Except not for music. I know my beloved Diann relishes her Christmas music. But I seriously turn into Scrooge. There are contractors working in my house (we're getting new windows, YAY!) and the noise is driving me crazy. So I thought I'd walk to Starbucks and edit. But...there's a problem. Christmas music.
I can't write and hear Christmas music. Are you kidding me? I will start writing murder books. Okay, the worst of it this year for me? I cannot STAND Josh Groban and my favorite Xmas song is "Oh Holy Night" and guess who is singing it this year? That's right, Josh-make-me-want-to-hurl-Groban. It's just wrong. Wrong, I tell you.
If you've paid any attention to my history, I LOVE David Crowder. And he's got a CD out for Christmas. Now, I love all things Crowder and I can't not support my favorite band. So I had to buy the CD. But I sent it to Diann. Because even David Crowder isn't man enough to make me listen to Christmas music.
Christmas music is like nails on a chalkboard to my ears. And I have to be alone in this because everyone has a Christmas album out. Neil Diamond. Barbra Streisand. Barry Manilow...and aren't they Jewish? I mean, clearly they can get into the holiday. What is wrong with me?
I should seriously do my Christmas shopping before they start with the Xmas music. That will be my goal for next year. How are you like Scrooge? Anyone?
It's finally here! Time for a visit to a charming Vermont town named Smitten. Isn't it cute? We are all sooo excited that it is hitting stores now. The culmination of many months of work and excitement.
But Smitten needs your help. Thomas Nelson is working on a Smitten website that is going to be sooo fun and interactive. We're going to have some great sections with recipes, spa treatment suggestions, exercise tips, pet tips and visits with us. Well, our characters, but really us. :) One of the sections is going to be the chapel where we'd love to hear your stories about how you were "Smitten by Christ." Another section will be where we post stories of how you met your spouse. And we'd love to have a few stories to "prime the pump" so to speak. If you'd like to participate, post your story here or if you want to REALLY stay anonymous, email your story to me at email@example.com.
Want to hear MY story of how I met Dave? I'm a little ashamed to admit this but I was going steady with his best friend. Both fellows were in the Air Force. Dave's friend asked him to take care of me while he was stationed clear across the country. Dave was only 3 hours away. He of course said yes because he already had plans. LOL I was totally smitten and still am 40 years later. Dave was the perfect match for me. I'm loud and boisterous, and he's quite and thoughtful. I've never met a stranger and he's more reserved. I can get scattered in a thousand directions but he is true and steady. God knew what I needed and it was my Dave.
See this cute couple? They recently joined our family. I'll be taking them with us as we travel and go about life--kind of like Travelocity's Roaming Gnome--and I'll be posting their photos on my Facebook page.
Here's where I need your help. This lovely couple needs a name. It can be Mr. and Mrs. Fill-in-the-blank, first names, or some creative name that captures their coupledom.
Leave your suggestions, as many as you like, and if yours is my favorite, you'll win an early autographed copy of "Smitten"!
I'll make a selection Tuesday (11-29-11) so don't delay!
No one who walks into our home can say I'm a master decorator. I don't have an eye for color. For instance, to me, light sky blue is light sky blue. But my friend tells me it isn't that at all, it has hints of soft gray that are actually more relaxing than the blue I was considering.
Let me tell you what I have, and maybe you could help. We have a rather large house, with a basement that is as large as the upstairs. We've left it pretty much a storage area until recently, when we hired someone to care for Mom eight hours a day. She does wonderfully, but Mom always wants to know where I am, and so there we all end up in the same room together, the four of us, even, when Mel's home, because he wants to spend time with me, too. But a crowd of people in our cluttered unfinished office is not conducive to focused writing--we moved everything in there from the front room so Mom's familiar furniture could surround her and make her feel more at home. We realized we were in desperate need of another place where I could write in silence and isolation.
But for me it has to be pretty. Years ago we went to a local paint store and purchased a mural that would fit on one of the walls in our selected room. It's also our tornado shelter, meaning no windows. I need light. The room is huge, about 18 x 15, and we'll place the mural on the far wall. It's a mural of a lake scene in the woods, so we'll need to paint the rest of the walls the sort of blue that's in the mural. That much I've figured out. I'd like to take the hideous ceiling panels out and paint them blue, then sponge white for clouds, then paint the holders a sort of wooden brown or dark silver to make it look like the skylights are supported by wood or strong bars. Mel said something about curtains on either side of the mural. Since the whole room is concrete and dark paneling, we would need to paint the concrete floor and the paneling the right color of blue.
