Thursday, January 31, 2013

Writer's Retreat Day 5

REALLY? Day 5 already? This opportunity has been such a blessing to me -- especially as an introvert in a house full of extroverts (with the exception of my buddy Chris). Although I have definitely not accomplished all I planned. This was what I 'd written a week or so before the retreat about my goals:
I want to spend part of each day in Bible Study/Prayer, listen to some writing workshop MP3s that I have from a conference, and work on my novel (which means I want to write more than I research!), and outline some speeches that I have booked for March, April, and May. In my 'spare' time, I want to try to set up my goals for the year regarding writing and speaking and maybe outline some articles I want to write. 
 Ok - I haven't  listened to ANY MP3s (or watched any of the quilting videos I'd thought I'd watch during by 'breaks'). I've done lots more research than writing, and I haven't even thought about my speeches or goals and articles!
But I have spent some great time praying and journaling, reading my Bible, and just being still (actually kind of hard for me). I've written about 4000 words so far and I've done a lot more research, learning some fascinating things about the culture of Israel during Jesus' life. I've outlined the characteristics of my main characters and have gone to great lengths to plan a walking trip from Capernaum to Jerusalem during two major holidays (and learned a lot about Sabbath rituals in the meantime). Not for me, of course, but for my characters. I have to say it was almost as much fun as planning a trip for myself.  
So I want to get another 4000 words if possible (even though my goal set on Tuesday was 10,000). I may wander out and take a walk today (the only time I've left the condo was to sit on the porch for the sunrise or to take out the trash). I just wish we were at the bottom of this big hill instead of the top of it -- it would be so much easier to walk UP first and then back down!
I know I'm going to have to really discipline myself when I get home to keep writing. Maybe this 5:30 wake up time will stick with me.    

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Writer's Retreat Day 4

Yesterday was a rough day. I had a really hard time making any headway. I only wrote another 750 words on the manuscript itself, and I spent a lot of time staring at my wall trying to figure out what to keep, what to leave out, and how to weave a couple of key story lines into the whole thing.

I did write the intro to the book, which helped me set the scope/timeline, and I determined the 'purpose' or theme of the book. I also spent a lot of time researching how Christians were killed by the Romans in the 1st century -- pretty gruesome.

One fascinating fact I learned was that cockroaches are the only critter on earth that can live with their heads cut off. They do eventually die from starvation, but they don't need the head for any function other than eating! So if you are trying to eliminate one of these bugs from your life, do more than just cut off its head.

In an attempt to do something that seemed productive, I watched The Passion of Christ last night and took notes about clothing styles!

I was up until midnight again and had decided I'd sleep in this morning. Except that I woke up at 5:30 again. I rolled over and attempted to go back to sleep only to be startled by a noise my computer made...almost like it was turning itself on. the message. I thought I'd write for the two hours I've spent in previous mornings watching the sunrise, but I felt compelled to go outside even though it was only 35 degrees outside (I actually just looked to see how cold it was this didn't feel THAT cold). I wrapped up in my robe and two blankets, took my coffee and my gloves and sat to watch what I figured would be a pretty boring sunrise since the sky was totally cloud-filled and it  was even sprinkling.

It occurred to me that I was expecting God to dazzle me with the sunrise. Hmmmm, I'm no different than the people who followed Jesus just to see him do miracles. That was a bit humbling. I also realized that despite the fact I couldn't see it, the sunrise was STILL there, just like God is when we can't see him. Maybe there is a barrier he puts in the way, like clouds, or a barrier man puts in the way, like buildings, or that we choose to put up ourselves, like me sitting on a covered porch instead of out in the open because of the rain. Doesn't matter -- God is still God and the sun still rises faithfully every morning. How often to I forget that he's there just because I can't see him?

I learned that there is still a fabulous sunrise even on a rainy day. There are hundreds of shades of blue, gray, and white that appear or disappear depending on the stage of the sunrise -- and these differences can't necessarily be seen once the sun is fully up. I also got a glimpse of the more glorious colors of the sunrise when I was visited by a little House Finch who landed on the porch light and talked to me for a few minutes!

