Sunday, June 28, 2009

Writing and Wildlife

Last week I took some time away for a bit of writing. Now, I will admit I didn't get a ton of writing done, but I sure had a great time watching the wildlife from the window.

To the right is a raccoon stealing some birdseed. Then she turned to look at me. (I could tell it was a "she"
because she wasn't wearing a nursing bra. )

A squirrel, finches, quail, hummingbird and wild flowers. There's nothing like nature to bring out the writing muse.

Hey, remember I live in Las Vegas. (The wildlife here is much different than this--smile! )

I love God's beautiful world.
Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare. Psalm 40:5.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday--The Writers' Porch--Finding Your Voice (Part 2)

Find Your Own Voice (Part 2)

Several years ago I bumped into an acquaintance that I had made at a She Speaks Conference. Lisa Richardson had been an attendee and I had taught one of the workshops at She Speaks. We met again at the International Christian Retailers Conference in Georgia. We were both sitting in the Harvest House hospitality room waiting to pitch our books to editors. Lisa recognized me and we began to chat about our book proposals. We reconnected as writers and our friendship blossomed.

She was pitching a book that told some of her very unique life experiences. (I can’t remember what I pitched—it was rejected.) Lisa’s book sounded great. I thought she would get a contract for sure, but she didn’t for that book.

However, after a few months Lisa began to feel that she needed to pursue a different genre. She decided that the Lord was leading her to write a book about tea. Obediently, she switched gears and became an expert on tea. About five years later, my friend has completed two contracts with Harvest House for gift books on tea. Why? Because although she had a great book the first time, God’s purpose for her was completely different. She listened to His voice and found her voice in the publishing world. Her first book just released—Tea with a Twist.

For myself, I felt for years that I was called to write Bible studies. Also, the Lord had placed in my heart the seed for a devotional book for parents of wayward children. I trudged to writers’ conference after writers’ conference with my proposals in my hand and pitched them. Repeatedly I heard, “Bible studies and devotionals are almost impossible for a new author to receive a contract on—publishers only want a recognized name.”

I didn’t give up. I felt that this was the direction the Lord was leading me at the time. It was. My first contract was for Perplexing Proverbs: A Woman’s Study and my second was for Birds in My Mustard Tree: How to Grow Faith.

Finally, my 3rd was the devotional book, Divine Prayers for Despairing Parents. Honestly, I cannot tell you how many times Divine Prayers was rejected, but God’s timing is always perfect. I was able to perfect my voice of writing and truly write from the depths of my own heart.

I want to encourage every writer who has received the heart-piercing rejection letter to keep writing, stay submitting, and continue to search for your personal voice and genre. Allow the Lord to steer you in another direction. Perhaps you want to write fiction, but He may direct you to a non-fiction book. Or maybe a devotional is your heart’s desire, yet God may want you to write a children’s book.

Here’s my best advice on searching for your own voice—listen to God’s. Proverbs 3:6, Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (NLT) Amen!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Babbling about Books--Thursday--The 4 A.M. Breakthrough

The 4 A.M. Breakthrough
Brian Kiteley
Publisher: Writers’ Digest Books

My husband states I am addicted to books—all kinds. But I admit that books on how to write top my list of favorites. Last week I told you about This Year You Write Your Novel. Today I want to sing the praise of a great tool to overcome writers’ block. Its title is The 4:00 A.M. Breakthrough by Brian Kitely.

It gives 200 stimulating ideas to jump start your writing. It’s great for those days when you look at the screen, nothing creative creeps into your thoughts, so you decide it might be a good time to play a few rounds of Solitaire.

In addition, I think it's great to help practice your writing in general. If you are a beginning writer, these short assignments will be great practice. If you are a professional writer, they are fun to do because they are creative—without a deadline.

Here’s a partial excerpt to give you an idea of what The 4 A.M. Breakthrough is like in content.

Birth Order: Write a fragment of fiction about a three-sibling family. The youngest and the middle children battle the oldest for something. This should be a war of wits, not fists, or hair pulling. 500 words. (Kiteley page 221).

If you’re a writer and like this type of exercise, this is a great book. There are many books along this line to help break through writers’ block, but The 4:00 A.M. Breakthrough is more on the literary side. It is available through Amazon along with many other books published by Writers’ Digest books specifically to enhance the craft of writing.

See you tomorrow on The Writer’s Porch.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Just a Spoonful of Sugar

Do your remember Mary Poppins singing, "Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down." Humpf! Tell that to my three-year-old granddaughter who just had her tonsils out. At this point she doesn't care how much sugar or flavoring is in it. She's not swallowing nothin'!

