Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Vacation Prep


 
 
Vacation has almost arrived.  My husband and I are taking my dad on a two-week road trip to Northern California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada.  I've made the hotel reservations, mapped routes, alternate routes and typed out a written itinerary (with graphics, of course), notified friends and family, and checked the weather.  My books are boxed (always ready for an impromptu signing event), laptop ready (who knows when inspiration will hit) and my Kindle charged (downloaded several books to read while hubby is on driving duty). 

The only thing remaining is the daunting task of packing.  It never ceases to amaze me that my dad and husband aren’t stressing over it.  The typical comment from my husband is, “Just throw in some jeans and shirts.”  He glances in the closet, points towards a group of shirts and one pair of shoes, yes, ONE pair, and says, “That should do it."  No thought in his decision whatsoever.  I’ve been making mental lists of outfits for the past two weeks and I’ve still not decided. 

I wish I could be like my husband when it comes to preparing a travel wardrobe, but I can’t.  I mean, what I wear depends on my mood and to accomplish that I need variety.  Of course, I don’t want to wear something I wore last time I was visiting, that is just not acceptable (thank goodness for Facebook pictures from the last trip).  Then there are shoes and jewelry….of course I need a selection there as well.

The sad thing is that upon my return, as with all other trips, I will have only worn half of what I packed…..but does that dissuade me?  Nooooooooooooo.   
 
 


Monday, March 30, 2015

Welcome Karen Lange to "An Author Speaks"!


Karen Lange is a freelance writer, editor, and online writing instructor for adults and teens. Her work has appeared in print and online in business, parenting, educational, and writing publications. She is a fan of hockey, dark chocolate, walking, and spending time with family.

What five words describe you?

Good question! I don’t often describe myself (like you don’t call your own phone number, right?).The first thing that comes to mind is that I am a Christian. I am also loyal, a perfectionist, and reserved but friendly.

What are you working on now? What is it about?

I am working on Write for Life Volume Two, which offers ready to use lessons for grades 7-12 that guides students through the essay writing process. Suitable for homeschool families, co-ops, or other student groups, these eight lessons break down the steps from start to finish with helpful tips, instruction, practice, and encouragement.

Lesson topics include: 
Essay basics and structure   
Choosing topics and sources
Taking good notes
Thesis statements and outlines
Developing content
Revision and editing
MLA style source documentation
Preparing for the test essay

My philosophy is that no matter what we do in life, good communication skills are an important ingredient for success.  Strengthening students’ writing enhances verbal and other interpersonal skills and helps prepare them for a lifetime of good communication. 

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?

I think I would have enjoyed writing Anne of Green Gables. Anne is spunky and ambitious, and learns a lot about life on her journey. She is down to earth, and her story entertains and inspires – that’s the kind of book I’d be proud to author.

What is the hardest thing about writing?
 
For me, it is the self-discipline. I have many other responsibilities, so when I do have time to write, I have to work hard to set aside distractions and keep my focus. So many things constantly clamor for attention, from marketing and social media to unexpected and necessary schedule changes. I’ve learned to prioritize tasks weekly, rather than daily. This helps me better stay on track. 

Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?

First, I pray for inspiration. Then I do a number of other things, such as go for a walk, bake, clean, read, or spend time with my grandson. Sometimes I work on other projects in my office or around the house; this helps me gain a sense of accomplishment, even if it’s in another area. There’s been times when I’ve had deadlines and had to push through and just write. That’s when I find myself praying more and trusting that inspiration will surface as I go. It always does, too!

Where would your dream location be for writing?

I’d like to write in a cozy cabin with a view of the mountains. Having a lake nearby would be nice, too. When my husband and I visited Wyoming years ago, we went to Jenny Lake in the Tetons. It had a nice blend of woods, mountain scenery, and of course, the lake. We even spotted a moose while there. A little spot in that area would do nicely, I think!

Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?

