Thursday, April 30, 2009

A little fun


Thanks to CJ over at the Compost Heap for a blog topic today.


1. What is on your desktop wallpaper? A picture of Ramsey Falls. The same as the header on this blog.




2. What is your favorite zoo animal? Always love the elephants. But pretty much anything but snakes and bats.




3. What was your favorite toy as a child? Breyer Horses





4. What food do you eat too much of? Right now, Goldfish Crackers.





5. What kind of hairstyle do you have? Long and Curly?




6. What was your favorite activity in gym? Volleyball




7. What is on your shirt? Cat hair




8. What is the picture nearest you? Sketches of Wild Life done by my husband.




9. What is your favorite kind of salad dressing? RANCH!




10. What is your least favorite food? Pasta




11. What do you do on Sunday night? Chat on IM




12. If you could use only one condiment for the rest of your life, what would it be? Honey Mustard.





13. What color are your sheets? White



14. How big is your computer display? laptop = 17"





15. what pair of shoes do you wear most often? My red and white New Balance Tennis Shoes



16. What is your favorite game? Big Kahuna Reef



17. What is your favorite Thanksgiving food? Pumpkin Pie




18. What time do you plan to wake up tomorrow morning? When the Alarm goes off



19. What is your favorite day of the year? My birthday.


Try this out on your own blog or answer the questions here. Thanks for enabling the nosy. :)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Facial Contortions


Okay, I'm sitting here at Caribou Coffee writing away, when I realize something.
I'm making weird faces! I busted out laughing.
I'm writing on my novel, and whenever my characters make a facial gesture, I pantomime it. Biting my lip, frowning, pressing my tongue hard against my back teeth, blinking in amazement, scowling in disbelief...I even went so far as to roll my eyes in disgust. Every emotion they were going through, I was going through with them, and every expression on their faces was mirrored on mine!
Then I looked up to see someone staring at me from the next table. BUSTED! ROFL!
I guess I'm identifying with these characters more than I thought. At least they aren't Maoris doing a Haka. Wouldn't that get the looks?
Please don't forget to stop by Valerie Comer's blog to read part 2 of my guest blog on Musing about the Muse.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Opposites Attract


Have you ever thought about what it takes to make two characters destined for each other? I've often had people say how did you and your husband wind up together? On the surface, we're opposites.
  • He's quiet. I'm...not so quiet.

  • He's a planner. I'm impulsive.

  • He's reserved. I'm out there.

  • He's serious. I'm silly.
And so on.
But what a lot of people don't know is that inside, where it counts, my husband and I are the same.
  • We both have the same faith and it has the same importance in our lives.

  • We both love our children and have similar parenting styles.

  • Our values are the same.

  • We agree about money, giving, saving, spending.

  • We both agree that it is okay to be ourselves and to let the other person be the way God made them.

  • We have the same strategies for dealing with conflict. Talk things out! (a challenge for my taciturn husband, but he manages)
All these things make our marriage work, though on the surface it might seem that we're too different to live in harmony.
And in writing fiction, matches made from these kinds of characters are loaded with conflict, but not so great that it is insurmountable. What works is making characters outwardly opposite, but giving them a base, a framework, an underlying belief system that is compatible.
In my current WIP, the hero is taciturn, but the heroine is chatty. The hero is a planner, the heroine a 'leap first-oops later' kinda gal. (hmm...they're starting to sound kinda like me and my DH...coincidence?)
But where it counts, inside, they are the same. They both care about justice, about doing the right thing, about children, and about following their dreams.
So, are your characters opposites? Just like magnets, those opposites attract.
Also, I'm guest blogging at http://valeriecomer.com/?p=248 today and tomorrow. Please stop by Valerie's blog.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Post It Ponderings


It is a well documented fact that I am a Post It addict. I have all sorts of colors, shapes, sizes. I have some with lines on them, and some with my initials.
I use Post It notes to plot novels, to remind me of appointments, to jot notes that I need while e-filing withholding taxes with the state and feds.
While my SIL and I were at the hospital last week, she told me of an unusual use of a Post It note.
Her eldest son, now in college, had bunk-beds in his room. She once found a Post It note stuck to the under side of the upper bunk. When she asked him what it was for, he told her that he had thought of something during the day that he wanted to ponder, so he jotted it on a Post It and stuck it there to remind himself. His best pondering time (like mine) was right before he fell asleep at night.
What a great concept! I often have thoughts skip through my head during the day when I'm busy and don't have time to ponder them. Post It Time!!!
I've decided to stick my pondering notes to the lampshade on my bedside table.
So, how do you feel about Post It notes, and how do you remember to ruminate on those fleeting thoughts?

