Friday, May 30, 2008


I've just joined American Christian Fiction Writers and also subscribed to Chapter-A-Week - a free service that delivers two new chapters of Christian fiction to your email each week. If you love to read, check out It's interesting knowing what books are out there and who is writing what.

This morning I received a very interesting first chapter by author Athol Dickson from his new novel Winter Haven. Wow! This guy can really write. At a time when the average reader craves fluff fiction like Coke and Cheesepuffs, this is the real deal. My fluffommeter was registering nil after finishing that first chapter. He is no newbie but a Christy Award-winning author of River Rising and The Cure. I've read neither but now want to. He has a great website as well. And he writes for my publisher!

Now, back to the books, literally.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

writing by heart

I think writing by heart is like playing by ear. You aren't aware of technique while you do it, you just do it. Right now in my writing journey, I don't think much about the mechanics of writing. I just write.

I remember reading books at a young age and more than the story jumped out at me. Hard to explain except to say the words used, the sentence structure, and all the mechanics of writing stood out. Victoria Holt and her historical fiction novels taught me a tremendous amount about foreshadowing and suspense and tight writing. L.M. Montgomery taught me how to write with feeling and color. Beware of purple prose!

Many writers are wired to write from a young age. They go on to write for so many years and develop their craft to such an extent that the spirit takes over. They now write by heart and they get it right. You'll never have good writing without pouring your heart into your words.

Lately, as I edit/rewrite/polish this second book, I pray for an editor's eye. And surprising things happen. I see things that really don't work or need to be tossed. I am fond of overwriting (editors are not)! I love to take rabbit trails just for the joy of writing. Sticking with the story and making every word/sentence/paragraph contribute to the plot is not nearly as much fun. But I have to do it. And it makes for a better story.

Book 1 is now with the copyeditors (is that one word?). I am curious to see what they do exactly. This is all such an adventure. I wonder if writers who have published for years lose their excitement over the publishing process. Can anything be as thrilling as holding your first book in your hands? I hope that I never lose the gratitude I feel right now.

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in His way.
Psalm 37:23

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day musing's

Today is Memorial Day and it is raining in Washington state like it does on this day every year. But somehow the rain seems fitting as this is a serious day, not the sunny, hot dog cramming food fest we've made it out to be. As I research this third book, set in the Revolutionary War period, I have been stunned by how little I know about the war itself and the people who fought and died so that we can have a national barbecue. I'm ashamed that my children are not very savvy about what this day means, other than they don't have to homeschool and Dad doesn't go to work.

That said, this is one of my favorite quotes by George Washington, who is the embodiment of Memorial Day for me:

"By the all-powerful dispensations of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability and expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, altho' death was levelling my companions on every side."

Two inspiring books about this time period are:
George Washington's Sacred Fire by Peter A. Lilback
From Sea to Shining Sea by James Alexander Thom

Sunday, May 25, 2008

serendipitous Saturday

I had two delightful things happen yesterday - Saturday. The first was that we were able to get all dressed up as a family and have our picture made for the first time in 9 years. The boys looked so BIG and handsome in their polo shirts and black pants. I was reminded of that first picture when Paul was only 3 months old and Wyatt was just two. I'm going to try to post a couple of pics but will have to wait until my brother gets back from Spain. I'm computer challenged in the extreme. It's an absolute miracle that I was able to send a manuscript to a publishing house but that's another story.

The second delightful thing that happened was that I was sitting in my overstuffed chair Saturday night and an email rolled in from down south. Not deep south -but San Diego. I've always had a soft spot for San Diego though I've never been there. Our wonderful neighbors just across the road from us are from San Diego and we've had the privilege of having lunch with them every week for the past 11 years. Anyway, this email was from a music teacher/golfer/mom of three who just happened to stumble across my blog and left a really neat comment.

If I had had a joy button I would have pressed it and sent it back to San Diego. It may seem like such a small thing but the small things make me happiest. Well, aside from that book contract. She has a wonderful golfing blog and although I don't understand a word of it, it is so interesting it makes me want to go golfing. My world got a little bit larger, thanks to her. This blogging thing might be worthwhile after all.

Friday, May 23, 2008

food for thought

Harper Lee, the reclusive author of To Kill a Mockingbird, had this to say in 2006 about her love of books as a child and her dedication to the written word:

"Now, 75 years later in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods, and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with my books."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

what's ahead

My editor is good at telling me what is just ahead. I've noticed that she does this carefully, in very pleasing prose, and in small increments. I have so much to learn and I don't have an agent. She is used to working with people like Max Lucado and other writing wonders (and their agents). I wonder what she thinks of me - a hick from the hills of Kentucky who is hiding out in the woods of Washington!

