Saturday, March 31, 2007

Playing Catch-Up

Daughter left for New Orleans. Because we visited family and were on the road a lot, Spring Break went by in a flash. It never seems long enough. When she leaves after being here for awhile, it's almost like going through empty nest syndrome all over again. It takes me a day or two to get back into my own rhythm.

So. . . my rhythm today was to brainstorm with a friend and then write my own pages. Sometimes it's startling to realize just how difficult writing--creating-- is. I did some editing and fleshing out to get back into my story, then I wrote three pages. Three new pages is considered a lot but it doesn't seem like a lot when I look at how much is left to write. Sometimes I think if I'd quit looking for that light at the end of the tunnel I might move a little faster.

Of course, I need to quit finding interesting websites too.
This evening I found a guy on You-Tube who's reading his rejection slips from agents aloud on video. Every now and then he gets a request for a hundred pages or the first three chapters. I like his excitement when he gets a request. I followed all the little rabbit trails to check him out and he has a blog with pictures of himself with some very interesting authors. Edward Albee for one. Check him out at I'm impressed and fascinated by authors, like this one, who can promote themselves to this extent. I can't imagine why Stacey Cochran isn't published. Could he be a horrible writer? I'm feeling concerned for him. It appears that he's self-pubbed his book using and we know what some editors and agents think of self-pubbed authors. I've emailed Mr. Stacey Cochran and asked some questions. I hope he's a nice guy and doesn't bark at me.

On the subject of websites and self-promoting, I have an idea for mine, but I vacillate between wanting one and not wanting one. Do I really need one at this point? Why? I tell myself I'll wait until I finish my book. If I do complete it, and it finds a home with Love Inspired, then I'll create a website. However, I find myself anxious to jump on that website bandwagon. Just another way of wasting time, I think.

I've recently finished a course offered by Writers University called Introverts and Extroverts--Developing Your Writing Presence Now: Creating a Career Plan Built On Your Strengths. The course was taught by Gwen Shuster-Haynes and has to be the very best I've EVER taken. We had more than 80 people in class and the instructor responded to each and every one who posted their assignments, asked questions, or made comments. I have hundreds of pages of lecture and notes. A phenomenal instructor and course. In fact, this is the kind of course one could take again and again because the student response will always be different so there'll always be new things to learn. I wouldn't hesitate to take this course again.

Well... for someone who's trying to get back into the rhythm of writing and blogging, I'd say I've accomplished just that. :) What say you? Too wordy?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Have AlphaSmart - Will Travel

Daughter is on Spring Break from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary so we're heading to NE Texas to visit with family. I'm glad AlphaSmart is so durable; I wag it everywhere.

Years ago someone told me to think of each chapter of a novel as a short story and I wouldn't be so intimidated by the thought of writing a novel. I remembered that piece of advice at 6:30 this Sunday morning, as if God was prodding me on -- "You can do this, Jess. Remember how you wrote your first novel? One little chapter/story/chunk at a time."

I'm sure He must get tired of having to encourage me on a regular basis. He probably sees me as the most 'needy' of all his wannabe creative humans. :)

I'm glad He reminded me of this little mental trick with chapters. For the past couple of days I've been telling myself how much more fun writing short pieces can be. I'm sure it's that instant gratification thingie...and the encouragement from the Chicken Soup people.

Thanks Lord, for getting me back on track.

So, I'm off.
Praise, Prayers and Observations -- on pause until further notice.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Philippians 1:3 - Create custom images Around 9:30 this morning, a friend and I met for coffee. Sitting in the small Starbucks, we chatted about writing, agents, editors, blogs and websites, and our works in progress. Too soon, and before we realized it, it was almost 2:00. I've decided Christa is probably the best diet I can go on because my stomach didn't growl one time. I wasn't hungry and I know why. We feasted on friendship and encouragement and our common goals. I felt full and very satisfied. That feeling will be with me when I face the blank pages of Chapter 6, and during my next brainstorming session as I wrestle with plausibility, and especially during my next critique meeting where I come away thinking I can't do anything right.

A white chocolate mocha and a writing friend--it doesn't get much better than that. :)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Better than Chocolate!

Today I received a letter from the Chicken Soup people, a Permission Release Agreement and the Final Reader's Manual for Chicken Soup for the Chocolate Lovers Soul. With all this, they say it's not definite my story will be in the book. All these pages are just in case. The way I understand it, this Manual will go out to a bunch of readers and they'll vote on the stories they want included in the book. Wow! That's scary. Guess I'll find out just how 'entertaining' I am. :)Regardless of whether they publish it or not, it's exciting to see my story in the Final Reader's Manual, and my name and title in the index. This could be the closest I ever come to being in a Chicken Soup book. At least I know the procedure now. I'm the type of person who likes details so now they've given me details. Next time I write something for a Chicken Soup book, I can visualize what's happening on their end. Yep, that's what I do best. Visualize.
Oh, silly me! :)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Let's Exercise

On one of my writing loops, specifically The Writer's View, we wrote a short story, and I do mean short. All of six words. Here's mine:

Speeding car. Indecisive squirrel. Crying child.