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Friday Five

My daughter is a couple weeks away from wrapping up her first year as a college student. She's a high school junior, but through the Minnesota Post Secondary Education Opportunity, she's been able to take college courses this year.
Registration for next year is already underway. As we've been considering which classes for her to sign up for, it's brought to mind my favorite college classes. So, here are five of my favorite college classes.
1. American History II with Mr. Witherow at Longview Community College.
2. New Testament Survey with Dr. John Hartog II.
3. Senior Theology with Dr. L. Madison.
4. Western Civilization with Mr. Joel Williamson.
5. Teaching Secondary School Bible with Dr. Bonine.
I graduated with a bachelor's degree in Secondary Education-Social Science from Calvary Bible College in Kansas City, MO.
So, what were your favorite classes? Did you have any stinkers?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Someone to Hold up my arms


Remember the story in the Bible from Exodus 17 where the Children of Israel were fighting a foe, and as long as Moses had his arms outstretched, the Children of Israel would prevail in the battle, but if he let his arms down, the battle would be lost? After awhile, he couldn't keep his arms up by himself. He needed his friends and family to come along and support him.
My life is like that in microcosm lately. I have several things, big things, that are my responsibility right now, and any one of them by itself would be enough to classify "my job." And by the time I got home yesterday evening, I could feel my strength fading, my resolve crumbling, and my workload bearing down on me.
But, God is good. He rejuvenated my spirit in several ways:
I got a letter from a friend. Six pages! I love letters, though I don't write them nearly enough. She's thinking of me and praying for me.
I also got a card from another friend at church just to say she was thinking of me and praying for me. What is it about a hand-written note, and hearing from a church friend mid-week that just makes my entire day seem better? And I put the card close to hand so I could remind myself that I have people who care about me.
My daughter, in my absence from home yesterday, not only finished a major homework project by herself, but managed to do all the laundry in the house without being asked. Doesn't get much better in the parenting realm than that!
My husband picked up dinner and brought it to his mom's house where I had spent the day. We all shared a birthday dinner for my MIL. Isn't he sweet?
The church board meeting my husband went to last night encouraged him and uplifted him. And he was able to come home and pass that encouragement on to me. We have a wonderful church family.
How about you? Do you have those around you, lifting you up, encouraging you, rejuvenating your spirit? How can you do these things for someone else today?
And in an aside, when I get to heaven, I'm pretty sure I'm going to be disappointed if Moses doesn't look like Charleton Heston.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Much Needed Manna

Okay, so I don't have a picture of manna. They're kinda hard to come by. So I chose this little heart-shaped sesame bread. Cute, isn't it?




This has been more than a slightly stressful year for me. Challenges erupted at every turn. Ones I would label "good" and ones I would label "bad" when they occurred, but in retrospect I can see were and are all for my good.



Last week, I took an online 'stress level' test. Some of the questions involved health issues for myself, health issues for family members, changes in lifestyle, changes in jobs. By the time I finished the test, it indicated that I had enough points added up to estimate that I had a 50% chance of having stress induced health issues. Wow. Good thing it was just a flukey online test and didn't factor in how big my God is, nor how amazing His peace, love, and care are. The test didn't ask a single question about prayer, faith, or hope.



A really cool God thing happened this week while we were waiting for my MIL to go into surgery, my pastor came to the hospital to visit and read Scripture and pray with us. When he started to read a passage from the Psalms, my heart rejoiced. With no prompting from me, he'd chosen Psalm chapter 9.



The verse that spoke to my heart was Psalm 9:10 And they that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee, for Thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek Thee.



