Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Final Writing Prompt: Lilacs

January is coming to a close and with it this series of writing prompts. I know you are crying. :(

I've had a lot of fun free-writing to these prompts. My inner editor could not be silenced, but instead of "fixing" the problems, I detailed what I would have done to fix them. A good lesson on its own.

Here's the final prompt--I hope you enjoy it!

Lilac Bushes

Lilacs in Bloom
Photo by plainsartmuseum

Here's what I came up with:

Ahh...sweet, glorious, purple nectar! Bree, who hated her name since it rhymed with her species, flew into the biggest cluster she could see. She rolled, smiling, and inhaled the beauty of spring. Time to get to business. She scanned for the best spot.

And saw him. Johnny. A buzz pushed her wings faster.

Please let him not see me. Please let him not...

"Hey, Bree-Bee. You've got some nerve stopping in here today. It's my territory."
"Says who?" She tried to sound brave.
"Says me. After that little stunt you pulled the other night, you'll be lucky to show your face at any flower on this block."

***

I would have changed the word "since" in the second sentence because it can be misread. Also, "the beauty of spring" doesn't really match the connotation. It's generic. I would have spent time coming up with a better phrase. Everything about the second paragraph annoys me. I would have reworded it or scrapped it!

"You've got some nerve," is a cliche, and I highly doubt a bee named Johnny would say, "...at any flower on this block."

Sigh...

***

What comes to mind when you see lilacs? Did you try this prompt? What did you come up with? Feel free to e-mail me! jill(at)jillkemerer(dot)com

Have a wonderful Wednesday!!

Monday, January 28, 2013

One of My Favorite Songs

This is one of my favorite songs, and I had never heard it performed by Hillsong United before. Imagine my surprise when I did a little sleuthing and found out Hillsong United's lead singer, Brooke Fraser Ligertwood, wrote it!

I thought I'd share it with you in case you're unfamiliar. This version of "Lead Me to the Cross" is performed by Hillsong United, but you may have heard it sung by Francesca Battistelli or Chris & Conrad. Each artist brings something different to it, and I have to admit, I haven't heard a version that didn't move me.

Enjoy!!



What is one of your favorite songs? Has it been sung by different artists?

Have a terrific Monday!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Winter Highway at Dusk

I drove at dusk recently and marvelled at the beauty of January in northern Ohio. I doubt many people would find a stretch of midwest highway pretty in the dead of winter, but this part of the country is embedded in my soul, and I can't help but love it.

Houghton/M26 at Dusk
Photo by pcfishhk

See, the sky is prettier on snowy January days. Indigo clouds are outlined against a peach and wheat-colored sky as the sun descends. The dark brown and gray tree trunks and branches add mystery to the view. Now and then you'll see a hawk perched high on an electrical wire, watching the fields below for mice and other dinner choices.

Tiny wisps of snow swirl for a few miles then disappear.

Forests get broken up by large fields, and you have to stay alert for deer who love to leap on the highway as the sun goes down.

Exits sometimes lead to small towns that welcome the highway with their glowing lights. But I like the stretches of nothing the best. It's where my head clears and I hear my life.

There's something magical about a winter highway at dusk.

How is your weather? Cold, warm, balmy? Do you enjoy this time of year?

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Writing Prompt 3: Coffee Mug

I'm sharing writing prompts each Wednesday this January, and it's time for a new edition.

Writing prompts encourage free writing. Don't plot what you're going to write, and ignore the urge to edit. See the prompt and write. That's it!

Today's prompt is this white mug.

Tea Cup
Photo by saxonmoseley

Here's what I came up with:

Oh, the stories this mug could tell. Day in, day out it sits there, watching the people shuffle, walk, and run past. Some laugh, some keep their gazes fixed on the sidewalk, but everywhere there is movement.

This mug likes itself. It knows it has a terrific proportion--the round bowl holds a lot of coffee and the matching saucer adds to its style. Plus, it can see its reflection in the saucer.

