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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap: My Early Christmas Present

I'm posting my recap early because I have news I can't wait to share.

I have an agent!

Let me clarify that.

I am now represented by top-notch agent Rachelle Gardner!

Oh. My. Gosh!

Those are the three words I shouted repeatedly last Saturday night when I checked my email. Gwynly and I celebrated our anniversary on the 19th, and he'd taken me out for dinner at Olive Garden, a place we reserve for special occasions. I'd admitted to my critique partner that I would also be celebrating the fact that I'd hit "send" the night before, submitting my story after months of revision.

When I saw the name Rachelle Gardner in my in-box Saturday night, I couldn't believe it. I didn't get too excited, though, since I'd expected her to tell me thanks for getting the full to her but that she couldn't get to it until after the holidays. I opened the message, beheld the first few words and started shouting.

"I'd like to discuss the possibility of representation . . ."

I didn't even read the rest of the message at first. I was stunned and started shouting. Gwynly and the Fashion Queen figured out what was happening and assured our two cats that it was good news. The fuzzy fellows didn't buy it and hid.

Me? I was told I rushed from room to room repeating those three words, "Oh, my gosh!" at the top of my lungs. I vaguely recall clutching the walls, doorjambs and backs of chairs while my hubby and daughter raced to my computer to read the message. They promptly joined me, gathered me in a group hug, and jumped up and down with me in what has become our version of the Happy Dance.


I don't know how long I carried on, but I know it must have been a while because I was hoarse the next day and croaked out the carols in church.

Because it's Christmas time and because I know Rachelle was trying to catch up on her agency work, I didn't expect to hear from her until after the holidays. However, dedicated agent that she is, she called me tonight. Since I'd had four days to absorb the amazing news, I did a passable job of sounding in control. At least I hope I did. :-)

Rachelle likes my story, but it needs some work before it will be ready for submission. Since I'm a new writer, I wasn't surprised to hear that. Having spent months taking
Violets & Violins apart and putting it back together again, I'm up for the challenge. I did my research and know one of Rachelle's many strengths is editing, so I look forward to learning from her and watching my story get better under her tutelage.

I remarked to my family that this was the best Christmas present I could imagine. While it is wonderful, it wouldn't have been possible without the support of my husband, daughter, critique partner, extended family, church family, friends, writing buddies, contest judges and many others too numerous to name. I treasure each one of you and thank you very much for believing in me.

I wish you a blessed celebration of Christ's birth.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap: Relief

This past Friday evening, I heaved a huge sigh.

Why?

After months of hard work involving a complete rewrite of the Violets & Violins, more editing passes than I want to think about,
judicious use of the delete key and incorporation of my critique partners' excellent suggestions, I sent my story into the world.

My last submission took place over two years ago. At that point, after the inevitable rejections, I realized I'd been hasty in sending my work out. My writing wasn't at a publishable level, and, hard as it was, I accepted that fact.

I spent the next year doing two things. I focused less on writing and more on learning my craft. I also established a web presence and met many wonderful writers, authors and blogging buddies.

When I returned to my writing this past spring, I sensed a change. After a short-lived foray into contemporary romance the prior year, I returned to my first love, historicals, and set to work rewriting one of the five stories I'd completed in my first two years.

I entered contests to get feedback and see if my work fared better. It did! Violets & Violins has soared through the contest circuit, taking first place six times. (I received notification of my first in the Southern Heat inspirational category this afternoon.)

Upon completing my final editing pass of V&V, I prepared my manuscript and synopsis files, drafted a query letter and, with a trembling finger, hit "send." And my literary baby winged its way through cyberspace.

What's next?

First, I cleaned house. The laundry is underway now. I'm preparing to excavate in my office so I can get to my computer without having to burrow my way through the small room. Then I'll enjoy Christmas with my family.

And after that?

My dear sweet heroine, Rebecca, who waited patiently while I worked on Elenora's story, will get my attention. I've already begun the rewrite of Becky's story, which was one of my 2008 Golden Heart finalist entries. Once the Fashion Queen is back at college and Gwynly has returned to teaching teens the value of chemistry, I'll hang with Rebecca and James on a regular basis.

• • • • •

If you're a writer, how do you know when to stop tweaking a manuscript and submit it?

Have you ever started a project and headed in one direction, shifted part way through and learned later you had been on the right track to begin with?

Does your house look like a disaster area when you finish a major project, or are you able to keep things in order all along? If the latter, please share your secrets.

• • • • •

I wish you a blessed celebration of Christmas.

I'm eager to spend the time with Gwynly and the Fashion Queen here at home. We have the privilege of lighting the Christ candle at our church's Candlelight Service on Christmas Eve. We'll see what's in our stockings when we get home and watch the Muppet Christmas Carol. The next day, we'll open our gifts, wrapped in colorful drawstring bags, while carols play.

What are your plans?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friendly Fridays: Celebrations & Commiserations

Friendly Fridays are dedicated to you, my friends and followers.

