Thursday, August 7, 2014

A fairy tale come true...

Finding time to be a writer--just a writer, not a mother, daughter, grandmother, friend, neighbor--is tough. That's not news to anyone who writes, or paints, or does any other creative endeavor, because being creative seems to be put on the back burner when it comes to our life's "to do" lists.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to attend a two-week residency at the Golden Apple Art Residency on Ripley's Neck in Harrington, Maine. This glorious place, comprised of nine and a half acres of the piney woods of Maine and bordered on one side by the rocky shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean, is devoted to the advancement of the arts in an environment that encourages and celebrates creativity. Each artist (there were four of us, all women) has his/her own private cottage and individual studio (in the bottom floor of the main house). Our meals were all included. Delicious breakfasts and lunches were delivered to the studio commons area and our evening meals were held in the main house. Together, the four artists and our hosts, Shelley and Greg Stevens, ate luscious, regional fare prepared by Shelley, talked, laughed, and formed bonds for life. 

There was one other writer there, Yvonne Navarro of Arizona, who has 22 published books to her credit! The others were artists were Erin Overmeyer, an art teacher from Michigan, who painted beautiful pictures in acrylic of abandoned schools to showcase the downward spiral of neighborhoods and communities when schools close, and Anne Gochenour, Central Michigan University Art Gallery Director, who did gorgeous work in mixed media.

Part of the beautiful landscaping
at Golden Apple Art Residency
The scenery was gorgeous, the environment natural and inspiring, the food delicious, and the company wonderful. While our lifestyles, spiritual and political views, and backgrounds all differed, we respected the opinions of others. At the end of the two weeks, you'd have thought we'd known one another for years. Besides all the pampering I enjoyed, I worked hard. And I mean hard. Our studios were available to us 24 hours a day, and although I wore out long before I even approached the all-nighter stage, I accomplished everything I set out to do. I took over 1500 pictures, added several thousand words to my WIP (and edited the rest of it), and commuted with God--the three goals I set for myself.

But in addition to all the pampering and beautiful surroundings, I also experienced another advantage to getting away from it all. The encouragement and inspiration other like-minded individuals, artists of one kind or another who value creativity, was a shot in the arm. While I know, logically and through social and professional networking, there are others out there who share my passion to write for God, sometimes I feel alone. Apart. Rudderless.

And now I feel refreshed, part of something greater than myself, and anchored. Doesn't get much better than that! Many thanks to my hosts, Shelley and Greg Stevens of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan (when they're not in Harrington, Maine). If anyone is interested in applying to the residency, you can find out more at www.goldenapplestudio.com/residency. Believe me, you won't be sorry.
The town landing just down the
shoreline from the residency, where the
lobster boats chug out every morning (early, early morning)
and return every afternoon with their fresh catch. 

View from the shoreline just a few steps
away from my cottage...

Monday, June 9, 2014

Blog Relay Day!



Today I'm participating in a blog tour via my friend, Donn Taylor (http://donntaylor.blogspot.com and www.donntaylor.com), via Preslaysa Williams at www.preslaysa.com. I hope the questions below and my answers to them will give you a clearer idea of who I am as a writer, what I'm working on now, and how and why I do it. Here goes:

What am I working on now?

At the moment, I'm working on the first book of what I hope will become a series. I won't reveal much more than that, except that it's darker than my Road's End series and deals with the eternal consequences of sin and how the devil and his demons work day and night to keep us from being the Christians God wants us to be and to keep non-believers from coming to Christ. It's a departure from my other series, but I feel led by God to write this particular book.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Although my work is inspirational and Christian in scope and context, I also use a lot of humor in my stories. I think God gave us a sense of humor to help us deal with one another and with life, as well as to forgive our own foibles. Being able to laugh at ourselves and see the absurdity of our actions (as well as in the actions of others) helps us to realize we are bur mere humans and as such, are going to mess up on occasion. My characters, although larger than life in some instances, will remind readers of a neighbor, friend, relative, classmate, co-worker, or maybe even themselves. Sometimes it's good to just sit back and laugh at the human condition.

That said, the series I'm working on now flies in the face of what I just told you about humor in my writing. Although there is a lighthearted aspect of this series in some parts, it's of such a serious nature, and I believe so strongly in its intended message, that too much humor would water down the eternal consequences of ignoring God (and the devil, for that matter).

Why do I write what I do?

