Monday, December 31, 2007

notes from the war zone

The thirty-
first of December in the Neth-
erlands is a growing crescendo of bombard-
ments from mid-
morning until well after midnight when fire crackers go off on every street to ring in the new year.

The explosions have gone off intermittently all day long across our city of Almere. We've garaged our car and kept our cats safely indoors. Tonight we'll deep fry 'oliebollen,' the precursor of doughnuts, the traditional fried doughballs, filled with raisins and currants or plain and covered in powdered sugar, eaten on Dec. 31st.

The above photo is not of Almere, but of Groningen, a beautiful university town in the very north of the Netherlands not far from the German border. I recently visited it.

I wish you all a blessed 2008! Happy writing and reading.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Finished the Book!

Whew! Another manuscript completed. Boy, did this one give me trouble. I just couldn't get the ending to work right. But, after numerous rewrites and overhauls of the entire manuscript, by George, I think I've got it!

We'll see after my editor has a chance to read it.

Now, to collapse for a few days and let my brain recover.

The good news is that in this time of fretting over a manuscript whose deadline was looming, I got some very strong ideas for two new books. The story arc just came flowing in the wee hours of the morning and I had to turn on my light and jot them down. It was like viewing a movie in a lot of ways. Praise God for that gift of inspiration. I rejoice in that gift.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

triumph over the middle

Whew! I've made it past the great chasm of the middle of the book. I knew (more or less) where I was going, but it wasn't always easy to fill in the blanks to get there. Some days it felt like climbing a cliff by my fingernails.

But the worst is over. Now, begins the building toward the climax. Events will move faster.

Monday, November 5, 2007


I like the term 'wordsmith' to describe what I do. Storyteller and wordsmith.
I've been pondering the difference between those descriptions and loftier ones such as 'writer,' author,' and--most lofty of them all--'artist.

Right now, I am deep in the deepest part of a story...a few scenes beyond the halfway point. This is when it's the toughest. One cannot be objective at all about one's writing now. The trick is to keep writing, no matter what. Meditate on the storyline in the off hours, like during walks, so that there is some grain of an idea when one comes back to the keyboard, but come back to it.

This is where instinct takes over and one hopes it will not lead one astray by the time one emerges at the other end. I liken this process to diving into an Olympic size swimming pool and trying to make it across. I'm not a good swimmer and don't really like it, so this is a very daunting prospect for me. Right now, I'm smack-dab in the middle, too late to turn back, still a long way to the finish line.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Chugging Away

I'm finally getting over that first hurdle in writing the first draft of a new story...getting beyond the first 50 or so pages of the proposal. Now, I'm almost at the 'first turning point,' where something dramatic must happen between hero and heroine.

It means really beginning to dig into these characters and become a little consumed with them day and night.

On a good day, after writing 10 pages, I am a happy camper.

What kept me from moving faster along on this story was that I suddenly got an idea for another story. When that happens, I have to let it run its course, and write everything down while the inspiration is flowing. I may not get to this new story for another year or so, but if I don't develop it now, it'll be gone.

Scene ideas would come to me, dialogue, a story arc. In a few days, I had a whole story (minus those pesky details that involve research) mapped out and most of the key scenes written out longhand in a spiral notebook (a lot of them at midnight or 5:30 in the morning). Now, I can put it aside with a peaceful mind, knowing the essence of it is there whenever I can get back to it.

I can also go back to my original story and concentrate fully on those two characters waiting for me to continue their story.

It's a crisp fall day in the Netherlands and the leaves are turning, although they don't turn as dramatically here as in the northeastern United States.

I'm going on a walk through the fields and forest edging one end of Almere and continue mulling on my characters' story. What next...

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Thoughts on Branding

I recently returned from the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference in Dallas, Texas. It was my first Christian Writers' Conference, and my first writers' conference as a published writer. (I think my last was the 1994 RWA conference in NYC when I was a Golden Heart finalist).

A lot of things have changed since then.

This conference was great. It was large enough to attract a lot of people in the industry, yet small enough to still be able to meet a lot of people and run into the same people over and over. There were almost 500 in attendance. It shows that Christian fiction is on the move.

I attended a 4-hour Early Bird workshop on branding. It was led by two people from Thomas Nelson Publishing and the design firm they work with. I learned a lot about the thought put into a book's presentation from the editorial, marketing and design end of things. For example, the different type of covers, including the size and script of the author's name, that are considered before a final choice is made.
Most importantly, I learned that the latest buzzword in publishing seems to be "branding," and that branding begins with you, the author. In other words, you, the author, must decide who you are, preferably in ten words or fewer.