I want to know what's going on in your lives.
.

Celebrations

What celebrations can I join in this week? If you've received good news, achieved a goal or made progress, I'd love to hear about it.

  • My awesome critique partner and dear friend Anne Barton completed the read of my manuscript. I'm so very grateful to you, Anne. As I read the story straight through after implementing your wonderful suggestions and saw your fingerprints throughout, I was moved to tears. Your contributions added so much to the story. Thanks heaps.
  • Jenness Walker drove over a downed power line, was forced to say in her truck until the power company could cut the juice to the wire she was in contact with, and lived to tell the tale in a memorable blog post. Jenness, I am so thankful you were safe, thanks to some real life heroes. What an ordeal that must have been. You'll have to use this in a story.
  • Katie Ganshert is very close to finishing the rough draft of her work-in-progress. Way to go, Katie! Have fun getting your characters to their HEA.
  • Laura Frantz received the galleys for her second book, Courting Morrow Little. What fun, Laura! I'm glad you got to spend time with your characters again.

Commiserations

Did you experience doubts or discouragement, heartaches or hurts, sadness or setbacks this week? If so, I want to come alongside you with sympathy and cyber hugs.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap: Gratitude

I'm filled with gratitude after a full and interesting week.

Writing-related Reasons I'm Grateful
  1. I got the rest of the chapters of Violets & Violins off to my critique partner today. All that remains for me to do is to correct the typos Anne found and implement many of her great suggestions.
  2. Thanks to agent's Jessica Faust's recent blog post for which Anne sent me the link, I know just what I need to include in the query that accompanies a manuscript requested by a final round contest judge, and I feel prepared to write it.
  3. Anne edited a whopping 20 chapters for me this week. Is she amazing or what?

Other Reasons I'm Grateful
  1. Gwynly and I experienced a record snowstorm here in the Sierra Foothills, which shut down our town of Placerville, California on Monday when much of the area lost power. Since all the schools in the county but one closed, I got to have my teacher hubby home for two extra days this week. We were only without power for 24 hours, while others went without for three days or more. Although we were without heat, the inside temperature only got down to 47 degrees. We had phone service, hot and cold water and use of our propane stove top throughout the outage.
  2. On Wednesday, Gwynly and I picked up our college daughter and will enjoy the Fashion Queen's company for three and a half weeks.

• • • • •

What are you grateful for?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friendly Fridays: Celebrations & Commiserations

Friendly Fridays are dedicated to you, my friends and followers.

I want to know what's going on in your lives.
.

Celebrations

What celebrations can I join in this week? If you've received good news, achieved a goal or made progress, I'd love to hear about it.

  • My awesome critique partner and dear friend Anne Barton took the top award in the Golden Rose contest for the highest overall score beating out a whopping 172 entrants. I'm sooo proud of you, Anne, and can't wait to see a picture of you holding that beautiful gold-dipped rose.
  • Diane Estrella sent her manuscript out into the publishing world for the first time. Way to go, Diane! That's a huge step. Here's hoping for positive feedback.
  • Jenness Walker learned that her debut novel, Double Take, was nominated for both best Love Inspired Suspense and Best First Series Romance in the annual Romantic Times Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Awards. Woohoo, Jenness! What exciting news! I'm glad your writing is being so well received.
  • Katie Ganshert is making great progress on her work-in-progress. Kudos, Katie! What fun to spend time with your characters and get more of their story on the page.
  • Sarah Tormey is expecting her first child. Congratulations, Sarah! I wish you a pleasant pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Commiserations

Did you experience doubts or discouragement, heartaches or hurts, sadness or setbacks this week? If so, I want to come alongside you with sympathy and cyber hugs.

  • Terri Tiffany learned that her mother has cancer. My heart goes out to you and your mom, Terri. May you feel the love and support of family and friends during this difficult time, and may the Lord grant you the strength you need to make it through each day.
  • Eileen Astels Watson was unable to add any pages to her work-in-progress this week due to commitments and an under-the-weather washing machine. I hope life settles down and you're able to get back to your story soon, Eileen.
  • Sherrinda Ketchersid was unable to do any editing of her manuscript this week due to a full schedule and holiday-related activities. I love your positive attitude about this temporary situation, Sherrinda, and feel certain you'll make great progress when your vacation begins.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap: Dreams

I've heard of writers who dream of the day they get published. Literal while-they-sleep dreams about getting a request, an offer of representation or even The Call.

Me? I dream about my characters, scenes I'm working on or, on occasion, upcoming conferences. But until recently, I'd never had a dream that involved a publishing professional.

That changed last week. I had my first ever dream about talking with an agent who was interested in representing me, an agent who was gracious, kind and helpful. One who exhibited professionalism, was personable and put me at ease, all at the same time. One I'd be thrilled to have represent me.

I awoke wondering if one day that dream will become reality.
It could happen, right? Sometimes dreams do come true.

I have a ray of hope.