This could be the skeletal outline for a real short story. And now that I think about it, this is an excellent exercise for brainstorming a novel or developing the pitch. How about a few more:

Oddball teen. Threatens school. Girlfriend squeals.
This is the novel I'm working on for Love Inspired, tentatively called Miranda's Mistake.


Groom runs. Years later. Groom returns.
This is my unfinished novel, Her Leap of Faith.


False documents. Great job. Public humiliation.
This is my completed novel originally called Reinventing Rita until Hurricane Rita made the name Rita not so popular. :) Now it's called In the Valley of Broken Dreams.

How about this one:

Moving Van. Body in Box. Missing China.
This is my cozy mystery. Mmmmm, leaves a lot to be desired, doesn't it, but actually, this is all I had of an idea when I started writing.

A fun exercise! Try it.

I got some interesting news today about my Chicken Soup for the Chocolate Lovers Soul submission. The person I emailed it to wrote back and said she liked it and had sent it on to the Reader's Manual of finalist stories to be judged by an independent panel of readers. Does that mean it's a finalist? I'll know by the end of April if it's accepted for the book. Interesting process they have.

I didn't write on my novel today, but I did figure out that I need to be writing at least five pages a day for about 20 days. That would give me a little time for a quick read-through with some tweaking. All day today I've been jacking around with the history of ACFW. Why I ever volunteered to be historian I'll never know. Must have had one of my I Love ACFW moments. Oh well. . . live and learn.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Hey, Let's Not Overdo It - Create custom images

Yippeeeee! I finished my story about chocolate and submitted it to Chicken Soup for the Chocolate Lovers Soul. I don't normally have any luck with those Chicken Soup people but I tend to edit things to death. This piece seemed more spontaneous. We'll see what happens.

So now I have two things out there. Boy! I'm going great guns these days. I sure don't want to overdo it. :)

It's time to get back to the novel writing. My book absolutely has to be finished by mid-May. Someone needs to kick me into gear. Tomorrow I'll figure out how many pages I have left and what I have to write each day to get to the end. It's crunch time.

Glitter Text codes - PLEASE!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Take it To Heart - Create custom images

"The very fact that you have brought a story into existence for which there is no duplication, is in itself a gift to the world deserving of respect."
~Elizabeth Lyon
Author of The Sell your Novel Tool Kit

"The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon." ~ Robert Cormier

Writer Wife . . . Interrupted

Got husband off to Scotland yesterday and should have played catch-up today, but instead I just lazed around, wagging my AlphaSmart from room to room because I don't want to sit at the computer. My schedule was interrupted for 10 days, and now I'm having trouble getting back into it. I need to put my Thinking Music on and force myself to write. Thank God I finished my 500 word essay for the Writer's Digest Are You A Writer Mama contest. I'm a little concerned that I didn't get a 'received confirmation' when I emailed it to WD. That's one thing I have against email submissions. I feel as though I'm dropping manuscripts into deep black holes. I wanted to submit to CS for the Chocolate Lover's Soul but just couldn't pull it together. Guess I was more into the writer mama thing--not that I can't get excited about a really great bite of chocolate. :)

See below! Now how much better can it get? My beautiful, healthy daughter who loves the Lord! Naaaaa, she doesn't resemble any of those celebs. Well, she might have a Jessica Alba smile. . .

Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Cat Came Back. . .

I'm back but I'm not in 'thinking mode' so here are a few interesting quotes to get us going again.

"Within the covers of the Bible are all the answers for all the problems men face. The Bible can touch hearts, order minds, and refresh souls." ~Ronald Reagan

"I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to men. All the good from the Savior of the world is communicated to us through this Book." ~Abraham Lincoln

"The Bible is no mere book, but a Living Creature, with a power that conquers all that oppose it." ~Napoleon Bonaparte

"To what greater inspiration and counsel can we turn than to the imperishable truth to be found in this treasure house, the Bible?" ~Queen Elizabeth II

"What makes the difference is not how many times you have been through the Bible, but how many times and how thoroughly the Bible has been through you." ~Gipsy Smith

"If I were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folks from digging into the Bible." ~James I. Packer

"Sin will keep you from this Book or this Book will keep you from sin." ~Dwight L. Moody