It got me to thinking about a reviewer's quote about my books being not just romances, but more old-fashioned love stories....

Monday, September 10, 2007

More on Maine

It is almost time for me to leave this idyllic spot. It's been a good almost three weeks here on the coast of Maine. I've completed the line-edits for my next book, The Rogue's Redemption (Feb.'08), and completed the proposal for my second Love Inspired Historical--no title, not even a working one yet, so I'm calling it Victorian II.

But most of all, I've been able to replenish the well, as some authors call stopping to take a breather and look around you...and imbibe that fragile, tenuous thing called...inspiration.

For any who have never travelled to this last bit of wild Maine coastline (you have to go beyond Bar Harbor), I wholeheartedly encourage you to come to Cutler and hike the Bold Coast and Western Head trails. They vary in lengths, so practically anyone can do them. But on a clear day, you'll never see such blue sky or sea. The cliffs are harrowing (the best part is you can sit right on top of them!) You can sit as long as you like and think about God.

Friday, August 24, 2007

August Fog

August in downeast Maine means fog.

I arrived a few days ago to glorious weather. Nowhere are there skies as blue as in Maine. The black-eyed susans are in full bloom, the asters are just starting to come out, a few raspberries are still visible on the yellowing bushes.

But after a night and morning of rain, fog has set in. From my office window facing the front yard, I see puffs of the white vapors blowing in every once in a while. It's a good day to write.

I've been studying fashion plates of Victorian era teenage girls' outfits. With the exception of the occasional sailor-suit outfit, they dressed more like their mothers. The only difference are the calf-length skirts and hair worn down (just as frequently it seemed to be worn up).

I'm working on writing the first few chapters of a Victorian story, which will be one of Steeple Hill's new Love Inspired Historicals next year.

So, I'd better get back to work...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Return from Vacation

Vacations are great.

We found what we were looking for in SW France and Spain. Sun and heat. The area is arid, with the Corbieres Range in the distance, the beautiful Mediterrean before us and olive groves and peachtree orchards in the intervening fields. And oh, yes, vineyards on every available space of land.

The beach at Port Leucate, France was wide and sandy, and NOT overcrowded. It was perfect.

Barcelona was large. Also hot and sunny. The best part was visiting a cousin and spending hours talking, especially about the Lord.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

What Spells Relief?

I am in that state of mental and emotional exhaustion that signals the end of a manuscript. The baby is ready to be emailed to my editor tomorrow. No more going over it anymore for now. It's leaving my hands and will await the eyes of my editor.

The wonderful thing about the editing and rewriting process is that with each successive reading and the changes that result from it, the stronger the characters' motivations start to come through. Dead wood is removed, things are streamlined.

My mind can now turn to vacation time. Hubby, two of our children, and I are heading to the south of France (from the Netherlands) for a week on the beach!!!! We are looking forward to sun, sun, sun. The Netherlands is a very rainy place.

We were blessed to find an apt. right on the beach at a reasonable price. We'll be half an hour from the Spanish border and will probably drive to Barcelona at the end of the week to visit a family member there for a few days.

My mind can take a break so that when we return I can begin researching my next book, a Victorian set in London.

I'm looking forward to some fun beach reading next week.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Making of a Gentleman

I have just finished the penultimate read-through of my current WIP: The Making of a Gentleman. Pleeeaaaasseee let them keep my title!!!! It's so right for this story.

This has been a grueling month and a half of revisions and self-edits. For some reason, this manuscript was more difficult to write. Was it because it was my tenth (counting all the unpublished ones snuggled among the dust bunnies) manuscript, or was it because I've just written 3 manuscripts back-to-back as deadlines have gotten closer together?

The fact is that I'm so grateful for my critique partner who pinpointed where the trouble spots in the manuscript were and helped me tighten the story, which at times felt like a great unwieldly lump of clay which refused to take the shape I wanted. Our new buzzword: TENSION!

Another challenge in writing it was the fact that at the end of May I was hit by a car while on my bike. I remember nothing about it except waking up on my back in the street, in terrible pain. I suffered a concussion and lots of facial cuts which have now healed. Anyway, suffering headaches for a month did not aid in the creative process.

The Making of a Gentleman is another regency era story set in London. It involves a 'beast' (as in 'Beauty & the Beast') and an ugly duckling, so I'm not sure what to call that combo: Cinderella meets the beast?