Sunday, September 27, 2009

Comes an Interview

I've been promising to do an author interview and book giveaway with thriller author Robert Liparulo for some time, but due to time constraints on both our parts, we haven't done one yet. However, stay tuned! In early October, I plan to post the interview, a review of some of his novels, and a chance to win a paperback copy of COMES A HORSEMAN.

October is the perfect time for this. COMES A HORSEMAN is downright terrifying, and establishes Liparulo as one of the premier bestselling thriller authors of this generation.

So stay tuned! Author interview coming soon! In the meantime, if you just can't wait, follow the widget to buy copies of his exciting novels!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dealing with Distractions

Are you one of those people who can set a goal, lay out the plans, and then forge ahead, keeping on until you finish? Or are your projects something you start with joy and then, due to one thing or another, keep putting aside and never completing? If the latter is true, distractions may be getting the better of you.

I think the fact that my last post was in early June shows where I am: definitely in the distractible camp. To determine where you stand, I’ve made up the following little test.

You May Be Distractible If:

  • You’re in the middle of preparing a fancy dinner. The phone rings, you run to answer it, and forget all about dinner until you smell something burning…
  • You’re on hold with Customer Service when your child runs in carrying a skunk. You shriek, drop the phone, and try to get both child and skunk outdoors without alarming the skunk (unless it’s already too late for that). The first time you remember you were finally about to speak with a live human being on the phone is when you finally make it back to find the phone on the floor making strange noises indicating you should hang up.
  • You’re in the middle of writing a really great story, when suddenly another story idea pops into your head. You abandon the story you’re writing and start working on the second idea. When (or if) you get back to the first story, you no longer remember where you were going with it, and you’ve lost all your momentum. To quote the old song, “the thrill is gone.”

If you’re a writer, you can probably identify with the last, at least. What can you do about the allure of a new idea? Just give in? Keep on without paying it any mind and risk losing it to that vast wasteland of escaped ideas?

  • If the idea is quick and ephemeral, write it down before it escapes and then get back to work on your work in progress.
  • If the idea comes almost completely fleshed out with characters, plotlines, and a sense of urgency, mark your place in the work in progress and make a general outline of where it was headed. Then stop and work on the new idea. (By making notes for the current work, you’ll be able to come back to it later without forgetting where you intended to go next.)

There have been times I’ve had to abandon one story for another and neglected to make notes of where I intended to go next. Some I’ve been able to complete, but some are still languishing in the “I’ll finish it later” pile.

Most important suggestion: pray about it. Ask the Lord whether the new idea is a gift from Him, or a distraction to keep you from finishing what He has you writing now. Let His Spirit speak to yours. Then you’ll know what to do!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Little Things

I just discovered something about myself this week: I'm really dependent on the Internet and e-mail. Being able to connect with friends and family is very important to me! I found out because my Internet Service Provider went bankrupt.

Now, if I'd been getting my e-mail through the ISP, I'd have known this in time to prevent an interruption of service. However, since we have another e-mail service we preferred to that one, we never checked it. At all.

My point here is that sometimes we need to check on the things we don't think are important. Sometimes little things can affect us in profound ways. I'm not saying that our life was miserable for the four days we were without access to the 'net and our e-mail. I actually got quite a bit of work done that might otherwise have been neglected. However, like the tithes of cumin and mint, we ought to have done that and not left the other undone...

Is there some little thing in your life that you've been neglecting? Something small you may not think is important? If so, pray about it. Maybe it's something that means the world to someone else.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Yourtown Directory

Whether or not you're planning to write a series, having a phone directory for your characters and the places they shop can be handy for you. Think-about your town's phone book. It will not only have the name and phone number, but also the address, the town (if it covers more than one metropolitan area), and sometimes the zip code. While I don't advocate using something that could be an actual phone number (in case anyone ever gets hold of your directory), the ever-popular prefix 555 can be a substitute that won't get you in hot water with real people.

You may want to divide your character phone directory into categories, just like the real thing: White Pages for home listings, Yellow Pages for businesses, Government Pages for things like City Hall, the Fire Department, Police or Sheriff's Department, etc. You can get as creative as you wish, but you don't have to get elaborate. This is just a guide for you, the writer. I do suggest putting letters in (A, B, C, etc.) for the surnames, and, just like a real phone book, put Surname first, followed by First & Middle names or initials.

I've started one for my small town where I hope to set a series of books. I have all of the above. My "Yellow Pages" aren't yellow, but I did divide the business listings from the personal listings. I scoured my manuscript, and every time I ran across a new name, I listed it in my directory. (That's one neat thing: you don't have to worry about having unlisted characters!) That way, they're there for future reference. I also added surnames for just about every letter in the alphabet, so I have plenty of room to be creative in adding future characters.

While you're in the process of creating your town or city is a great time to start a directory. However, if you already have several books in your series, it isn't too late. It may be a little more time-consuming, adding in the characters and their addresses and phone numbers, but it will help you in the long run.