Which brings me to another point. Everytime I go to the pharmacy I read a sign with a smile child that states, "Get your medicine in your favorite flavor--cherry, lime, or grape. My question is, do we want children to "like" medicine? Or perhaps it might be worthwhile for it to taste nasty. Hmmm...just a thought since I have two adult friends who like prescription drugs way too much.

And on another note, I went to the dermalogist for an overall skin check. He says, "My, you have a lot of sun damage." (Really, I was a sun worshipper for years and I live in Las Vegas.)

Then he says, "I have a wonderful cream that will rejuvenate your skin. It's by prescription only." He proceeds to tell me all the miraculous things this will do for me--makes it sound like I will look 25 again.

Sold! He writes me the prescription and advises I fill it at Walmart since it won't be covered by insurance.

Okey Dokey! Off I traipse to Wally World. I wait for 30 minutes. I go to pick it up and the clerk looks at me and says, "We don't have it in stock, we have to order it. Plus, it will be $177.00."

Eeek! I told her never mind. I will just go back to my Oil of Olay. Maybe I'll add some sugar to it and make a facial sugar scrub.

Monday, June 22, 2009

If It's Not One Thing

Yesterday was Father's Day. My husband and I spent it lounging around. He went motorcycle riding, read the Sunday paper and watched the US Open -- a great day for him. Later, he took me to Borders for a great cup of coffee and we split a double chocolate cupcake. Yummy.

Later, my sister called to let me know that my beloved step-mom had been taken to the emergency room. To make a long story short, after hours and much testing in the emergency room, they sent her home. I think she is going to be fine and someone is staying with her tonight. I wish I could be there, but I am 500 miles away.

Tomorrow my chickadee peep, Emily, is having her tonsils out. Oh, I wish I could be with her, but she is 1700 miles away. Thankfully, our Father's eyes are on the sparrow--both young and old.

Thank you, Father, for being a great Dad always.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday--The Writers' Porch--Find Your Own Voice

Find Your Own Voice (Part 1)

As a writer one of the most difficult things to accomplish is finding your own voice. Beginning writers muddle around with tone and phrasing, many times copycatting another writer that they admire. They mimic words, phrasing, and structure that they read and attempt to sound just like ________________________________. (Fill in the blank with a famous author.)

I certainly went through this phase. Honestly, I still struggle with it. Just today I was reading Little Bee by Chris Cleave and thought “Ooooh, I love this writing. Hmmmm, I must study it more.” Well, first of all, Chris Cleave is a man, Englishman, raised in Africa and married to a French woman. I doubt that my muse is going to sound like his at all . . . sigh.

I admit going through my Beth Moore craze and wanting to write with passion and wit. My first book, I used the phrase, “Beloved," blah, blah, blah. My editor said, “Are you kidding me? No way are we using the term, “Beloved” when talking to the reader.” He was right. I would have sounded ridiculous since I am not Beth Moore . . . sigh. Then there was the Anne Lamott phase, but how can you write like Ms. Lamott without intentional vulgarity . . . sigh again. My dreams of writing like Philip Yancey deteriorated after I realized that I do not have his intellect or the time to write a treatise on why bad things happen in a world that a sovereign God controls—big sigh. I think you see my history as a writer.

But remember, writers write. And if you are going to discover your own voice you must write, write and write. Eventually words that are yours begin to appear on the screen, and they sound like you. Now, after many years of writing, I am told frequently that whenever one of my devotions come up on Encouragement for Today (Proverbs 31 Ministries) someone begins to read it and recognizes me as the author--before they see my name. I am beginning to find my own voice.

In addition, as I write, edit, and revise I am much more adept at detecting when I am writing in an artificial tone. It’s as if a loud clang goes off in my head and then I think, “Who wrote those words?”

Let me close today with this final thought on finding your own voice in writing. I do not believe that we are locked into one emotional voice of writing. I can write in a dead serious tone, but I can also write droll little pieces that make people laugh. But “my voice” still comes through.

Next Friday, we will chat about another way of finding your voice in writing which includes deciding what genre and type of material you desire to write. Until then, I have a little assignment for you. Browse through your own writing and see if you detect any authors that you have consciously or subconsciously copycatted. Try to rewrite these manuscripts from your personality and writer’s voice.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Babbling About Books--Thursday--This Year You Write Your Novel

This Year You Write Your Novel
Walter Mosely
Publisher: Machette Books

This year I plan to write a young adult novel. Well, that was the plan on January 1st, but I got bogged down and couldn’t seem to figure out how to get the words onto paper. Fiction is a new genre for me. I will definitely stick to non-fiction for publication, but writing this novel is one of my dreams.

