am allergic to milk."

I laughed. I had tons of environmental allergies but had never heard of food allergies. He was known to be a kidder so I thought he was joking. He spent the rest of my break convincing me that he really was allergic to milk to the point that his throat would swell shut (anaphylactic shock). We started dating 6 months later and I learned a lot more about the milk allergy (especially some of the places where milk is hidden, like in sherbert.)

Not long after we met I went off to college where I discovered that I had trouble with anything with yeast. (I didn't know that sugar feeds yeast so didn't eliminate the sugar.) In my third year of school I went to Poland as part of our college art student exchange program. While there I had to avoid yeast. I then had to add meat to the avoid list when I found that the meat--hormones in the meat-- was causing my moods to swing out of control. The only things I could eat that I knew were safe were vegetables, fruits, and dairy products. Over there they had no low fat dairy and I blimped up. When I returned home I was sick of dairy and avoided it like the plague. A few weeks later I had a cheese stick. My throat started to itch then it felt like I couldn't breath right. I called Shamus (it was one of our "dating" times during our on again off again relationship). He suggested that I might be having an allergic reaction because it sounded like how he felt when he had milk. He had me drink tons of HOT water, take an allergy pill, and drink something caffeinated. After a bit the swelling ceased then went down. I did not go into full anaphylactic shock, and have not since though I have had more than a few small episodes of the same type.

I asked him what he thought I should do about it. (Notice here that I didn't call my doctor. I had had plenty of help from doctors regarding my environmental allergies and not one had ever mentioned the possibility of food allergies triggering them. At the time calling Shamus, who knew what it was like and how to live with it, seemed the best choice.) He told me what they did when they discovered that he was having trouble with milk in high school and suggested I do the same:

1. Avoid everything with dairy (or whatever you think is causing a reaction) for a week solid. This means reading lots and lots of labels. It is amazing what is in the foods we eat that we don't notice. Also there are different forms of dairy that are hidden in our foods. Nowadays they tell you if something has any allergens, they didn't then. I have a list our pediatrician gave us of hidden allergens in food, but have to find it before I can share it.

2. After a week, give a spoonful or less of the possible allergen--in its purest form. Eating it in another form may not be helpful because of the other ingredients. You need to check each individual ingredient of the thing that made you sick, one week at a time. So if the allergic reaction happened with icecream, it may be milk, soy, sugar, corn, dye, or whatever other ingredients it contains.

Disclaimer-If you are dealing with possible anaphylactic shock you should be prepared to call the hospital or have an Epi-pen on hand in case of a serious reaction. This is especially true with nut allergies which can be dangerous. If you are not sure about trying this and are afraid of a serious reaction (especially if there has been a serious reaction before) talk to your doctor beforehand. In this case I had eaten a whole cheese stick and so just tried a tiny bit of milk. I had a mild reaction but it was definite.

3. If, after the previous trial you are unsure, give it another week or two off and try again. There are several possibilities here. You may be having more than one allergic reaction or one form (like ice cream)bothers you while another (like yogurt) does not. You may be having a reaction to something else that you ate around the same time (or within 2 days prior to the reaction). The other possibility is that it is a combination of ingredients that sets you off, for example, if you are allergic to milk and soy but only mildly to each, then you may not react to a glass of milk or of soy milk but may with a candy bar or ice cream.

4. Once you have pinpointed an allergen avoid it for a prolonged period. Going back to it after a long period can actually cause a more extreme reaction. I noticed after avoiding milk for a time that my environmental allergies and headaches diminished. As I eliminated different foods I got healthier and healthier, and my skin cleared up.

There is a lot more to the story so if you started reading please come back next week. Once you find food allergies there is often an over all cause (as I found) and which, if not dealt with, may cause more and more food allergies as you eliminate others. The next stage of this story talks about our discovery of dye allergies--which is different from food allergies, even though dyes are in foods. Also to come, dealing with the food allergies, finding the underlying cause, and treating them. (Thanks Gina I think I may have at least a month of posts in this one.)

Introducing: Camy Tang

Camy Tang is a loud Asian chick who writes loud Asian chick-lit. Next
year in September, Zondervan will release her first novel about the
Sakai cousins, Japanese American Christian women who fight the stigma
of the infamous family title, "Oldest Single Female Cousin" and the
machinations of their diabolical, match-making Grandma.

