Friday, December 28, 2012

I Have A Dream

I have a dream! It’s a dream I’ve had for quite some time. It is a dream to be a writer. Not just a writer, but someone whose words tell a story that touches hearts---that shows humanity in all its grandeur, nobility, depth of kindness and goodness, failures, weaknesses, cruelty, selfishness, and inhumanity—and God’s ability to restore, change, give hope and purpose through His unconditional love. I want to make people laugh, cry, rejoice and grieve.

Mostly I want others to see the goodness and faithfulness of a God who has never failed me. Though I often didn’t understand, though I often shook my fist and ranted and railed, and blamed Him for my circumstances, I know now that He always wanted the best for me, and loves me in a way my human mind can’t fathom.

The writing of Like A Cedar In Lebanon was done with many tears and prayers. Since it’s been published, every day I place my hand on it and pray over it, asking God to touch someone, anyone, everyone with this story.

My challenge to you for the year 2013 is to pray and seek God over your writing. Ask God’s blessing over what you write.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Confessions of A Not-So-Skilled Writer

When I started my book Like A Cedar in Lebanon two years ago—it was during NaNoWriMo in 2010—I knew practically nothing about the craft of writing. Dare I even confess to fellow writers who may be reading this that I never even completed high school? I married just before my junior year. I did later—much later—get my GED and took some college classes, but nothing related to writing.

Who knew? Certainly not me--that having a good story and a fairly good grasp on proper grammar did not a good writer make. By the time I knew at least SOME skills in the craft of writing, I was 112,000 words and almost to the end of Like A Cedar In Lebanon. Then I was faced with the difficult choice of completely revising my manuscript, or leaving it as is. A complete revision of something that large seemed overwhelming to me. I literally had heart palpitations and sleepless nights pondering this dilemma. My indecisiveness was exacerbated by the fact that this manuscript was already in the publisher’s hands.

So what did I do? I did do some revisions, but basically I left it as is, except for grammar, spelling, and formatting issues. So--fellow writers, editors, publishers, agents—if you read my novel (and that’s wishful thinking on my part), YES, I head hop (not staying in the proper POV), I have too many characters and too much back story, I tend to tell and not show, and perhaps use too many exclamation points, or ellipses, or dashes, or whatever.

Here is my public apology for all of you who are offended by such things, or for those whose nerves are frazzled whenever they read a book where these things are evident. I am guilty. Ironically, the more I learn about all the little, or not-so-little, nuances pertinent to the craft of writing, I, too, pick apart a book I’m reading. But in a good way, not to be mean or critical. I’m just pleased, or maybe I’m more displeased, that I am able to spot these things.

Somehow, for me, it takes the joy out of reading.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Cougar Wins!

I won! I won, I won, I won! Yeppers, I am a winner. No one could have been more shocked and surprised than me. I have entered a few writing contests on Christian sites.

I always do the weekly challenge with FaithWriters—if you’re not currently a member, I encourage you to join and enter the challenge; it’ll improve your writing skills—and I place sometimes on there. I’ve entered other contests with no results, really! But now…now I am a winner! I won the FaithWriters annual Page Turner Contest. This year it asked for non-fiction entries. They alternate—one year it’s fiction, the next year, it’s non-fiction. I’m not much of a non-fiction writer, but I do have an interesting, trendy story right now in that I am a cougar.

Ew, I don’t like being called cougar. The image it evokes is not good, at least to me. But Jeff and I have been married (second for both of us) for 18 years after dating for almost 4 years. I am 16 years older than Jeff.

That was my entry: How Does A Harmless House Cat Become A Cougar? And I won. Look for the book. Hopefully it’ll be coming out next year. Can you have a successful marriage when the woman is so much older? What are the challenges in a blended family where the woman is the older one?

Read the book.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pushing Through Discouragement

Why do writers write? Are you a writer? What drives you? What motivates you? I write because I can’t “not” write. Ideas, story plots, characters, and conflicts flow through my mind like butter melting on toast. My characters in Like A Cedar in Lebanon became as real to me as people that I know. I want to write edgy Christian fiction that deals with real problems: abortion, abuse, drug and alcohol addiction, murder, rape, unfaithfulness, divorce, adoption—you get my idea. I’ve worked with people in ministry most of my life. These things happen, and they happen in the church world. In the midst of all of that, I want to hopefully show God’s heart for people. And although people fail, God never does. In Like A Cedar In Lebanon, both Jack and Lebby learn what true forgiveness is, that God is a faithful God, that He can restore and truly bring good out of bad. My writing journey has been full of disappointments and discouragement, but I wouldn’t give up. I prayed continually over my writing journey. If God wasn’t involved in it, I didn’t want to be a writer. My challenge to you is to persevere, push through disappointment and discouragement. If you have the passion and drive to write, believe that God put it there.

Friday, November 30, 2012

God Is Faithful - Like A Cedar In Lebanon

"Mom, the only good that's come from my relationship with Jack is Joyanna and Pauly. What other good can come from this? Nothing, Mom! Not one thing!" (excerpt - Lebby to her mother in Like A Cedar In Lebanon") Have you ever felt like Lebby? We make choices, and then look for someone of something to blame when things go wrong. I married very young. I was barely sixteen years old and he was eighteen. I was in love with love and the thought of being a wife and mother. By the time I realized I was in a bad relationship, I had brought five children into the world. Lebby, in “Like A Cedar In Lebanon,” feels trapped. I felt trapped – angry, depressed, hopeless and helpless. As a writer, I weave tales based on my own life experiences, either personally or people I have known or worked with throughout the years. I find there’s a two-fold result from that: it either dredges up painful memories, and I hurt all over again, or I find healing in writing about it. God proves himself faithful to both Jack and Lebby in Like A Cedar In Lebanon, just as he proved himself faithful to me all these years. As we close the month of November, I am so thankful for my relationship with Jesus Christ. The road hasn’t been easy, but I’ve never walked alone.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


My book is finally out “Like A Cedar In Lebanon.”  My first published book!  Well, okay, I HAD it published—self-publishing, but I am excited nonetheless.

