Friday, May 30, 2008

Meet Cara

Happy Friday, my friends! Stayed up until late last night helping Elementary Girl on her biography project. She learned all there is to know about Laura Ingalls Wilder--and I did too, I think. Did you know that Laura wouldn't marry Almanzo until he and their minister agreed to remove the word "obey" from the marriage vows? Love that boldness! You go, Girl!!!

This reminded me of an author friend of mine who's boldly gone out and worked hard to achieve so much. Cara Putman and I "met" through email. Way back when I'd first written Chocolate Beach, I wanted to find a responsible stranger who I could send my complete manuscript to and get unbiased feedback. So I asked good friend and author, Tricia Goyer, for a trusted source--and she sent me Cara. Let me just say that it's a scary thing to send your "baby" out over the airwaves to a stranger, and I'll always be grateful for Cara's wisdom and honesty! (And for sharing her room with me one night when I was "homeless" at the ACFW conference last fall.)

Cara's now become a published author herself. She's also a wife, mom, lawyer and teacher. Basically, superwoman :) Here's the cover of Cara's latest release, Deadly Exposure

Suspense author, Colleen Coble had this to say about Cara's story:

Putman is an attorney in real life, and her book reflects her grasp of people and relationships. Deadly Exposure starts with a bang from the start with the murder in the theater (creepy) and doesn't stop. I look forward to the next book by this author!

I'm reading and loving it too! You can find out more about Cara and her books over at her blog--tell her I sent you, and have a beachy weekend, wherever you are!

UPDATE: Cara left a comment on this post. Read it to find out how you can enter to win one of her books!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Readin', Ritin', Rithm'tic, and Ready to drop

ACFW pal, Delia Latham, is having a big summer blowout contest to celebrate her latest book, Goldeneyes. Check it out here.

I don't know about you other moms out there but this end of year flurry of school projects and extra, super-duper hard homework schedule is slowly draining the very life blood out of me. Make it stop! It's either all or nothing, am I right? Soon they'll be out of school and rooting around for something fun (and probably expensive) to do, but will I be wishing they just had a big project to work on? Doubtful. Just wishing we could sail on into summer instead of this all out, powerboating richochet we're dealing with--can anyone relate?

Breathe, breathe, breathe. So. Let's talk vacation, which is heavy on my mind despite the enormous word count I must accomplish every day. Where're you going this summer?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Not too long back, I wrote about this latest trend in my town, and that is, to TP my house. You can read about that here. So this past weekend, Teen Son gets an inkling that our little homey home just may be targeted. Again. So he goes on the defensive, setting up the garden hose just so to spray down the perpetrators, should they show up. He switched on more lights, and even considered sleeping in the garage so he could hear better (he's done this before, but no one's shown up). He decided to forego the garage, though, and just set the alarm to a nice and early 2 am.

Wasn't late enough.

About 4am-ish, a shout from the living room awoke me and I hurled my sleepy self from the bed and down the hall. There I found my hubby standing in front of our blinds-covered window, laughing his head off. Was he delirious? Did he just think of something funny?

"Look at this," he says, and splits the blinds just enough to show me that our house has more bars across it--these made of TP--than a jail cell.

Apparently hubby had heard a noise "that sounded like a toilet paper roll hitting one of our kayaks". Say what? Just how does ... never mind. So anyway, he hopped out of bed, cracked open the front door, and in a super-mean voice shouted, "Hey, Kids, Get off my lawn!" Lol...kidding. I think he said something more like, "Get outta here," and then he watched as the boys ran away "like scared jack rabbits."

While still dark, Teen Son and Dad cleaned up the mess...forks on the lawn (wha???), TP everywhere, Saran wrapped car (nice)...even an american eagle head on the fence to celebrate the holiday. If only hubby had heard that distinct sound a bit earlier...sigh.

So I'm thinkin' it's high time for a truce from all these shananigans. Besides, it's cool to be green, kids, so stop the madness and save a tree. Know what I'm sayin'?

p.s. Rumor has it, that even before the sun came up, all that stuff showed back up on the suspect's lawn. We don't know a thing...;)

Meet Author Lena Nelson Dooley

It's always a bit surreal to meet someone in person who you've been communicating with solely through the Internet. Because of writing conferences, I've met many of my blog and email buddies, and today I'd like to introduce you to one of them. Lena Nelson Dooley and I "met" last year when she offered to interview me on her blog after the release of Chocolate Beach. Then in September, we met in the bathroom of the Dallas Marriott (hey, the lines were long), when we both attended the ACFW conference. I've asked her to stop by and tell us about herself, so here's Lena:

I’ve often been asked why I blog the way I do. When I first considered blogging, someone said I should tell about my journey to publication. It might help someone else. If you go way back to the beginning of my archives, you’ll find the few times I did that.

