Monday, December 26, 2011

A Bloggy Vacay

I hope your Christmas was everything you hoped it would be! I'm taking a blog break until January 4. See you all then!

Wishing you a fabulous New Year, everyone!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Nutty, Fudgy, Crazy Christmas!

I always assume the week before Christmas will be like all the other weeks in the year, maybe a little busier, but not too bad. And every year, I laugh at how wrong I was!


santa-danny
Photo by dansanuf  (Sophie, don't get any ideas. You've been a naughty dog. This puppy deserves kisses from Santa. You don't. :)

I'd like to share a medley of what the week before Christmas looked like in my house this year:

Monday:

* Have had an awful migraine since Saturday. I'm on the couch all day. Reading would make me vomit, so I'm stuck with the television. It's either an all-day Hoarders marathon or Kim and Kourtney Take New York. I flip to Hoarders. Where are the Christmas movies? Hallmark channel does not air their awesome made-for-TV movies during the day. Bummer. Dead rats, cats, and human feces doesn't exactly get me in the holiday spirit, but I'll take it.

* Migraines alter my mood--it feels as if nothing will ever be good again--and I waver between anxiety about all of the chores left undone, nausea due to the headache, and a strange fascination with the man who has to tunnel his way into his apartment because of his extreme hoarding. Can't look away.

* McDonalds for dinner. French fries never tasted so good.

Tuesday:

* Migraine is gone! Hallelujah!! I drop the kids off at school and begin a multi-store grocery shopping excursion. Success!!

* Laundry here I come. I'm starting to think each member of our family should only own two changes of clothing. It might make life easier.

* I peek in the fridge. Oh, there's the sugar cookie dough I made on Saturday but didn't roll out. I'll get to it later...

* Pick the kids up from school and head straight to the barber. My son's hair is at that almost-too-long stage, and both kids whine and act like I'm handing them over to a cult when I pull in the parking lot.

* My daughter needs help with science and algebra, so we spend "quality" time bonding over equations.

* The SNL Christmas special is on, and we all love Justin Timberlake's "Soup There It Is" skit. Yes, we're still working on balancing chemistry formulas during this.

Wednesday:

* Last minute shopping trip #775. Both kids are in the Christmas Eve service at our church. Yes, I've known this for months--12 months to be exact--yet, I pretended festive outfits would magically appear on their own. I zoom to the store right after I drop the kids off at school. A small fortune later I have items that could be put together for outfits, but we won't know until the kids try them on. There are at least nine other things I bought that I had no intention of purchasing. Well done, marketers. Well done.

* Back home, a wave of fatigue hits me and I worry that my previous migraine will pull a switcheroo and come back to the other side of my head. It does that sometimes. I immediately down a Coke, a candy bar, and a huge Motrin. Yes, I have candy bars around my house for just this scenario. Thirty minutes later, the fatigue passes.

* Oh, what? I have a book? I'm supposed to be adding 10,000 words to it? Whoops! Guess I'd better squeeze in a writing session.

* Peek in the fridge. Sugar cookie dough still sitting there.

* The "malfunction" light comes on in my van. Yay! Malfunction! Just what I wanted for Christmas!! I pray for God to take care of it so I won't have to.

* I spend two hours wrapping presents. During this time, my mini-wiener dog, Sophie, sneaks into my daughter's room, finds a wrapped gift, destroys the package, and eats half the candy. You should have seen this box--it looked like a raccoon had gotten hold of it. Guess who just went on Santa's naughty list? Bad dog.

* Since I feel like I've gained thirty pounds from my three-day stint on the couch, I take time to exercise. My limbs hurt afterward.

* Realized I accidentally told both sets of parents the wrong time for the Christmas Eve service. Give them a quick call with the right time.

Thursday:

* Last minute shopping trips #776 and #777. I have to replace the candy that a certain puppy ate, so I stop at the grocery store after dropping the kids off. Run into three moms from school, which makes me feel better, and I purchase four items I had no intention of buying. Again, great job marketers! But the grocery store did not have the right candy, so I stop at the drug store on the way home.

* At the drug store, it hits me how drab and icky my hair looks. Surely I can touch up my roots and throw on some highlights this afternoon, right? Oh, yes, I have a coupon! Woo-hoo!

