Friday, September 28, 2012

Moving Thoughts Friday--Need a Laugh?

My favorite (30 second) commercial right now (& possibly of all time):
Do you have a favorite commercial now (or of all time)?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Whys and Wherefores--Post by Jennifer Erin Valent

Breaking from my usual I 8 Wednesdays to feature author, Jennifer Erin Valent. I’ve appreciated connecting with Jennifer online. It’s wonderful to engage with an author who demonstrates such devoted attention to craft and a keen ability to invoke questions in me about how I’d handle certain situations. I love how she makes me think!

I’m excited to share with you her thoughts on theme today…

From the time we’re kids we have an obsession with why. Why can’t I stick that up my nose? Why do I have to study geometry? Why didn’t I get that job? Why am I here? Why does cheesecake go straight to my hips?

That sort of need for a reason makes up a huge part of our humanity. We like to have explanations for the things that happen to us, for what we do, for what others do.

So if you say you want to write a novel, I’ll ask the obvious. “Why?”

Is it an overactive imagination? A passion for story? An addiction to words and how they’re put together? All good… all things that can make you the writer you’ve always wanted to be. But these things can also be distractions, and if you’re anything like me, all that creativity spilling out over the keyboard can make for a muddled mess.

That’s where a theme can be very handy.

Wikipedia defines theme as “the central topic, subject, or concept the author is trying to point out.” I love this definition because it’s active. It tells us that a story has a specific purpose and that the author’s job is to develop that purpose throughout.

To my way of thinking, theme can help a writer with two things:

Story Creation
I don’t necessarily know the theme of a novel as soon as I start to construct it. Oftentimes, I start with the characters and setting and develop my ideas for the main plot with their help before I ever touch on theme. But it was a different situation all around with my current work-in-progress. This time I was struggling to leave behind characters I had been with throughout an entire trilogy. I had no idea how to continue to write in the same vein with completely new characters and settings. So I settled on the theme as my starting point. What impact did I want to make with this tale? Who did I want to speak to and why? Did it have to do with friendship? Justice? Redemption? By the time I had figured out the core of what I hoped to achieve, I had people and places and words flooding my brain.

Story Flow
When it comes to keeping the plot flowing forward at the right pace, theme can keep us accountable. It’s easy for me to wander down rabbit trails when I write… and that’s not to say it’s always a bad thing. Discovering different avenues as I work can take me deeper into plot development (even if it amounts to some killer editing sessions in the future!) But it really is important to make sure that the events I create continue along a clear path and have some purpose in the overall storyline, even if it’s simply to advance the characters in order to bring them to my desired conclusion.

Now, clearly, every crumb of a story cannot be directly related to theme or else we’d end up with a textbook. A novel needs shading and nuance. It can’t be one note. But all of those words and phrases and events should take readers by the hand and lead them down one winding but continuous path towards that feeling of fulfillment when they turn the last page.

So when you sit down to write, before you dive head first into the pool of imagination and whimsy, try asking yourself why. Look inside your soul before you look inside your mind. And once you’ve determined your reason for writing – whether you want to change the world or just make it smile – stick to it! String that purpose throughout your story like paper dolls.

Leave those readers wondering why they shouldn’t turn back to page one and start the journey all over again.

Jennifer's Bio:
Jennifer Erin Valent is the award-winning author of Fireflies in December and its sequels Cottonwood Whispers and Catching Moondrops. She lives in central Virginia where she has worked as a nanny for nearly twenty years. A lifelong resident of the South, her surroundings help to color the scenes and characters she writes. To find out more visit her website at

Monday, September 24, 2012

What Women Want—Significance

Several weeks ago I asked you what women want. Security received the majority of votes. Next in line—significance.

My confessed Holy Grail.
Flip it and you get the big lie. You know, the one that whispers at your weakest moments “You don’t matter.”

Pretty confident we’ve all heard that one a time or two.
The best way to fight off that whisper stab is to discern what realistically and truthfully attributes to our worth. By weeding out distractions and not allowing ourselves to be misled by validation holograms we position ourselves to better understand our place here.

What’s a validation hologram?
Anything that fools us into thinking our time on earth is all about us. Anything that fuels our sense of pride.

Anything. (Youch, I know I felt it too.)
Our natural inclination is to achieve significance by filling ourselves up—gorging on success, momentary highs, affirmation or popularity. However, acting inversely and counter intuitively by pouring out—serving, giving, guiding, leading courageously, and encouraging, we end up making boku deposits in our bank of significance.

These acts of love can never be taken back. Just as the opposite holds true.
Here’s a crazy thought: What if our words and actions trigger a butterfly effect through time? What if our investment in someone years ago still impacts that person in ways we’ll never know? What if the sacrificial kindness we bestowed upon a stranger back in 1985 inspired that young woman to incite incredible change in Africa? What if…

I’m thinking of Max Lucado’s memorable character Punchinello. I’m thinking of a children’s book about filling buckets and Bible verses. I’m thinking about all the simple messages that communicate what I’m trying to today—this path of life stuff I still wrestle with and care to explore further.

