Saturday, December 30, 2006

My Favorite Suspense of 2006

Okay, so this is a very tight category to me. There are several authors that I tend to love just about everything they write. The first two are a tie because they are so good and different enough it's hard to do a direct head to head comparison.

1) Fire Dancer by Colleen Coble. Here's the link to my review of this book. I love all of Colleen's books, and with this one she knocks things up another level. Again. I don't know how she does it. And there are so many layers to this book!

1) Violet Dawn by Brandilyn Collins. Here's the link to my review of this great book. This book races through twenty-four hours and is incredibly hard to put down. It is great suspense.

These ladies never disappoint me. Colleen writes suspense with a strong romantic subplot as well as descriptions and settings that put you in the story. Brandilyn writes Seatbelt Suspense that pulls you through a story so fast you can't put it down.

2) GERM by Robert Liparulo. My review of this book is hiding on my laptop and will get posted next week. For now suffice it to say, that Liparulo writes like Clancy or Grishom. This book is a certified thriller and races from the second chapter to the end. If you have a weak stomach, skip the first chapter, but it's only two and a half pages. All you need to know: EBOLA.

3) Reluctant Burglar by Jill Elizabeth Nelson (her website is pretty fun). Here's the link to my review. This debut mystery surprised me. The quality was so good! And it was a fun read. How often do you get to read a Thomas Crown Affair type book? And her next book releases in February!

PS I am so EXCITED! I just found out Colleen Coble has a new book, Midnight Sea, coming out in February! Don't ask me how I didn't know this already. I guess I was too focused on Abomination! And Coral Moon, Brandilyn Collin's next book, releases in March. These will be great suspense books to read on cold winter evenings.

Friday, December 29, 2006

My favorite historicals of 2006

There were several historicals that I read this year that I really enjoyed, but the following three books were my favorites. One was by an author that I already knew and loved, another was by a debut author who knocked my socks off. So here goes:

1) Arms of Deliverance by Tricia Goyer: This book will be on the CFBA blog tour in January, so look for a full review then, but let's just say this is one book I couldn't put down. Here's the synopsis:

Arms of Deliverance takes place in Europe 1944. Katrine, a Czech Jew, is so successful in her attempt to pass as an Aryan that she finds herself dating a Nazi officer. Having convinced him of her genetic purity, the officer sends her to stay at a Lebensborn home—a Nazi breeding program in which children are raised and indoctrinated by the state.

Meanwhile, rival American reporters Lee and Mary land assignments on the frontlines of war-torn-Europe—Lee joins troops sailing for Normandy, while Mary’s destiny lies in the cramped quarters of a B-17 bearing down on Berlin. Before the presses roll, their lives will be indelibly marked by a caring American navigator, brave French resistors, and a maniacal Nazi officer. I’s a story of unexpected redemption.

2) Waiting for Summer's Return by Kim Vogel Sawyer: I didn't know what to expect when I picked up this book, but those of you who have read this blog from the beginning know that I loved it. Click here for the full review. Kim has several more books coming out in 2007 and I can't wait to read them. She has such a gentle yet powerful way with words. Reading her books is like listening to beautiful music.

3) In the non-traditional historical role: Hadassah by Tommy Tenney and Mark Andrew Olsen. I think what I enjoyed most about this book were the lavish descriptions and the careful "what ifs." What if this is what happened to Esther before she appears in the book? What if this is what life was like in Susa? What if this is what life was like in the royal courts. It got me thinking as I reread the book of Esther...and that's always a good thing. Click here to read my review of this book.

So what were your favorite historicals of 2006? We all know Canteen Dreams will be one of your favorites for 2007!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Dance Praise

Have you seen the Digital Praise Dance pads?

They are AWESOME! My husband received a couple as demo sets this summer and we have had a blast with them. So much so that my dad asked for one for Christmas. My siblings tell me it's just like Dance Revolution...never having danced on Dance Revolution, I can't vouch for the accuracy of that statement.

However, I LOVE moving to the sounds of Out of Eden, Steven Curtis Chapman, Audio Adrenaline, David Crowder Band, etc.

We took Dad at his word and bought him the starter set as his Christmas present. Then my siblings got him the second dance pad so we can duel as well as a Bible Jeopardy game. The house has rocked since Christmas.

It has been a blast! So if you're looking for something fun, check this out.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Merry Christmas -- a little late

I hope you all had a fabulous day celebrating all that Jesus did for us. I am humbled to think of the sacrifices He made by coming down to earth as a baby. And to think He created us knowing that His death on the cross and resurrection would be required.

The kids and I are in Nebraska while my husband is off in Florida for Purdue's bowl game. It's a rough job, but someone has to do it.

I'm going to wrap up the rest of the year talking about some of my favorite books from this year. So check back over the next few days. It'll be fun. And don't forget to leave comments about your favorite books, too. It'll be fun!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


It's late, so this will be short. What a day!

I emailed the proposal for the third book in the Nebraska World War Two series in to my editor today. Now I get to wait to hear if they like either book two or three and want to purchase them. I have my fingers crossed and prayers flying.

Then late this afternoon I learned that another editor at a different house would like to see the manuscript of my completed suspense. I'll need to cut and revise a bit to make it conform to their guidelines, but I am thrilled. I like this story a lot and think it is a great fit for their line.

I took tonight "off" to catch up on commitments to friends, watch a movie, and work on ACFW board matters.

By the way, I am the incoming publicity officer for American Christian Fiction Writers. If you're an aspiring writer and haven't joined yet, you really should. The organization and its members have been instrumental in any success I have had and am having.

What a day!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

When Tragedy Strikes

This will be a short post to balance out last night's. On Terry Whalin's blog today he had a link to an article written by Mike Morehouse, a man who lost his father when the Marshall University football team died in the plane crash 36 years ago. I highly recommend the article to get a sense of the people behind the tragedy.

Often in our culture, it's easy to overlook the back stories to what we read in the newspapers and see in the evening news. But always, there are individuals and people affected. May God keep our hearts soft at all times.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Research Tips

I have a confession to make.

I love research. I was a history minor at the University of Nebraska and talk about getting a masters in history. Yeah, I know. In all my spare time, I'll start working on it. My husband looks cross-eyed at me, too, when I mention it. He thinks a law degree should be sufficient. :-)

Here are a few things I've learned as I research small portions of homeland history.

1) Look for local historical museums. The Lincoln County Historical Museum had a small exhibit on the Canteen. Last December, the curator opened it for me, and it was great to be able to see pictures and read first-person accounts I hadn't found anywhere else. These local museums can be incredible repositories of information on these smaller stories in history. Brokow or Ambrose might give them a footnote, but a local curator will invest time and energy into preserving the history.

2) Keep your eyes open for books published by state museums and historical societies. I have found a phenomenal book written by the curator of the Ft. Robinson museum. In it he has three chapters devoted to the time period I'm writing about. Those chapters are chock full of details and information it would be hard to compile individually. I've also been able to ask him for additional information that wasn't in the book without wasting his time.

3) Don't forget to visit the places you write about if possible. Yes, I lived in North Platte for six years and get back at least twice a year now, but last year I did not turn in the complete manuscript of Canteen Dreams until I had spent time over Christmas walking around downtown and the key sites. I will do the same thing with the Fort Robinson and Camp Atlanta books if they are purchased. Photos can tell us a lot, but at some point you have to go see the site, smell the scents, notice the weather, etc. Those are the details that can make a place come alive. If you can't go, then check your library for videos of the location. Then you can at least see and hear the location.

4) Don't forget the local libraries. Local libraries often have microfiche of the hometown newspaper/s. From spending a couple hours at the North Platte library, I found names of stores that were downtown in 1941; the price of groceries, clothes, gas, automobiles; found articles about the creation and early operation of the Canteen, rationing, etc.; and other background information. I also was able to locate the name of a school that my heroine worked at.

5) Look for organizations that are preserving the history of various organizations. My historicals will all take place during World War Two. As a result, I've contacted the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and various military museums for more information on details. I never got a good answer on when families who lost a son in the Pearl Harbor attack would have been notified. For that I had to combine information from the services with a search in the local newspapers.

6) Librarians and curators like to answer questions from people who are interested in a part of their history. Not everyone gets back to me, but most do. So I've learned it doesn't hurt to ask.

7) Finally, something new I'm trying is contacting the history departments at local universities and colleges to see if any of the professors or graduate students are working in the area I'm interested in. I'll let you know how that works out.