Anyway, I found a great book to jump start the fiction writer—This Year You Write Your Novel. The book's fast-paced format makes it an easy read. Mosely touches briefly on each of the elements of fiction—plot, story, character, and voice. My favorite part was the voice of the narrator. I learned a lot!

If you want to know more about the craft of writing, this is a quick book to jump start your motivation. Now do I want to use a metaphor or a simile?

This Year You Write Your Novel is like a jumper cable: from the book to your brain to your computer.

See you tomorrow on the The Writer’s Porch.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Crossroads (An Excerpt)

Crossroads (An Excerpt from Divine Prayers for Despairing Parents)

This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls…” (Jeremiah 6:16)

My child stands at several crossroads in life. First, he glances down the road of faith. Next, he stares at the path of peer pressure. “Stop” and “Go” flash in my son’s intersection of life. Each decision will affect his future.

I realize he must feel torn between the two corridors of life. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, he considers both ways. I attempt to signal yellow cautions in the moments he turns to look at me. I coax. We argue. I post Scripture on the fridge. He shrugs. Scarecrow friends point to an opposite direction.

Today he cares little about the distant mirage of “the future.” Parental fears engulf my thoughts. I recall, Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it (Proverbs 22:6). I attempt to squelch the worry. The faith training my child received will not falter.

Suddenly, I comprehend my own crossroad. Will I trust or fear? Trust does not come naturally for me when I lose control of my child’s life-changing decisions.

Crossroads create opportunities to trust God. I choose trust.

Dear Father, my child stands at the crossroads of life. I pray for ­­­__________to search for the ancient paths of faith. Father, guide ___________ heart to where the good way is and then keep my child on that path. Father, may __________find rest for his/her soul. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Kindergartern of Maturity (An Excerpt)

Kindergarten of Maturity (An Excerpt from Divine Prayers for Despairing Parents)

Poor choices—my child excels at making them. She struts her independence and then does something so ridiculous that even she realizes she did not use good sense. It is amazing that she has such genius, but makes such unwise decisions.

My child refuses to acknowledge that the Sovereign God just might be able to help her with important life choices. Instead, she ridicules me for suggesting that reverence for God and prayer can lead her in the right direction. Proverbs 13:1 could have been written about my daughter: “Intelligent children listen to their parents; foolish children do their own thing” (The Message). She pulls away from God and me, like a five-year-old trying to cross a busy street by herself. Suddenly, she recognizes the danger and jumps back to the safety of the curb.

Although she looks like an adult, she is immature. I guess my child is in the kindergarten of maturity. Surely, someday she will realize that all wisdom comes from God. She will grow into her faith as she grows into womanhood.

In the meantime, I pray for wisdom from God to know how to help my child develop into a woman of godly wisdom.

Reverence for the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom.
The rewards of wisdom come to all who obey him.
Praise his name forever!
—Psalm 111:10 (NLT)

Dear Lord, instill in _______________ reverence for You, the foundation of true wisdom. Teach _______________ to understand the rewards of wisdom that come to all who obey You. Lord, show me how to respond to my child’s poor choices . Then bring us to the point in the future where _________________ and I will praise Your name forever. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

A Journey of Prayer

Last night I attended a wedding. The bride was a young woman that I have known since she was child. Her mother and I have met for seven years to pray for our children. We have met almost every Monday. This bride was the youngest of our children and now she has flown the nest.

Many of you know that my book, Divine Prayers for Despairing Parents: What to Pray When You Don't Know What to Say, was written out of my prayer experience. My friend and I have prayed through most types of parental heartache. The journey has not been easy and it certainly has been slow. I relate to the biblical phrase, "In the course of time . . ." But the journey has been worth it. I have witnessed my children mature and grow into adults.

I would like to encourage everyone to find a prayer partner. Pray for your children and let them know that you are actively seeking the throne of God on their behalf. Ask them what they would like you to pray about for them. (You may only get a roll of the eyes, but they hear you ask.)

And if you are in despair over your child and don't even know what to pray, I will be giving two excerpts from Divine Prayers for Despairing Parents the next two days. I hope this will help you jump start your prayer journey for your own kids.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Friday--The Writer's Porch--Start Small

The dream of a published book makes most writers’ hearts flutter. Their pulse quickens and they dream of seeing their name on the cover. Bliss!

And it’s true, seeing your name as an author holds a thrill, but so does seeing your name in the byline of an article or devotion. My first experience in publication was with a very small story in "Today’s Christian Woman". They had accepted the four paragraph article and told me the issue of when it would be published. I was so excited. For six months I floated on air in anticipation. When November rolled around I almost had an anxiety attack. I drove to our local Christian bookstore. What if someone recognized me as the author? Grandiose thoughts of fame flittered through my mind. (Let me remind you--it was only four paragraphs.)