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Early Bird Always Gets It

Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in. ~Andrew Jackson

I've always been an early bird. Raised by a mom who was perpetually late for everything, I can barely stand the thought of being the least bit tardy. My punctuality always pays off. If I'm early for a dentist's appointment, I generally get in to see him a little earlier than scheduled. Same with a doctor and a hairstylist. I think these working professionals appreciate early birds like me. :)

Every time I meet my friend Martha for lunch, I arrive thirty minutes early to get us a table. While I wait for her, I people watch or I browse through the latest Writer's Digest or Toastmaster's magazine. Yesterday, I was bombarded by thoughts regarding my latest WIP. I'd reached a stand-still in my writing and that usually means I've taken a wrong path somewhere along the way or I'm trying to force a character in a wrong direction. I kept thinking I was ready to move to the next chapter, but I just couldn't make the leap. Yesterday the moment I sat down thoughts popped into my head about what the next scene should be, where it should take my hero. That's how it happens. An explosion of activity inside my head--with dialogue!

I took out an index card and started jotting notes. (I absolutely love large index cards!)

And boy, do I love it when I can get past a troublesome spot in my writing. I considered hopping to the end of the book and writing backwards for awhile. I've read that some writers do that but I've never tried it. I'll save that little trick for another time.

There might be something to writing with pen and paper in a coffee shop too. Maybe I'll try that. I know a number of authors who write all of their novels in long hand. They edit when they type them in manuscript form.

Isn't writing fascinating? The entire process of creating a story with beginning, middle and end, exciting characters facing problems and traumas, and both author and characters growing through it to the end of the book -- well, it just seems nothing short of miraculous to me. Of course, my mama didn't call me melodramatic for nothing. I've always been a writer.

Once you're into a story everything seems to apply--what you overhear on a city bus is exactly what your character would say on the page you're writing. Wherever you go, you meet part of your story. I guess you're tuned in for it, and the right things are sort of magnetized. ~ Eudora Welty

The Case of the Empty Purse

It doesn't take much to distract me. I picked up the latest issue of Writer's Digest and noticed their latest challenge:

Write a short story of 750 words or fewer based on this issue's prompt: a scene in which a woman, under no threat of bodily harm, is forced to empty her purse.

So... for the past two hours I've been asking myself why would a woman empty her purse? Why, why, why? My mind is blank, but if you can come up with a good story on why a woman would empty her purse, then email it to
All entries must be in the text of the email - ABSOLUTELY NO ATTACHMENTS.
Oh, yeah, the deadline is March 10th.

You don't have long. :)

Prizes: The winner receives $100 and publication in an issue of WD
Don't forget your name & mailing address.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Click. Click. Click.

It's a reactive thing, like a Geiger counter; you click whenever you come close to whatever you were built to do. ~Stephen King

Branding scares me. Just the word itself makes me feel I'm trapped in something--a genre maybe?--and can't escape. Branding means - recognizable. They say--and don't ask who they are--that every writer, published or not, should have a website. They don't tell us new/unpubbed writers what should be on that website, but I know it has to be interesting enough to keep readers/viewers coming back again and again and again. They say we should write articles for magazines and newspapers, get our name out there so it will become recognizable. Build a reader base. This makes sense, but writing and marketing articles take time and effort. They say we should speak to clubs--any kind of club--and reading groups to promote our works. I've heard some authors speak and figured they should have stayed in the chatrooms, remained anonymous. A bad speaker, a dull speaker can hurt her sales. Maybe that's my opinion. I should probably qualify that by saying a dull speaker can't sell me a book. Neither can a hateful speaker, a snobby speaker, a show-off speaker... and my list goes on. They say we should go on TV and radio. I'm certain my Texas drawl would be a complete turn-off to most listeners, and I've seen what television can do to my middle-aged figure. I'll have to pass.

When it comes down to it, branding is for the pros, those people who turn out book after book, year after year. I think we can even revise Mr. King's quote and say:

It's a reactive thing, like a Geiger counter; you click when you come close to whatever you were branded to do."

I believe a lot of times, click! brands just happen and that's when they're a good thing.

Click. Click! Click?

Copyright, 1976

Being a packrat drives me crazy. I'm constantly searching for things. We've moved so often that usually--in my mind's eye--I can visualize where we lived the last time I saw what I'm looking for. When I get a spurt of let's get rid of some of this junk energy, and rummage through boxes and file cabinets, I become distracted by my treasures. . . and the memories. Like this one:

The Detour

I'm standing on the corner of Hope and Faith;
Just waiting for Love to come my way.
I thought I caught a glimpse of it
But it turned on Frightened Street,
And picked up a safer passenger. - Create custom images

Published by The Woman for their poetry page in December of 1976.
I remember where I was when I wrote it, but I can't get inside that young woman's head. Who was she? Would she like me, the person she became? I don't think so. And I can say with certainty, I wouldn't like her.