Bottomline, getting the history right can be work. But in my mind it's worth it. Why? Because I know whoever reads my books will receive the historical framework as accurately as I can write it -- without bogging them down in the details. At the same time, I get the joy of chasing down the details that make the story come alive in my mind. And hopefully in yours, when you read the book.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Senate

Just when you think things are stable in Washington -- whether you like em or not -- everything gets tossed in the air again.

There's still no clear word on how Senator Johnson from South Dakota is doing, but for an interesting article on what could happen, check out this article from TIME.

Christian Publishing

Sometimes it takes me awhile to get around the blogosphere. Today I traveled over to Michael Hyatt's blog From Where I Sit. He is the President and CEO of Thomas Nelson. On Monday he discussed their publishing standards in a great post.

People often ask me what it means to be in Christian publishing. I am an infant in this journey, but Mr. Hyatt identifies my heart's cry in his post.

I want to write fantastic books that pull people through the story. My books will always have a Christian perspective because...I'm a Christian. I wouldn't know how to divorce that core part of me from my books even if I tried.

However, that doesn't mean each book will have a conversion scene. In fact, to date, none of them do. I refuse to shoe-horn that in just to meet somebody's expectations.

Instead, I pray and agonize over what the spiritual theme of each book is. Sometimes it's very clear. Other times, it's more opaque. A recent book I read published by a Westbow, a Thomas Nelson imprint, is a great example of this.

Germ is Robert Liparulo's latest book. I'll post a review of it next week. For teaser purposes, let me just say if you love Tom Clancy, you will inhale this book. But here's the thing. The main characters. None of them are Christians. Not even an inkling at the end that they become Christians. And that's okay. The book would have been forced if he'd had to cram that in. Instead, he writes a slam bam fantastic book if you like thrillers. Eric and I both enjoyed this book immensely, though if you're the teensiest bit queasy skip the first chapter. It's about ebola. Enough said. (PS, if you're still looking for a Christmas gift for people who love to read thrillers, run to your nearest Christian bookstore, Borders, CBD, etc., and buy this book!)

But those are the kind of books I want to write. Canteen Dreams has a very strong message. Both main characters are wrestling with what it means to lay down your life for your brother. One takes it to extremes. The other thinks he can't because he isn't allowed to serve as a soldier. They both come to realize it's about a lot more than just dying for someone else.

In Fort Robinson Summer (I need help with the title, folks), the main characters wrestle with where is God when your dreams and plans aren't the ones He chooses for you. Can anyone relate with me?

In Captive Dreams, the proposal I'm working on this week, the theme will be more along the lines of learning to love our enemies completely. Hey, it just seems to flow when prisoners of war are secondary characters. I have a feeling it may flow into addressing prejudice as well. Yikes! That's a lot for a 45,000 word book.

Finally, with my legal thriller, I'm still working on the theme. That'll come in January. But I think it's going to deal with believing God through our disappointments. Can you sense a theme here?

So what about you? If you're a reader, how do you like your spiritual themes in book? Liberally applied or lightly sprinkled? If you're a writer, how do you find your themes? Do you agree with Mr. Hyatt, or do you think Christian books should be more "forced" (truly for lack of a better word, though I know my bias shows with that word!)?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Sometimes the law is strange

Today I learned I won a pretty major motion. This is the kind of motion that if I had lost it, my client would be denied their day in court. Because we won, now I have to try to figure out how to construct a case on this piece that will win at trial, or look good enough to get us into a settlement position.

This one has been convoluted from the beginning because an insurance company has been involved. Therefore, logic does not always prevail.

Because I acted as the agent for my client with the insurance company, I may end up being a witness while someone else in our firm tries the case. Now that will be role reversal. Especially considering I spent the morning preparing another client for her trial next week.

Hmmm. I've always said I wanted to be on a jury to see the process from their perspective. I've had the honor of serving as a temporary judge a couple times and seeing that perspective. Now maybe I'll get to see the witness side.

That will be weird.

So instead, I'm digging through boxes of discovery to see if I can form a case without me.

And I'm reminded once again, that not every win leads to easy victory.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Here's a new one

I am always amazed at the ideas people come up with and with the people who tell them they can't be done. Today's Forbes online is running an article about a Marine in North Carolina who wanted to auction his name to the highest bidder.

Yep, whoever paid the most money would be able to tell him what he would be called for the rest of his days.

Sounds crazy to me, but hey, to each his own.

Then the Marines told him he can't do that. I guess auctioning the rights to your name off is against Marine regulations of some sort. The reason? It would be a commercial advertising slogan on his Marine uniform. Who would have thought?

I can only what tomorrow will bring!

Randomness of Searches

One way I stay on the lookout for the engaging and compelling (LOL) information I highlight in this blog is through a Google automated search. Sometimes it is really interesting what it pulls.

For example, last night it found the following for me:
  1. An article in the New Republic about Ben Steins conflicted conservatism.
  2. An article in Human Events about the Southern Poverty Law Center and its definition of hate.
  3. Plus an article from CNSnews about Annan being slammed for speaking ill of the US.

There were several others that weren't as interesting or which I would never post because I'm a conservative Christian.

If you have a blog, where do you find your ideas for posts? And if you enjoy reading blogs, what do you like most about your favorite blogs? It's always interesting to see what people like.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Washington: Writing in Plain English

Washington (not D.C. but the state) has taken on the English language. Specifically, state government has spent the last two years trying to teach government employees to use plain English.


Because the theory is people will obey laws and regulations if they can understand them. Novel concept isn't it.

Here's one example from the USAToday article:

Department of Labor and Industries
Before: We have been notified that you did not receive the State of Washington warrant listed on the attached Affidavit of Lost or Destroyed Warrant Request for Replacement, form F242.

After: Have you cashed your L&I check yet? The state Treasurer's Office has informed us that a check we sent you has not been cashed.

Now if more lawyers and government employees would adopt a seimilar plain English approach to writing. They tried to teach us that way at George Mason School of Law, but one of my instructors told us that people expect their wills to be unintelligable.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Blogger Update

Last night I spent time making the switch to Blogger Beta. Don't do it unless you have time to reenter all your links. I didn't really have time, but it's done now. Hope you like it. :-)

Have a great weekend, folks, and I'll see you on Monday.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Strength Test as Discrimination

The Eight Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in EEOC v. Dial Corporation (a meat-packing plant in Iowa -- not the soap) that an employer who changed its pre-employment strength test violated anti-discrimination laws. Prior to the revised strength test employees at Dial were roughly 50/50 men to women. After, women who were hired plummeted to 15%. That disparate impact on women as a direct result of the test made it discriminatory in the court's eyes. For more, click here.

Names, names and more names

Last night, I spent some time in 1922. Why? Because I need to create characters for my third World War Two Nebraska book and proposal. Once again, I have setting, plot points and shadowy characters who still need a name and more definition. Does this strike anyone else as backwards?

Anyway, when looking for names that are appropriate to a specific time period, what better place to start than with the Social Security Administration's most popular names site? From this page, you can pick any year through 2005, and a table with the top 20 male and female names pulls up.

That's a good start for picking names, but that's not where I end.

Next I pick up the Baby Name Survey Book. My friend Colleen Coble recommended it to me last year, and it has become the most used of my "writing" books. It contains a very short meaning for a name, a description of what people think of when they hear that name, and then some famous people with that name.

For example, did you know that Henry means ruler of an estate and is seen as either 1) a frail, bookish nerd; 2) an ambitious, independent entrepreneur; or 3) a strong, easygoing farmer. Now I need a name for a farmer since the heroine's dad farms the old homestead, so Henry is automatically in the running along with George (meaning: farmer; image: plain older man who is quiet, kind, friendly, reliable and slow). Neither Henry or George is perfect, but I like that both have connotations of farming, so will probably pick one of those.

Knowing what the name means and how it is perceived also helps with picking character traits, motivations and challenges for my characters.

How do you pick names for your characters or kids?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

What a Week!

I had an oral argument in court today that could either kill my client's case or allow us to proceed to trial. Our legal system is set up to allow either side in a case file what's called a summary judgment motion before the judge. In that motion the attorney essentially argues that there are no key facts in dispute ("Material" is the legal term) and the law is clear. Therefore, the judge should decide who wins without a trial.

For my client, if we lose the summary judgment motion, we're done. If we win, then we proceed to trial to duck it out in front of a jury.

The joy of our legal system.

