Friday, December 29, 2006

Do You Resolution?

One thing that always seems to come with New Year's Day is resolutions—or at least the talk of them. Do you make them? As a rule I don’t make an iron-clad list of resolutions such as exercise more, eat less—stuff like that. But there are goals I should be making with my writing.

A couple months ago, an author friend challenged me to set a goal for Murder for Breakfast to have my revision completed by year end. Then my goal for January would be to write up a proposal and get it out to the editor who had asked for it at the ACFW conference last fall. If the publisher rejects the proposal, then I’d move along to another editor who had asked for the full and send the completed manuscript to her. Two different publishing houses with two different requests.

I spent Christmas with another author friend, and we went over my story’s first chapter. She pointed out some flaws in the first paragraph that sent me into defense mode. You’d have thought I’d been placed on the front lines of World War III, facing the worst of all enemies. Well, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but I did put on quite a hissy fit. No writer likes to let go of her “darlings.” I’d been told by others that my opener was great, intriguing, wonderful. How could she dare to tell me my darling of an opening paragraph needed fixing? Once I settled down and really listened, I realized she made sense. It wasn’t that big of a blooper. Really, all it needed was a tweak here and there.

I also ran a word count check on the full manuscript and found I was only 15,000 to 18,000 words over limit. Gulp!! The range depends on which publisher I’m talking about. The first one I intend to send the proposal to has a higher word count limit than the second publisher. So I’m back at the computer now, interspersing edits with some household chores I can no longer ignore. Already I’ve taken out 2,000 words.

Tightening a manuscript always makes it look better. My goal is to reduce this manuscript to 65,000 words by year’s end. That may sound ambitious, but if I don’t set my bar high enough, I’ll slack off. Just like going on a diet to tighten my belt always calls for stringent measures, tightening the belt on my story does the same.

That reminds me. I need to sign up for the neighborhood gym. Guess I do have a New Year’s resolution after all!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

What is a Family?

The email read: “There will be no more posting on this list until January 2nd, so our members can spend time with their families.”

When I read the posting made to an email list I regularly receive, I immediately wanted to write the moderator back and say:

“But, some of us don’t have families. You are making a presumption that everyone who receives this has a family.”

I didn’t send the message, of course. I knew that the woman had made the statement without giving thought to the minority of us who are a family of one. (Unless bossy cats are counted as family!)

Before everyone starts feeling sorry for me, please don’t. I’m quite adjusted to the fact that I am an unmarried woman with no children who grew up an only child. Since my father passed away in December 1997, my immediate earthly family as been me. And, I do have an large extended family of cousins whom I love dearly. People I’d probably be spending at least part of the holiday with if we weren’t so scattered around the country.

Even before Dad passed away, I’d already forged my own way through the Christmas holidays, by creating my own traditions. For years I had other singles into my home on Christmas Eve. Even so, this time of year can sometimes rub even the most well-adjusted single the wrong way. Everything is so family oriented.

When I read the email I mentioned earlier, I momentarily lost sight of the one thing I’d realized years ago. I do have a family. A family that is bound tighter than any earthly family can ever be. The family of Christ! Earthly families aren’t perfect. Some are split because of disagreements, or different views on life. Many are dysfunctional.

As I sit here this morning looking at a little manger scene ornament a friend gave me the other night, I realize something anew. Joseph, Mary and Jesus made up a family of three when he was born two thousand years ago. Same as how my dad, mom and I made up a family of three when I came into the world. Even today, I’m still a part of my parents. Their DNA fills my cells and will until I die. But, Jesus gives me something even better—His blood shed on my behalf in payment for my sins. That blood won’t die when my body does. In fact, at that very moment, I’ll begin the life He died to give me. Eternal life with Him in the family of God!

That's me on the right at about five years old. Just wanted to share the picture.

I wish all of you who read this a very Merry Christmas and the best of New Years.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Life in a Snow Globe

The latest Christmas yard decoration these days is a blow-up snow globe. One has been sitting in front of some new townhouses on the next block since mid-November.

I got to thinking last night as I drove past the colorful display how life might be in a snow globe. The figures inside are always smiling, enjoying the snow instead of complaining because it is messing up the roads, always posed just right.

If I lived in a snow globe and always smiling it would probably mean I’d just sold my 20th bestseller to the most prestigious CBA publisher in the world, I’d be in perfect health, always about 40 years old without a gray hair on my head, and never have a worry in the world. I’d sit down at my computer and never have writer’s block. My life would lack conflict, worries, financial concerns, etc.