Not only do I have a plaque with this verse on it hanging in my dining room, but this is the theme verse for the novel I am writing now. I have pondered this verse, meditated on its meaning, and contemplated its truths.



Though I hadn't prompted Pastor Kevin to share this verse--in fact, I wondered what he would read, as my MIL is not a religious woman--God knew just what I needed to feed my soul. Like the children of Israel in the wilderness, God brought just what they needed at the time they needed it.



Have you noticed the hand and heart of God in your life this week?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Jimmy John's

This past week was a hectic one as I spent a great deal of time with my MIL at the hospital. Her surgery went well, and she is home now. We're very thankful for this. Hopefully the procedure she had done will help alleviate some of her considerable pain, as well as increase her safety.
My SIL and I, often in need of sustenance while at the hospital, made forays to a new sandwich place I'd seen, but never been inside of. Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches. Since I'm not much of a gourmet, I'd never been inside, though I loved the neon sign in the window that announced "Free Smells."
Linda and I decided to brave the new place. (I'm always uncertain about eating in a new restaurant. When I don't know the menu, I stand there like a dork trying to make up my mind what to get.) Anyway, we got in the door, and as you can see from the photo, you can go right or left, and as soon as you get inside, a crew of people all say hello.
Since the only thing I recognized on the menu at first glance was BLT, that's what I ordered. And I had barely gotten the words out when someone was motioning to me at the end of the counter with my finished and well-wrapped sub sandwich. Lightning fast! And boy, howdy, was it yummy!
The third time we ate there, their speed had gotten to me to the point where I felt like I had to order fast because they would prepare it fast. Get the money out fast, move down the line fast, yikes!!!
The restaurant is tiny, with some booths and high-top tables. Linda and I perched at the high-tops and read the funny signs hanging on all the walls. It was therapeutic after the hospital room, though the "I Believe" sign had some truths on it that made me wince a little.
Anybody ever been to a Jimmy John's? Or had a restaurant turn out to be a pleasant surprise or oasis in a trying time?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sisters


These flowers are for my sister-in-law, Linda. I don't know how I would've gotten through the last few weeks and months without her. She's amazing. She inspires me to do more than I thought I could, and to do it with a better attitude that I could muster on my own. She is sweet, fun, funny, tender, strong, kind, patient, and a true follower of Christ.
Linda, I couldn't walk this journey without you.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Friday Five


Here's a picture of the front of Methodist Hospital-Mayo Clinic in downtown Rochester where I will be spending a big chunk of my time over the next few days. (Not as a patient, but as the family member of a patient)
My MIL had surgery last evening, and I thank you all for your thoughts and prayers. She came through beautifully.
So, today is Five things I learned while at the hospital yesterday.
1. Pastor Kevin rocks. Thanks for coming to visit and for your prayer and Scripture reading.
2. My SIL is an amazing woman, tender and tough, funny, fragile, and with a love of Jesus that shines through her every action. When my daughter said "Aunt Linda is the nicest person I know." I heartily agreed. Linda, you rock too.
3. Mayo is a polyglot. We had health care specialists from Africa, Asia, and other places I couldn't even identify. And they were all top-notch. We're blessed to live in the same town as the best health care in the world.
4. Surgical Residents are VERY YOUNG LOOKING and work impossibly long hours. The fellow we talked to late last night after the surgery had been working for at least 16 hrs, and wasn't finished yet for the day. And he would be back before 6 am for morning rounds before starting surgery all over again. I hope he found a bed somewhere to rack out on for a few hours.
5. That connotation means a lot when you're discussing medical devices. They have used three words to decribe the steel apparatus they inserted as part of the orthopedic surgery. It has been called a pin, a rod, and a nail. I have to say, I prefer pin. That seems the least invasive, least painful, and least scary of the three terms. Made me think, as a novelist, about the necessity of getting not just the term right, but the connotation to evoke the feeling in the reader that you're going for.
Thank you for your continued prayers for my MIL and for the family. They lift us up.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Stress Eating

Okay, I'll be the first to admit that the past little while in my life has been stressful. And I'm stress eating.