That's when I remember that this writing dream is bigger than I am - and Who brought it all about. I am not an ambitious person and have no big dreams about writing. Maybe this is why I am starting later in life. I can really relate to Harper Lee whose first and last novel was To Kill A Mockingbird. I love the actual writing of the book itself - just you and your pen and paper, some research books, a dictionary and thesaurus. The publishing process is huge, the competition fierce, and reviewers cruel. All of that scares me. Yet that is what is coming up.

I have always been, as my granny said, "high-strung." I think that in the months ahead I will be re-tuned or fine-tuned. Maybe the Lord is working on achieving perfect pitch in my life, to use a musical term. There is nothing pretty about a violin played too high or too low. The writing road is interesting because I am going to have to change. Develop a thick skin. Refrain from crawling into the closet when I make a mistake. Be gracious to folks who hate my work. And all of that will come, I know, even on a small scale.

If I didn't love to write so much, I wouldn't put myself through it. I like comfort and safety and sameness. Yet it seems these are the very first things you kiss goodbye when you are put into service. I'm sure my brother the missionary would say the same. If I didn't think He was in charge of every little detail I would not be writing this post on this blog - which still makes me squirm by its very public nature. I am that private!

Meditating on these verses keeps me going:

The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you. He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.
Deut. 31:8

... fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:2

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

saturate and meditate

Did you know that Christians are mandated to saturate themselves with scripture? The Bible makes it clear that we are to meditate on His word. I like to meditate more than memorize because now that I'm middle-aged, my memorizing mechanism seems to be broken. But I can meditate. Meditate means "deep reflection."

Lately I love Deuteronomy 13:4:

You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and You shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.

I love those six very active verbs - follow, fear, keep, listen, serve, cling. I am at home with some of these but not others.

follow - am I following hard after Him or am I on some other rabbit trail?
fear - do I revere, respect, honor Him or squander these things on something/someone else?
keep - to hold, guide, preserve. What am I keeping close? His commandments or a cheap substitute?
listen - do I take time to be quiet so that I can hear Him?
serve - He has given me gifts to use for His glory. Do I know what they are?
cling - my personal favorite. We cling to many things - life, relationships, money, time, grudges, youth. How freeing it would be if we loosened our grip and clung to Him instead.

I recently read this interesting quote by Elizabeth Drew: The test of literature is, I suppose, whether we ourselves live more intensely for the reading of it.

The Bible is the only book worth meditating on because it alone can change us. It is literature at its best.

Monday, May 19, 2008

time to write

Some days I really wonder - who has time to write!? Today I need to clean house, take Wyatt to the orthodontist this afternoon, and put our old Jeep in the shop for repairs as it is overheating. Town is a half hour away so it is never a quick trip. We won't get much homeschooling done today, other than a reading lesson and violin practice. I don't think I will get much writing done today either.

But it is true you always make time for the things you love.

Last week I sent revisions in for my first book and they were accepted. Then I logged onto FTD and sent my editor in New York a bouquet called "Jump For Joy" because that is exactly what I was doing. I'm too new at this to know you don't send flowers to editors but I couldn't help myself. I was, and am, so thankful! If FTD delivered to heaven, I would have done that too.

I will give You thanks forever, because You have done it.
Psalm 52:9

Friday, May 16, 2008

the most glorious day

This morning at 6am it was a warm 60 degrees. A real departure from our usual 38 degree May mornings here in western Washington. Forecasters are calling this a record-breaking weather day and we are ready! Randy planted all the corn last night. The peas are up as well as the kale and spinach. The boys filled up two giant washtubs with water and got their swimsuits out (there aren't many pools around here)! I'll have to take my usual walk early.

Today is supposed to reach a high of nearly 90! Our temps usually never climb out of the low 70's even in the middle of August so this is a real treat. We even bought watermelon. Tomorrow is supposed to be cool again - and probably cloudy, as well. But for one glorious day we can pretend it is summer and make the most of it!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

music to my ears

Today was Paul's violin lesson. He has a wonderful teacher from Finland who loves to teach children and has students from age 4 to 74. Helena recently told me that learning to play the violin at my age is like learning a foreign language. Children are naturals when it comes to learning music. I didn't tell her I flunked flutaphone in third grade! I remember cringing all the way out to the portable for group lessons on that fine plastic instrument and am sure I chucked mine in the garbage at the first opportunity. I still don't understand music at all, nor can I read it. But I love to listen.

Paul really likes to play the violin but hates the half hour daily practice. He's had lessons for a year and a half and today took Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to a new level. He and his teacher played a duet and it was heavenly. I guess I am living out my violin dreams through him but he doesn't seem to mind. He even likes to perform at recitals which would make me kind of sick.

