Monday, December 31, 2007
I learned that if I aim to have a 300 pages manuscript, I'll have a 360 page manuscript; I learned that if I aim to have a 250 page manuscript, I'll have a 311 page manuscript.
I learned that if I buy a box of chocolate in order to eat one a day, I'll instead eat the whole box in one day.
I learned that it's best to get rid of shoes that no longer fit. Who knew pregnancy changed your shoes size AND YOUR ORIGINAL SHOE SIZE NEVER RETURNS.
I learned that if I volunteer to do a task and have two years to do it, I'll get it done the evening before it's due.
I learned that if my two-year-old watches me eat a Pop-Tart for breakfast every morning, he'll want a Pop-Tart for breakfast. I learned that I don't want waffles and a banana for breakfast.
I learned that 9:00 p.m. is a wooonnnderfuuuul time to go to bed. I learned why my friends used to get mad at single me when I called after nine.
I learned that no all mirrors are created equal. I want the mirror from my Dillard's store. I don't want the mirror from work.
I learned that most of my worries are just a waste of time. I learned I don't have much time to waste.
What have you learned?
Sunday, December 30, 2007
I went to a conference
Having that kind of focus from the word "go" would help you write your book, as well as helping you to sell it later! Try this exercise right now, no matter where you are in writing your current manuscript. It's tough, isn't it?!
Now of course, plans change. Perhaps your vision for the story changes as you write. You find a new and stronger direction. Maybe your initial idea wasn't strong enough. Deep enough. Intriguing enough. So of course, your twenty-five word distillation of the story idea would need to change. If so, then go with it. Type up a new one-liner, one that helps you focus on the core idea of your story, and keep it above your computer.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Revisions are always a funny thing. I become so attached to my characters that they seem so real to me, as if I've actually met them. Many readers emailed me to ask me about a sequel to Cradle of Secrets because they, too, became so engrossed in the characters that they just wanted more. I'm happy to say that Her Only Protector will be available 8/08, so readers won't have to wait TOO long before they find out what happens next.
As for me, I'm diving into changes. While there are times I cringe when I need to change something that I've written, many times I view revisions as a way to make the characters come alive again. Like picking yourself a part, picking a book apart can be painful, but in the end, it shines.
Until next week, many blessings to you all! Lisa Mondello
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Monday, December 24, 2007
I thank God for the best presents in the world: my husband and my son. You cannot wrap moments. I left Mikey's bed first. Don stayed a moment and listened to his son whisper jumbled words like Mommy, Santan, choo choo, etc.
Merry Christmas, everyone. Close your eyes and picture unwrapping moments from the past. It just might warm your heart.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Merry Christmas to everyone! We are sure having a white one here. Sleet and ice yesterday (the 22nd), followed by heavy snow, high winds, and drifting. The county doesn’t come through on weekends, but fortunately, there's a neighboring farmer who graciously plows our dead-end road. I need to shop for groceries today, for all of the holiday meals over the next few days. There will be a mid-day Christmas Eve dinner, a Scandinavian buffet for the evening before church, and then the big dinner on Christmas Day. How I love the scents of pine, and cinnamon, and fresh-baked Scandinavian pastries, and bustle of having relatives here! What are your traditions?
I've been posting about craft topics, here; centering on characterization thus far. Do you have particularly helpful references for planning believable characters, and the psychology of their interactions with each other? Here are some favorites from my shelves:
ENNEAGRAM BOOKS--a cute and easy one is THE ENNEAGRAM MADE EASY, by Renee Baron & Elizabeth Wagele
THE COMPLETE WRITER'S GUIDE TO HEROES & HEROINES, by Tami Cowden, Caro LaFever, Sue Viders
Friday, December 21, 2007
The Christmas season can be so busy for all of us. Because of my trip to Florida last week, I'm behind on just about everything I need to get done by December 25th. To those of you who read this blog faithfully, I apologize for missing last weeks Friday blog. I spent the entire day traveling from Orlando to Tampa to visit my grandmother in the nursing home. Here's a pic of me and my grandmother. My grandmother is 89 years young.
As I mentioned in my last blog, my grandmother is an avid reader. She has all my books at the nursing home and passes them on to others to enjoy. I love the idea that so many people are enjoying my stories. One thing that is hard these days is that the small print makes it difficult for her and many other elderly readers to read. That's why I'm happy that Steeple Hill books are available in Large Print as well. If you're a reader who likes to donate books, consider donating them to a nursing home. Many of the residence there will appreciate your kindness in sharing.
As this is my last blog before Christmas, I thought I'd talk a little about tradition. Some of my fondest memories from childhood was Christmas Eve. Being Italian, we always had a big dinner with the 5 fishes. After dinner, we'd each choose one present from under the tree and open it. (None of us could wait until Christmas morning. Especially my father.) Soon after that, my sisters and many of the neighborhood kids would go caroling door to door around the neighborhood. There were many neighbors we never saw throughout the year except on Christmas Eve when we rang their doorbell and sang a song or two. We had a very large neighborhood and it could get quite cold so some of the neighbors would have hot chocolate and cookies waiting for us when we reached their doorstep.
When my sisters and I returned home, with cold hands and wet feet, we'd get ready to go to the midnight church services to celebrate the birth of Christ. As my days seem to never have enough time left in them to do all the things I want, to work, to shop, to clean the house, and to decorate in preparation for the holiday, I'm reminded that the joy I feel this season is not whether or not my kids get everything on their Christmas list or that the house is spotless when my neighbor comes by to exchange cookies and give a holiday greeting. It's the new traditions I am making with my family to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Family is at the heart of those traditions. We still have a special dinner Christmas Eve. We still open "just one" gift. Unfortunately, we don't go caroling anymore. (My kids would be mortified at the thought of doing it, much to my dismay.) Things have changed. Instead of my parents making Christmas for me and my brother and sisters, my husband and I make Christmas for our 4 kids so that when they grow up, they will have warm memories to build their traditions on with their families.
My Christmas wish to all of you is to that you look beyond the holiday rush, the cranky sales clerk who is working too many hours just so we can get all our shopping done, the person who has cut in front of you in line to order take out, the person who took your parking space at the mall, the one who walked back and forth across your clean kitchen floor with snowy boots (the dog counts here too), or whatever it is that is causing you stress to look at the very thing that brings you joy. Those are the things that you'll take with you for the rest of your life when you remember Christmas. It's the little traditions you make with your friends and your family.