I read all my reviews, but don’t respond to them at the site (like Amazon). If I happen to know the reviewer or can find their blog or site, I will thank them for taking the time to share their thoughts. So far, I’ve had one bad review. It stung for a bit, but I knew it was part of putting my work out there. You can’t please everyone all the time, nor meet all their expectations. Jody Hedlund, one of my favorite authors, said that our work won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s okay. We take the good with the bad and stay true to ourselves and our convictions. Another favorite author, Ann Gabhart, told me in an interview that “Rejection is not fatal”. She is right! I figure that applies to bad reviews too. Their advice helps me keep a good perspective.

If you couldn't be a writer, what would you be?

I would like to be an interior designer. Or a photographer. Or maybe a graphic artist. LOL I have many other interests that have to take a backseat to writing.

What would you tell your younger self that would have helped you in your writing career?

Relax and don’t take yourself so seriously all the time. Stop, smell the roses, and savor the time with loved ones. Cultivate good self-discipline habits. Remember the big picture – what will really matter in ten years?

Where can we buy your books?



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Where can we find you on Social Media? 

Facebook  Author Karen Lange
Twitter @KLELange

 
Thanks so much for inviting me over, Patti. It’s been a pleasure. I wish your readers all the best!
 
From Patti:  The pleasure is all mine Karen! 

Friday, March 27, 2015

People Change


 
Everyone makes mistakes, but it is what we do with them that's important.  In most cases we learn, make amends, and move forward in a positive direction.  Why is it so darned hard for some family and friends to move forward with us? 
 
I’ve been in a contentious relationship with a family member for years now.  She was one of the many victims of my wayward life, but with a humble and contrite heart, I apologized for the harm I caused.  She claims she has forgiven me, but continuously rubs my nose in the past, even though the transgressions were over seventeen years ago.  I would understand if I had continued on a downward spiral, but that’s not the case.  Through the grace of God, I changed and practice that change daily in my words and actions.  She sees but won’t accept.  I’ve done everything in my power to reconcile, to no avail.  She is an important part of my life and I love her, but there comes a time when a relationship becomes toxic and needs to end.  So, I'm letting go.  Not with malice, but with love and a prayer that God will bless her with all that is good and that someday she will be able to open her eyes and heart. 

Dr. Steve Mariboli said, “We would do ourselves a tremendous favor by letting go of the people who poison our spirit.”  I wholeheartedly agree.   Do not let anyone, regardless how much you love them, define you by the past …  I can say with certainty and thanksgiving, we are not defined by our mistakes but by the love and mercy of God.

"For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, deluded, slaves to various desires and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful ourselves and hating one another.  But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done, but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.  This saying is trustworthy."
Titus 3:5-8
 
 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A DAY OF QUIET


John Lubbock once said, "Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the blue sky, is by no means waste of time".  

That's exactly what I did on Monday.  I took advantage of a Quiet Day Retreat offered by Mission San Luis Rey.  It started at 9:00 a.m. and ended at 4:00 p.m.  I was assigned a room with a bed and desk (no television) with a window that looked out on some beautiful flowers.

Bed and Desk
View from Window
 
I was free to write, nap, walk around the beautiful grounds, pray in the chapel and, of course, attend Mass at noon before being served lunch. 

My original plan was to start working on my devotional in progress so I put on some music (I did bring my IPad) and got a little done, but nature called.  Wandering through the gardens I realized it had been quite some time since I've taken time in silence ... to just "be".  The weather was gorgeous (of course this is San Diego County) and a light breeze flowed through the rose bushes, sending their sweet aroma swirling.  I walked completely around the mission grounds, taking in all the sights and sounds. 

Mass was held in the main church.  It was nice to see so many in attendance on a Monday afternoon.  I spoke to a woman who was there with her three children.  She told me she was taking them on tours of all the missions in Southern California for their Spring Break. Her ten-year-old daughter told me all about the ones they had seen already and spouted off facts on each one.  What a fun and exciting way to learn more about our faith and its history.  Kudos to that mom!