In a previous life she was a biologist researcher, where her writing
and creativity was constantly interrupted by the stresses of the
corporate world. She struggled with her writing career and finding the
time—developing a series of tips and tricks that helped her to work
full-time and still complete her 3rd manuscript in 6 months.

So joining Writer...Interrupted was a no-brainer. She hopes to help
and get encouragement from other writers struggling like she is.

These days she is surgically attached to her computer, writing
full-time. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church
youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday

Camy's blog, "Camy's Loft," is just that--a place to put up your feet,
relax, and enjoy the read. She ponders frivolous things like dumb dogs
(namely, hers), coffee-geek husbands (no resemblance to her own...),
the writing journey, Asiana, and anything else that comes to mind.
Every Monday and Thursday she has Christian book giveaways, and every
Sunday she posts a prayer (everyone is welcome to leave a prayer
request as a comment or e-mail her with your private request).

And here's the links to:
My website:
My book series: blog:

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Review of Calm, Cool & Adjusted by Kristin Billerbeck

Calm, Cool & Adjusted by Kristin Billerbeck

Product Details

# ISBN: 1591453305
# Format: Paperback, 320pp
# Publisher: Integrity Publishers
# Series: Spa Girls Collection Series, #3

From the Publisher:

Best friends since Johnny Depp wore scissors for hands, "The Spa Girls" live very separate lives, but stay in touch with routine visits to California's Spa Del Mar. The third novel in the Spa Girls Series focuses on Silicon Valley chiropractor Poppy Clayton, who is as calm, cool and adjusted as they come. Or is she? Known for her bad fashion sense, a love for all things natural and the inability to get a second date, Poppy is beginning to wonder if she might be misaligned herself. Her route to self discovery will be an unnatural one - a plastic surgeon, a house in Santa Cruz and a wedding date from the dark side. It's all enough to send a girl - and her gal pals - running for the spa.

My review:

Another perfect title by Kristin Billerbeck, Calm, Cool & Adjusted sums up Poppy Clayton's life better than any title I could have come up with! Poppy lives for serenity and calmness, or as she calls it, energy. She could care less about looking cool, but that's not the kind of cool the author means. Poppy finds that special cool after thawing out, and I loved the character arc! It's what I live to read!

The adjusted word works very well in regards to defining not only her profession as a chiropractor, but it doubles up to describe her need to work things through and go with the flow, to stop being so anal and overanalyzing everything and heal from the past. Get unstuck and show your love with your words and deeds, Poppy girl!

And the first line is my very favorite opening of all time... Desperation has a scent. Is that incredibly witty, or what?

Though I loved A Girl's Best Friend a lot (probably because I'm blonde, too, and Morgan was just a lovable character), I think I love this story the most! I totally adore Poppy and her quirks and defensiveness. Her obsessions are hilarious and the insightful comments about nutrition and exercise border on convicting at times. LOL!

Billerbeck has an amazing ability to be snarky and yet fun in her style. I love her wit and wisdom, and the faith portion is always gracefully woven into the story. I feel like I learned the most from this book in regards to God's timing, the value of friendship, and the need for inner healing to move on. Wonderful stuff!

Also, the tension is unbearable. Who will Poppy choose to be with, or will she decide to stay single? GAH! That had me going. Fortunately, the author chose the right ending or I would've screamed and it wouldn't have been pretty! Billerbeck knows how to get to a reader's heart and she pulls me in every time. I can't say enough good things about this story! Of all of Kristin's chick lit titles, this one grabbed my heart the most! Bravo!

Calm, Cool & Adjusted was published by Integrity and released in October 2006.

Michelle Sutton (pen name)
"Writing truth into fiction"
Great Beginnings finalist 2005
writer/book reviewer

For an interview with Kristen Billerbeck visit Portrait of a Writer...Interrupted

Monday, October 16, 2006

In Case You Haven't Met Tricia Yet!

Tricia Goyer is the author of five novels, two non-fiction books, and onechildren's book. Tricia was named Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference"Writer of the Year" in 2003. In 2005, her book Life Interrupted was afinalist for the Gold Medallion. Also in 2005, her novel Night Song wonACFW's Book of the Year for Long Historical Romance. In 2006, her novel Dawnof a Thousand Nights also won Book of the Year for Long Historical. She'swritten over 250 articles for national publications and hundreds of BibleStudy notes for the Women of Faith Study Bible. Tricia lives in Montana withher husband and three kids where she homeschools, leads children's church,and mentors teenage mothers.Even though the above may sound pretty impression I'm astay-at-home-writing-mom who loves to connect with others!

