Friday, July 29, 2011

My Friends Are Helping Teens

I know I've talked about this in a couple ways before, but I can't really dive into the new Friday format without including it. =)

Today I'd like to talk a bit about Stephanie Morrill and, in turn, Shellie Neumeier, who go above and beyond to make the life of writing understandable and accessible to teens who dream of being a part of it.

I'll be focusing mainly on Stephanie solely because I know her better, given that she's my best friend. =) Stephanie (much like me) has been writing books since she was a teenager. Rather than attend college, she made the decision to work for her father's company out of high school so she would have more time to focus on her writing. She began learning about the industry, the business. Attending writers conferences, seeking agents, learning how to pitch and sell.

It ain't easy--not for anyone.

But Stephanie, after years of hard work, landed a three-book deal with Revell for a young adult series. Why young adult? Because that's where her passion lies. And as she got feedback from her readers, she detected a common thread. Many of them would email her saying, "I'm a writer too--do you have any advice for me?" After getting these emails for a while, Stephanie came up with the idea for Go Teen Writers.

I've mentioned before how much I love this site. It's a fabulous meeting place for young writers, a place for them to ask their questions about writing and get informed, considered answers. It's a place of encouragement and support. It's a place that gives hope that maybe these dreams aren't so far out there.

Having been beside Stephanie throughout her journey (metaphorically speaking--we live 1,000 miles apart. And only since we met in 2007 . . .), I can tell you that for a while she felt like blogging took from her without giving anything back. But once she hit upon Go Teen Writers, there was a definite change. Because all of a sudden she knew she wasn't just writing a blog to say, "Hey, pay attention to me!" She was writing a blog to help others. To make a difference. To give.

As a former teen writer, I can't tell you enough how awesome I find this--and how I wish it had been around ten years ago!

Today's a good day for me to talk about the teen-writers ministry, because the NextGen Online Writers Conference begins on Monday (which I blogged about a little while ago). Shellie Neumeier is the genius behind this fun opportunity for young writers, and Stephanie has joined forces with her to bring some fabulous writers together to offer their expertise. And I'm not just saying that because I'm a contributor. ;-)

If you know teens who are often at their computer or hunched over a notebook, scribbling their ideas onto the page, then you can't do better than to direct them to Go Teen Writers and the NextGen Writers Conference. Because you're never too young to have a dream--or to chase after it.

I invite everyone to (a) leave a message of encouragement for Stephanie and Shellie and their amazing work with teens and (b) check out these sites and direct young writers their way. If you leave a comment on today's post (or last Friday's, or any other Friday's coming up in August), you'll be entered to win a fabulous selection of books that will soon be making their appearance in my sidebar. ;-) Please be sure you're a follower! And for an extra entry, follow Stephanie's blog.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thoughtful About . . . Criticism

Confession time: I am not, by nature, the type to accept critique. Maybe (and I'm guess here) it has to do with the fact that back in grade school I was always the one at the top of the class. The one who was always right, who the teachers used as an example. I got accustomed to being the best. And when you think you're the best, it's pretty easy to ignore advice from lesser mortals. ;-)

In high school, I remember when my AP English teacher was talking to us about constructive criticism. I understood the theory, obviously, but I recall thinking something like, "Yeah, but it never feels constructive. It feels like you saying you're right and I'm wrong." Have I mentioned I didn't like being wrong? LOL.

When it came to my writing, I tended to do it for myself. I had eight books completed by the time I finished college, and only let close friends and family read them. There were quite a few times when I'd ask for advice about a certain aspect of the story, or on where to cut to get my word count down.

And nearly every one of those times, I'd ignore whatever advice came in. Think something along the lines of, "What do you know? This isn't your story." And do it my way.

I'm not sure when it happened exactly, but I finally realize that, in fact, it is the reader's story. And so I need to write it for them, not for me. Which means I need to know what they need. What they think. What needs to be changed. And so I consider myself blessed to have critique partners and editors who offer criticism--the kind that really is constructive.

Last Tuesday afternoon, I got my second round of edits on Annapolis. The editor, in her email, called it "pristine," and said she barely got to do her job. Naturally, this made my day. And naturally, when I opened the document, I saw that there was still some work to do. I paged through it as I was making dinner and getting ready to run out for an evening appointment, and when I saw that some of the suggestions required actual thought, my reaction was something like this: "You're kidding me, right?"

Yep, the same reaction I've always had. Here's the difference--I used to leave it at that thought. When I first joined a critique group, it would sometimes take me days to heed good advice. Now it's the same process of acceptance on my part--but it only takes a few seconds. Sometimes part of a second. After that first, "But, but, but . . ." I go, "Yeah, I see your point. Okay." And I get down to making it better.

Occasionally my work with other writers, many of them new to the business and still working on that first manuscript, proves that I'm not the only one with this problem with criticism. I've heard excuses, I've heard exasperation, I've heard outright denial that there's a problem with their book. And I've thought, "If you don't want honest advice, why did you ask me to read this??"

Then I realize they're no different than me, and I make sure to offer my criticism along with the hammer and nails they need to incorporate it--because I don't want to tear anyone down with my words, I want to build them up.