Every day it lifts its face to the sun, smiling at the puffs of clouds chugging overhead, and saluting the birds as they go about their day.

The mug belongs on this street. It knows it belongs. Why, the street might cease to exist if this one mug were to break. It might. One never knows...

***
When I went through this a second time I wanted to change the sentence starting with "Some laugh..." to end with "but everyone has a place to go" rather than "everywhere there is movement." I also would have been more specific on the amount of coffee the mug could hold. "A lot" doesn't tell you much! There are too many "it" and "its." I would have reworded some for a more interesting read.

This whole thing feels very stuffy to me. Not my favorite free writing, but that's not the point. :)

***
Did you come up with anything? Feel free to share in the comments or by e-mailing me at jill(at)jillkemerer(dot)com.

Have a fabulous Wednesday!!

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Power of Being Positive

Over the holidays, I read a book that changed my life.

Change Your Words, Change Your Life by Joyce Meyer, more than lives up to its title. It came along at the perfect time for me, too. I'd just prayed about and determined the word I would focus on for 2013: Dream (you can read about it HERE), but the dregs of a year-long case of the blues still lingered. It's hard to get out of a funk!



Ms. Meyer's book convicted me from the opening chapters. I saw how negative I'd been, how much easier it was to slip into well-I-guess-this-is-it mentality than to push beyond that.

**For the record, the only thing I was really down about last year was my lack of forward progress in publishing. The most important part of my life--my family--was chugging along fine, and I've never taken that for granted.**

Anyway, I'd purchased a small notebook when I was Christmas shopping. It had a cardinal on the cover, and cardinals have been a symbol of hope for me for about three years. I slipped it in my purse to jot down any random thing that I felt like recording, but I also used it to write key points from Change Your Words, Change Your Life.

One of my favorite bits of advice is to constantly affirm statements of power. The book contains about fifty or sixty of them, and they were all backed up with Bible passages. God expects us to have spirits of power and to put our full trust in Him. We were not designed to have spirits of timidity or weakness. By meditating on and speaking positive passages about our lives, we can loosen the binds of insecurity so prevalent in our lives.

I've come back to several affirmations again and again, and every time I read them, I get a peaceful feeling, like why was I worrying? God's got this!

Satan likes to poke at our sore  points. He knows exactly what to do to throw us into a fearful frame of mind, and this can result in inappropriate anger, arguments or self-punishment. One such sore point was poked this weekend, and I reacted as normal--getting mad then worrying. After a long walk in which two Bible passages repeated over and over, God helped me realize the sore point was completely untrue. I was able to head back home and diffuse the situation.

I wouldn't have been able to do that six months ago.

It's strange too, but I've been focusing on ten Bible passages about being strong in God, having an abundance of Godly friendships, and being content right now. And guess what? These things are snowballing in my life.

We all have hard times. Sometimes these hard times last a long, long time. The circumstances in my life have not changed--but my attitude has. And that's made all the difference.

Interested in Joyce's book? Here's my Goodreads review, http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13528467-change-your-words-change-your-life, links to purchase it are in the upper left corner of the page.

How do you stay positive?

Have a wonderful Monday!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Brainstorming Fail

Shockingly enough, not all of my brainstorming sessions result in usable ideas. In fact, the majority of them don't!

Since I want to have three solid plots in my head before February, I've been spending a lot of aimless, brain-run-free time. I must admit, normally I'm oozing with ideas. At any given moment, I might have the next two books all plotted out in my head, but last fall the well started running dry, and I was too tired and mentally defeated to look for fresh water.

Though the ideas weren't leaping into my brain like salmon on a run, I never worried I wouldn't be able to come up with a good story line...eventually. So it meant a slew of brainstorming sessions chasing bunnies into dead ends. They eventually led me to two solid book concepts. I'm still working on a third. 

I recorded one such failed session and am sharing it with you.