Have a wonderful Christmas, filled with love, friendship, and family.
Until next time, many blessings to you all, Lisa
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Truly the greatest gift.
Yesterday, we got an early Christmas present. Eric, the kids and I traipsed into the ultrasound room at my doctor's office and got to meet the new little one. I'm 19 weeks, and the baby's tracking along perfectly.
I have to admit I was a bit nervous. My last ultrasound was the one that confirmed that our last baby hadn't made it. But this time, the screen was filled with everything your supposed to see. Two arms, two hands, ten fingers. Two precious little feet, and ten toes. One head, two eyes, a button nose, and cute mouth -- even looks like this one likes to suck his/her thumb. Yep, the child refused to cooperate on letting us know his/her gender. The tech is leaning -- slightly -- toward a girl. Abigail is ecstatic. Jonathan was despondent. I'm hanging on to all the cute outfits I've bought this time.
Back in September that was my statement of faith that everything would be okay this time. Eric smiled at the stack of summer outfits I'd picked up on clearance -- I've never had a summer baby before.
So we're all very excited. Everything looks great. Now we just have to wait another 19 weeks. If this baby is anything like Jonathan, he/she will come two weeks early which could disrupt Eric's mini-marathon plans. So we'll just pray this one comes a few days earlier than that :-)
Merry Christmas, as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. And anticipate the arrival of little Putman #4.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
For me, 2007 has been a wonderful year. My debut novel, NOWHERE TO HIDE, came out in April and started my career as a published author, providing so many firsts . . . my first booksigning . . . my first talk at a Georgia Romance Writers meeting . . . my first participation in the Literacy Book Fair at RWA Nationals. My second novel, SCARED TO DEATH, was published in August so I was doubly blessed this year. Plus, I sold three more books to Steeple Hill and was able to work with my wonderful editor, Jessica Alvarez, and fantastic agent, Deidre Knight.
The best part of being published has been meeting so many great folks from around the country, especially readers whose support and encouragement mean so much to me. Thanks to all of you who have sent an email or a note or told me in person that you've enjoyed my stories. Your words brighten my life.
Those of you who have visited my Web site know that I pray for my readers everyday. That includes blog readers as well, so I hope you can feel the prayers during this Christmas season. Many of you have already joined the Cross My Heart Prayer Team. It's so easy. All you have to do is pray daily for all of those on the team, asking that the work of our hands will bear good fruit. I love knowing that people around the country and throughout the world are lifting me up and placing my needs before the Lord. Go to www.DebbyGiusti.com to find out more about the Cross My Heart Team. Add your prayers to ours so that all of us can work productively in the year ahead.
My prayer is that you'll experience true joy this Christmas and that the Lord will shower you with an outpouring of peace and hope and love in the New Year.
See you in 2008!
Wishing you abundant blessings!
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
It occurred to me yesterday as I was driving that a root canal is a good illistration of how sin can damage our lives. Sin can start as something very small and benign that doesn't seem to bother us, if we even notice it, but if it isn't dealt with it will fester and grow into something that will cause pain, be a distraction and even ruin our lives. The only way we can get to the root of the sin is to proactively seek God's help and humbly allow Him to kill the root. But the key is proactively. God will help us only if we ask and then we have to show up, just as the endodontist can't help my tooth unless I ask and then I have to show up at his office.
My prayer this morning is that if there is a sin in our lives, no matter how trivial it seems, that we would proactively seek God and humbly let Him remove the sin so that we can be restored before any damage is done.
Have a good week as you gear up for the Christmas celebration.
Monday, December 17, 2007
We're six years old.
That means, basically, that we're no longer babies, toddlers, or even clumsy (at least not every day). We have our schedule down, our routine down, and we know our ABC's.
Critique groups are interesting things. I love mine. My books are better because of the friends who gently tell me, "Pam, the description is LOVELY, CHARMING, etc, now cut it. It doesn't add to the story."
The ladies in my critique group are friends. They get the phone call or email when I sell a new book or have a new idea or some reviewer thought my description (the one they told me to cut) slowed down the plot.
And what happens in critique group, stays in critique group. Here we share our fears about the business, the news we've heard from other authors - both good and bad. Here we talk about what contests to enter, how involved in RWA we intend to be, and who we think the movers and shakers are.
Last Thursday, my old critique group (before marriage, before moving, before baby) met for their Christmas celebration. I went. They were my muses for ten years! This Thursday my current critique group (after marriage, after moving, before and after baby) meets for its Christmas celebration. I'm going. They are my muses now.
My message: Hug Your Critique Group!
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Over the last couple years, I've developed a great relationship with the book manager at our local Parables. I literally would not be writing if not for a booksigning they hosted 2.5 years ago with Colleen Coble, Diann Hunt, and Denise Hunter. Vicky, the book manager, has been one of my biggest cheerleaders.
This bookstore has little tags for recommended books. On that tag there's a place to write a sentence or two about why you like the book and put your name. Usually, just employees complete those, but Vicky has started handing them to my husband Eric and me. We read so much more than Vicky has time to, and it's a great way to point out books that we love and the reasons why. The fun thing is those little tags (wish I knew a better name for them) sell books. Vicky calls it as good as hand-selling. People will grab a book and look at it and hopefully buy it based on that simple recommendation. So if you have a relationship with someone at your local Christian bookstore, you might see if they have the same sort of thing.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up a book and flipped to the backcover simply because of that little note. I want to know what the reader saw in the book. And I love the fact that I can go cross-genres. One review might be on a Landon Snow children's book while others tag Reluctant Burglar, The Restorer and Waiting for Summer’s Return.
It’s a simple way to publicize great books.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
I may decide to cut back this year. Definitely, no holiday baking. My waistline doesn't need the calories so I'll be doing myself a favor, right?
The Christmas newsletter will include more photos and less text . . . and it might not get in the mail until the New Year. But then, I always enjoy receiving post-Christmas news when I have time to sit and read the notes at leisure. Surely, my friends and family will feel the same.
I'll enlist hubby's help for gift wrapping so we can get the presents under the tree early. Wait . . . tree? Okay, we'll trim the tree, hang the stockings, set up the manger, wrap the gifts and be ready to celebrate Christ's birth at our candlelight service on Christmas Eve.
In the meantime, I'll be praying all of us can organize and prioritize our holiday prep so everything gets done, including time to thank God for His blessings and the wonderful people He has placed in our lives!