After Mass and lunch, I returned to my room and laid down.  Listening to the birds chirp outside and enjoying the breeze coming through the window, I centered myself.  I didn’t sleep but kept my eyes closed.  I prayed for the intentions of my family and friends and reflected on all of God’s blessings.  Before I knew it, it was time to leave.  Oh, how I would have loved to stay a while longer, but there are other Days of Quiet scheduled down the road. 

John Lubbock was right -- my quiet day was not a waste of time.  I was able to put life’s worries and stress into proper perspective, thus allowing me to reenter a chaotic world refreshed in mind and spirit.   









Sunday, March 22, 2015

Welcome Grace Yee to "An Author Speaks"!

My name is Grace, lover of books, keeper of secrets, editor and cookie connoisseur. Being the youngest of four children has given me insight and passion for the people and activities which form the pattern of my day-to-day life. Dancing has given me a physical escape while writing allows me to put that passion into words. Being homeschooled, I've had the opportunity to step into a magical wardrobe before breakfast, go on covert missions in Wal-Mart, and chasse' to the Nutcracker. So allow me to share with you the stories and novels which color my dreams, quotes that ricochet in my mind, and characters that I hope you will love just as much as I do.


What five words describe you?

Resourceful. Happy. Strange. Fairy tales. Color. Granted, these are the things that I either am or affect me the most.

What are you working on at the minute? What is it about?

I am working on a fantasy piece right now that I'm truly excited about. It a bit of a mishmash between Cinderella, Ivanhoe, and Robin Hood. The initial goal was to tell the Cinderella story from the prince's point of view, and that's still very much the thought that's moving the story forward. But the story took a different turn very early on. The prince in the story, Sebastian, is framed for a crime he didn't commit, but is banished nonetheless. (That's where the Ivanhoe bit comes in.) He's taken in by a family of... I guess they're nomads. But then Sebastian gets wind that the person who framed him is going to strike again. To prevent the crime from happening, Sebastian and the family he's become close to must infiltrate Sebastian's old home, clear his name, and save someone's life.

Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?

My most recent story was Colony Zero -Series II- New Earth. I'm think it's available on Amazon now. Anyway, I think a good person for Lt. Lisa Clarke is Katheryn Winnick from The History Channel's Vikings. Karen Gillan might make a good Sarah West, since she's got the red hair. Althana would be hard for me to choose for. She has distinct Amazonian features and is described as having these dark, hypnotic eyes that you could just get lost in. I'll leave the other writers of Colony Zero to figure that one out.

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it
have been and why?

Difficult, very difficult. Can I redirect that a bit? How about story concept? I would have loved to come up with ABC's Once Upon a Time, at least in book form. I would have tied things together differently, but I love the characters, especially Ruby and Captain Hook. If I could do it without getting sued, I would totally continue the series from season one in my own way.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

Probably knowing where you want the story to go but not knowing how to get there.

Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?

I know this has been said by a thousand other authors a thousand different times, but for my last story, outlining really, really helped me. And I hate outlining. I prefer to have the story in my head and then just fly by the seat of my pants, but in this case I had to know exactly where I was going and the significance of everything, so I just hashed out a three-page outline of everything that was going to happen and used it as a map while I was writing. A lot of the sentences I wrote in the outline actually made it into the story itself. So outlining is one way, if you want to try that kind of thing. I've also tried the "quilting method," where you write out different sequences on a bunch of pages, cut the out, and then arrange them into the order you want them. For things like college essays, I've found that just sitting down, taking a breath, and doing it at a natural speed is helpful. Don't psyche yourself out. Pay close attention to the guidelines and format because those points do matter. When I'm having a really hard time, I reward myself with 10 minutes on YouTube for every 5 minutes I spend writing consistently. Not the best method, but it's the college way. Oh, and when you feel like launching your computer at the wall, either go for a walk, bake something, or read something totally unrelated to your topic, like a blog or a book. Sometimes you need to let air out of the vents.
 
Where would your dream location be for writing?

