Monday, June 30, 2008

Writing on Monday--ACFW Conference

Last year, I was almost homeless. Well, for or a night anyway. I'd booked a room for the ACFW conference in Dallas, but needed to fly in a night early, and the hotel was full. That's how popular this event has become. Thankfully, author Cara Putman came to my rescue and invited me to share her room for the night since her own roommate wouldn't arrive until the next day.

I'd never attended this conference before, but had heard of its reputation. Kathryn Cushman (A Promise to Remember) and I flew in together from LAX, feasting on chocolate and Xanax (um, wait, that second morsel was mine alone ;0) Okay, so I'm not a good flyer? It doesn't stop me from traveling, as I've been over the pond, as they say, as well as across the country many times.

Ahem. Where was I? Oh yeah, the conference. If you've been following the ACFW conference blog tour, you've probably read about the non-stop lobby gatherings that run all day, every day of the event (you know, in between all that eating and learning). Anyway, Katie and I found a couch that first night with a clear view of the hotel's sliding lobby doors. People watching at its finest.

"Hey, isn't that?"
"Psst...look what bestseller just came in."
"Omg--she looks just like her blog picture!"

Did I mention that I met Colleen Coble and Diann Hunt in (different) bathroom lines? Try being tongue-tied with a full bladder! Lol...I also sat in on classes by other fabulous authors such as Susan Meissner, Susan May Warren, and Rachel Hauck. I love learning, and their classes offered me fresh perspectives, innovative techniques, and lots of discussion with writers at all levels.

If you've ever wanted to write a novel, especially one with elements of faith, the ACFW conference is the place to start. You'll make new friends (Cara and I had never even met before she got stuck hearing me snore all night!), meet some of your favorite authors (bathroom lines are good for that), and most importantly, learn from accomplished and amazingly giving teachers.

This year the conference will be in Minneapolis, MN with a multi-author booksigning on Saturday at the Mall of America. You can find out more info here. Also, check out the ACFW POSTS on my sidebar to read about some of my adventures last year (including meeting Vader's Mom face to face). And you can also visit the ACFW conference blog for more attendee insights.

Have a beachy day--wherever you are!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Will laugh for food

So last night I laughed my face off while talking to old friends at a party. Year ago, this particular group loved to give surprise parties. It became so old that victims just learned to put on a 'startled' face, as if. Anyway, fast forward a few years (okay, more than a few, but still), and someone decides to throw a surprise party. We didn't know if it would work, but figured, hey, it'll be a good place for free food (haha...kidding, you know).

Well, our victim was surprised, and oh so happy, and while the free food was yum, the yakking was even better. So here's to tradition and old friends--may you have them both!

Have a peaceful and beachy, Sunday! Tomorrow I'll be talking about the ACFW conference in MN. Hope you'll stop by.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I missed writing on writing last Monday (bad blogger, bad), but in my defense, the summer has turned my schedule upside down. Anyone else feel like that? And once again today, I have to run, but not before directing you over to Eileen Astel's blog: A Christian Romance Writer's Journey, where I'm being interviewed. And we're giving away a copy of Truffles by the Sea too!

See you tomorrow, my bloggity friends!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


My kid's taller. I mean it. Hubby and I circled LAX a few times this morning until I spotted Teen Son's crew of 18 who had just flown in from Belize. It's a weird feeling letting your child, your baby for heaven's sake, fly off to some foreign country without you. But he has a zeal for missionary work, so we step out of the way.

On the drive back from the airport, some of team told us stories of humid days, busy children, orphanages, hospitals, mosquitos and prayer (lots of that last one, especially). They talked about families living in thatched huts, and a group of children walking ten miles to participate in VBS (the pastor arranged to pick them up the rest of the week).

I'd tell you more but Teen Son's still sleeping, and I'm feeling a little woozy myself from the late night--er--morning... On a side note, while we circled the airport like lost pelicans, I got a kick out of seeing so many different people coming into LA at all hours and from all over. Made me want to travel more. In the fall we'll be going to New York, and next year I'm hoping for Italy.

What about you, my bloggity friends? If fuel costs were not an issue, where would you like to go?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Writing on Friday--Mentoring Groups & Debbie Fuller Thomas

A friend has just given birth to a new "baby" and I'd like to share in her joy :) Debbie Fuller Thomas and I met at the Mt. Hermon Christian Writer's Conference in Northern California. We were both part of a mentoring group led by author Randy Ingermanson. Probably one of the most terrifying experiences of my writing life. Actually, there've been others more terror-worthy since, but that one took the scary cake at the time.