I know myself well enough to realize that I'll probably always have that half-a-second argument when I get criticism. But I'm so glad that I'm to the point now where I can so quickly see the wisdom behind it. As I'm working regularly now with editors and agents, I keep thinking of the kind of author I want to be--and I don't mean defining myself by what I write. Rather, I'm talking about being an easy author to work with. One they know they can depend on to deliver the best manuscript I can, to accept advice graciously, to work hard and quickly to give them what they ask for.

Yeah, a little pride sneaks in when an editor tells me my book is in great shape--pride quickly checked when they follow the praise with constructive criticism. But when I click "send" on a manuscript, it's not with the thought of, "There, perfect." these days. It's with the hope that I gave them what they wanted. That they read through it and think, not that Roseanna is the best author ever, but that Roseanna is a great author to work with.

I have no doubt this will be an ongoing process--and I'm grateful the Lord didn't bless me with a contract until I was to the point where I could accept all the work required for it with grace.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Remember When . . . Taverns Could Talk?

Okay, metaphorically. ;-) And this isn't my post. But fellow Colonial Quiller Jennifer Hudson Taylor posted such a fascinating look into early American taverns over at the Quill today that I just couldn't resist sharing it with you:

If Colonial Tavern Walls Could Talk

That, and after being sick yesterday and just kind of tired today, but still writing and entertaining the wee ones, I have no brain power left, LOL.

So, hop over to the Colonial Quill and take a fresh look at these age-old establishments--I know you'll find it as intriguing as I did!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Story Time . . . Sneak Peak of YAHSHUA'S BRIDGE by Sandi Rog

On Saturday I picked up a book I've been waiting a long time to read--an advanced copy of Yahshua's Bridge by Sandi Rog, sequel to her Amazon Best-selling The Master's Wall. I got about 90 pages into it this weekend, and for me the experience began on the very first page, before the story even started. It began for me when I read the foreword.
Most of you probably know that on the very day Sandi's first novel released, she was diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer. In the last seven months, when this precious sister ought to have been celebrating her first book and joyously working on her second, she has been battling for survival, undergoing treatments that often felt as devastating as the illness itself. And in the foreword, Sandi's best friend and editor, Wendy Cheroot, brings this battle home for the reader.

Once in a while a book moves me to tears--but I gotta say, it's not often it happens before I even start reading the story. This time though . . . Sandi's struggle has hit me hard. She's such a light, such a joy to know--honest, open, full of faith even when full of fear. I am honored to be her friend and thank the Lord that I can support her with my prayers and encouragement.

And so, yes, I opened Yahshua's Bridge already knowing I would love it. I'll tell you up front that I'm biased. ;-) But then, I'm biased on behalf of a lot of authors, and I can still differential between okay and great books.

Thus far, this is a great book. Following Alexander, whom we met in The Master's Wall as a toddler, Yahshua's Bridge takes the reader on a journey to unlock the past and discover the future--all the while learning to trust God's promises even when He asks the seemingly impossible. Something I think few could show us as Sandi can. (Okay, fighting tears again here.)

According to Wendy's foreword, working on this book has been a balm, a coping method for Sandi, as she had to live the very lessons she had already written about. It shows, even only 90 pages in, in the depth of feeling her characters experience.

I'll keep y'all updated as I read more. The book doesn't release until November, but I hope everyone will preorder a copy just as soon as you can (no fears, I'll let you know when it's up on Amazon!!). You won't regret it!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Word of the Week - Proposal

I'm in the process of putting a book proposal together . . . which naturally gets me to thinking about the word. As a kid, I had no idea the family of "propose" words could mean anything other than asking someone to marry them--until, of course, I read or watched something where their was a comedy of errors around this very thing.

But in fact, marriage didn't get attached to the word until the mid 1700s. Propose, however, dates from the 14th century with pretty clear etymology: pro (forth) + poser (put, place) = propose (to put forth).
 
Proposal itself didn't get tacked on until the 1650s, but at that point it still had that more general meaning of something put forth. Like, say, a book idea sent out to publishers. ;-) 

But in 1749 this idea-put-forth came to mean "an offer of marriage." And in 1764 the verb caught up with the noun, and propose became the act of offering a proposal of marriage. (Funny that it took 15 years for that, isn't it? LOL)

So there you have it--unlike with some words that completely surprise me with their order, in this case the more general idea came about well before the specific one that has become most popular. And now off I go to get my proposal of literary genius (ahem) finished up!

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Friend Golden - Speaking to Hearts and Strengthening Your Marriage

It's been nearly four years since I first said an online "Hello!" to author Golden Keyes Parsons. At the time, her first novel, In the Shadow of the Sun King, was a few months from publication. When she introduced herself to our historical group, I could tell right away that Golden was everything her name implies--a woman with a heart of gold.

In the years since, Golden has proven herself just that. She is an amazing novelist, penning books that bring history to life and challenge her readers to examine their hearts. She is a speaker, often traveling to bring the message of the Lord's love to others. She is a teacher, expounding on the Bible and helping us open our hearts to receive it.