Creativity isn't a lightbulb that can burn out. It may dim, yes, but if you keep at it, you can nurture the smallest idea into a unique plot. Don't wait for inspiration to strike! Play with ideas, try them on, ask questions, throw away the generic ones, nurture the mediocre ones, and treasure the terrific ones!

Do you make time for brainstorming sessions? Have you ever recorded yourself, either via webcam, video recorder, or a voice recorder? Did it help?

Have an amazing weekend!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Writing Prompt 2: The Facts

This week's writing prompt is a little different. It's based on who, where, when. You provide the what.

Remember, writing prompts are to encourage free writing and creativity. They aren't for following "rules" or revising. If what you write sparks a story idea, fantastic! But it's okay for your writing to exist just for the sake of existing. :)

Swimming Pool
Photo by sackerman519

At the end of the prompt, I'll share my unedited free-writing based on it. Do NOT feel obligated to read my piece.

Writing Prompt 2: The Facts

Who: Bob Smith
Where: Poolside in Cancun, Mexico
When: Dusk

What is happening?

***

Here's what I came up with.

"Mommy, what's that man doing with that brown ball?"

Earlene shaded her eyes and crouched next to Tammy. The man her four-year-old pointed at held a coconut high in the air. She couldn't see his face, obscured by the assorted palms and bushes bordering the pool. The shadows of the coming night played illusions on the figure, like curtains blowing in the breeze.

Something was off. His posture sent red flags flapping in her brain.

"I don't know, honey. Come on, let's find Daddy." She pulled Tammy by the shoulders and hurried away before the man could see them, but she peeked back before they slipped around the corner. The man crushed the coconut into the bush--but she knew it wasn't just a bush. Two bare feet were visible under the lush vegetation.

Shuddering, she tossed one last glance at his face.

Bob Smith. What was he doing there? Foreboding pounded her, made her breath come in shallow gasps. She clutched Tammy's hand tightly and started jogging toward the lobby. She had to protect them both from the man who'd turned her teenage years into a nightmare.

She wouldn't relive them. She wouldn't go back.

***
As I read this over, I would have expanded the setting. I wanted to go with an early eighties vibe. Bob would be wearing short, Hawaiian print swim trunks, and Earlene would clutch her terry-cloth cover-up closer to her. There would be an ominous  ocean breeze to contrast her earlier contentment watching Tammy build sandcastles. And, I would have fixed the grammar issue of the misplaced modifier and omitted one of the similes referring to "flapping" or "blowing."

I'm really enjoying taking ten minutes a few times a week to try these writing prompts. I hope you'll spend a few minutes too. It's fun! And feel free to share any in the comments or even by e-mailing me [jill(at)jillkemerer(dot)com]. I would love to see what you come up with!

Have a great day!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sprucing Up the Office

I am blessed to have my own workspace at home, an entire room, all for me--it's my office. I have not always had my own room, but I've always managed to carve out a spot for my writing supplies. I'll be honest--I love having my own space!

When we bought our house last summer, the walls were dark purple with polka dots, and a High School Musical ceiling fan hung from the ceiling. I promptly painted the walls a nice peachy hue, and we replaced the fan (I'll miss you Troy!). Besides that, I hadn't done much in there. Although I used the office, it was getting unorganized and dusty, and I found myself spending more time on my laptop in our living room.

Last week, I decided enough was enough--we'd shoved Christmas wrapping paper and what-not in there, and it was time to claim my space. Mark my territory. Take back what was mine!
It's even a "corner office" with windows!

So I spent an hour moving the stuff that didn't belong there to where it did belong. I used plenty of Windex to make the surfaces sparkle. I even shopped in my basement for framed pictures to hang on the wall.
Mama needs lots of room to spread out when writing. Yes, Sophie is under the desk. :)

My old CD's--Usher and Rascal Flatts--kept me humming while I worked. And by the time I hung the last picture and vacuumed, I couldn't wait to start working in there again.

My new life motto, and a picture of the ocean I took on vacation years ago.
I love my office because I added all the little odds & ends that make me happy, like pictures of my kids and husband, and special cards that perk me up.