Anyway. The mentoring groups meet during the conference. Participants sit around a table after having pre-read each others' manuscripts, and then offer face to face critiques. I'd submitted Chocolate Beach that year, and let me tell you, I was nervous. It turned out fabulously well though because after receiving my knee-shaking critiques, I went home and re-worked the story, and as I've said (maybe a little ad nauseum ;), it sold.

Debbie was part of that same group, with her manuscript, Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon. I remember her story well because it was dripping with emotion and conflict, and it gave me chills. I wanted so much to know how it ended, and finally--publishing can take years--I get to find out. My daughter also read through the manuscript and is anxiously awaiting the finished book, but she'll have to fight me for it, ha.

Here's a terrific review of Debbie's debut over at Novel Journey. I hope you'll check it out. And if want to write, and you're able to attend the Mt. Hermon Christian Writer's Conference, I urge you to do it.

Have a beachy weekend, my bloggity friends--wherever you are!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

xtremely silly

In honor of the basketball finals last night--I'm not really a fan, but it was on in the background--I give you this sports-oriented quiz. And let me just state for the record, there's no way I'd skydive! I might consider bungee jumping though (Lol, yeah right)

You Should Try Skydiving

Don't look before you leap and you'll become a hardcore extreme sports addict

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Inspiring week

Here's a pic of my son and the missions team he's with in Central America. These kids are out building houses, sharing the gospel, and playing sports and games with children who live in an orphanage. You know, doing the kinds of things that really matter.

I'm especially inspired
because of the memorial service I just attended for my friend, Andrea. Andrea was 47 years young, a loving wife, the devoted mother of two, and a good friend to so many. It's been a heavy week, thinking of her long battle with cancer and ultimate passing. And yet, her memorial was such an inspiration to me, and to many, I'm sure. Andrea had much in her short life: family, nice home, fancy car. But it's her zeal for life, and faith in God that I'll remember the most. You know, the kinds of things that really matter.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Writing on Monday--Interviewing your characters

Brief post today because I'm a little delirious after a full weekend, including visiting my coochy-coo nephew (5 months old!) and then sending Teen Son off to central America last night on a missions trip with a local church. (Tossed and turned some over that one...)

But I wanted to talk to you about getting to know your characters. I know I've said that my writing related posts probably wouldn't fall into the how-to category, but this simple idea helped me so much that I wanted to pass it along to you.

One of the best classes I've taken about this subject was taught by author Susan Meissner at the ACFW conference in Dallas. Instead of making lists of her character's needs, desires, and favorite things--which can come out flat and lifeless--she interviews them. (I've always talked with my characters, but I don't often share that bit of my madness...)

Anyway, I love the spontaneous aspect of interviewing my characters. Like when I asked Tara, my newest heroine, how she would handle failure and she snapped at me: "Fail? Why would I fail?" She then furrowed her brow and said, "You need to think more positively."

Well. She didn't need to get so huffy about it, but I know more about her now, don't I? I could've asked myself how Tara would handle failure, and that would have been fine, but more of her voice came out when I turned the question around and asked it of her.

If you're a writer, try playing reporter and turning your lists around. Instead of asking yourself "What is so-and-so's favorite movie?" Ask her "What's your favorite movie, and why?" Never know what she might say...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Writing on Friday--Planning

Today's the first official day of summer break for our family (sigh of relief blows through the house...). All three kiddos are home (Wait. Did I say that sigh was of relief? haha). Anyway, my deadline is a couple of months away, so I'll need to figure out a good plan to get this book done and spend quality time with each one of the kids. If you're a writer too, chances are you do this from home and face the same schedule challenges. Right?

Admittedly, it's getting easier. Teen Son drives and Teen Daughter & friends are self-sufficient. Elementary Girl, however, still needs her mama pretty much 24/7 :) So I've worked out a plan to be super mom and get the book done while having the time of our lives here at kid central.

First, I've dropped my word count by half. For the past couple of months, in anticipation of summer, I've written and written and written. Now that it's here, I can cut back a little and still make my deadline at the end of summer.

Second, my girls don't roll out of bed until late morning (apple didn't fall far from the tree...), so I need to write in the morning. But my brain doesn't always work until mid-day. Oh, the conundrum! So what I've done is some pre-planning. For ex., last night everyone was sawing logs while I planned out what I'd be working on this morning. That way, I don't have to face the morning with sleepy eye AND a blank page.

Third, when I'm done, I'm done. It's summer, and I don't want to miss it. The word count I've assigned myself is do-able, and if the kids are still sleeping, and I can do more, I will. But once I've hit it, I let myself be free to hit the beach or the ice cream shoppe or whatever.