I have no idea how to go about any of this. You girls are a special group of very creative people. If you have any idea what I'm talking about and can give me some suggestions, hints, or even a dire warning not to do what I'm planning to do, please let me know? This will be my place for writing, relaxing, maybe even a place for Mel and me to share alone time without waking Mom when she's trying to rest. Any help? If you can come up with something that will really make this underground room shine, I'd be forever grateful!
Remember, I'm waiting for some answers. I'll even take pictures after it's all finished and hope it turns out to be as beautiful as I dream for it to be.
Meet my friend, Tread Mill. TM and I met a while a back and were on a friendly basis for a while. We spent time together regularly, but eventually we fell apart. It's been a few weeks now. Okay, a few months. All right, years.
But you have to understand, she liked telling me what to do, and besides, I had to go into the basement to see her, and I don't like the basement--but that's another blog.
When the weather warmed, I began walking outside instead of spending time with TM. The view was better than the basement and besides, when I was outside, she wasn't there to order me around, and I liked that too.
Alas, the weather has grown cold, and TM has been calling me downstairs again. I know I need to see her, but I also know this basement thing is going to be a constant barrier. So last night, Kevin and Chad brought TM upstairs to live. She's in our living room now, hulking over the sofa in the corner where I won't forget her--I'm sure she won't let me.
Do you have a friend like TM? How do you persist in (or avoid) spending time together?
As many of you know, last week I blogged a promise to send out a free book to anyone who commented on my blog. Well, the thing was, I had gone to bed, realized I would be sleeping late the next morning, and so dragged myself out of bed and typed my blog, intending to have a drawing. Only I didn't say drawing, I said free book. So then in the comments the next day I explained what I had done and promised to send a free book to those who had already commented--that was ten ladies.
However, many didn't go to the comments, and so they didn't receive my own comment, and so all weekend and beyond I continued to receive comments on my blog. So I thought, why not? If those who would like to read a book by Hannah Alexander are committed enough to comment and send me their snail mail, then they should get a book. It may not be The Wedding Kiss, except for the first ten commenters, but it will be a book by Hannah Alexander. However, I realized that those who didn't commit to read the comments didn't realize they'd won a book. So. You've won a book from me if you commented on last week's blog by Sunday night. All you need to do is email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your snail mail address so I can know where to send the book. No tricks. I'm not trying to collect snail mails. I don't do snail mail. But you've won if you commented, so let me send you a book!
Blessings from Hannah Alexander, who is kind of enjoying this, and may even win some new readers.
Lisa has been a longtime friend and participant here on Girls Write Out. We've all cheered her on with her own writing efforts and no one could be more thrilled for her than we are because Lisa's first book is coming out! Whoohoo! We're sooo proud of you, Lisa!
Here's Lisa's bio: Heart, home and faith have always been important to Lisa Jordan, so writing stories that feature both comes naturally to her. She has been writing contemporary Christian romance for more than a decade. Her debut novel, Lakeside Reunion, will be released in November by Love Inspired, followed by her second novel, Lakeside Family, in August 2012 by Love Inspired. Happily married for twenty-two years, Lisa and her husband have two young adult sons. When she isn’t writing or caring for children in her in-home childcare business, Lisa enjoys family time, romantic comedies, good books, crafting with friends and feeding her NCIS addiction. Visit her at www.lisajordanbooks.com to learn more about her writing.
Now here's Lisa!
Four years ago, I drove our oldest son to Boy Scout camp about two hours from our home. He spent his summer working as a lifeguard and swimming instructor.
Hubby usually drove, but he had to work, so my sister agreed to go with me. Two directionally-challenged adults are better than one, I say.
Common sense would’ve dictated that I should’ve paid closer attention when Hubby drove, but the trip was long and boring with windy roads and miles upon miles of trees. Rural? Oh, my, yes! Instead of noting directions, I kept my nose buried in a good book.
