Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Preparing For Success Part 2: Writing

Preparing for Success is a three-part series targeted to aspiring writers. Any writer who decides to pursue publication, whether through self-publishing, e-publishing, or traditional publishing enters a crowded, competitive field. For most of us it will be a long, bumpy, confusing ride. If we use our unpublished time wisely, we will stand out from the crowd and our hard work will pay off.


The shift from writing for our personal pleasure to writing for publication requires a different approach to our work. The time we put in may not change, but the consistency does. We spend more time studying how to make our writing stronger, and we recognize that outside eyes are imperative to polishing our work. We also start hearing terms like marketability, hot genres, likable characters, queries, agents, and proposals. What seemed so easy—if writing is ever easy!—quickly grows complicated and overwhelming.

By chatting with published writers and reading publishing news, I’ve pinpointed key components to master in our writing that will prepare us for success.

  1. Put in the hours.
Sporadic writing doesn’t cut it. Writing for publication is a job, an amazing, exciting, fun job, but still a job. It’s no longer a hobby to pick up or set down at our whim. We must schedule time to write consistently. Whether it’s five hours on Saturday mornings, fifteen minutes every evening, or eight hours a day, five days a week, we must treat our time with respect. The obvious reason for this is to make progress on our projects, but eventually, we will be given deadlines by our publishers. Most of us will not have two years to write a book when we are contracted. We must nurture our discipline now.

  1. Practice doesn’t always make perfect.
The old advice, if you want to be a good writer, keep writing is true to a certain extent. The more we do something, the better we usually become. But if a child doesn’t have a good teacher or coach to show him the proper techniques, he will grow physically stronger, but he still won’t get the ball in the basket or learn how to play his position. The same is true with writing. If we don’t study the craft, whether through classes, books on writing, or by talking to published writers, we will continue to make the same mistakes, and these mistakes will hold us back.

  1. Study. Learn. Repeat.
Writers are always learning. We never “know it all.” And even when we’ve mastered one aspect of writing, we realize we need to freshen up our understanding of a different aspect. For instance, I have a few books on basic grammar that I read once or twice a year. I also enjoy reading blog posts with short reminders about conflict, pace, and characterization, because they refresh the concepts and spur me to improve my scenes.

  1. Read.
This one will make many writers groan, and it’s just my opinion, but I urge writers to read. Read in your genre. Read non-fiction. Read magazines, newspapers, blogs. Read classics. Read comics. Read for fun. Read for work. Just keep filling your mind with other authors’ take on life, and it will hone your own. Reading forces me to question my beliefs, tighten my writing style, and nourish my dreams.

  1. Critique and be critiqued.
It’s no secret we are often blind to problems in our manuscripts. We don’t realize the brilliant chapter that clears up our hero’s past is really a big info dump, or that our heroine is coming across as a shrill psycho until a kind reader points it out. Finding a trustworthy critique partner and having the maturity to accept her assessment propels our writing forward. Obviously, we need to use our own judgment about the advice given, but regardless, we have to be able to take criticism in order for our writing to improve.

On the other hand, critiquing other writers’ work forces us to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses in their manuscripts. We can't help but absorb skills.

  1. Study the Market
So you love your historical paranormal romantic suspense set in the twelfth century told from eight points of view. Who wouldn’t? Well, before you send queries out for your masterpiece, it’s a good idea to study agent and editor blogs and learn about marketability. No one is saying you can’t write the story of your heart, but wouldn’t you rather know now if it’s going to be a near-impossible sell?

Marketability isn’t only about hot genres, it’s about what story elements are popular in your genre, what topics haven’t been selling well, the ideal book length, if multiple points-of-view are desirable, if first person or third person works best, if the setting is appropriate, and which publishers will be the best fit for your book.

The days of sitting down and just writing aren’t over, but expect to devote extra time to studying the writing craft and the publishing industry. And try not to get overwhelmed and feel like you have to fix everything at once. It takes time to put new skills in practice, and slowly they become natural to us.

Most of all, celebrate each small success. In many ways, making the transition from aspiring writer to published writer is like earning a master’s degree. We won’t learn everything overnight, but we’ll pave the new information on top of our general knowledge to build a foundation that will last.

