Friday, October 29, 2010

What's Your Favorite Candy?

Bombarded with candy?

The supermarket aisles loom over me, threatening to pummel me with Reese's, Milky Ways, M&M's, and Snickers. Everywhere I look, there's a jumbo bag of Skittles, Milk Duds, or Laffy Taffy. I'm not sure if I should pile the bags and jump into them or run, screaming for my life.

I love candy. But the next two months bring too much candy into my life. Am I a passive bystander in the candy volcano? No. I willingly pick up the giant pouch of Peanut M&M's. I clip coupons to snag the Hershey's Pot of Gold. I nibble on remnants from trick-or-treating.

It's wonderful.


Not wonderful.

I have cavity-prone teeth. I have jeans I would like to fit into at Christmas. I have a sweet-tooth jutting out of my jaw all the way to the floor.

Does all this candy tempt you? Does it seem excessive? Do you want to throw yourself in or run away from the mounds of sugar?

I can walk away from a lot of things but not M&M's.

What's your favorite candy?

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What Gifts Do You Buy Your Friends?

Christmas is approaching. I know. You think it's far off, way after that upcoming candy holiday, and long after the turkey one, but it's not. I'm pretty sure time warps after October!

So, I'm preparing for it by brainstorming gift ideas for my friends.

Here are some options.

Book, CD, DVD, lotion, shirt, scarf/hat/gloves, slippers, pajamas, candle, chocolate or other edibles, tote bag, game, fun kitchen stuff, and gift cards.

Please, add to the list. I need ideas!!


Join me on Friday to discuss our favorite candy.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Making New Friends

When was the last time you made a new friend? Last week? Last year? In fourth grade?

Photo by foto-mix-24

I've moved many, many times, and in the process, made new friends. Local friends are important to me. It's difficult to move to a new town and not know anyone. I've narrowed down the obvious ways to meet new people if you're a recent transplant to a new area.

- If you get a new job, you can make an effort to get to know your co-workers.

- If you're a stay-at-home parent of small children, you can join a playgroup or attend storytime at the library.

- If you're a stay-at-home parent of school-aged children, you can meet other parents from your child's school.

- If you're retired, you can join a club of your choice. There are book clubs, knitting circles, gardening clubs--you name it.

- If you're a college student, you have an entire campus of people to befriend.

- You can join a gym or exercise class.

It really doesn't matter where you meet new people, it matters that you make a point to interact with them. Try not to be too needy or aggressive at first or you might scare them away. Introduce yourself, make a little small talk, and move on. The next time you see them go ahead and seek them out. Use your own judgment if they seem responsive to your overtures. Not everyone is looking for new friends. Not everyone is in a good place in life. Don't take it personally, just move on. It's okay to experiment.

How do you make new friends? Do you reach out to newcomers in your circles?

Join me on Wednesday. We're sharing gift ideas for friends.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Chat with My Critique Group

Almost two years ago, four aspiring writers familiar with each other through blogging decided to become critique partners. I was blessed to be one of the four. Wendy P. Miller, Terri Tiffany, and Cindy Wilson are tremendous writers. Each has a unique voice and a compelling writing style.

Many manuscripts later, we are still going strong. Our critique group has helped me in so many ways. We are more than a critique group; we're friends, fellow believers, and we're all dedicated to being the best writers we can be.

Welcome, Wendy, Terri, and Cindy! Thank you for sharing your opinions about critique groups. I appreciate your candid answers to the questions.

Were you nervous about joining a critique group with people you had never met in person?

Terri: Not at all. I have worked with others in the past who I met online through Faithwriters and found it a great experience.

Cindy: I was nervous about being in a critique group period--because this was the first (and only) time I've ever been involved with one. I asked myself a lot of questions, even as I was excited about belonging to my first group. Will they like me? How honest should I be with my critiquing? What if they think my writing is horrible or I'm not qualified to give advice?

But it ended up being a tremendous blessing that I didn't know these women beforehand. Not only did I gain new friends and support, but I also got the opportunity to learn from others with experience I didn't have and get feedback from fresh eyes with new and unique perspectives.