This weekend I received two calls telling me about additional requests for my full manuscript, taking the number up to four. I was so excited after the second call, I got carried away in my happy dancing and bit my lip. My minor injury didn't stop me from beaming though.

When I entered Violets & Violins in contests this fall, I had hoped for a final or two and even dared to dream of a top placement. But to get requests? I'd hardly dared hope for that. And yet it's happened to me. I'm still pinching myself and smiling broadly despite my fat lip.

I've been hesitant to share the news of my requests, but I have permission from the contest coordinators to go public. Since many of you reading my blog are writers, too, I offer my news as encouragement. I've invested four years in my writing, and I'm seeing my hard work pay off. It can happen, and it's my hope that each of you see the rewards of your diligence and devotion to your writing. I love sharing in your happy dances, although in the future I think I'll keep my mouth closed when I do them. :-)

I've attempted to enjoy every step on my journey. However, I'm the first to admit that I've encountered my share of potholes, battled more self-doubt than I care to think about and worn Gwynly's ears out with my need for affirmation.

This weekend has been a great boost to my confidence. Not only did I receive news of the requests, but I also learned that V&V took first place in the inspirational category of the Golden Pen.

In spite of all of the good news I've experienced recently, I still wrestle with two of my biggest foes: fear and perfectionism. I fear my stories aren't good enough. I fear I'll get my hopes up only to have them dashed. I fear I'll never conquer my fears.

Please, tell me I'm not alone.
• • • • •

Do you dare to dream?

What are some of your dreams?

Do you ever suffer a confidence crisis?

Is fear one of your foes? How do you deal with it?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friendly Fridays: Celebrations & Commiserations

Friendly Fridays are dedicated to you, my friends and followers.

I want to know what's going on in your lives.
.

Celebrations

What celebrations can I join in this week? If you've received good news, achieved a goal or made progress, I'd love to hear about it.

  • Several of my writer friends won NaNoWriMo. Some I know about are Cindy R. Wilson, Eileen Astels Watson and Susan Hollaway. Congratulations! That's quite an accomplishment.
  • My writer friend Sherrinda Ketchersid is making good progress on her edits and her weight loss goals. Way to go!
  • My writer friend and Pixie pal (2008 GH finalists) Sue Mason got her Golden Heart entry on its way as did my critique partner Anne Barton. Three cheers for you. I wish you all the best.
  • My writer friend Katie Ganshert's book is being reviewed by an editorial team. Yay, Katie, on getting so far so fast. May this lead to a contract offer.
  • My new writer friend Terra has a book out, one she co-authored with five friends: Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts: Stories to Warm Your Heart and Tips to Simplify Your Holidays.

Commiserations

Did you experience doubts or discouragement, heartaches or hurts, sadness or setbacks this week? If so, I want to come alongside you with sympathy and cyber hugs.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap: Relief

An event took place November 24th that left me with a smile spread across my face and a load off my shoulders.

After months spent rewriting
Violets & Violins and weeks polishing the first three chapters until they shone so brightly I needed sunglasses to read them, my dear Gwynly took me to the Post Office. David, one of the many friendly and knowledgeable clerks who has processed my contest entries throughout the past four years, took the package from my trembling hands. The box containing my hopes and dreams, as well as six copies of my 2010 Golden Heart entry and a CD containing the complete manuscript, was on its way. When I told David this was the most important contest of the year, he smiled and said, "Then you want the insurance on this, don't you?" He's got the drill down.

Getting to the point where I could release my story wasn't easy. I experienced a moment of panic the night before and told Gwynly and my awesome critique partner, Anne Barton, I needed to read the entire story one more time. After ensconcing myself in the comfy armchair before our pellet stove, I toasted my tootsies and began turning pages.

Three and a half chapters into the manuscript, reality dawned. I had one day before our daughter was due home for her Thanksgiving break and a number of tasks to complete prior to picking her up. There weren't enough hours left in which to read a 100,000 word story and prepare for our long-awaited visit from the Fashion Queen. Enough was enough. The time had come to put family first.

A tremendous sense of relief washed over me when I walked out of the Post Office last Tuesday. Not only was my entry on its way, but I'd achieved a minor victory. I'd allowed pragmatism to triumph over perfectionism, not an easy task for me as Gwynly and Anne know. Because of my decision, Gwynly, the Fashion Queen and I enjoyed a relaxed Thanksgiving and had fun cutting our tree and decorating the house the day after.

In other contest news, I received my brooch from the Lone Star Contest last week. I like the way the Northwest Houston RWA chose to combine the star with a pen. I'll wear this beautiful bit of bling proudly.

And what's next?

I've started sending chapters of V&V to Anne, who is working her magic on them. Not only does she catch the pesky typos and grammatical goofs I missed, but she also comes up with great words to replace some weak ones that slipped past me. And when it comes to wonderful chapter ending hooks, she's downright masterful. With her help, V&V is better than I dreamed possible. When I think of all the things I'm thankful for this year, having Anne as my CP is high on the list. But far more important than that, I'm grateful for her steadfast support and friendship.