Scotland, England, Ireland, and/or New Zealand. I did say I liked color.

When creating characters, are they based on people in your life?

When creating a character, I can never take a person from real life and decide that they will be the main character in my story, juts with a different name. It doesn't work like that. I can, however, look at a person and think, "I like the way they communicate or the way they think things through." Parts of people's characteristics and personality will go into a character I'm creating, but never the whole real person. I'm always afraid they either wouldn't fit into the story because they're from "my time," would make the other characters seem unrealistic, or be unrealistic themselves.

Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?

From the few reviews I've gotten, I haven't physically responded. It would be a nice habit to respond though, just to say thank you, even if the review was bad, because that would mean someone took the time to read it and took note of what was good or bad, what they liked, didn't like, or would have changed. If someone comments on a post in my blog, I'm absolutely ecstatic. I will respond then, just because a blog feels a lot more immediate and like a conversation than a review on Amazon. I think every writer has had at least two bad reviews, even if they were only oral reviews. I remember the first time my writing group critiqued my first short story, I was devastated. In hindsight, that was stupid, but still, I was, like, fifteen. They gave me great constructive criticism which I at first took as an insult. I thought they weren't "getting" my story. But when I looked at it later and started applying some of the feedback, I realized how much I had missed in my writing that others had seen. Long story short, when you get bad feedback/bad reviews, try and see it through their eyes. If it is something that can be fixed or looked at closer -like a stereotypical character or a slight against the plot- imagine a way that particular thing could have been done better. If it's something like, "I like this but this didn't really work for me," or "The perspective shifted too often," then those I consider critiques. The best thing about critiques is that they are a buffet of opinions: take what you want, leave what you don't. I hope whenever I get a bad review, I'll respond with a little more finesse than I did the first time.

If you couldn't be a writer, what would you be?

Funny you should ask that. I was thinking about this today. If I wasn't a writer, I would probably be an editor or a professional librarian.

What would you tell your younger self that would have helped you in
your writing career?

Don't scoff at social media, even if it makes you look like that one chick from that TV show about social media.
 
Where can we buy your books?

I know they're on Amazon.com and I believe some of them are available for B&N Nook. The majority of my stories are ebooks, but I will be ordering paperbacks from Helping Hands Press, so I'll be able to distribute those as well. Yay!

How can we keep up with you? Blog, Facebook, etc......
My blog is Lost in the Pages by Grace Yee but if you google "Lost in the Pages," it won't come up. It's easier just to type www.graceyee.blogspot.com into the search engine. You can also find me on Pinterest under Gracie Yee, which is where I usually go for a lot of inspiration, and Twitter (@graceyee_123).

Friday, March 20, 2015

MEDITATION ON THE LORD'S PRAYER




 
 
My Beautiful Grandmother
Nellie Morse Davis

(Nannie)
1894 - 1984
 
 
 
 
Thought I would repost this ... one of my favorites:

I found a faded paper folded up neatly in my grandmother's Bible with underlines and side notes, most obviously typed on an old manual typewriter.  At the bottom of the page, my grandmother wrote:   From -  Lift Up Your Hearts, by W. Russell BowieI did an internet search and the book was published in 1940.  This meditation is indeed a treasure and I'm sure "Nannie" is happy that I'm sharing it.








 
 
Our Father, who art in Heaven,

Help me to believe this day that there is a power to lift me up which is stronger than all things that hold me down.
 
Hallowed be thy Name,

Help me to be sensitive to what is beautiful, and responsive to what is good, so that day by day I may grow more sure of the Holiness of life in which I want to trust.

Thy kingdom come,

Help me to be quick to see, and ready to encourage, whatever brings the better meaning of God into that which otherwise might be common ground of the uninspired day.

 Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven,

Help me to believe that the ideals of the spirit are not a far-off dream, but a power to command my loyalty and direct my life here on our real earth.

Give us this day our daily bread,

Open the way for us to earn an honest living without anxiety, but let us never forget the needs of others, and make us want only that benefit for ourselves which will also be their gain.