What is the hardest part of being in a critique group?

Terri: Not being able to read as much as I would like to sometimes.

Jill: The time issue. I would love to read everything that's sent to me right away, but many times I need a few weeks for each project. Our group is very good about e-mailing each other with estimates on when we'll be able to get to a critique.

What is the best part about belonging?

Wendy: I love the critiques. I’m unafraid of the red markups. In fact, I crave them. I know my partners have the best in mind for my work and I enjoy the unique gifts each member offers. Everyone adds a fresh perspective while reviewing my work. That’s one of my favorite parts about the group. I also appreciate the encouragement we offer one another in this snail’s pace industry.

Terri: I love being part of a close group to cheer on the successes, and the support is wonderful when I get a rejection too!

Jill: Yes, I love that we share more than just critiques--we share each success and even the not-so-pleasant rejections. It's wonderful to have genuine encouragement after getting bad news.

How has joining this group improved your writing?

Terri: It has really improved my writing. Each one of my partners has a specialty and will take the time to explain some needs to me.

Cindy: Each critique partner has strengths and I learn from those with their feedback on my work as well as through reading their stories. Since joining this group, I really believe my writing has grown by leaps and bounds. Because of their individual perspectives, their own strengths, and the various experience they have with craft, genre, and the publishing industry, each of my critique partners has contributed a great deal toward helping me grow and improve my writing.

Jill: All three push me to use powerful words, avoid cliches (I'm still working on this one!), and really get to the heart of what my message is in each sentence. They spot areas that lag and point out where something needs to be fleshed out more. They've helped me move beyond the "work on your craft" rejections, and for that I will forever be in their debt!

If you were to give advice to someone who doesn't belong to a critique group, what would you say?

Wendy: Join one. ASAP. It’s worth it. Pray first. I knew I needed more people to come alongside my work and I wasn’t sure how this would happen. God knew. Within weeks of praying, I received an email from one of our group members. Since, I’ve been blessed by this group and a few others who’ve taken me under their wings. God really does want to answer our prayers.

As a side, I’ve also begun meeting with a fellow author in person to pray about
our writing, its impact and God’s vision for us. This face-to-face interaction
has also served as a great blessing in my life.

Terri: I would tell them to find one soon.

In your opinion, what are the key ingredients to a successful critique group?

Jill: Set up guidelines beforehand so everyone has the same expectations. Also, seek out people you trust. I'd never met Terri, Wendy, or Cindy before we joined forces, but I'd read their blogs long enough to know they were committed to their writing, they were kind, and they shared my Christian values.

Wendy: Willingness to be truthful.
In order to improve, you need folks who’ll be honest with you.

This comes in many forms. An uplifting comment accompanying a correction. An
unexpected email. I’ve been thrilled I was able to meet two of my critique
partners in person. To hug them. To laugh with them. And at one point, even cry
a little.

An understanding you won’t love every single point made. Knowing yourself well
enough to sense when you might be receiving comments with oversensitivity. A
decision to step back and evaluate the critique, to weigh the thoughts of your
partners and to see value in every comment, whether you decide to make the
changes or not.

Matthew 18:15-20 rocks it out on this one. If issues arise, address them with
the specific party. Pray together and for one another. “For where two or three
come together in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

Can’t say enough about how important this one is in this circumstance and really
in every relationship.

Take the time to invest in the other members. Don’t skim. This is the whole
treat others the way you’d like to be treated. You want partners you can trust
will pour themselves into your work. When you find that it is such a cool

Thank you, Wendy, Terri, and Cindy for sharing your thoughts on critique groups today. I'm thankful to each of you for your friendship, your encouragement, your time, and your critiques.

Do you have any questions about critique groups? Don't be shy! I'm happy to share with you.

Unfamiliar with my critique partners? Their names are linked to their blogs. Check them out!

Wendy Paine Miller writes upmarket women’s fiction imbued with literary elements. She’s deliberate about exploring the richness and complexity of her characters. Her novels are interwoven with tension, gripping emotion and life as
you know it. She loves writing stories infused with hope, stories spliced with colorful characters that inspire readers to see the world in a new light. Her greatest desire is to encourage readers to think anew by unlocking previous
ways of viewing life and relationships.