Before we left, Hubby rattled off directions faster than an auctioneer, but being the visual person that I am, I needed something to look at, so I printed out the route from Mapquest—no, I didn’t have GPS. By the way, don’t click the shortest distance box. Always go for shortest time.
According to the commandos at Mapquest, I needed to turn right onto Fire Tower Road. Okay, no problem. We’re three miles from camp with time to spare. I had this trip in the bag. Nothing to worry about.
Except Fire Tower Road is an impassible logging road with ruts that rivaled the Grand Canyon. Road was a definitely a tongue in cheek term for this donkey path.
Determined to get my son to camp, I pressed on even though there was no way this could be the right road. Continuing to follow the mapped route, I took the first left, as directed. No road. Instead, there was a gate across an even narrower impassible footpath.
Frustrated and angry, I called my husband at work. He told me how to get to camp from where we were located. Less than three miles, but it took me over an hour to go that short distance. Not to mention the paint damage my car received from that nasty little jaunt.
My boys like to poke fun at their directionally-challenged mother, but you know what? They’re right. Yes, I’m sometimes directionally-challenged trying to get from Point A to Point B, but I can be directionally-challenged by sitting at my computer while writing too. If my characters lack defined motivation, they wander all over the place. If I receive feedback from too many sources, my story voice gets lost as I try to please everyone else.
For clarity about my writing, I need to stop and focus on God’s direction. Instead of poking our noses in the proverbial books in life, we need to look up from our current chapters and pay attention to the routes we’re taking. Taking shortcuts in our spiritual and writing lives leads us down rutted, bumpy roads that can cause damage, if we’re not careful. When we trust in Him and focus on His Word, He will make our paths straight.
Lakeside Reunion: Bed-and-breakfast owner Lindsey Porter prays she won’t run into Stephen Chase when she returns to Shelby Lake. Five years ago, the cop jilted her to marry another woman, and Lindsey fled town. But no sooner does she hit city limits than Stephen pulls her over for a broken taillight. Despite the past, he’s still able to stir up Lindsey’s old feelings for him. Now a widower and single dad, Stephen recognizes a second chance when he sees one. And he’ll do anything to make Lindsey trust in God and take a risk for love—again. Read an excerpt of Lakeside Reunion here.
I’m holding a scavenger hunt and lakeside photo contest to promote my Lakeside Reunion release. Plus, blog commenters on my blog hop will be put in a drawing for fun prizes—breakfast basket, Love Inspired Authors basket, autographed copies of Lakeside Reunion. Visit my Lakeside Reunion Contest page for more information.
Recently we've had some visitors at the Hunter household--turkeys! And no, I'm not referring to our friends or family.
This group of seven or eight turkeys have turned up in our yard 3 times over the past week. If we were a different kind of Hunters, we might see a Thanksgiving feast when we look out our window these days, but instead, we welcome them to our property and hope the other kind of hunters are interested only in deer. (They are not fond of Daisy, incidentally, who once chased them into the sky. Man, can those birds fly!)
I'm so looking forward to Thanksgiving. It's seems like forever since we've seen our family, who lives in a different state. It's a time to gather 'round the table and catch up on each others' lives. And hey, the food's not bad either. What are you looking forward to this Thanksgiving?
No artwork today, since you can see the copy of the book I'm giving away by my name at the side of the blog. The title is The Wedding Kiss. I'll add your name to the list if you let me know why you think you might like a copy of this book--or even if there's another Hannah Alexander book you think you'd like better--and I'll send it to you. You have all weekend to chime in, and since I'll be away part of the weekend, even if you don't hear from me, believe me when I say I plan to do this. Since this is writers week, this is my contribution. You may read The Wedding Kiss and see dozens of things you'd do differently. You may read it and decide I might know how to write. Whatever, I hope you learn something from reading it. And that's my lesson for today. Now let me know why you think you might want it!
Okay, so I couldn't do a blog without another picture of our newest grandson, Maddox James. Do you see that he's smiling? Most likely thinking of a trip to Nanny and Papaw's house. :-)
On to the matter of writing. Finding that right word. Sometimes I want to bang my head against a wall, because the word I want is on the tip of my tongue, but I just can't grasp it. I flip through online thesauruses, dictionaries, nothing.