* Peek in the fridge. Okay, the sugar cookie dough is dried out. Time to toss it--and I hate tossing perfectly good food. I'll make a new batch Friday night.

* Book? Oh. Right. That. I have blog posts to write first. I'll get to my manuscript later. Like after I work on my hair. Priorities, people. Priorities.

* The malfunction light disappears! I say a hearty silent prayer. How blessed are we that God doesn't only answer big prayers?

* Head to my other stash of chocolate bars--Nestle Crunch. Mm-mm...

* I'm a room mom, so I organize my supplies for Friday's party. Sausages, check. (We're doing a pancake breakfast.) Wii games? Check. Presents? Check. Rice Krispy treats for my other child's party? Yikers! Time to hit the stove.

* Book? Yes. I'll squeeze in a writing session because my characters are calling. I love these two. Just one more scene. Just one more...

Friday:

Here we are! It's almost Christmas! My plan today includes finding another candy bar, whipping up a new batch of sugar cookies, spending most of the day with friends and my kids, and having a speedy, massive cleaning session tonight.

Our house is always a little nutty, a lot fudgy, and majorly crazy at Christmas, but by Christmas Eve, we're ready to focus on the only thing that's really important. Celebrating the birth of Jesus. One of my favorite Bible passages sums up my awe of December 25.

John 3:16 (NIV) "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

God does so love the world. You. Me. He came for us. Rejoice!!

Pop over to MVRWA's blog today to see how I handle missing my writing goals--"Ho, Ho--No I Didn't Meet My Writing Goals."

Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Jennifer K. Hale!

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.

Thank you for joining me in welcoming… Jennifer K. Hale!!

Jennifer probably doesn’t know this, but we met through Katie Ganshert, another fellow blogger, when Katie tweeted a recommendation about her. I loved the title of Jennifer’s blog, The Debutante of Diaperland (is that great or what??), and squealed when I saw that we share the same agent. Jennifer is funny, welcoming, and tells it straight up on her blog. I’m so glad to have her here today!

Let’s get to it!



1. Beverage of choice?

Sweet tea (I am a Southern Belle, after all). Or as a treat I'll occasionally have a Root Beer or Cherry Coke. I don't do diet drinks.

2. Any pets?


We have a sweet Lhasa Apso named Pickle. She's the best guard dog ever and actually scared off a burglar at the apartment where we lived the first year we had her. She's 10 now and a tiny little thing, but she still gives the UPS man a good chase. We used to have a cat. I don't do cats. You can read a nice little post about that at my blog.

3. Dream vacation?

Europe. I've been several times and I love it--I want to keep going until I've seen it all. I'd like to do Ireland next and one day, I'd love to break out of my European fascination and see India.

4. What are you listening to right now?

The sounds of my oldest son playing outside with a neighbor kid. (It's 75 degrees outside in December--it's GA after all, so they are making the most of it.) I've also got my favorite Pandora station going--the one I created by adding together all my favorite artists and songs. It's a weird, mish-mash station. :)

5. What's for dinner?

Most likely Italian or Mexican food. I love to cook, but my hubby and oldest son tend to be picky, and those are two types of food all four of us can agree on. My husband would eat Mexican food every night of the week if he could. Heart attack, anyone?

***
A Cherry Coke sounds delicious right now, as does Italian or Mexican food. My family would get along very well with your family! So you've been to Europe several times? Sounds amazing! Which countries did you visit? I'd love to get to London and then take a driving tour of the countryside. You're on your own when it comes to India, though--I'm fine traveling to the hot Middle East from my couch! In fact, I visited Vietnam yesterday via House Hunters International. :)

Pickle--what a cute name! Little dogs can be very protective. Our nine-pound Sophie thinks she's a Doberman. And don't you just love Pandora? I've found new-to-me artists through my stations. It's a treat! Thank you so much for being my guest today, Jennifer!

***

Jennifer is a hopeless romantic living in a Thomas the Train world. This high school history teacher turned stay-at-home mom turned writer is represented by Rachel Kent of Books and Such Literary Agency. When she's not wrangling her two adorable sons (ages 5 and 2), she's always looking for time to write contemporary and historical romantic fiction. She's passionate about Jesus Christ, her family, her church, chocolate, world travel, history, and the study of world religions. She even teaches a world religions class through her church so that others will know how to share the Gospel of Christ with anyone, anywhere in the world! She's a self-professed social studies nerd and loves politics, Broadway shows, and music and is an active member of her church's music department. Jennifer has been happily married to Brian, her super-teacher hubby, for ten years and they make their home in Georgia.