But I'm trying not to sabotage myself completely, having lost so much weight in the past year.

So my solution? I'm stress eating carrots and grapes.

I've been informed by a dear friend that stress eating carrots and grapes (not together) is only one step above stress eating tofu. I wouldn't know, I've never eaten tofu.

How about you? Do you stress eat? If so, what do you stress eat?

In an aside, please pray for my mother-in-law who is at the hospital today having surgery. We're blessed to live near the Mayo Clinic, and her surgeon is the best in the world at oncology orthopedics, so I know she's in good hands. But she doesn't know Jesus, and she sure needs Him.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cover Art

Yesterday I got the cover art sheet to fill out for The Bartered Bride. It was fun to fill out the specifics on the hero and heroine, the setting, the secondary characters.

It was a challenge to pull together the pictures in my mind and try to convey those to the design team that puts together the book covers for Heartsong Presents Romance books, the same way I try to convey the pictures in my head into a story for readers.

Cover art is important. I've often picked up a book in a bookstore because something about the cover caught my eye. Cover art, titles, back cover or front flap copy, all of those combine to help me decide if I'm going to purchase a book by a new author.

I had to go back into the manuscript to remember the color of my hero's eyes. 18 months ago, I knew that book by heart...but now, several heroes and heroines have come along, and I wanted to double check to make sure.

I can't wait to get the cover art and see how I did in conveying my vision to the design team.


Oh, and happy tax day.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter Blessings


This Easter gave me some unexpected blessings. The service at our church was uplifting and encouraging. Music, corporate and individual, beautiful flowers, excellent fellowship. Like water on my thirsty soul.
Then lunch with family. The food was excellent, and my MIL was able to come for a little while. Her fight with cancer is entering a new stage, and trips anywhere but to the doctor are rare these days.
My kids wenton an Easter egg hunt, courtesy of Aunt Linda. Now, you might think that at 16 and 13 they are too old for an Easter egg hunt, but...I've decided you're never too old for an Easter egg hunt. It was fun, and therapeutic. The dads hid the eggs and the kids found them and the moms enjoyed watching.
Then, that evening, I went to Caribou for a visit with a friend. We enjoyed each other's company and I had an excellent Earl Grey. It was restful and encouraging. Just what I needed for the week ahead.
Were you encouraged by the Easter weekend? Did your dry soul get rained upon?

Monday, April 13, 2009

For Sara

From Cara Putman's Blog. Reprinted by permission.


This interview ran on Monday -- and I just learned that Sara's husband died of a heart attack on Tuesday. He was young -- 40 -- and I am so grieved for Sara and her children. If you've considered buying one of these books, please follow the links at the end of this post to buy one or both books. I thoroughly enjoyed both, and may go buy them again they were that good.

Miss Fortune and Miss Match are delightful books set in NYC in 1947. Tell us how you got the idea for Allie and these books...


I got the idea for Miss Fortune in the middle of the night, when all good ideas come to me:
One sleepless night I was watching The Maltese Falcon and I started to wonder how different the story would be if Sam Spade had been a woman. She'd never have fallen for Miss Wunderly's charms and lies. She'd have been smart and tough and she would have solved the case in half the time it took Sam because she wouldn't spend all of her time smoking cigarettes and calling her secretary Precious.

The thought of a hard-boiled female detective got my mind whirling.

I paused the movie and sat in my darkened living room thinking about how much fun a female Sam Spade could be. Intrigued but not yet ready to dash to my computer, I changed disks and put on Casablanca (my all time favorite movie ever). The sweeping love story, a tale full of hard choices and sacrifice was what finally made the whole idea click in my mind. If I could just combine the P.I. detective story of the Maltese Falcon with the love story from Casablanca, and make Sam Spade more of a Samantha, I could have the best of all worlds.

These books are so good, I wish I'd written them. How did you set the stage to capture that gritty PI feel without being dark?

I find that a lot of PI stories are gritty and dark, focusing on the worst of the humanity, and while I wanted the Allie Fortune mysteries to be exciting and tension-filled I didn’t want them to be stark and hopeless.

