Friday, December 31, 2010

Last One Question Friday of the Year

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It’s my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

What are you looking forward to?

Happy New Year!

*photos by flickr

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What Manatees Taught Me about Inner Peace

Last week I got to do something I’d been looking forward to for months. I kayaked near manatees. My husband watched the girls so my mom and I could have an all day excursion while we were down in Florida.

I’ll never forget it.

I went into the experience expecting to see maybe one or two sea cows (as they’re often dubbed) from a distance. We put our kayaks in the water and headed out. Within five minutes of paddling, I began to notice gray shadows moving under the water. Close. So close, if I wanted to poke them with my paddle I could have easily done so. But there’d be no paddle poking that day. Instead, I pushed the kayak forward in awe. I squealed with joy upon seeing the mysterious creatures all around me, even directly under my kayak at times. My muscles relaxed. I felt as though I’d been dropped in one of those nature shows my dad and I used to watch. I was living the adventure.

I was at peace.

After over an hour studying the creatures and sharing my excitement with my mom, we ran into trouble.

We’d been casually conversing with a volunteer in his kayak, on the water helping protect the manatees. We didn’t see it coming.

A man, who might as well have finished his sentences with, “Argh” and shook his hook hand at us, steered his pontoon boat directly toward my mom and the volunteer. Then he sprayed verbal insults at them. His ugly words rained down over the water. My mom is hard of hearing and couldn’t pick up specifics. But I heard every single word. And my heart lit on fire. (Here would be a good place to mention I can be fiercely protective of loved ones. Since my father died, I’ve been even more so of my mom.)

The peace that had swelled inside me, a balloon of contentment, deflated as I heard his words and the rudeness that accompanied them.

I’m a feisty gal. I had no problem letting him know I found him rude. He had plenty of room to steer around the kayaks.

But he aimed to pop. And pop he did. He went off. A litany of anger. A tirade of blah blah blah. I bantered for a bit. Didn’t back down easily. No, that I did not do. No one messes with my mama.

And my peaceful day for that matter.

My mom sat silently in her kayak during the whole charade. Eventually the man moved on and the volunteer followed him and held him accountable for disturbing the peace (I’m grateful to that man).

My veins became tunnels of fire. My peace had been shattered. The manatees swam in meandering patterns all around us. The day remained glorious. The scene incredibly meaningful.

But I struggled to let the rude pirate’s insults go.

I struggled to let go.

My mom and I discussed it. She reminded me of what I’ve had to learn time and time again. It’s important not to let others control our emotions. The longer I dwelled on it, the longer he had hold of my feelings, my day.

So I fought to release it. We spent over an hour more in the cove where massive manatees played below us. Some had visible scars. Some bobbed to the surface and puffed for air.

Gradually I let the beauty of the experience rush inside my veins again. Then we decided to head back. When we were five minutes shy of where we’d put in, I noticed a walrus-looking fellow rippling beside me. I hollered to my mom. I’d seen plenty up close by this point, but there was something different about this guy. I stuck my hand down in the water. He swam beside my kayak. Then he rose to the surface, high enough so I could touch his blubbery sandpaper back. Before he dove under he bumped up above the surface and blew out an adorable snoring breath.

I cheered to my mom. She cheered back.

Peace flooded me again.

*photo by flickr

Monday, December 27, 2010


I had the best intentions of blogging today. I miss it. I miss interacting with you. But I am!

We drove through a blizzard on our return home last night. A twenty-two hour trip ended with us crawling along at 20 to 40 MPH the second day, through over five states. You know when you laugh your head off at Mad Libs things have reached a worrisome point. My head still throbs and I can’t decide if, even after a night of sleep, I’m still in the car.

We made it though. (Praise God!) And I have much to share with you. I also can’t wait to hear about your holidays.

What’s the latest with you?

Friday, December 17, 2010

One Question Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It’s my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

What warms the cockles of your heart during the Christmas season?

*I’ll be kayaking near manatees and lovin’ on my mom next week. Mostly offline.
**photos by flickr

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

8 Ways to Stay Sane During the Holidays

Let it sift over and over in your mind what this holiday is really about. Think about the meaning behind the nativity when you walk by it.