To learn more about Jennifer, head to her blog and follow her on Twitter.

What is your favorite Christmas cookie? I love frosted sugar cookies!

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Why I Love to Read

Christmas is less than a week away, so what did I do last Thursday? I picked up the the thickest novel I own and started reading all 1100 pages of it. Not a very smart move, considering I have a house to clean, presents to wrap, cookies to bake, and some last-minute shopping to get done. But if you love to read, you probably understand this.

Santa Sophie--she's fun to dress up during the holidays!


Why I love to read:

- Nothing else matters when I'm reading a good book.

- I think about things I wouldn't normally think about, like giant steam engines, evil dictators, an impossible romance, a group of morally corrupt people, exotic locations, or anything else some fantastic writer imagined.

- Reading a book takes longer than watching a movie, and my brain has to fill in the images. It's more of a mental workout. I always hate to finish a great book, yet I race to keep reading it.

- I often get interested in new subjects after I read a good book. I study different countries, time periods, philosophies, even different fashion styles.

- Friends who are also readers share great books with me and they listen to me rave about my favorite authors. We get it. :)

- I always feel a rush of excitement when I open a new book, like I might find something I've never thought of before, and often that's exactly what happens.

Last week I received an e-mail from a teacher in Northern California, and it made me appreciate all of the wonderful people who not only love to read but who are sharing it with others. So I'd like to give a huge shout-out to Ms. Arianna Hernandez's English class. She told me how proud she is of her students' recent projects, and I'm proud of them too. Here's to you--fellow readers!

Why do you love to read?
Have a fabulous Monday!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

One Minute Vacation Time!

On a mid-December Friday, I think we all need a one minute vacation! I plan on taking several today. My mini-vacays rarely surprise me, but they always refresh me, and I'm inviting you to tag along. :)

First stop...beach.

Oh my. Look at that. White sand. Blue skies. Clear water. And the best part? It's empty!

Lano Beach - Savai'i
Photo by neilspicys

Next up...snacks. Yes, please!

Cakes
Photo by joshwept

Fuzzy little animals always bring my blood pressure down, so here's a cutie for you.

cupcake
Photo by anataean

And another...

Kufi staring me down
Photo by khanb1

And we need a little downtime in a different exotic locale, so we're heading to Paris.

Paris Cafe
Photo by pdbreen

Feeling more relaxed? Inspired? I am!

Where do you turn to when you need a one minute vacation?

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Leigh Caron!


Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.

Thank you for joining me in welcoming…Leigh Caron!!

Leigh and I met through MVRWA, and I quickly bonded with her. Terrific writer, stylish, accomplished—Leigh inspires me. I’m delighted to have her here today. She amazes me with her range of writing, including screenplays and religious horror, and she is currently focusing on humorous women’s fiction.

Let’s get to it!

1. Beverage of choice?

Ozonated water

2. Any pets?

The sweetest cat in the world, and the dust bunnies under my bed.

3. Dream vacation?

Heaven

4. What are you listening to right now?

The clatter of my fingernails on the computer keys.

5. What's for dinner?

Homemade chicken soup with wild rice and mushrooms and a handful of vitamins.


***


Okay, I’m asking it. What is ozonated water? It sounds healthy, as do your handful of vitamins and chicken soup. Boy, you know how to ward off a cold, don’t you?

I didn’t know you had a cat. Aren’t they lovable? I love every cat that comes my way. They’re so sweet! Your dream vacation sounds…perfect! Wouldn’t it be cool to spend a week in heaven? Of course we would never want to come back… 

Have fun clattering those keys and thanks for being my guest today, Leigh!


***

Leigh Caron ~

 
I began writing poems when I was ten. I was influenced by Edgar Allan Poe, so the poems were very dramatic and dark. I started writing novels in my twenties but never finished any. I finally took my writing seriously about ten years ago when chapters of a book kept flooding my head till finally I said, "Hm? I think I got a novel here." I finished it. The genre was dark, religious horror (trust me, there's no market for this).