Wishing you abundant blessings!
Monday, December 10, 2007
Booksignings are interesting, and I can write about this one because it was 'nice.' It took place at a Barnes and Noble in a busy mall (I like the word 'busy', too). I probably made 70% of my sales to friends (Thank you for coming). It's the other 30% that I find fascinating. I do actually say to people, "Hi, I'm local author here signing my book." I probably sold one or two books to people who think any display means 'on sale.' I sold one to an ex-student's mom (small world). Then, I sold 3 or 4 to people who wanted to find out how to write.
How to write?
Since the average time a stranger spends with me at a booksigning is maybe 2 - 3 minutes, there is not enough time to really describe 'How to Write'. I'd need 2 -3 years! One of the women I think really listened. She was different than the others who asked 'How to Write' because she definitely had a book idea, which she told me in clear and intriguing language. She also nodded when I mentioned community college creative writing classes and local writing groups. This person probably would only need the boost of a creative writing class and a few monthly workshops to get her career going. The others who asked, although sincere, didn't have their stories where they could tell me what they wanted to write about, and all said they didn't have time to take a creative writing class or join a local writing group that met once a month.
My thought: If you don't have time to lay the foundation, the house will never get built.
A final book was sold to a duo of artists. They were playing Christmas music in the bookstore. First, the husband meandered over. Next, he brought the wife. They bought my books; I bought a CD which I've been playing ever since. You know, sometimes you can talk to a person and know that if there was opportunity, you'd be friends. I felt that way about the wife musician. She'd be someone to meet and have coffee with, someone to laugh with.
Well, since I've laid my foundation many times, I need to go work on my house. I'm on page 170, which means I have the basement, most of the main floor, and need to get the upstairs going. Great day all!
Sunday, December 9, 2007
I usually come up with settings, the characters and what brought them there, and some likely subplots. Then I start brainstorming lists of ten-thirty things that might happen in those subplots, weeding out the silly or boring ones, and ultimately come up with a semi-plausible list of scene ideas. Solo. This weekend I did something totally different--and it was a blast!
Two long-term writing friends, Cindy Gerard and Kylie Brant, and I booked a room at a brand-new casino hotel, which we chose because it was centrally located, had very reasonable room rates, and would likely have good food at reasonable prices. We got there Friday night and checked out Sunday at eleven...and did we ever work! Twelve hours on Saturday. Several hours on both Friday night and Sunday morning.
We asked for a later check-out, but overheard the desk clerks whisper "But they aren't gambling!" so their answer was that the hotel was full! Nope, we sure weren't there to gamble--instead, we each had a new story to work on, and with three brains at work, we each came away with a thoroughly plotted new story! In fact, my friends were kind enough to help me start work on plotting a second one, as well. Tossing out ideas, playing off each other's strengths, and discarding the ideas that didn't work, I think we each came away with far stronger plots than we would have on our own--with many of the problematic points identified and deleted or tweaked. And we each headed for home excited, invigorated, and ready to really get to work on our new projects!
Having an intensive plotting weekend isn't an idea that originated with us--we've heard of other authors doing this. But it's a great system! My friends and I don't critique together, but we sure plan to get back together again in April--and again, later in the year!
So...how about you? Do you have a critique group? Good friends who are avid readers? You can do this, too! The weekend was inexpensive, splitting a room three ways. But you could simply set up a whole day sometime, meet, and equally divide up the time so everyone receives their fair share. I look back at all the years when I've been a part of one critique group or another, and wish I'd been arranging intensive plotting sessions all along!
Friday, December 7, 2007
I'm gearing up for another trip and life is hectic. My youngest daughter will be participating in a pageant in Florida and I'll be traveling with her. I'm quite excited about the trip but it does leave me feeling a little stressed during this holiday season. I try to remind myself that the little things I fret over aren't as important as I make them out to be. The important thing isn't for my daughter's dress to be wrinkle free or that everything at home be just so before I leave. The important thing is the people around me.
While in Florida I'll be taking the opportunity to visit my grandmother who will be 90 years old next spring. I'm sure she wouldn't like me to broadcast her age on the Internet, but since she doesn't have a computer, I think I'm safe. I don't get to see her very often at all since I'm from New England and she's so far away so I'm looking forward to the trip.
When I think of my grandmother, I think of a strong, independent woman who loved my grandfather very much. She survived the depression, seeing her husband off to World War II when my father was just an infant, raising 4 children in the Bronx during the tumultuous 60's, burying two husbands while living her life to the fullest. She has strong opinions and a strong faith in God. I remember visiting her in New York when I was a little girl, getting dressed up and going to church with her with my sisters. While visiting her in Florida last summer at the nursing home she now lives in, it was good to see my dad and uncle still bring her out to church on Sunday.
I dedicated Cradle of Secrets to my grandmother because she loves to read and is always asking me when my next book is going to be out. Even at the nursing home, she loves to pass around my books and boast about her granddaughter, the author. Visiting my grandmother feels a little like Christmas is coming early. I hope you all have the opportunity to visit a loved one you don't see very often during this holiday season.
Until next week, many blessings to you all, Lisa
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Saturday was my very first book-signing. Yeah! I was so tickled as so many friends made the effort to come by. Here I am signing a book for my friend Heather Corbin. She was one of the gals in a Bible study two years ago that I dared to risk this dream, too. That group of gals prayed for me and supported me. I am still amazed that nobody laughed at this dream of getting a book published. God is so good. Colleen is sitting next to me, and Denise Hunter is next to her.
God is so good. Colleen and I kept marveling about how quickly this dream has come to fruition. And I have no doubt in my mind, that she has played a pivotal role in that. I was so THRILLED that she made the effort to be part of this signing. She has literally served as the midwife to this dream, and what I love is that she's not done yet. We've got a wonderful friendship in addition to the mentoring she pours into me. What can I say....God is so good!
One thing that Eric and I have commented on is how non-competitive this field is. That has been one of the biggest surprises and blessings. Denise has been a huge part of making it feel non-competitive. She has such a delightful smile and sweet spirit. And if you love romance and haven't purchased Surrender Bay yet, do it! It's wonderful. As Colleen likes to say, it's on par with Francine Rivers Redeeming Love.
This last picture is with Vicky G. She's the book manager at Carpenter's Son and one of my biggest cheerleaders. She believes in me even on the days I begin to doubt. And she loves to hear the progress reports on the doors God is opening. We have talked about this book-signing for months.