Make sure you take at least fifteen minutes a day to chill out, plop down to read a book, glance through a magazine, or talk on the phone without unloading the dishwasher at the same time. (This is the one I need to do most.)

Completely contradicting my last suggestion, get up off the couch and get moving. Hike and inhale the delicious scent of evergreen. Exercise. Your brain will thank you for it.

I swear it’s the best kind of medicine. Become skilled at laughing at yourself. Trust me it is so much fun. When is the last time you had an all out tickle war with your spouse or your children? It is due time.

We seldom sing in groups any other time of year other than now. So go caroling. Belt it out in church. Turn up the Christmas music and let your voice be heard.

Put a little nog in your eggnog this year.

Think of ways to help bolster loved ones. Kind words and gestures go a long way, especially this time of year when many are feeling lonely or sad and struggling because they feel like they should be feeling the opposite. It’s amazing how giving changes who we are on the inside.

Live in the moment. This is the only Christmas we’ll get this year. Try not to rattle off lists in your head or make plans while you’re seated by the fireplace. Be fully present in the here and now.

How do you make conscious choices to stay sane this time of year?

*photo by flickr

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Little Book Talk

I love to talk books. However, I find myself having to discern what type of person I’m talking to in order to figure out the conversation we’re about to embark upon.

If a close friend of mine mentions to a mutual acquaintance that I’m working on my fifth book, I’ll get a bug-eyed stare and, “You’ve written five books?”

My answer always depends.

If I sense I’m talking to an avid writer and/or reader and they’ve been in the trenches I might say:

I’m pumped because I overcame the sagging middle in my WIP and I have a firmer grasp on my POV. I’m at 50K and my MC is encountering a new conflict. I probably won’t query it for at least a year. I want some beta readers to open a can of whoop A. on the thing. Now I want to hear all about your project.

But if they admit they went to see Eat Pray Love because they don’t read, I’d probably say:

Yep. I like to write.

I have to conduct the same type of social gauge when reading comes up in conversation. Sometimes I get, “You read more than one book at a time?”

If they tell me they never read because they don’t have time or they quit reading books after a few chapters because books can’t really instigate solid conversation, I say:

Yep. I enjoy reading.

But if they tease a smile on my lips, telling me about some amazing books they’ve just read I jump right in:

I just finished Chasing Lilacs by Carla Stewart and Wishin’ and Hopin’ by Wally Lamb. Both excellent. I’m certain the characters will stay with me for a long time. And I’m reading one now that has me hooked, Mudbound. A killer start.

My answer gets even more fun when they ask in a pleading voice, “How do you find the time to write and read so much?”

Now I play.

I tell them I lock my kids in the closet for hours at a time or that my kids really write the stories and I edit them. Or I’ll say that I only sleep two hours a night or that I really only read the first sentence of books. I’ve made it a game, coming up with responses to the ‘how do you find the time’ question. Can you tell I’ve been asked often?

If I’m feeling less sarcastic I’ll tell them I love it, it’s my passion.

What do you say to people who ask how you find the time to do the thing you love to do?

*photos by flickr

Friday, December 10, 2010

One Question Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It's my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

Coffee or Tea?

*photos by flickr
**And the winner of Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook is…Bonnie R. Paulson (shoot me an email with your address and I’ll send it out. I can’t promise I’ll send it before Christmas, but I will send it.) Congratulations!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I Am Not (& a Giveaway)

Thanks to Pete Wilson’s recent post (excellent) I constructed a list of eight things I’m not:

Kids Craft Guru
I could never be a Kindergarten teacher. My preschooler had to decorate a drawing of a turkey at home. Can you say Cheerios? Next we had to decorate an ornament. Can you say crumbled tissue paper?

E-book or Kindle Hooked
Not yet at least. I like the smell of a book in my hands. Haven’t converted…yet.

On Facebook 24/7
I went a little nutty with it at first. It has that addictive quality about it. I still hop on every so often, but I’m not a regular there. I cheat on Facebook with Twitter.