I've since switched to writing humorous Women's Fiction and have completed three books in one series. I'm working on number four. I'm currently pursuing finding an agent who will love and believe that these stories resonate with women of all ages, but particularly women 50+. I write under the pseudonym, Leigh Caron primarily to protect my daughters. I think it would be too embarrassing for them (and their in-laws) to read about their mother's libido...even though my books are works of fiction. ;);)
                                                
To learn more about Leigh and her writing, head to her blog, Em-Musing, and follow her on Facebook!

I miss summer fruit. A fresh, ripe watermelon sounds so good right now. Do you miss any of your summer foods?

Have a fantastic Wednesday!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Gift I Want But Hate to Admit

So now that December is sprinting by faster than a hungry cheetah in the African Savanah, let's talk presents. Not for other people, oh no, presents for ourselves! Maybe you don't have a secret, fantasy gift you try not to acknowledge.

Pink pressies
Photo by crabchick

I do. It feels shameful, wrong to want this, and I've done my best to conceal it, but it's bursting to come out. The gift I really want but would never admit?

Twenty-four hours all alone with no agenda.

Yeah. That's right. I want to be completely selfish without interruption for an entire day.

I imagine it would go something like this...

1. Sleep in super late and actually wake up feeling refreshed. (This hasn't happened in fourteen years--the waking up feeling refreshed part.)

2. Breakfast--french toast, bacon, and a pot of hot coffee with my favorite creamer--would somehow appear on a tray before me.

3. After the breakfast plates magically disappear, I would snuggle the down comforter around me, enjoying a pajama-clad moment, then I would pick from a selection of novels I've been dying to read. The next three hours would pass in a blurry-eyed fictional world until more food--soda and chocolate included--arrived.

4. To give my eyes a rest, I might catch a marathon of House Hunters, and I will yell "Pick number 2," at the screen until they do indeed pick house two.

5. More reading will follow. Then a chick flick. Or an epic fantasy flick. Then a delicious dinner. And another book.

You can see how this goes. What can I say? I miss having big chunks of time to read. When I was young, we lived in the country and my mother set strict limits on how much television we could watch. So I spent much of my free time either playing with my big sister or reading.

All of those uninterrupted hours didn't appeal as much to me then as they do now. I mean, the thought of reading a book straight through? So tempting! I usually have to read novels two to three chapters at a time because of our busy schedules.

So now you know. A full day of nothing sounds like the perfect gift!

Do you ever fantasize about being completely selfish for 24 hours?

Enjoy your Monday!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Do Books Make Great Gifts?

Books can make wonderful gifts...or not. It depends on the recipient. Since I'm a writer and I get happy heart flutters in a bookstore, I naturally gravitate to giving books as gifts. This season is no exception.

present | the both and | shorts and longs | julie rybarczyk
Photo by shortsandlongs

Jody Hedlund, in her excellent blog post, "Even Though Free Is In, Don't Forget to Buy Books Too," reminds us that with all of the free books available (either from giveaways, promotional e-books, or self-published promotions) we should support authors by purchasing their books. I agree. My budget is tight, and I don't buy a ton of new books, but whenever possible I try to buy copies of books from authors I like. I recently purchased A Log Cabin Christmas as a gift because I knew Erica Vetsch, Michelle Ule, and Liz Johnson had contributed novellas, plus, the recipient enjoys the genre.

But are books always appreciated as a gift? The Wall Street Journal featured a lively article by Cynthia Crossen, with great tips, titled, "Giving Books for the Holidays." Ms. Crossen recommends bundling books with something related to make the present more meaningful.

Both Jody and Cynthia got me thinking about my outlook on books as gifts. I keep in mind the following questions.

1. Does this person enjoy reading?
2. With fiction, is the genre something this person normally reads or might read?
3. Would the recipient find the book insulting in any way? (You never know!)

If you truly want to share the joy of reading but have no idea what book to purchase, give a gift card. I recently received a Barnes and Noble gift card and have been saving it for a long afternoon of browsing and shopping. What a treat!

And we have a winner of Linda Glaz's Polar Bear Plunge!! Congratulations, K. B. Owen!! You won!! Thank you to everyone who entered!

Do you ever purchase books as gifts?