• • • • •

Are you a recovering perfectionist? If so, how do you force yourself to let go of a project?

Are you more of an easygoing person. If so, what tips can you offer those of us who have a hard time knowing when to stop?

Do you have a person who supports you in your creative endeavors? What are some of the greatest blessings you derive from the relationship?

What are some things you're thankful for?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friendly Fridays: Celebrations & Commiserations

Friendly Fridays are dedicated to you, my friends and followers.

I want to know what's going on in your lives.
.

Celebrations

What celebrations can I join in this week? If you've received good news, achieved a goal or made progress, I'd love to hear about it.

  • My author friend Jody Hedlund learned that the title of her debut novel with Bethany House is official. Great news, Jody! I'm looking forward to reading The Preacher's Daughter.
  • Several of my writer friends/blog followers completed first drafts recently, including Eileen Astels Watson, Jennifer Shirk, Sue Mason and Wendy. Congrats to each of you! There's nothing quite like reaching The End to fill a writer with a great sense of accomplishment. Enjoy the thrill.
  • My awesome critique partner Anne Barton also completed a first draft. I've read a portion of it and can't wait to enjoy the rest of her great story.
  • My writer friend Carla Gade completed her new writing studio. She created an inspirational atmosphere she loves. I hope you're enjoying that new space, Carla.

Commiserations

Did you experience doubts or discouragement, heartaches or hurts, sadness or setbacks this week? If so, I want to come alongside you with sympathy and cyber hugs.

  • My writer friend Donna Kohlstrom, who battles chronic illness, is dealing with a flare-up. My heart goes out to you, Donna. How difficult that must be. I hope you experience some relief soon.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap: The Home Stretch

I'm not much of a ball player. In fact, I was the last one picked when softball teams were chosen in my P.E. classes. Who want's a player who rarely brings the bat in contact with the ball?

On the rare occasion when I did get a viable hit, I could run. I'm a sprinter, so I sped around the diamond. Heading for home isn't something I got to do very often, which made the experience all the more thrilling when it did occur.

Tonight, I'm running for home. I'm less than an hour from finishing the rewrite of Violets & Violins. I plan to complete the final chapter before I put my head on the pillow

The race to the end is exciting, to be sure, but I know I have more to do. The final quarter of the book needs polishing, since I didn't take time to do so as I went along. I will also have the feedback from my CPs to incorporate. But the major work is behind me, and it feels great.

• • • • •

Have you finished a major project recently? How did you feel?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friendly Fridays: Celebrations & Commiserations

Friendly Fridays are my new posts dedicated to you, my friends and followers.

I want to know what's going on in your lives.
.

Celebrations

What celebrations can I join in this week? If you've received good news, achieved a goal or made progress, I'd love to hear about it.

  • My writer pal Katie Ganshert received a very important phone call this past week. Top-notch literary agent Rachelle Gardner offered Katie representation, which she wisely accepted. Way to go, Katie! You can read her emotionally charged blog post here.
  • My author friend Laura Frantz, who wrote The Frontiersman's Daughter, returned home after a successful trip to promote her book at the Kentucky Book Fair. Glad things went so well for you, Laura.
.

Commiserations

Did you experience doubts or discouragement,
heartaches or hurts, sadness or setbacks this week? If so, I want to come alongside you with sympathy and cyber hugs.

  • Although I heard this sad news a couple of weeks ago, I want to offer my condolences to my frequent blog visitor Edna, who lost her beloved brother last month. Hugs to you, Edna. May the love of family and friends uphold you when you feel down.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap: Endings

Physically, I'm healing. After four weeks battling what turned out to be the Swine Flu, the end is in sight. I'm finally beginning to feel better. Although I'm still not 100%, I have my doctor's approval to rejoin society. After a month of being house-bound, I'm ready to get out again.

With the return of my energy, I was able to make significant progress on Violets & Violins. I now have three-quarters of the story polished and am sending those chapters to my critique partner a couple at a time. I have some work to do on the final quarter of the book, but thanks to a great suggestion from of one of my contest judges, I know what to do to fix a weak plot point, one that had bothered me. I'm eager to reach The End. I'll have to figure out a way to celebrate.

In contest news, I tweaked the first two chapters of Violets & Violins and sent them off for final round judging in the Finally A Bride contest. I did hear last Monday that the story is a finalist in the Launching a Star contest.

I also edited four excellent chapters and a synopsis for my critique partner this week.

• • • • •

How do you celebrate when you reach the end of a major project?

What are some projects you've brought to fruition lately?

What are you doing to avoid the Swine Flu?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap: Momentum

Momentum.

My online dictionary offers two definitions. The first sounds like something my science teacher hubby could recite by heart: the quantity of motion of a moving body, measured as a product of its mass and velocity. The second sounds more applicable to creative endeavors such as writing: the impetus and driving force gained by the development of a process or course of events.