What reminds you of your significance here?
*Literary agent, Chip MacGregor shares some profound words about significance in this post

**photo by stock.XCHNG

Friday, September 14, 2012

Moving Thoughts 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.
Silent love or Noisy adoration?

*photos by stock.XCHNG
**taking next week off to pretend I’m attending a conference. ;-) See you on the 24th with a “Significant” post

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Season of Splinter Removal

This past summer was a splintery season. Not even sure where to start, but skidding the surface there’s the neighbor serving a hefty prison sentence, unexpected blows from within our church, tension with family members, and grappling with loved ones facing physical and mental struggles.
Not to mention I haven’t felt this spiritually beat up since a time of great loss in my life seven years ago.

If you’ve been coming around here for a while you know I’m not one to let splinters remain stuck.

I’ve officially entered a season of splinter removal. And the pain on the way out mimics the piercing on the way in.

Here’s what I’m doing about it (8 Things I’m Working to Improve in My Life Right Now + a bonus lesson):
Putting Down the Gavel

Not judging someone based on flubbed words. Searching for a Timberjack Harvester to help me extract the ginormous log from my own eyes.

Full Forgiveness
None of this half-assed all smiles and rainbows stuff. Forgiving like this is torrential hailstorm smack me in the face painful.
Full Love
Loving family right where they’re at. Loving everyone right where they’re at.

Saying what I mean and meaning what I say.

Dukes Up
Fighting spiritual distractions. Taking up my sword of the Spirit and holding firm to my shield of faith (oh yeah, I’m all over Ephesians 6:11-20 lately).

Leaving Bitterness to Citrus Peels & Dark Chocolate
Identifying areas of hurt and dealing with them, not letting them fester and mold into bitterness.

Care Less
It threw me when I kept getting this message from God. Finally I understood the meaning. Let go of things that aren’t eternal or encouraging. Care less about the petty, the cutting, the discouraging, things that will seem insignificant a year or two from now.

In God I Trust
It feels like I’m the eternal unfinished novel with this one.

I Like to Move It, Move It
Moving on when time calls for it. Not dwelling, stewing, or reflecting like that Narcissus dude that got zapped into a flower.

Not a single pain-free process of splinter removal up there. But some of it has sloughed off surprisingly quickly, like that splinter you cringed to think of being yanked from the pad of your foot only to squeeze your eyes shut and open them to see it pinched between your father’s fingers. He took it. All of it up there (up there in this post and up there on the cross). By his death he removed every last splinter and every splinter that has yet to pierce.
Such freedom in that. I can run free.

Ever been through a specific season of splinter removal?
*photo by stock.XCHNG
**I'm also relearning math as apparently there are NINE things listed up there. Eh well.





Monday, September 10, 2012

What Women Want—Security

Dark alleys, leering stares, gossipy rumors, circled fat, salmonella poisoning, terrorist attacks, rapists, murderers, abusers, molesters, cultures that devalue women, risk of having Alzheimer’s, child getting Lyme disease, genocide, female mutilation, the sex trade, child getting West Nile virus, gangs, child developing Autism, mafia, house catching on fire, disease ravaging our bodies, kidnappers, exploited on social networking sites, Big Brother, germs, spiritual warfare, noises in the woods, getting lost…
This is an incomplete list of what we fear. Barely scratching the surface with those.

I took your comments from Friday’s post titled, “What DoWomen Want” and found the most prevalent answer kept focusing on security. Based on your input it became obvious—women want to feel safe.
Time for a little psychology 101. Did you know that on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid the need listed just above our basic physiological needs being met (hunger, sleep, etc.) is safety?

What threatens our safety as women—what weakens our ability to feel secure?
Besides the very real danger some men present, and even some women offenders, our greatest opposition when we’re fighting to feel safe is oftentimes our own fear.

Women are masterminds at worrying. Michael Hyatt wrote a thought-provoking post about how worry and imagination are like two sides of the same coin and he also highlights the profound differences between the two.
I wonder if some of us cry wolf in particular scenarios so habitually that we play out, in twisted strokes of misfortune, our own self-fulfilling prophesy. We imagine ourselves to death. There are proven statistics detailing how much damage stress can do to the body.

All this to say there’s no denying horrific events occur every second. The world can go dark in a flash. Our fears are grounded in glimpses of reality.
There’s a book every woman would benefit from reading called, The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. The book helps educate women about the difference between true fear and unwarranted fear. I’ve reflected on this book numerous times when I’ve faced potentially precarious situations.

Because I love advocating for women I’m wrapping up today’s post with a list of things that contribute to women feeling safe.

Statistics, resources, places to go for help, the unlikelihood of acquiring said disease or having our child kidnapped can diffuse the firestorm of worry that explodes in our minds. Understanding what we need to focus on helps us let go of all of the extraneous weight on our shoulders.