What did I miss? What is essential in writing?

Have a terrific Wednesday!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Preparing for Success Part 1: The Mental Game

Preparing for Success is a three-part series targeted to aspiring writers. Any writer who decides to pursue publication, whether through self-publishing, e-publishing, or traditional publishing enters a crowded, competitive field. For most of us it will be a long, bumpy, confusing ride. If we use our unpublished time wisely, we will stand out from the crowd and our hard work will pay off.

Part 1: The Mental Game

The moment we decide we want to be published, a mental shift occurs. The safety of writing as a hobby is stripped away. Can I do this? What if I try and fail? Or what if I’m an instant success? We’re pummeled with excitement, euphoria, and uncertainty.

I can only speak for myself, but when I decided to pursue publication, I was certain I could write a good book and get it published. After all, reading was my favorite hobby; I knew a great story when I saw one. All I had to do was come up with a fabulous plot line, write the book, and send it to my target publisher. And if my first book didn't sell, surely my second book would. As I wrote my first novel, I skimmed the library’s copy of Writer’s Market, checked the publisher’s website, and took notes on how to submit to them.

Imagine my happiness months later when they requested a partial. This is it. All my dreams are going to come true. I’ll have a book on store shelves next year!

Four years later, I have yet to see my books on store shelves, but I’ve learned so much on my journey to this point that I’m—I can’t believe I’m admitting this—glad my first books never made it stores.

In fact, I’m convinced these years have been God’s way of preparing me for success. Each setback has strengthened me. Even with a supportive, fabulous agent, I keep my expectations realistic. My initial bravado morphed to true confidence in my ability to write a good, publishable book, and that confidence could only be earned by mastering the mental game.

Common Mental Traps Aspiring Writers Fall Into:

  1. I’m special/unique and above the average writer.
Initially, we might not realize how many people are aspiring to be published authors. We may have a sense of entitlement or a deluded idea that we are somehow above the trials of other writers. Sure, it took them seven years to get published, but that won’t happen to me. The reality? We have no idea how long it will take us to get published.
  1. I was born with writing talent. I don’t have to study.
Another pitfall of fresh, aspiring writers is the false belief that talent is a set trait. Most writers are born with special gifts, but talent must be polished, nurtured, strengthened. All writers need to continuously hone their craft.
  1. My degree in creative writing guarantees I’ll get published.
Sorry, but even with a degree, you’re going to have to study the market. You’ll need to read the genre you write, learn mainstream fiction techniques, and get a critique partner. Whatever your literary background, expect to spend a lot of time learning about the publishing industry.
  1. Rejected? I should quit. I’ll never be any good.
The first rejection can be brutal. I remember feeling as if I’d lost two pints of blood. It took me a few days to process everything. The only advice I can give is don’t give up. This is a setback, a learning tool, not the end of your writing career. Keep writing. Keep submitting.
  1. No one understands how hard it is to get published.
Well, duh! Most people have no clue how competitive the publishing field is. It really doesn’t matter. We can use fear to distract ourselves by thinking about the thousands of queries we’re competing against, but at the end of the day, we only have control over one thing: writing the best book we are capable of.
  1. I’m scared. I’ve invested years into this. What if it never happens?
I struggle with this one all the time. I still struggle with it. All I know is writing is the only thing I want to do with my life. It’s part of my soul. It’s necessary. And I want to share my writing with the world, so I keep going.
  1. It’s not fair! She got a book deal?
Ah, envy, that vicious bully. Some writers will get their very first book published. It’s true. And we can’t help but wonder if they found some magical fast track. How did they get picked up? Why didn’t we? Again—this doesn’t help us. It distracts us. If you’re struggling with envy, remember the countless other souls in the same boat as you.
  1. My book isn’t as funny/suspenseful/outrageous/etc…as so-and-so’s.
Good! We’re striving to offer something special in our books. When we get caught up in comparing our books to someone else’s, we diminish our own value. We don’t have to be like anyone else. Our writing should stand out for what we have to offer.