Technology Crazed
I love teaching myself and learning more about technology. My father-in-law had a blast showing me the details of his iPhone, all the applications over Thanksgiving break. But guess what? I’ve never sent a text. Yep. Not one. I’m an old lady, really. Haven’t you figured this out by now?

Obsessed with Fashion Trends
My favorite thing to do once I come home is to get my pajamas back on. Not even kidding. I also have favorite clothing that I’d be perfectly content wearing days in a row (I don’t though—wouldn’t want to embarrass that kidlets). I smile about this trait now. My dad used to do this. It bonds us in an amusing way.

Don’t get me wrong, I know how to get my threads on. I can gussy it up with the best of them, but if I had my druthers, I’d live in my Ogunquit sweatshirt (or an old Young Life sweatshirt. Yes some of my clothes are over fifteen years old. The What Not to Wear duo would kill me) and a pair of soft PJ bottoms.

A Neat Freak
I like tidy. I like straightened. I’m not really sure what people are talking about when they say dusting. My home is not in perfect order every day. I’m not a perfectionist and I’d rather play a rousing game of Pictureka with my kids than hustle around making sure every toy is back in its “home”.

PTO President
I love my children with everything I’ve got. I’m involved in their lives. I volunteer at their schools and I make sure I’m familiar with their teachers, but I’m not a zealous PTO Mama. Just not my deal.

Up with the Joneses or In the Know about Hollywood
I honestly didn’t know who Justin Bieber was until a few weeks ago. I hardly watch any TV (with the exception of Dirty Jobs…I've been really enjoying that show lately).

And as far as Mrs. Jones is concerned, I don’t play. I’ve never been a fan of comparing. We each have our own role to carry out in the brief time we are here. Every so often I get sideswiped by a certain longing, but then God lovingly smacks me upside the head and reminds me of all I’ve been given. And I’m good.

All good.

I’m giving away a book to represent one thing I am. A writer. And if you’re one too and you want Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass, leave a comment telling me what you are not (you must be a follower of this blog to win). Random selection. Create a buzz. I’ll announce the winner Friday. (Even if you're not a writer, I'd love to read about what you are not.)

*photo by flickr
**I'm here for Sage

Monday, December 6, 2010

Is It Possible to Lose Your Writer Voice?

Here’s something I’ve been wondering lately. Voice. By far one of my favorite aspects of writing involves developing my voice. Voice. It’s that elusive mystery that attracts people to buy multiple books from the same author. It’s the ultimate desire for a writer—to master their voice.
But can it be lost?

From one book to the next, one moment to the next can a writer’s voice slip away like smoke drifting from a chimney top, disappearing above the trees?

We’ve all fallen in love with one book from an author only to be greatly disappointed by books two and three. Is it fair to say that author lost their voice?

Sure discipline, years of practice and a steady diet of writing will all work against this happening but I still turn this one over in my head like a charred rotisserie chicken. Perhaps voice always has the potential to fade or lose its potency or bravado. I remember weeks following my father’s death when I sat to write I felt a visceral fear that I’d lost the magic, my voice had fled. I worried I wouldn’t get it back.

My worry was for naught.

As worry so often is.

It came back.

What do you think? Is it possible to lose your writer voice? I want to shake up some thoughts on this one.

*photos by flickr

Friday, December 3, 2010

One Question Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It's my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

Happiness is…

*photos by flickr

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sharper Vision

My vision has changed. I’ve always had keen eyesight but I’ve had cataracts in other areas of my life. Through the years my mental vision (tied in with emotional, relational, spiritual) has sharpened. I thank God for this.

Here are eight examples of how I see better now than I did 10-20 years ago:

Word Power
I have a greater respect for the power of words and the absence of them.

Silence is okay—even beneficial at times. Words can linger for a lifetime. I’ve grown more discerning of when to bite my tongue and I think more before I speak. Also, screaming doesn’t make me more heard.

The Affirmation Sieve
I let others’ opinions of me fall by the wayside quicker and more often. I used to cling so tightly to what friends and family would say about me. Too tightly. It added to my self-worth somehow. Viewpoints alter minute by minute. I work hard to let most of it go—let it fall through my mental sieve.