One of the things I tried to do to counteract the darkness was to give Allie a multi-layered life. She has cases, relationships, friends and family, all of which I hope combine to make the stories textured, rich and full of life.

Allie is a character I'd love to have coffee with. What did she teach you while you wrote these books?

Allie was a great character to write. One of the things I learned from her was that human relationships (man/woman, mother/daughter, friends) are complicated and full of unspoken rules and expectations. Allie is a rule-breaker at heart and it complicates her life on a regular basis. One of the storylines I loved most is Allie’s relationship with her mother and how it grows and changes and how it’s shaped her.

Another dimension of Allie’s character that really taught me a lot was her willingness to do whatever was needed to help those she loves. There is no price on that kind of friendship and it’s a characteristic I’d like to see more of in myself. Okay I admit it, I’ve got a bit of a friend-crush on Allie. LOL.

One last question: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would that be and who would you take with you?

If I could go anywhere right now I’d head to Monterey, California (I’m writing a book set there right now) and I’d plant myself on the beach with a notebook, writing my story as the waves crashed. Sounds like my idea of heaven on earth. There’s something about the wind-shaped Cypress trees and the crash of the surf in Monterey that calls to me. I don’t know why, it just is.








469260: Miss Fortune, Allie Fortune Mystery Series #1Miss Fortune, Allie Fortune Mystery Series #1

By Sara Mills / Moody Publishers


In 1947 Allie Fortune is the only female private investigator in New York City, but she's kept awake at night by a mystery of her own: her fianci disappeared in the war and no one knows if he's still alive. Until Allie finds out, she will have no peace. When there's a knock on her office door at four in the morning, Allie suspects trouble as usual, and Mary Gordon is no exception. Mary claims someone is following her, that her apartment has been ransacked, and that she's been shot at, but she has no idea why any of this is happening. Allie takes the case, and in the process discovers an international mystery that puts her own life in danger.

Meanwhile, the FBI is working the case as well, and she is partnered up with an attractive, single agent who would be perfect for her under other circumstances-if only she knew whether her fianci was still alive.









469270: Miss Match, Allie Fortune Mystery Series #2Miss Match, Allie Fortune Mystery Series #2

By Sara Mills / Moody Publishers


FBI agent Jack O'Connor receives a letter from Maggie, a woman he used to love, saying she's in trouble in Berlin. The FBI refuses to get involved, so Jack asks Allie Fortune to help him investigate. Allie and Jack pose as a missionary couple who want to bring orphans back to the United States.

A child finds important documents that everyone in the city - Soviets and allies alike - want for themselves. Maggie refuses to tell Jack what the documents are, saying if things go wrong, they are better off not knowing. Through the course of the search, Allie's past is brought back to her, half a world away from home.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday Five


Last night our church family celebrated the Passover together. So here are five things I learned/experienced.
1. God is so smart. He knows that the best way for people to learn is by incorporating all the senses. We saw, tasted, smelled, felt, and heard about God's goodness in calling out and redeeming His people.
2. There are few burdens that are not lightened by spending time with God's people.
3. Horseradish will make your eyes water. Especially if you eat it by the spoonful.
4. The women of my church are amazing. They cooked for and served dinner to more than 60 people and made it seem effortless.
5. Matzo ball soup is delicious.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The boys are back in town...



My husband can attest to the fact that if a television program involves a competition of more than one person and a ball, I'll probably watch it. Football, basketball, golf, tennis, I love them all. And there's also hockey, horse racing, and NASCAR to fill in the gaps.

But the current season is all about baseball. The Boys of Summer are back in town. Though I grew up as and still claim to be a diehard Kansas City Royals fan (And lately who would claim to be that who wasn't?) I am also a bigtime Chicago Cubbies fan. How do you think they will break my heart this year? I'm a Twins Fan by marriage, and will root for Tampa from time to time out of family loyalty.

Baseball is the perfect sport to watch while you're tooling around on the internet or crocheting a baby blanket.