Mental Tools for Success

  1. Humility
If you, like me, sometimes struggle with pride, facing rejections can be extremely humbling. However, when we experience lows, we’re better prepared to empathize with others in our shoes. Even when I’m celebrating a writing high, I’m careful not to overdo my public excitement out of respect for fellow aspiring writers. Yes, we all celebrate our friends’ successes, but if we’re in a slump or received a rejection, reading post after post about the wonderful life of a fellow author can grate our nerves to shreds.
  1. Confidence
Confidence can be confused with pride or arrogance. Confidence in your writing is when you know deep in your soul that your writing is the best it can be at this time. I didn’t gain true confidence until I entrusted my writing to critique partners, studied the craft extensively, and took to heart the advice offered in rejection letters.
  1. Peace
I’ve made peace with the fact my current books may get turned down. Or they may get picked up. It may take months on a pub board to get a contract. It may take months for me to write my next book and maybe that will be my break-in book. I still have a nagging sense of wanting it now, but I no longer put unrealistic gauntlets down, like this MUST be the one. Really? Must it? My life will go on pretty much the same regardless.

Final Thought

Often, we put a time frame or other limitations on our writing aspirations. If I’m not published in a year, I’ll give up or If this book gets rejected, I’ll know it’s a sign I’m not meant to be published.
This kind of thinking doesn’t help us. Why put an expiration date on our dreams? We have a lifetime to do the things we want to do, so throw off the rules and embrace the fact that you’re a writer. You’re doing something amazing and courageous by writing and submitting your work. Be proud of yourself!

What is your biggest hurdle in the mental game?

Come back on Wednesday for Preparing for Success Part 2: Writing.

Have a wonderful Monday!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Characters: In a Bubble From Reality?

I've had a hard time engaging in things lately. Not sure how to describe it, but after an extremely busy summer, I'm tired and slowly building my reserves back up. I'm going through the motions with household chores and even something as simple as writing a blog post leaves me stumped. It's as if my creativity is shouting, "Please, Ma, let me sleep one more hour."

Our relaxing deck. One of my favorite spots to read and zone out.

In fact, I just spent 45 minutes skimming online newspapers in the hopes a blog topic would spark. It didn't. So not knowing what else to do, I glanced out our patio door at the gorgeous flowers and pretty wicker furniture and realized maybe I did have a topic.

In my books, my main characters are focused on the plot issues at hand. They rarely worry about the world events happening that day or current politics, how the country's economy is faring, what big ticket item they long to purchase, or if they just spent an hour doing dishes, vacuuming, and sorting clothes to drop off at a charity. In other words, they're in a special bubble--they're detached from the hundreds of stimuli that seem to assault me on a daily basis.

Right now, I can't muster the energy to care about the downgrade in the U.S. credit rating, the fall of the stock market, if Amy Winehouse's body had drugs in it or didn't when she died, if Kim Kardashian's wedding was the event of the summer, or if unemployment is on the rise or fall. And you know what? My characters don't either.

They reside in a bubble from reality, and sometimes I need a few days in the bubble too.
Soon, I'll be engaged in current events. What seems so unimportant to me now will be important again, but in the meantime, I'm enjoying the freedom my characters have.

If you're a writer, do your characters enjoy a detachment from current events? Or do they discuss what they've read in the daily paper?

Enjoy your Friday!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Sarah Sundin!

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… Sarah Sundin!!

I first learned of Sarah through my agent search. When I read her shining endorsement of Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary Agency, it convinced me even more Rachel was the agent for me. Then I noticed Sarah had another release out and that it was getting fantastic reviews. We began an e-mail correspondence, and Sarah was so kind and generous to me. I had to read one of her books, and I promptly picked up A Distant Melody and loved it. She writes such relatable, real characters with huge obstacles, namely World War II.

The third book in the Wings of Glory series, Blue Skies Tomorrow, is already getting rave reviews and is available in stores and online now. If you like historical romance, pick up one (or all!) of her books.

Let's get to it!

1. Beverage of choice?

Diet cola, coffee, tea—anything in the caffeine family. I’m trying to phase out the cola and drink more tea. My favorites this summer are raspberry-flavored black tea and green tea with pomegranate and blueberry.

2. Any pets?

Oh yes. We have an adorable anti-social cat named Janie, and a hyperactive overly social yellow lab named Daisy, who eats my pens and runs away with my slippers when I don’t entertain her enough. Which is always. But Daisy’s a great source of material for Facebook posts, so I’ll keep her.

