Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Writing a Continuity Book

The week before Thanksgiving, my editor emailed me to ask if I'd like to participate in the 2009 LIS continuity. After looking at my deadlines, I realized I could swing it. I'm excited to take part in this project. However, it's going to push me in a few directions I haven't explored before. First, I'll be writing a female FBI agent. Fortunately, I do know several people who work for the FBI, so I should be fine getting details that I need. Second, I'm writing about a forensic anthropologist. This is a career that has fascinated me for a long time, so I'm excited to write a hero whose career I'll really enjoy researching. Third, I'll be writing about a place I've never been which I always find challenging.

The problem with writing a continuity really doesn't lie in writing the book, but in coordinating the details of the stories and characters with the other five authors who are working on it. For LIS continuities, there are always five other books. Five other personalities. Five other people who have their own style, voice, and ideas about writing. This will be my third continuity, and I'm always amazed at how well the authors mesh when working on projects like it.

It's fun. Exciting. Really, really interesting.

What a blessing to be included!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Running the Race

Yesterday, we had a guest speaker at church. He was seventy-seven. He told us that many times . For good reason, of course. His entire message was about running the race and not quitting until you cross the finish line.

It's funny, but he said something I've been thinking about a lot lately - "So, I've accomplished all these things. Is that it? Have I completed my work?"

The answer, of course, is no. We're never finished. There is always more to do. More lives to touch. More people to help. More souls to reach. God has a plan for each of our lives. He has uniquely suited us to fulfill those plans. There is nothing that we can't do if He is in it. No goal that can't be reached, no dream that can't be achieved. More than that, there is no limit to the work that He has for us to do.

May we all finish the race stronger than we began it!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

One of Those Days

Today was one of THOSE days. You know the ones I mean. They start out bad and just keep on getting worse until you wonder why you even bothered to get out of bed.

I won't explain all the running around and craziness that went along with today. I'll just highlight my favorite irritation. (Yes, it is possible to have a favorite irritation!).

Today while I was at the gym with my daughter, I went to pay for next month's homeschool gym. The lady in front of me in line is very sweet and we've talked often during the past few months. She was signing her daughter up for something and she told the guy in the office that I was a 'famous author.' I was a little embarrassed because I'm not famous and because I generally don't announce to people that I'm a writer. So I said:

"I'm not famous, but I am an author."
To which the office guy replied - "You can't be famous because I've never heard of you before."
To which my friend replied - "She's on Amazon.com. That makes her more famous than either of us."
To which the office guy replied - "Well I'm a published poet. I've gotten a poem published in a book. "
To which my friend replied - "How many books?"
To which office guy replied - "One."
So my friend says - "Well she's just sold her thirteenth book. Thirteen."
To which office guy replied - "Well, I've had articles published in a bunch of different journals."
To which I replied. "That's really exciting for you. Can I pay for my kids' homsechool gym class?"
To which office guy replies by frowning.
Being me, I say - "If it's too much trouble, I can pay Monday."
And he says - "That would be best."

And I realize that I've just spent ten minutes of my day listening to my friend and some guy I don't know argue about whether or not I'm more famous than he is, and I didn't even get to pay for the class I was standing there waiting to pay for.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Finger printing revisited

In pursuit of child #5, my husband and I reported to INS to have our fingerprinting done. This is our second time getting finger printed. I can't help but wonder why the other set of finger prints weren't good enough. Fortunately, this was a fairly painless process and took much less time than I thought it would. Yay for one thing going right!

As for things going wrong...don't even get me started on why it's taken so long for the doctor's office to fill out our medical forms. Two weeks and close to two hours on the phone. I can't blame the doctor's office. They really are trying. They've just never done this before. Which was made obvious by the fact that they did it wrong and I've now got to start the entire medical form process again.

To make matters worse, my desktop crashed. I lost everything including every email address. Yikes! On the upside, my book that is due Monday is safe on my laptop. My husband (computer genius that he is) was able to restore me to on-line status. My computer is running again. The world has returned to its orbit.

I thought about saying something about writing. Then I changed my mind. Then I thought about it again so I'm going to say it - it's hard work. Hard, hard, hard work. If it were a sport, it would be marathon racing.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Book Cover # 7

Or is it eight?


Okay, it is # 8.