Female Bonds
I grew up in a home with three sisters, one of whom was an All-American soccer player, and another had cancer and a slew of other needs. This provided a perfect breeding ground for understanding women in a jealous light. God’s had to do a lot of work on me with this one. In the past two decades I’ve moved from my jealous feelings of women to appreciating them and delighting in their unique gifts. I compare less and celebrate more. I’ve also learned to guard my heart in certain situations and with certain people.

Quiet Please
I don’t have to have the last word. Sometimes words are unnecessary. I’m impulsive and with that characteristic I’m apt to spout off quick-witted remarks that might at times be better left unspoken. Also, in arguments I try to listen to understand more than fight to be understood.

The Beauty of Humility
Humility is a far more beautiful trait than futile grasps for perfection.

Judge Less
I don’t know how I’d act if I lived someone else’s life and was in their current circumstance. A woman from one of our small groups said this and I’ve never forgotten it. It’s a wonderful reminder every time I’m tempted to judge.

Beats Me
Sometimes the words I don’t know are the most true and suitable words for the occasion.

Who, What, Where, Why, When (& Sometimes How)
Feeling the freedom to question has only strengthened my faith.

During an eight day outdoor hike through the woods while I was in high school a stick jumped into my eye. (More accurately, I wasn’t paying attention to my next steps, and I walked straight into a branch.) I remember the odd sensation of tugging the stick to dislodge it from the corner where it had embedded. My vision has improved over the years, but I’ll be the first one to admit there are times when I’m caught with a stick in my eye.

Is your vision sharper than it was years ago? If so, how?

*photos by flickr
**Melanie from
Elegant Custom Blogs is offering readers of this blog a 20% discount on any package order from her site if you order by the end of December. Mention in your email that you found her by my blog.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Spun Thoughts

Remember when Prince changed his name and everyone fumbled when they called him the artist formerly known as Prince? He used that ankh symbol. Well, that’s not how I play. Yes, I changed my blog title—thanks to your thoughtful responses to my last post. Yes, I’ve changed my look—thanks to Melanie from Elegant Custom Blogs. (I love it Melanie. Thank you!)

But you’re still here at the same place.

You’ll still get my thoughts spun from the cobwebs in my brain. Was it Rumpelstiltskin who spun straw into gold? I like the sound of that better. Or maybe not. Isn’t that the dark Grimm story about a miller’s daughter, a dwarf and a baby up for grabs? (Yep, I’ll still come at you with random remarks like this one.)

I’ll keep throwing out thoughts as though we’re chatting. Or as though we’re walking together in the bonsai tree mazes inside my mind.

I’m so pumped about the new look around here. Melanie was so attentive to specifics. She was excellent with asking key questions and with follow through. Right now she’s offering FREE blog backgrounds. I highly recommend her work.

Of course I won’t end this post without a question.

How have your thoughts moved lately?

*photo by flickr

Friday, November 19, 2010

I Need Your Advice

I’m considering changing the header of my blog—titling it something else.


Heaven in a Wild Flower (this is from a line of one of my favorite William Blake poems so it has special significance to me)

Wendy Paine Miller (I’m sure you can figure out why I’d choose this one)


All in a Day’s Thought (leave it as is)

I’m drawn to each option for different reasons. I don’t want to mess with name recognition or confuse readers, but I’m wondering if it is time for a change.

What are your thoughts?

I’m taking a turkey hiatus next week. Stuffing myself full of stuffing and whatnot. So there’s plenty of time to think about it and get back with me on your thoughts. Oh, and just like with One Question Fridays, please explain your answer. Thanks!

*photos by flickr
**for now the URL will remain

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Little Star—A Beautiful Christmas Tale

When Anthony DeStefano contacted me asking if I wanted to take a look at his second children’s book titled Little Star, I enthusiastically replied I would.

Not only does Little Star creatively depict a profound and tender message about the first Christmas, but the captivating illustrations invite readers to linger on each page. The book evokes deeper reflection about the One who came into the world in the form of a little baby. A King here to save.

In this sweet book only one little star recognizes the arrival of a true King. Only one little star understands this king’s message of love. What does this little star do in light of understanding? He does what stars do best—he shines with everything he’s got.