Are You Humble or Humbled?

"A man’s pride will bring him low, But the humble in spirit will retain honor." Proverb 29:23

Humble is not a word I'd use to describe myself. Confident, insecure, teachable, stubborn, though contradictary at times, they better describe the real me. I admire the humble in spirit. Many great men of the Bible were humble and meek.

Moses was very meek, above all men on face of the earth, Numbers 12:3

Jesus said, "I am meek and lowly in heart." Matthew 11:29,30

Who wouldn't want to be among them? But I tend to be more like Peter, Thomas and yes, Judas, though it pains me to admit it.

Peter, the passionate one, often took action before he spoke. Most times, when he did speak, his words got him in trouble. Thomas lacked the faith to believe in things he couldn't see, and Judas questioned the actions of Jesus especially when it came to finances and his future.

I'm not all that different from them. Like Peter, I let my emotions rule my actions. Just as Thomas doubted, I too fall into disbelief that God's promises will come to pass. And like Judas, I question Jesus' plan for my life. I ofen think I know what's best for me and forget to consult the One who created me. I forge ahead, strong willed like Peter and forget the One I should be loyal too, just like Judas.

At ACFW I was humbled in spirit and brought back to a place of complete reliance on God. I saw the humble exhalted in a beautiful way, recieving awards when they never imagined they would win. At first it was painful to not be among them, but then I let it go. I didn't question why not me, instead I chose to believe God has me on a different but wonderful journey.

I'm tired of being humbled. I want to be humble. But to be humble I think you have to be humbled first. You have to come to a place where after all of your striving you realize you can't do it on your own. God has to bring you to a place of complete surrender to His will, whether you understand His will or not.

I think I'm on my way. I hope that doesn't sound prideful 'cause I sure don't want to be humbled again. But God reminded me at ACFW this year that He is in control of my life and my career, and though I may not always understand or like the journey He has me on, it's still the best path for me. And that brought me to a place of peace. But I'll leave that for another day!

Gina Conroy is a homeschooling mom of four, founder of Writer...Interrupted, and writes about how she struggles to balance it all her on her blog Portrait of a Writer...Interrupted. If you happen to figure out how to do it "all" before she does, please leave her a comment!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Drowning Lessons

© Staci Stallings, 2006

Any lifeguard will tell you the worst thing someone that the lifeguard is trying to save can do is to "help." A drowning person in a panicked attempt to "save" themselves by thrashing about can end up taking the lifeguard down with them. It's a lesson all of us need to learn no matter how good we are at swimming in spiritual waters.

Many people ask: "What is my purpose here on earth?" They go through various exercises and workshops to find out what their purpose is. I will save you some time and money if you, too, are asking this age-old question.

You have one purpose here on earth, and it can be summed up in two words: to learn.

You were sent here to learn-to learn about yourself-your capabilities, your liabilities, your strengths, your weaknesses, your abilities, and your limitations. You were also sent here to learn about and how to deal with others-those who are easy to love and those for whom God's mercy will have to be super-abundant for their forgiveness to be obtained.

Nonetheless, you were mostly sent here to learn about God and His unending, unfathomable, unstoppable, overwhelming, unbelievable love for you.

One of the biggest lessons and one of the hardest to take and accept is what has been called a disruptive moment. These are the times in your life when you have been easily walking next to the water when suddenly something pushes you in to the deep end.

This something might be someone. It might be an event or an illness or death or a sudden change that blows gaping holes in your belief that all is right with your world.

Suddenly you are buffeted-slapped on every side with wave after wave of despair, doubt, anger, hopelessness, helplessness, grief, anxiety, and fear so strong it pulls you under like a rip tide.

I believe what we are sent here to learn is that it is precisely in these times of trial and fear that we learn the real depth of God. It is in these moments that the Almighty Lifeguard takes hold of us, rather than us holding onto Him.

The problem here is that many of us continue to struggle. We continue to try to save ourselves even as the waves wash over us time and again. What God says to us at these moments is exactly what the lifeguard would say to the drowning person. "Relax. Let Me do it. Do not rely on your strength, trust in Mine."