My momentum has been hampered by the bug I've been battling the past three weeks. The quantity of motion of my body has diminished greatly. Gwynly has convinced me it's time to seek medical attention for my lingering cough, sore chest muscles and fatigue. First thing Monday morning I will call my doctor's office for an appointment.

(Update: I did see the doctor. Diagnosis: Swine Flu. That explains why this bug has been such a pest. She said I should start feeling better in a week or so.)

On the creative front, however, Violets & Violins continues to gain momentum. A course of events has been unfolding unlike anything I could have imagined.

Let me take you back to the year 2007. I had completed five manuscripts in two years, all of them inspirational historicals. I began entering four of them in contests. Between July and November of that year, I prepared and submitted thirty-three entries. I kept one of the copiers at my local Office Max busy and my postal clerks scratching their heads as I explained exactly how each entry must be packaged and posted. I knew no other writers and had not discovered the world of writers in cyberspace, so I craved feedback from contest judges.

To my surprise and delight, I actually finaled in some of the contests. I ended up taking a first, two seconds, two thirds and an honorable mention. I also finaled in the Golden Heart with two of my four entries. (The two that didn't final came in the bottom half, so that humbling reality left me wondering what to think.) I'm no math whiz, but with the help of my trusty calculator I figured out I finaled about once for every four entries.

When I began entering Violets & Violins in contests, I chose carefully. I made sure there was an inspirational category (or sub-category as in The Emily.) I also looked to see who the final judges were, since I hoped to have my entry seen by some of them.

I ended up choosing ten contests to enter and promptly did so. With my history, I thought that way I might end up with two or even three finals. Of course, I'd have the preliminary judges' comments no matter what, which I value greatly.


Imagine my surprise when the first result came back. I was a finalist in The Maggies. Talk about incredulous. That was me. The successes that have followed have been nothing short of staggering. Violets & Violins has taken three firsts. It is pending placement in three more contests, having made the finalist list in The Southern Heat and Finally a Bride this weekend. I've pinched myself so often I'm going numb.

Violets & Violins has momentum. If asked why this story, a revision of one of those I entered in 2007, is doing so well, I have to say I'm not sure. I give much of the credit to my husband, who is my awesome plotting partner. His ideas for re-energizing the beginning of the story were awesome. My faithful critique partner, Anne Barton, has been with me every step of the way, listening to my struggles and successes and offering wonderful suggestions. My other critique partner, CJ Redwine, pointed out some weaknesses I'd been blind to as well.

For my part, I've spent the past two years studying craft and working to improve my writing. I've attended conferences and my local RWA chapter meetings, have visited more blogs for writers than I can count and have read many books in my genre. Plus, painful though it was, I rewrote three-quarters of the book, incorporating the great input of my partners.

As thrilled as I am at the success Violets & Violins is having on the contest circuit, I feel a bit guilty. I know there are many writers who would be encouraged by a contest final, and I've kept some of them from getting a spot. I never expected to garner so many myself, honestly. I like to share the joy of accomplishments. In fact, once the good news began pouring in, I ceased entering contests. I've four entries pending, but I won't be entering Violets & Violins again. I consider this story officially retired from the unpublished contest circuit.

In spite of my lack of physical momentum, I have managed to polish the first twenty chapters of Violets & Violins and am getting wonderful feedback on them from my CPs. I have yet to rework the ending to eliminate a weak plot point several judges pointed out but will do so soon. I'd like to be moving faster, but a body has limits. Once I get mine restored to health, though, watch out.

• • • • •

How do you maintain momentum when you're not at your peak?

Have you ever experienced success that overwhelmed you?

What have been your biggest victories this week?

What challenges are you facing?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

After two weeks battling a pesky bug, I'm resurfacing. I've missed you, my blogging buddies, and look forward to catching up on your news.

The hardest part about being sick was that I was unable to attend the Homecoming Festivities at our daughter's university last weekend. I'd looked forward to seeing her and was heartsick when Gwynly headed off for the college without me. Even though my decision to stay home was a good one, I had a hard time making it. Thank goodness for cell phones and text messaging, which allow me to keep in touch with The Fashion Queen. Provided I continue to improve as I have been, I'll get to see her one day this week for a mom-daughter outing.

Despite spending much of my time sprawled on the couch and feeling cloudy-headed from cold meds recently, I managed to work on Violets & Violins in small snatches. I have the first 200 pages polished and ready for my critique partners.

Last week, I received this gorgeous plaque from The Heart of the Rockies contest coordinators, which brightened my day. What a lovely addition it made to the wall above my writing desk.

Yesterday, I received a call from the inspirational category coordinator from The Lone Star Contest, who shared the good news that Violets & Violins took first place.

• • • • •

Since I was laid low these past two weeks and have been unable to make my visits to the blogs and Yahoo! groups I frequent, I'd love to hear how you're doing so I can celebrate your good news and commiserate on your challenges. And to anyone suffering with sickness, you have my sympathy.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

Revision of Violets & Violins
Status: Nearing Completion

I made great progress on the revision this week, motivated by recent interest in the manuscript. The final edit of the first three chapters is complete, and I've sent them to my two awesome critique partners. The next three chapters will be ready to follow very soon.