One caveat, I might be making it easier than it sounds. It's not easy. At all. And if you work full time and write and have a family, this schedule may not work for you. But in the land of laptops,I'm also finding that writing in snippets has become easier. Just last week I sat in the car and wrote during Elementary Girl's piano lesson. The time would have been idle anyway. Bottom line, to enjoy the summer best, you'll need to make adjustments--that fit your family.

On Monday, I'm 'planning' (get it? planning...) to talk about interviewing your characters. In the meantime, have a beachy weekend--wherever you are!

Pomp & Circumstance

Teen daughter graduated from middle school last night, and is officially on to high school. Wa-hoo! As we settled in for the ceremony, a couple of people informed us that these things "usually take 3 hours." We hadn't eaten, and besides, I wasn't sure we were all capable of actually sitting that long. Thankfully, though, these were exaggerations. The ceremony went zippity zip and completed in two hours. Very nice!

Lots of tears and hugs afterward, and I suddenly became like the paparazzi, following Teen Daughter around and snapping pics whenever she stopped for a 1/2 second. "Look there she goes." "Wait--where'd she go?" "Oh, quick, over there!" Yeah, me and a camera--it's a beautiful thing. LOL... She'll be thanking me later, I know it.

Can I be honest about something though? I am so very happy to get the drama of middle school behind us. She learned much from some terrific teachers, and has matured beautifully, and has made some sweet friends, but those 11-13s are rough, rough, rough, I tell you. (Mean girls ain't just a movie!) Can you relate?

So congrats to my precious daughter for rising above the drama ~ and to the rest of our household who survived ;-)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Save gas

A lot of you told me you wouldn't be taking vacation this year because of the gas crunch. I so get that. With three kiddos, I drive around town a lot, and spend way too much time and moola at the gas pump.

Then last week, I got a nail in one of tires, and had to have it patched. The tire company offered to fill my tires with nitrogen instead of regular air, saying it saved mileage along with wear and tear. We agreed. Oh. my. goodness. My 1/2 tank lasted a week!!! I did a little search on google, and found that Nascar's been using nitrogen for years.

Not everyone agrees that it makes any difference, but for me it's been huge. And it only cost 4 bucks per tire--same as a gallon of gas, these days (yikes). Just wanted to pass that along...vacation, anyone?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Idol Chatter

It's been a few weeks since we talked about American Idol. Let us all have a moment of silence. *sniff* Okay, feeling better? First off, have you all heard David C singing Time of My Life on the radio? The first time I heard it I did a double take, then a "turn it up!!!" shout out. It's apparently hitting all kinds of records. He'll be singing the national anthem at the 3rd game of the NBA finals, too :)

And David A just signed a deal with Jive records, same one that signed Jordin Sparks, so losing AI isn't necessarily a bad thing.

And I found Chris Sligh's (from season 6) new release, Running Back to You, on How fun is that? He's also got a praise cd coming out later this month. Always liked him...

In other reality show news, I just read that Amy Finley, last season's Food Network winner, has quit her own show, The Gourmet Next Door, and moved with her family to France for the summer.

Well. I would if I could! How about you? If you could follow a new dream, and money didn't matter, what would it be?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Writing on Monday--Videos

Summer's here for some of you outside CA, but we're still in those last few days of rush with finals and a graduation and elementary school parties! (Calgon, take me a way, you know?) As a mom and a writer, I'm toiling to get in my daily word count while still being available for all that's on my plate. My deadline is my deadline. It's not going to change, so I'm the one who has to adjust, but that's okay because I've gotten used to it.

How about you? Do you work a job that you can adjust in the summer? How will you balance it all over the next couple of months?

Sorry if this post is a bit rambling...the blogging's the first thing to go when the hours become so filled ;) In addition to writing the next book, I'm also continuing to get the word out about my current babies. Remember this if you become a writer: just because you're writing something new, doesn't mean you can forget about what's already out there. Kind of like real kids, you know (ha).

Anyway, I've been playing with lately, putting together super fun videos to let people know about the beach reads I've written. (Kudos to Teen Son's high school pals who posed with my books :)) It's fun and free and anyone can do it (trust me on this). If you decide to do one yourself, post the link in my comments so we can all check it out. (I learned about this over on Brandilyn's blog.)

Click here for the latest version of mine. What do you think?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Me? Quirky?

Not long ago I was sent back to the drawing board to re-write a book proposal. The editor (who knows me well) basically said I needed to put more of 'me' into the proposal. It lacked my quirk value, apparently. Hate it when that happens. Lol...