And I wasn’t consistent with posting, sometimes only once a month. After a few months, I asked the Lord if He wanted me to continue this or was I wasting my time. I felt impressed by the Lord to lift up other authors and give them promotion. He assured me that if I lifted others up, He would lift me up. And that’s the best kind of promotion to have—from the Lord.

I started doing author interviews. I wanted to be able to draw readers, so I decided to require a giveaway with each interview. I also ask for a book for myself. After I read the books, I post a review on my Shoutlife blog and in the monthly newsletter on my web site:

It took a while to build readership, but I’ve learned how to expand readership. Now readers, and even some buyers at libraries, come to my blog to find out what’s new in Christian publishing. Even readers from around the world.

I don’t just promote
those who sell to major publishers, even though several major publishers’ marketing departments now target me. I wanted to help other authors who have good books, but didn’t have anyone to connect with to help them reach their goals. So they used small presses.

Most of the authors
I interview write adult fiction, but we have an occasional nonfiction book, as well as children’s or young adult’s fiction.

Come over and check it out:

Julie here. Thanks for stopping by today, Lena! And to my bloggity buddies, I hope you'll hop on over to Lena's blog to see what she's talking about--and don't forget to check out her books too :) (Heartsong Presents and Barbour). Have a great day!

Monday, May 26, 2008

THANK YOU to our soldiers, past and present.

God bless our troops!

God bless our country!


See you tomorrow when we'll talk again about the writing journey, and what you chowed down at your weekend bar-be-cue :)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Writing on Friday

Happy Friday, My Friends~

I'm blogging about the writing journey today, as promised, and it's good timing as I've just completed my last planned book signing for Truffles by the Sea. I learned super quickly last year that publication doesn't end with the final chapter of the book, but continues on long after the galleys have been proofed and sent back, which for Truffles was sometime last fall. Since then I've had, let's see:

* 10 Book signings
* 1/2 dozen drop in signings
* 2 podcasts
* 1 radio interview
* 1 6-day writer's conference
* And a whole mess of mailings, both online and via snail mail

All this while writing proposals for various publishers, and somehow trying to clean toilets in between. Hey, nobody ever said it was glamorous ;)

If you're attempting publication,
have you ever thought of those aspects? I never really did before, because frankly, I just wanted to learn the craft. It would be good for you, though, to ask yourself what kind of marketing fits you.

For example, extroverts love to stand up in front of groups and yak, yak, yak. So not me. I do it, but it's not always pretty. I have discovered that I dig talking with people one and one, and that's why book signings have been actually a lot of fun (although I'm a bit of a freak while prepping...but that's for another post ;) Lots of folks like to come up and talk about books, or about they're own writing journey, and that's seriously okay by me (at least I'm not lonely up there...ha).

If I can offer
some sage advice, then I will. Karen Kingsbury did the same for me last year. I approached her during a signing, told her about my books, and she jumped right in, offering me some terrific advice (and notice here how I've somehow compared myself to the uber-popular KK, Lol...)

You're turn. How do you learn about books you come to love? From friends or the Internet or through direct mail or ? I'd love to hear your stories.

Memorial Day weekend is here. Throw another shrimp on the bar-b and have a beachy weekend--wherever you are!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

By 12 Million Votes!

Applause, applause, applause...oh my goodness, let me just start by saying a big Woo-Hoo for the 2008 American Idol...(drumroll please)...DAVID COOK! (crowd goes wild) We are super happy in our house tonight. Yeah, we thought both Davids were pretty spectacular, but our favorite scale was definitely tipped to David Cook. So yeah-hah, were thrilled.

Before I gush on any further about the DC, the show itself rocked:

--Performances by the Top 12 (Is it me or did poor Amanda struggle through?)
--ZZ Top with David Cook (Every girl's crazy for a sharp dressed man...)
--Michael Johns and Carly Smithson--HOT, hot, HOT
--Graham Nash and Brooke White, folksy and on guitars
--Donna Summer singing Last Dance. Haha...I had that album as a pre-teen and I can sing it to. this. day. And just to date myself even further, I loved the movie, Thank God It's Friday, yeah, back in the day. In it a svelte Donna Summer sang Last Dance to Lionel Richie. Mmm, mmm--those were the days, Lol...
--Gladys Knight auditioning the Pips: Ben Stiller, Jack Black (cracks. me. up.), and Robert Downey Jr. I'll never think of Midnight Train to Georgia the same way again.
--Carrie Underwood--Um, someone's become a star... (We saw her at the fair two years ago, and something tells me she's no longer doing fairs...)
Jonas Brothers--CUTIES! This mama approves :)

And just to remind the world what a freak show California can be, there was the guy in the white suit from early auditions singing, "I am your brother...Your best friend for-e-ver!" None other than the USC marching band and cheerleaders backed him up. Yeah, we're freaks.