Your purpose here is primarily to learn that one lesson as deeply as possible. When the storms blow, quit struggling. Trust the Lifeguard.

He has the strength you need. Relax, and let Him work in your life, and you will surely see wonders come from the moments you thought you were destined to drown. By your own effort, you would have. In His strength, however, you will be brought out of the waters of chaos and confusion into a new life you can only know when you have felt both the rip tide and His marvelous, sustaining strength.

In your weakness, His strength can be made manifest. Trust it for it will save you-especially when you feel you are drowning.

Visit Staci's blog... You'll feel better for the experience!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Who Is Painting?

“But life—every single part of it, every stroke of the paintbrush—is God-moments. And fiction that tries to discern a non-God-moment and erase it from the possibilities is missing part of the painting.” Andy Meisenheimer, Zondervan editor. Interview by Rebecca LuElla Miller at Speculative Faith

I don’t want to be the one to discern a God-moment from a non-God-moment. I’ve already learned that lesson in my life. Andy is spot on here. In our fiction, we’re so busy trying to discern what is of God and what isn’t that our paintings (novels) seem to look all sloppy and dumpy.

Doesn’t it say somewhere that everything good is from our Father in Heaven and all things work for good for those that believe?

So what is ALL? Does this include every stroke of the paintbrush or are we trying to determine which parts we should put a glob of white over to cover and make it look clean according to our standards?

Are we forgetting that to God our righteousness looks and smells like filthy rags? And this doesn’t mean a dishrag, friend. This means bloody, filthy, smelly menstrual rags or rags used to clean up diseased sores on diseased skin. Did you just turn your nose up in disgust? Good reaction, take note because that is what our best attempts at being “good’ look and smell like to God. If we choose to paint over this with a big glob of white paint because it doesn’t fit into our little understanding of God, how then can He wash us to make us whiter than snow? Maybe you don’t need Him; maybe you’re okie-dokie painting all by yourself. I’m not.

I tried to get out my paintbrush. I thought I’d show Him how good I was at painting my own picture. When I was finished, I admired my handy work and expertise and I was sure I was going to dazzle Him with my brilliance and technique.

I presented it to Him and bounced up and down while he looked at it. And then I realized I forgot some stuff. I was so concerned with trying to put in a stroke over here like hers and one over there like his, and I focused on making it look like something someone would want to buy for a lot of money (because this was THE painting of all paintings) that I forgot to paint Him in the picture with me. I slumped down in despair and buried my face in my hands. How could I forget Him? I turned and started to walk away.

I felt His hand on my shoulder and I looked up with tears streaming down my cheeks. He wiped them away and gave the painting back to me.

He whispered, “Look.”

It was an empty canvas. My brushstrokes…gone. Every one of them.

My eyebrows scrunched up in confusion. I blinked hard trying to understand.
He said, “You can start over now.”

I held the blank canvas in my hand for a moment, still crying. I handed it back to Him and said, “This belongs to you.”

He smiled and whispered; “Now you understand.”

My thoughts grew hot within me and began to burn, igniting a fire of words
Psalm 39:3

Michelle Pendergrass is a coffee-lover who lives in Knox, Indiana where she homeschools her son, Zane. She blogs at Just A Minute. When you visit, please note that her son is most definitely weaned and has been for some time now. Some names just stick.

©2006 Michelle L. Pendergrass - All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 13, 2006

Fiction Fridays
Writing Big and Trimming the Fat

When I first began writing fiction, I was taught by one of my brilliant teachers to write BIG. (Which actually means big in word count.) He told us to plug in the research, to write lengthy descriptions, and just let the words flow. So that's what I usually do.

When I finish, I step back and look at the novel as a whole. I consider what needs to stay and what can go. What this means is that when I'm finished writing I usually end up cutting between 3,000 - 10,000 words. Sometimes the trimming happens in chunks. Sometimes it happens word for word.

If you have a complete novel that needs a little trimming, here are a few tips:

-- Look at each chapter and scene to make sure it advances the story. In my last two novels I've cut whole chapters after I realized that they were nothing more than wonderful research. Yes, there was action, dialogue, etc. but I knew they had to go when I cut them and it didn't change the plot. (Of course, usually I include these chapters when I send my manuscript in *hoping* my editor will see their brilliance. But usually he too agrees with the cut.)

