Wednesday, September 19, 2018

God Has A Plan

If you read my last post, you know I now live in a house located on what used to be my grandparent’s farm. Last weekend several of my cousins and their families came to my house for a family reunion. We ate and reminisced of our childhood days. We played a crazy game of relay ping-pong. And we laughed. It felt good. 

Talk fell to the summer Grandpa died of cancer and how shortly after that, Grandma sold the farm. Grandpa was sixty-six years old when he died. Many of us are now close to that or a bit beyond. Many of us are grandparents ourselves. Of course we are “younger” than Grandma and Grandpa ever were… in our minds.

But this blog isn’t actually about the reunion. It is about living in the will of God. It is about listening to His voice and doing what He asks. Tom and I always tried to do that. We haven’t always been successful because sometimes we’ve been stubborn and selfish. From time-to-time we slipped off the path but kept climbing back up on the road. 

God nudged us along the way. 

God tells us our days are numbered. When Tom died in 2014, our family could see evidence that it was his time. It brought us comfort. God knew all along that Tom would leave this earth on October 29th  of that year.

The reunion brought back another sweet memory for me. It was a time God nudged us in the direction He wanted to take us. It happened in July of 1971. But to understand it I need to take you back to 1970, the year Tom asked me to marry him.

I met Tom when I was sixteen years old but didn’t start dating him until I was seventeen. That was in the summer of 1970. My grandparents were visiting us. They took an immediate liking to “Tommy.” The feeling was mutual. Tom thought they were great. When Tom asked me to marry him at Christmas that year, they were among the first people we told. 

I was seventeen and Tom was eighteen when we became engaged. I was a senior in high school and Tom was a freshman at the University of South Florida. We told my parents we wanted to wait until at least one of us finished college before we married. It was a plan.

Then, on July 16, 1971, my grandfather died. It was his sixty-sixth birthday. I clearly remember the drive home from the funeral. My parents were in the front seat and Tom and I were in the back. 

“Your grandpa was so young,” Tom told me. He talked about how much he admired my grandparents. We talked about how devastated Grandma was over losing Grandpa. 

I remember Tom looking at me and saying,“I don’t want to wait until we’re out of college. I want to be married to you as long as I can be.”

And so… on that drive home with my mom and dad… we planned our wedding for December. December 18, 1971. I was eighteen and Tom was nineteen. Forty-three years later he was gone, but I have the sweet memory that he got what he wanted. He was married to me as long as he could be. I hold onto the joy of listening to God as He nudged us along the way.

This next Saturday my family will gather in honor of Tom’s birthday. 
 He would have been sixty-six.

This post may seem sad to some. But to me it is yet another piece of evidence that God can indeed see around the corners. He has a plan for each of us. We need only to move forward when He nudges us along. I find comfort and peace in that. Imagine. The Creator of the universe has a plan for each of us. And we are made privy to it if we listen with our hearts.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

My Little House In the Big Woods

As a child I lived in “the little house” on the northernmost side of my grandparents farm. It was actually a fairly good-sized house with a barn and chicken coop as well as a pasture for my pony. There was a creek running through it and an orchard. I’m not sure if that orchard belonged with the property where we lived or was part of the larger farm, house, and holdings where my grandparents resided. It didn’t matter. I had acres and acres of land to explore. 

I loved living there. 
My Grandparents, Gus and Dorothy


I loved it in part because it was the house where my dad was born. He had memories there. My grandmother shared stories with me of when she and Grandpa lived in that house before they bought the adjacent farm. 

I was building new memories of my own. I rode my pony on all sorts of adventures I created. The barn could be a castle one day and a fort the next. I could easily walk up the hill by the creek, past the pond and head down a long lane between the fields to reach Grandma’s house. Grandma always had candy or a piece of gum in her kitchen cupboard for grandchildren who came for a visit. She was very creative and made dolls and toys. She also liked to write, so she and I shared our stories.

There were two wooded areas on grandma and grandpa’s farm. The “little woods” was located behind our house and the “big woods” was located on the southernmost part of their large farm. There was a pond near each of them. I went fishing in those ponds with my grandfather and hunted for squirrels with my dad in the woods. (My dad continued to take me squirrel hunting even though I had the bad habit of shouting out, “There’s one, Daddy!” scaring the squirrels away.) Grandma and I hunted for fossils in the creek in the big woods. 

