Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Works in the Mill

Every writer I know has multiple works in the mill. We are, at the very least, dividing our time between revising one manuscript and drafting a new one. I’m no exception. Don’t misunderstand. I am not describing myself as a multi-tasker. In fact, I’m not convinced those people really exist. I can move from one project to another, but I cannot work on all projects simultaneously.

To give you an idea of my current “works in the mill,” check out the following. It is  a glimpse at my typical day.

WRITING EXERCISE: My current exercise is an assignment I received from Standard Publishing. I’ve been asked to read a Bible lesson/commentary written by someone else and create discussion questions for the lesson. It is a merging of my education background and writing skills. Trust me, it takes time and effort to produce questions that are not ambiguous and yet not so detailed as to merit a simple yes or no answer. There’s no discussion in those types of questions. The exercise is honing my skills to make every word count. Exercising your writing in challenging new ways is important to learning your craft. Click to see Gym Shoes, Leotards, and Ball Point Pens.

REVISING AND EDITING: My next order of business is addressing the revision and editing needs of a completed manuscript. You may recall the story I wrote about a young woman who purchases a coffee shop in Door County, Wisconsin. It’s been a while. I pulled it out a few weeks ago to add a bit of polish to the work before I pitch it to a publisher or agent. My way of accomplishing that is to print a hard copy and go through it with a pen in hand. I then return to the digital copy to make needed changes. I edit/revise about twenty to thirty pages in one sitting. I’m always surprised at how many changes I really need to a work I thought was finished! Wow! Do not discount the value of ongoing editing. And never say never to using a professional editor. Check out Editors are Like Plumbers or TheUseless, Broken, and Random for more on editing. And remember to show, don’t tell. I find myself slipping into that format often. It is my greatest revising need. Here is a post by Michelle Levigne I read often to remind me what I need to do. It’s called Screenwriting for Novelists.

I’m up to about 10:00 am by now. The original Perry Mason series is on MeTV so I call that “Break Time.”

BLOG- A NOVEL CREATION: Before lunch, I have time to work on my blog. It isn’t merely cranking out text for Wednesday. I try to map my posts on a calendar so they are meaningful and have been researched long before I reach the due date. I also try to have at least one guest, review, or interview each month so you don’t tire of hearing from me. If you are interested in blogging, check out Bumfuzzled Blogging. It is one of my most popular posts.

WIP: After lunch, I’ll spend the next few hours on my new Work In Progress. I’m currently working on a suspense/romance novel I refer to as “Quiet.” It’s a working title. I am stretching myself as a writer in several ways. First, although I love suspense, I’ve never written in that genre. In addition, I am writing from three points of view: the male protagonist, female protagonist, and the antagonist. Finally, I am writing with the anticipation of this being one of a series. It’s a growing experience. In preparing for this work, I had suspense writer Lillian Duncan create a guest post on my blog last November. Her insights are great. You can read The ABC’s of Suspense and Mystery Writing or check out her books at

Of course I must include a bit of social media in each day. I enjoy the personal Facebook pages and Tweets as most people do but, as a writer, I have to also think about my “author platform.” That means posting on my author page frequently and connecting with readers on Twitter. My daughter wants me to set up an Instagram account…but when? I’m busy keeping all of these balls in the air during my “work day.”

Thank you for visiting today! Please take a few minutes to leave a comment or share this post with a friend.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The 5 Finger Method for…Book Reviews?

Litchfield Book Store 
Last week, I was shopping in a little bookstore with a friend in Pawley’s Island, South Carolina. We came across a “Reading Journal.” The entry prompts included obvious categories such as the title of the book, author, date read, and so forth but it also had a series of questions about the writing of the book itself.

For example, one of the questions asked, “On a scale of 1-5, with five being excellent, how would you rate the pace of the book? Did it keep you engaged or was it so slow you fell asleep?”

There were at least ten questions in this section on the characters, setting, and plot. Each question had the numbers 1 2 3 4 5 following it along with a line for comment.