All in all I had a very meaningful quiet time. I never stop to take two hours to pray, listen, and journal when I'm home, and if nothing else comes from this trip this has been an amazing blessing to me.

Today I really want to make some headway on the book. I'm just going to close my eyes, pick a note card, and start writing that part of the story. I'll work it all out later in a future draft, but I just need to get words on paper (or on the computer screen). I've set a goal to have at least 10,000 words done by the time I leave (which is really not that much -- many people can do that in a day), but this is somewhat of a struggle for me at the moment. Storytelling is very different from non-fiction!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Writer's Retreat, Day 3

Well, my plan for catching up on my sleep doesn't seem to be working too well, but I'm not really suffering because of it. I worked until midnight last night (which surprised the heck out of me!), and woke up on my own at 5:30 for my morning appointment with the sunrise.

Since our elevator got fixed yesterday, I was able to go up to the widow's walk for a fabulous view. I took my blanket, coffee, and notebook. I guess I never realized that sunrises actually take about 2 hours -- it wasn't finished until 7:45! I find it hard to tear my eyes away from the sky because it seems that there are changes every minute. The clouds blow, the light increases ever so slightly, and the world starts waking up.

Today is a very cloudy day -- they are predicting storms later. It was relatively warm outside, but there was a chill to the wind. I don't know if it was windy because I was up so high (third floor on the side of a large hill) or because there was no wind block between me and Table Rock Lake.

Yesterday I think I got a lot done, but I'm not sure I got a lot accomplished. I spent almost all of the day doing research and found out some really cool stuff about fishing and fish in Lake Galilee, food and food preparation, the town of Capharnam (yes, that's the right spelling), and Peter's house. And I learned that I don't think I'll feel qualified to write this story until I become an expert on life and times during Jesus's life! Every new fact I find causes me to ask ten more questions that require more research; maybe I should have become a historian.

We had a group meeting from 3:00 - 6:00, and each of us set goals for the week. One of my goals was to not do ANY more research until I had written 2000 words! I didn't technically accomplish that; I only wrote 1,614 words on my book. BUT I wrote another 317 words as part of a character development exercise about Peter's wife, and I journaled four pages while I watched the sunrise, so I guess I can say I did it!

I also determined what my characters look like. Imma, Peter's wife, looks like Cote de Pablo (lucky her), and Peter (whom I will refer to as Simon from here on out), is Naveen Andrews (Sayid from Lost). What do you think?

I'm trying to figure out whom should 'play' Simon's mother-in-law. I want someone who can add some comic relief, and the only person I come up with is Estelle Getty (Sophia from Golden Girls). She doesn't quite look the part, but I love her personality! I'd love your suggestions.

So yesterday I started somewhere in the middle, and I wrote the story of the four men who lowered their paralyzed friend through Simon's roof. That story always made me think of Simon's wife and wonder what she must have been thinking as it happened. It flowed pretty well, and I wasn't TOO critical of myself as I wrote.

Today I want to transfer my notecards into an outline and start filling in stories as it feels right. This is not a book I'll write from beginning to end, but more in a puzzle fashion. I want to spend more time 'getting to know' the characters and write at least 2,000 more words (actually IN the book this time).

I'd appreciate your prayers for focus. I found out my mom is heading to the hospital AGAIN with stroke-like symptoms. My brother has it all under control, but I hate that he has to deal with this alone. I'm also really feeling the time in this chair both in my back and hips, so prayers for physical comfort would be helpful, too.

I love you all and miss you. Thanks for being on my side and supporting me through this exciting time!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Writer's Retreat -- Day 2

Although yesterday was Sunday, we decided not to attend a local church and to do our own independent Bible Studies in the morning. I read 1 and 2 Peter. Peter has always been my favorite apostle, and the book I want to write is about life from his wife's perspective. As I read it I took notes about things that made me think of Peter's personality after Jesus ascended. It made me wonder how his wife had changed as a result of her closeness to both the Savior and his most trusted apostle.