Have a fabulous weekend!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Linda Glaz!

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.

Thank you for joining me in welcoming… Linda Glaz!!

Linda and I met through the Great Lakes chapter of ACFW. It’s been an exciting year for Linda. This fall she announced her new job title—literary agent at Hartline Literary Agency! And, bah-bah-bum, her new book, Polar Bear Plunge, released December 5 through White Rose Publishing. Details to follow!
  
Let’s get to it!


1. Beverage of choice?

Diet Dr. Pepper.

2. Any pets?

A grandkitty named Ophelia who lives with us because her actor parents can't very well traipse her all over the country!

3. Dream vacation?

Alaska to see son and family.

4. What are you listening to right now?

The sound of the furnace and it's so cold, it's a glorious sound.

5. What's for dinner?

Home made, with my own little hands, turkey pot pie (daughter's yummy recipe).

***

Linda, I am obsessed with Diet Dr. Pepper. It’s brought more joy to my life than soda should! Your grandkitty sounds like a sweetie, too. Actor parents, you say? I’m intrigued…

I hope you can get to Alaska, but if you’re like me, I’d want to go in the summer. It’s cold here in Michigan! And I’m officially inviting myself over for dinner. Yum! Thanks so much for being my guest!

***

Striving to put meaning back into her life after her husband’s death, Aleni Callan immerses herself in hospital work. Angry with God, she finds herself even angrier, when hero, Brice Taylor, author of The Human Shield, arrives in the Emergency Room with a concussion and hypothermia after participating in the Polar Bear Plunge. Aleni wants nothing to do with a man who willingly takes chances with his life. 

Brice doesn’t understood how God could bring him through being a captive in Iraq, when he failed his troops so miserably. Writing about his escape brings fame he would rather avoid. And by meeting widow, Aleni Callan, his feelings of failure only increase. 

Megan Callan with the help of her three-year-old grandson, Ty, scheme to bring Aleni and Brice together. And while the best laid plans often go awry, Megan isn’t one to accept no.


Linda Glaz ~

I served in the military during a time when it wasn’t a politically correct thing to do. My years as a meteorologist during Vietnam were filled with travel, teaching, and meeting with quite a few characters. Winning awards, many of which were “firsts” for a woman in the Air Force, I experienced an array of unusual opportunities normally reserved for men.

I taught karate and women’s self-defense off and on for thirty years, refereed soccer for twenty-five, fifteen of which I was a National Instructor for the largest youth soccer organization in the world. After all those years, I went to work for a physical therapy clinic. Good place to be after all the soccer/karate injuries.

Now, I work as a writer and an agent at Hartline Literary Agency.

I enjoy teaching on so many levels. I am a true believer that lecture allows for minimal retention, but participation and demonstration lock the information in a student’s mind. And therefore, these are interspersed throughout my lessons as much as possible.

I spend relaxing time outside writing activities directing and singing in church musicals. I’m active in an online crit group, the Friday Critters. All members, but one, are represented by agents or pubbed.


Linda has graciously offered to give away a copy of Polar Bear Plunge! If you'd like to be entered in the drawing, simply leave your e-mail address in the comments section. I will announce the winner on Friday!


*Entrants must be 18 years of age*

What Christmas song are you already tired of hearing?

Have a fantastic day!

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Stay Fit Trick for the Holidays

Unless you plan on wearing Pajama Jeans for the holidays, you need a plan to stay in shape. Christmas is coming and that means parties and dress up clothes. It's time to meet new people and reconnect with friends, and, if you're like me, you want to look good.

Dog Walker
Photo by eustaquio

Although I'm not super-skinny, I've stayed relatively the same weight for twenty years. (That's not counting baby weight with the kids--wow, I gained a lot!) You might assume I have some elusive secret or a magical metabolism. I don't. Like most people, I work at it.

But listen...it really isn't as hard as it sounds.

Through the years, I've learned a few secrets to maintaining a healthy weight. Do I fluctuate by five pounds? Absolutely. Do I deny myself the treats of the season? No way!

 So here is my stay fit trick for the holidays:

Make Monday through Thursday Count.

Most parties and events take place on the weekends, so balance them with good habits during the week.

Nutrition:

Plan and cook healthy meals. If you absolutely have no time to cook and don't own a crockpot, purchase healthy frozen dinners and add a large salad.