While I worked for a court reporter, I spent many days waiting on the attorneys or deponent to arrive. One day I decided to think of all the verbs and adjectives I could think of, colorful and bright, to refer to when I was writing. I had pages and pages. Wish I could remember what I did with that!
Anyway, what do you do to find the right word? Remember, the words we choose also reveal our writing voice.
See the pelicans? I took this over the weekend. Not related to writing, but isn't it pretty?
We've all heard the stereotypical advice: Write what you know. Read what you write. Don't write to the market.
I'll tell you one piece of advice that I think trumps all others: When given advice, LISTEN to what works, throw out what doesn't.
I think in my years as a writer, the one thing I've seen in authors who don't get published year after year is their EGO! This is not a business if you have a big ego. I've heard people who think they're going to be famous. Please. A real writer is about the words. The promotion is usually a painful necessity.
I met a woman the other day who cannot shut up about her writing. She went on and on about her successes and her meeting famous writers, etc. when she's never been published and she has an author of 40 books in front of her. Did she ever ask ONE question? She did not. She knew it all.
The topic of her book is really depressing (cancer) and it's about cancer in a narcissist and how the heroine is victimized by him. Had she asked, I would have told her, your heroine better be likable because even if he is a narcissist, people don't want to see him die without repenting. And they don't want to see the heroine as a victim when she could have walked away for her own health. That makes her a stupid doormat. No one identifies with the stupid doormats. The strong, willful doormats? Like Melanie in "Gone with the Wind" or "Jane Eyre" -- YES!
I've written forty books. I don't know it all. Don't pretend that I do. The more I learn, the more I realize I have yet to learn. So if you haven't been published in a long time, maybe it's time to consider the fact that you're not listening to professional advice that's given to you. Just maybe.
This is the cover of my first book. It was my "grieving" book for my brother Randy who died in a freak lightning accident. That incident propelled me into writing.
As first books go, it wasn't too bad. At least that's what I thought. But my brother Rick found the original printout of that first book and gave it to me this past weekend. Ahem, this was the original. The one before any editing. The one before I even got close to being published. It is terrible! Horrible, awful, putrid. You think I'm overreacting but I'm not. I skimmed through that puppy and thought if this author (me) was able to grow enough to write something publishable, then anyone can build on their craft. :)
So in honor of that terrible first book, I'm going to give you a list of what NOT to do in a novel. I did every one of these things in that first book. Oh the horror! LOL
1. Backstory should not make up the entire first three chapters. What brings a character to the place we find them can be fascinating, but it's better hinted at rather than spelled out at first. It's better to intrigue the reader by tiny references to something that has gone before.
2. Pages and pages of introspection and no dialogue can scare your reader. When he/she flips through the pages, there needs to be white space. As in dialogue. A book with no dialogue is slooow reading!
3. Don't make the book autobiographical. While you may think your situation is spellbinding, chances are it's just plain boring. :)
4. Don't take up pages and pages of action that goes nowhere. Every scene needs to have a reason to be there.
5. Don't change points of view in the middle of a scene. It is disorienting for the reader and it keeps him/her from identifying with your character.
6. Tell the story in as few points of view as possible. Multiple points of view can make for a richer story but the butcher doesn't need his own point of view to tell us that the character has brown hair. LOL
And yes, I did all those things in this first draft that my brother uncovered. It's at least twenty years old, and while I wanted to think it was a historic find, I'd be embarrassed to let anyone else read it! It's that bad. I shudder to think I subjected my poor brother to it! LOL
Have you ever done any of these things? And do you have some advice for aspiring writers?
Once upon a time, there was a boy named Joseph. He was the apple of his dad's eye and, as such, became prideful, boasting to his brothers. As a result, his brothers hated him. They sold him into slavery and told his dad he'd died. Joseph grew in wisdom, learning much, and became the head of his master's household. But soon a false accusation landed him in prison.
You know the end of the story. He earned the respect of the guards and was eventually lifted to a position second only to Pharaoh. Joseph went from a prideful boy to a servant leader, but it wasn't without a touch of misery, a nugget of betrayal, and a pound of unmerited discipline.