I finished outlining the events of the Gospels and stuck the rest of my note cards on the wall. Then I went through and put pink post-it's on events that Peter's wife might have witnessed, blue on those that Peter saw, and yellow on those things that were probably points of conversation between them. This gives me a lot of places I can start writing if I get stuck in one area! Plus it makes me smile to all this color-coded stuff organized on the wall...some of you will understand.

I did some more internet research on the Sea of Galilee, and I picked out actors to 'play' my two main characters. Just having a photo to look at as I write about these people will help me I think.

Our other two writing partners arrived -- Lisa and Susan. It is easy to feel like I'm the weak link in this group. Lisa is the minister at her own church, Colleen has a ministry degree, and Susan has published several Bible Studies and speaks all across the country. Nonetheless, I refuse to let Satan make me feel like I don't belong in this group. I know God has given me a story to write -- maybe not for the masses to read but at least for my growth and knowledge. This effort may not come to much, but I'm convinced I'm supposed to be in this place at this time.

This morning I woke up at 5:30 (no alarm) and re-read 1 and 2 Peter. Lots of new things popped out at me. I may re-read it every morning. After praying for my family, I decided to sit by the front window and watch the sunrise. After a few minutes I realized I might be missing out with such a limited view, so I grabbed a blanket and my coffee and headed to the front porch. I figured no one else on vacation here would mind my jammies and robe!

I sat there for about 20 minutes as the world brightened just slightly so I could see the outlines of buildings. I decided that having a roof over my head might be a barrier, so I took my chair and blanket and sat out at the edge of the street! Much better....for a few minutes. Then I noticed that it was just a bit brighter over the edge of a neighboring building, so I trotted my sock=covered feet across the street and down a few buildings and sat on an outcropping of rocks. I could feel a slight breeze on my face and thought about how God showed himself to Elijah in the gentle breeze.

There was a single frog keeping watch and a slight rustling of the decorative grasses, but no other sound. As the day brightened slightly I realized we had a pretty heavy cloud covering and wondered if the sunrise would be worth it. It was easy to sit in the dark, feeling the coldness of the hard rock beneath me, and think about how different or how similar sunrise might have been 2000 years ago. I kept a journal as the sky lightened.

All at once the world seemed to wake up. Crickets, more frogs, and hungry birds called out to each other to wake up -- it was time to get to work! It was quite bright and I almost headed in, thinking the show was over. Yet I stayed, enjoying the sounds as the world came to life. Suddenly the clouds at the horizon lit up from behind with brilliant golden edges. It almost looked like a lava flow through the grey. As I continued to watch, bright rays of light fanned upwards and lit the clouds above with a brilliant glow. Moment by moment it seemed to get brighter until it was almost too brilliant to watch. I blinked, then the orb of the sun broke through and seemed to rise within seconds. The world got silent for just a breath, then the birds started their chatter again.

To think I almost missed such a stunning sight. How many other things have I missed in my life because I didn't wait long enough? And I thought of all those who were sleeping and had no clue of the glory that passed right by. Maybe I put too much thought into a sunrise, but it just swells my heart to see the pomp and circumstance with which God chooses to start the day. Each day is different, yet has remained basically the same since the beginning of time. Was Peter's wife ever able to enjoy a sunrise, or was she already busily preparing for her day?

I came inside, ate a wonderful breakfast of oatmeal with nuts and berries, and decided to start my day. With an oh so brief visit with my precious granddaughter on skype, I'm ready to hit the books. I have no idea how much I'll write, but I hope to get at least 2000 words done (this post is almost 1000, so that doesn't seem unrealistic!).

We'll see how I did tomorrow. Praying that you each have a blessed day.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Writer's Retreat -- Day 1

I have the blessing of getting away from the world for a week with three great friends. We have rented a five bedroom condo in Branson, MO, for a week, and our intent is to hide away in our rooms most of each day to work on writing projects that we each have.