When I arrived at the store, I went inside wearing very large sunglasses. (I am absolutely not exaggerating.) I anonymously bought the magazine, rushed out to my car and burst into joyful tears when I saw it. I was absolutely delighted.

Here’s my point, don’t start out writing your novel or a bestseller non-fiction. Work on it, of course, but also write other pieces. Articles are a fabulous way to break into the publishing world. Many publications do not pay, but they still are a “credit” in your writing resume. Devotionals are another way to break into print. (In a few weeks, I will start a series on how to write great devotions.) Check your Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers’ Market Guide. It lists various publications that are seeking writers who will write good material.

Before I ever signed my first book contract, I was published in several magazines and devotional publications. It gave me the credentials that editors were looking for—they knew I could write and I would finish the assignment.

So, don’t scoff at the thought of writing miscellaneous stuff—most writers start small. Usually writing is a progression and when you finally sign the long awaited book contract you will be prepared to write the book, because you’ve written for publication previously. Start small. Plan patiently. Dream daringly. Write well.

Before you know it you will be putting on oversized sunglasses and sneaking into a store to see your name in print.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Humpty Dumpty continued

Yesterday I wrote about falling down and blacking my eye, bruising my face, and probably breaking my nose. But as weird as all that is, it is the stares that I am getting from others that are most disturbing. Women especially seem to give me a second look. I see the look of concern and anger cross their faces. I can tell they are thinking, "Her husband hit her."

This weekend I went out with my husband on his Harley motorcycle. Of course, we were dressed in black leather (at least it matched my black eye) and all the other Harley gear. We stopped by a Starbucks and people looked up as two "Harley riders" strode in dressed in black boots, leather jackets, etc. I took off my helmet and immediately I saw the frowns and disgusted looks at my sweet husband. Now, my guy couldn't spank the kids, let alone punch his wife. But the misconception was there. It's been an interesting time to observe human reactions.

I know many, many times I have thought the worst when I have seen bruises, casts, and such on women or children. And I know the thoughts will probably still cross my mind because of the prevalence of domestic violence in our culture. There is never any excuse for physical brutality to anyone. However, at the same time I hope I have learned not to jump to immediate conclusions. I hope the Lord grants me discernment to assess the situation correctly and the wisdom to know the appropriate action or response.

For now, I am very thankful that BIG sunglasses are in vogue.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

That was me this weekend. I took a great fall and did a faceplant on a concrete patio. Most likely I broke my nose--definitely a black eye. Scabby face and bruises on every part of my body. I'm a real cutie pie.

It was early in the morning and my feet just weren't awake yet, I guess. I went to let my dogs outside for their morning "business." I stepped over the--well, not quite--I tripped over the small dog fence and kaboom. I remember feeling my skin scrape across the cement and thinking like my two-year-old grandson, Michael, "uh-oh!"

Without exception everyone has asked, "Didn't you put your hands out?"

"Uh, no. Just my face." (I do not know why my hands didn't respond, except that I would have probably broken my right wrist--disaster for a writer.)

"Did you go to the doctor?"

"Uh no, I prefer self-medicating." (Just kidding!) Actually, by the time I realized that my nose was probably broken, it was hours afterwards. I figured that by that time, it wasn't going to do any good. (Afi, if you're reading this, I'll see you on Tuesday anyway--smile.)

All right, I am off to watch the Tony's and I need to take another Tylenol.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday -- The Writer's Porch -- Writers Write

Whenever you attend a writer's conference you will inevitably hear the phrase, “Writers write.” This translates to, if you are really a writer then you sit down at your computer and plod on along. You may sit and stare at the screen for hours, but your cute bottom is stuck to the chair until you write something down.

For the past several months, I have struggled with making myself write. I can think of a bazillion other things that I need to do or want to do. However, yesterday I made a decision to get back in the saddle (my ergonomic computer chair) and to write 300 words a day—except for Saturday and Sunday. If I do the math correctly that averages out to 1500 words a week. If I do this for 52 weeks, I will have written 78,000 words—in essence a book. And if I am honest with myself and I am actually writing I will probably achieve closer to 600 words a day. So for me that translates to writing my blog, my Proverbs 31 devotions and a book in one year. So why haven’t I kept up this pace? Good question.

Here are the things that tend to distract me from writing:

Internet research (Yes, we must do it as writers, but I can do it for hours)
Phone calls I feel I just have to make
Playing Hearts on the computer

A few weeks ago, I read Michael Hyatt’s blog. He’s the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing. He highly suggested setting the goal of zero emails in the inbox by the end of the day and to only read your emails twice a day. Check it out at Love it!