* Aim for 5-7 fruits and veggies. Maybe baby carrots and a sliced orange don't tease your taste buds, but your body will thank you for the fiber and vitamins. You can always wash the celery down with a cup of hot cocoa. I'm serious. Cocoa has like 100 calories or something--go for it!

* Drink tons of water. Have a glass of water when you wake up. Have one mid-morning. Have one at lunch. Have two in the afternoon. Water prevents water retention. I like to be able to zip up my jeans.

* Watch portion sizes of high calorie snacks. I daily enjoy non-nutritious snacks like chocolate bars and barbecue potato chips. The key is to watch the portion size. If the serving size says 17 chips, go ahead and count out 17 chips. The 34th chip doesn't taste better, trust me.

* Take vitamins. This is entirely up to you, and the experts disagree on their benefits, but I take vitamins. Ladies, if your hormones are off, consider adding a B complex to your routine. I take a B50 (I do notice a difference if I skip a week), fish oil (this made a huge difference in my nails and complexion), vitamin C, magnesium, and zinc. The last three work together to balance hormones plus they are immune system boosters. Who wants to spend the holidays sick? Not me!

* No fast food. We're only talking Monday through Thursday here. If you work outside of the home, pack food that will fill you up and that you enjoy. It doesn't have to be a boring sandwich. Yogurt, string cheese, summer sausage, soup, leftovers, wraps, salad--take your pick. Just make sure you bring enough to sustain you through the day. A 200 calorie lunch won't cut it.

Exercise:

* Do ten minutes of cardio. You can walk on the treadmill, do a couple Just Dance routines on your kids' Wii, march in place, ride your bike, swim, roller blade--whatever will raise your heart rate. If you want to do more than 10 minutes, great! Your body will love you even more. But 10 minutes is your minimum goal.

* Create a quickie strength routine. I do two--just two--sets of exercises for my stomach, arms, and legs. I do these every Monday through Thursday.

     Set 1:   25 crunches, 25 push-ups (full body), and 25 squats.
     Set 2:   25 bicycle crunches, 25 push-ups (girl-style), and 25 plie squats (that's what I call them at least!)

I feel the burn, but they only take a commercial break to get through.We're talking 5-7 minutes. How can I blow off 7 minutes? I can't. And these exercises have done more to tone my body than anything.

So that's it. Make Monday through Thursday count and the weekends won't throw you into another dress size.

What are your stay fit tricks for the holidays?

Have a wonderful Monday!

Friday, December 2, 2011

First 3 Chapters: From Blah to Bang!

Early last month I wrote the first three chapters of my latest manuscript. I knew the characters, had the plot nailed down, and felt great about my scene list. Yet when I reviewed what I'd written, an uneasy feeling settled over me.


Book shelf
Photo by jaynandd

The chapters didn't wow me.

Now, first drafts are first drafts--we all know it. I certainly don't write the perfect first draft--far from it--but the draft itself wasn't the problem.

The first three chapters were blah. They could have been in any current book of my genre. Technically, they were solid, but something was missing.

Rather than forge ahead and keep writing (sorry, that's one writing "rule" I don't follow), I took an hour to think about the problem. I had full confidence in the plot and knew if I tinkered with it, it could become outlandish. The scenes were fleshed out reasonably well for a draft, and the setting and pace were appropriate. The area I kept coming back to?

My heroine.

Sure, she was likable. She had clear goals, motivations, and conflicts. But she could have been any heroine in any other inspirational contemporary romance.

I spent more time brainstorming what would make her stand out. It only took thirty seconds for me to slap my forehead. I'd squandered her individuality. By sprinkling thoughts filtered through her unique mind in the first three chapters, I would give the reader something to be excited about.

Once I fixed the problem, the rest of the chapters have been much easier to write.

By the way, this wouldn't have been apparent to me if I did not read many different authors in my genre. Only by knowing what is out there could I figure out why my book wasn't as good as it could be.

If you open your first three chapters and aren't "wowed," try brainstorming for an hour. Write down any areas that might be weak, then evaluate them. Trust your instincts. The solution will come to you.

Have you ever started reading a book and wondered if you'd read it before? I've picked up books I've already read! That's sad!

Enjoy your weekend!