Terry Whalin has an interesting article on his blog about the effect of giving away books on sales. Check it out.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Pets: Another Legal Frontier

A couple in VT filed suit for damages and emotional distress after their dog was fatally shot for walking onto a man's property. Historically, courts have only allowed pet owners to collect expenses such as purchase price and veterinary bills, but a growing number of cases are asking that they recognize the companionship a pet offers. Animal law expert Geordie Duckler believes the law will change nationwide "as soon as some good appellate panel recognizes this special relationship." Click to read more in The Dallas Morning News.

E-Discovery: a new frontier

New rules went into affect last month creating a new area for discovery. Attorneys are now required to do extensive electronic discovery to each other.

I've always told clients that any emails or documents created electronically are fair game in litigation. The rules solidify that.

It's also creating a new market for companies that search email trails. See this article to learn more.

Key: Nothing is ever truly deleted from a computer unless the hard drive is somehow physically destroyed.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Top Ten Requirements for Writers

  1. Patience. In abundance. Pressed down and overflowing. Everything takes time. And lots more time than you could imagine. So if you write, you'll shake the doors of heaven begging for patience.
  2. What ifs. A writer takes a "what if" and crafts a story around it. Without a "what if" question, there would be no books, no inspiration.
  3. Creativity. Must have the ability to take the germ of an idea and flesh it out into a 300 page book. Or a 1000 word article. Or a short blog post. But without creativity, most "what ifs" would die a quick death.
  4. Support. If you're surrounded by people who don't accept or support your dream, it can be death to the dream. So find people who will encourage your writing dream -- even if they don't understand how certifiably crazy you must be to pursue it.
  5. Fellowship. Find other writers. Only writers can fully understand the zaniness incumbent with writers. We just see everything a bit ... differently. So run to the American Christian Fiction Writers, and join. Then get invovled with the local group of writers.
  6. Love for Written Words. You have to love to read well-written words and hunger to develop those skills yourself.
  7. Disipline. To cut the things from your life to make room for writing.
  8. BOC. A corollary is to ensure you have Bottom on Chair time. Yep. Sitting in your chair in front of your computer, fingers poised over the keyboard and hopefully clicking rhythmically. That's the only way anything is written. One word at a time. One second at a time.
  9. Research Skills. You have to love tracking down the right answers. Research is equally important in contemporary books as it is in historicals. Nothing will pull a reader out of the story faster than knowing you missed a key fact or detail. So develop a love of new knowledge.
  10. Ability to Let Go. Finally, you have to be able to release your baby to a cold, cruel world. Otherwise, it will languish in your desk drawer or computer drive. The answer may be no, but you will never get to a yes until you send the manuscript into the world.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Halftime at Big 12 Championship Game

Man, it looks cold in Kansas City!

And but for a terrible special teams error and subsequent fumble in the first seconds of the game, Nebraska would be tied with Oklahoma 7-7.

Instead, they'll come out of halftime down 7 points, and fortunate to be.

I don't know if I can watch! The greatest rivalry in college football is playing for a BCS bowl! Argh!!!!! :-)

Title Games

Crafting titles for a book is one of the hardest parts of writing for me. I know, you're thinking what's so hard about coming up with two to five words about a book. Hmm. Everything.

What to include? What to ignore? The proposal I submitted Thursday started with the title The Dog Days of Summer. The K-9 Corp. is a key supporting character and the story takes place over five months, most of them the summer. But The Dog Days of Summer doesn't indicate that the story is a romance or even historical necessarily. So at the 11th hour, I changed it to A Fort Robinson Summer. Not really that much better, but now it at least indicates the military might be involved. But still doesn't scream romance to me. I'm truly hoping the publisher has some ideas if they buy it. Or that a bolt of inspiration will hit.

Prairie Dreams? Where's the military in that? And it's not a book set in the 1880s. It does kind of jive with Canteen Dreams though.

Then the title for the third proposed book? Argh!

For a fun quiz on book titles check out this highlighted by Dave Long at his Faith*in*fiction blog.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Vanishing Trial

The vanishing trial is a phenomenon that many in the legal community are talking about. I went to law school in large part to be a litigator. I love the courtroom. I love the pressure and rush of having to think on my feet. Of knowing that no matter how much I prepare, I'm simply going to have to react to something at trial.

But even as someone who relishes trial work, in my four+ years as a practicing attorney, I have participated in or tried less than a dozen cases.

The reality is the majority of cases get thrown out or settle prior to trial. I believe the current statistic is that less than 5% of cases actually make it to a trial/hearing date.

The impact? Law firms struggle to find ways to train young attorneys in litigation practice and skills. And it makes it very hard for people with a legitimate grievance to find relief. The Boston Globe has an interesting article on this phenomenon here.

One Person Can Make a Difference

Reason Online ran a fascinating article about how one man in Pennsylvania impacted its state elections this year. One man, $182.45, and one website. So the next time somebody tells you that one person can't make a difference in politics, tell em they're wrong.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

God as El Roi

As I've plotted a new book for a proposal, I've been thinking about what it means that God is the God who sees me. He sees ME. Wow! I am so unworthy, but because of Jesus I am worthy to come before Him.

I take comfort in that personally. But I also take comfort in another aspect of God as El Roi. Namely, that nothing is hidden from Him. When I'm confronted with a situation with a client that takes me outside what I know, I am so glad to know that He does know and can give me wisdom and insight regarding how to proceed.

Here's a neat webpage I found that explores God as El Roi.

What aspect of God amazes you this week?

Ten Things I love about being an Attorney

10) The people I work with: they make it a great job -- though I suppose this is true in any field.

9)The intellectual challenge: just about every day there is some question I have to answer that I've never thought about before.

8) Working with my peers at other firms: Most of them are consummate professionals who enjoy what they do and in turn make my job easier.

7) Clients: I have worked with several where over the course of a couple years, I have been able to work with them and be part of the process of watching them make choices that turn their lives around. That is so rewarding!

6) Using my legal knowledge to help fellow writers get the details right in their books.

5) Writing: articulating arguments in the most persuasive manner.

4) Researching questions and picking away until I find the answer.

3) Resolving problems for my clients. I love helping them find solutions or reach resolutions in what seem to be impossible situations for them.

2) My clients: Have I mentioned them already?

1) The "on" feeling I get when I'm in the middle of an oral argument. There is nothing like having to think on your feet and defend a position. Especially when you're never 100% certain what the other side will say.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Landon Snow Blog Tour

Today it's my pleasure to introduce you to R K Mortensen and his delightful books. The one we're focused on today is Landon Snow and the Island of Arcanum.

We have read this book as a family, and I have to tell you, it's great. Abigail (6 years old) is engrossed in it. And the writing is descriptive and vibrant. It's been fun to see the plot unfold. I have no idea where he is going with it, but it has something to do with Noah's Ark. Hmm.

I gave me nephew (8 years old) the first book in the series for his birthday, and he loved it, too.

His writing reminds me of CS Lewis with the Chronicles of Narnia. It's definitely fantastical, but grips the imagination. If you haven't checked it out yet, I encourage you to read it.

Input Please

I'll admit it. I'm at the point where I realize I need to quit fighting and accept who I am.

I am an attorney. I am also an attorney. Hence, I should write legal thriller type books.

I've fought it. Tried to make myself somebody I'm not. You see, I hate being forced in a box. There is something in me that rebels against the idea that someone else can tell me what to do and make me do it.

So as I'm plotting and praying how to take my characters and the town I've created and change the plot (you see Hayden was already an attorney, now I just have to embrace that part of her -- Do I sound like Dr. Phil to anyone?), I'd like your help. Do you read legal fiction? Think James Scott Bell, John Grisham, Perri O'Shaunesy, etc. If so, why? What do you like about them? What keeps you coming back? And what makes you throw a book against the wall in frustration?

Now that I've come to see the light, I'm excited. I really am. I just have to find the what if scenario that works for my character -- and works for me as a writer.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Writing Articles

If you're a member of ACFW or The Writers View, you've probably heard Terry Whalin mention his Amazon short Straight Talk from an Editor, 18 Keys to Rejection Proof Submission. As Crystal Miller said at the Chat N Chew Cafe it's a steal of a deal for 49 cents. I downloaded it earlier today, and it is loaded with great information and good reminders. So check it out!

Writers....Interrupted has several posts this week you should check out. Yesterday was the November edition of the blog carnival. It contains links to great writing posts around the blogosphere. And today Tina Forkner is the guest blogger with great insight on what happens after you get the call (with a contract). And it's a Tuesday, so I'm the guest blogger at Generation NeXt Parenting talking about putting Christ back in Christmas for our kids. Check it out and leave a comment about what you do with your families.