Though Golden has three books out now with a fourth set for release this November, today I'd like to highlight another of Golden's ministries--her online marriage seminar. Right now her fourth post is up, but you can read the previous ones on her blog. I wanted to bring this to your attention now, so you can be sure and stop by her blog for the next posts in the series!

I went through a couple of the posts already up on her blog, and I have to tell you--these are so great! Golden combines her expertise and Biblical principles with the same loving, gracious heart that fuels all her writing. In these posts you'll find her opening up and reaching out with grace to help us understand what we could do differently with our spouses to build a strong, well-founded marriage.

Marriage books are all over the place out there, but who in their right mind would pass up the chance to interact with the teacher?? I invite everyone to head over to www.GoldenKeyesParsons.blogspot.com and read through the posts already up, leaving questions or comments for Golden.

I also invite everyone to leave a comment here, either a question for Golden or some encouragement for this journey of writing, speaking, and teaching that she has been called to.

By commenting today (please be sure you're a follower! And if you're also a follower of Golden's blog, that's another entry!), you'll be entered into a big drawing that I'll be doing on August 26. What all will be in the fabulous giveaway? Well, for starters, a copy if Jewel of Persia (signed) and of MaryLu Tyndall's JUST released book, Surrender the Dawn. More prizes will be added each week, and each time you comment  on a Friday post, you'll get another entry!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thoughtful About . . . Suspending Disbelief

Last night, as we were flipping through the TV, we came across a new-ish show. It's another of those reality shows, this one following an archaeologist and writer who specializes in symbols. Who, naturally, is jetting around the world in search of lost legends. Like a real-life Indiana Jones.

Yeah, sure.

We watched this for about half an hour, mostly, I think, so we could laugh at some of the leaps the dude made. What, you found a 6th century sword? Then obviously it was Arthur's! I mean, why not? You connected three dots so seamlessly . . .

But as I shook my head, I also enjoyed the premise on some level. And thought, not for the first time, that it's kind of a shame we've been conditioned to doubt everything. Because wouldn't it be fun to think that Arthur really was the king of legend, and Excalibur was lying around England somewhere, waiting to be found? Wouldn't it be fun to think that there are artifacts so worth questing for?

There are, in a sense--items that, if found, could enrich our history or shed new light on old stories. But do any of us believe, anymore, that those legends have the magic (for a lack of a better word) in them? Not really. And I kinda wish we did.

Sure, I read with amazement how the Ancient Greeks imbued everything with mythology. And as a Christian, I have definite beliefs about where the supernatural comes from. But sometimes I wish we could wind back the clock of time so that I could believe more easily--and not just the legendary tales of magic swords or wishing stones. I'm pretty sure that, without the skepticism and "intellectualism" we're taught all our lives, we'd believe a lot more about our God as well. Maybe, if we were more disposed to believe in miracles, we'd see more of them.

I've talked about this before in various ways, but watching someone quest for Excalibur last night brought it up again. I'm not always willing to suspend disbelief for a half hour TV show--and yet, it's when I can that I begin to see things in the world I never noticed before. Things that make me smile, make me raise my hands to heaven, and make me thank my Lord for creating a world beyond which I can normally see.

Do I believe Merlin used magic to weld an ancient sword back together, one which could not be defeated, which first came out of a stone? No. But I do believe that with faith, we can triumph over our enemies. Sometimes in ways that are called miracles . . . or which become the stuff of legends.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Remember When . . . The Stove Was Stone?

Last week I got to visit our local(ish) colonial reenactment place, Old Bedford Village. I can't remember it if I'd been there before, so it was a blast for me to visit now, especially as I'm writing books set in the 18th century. (Would have been more fun had the 3-year-old not insisted on being held the entire time and the weather been 15 degrees cooler, but you know. We take what we can get, LOL.)

They have an entire village set up there, and different reenactors there throughout the week. When we went, there was a lady in one of the houses demonstrating spinning and explaining about how the kitchens worked, a blacksmith, and a woodworker. Gotta say--my favorite was our first stop, the Biddle House, where I got to learn more about the everyday workings of the home. =)

We watched her spin some wool onto a walking wheel (also called a great wheel and a wool wheel). This baby's so big that you have to walk back and forth about six feet as you're spinning--hence the name. The wool ends up on a spool, then you detach it from the big wheel and start spinning it onto the weasel, which puts it into skeins. It takes 150 rotations to equal one skein--and because the ingenius creators of this device knew well no one was going to sit there counting to 150 all day, the weasel pops after 150 revolutions. Sound familiar? Altogether now: "Here we go round the mulberry bush, the monkey chased the weasel . . ." =)

The lovely lady, after explaining more about fabrics and dyes and how "ripe" urine was used to get the dye to set, moved over into her kitchen to show us how one crafted a meal in the day.