3. Dream vacation?

How appropriate—I’m doing this interview on the plane home from two weeks in southern France and Italy! This really was a dream vacation. In addition to seeing the usual tourist sites, I got to research my next World War II series. And my children consented! I got sand in my shoes from the landing beaches at Salerno, strolled through Greek ruins at Paestum where an evacuation hospital was based, watched my kids frolic in the surf at Anzio, and got surprisingly close to the Istres airfield near Marseilles—which is an active French military base. I took lots of notes, pictures, and video.
4. What are you listening to right now?
The hum of the engines of a 747, jabbering children, the clunk of overhead bins opening, the crack of my knees as the lady in front of me reclines her seat AGAIN!!! Seriously, why do they make the seats adjustable?????

5. What's for dinner?

Airplane food. I’ll just be happy if they feed us.

Oh, Sarah, I am laughing at the unfortunate sounds you were forced to listen to. Why do they give people 1.5 inches of leg room? No elbow room? I don't know, but for the price of a flight, I think they could do a little better on the personal space! I, too, love diet cola and tea. Your kitty, Janie, sounds like my kind of cat. I love the anti-social cats the best! We have a mini-wiener dog who sounds remarkably like your Daisy. She loves pens, attention, and barking at passing vehicles/bicycles. Always entertaining.

How awesome was your dream trip?? You described it beautifully--I can feel the sand between my toes. It sounds amazing! Thanks so much for being my guest today, Sarah!

Blue Skies Tomorrow

     Lt. Raymond Novak prefers the pulpit to the cockpit, but at least his stateside job training B-17 pilots allows him the luxury of a personal life.
    As he courts Helen Carlisle, a young war widow and mother who conceals her pain under a frenzy of volunteer work, the sparks of their romance set a fire that flings them both into peril. After Ray leaves to fly a combat mission at the peak of the air war over Europe, Helen takes a job in a dangerous munitions yard and confronts an even graver menace in her own home.
     Will they find the courage to face their challenges? And can their young love survive until blue skies return?

Blue Skies Tomorrow is the third book in the Wings of Glory series, which follows the three Novak brothers, B-17 bomber pilots with the US Eighth Air Force stationed in England during World War II. Each book stands alone.


Sarah Sundin lives in northern California with her husband and three children. When she isn’t ferrying kids to soccer and tennis, she works on-call as a hospital pharmacist and teaches Sunday school and women’s Bible studies. She is the author of the Wings of Glory series—A Distant Melody (Revell, 2010), A Memory Between Us (2010), and Blue Skies Tomorrow (August 2011). In 2011, A Memory Between Us was a finalist in the Inspirational Reader's Choice Awards and Sarah received the Writer of the Year Award at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

To learn more about Sarah, visit her website, her blog, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

So tell me...what historical period interests you the most?

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Are Visuals Important to You?

I recently borrowed The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond from our library, and I was impressed by the overall presentation of each page. Cookbooks make me happy; cookbooks with pictures take me to another level of enjoyment. This cookbook featured layers of pictures on every page, and not just photos of food, but photos of her life in general.

The Pioneer Woman started (and continues) as an extremely popular website. I've always been impressed by the visuals Ree includes. Not only does she share a recipe, she gives step-by-step instructions with pictures for each step. You get a real sense of who she is and what she's about. Her photography of their ranch, the horses, her children, even the sunsets all encapsulate why people keep coming back. Part of it is her warm humor, but another part is the feeling her site evokes.

I'm convinced her use of visuals sets her apart from other websites and from other cookbooks. I haven't purchased a cookbook in years, but I am buying hers this fall. Another chef who stands out for me is Giada DeLaurentiis. When I watch one of her cooking shows, I'm 99% more likely to cook one of her dishes than if I only read the recipe in a cookbook.

Seeing the dish, watching the preparation, knowing what it's supposed to look like midway through the recipe--these are powerful images that trigger me to act, not just watch.

Are you a visual person? Do you have any cookbooks or websites to recommend? I found The Pioneer Woman years ago based on a recommendation by a friend. Lucky me!

Have an amazing Monday!