One of the key points of the book is forgiveness and reconciliation. Lebby (Lebanon), the heroine is an innocent, na├»ve girl raised in a Pastor’s home when Jack comes to town. Jack is handsome and charming and sweeps the young girl off her feet. From that point on Lebby’s life spirals downhill in a web of abuse and deceit, later forcing her to flee with her two babies and go into hiding.

Years later, Jack finds them and claims to be a new man.  Can Lebby trust him? More importantly, can she forgive him? He stole her youth, her innocence and is essence, her life. Now she’s made a new life, a wonderful life, for her and her children. To do so, she had to sever all relationships with her family and friends in her hometown of Yacolt, WA.

Both Jack and Lebby learn a valuable lesson in true forgiveness.

Get the book. It’s worth the read!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

NaNoWriMo Woes

        Every time I start a new NaNoWriMo, I threaten to kick myself. I have three such novels of 50,0000 words and more that I need to finish. Why start a new one?
        Why indeed! Here I am typing my little fingers to the bone with a new novel (and way ahead of my word count, I might add) Seriously? I love my other novels. I want to finish them.  I can’t believe I’m doing this again.
        Never, ever, in my wildest imagination did I think that writing could be so time consuming. I thought it was like the movies----a remote cottage, gentle breezing blowing through a window, soft music playing, some devoted someone bringing in coffee or iced drinks and delicious sandwiches.
        Even in the movie Misery, the main character , an author, played by James Caan, who was in excruciating pain inflicted by the demented Kathy Bates, who also tormented him mentally, managed to crank out an entire novel. In the midst of all that, he made the novel writing look so easy.
        But alas, I suppose ‘No pain, No gain’ as the saying goes. So I lie in bed each night with my novel unfolding like scenes from a movie (that’s what pantsters do—no plotting for me) until I want to scream, “Leave me alone so I can sleep!”
        NaNoWriMo, how I loathe thee.…I mean, oh, how I love thee.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Book Burning!

           I told my friend Barbara recently that if I had to read my book, Like a Cedar in Lebanon, one more time, I’m going to burn the thing. So…I’m having to read it AGAIN! Before publishing. Should I burn it?
         Of course I won’t burn it, although I feel like. I just want to move on, go forward with something else, write on one of the other three novels that are a work in process. I so want to be done with this book.
         Having said that, I must admit that my characters in Like a Cedar in Lebanon have become dear friends to me, like family. Often, at the most inopportune times, my characters pop into my brain, and scenes from my novel float through my mind. Sometimes I want to rewrite those scenes, but of course, it’s too late.
         So I think I want to do a sequel, carry on Jack’s and Lebby’s legacy. That’s one of the joys about writing! I can do that! I can do anything I want.
        But a writer is only as successful as the enjoyment of the readers.  Some may debate that statement, but that’s where I am at in this juncture of my writing journey.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Confessions of a Head-Hopper

         Until several months ago I didn’t even have a clue what a POV (point of view) was in the craft of writing. And I’d never heard the term “head-hopping” until recently. Okay, all the authors are probably shaking their heads and muttering tsk-tsk. But I’ve never had a writing lesson in my life, and I’ve lived a good number of years. Everything I know about the craft of writing, I’ve learned from various writers’ groups I belong to.
         I discovered this very week that I am guilty of head-hopping. In fact, my entire manuscript that I sent off for publication is full of head-hopping. Oh dear me, I moan as I wring my hands in anguish. Whatever shall I do? I have nightmares of walking into a room of writers and authors and enduring the pain of pointing and whisperings, “She’s a head-hopper.”
         Now I’m wondering if I’ve ever read a book where the author head-hopped. Would I have noticed? I’m sure I wouldn’t have, especially if it was a good story.  I think I’d notice now since I’ve been enlightened about head-hopping, but I’m not sure I would care as long as it didn’t affect the flow of the story.
         The only sigh of relief I’ve had was yesterday when I read on the ACFW site that a member was reading a Stephen King book and he head-hopped all the way through it. Seriously? Stephen King? Perhaps he didn’t get the memo stating that head-hopping is a no-no in the literary world.
         Since my enlightenment, I’ve been reading through a WIP and the head-hopping is now glaringly obvious to me. How can I be sharing about Leah’s thoughts and words in one paragraph and in the very next paragraph Tony wonders why he’s never noticed how beautiful and intelligent is his wife, Leah. How dare Tony be thinking anything at all when it’s clearly not his turn to think?  Humph!
         Who makes up these rules anyway? POV, head-hopping, show not tell, too much back story…the list goes on and on.  That puff of air you feel is me heaving a huge sigh.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Yacolt, Washington