There's a huge fire place taking up almost the entire wall of this house, divided into two sections that meet in a very wide V. The right side is a traditional fireplace, complete with a crane to swing a pot back and forth over the flame. But the left side has a stove top supported on the stone--a very thick piece of iron perfectly fitted to this side of the fireplace. On it you could put your pots, or cook food directly on the surface. Managing the fire underneath for the desired temperature, of course.
They had small, moveable ovens to show us too. A larger one for cooking meat, which onto a spit so you could rotate it within the metal box. The box was then set up against the fire. Not only would the heat cook the meat facing it, it circulated through the box to cook it all around. The lady showed us a smaller version of the same with a shelf inside it--on here they would bake biscuits and cookies. Three at a time, which means that a traditional recipe for about 2.5 dozen cookies took four hours to make.

So yep, a fun, educational morning in Pennsylvania. =) And boy was I glad in that 95 degree, humid heat that I wasn't wearing the long sleeves and petticoats of the reenactors!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Story Time . . . UNFORGETTABLE by Trish Perry

Rachel is a dance teacher determined to grow her studio and prove to the world that she can be a successful businesswoman. Josh is a former fighter pilot determined to fight the dark in society and avoid frivolity--like the arts. When the two are tossed together, sparks fly--both the kind that burn and the kind that dazzle.

Set in the late 1940s, Unforgettable is a fun, lively story that follows an unlikely couple as they teach each other that sometimes opposites make life all the richer. Josh, a total hunk with a chip on his shoulder, wants to make a difference with his reporting career by exposing dirty politicians and the like--but when one of his sources goes into hiding, he's forced to retract the biggest story of his career . . . and gets sentenced to the prison known as the Life & Style section. The only bright side is that he meets Rachel right about then. And that, even though he makes a fool of himself repeatedly by expressing his opinions about her career when he ought to keep his mouth shut, they seem to click.

Rachel loves nothing like ballroom dance, and she takes serious offense when someone calls it frivolous, even when that someone's as attractive a man as Josh. But she accepts his apology and gives him another chance. After all, she's expanding the studio with the help of a banker's investment and needs to focus on getting back into competitions--she doesn't have time to hold a grudge. Accept, perhaps, against the ex-boyfriend who has ruined competition dance for her.

From the melodrama of the dance floor to the drama of politics, Josh and Rachel learn to find support in unlikely places. And, to take a line from the back cover, "once they stop dancing around the truth, the results are unforgettable."

I'm a big Trish Perry fan, so I was really looking forward to this book, and it hasn't disappointed! Though a more serious tale than Perry sometimes delivers, the characters are endearing, especially in their bumbling. You can't help but cheer for Rachel in her business endeavors, for Josh in his attempts at romance. And you can't help but groan when you see them about to do something you know's going to lead to complication.

The rich, post-War setting adds a beautiful layer to the lovable characters and compelling plot, resulting in a story that truly is unforgettable. Great job, Trish!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Word of the Week - Shock

There I was, tippity-tapping away on my story, eyes (surely) intense as I put my poor heroine into a terrible situation. Knife at her throat, blade glinting in the lantern light. But that isn't the villainy--the villainy is in the news he imparts. News that sets her reeling, that makes her spinning world grind to a halt. When the hero rushes up and sees her empty eyes and non-responsiveness, he thinks, "Oh no, she's in sho---" Wait a minute.

Could she be in shock in 1779? Growl, grumble, away from the story I go to the awesome www.etymonline.com. Where I discover that no, she could not have been (in so many words). BUT-- 

Shock. This word entered English round about 1560 and was a military term for a violent attack. In the 1690s the word was used to mean "offend, displease." So you could shock someone then--but it wasn't until 1705 that it took on the noun side of that and broadened to mean "a sudden, disturbing impression upon the mind." 

So things could shock us mentally in 1690, and we'd feel the shock of it in 1705, bwhich is what I needed for my particular story--my heroine could be shocked, just not in shock. That didn't come about until 1804. Though interestingly, an electric shock dates from almost exactly the same time as the mental shock.

Shocking!

Friday, July 15, 2011

My Friend Fridays Are Going to Change!

Well, I've just about reached the end of my scheduled author interviews paired with book giveaways. I have a few more over the next couple months that are already scheduled, and I'm happy to do them whenever an author asks. But feedback on those have been down, so I'm brainstorming a new approach to My Friend Fridays.

Here's what I'm envisioning. Since beginning this blog, I've made a lot of other friends in the blogging world, and they're not all authors. So what I'd like to do is highlight YOU on Fridays. I'd like to go visit your blogs, your websites, discover what you're passionate about that brings you online to connect with folks. And I'd like to write about it, directing my other readers your way.

Giveaways? Well, I'll probably do one big one a month, and comments from any of the Friday posts will enter you, so you can be entered multiple time.

To start this, I'll probably be visiting the sites of some of you I know pretty well. But once I run out of those, I'm going to be going through my Followers list, following links and getting to know you. Then, rather than just being a place for mindless giveaways, I'd like MFFs to be a time to encourage and support one another.

You guys have been amazing in supporting me--now I want to return the favor!

So, would you like me feature you one Friday? Or do you have another friend you think deserves the recognition? Leave me a comment with your website and a sentence about what you do, what your ministry is.

And of course, the success of this relies on interaction, so please pass along the opportunity to your friends and come back every Friday to discover someone new!