Are you a fan?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A gentle reminder


Earlier this week a friend sent me an email with lots of cool, interesting pictures. This was one of them. The sheer number of identical birds all in one place is staggering. Even more amazing is that one of them can take off into the water for awhile and come back and find their one true mate in the midst of a zillion birds that all look the same.
I am reminded that though there are billions of people on this earth and each person has more than their fare share of needs and troubles, that my Heavenly Father knows each one. He isn't taxed by trying to identify and juggle all these creatures. He knows my name, He knows the number of hairs on my head (and how many of them are gray) and He knows everything about my situation. He cares when I hurt, He rejoices when I grow, and He lifts me up when I fall.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

What makes a bad day better?

Okay, so yesterday wasn't a great day. At least it didn't start out that way. Then it got better, then it got worse, then it got better, then it got worse...kind of like the ribs of a plot skeleton:

This is good, this is bad, this is good, this is bad...sigh

So I tried to define just what it was that was making the day good or bad at any given moment. (Analytical me...it's a curse.)

Good: Woke up this morning. Always a good thing.

Bad: The back spasms that have sidelined me since late Friday night have not gone away entirely. Constant charlie-horse between my shoulder blades. Grrr.

Good: Got bookwork done over the weekend in spite of back problems (Payroll waits for no man--or woman either.) So no bookwork to do this morning.

Bad: Got a call from the shop. Somehow I had misplaced a customer's payment and accidentally billed him. Profuse apologies, high and low hunt for check, check found, me feeling stupid, hating my job, and wishing someone else would take it over so I could focus on the things I WANT to do and not just the things I HAVE to do.

Good: Last week of seventh grade for the youngest. Focused on finishing science today...and spelling.

Bad: Customer bounced major check and refuses to discuss payment options. Time to call in the lawyer. (Who, frankly, is good at his job of collecting delinquent payments and scares me more than just a little. Think Stephen King meets F. Lee Bailey.)

Good: Mail arrived with three fun things to brighten my day--A) Writer's Digest Magazine, B) The first season of the TV Series The Young Riders and a copy of Tom Selleck/Sam Elliot in The Sacketts on DVD, and C) a wedding invitation.

Bad: Paid property taxes. Wicked high taxes and my kids don't even go to public school. I like to pretend all MY money is going to improve roads and pay for firemen and policemen. :)

Good: Got supper in the crock pot and eldest's test scheduled for tomorrow morning.


And so it went. Like a drunk pendulum. My emotions were all over the place.

What did I realize at about 4 pm?

That I was letting circumstances dictate my happiness level. Well, phooey on that. I have much to be thankful for, and not much to grouse about. I refuse to be pushed around like this by a set of random circumstances. I WILL be happy, because I have the Joy of the Lord.

So there!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Monday Madness

Do you think the gators put up the sign?

Thanks, dad, for the picture. :)

Friday, April 03, 2009

Friday Five - OOOPS!

Okay, so I totally spaced out what day it was when I posted about the movie Monte Walsh. It's not like I don't have three calendars within my line of site here at my desk...sigh...I'm losing it. As a bonus, I'm going to give you more than five things. :)

Anyway, for this week's Friday five I'm taking a walk down memory lane. The summer before my fifth grade year, when I was eleven, my family lived in Colby, Kansas. (You know, from the John Denver song Matthew - Lyrics posted below)

So here are more than five things I remember from the summer I lived in Colby (Population around 5000.)

1. We took classes at the YMCA. Art, Tennis, Gymnastics. Most morning we'd have a class there. My brother, and sister, and I -- well, this was one of the best summers of our lives.

2. Meeting my dad after our YMCA class for his morning break at the Daylight Donut shop. We got little bottles of OJ and a donut. The guys my dad worked with would tease us and make us laugh.

3. After classes and after lunch we went to the town pool. For $.25 you could swim all day. They'd stamp your hand when you went home for supper so you could come back on the couple evenings a week that the pool was open. On the way home from the pool in the late afternoon, we'd stop by the A&W for a rootbeer float. I loved that they kept the float mugs in the freezer and they would be all smoky and frosty when you got them.