       Yacolt, Washington! Have you ever heard of it?  I hadn’t.  I’m somewhat familiar with Washington from visits as a child (we have relatives there) and visits there in the last ten years while my daughter and her family lived in the Seattle area. Why am I mentioning Yacolt? Glad you asked.
       In crafting my current novel, Like a Cedar in Lebanon, I needed a small town in the state of Washington of 1500 population or less, and the town needed to be within the proximity of fifty miles of a large city. Ah, the blessed internet! I did a search for that very information and got a list of several small towns, Yacolt being the last on the list. The main character, Lebby, would hail from this tiny community. So I wrote it into my novel after some research to verify it met the criteria I needed.
       However, some things I couldn’t glean from research on the internet such as, could Lebby walk from home to school to the local hangout to the church? From writers’ groups that I belong to I remembered a few authors mentioning how residents were quick to point out wrong information about their hometown that were in novels. Yikes! I decided to make a fictitious name of my small community.
       I have sold on eBay since 2004. It gives me extra income, something I can do from the comfort of my home. Within the week that I changed Yacolt in my novel, I sold a small vintage toy on eBay. Guess where the buyer lives? Now what are the chances it would be a resident of Yacolt? Mere coincidence or a God-thing?
       When I mentioned to the buyer that I had considered using Yacolt in my novel, she was thrilled. She supplied me with all the information that I needed while encouraging me to keep Yacolt in my novel.  So my main characters, Jack and Lebby, meet for the first time in Yacolt, Washington.
       When we pray over our writing career, I believe God orchestrates even small details such as this.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Meet Jack and Lebby

       Meet Jack and Lebby (short for Lebanon).  Once upon a time in the small town of Yacolt, WA Jack and Lebby met. She was a sweet, beautiful sixteen year old full of enthusiasm for people and life, and he was the handsome, charming youth pastor eight years older than her.
       She got her first romantic crush and he became obsessed. It was a tragedy waiting to happen, and happen it did. Lebby lost her innocence, her youth, her hometown, her friends, her family and the boy, Ethan, that she should have married.  Instead she got pregnant and felt she had no other options than to marry Jack. By this time their relationship had progressed to the point of Lebby being abused and controlled by Jack.
      Are you already disliking Jack? He stole this young girl’s hopes, dreams and innocence. She had led a sheltered but peaceful life. She could be your daughter, granddaughter, sister or next-door neighbor.  She is the All-American girl.  But who names their daughter Lebanon anyway?
     Maybe Jack has a reason for his behavior, but no matter what circumstances made him do the awful things he did to Lebby, does that excuse him? Of course not! But can we find understanding and forgiveness in our hearts for the likes of Jack? Can Lebby?

You can find out when my book Like a Cedar in Lebanon is released. Be looking for it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Self Publishing

Self-publishing! Sheesh!!! I have NOT had a novel published yet, and call me a coward, but the whole thing of finding a traditional publisher to take me on as an unknown, unpublished writer seems overwhelming to me. All the writers’ clubs I belong to has authors/writers that lament about the number of rejections they receive before finding a publisher willing to take a chance on their manuscript. I’m too old and too full of doubts to go that route.

But getting my manuscript ready for self-publishing has been a nightmare! Okay, maybe not that bad, but it seems like I’ll never have it ready. The publishing company and a professional editor/proof reader gave my novel complimentary evaluations, which encouraged me, but I don’t want to send m y novel to be published when it has errors…any errors at all.

**sigh** So I’m hoping to have it finished for the final time. Be looking for it and please, please buy it. “Like a Cedar in Lebanon”  by Leola Ogle.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I Have A Story

Sometimes there is something burning deep inside of me like boiling lava ready to erupt. That’s what’s good about being a writer. You can put it all down on paper, or however you do it in this world of advanced technology.

I’m not young, but I’m not claiming to be old either. From my many years of experiences, there is an untold wealth of stories within my heart and brain. What better way than to express and share those memories than by writing. My characters in my short stories and novels get their life, their personalities, their idiosyncrasies, and all their flaws and good qualities from people I’ve known or from my own experiences.

Do you have a story to tell? Do you have experiences burning within you? Do you have profound thoughts and desires you want to share? Tap into your creative juices and let it flow through your heart, mind and soul through your fingertips and onto a page. Tell a story, write a poem, pen the lyrics for a song.

It is within you!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Too Busy To Write?

It’s been a busy week. BUSY!  This was the week that I swore I would have my book sent off, or at least the beginning necessities of sending it off.  Not so!  I’ll tell you a secret. I spent a considerable amount of time spinning my wheels being frustrated and stressed because I was too busy to do more on my novel, or book, or my WIP.

Let’s face it, fellow writers: LIFE HAPPENS! It would be nice if the earth stopped spinning so that I could finish all my writing projects. Grrrr!  That doesn’t happen, and with my large family and tons involvements and obligations, the chances for me to have a quiet, uninterrupted day, let alone week is almost non-existence.

The key for me instaying afloat during these times is to keep positive, and reiterate to myself that as a Christian I have surrendered my life to Christ. Knowing that nothing in my life catches God off guard, and that He can use every circumstance in my life for His purpose gives me the assurance that He has it all under control.

Having said all that, of course, it’s easier said than done. Sometimes I just freak out  or get into a self-pitying funk.  I choose to rise above my self-pity though.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Publishing That First Novel

    It’s that time of year that causes joy to arise in the heart of most parents – school has started! It’s always a little unsettling when it’s a child’s first day of school ever; unsettling for both the child and parent. Parents worry if people will love and appreciate the child like they do; will other kids pick on the child, are their bullies at the school, will others understand the child’s little quirks and qualities that you find endearing.
    My kids are grown and gone, have been for more years than I care to admit, but I remember the feeling of launching the child off to school. I did it five times. Now I am experiencing those same feelings, but not about my child. I’m feeling that way as I launch my first novel off to a publisher.
    Yikes! I am nervous and excited, I feel anxiety and apprehension. This is my “baby,” I have birthed this novel with sweat and tears, sleepless nights, second guessing, revision s, doubts and fears.
    It is time though. I have to do this. No more procrastinating. I’m starting the process tomorrow. Wish me luck. Better yet, pray for me, say a prayer. I don’t believe in luck, but I do believe that God orchestrates the lives of His children, and has His hand hovering over all that we do.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Gifts and Talents