I read five chapters for one of my critique partners, CJ Redwine. As always, I'm impressed with her amazing voice and unique story lines.

Saturday evening I received a call from the Heart of the Rockies contest coordinator. Violets & Violins took first place in the inspirational category.

• • • • •

What was the best thing that happened to you this past week?



Saturday, October 10, 2009

Review of a Great Read: Sarah, My Beloved

Mail-Order Bride Story with a Twist


When I see the words “mail-order bride” on the back cover of a book, I get excited. These are my favorite reads, followed closely by marriage of convenience stories. I was in for a treat when I discovered Sarah, My Beloved by Sharlene MacLaren, because this story involves the former turning into the latter. A well-written tale with captivating characters I loved from the start, Sarah, My Beloved exceeded my expectations. The ever-increasing emotion and conflict kept me turning pages eager to find out how two strangers could overcome the obstacles MacLaren throws in their path. It’s easy to see why this book has garnered so many great reviews. Like others, I highly recommend the story, confident those who love a historical with heart will enjoy this book from an author who’s delivered a moving inspirational romance.


MacLaren’s rich, spirited heroine, Sarah Woodward, follows the Lord’s leading to leave her life of luxury in Massachusetts and head to Little Hickman Creek in Kentucky. Upon arriving, Sarah discovers her intended has fallen for someone else and was unable to get a message to her in time. When a lifelong friend from home arrives in town pushing a marriage she wants no part of, small-town farmer Rocky Callahan proposes. He needs a mother for the niece and nephew left in his care when his sister died, but what he doesn’t need is a romantic entanglement. Can Sarah win the heart of her reluctant husband, and can Rocky deal with the loss of his first wife and young son and find his way back to the Lord?


• • • • •


What Do You Think?


Do you enjoy mail-order bride and marriage of convenience stories? If so, what is it you like about them?


Do you prefer action-packed, suspenseful stories, or are you partial to those based upon the characters and their growth as the story progresses?


Do you like to read rich lady of luxury meets working-class man stories?



Attention, Romance Readers

If you enjoy reading inspirational romances as I do, I invite you to let me know. I will be, at random, gifting gently read copies of books I review, motivational bookmarks or other items of my choosing. You can let me know of our mutual interest in the inspirational romance genre or a particular book via a comment in which you include an email address or by sending a message using my email address, which is listed in the sidebar under “Contact Information.”


Last Week's Winner

Congrats to Jarmara Falconer, winner of Dreaming of Home by Glynna Kaye.

(Note: Because I’ve decided to to forgo holding regularly scheduled drawings, this will be my last announcement of a winner.)


Special Note

I purchased my copy of Sarah, My Beloved and am offering this review of my own accord and without remuneration of any kind.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Five on Friday: A Sound Idea


My Maggie Medallion arrived in the mail yesterday, and I've worn this beautiful piece of jewelry ever since. A former Maggie winner said of this impressive silver oval, "I like the way it feels kind of heavy." She said the weight of the handmade disc
serves as a reminder of a special event.

I hung my Medallion on a rope-style necklace because it's so heavy. I wouldn't want to lose my prize, so I didn't trust a delicate link-style chain. As my writer friend noted, I can feel it resting on my chest.

After I clasped the beautiful bit of bling around my neck and went about my day, I heard a faint ringing noise when I moved. It took me a little while to figure out the source: the Medallion sliding along the chain. Each time I hear the soft sound, I'm reminded of the huge blessing bestowed on me last Saturday night and enjoy the thrill all over again.

Sounds, like smells and tastes, can trigger emotional responses. Some sounds, like a babbling brook or the ring of a bell for a touchdown, make us feel good. Others, like the wail of a siren or a child's fearful cry, can elicit the opposite response. Those of us who are writers work to add sounds to our stories, knowing they can being about reactions in our characters as well as enhance our readers' experience.


Here are five sounds that are special to me.

1) The tone telling me I received a text message from our daughter, who is away at college. I hunger for her updates and race for my cell phone when I hear that sound.

2) The hum of our pellet stove in winter. I run cold, and when I wake to that familiar sound I know heat is close at hand.

3) The sound of our cats purring as they come into my office to visit me when I'm writing. The house is mighty quiet in these Empty Nest days, and the visits from my feline friends help ease my loneliness.

4) The rich throaty roar of my husband's classic 1968 MGB roadster when it pulls into the garage after his day of work. I look forward to seeing my guy again and hearing how his day went.

5) The rush of hot water into the tub at day's end. I know relaxation, warmth and a good read are soon to come as I partake of my nightly ritual: soaking in my Calgon-scented bath as I enjoy a few chapters of a great story.


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What are some sounds you like to hear, and why?


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

Major Revision/Rewrite of Violets & Violins
Status: 101,000 words out of 100,000

Words added/rewritten this week: ??