I rode down yesterday with my friend Colleen, and we had a wonderful time of conversation and some singing along with Christian music. We were both so excited about this opportunity that we were almost giddy. The car was packed to the gills with all the things we thought we might need...we weren't sure it would all fit, but between Colleen's and my husband Doug's master packing skills, we made it. I sure hope it all fits back in on the way home!

We arrived a bit early and the housekeepers were still cleaning the unit, so we went out for a late lunch and we hit the grocery store to prepare for the week.Once we got to our unit, we were thrilled and amazed with the space. There are two bedrooms, two bathrooms, living room, and kitchen on the lowest floor, another kitchen/living room, 1/2 bath, and a bedroom with a full bath on the main floor, two bedrooms and two baths on the upper floor, and a fabulous rooftop  area accessible only by the elevator in our unit! We spent several minutes walking through each room to figure out the best places for each of us to stay. Every room has some wonderful amenity -- a great place for us to put our folding tables (aka writing desks), a balcony overlooking the lake, or a great soaking tub! I chose a room with a great space for a desk and lots of wall space to use.

As you can see, I've already started using the wall space -- I brought tickytack and I've been putting my research on note cards for months! This is a timeline of events in the book I want to write. Hmm...looks like I should have brought a level to ensure my rows are straight.

A bit about my book -- it's an historical novel set in Biblical times. This is a real stretch for me -- all the writing I've done to date has been non-fiction. However, I love doing research, so I'm looking forward to taking real information and creating a book that documents the life of a woman who was close to Jesus and the apostles. This book has been on my heart for years, so we'll see if I'm capable of taking it from my imagination onto paper (well, onto a computer screen!).

Today I want to get everything set up so I can really start writing tomorrow. I want to set daily goals and finish up a couple of research items. I decided this morning during my quiet time that, regardless of how productive I am at writing, I want this week to be a prayer. I don't intend to say 'amen' until next Saturday, and I want to consciously pray continually that whole time. We'll see how well I do!

I intend to update my blog daily, and I'd appreciate prayers from anyone who reads these little posts. Please pray for clarity of thinking, focus, and creativity! It would also help if you pray for my amazing husband as he deals with a week of twin 13 year-old boys!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Cheaper, Better, Faster

Better, Cheaper, Faster -- Over 2,000 Ways to Save Time & Money Every Day
by Mary Hunt

My Thoughts:
I've been reading Mary Hunt's tips and tricks for saving money for years. She has always had unique, interesting ways to keep more money in your pocket. This book is no exception. I thought I'd read all the tips and tricks by now, but this book has SO much more.

The tips are divided into sixteen categories, such as automobiles, cleaning, food and cooking, pets, shopping, and travel/entertainment. Not all the tips are specifically money saving; they include ways to improve life and work activities, too.

This is a great book to keep nearby for whenever you have a few minutes to read or to keep in the car for those times you have to wait in a doctors office or other type of line. I'd recommend reading through the entire book so you are familiar with the contents, then using it as a reference whenever you have a specific need. 

About the Book
Syndicated personal finance columnist Mary Hunt shares over 2,000 tips to make just about everything Cheaper, Better, Faster. Hunt has received thousands of tips and tricks from readers of her daily newspaper column, and she has selected the very best ways to save time and money in this ultimate guide to making life easier.
Cheaper, Better, Faster is all the best advice you've ever heard, collected into one handy volume. Every tip is short, to the point, and helps readers make the most of their money and time, making everyday life less hectic and more enjoyable.
Proven tips on everything from removing hairspray baked onto a curling iron to enjoying gourmet coffee without the gourmet price are included. Readers will learn how to keep their cats from eating their houseplants and know how to get stains out of white carpet.
Hunt hopes the useful and oftentimes humorous information in Cheaper, Better, Faster will help readers spend their money wisely and get creative by using everyday items to achieve the results they need – whether that means finding a wedding gift that won’t break the bank or getting a stain out of a new t-shirt.