Friday, August 19, 2011

I'm a Comma

I'm a comma.

A comma conveys something unfinished. It leaves the reader hanging, safe with the knowledge more is yet to come, that something important, something vital still remains to be read.

I think of my life the same way. The beginning of the sentence, and my life, are fulfilled, but they aren't complete. Not yet.

Since I'm an optimist, I know--deep down know--the comma is signalling another independent clause awaits. The rest of my life will have a complete subject, a complete predicate, and possibly a dependent clause too. I'm not a run-on type of gal, so more commas will fit in somehow.

And since I'm a firm believer in ending the sentence with something big, I believe something grand will continue my life.

I'm hoping the next word in my sentence isn't a "but" or "however." I'd prefer an "and" or "plus." I'm a little selfish that way.

Where do you see the next part of your sentence going? Are you a comma? A question mark?

Have a happy Friday!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Laura Frantz!

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… Laura Frantz!!

Major gushing alert! I first heard of Laura through my sister-in-law who recommended The Frontiersman's Daughter to me. Instead of that book, I ran across Courting Morrow Little and promptly picked it up. I was instantly smitten. Laura is so gifted in creating complex plots and deep conflicts. Imagine my surprise when I realized we are agency mates! We began e-mailing each other--my messages were, and still are, of the starstruck you're amazing, how do you do it variety, and Laura is so sweet to put up with me. Indeed, she graciously sent me an author copy of her new book, The Colonel's Lady, which made me a very happy woman.

I read it in less than 24 hours. I did not want it to end. I sat on the beach, ignoring the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan, eating Pringles with one hand and turning pages with the other. I lost track of how many times I whirled to my patient (God love him) husband with an update. "Ooo, the Indian prisoners sent him a special present and he better not take it," or "Oh, no! Is he going to propose? Will she accept?" and "No wonder he's such a sweetheart to Abby..." and finally, "Tell her your secret!!"

More information and my review of The Colonel's Lady is at the end of this post. But for now... Let's get to it!

1. Beverage of choice?

Sparkling water and cranberry with a twist of lime--I'm trying to wean myself off of Dr. Pepper Cherry!

2. Any pets?

Yes, too many! Our twin black cats just had two litters of four kitties each, and all are black but one. It's a beautiful gray and we think we might keep her. We also have a dog named Digger who made a brief appearance in Courting Morrow Little.

3. Dream vacation?

I love Scotland and its history and heroes so would have to name this first. I'd stay in a Scottish castle or those wayside B&B's and make time for plenty of writing, reading, eating, and historical sites.

4. What are you listening to right now?

Since one of my sons plays violin/fiddle, I listen to a lot of David Garrett. For my next series, I'm loving the soundtrack from The Mission, specifically Gabriel's Oboe. Lots of inspiration there...

5. What's for dinner?

Spaghetti! With lots of garlic, mushrooms, Italian sausage and French bread. I'd love to have you over for dinner, Jill!

Thank you so much for being my guest today, Laura! I have an addiction to Diet Dr. Pepper, so I understand your difficulties giving it up. Your baby kitties sound so cute! You should definitely keep the little gray one. I'm such a sucker for cats, I'd probably keep the entire litter! A few years ago, I read a series by Eloisa James, and one of the books was set in Scotland. I've wanted to visit ever since, and a Scottish castle would be my preferred housing too.

As for your invitation to dinner--I'm on my way! Spaghetti is one of my favorite meals, and your description just sent my taste buds into overdrive. Yum! Yum!

The Colonel's Lady

In 1779, a search for her father brings Roxanna Rowan to the Kentucky frontier - but she discovers instead a young colonel, a dark secret, and a compelling reason to stay.

Jill's 5 Star Review:
Laura Frantz does it again! I loved The Colonel’s Lady. Ms. Frantz excels at building deep conflicts, layering plot twists, and simmering the romance to a roiling boil, all against an exciting 1780’s Kentucky backdrop. I did not want this book to end!
Mild-mannered, moral Roxanna bravely journeys from Virginia to Kentucky’s Fort Endeavor, where her father works as a scrivener for the American army. Charismatic, lapsed-faith Cass is the colonel in charge of the fort and is honor bound to protect Roxanna at the request of her father before her father’s death. Roxanna takes her late father’s place as scrivener, just until spring when it’s safer to travel, and soon can’t get the handsome Cass off her mind, but Cass has a terrible secret—one that threatens their new love.
I enjoyed the struggles both characters dealt with. My heart sighed as Cass wrestled with guilt, and I related to Roxanna’s feelings of humility. The threads of faith throughout the book left me with a deeper understanding of God’s grace.
With meticulous historical details, a lyrical writing style like a breath of fresh air, and a fascinating plot, The Colonel’s Lady is a treat to be savored and shared with friends.