-- I do "finds" on passive verbs and rewrite those sentences to make them tighter. Here is a great link for information on passive vs. action verbs.

--I also reread each scene to make it as tight as possible. It helps to remember each scene has a beginning (which draws you in), middle (action/reaction), and end (hook to keep you reading).

Here is a good link with tips for writing scenes.

-- I take out "saids" if it's clear who's talking. (You won't believe how many words can be cut this way!)

-- Make sure my scenes don't start too soon or trail on too long.

-- Cut out any descriptions of emotion. If it's obvious from the text how the person feels, I don't need to say it. (The reader should be crying from the drama of the scene not the words that state tears.)

Okay, those are some quick tips, but ones I think can help!
Tricia Goyer

Writing Opportunity

Tricia Goyer is looking for guest bloggers for her two blogs:

Gen X Parents and It's Real Life

For Gen X Parenting, I'm looking for short, insightful posts from parents
born between 1961-1981. It's okay if they were previously published in print
or on your blog.

For It's Real Life, I'm looking for short, insightful posts on the writing

There is no payment, but I will link to your blog or website. Also, links
for these blogs are highlighted in my email newsletter that goes out to
2,000+ readers, bookstore owners, etc.

Please send submissions to:

I cannot guarantee they will be posted, but I will contact you if they are.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

When Togetherness Loses its Allure

Many of us here at Writer…Interrupted are homeschooling our children. Homeschooling is a wonderful way to connect on a daily (more like hourly) basis with each other, but it’s easy to lose something special in the process.

If my children were away from home for their school day, what fun I’d have getting ready to welcome them off the bus. Of course I’d have had all day to get the house spotless, hours of writing goals accomplished (right?), and enough time alone to really miss my angels. That magical first hour of their bursting through the door could be spent enjoying each other before homework and supper took over. Perhaps I’d just be pulling chocolate chip cookies out of the oven, or rolling crispy hot donuts in sugar…filling the house with all the wonderful smells of “mom” and “home”. We’d sit together at the kitchen table. I’d listen enthusiastically to their tales of friends and foes. The realist in me knows that challenges are to be found however you choose to rear/educate your children. When the demands of homeschooling or work have the mother in you going stale, shake things up a bit. This is the perfect time of year for an “unschooling day”. In other words, take the day off. Carve out some time for you, and while you're at it, spend some quality time with your children. Here are some ideas:

  • Pull out the craft supplies and have a contest. (Set up ramps and see who can make the best vehicle to carry an egg passenger down the ramp)
  • Go to the library together and help them find several of your childhood favorites. Then treat them at the health food store, or run home and have hot chocolate with whipped cream as you read together.
  • Play board games, or do a puzzle. Really focus on that parent/child bonding.
  • Have a treasure hunt. Plan ahead for the first snow by filling two ice cube trays with water and coloring the water with various food colorings. After it snows, hide these pretty cubes around the yard for the kids to find. Or fill water guns with colored water and have them go spray designs in the snow.
  • Get all your scissors out and square off some computer paper for a snowflake cutting activity. Ever hear of Dave’s Snowflake Patterns? Go print some off, they’re amazing!
  • Go to the craft store and splurge on a new craft idea. We love playing with and baking Sculpey clay. Check the library for how-to books and let the creativity soar! A book we highly recommend: The Sculpey Way with Polymer Clay, 74 Projects Clearly Shown with Step by Step Photos.

The homeschooling life is a blessing we love to describe, yet sometimes in the process of meeting the educational goals of each child we lose sight of the bigger picture. “Togetherness” is so important. Our kids need our undivided attention now and then, and not just so we can impart the math objectives of the day.

Think back to when you were a child. What special memories do you have? Make a point to make some lasting memories. If not today, then soon.

Mary is an old-fashioned thirty-something wife, homeschooler, and aspiring writer. Her blog, Home-steeped Hope, feeds her love/pursuit of the written non-fiction word while her women's fiction "dreams" wait TBR (to be revised)...