I'm not sure how long our violin dream will last but hope I will always have the memory of Paul flinging open our French door and serenading our two dogs as they howl directly outside during each and every practice. He thinks this is quite funny. I guess the dogs don't, as they never miss a practice. We just learned a dog's hearing is 70 times more sensitive than a human's so maybe this is the trouble. Violins are simply awful when they squeak and they squeak a lot when you are learning.

Years ago when I was a college student I attended a chapel where Itzak Perlman was performing. He was in a wheelchair (childhood polio) but he played the most beautiful music I have ever heard. I guess that is when the violin bug bit me. I would have given anything (except my writing) to be able to play like he did. Today he is known as the reigning virtuoso of the violin but back then I was ignorant of all that. I just knew I was hearing something otherworldly. I wonder where he thinks his great gift came from. Being Jewish, I wonder who God is to him. It would be such a tragedy to have the gift but not know the giver.

Paul is no Perlman but if I could post some of Paul's squeaks and our dogs howling I am sure you would get a great laugh.

Monday, May 12, 2008

book stuff

I just received an interesting email from my publisher - the marketing department in particular. This Thursday they will hold a meeting about my upcoming book due to be released next summer. Next summer seems so far away sometimes! But it actually takes that long or longer to bring a book to print.

So this Thursday several different departments from Baker Books will come together to discuss the place my book will have on the summer 09 schedule. Every book has a particular position. They also will begin to hold meetings to discuss the title and cover design. I think I have a good working title for the book but am fine if they change it. I wish I could be a little bug on the wall for Thursday's meeting.

They were gracious enough to ask me many questions about this whole process and the one I liked most was about the book cover. I was only too happy to tell them! My husband read the email and said, "These people are so nice to work with."

I still feel like this is all a dream and I'll wake up and realize I only dreamed of writing that book! God is so good. I can hardly wait to see what happens next.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Tomorrow is Mother's Day and I have so many reasons to be thankful. I have a wonderful mother. She lives in Berea, Kentucky in the same house she grew up in over 70 years ago on old Haiti Road. I can't wait to fly home in August and spend time with her. She has the sunniest disposition and makes everything so much fun. I tend to be somewhat melancholy at times but not Mom! Lately I've been especially appreciative of her, thanks to the little old lady down the road.

If you're reading this post you most definitely have had a mother and maybe even are one. There are many kinds of mothers. They teach you so many things, good or bad. Bev is the little old lady down the road from me. She is still mothering into her 80's! Bev is a retired schoolteacher who never learned to drive and still lives on her grandparent's old homestead. She is the epitome of a proper old-time teacher, right down to her hats and gloves and elegant wardrobe. She has one son and two grown grandsons.

One of these grandsons became addicted to meth years ago and nearly destroyed himself (and her). Our church became very concerned for her safety. Yet she never showed any fear. She let this grandson come around even though he was dragging tons of junk cars and trash onto her property and bringing his addicted friends with him. This lovely pioneer homestead soon looked like a junkyard. Neighbors began complaining. The sheriff set up a neighborhood watch and soon her grandson was arrested and sent to treatment. That was two years ago.

Last summer both she and her grandson were baptized in the river not far from here. It was a beautiful thing to witness. Now when he comes round he brings his old friends who are in recovery and she prays with them and tells them about Jesus. She now has an amazing ministry with recovering meth addicts. Some of these are women who never had a mother who mothered them.

Last week she told me, with tears in her eyes, that she never thought she'd be mothering into her 80's and that she is tired but the Lord keeps bringing people to her door. She said that these women are so lost and she blames much of it on the lack of a loving mother. They don't know how to behave, to make a home, to be feminine. These are the things a good mother teaches.

On Sundays it gives me both joy (and a jolt) to see this older lady sitting in a pew surrounded by recovering meth addicts.

I am doubly thankful for my mother when I look at Bev. Please pray for Bev and those she ministers to. You'll see them in heaven someday!

Thursday, May 8, 2008


I have a wonderful son named Wyatt who is 11 1/2 years old. I asked him how he would describe himself and he simply said, "I'm the opposite of Paul in every way." Hallelujah - I can only handle one Paul! Wyatt tends to be serious and studious and loves to read and write. He likes to compose silly poems and then memorize them. He thinks he would like to be a food critic when he grows up. We laugh when he says this because he's never met a food he would criticize! I keep hoping he'll say he wants to be a missionary or a bush pilot or something exciting.

He has such a generous, loving heart. I hope the world treats him kindly. Maybe Paul can teach him some moxie. He has enough to share, believe me.

In a couple of weeks we'll be having a family picture made. First time in 9 years! I'll try to post one so you can see my handsome boys. And I will try to cut myself out of it first! My granny taught me how to do that. Now that she's passed on, we have a treasure trove of old photos with her missing. I don't recommend this! So stay tuned and I'll see what I can do. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

life in a locker room

Sometimes I feel like I live in a locker room, having two boys and one husband. Even our dogs are male! And our cat! I'm a girly kind of girl though I've never had a manicure and don't own a cell phone. But I love purses and shoes and Starbucks lattes and perfume and all the rest.