Laura Frantz credits her grandmother as being the catalyst for her fascination with Kentucky history. Her family followed Daniel Boone into Kentucky in the late 18th-century and settled in Madison County where they still reside. She's the author of The Frontiersman's Daughter and Courting Morrow Little. Her newest novel, The Colonel's Lady, releases August 1. Currently she lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two sons and loves to hear from readers at and on Facebook.

So tell me, are you a fast reader or a slow reader?

Have a terrific Wednesday!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

4 Steps for a Fabulous Fallow Time

Each step in a book requires a different set of skills, and for me, completing a project--performing the final round of revisions and polishing the proposal--demands the most. Just over a week ago, I finished a much-loved book. The exhilaration, I did it! I gave this book everything I have, and it's the best I could do, soon gave way to exhaustion. I knew a fallow time was in order.

4 Steps for a Fabulous Fallow Time

Step 1: Get Away (if only to your bedroom)

We spent most of last week tent camping in gorgeous Holland, Michigan near the shores of Lake Michigan. Camping takes more work than a hotel, but I find it nurturing to the soul. We spent almost all of our time outdoors, either on the beach, hiking, or sitting by a campfire. Our meals were simple. We happily lived without television, computers, and other technical gadgets. We did NOT live without coffee, though. That would be cruel. :)

Step 2: Rest

One thing I noticed from day one was how physically tired I was. Non-writers may not realize how draining it is to pour every iota of brain power into honing a book. The cool, fresh night air lulled me into a deep sleep, and during the day I fought to stay awake in the sun's warm embrace as we listened to the rhythm of the waves.

Step 3: Zone Out and Snack

I leafed through one magazine and read one book (which you will be hearing all about on Wednesday because it was awesome!!). My brain was too tired to read more than that. And after we returned home on Friday, I spent most of the weekend reclining on the couch, watching pre-season football and snacking on bagel chips and chocolate-covered raisins. For the record, I'm pumped about the Lions and sporting at least three extra pounds.

Step 4: Be Productive in Other Areas Until Your Creativity is Primed

Just as God commanded us to rest on the seventh day, He also commanded us to let our land lie unplowed and unused every seventh year. As a writer, I know the necessity, the value, in giving myself time off between projects. I will rest more, read more, spend time on the other needs of my business, such as continuing the design of my new website and fleshing out plot points for potential books. Regular exercise and a lighter diet will be my friends. And I'll do a big cannonball of joy back into the social media pool--I love interacting with everyone! Slowly, the tiredness will ebb, and ideas will pelt me until I'm ready to plunge into my next project.

Do you take time off between projects? What are your tips for a successful fallow time?

Have a magnificent Monday!

Monday, August 8, 2011

See You In a Week!

I'm unplugging for a week. There will be coffee, chocolate, relaxing, several books, hoards of magazines, and a beach involved.

Hope you all have a wonderful week!!

See you next Monday!

Friday, August 5, 2011

My Guilty Pleasure: The Target Ad

One of my favorite activities is to pick up the Sunday paper and read all of the ads. The Target flyer tops my list.

First of all, it's instantly recognizable with its red and white bullseye. The front page, never cluttered, features half a dozen items all with large, bold prices. The next pages usually sell items similar to the front page. The middle shows household items and electronics. The back displays grocery, beauty and baby items. I like that it's predictable. I like knowing what to expect.

But beyond the nice, bright colors and fun sale items, the Target ad satisfies the little girl in me who grew up on thick J.C.Penney and Sears catalogs. It's fun to dream even when I don't plan on buying anything.

Do you have a catalog or flyer you look forward to? What about it makes you happy?

Have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Jillian Hart!