I appreciate how Little Star points to the integrity of humility—how God uses the weak and lowly to radiate His light.

This wonderfully woven story encourages little ones and adults alike to consider the beauty of our Savior’s birth.

Little Star—a worthwhile read this holiday season.
Any moving Christmas books you'd like to share?

*I was given this book without anything asked of me. I wanted to write this review.

Monday, November 15, 2010

So You Want Your Novels to Change the World?

*Guest post by Rosslyn Elliot*

So do I. Which is a pretty ambitious statement for a writer of historical romance, so I’d better explain before I sound like a total fool.

Novels may help fight huge social evils like human trafficking, abuse of women, genocide, and racism. Or, they may fight little social evils like cattiness, covetousness, and cold hearts. Well-written novels can be part of our encouragement toward righteousness. They sow seeds of compassion for others.

Novels speak in private, in the quiet of a reader’s bedroom. They can start inner dialogue that opens hearts and minds. But they are not sermons. Little is more irritating to a reader than finding the novel she just purchased is actually a tract in disguise. It’s my story readers want, not my longwinded opinion.

Christian writers inherit a rich tradition of world-changing novels. In 1852, Uncle Tom’s Cabin sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Stowe’s story affirmed the human dignity of African-Americans held in slavery in the United States, and exposed the cruelty of their enslavement. One novel changed this country forever.

Before Stowe changed America, Charles Dickens changed England. Writing at the height of the Industrial Revolution, he depicted the awful predicament of the poor and orphaned with such power that we still use the adjective Dickensian to mean a scene of abject urban poverty, often involving children. He was the most popular writer of his time.

There is not the remotest chance that my novels will have the impact of the novels of Stowe or Dickens. But by showing courageous characters in difficult circumstances, I hope I may help at least a few readers feel more courageous and capable of making the world around them better in some small way. Even a love story can be about something bigger than two people.

So, if I want my novels to make the world a better place, even in a tiny way, I have to tell a story, not lecture or moralize. Here are the most important things I’ve learned:

Avoid as much as possible any overt discussion of religion or politics.
An instant turn-off for a reader is characters who ‘teach’ one another or debate a controversial issue in order to make an author’s point. Is this really necessary? Is there no possible way this could be shown through story rather than told in dialogue? And if not, is this really novel-worthy material?

Don’t use stereotypes.
I once read a novel in which a Republican man was completely villainous, and a Democrat completely virtuous. That single authorial choice made me want to slam the book shut, and I would have felt the same if the political roles were reversed. I don’t appreciate it when an author’s biases show through that clearly. That’s a medieval morality play, not a novel. I think it’s better to avoid identifying one’s characters with political terms or buzzwords, if at all possible. Let them appeal as human beings first.

Show both examples and counter-examples.
Harriet Beecher Stowe shows slaveholders who are cruel tyrants, and also slaveholders who are benevolent and loving toward their slaves. It makes her story deeper and more powerful when she acknowledges through her narrative that moral, kind persons owned slaves, but their noble intentions did not make slavery itself acceptable.

How about you? Do you hope your novels change the world in some way? Or do you just want to provide a few hours of relaxation and pleasure to readers?

Rosslyn Elliott grew up in a military family and relocated frequently, attending nine schools before her high school graduation. She attended Yale University, where she earned a BA in English and Theater. She worked in business and as a high school teacher before returning to study at Emory University, where she earned a Ph.D. in English in 2006. Her study of American literature and history inspired her to pursue her lifelong dream of writing fiction. She lives in the Southwest, where she homeschools her daughter and works in children’s ministry.
Visit Rosslyn's Website
Visit Rosslyn's Blog
Thank you for your words of wisdom, Rosslyn!

Friday, November 12, 2010

One Question Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It's my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

Limited imagination or Dull intellect?

*photos by flickr
**Switching things up next week. Monday you’ll get to read a guest post from a brilliant author and Wednesday I’m posting a book review. See you then.

Personal Space

Have you ever been speaking with someone and they gradually inch closer and closer until you eventually feel compelled to move away? I...