My husband recently told me I am a complete mystery to him. Maybe this is because he sees me staring at my computer screen for hours on end. Riding herd on a bunch of words is "mind-numbing" to him. He is all action. We live in the woods and he likes to pretend it is not the twenty-first century. He dreams of moving to Alaska and living in a remote cabin where they have to fly in your supplies a few times a year. He has relatives there but I notice they spend a lot of time down here in Washington.

Anyway, my husband's idea of fun is splitting cedar logs into fence rails by hand with an old fashioned maul and ax - for hours on end! And bicycling for miles on isolated logging roads with fishing gear slung over his back to his favorite fishing hole. Or climbing half a mountain to get firewood. We don't have tv reception/satellite so we have to get really creative to have fun.

I never would have believed I would publish a book, much less three of them, nor live in the woods of Washington with so many men. But God had a plan and it was so much better than anything I could have devised.

May He grant you your heart's desire, and fulfill all your purpose. Psalm 20:4

Sunday, May 4, 2008


deadline 1: a line drawn within or around a prison that a prisoner passes at the risk of being shot 2: a date or time before which something must be done : the time after which copy is not accepted for a particular publication.

Which deadline would you prefer? Me, too! I did get my deadline last Friday about 7:00 a.m. But I have the most gracious editor on earth and she has given me 3 weeks to work. The revisions requested are not overwhelming, some simply requiring the change of a single word or sentence, or an elaboration. I am thrilled! But I have spent thousands of hours on this manuscript so am not really surprised. I'm sure at some point I'll have a deadline that makes me want to pull my hair out.

I've heard horror stories about deadlines/revisions. Some manuscripts are so full of edits that they "bleed red." Some writers complain that their manuscript has so many changes that they don't even recognize their own work anymore. But a good manuscript is described as a duet between editor and writer.

Jerry Jenkins and Karen Kingsbury say that they write only on deadline. That means most of their time is spent not writing which is mystifying to me. Sort of like not breathing! I've heard other writers say that the hardest thing for them is making themselves sit down to write 7-8 hours a day. Once in their chair, they are okay, but getting there is the problem. To me, this is too much like work. And writing for me has no resemblance to work whatsoever. But I guess there are as many diferent kinds of writers and writing habits as there are books.

I have to discipline myself not to write. It is my absolute favorite thing to do and the only thing I can spend hours doing without feeling the need to eat or sleep or even take a break. It is like losing yourself in a good book - only it has no end.

I have been warned never to miss a deadline though writers are notorious for asking for extensions. This throws the whole publication schedule off and editors are not happy. Within the contract a writer signs are hard and fast dates when work is due. My manuscript for my second book is to be turned in August of 09 and this is in my contract. There is also an interesting clause about "moral turpitude" which means I must behave myself.

So please pray for me and my deadline. I have a lot to learn but am finding it unbridled bliss!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

faithful readers

Philippians 1:3
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.

Until a month ago, I wasn't really sure what a blog was. I wish it was called something else since "blog" is sort of an ugly word. I am all for beautiful words. Someone once said the most beautiful words in the English language are "midsummer afternoon." Maybe because of what the words bring to mind - sunshine, warmth, idleness, ease.

I have my brother to thank for setting up this blog and also the neocounter at right. I didn't know such things existed! But it is kind of a treat seeing who is checking in. I have a few faithful readers, and I really do thank Him for every one of you! There are a million blogs out there and you take the time to visit mine. Thank you.

If you ever wonder who on earth in Ecuador would visit this blog - it's my brother, Chris. He and the Lexington, Ky people are neck in neck. Hello to my Mom and Dad in Berea and also faithful Frances and Alice, and maybe Brenda at Berea Baptist Church. Then there is my dear cousin Rhonda in North Carolina, my cousin Polly who is a Coca-Cola exec in Atlanta and writes better than I do, my wonderful Aunt Janice in Georgia, and maybe my Granny's adopted daughter, Rebecca, in GA also. Hello, Aunt Janelle, if that's you in Chillicothe, Ohio! If Pittsburgh pops up, it's my old college roommate, Heather, who thinks it's absolutely hilarious that I have a blog (I do too, Heather). I've yet to hear from my cousin Lorri in Moscow - no, not Idaho, but the real Russia. Hope I'm not forgetting anyone ...

Ah, yes! The mystery reader in Sequim, WA, which is right down the road from me. Who are you? I smile every time I see you've checked in again. Since I haven't told anyone around here this blog exists, I am kind of puzzled. I hope you continue reading. I hope I continue to have edifying things to post. As the publishing date for my book nears, this blog might get a little more interesting.

God bless you all, wherever you are!