So anyway, I found this super-scientific quiz (not), and all I gotta say is...whatever. Ha. Let me know your results!

Your Quirk Factor: 55%

You're a pretty quirky person, but you're just normal enough to hide it.

Congratulations - you've fooled other people into thinking you're just like them!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

kids, and books, and funny food

So Teen Daughter took off this morning with her 8th grade class for a three-day trip, Teen Son's getting ready for a mission's trip out of the country, and Elementary Girl's nearly as tall as her teen sister. Waaa! How'd they grow so fast?

Have to admit, though, that it's fun to watch :)

Just a few things to catch you up on. First, if you're looking to pick up a signed copy of Chocolate Beach, it's now available through People love getting these as gifts~just click on the link on my sidebar to go straight to my book's listing.

And if you're summer book club's thinking of reading Truffles by the Sea, let me know so I can send you a stack of bookmarks. I also wrote some bonus questions (extras that you won't find in the back of the book) for, and you can find those here.

And in a truly unrelated post,
is anyone else addicted to Food Network Star? The new season just started and my dvr recorded it (probably because we obsessed over this show last year). Anyway, it's gonna be good again...I can tell ;) If you watch it, what'd you think about the unfunny comic chef? LOL...those of you who don't watch it are going to want to see a recap!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Inspiration, part 2--Denise Hildreth

Mrs. Sidney asked yesterday for the inspiration behind the book,
Flies on the Butter. I received such a lovely answer, that
I've made it its own post :)

From Denise Hildreth:

Here is the story behind Flies on the Butter:

I had just finished my third in my Savannah series when my editor asked me if I had another book in mind. I said, "Sure, two more Savannah books." She was thinking something completely different. I assured her I didn't know how to write anything different. She assured me I could.

So, one day driving down the street here in Franklin, Tennessee where I live I was listening to my new Wynonna Judd CD when the song "Flies on the Butter" came on I honestly had to pull over to the side of the road because the tears were falling so fast and furious. I immediately
knew this song was a book.

This song simply said:

Old tin
Leaves in the gutter
A hole in the screen door big as your fist
And flies on the butter.
Mamaw's baking sugar cookies
We were watching cartoons
I heard her holler from the kitchen
which one of you youngin's wants to lick the spoon.
Old dog napping on the front porch.
His ear just a twitching.
I fell a
sleep on grandaddy's lap to the sound of his pocket watch

Oh, Oh,
Doesn't seem like it was all that long ago.
Oh, oh
You can dream about it every now and then, but you can't go home again.

The s
ong reminded me of everything wonderful in my childhood that I would never be able to go back to. But more than that I realized that there was a generation living now that would never know the simplicity of the life so many of us once lived. The world where we had the first icee, by freezing a glass coke bottle, popping the lid and watching the icee float up to the top. Or our lamps of lighting bugs stuck in Mason jars. And I knew I wanted to take people back to that simpler time. But I also knew that there needed to be a story line threaded through there that was representative of today. So, I began to write Flies on the Butter.

Many of the childhood memories, (the good ones and a few of the mischevious ones) are mine. And the grandparents are taken after my maternal grandparents and Christopher is my older
brother. And the food, well, Lord knows I love to eat, so all of the food is something my mama fixes!

But that is how Flies on the Butter first came to life in my heart and then made its way to the page.

Thank you again Julie for asking. And for the opportunity to share it.


Monday, June 02, 2008

Writing on Monday--Inspiration

One of the questions I'm most often asked is "What inspired the idea for X book?" If you write books, you will be asked this over and over again, and if you don't, you've probably read a book and wondered, "How in the world did they think up that?" I know I have :)

My first book, Chocolate Beach, was about, Bri, a laid-back beach chick who finds evidence that her older, distinguished husband has grown tired of her carefree ways. The actual idea of the story came from the desire to explore the "opposites attract" concept. Those kinds of relationships can initiate sparks from the get-go, but the question for me was...what happens years later? That's the nugget CB was written around.

Truffles by the Sea
is the story of Bri's best friend, Gaby. For this book, I wanted to delve into issues touched on in book #1. For example, Gaby had a history of dating Mr. Wrong. So one question I wanted to answer in this book is Why? Gaby also had creative and dramatic qualities about her, so I also wanted to find out what she'd do if more than her dating life went down the tubes. When all kinds of mini-disasters happen to poor Gaby, we see her mettle at work.

If you write fiction, the inspiration for the idea is only the beginning, right? On Friday I'll tell you about a new twist (for me, anyway) on getting to know your characters. In the meantime, what books have made you long to know the inspiration behind them? If I know the author(s), I'll see if I can dig up the answer(s) for you.