Thoughts? Suggestions? I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thoughtful About . . . Oregon

In a few short weeks, I'm going to be hopping a cross-country flight and winging my way to Oregon for the Oregon Christian Writers Conference. This will not be my first conference, or my first solo flight. But it's my first time flying so long at all, and my first time going to a conference as an editor. I'm so excited! (Okay, not about the loooooong, lonely flight, but . . .)

It's kind of funny. When I agreed to do this, it was because it sounded like too good an opportunity to pass up. I've always wanted to go to Oregon, and going to conferences for WhiteFire was a must. So I accepted--then began to think, "But I don't know anyone there. I'll have appointments, sure, but who am I going to talk to otherwise?"

In the months since, it seems like every week I come across someone who is from the West Coast and will be in Oregon for the conference. To start, the editor who wants to see the manuscript I'm working on now--she asked me to bring with me whatever of it was done. Then, there's my new agent, Karen Ball of the Steve Laube Agency. I'm stoked to get to chat with her while I'm there! Then I discover that one of my readers for Jewel of Persia is the president of OCW and will obviously be there as well. Wow!

I'll also get to teach a class while there, and of the options I sent them, they chose my "Marketing Monster" workshop. Rather than focusing on the specifics of marketing, I'm going to be focusing on overcoming your fears of marketing. (I've already gotten some great input from published and unpublished authors on what their fears are, but if you haven't already sent me yours, feel free to do so now! I'm looking for the things about marketing that make you sweat or wince or your stomach knot up, the things that make you think, "But, but, but . . .")

So all in all, Oregon is on my mind a lot these days. =) I'm dreading leaving my kiddos and hubby for four days (and will be leaving on my birthday), but I'm looking forward to seeing the beauty of Oregon, meeting in person all these wonderful folks I've talked to these last couple months, and chatting with folks on behalf of WhiteFire. Should be fun!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Remember When . . . Roseanna Talked About Research?

I know, I know--you read that title and think, "You mean, like, always?" Yeah, pretty much. ;-) Which is why I volunteered to run an online session on research for writers 20 and under as part of the NextGen Online Writers Conference!

Have you heard about this? It's pretty cool, and all you teens out there need to check it out--and all you older folks need to recommend it to the young writers you know. Registration is free, but you've gotta be registered to take advantage of the cool classes and contests.

You can find info on the event and register at www.NextGenWriters.com. The presenters are all published authors there to chat about topics near and dear. Me, obviously, but also Stephanie Morrill, Melanie Dickerson, MaryLu Tyndall, Nicole O'Dell, Max Elliot Anderson, Caleb Breakey, Shellie Neumeier (who developed the event), Jill Williamson (who just won another Christy this week--Goooooooo, Jill!!), and Patti Shene. To find links to all their websites, check out the presenter's page at NextGen.

For my part, as you already know, I volunteered to talk about research. So in my post I cover why research is crucial, no matter your genre, and then dive into how to do it, touching on online searching, physical books, and experts.

PLUS--I'm doing a special giveaway for conference attendees and offering a free one-chapter (or 15 pages max) critique to one lucky winner!

The conference is August 2-3, so you've only got a couple weeks left to register! Don't forget to check it out!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Story Time Surprises

We're going to chat again today. =)

Every Tuesday, I take the kids to the library, and come home with a canvas bag full of kids' books. The past couple weeks, rather than help me pick out books, my little ones have played while I did that task. I try to pick out a variety--some boyish ones for my truck-loving, monster-playing, super-hero whooshing little guy; some girlie ones for my oh-so-pretty, princess ballerina, wear-pink-all-day girl-o.

Last week, they surprised me. When I laid them all out at bedtime and asked what they wanted, I thought Rowyn would pick the robot one, maybe the bug one, and that Xoe would go for Pinkalicious or the one about the fairy mouse.

But no. Rowyn chose Fairytale Cake and Xoe picked Big Bug Surprise. Color me shocked, LOL.

It made me think about how often I'm surprised by my own reading choices. I confess I tend to pick up books whose genres I love or the author of which I either (a) know personally or (b) know will deliver a great story. Sometimes I stretch myself, waiting for a pleasant surprise.

I think the biggest one I ever got was Zora & Nicky by Claudia Mair Burney. I'd read another of her books and found some aspects of it that just weren't uplifting enough for me. But I picked up Z&N because it was sent to me, and I was honestly thinking, "I'll just get this one out of the way."

It. Was. AWESOME.

I couldn't rave enough about it--I still can't, and that was two years ago. It was a book that delivered hope alongside reality, that forces you to examine all you believe, all your actions, redefines the difficulties of race with honesty and insight, and above all directs everything back to the Lord. It was amazing, simply amazing. 

Other attempts at surprising myself haven't always gone so well, LOL. Sometimes I end up tossing a book down going, "Yep. This is why I steer clear of this genre/author."

But I love little more than discovering a new favorite where least expected. So . . . what are yours? What have you read that you didn't expect to like, or picked up solely on recommendation but were unsure of, that you ended up falling in love with??