But, of course, life isn’t lived in a snow globe. Life in this imperfect world is, well, imperfect. I’m always wondering if I’ll ever sell my first fiction manuscript, let alone a bestseller. I cover my gray hair with Clairol. I have concerns about my health, as well as the health of my loved ones. And when it snows, although I think it’s pretty, I hate driving in it.

Nope, the world isn’t perfect by a long shot. That’s why we need the Perfect One whose coming to this imperfect world we celebrate this month. One day Jesus will return and bring with him a perfect world. Then, and only then, will life be perfect. We won’t need to live in a snow globe either. We’ll be living in His world. His perfect world.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Lessons from Three Wise Men

Have you ever woke up out of a sound sleep and thought it was a different day than what it really was? It happened to me this morning, and it has to be the weirdest feeling.

My cat meowed in her usual bossy way about a dozen times, and I came out of a dream I can’t even remember. I looked at the clock and flew out of bed. I needed to be up for church and I hadn’t even prepared for interpreting. How had I forgotten I was to sign a song I hadn’t practiced yet? I hadn’t even reviewed the scripture reading. I raced into the bathroom, and then it hit me. Today is Saturday. Whew!

The reason I was so certain it was Sunday is because my church held the first of it’s three Christmas concerts last night. (click on the picture above to link to my church's website). Another woman and I interpreted the music in sign, and we usually do the interpreted concert on Saturday night. This year we didn’t. Funny how programmed we can become.

One of the songs I interpreted is a Point of Grace song called, “One King.” It’s a beautiful song about the three kings bringing the baby Jesus their gifts. Valuable gifts the world at that time saw as nearly priceless. The lyrics tell it all…one king held the frankincense, one king held the myrrh, one king held the purest gold, one King held the hope of the world.

Isn't that so true of our world today. We tend to put the hugest price on what the world sees as most valuable. We don’t see much frankincense and myrrh around these days, but we still hold gold at a high value. What else have we placed a high price on? Prestige, fame, work achievements, romantic relationships, success, acquisition of things, the size of our homes, and….I hate to say this, writing achievements. Another year is about to go by without that elusive fiction contract. Sometimes I feel like I’m spinning my wheels, still stuck in the same rut I’ve been in for the past six or so years.

Yet, I remind myself, God is in control--always has been. I need to keep my focus on Him, on Jesus Christ. He holds the hope of the world in his hands. I’m not to stop working to hone my craft, pitch my stories, develop new ones that pop into my head, but I am to have the right priorities.

He who holds the hope of the world in His grasp has to be number one, above all else in my life. I keep to that frame of mind and I will always be a winner no matter what!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What Kind of Accent Do You Have?

Just for fun today! Mine is shown below but if you go to: Accent Test, you can take the test.

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Midland
The Northeast
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Monday, December 04, 2006

Snow Days or Snow Daze -- It Didn't Keep Me on Goal

You’ve probably heard about the wicked winter storm that marched across the United States last Thursday and Friday. Early Friday morning it hit the Chicago area. Happy to not have to be out driving to work on such a horrible morning, I looked forward to a cozy day in front of my computer writing! Some people have fire places and some have computers. Either way, this did not happen.

Oh, I got a bit of writing done but most of the day was taken up with other more demanding issues. Issues I knew were there, but never dreamed they would grow to such proportions. In the middle of that I had to dig my car out. My evening dinner plans were canceled but the wake for a friend's mom was not.

It wasn't just the snow day that got in my way, but all of last week. Too many balls to juggle and one had to go. The bright red one with the word "WIP" written all over it!

Today I start a new week with new determination to stay the course. I must finish this revsion of MFB this week. That’s my goal. Even as I say that, I’m still not happy with my characterizations. Do I show April’s deepest feelings for Marc enough? Her confusion and conflicting thoughts? It’s easier to show her side because the story is her POV. With the hero, Marc, all of his characterization has to be shown through his actions and words. No inner thoughts going on with this guy. THAT is hard. And in the midst of all this romantic angst there’s a mystery to solve.

Yikes, even as I am writing this, I received an email giving me another ACFW duty that requires immediate attention. Guess I’d better get cracking on my manuscript before the information I need for the other project comes in.

I’m posting more pictures below from our first winter snow. For those of you in warmer climes, eat your hearts out!

A nice neighbor came along shortly after this picture was taken and finished cleaning off my car for me. Note the shovel. That's part of my winter tools that stays in the back of the car along with a scraper and brush. If I didn't have the shovel the other day I'd have never gotten a trail made for my wheels. I'd already dug one for the left wheel when I stopped to snap the picture.

The snow is really beautiful when you don't have to drive in it! Cars along I-80 from just west of Chicago to the Iowa border were in gridlock for over 10 hours! All I had to do was drive a few blocks later in the day after the plows had been out. I won't complain!