Today I got the background sheet to fill out for the cover of my book! Can you hear my shriek! It was so fun to start it and insert photos of the North Platte Canteen. I am really curious to see what the publisher comes up with for a cover. I have an image in my head but have no idea if it will match reality.

And I'm furiously working on the two follow-up proposals. I have personal goals to get one submitted this week, with the second submitted by December 15. Pray for me, please! I'll tell you more about them after I get them submitted.

Monday, November 27, 2006

What a weekend!

Are you all rolling around from all the turkey, apple pie, and fixings? I'm looking at our treadmill with longing in my eyes. I feel the need to run -- oh, to have the time.

Nebraska beat Colorado in a fun game Friday (well, fun if you're a Cornhusker), and is now ranked 18th. Woohoo! Here comes the Big 12 title game on Saturday. Maybe Nebraska really is coming back into the national picture.

I did a token amount of shopping on Black Friday. I was basically done with Christmas shopping -- I love to wrap up before the crowds get crazy. I've checked my list and have two people left!

Then there's decorating the tree. We did that last night. It's hard to get in the holdiay mood when it's sixty degrees outside. So after a walk to the park, Abigail and I baked Christmas cookies. Then we hauled out all the boxes of Christmas decorations. It's beginning to look alot Christmas.

Check out Generation NeXt Parenting tomorrow for my thoughts on how to keep Christ in Christmas!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ann Voskamp has a post at Christian Women Online blog with a challenge I plan to take. She challenges at this crazy time of the year to make a list of 1000 gifts. Not gifts we want to received. But gifts that God has already given us. This seems to go so well with the verse I've been thinking about all day: Colossians 4:2.

In that verse we are admonished to devote ourselves to prayer, with watchfulness and thankfulness. We can pray -- even with desperation -- but guard our hearts to maintain a thankful attitude. Wow! I know when my attitude slips, everything else seems to disappear or spiral out of control with it.

So I challenge you to accept Ann's challenge. Start making a list of the blessings in your life. From the small to the large. Meditate on God's goodness, His awesome power, His long arm. Don't limit God, but celebrate Him as you choose to think about and thank Him for the many gifts He has given you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's the start of my list:

  1. My husband: only God could bring a girl from Nebraska and a guy from Indiana together in Colorado.
  2. My children: they stretch me and delight me all at the same time.
  3. Mason, our dog and my contributor :-)
  4. My first writing contract: God is so good!
  5. A sister who loves me even though we are extremely different.
  6. A brother who loves me even when he avoids my calls cause he knows what I'm going to say.
  7. A brother who loves me even when... well, he doesn't have a choice!
  8. Spouses for my siblings who love God.
  9. Nieces and nephews, and more of them every year.
  10. Parents who have always supported me....

What's on your list?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

We have a winner!

Congratulations to Deborah, the winner of a copy of Calm, Cool & Adjusted. And stay tuned, I have many other great books to give away. I just have to decide which one to part with next!

One More Thing to be Thankful for...

Katherine Parker, a writer with the Washington Post Writer's Group, has a great op-ed today that is running in papers around the country. In Amazing Grace and Other Things she highlights one more thing that people should be thankful for. I'll just quote her closing paragraphs here:

Whatever one believes -- or doesn't -- it's impossible to ignore that the world would be a lesser place without those who have been divinely inspired. What Wilberforce did with his own considerable resources and a talent for oratory, Anschutz -- and others who are motivated by their faith -- are attempting to do through the medium of their day.

Those crazy Christians. What will they think of next?

And I urge you to take a moment to read her piece. It is very well done, and reminds us once again of how much we have to be thankful for. It also tells about another film releasing in the spring. I am thankful for the rash of wholesome, well-done movies. I hope to see Facing the Giants this weekend.

International Buy Nothing Day

I now know there is a day for everything.

The day after Thanksgiving is usually a day I race around to snatch up bargains. It's also usually the last day I willing choose to shop for Christmas presents. The crowds simply take the pleasure out of shopping for me after that. I'm not sure when that happened. Maybe around the time I had a baby or a baby and a toddler. It just takes some of the fun out of the hunt when you're trying to push a cart or stroller through aisles. And shopping in stores without carts? Impossible!

Today I learned that there's actually an International Buy Nothing Day. (Here's an article on it.) I guess anti-consumerism groups have dubbed the day after Thanksgiving as a day to abstain from purchasing. Interesting. Also strikes me as pushing a stone up a hill only to have it roll back down on you.

This year I may abstain. But only because I'd rather sleep, or write, or spend the time with my family.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Law enforcement in Indianapolis

The Indianapolis Star has run a couple interesting stories this week on law enforcement. Yesterday, the article focused on the rash of upcoming retirements at the Police Department and Sheriff's Department. One man quoted in the article says it takes ten years to get a new cop experienced enough to be seasoned. As I read the article, I envisioned all kinds of way these changes in staffing would play out in books.

Then today the article that caught my eye focused on the University of Indianapolis being chosen to be the hub for analyzing surveillance camera footage after terrorist attacks or large crimes. Hundreds of law enforcement officers will also be trained at the University of Indianapolis each year in video analysis. Experts in my own backyard. I love it!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Win a Copy of Calm, Cool & Adjusted

To win your own copy of Calm, Cool & Adjusted, leave a comment below. In that comment tell me why you need a good laugh right now :-)

Kristin Billerbeck was born in Redwood City, California. She went to San Jose State University and majored in Advertising, then worked at the Fairmont Hotel in PR, a small ad agency as an account exec, and then,she was thrust into the exciting world of shopping mall marketing. She got married, had four kids, and started writing romance novels until she found her passion: Chick Lit.

Calm, Cool, and Adjusted is the third book in the Spa Girls Novels.
Billerbeck did a great job with the characterization of Poppy, a quirky Christian chiropractor who is a health nut. I'm talking real NUT. She is so obsessed with health that she forgets about living. When she finally realizes that she is over the edge obsessed, she doesn't know how to stop herself.

Best friends since Johnny Depp wore scissors for hands, "The Spa Girls" live very separate lives, but stay in touch with routine visits to California's Spa Del Mar.

The third novel in the Spa Girls Series focuses on Silicon Valley chiropractor Poppy Clayton, who is as calm, cool and adjusted as they come. Or is she? Known for her bad fashion sense, a love for all things natural and the inability to get a second date, Poppy is beginning to wonder if she might be misaligned herself. Her route to self discovery will be an unnatural one - a plastic surgeon, a dilapidated house in Santa Cruz, a flirtatious client, and a blind date from the dark side.

It's all enough to send a girl - and her gal pals - running for the comfort zone of their spa.

Review: Calm, Cool & Adjusted

This week the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is hosting Kristin Billerbeck's latest book Calm, Cool & Adjusted, the third ad final installment in the Spa Girls series. And the great thing about this book is that you don't have to have read the prior two books (though you'll love them if you do) to fully appreciate this one.

Kristin is one of my favorite Chick Lit authors. Her characters are young women approaching thirty who are ready to move on to more.

In Calm, Cool & Adjusted, Poppy Clayton is losing her spa girls. One is married with a baby on the way and the other has a wedding date set. Feeling a bit like the girl who is always the bridesmaid, Poppy delights in the fact that she is different. As a chiropractor and alternative medicine guru, she focuses all her time and attention on making people well, whether or not they want to hear about her cures. At the same time her spa girls think she's taking it to a new extreme and are concerned about her.

They give her an ultimatum: find a normal date for the wedding and its showers or they will find one for her. Poppy is beautiful but doesn't see it, so rarely makes it past the first date with a guy. There's always something wrong with them, whether liver function or personality. Poppy takes the challenge on...and picks the cosmetic surgeon who's office is next door to hers. Sparks fly everytime they are together. Add in a patient who might want to be more and a set-up courtesy of her spa girls, and Poppy feels like her non-existent love life is spiraling out of control.

Then there's her father who has suddenly left her the run down childhood home.

I found myself laughing (like I expect in one of Kristin's books) but also cringing as a point would hit close to home. This is a great book that I highly recommend to you the next time your looking for a chick lit with heart.