Internet “research” can take on a life of its own. It can become a fire breathing dragon that fries up your writing time. Make your search and stop! Personally, I am going to try to do my research at night while I'm watching TV or sitting outside enjoying the summer weather. And try not to do it when I am supposed to be typing away.

When I am sitting at my desk, for some reason I always think of someone I should call. So I call and bingo, 30 minutes is burned up on the phone. So, my new resolution is no calls until I have written my 300 words.

And the game of Hearts? It needs to be deleted. I had to do that once with Solitaire when I had a manuscript deadline looming ahead of me. So, if I can’t stop Hearts, it’s going into the recycling bin.

John Saul said, "When I write a book, I always think it's patently absurd that I can write one. No one, certainly not me, can write a book 500 pages long. But I know I can write 15 pages, and if I write 15 pages everyday, eventually I'll have 500 of them." (1942).
My word count for today: 750. Woohoo!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Babbling About Books--Thursday--House of Dark Shadows

House of Dark Shadows (Series Dream House Kings)
Robert Liparulo
Young Adult Fiction
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Yesterday I encouraged my blogger friends to invest in the youth of our nation by encouraging them in their gifts and passions that God has given to them. So today I thought I would follow-up with a great young adult book series. These books would be a great summer read for you and your kids.

The first book of the series, House of Dark Shadows, begins with the history of a very strange house. The protagonist, Xander, moves into the house with his family. He has an eerie feeling right away and soon the house begins to reveal its secrets—and they are truly scary. It is a page turner from beginning to end.

What I like about these books is they aren’t smarmy religiously written books. They are action filled with real kids who do things they shouldn’t, get into situations because of poor choices, and the house is frightening. The characters are believable. Mr. Liparulo has written a book that grabs the read with the fantasy and the character driven plot, while not succumbing to the occultic tendency of the Harry Potter books. Think of a cross between J.R.R. Tolkien and Edgar Allen Poe.

I sat in on a lecture by Liparulo at the Christian Book Expo. His thoughts on plots and character intrigued me. I went out and purchased most of his books. (He writes adult thrillers, also.) I have not been disappointed. He knows what he’s doing in the genre of thrillers for adults and young adults.

As for House of Dark Shadows I applaud Thomas Nelson, the publisher, for printing Christian Young Adult fiction that not only will reel in the kids, but can keep an adult turning the page. I have purchased the series and will keep them for my grandchildren to read in the future.

Hang on Michael, Emily and Brianna, these books will make you want to keep a flashlight by your bed even when you’re a big person.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Next Generation--Encourage Her Now!

Do you dream about speaking or writing? Do you wish that you had pursued your dream earlier? I certainly do. I wanted to be a writer at the age of fourteen. Decades later I finally began the pursuit of my writing dream.

I hear about young women who hold a passion for Christ and want to dedicate their lives to His service. Just on Monday, I spoke with a mom whose daughter has the gift of writing. I told her to encourage her--put her in a writing class somewhere!

Now there is the problem--finding that type of creative outlet for young women. Proverbs 31 Ministries has the solution. We provide Next Generation, which is held during the same time as our She Speaks Conference. Please let me encourage you to bring your daughter, niece, granchild, etc. to Next Generation. They will have the opportunity to rub shoulders with nationally known authors and speakers. They will catch a glimpse of dreams coming true. Each young woman will be loved upon and encouraged to follow her heart.

I feel passionately about this opportunity. One of my nieces showed amazing talent to write in her teen years. But life took over and she has shelved the gift of writing words to work in a mundane job. I wish I could've provided an outlet for her dreams. I wish I hadn't waited so long.

Take the opportunity of Next Generation to fulfill a dream of someone you know! Register her online at

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


The last few days I have had treasured moments with some of my favorite people, my girlfriends. I sipped coffee with a friend who makes me laugh like no one else. I shared with one of my dearest friends heart-to-heart the struggles of life.

Then tonight I went to my small group that consists of seven girlfriends. We ate, laughed, studied and prayed together--absolutely priceless.

I have given some thought to what I treasure in my friends. Number one is authenticity and number two is a great sense of humor. I need all the laughter I can get in my life. Tonight at Bible study, somehow we got off on the topic of doing kegel exercises. (If you are not sure what those are, do a Google search.) :) We laughed our heads off.

I would not trade my friendships for anything. They are a gift from God.

Psalms 126:2-3 (MSG) "We laughed, we sang, we couldn't believe our good fortune. We were the talk of the nations— 'God was wonderful to them!' God was wonderful to us; we are one happy people."