I honestly don't know how many words I added or rewrote this week. I received feedback from a contest and went to work incorporating some of the excellent suggestions from my judges into the first chapters in preparation for another contest entry. I think the tweaking helped and felt good about sending the file to the coordinator, which I did with very few minutes to spare.

Good news rained upon me this week. I'm talking a deluge of delight. On Thursday I learned that Violets & Violins finaled in The Golden Pen.

Last night a kind and generous writer friend at the Georgia Romance Writers' Moonlight & Magnolias conference, Walt Mussell, called me on his cell phone and put it on speaker so I could hear the results of The Unpublished Maggies as they were announced. They started with the honorable mentions and made their way through the placements in reverse order. To my surprise, my name was the last one called in the inspirational category. My story took first place in The Maggies!

Walt held the phone up to the mic, and I got to convey my thanks. My Toastmaster pals would have been disappointed in me, I'm afraid. I don't think what I said made a whole lot of sense because I was in a state of shock. Getting words out was a challenge since my throat was thick and I was attempting to hold back the tears of joy ready to pour forth. I hope I thanked everyone I intended to, but I'm not sure.

I've been writing nearly four years, so this flood of good news feels mighty good. I'm still in "Is this really happening to me?" mode. I fear I'll wake up tomorrow and find myself several shades of purple and blue from pinching myself. :)

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When have you been so blessed words failed you?






Saturday, October 3, 2009

Review of Great Read: Dreaming of Home

Heartwarming Tale of Coming Home


Glynna Kaye’s debut novel, Dreaming of Home, is delightful. From first page to last, I enjoyed every minute I spent reading this tale of love triumphing over trials. Kaye’s endearing characters captured me from the start, and I rushed through the book, eager to see them overcome the challenges keeping them apart and find the future the Lord has in store for them. If you like a sweet, gentle romance with heart, this story is for you.


Widower Joe Diaz returns to his hometown determined to be a great dad to his little boy, whom he’d rarely seen during his Navy days. Still grieving and anxious to provide for his son, he has no time for a relationship with his pretty and pleasant new neighbor. Meg McGuire has come to the same small Arizona mountain community to rebuild her life after disease and a broken relationship shattered her world, only to discover that the handsome father of her Sunday school student is vying for the same teaching position she is. Can she keep herself from falling for the one man who can destroy her dreams?


Special Note


I was privileged to judge Glynna’s story in the 2008 Golden Pen contest. As I read, I knew I’d discovered a gem. My comments to her read, “I fully expect to see your book on the shelves in the near future. You’ve got a winner.”


When the entry finaled, I was happy. When I learned that final judge Melissa Endlich from Steeple Hill had requested the manuscript and bought it, I was elated. This is the first time I’ve seen an entry I judged go on to sell, and it’s both exciting and rewarding. When I received the autographed copy of Dreaming of Home that Glynna sent as a surprise, I moved it to the top of my TBR mountain and savored her story without delay.


If you’d like to hear more about Glynna’s journey to publication, you can read her interview at my other blog, Romance Writers on the Journey. I’ll be publishing the post October 8th.


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What Do You Think?


Do you enjoy contemporary romances set in small towns?


Do you like having young children in the stories you read?


Have you ever judged a contest entry you felt was ready for publication?


Have you ever had the thrill of seeing a contest entry you judged in print?

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Your Chance to Win a Book

If you enjoy reading inspirational romances, leave a comment for your chance to win a brand new copy of the title I just reviewed. Be sure to include your email address when prompted, so I can contact you. (I don't share this information.)

I'll choose a winner from all those who leave a comment by the Friday after the post and will post the winners' names this coming Saturday.

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Last Week's Winner


Congrats to Virginia C, winner of Montana Rose by Mary Connealy.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Five on Friday: Winds of Change

Change.

The word itself can evoke many feelings.

My family of three has undergone a significant change recently. Gwynly and I are experiencing our first exposure to the Empty Nest while the Fashion Queen is adjusting to life as a first-year college student. She's been gone nearly two weeks, and some of the initial excitement is wearing off, leaving me a bit lonely.

When clouds loom on my horizon and showers feel near at hand, I reflect on how well our small town gal is doing at her home away from home. She's got a lovely room, complete with posters from some of her favorite movies and musicals.

The FQ's college has the largest number of bikes per capita of any US city. She learned to ride in order to be able to get around on the large campus, and has made great strides in her cycling skills. She's ventured into town on the bus, sung a solo at her dorm's get-acquainted karaoke event, made great new friends and gone to see a prof about a needed course change.

Growth is taking place at every turn, and I couldn't be prouder.

As I've witnessed the Fashion Queen's progress, I've thought about my characters. Like my daughter, they're experiencing significant change. Their stories begin at a time when life as they knew it has shifted dramatically.

I noticed five similarities between my daughter's move to college and the situations that precipitate change for my characters.