We all have gifting and talents. To be happy and content in life we need to follow our true gifting and talents.
Take me for instance. I love to sing. I drive everyone crazy with my singing, especially if I have ear buds in listening to my iPod. I love to quietly sing along. At least, I assumed I was being quiet…until my husband told me otherwise. “You’re loud and off-key,” he informed me in his best I-love-you-but-you-have-to-stop-this voice!
When I was younger, me and my friends sang in a group in church. I had a reasonably good voice then, but after a couple of years of allergy triggered laryngitis, my voice lost some of its umph! Well, maybe most of its umph! Because of that, I would never sing in public unless it’s in a rather large choir. I know my gifting limitations.

My friend, Jan, struggles with writing a full length novel. Let me say right now that she is a very gifted writer. She writes wonderful devotions and short stories. She has ideas for fabulous novels, but feels frustrated with the struggle to complete one.  I have the opposite problem. Once I have the idea for a novel and start writing, my brain won’t shut down. My characters become live people clamoring to be heard, demanding my attention. If I had time to sit down for a solid few days, I could complete a novel in that time.
Jan writes awesome devotions. I love them. Ask me to write a devotional and I could, but it would take time and a lot of thought.  Ask me to write a book of devotions and I would freak out. I’d have to be on tranquilizers, it would stress me out so much. Yet it seems to just flow out of Jan.

God can always change or add to our gifting and talents, and sometimes He does. What is your gift, skill or talent?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Half Eaten Drumstick

Five-year-old Hannah’s eyes widened at the tables spread with a feast. Glancing around, she saw that her mom was talking to the group of ladies in the church vestibule. Confident that no one was paying attention to her, she made her way to one of the tables.

Her stomach rumbled, and it seemed her hand had a mind of its own. It darted out and grabbed a chicken drumstick. Hannah stared at her grubby hands. She hadn’t bathed in three days. 

She had eaten half the drumstick when she saw the centerpiece that said, “Happy Birthday Pastor Harold.” Hannah stopped chewing. She knew the words Happy Birthday but wasn’t sure about the other words. She understood this feast was for someone’s birthday. 

Sighing, she placed the drumstick back on the pile of chicken. Although there was so much food she was sure one drumstick wouldn’t be missed, she knew Mommy would count this as stealing. Wiping the back of her hand across her greasy mouth, then both hands on her shirt, she walked to the door of the fellowship hall. 

Mommy was explaining their plight, plight being the word Mommy used, to the group of ladies. “He just left us. I don’t know where he is. Then we got evicted from our apartment. Been sleeping in the car since. I just need gas money to get to my parents in Dallas,” Mommy said with a quiver in her voice. 

From the looks of that group of ladies, Mommy wasn’t getting money or anything else. “This isn’t a good time,” one said. “We’re having a potluck today to celebrate our pastor’s birthday.”

“Usually you wouldn’t even catch us in here, we’d all be in the service,” another said as her eyes raked over her mommy.

Mommy kept talking, so Hannah stepped backwards. Turning, her eyes fell on the dessert table. Her mouth involuntarily shaped into an O. Sidling up to it, she folded her hands on the table, resting her chin there. Pies, cakes, cookies, brownies….oh, my! 

“What’re you doing?” 

Startled, Hannah jumped, pulling back her hand that had been reaching for a brownie. She stared into the stern face of the lady. “Nothing,” Hannah mumbled. 

“Look what you’ve done,” the lady said, pointing at the spot where Hannah’s hands had made a greasy stain on the tablecloth. 

“I’m sorry.” Hannah’s voice trembled.

“Oh, no!” the lady shrieked when she saw the half eaten drumstick on the platter of chicken. The other ladies came rushing into the fellowship hall. They seemed to forget that Hannah and her mom were there as they discussed whether they should throw away the whole platter of chicken. 

“That’s just dandy. The potluck’s ruined,” the stern lady said.

“Come on, honey bug,” Mommy said softly, putting her arms around Hannah, and tugging her towards the door. 

“Wait!” One lady came walking over, motioning for Mommy to follow her. She went into the kitchen and pulled ten dollars from her purse and handed it to Mommy. “We’ll fix you both a plate of food you can take with you,” she said. 

A couple of the ladies helped fill plates while the stern lady glared at Hannah and her mom. They had just started out the door with their foil covered plates when people began pouring in, lead by an elderly, silver-haired man. 

“What have we here?” Pastor Harold remarked, smiling compassionately at Hannah and her mom. 

“Sorry ‘bout that, Pastor Harold,” the stern lady said. “They’re leaving. Come on, we’re ready to pray before the food gets cold.” 

“Tell them to pray then, Martha. I want to talk to these lovely ladies,” Pastor Harold said, dropping to eye level with Hannah. “What brings you here for my birthday potluck?” His eyes were kind and his voice gentle.

Despite Mommy’s protests that they were leaving, Pastor Harold brought them into the fellowship hall and sat them at his table, Martha glaring the whole time. 

It was a story that Hannah would tell her children, the potluck that changed their lives, reuniting them with her grandparents in Dallas. Not only did they sit at the table with Pastor Harold and his wife, but he filled up their gas tank, set them up in a hotel that night, and gave them enough money for food and gas for their trip. 