I believe my assignment while I’m on this earth is to use my God-given skills (and every last one of us has our own set of skills) to write novels and hopefully bring others to Him. One of those skills is my sense of humor. Mixing laughter with the Good News of Jesus Christ might bring a reader to salvation who would otherwise turn his or her back on the message an author is trying to get across. It comes naturally to me to write what I do (and to write it the way I do), and fortunately, I love doing it.

How does my writing process work?

Pretty much hit and miss, to be honest. I’d like to say I sit down at 8:00 a.m. and write until I’ve completed 10,000 words, but that would be a big, fat lie. Yes, I’ve been known to write through the night when a deadline looms after I’ve let it creep up on me, always thinking “I’ll tackle it tomorrow,” but that’s rare. I’d also like to say I’m continually energized, inspired, and feeling particularly creative. That, too, would be a lie. What I can say (without lying) is that the more I write, the more energized, inspired, and creative I become. Energy begets energy, being inspired begets more inspiration... you get the picture. It’s a matter of sitting down and hitting the keys no matter how drained or uninspired I feel.

The fact is, writing is the hardest work I’ve ever done. Nothing has messed with my self-esteem more than writing, yet nothing has made me feel closer to God than using the skills He gave me to glorify Him. God has given me the time, ability, equipment, and desire to write, and I can’t ignore those blessings. The fact is, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Until the next time...

Thursday, September 5, 2013

In His Hands

Aside from glorifying God with our work, a Christian writer's greatest dream is to finally hold that hard-earned, slaved-over, finally-published book in his or her hands.

Sadly, one of our fellow authors from Hartline Literary Agency, Dianne Price, never had that chance. She died just one week before Broken Wings, the first book of her World War II series, was published by Ashberry Lane.

I never met Dianne and knew her only briefly through the writer's loop of our mutual agent, Terry W. Burns. But one look at her smiling face told me everything I needed to know. She was joyous, hopeful, and God-fearing. She worked hard to finish her books and longed to hold that first one before she died. But God had other plans and I'm sure His were far better than any that mere humans could conjure up! Dianne (and her book) are now in God's Hands.

The first of Dianne's books is now available for sale. Please take a look at the following links to learn more about Dianne and find out how you and anyone else you know can hold Dianne's book for her. 

http://ashberrylane.com/dianneprice/ 
http://www.ashberrylane.com

Until the next time....

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Two down; one to go!

Another milestone reached! I've now completed and submitted the second book in my Road's End series, titled Faux Pas, to my publisher. Faux Pas continues with the (mis)adventures of Pastor Hugh Foster and his wife, Melanie, and the rest of the residents of Road's End, Virginia, as they battle the worst nature can throw at them and juggle a wedding, an atheist for a future son-in-law, a new grandson, and the arrival of a very important guest.

I love writing about Road's End and can't imagine ever abandoning these folks forever. It's my deepest hope that readers, once these books are published, will feel the same way. I'll let you know when the first one, Misstep, is published!

Now it's on to number three. Wish me luck.

Until the next time...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

It's on!

Things are getting exciting around here. I've received the signed copy of my contract from OakTara and last night, I sent in my edited version of Misstep, along with my author picture and bio, dedication, and acknowledgments. I'm assuming they'll be in touch with lots of edits and changes (which I'll be happy to do!) and then ask for other things like cover ideas, endorsements, etc.

In the meantime, I need to continue with my marketing and promotion (which might be a little easier once I get a cover to use in those communications), as well as finishing up Faux Pas, the second book in The Road's End Series. While I've waited all my life for this opportunity, I'm afraid I feel like that poor, overused deer in the headlights. Where do I turn? What do I do first? Can I multitask to be more efficient, or are multitask and efficient an oxymoron? Do I schedule my time and stick to it or should I do things as they feel right or when I'm in the mood to do them?

This is as much a time for learning as it is a time for joy. I'm in unfamiliar territory, but thankfully I have the good team at OakTara, my agent, Terry Burns, my Burns siblings, and our Heavenly Father to guide me through this season of joy and confusion.

Until the next time...

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A 3-Book Contract!