About the Author
Mary Hunt is an award-winning and bestselling author, syndicated columnist and sought-after motivational speaker who created a global platform that is making strides to help men and women battle the epidemic impact of consumer debt. She is founder and publisher of the interactive website Debt-Proof Living, which features financial tools, resources and information for her online members. Her books have sold more than a million copies and her daily newspaper column is nationally syndicated through Creators Syndicate and is enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of Everyday Cheapskate readers. Hunt speaks widely on personal finance and has appeared on shows such as Good Morning America, Oprah, Dr. Phil and Focus on the Family. She and her husband live in California.

Available January 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Path of Freedom

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Path of Freedom
Abingdon Press (January 2013)
Jennifer Hudson Taylor

This is a very interesting historical novel about the Quakers and the Underground Railroad. I have to admit I'm not quite finished with it, but I am finding the culture of the Quakers during this period fascinating. I'm hoping to find some downtime this weekend to finish the book and I can update this post more then.

There were a lot of things I learned even in reading the forward. I love books that have been written by authors who do a lot of investigative work before they start!



Jennifer Hudson Taylor is an award winning author of historical Christian fiction set in Europe and the Carolinas and a speaker on topics of faith, writing and publishing. Her debut novel, Highland Blessings, won the 2011 Holt Medallion award for Best First Book. Jennifer's work has appeared in national publications, such as Guideposts, Heritage Quest Magazine, Romantic Times Book Reviews, and The Military Trader. She serves as the in-house Publicist at Hartline Literary Agency and co-owns Upon the Rock Publicist. Jennifer graduated from Elon University with a B.A. in Communications. When she isn't writing, she enjoys spending time with family, long walks, traveling, touring historical sites, hanging out at bookstores with coffee shops, genealogy, and reading.


2nd in the Quilts of Love series

When Quakers Flora Saferight and Bruce Millikan embark on the Underground Railroad, they agree to put their differences aside to save the lives of a pregnant slave couple. With only her mother’s quilt as a secret guide, the foursome follows the stitches through unknown treachery.

As they embark on their perilous journey, they hope and pray that their path is one of promise where love sustains them, courage builds faith, and forgiveness leads to freedom.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Path of Freedom, go HERE.

Watch the book trailer:

Wednesday, January 09, 2013


Irene Hannon


I was very excited to see that Irene Hannon has started a new series. Her books are always incredibly suspenseful and full of interesting twists, and Vanished stays with that wonderful tradition.

The story begins with something that is easily a nightmare for all of us -- Moira is lost in a rural area during a thunderstorm when someone runs in front of her car and she can't stop. To add to the horror of the situation, when she recovers from the accident there is no evidence that anything happened! Is she crazy? The local police seem to think so and they don't take her very seriously. Haunted by the image of the woman's panicked face, Moira finally hires a private investigator to see if there is any chance this was real.

As with many of Hannon's books, the setting is in the St. Louis area, which makes it doubly fun! I really enjoyed this book and had a hard time putting it down. I highly recommend it for mystery lovers.

Reporter Moira Harrisons is lost. In the dark. In a thunderstorm. When a confusing detour places her on a rural, wooded road, she's startled by the sudden appearance of a lone figure caught in the beam of her headlights. Though Moira jams on her brakes, the car careens across the wet pavement--and the solid thump against the side of the vehicle tells her she hit the person before she crashes into a tree on the far side of the road.

A dazed Moira is relieved when a man opens her door, tells her he saw everything, and promises to call 911. Then everything fades to black. When she comes to an hour later, she is alone. No man. No 911. No injured person lying on the side of the road. But she can't forget the look of terror she saw on the person's face in the instant before her headlights swung away. The person she hit had been in trouble. She's sure of it. But she can't get anyone to believe her story--except a handsome former police detective, now a private eye, who agrees to take on the case.