It was also a delight to meet Jamie Carie for the first time. What a gorgeous, classy lady. And my good friend Brandt Dodson also made the long drive up from Evansville even with questionable weather in the forecast. It was so fun to be able to point people to his great PI stories while he's standing there.
Finally, here's a photo of the recommendation tags I've blogged about in the past. Vicky says they are as good as hand-selling a book.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Alice and I go back many years to when our hubbies were in the Army stationed at Fort Polk, Louisiana. We lived on post, and although there were only about thirty families in our small military housing area, many of us were committed Christians, working hard to spread the Good News. Our outreach focused primarily on the young soldiers and their families who were far from home. Their needs were great, and we were always involved in projects to improve their quality of life.
Some of my fondest memories are when the families on our street would gather for potluck dinners. Some of the guys and gals played guitars, and after dinner we'd sing our favorite prayer and praise songs. Folks would share how God was working in their lives or how they felt moved to help someone in need.
Alice and I agree those years at Fort Polk were some of the best, and we both feel blessed to have been part of that wonderful Christian community.
After the dinner at Good Shepard is over on Thursday, I'm sure Alice and I will head back to her house to reminisce about the good old days. We'll be thinking of all our dear friends and thanking God for bringing them into our lives. No doubt, we'll also talk about the new direction God has asked us to walk since our time at Fort Polk.
I hope you'll reach out to a friend -- old or new -- this Advent season. Meet for coffee and swap stories about the people, places and events that have touch your lives. After all, memories are precious gifts that need to be shared.
Wishing you abundant blessings!
Monday, December 3, 2007
* To realize the value of One Year, ask a student who has failed his final exam.
* To realize the value of One Month, ask a mother who has given birth to a pre-matured baby.
* To realize the value of One Week, ask an editor of a weekly.
* To realize the value of One Day, ask a daily wage laborer.
* To realize the value of One Hour, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
* To realize the value of One Minute, ask a person who has missed his plane.
* To realize the value of One Second, ask the athlete who has won a silver medal in Olympics.
I can't believe November is over. You see, I had a November Harlequin release. The Price of Redemption. It's only on the shelves for a month. The months it takes to write the book, edit the book, and then wait for the cover, the copies in the mail, and finally for it to hit the shelves are counted, at least by me. Three months to write the book, about four months for the back and forth edits, about four months before shelve date I start looking for the cover on Amazon.com, sometimes the book arrives before I see the cover. Then, finally the day (this time November 7) and I head to my neighborhood Walmart, and there it is.
For a month.
I truly want a 'career' in writing, so marketing is very important to me. I had two signings this weekend. The first was mine. I signed at a wonderful Barnes and Noble. They were the antithesis of the last major bookstore signing I did. This store ordered the book and didn't say (in an Eeyore voice) the day before "They're not in; you might need to sell your author copies." They greeted me when I arrived. They still had the world's smallest table (I'm thinking major bookstores found quite a sale on veeerrryy small tables) but they let me have two (I'm a veeerrryy large woman). They offered to take my coat. They gave me a coffee. I like this bookstore.
Did you hear that it rained in Phoenix. Rain being a polite word. Did you hear it poured in Phoenix. Poured being an inadequate word. Did you hear about the deluge in Phoenix. Yup, on the night of my booksigning. I mailed 120 fliers, passed out 60fliers, and let me tell you, if I hadn't of been signing, I'd have stayed home. Wow. This wonderful bookstore is letting me sign again on Saturday. I hope it doesn't rain.
I also signed on Saturday at the Tempe Festival of Arts (think outdoors and a table). This time we didn't have a deluge. It was more like a two year old who has just figured out how a sink works. Water on. Water off. It rained, and then the sun came out. Bored? Here's a little wind. Oh, look, look at the books blowing down the street. There were six of us. Finally, the bookstore took pity and moved us inside. The great thing about rain and an indoor booksigning is... every time the two year old turned on the faucet, the bookstore filled. I did much better :)
I can't believe November is over! If you see my book, lonely on its shelf, and still hanging on to its spot, please buy it. It doesn't want its lovely, little cover ripped off. It doesn't want its named changed to RETURNED. It has a very short life. Make its day: buy it.
End of Booksignings and More.
Oh, by the way, I just read a fabulous book called After Anne. No, I don't know the author personally, it was just so wonderful to get lost in a book. Great characterization. And, for those of you who don't know, Michelle Sutton just sold her first young adult novel. Yabba Dabba Doo!
Sunday, December 2, 2007
As the Sunday Craft Lady, I've been posting about characterization in novel writing. Onward!
Pain and loss
What makes him the most angry, the most sad
His biggest fear.
This is NOT one of those form where you fill in your character's shoe size, best friend in college, favorite color, and kind of ice cream he prefers. It's a stream-of-consciousness flood of emotion and angst that comes from who this character is.
During a workshop years ago, on of my favorite authors, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, said she was having a difficult time with the hero in a story. She just couldn't get the hero's character nailed until she finally sat down and let the words flow in a first-person bio. SEP writes fabulous books, real page turners, but they don't involves suspense, weapons, or intense drama. Yet first words out of his mouth? "I want a GUN!" He was an action hero trapped in a very different kind of book!
How can this be? The author is doing the writing, so she can decide to do anything she wants, right? Mostly. Well-planned characters have personalities, unique situations and back stories and environments that make them real. When this magic happens, they almost take a life of their own--with actions, reactions, and feelings that fit all that you have created about them. If you try to "force" them into behaviors that don't match the people they are at a given point of time in your story, it will come across as a jarring inconsistency to a reader. In contests, you might see a judge's comment like "unbelievable character." "This character wouldn't do that!" Or that a character "just doesn't work." To someone who isn't a writer, this might seem like gross presumption. How could a stranger presume to know a character better than the author herself? But consider your own reading--and frustration--when a character does or says something totally far-fetched!
Are you working on a story? How is it coming? How far along are you? And have you hit any major stumbling blocks with characters? I would love to hear from you!
Until next time...
Friday, November 30, 2007
Thanks so much to everyone who has emailed me after reading Cradle of Secrets. It's been so wonderful to share this first Steeple Hill book with so many readers. I'll have an update on the winner of my contest next week!
Until next time, many blessings to you all!
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Miranda Carson travels to England one Christmas to find the father she's never known. As this tale begins, she enters the Tea Cosy on Christmas Eve. She's already questioning her decision to leap the Ocean in pursuit of the unknown. All she has as a clue is an old photo.
