Monday, December 31, 2007

This Last Day of 2007

What have I learned?

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

Distillation of Your Book Idea...

Until now, I've talked about characterizations and subplots; developing logical characters and conflicts and story elements. At some point, you may want to submit a proposal to a publisher, or will hope to sit down at an editor appointment at a conference, to tell him/her about this fabulous new project you're working on.

An editor needs to know: "What's the hook?" In other words, what makes this book truly unique and special and exciting? How can she/he market this to the company sales team? How could this story be presented on a book cover? How could readers be drawn into buying the book, so the company makes money?

I went to a conference recently, where there were around a dozen editors and maybe ten agents who spoke on various panels. I kept hearing the term "branding" as being essential even for the first time author. They talked about looking at a proposal letter, and wanting to see right off: Where they could place this author in their roster? What makes him or her unique? And, many of them mentioned that they want to see a simple, direct statement of what a proposed story is about.

Can you describe your story in 25 words or less? The term "elevator pitch" was bandied about quite a lot. This is a statement with which you can tell somebody about your story in just a few seconds.

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.

As we head into the New Year, I want to wish everyone the greatest success with their writing in the coming year!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Revisions and more revisions!

Today I dutifully sit at my desk with a cup of caramel cappuccino that I made on my new cappuccino machine and review my manuscript Her Only Protector. Her Only Protector is the sequel to my 11/07 Cradle of Secrets and features Dylan's younger sister, Sonny, and a bounty hunter who is searching for their brother Cash. The bounty hunter makes a whole lot of trouble for Sonny as she tries to escape Colombia.

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

White Christmas

Its Christmas morning and the presents have been opened and preparations are being made for the 'big' dinner. And its SNOWING!!!! Big, white, chunky flakes. It reminds me of that movie, White Christmas, where at the end after they've done the big show, they open the back of the room and reveal the pristine snow coming down and then Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye sing. I love that movie. I know, its a bit old fashioned compared to what can be done in movieland today, but I still love it. Its right up there with Its a Wonderful Life. I love all the old movies, there's just something nostalgic about how movies were made back then. The acting and the singing, and not relying on special effects to carry the movie. My kids get bored with the classics but I doubt I ever will. Okay, I hear my name being called, so I'm off to spend time with the family. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and may God bless you.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Twas the day before Christmas

This year my two-year-old is somewhat getting it. He realizes that all the lights on the the houses mean 'something'. He knows the tree in our house is there for 'some' reason. He's learned that we only get to open one door each day on the 24 days until Christmas decoration. He knows 'something' is going on. Celebrating Christmas through a two-year-old's eyes is fascinating. First, he doesn't say Santa. He says Santan. Since we're in Arizona, it's actually pretty fitting. Santa actually could have a tan. And, second, he's recognizing the man in red on television specials. Last night the whole family watched the Polar Express. None of us had seen it. My two-year-old watched the whole thing. He's usually good in front of the TV for maybe 20 minutes (unless it's Thomas the Train). We were curled on the armchair under a blanket. When it was time for bed, the whole family curled up in his little bunkbed and said goodnight.

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!

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:

TYPE TALK BOOK, by Otto Kroeger and Janet Thuesen

LIFE TYPES by Sandra Hirsh and Jean Kummerow

ENNEAGRAM BOOKS--a cute and easy one is THE ENNEAGRAM MADE EASY, by Renee Baron & Elizabeth Wagele


And though I don’t believe in horoscopes, some of the horoscope-based books on personality can have some interesting descriptions of the various personality type and how they interact with each other. A couple on my shelves are SUN SIGN PERSONALITY GUIDE, by Robin MacNaughton and THE PERSONALITY COMPASS, by Diane Turner and Thelma Greco

I've used the first two, TYPE TALK and LIFE TYPES, quite a few times over the years, to work on building layers that are deeper, more complex, more real. And, while setting these characters up, I make up a simple chart with all these details, so I can be reminded of the multiple facets to use while writing the book. Everyone is the hero in his own life. Everyone should have goals and motivation and conflicts that hold them back and that conflict with those of other characters. Weave those conflicts through the story to create a stronger, more compelling read!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Wishes and Traditions

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

The miracle of life

In just a few days, we will celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. I love the miracle of that virgin birth, and the amazing love that it displays. That Jesus, the Son of God, would agree to come down and start life as a newborn. Why? So that when His time came, He could say that He had been tempted in all ways as we have been tempted. That He had experienced all the ups and downs and joys and sorrows of life as we do.