Terri Tiffany is a contributing author to over forty articles published in magazines and anthologies including six in Chicken Soup for the Soul and one with Adams Media. She earned a BA in Psychology and counseled adults before owning a Christian bookstore for five years. She resides in Florida with her husband where she enjoys teaching memoir writing. Her fiction is mainly women’s fiction with strong romantic elements.

Cindy R. Wilson writes contemporary inspirational romance, glorifying God through stories of faith and love. She has spent time learning the craft while writing more than a dozen novels. She has also been a member of ACFW for over a year and blogs about life and writing at her personal blog and a group blog for aspiring authors.

Have a terrific weekend!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What I Love About My Friends

What do I love about my friends?

  • They get my sense of humor or, at the very least, tolerate it!

  • They understand what's important to me

  • They seem to know the exact time I need support

  • They encourage me to work toward my dreams

  • They bring me down from negative thinking

  • They build me up when I'm struggling

  • They jump up and down when something good happens

  • They offer advice even if I don't take it

  • They aren't afraid to lean on me when they need help

  • They open up and share their life with me

  • They're comfortable telling me about their problems and joys

  • They make an effort with me

One other thing I love about my friends? We all love dessert!

What do you love about your friends?

Join me on Friday to meet my critique partners.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Necessity of Friends

Head to any shopping venue and you'll see them--women leaning in to each other and laughing as they browse. Or head to a coffee shop and zone in on the two women sitting at the table next to you. Are they silent? Rarely!

One of the greatest joys of friendship is spending time together. It's one thing to catch up on the phone, but it's even more fun to share a few hours with a friend. When we aren't connecting in person, sometimes we miss subtle clues. We can't see the worry lines around her eyes or the nervous twisting of her hands as she tells us about a problem, but when we're together, we can gauge how serious the issue is.

In the November issue of Woman's Day magazine, the article "How Connected are We?" explains that deep human connections are biologically imperative. In it, Kimberly Merenkov, MD, attending psychiatrist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, says, "We can't live fully without direct human contact, nor can we live up to our talents if all we do is comply with the group. Connections with others develop our sensitivity to the human race as a whole."

This quote spoke deeply to me. When I'm speaking to someone and they reach out to touch my arm, I feel as if they understand and empathize with what I'm sharing. When I'm having a really bad day and a friend sees me and asks if something is wrong, the simple words make me feel better. Direct human contact--physically being with a friend--is important.

Do you pick up on the body language of your friends? How important is direct human contact to you?

Join me on Wednesday for a quick list of why friends matter to me.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Problem Friendships (and a winner of The Preacher's Bride!)

Friends always want the best for each other. We always remember birthdays, always give the right advice, and always put our friend's needs before our own. Right?

Okay, so maybe not all of our friendships have been perfect. I'll admit I haven't been a perfect friend, and I've had problem friendships.

Problem friendships sometimes start out as good friendships. You enjoy your friend's company, and you don't mind if she never seems to have any cash or talks incessantly about herself, rarely about you. When she does show interest in your life, she makes caring noises but doesn't really care.

She may give you bad advice, or pummel you with back-handed compliments that only mess with your head. You often walk away from her feeling as if there is something wrong with you. She puts herself first, but has a way of presenting herself that makes you believe she's putting you first. Don't be fooled.

These friends do not have your best interests at heart. Are they bad people? No. They're just bad for you.

If I am friends with someone who doesn't appreciate me, why do I continue to spend time with her? I have to soul search and decide if it's worth continuing.

If you're in a problem friendship, think about the following questions. What drew me to her in the first place? Did I have expectations she would never be able to meet? Have we grown apart? Is it me? Is it her? Is she capable of returning a healthy friendship? Is there something I can do differently that would improve our relationship? What would happen if we were no longer friends?

These are tough questions, but sometimes we have to reevaluate our commitment to friendships that no longer work for us.

Have you ever had a problem friendship? What qualities do you look for in a friend?