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…Jillian Hart!!

It is such a thrill to host Love Inspired author, Jillian Hart, today! The first book I read of Jill's was one of her McKaslin clan contemporaries, A Soldier for Keeps. I couldn't put it down and had to e-mail her and gush. To my surprise, she e-mailed me back! I always have one of her latest books on my to-be-read pile, and the last time I counted, she had close to fifty books published! Jill writes both contemporary and historical romance, and her new book, Wyoming Sweethearts, is available now. You cannot go wrong picking up one of her books. Trust me on this!
Let's get to it!
1. Beverage of choice?

Coffee first thing--decaf, with Coffeemate.  That fuels my writing, if it's a work day, or my reading, if it's a weekend morning.  In the afternoon, I love sparkling water.  My favorite is Talking Rain's Pomegranate Lime.  Yum.

2. Any pets?

Not currently.  One day I will get another blond cocker spaniel. : )

3. Dream vacation?

A sunny Maui beach where I can do nothing but relax, watch the water and read, read, read.

4. What are you listening to right now?

The Band Perry.

5. What's for dinner?

If I'm on deadline and late on a book, it's mac and cheese.  It's easy and it takes little effort to cook and clean up.  If I've got time, I like to bake chicken, steam rice and vegetables.  Or make a big pan of chicken enchiladas with a scoop of sour cream on top and a sprinkling of cilantro.

Jillian, I am so with you on the coffee. Every morning, I anticipate my fresh brew swirling with cream. Sparkling water is lovely, too. We have La Croix around here, and I'm partial to the pink cans. Oh, and my parents had the sweetest black cocker spaniel. She passed on a few years ago, but we loved her. As for Maui, I can only say sign me up too! Water, reading, and maybe a pan of your chicken enchiladas sounds like the perfect getaway.

Thanks so much for being my guest today, Jill. Your encouragement means the world to me, and your books do too!

Wyoming Sweethearts

Where do lonely hearts go?

The chance to rescue abandoned horses has given Eloise Tipple the fresh start she needs. After losing her skating career and fiance, she returns home to Wild Horse, Wyoming to work at a beautiful inn and man the stables.

Sean Granger has also come home to nurse some emotional wounds and would like nothing more than to pursue life as a lone wolf. Both say they want nothing more than friendship.

But while saving homeless horses, can Sean and Eloise save each other and heal their wounds?

Jill grew up on her family's homestead in Washington State, where she raised cattle to pay for her college tuition, rode horses through the pristine foothills of the Cascade Mountain range and scribbled stories in her spare time.  After earning an English degree from Whitman College (what better way to go through college than to constantly read books?), she traveled, worked in advertising, taught Sunday school and volunteered before becoming a writer.  When she's not hard at work on her next story, Jill can be found chatting with a friend, stopping for a cafĂ© mocha with a book in hand, and spending quiet evenings at home with her family.

To learn more about Jill's books, check out her website, and follow her on Facebook.

So, August is here! Do you buy back-to-school supplies for yourself? (I'm guilty!)

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Three Tricks to Keep Your Eyes Fresh When Revising

The problem with revising? Keeping our eyes fresh when reading our manuscripts each time. After the third or fourth read-through, we can't help but skim problem areas. They become all but invisible. And while I always advise waiting a minimum of two weeks between finishing the first draft and starting revisions, we don't have the luxury to wait weeks between each revision pass.

The tricks I use aren't new. I found them from other writers. But they're worth repeating because they work.

Three Tricks to Keep Your Eyes Fresh When Revising:

1. Save your manuscript in a new file, single-space it, choose a new font, and change the size of the font. Print it out and read it.

2. Mentally read the book in first person if you wrote it in third person or vice-versa. This helps with point of view. You'll notice where characters see things they shouldn't, and it will help you find holes in your writing.

3. Read the manuscript out loud.

After I work through the major revisions (plot, character, pacing, and so forth), I use all three tricks, in order, with every manuscript. Sure, it takes extra hours, but by the time I'm reading the book out loud, I've eliminated most of my repeat words/phrases, tackled point-of-view issues, and am confident the book is ready to submit.

What tricks do you use to keep your manuscript fresh when revising?

Have a fabulous Monday!