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Make us patient and sympathetic with the shortcomings of others, especially of those we love, and keep us sternly watchful only of our own.  Let us never grow hard with the unconscious cruelty of those who measure themselves by mean standards and so think they have excelled.  Keep our eyes lifted to the highest; so that we may be humbled, and seeing the failures of others be forgiving, because we know how much there is of which we need to be forgiven.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,

Let me not go carelessly this day within the reach of any evil I cannot resist ... but if, in the path of duty, I must go where temptation is, give me the strength of spirit to meet it without fear.

For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

And so in my heart may I carry the knowledge that Thy greatness is above me and around me and that Thy grace through Jesus Christ, my Master is sufficient for all my needs.

Amen

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Veil



One of the many things I love about Mass is walking in and seeing the beautiful crucifix at the altar; however, it is currently veiled until Good Friday.  

Covering the crucifix has a profound impact on the faithful by creating a strong yearning to once again see the beautiful face of our Savior.  It leads us to focus more on His great sacrifice for our salvation, and the importance of cleansing our souls through reconciliation and penance.


For me, it's a visual reminder of how much I need Christ in my life and how empty it was when I rejected Him...I was adrift in a world void of purpose and filled with hopelessness.  It was through His love and mercy I was able to finally find my way home.  Praise God!


For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.   (John 3:16-17)


...for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.  For the scripture says, "No one who believes in him will be put to shame."  (Romans 10: 9-11).

 HAVE A BLESSED DAY

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Old Phrases - Where did they come from?





I received an email from a friend the other day about where commonly used phrases originated.  It was so interesting, I thought I would share.....  enjoy!!!!


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 








Monday, March 16, 2015

Marsha Hubler's Writing Tip: The All Important Query Letter


Marsha Hubler's latest project is for ladies of all ages. Moving from juvenile fiction, she has written an Amish/Mennonite romance series entitled THE LOVES OF SNYDER COUNTY. The first book, BACHELOR'S CHOICE, was released by Helping Hands Press on July 2nd of 2012, with two sequels to follow, TEACHER'S PET and LOVE SONG FOR LOUELLEN. She also has written 12 short stories about her Amish/Mennonite characters in her series. All 12 stories have been released as separate e-stories over the last year in the SNYDER COUNTY'S QUILTING BEE SERIES I compilation. Marsha is presently working on the second set of 12 "shorts" for the SNYDER COUNTY QUILTING BEE SERIES II. She's also working on a girl/horse juvenile fiction series entitled THE LOVING HOOFS RESCUE RANCH SERIES, title one called SNOW, PHANTOM STALLION OF THE POCONOS. Living in central PA in a community populated by the Amish and Mennonite folk, Marsha's accurate portrayal of their lifestyles enhances her writing style, bringing life to her Snyder County characters. Marsha is the author of the eight-book best-selling Keystone Stables juvenile fiction series by Zonderkidz. She also is the author of three other kids' books, a Bible study guide for ladies, and a homeschooling helps book. She has a master's degree in education, has over 40 years experience in education, and is presently a homeschool consultant in central Pennsylvania. Marsha has always loved kids and horses. She's been a foster parent and had owned horses for over 20 years. Her "Skye and Champ" stories in the Keystone Stables books reflect many of her own "wild" experiences with kids and horses. She also loves dogs and has two mixed terriers, Skippy and Bailey, who she adopted from a no-kill rescue shelter. Living in a rural farm area of Pennsylvania affords Marsha the luxury of enjoying her three-acre property with her husband and dogs. She has a goldfish pond and a gazebo in her backyard. Most of all, she is thankful to God for allowing her to write books. She accepted Christ as her Savior at the age of eleven, and now she can look back and see how God prepared her to write books. She considers it a special calling to write, especially for young people, and share biblical principles with which her readers can have happy and productive lives.Marsha loves to hear from her fans and horse lovers.