I keep my hoard of Staples office supplies in the big closet!

Candles, cute bins to organize things, and, of course, my bulletin board WITH CHOCOLATE attached all bring me pleasure.

Yes, my bulletin board has actual chocolate truffles pinned to the board. :)
My husband bought me a pretty shelf, and I organized all my books about writing on it.

Phone, modem, and writing books--all within easy reach!
Having a large, pretty, organized space is such a tremendous blessing. I'm excited to head in there each day and do my thing--with chocolate of course!

What is your writing space like? Do you love it? If not, is there any way to make it more inviting? 

Have a fabulous day!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Memorizing Scripture: 2 Minute Resolutions Vlog

Welcome to my new vlog series, 2 Minute Resolutions!

Each month I'm sharing a quick webisode on one of  my resolutions and how I'm achieving my goal.

First up? Memorizing Bible passages!




Any tips on making memorization easy as 1-2-3?

Did you make any resolutions this year? Or do you not believe in them?

I'm also excited to announce Jessica R. Patch is now offering a critique service! Head to her website for more information!

Have a terrific Friday!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Writing Prompt: Red Dress

I'm going to take the next few Wednesdays to share quick and easy writing prompts with you. If you choose to use them, great! If  not, that's okay too! It's just good to throw new things at our brains. I'll bet thoughts come to you about this even if you don't write anything down!

If you haven't tried writing prompts, you're in for a treat. You're basically writing the first thing that comes to you. No plotting, outlining, or sitting for an hour thinking of something. Just write whatever comes to mind. No one has to see the results but you! And the best part? You don't have to edit!

I'm being brave. Every time I share a writing prompt, I'll include what I came up with. This is free-writing, unedited, and usually off-kilter. Do NOT feel obligated to read!

Writing Prompt: Red Dress

You spot this girl coming out of the drug store.

Untitled
Photo by anismamor



Here's what I came up with:

That's the third Taylor Swift look-alike I've seen this morning. This one's even wearing red. She must have taken the whole "Red" album to heart. I want to yell, you can still be a fan and wear blue, but I don't.

Checking my watch, I speed up. I can't afford to be late today, not with my district manager sniffing out potential fire-ees. I toss the Taylor imposter a quick glance as I get ready to pass her. What in the world? I frown, craning my neck for a better look.

It's her, Taylor Swift! I can't help myself--I peek into her plastic Rite Aid bag. I think I see Neosporin, or wait, is that anti-itch cream? Does she have an infection? A rash?

She clutches the bag to her and gives me a you-look-like-a-stalker stare. Hey, honey, I don't have time to stalk anyone, and if I did, it would be someone like Channing Tatum. Someone without a raging fungul infection. 

I resume my pace, this time smiling widely.

***

Okay, I found it VERY hard not to edit this after I read it! My inner critic yelled to change the word "speed" to "hustle as much as my four-inch heels would let me." And, frankly, the POV is catty and mean. But, hey, this is what free-writing is all about. :)

Do you ever use writing prompts? What do you naturally tend to write?

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Chatting with Michael K. Reynolds!

I am so excited to have Michael K. Reynolds as my guest today!

His Irish historical novel, Flight of the Earls, just released. I first "met" Michael through Books and Such Literary Agency, and I had the pleasure to meet him in person at the ACFW conference last fall. You can't help but like Michael when you talk to him. He's friendly, smart, and he hands out chocolate (green foil wrapped, of course!). Yes, my chocolate-covered heart was quickly won over, but more importantly, he's an excellent writer. I loved Flight of the Earls!

Let's get to it!

1. I am fascinated with American history, and I'm always drawn to immigrant stories. What was your inspiration for the Heirs of Ireland series?

I have grandparents on both sides of the family and many great aunts and uncles who emigrated from Ireland. On the couple of occasions I was blessed to visit the Emerald Isle I was embraced by my Irish relatives as if I had sprouted from their own soil. Having my characters engage with the rich tapestries of my heritage has been an intimate and rewarding experience.