The story unwraps in the span of two days, with delightful twists and turns. The characters are warm and friendly, and I felt like I was being welcomed into their lives along with Miranda. And Miranda's strong need to answer the questions about her father resonated. And then she considers a decision which goes against her quest in an effort to protect her new friends.
This story is a delightful read, that unravels easily. I thoroughly enjoyed it and think you will, too, if you're looking for a short escape from the Christmas hustle and bustle.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
The book is broken up into three sections: Resistence;Defining the Enemy. This section talks about all the various forms that resistence takes that keeps the creative person from doing what God created them from doing. I found it very freeing to be able to label some of the roadblocks that I run into when I'm trying to write.
The next section is titled, Combating Resistence;Turning Pro. Talk about a motivational kick in the rear. The professional doesn't let the resistence win. The professional knocks down her roadblocks and charges through. The professional does her job. She protects the work.
The final section titled, Beyond Resistence;Higher Realm gets a bit metaphyscial and metaphoric which took me some effort to get past but still this section contained insight that I found helpful.
Over all, I would recommend this book for anyone who is struggling with their creativity.
Monday, November 26, 2007
So, here's what I was doing 30 years ago. I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL! I loved high school socially. Academically, for the first two years I struggled. Then, I developed a crush on a brain (Bob McGargill) sigh and because I didn't want him to think I was STUPID, I started studying. I'm sure glad I developed that crush. I might still be in high school otherwise.
Twenty years ago I was just out of college. I made one of the road less traveled decisions. Instead of heading home to Nebraska, mommy and daddy, and my wonderful high school friends, I still wanted to see the world. I packed up my car and moved to Arizona, where I knew one person (college roommate). I had a degree in journalism and quickly realized I made more money as a waitress than I would writing obituaries (where you started back then). I didn't go to work at the paper (I've always wondered what my life would have been like had I not been so STUPID. Dah, of course I needed to start at the bottom). Still, I liked being a waitress. I always had money in my pocket and it was a very social job.
Ten years ago, I was an elementary teacher by day (I must have really learned to like school since I went back for yet another degree) and taught college at night. I was always writing. Ten years ago, I didn't write inspirational. I was writing paranormal. I wrote a time travel, followed by a vampire, nudged aside by a ghost, and then there was the angel story. Hmmm, the paranormal market was dead ten years ago. I started writing a contemporary. Ten years ago, I was one year away from my first sale.
So, there you have it. The history 30/20/10 of Pam.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
So...how do you come up with believable characters? There are many great references out there on how to develop good characters. Here are just some thoughts...
Your hero and heroine aren't the only ones who need to this kind of consideration. Every character is the lead character in his own story, with their own personal goals, conflicts. If you can come up with dynamic, motivated, three dimensional characters who have natural conflict with each other, this will help drive your plot--and makes writing a story a whole lot easier!
Friday, November 23, 2007
The results are in, I'm a right brain thinker. Okay, that's sort of anti-climactic except when you look at the full explanation of what a right brain thinker does. Right brain thinkers look at the whole picture. They start at the end and move backward to completion. Hmm, this reminds me of the fact that I am a puzzle writer. I look at the whole picture, piecing it together as I go. I never go in order. That drives me crazy. Right brain thinkers are usually creative and use music to stimulate their creativity. This could explain why I seem to make a sound track for all my books.
Yes, I know. I've probably had too much turkey and sweet potato casserole. My mom makes the best. If you're procrastinating like I was today and are finishing up your holiday shopping, you might want to do a google search on left brain/right brain tests. It's interesting.
Now, back to work for me. I wish you all a very restful holiday weekend! Many blessings, Lisa
Thursday, November 22, 2007
There's a Veggie Tales song about Thankful Hearts. One of the lines goes something like, "a thankful heart is a happy heart, I'm glad for what I have, that's an easy place to start..."
Let me wax philosophical for a moment here. I am a poli sci major after all. Somewhere along the road, as a nation we've lost the ability to be thankful for what we have. I remember seeing news clips where people on welfare state that cable tv is a staple, a necessity of their lives. It's an American way of life.
How often do we step back and cultivate an attitude of being thankful for what we have? Happy with what we have? Blessed with what God has granted?
The American Heritage Dictionary defines thankful as: Aware and appreciative of a benefit; grateful. The Random House Unabridged Dictionary compares thankful and grateful in the following way: Grateful indicates a warm or deep appreciation of personal kindness as shown to one: grateful for favors; grateful to one's neighbors for help in time of trouble. Thankful indicates a disposition to express gratitude by giving thanks, as to a benefactor or to a merciful Providence; there is often a sense of deliverance as well as of appreciation: thankful that one's life was spared in an accident; thankful for the comfort of one's general situation.
I want to cultivate a life that is grateful for what's been given to me. I drive a nice, dependable vehicle. Why should I covet what somebody else has? God has provided a wonderful job to Eric that in turn provides a great roof over our heads. The home is large, and allows us to host many different groups, something that is important to me. Why should I want for more? My closet is full of stylish clothes that fit. My bookshelves are lined with books I love and movies I enjoy. What more could I ask for.
Yet it's easy to slip into an attitude that covets the house my friends has on two acres in th ecountry. (Do I really want to live in the country?!?!? Me thinks the yard might be overwhelming). Or I think I need more clothes, more books, more fill in the blank here.
And as I raise my kids, this sense of entitlement to more is placed squarely in front of my face. I want to cultivate a spirit of thankfulness in them. A spirit that turns to their heavenly Father to provide all of their needs. A spirit that can distinguish between needs and wants. It's a challenge, but I want to rise to meet it.
So as Thanksgiving approaches here are a few more things I am thankful for:
- A husband who provides very well for his family.
- A husband who works hard so that we do not want for anything.
- A God who provides all of our needs according to His riches and glory.
- A home that more than adequately shelters us.
- A home that can be a ministry tool as we open it up to others.
- Vehicles that are dependable to get us to jobs and ministries.
- A God who loves me without abandon, and who's mercies are new every morning.
- A God of second chances.
- A God who does not waste any experience that I have.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
I give thanks for all of you, for my wonderful readers, for the Craftie ladies, for those who email me or stop by my website to say hello, for the opportunity to write stories for Steeple Hill, for family and friends, for health and well-being. As always, I'll be praying for YOU, asking that the work of your hands will bear good fruit. Have a joyous holiday!