Elementary Girl's teacher and classmates all voted for David A, while EG voted for David C. I'm thinkin' a body guard might be in order tomorrow--you think?

David Cook closed out the night with lots of tears and some great vocals--and a hug from David Archuleta. The best season--ever.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Final Night of Competition

The night begins with an ode to boxing. That guy who always says "Let's get ready to rum-ble!" starts off by introducing in this corner, David Cook (wearing a satiny red robe) and in that corner, David Archuleta (wearing a blue satin robe). Then the strangest thing happens--announcer guy says AMERICAN IDOL. And I'm thinking, does Ryan know about this???

Our contestants come out with fightin' words pseudo serious faces and really nice words for each other. So much for themes....


I just watched David Cook sing his final song in this competition. Couldn't help but feel the emotion as tears ran down his face. He's multi-talented, a sweet soul, and cute to boot ;) Too bad Simon couldn't have been more positive on the final night. While he appreciated his voice, he didn't like the song. Who cares? Did he sing it well or not? (Is my annoyance showing?) Although he didn't blow me away like previous weeks, he's still my favorite.

Minutes later, and I just watched David Archuleta sing Imagine (not the dreaded first verse). Randy just declared him the best singer of season 7!!! And you know what? He sang so, so, sooo well tonight. All three songs rocked! Forgive me for sounding schizo, but I think he won the night. Good job, kid.

Now it's up to the voters.


p.s. "Hostage" this one's for you:

Tonight David C sang "I still haven't found what I'm lookin' for", "Dream Big, and "The World I Know"

David A sang "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me", "In this Moment", and a reprise of "Imagine."

The Top 2 Perform

Although David A's been the favorite since he wowed the world (and my fam) during audition week, David C has stepped it enough that online bookies are predicting he'll win the title of American Idol this Wednesday. Don't look at me that way--I don't gamble! Just happened to read that in the headlines...:)

Personally, I'm rooting for David Cook. He didn't draw me early on, but oh how he's navigated the challenging waters over time, demonstrating his song choice savvy, arrangement skill, and spot on vocals.

Can't wait to see what the Dueling Davids have in store tonight. No pressure, eh?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Monday musings on writing

Before I sold my first book, on proposal, I'd written two complete novels. Neither were all that good, but in doing, I learned. Still, I often felt frustrated and stuck by the process, until I decided to 'take apart' some of my favorite books. Teen Daughter will tell you that it's not all that fun to borrow books from me (some of them, anyway). That's because there are markings in them. I wanted to figure out how my favorite authors did it, so I circled transitions, and made notes in the margins, and underlined characterization, and so on. Finally, what I wanted to do began to really gel in my mind.

The amazing Angela Hunt
has said that through the years she's used various formulas in her writing, and this has given me great inspiration (and comfort!). Because even though she'd written so much, she was still seeking new and better ways to create her books. I'm writing the first of three novels set in Otter Bay, California, and one of Angela's writing techniques has helped me immensely. She calls it the Plot Skeleton, and basically, what it's done is helped me to boil down my next novel to the bare bones. It's kind of a pre-outline, and if you have SOTP writing tendencies like me (seat-of-the-pants), this just may be the technique that will keep you on course. I made one for my current WIP (work-in-progress) and it's been an amazing guide! You can read Angela's post here.

In addition to the Plot Skeleton, I'm also reading Susie Warren and Rachel Hauck's Booktherapy blog, and re-reading (and dogearring, Jim Bell's book, Plot & Structure). Here's the thing, though. These resources are working for me at the moment, but there are all kinds of helps out there. A pet peeve of mine (okay, I've got more than one ;) is reading that you have to write a certain way. I'm part of several online writing groups, and while they are choc-full of resources and conversation, they can also be overwhelming and discouraging at times, especially when someone makes a black and white statement of how things must be done.

Sure there are rules, and there are expectations from readers, but that said, different minds get there in different ways. Try out a few ways to write. You may be able to listen to lectures and 'get it' (I'm jealous of that, btw), or you may need to use an Excel spreadsheet to organize all your scenes (a very popular technique for some), or you may need to stand on your head at the beach until all the ideas have a party in your head (I keep trying this--Not!). Whatever.