“He treated us like honored guests, like family. And when Martha warned Pastor Harold not to take any chicken from that platter, he winked at me and took two pieces.”

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Getting Published!

What happens when you’re ready to send that book off to a publisher?  It’s like sending that first kid off to school. I feel nervous, apprehensive and anxious. Will everyone like this like I do? Or in my case, I love it.  It’s my baby, my novel, my very first published book that will be out there for public scrutiny.
And – are you ready for this? I decided to self published.  Why? Because I guess I’d say I’m a coward. Traditional publishing seems overwhelming to me.  I tried, unsuccessfully I might add, to pursue the traditional publishing route.  Alas, I’m sure I gave up way too early from discouragement.
But the unnerving part for self publishing is that there will be no proofing or editing other than what I’ve done and/or had friends do for me. So any typos or grammatical errors will be out there for the world to see. I’m praying I’ve caught them all. I don’t want to be embarrassed.
And I’ve been told that my writing tends to be edgy, or at least in the realm of Christian fiction, so no traditional publisher would take a chance on a first-time, unpublished author that writes edgy Christian fiction.
I’m definitely not Francine Rivers who gets away with that type of Christian fiction. So onward and upward!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Don't Ever Quit!

Birthdays! Bah-humbug! Today I turn 64. Yowzers and Yikes! Old is the word that comes to mind! BUT I don’t feel old! I am NOT old! That’s my proclamation and I’m sticking to it!

When family and friends ask what I want for my birthday, my typical response is “it’s okay, nothing!” or “scented lotions, scented candles or bath/shower gels.”

This year my answer is different.  I WANT TO BE PUBLISHED! Being a writer and not being published is like having an awesome new dress or outfit and nowhere to wear it to show it off.  Of course, one could say that the dress is only beautiful to the wearer, no one else likes it but her.

The same could be said for writing. No one thinks his/her writing is good but him/her. I hope that’s not the case with my writing. I want to touch people, bless people, minister to people with my writing.

I grew up in church. In days of yon, anyone and everyone could get up and sing a special. And dear hearts, some of those people couldn’t sing worth a hoot.  In fact, some were like fingernails scraping on a chalkboard. The sad thing is that they THOUGHT they were the cat’s meow (no pun intended) with their singing. Or some of those contestants that try out for American Idol or America’s Got Talent. With have no skills or talent at all.

I do understand that there are some that “write” whose writing is like the fingernails scraping on chalkboard. We had one such gal in a writer’s group I belonged to a few years ago. Her WIP or novel she was working on was appealing, at least it was to her and her family since it was her life’s story, but her writing skills and technique was deplorable.  And although our critique time with her was gentle and gracious, she got the hint and quit coming.

DON”T EVER QUIT! If writing is your passion, your dream, then use critiques to grow your craft and learn from it. Some critique will not be accurate, but always keep an open mind.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Techie Granny

 I admit it - I’m old! I remember telephone party lines and when mobile phones were so big you needed two people to lift it (okay, that’s a slight exaggeration).  I had just gotten used to the phenomena that I could send a paper around the world via a fax machine, when technology escalated  beyond that.

Giving up my word processor for a computer was agony, like an old friend I felt comfortable with. Embarrassed to admit I didn’t know the first thing about my new computer, I did what any intelligent person would do. I bought a teaching video. Perfect idea, except that instructor spoke a foreign language: icon, control panel, password protected, desktop, start menu (apparently I would be able to order food from my computer); so many words I knew nothing about. If my computer contained those things, I had no idea how to get to them. When he mentioned search engine, I knew I had bought the wrong video.  I watched them unpack my computer, and it didn’t include a separate engine.

 When everyone owned a cell phone, including kids, I declared “I don’t want or need one!” So - my first one was large enough that I could easily find it whenever I absentmindedly dropped it into my purse. Then I discovered those special pockets on purses are for cell phones.  Eventually I learned to use those little pockets. Don’t ask me how many calls I missed trying to find my phone in the bottom of my big purse.

 Before I got a cell phone, I noticed whenever I was in a restaurant most people didn’t talk to each other, they talked on their phones. I wanted to be in the groove (do we still use that word?), so my husband explained the “family plan”.  Well, I certainly belonged to the family - in fact, they wouldn’t even be here if not for me. I didn’t need a cyber guru or teaching video to tell me how to produce a family.

 I grudgingly gave up writing real letters for corresponding via emails, wisely learning to be guarded with my words because once it’s in cyberspace, God only knows who might read it. There’s also a blackhole sucking up some emails never to be seen again, like those socks missing from the dryer.

 Getting a phone with internet access rocked my world, but I soon became disillusioned and called my husband.  “This phone is possessed! It vibrated all day, but when I try to answer, no one is there.”

 Alright, no one told me the vibration meant I was getting an email. Definitely not my fault! These things should be clearly explained.

 I love texting! That way if I’m crabby or don’t like someone, there’s no voice to give it away. I never text while driving; I’m not that coordinated anyway.

 I do social networking and have over 500 friends there. My family was concerned that I have friends I don’t really know, so my grandson went into my profile to make my phone number and address inaccessible. Hm! It had been accessible to people?

Still not doing twitter, though., and I’m not a fan of IM either. Imagine being able to see someone elsewhere in the world via Skype.

Ebooks? As for now, I still love to hold a "real" book in my hands

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Not a Coincidence!

God works in mysterious ways – especially when you commit your writing to Him.  I pray every day that God will bless what I write, but more importantly, that He guides my thoughts when I sit at the computer.

I am currently editing, and revising  (as needed) the novel I’m working on. This is a very frustrating process, at least for me. So many details that have got to be fine tuned. Grrr!