On a good friendship note, I put the names of the contest entrants in a bowl, and my daughter drew a winner of the signed copy of Jody Hedlund's debut novel, The Preacher's Bride.

And the winner is....

Maria Morgan!!

Congratulations, Maria!

Maria has an uplifting and beautiful blog called Life Lessons. It's like spiritual comfort food. Go give it a try!

Have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Transient Friends

This month we're talking friends--the good, the bad, the irresistible. One of the hardest parts of friendships, for me, is that not all are equal. Some will naturally fade even though I genuinely like the friend and vice-versa. In each phase of my life, I've been blessed with some wonderful transient friends.

It starts, well, how any friendship starts. Maybe we work at the same company, or our kids start playing together on the playground, or we sit next to each other at book club. We quickly hit it off and begin to spend time together. We might meet on our lunch break, or plan a playdate for the kids, or head to a coffee shop to talk about books.

Soon, we're sharing daily minutae, and everything's great.

But...she gets transferred. The kids no longer want to play together. The book club dissolves. Suddenly, it's more difficult to get together. We still call once in a while, but we have less to say. Then we're swapping Christmas cards once a year and that's that.

I used to feel guilty that I couldn't make every friendship last, but I was missing the point. We will always have people entering and exiting our lives. We change. They change. But we can hold on to our memories of a sweet interlude together.

If I happen to answer the phone one day and it's my old pal from book club, I settle into my most comfy chair, get a huge smile on my face, and pick up where we left off.

Have you had transient friends? Does it bother you when a friendship naturally fades?

Join me on Friday when we talk about problem friendships.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Farewell, Cookie

We had to put our beautiful cat to sleep this weekend. She was almost fifteen, but boy those fifteen years went fast. Cookie loved being carried, adored catnip, and enjoyed long lazy naps. The last six months were hard on her because she lost most of her teeth and went blind, but she still seemed content.

Here are a few pictures of my big cutie. She will be very missed.

Cookie often looked annoyed in pictures, but in real life she always had smiling eyes.

Trust me, she was as soft and huggable as she looks.

Farewell, Cookie.

I'll be back to regular posting on Wednesday.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Virtual Book Party for Jody Hedlund!

Welcome! It's time to celebrate Jody Hedlund's debut novel, The Preacher's Bride!

If you aren't familiar with Jody Hedlund, I urge you to check out her fantastic blog and website. Besides writing inspirational historical romances, Jody shares excellent advice to writers on her blog. She's been an inspiration to me, and I'm thrilled to host this party!

Who is Jody Hedlund?

Jody is a mother of five who carves out time to write in between homeschooling her brood. If you follow Jody on Twitter, you'll soon find out that she's a nurturer. On more than one occasion, baby squirrels have dropped into her backyard, and each time Jody and her family fed them with an eye-dropper to give them a chance to survive. Let's just say she cares for everything that crosses her path.

Here is Jody (in the center) with her agent, Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary Agency and her editor at Bethany House Publishers, Dave Long. Photo courtesy of Keli Gwyn.

The Preacher's Bride

In 1650s England, a young Puritan maiden is on a mission to save the baby of her newly widowed preacher—whether her assistance is wanted or not.

Always ready to help those in need, Elizabeth ignores John’s protests of her aid. She’s even willing to risk her lone marriage prospect to help the little family.

Yet Elizabeth’s new role as housekeeper takes a dangerous turn when John’s boldness from the pulpit makes him a target of political and religious leaders. As the preacher’s enemies become desperate to silence him, they draw Elizabeth into a deadly web of deception. Finding herself in more danger than she ever bargained for, she’s more determined than ever to save the child—and man—she’s come to love.

Interested in purchasing this book? Photo is linked to Amazon page.

And now to the festivities! Take your pick from the buffet of delicious treats and don't forget to grab a beverage!

What are readers saying about Jody Hedlund and The Preacher's Bride?

Jaime Wright ofThe Jaime Reportssays:

"The Preachers Bride is a love story throbbing with emotion of thwarted love, a passion for grace, and homecoming that will forever imprint itself on the reader's heart. Jody Hedlund presents a debut novel that will never collect dust on a bookshelf."