2. It's obvious your heart belongs on the "Emerald Isle." Do you have plans to return to Ireland?

Yes. It’s been quite some time since I’ve been to Ireland and I am making plans to go back soon, hopefully in the upcoming year. Once you visit the Emerald Isle, many of the memories are indelible and as fresh as the day you first visited. But after all of my research there are so many new places I would want to explore. I have family there I would love to spend time with again, and other members who I have yet to meet in person. So, it’s high on my list.
 
3. From the opening sentence of Flight of the Earls, the historical details blend seamlessly with the story, adding a rich flavor to a fascinating plot. What research did you do for this book?

For me the research process is unfiltered joy. There is a childlike giddiness for me as I open up my many tomes of history books for my projects. I absolutely love history and reading about it and drifting to those time periods and dreaming about ideas. I believe in any slice of time there is a plethora of intriguing characters and unfolding drama. The greatest portion of my research is through reading, but I also typically include site visits, museum tours and film in my efforts to paint in all the numbers. The hardest part about my research is loosening the grip of my fingers from my history books so I can get about the task of writing.

4. Ahh, getting to the task of writing, not an easy thing to do some days! What's the most surprising thing that happened while writing this book?

For me, the biggest surprise came when I started sharing the initial pages of Flight of the Earls at Mount Herman Christian Writers Conference. After college I was a journalist for a few years and then shifted to marketing and copywriting before writing scripts for documentaries. I continued to write, but I hadn't lifted a pen to fiction for two decades. It was frightening to share those first few chapters with writers, editors and agents. I came into it blind, literally having no idea what the response would be in regards to my voice and prose. I remember asking Brandilyn Collins, "Is it any good?" and she said, "Are you kidding? Is that you trying to be modest?" Fortunately there was a visceral buzz about the writing which was so encouraging, and I considered myself a novelist ever since.

5. I can relate to the fear of having professionals read your work for the first time. It is scary! But it's also reassuring when we hear positive feedback. 

Don't you love the possibilities of a new year? What are you working on now?

The second book of the Heirs of Ireland Series, In Golden Splendor, is completed and releases July 15, 2013. I am hard at work on the third book of the series, currently titled Songs of the Shenandoah, which is staged during the Civil War era. We’re in the process of securing our next projects, which I am thrilled about, and hope to be able announce those shortly.


I look forward to reading them! Thank you so much for being my guest today, Michael!

***

Flight of the Earls


It’s Ireland in 1846. When her family’s small farm is struck by the blight of the Great Potato Famine, 24-year-old Clare Hanley heads out along with her younger brother Seamus on a harrowing journey across the ocean to the Promised Land of America. Once arriving in New York, Clare is both overwhelmed and enraptured by this coming-of-age city of intrigue, romance, the arts, squalor, wealth, uneven freedoms and exploding opportunities. Here she discovers love, adventure and a terrible secret which threatens to destroy her family and all she believes.



My review (5 Stars)

Get ready to be swept away in this action-packed, emotional tale of one woman's journey to survive and help her family during the potato famine in Ireland.

Clare Hanley, her brother Seamus, and family friend Pierce must journey to America in order to find work and keep their Irish families from starving. The journey tests the three's morals, their loyalties, and their very lives. New York does not live up to its reputation, and the struggles they face tear them apart. But through it all, Clare draws strength from the memory of her siblings back in Ireland and ultimately finds love and a strong faith in God.

I loved this book so much that I devoured it in less than 24 hours! Michael K. Reynolds shows a rare gift of balancing historical details, emotional reactions, a complicated family history, and a fast-paced plot to create characters I couldn't stop rooting for. Clare, especially, as the protagonist melted my heart. I rooted for her every step of the way. My heart hurt at the many injustices she bore out of love and generosity.

The supporting characters displayed plenty of vices, but they also were multi-dimensional. My fingers are crossed that Seamus will get his own book!

Terrific read! I highly recommend it! I can't wait to read more by this talented author.