I climbed the trees and the rafters in the barn. I played with trucks in the dirt. I was what was called a tomboy. It was a completely acceptable, almost endearing moniker at the time. My mother sewed beautiful dresses for me and probably envisioned me playing quietly with my dolls. But she didn’t fuss too much at my tomboy ways. I always suspected she, too, was a tomboy in her day. Of course I didn’t share with her every dangerous activity in which I engaged. It’s not that I was sneaky. I merely protected her from worry.   

My parents and I only lived in the “little house” for a couple of years before moving to our own farm. But that time holds a special place in my heart. I lived there during second grade. I loved school and I loved my teacher. My second grade year was to set the course of my life. 

In second grade:
·      I gave my life to Christ.
·      I decided to be a teacher like Mrs. Salyers. 
·      I had a story published in the school newspaper. My first published piece ever. I decided to be a writer, too.


My grandfather died in 1971. My grandmother sold the farm and moved to closer to us. I always thought she was very brave to leave all that she ever knew.

In 2017 I sold the house where my husband and I lived for nearly a quarter of a century and searched for a smaller home. I looked at several houses and finally found one that suited me and met my needs. I asked my cousin John to help me with the inspection. He arrived at the house before me and met me with a grin. 

“You know where this house is located?” he asked.
“Yep. It’s on what used to be Grandma and Grandpa’s farm. In the ‘big woods’.”

My house is the smallest in the subdivision so I call it “My Little House in the Big Woods.” Sound familiar? That’s okay. I like the idea of following in the footsteps of other tomboy-turned-author women like Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott.

I don’t have a pony anymore and the closest thing I have to a barn is the little lawnmower shed in my back yard. I may not climb trees but I still view life with a sense of adventure. 

Now I create most of my adventures while sitting in front of my computer, though. I'm sure that offers a great sense of relief to my sweet mother. 


Please share your comments below. 
I love connecting with my readers!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Fall in Love With the Problem

Today I want to explore the idea that there is much to learn about the craft of writing through people who are not writers. This quote popped up on my twitter feed from a woman I know through Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA). It is attributed to Marc Randolph, cofounder of Netflix.

Here is the picture I saw on Twitter. Thank you @SusanAbbott for sharing.

“Fall in love with the problem, not the solution –because if you fall in love with the solution, you’ll chase it trying to find a problem to fit it. And if you fall in love with the problem you’ll learn everything you can to know why that problem exists, and what efforts were made in the past to solve it, and who has that problem, and under what conditions. Then you’ll come up with hundreds of ways to possibly solve it.”

I don’t have the original source or context for that quote, but it was attributed to Bay Street Bull, a publication that describes itself as “A luxury lifestyle magazine focusing on the intersection of business, technology and culture for the individual that wants to live bigger and better.” (Interesting stuff, by the way if you visit their website at baystbull.com.)

I suspect Randolph was addressing the business community. But he could just as easily been talking to fiction writers. The strength of the novel is in the problem. 

Think about it…
·      The “hook” is the problem our protagonist must face.
·      The problem is the core of the tension in the book. 
·      Why that problem exists is the backstory of the antagonist that unfolds throughout the manuscript.
·      Who has that problem and under what circumstances is the story itself. It is the how and where our unsuspecting protagonist and up-to-no-good antagonist cross paths.
·      The fact there are hundreds of possible solutions make the book a page-turner. Especially the possible solutions that fail. We get the readers hopes up only to fail miserably at fixing everything and having to start all over.

Randolph’s advice via that tweet was perfect timing for me. I am currently crafting a suspense novel. I want the solution. I want a satisfying end to the book. But I can’t rush getting there. I need to “fall in love with the problem.” The problem is what will hold my interest as I push my characters into situations I create and get them through as changed people. And I need to come up as many possible solutions to their dilemma as I can. As many “what ifs” I can create for my protagonist to find along the way.

If the problem holds my interest as I write, it will hold the interest of my readers.

If you’ve been following my blog you may have picked up on a theme of sorts these past few weeks. Connections. As writers, we need to connect with people outside the writing community as well those within the writing community. We already know stories are found in headlines, but how to be stronger writers may be found in talking with business leaders, researchers, and others. Or in this case…on Twitter.




Wednesday, August 29, 2018

From the Lake to the River: Nine Ohio Writers Working Together

Last week I wrote about maintaining the valuable connections we have with family and friends. Family in particular. If you missed that post you can find it by CLICKING HERE.

VIEW BY CLICKING HERE
This week I want to share the valuable connections we have with colleagues. It doesn’t matter what kind of work you do, there are always others working with you or beside you. Even in writing. To some, writing may seem to be the most isolated type of work there is on the planet. You sit at a computer all day in a quiet space, typing out everything in you onto a blank screen.