Janna Qualman of Something She Wrote says:

"The Preacher's Bride is a beautiful book on the outside, and the content within its covers is a perfect match. Jody Hedlund gives us a heroine of strength alongside a hero of substance, wrapped together in a phenomenal story of intention and inspiration. I can think of no better package for this novel's message of standing up for what you believe."

Erica Vetsch of On the Write Path says:

"Congratulations on the release of The Preacher's Bride. I know you've been waiting for this day for what seems forever. I wish you all the best with this book and your writing career, and I can't wait to dive into reading The Preacher's Bride. God Bless!"

Wendy Miller of All in a Day's Thought says:

"The beginning hooked me. The middle swept me off my feet and the end left me with an overall feeling of contentment. Now that’s the definition of a good book."

Keli Gwyn of Romance Writers on the Journey says:

"I was thrilled to find Jody's book at my local Christian bookstore on September 10. I longed to drop everything and read it, but I was preparing to head to the American Christian Fiction Writers conference, so I tucked her book in my bag and read half of it en route to Indianapolis. I devoured the remainder the day I arrived, staying up until 1:30 a.m. in order to finish it because I couldn't put it down. Yes, it's that good! Jody's readers are in for a real treat."

Katie Ganshert of Katie Ganshert says:

"I knew Jody was a good writer from her blog, but I had no idea what kind of a story teller she'd be. After reading the Preacher's Bride, I can safely say she's a very talented one. I couldn't put her book down. Just ask my husband. I picked it up and didn't resurface for two two whole days (I even went on a walk with it!). And this coming from a gal who hardly ever reads historicals. The characters are memorable, the plot is gripping, and the message is so beautifully interwoven into the story that I can't imagine anybody would feel they're being preached at. Overall, it was a page-turner and an extraordinary debut novel! I can't wait to read The Doctor's Lady!!"

T. Anne Adams of White Platonic Dreams says:

"It's been a pleasure watching Jody progress on her writing journey. I remember celebrating with her when she got the call for representation, then shortly after a three book deal! What an amazing wild ride the Lord has taken her on. It has been such fun cheering her along. I can't wait to see what the future holds for her!"

Heather Sunseri of Balance with Purpose says:

"Jody knows how to bring characters to life. I cried when they cried, laughed
when they laughed, and craved the love John and Elizabeth felt for each other."

Jill Kemerer--wait, that's me!--says:

This book is miss-your-own-birthday-party good! Imagine my frustration when my husband and kids started singing "Happy Birthday" and I only had ten pages left! Ten pages! What can I say? This book left me breathless! And yes, I promptly blew out my candles, shoved a wad of chocolate cake in my mouth, and finished the book. My only problem? I didn't want the story to end!

If you're in the Toledo, Ohio area on Saturday, October 9, 2010, stop by Lifeway Christian Store in the Talmadge Road Shopping Center between 11:00 and 1:00. Jody will be signing copies of The Preacher's Bride.

Also, Jody has generously donated a signed copy to one lucky winner today! Simply leave a comment with your e-mail addy if you'd like to be entered in the drawing.
(Your e-mail address will not be used for any purpose other than to contact you for a mailing address in the case you are the winner.)

Offer void where prohibited. Must be a USA resident and 18 or older. Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.

Thank you, Jody, for letting me share this exciting event with you. And a huge thank you to all of the bloggers who contributed today.

I hope you all get a chance to read The Preacher's Bride, and mark your calendars next September for the release of Jody's second book, The Doctor's Lady.

Have a fantastic day!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Easy Gestures to Nurture Friendships

Let's face it--we're all busy. It doesn't matter if you're a student, a single person with a full-time job, married with kids, married without kids, or even retired, you have responsibilities. It's difficult to add one more thing to your day.

Friendships tend to be the first thing I neglect when I'm busy. I make fewer (or no) phone calls and reach out less in general. Sadly, I've been in a busy phase for more than a year, and I don't see that letting up. I have a goal to meet my family's needs and my writing needs, but that leaves little time for anything else. However, I love my family and friends, and I have to be diligent to not neglect them.