Monday, July 11, 2011

Word of the Week - Ketchup

'Tis the season for cookouts and barbecues, and I'll use that as my excuse for talking about ketchup, LOL. Really, it's because I recently discovered its history, and it's just too bizarre to our modern minds not to share. =)

When we Americans think of ketchup, we think of tomato ketchup. I'd really never even heard of any other kind, until reading a book about the Revolution, wherein was mentioned mushroom ketchup. The very thought of this made my nose wrinkle up--I'm not a fan of mushrooms. And for that matter, it made my mother's nose wrinkle up, probably because she imagine it in with tomato ketchup, LOL.

But the original definition of ketchup was "a kind of pickle, made of mushrooms," which was used solely as a sauce for fish. The word itself comes from the Chinese word for "brine of fish." Variants also included walnuts, cucumbers, and oysters.

Let's all thank those American seaman for introducing the tomato to it, leaving out the other stuff, and so introducing a new staple to the world!

On another note, my series on Grammar is wrapping up over at Go Teen Writers today, so swing by for some chatting about capitalization, quotations, etc.

Friday, July 8, 2011

My Friend Shannon - Interview & Giveaway

We have Shannon Vannatter back again, and after some most excellent placing in various contests with her first novel. =) Congrats, Shannon!! But we're here to talk about her newest one, White Pearls.

Shannon has offered a copy of White Pearls to one lucky winner, so to enter leave a comment below with your email address. If you have trouble leaving a comment with your account, "Anonymous" usually works, or you can just email it to me at roseanna [at] roseannawhite [dot] com and I'll post it for ya. =)

~*~

About White Pearls

Shell doesn't have a good reputation...But no matter what everyone in Rose Bud, Arkansas, thinks of her, she's back in town with a job to do. She'll stick it out and make the best of things. But why does Ryler have to be the landscaper on this project? She was just getting her heart under control. Ryler has his own reasons for being in Rose Bud, and they don't include Shell. Spying on his birth family was going to be hard enough. He doesn't have time to worry about a woman who dumped him...even if his heart says otherwise.

~*~

About Shannon

Central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. Her  three-book debut series of contemporary inspirational romances  with Heartsong Presents are set in Romance and Rose Bud, Arkansas.

Heartsong titles ship to a 11,000 member book club before releasing in stores. Vannatter’s series: White Roses, White Doves, and White Pearls are available at www.heartsongpresents.com, White Roses won the 2011 International Readers Choice Award in the short contemporary category. The 18th Annual Heartsong Awards named Vannatter #3 Favorite New Author, White Roses #1 Favorite Contemporary Novel, and White Doves #8 Favorite Contemporary Novel.  The Democrat-Gazette Three Rivers Edition named Vannatter one of 20 to Watch in 2011.

Her next series is set around Texas rodeos. The first book will release to the Heartsong book club in October.


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What's your latest book?

White Pearls released to the Heartsong Presents book club in January 2011. It should be finding its way into stores about now, Amazon sometime this month, and christianbook.com in the next couple of months. Book one, White Roses and two, White Doves are available at all three sites.


And I'm so excited for you about how well White Roses has done in contests!! But back to White Pearls. What's your favorite part of the story?

When certain characters accepted Jesus as their savior.


=) Those scenes can be tough to write, but when they click--awesome. What was the hardest part to write?

Getting into the hero and heroine's heads at the beginning of the story, when neither of them were Christians. They'd both been promiscuous. It was hard to relay their feelings and struggles with going too far.


Definitely a fine line to walk! Is there a theme to this book?

The truth will set you free. The hero and heroine are both bound by a web of lies.


Let's switch to you, the writer. What would your dream office look like—and what does your REAL writing environment look like?

My dream office would have white wicker furniture including the desk with pastel walls and seashells everywhere.

I share my office with my husband. The walls are sage green. His side is neat and organized. Mine is cluttered, but I know what's in every stack. And no one better touch my stacks.


LOL. Is there any one thing or reference you keep handy when writing? Anything you kept around for this particular book?

I clip pictures of magazines to represent my characters and keep them hanging above my computer. A Bible, Find It Fast in the Bible, and Let's Name the Baby stay close. The baby name book is for naming characters.

Are there any people (family, writing group, editors) whom you rely on when writing?

My critique partners: Lorna Seilstad and Brenda Anderson. They let me know when my characters aren't making sense. Lorna always blackens my black moment. And Brenda is great with emotion and body language.


Nothing like a good critter! =) Aside from writing, what takes up most of your time?

A nine-year old son, a husband of twenty-seven years, and our church. Since my husband is the pastor, the church is a large part of our lives, even though he's bi-vocational and has another full time job.


If someone were to give you $5,000 to spend on anything you wanted, what would you buy? (No saving or gifts to charities allowed!)

Probably a down payment on a new truck for my husband. He's sold a lot of trucks over the years because our finances were strained.

Awww, that's so sweet. Do you remember where you were when you got your first or most important call about a book contract?

Home alone. Every time something great happens with my writing--an offer, a contract, an award, there's no one home but me.

Did you call them and tell them to get themselves home to jump up and down with you?? ;-) Any funny family stories about living with a writer?

We recently went to Fort Worth to research my rodeo series I'm currently working on. My step mother-in-law lives in San Antonio and met us there to visit. We were at the Stockyards and I was soaking in the sounds, smells, and ambiance for the book. She was talking to me and I was just saying, unhuh and un uhs. My husband, "You can't talk to her until we get back to the hotel. She's not here, she's in book land."