Strength in Numbers
Women, we are such a phenomenal and valuable resource for one another. We’d benefit beyond belief by uplifting and encouraging one another in lieu of playing competitive, jealousy-based games.

Every so often repeat these two words: Reality check. One of the best ways to face down our fears is to gain a sense of perspective.

One of hardest, but most important ones. Truth really does set us free. You are not alone. And you need not stay stuck.

Martial arts, yoga, kickboxing classes, schooling, learning to read, speaking out on behalf of women, telling the truth, writing stories  communicating issues and themes important to women, volunteering, giving, giving, giving.

Hope & Faith
This one goes deep for me. My way of viewing the world changed drastically when I understood for the first time this is not my home. And as hope flaps its wings inside me I embrace and live in the truth that nothing can stop me. Including fear.

What makes you feel secure? Insecure? Are you able to turn worry into creative and positive visualizing?

*photo by stock.XCHNG



Friday, September 7, 2012

Moving Thoughts Friday—What Do Women Want?

I’m building a series of posts and I need your help.

Your responses today will help determine the framework for my posts over the next five Mondays.

Rank in order (with strongest one listed first…1-5):

What do women want?

*photos by stock.XCHNG

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I Experience Books Like Guy Fieri Experiences Food

On Monday I told you I’d be bringing the meat and potatoes today. Well, I’m bringing it.
My husband and I enjoy watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. The host, Guy Fieri, engages with restaurant owners with entertaining humorous flare and a keen understanding of all things grease related. Normally, I stick to healthy foods, but I have to admit this show brings out the bar food lover in me.

I love the exchange between restaurant owner and Guy. I love the process of the food being prepared. I love how the show leaves me wanting more.
And I got to thinking (lookout!) I read books like this.

On this I 8 Wednesday I’m cutting through the fat and giving you the skinny about how I experience books like Guy experiences food…
Rich Appreciation & Respect

Guy enters every dive with respect for the owner. He samples every platter knowing the chef poured love into their work. He offers a kind word and a fist bump whenever the food merits it.
So it is with the books I read. As an author I know what it takes to complete a novel. I’m not quick to bash, but instead to offer a kind word whenever the craft merits.

Tattooed, with his spiky hair the color of a sandstorm, Guy assesses each diner, infiltrating them with his own experiences. And he’s checking out the joints that have been highly recommended and have received rave reviews.

With every book I read I infuse my preferences and tastes. Something about me that might surprise you: I hardly ever give two-star (or one-star) ratings on Goodreads. Why? Because I don’t bother to keep reading. I put the book down if it’s not three stars or higher.
Plowing Through

If you’ve ever watched the show you know Guy consumes quickly. It doesn’t take him a year to tour one dive.
I happen to read a lot. I plow through books with the same enthusiasm Guy exudes when he chomps down on a meaty sub.

Says What He Means, Means What He Says
My husband and I have fun trying to discern whether or not Guy’s really digging a sandwich. We study his expressions. But most of all we tune in to what he says. The more we watch the show, the more we’re able to figure out when Guy has hit the mother lode of diner food and when he’s meh, not all that impressed.

I review books in the same way. Like Guy, I can always find something positive to say, but there are ways to tell when I’m really into a book and when I’m meh, not all that impressed.
Guy is a chef. He visits every restaurant with his culinary expertise.

I’m a writer. I read every book with my knowledge of the craft.
Raves When He’s Blown Away

It’s unmistakable when Guy’s taste buds have been blessed. He’s giving fist bumps. He’s making up catchy phrases, licking his fingers, and jumping into the pot stewing with spices. He’s consuming the whole meal.
Ditto for me with books. When I’m satisfied, I’m talking about the book. I’m tweeting it. I’m lending it to friends. And I’m buying every book the author has ever written.

Uses Foodie Lingo
Guy’s got the foodie speak down and he uses it as appropriate with the restaurant owners and chefs.

I’m nailing pub talk. As appropriate I’ll throw out a little WIP, query, POV, story arc, and platform speak just for kicks.
Open to Learning

Guy lets every chef show off. Throw food around. Drop in spices he’s never heard of. And he absorbs. Last night I even heard him say he needed to steal a recipe.
While I’m no thief, I am constantly learning from the books I read.

So me and Guy, we’ve got a few things in common. You know, beside the tats and the porcupine hair. ;-)
Ever seen this irresistible show? Do you experience books like Guy experiences food? How?

*photo by stock.XCHNG
**is the font up there too small to read?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Hard at Work

Gotta love this picture of my kiddo.

If there’s one thing I know for sure it’s that hard work must be balanced with laughter.

That’s why I’ve added a Bursts of Laughter board on Pinterest. Would love to laugh with you there!

Happy Labor Day!

See you Wednesday with more meat and potatoes. Today was all about root beer floats.

Taking Time

college applications                 homecoming                            flag football                basketball             SATs   ...