Wishing you abundant blessings!
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
I used this in my current book, Giving Thanks for Baby. I love incorporating some of my life into my books.
I wish you all a wonderful, happy and blessed Thanksgiving.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Most baseball players play the game just for fun while they're kids; some are better than others. I read books for fun while I was a kid; I was a ferocious reader.
These hopefuls go to college (most) and hope that they'll make the team and be soooo good a scout will pick them up. I went to college and majored in journalism. I wrote for college papers and hoped I'd write something so good the Readers Digest would call me and say, "Hey, we need a features writer"'
Memo: I was veeerry young when I was dreaming about the Readers Digest.
If the players get noticed, they go to a farm league, which is like a waiting pen for the players. Here players learn big league techniques, secrets, and play, play, play. Me, I started writing for a publisher called Barbour. Barbour is a wonderful place to learn the craft. My first book did not hit the shelves; it hit the mail. They had a mailing list of over 20,000. I did learn techniques, I learned that there are no secrets except being a published author is harder than one realizes, and I wrote, wrote, wrote.
There needs to be a slot for a farm league player to be called up. A farm league player might find himself filling in for a sick player, or if a trade happened and the new player is not yet in place, that's when the 'hopeful' farm leaguer gets a chance at the show.
They call it the show, when you finally hit the big league.
I thought I'd been called to the show years ago when I sold Kensington, but I wasn't ready. Now, I'm back in the show and playing for the Braves, I mean writing for Harlequin, as has always been my goal.
The thing about the show is you have to keep in mind your batting average: number of books sold. You have to catch/stop the balls that come your way: you have to come up with good ideas, meet deadlines, and grab every opportunity. You need to build a fan base and sign baseballs: market, market, market.
The thing about the show is, there are one hit wonders. There are fires that burn so bright that they soon disappear. There's the midlist, ever reliable. And, then, there are the legends.
Right now, I'm playing my second game. Book number two The Price of Redemption is on the shelves. As a player, I think the coach is still wondering if he made the right choice in putting me in the line-up. The fans, well, they're in the stadium but are they clapping, I don't know.
All I know is that as I tighten my hands around the bat, I am thrilled. I can feel the smooth wood so tangible under my fingers. I can smell the popcorn. My feet are planted on the soil so many other champions trod. And I thank God for this opportunity even as I break out in a sweat from nerves.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
I meant to post sooner in the day, now that I'm the Sunday gal. But sometimes, bad things just happen. And this time, I am soooo thankful!
Yesterday afternoon I had lunch with writer friends (published and unpublished) and during our lunch, my son Brian called to say that he'd been meeting his own friends for lunch and suddenly became nauseated, with what he thought were stomach cramps.
When I got home an hour later, he was pale. Had a tight, distracted expression of distress on his face even as he said he was "okay." He was uncomfortable in any position. My husband thought it was just the flu and Brian didn't want to go, but I packed him up anyway and took him to the ER. Within a half-hour they had him on an IV and had started him on morphine. It was appendicitis.
With a young man's determination, he didn't wanted to sound like a wuss over "nothing", but we found that he was actually in quite serious shape and waiting could have meant an entirely different outcome. The surgeon said that by the time of the operation, his appendix was ready to burst at any moment.
God works in such amazing ways. My son travels five states, and isn't often home, or near people he knows well. He said over and over he would have just "toughed it out" if he hadn't been home--he would have taken Tylenol and tried to just go to bed. I just shudder to think what might've happened if he'd been in the middle of nowhere, far from family. But because he happened to be home, he got the care he needed, he is now surrounded by family and friends, and had a great surgeon. Praise the Lord! We even got to bring him home this afternoon! He's tired, and weak, and on pain meds today. But he will be okay!
Have any of you ever had such a situation--where something bad happened--but at the best possible time? Or...have you been in a bad situation in which your prayers brought the most amazing answers, just when you needed them? Such incredible blessings, such power in prayer, will never cease to amaze and humble me.
So today....I'm not writing about writing. I'm writing about an awesome God who has taken such loving care of our son.
And, to offer a reminder to all of you about how something so simple as continuing abdominal pain can be some far, far more serious than simple indigestion!
Take care, and God bless,
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Too many times we look for what is big in our lives and don't cherish the little miracles that count up to so much. It's easy to focus on one negative thing and have that negate a hundred other positive things. So my mission is to focus on the positive and enjoy the blessings that God gave me for which I am thankful.
One such blessing is going to the bookstore and seeing my book, Cradle of Secrets, for sale on the shelf. As I stood in the bookstore and signed copies of my book, one reader saw what I was doing and although she'd never read a Steeple Hill book, she came up to me and asked if I could sign a copy for her. She loved reading in the evening because her husband works nights and she wanted something special to read to keep her from missing him while he was gone. My book was it. I was flattered and signed a book for her. It was nice to see her face and know, that like her, a book represents a source of pleasure, relaxation and inspiration. And I love autographed books. They become my keepers.
For those of you who do not have a copy of Cradle of Secrets yet and would like a signed copy, I'll be doing a virtual signing right on this blog. Simply send $8.00 (cost of the book plus shipping) to LisaMondello@aol.com through Paypal along with your address and who you want the book signed to and I will get the book right out to you. Signed books are wonderful to give away as gifts to friends, to use as stocking stuffers or for a grab bag gift for your office party.
If you've already read Cradle of Secrets, drop me a line and let me know what you thought of the book. I've heard from so many wonderful readers who enjoyed the book and desperately wanted to know if there was a sequel. As I've said before, yes there is! Her Only Protector will be in stores August 2008!
I look forward to "seeing" you at the virtual signing. Many Blessings, Lisa
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Your main characters tend to be people who have life going their way and then life intervenes in a dramatic way and they are stripped of the things that matter to them. Did you follow that in Try Dying? Why? What do you hope people will see as your characters walk through those valleys?
I've always been taken by the story of the innocent man who, through no fault of his own, gets caught up in life threatening trouble. One of my favorite movie directors is Alfred Hitchcock, and he repeats that theme over and over.
It does seem to mirror how we have to handle life sometimes. Not necessarily life threatening things, but various challenges. Suspense writing gives me a chance to explore this, and perhaps give people hope.
I think the best fiction does that. The kind of fiction I like to read and write, at least.
How did you create the what if/main idea for Try Dying?