Kristin is guest blogging today at Camy Tang's Loft. Check it out.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Interview is Up

Today I've over at Tina Forkner's blog: One of the strangest things about getting a contract is getting to do interviews. It's really fun and surreal all at the same time. Tina is also running a fun contest on her blog for free books: just submit your rejections stories. Check it out.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Review: Scoop

As I mentioned yesterday, Scoop was a book that I had a little trouble pigeon-holing into a genre. By the time I finished it last night, I decided it was a truly fun read that's best classified as a Rene Gutteridge original. Add a cup of comedy, a pinch of mystery, a dash of romance, and wha la (or however you spell it) you have Scoop.

The book focuses on Hayden Hazard and the impact she has on her colleagues as a Christian, former homeschooler in a newsroom. I have to admit I cringed when I first saw she had been homeschooled. I ducked and waited for all the tired, old stereotypes to fly. But Rene didn't rely on them. Instead, she painted Hayden as a young woman who was comfortable in her own skin, had a gut-level faith that flowed from her naturally (even as it made her colleagues uncomfortable), and had a basic level of common sense and wisdom that much of the world misses these days. Collective sigh of relief.

One interesting handling of Hayden as the focal character is that only the first and last chapters were in Hayden's point of view. The rest were told from various colleagues points of view. There's Gilda, the slightly long in the tooth anchor; Ray, the aggressive, hiding his light Christian reporter; Hugo, the pill popping executive producer; you get the idea. The story picks up as sweeps week descends on the station with the main anchor AWOL, Hayden suddenly sitting in her chair, a sewage plant exploding, and much more. Add Ray's desire to date Hayden and it makes for quite a mix. The characters were interesting, but almost stereotypes yet it worked in this comedy.

If you're looking for a funny read, I think you'll enjoy this book by Rene. If you're looking for suspense, ala her Storm series, this one isn't for you.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


The Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is hosting Scoop by Rene Gutteridge this week. I have been reading and enjoying this book this week. I'll post a review tomorrow. I've decided it is a book that is hard to slide into a genre. I've enjoyed reading it, but it's not suspense, it's not romance, it's not women's fiction. I think it slides into comedy, but it's not straight comedy. It's just a really enjoyable read. But come back tomorrow for more complete thoughts.

Legal Guide for Bloggers

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has developed a legal guide for bloggers. The guide addresses a range of issues, including liability for defamation and privacy violations. As more bloggers are sued for going too far, I encourage you to check out this guide if you are a blogger. Juries have awarded verdicts up to $11.3 million against people who posted libelous and slanderous information on bulletin boards and blogs. It pays to know where the lines are.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Guest Blogging Today

Check it out at Generation NeXt Parenting. The question of the day? Do you have a parenting plan?

Dreamer: Plotting in Two Hours

Last night the kids and I watched part of Dreamer again. If you haven't seen this film with Kurt Russell and Dakota Fanning, I encourage you to rent it.

When I first saw it this spring, I was struck by the way the film is a classic example of story arcs and black moments. Just when things begin to look up, another calamity or roadblock falls on the family at the core of the movie.

Spoiler Alert: if you have not watched the movie, stop reading and go rent it immediately!

First, we get a picture of a family that is down on its luck and a bit dysfunctional because of dead dreams. They live on the only horse farm that doesn't have horses. Kale, Dakota Fanning's character, forces her dad to take her to the race track with him where she has the time of her life...until the horse is injured in a race. Then Dad loses his job while refusing to let the horse be killed. Then they get the horse healed, and are ready to breed her. Boom -- there' s no money to pay for the selected stallion, even though his fee has been slashed. They find the money, then BOOM, she's infertile. Now what? They find out she can run again after she takes off with Kale on her back. Maybe we can race her? She wins a claimer race, surely no one will claim a horse who's broken her cannonbone. BOOM, she's purchased. Somehow they get her back.... You get the picture.

The story is masterfully told with peaks and valleys, building steadily to the ultimate peak and valley. And all packaged in a delightful film that my daughter and I can enjoy together.

So what movie has gripped you lately?

As an aside, the Dreamer website has some interesting family activities you can download. One contains faith and family activities. Another is a theological discussion guide created by Fuller Theological Seminary.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Only in Florida

A postscript to the election in Broward County -- yes, that Broward County. Seems someone mailed in an absentee ballot with a collection of stamps on it. One of those happened to be an inverted Jenny. Problem was that by the time people figured out it might be valuable (in the range of $200,000 uncancelled, $20,000-100,000 cancelled), the ballot envelope was in a sealed box that by law can't be opened for twenty-two months.

The kicker -- the envelope didn't have a name on it, so the vote wasn't counted.

Click here to go to the USAToday story.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Thought for Sunday

"All of God's revealed truths are sealed until they are opened to us through obedience. You will never open them through philosophy or thinking. But once you obey, a flash of light comes immediately . . . If you obey God in the first thing He shows you, then He instantly opens up the next truth to you. You could read volumes on the work of the Holy Spirit, when five minutes of total, uncompromising obedience would make things as clear as sunlight . . . Yet God will never reveal more truth about Himself to you, until you have obeyed what you know already."
--Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, October 10.

Just imagine what would happen in our lives if we applied this principle. Faith step by faith step God will continue to reveal layers of Himself to us.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Review: Lost in NashVegas

Lost in NashVegas exceeded my high expectations of the genre by being fresh yet containing deep themes.

"Last week, I stocked groceries in Freedom, Alabama. This week, I live in Nashville, Tennessee about to take the stage at the famous Bluebird Café.

Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Only one problem. I’m terrified to sing in front of people.

But after twenty-five years of being ruled by fear, hiding from my dream, I confronted my limited reality and left home. Forget the hometown hunk who wants to make me queen of his doublewide. Forget Momma’s doubt-inspiring tirade. I can make it in Music City… Can’t I?

God put the longing to write songs in my heart. If He’s for me, who can be against me? Not even my own fear can overshadow His love. So, I gathered my old guitar, my notebook full of songs and packed up my 㥍 Chevy pickup. Look out NashVegas, the next hit songwriter is coming to town.

With the help of my cousin, and a few new friends, especially handsome contractor, Lee Rivers, my dream finds the light of day. As I face my first night at the Bluebird Café, I realize…

I might just do what comes naturally. Look for the nearest exit, and run!"

Robin Rae McAfee is the main character in this story. She is surrounded by a cast of family and friends who love her even with her phobia that may kill her dream before it sees the light of day. One day she decides it's time to give her dream wings and see if she will soar or fall. Either way she refuses to live with regrets of what might have happened.

This book is a delightful read. I laughed out loud in many places even as my heart ached for Robin in others. Her journey to her dream is not a straight road; instead, twists, turns and do-overs plague the journey. And she learns her past is more intimately connected to her present than she understood. Through it all she reaches an understanding with her mother about her pursuit of her dream and allows herself to fall in love with a man who supports her dream.

The book is written from Robin's point of view in a fresh voice. The descriptions and turns of phrases had me laughing out loud. I also enjoyed the glimpse into the music industry, and Robin's very real reactions to bumping into folks like Keith Urban.

As I read the book I could imagine myself curled up on the couch with Robin, her cousin, and friend watching movies, listening to Robin at open mike nights, or sipping a cafe mocha with her. Her struggles and triumphs reminded me of my experiences, and as I read the page I was more committed to chasing my dreams -- even though the success of Robin's dream isn't assured.

This book was so much fun that I can't wait to read Rachel's other chick lit/romance novels.

Review: Violette Between

Last night I finished Violette Between, the first book I've read by Alison Strobel. I really wasn't sure what to expect, but was intrigued by the backcover copy:

"Between HERE and the PAST there lies a place...a place of longing for> what has been rather than hoping for what could be..."

The copy continues, but that sentence sums up the feel of the book. I would classify it as women's fiction (though I think men would enjoy it, too, if they like Nicholas Sparks) that examines the challenge of a love lived completely but lost colliding with the possibility of new love.

Violette is an artist who lives life with passion and joy. When we first meet her she's headed to work on a mural and seems completely in love with Dr. Christian Roch. Both have loved and lost, and now they are exploring love with each other. Violette seems completely engaged in her new relationship, but we learn she's trapped in between not wanting to let go of what she had with Saul and embracing what she could have with Christian. Christian is equally unsure of how committed Violette is to discovering if there is a "them". Christian brings her lunch at work and finds her lying on the floor.

The rest of the story weaves intricately between Violette's past and Christian's questions about their future. The one hiccup I had with the book occurred when I didn't pay attention to the date headings at the beginning of each chapter. Once I figured out the interplay between the two story lines, I rushed through the chapters because I was so eager to get back to each story.

