Saturday, June 27, 2009


If writing were only writing, I'd probably have penned fifteen novels by now. But then, it's not. It's research, observation and editing as well. And that research in particular can be a real time-eater. All it takes is for me to think, "Hmm... would they have needed a key to start their car in 1932?" And then there I am for the next hour, getting to know Google better than my next door neighbor, overloading my brain with all sorts of information that's interesting, yes, but does not in any way answer my question.

This may be the information age, but it's amazing how difficult it can be to hunt down one small, but very specific, piece of information.

Over my short time in writing I've scoured the internet for things such as when lemonade became popular, what an early-1900's jailhouse window would look like, how people felt about the war before America became involved, whether or not women in the 1930's wore slips, and what time of year green beans are in season.

It's amazing how little I really know!

Thankfully, other people know stuff. And I depend on them to write the books and articles that help me write more books. So I'm actually rather grateful that I can get lost in a land of search engines and discover things like whether or not women commonly wore taffeta in 1939.

Which reminds me... time to take another spin on Google.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

In Comes The Heat...

... out come the good old summer-reading books. You know, the ones I can read without thinking too much. When I was a kid it was Nancy Drew, books I'd already read and wanted to read again, and Archie comics. (And just for the record, Archie should never have proposed to Veronica!) Toss in some bare feet, a seat on the porch, and a Fla-Vor-Ice, and life was good.

Now that I'm well into adulthood, I tend to do something similar. I'll re-read my Victoria Holt's or scan the library shelves for anything clad in old sixties or seventies library binding. And my Fla-Vor-Ice is replaced by something chocolate.

So I'm not entirely sure how I ended up reading freaky, nightmare-inducing novels this summer, but I have, and I've got the strange dreams to go along with them. I've been spending a lot of time with books by Ted Dekker, king of Christian creep-me-out fiction. And now I'm just making my way into Valley Of The Shadow, Tom Pawlik's sequel to Vanish. Great reads, but definitely not soft and fluffy.

Which makes it necessary for me to throw in something to lighten up my summer relaxing. Next on my shelf is a change of pace in Eva Marie Everson's Things Left Unspoken and Rene Gutteridge's Scoop. And I hope to discover a few new gems this season out of the deepening pool of Christian authors.

Beach books, however, are a different breed entirely. For me, great seaside reading has to have some suspense to it along with a mysterious setting. If there are unusual locations, stormy days and thick mists, we're getting somewhere. Think Mary Stewart or Phyllis Whitney. The problem is finding some I haven't read. There's nothing worse than carting a stack of library books to the beach only to realize I've read all but two of them.

So any suggestions you have, pass them on. I'm desperately seeking new material... and looking forward to enjoying some happy summer reading.

I hope you do the same!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Believing Is Seeing

Anyone who knows me knows I'm a ridiculous hockey fan, and now that my Pittsburgh Penguins have won the prized Stanley Cup, you'll have to excuse me for using this space to celebrate. I'm just a little excited.

But what makes it even more fantastic is the dramatic way the Penguins made it to the top this year, like one of those sports-themed movies with the high-powered soundtrack and Kleenex moments.

Just last year, they suffered a hugely disappointing loss in the Stanley Cup finals against the Detroit Red Wings and were relegated to watching their opponents celebrate on Pittsburgh ice. That was followed up with the off-season departure of some of their key players for other teams and the fact that many in the hockey world had written them off before the season even began.

By mid-season, it seemed the naysayers knew what they were talking about. The Penguins were several points out of playoff contention, struggling to string together even two wins in a row. Injuries had forced them to shuffle the lineup, and the forecast for failure seemed all too real.

But that all started to change with the arrival of a rookie coach - a lower leaguer who sported a completely different approach to hockey and a ton of optimism - and a few, highly undervalued players acquired from other teams. And suddenly the tide began to turn. Disappointment and doubt were replaced by increasing belief, and the team eventually found themselves not only in the playoffs but moving deeper and deeper into them on the back of solid teamwork and plenty of fight.

By the last round, they were showing incredible resilience and confidence, and they soared into the finals to be matched up with the same team they'd faced - and lost to - the year before. They quickly went down in the series 2-0, a situation that could have easily riddled them with doubt, but they never quit or counted themselves out. And finally, after gutting it out through seven games, they victoriously skated the coveted Stanley Cup around opposition ice.

Sports fan or not, if you're a writer you should be able to relate to this idea of needing to face a challenge in your life with belief and determination. It's never been a simple feat to make it past an editors desk, and in these economic times with magazines and newspapers slipping into history, it seems an almost impossible task.

But is it what you're meant to do? Because if it is, you may have to confront the idea that a long, grinding road to publication lies ahead. The likelihood is there are going to be difficult losses, seemingly insurmountable challenges, and the need for hours of training and hard work. There will likely be naysayers and times when you'll see other people triumph in front of you while you feel the heartbreak of just missing out. Sometimes it may seem like you're just wasting your time and will never be able to overcome the odds.

But belief is key to completing any task the Lord has called you to. Belief in the fact that what the Lord wills, He brings to pass. Belief that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. And belief that He never fails to honor a heart committed to His plan.

So if you're frustrated right now, spend some time in prayer openly seeking His will. And if you soundly believe writing is the path He has you on, just believe. Trust that you have the support of the Creator of the universe, and take it one day at a time. Don't try to figure out His timetable or His reasoning. Don't second guess or focus on human opinion. After all, we aren't talking about a God who is limited to human reasoning.

Our God is "able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us" (Ephesians 5:20).

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Bridging The Gap

There's always been a generation gap, I suppose, and these days it's no easier for mothers and daughters to find things in common. Music tastes, television viewing, movie picks - they all vary with age. But a good book? A good book can oftentimes be a perfect bridge for that gap.

Think Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, The Wizard of Oz - all books that can be enjoyed by women and girls alike. It doesn't matter if you're fifteen, forty-five or seventy. You'll still cry over Beth March, fall in love with Gilbert Blythe and enjoy a stroll down the yellow brick road. Great ways to nurture conversation!

When I wrote Fireflies In December, I wrote it for adults. The main character may have been thirteen, but the experiences she went through were decidedly frightening at times, and I never even considered that it would be aimed towards teenagers. Which was something of a problem for me when trying to get it published. For many publishing professionals it fell somewhere in between Adult and Young Adult, and it seemed after a while that I'd never find the perfect spot for it.

But I did, and despite the fact that I've heard wonderful things from women of all ages, some of my most excited readers are teenage girls. In fact, one of my young readers traveled 140 miles with her grandmother to come to my latest book signing. It was truly a highlight of my short career, and the minute I glanced down at her well-read copy of Fireflies In December, I was overjoyed. There's nothing better for an author than seeing their book all dog-eared and wrinkled. Those books are the ones that have been devoured. I've dog-eared and wrinkled up quite a few in my time.

And I remember discussing many of these books with my mother when I was a teenager. We didn't always have the same favorite parts or have the same opinion about the ending, but that was what kept the conversation interesting and made for some great memories.

I truly hope Fireflies In December joins the lineup of novels like those, the ones that light up the imaginations of mothers, daughters and granddaughters alike. And I hope there are many wonderful writers out there who will continue to add to the list.

How about you? Are there any books you share/shared with your family?