My heroine is from a small town and I chose the state of Washington. Some events take place in Seattle and Yakima, which are larger, more well-known cities. But I needed a small town. I googled  “small towns in Washington population 1000-1500.” I got a list and from that list, I researched each town. There were certain criteria I needed, so I started eliminating accordingly. Last on the list was Yacolt, which seemed to have all the qualities I wanted.

I went with Yacolt. But the more I edited and revised, I wasn’t pleased. I needed more information about Yacolt, mostly pictures of the town. I couldn’t find any. How could I have my heroine walk from school to the drugstore to her home unless the town was laid out as so? Could she swim in a pond in a town where there wasn’t one?

Finally I gave up and gave my town a fictitious name.  Now I wasn’t happy, but at least I could make the town how I wanted it. I looked with sorrow at my little fictitious town. Every other city or town in my novel is real.

I sell on Ebay and sold a little Fisher Price toy yesterday. When the payment came through, I almost fell over. I was shipping to a lady in Yacolt, WA. What were the chances? I fired off an email and she replied, asking me to consider keeping Yacolt as my little town. She sent a wealth of information about their sweet town. It is perfect!

It pays to pray over all that we do.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Zumba and Writing

Zumba! I’ve been hearing a lot about Zumba, an exercise craze, the past few years. Exercise! Bah humbug!

When I was young I loved to diet and exercise. I loved staying in shape and maintaining my weight. I had five babies, and after each birth, I’d exercise faithfully. Sometimes I felt addicted to exercise.  I pursued exercise and dieting with a drive and passion.  I had discipline.

When I was younger I also dreamed of being a writer.  I yearned to write, but I never disciplined myself to writing. My life always seemed too full, too busy, too hectic to spend time writing.

I heard a speaker or preacher say one time that we make time for what’s important to us.  Looking back, I could’ve found time to write.  Oh, I made half-hearted attempts to write. I loved keeping journals and I did do that for many years, but I never worked on that novel.

Now I’m retired. And I write! I write all the time. In fact, I write when I probably should be doing something else. I am disciplined! I have drive! I have passion!  When I’m not writing, I’m reading or studying about the craft of writing.

Alas, not so with dieting and exercising! I bought a really nice treadmill from my daughter about two months ago and I have been faithful about maintaining a daily time on the treadmill. I’m still working on the healthy eating though.

I started going to a Zumba class recently. It’s fun! It’s invigorating! But it is hard work, at least for this sixty-three-year old. It’s going to take discipline.

It seems ironic to me that when I was young, I had discipline when it came to diet and exercise, but not with writing. Now it’s reversed. I want to write and I am. I want to get in shape, but....

The things that make you go hm!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

50,000 Words in 30 Days!

So here it was, 2009, I was a little (cough, cough) past 60 and all my life I’d wanted to be a writer. But I just never had time because, well, life happened! So, driven by unfulfilled desires, I’d embellish and elaborate on my memos on my job, my emails to family and friends, my post-it notes plastered everywhere, all my creative juices clamoring for an outlet.

So that October, I allowed my friend Jan to bully - well, not bully, she’s not like that - gently persuade me to try my artistic hand at NaNoWriMo. I DON"T HAVE TIME I kept telling her. What? Write 50,000 words in 30 days during the month of November? You must be nuts! I must be nuts, I thought as I took the plunge. Jumping Jehosophat! I finished with over 60,000 words on my great American novel. After working a full time job, doing eBay for extra $$$$, and my family/church activities, I’ve no idea where those 60,000 words came from.

I pursued my writing that month with a frenzied excitement, positive that I was on the brink of a masterpiece.The words gushed forth as my fingers clickety-clacked on the keyboard. I fell asleep thinking of my characters and awoke with my characters taunting me to not leave them stuck in yesterday's muck and mire. My characters were my friends and sometimes my adversaries. How could that be?

Just when I thought I’d finished, I started editing and revising, and it grew with each telling. The madness must stop, I’d tell myself. I had so many other things to do. I don’t have a maid, chef or chauffeur. No one climbed into my van each morning in my place and headed to downtown Phoenix to work. No one did my eBay for me.

With a huge sigh, and a pat on the back, I deemed my novel finished. At more advice from Jan, who seems to know because she's had 2 books published, I bought a Writer's Market from a bookstore, smug with my accomplishment and soon-to-be-published novel. Yowzers! You mean in a book of 1169 pages, there are not several hundred publishers just vying for my book? Oh, I was but a little child lost on the first day of school in a crowd of hundreds, maybe thousands, most of them towering over me. I was just a speck in the unpublished writers’ ocean.

What did it mean...2-12 months before a reply to my query, and 2-12 months to publish once there is an acceptance to my query? And I may get rejected repeatedly before I get accepted?!! Say it isn't so! My manuscript will gather dust and my characters will shrivel up and turn putrid like the fruit sitting in the bowl on my kitchen counter. (yes, I’m going to toss it in the garbage - the fruit, not my manuscript)

So once again I’m confronted with the truth that nothing in life is easy! Is it worth pursuing? I say yes.

Weekly Writing Challenge

I love the Weekly Challenge writing prompts at FaithWriters.  Every week members are given a topic (or prompt) and have a week to submit a 150-750 word entry. This can be a short story, devotional or poem, fiction or non-fiction. It is a competitive in nature:  a team of judges  reads each entry, there are 4 levels, and pick first, second, third places plus two Highly Recommended for each level.   Other members can read and critique each entry and leave a comment before the judges make their selections.   Then from all entries the judges select the coveted ten top entries for Editor’s Choice each week.