But of course there’s more to it than that. You grab people to give you their input. You interview people to make your characters more realistic. You have beta readers tell you what they think. You work with editors. You communicate with the graphic artists working on your book cover. You have colleagues.

One of the most beneficial relationships I have is with fellow authors in Ohio. I belong to some great online groups as well as some national and international organizations, but I get to meet with my small group of Ohio authors face-to-face nearly every month. We share our work. We help each other problem solve. We offer strategies. And we care.

While I was living in Kosovo, a couple members of the group invited me to submit a story for an anthology called From the Lake to the River being published by Mt. Zion Ridge Press. The book features stories taking place in Ohio written by Ohio authors. Stories from across the state –from Lake Michigan to the Ohio River. 

I started writing a short novel in 2013 about square dancing. I hadn’t finished it and hadn’t worked on it since Tom died in 2014. It was hard to consider. It was about a widow who returns to square dancing after her husband dies. After some prayer, I decided to retool the story into a novella. I submitted the story and waited.

It didn’t take long. The story was accepted. I worked with fellow writers and editors and now, Courtesy Turn is  a part of the anthology. I’m pretty excited. The paperback is available September 1, although you can preorder. The ebook version is available NOW.

Nine authors coming together in one book. Connections. Communication. Colleagues.

Nine authors. Nine different stories. Historical fiction from the Civil War to World War II, Young Adult Fiction, Women's Fiction, Romance, Mystery and Danger, a touch of Humor. Whatever you like to read...there is something for everyone.

Courtesy Turn, A Novella
by Rebecca Waters featured in the Buckeye Christian Fiction Authors 2018 Anthology

Lori’s husband died of cancer five years ago. Now she must reclaim her life or be forever dependent on her son and his family.  Lori wonders how she can find purpose and if it's possible to ever love again. Should she return to square dancing…the activity she and John so enjoyed together? Could square dancing hold the key to Lori’s future? Set in Cincinnati, Courtesy Turnis a story of second chances. 

Preorder Your Print Edition Here: http://ow.ly/rH0k30lAUEW

AVAILABLE THROUGH AMAZON OR YOUR LOCAL BARNES AND NOBLE



Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Most Important Connections in Every Writer's Life

Connect: a verb.
To bring together; to make contact; join together; provide access and communication

This week I’ve been thinking about the word connect.

Connecting is not just bringing together, but joining together and communicating. I’ve been blessed with many deep and lasting connections. I’ve established many such relationships through teaching and writing. At first, I wanted to write about those kinds of connections and encourage fellow writers to seek out those relationships.  

But the most important connections are those with family and close friends.Those relationships take root around the dinner table or at church. They are founded in walking through this life…through both the good and the bad together. They are so much a part of our everyday life we often take them for granted. 

This past week, my sweet aunt, my mother’s oldest sister, died. She was ninety-three. Aunt Flora loved her family. She loved her church family, too. A steady stream of people made their way to the visitation on Friday and the next day, the church building was filled with family and friends. 

I could use this space to rewrite her obituary; to tell my readers of the way my aunt worked hard during hard times or to share what a great cook she was, but this is a post about connections…remember?

So this is my advice for the week –taken from a page of the life my aunt modeled: 

Cook a meal together with your family. 
Turn off your devices and sit down with your family to eat.
Talk and Listen.
Laugh together. 
Hold each other close.
Tuck your kids into bed. Say prayers with them.
Take your family to church and find your path through this world God has created. 
Sing.

And if you came to this blog to learn how to be a better writer, here is your assignment for the week: be a better person.And if you want to see the direction your life is taking, imagine (or draft) what your own obituary will look like when you reach ninety-three. 



My Mom in the Middle
With Her Older Sister and Younger Brother a Few Weeks Ago

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Write Like You're in Love...Edit Like You're in Charge!


 10 Minute Novelists, an online writing group held their first-ever face-to-face writing conference this past week in Cincinnati. Attendees interacted with incredible speakers like James Scott Bell, Donald Maass, and Janice Hardy. What a line-up! 

Always Cool to Hang Out With A Best Selling Author
Like James Scott Bell
I’ve always said if you can walk away from a conference with one great idea or changed in one way, it has been a successful conference. I walked away from this experience with so much more. Though I hope to share tidbits of information gathered from the conference over time, I want to offer you words from James Scott Bell. These words resonated with me and reminded me of the roots of my writing.