There is an honest interplay of the issues and choices we each face. Will we choose to live in the past that we know and can predict, or will we step into the unknown of the future with hope and faith that it can be as good as -- though different than -- the past.

I recommend this book to you.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Parents Over-involvement in Kids' Job Hunts

I found an article in Forbes online that had me smiling and cringing at the same time. It seems that more parents are actively involved in their kids' job searches than ever before. And not just asking how the search is going. These parents set up interview, attend interview, complete follow-up letters, etc. Can we say over-involvement! Some say they're just protecting their investment in their kids' education. I say time to cut the apron strings.

What really surprised me is some companies are adapting to this change. Some have parent days or send the parents letters explaining junior's new job. To learn more, click here.

Interview with Rachel Hauck

I’m delighted to have Rachel Hauck, author of the delightful book Lost in NashVegas, join us today. Rachel is a multi-published author living in sunny and sometimes hurricane plagued, central Florida with her husband and ornery pets . She is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a BA in Journalism. Visit her blog and web site at I asked her a few questions about the book, women, and life.

What is one thing you wish each woman in the United States understood about herself? (Nothing like starting easy, huh)

Oh, I love this question. I wish we understood we have a destiny in the universe, in this hour in history, to become the women God wants and needs us to be. Most of us have been trained to be Wannabe Men and the universe is void of the women we need to be. And, if we're not Wannabe Men, we're women not pursing all God has for us.

I say to each women find your dream, find God's destiny for you and run like the wind toward it.

You and your husband are active in youth and prayer ministry. How does that impact or influence the books you write?

Tony recently handed over the youth ministry to a younger man. After 20 years. But it was a God thing. He's now doing foundational teachings and actually started an outreach in the worst part of town.

We do the prayer and worship ministry still. Youth ministry impacts my writing because being around teens keeps me young and up to date with pop culture. Important factor for chick lit.

Being involved in prayer and worship impacts my heart and changes how I see God and myself. My confidence increases. My hope increases. If anything, it provides a foundational emotional stability.

I feel the more I stand in His presence, the more His fragrance is on me and what I write.

Wow! I love that. I want His fragrance all over my writing, too. Now for some easy questions: What's one book you keep returning to over and over again? Why? What makes it a repeat read?

I don't reread many books. But, I've read the Little House books a dozen times. I love Laura Ingalls Wilder. She captures life so purely and from a time we've forgotten as a nation.

Hmmm. I'm discovering I'm unique in the way I love to return to favorite books like old friends. How did you get the idea for Lost in NashVegas? (Fabulous cover, by the way.)

My agent gets full credit, right down to making the heroine a songwriter. She called me one day with an idea - redneck chick lit - and it took me awhile, but I came up with Robin Rae McAfee. I thought, "What if your secret desire is to be a songwriter but your greatest fear is to sing in front of people?" And a story was born.

How would you describe the book? Chick Lit, Romance, a Rachel Hauck original?

I'll go with Rachel Hauck original. I call it Chickmance.

How can we pray for you at this stage in your writing and ministry?

Always pray for wisdom, creative, endurance, and the ability to write as well as I possibly can. A few downloads from God wouldn't hurt either.

I just finished the book. Check back tomorrow for my review.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Some Election Results You may not have Seen

I received an election update this afternoon from the Christian Law Association. It contained an interesting analysis of some of the state initiatives regarding protection of marriage, abortion, and stem cell research. Here's that information:

Marriage Amendments

The good news is that 7 new states joined 20 others in passing state constitutional amendments to protect traditional marriage. Despite massive and often deceptive campaigning by gay activists, in 7 of the 8 states where marriage amendments were on the ballot, they passed in most cases by comfortable majorities. Those seven states and their approximate percentage of approval being reported today are:

Idaho - 63 percent
South Carolina - 71 percent
Tennessee - 80 percent
Virginia - 56 percent
Wisconsin - 59 percent
South Dakota - 51 percent
Colorado - 55 percent

Arizona now becomes the only state which has so far failed to pass a constitutional protection for traditional marriage, although the measure failed by a very narrow margin, being reported today as only 51%.

With the results of this election, 27 state constitutions now protect traditional marriage. In addition to the 7 listed above, they are Alabama, Alaska Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and Utah.

South Dakota Abortion Ban

The news was not as good for the ground breaking South Dakota vote on banning abortion. In a hard fought struggle, that initiative failed by approximately 55 percent. If passed, this initiative would have provided an immediate ban on all abortion in South Dakota in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court and the abortion question is returned to state legislatures.

Missouri Stem Cell Ban

In Missouri, a hard fought battle was waged over a stem cell initiative. The measure passed by a very narrow margin, estimated today at only 51%. Certain types of embryonic stem cell research and cloning will now be permitted in Missouri. Pro life activists had opposed this measure because of the destruction of human life and the lack of positive results for current research using embryonic stem cells. Adult stems cells, which do not require the destruction of the embryo, have so far should much more promise in research efforts to provide important cures and medical treatment

And HUGE congratulations to my friend Adrian Smith who will be the new Congressman from Nebraska's third district. The early results had me biting my ever shortening nails, but he ended up winning by almost ten points. While the rest of the results weren't what I'd hoped last night, I've got a new commitment to get back into politics locally. We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

Don't forget to vote today! And rejoice that we live in a country with the God-given right to actively participate in our government. I think sometimes we forget how incredibly blessed we are to have this form of government and how hard we have to work to maintain it. Voting seems like a small price to pay for that freedom. And as Robin Lee Hatcher said in her blog today, rejoice that campaign ads will be behind us.

Guest Blogging Today

Today I'm the guest blogger at Generation NeXt Parenting. Be sure to check it out, and check back there because I'm going to be a regular contributor over there. And if you're looking for a fresh look at parenting, one that focuses on the parent, check out the book.

Last night I finished the debut novel from Tasha Alexander, And Only to Deceive. You won't find her book in the Christian bookstores, but I found nothing offensive or tasteless in it. Instead, it was an enjoyable read set in late Victorian England. It's styled as a suspense, but really reads more like a mystery with a heavy emphasis on ancient Greek art. So if you're looking for a book that's a bit different from the standard, I think you'll enjoy this one. You can read an excerpt from the book here.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Supreme Court to Look at Partial Birth Abortion

This week the Supreme Court will hear arguments in two cases that address the constitutionality of the federal ban on partial birth abortion that was passed by Congress in 2003. When it passed this legislation, Congress included specific findings that partial birth abortion is never medically necessary. This is key because since Roe v. Wade, the Court has required health exceptions to be included in any state or federal legislation that attempts to limit abortion. Law. com has a very interesting look at the legal arguments (in easy to understand terms) the Court will consider in these cases.

This will also be the first time that the revised Court, with its new Chief Justice and Associate Justice, will address this issue.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Facing the Giants

I have heard some great things about Facing the Giants. Click here to watch the trailer. I'm thrilled that it's coming to my town in a couple weeks. If you're looking for a movie with a strong faith theme, then click here to see if it's coming to a town near you. It looks like this movie is picking up steam, so you may want to check it out if you're looking for a family-friendly movie.

Wishing on Dandelions

It doesn't happen often. I've told you earlier that I was enjoying this book by Mary DeMuth. Today I finished it and I am still thinking about the themes.

Wishing on Dandelions is the second installment in Maranatha's story and picks up about seven years after the first book, Watching the Tree Limbs. Maranatha is now 17 and trying to find out how to live and love in a way that honors God. The only trouble is she feels guilty about her uncle's stroke, angry about the invasion of her new step-aunt, upset that people may know and be telling her secret, and anxious about love and whether she will ever feel free to love someone. She feels marked by the sexual abuse she endured as a child. There is also an under-thread of racial reconciliation. Mary explores these topics with poignancy and authenticity. Burl seems like any other small Texas town -- caught somewhere in its past. When Maranatha has to testify at a trial, her future and past collide.

Maranatha is a three-dimensional character with inner strength she doesn't recognize and enough flaws to make her human. She is surrounded by people who are fleshed out enough to make them seem like people I know.

Mary's way with words is amazing. She describes the setting with vivid words, yet doesn’t overwrite.

This book is probably best classified as women’s fiction because of the residual issues of Maranatha’s childhood sexual abuse. Mary handles this topic in a way that doesn’t demean the depth of the issue.