The next question asked, “Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?”

The journal was intended to record what you read. It could be used by an individual or with a book club to prepare for a book discussion.

I saw this little journal as a great way for readers to draft a book review. It reminded me of some of tools I uncovered in my research. I am often asked how to write a book review for Amazon by people who have read Breathing on Her Own. You may be surprised at the number of people who have never left a review for any book. Then again, you may be one of them.

Most people I talk with want something easy to implement. So…I created this tool. I call it the Five Finger Method for Book Reviews. Basically, you give the book a point for each area. You can give half points, of course, but that requires bending your finger at the knuckle…oh the complexity of it all…

Today I offer you this little guideline. Readers, use it to write a review for Amazon. Writers, use it to evaluate your own writing before it goes to press. (Ask yourself these questions as you reread your first, second, or third draft.) 

Step 1 (30 seconds, tops)
If you agree with a statement, give one point (or do the knuckle-bender thing).

The story plot is engaging/entertaining   
The story is well written- flows nicely
The story comes to a satisfying end
The characters are believable/identifiable/ or have depth
I would read more from this author

Step 2 (1-2 minutes)
Complete one of these two questions and be as specific as possible:

I would (or would not) recommend this book because…


This book resonated with me because… (Or …Although this book did not resonate with me, I think it…)

There you have it. The number in Step 1 reveals how many stars you will give it and your comments are written in Step 2. Easy. Of course you can say more, but you don’t have to do so.

Here is an example:
Talk of the Town by Lisa Wingate

1  pt.  The story plot is engaging/entertaining         
1 pt.  The story is well written- flows nicely
1  pt.  The story comes to a satisfying end
.5 pt.  The characters are believable/identifiable/ or have depth
1  pt.  I would read more from this author

I would recommend this book because it is fast paced and entertaining. Wingate’s humor is engaging. I would definitely read more books by Lisa Wingate.

Now you try it. Don’t have anything to read for this review? Might I suggest a little novel called Breathing on Her Own?  Oh, you’ve heard that one before…Can’t blame a girl for tryin,’ right?


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Danger: Read at Your Own Risk

Human Trafficking is a worldwide evil. In India, girls, some as young as nine-years-old, are coerced, kidnapped, and sold into slavery. They are forced into prostitution and live out their lives in brothels unless someone rescues them.

For the girls we met in India, the rescuers had arrived. One. At. A. Time. During our time there, we visited in the homes of young women now 18-25 who are redefining themselves. Some had been rescued at age twelve or thirteen and placed in a government approved facility first.

Note: You will see no pictures of the girls on this blog.  Their identity must be protected.

It was difficult to look at these beautiful faces and imagine the trauma they had endured. As we worked together, the young women talked of their hopes and dreams.

What does their future hold? Many of their families will not have them back. They are forever marked as unclean. It is possible some will marry and have the family they long to have, but it isn’t likely. It will take a very special man to marry a woman with such a past.

One woman told me she wants to be a social worker and help other girls. Another is studying to be a nurse. Like most their age, they have ideas for what their future holds. With the help of Christian organizations they are beginning to realize their dreams.

We visited their vocational school. There the girls can learn computer skills. They learn to speak English. They may learn a trade such as the crafting of delicate jewelry or sewing.

And the girls learn that God loves them. They learn how they are made clean in His eyes. Their house mothers care for them and pray over them as loving mothers do. They go to church. They read the Bible. They sing songs of praise to the One who never abandoned them and never will.

A few months ago, my Bible reading took me to Jeremiah 18. In the first few verses of the chapter, Jeremiah is told to go to the potter’s house where God will give him a message. Jeremiah goes. He watches the potter craft a pot out of the soft clay. The clay becomes “marred” and the potter reshapes it into a new vessel. Complete. Useful.