It started with a news item I read one day. A bizarre thing. A man shot his wife, then drove to a freeway overpass in L.A. and got out and shot himself. His body fell 100 feet to the freeway below, and hit a car, killing the driver.
For some reason this incident wouldn't leave me alone. I started to ask what would happen if the person in the car did not die from the fall, but was killed by someone else at the scene? Why would such a thing happen?
Then I asked, who might this driver be? I made it a woman, the fiance of a hot young lawyer. That lawyer became my Lead character, and that's how the whole thing started.
One thing I'm learning is that I learn something with each story I craft. What did you learn from Ty Buchanan as you were writing his story?
I think I learned to trust what was happening inside the character more. There was a temptation to tone it down, but I think his inner life wouldn't have been as real if I did. He is going through hell in this book. That affects him. But it also makes him stronger.
I understand that Try Dying is targeted at filling a hole in the secular bookstores for good, clean legal thrillers. How did you get a vision for addressing that niche? And what has you most excited about this new market?
I do think that secular thrillers, many of them, have taken a very dark turn. I don't find that necessary. I think back on the film noirs of the 1940s, my favorite period, and the crime novels of the 50s. They didn't need to be explicit to set a mood and hook the readers.
I think there is a huge audience out there looking for this kind of book now. That's what I hope to provide.
Time for a fun question. If you could pack up your family and go anywhere in the world, where would you head? Why?
England. We love it there. My wife would like to rent a country cottage. My daughter would want a flat in London. My son would be happy visiting historical sites. I'd be happy anywhere, writing.
Any parting advice or thoughts?
Robert Heinlein, the noted Science Fiction author, had two rules for writers.
1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.
Do this over and over again, and you are a writer.
Great advice. Thanks so much for joining us!
I also have three copies of this book to giveaway. Be sure to leave a comment on my blog or here to be entered for the chance to receive one of these books!
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Self-examination helps us understand who we are and why we react in certain ways. It allows us to identify what "pushes our button," or drives us forward or makes us run in the opposite direction. Through reflection, we recognize how the past plays into the present and gives meaning to the future, and when we understand the influences that shape our lives we see ourselves with a clearer lens. That clarity allows us to turn weaknesses into strengths and failure into success.
My suggestion? Spend time in reflection this week so that Thanksgiving will be a day of gratitude for the Lord’s blessings, for the people who have touched our lives, and for a future filled with promise.
Wishing you abundant blessings!
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
ON another note, my November release GIVING THANKS FOR BABY has hit the shelves. The book recieved a 4 star rating from Romantic Times Magazine.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Last week, I chatted about finding the right setting for a story, and about how some authors start with characters, some with an exciting situation or a conflict. Since I usually start with a setting, my next big question is:
So...if you are a writer, how do you come up with all of this? Do you have any tried and true techniques? And readers---can you name some of your all-time, favorite characters in novel? What made them so special? Were they perfect, admirable people who did everything right---or did they have flaws and weaknesses?
Friday, November 9, 2007
This has been an exciting week for me with the release of Cradle of Secrets. Yes, I admit it. I am one of those goofy authors who go to the bookstore and take pictures of my books on the shelves. But I also signed the copies that were there and left some Craftie Ladies of Suspense pens for people who wanted to bring home a little treat along with the book. If you happen to be in the Western Massachusetts area, you may just find one of the stores I've hit.
I'm still putting together information on a virtual booksigning for those of you who might want a signed copy of Cradle of Secrets either for yourself or to give away as a gift for Christmas. More on that later.
I'm giving away Craftie Ladies of Suspense pens/hightlighters. I had no idea these things where going to be so popular. My husband has been taking them to work and passing them around to the guys who tell him their wives/girlfriends read romance (or maybe it's the guys who read but just don't want to admit it.) and my kids have been passing them around to their teachers and friends. Everyone loves that there is a pen on one end an a nice highlighter on the other. If you'd like one for yourself, post a comment and let me know. I'll be giving away Craftie Ladies of Suspense pens all week.
Until next time, many blessings to you! Lisa
Thursday, November 8, 2007
1. Crimson Eve is book three in the Kanner Lake series, and it races to the end from the very first page. How did you get the idea for this book?
I sort of backed into it. When you’re writing a series, you have more to consider than just the current book. I knew Crimson Eve would be book three of a four-book series. I already knew what I’d be doing in the fourth book, Amber Morn. That story is a culmination of all my Java Joint characters—an ensemble cast. In the first two Kanner Lake books, Violet Dawn and Coral Moon, I featured Paige and Leslie, respectively as the main characters. What happened to each of them involved the whole town.
Kanner Lake’s a small, idyllic place. It used to be quiet until I got hold of it.
Wait a minute. I created it.
Well, anyway. (This fact-and-fiction thing can be quite mind-bending.) I figured with the havoc I’d already wreaked upon the town in books one and two, to be surpassed only by the havoc I planned to wreak in book four, I needed to give the poor town a break in Crimson Eve. So I focus on the character of Carla and take her out of Kanner Lake proper into the surrounding countryside. Only thing is, in giving the town a break, I then had to unleash all my havoc upon Carla herself.
2. This book, like the rest of the Kanner Lake series, blends the past and the present, but this time it collides on the very last page. Were there extra challenges to writing a book that is so closely woven in time?
The challenges I faced in writing the book focused more on the present-day events than in weaving the present with the past. In fact the dichotomy between how the past scenes and present ones play out allowed me to use the jumping back and forth in time to increase tension in an interesting way. The suspense action of the present-day story takes place in a mere 27-28 hours. The past story spreads out over about 10-11 months. Placing scenes from the wider-spread past story at key “hook” points in the current continuous-action story made those present-day chapter hooks all the more effective. Then, to keep readers interested in the past story, I tried to end those chapters also with strong hooks. In this way, the reader has questions and tension about both times in the main character’s life—and wants desperately to see how it all comes together in the end.
3. This is the first book of yours that my husband has read (I know, about time!), and he read it even faster than I did. Do you plan on cross-over appeal?
The majority of my audience is women, but many men read and enjoy my books. One of the ways I work to keep men interested is to feature a strong supporting male character. Now in Crimson Eve that’s not so much the case. For instance Chief Edwards doesn’t show up much in this story. Yet men do seem to be really enjoying this book. A bit surprising to me, because the issues covered are so female-oriented.