What are you writing right now?

I'm working on the second book in my Texas rodeo series. It's called Rodeo Hero. The hero is a bi-vocational youth director who works at the Stockyards Cowtown Coliseum. The heroine is a new Christian, photographer with a promiscuous past.

Any upcoming releases we should keep our eye out for?

The first book in the series, Rodeo Dust releases in October through Heartsong Presents.

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Readers, be sure and check out Shannon at:  www.shannonvannatter.com, www.shannonvannatter.com/blog, and at her group blog, www.inksperationalmessages.com. You can find her books at http://www.heartsongpresents.com/.

Void where prohibited. Entry into the contest is considered verification of eligibility based on your local laws. Chance of winning depends on number of entries. Contest ends 7/15/11. Winner will have two weeks to claim prize.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thoughtful About . . . Abundance

"You crown the year with Your goodness
And Your paths drip with abundance."

~ Psalm 65:11

Yesterday, when I sat down for some much-needed reading and praying, I read Psalm 65, and this verse really struck me. In church last weekend we were talking about how this has been a horrendous year for natural disasters. So many tornadoes . . . flooding . . . wildfires . . . earthquakes . . . tsunamis . . . . Disaster after disaster after disaster that have left very little of the country (and world) untouched.

About two weeks ago I mentioned how much rain we've gotten this year, and a friend in the Southwest said how they hadn't gotten a drop of it in nine months. While things here have been washing out, things there have been drying out.

Yesterday when I read this verse, it resonated within me because I've been having a great couple of weeks, professionally speaking. I have an editor super-interested in the book I wanted to write next anyway, I signed with a new agent after phone calls with three of them . . . it's been great. Exhilarating. I would usually quote the verse about my cup running over, but I like this even better--I've been following His path, and it's dripping with abundance.

But the contrast is still there. Not so long ago, I felt like I was going nowhere. I knew I was doing what the Lord wanted me to do, so there was peace in that, but it was a resigned peace. An "I guess Your will for me doesn't include this dream of mine" kind of peace. I was dried up. Burned out.

Much like a few friends of mine are now, while I'm going through this period of much.

In a way, it seems weird. Unfair. Right? But it's about seasons--we all have them. We go through them ourselves, and so does everyone else, and rarely do our seasons line up perfectly with everyone else's. Still, I had to wonder, yesterday, why this fabulous season of mine corresponds so exactly to such dry periods in the lives of two of the people closest to me.

Then I took a deep breath and remembered that when I went through my dry spell last year, they were there for me. Encouraging, praying. Giving of themselves. Giving of themselves because they could. Because they had the abundance then.

Isn't that really awesome of God? Yes, we could choose to focus on the wrong thing and be jealous of our friends when all's going well for them, or to be resentful. But while we can't send the Southwest our rain, we can pour out the healing waters of the Lord's love upon others when we're overflowing with it. We can nourish their souls. And then we can trust that when we're the ones in the arid places, they'll do the same for us.

I always used to define "abundance" as having a lot of what you want or need. But my new definition is "having enough to share."

***

On an unrelated note, I'm trying out a new commenting server thingy. What with all the issues with comments that Blogger's been having, and the option with this one to reply to an individual's comment rather than the whole thing if you want, it seemed worth trying. Though it doesn't recognize your Blogger account, which is the drawback (though you can leave one as "guest"). So opinions on it welcome!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Grammar Girl to the Rescue!

Today (blissful sigh) is a writing day. The kids stayed with their nonna last night, and all is quiet and serene here in the Maison du Blanc. And crazy as it seems, if I don't dive right in, I'll waste hours online, LOL. So. Rather than taking the time for an original post, I'm sharing something that's going up at Go Teen Writers today. Stephanie Morrill asked me to write some guest posts on grammar, and the three-part series begins today, aimed at young novelists. I don't know if I'll post the other parts here (they'll go up Friday and Monday), but to since everyone can use a refresher in grammar now and then . . .

~*~

Faster with a red pen than an errant three-year-old . . .
More apt to spout rules than your high school English teacher . . .
Able to correct commas with a single glance . . .
She’s [insert bugle blare here] Grammar Girl!

Are you imagining me soaring through the clouds with cape billowing behind me and GG emblazoned across my oh-so-cute costume? Excellent. Now let’s begin. =)

Grammar is important. (Stop groaning, now!) Grammar is what helps us fine tune what we say so that it comes out clearly and has the best possible impact. If your words are a sword, then grammar is the sharpness of the blade—an integral part of the words themselves, and that which gives them their shape and power.

I was one of those nuts who was always in the highest percentile in the Mechanics section of the standardized tests in English. I was editing my sister’s college English papers for her when I was 14. My college professors bandied about phrases like “your stylistic prowess.” (Oh yeah, I wrote that one down, LOL.) Am I the best writer in the world? Ahem. NO. But I know my grammar, which means I turn in polished, clean manuscripts.

That counts.