1) Leaving one place and moving to another

2) Leaving former friends and making new ones

3) Being separated from one's family or support system

4) Being forced to learn a new skill in order to survive and thrive

5) Being forced to find solutions to problems never before encountered


As I think of my current story, I see that my heroine was dealing with four of the five at the beginning of the story, along with other changes. No wonder the poor woman felt a bit off kilter.

Forcing my characters to deal with change is what makes their stories interesting. Who wants to read about the boring everyday stuff like laundry, dishes and scrubbing the sink? Yawn! I like stories that show me how a person handles the challenges that come his/her way.

I'm off to put my characters through some more tough times and see how they fare. : )


• • • • •

What are some times in life when you've been forced to deal with a major change?

Can you recall a story you've read recently that began with a character facing a major life-changing event? What was it?

What are some items you would add to my "Situations That Precipitate Change" list?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

Major Revision/Rewrite of Violets & Violins
Status: 101,000 words out of 100,000

Words added/rewritten this week: 0


Life changed dramatically the past two weeks. Gwynly and I moved the Fashion Queen to college.

Our first-year student is doing quite well, and we're immensely proud of her. Meanwhile, we're adjusting to our Empty Nest. The house is quieter. There is far less laundry. The coffee table, where our daughter preferred to do her homework, isn't piled with textbooks, empty Dr. Pepper cans and an assortment of jewelry.

We writers hear the oft-repeated advice to begin a story at a character's moment of profound change. I can see why. At those times, emotion runs rampant. I felt drained during the days following our separation. I wept my way through the supermarket where items on every aisle reminded me of my gal. When she faced a challenge with a course change and overcame it, I rejoiced. Upon receiving an email with photos of her sporting her first henna tattoo, I laughed.

Life as I knew it will never be the same. I'll never be the same. The experience of launching my daughter into adulthood has ended the hands-on mom period of my life. The Fashion Queen is fast becoming an independent young woman I'm happy to call my friend. While she'll always be my little girl at heart, she no longer needs me in the same ways she once did. She's growing and changing, and so am I.

Now that the move is behind us, I'm eager to return to my writing. Before I could, I had some contest entries to judge. I was blessed with two stellar stories to score. Both of these writers have amazing voices. I'll be a better writer for having had the privilege of reading their work.

Moving forward with Violets & Violins is my goal now. I'm eager to finish the revision so I can preform an edit and move on to my next story. I feel a renewed sense of enthusiasm as I anticipate spending time with my characters.

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For those of you with an Empty Nest, I'd love to hear how you weathered the emotional upheaval.

For those of you who aren't parents or who haven't launched your children into the world yet, what major transitions have you experienced, and how have you dealt with them?

For those of you who are writers, have you used a major change from your life in one of your stories?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Review of a Great Read: Montana Rose

Long before I began writing, I was a voracious reader of romances. I still love a great story, and there are many wonderful authors writing them. I invite you to check back on Saturdays when I share my reviews of some books I've enjoyed recently, both historical and contemporary.

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The Review

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Montana Rose Moved Me


If the name Mary Connealy is on the cover of a book, I know I’m in for a good read. Having cracked up as I hightailed it through Petticoat Ranch and Calico Canyon, I was fully prepared to chuckle my way though Montana Rose as well. To my surprise, I found this historical to be delightfully different. While some scenes launched me into laughter, Montana Rose offers more than mere entertainment. Connealy has crafted a story with an important message, but she conveys it with such skill and finesse that I was swept into this heartwarming tale and enjoyed every moment with her engaging characters.


Cassie Griffin loses her husband one day, and at his burial the next, the many bachelors in her tiny Montana territory town vie for the opportunity to wed the silk-clad, seemingly spoiled woman they refer to as the China Doll. When the ruthless rancher with the largest spread claims the right to marry her, god-fearing Red Dawson feels led to protect her and proposes, despite the fact that she’s not a believer. Pregnant and penniless, Cassie chooses the lesser of two evils and accepts. While Red attempts to live his life as a testimony of his faith, Cassie seeks to mold herself into the wife she thinks he wants, just as she did with her controlling, abusive first husband. Scenes when Cassie attempts to learn new skills showcase Connealy’s trademark humor, but others moved me at a deep level as Red exhibits the patience of Job while dealing with his attraction to his beautiful, bungling bride.


Of the Connealy books I’ve read so far, Montana Rose stands out as my favorite. I love Red’s godly character, his devotion to Cassie, and witnessing her journey to wholeness and healing as she learns to accept the love of the Lord and her new husband. I heartily recommend this book.

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What Do You Think?

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Do you enjoy stories in which the heroine learns a valuable life lesson?

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Do you enjoy stories that blend humor with an important message?

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Your Chance to Win a Book

If you enjoy reading inspirational romances, leave a comment for your chance to win my gently read copy of the title I just reviewed. Be sure to include your email address when prompted, so I can contact you. (I don't share this information.)

I'll choose a winner from all those who leave a comment by the Friday after the post and will post the winners' names this coming Saturday.

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Last Week's Winner


Congrats to Terri Tiffany, winner of No Place for a Lady by Maggie Brendan.