It's happened! I've signed a contract with OakTara Publishers for my novel, Misstep. And it's not just a one-book contract; no, it's for three! Yep, Misstep will be followed by Faux Pas, which will finally be followed by Misjudge. All three take place in Road's End, Virginia, and follow the adventures (or misadventures, depending on your viewpoint) of Hugh Foster, recently-retired Air Force chaplain, his wife, and the quirky senior citizen residents of Road's End. Hugh thought it was tough living in 13 houses on 11 bases on two continents for the past 27 years. That was a roll in a pit of marshmallows compared to what he's gotten himself into this time.

Since the first book is written, all that remains is--well, big bunches of stuff. Editing, more editing, followed by... you guessed it, even more editing. Once Misstep is ready for publication, I'll be turning my attention once more to completing Faux Pas, which is nearly finished, and we'll begin with the editing all over again. Last, but not least, Misjudge will go through the same process. The next few months will be busy ones; thank goodness, we've already made the move from Alaska to Tennessee!

Thank you to Terry Burns (my beloved agent) and Hartline Literary Agency, as well as to Ramona Tucker of OakTara Publishers. I won't let you down--or you either, my dears friends, family, and readers.

Until the next time...






Saturday, November 3, 2012

Making the devil smile...

Will you work for the Kingdom of God today or help promote the evils of the devil?

The Lord has recently reminded me that if I'm not actively working for Him, I am (by default) working for the devil. It's not enough to not be evil--that's relatively easy to accomplish (aside from that sinful nature of ours). We can be as good as we want, we can smile and wave and say sweet things to strangers, we can obey the Ten Commandments on a daily basis and still work for the devil on the side.

How?  

Simple. Well, it wasn't so simple until God impressed upon me the sinfulness of my daily routine, but in thinking about His leading, I've realized that I can do evil, spread evil, and make the devil smile just by waking up in the morning.

And then doing nothing.

It's that doing nothing thing that had me stymied for a while, but once it hit me, it hurt. I've been given a gift by God; a gift I am to recognize, work to improve and make as perfect as a human can, and then find ways to use that gift for the glory of His kingdom. It's my belief God has given me the gift of writing. He's also given me the time and resources to use for the purpose of writing, allowed me to retire early with a pension and insurance coverage, and given me a roof over my head and loved ones to live with. I have a wonderful agent, successful work, and a great writing family to hang out with. I have no excuses, no hardships, no reason not to be cranking out two books a year. But how do I repay Him for all His blessings?

I procrastinate. I stall. I hem and haw. I rewrite instead of "new-write." I redesign my blog sites, rearrange my office, hang pictures, tidy up my desk, check my email, cruise the internet, stare out the window, brew another cup of coffee, take a nap, play Freecell (trying to fool myself by thinking I'm "plotting" or "developing my characters"). I have the audacity to tell myself I'm not good enough, when the whole time, I have the Creator of the Universe sitting beside me. Encouraging me. Loving me. Shielding me. Inspiring me.

But still I find excuses. And when I do nothing for the Kingdom of God, I work for the devil. Plain and simple. All the while I'm doing nothing in my "preparation" to do good, God is saddened and the devil is rubbing his beastly hands together, licking his lie-infested lips, and grinning. Yep, I've come upstairs to my office to write for the glory of our Heavenly Father and instead I've made the devil smile.

Yes, there will always be legitimate reasons we can't do as much writing (or whatever other gift we have) as our hearts and minds know we should. Life does get in the way. Responsibilities to our loved ones or employers or even our church often keep us from being as productive as we know we can be. I also have to market my published work and my fellow writers all know what a chunk of time that takes from writing new material. But carrying out those responsibilities in a loving, efficient manner is much different from wasting valuable time by simply doing nothing--time we could be using to increase His flock. There are no "time-outs" in this game during which both teams rest. The devil and his henchmen never rest and thinking we can plays right into his greasy little hands. Procrastination is one of Satan's most valuable and effective tools. If he can't make us sin purposely, he'll find ways to make us do it without our realizing whose bench we're sitting on.

Without a doubt, I write. I make progress every day, but usually not as much progress as I should and with far more procrastination than even remotely permissible. While I don't have the urge to kill, lust after others, steal, cheat, or bear false witness, I still sin in a way that's hurtful to the cause of our Lord. It's not what I do, but rather what I don't do that saddens God and makes the devil smile.

From now on, I'm going (with God's help) to wake up every morning with the express purpose of making Him smile and causing Satan great anguish. No more devil smiles directed at me. No more glee in the camp of the demons. No more ammunition handed over to the enemy.

No more doing nothing.

Until the next time...