If you've believe writing is your calling, yet you've been stuck on the journey, maybe it's time to press on. Find a technique that works for you at this time in your life, but know that as you grow as a writer, it's okay to try something new. Let me know how you do!

Friday, May 16, 2008

When I began this blog...

back in 2006, I wrote about my journey as a beach chicky, newbie author. My first book had just been contracted and in addition to actually finishing it (I'd sold it on proposal), I had much to learn about important stuff like branding, marketing, and which pens to use when signing books ;)

I'm on a new journey now as I write a new series of books. So I'm going to try to 'write about writing' on bookend days (that's what author Susan Meissner calls them): Mondays & Fridays. (Of course, I'll still be showing up here throughout the week with fodder of all kinds ;)

I won't be teaching grammar or other how-tos, although I will be recommending some great resources. What I will be talking about is the journey, so if you're interested in writing books, or if you are writing them now and you're feeling isolated (I SO get that), stop by Mondays and Fridays when I'll be offering glimpses into the writing life. Oh, if you have questions, feel free to comment here or send them via my website, and I'll attempt to answer them.

And now, here's a post from my first week of blogging, when I began to understand the intricacies of what it takes to market a book. Be warned :)

p.s. Have a beachy weekend--wherever you are!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Somebody hand me a hanky!

This is my favorite season of American Idol. Love the top three, and the hometown visits, and the tears. All three seemed genuinely humbled by the experiences of the past week, and how rare is that these days? (I choked up a time or two myself :) Anyway, for those who haven't heard, the two Davids made it to the finals. So next week, America will choose either David A or David C to be their next--in Ryan Seacrest's dramatic voice--American Idol!

Oh, what will we do with our Tuesday/Wednesday nights!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Top 3

It's the final three tonight, signaling the wind down of this (long-winded?) show. Kinda sad, but then again, this means summer's comin' so--woohoo :) Three contestants, three hometown visits, and three songs. Should be fun!

Last night,
I lapsed into a bit of reality show binging with a looksey at both Dancing with the Stars (Kristy Yamaguchi is fabulous) and, I know I shouldn't admit this but, the finale of The Bachelor. I know, I know--that second one is so wrong in so many ways, but since I tend to include pop culture refs in my books, it was all work related. Lol...let's see if that excuse flies.

Anyhoo, teen daughter watched with me (we didn't see the rest of the season so our opinions were based soley on this one over-edited hour), and she wants me to MAKE SURE to say that SHE figured out who the handsome Brit, Matt Grant, would pick. So there you go, kiddo--the credit's all yours (does this earn me points?) Anyway, how fun to learn that Shayne, Matt's pick and new fiancee is the daughter of Lorenzo Lamas. There's a blast from the past for you. Hopefully they'll be able to beat the odds...

Monday, May 12, 2008

This just in...

My super-fun writing friend, Katie Cushman, invited me over to her cyber-beach blanket for a chat this afternoon--and she's giving away a free copy of Truffles by the Sea. Hop on over there, and if you leave a comment, you might just win it--just in time for summer reading :)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

All the pretty places

Had a fabulous Mom's Day with my own mom, who for some reason I've been calling her "Mamacita Figureoa" since I was like, 10. Have no idea how that got started, but it's tradition so that's how her cards are addressed. So, we met the rest of the fam in Westlake Village for brunch, then my architect brother took some of us for a tour of an amazing house he's building in Malibu. Ahhhh....the views were to die for beautiful. My kids climbed in and out of the infinity pool (empty of course) that's being built to look as if it's on the edge of the sea. The house itself is huge, with too many rooms to mention, plus a master bedroom and bath the size of my house, people.

On the way there my brother pointed out
homes of the rich and famous, and all I could think of was the sermon our pastor gave this morning on the dangers of materialism. LOL Is there some reason he chose Mother's Day for that message? Let's just believe it was a coinkydink, shall we?

For you Zoey 101 watchers, we drove home along PCH past Pepperdine University where the show is filmed. Plus it's my husband's alma mater, not to mention the place we were married (in the campus chapel that looks over the sea). After that, we stopped at La Jolla beach where there's this incredibly steep sand hill that looks much easier to climb than it actually is (trust me, my knees and I know). Hubby and I sat in the car while our kids bravely climbed the hill (sometimes on their knees). Hey, this is standard tourist fare that all who visit So Cal must attempt. Just so you know.

Tomorrow it's back to writing the next great american novel. Lol...hey, it's good to have goals. What about you? Tell me how you spent your weekend! Hope it was a good one for you :))

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

...but he did not shoot the deputy

I'm so proud of Jason. As predicted, he went home tonight, but he did it with fun and style (Bob Marley anyone?). Did y'all hear him say under his breath that if he had stayed another week then he'd have to sing 3 songs and "I don't know what I'd do!" He's so honest. And talented. And cute (in a little cousin sort of way).

