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.


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