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

Merry Christmas!!!

My next blog will be posted after the New Year, so I wanted to take this opportunity to wish you a very Merry Christmas! Have a joyous holiday with your friends and family and enjoy whatever Santa has waiting for you under the tree. I know it will be something very special!

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 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

Getting to the Root

I'm off this morning to have a root canal. I know, ugh! But really its my own fault. I've been told numerous times over the years that this tooth (well, actually I have about eight that have cracks) would need to be taken care of. But it started out as just a little fissure that didn't hurt and wasn't doing any damage. At least not that I could see or feel. But alas, the fissure turned in to a crack, that turned into a fracture. For the past couple of months the whole left side of my face has been in pain because the fracture exposed the root where a pylop has formed. Its been very distracting, not to mention making me miserable. I went to the dentist who sadly shook his head and referred me to an endodontist, who will go in and take out the root while I sit humbly in the chair with my head thrown back and my mouth wide open and by next week I should be much better but until then I know I'll still have some discomfort if not out right pain.
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

What Happens in Critique Group, Stays in Critique Group

Connie Flynn, a best selling author, who happens to be in my critique groups said this just last meeting. It was one of the off the cuff comments that stopped our group in its tracks. We all nodded solemnly. My critique group has been together now almost six years.

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

Spreading the Word

As the publicity officer for ACFW and an avid reader, I love spreading the word about Christian fiction that I love. A challenge is often coming up with new and creative ways to let people know about great books that they might not normally pick up. Reviews and blogs are great, but not everyone is on-line. So what’s a girl to do?

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

Holiday Prep!

Yikes! Christmas will be here before we know it! It's already the 12th, and I still have so much to do. Are you like me? I'm wondering how I'll get everything done.

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

It's Raining, It's Pouring, Still

They say we received 40% of our yearly rain the weekend before last. Since I had two booksignings, one outside, I believe it. One booksigning recheduled, and guess what, it rained LOL. Well, it cleared up before and after my booksigning, so I don't care and I like rain.

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

Craft....developing ideas

I've been talking about characterization, but want to take a detour tonight. Where do you get your story ideas? How you develop the storyline for a whole book?

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! 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

Contest Winner!

Congratulations to Helen Darby! She is the November winner of my Texas Hearts series from Avalon books.

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

My First Book-Signing Photos

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

Headin' to Huntsville

Tomorrow I'll be headin' to Huntsville, Alabama, to speak at Good Shepard Church for an Advent dinner. The night is a celebration in honor of the women of the parish who do so much throughout the year. Early in 2007, my dear friend, Alice Mingo, asked me to be the after-dinner speaker. Of course, I eagerly agreed.

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

Booksignings and More

I can't believe November is over. There is an old saying about time. It goes something like this.

* 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, 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

Creating Characters, continued...


As the Sunday Craft Lady, I've been posting about characterization in novel writing. Onward!

FIRST PERSON BIO: You've heard about this, I'm sure, if you are an aspiring author of romantic fiction, as a way to delve deeper into a character's psyche. To someone who isn’t a writer, the concept might seem a little spooky. It's basically just sitting down at the computer and letting a character channel his thoughts through you. Letting the words a stream of consciousness---based on what you already know about him. His goals. His inner wounds. His thoughts about the situation he's in. His feelings about things like:

His childhood

The past



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!

So, how do we create believable characters? By making them pychological plausible and consistent, giving them crucial goals--something they need, not just something they want. Giving them major external and internal conflicts. Matching them up with characters who will provide varying levels of believable conflict.

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...