I highly recommend the book to you.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

New Agent Blog

Thought some of you would be interested to know that Chip Macgregor has launched his blog. Check it out at If you have questions, leave a comment. His website also Enjoy.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Can I Rant a Moment?

It must be Friday at the end of a long week. I feel the need to rant. Shocking, I know, but true.

I will admit up front I don't watch a lot of TV. Several reasons. First, there isn't much worth watching (other than college football of course). Second, I'm crazy busy. And third, did I mention that I love to read? I'd rather spend the time in a good book.

Last night I watched Tuesday's episode of The Unit. Usually, I love that show. And up until the last five minutes it was phenomenal. Up until the last scene, I was engrossed and feeling incredibly patriotic. The show does a wonderful job of showing both sides of military life. Then the writers decided that the love letter from WWII that everyone assumed was left for the man's wife was really left for his army buddy. Ick! Then tonight we're watching Numbers. Again, a show I usually enjoy. Tonight it began with a pretty graphic love scene. Ick Ick Ick. Completely unnecessary, and did I mention ick.

So I'll give each show another week or two, and then move on if the themes continue. Before long I won't watch anything other than the history and real forensic shows.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Great Writing, Anyone?

Last night I went to Taylor University in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, to hear Chip Macgregor speak to one of Doc Hensley's classes. Chip covered a lot of good material about the publishing industry, how to get started, when do you need an agent, and a host of other topics. But the one we talked about on the drive back was what makes a book great?

Chip says you need three things to make it as a writer: great writing, great platform, and great ideas. It's ideal to have the intersection of all three. Not everyone has that. There's not a whole lot I can do about my platform. Sure, I guest blog on several blogs, I contribute to books, but those aren't in the fiction area. I have this blog (thanks to all my good friends and family who read it :-) ). I can work at cultivating good ideas. I can brainstorm with others to take a good idea and then twist it on its head so it avoids over-done cliches.

But writing. That's where I can really work and hone my skills. There are writers where I pick up the book and have to savor it because the word use is perfect. I can tell they invested time and thought into choosing the words the appear on the page. Some are able to combine excellent writing with a great plot.

I am currently savoring Mary DeMuth's Wishing on Dandelions. I just finished one of Colleen Coble's books; she paints such rich settings with her words that I could almost feel the tropical breezes on my face. I aspire to have these ladies skill with words, but also their heart for God. And I can tell you that each of them works HARD at their writing, always aspiring to improve.

What book have you read that had great writing?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Camy Tang's Amazing Contest

Okay, the selfish part of me doesn't want to tell you about this contest. I'd really like to be one of the winners. But you have to check out the contest she is running through the end of January. The prizes are HUGE! Check out this page, but the prizes are as follows:

"1st place winner will receive a copy of my book when it comes out (September 2007), a basket of books by other Christian authors, and one of the brand new 8 GB iPod Nanos. (The winner can also elect to receive a 4 GB colored Nano instead of the 8 GB Nano, which is only available in black.)

"2nd place winner will receive a copy of my book when it comes out, books by other Christian authors, and one of the new, extra-small 1 GB iPod Shuffles

"3rd place winner will receive a copy of my book when it comes out and one of the new, extra-small 1GB iPod Shuffles

"20 Honorable Mentions will receive a copy of my book when it comes out."

So rush over, enter, and dilute my chances of winning!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Greatest Time Waster for Attorneys?

Recently, the ABA's online ABA Journal Report asked lawyers what their greatest time waster was. I found the responses amusing. And had to agree wholeheartedly with the "winning" entry. An attorney from Michigan called the greatest time waster the motion hour that happens once a week where all the judges in the local courthouse schedule their motion hearings at the same time.

I just endured one of those today. Fortunately, today I only had four hearings and two additional matters. The courthouse was amazingly quiet, so I didn't spend more time waiting for another attorney or the judge than I did actually talking to the judge. I actually got quite a bit accomplished. Usually, I am not so lucky. And this day occurs on one of my day's "off." This morning the kids only had to entertain themselves for two hours at the office, but they were troopers.

So what's you biggest time waster -- other than reading blogs of course :-)

Carnival of Writers

Today at the Writer Interrupted blog, you can check out its first carnival. There are some fantastic links to different blogs, many by editors and writers I admire.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

One Night with the King

Eric and I went to see One Night with the King today. Very good! If you're looking for a good film to see, I recommend it. They did a great job of following the Book of Esther, and where they expanded the story, I thought it worked well.

Minimal gore -- other than in the opening scene. One kiss. I'm seriously considering taking Abigail, even though I think some of the themes will go over her head. If any of you have seen this movie, I'd be interested in your views. Comment away :-)
Boy, there are some days I wished I lived in a simpler time. Time when the most technology available was say the printing press. I'm trying to create a blog for the women's ministry at church. Blogger is not cooperating. I helped my husband create one for the men's ministry and thanks to router issues, that took two nights to set-up. With two and a half hours on the line with tech support. Wireless is still down, who knows if or when we'll get the replacement router, and I feel tethered. You wouldn't think a few short weeks would corrupt me, but they did. On to fun notes: I have received several books in the mail this week. I would love to have contests to give them away. But to do that I need you to participate. So, tell me what kind of contests you like. Then I'll select the best vehicle. These are great books, folks! Calm, Cool & Adjusted by Kristin Billerbeck. The Election by Jerome Teel. And many more. So tell me what you like. And then we'll start playing. Have a blessed weekend.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Technology Woes & Book Contests

Boy, there are some days I wished I lived in a simpler time. Time when the most technology available was say the printing press. I'm trying to create a blog for the women's ministry at church. Blogger is not cooperating. I helped my husband create one for the men's ministry and thanks to router issues, that took two nights to set-up. With two and a half hours on the line with tech support. Wireless is still down, who knows if or when we'll get the replacement router, and I feel tethered. You wouldn't think a few short weeks would corrupt me, but they did.

On to fun notes: I have received several books in the mail this week. I would love to have contests to give them away. But to do that I need you to participate. So, tell me what kind of contests you like. Then I'll select the best vehicle. These are great books, folks! Calm, Cool & Adjusted by Kristin Billerbeck. The Election by Jerome Teel. And many more. So tell me what you like. And then we'll start playing.

Have a blessed weekend.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday Freebies

I just saw these articles and had to post them. They crack me up!

A Canadian woman has won the fastest mouth award at some auctioneer conference. Can you just imagine judging that contest!?!?!

And a chicken showed up at a Bloomington, Indiana city council meeting. Open the Indy Star webpage and the picture is the first thing you see. It looks like Big Bird showed up to discuss a proposal regarding chicken coops within city limits. Don't ya love it!

So what crazy "news" story have you seen recently?

Affirmative Action in the News

Last night I spent over two hours on the phone with internet tech support (EXTREMELY frustrating) after a fabulous two hours brainstorming new plots (thanks so much, gals!). If you've never brainstormed and played the "what if" game, you really have to try it. You just never know what great ideas will be generated and who of your characters will have to be killed for the sake of the plot.

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION is back in the news in Michigan. In 2003 a ground-breaking case was handed down by the Supreme Court which started picking away at affirmative action. In that case the court held that the University of Michigan could continue to use its affirmative action policy at its law school but struck down the undergraduate policy as too rigid because it awarded admission points based on race. This case was big news and much discussed in conservative circles.

The ballot initiative grew out of that court case. Next month the voters in Michigan will decide on election day whether to prohibit the state from using any form of affirmative action when making decisions. According to Forbes, similar measures were approved in Washington State and California.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Speaking of Elections: Interview and Review

I have written about The Election by Jerome Teel before. I was personally excited to see someone writing about the intersection of law and politics. Jerome does a great job with that in this book. To me it has the feel of Tom Clancy’s political subplots or a Grisham political thriller.

A lawyer is one of the main characters, but the book is populated with an array of people who step on and off the stage. The chapters flow quickly from one point of view to another, and keep the plot hopping between presidential campaigns, a murder investigation, and more. The other thing I like about the book is that some of the characters are Christians, but nothing in that feels forced. But if you are looking for a strong Christian message, you won't find it in the first half of the book but keep reading. (For more on this discussion check out Brandilyn Collins' Forensics and Faith this week.) This afternoon, Jerome answered a few questions about his book and how he writes. Enjoy!

Jerome, The Election has a Clancy (minus the military plots) or Grishom feel to it. Is that what you were going for? I've never really thought about The Election having a Clancy feel. I do like the legal thrillers that Grisham writes and wanted it to lean in that direction with more of a redemptive element.