 Every year all the #1 picks for Editor’s Choice are eligible to be picked for the whole year’s first, second, and third place entries. This year I was fortunate enough, along with thirty six others, to have been selected as number one in Editor’s Choice one week making me eligible for this. Alas, I got the news two weeks ago that I did not place first, second or third for the year.  I was just a tad bummed, but was still overwhelmingly blessed to have made it into the top 36.

This week’s prompt is “Picnic.” I’ve already submitted my entry. Why do I enter this every week? Because the knowledge I’ve gleaned has been priceless. I am untrained and without any schooling in writing, so these types of things have been food for my insatiable writer’s appetite.

As a writer we must constantly be learning, either through reading, studying or partaking in all the groups, workshops and conferences available to us.

I encourage you to be hungry to learn all you can.  If you aren’t already, be a voracious reader. Read “how to” books for writers, read novels and observe other’s writing styles.

Given the topic “Picnic,” what would you write? Does something instantly pop into your mind, or are you like me and have to mull it over for awhile?

If God has given you the gift to write, then WRITE!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Plotter? Seat of the Pants'er?

Plotters and SOTP’s (seat of the pants) writers!  To what group do you belong as a writer?

Ask anyone that knows me and they’ll tell you I am not an organizer. I envy women that have their cupboards, closets, shelves and drawers organized. Kudos to them! Unfortunately, I’m not sufficiently impressed to implement it into my own lifestyle. I could, and have, organized but it’s not long until everything’s back to unorganized. (I refuse to use the term cluttered)

So a SOTP’er I am! The neat thing in being a non-plotting writer is that every time I sit at my computer to write, it’s like a new adventure.  My characters take on a life of their own. Just when I think I’ll take them down a certain path, they change directions.

My current WIP Like a Cedar in Lebanon started off being the young girl’s story. But now 112,000 words later, it is more the man’s story.  Lebanon (Lebby) is the young girl who gets taken advantage of by the older, more experienced Jack.  It was supposed to be her story, Lebby’s story, and it is to some extent.

But my SOTP writing took me on a journey to tell Jack’s story in this novel. The angry, violent, abuser Jack and the circumstances in life that drove him to be the way he was became one of the main focal points in the novel.

The good news is that in the end Jack finds God.  As a Christian writer, I always want to show that we can be a victorious overcomer through Jesus Christ.  That is a truth that you can take to the bank.

So regardless if you are a plotter or SOTP’er, write on, dear friends! Write on!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Confused as a Writer?

I am so confused! Beats, tags, back story, adverbs, unnecessary POV, show not tell, underuse of dialogue, too much description, not enough description…. the list goes on and on. Just when I think I have it all down, I read something else which blatantly points out my inability to write effectively.

 I belong to several writers’ groups and I am a voracious reader, constantly hoping to improve my skills. But honestly, sometimes it gets to be a bit overwhelming with all the additional pointers and information I glean. Sometimes I think if I read one more “Tips for Writers” advice,  I’ll scream.

Seriously! I can only tweak my WIP so many times, right?  So why write?

Because I love to! Because I want to! And because I can!

At some point I am going to have to just stop changing my novel, my WIP.  If I keep this up, I’ll never finish. So I have come to the place where I’ll continue to cover my writing with prayer and go with my gut instinct.

God is not the author of confusion, right? (1 Corinthians 14:33)

But where would I be without all those well intended tips and advice from the experienced and the experts? So in humble appreciation to those who seek to enlighten us writers and would-be writers, I say THANK YOU!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Do You Desire to Write?

What is the desire of your heart? What do you want to do with your life? Your time?  For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to write.  Not just write, but to be a writer. But life happened – children (I am blessed with many), struggles, victories, happy occasions and not so happy occasions.

Now….now I can write!  I love writing Christian fiction. As Christians I feel God has equipped each of us with various gifts and talents to share the gospel.  Some people will never pick up a Bible, but maybe they’ll read a story or blog or novel you’ve written.

The Bible says in Psalms 37:4 (NIV) “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  My heart desires many things, and writing is one of those things. Can I write? Do I write? Yes! But am I delighting myself in the Lord?

I know that I know that I know that God loves me unconditionally. He has a plan and a purpose for me. In that alone, I should take great delight. The God of the universe, He who spoke the worlds into existence, cares about me. He knows my name.

I have to be reminded to commit my writing to Him. Are you committing this desire to God? I encourage you to pray God’s blessings over your writing.

Vacation! Do I Leave the Writing at Home?

Do writers write while on vacation? To write or not to write, that is the question! No, I’m not Shakespeare!  I’m Leola, and that was my question while on vacation this past week.

Vacation was lovely. We escaped the 110 plus temps in Phoenix for the lovely, cooler 90 plus temps in Stephenville, TX. Hm, did I mention Phoenix is a dry heat? And Stephenville’s humidity is as high as the temp? Yep, give me dry heat with air conditioning everywhere I go.  My hair was this creepy, damp, sticky mess for a week from that humidity. There’s got to be a secret that we dry heat people aren’t aware of for keeping curl in your hair.

Before leaving I printed out my WIP so I could proof/edit and got quite a lot done on the plane ride there and back. And those squiggly lines…that’s really not any secret code marks or anything like that. It was from those “bumps” you encounter while in the air. Ah, but lying in bed in that cozy, charming Bed and Breakfast in Stephenville, TX every night gave me ample time to read, proof and edit.