At first glance, my only thought was that God has a plan for the rest of my life. It made sense to me. I was one person—Tom’s wife. Now I am Tom’s widow. I am in the process of redefining myself. I wasn’t  “marred” per se –more like “broken.” I read the verses and experienced the assurance that God will form me into something new. Complete. Useful.

Then I went to India.

God has a plan for the women I met. He has led them to a safe place. He has restored their soul, their hope, their joy and laughter. He will shape them into new vessels. With His love and protection they will be made whole. They will live a life of purpose.

NOTE: Human trafficking is a worldwide evil. The rape and exploitation of young women is prevalent everywhere. Yes, even here in the United States. God has not abandoned these women. His heart is broken for them. But He has a plan. We need to work in accordance with His will. We need to help stop human trafficking and reach out to women who have been sexually abused. Consider these statistics:

    Human trafficking generates $9.5 billion yearly in the United States. (United Nations)
    Approximately 300,000 children are at risk of being prostituted in the United States. (U.S. Department of Justice)
    The average age of entry into prostitution for a child victim in the United States is 13-14 years old. (U.S. Department of Justice)
    A pimp can make $150,000-$200,000 per child each year and the average pimp has 4 to 6 girls. (U.S. Justice Department, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)
    The average victim may be forced to have sex  20 or more times a day. (Polaris Project)
    Fewer than 100 beds are available in the United States for underage victims. (Health and Human Services)
    Department Of Justice has identified the top twenty human trafficking jurisdictions in the country:” Houston
• El Paso
• Los Angeles
• Atlanta
• Chicago
• Charlotte
• Miami
• Las Vegas
• New York
• Long Island
• New Orleans
• Washington, D.C.
• Philadelphia
• Phoenix
• Richmond
• San Diego• San Francisco
 St Louis
• Tampa  (Department of Justice)
   One in three teens on the street will be lured toward prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home. (National Runaway Hotline)

(List Compiled  by The Covering House)

With my youngest daughter in Mumbai.
I have three daughters and three

What will you do? Let’s have a conversation about what we as writers can do. Let’s talk about what we as parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles can do. Please share your thoughts in the comments. And please share this post.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Yes I Went to India

How far would you go for a story?

I went to India.
Kendall & I were "Inked"

Confession: I didn’t go to India for a story. I went with a group of people to work with young women who have been rescued from human trafficking. More about that next week.

While we were there, we divided into teams to pray for the city. Some went to hospitals and others visited neighborhoods.

A kitchen in one
of the houses we visited.
Our team had the opportunity to visit in the homes of Christians living in what we in the States call "the slums." I learned a valuable lesson. One I should have known.

Don’t judge what is on the inside by what you see on the outside.

Sharing a moment with
 a family in their home,
As we drove along the interstate, we could see the slums everywhere, rising up like jagged tin roofed mountains. When we visited our new friends in their 10X10 foot homes, we removed our shoes and walked across their clean floors. They were gracious and hospitable. They smiled with us and we prayed with them.

Their prayers weren’t for money or a bigger house or anything material. They asked us to pray that their children would grow up to know God. Sometimes they prayed for someone to be healed. They welcomed our prayers of blessing on their household.

One of the women we met on
the Prayer Walk

Of course it wasn’t all work. We shopped in a market along the street and on one occasion, went swimming on the rooftop of a hotel in Mumbai. Our hosts treated us to a special dinner at a “resort” where we were entertained by Indian musicians and traditional dancers.

The food was spicy and colorful. Much like the saris worn by the women and the beautiful jewelry and scarves displayed in the marketplace.

The marketplace
I know this blog is about writing. So the question becomes “What did I learn on this trip to apply to writing?” I offer these three tidbits:

·      Food and location may be as much a character in your story as the people you create.
·      Universal truths of love, and hope, and care speak louder than those of despair.
·      Storytelling is a powerful tool to establish community. (Okay, I knew that one, but the trip to India underscored it for me.)

I didn’t go to India for a story. If I had, I would have thought it to be one of pain and suffering. But there is a story there. It is called HOPE.

So…how far would you go for a story?