But—there’s always the suspense story itself, which men tend to like. And this is a chase story, which men also tend to enjoy. In addition the “bad guy” hit man gets to show a good side of himself, while a supposedly “good” and powerful man shows a very bad side. So perhaps it’s the multi-layering of the male characters that makes it all interesting.
Also, maybe it’s something else—an emotional impact at a level that a male reader may not even think he’d like in a book. But the dilemma that the teenage Carla gets herself into is so heart-rending. A slow play-out of certain tragedy—but you don’t know the final outcome. So even though that part of the story focuses on a teenage girl—I don’t know, maybe men feel a protectiveness toward her. For whatever reason, they’re getting caught up in her story.
4. The pages of this book are filled with the consequences of past decisions. What do you hope your readers take away from this book?
That the decisions we make in our present will form our past—which directly affects our future. We are what we have been. The terrible, wrong-headed decisions we can get caught up in may hurt us in unforeseen ways down the road—and even worse, hurt those we love.
For those yet to make the wrong decisions—I hope to steer them clear, make them think twice. For those who have long ago made the decisions—I hope to steer them toward God. He is the Great Healer.
5. What did you learn while writing this book?
Actually, I’m learning more now—with the release of Crimson Eve. I’ve been blessed to see all my books well-received. But the response to Crimson Eve has been way above and beyond what I expected. This book is resonating with people at a whole new level. Reader after reader says it’s my best, or at least their favorite of the Kanner Lake series. I’ve tried to study on what exactly that’s all about.
Perhaps it’s the blend of suspense with Carla’s characterization. Or perhaps the trauma in her life—caused by her own poor choices, and yet we can understand how she got there. Maybe it’s an ending that’s true to life in which not everything is neatly tied up. In fact I almost think we leave the story of Crimson Eve with more trauma than when we began. But that’s life, isn’t it. Tidying up our past isn’t a wave of the wand. Even when we ask God’s forgiveness. Even forgiven and washed clean spiritually—we can face an awful lot of baggage because of our choices.
As a wise woman once told me, “God will forgive you, but nature won’t.”
6. One thing I love about your writing style is that not one word is wasted. How many times do you scour a manuscript to achieve that tightness?
Thanks for that. Great feedback. Tightness in writing is something I really strive for.
Unfortunately I never get it right the right time. My typical MO is to overwrite in the first draft. Once I receive the editorial letter, I’ve had at least a month to be away from the story. During that time I regain my “fresh eyes” for the writing. When I go back to rewrite, all the extra words I would have sworn I deleted the first time just jump out at me. I cut, cut, cut. Never scenes—I don’t write a scene unless it’s needed. But a word from this line, two words from that one. Or three sentences from a paragraph. I may lose as much as 20 manuscript pages in this process. What’s left when I’m done is a swiftly-moving story. I’ve cut out the fat and left the meat.
Now if I could only manage to do that the first time around.
7. Amber Moon is the final installment in the Kanner Lake series. Can you give us a sneak peek?
Shouldn’t that be “Sneak Pique?” J
Okay. How about the draft back cover copy:
Bailey hung on to the counter, dazed. If she let go, she’d collapse—and the twitching fingers of one of the gunmen would pull a trigger. The rest of her group huddled in frozen shock.
The shooter’s teeth clenched. “You seen enough to tell you we mean business? Anybody who moves is dead.”
On a beautiful Saturday morning the nationally read “Scenes and Beans” bloggers gather at Java Joint for a celebration. Chaos erupts when three gunmen burst in—and shoot to kill.
Police Chief Vince Edwards must negotiate with the desperate trio. The gunmen insist on communicating through the “comments” section of the blog—so all the world can hear their story. What they demand, Vince can’t possibly provide. But if he doesn’t, over a dozen beloved Kanner Lake citizens will die …
8. Final question, what advice do you have for aspiring writers?
If you want to be published in fiction, understand that you have a long, hard journey ahead of you. You must keep at it. Learn the craft, learn how to deal with the rejections. Kick a cabinet when the rejections come, then get back to work. Most of all, keep God at the center of your life.
And know that you’re not alone. I’ve been there myself—on a ten-year journey to be published in fiction. You can read that long, frustrating, trudging, miserable, rejection-filled, grit-teethed, kicking-cabinets, ultimately victorious story—titled “How I Got Here”—in the archives on my blog, Forensics and Faith.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Donna knew the infants needed love and attention and a home where they could thrive. Using grant money, private donations and a check for $100,000 from Oprah's "Use Your Life" award, Donna soon had an inner-city Victorian house furnished with baby items and ready to accept seven children.
That was in 1999. Since then, a steady stream of little ones has lived at My House where a full-time staff and over 250 volunteers give the children round-the-clock care. My friend Joan became one of those dedicated volunteers. After hearing her talk about the miracles she'd seen when babies who weren't supposed to survive grew healthy and strong, I wanted to get involved. In 2002, I wrote an article about My House for Southern Lady magazine, and soon after that I joined the Sponsor-a-Baby program.
Today Joan and I will join more than 200 My House friends for a luncheon and silent auction to raise more money so that the work Donna started in 1999 can continue into the future. If you'd like to help, go to www.myhouseweb.org or contact Donna Carson, P.O. Box 55127, Atlanta, GA 30308.
Wishing you abundant blessings,
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
And the stores are decked out in red and green cheer and the television is advertising the latest and greatest new...whatever. The malls are crowded already with people wanting to 'get their shopping over with'. I'm tried already of the hype.
My husband and I tried one year to not do gifts in an attempt to bring the focus of the holiday back to the reality of what it means, but the kids and the extended family about had a cow. So we do gifts and a tree and the decorations and the music and all the other things that are supposed to make the holiday season bright.
And it does, but there's so much more to Christmas and I wanted to share with you this wonderful book I found that has helped me to keep our family unit focused on the true meaning of Christmas. The title is The 25 Days of Christmas by Rebecca Hayford Bauer. The book provides a enjoyable and user friendly way to count down the days proceeding December 25, the day we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Every page of the book gives practical advice on the more mundane aspect of the season, such as, when to mail out Christmas cards, when to mail packages, recipes for cookies, tips on decorating the tree and the house, etc... But what I love the most about this book is every day also reforces why we celebrate the coming event with songs and scripture and family connectedness. From this book I discovered the beauty of advent (I'd heard the term before but had no idea what it was).
From the time my children were old enough to understand, I have told them that we give gifts to others as an expression of love just as God gave us the enormous gift of His son. And now I have a tool to help us remember the true meaning of this season.