From the very first page, readers will be hooked into this fast-paced story full of shocking secrets from fan-favorite Irene Hannon. Vanished is the exciting first book in the Private Justice series: Three justice seekers who got burned playing by the rules now have a second chance to make things right.

Irene Hannon is a bestselling, award-winning author who took the publishing world by storm at the tender age of 10 with a sparkling piece of fiction that received national attention.
Okay…maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But she was one of the honorees in a complete-the-story contest conducted by a national children’s magazine. And she likes to think of that as her “official” fiction-writing debut!
Since then, she has written more than 40 romance and romantic suspense novels. Her books have been honored with two RITA awards—the “Oscar” of romantic fiction—and she is a six-time finalist for that prestigious honor. Her books have also won a Daphne du Maurier award, a Carol award, a HOLT Medallion, a National Readers’ Choice Award, a Retailers Choice Award and two Reviewers’ Choice awards from RT Book Reviews magazine. One of her novels was also named by Booklist as one of the top 10 inspirational fiction books of 2011.
Irene, who holds a B.A. in psychology and an M.A. in journalism, juggled two careers for many years until she gave up her executive corporate communications position with a Fortune 500 company to write full-time. She is happy to say she has no regrets!
In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, gardening and singing.  A trained vocalist, she has sung the leading role in numerous musicals, including “South Pacific,” “Brigadoon,” “Oklahoma” “The King and I” and “Anything Goes.” She is also a soloist at her church.
When not otherwise occupied, Irene and her husband enjoy traveling, Saturday mornings at their favorite coffee shop and spending time with family. They make their home in Missouri.

See her website for an interview and list of Irene's other books.

Thank you to Baker Publishing Group for providing a copy of this book for review. This in no way influences the review I provide.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013


Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Alaska
Tricia Goyer
Ocieanna Fleiss

This book intertwines a wonderful historical romance with a contemporary love story that leaves the reader with a sense of wonder about how generations can reach across the years to touch lives. The wonderful team of Goyer and Fleiss has again created a story that takes you directly into the lives and struggles of another place and time (their first book was Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington).

Through intense research and an actual visit to this fabulous setting, the reader can sense the majesty of the landscape and feel the cold bite of the wind. The local characters are based on real life residents of the town who obviously add quite a bit of color to the community.

LFY in Glacier Bay, Alaska is a delightful book with deep messages about forgiveness and trust. I highly recommend it for anyone who likes either historical or contemporary love stories.

You can order it here:

Over the next  week I will add interviews with the main characters of the book to my blog. At the end of this series, anyone who has left a comment will be entered in a drawing for a wonderful Glacier Bay prize pack. This includes a copy of Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Alaska, a beautiful stationary set for writing your own historical-to-be letters, an antique tea cup, and some wonderful flavored tea. And maybe a few other things I might decide to throw in as we go along!

See the bottom of this post for more giveaways by other bloggers who are reviewing this book!

Singer Ginny Marshall is one signature away from the recording contract of her dreams—a deal that would guarantee success for the former foster child, who still struggles to bury the memories of her painful childhood. But Ginny needs advice from the one person who will look out for her best interests—her former fiancĂ©, Brett Miller. She travels to the remote town of Glacier Bay, Alaska, where the town’s colorful characters and stunning scenery provide respite from LA’s pressures.
In Glacier Bay, Ginny discovers a box of old letters and is swept up in the love story between Clay, an early missionary to Alaska Territory, and Ellie, the woman who traveled there to be his children’s governess. When Ginny is reunited with Brett in Glacier Bay, will she discover—as Ellie did—that healing and love are sometimes found in the most unexpected places?

Tricia Goyer is the award winning author of over thirty books including Beside Still Waters, Remembering You, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences and is the host of Living Inspired. She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife.
Find out more about Tricia at

Ocieanna Fleiss is a published author and editor. She lives with her husband and their four children in the Seattle area.
Find out more about Ocieanna at