Introducing: Heidi Shelton Jenck

I'm a freelance writer for the education and Christian markets. After working as a classroom teacher and reading specialist for more than 15 years, I started writing at home full-time. I especially love writing Christian curriculum and early readers. Helping Sunday School teachers and parents build confident followers of Christ is a blessing. I'm a pastor's wife and mom to four amazing kids. I joined Writer...Interrupted to meet other Christian writers. My


favorite blog post:

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Introducing: Connie Newbauer

Connie Newbauer is a journalist with a background in education and psychology. For the past 30 years, she has been a freelance writer, lending her talents to
both public and private publications, primarily centered on education and medical issues. Born into an Anabaptist family, her spiritual life has harbored her
during many storms. Through Portrait…she hopes to find a community of like-minded writers who can support her and in turn, be supported as only a Christian community
can do.

Connie and her husband Paul traveled extensively while he served in the United States Navy and raised their six children – both of which they enjoyed immensely. To
paraphrase Lawana Blackwell in The Courtship of the Vicar’s Daughter (1995), Everything…”…is so much more fun when we can savor them through the children’s eyes!”

Through her writing, she hopes to remain a faithful, resourceful companion to those who are walking the precipice of parenthood and a source of entertainment and wonder to the children who read her humble pieces.

Blog Link: Early Childhood Suite101
Favorite Post: Waning Days of Summer

WFMW: The Art of Listening Prayer

I was at a loss for what to share for WFMW, especially from a writer's perspective. I don't always have one from a writer's perspective, but thought it might be nice, this being a writer's blog and all. I don't, not really.

However, as I was praying about what to share this week a book I read earlier this year kept coming to mind. (So maybe I have nothing as a writer, but as a reader I have a doosey). I realized that this book would be a wonderful blessing to any of you who feel called to read it. The Lord has used this book so incredibly to grow me and to show me His awesome love for me. The best part is that Seth Barnes, the writer of the book, is currently sharing excerpts of it on his blog. Stop over and see what it is all about.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Tricia Goyer's Homeschool Life

Our homeschooling journey began twelve years ago when my oldest son, Cory was of kindergarten age. My husband and I had close friends who homeschooled their children, and we liked what we saw.

Their kids seemed to enjoy being with their parents and each other. They were smart, intelligent, and fun to be around. We decided we wanted kids like that and began looking into homeschooling in earnest.

My biggest reservation was, “Can I do it?” In addition to my son who I would homeschool first, I had two younger kids, a budding writing career, and I volunteered at my local church. Yet as I began looking at curriculum, I grew excited about spending quality time with my kids and building a lifetime of learning together. (“Together” being the key word!)

Growing up, the only times my brother and I were together was after school—when we didn’t have anyone else to play with. We rarely interacted, and when we did it wasn’t a pretty sight!

Another main reason my husband and I decided to homeschool was because of our faith. Deuteronomy 6:5-7 says, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (NIV).

John and I felt that learning to love God was even more important than academic success. So this became one of our main focuses—spending time reading Bible stories together, memorizing Scripture verses, and including a Bible Curriculum as a core subject when our children grew older.

Another aspect I enjoy about homeschooling is the ability to tailor my children’s education to their unique needs. There have been times in our educational journey that it was necessary to take learning slow with one of my kids. Other times, I had trouble keeping up with them as they raced through the books as fast as I can find them.

Now that they are older, two of my children enjoy doing their homework on the computer, having interactive lessons and getting immediate feedback. Then there’s my other child who would rather read out-loud to me from a good book.

I’ve purchased numerous curriculums over the years, trying everything from classical literature, traditional workbooks, and unit studies (instructor-designed thematic studies). There’s always something new to try, which keeps our routine fresh and fun. I use our library system, checking out both fiction and non-fiction books to keep up with inquisitive minds.

Of course, parents can attempt to plan the perfect schedule and pick the best curriculum, but what it all comes down to is how the children learn.

In our homeschool we’ve adopted a natural style of learning, which involves learning with and without books. Our “official” school day begins around 9:00 a.m. and ends around 2:00 p.m., but throughout the day we also enjoy cooking together, playing board games, reading in the evenings, and attending each others sporting events.

One wonderful thing about homeschooling in our county is that there are numerous activities for my kids to get involved in. They’ve been a part of homeschool choir, swimming lessons, and basketball. They’ve also taken private classes such as dance, voice lessons, piano, and guitar. In addition, there are numerous classes offered through the local Christian school, including art, acting, writing, and science labs.