That Important Query Letter

As a published author for the last 20 years and as an acquisitions editor for the last eighteen months, I can’t  emphasize enough the importance of writing a good query letter to catch the eye of that key person at the publishing company.

I’ve known more than a handful of newbie writers who didn’t do their homework, some not even knowing what a query letter is, and contacted editors in a very unprofessional manner. A few writers (right off the bat) sent their entire manuscripts to publishing companies in hard copy (even in this electronic age), and when they heard nothing from the editors, they were perplexed, some insulted to the core that they had been ignored.

Well, folks, that’s not how it’s done! (Their manuscripts probably landed in File 13!)

Editors are extremely busy, and it only takes one of them with years of experience to read a paragraph of anything a writer submits to decide whether to read on. A writer who sends more than a query letter at first decreases his/her chance of even being considered, let alone being read.

A well-written query letter will get the attention of that editor, nothing else, but how important is that? So let’s take a look at the components of a good query letter, which should be no longer than one page:

1.      Introduction of your work. (Include any awards or credits the work has earned if submitted to any contests and placed)

2.     Short synopsis of the work, including the main character, the plot, the time frame, the genre, and word count.

3.     Explanation of why your target audience would like the work.

4.     A list of your related credits (If you have a long list of publications in genres not related to this project’s genre, delete them.)

5.     Thanks to the editor for considering your work.

6.     Closing and signature

7.     Sample pages attached IF the guidelines request them.

Now, let’s look at an excellent sample query letter (compliments of

*****************************************************************************
Dear (Editor’s name, if at all possible):
According to your agency’s website you’re actively seeking middle-grade fiction, so I’m pleased to introduce my novel, A Smidgen of Sky. This novel won me a scholarship to attend the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua. It was also awarded honorable mention in the Smart Writers W.I.N. Competition. A Smidgen of Sky is the story of ten-year-old Piper Lee DeLuna, a spunky, impulsive dreamer, whose fierce devotion to her missing father is threatened by her mother’s upcoming remarriage.
Everyone else has long accepted her father’s death, but the fact that his body was never recovered from his wrecked plane leads to Piper’s dream that he might one day reappear and free her from the secret guilt she harbors over his accident. Her stubborn focus leaves no room in her affections for her mother’s fiancĂ©, Ben, or his princess-like daughter, Ginger.  Determined to stop the wedding, Piper Lee schemes up “Operation Finding Tina”—a sure plan to locate Ben’s ex-wife and get the two of them back together. But just as Piper succeeds with step one of her plan, a riot breaks out at the prison where Ben works, and suddenly nothing seems sure.
Since middle-graders care deeply about things and people and love to daydream about their future, I think readers will identify with Piper Lee and find her an appealing heroine as she learns that you can both cherish the past and embrace the future. This story, set in the coastal region of Georgia, runs about 33,000 words and is somewhat similar in tone to Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie.
I’m a 1990 graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature, and my work has been published in U*S* Kids, Child Life, Columbia Kids, True Love, Guide and StoryPlus.
Thanks very much for your time. I have included the first ten pages and look forward to hearing from you.
Yours truly,
(Signature)
***************************************************************************
I have two last thoughts. If you’ve submitted queries to other companies, list the companies’ names and the dates you sent the queries. Also, although this query letter sample suggests sending ten pages of the manuscript with the letter, I beg to differ. I believe that’s a little too presumptuous on the part of the author. I’d submit the query letter only and wait for feedback from the editor. If he/she wants to consider your work, he/she will ask for a proposal or the entire manuscript.
So, write a good query then be prepared to wait. Sometimes it takes three to six months to hear from a publishing company. Unfortunately, some companies have the policy that if you don’t hear from them at all, they’re not interested. And that’s a hard pill to swallow, but that’s the way the publishing business is.
Work hard to craft an excellent query letter, and you’re on your way to being published!
****************************************************************************
Note from Patti:  Marsha, thank you so much for sharing your expertise.  Query letters can be tricky and the information you provided is something I know I'll be using, as well as many others!