Next week we'll get to watch the hometown visits for Syesha (way to go!), David A and David C (my guess as the final two). This, I believe, is how it should be.

What do you think? Is this thing winding down as it should? Speak your mind...:)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Top 4

Even before the lavish praises from the judges, I thought David A kicked it tonight. The boy--can't believe I have a son almost his age!--has super smooth vocals, the kind we music buyers spend tons of money on, am I right?

Syesha has really done well against the odds. She's been in the bottom 3 how many times? Good for her for overcoming--I hope she sails on through this week (and why was Randy so down on her second vocal? Hm). David C looked like a deer in the headlights this week, but he still sounded very fine. So that leaves our Jason, who most probably will go home tomorrow. Let's just leave it at that...;)

What's your prediction?

Really Bad Poetry

There once was a girl from Ventura
who wasn't always too sure-a
that they'd dig her beachy style
and then opt to stay for a-while...

Okay, it's a start. If you're interested in winning a really bad prize for your really bad poetry, hop on over to agent Chip Macgregor's blog. At the very least, you'll be entertained for awhile as you wade through all his terrible entries.

I'm off to write on a gloriously sunny Tuesday...if you feel like sharing your bad poetry here, or finishing what I've started, go for it ;) Sorry, no prize though...

Monday, May 05, 2008

Monday Madness

Rented August Rush over the weekend. Seen it? It's the story of an orphaned boy who believes his parents would find him if only they could 'hear' him. See, he's a musically gifted child (who's never had a music lesson), and he often 'hears' music. Eventually, he teaches himself to play it...and the rest is history.

Honestly, the movie had its hokey moments, but it was also surreal and charming, if that's possible. Something else stood out for me, though, and that was the very real presence of evil. Just like the Bible says, in this story the devil (or resident evil) masqueraded as an angel of light. At one point, 'evil' sees he's losing and makes one last, desperate attempt to win...but to no avail.

I've no idea if the writer of this story intended to weave in that spiritual thread. Just my observation. And I think that's because when I write, I include the spiritual life of my characters, just as I do their physical, emotional and intellectual aspects.


I've moved out of my office today and am writing on the couch. Thank the Good Lord for laptop computers! Our neighbors moved out a few months ago to remodel the house. This is a good thing, except for the gazillion people and trucks there every day. The grinding and banging and yakking carries right through my window, and although I can hear it out here in the living room too, it's slightly less disturbing. If my next book has an ax-wielding writer in it, you'll know where that came from, LOL...

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Waterfalls and giveaways

Spent Saturday buying and installing a rock fountain in our backyard, and it's bellisimo! Today, though, I. hurt. everywhere. Teen Son helped me with it, but oh! that thing was heavy! (Although it did help when at one point we slapped a pair of kayak wheels under it and carefully pushed it through a narrow path.)

Anyway, when I look outside, and see the gentle cascade of water...I'm over it.

A BIG CONGRATS to the winners of my Mom's Day Giveaway: Stacey D. and Bev W. Both ladies will receive a copy of Truffles by the Sea along with two 1/2 lb. boxes of truffles--one for them and one to give to Mom (or other wonderful woman in their life). Congrats, ladies, and thanks to all who played!

If you give away my books as gifts, feel free to request one of my new bookmarks via my website! They're hot off the press, glossy on both sides and I'm itching to give some away :)

Friday, May 02, 2008

Playing Catch Up

Teen Daughter sang a solo last night in the school's spring musical. American Idol, here we come! Seriously, I'm proud of her because this is a kid who really had to face her fears. Several years ago, she gave me permission to write about those anxieties for Focus on the Family magazine. I know she was super nervous up there on that stage (alas, she gets that from me), but she faced it and did it--and did it well!

And in book news, I wanted to let you know about John Olson's latest book, Fossil Hunter, but my pal Katie already wrote about it, so please stop by her site for all the info. John's a fabulous guy and writer who I've sat next to many times up at the Mt. Hermon Writer's conference. He's written a novel that's a companion to the Ben Stein movie that's out in theaters now, Expelled, and it sounds fabulous. I'll be grabbing my copy this week!

Have a beachy weekend, wherever you are!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Bye Brooke

Busy day today, but wanted to say so-long to Brooke. Surprised to see her go just yet, but now that AI's been going on for awhile, I think the top two are become clearer.

More tomorrow...but feel free to drop by with your comments and predictions!