4. Playing tennis at night at the town park. We'd show off to our parents the things we'd learned in tennis class, and we'd shag balls for the grown ups. My mom, dad, and uncle all played. The court lights were on a timer and every thirty minutes or so the court would go completely dark when they shut off. One of us kids would have to run to the light pole and press the button for another thirty minutes. Right beside the tennis courts was the kiddie playground, and me and my brother (8) would climb up into the rocket-ship shaped slide tower and watch everything through the little round port-hole windows.

5. My folks and Uncle Fred coaching my sister and my softball team and my little brother's t-ball team. On nights when we weren't playing tennis, we were practicing softball or playing in games. Our team had orange shirts with black lettering, and we were sponsored by the bowling alley, so our shirts read "Colby Bowl" on them. My brother's team shirt was red and said "Dan's Floor Covering."

6. My dog got loose because I didn't make sure the apartment door was shut all the way, and he went for a romp in the pasture behind the building, chasing cows and rolling in cowpies. I was the one who had to get him washed up. He had a ball. Me, not so much.

7. Eating barbequed goat. The guys living next door to us, also telephone employees like my dad, were from Texas, and one night they roasted a goat in a barbeque grill made from a steel drum. We got to eat some. It wasn't bad.

8. In the middle of that summer we went on a whopping big three week vacation. Which will be next week's Friday Five...if I remember. :)

9. My mom bawled her eyes out watching a movie called "The Last Shining Season." She was a wreck when it was done. My dad said when he went into work the next morning, both the telephone switchboard operators were all puffy-eyed and swollen-nosed like mom. When he mentioned the movie, they got all drippy again. Even now if you mention that movie to my mom you'll get a very strong reaction.

10. Driving home to Salina most weekends. 200 miles, one way, then turn around on Sunday afternoon and drive back to Colby. Once when we got home it had been so hot in the house that all my mom's taper candles had melted and were hanging sideways out of the holders. As kids, we thought this was kinda cool.

11. The most important thing that happened to me that summer was that I asked Jesus to be my Savior. July 8th, 1980. :)

I had an uncle, name of Matthew, he was his father's only boy.
Born just south of Colby, Kansas, he was his mother's pride and joy.
Yes, and joy was just a thing that he was raised on, love was just a way to live and die.
Gold was just a windy Kansas wheat field,
blue was just the Kansas summer sky.

And all the stories that he told me back when I was just a lad.
All the memories that he gave me, all the good times that he had.
Growing up a Kansas farm boy, life was mostly having fun.
Riding on his daddy's shoulders behind the mule, beneath the sun.
Yes, and joy was just a thing that he was raised on, love was just a way to live and die.
Gold was just a windy Kansas wheat field,
blue was just the Kansas summer sky.

Well, I guess there were some hard times, and I'm told some years were lean.
They had a storm in '47, twister came and stripped 'em clean.
He lost the farm, he lost his family, he lost the wheat, he lost his home.
But he found the family Bible, his faith as solid as a stone.

Yes, and joy was just a thing that he was raised on, love was just a way to live and die.
Gold was just a windy Kansas wheat field,
blue was just the Kansas summer sky.

So he came to live at our house, and he came to work the land.
He came to ease my daddy's burden, and he came to be my friend.
So I wrote this down for Matthew, and it's for him this song is sung.
Riding on his daddy's shoulders, behind the mule, beneath the sun

Yes, and joy was just a thing that he was raised on, love was just a way to live and die.
Gold was just a windy Kansas wheat field,
blue was just the Kansas summer sky.