Stephanie asked me if I’d be willing to do some grammar posts, and I enthusiastically said, “YES!! I’d love to! How many? What about? When do I start??” (I told you—I’m a nut.) So over the next ### I’m going to give a crash course in a few rules you should keep handy while you’re writing and check over before you send your work out into the world.

First, if we’re dealing with a manuscript, let’s talk basic formatting. You should always set up your page with 1” margins all around, double spaced, first line of a paragraph indented to .5” through your Format/Paragraph option. Don’t put extra spaces between paragraphs, not in a book. Don’t use hard returns to get to the next page—use a page break (Ctrl + Enter). Keep your alignment Left (not justified) except for chapter headings and section breaks, which are centered.

Okay. Now that your page is set up, you begin writing. Once you’ve written your first sentence, you hit the space bar, right? Be sure you only hit it once. Back in the day when I was in high school, we were taught to put two spaces between sentences, but no longer. So I had to retrain myself, and I still mess that up occasionally. So at the end of a document, I’ll do a Find search for two spaces and Replace All with one.

A few more “always” rules.

Always, a comma comes directly after a word—no space before it, but one after it. Same goes for a period, question mark, exclamation point, quotation mark, and any other form of punctuation. (Now, no rolling your eyes. I’ve seen this mistake often enough to make me cringe, LOL.)

Always, commas and period go within quotation marks, whether the sentence ends with the quotation end or not. (i.e. He barged into the room and said, “Hello,” then left again. NEVER: He barged into the room and said, “Hello”, then left again.) For question marks and exclamation points, they go within the quote only when part of the quote. (i.e. Have you ever heard the saying “eat, drink, and be merry”? BUT: Did she just ask, “Can I join you?”)

Always, each new speaker in dialogue gets his or her own paragraph. (Always, always, always!!)

See, not so bad, is it? I won’t start the real torture until next time. ;-) Check back in for the finer points of commas, quotes, and caps!

And if you have any questions, be they general or particular, bring ’em on! Grammar Girl to the rescue!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sneak Peek -- Shhhhh ;-)

Did everyone enjoy a great Independence Day? We did. Homemade ice cream, and the enthusiasm for fireworks that only kids can lend to the day. They got especially excited when the neighbors shot off some really great ones, up close and personal. I'm always afraid those will scare the kiddos, but they whooped and clapped along with the rest of us. 

Now. I spent part of last week toying with a new website design. And since that took up the time I should have spent reading, I have no book to discuss with y'all this week (oops), so I figured I'd talk about this instead. ;-)

So, step #1. Go Here.

Step #2. Look around, keeping in mind that full content is nowhere near up yet. I'm just working on overall design before sinking time into transferring my Companion Guides.

     ~ On the homepage, I'm planning on having one of those little feed preview-of-latest-blog thingies under the welcome. (Anyone know how to do that with a Wordpress site, when the blog's on Blogger??)

     ~ In the left sidebar, there will be a page for links (like to ACFW, my Colonial Blog, Go Teen Writers, Christian Review of Books) and then quick links to my books' pages, maybe an Events page . . . anything else you'd like to see there? Or on the top menu?

     ~ The picture of the book on the homepage will change as new books come out to feature the latest. So soon you'll see the Annapolis cover there. =) Which has some purple in the sky, so it'll perfectly coordinate with the site, LOL. Yes, I did that on purpose.

Step #3. Come back here and tell me what you think.

     ~ I'd like some feedback on how the colors work for you, especially in relation to visibility and readability for those whose eyes are sensitive to these things. (Let's keep in mind that I like purple, so just saying 'I don't like purple' isn't going to change my mind ;-) Saying it hurts your eyes, however, may.)

      ~ I'd also love your feedback on what else you'd like to see on the site. A newsletter subscription, maybe (which would mean I'd have to start a newsletter)? Should I put up a digital version of my marketing workshop, after I've done it (Spirit-Led Marketing, by the way)? Something else I'm totally forgetting?

Thanks! I look forward to your feedback. =)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Word of the Week - Patriot

I love being an American. I'm proud of my country, I admire our roots, and I truly believe in the ideals on which we were founded. I will sing "God Bless America" from the top of my lungs! I don't think my country's perfect by any means--but it's mine. I'm a patriot.

But patriot wasn't always a good thing! It's an old word, tracing its roots bake to the Greek "patriotes," which means "fellow-countryman," which of course comes from "patrios"--of one's father, and "patris"--fatherland. In the early 1600s, patriot had gained the meaning of "one who is a loyal supporter of one's country." But in the mid-18th century, it became a term of derision--it had come to be applied to those whose passion led to divisiveness and disturbance of the government.

So when Americans were branded as Patriots, it sure wasn't a compliment. But in true Yankee fashion, we took what was meant as an insult and turned it into a badge of honor. Though the word still retains negative connotations in other parts of the English-speaking world, Americans wave the flag of patriotism with truly old-fashioned delight.

Now--for a truly amazing online celebration of Independence Day, hie thee over to the Colonial Quills! Many of us will be showing up in character to talk about what the day means to us. I'll be there as Lark Benton from Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland, so to get a sneak peek of my upcoming heroine, come on over!