Happy world-building!

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Today is Mother's Day in the United States. I've been thinking a lot about motherhood. It's something I've missed, and that sometimes makes me sad. I've missed a lot of joy. A lot of sorrow, too, I know, but in this life you have to take the bad with the good.

I have a wonderful mother. She's a good friend, not only to me, but to everyone who knows her. She's always been a great example, not only of motherhood, but womanhood in general. She taught me what it means to be a friend, to live my faith, to hold on to what's important... I hoe you have a mom like mine. It's a blessing.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Our RV is finally back in the place where it belongs. Our cousin helped us get it set up properly, perfectly aligned (probably for the first time in its life), and hooked up to the water & electricity. There was only one thing wrong: no power.

When we moved here, we had the lines set up to run from the old house out to the RV site. Everything worked just fine. After our last trip, however, something was wrong. I checked the power cord, but there was nothing wrong with it. I checked the circuit breakers. Again, they were all in good shape. The fuses looked fine. I decided the problem must be at the source.

When I went over to the house, I opened the breaker box. Sure enough, the breakers had flipped. So, I switched them back on and plugged in a lamp to check. Still nothing!

When I called the electric company, I was sure the problem was with the line. We'd had a horrendous thunderstorm last year that took out our transformer, which they'd replaced. The man who called back checked the line. It was hot. Power was going to the house. It just wasn't doing anything when it got there.

We thought we'd have to hire an electrician to come out and work on it, since I couldn't find the master switch anywhere. I thought I'd have to replace the circuit breakers because something had to be wrong with them. I also knew there had to be a master switch somewhere, because otherwise, it wouldn't be safe to work on the wiring.

Today, some linemen came by. The electric company is going to be replacing the power lines through the valley, and they wanted to let us know about it, besides asking which was the best way to get down to the pole. While they were here, I told them about our problem with the little house, and they agreed to look at it for me. Sure enough, they were able to find the master switch just fine and flip on the power to the inside of the old house and the RV site. I switched on the two newest circuit breakers, and the power was back on! Amazing! After we'd thanked them, they went ahead to check the wiring down the valley.

I went on over to the RV and checked. Sure enough, the lights were on! (I turned them off.) While I was there, it struck me:

What I'd done was a lot like religion.

  • I checked all the connections.
  • I made sure all the fuses were good.
  • I turned on all the appropriate circuit breakers.
  • Everything should have worked. And there was only one reason why it didn't: no power.
In the same way, we can be doing all the right things, making sure everything is plugged in and turned on, and trying to psych ourselves into having a connection with God or whoever we worship, but without the power to make it happen.

The Creator of the Universe designed things to work in a particular fashion. He planned from the beginning how to correct our lack of judgment and rebellious natures. He decided to become one of us, cramming Himself into a tiny embryo in the womb of a virgin, the "Seed of the Woman." Only by bypassing having a human father could Jesus be born without sin. Sin is in our blood. Science has proven that we get our blood from our father, not our mother. We have our father's blood type. We get our DNA from both sides, so Jesus carried His mother's human DNA, and His Father's divine DNA. In order to rescue us from our impossibly sinful nature, He chose to become human, only sinless, so that He could become the sin-sacrifice for us, cleaning us once and for all in ways other blood sacrifices never could.

Jesus became our power switch, our connection to the Father. Without Him, we can play church and do all the right things where people think we're all right, but there's nothing to back it up. The lamps are all there, they've got lightbulbs, but there's no light. He's our light, and the power for us to shine as He does.

If you're just going through the motions, attending a church or some other form of religious activity and thinking that's all there is, plug into the Power Source today. He's just waiting to supply all your needs, especially to drive the darkness away and bring you into His eternal light.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Characters---How much information is too much?

This is never an easy question for writers who fall in love with their characters, who turn them into real people in character-driven novels. (Of course, in the plot-driven novel, the characters are sometimes little more than game pieces to be moved about at the author's whim.)

If you're writing the character-driven novel, the temptation will be to put in every single loving detail you've crafted. Before you do, though, ask yourself how important it is for your readers to know that the protagonist only uses peppermint-flavored toothpaste and won't abide spearmint, that he only shops on alternate Thursdays (unless it works into the plot), or that his aunt's second cousin twice removed is flying to Europe (unless the cousin is part of the plot).

The trick with writing, whether it be novels or short stories (but especially in short stories), is to know what to leave out. There's no easy way to know what is too much information, but here's a simple rule of thumb:
If it isn't moving the story forward, it can probably be cut.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Flora & Fauna in Your Novel or Story Setting

This may be something you take for granted, but if you are writing something set in a different area or historical period, the types of plants and animals in the area can add or detract from your story. You may think you know your setting inside and out, but even if you only refer to another area, you could easily mistake one type of animal or bird for another. (Unless this is a clue in a mystery, say, for example, a character supposedly from South America talking about the emus instead of the rheas and that giving the clue that they're not from there after all.) One Regency author I read a number of years ago gave herself away as an American by refering to a bluejay. England has jays, but they aren't blue.