“Write like you’re in love,”he said. If you are a writer, you’ve had those stories, posts, or ideas that captured your imagination. You poured yourself out on the page. You invested yourself in the story. You found yourself constantly thinking of that story or that character. You began to hear the character’s voice in your head. You wrote with abandon, void of formulas or rules. In fact, breaking the rules in this love relationship with words seemed right. 

Smacks a little of a great love story, doesn’t it? But that’s how we get a good story on paper. And readers can tell when you own it. They ask if it is based on a true story. They want to know the backstory. They ask for a sequel. Because you fell in love with your story, you carried your readers along with you. 

Jim Bell was right about that. When you are in love, joy oozes out of your soul and onto the page. You could stop there. You could file away your passionate story of good versus evil or love triumphing against all odds. You could never publish your historical fiction or capture the feeling of someone from the past in a vibrant biography.

Jim Bell's Newest Release
Click Here to View
You could stop there. You would be a storyteller. You might be a caretaker of family history or you may even write because doing so feeds something in you. But if you are a writer; if you hope to publish and share this story and these characters you’ve created, you have to do more than write like you’re in love.

“Edit like you’re in charge,” Bell tells us. And this is what separates the amateur from the professional. Work. Writing is often fun and engaging. Many people I know write as a sort of self-induced therapy. But if you want to share the story; if you want to publish, you have to go into the story you love, rip it apart and take charge of it. You have to ask yourself tough questions about what you’ve written. 

For example, the vignette of the little girl finding a puppy in the midst of chapter one may be cute and have sweet dialogue but if it doesn’t move your story forward, why is it there? Does it offer insight into the character of the little girl? Will the puppy play a role in rescuing her in the future? Is the dog a metaphor for another character in the story? If the scene is helpful to your reader, keep it. If it is not necessary, no matter how much you liked it when you wrote it, get rid of it. Use it somewhere else…in an alternate universe, so to speak.

Look at your story structure. Examine your words and phrases. Scrutinize your spelling, grammar, and punctuation. And when you have it as close to perfect as possible, send it to a professional editor and beta readers for their recommendations. Then start the editing process all over again. 

The story doesn’t change. 
The good guys will still win in the end. 
And so will you. 

“Write like you’re in love. Edit like you’re in charge.” 
Thank you, Mr. Bell.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Living in the Overflow

Overflow. My word for the year. 

As some of my readers know, I choose a word each year. During the year I see how that word plays out in my life. I try to keep a list of examples of how I see that word in my life and Bible verses where it appears. This year I chose the word overflow. I chose it because I want to recognize those areas where my life is full. Full and overflowing. I chose it because of God’s promises. I chose it while I was in Kosovo.

My Sweet Friends, Bob and Lina
When I returned to America in June, I put little thought into the word. I couldn’t even find my small notebook where I tracked examples. It didn’t matter. My heart was indeed full. I hugged my children and grandchildren. I held my mother tight and reveled in the closeness of my family. 

I gave little consideration to my word for the year until …there was water on the bathroom floor. 

I thought my toilet overflowed. I wondered when it happened. I asked my grandkids. Nobody could explain. I wrote it off as a one-time incident. I had guests over for dinner one evening.  I cleaned the house and got everything ready. I put one of those little blue tablets in the toilet tank. One of my guests came out of the bathroom and sadly reported the toilet may have a leak. There was blue stuff all over the floor. 

The sealing ring needed to be replaced. I took advantage of the situation and replaced the whole toilet with a better one. Actually, my friend Bob did all the work. I was the go-fer. Bob is the one who fixed my hot water heater, too. Yep, I had all these little “issues” popping up as I settled back into my life here in Ohio. 

But they are the sorts of problems that remind me of my chosen word for the year: OVERFLOW. 

Some May Think Their Life is Down the Toilet
Others See Their Life as Overflowing
Yes, I had to replace a toilet in my bathroom, but I’ve lived in houses where we had “outdoor facilities.” I not only have indoor plumbing, I have three bathrooms.

My hot water heater failed resulting in a cold shower, but I have a hot water heater. And it happened in the summer when a cold shower wasn’t the end of the world. Furthermore, I had enough money to buy the parts to fix it.

And I have good friends like Bob and Lina who not only cheer me on but, come to my rescue in times of need. 

This morning, my Bible reading was in the book of Romans. In it Paul writes, 
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

That is my prayer for you today. That your life is  filled to OVERFLOWING... with hope.