And airplanes? I’m still fascinated by how that huge, heavy metal monstrosity can stay in the air. I mean, seriously? And then on the flight home…let’s just say that the man next to me who slept the whole time sprawled way over into my space.  Way over! I flipped my manuscript open and managed to make corrections/notations despite his left leg practically being in my lap.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I found so much more red ink from proofing a hard copy than I did while reading it in the computer. Perhaps that is just me, though. The in-hand visional was easier for me. And truthfully, I wrote enough notes and comments on the margins of my manuscript to fill up a novella.  Just sayin’

So to answer my original question about writing while on vacation…I say go for it! There will be plenty of down time. If you don’t want to write, take a book or books and read. Study the author’s style of writing. It’s all about learning.

We should never stop learning!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Editing and Proofing Woes

I love to write, but I’m not fond of proofing or editing!

If anyone has ever successfully participated in Nanowrimo, you know that words just seem to flow non-stop, or hopefully they do. Nanowrimo is a site where you have the thirty days in the month of November to write a 50,000 word novel.  This is no easy task, I can assure you. If you have any kind of life apart from writing, interruptions happen.  It’s inevitable.

They say “just write a rough draft.”  Isn’t all writing a rough draft at first? Which brings me to the topic at hand: editing and/or proofing.  Perhaps you are fortunate enough to have a paid professional do this for you.  Not so with me, since I am a newbie and lack funds. I do have a couple of friends that are willing to help me with this, thank you Shelby Boswell and Barbra Finley. But alas,  the bulk of it falls to yours truly, me!

I’m currently involved in my WIP and have finished (it’s over 110,000 words).  At least  I think I’m finished! I have gone through twice already with proofing and editing.  Whew! Isn’t that enough?  Apparently not!

The first two run-throughs were done on the computer. I decided to print it out for a final proof/edit. All I can say is WOW! The things I’ve caught on a hard copy that I never noticed as I read it on the computer. Some pages contain more red ink than not.  Am I alone in this? Is it easier to catch things reading the hard copy?

So I plod and plow forth.  There are surely things I would rather be doing right now.  But then I think of the analogy of giving birth to children. Once those little darlings enter the world, our job is not over as a parent. It’s an ongoing process and takes work and diligence.

I’m definitely in need of more pencils, highlighters and red ink pens! I can’t throw the baby out with the bath water. (hm…does that even apply to  this?)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Writing Prompts

Sometimes when I’m given a writing prompt, immediately something comes to mind and I’m off and running…er.. I mean writing! Other times, I can sit and stare at it forever  (well, actually, hours or days) and draw a blank.

I belong to Faithwriters and love their weekly Writing Challenge.  I have learned so much from doing these little ditties every week. We’re given a topic and then have a week to write 150-750 words on this topic. Usually something comes to me within a day or two, occasionally an idea will formulate right away, and other times, it’ll be a day or two before submissions are due and I’m still clueless about what to write.

Usually I draw from the filing cabinets in my brain of Useless and Useful Information. Some of these are my own experiences, or something I’ve read, seen or been told by a third party.  Sometimes my writing comes out of nowhere. I mean…hello…where did this come from? I even astound myself as my fingers clack across keys pouring out words from a reservoir from whence I know not!

My friend and author, Jan Christiansen, has a book “Wake Up Your Muse” that has 1001 writing prompts. If you ever feel your writing juices clogged, I highly recommend this. It’s an easy read and out of 1001 choices, I’m sure you’ll find something to get your creativity flowing again.

I must admit that when I finally decided to become a writer, I found the whole thing a little daunting.  I always wanted to write, had a passion to write, and did write in the vein of clever and creative memos at work, letters to friends and family, posts on Facebook and My Space, and emails and what-not. But now, NOW, I was going to be devoted to writing, become a published author, because with this driving passion, the world must be yearning to hear from me.

Hm! Well, apparently not. So it has been a journey. I started at point A and haven’t arrived at point B yet.

But I press on!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Silencing the Voices

“Stop it! Go away! Leave me alone!”  It is my words, but silent, spoken in my mind to the voices that are calling to me. Their incessant clamoring for attention feeds my discouragement. Why can’t they ignore me like I try to ignore them?

I am in control, I tell myself. Without me they will cease to exist. With the touch of one button all evidence of their existence will be erased.  I have that power.

Sighing, I quietly fluff my pillow, turning it over so that the coolness of the other side brings momentary soothing to my frazzled nerves. Finally, I give in to the voices.  In the stillness of night, in my mind, I write new chapters, and rewrite old ones.  I examine scenes for flaws. I eliminate unnecessary people and embellish current ones.

And the characters of my novels are silenced for the moment. My mind relaxes and sleep overtakes me.

I wonder if I am alone, or do other writers experience the same thing. Then I scoff at calling myself a writer. That is what the discouragement does to me. I question whether this passionate drive to write was truly given by God.  If I answer yes, then I question why I go through these bouts of discouragement.

Disappointed, disillusioned, and discouraged, at my lowest point, when I was ready to give up, convinced I would never truly be a writer, God, my heavenly Father, spoke into my spirit, “Who are you? Are you who others say you are? Are you what you perceive yourself to be? Or are you who I say you are?”

It is enough! God has called me to write.  I am confident of that.  And so I sit, fingers poised over my laptop. It silences the voices of my characters that will not be ignored, these that I have given life to.  It is the only way to prevent them from insinuating themselves into that brief moment when sleep descends, causing my eyes to fly open and my brain to go into high gear with these lives I have created. I am too old and tired to have my sleep stolen away by them.

I cling to the truth that the power of encouragement lies within me through Him who dwells in my heart and soul. But it is also nice to receive encouragement from friends, family and even strangers, but first I must believe in myself.