One thing you can do is get bird & plant guides (from the library or used bookstore if you're strapped for cash). Don't automatically refer to something and think you're right about it. (Remember that scene in "Mary Poppins," where the "robin" is an American Robin, not an English one?!)

If your book has an historical setting, make certain that the birds & animals you put into your book were there at that time. Migration patterns and habitats change. Species become extinct. Checking your facts can keep you from making a blunder that will have readers either laughing or grinding their teeth.

Make your research fun. Challenge yourself. You'll be glad you did!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Orient Yourself

That handy-dandy, seldom-used-any-more phrase comes from the days when maps had East at the top instead of North. To make sure you were headed in the right direction, you turned east, holding the map, until things lined up. The sport of orienteering, lining things up and finding your way with only a map & compass, takes its name from that time, as well.

What does that have to do with writing, you ask? Well, take this scenario: You've written a book. The hero is driving south on Main Street, and suddenly, coming out from behind a cloud, the sun gets in his eyes, setting directly in front of him. Ummmm... Oops.

Maybe nothing this extreme has ever happened to you, but if you'll take the time to make a map of your book's main location, it won't ever have to! It doesn't have to be anything fancy, or rival the ones on the internet or in atlases. A few simple lines can keep you from having your character go out the door of the department store on First Street, having gone in the same door on Seventh Avenue.

I just "drew" a map of a town I've called Fictionville, using MS Paint. You don't need a computer program, although you could use a mapping program or a drawing program. Sometimes the simplest is the best. Try a pencil & paper, and just give yourself a rough idea where all the buildings in your setting are located. Here's my sample:
Though barely legible, at least it will give you an idea. It doesn't have to be much. No one ever has to see it except you (unless you decide some day to include a map in your books, the way many authors of fictional towns have done, and have it sketched again, either by you or a professional artist). It'll keep you from mentioning the apartments between First & Second Avenue, when they're between Second and Third, or from visiting the library on Fiction Street when it's on Main.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

World Building

When we got one of our older computers (longer ago than I care to remember!), it came with a fun program called "Sim Town." Using this game program, I could build little towns with schools, fire stations, police departments, roads, houses, shops, parks, and all kinds of neat things. I miss having it to play with.

However, as writers, we can invent as many towns and cities as we like. For my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) book of 2007, I revisited a small town I'd invented for a script back a while and never forgotten. Set in the southeast corner of Arizona, not too far from Benson, Tombstone, etc., it's in an area where we have spent a lot of time, so I was already familiar with the topography, climate, flora & fauna.

So, if you write, what do you do when you're inventing a town? Do you write about something that could fit into the area where you live, or into a place where you've taken lots of vacations? Do you put it someplace impossibly romantic, like Ruritania or Lissenberg, fictional European countries?

Over the next few blog posts, I'm going to recount a little of what I've been doing to help me create continuity, so that when I write more than one book set in the area (I'm already writing another one), I won't make any serious mistakes, like giving the heroine's best friend black hair when she's a blonde, putting the diner across the street from the gas station when it's closer to the hardware store and marshal's office, or forgetting which direction from the main part of town you have to go to reach the school and the airstrip. Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Questions for Readers

If you consider yourself a reader, what sort of books do you like to read? What makes you, the reader, satisfied with a book. Here's a little questionnaire to help writers write better, just for you!
  • Do you read literary fiction, genre fiction, or both?
  • If you read genre fiction, do you read just one genre or more than one?
  • What are your favorite genres?
  • What do you like and/or dislike in a fictional Hero?
  • What do you like and/or dislike in a fictional heroine?
  • Are there any plots you especially like in a book? Why?
  • Are there any plots you especially dislike in a book? Why?
  • What makes you first pick up a book?
  • What makes you put a book down without finishing it?
Please feel free to post your answers. I'll look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Okay, so the ice is a little hard to see in this tiny picture, but ordinarily you can't see the branches of the trees much when they are leafless. So far, we haven't lost power, for which we're praising God, but some people in town have. It's currently above freezing, but supposed to drop below and be frozen tonight & tomorrow..... Slippery!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year?

2008 went by in a blur. So many things happened that it's hard to keep track. I wrote two books, for one thing. Yes, really. I'm amazed, too.

I'm not going to go into a huge reminiscence about 2008. I'm looking forward to this year. So many possibilities. So many opportunities. A new year in which to get things right.

So what are my hopes for 2009? I hope that you, whoever you are, wherever you are, will find real hope for the future, in the Biblical sense of "steadfast assurance." I hope that you will decide not to let circumstances get in your way or get you down. I hope that you will learn the true meaning of joy, not just happiness. I hope you find your joy in the Lord.

With that said, I wish for you, not an ephemerally "happy" new year, but a blessed one!