What gave you the general idea for the plot? What was the germ or spark behind the idea? The plot sort of determined itself. I knew how I wanted the manuscript to begin and end. In between, the characters took on lives of their own and I just wrote as I saw things play out. I can't write with an outline. That may sound strange to some people and I don't mean that there is no structure at all. I do have some limited structure and as I get into a manuscript I go back and outline what I've written. That helps me remember where the characters have been so I'll know where they are going. I also keep a timeline of the events that transpire in the manuscript.

I'm still finding my style. I tend to plot like crazy until I start writing and then the characters take over. So how do you find time to write as a practicing attorney? Finding time to write was extremely difficult when I wrote The Election. It was some better when I wrote the manuscript for The Divine Appointment. I primarily write late at night. With The Election it was written almost exclusively from about 10:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. When I got to the point that I could see the end, I took a few days off from the office and finished. My practice, and technology, has evolved over the last several years. I still write primarily at night, but now I have the luxury of logging into the office from my home computer. So I can be at home writing but at the same time staying on top of what's happening at the office with e-mail and instant messaging.

My writing time is very similar. I'm not really a night owl, but that seems to be the only time to write. So how does being an attorney help you as a writer? Writers have to write about things they know. As a lawyer, I know about the law and that certainly helps with that element in my stories. Also, being a lawyer helps with the analytical thinking that writers must possess. Fiction must be credible to be effective and I believe it takes some analytical thinking to make sure the story stays credible.

I see you have another book coming out next summer. Can you give us a quick synopsis of The Divine Appointment? The Divine Appointment centers around a political battle over a nomination to the Supreme Court. As with The Election, there is also a strong redemptive thread woven into the storyline. I'm right in the middle of the editing for this manuscript, and I'm really excited about it. It has some great characters and it reads well. In fact, it may actually read better than The Election. The hook is set in the first line and the story moves rapidly to the end. I think readers will enjoy it when it comes out in June, 2007.

Thanks for joining us, Jerome!

Elections Carry a Big Pricetag

Make that gigantic. Out of this world. Almost impossible to wrap your mind around.

The Center for Responsive Politics, a DC based non-profit, estimates that this year's election (coming up in less than two weeks) will cost $2.6 Billion. Yep, that's not a typo. That really is B as in Billion. I don't know about you, but by the time a number has that many zeros, it's really hard for me to fathom. And that estimate is only on the 472 federal races -- doesn't take into account all the state races.

Politics has become so expensive that it prevents many people who would be interested in running from doing so.

So how would you use that $2.6 Billion?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Weirdness Factor?

How weird are you? Webster defines weird as "of fate or destiny, ...strikingly odd...eccentric or unconventional in behavior." I like to think of myself as unique, not weird. Ah, well, Tricia Goyer tagged me on a weirdness Meme (still not sure what that means!). So what are five ways I'm weird, I mean unique?

1) I know what a Runza is and love them (the link's for you, Camy);
2) I think I would have fit in really well in the 1930s and 1940s, I love the movies and time period;
3) Audrey Hepburn: love the clothes and styles. Can we go back to that classic style, please?
4) I was homeschooled, much more common now than it was when we started in 1985-86;
5) I married my first love.

See? I prefer unique to weird. So what makes you unique? :-)

Monday, October 23, 2006

How Shopping Savvy are You?

Saw an interesting article featured on Tricia Goyer's Generation NeXt Parenting blog today. The article focuses on the results of a survey commissioned by Tierney Communication on the spending habits of JenX, the female portion of Generation X. Now that many of us are sliding into our 30s, we're growing up in more ways than one. We're learning to shop for bargains, getting out of college debt, and taking charge of our credit cards. Check out this quote:

"Women 30-39, many of whom were raised by first wave working Boomer mothers, have endured a latchkey childhood, divorced parents and have entered adulthood with debt in a highly competitive job market. But these women posses a toughness and brand savvy that marketers should take notice of.

"According to the Tierneyxy survey, JenX is the most concerned about debt of any age group. A full 61 percent indicate they are concerned about debt, with 41 percent saying paying down debt is their number-one priority, the highest of any age group."

The article talks about our switch to bargains. Mom trained me well to start at the back of the store where the clearance racks stand. I have a really hard time paying full price for anything. Where's the fun of the hunt in that? While Abigail and I were in Florida, we went to an outlet mall. Love those places. At Osh Kosh B'Gosh, I spent $60 on shirts and jeans, and saved $165. I would never go looking for Osh Kosh B'Gosh in the mall, but at $4.00 for great overalls for Abigail, I scooped them up.

So what about you? Does this article reflect your experience?

Things I love about my husband

OOPS! Eric pointed out this morning that he isn't on my earlier list. Big, glaring OOPS. (Tricia, here's an example for Generation NeXt Parenting!) I really thought he was there. Sigh.

So here's my top ten list of things I LOVE about Eric:
  1. He loves God whole-heartedly.
  2. He loves me :-)
  3. He loves football as much as I do.
  4. He is a phenomenal Dad to our kids.
  5. He's a good friend...and cautious about those he invests time in.
  6. He's an avid reader.
  7. He's a great help when I need a plot twist.
  8. He's a great provider for our family.
  9. He's a phenomenal fundraiser.
  10. And he's an excellent listener.

So if you haven't got the picture, I am blessed among women and very grateful that God brought a girl from Nebraska and a boy from Indiana to the same leadership conference in Nebraska in 1990. Only He could have orchestrated that!

What do you love about your spouse?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

One Night with the King

I just found out that the movie One Night with the King is out (click on the link to go to the trailer). I loved the book, Haddasah: One Night with the King, and posted a review of it on June 26th. So if you're looking for a flick to see, you might check this one out. I know I will be! Here's a chance to support a film that is based on Biblical stories and values.

Things I love

The ACFW online course this month is a mini-course in life coaching. What do we value and are we reinforcing that in the way we live. One of the exercises had me looking at what I do and matching it against what I love. So here's a short list of the things I love:
  • Connecting with old friends (Hi, Gideon).
  • Snuggling with my kids and a fun book.
  • Spending time with my family in Nebraska
  • Writing: I love the back and forth process it is: it pushes me to a place of depending on God unlike anything since law school.
  • Leading women in Bible studies: I love watching what God can do
  • Runza onion rings. Yum!
  • Teaching. I love breaking principles down and explaining them in a way people can get and actually use.
  • Using my skills in a way that serve God

These are a few of my favorite things :-)

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Practice of Law

There are days I love being a practicing attorney. Yesterday was one of them. I spent the morning in a deposition with opposing counsel who have actually been pretty easy to work with. We have the larger portion of the case settled and will likely do the same with the rest of the case as well. After that concluded I drove to federal court for a settlement conference. Got that one resolved, too. The client is very happy, and I know it's a good outcome for the client. That feels very satisfying.

Then today I counsel several people about problems with relationships gone awry, for whatever reason. These are the harder cases. I see my role as helping people turn a bad situation into as much good as possible. Sometimes, that change is dramatic. Other times, it's simply walking through the process with them. Invariably, these are the cases I think and pray about when I'm not at the office.

Law, like much of life, involves an array of personalities. And God certainly uses the full spectrum to teach and mold me. Now back to client calls.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Night with Amy Tan

Sometimes I really don't understand blogger. I had a perfectly lovely post written and ready to post, when POOF, it disappeared. I guess this is why I'm supposed to draft the posts in another program. SIGH!

Anyway, tonight Eric and I took advantage of the fact we live in a city with a major Big 10 University (I'll give you three guesses). We attended a lecture with Amy Tan, author of books like The Joy Luck Club and Swimming With Fishes. I haven't read any of her books yet, but Eric and I agreed we'd have to check one out after listening to her speak for a little over an hour. She had a great conversational style and kept the audience engaged.

Sprinkled among the stories from her life were snippets about writing. My ears perked up for those. Did you know she got an agent based on a short story published in a small magazine? The agent called her for goodness sakes! And the agent got six offers from publishing houses on The Joy Luck Club, an unwritten manuscript! It doesn't happen that way, folks.

Okay, back to the writing nuggets. Writers ask and are motivated by questions. Why? What would happen if? How do things happen? But the most ingenious answer won't impact readers unless it is written in such a way that it is felt. The way Ms. Tan put it was that fiction is getting at the things you can't get at other ways. Whether it's exploring levels in our lives or the world around us, our writing must go deep.

So what books have you read lately that lead you to feel the emotions and setting? Why?


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