Here are some easy gestures to keep friendships simmering when we don't have time to keep them boiling.

* E-mail them a cute card with a simple message "Hey, I'm thinking of you."
* Don't be afraid to call a friend if you only have ten minutes to talk. They'll be happy to hear from you even if it can't be an hour conversation. Too often, I put off a call thinking I don't have time, but ten minutes is better than no minutes.
* If your budget allows, purchase an i-Tunes gift card and send it with a note, suggesting old songs you used to belt out together in the car, or if it's a newer friend, recommend contemporary artists.
* If you, like me, have a hefty stack of magazines, dog-ear pages that might appeal to a close friend or family member. Tear these pages out before recycling the magazine. When you have time, send the clippings.
* For long distance friends, consider creating a Facebook account and keeping up with them through it. I've been able to reconnect with many old classmates this way.

Why are these gestures important? Friends are important.

And if you don't believe me, read this interesting article by Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, where she shares her second simple truth. "One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself."

Does it brighten your day when a friend reaches out to you, even if it's a simple e-mail?

Join me on Friday for Jody Hedlund's virtual book party! I hope you all can make it!

Monday, October 4, 2010

October: A Little Help from Our Friends

Friends have been on my mind lately. A few good friends went through stressful challenges this summer while others found exciting opportunities.

Sometimes we're more sympathetic and reach out more to our struggling friends, but our newly successful friends welcome our support too. Who doesn't want to rave when something great happens? Or maybe what seems exciting to us frightens them; either way they appreciate a kind gesture.

After a hectic month with two kids in different sports, I realized just how blessed I am to have friends who will help me out. We carpooled, shared snacks, and divvied up kids. These women make my life easier and more fun, and I am so thankful to them.

Do you have supportive friends? How do you support your friends?

Join me on Wednesday when we'll talk about easy gestures to nurture our friendships.

Announcement: On Friday, October 8, we are having a virtual book party for Jody Hedlund to celebrate the release of her debut novel, The Preacher's Bride!! Join me for virtual refreshments, and to hear what other bloggers have to say about Jody and her amazing debut!!

Friday, October 1, 2010

When Plotting Goes Wrong

I tippity-tapped on my laptop for three hours, the words spewing onto the page, when all of a sudden my fingers stopped. I'm talking halted, frozen in mid-air. I had no idea what the next word, paragraph, or chapter should be.

What's going on, fingers? Why aren't you pulsating with the need to put my brain on a computer file? And what about you, brain? Why aren't you churning out the next scene? What's happening to me...and will chocolate cure it??

I opened the Excel spreadsheet where I keep my detailed scene list. The answer might as well have been flapping on a banner behind an airplane in the sky.

My plot was off.

Uggh. I'm sure there will be a future television show, part reality, part horror detailing this phenomenon When Plotting Goes Wrong, but meanwhile, I needed to get back on track. After all, I promised myself with this book I would set daily goals. I made a deadline to finish it, and even if I had to consume Lindt chocolate truffles by the handful, I would meet that goal.

How did I overcome this plot nightmare? I haven't lassoed it yet, but here are the steps I'm taking to tiptoe through.

1. Review the scenes I've already written.
2. Add any information necessary to that point.
3. Get out a notebook and plot the next scene with attention to the following:

  • Point of View character for scene
  • Mood of character
  • Goal, motivation and conflict for the scene
  • What's the logical next step? (What should the following scene be?)
4. Estimate how many words/scenes/chapters I need to write before the next major turning point. This helps narrow down what needs to happen between now and then.
5. Continue re-plotting the scenes from where I left off until the next turning point.

That's it. It isn't easy. On three separate days, I've spent twice as long, writing half as many words as I normally would, but this book requires a different plotting method than I've used for my other books.

Have you ever stalled in the middle of a writing project? How did you work your way through it?

One Goal Friday is going on hiatus indefinitely. I've enjoyed reading and tracking all of your goals, and I'm rooting for you to continue!

Join me on Monday when we begin to explore October's topic: A Little Help from Our Friends.

Have a terrific weekend!