On second thought, maybe I would like her. She was a writer. She wrote a lot more than I do today. In spite of her social life, she produced short stories, essays, poetry, nonfiction, and kept them in the mail. She liked to say she was practicing the Shotgun Method of Submission: "shoot 'em out there and something's gonna hit." She's the one who garnered all the rejection slips filed away in my blue folder. Where would I be without her? She's the one who learned how to write, whose experiences I draw on.

Sure, she got distracted. A lot. But, she never gave up.
I'm the one who gave up. I turned on Frightened Street. - Create custom images

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Copyright, 1888, by Wolstan Dixey

I can't resist old writing books. What am I saying? I can't resist new writing books!

Some time ago I came across a little volume called The Trade of Authorship by Wolstan Dixey, Editor of Treasure-Trove Magazine, formerly literary editor of The New York School Journal and other periodicals. 128 pages--not including the typewriter advertisements in the back of the book.

Mr. Dixey's take on everything from Pay to Hygiene for Authors is incredibly entertaining, but at the very end of the book is a page worth repeating here:


Think of children as actively growing up and looking the way they are growing; don't try to write within their thoughtless comprehension; but rather a little above them; keep them on tip-toe, for they grow faster than the press can turn out your writing.

Miss Kirk says in this connection:

A sad or depressing story is as unfit for a child's mind as the moss-grown walls of a cloister for his little bounding body. Pathetic tales of dead birds and maimed kittens and outcast dogs have made too much imaginative misery for the little ones. Let the birds sing and the kittens frolic and the dogs enjoy life in the children's stories, whatever sad fate may befall them in city streets. Children should be made happier and healthier by what they read as by what they play.

This is well said and very true; yet there is another side of the question. Most healthy children are practically little savages; the number is probably increasing in the coming generation, that tends so largely toward a fine physical development. It is as natural for many of these youngsters to maul and pull and squeeze and torture dumb animals as it is to breathe. Not from meanness or inherent wickedness, but simply because they have not been educated; and it is an important branch of their education that they be made to look upon animals as fellow-creatures and friends. This heart education, if given in the right way, so far from making the children namby-pamby, will give them more genuine manliness and womanliness. Beside, true pathos,--if not overdone--is as genial an influence as humor, and with it goes naturally hand in hand.

* * * * * * *

Now, back to the beginning of Wolstan Dixey's book:


Gentle reader, "a big book is a big evil:" I have tried to make this as small as possible. Credit me with doing my best to give you your money's worth: I have credited you with a dollar. Remember we are comrades in arms, and ought to stand shoulder to shoulder. If I have said anything that seems a little sharp and unkind, it is not so intended.

Need I say more?

Caught Like a Rat

Funny how blogging can give one a sense of reckless bravado. I've actually started commenting on other people's websites. Something I don't ordinarily do. I'm careful whose website. I know all it would take is one smart remark to put me in my 'place' and send me scurrying back to anonymity where I probably belong. Slowly, I'm sharing this blog but today I made a huge mistake. I shared it with my daughter. Would this be considered a smart remark?

Why have you been holding out on me? I think the pencil at the bottom measuring the progression of your book is nice, but I think it's funny how writing on your blog takes time away from your book. Ha!

Of course, she's absolutely right.

So, tomorrow I will start a new chapter and inch my way toward the tip of the pencil that's measuring my progress. I knew that thing was going to end up being my conscience. :)

After I get up it takes me an hour and a half of fiddling around before I can get up the courage and nerve to go to work.
~James Jones

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Tell Me It Ain't So

"Old age is no such uncomfortable thing if one gives oneself up to it with a good grace, and don't drag it about to midnight dances and the public shows." ~Horace Walpole - Create custom images I have a couple of writer friends who think they're being rejected because of their age. They don't go to conferences to meet with editors. They don't send pictures with their manuscripts. I wonder if they begin their query letters with:

Dear Editor, I'm eight-five years old and I have written ...

Surely not! But if they don't tell the editor or agent how old they are, then their writing style must. I wonder what my writing, my writer's voice, says about me. Can an editor tell by the way my characters speak that I'm from the South? That I'm Texan? That I'm fifty-something? Do my writing credits betray me?

I know agents and editors prefer writers who have a long career ahead of them. We writers want the same thing: editors who plan to stay with a publishing house long enough for us to get established, or at least until we do a rewrite.

And we want agents who believe in us. We don't care how old they are.

I don't want to think age plays a part in getting published. That's a real downer for me. I have friends who deserve to see their names on books. They're excellent writers, and they've written great stories. Completed novels! Doesn't that count for something?

Hey! They have several completed novels. I just don't understand . . . doesn't that count for something?

"I grow old learning something new every day." ~Solon (638-559 B.C.)