*I received an advanced reader copy of this book with no obligation to review it. All opinions are my own. It's amazing--get your hands on a copy!*
***
About Michael

Michael K. Reynolds is the author of a series of Irish historical novels being published by B&H Publishing Group. His debut Irish historical novel, Flight of the Earls, releases January, 2013.

To learn more about Michael's books, head to his website, be friends with him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

If you'd like to purchase Flight of the Earls, it is available on Amazon, Christianbook.com, Barnes & Noble, and other fine retailers.

***

Have you gotten swept up in a great book lately? If yes, please share! I'm always looking for a fabulous read!

Have a wonderful day!

Friday, January 4, 2013

One Word for 2013

Last year, Jessica R. Patch asked a question on her blog: what one word can you spiritually focus on all year? A word came to mind instantly--TRUST. 2012 taught me all about trust.

The Lord asked me to put ALL of my trust in him over and over again last year. I'm not perfect. I often struggled to trust, but when I let go, He made changes in my life I couldn't have anticipated. Change and trust are exciting and scary. All I can say is...the Lord blessed me.

Over the last month, I often thought of my word for 2013, and one word would hover near my consciousness, but I would shoo it away. It seemed too painful to be my focus for the new year. Now, I know you'll probably screw your face up and think, is she crazy, how can that be painful? when you see my word. But truly, these five letters seemed too hard, like God was asking too much out of me.

You see, I lived this concept for four full years. I'd gone full out on it. I didn't hold back. And 2012 all but snuffed it out of my vocabulary. When that word came chugging along, I knew what was expected; I knew what God wanted, and I did not want to obey.

I even prayed several times to make sure this really was the focus God wanted me to dwell on. When I heard it over and over, I finally heaved a sigh and relented. Okay, You win. I'll do it.

My word for 2013?


 
If you click on the picture, it will take you to the blog, Only a Breath, where you will find links to other people's words for 2013. Special thanks to Melanie for creating this button. :)
 
DREAM

As soon as I relented, my soul opened up. It was as if a missing part of me had been found. Now, don't get me wrong, we're only a few days into the new year. I haven't worked up to big dreams yet, but I have started with something simple--fantasizing about new bedsheets.

(I can't believe I just admitted that. Yes, I'd gotten to a point where I didn't even dream about having nice new bedsheets! That's just ridiculous!! No wonder I need God to shake me out of my stupor!)

Dreaming is fun. I've always been a dreamer. This year I'm dreaming about things I can easily obtain (like a quick trip to the art museum) and things that I may never get. On New Year's Day I surfed the web for real estate on Lake Michigan. Will I ever own a piece of property on this beautiful coast? Who knows! But it sure made me smile dreaming about it.

If you decide to focus on one word this year, pray for God to lead you to a Bible passage that complements it.

There are many Bible passages with the word "dream" in them, but few use it in the context I'm focusing on. They discuss actual night-time dreams. I skimmed and dismissed them, certain they weren't right, and I switched my search to devotionals.

As soon as I saw the following passage, I knew it was the right one. It doesn't mention dreams, but it encapsulates the meaning of my word.

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV Bible):

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."

Maybe new bedsheets is a frivolous thing to dream about, but in the end, if we can't dream for simple pleasures, how can we dream that God will use us to build his church? He is our Father. He does not want us to live a life of inner poverty, where we deprive ourselves needlessly. He can do "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." Why not ask and imagine for more?

I love surprising my kids with things I know will make them smile. Sometimes the treats are small, like a candy bar, and other times they are big. It gives me pleasure to do this. God is the same way. If I refuse to tell Him what I want, isn't that basically saying "I don't believe you will come through for me"?

Look at the phrase, "according to his power that is at work within us..." His power IS at work within us. How can I be gloomy, knowing God is using His power right now within me? I can't.

My word has already cracked open a light in my life, and the new year has just begun. Have you found a word to focus on in 2013? Are you willing to pray for God to send you a word? If you have, what is your word?

Have a blessed 2013!