The power of plot


Wednesday night I watched the Tom Selleck movie Monte Walsh. (Still on my cowboy kick.)
Love Tom Selleck, especially as a cowboy. But this movie was...
BORING.
Not the acting. Tom was great, Isabella Rossalini was great, and George Eads as a cowboy...it doesn't get any better than that.
What didn't work for me was the plot. It was so unfocused. Lots of little vignettes that helped the main character realize that his way of life was becoming at thing of the past. He's a cowboy in an increasingly corporate-driven world. While the movie accomplishes its goal of helping him realize it, I kept waiting for something to happen, for some external foe to focus Monte's attention and rally his hope, proving that he would always be a cowboy. There was a short part of the movie where he had a distinct foe, but for the majority of the picture, his only foe was progress--a nebulous and unbeatable antagonist.
My DH differs with me on my opinion of this movie. All the relationships in the movie are affected by Monte's view of himself and his occupation. His friendships, his romance, his employers, his fellow-cowboys--all of them hinge on Monte's desire to be what he wants to be. For my DH, this was enough to make the movie enjoyable and watchable. He says not all movies or books need to be super-charged, action-packed pyrotechnical frenzies (Okay, these weren't his exact words, but that's what he meant.)
While I agree with him in this aspect, I didn't enjoy the movie as much as some Tom Selleck cowboy movies. Like: Quigley Down Under, Last Stand at Sabre River, The Sacketts, The Shadow Riders, Cross-fire Trail. (Told you I loved Tom Selleck as a cowboy.)
Lessons learned?
I like focused tight plots where stuff happens both inside and outside the character. It isn't enough for me to just have a good character or cool setting. The story needs a focus I can get behind.
I also learned that for every movie I don't like, there's someone who loved it. So for every person who doesn't like one of my books, hopefully there will be at least one who does. It's all subjective.
How about you? Have you seen a movie or read a book that taught you something about plot or character or setting?

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Immersion Writing

I am writing a western.

And I'm thinking about cowboys all the time.

Is this immersion writing or total indulgence? You see, I love cowboys and all things western. I've been watching cowboy movies, tv series shows, reading cowboy books, listening to cowboy music.


How do you get yourself into your character's head? How do you drop yourself into your storyworld so much that your reader can't help but follow?

Is it a hardship or a joy?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

April Goals

It's that time again. Time to evaluate and plan for a new month. I'm feeling a sense of urgency right now, a need to get a lot done right now. Sizing up my progress and plotting the next month will hopefully help me see that I am making progress.




Key:
Bold Black Ital. = Goal


Purple = April comments - I've color coded monthly comments, but it was getting too chaotic and colorful to keep adding, so I've edited things down and just included comments I felt were pertinent.

1. Editor Revisions for The Bartered Bride. Done. :)

addendum: Copy Edits for The Bartered Bride. The ms went to copy edit this past week and should return to me around the first week of June for another comb-through. Seven months until The Bartered Bride debuts. :)

2. Final read through for The Marriage Masquerade and send to editor. Done. :)

3. Edit The Engineered Engagement, my 2008 NaNoWriMo novel. This one is done until the contract arrives, then I will comb through it once more.


4. Turn in The Engineered Engagement. Sometime after June 2009.


5. Finish final edits on Clara and the Cowboy to send to editor who requested it. Done. :)

6. Begin plotting and writing sequels to Clara and the Cowboy: Lily and the Lawman and Maggie and the Maverick. I'm 12K words into Lily and the Lawman. Goal is to have the rough draft finished by mid-May. Actually, I hope to have it finished by the end of April, but I'm giving myself some breathing room because I will have contest judging to do for part of April.


7. Prepare proposal packet and three chapters of a Gilded Age mystery/romance I've got kicking around in my head, including pitch sheet and materials to pitch at ACFW. Haven't started this one yet.

8. Register for ACFW Denver.


9. Attend ACFW Denver. Less than 175 days!


10. Read 5 books on craft this year, focusing on characterization, conflict, and endings. Five down. I'm wondering if I am brave enough to start working thorugh the Breakout Novel book and workbook again before attending the Donald Maass workshop at the Denver conference.


11. Revise and rewrite some older mss to submit to a new opportunity. No action on this one as I've been busy with other things. At this point I don't know if this will get done this year. Contracted books and a new proposal take precedence over revamping old work.

12. Coordinate the Women's Fiction category for the ACFW Genesis Contest. Lots of entrants, lots of files, lots of spreadsheet data. This is going to be the biggest Genesis ever. I'm excited to get my entries to judge and to be able to tabulate the scores for my category and make those phone calls to finalists. :)

How are you coming on your goals? Are you keeping up, re-evaluating, getting lots done or barely keeping you nose above the tide? Are you like me, feeling the urge to get a lot done now, knowing a time in the future is looming where you might have to put your own goals on the back-burner?