What does Joseph have to do with writing? Just as God used terrible circumstances to grow Joseph (and us!), so must we use trials to grow our protagonist. This can be hard at first. Hey, we're nice people! We don't like wreaking havoc on others. But havoc must happen for our protagonists to grow, and grow they must.
But don't make too many terrible things happen to your protagonist--this can feel contrived. Sometimes, one solid trial is enough to carry a story.
In "You've Got Mail", Kathleen Kelly falls in love with the man who destroyed the precious bookshop her late mother had opened.
In "The Lakehouse", Kate falls in love with a man who's living in a different time.
In "While You were Sleeping", Lucy finally falls in love, but his family thinks she's engaged to his brother.
In "A Cowboy's Touch", a journalist finds the love of a cowboy and the story of her life only to realize she has to choose between the two.
So bring on bring on the impossible complications, bring on the unfortunate losses, the undeserved consequences. Just remember, it's for their own good--and for the good of your readers.
I love sunrises. Unfortunately, one reason for this is because they're so rare for me. I see sunsets much more often.
For me, a sunrise is a fresh beginning on a new opportunity to do things right that I may have missed the day before. It's funny that New Years Day doesn't do the same for me, but sunrises are rarer, even, than New Years. I get up at about ten, go to bed well after midnight, often as late as 2:00, because that is the best time to focus on writing. That, plus my poor mother having trouble sleeping at night, keeps me going into the early morning hours. That is why I love a sunset.
They can lift me in ways nothing else can. They hold promise, and such beauty. Recently I discovered a way to give myself a lift despite the lack of sunrises in my life. I surprise myself by recalling something I actually like about myself. Most of us have a bad habit of putting ourselves down and counting our faults. We can so easily keep track of our mistakes during the day. I have that tendency. But what if we were to focus on something we've done right recently?Did you allow someone to pull in front of you in traffic without muttering or honking the horn?
Have you ever smiled at someone and cheered them up? Have you helped someone out of a tough spot? Have you felt your heart go tender for someone whose heart was breaking? Think about it. Are you a kind person, do you have qualities that you appreciate in others? Do you have a creative personality?
Give yourself a sunrise today, lift yourself up. Look for the good in yourself, and not those things that the devil seems to love to whisper into your ear at every opportunity. Focus on the good in yourself, and that is the direction your heart will lean.
And then share here. I'd love to know what good things you are thinking about yourself today.
Family Fiction was kind enough to interview us (Colleen Coble, Diann Hunt, Denise Hunter and Kristin Billerbeck) for the new Smitten book that releases in December. I'm so excited for this book and the chance to write with my best buddies. I think book two is even STRONGER than the first, so I'm so excited. There's even a potential Smitten song, which is incredible, and so fun. So read the article and see if you're Smitten with small-town Vermont, as we are!
Yesterday, I spoke for a large group of women for a ministry named "Buckner" -- it's a wonderful ministry and the houses that one family dedicated to the community for single mothers -- was amazing!
At the end of the event, I signed books for lovely people who gave me grace (I am not the best speaker being very ADD) and I have to say, it was so much easier to offer up the book of devotionals, "Delight yourself in the Lord, Even on Bad Hair Days" because it was a group project. It wasn't about me. And some of its proceeds will go to Ovarian cancer research. As two of our writers (Sandra Bricker and our own Diann Hunt) have fought this awful disease, I felt solid in its power.
I feel the same about "Smitten" because it's such a celebration of friendship and how different the four of us in the book are. (Colleen Coble, Diann Hunter, Denise Hunter and myself.)
I cannot sell myself to save my life. I watch some of these authors and they have no trouble telling you how fabulous their book is, but I just see the flaws. Isn't that a terrible flaw? I can't see the good in a lot of life, and yet, I see it in all of those lovely people around me.
What kind of promotion to do you love/hate from your favorite or even less-favorite authors?
Kristin Billerbeck is a proud Californian, wife, mother of four, and connoisseur of the irrelevant. She writes Christian Chick Lit; where she finds need for most of the useless facts lulling about in her head.
Cheryl Hodde writes romantic medical suspense under the pen name of Hannah Alexander, using all the input she can get from her husband, Mel, for the medical expertise. For fun she hikes and reads. Out of guilt, she rescues discarded cats. She and Mel are presently taking orders from four pampered strays.