MISSING PERSONS. Part of the Reunion Relelations continuity which begins with Val Hansen's book - HIDDEN IN THE WALL.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Really Really Real

Yesterday, I wrote out a check for a major portion of our adoption expenses. Up until this point, my mind has said - 'Yes, Shirlee, this is really going to happen' while my heart has been wondering - 'is this really going to happen?'.

Seriously, this is something my husband and I have talked about off and on for thirteen years. While I've always wanted to adopt from China, I'm not sure I really believed it would happen. I guess it's like wanting to visit a beautiful, exotic location. For years you imagine it, then suddenly you're there and it feels like a dream.

So far, during the adoption process, I've felt emotionally distant from things. It's been paperwork and checks, leg work and aggravation (hey, I've got to be honest here). There is still a lot of the last two going on as I attempt to finish gathering what we need for the dossier. But there was something about writing that check, seeing that (large) amount of money leaving our account. I looked at the check, shook my head and thought, 'well, if any of my children were stranded in a foreign country I would go to any lengths, pay any expense to bring them home.'

And then I realized that one of my children is stranded in a foreign country, and that I am going to any lengths to bring her home.

In a strange way, it's made me think more of God's sacrifice for us. Adopted into His family, grafted onto the family tree. Loved before we knew Him. Unconditionally. Without thought to the cost.

In my mind, I see her - a little girl, living life in a Chinese orphanage, completely unaware of her mother, father, brothers and sister whose hearts are already with her. And I understand a little more the immensity of God's love for His children, the power of it reaching out to pull us in and make us His.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Expect the Unexpected

So, my darling daughter has been taking gymnastics classes for three years. In that time, she's moved from recreational gym into a pre-team program designed to prepare her for competition. In all the time she's been learning, I've never thought to video tape her. However, last Wednesday I happened to have my husband's digital camera with me. The girls were too far away to get much of a view of the activities, so I didn't pull out the camera. PLUS, they were working on round-off back handspring which is the first tumbling pass a gymnast learns. Seeing as how my six-year-old still hasn't quite perfected her back handspring on the floor, I didn't feel the need to try and get a shot of her practicing the skill.

I watched with some friends while one girl after another threw the pass with a spot. Finally, one of the girls was able to do it without a spot for the very first time. It was a fun to catch the moment, to see a child move from inability to ability. Emma was up next, and I thought, "well, in another six months she'll probably be able to throw that tumbling pass. Hopefully, I'll get a video tape of her first successful attempt." The teacher spotted her twice. The third time Ms. Dawn said something to Emma. Then, to my shock, Emma ran, hurdled into the round-off and rebounded into a back handspring all on her own.

And I didn't even have my camera out!

I missed it because I wasn't expecting it. In my mind, there was a limit to what my daughter could accomplish. I'd put her learning abilities into a box, bundled them up, and made assumptions about something based on my own limited view. Of course, all I missed was video tape of a tumbling pass, but the experience made me wonder what other things I've missed. Sometimes I'm quick to say a thing is impossible, or to decide before I even try that I won't be successful. I'm much more likely to put limits on what can happen than to open my mind to all the exciting possibilities.

It doesn't help that society tells us what is and is not possible. Over forty and single? Hang up your hat and buy a few cats. Obviously, you'll never be married. Want to publish the next great American novel? Forget it. The market is too rocky. Want to retire at fifty? Please! You'll be lucky to retire at 100. Want to change the world? Don't waste your energy. There's only so much one person can do.

The truth is much different than what society tells us. The truth is that none of us know what is possible. In God's infinite wisdom He works in and through us, creating possibilities where we think none exist. Our job, then, is to be ready. Ready for action. Ready to move forward. Ready to embrace the opportunities He gives. Success might be just around the next corner, our dream house around the next bend in the road, the child we've longed for, the spouse we desire, the love we yearn for, even the writing contract we've worked for might be just another few prayers away.

When we trust fully in God's power over our lives, over the world, the universe and time itself, we realize that there are no limits. Impossibilities are only walls we build around our dreams. And sometimes our dreams are only a small part of the journey to a much bigger success than we imagined.

If your dreams haven't yet been fulfilled, don't give up. Keep the camera out and keep it rolling, because when you least expect it, the unexpected just may happen.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Where O Where Has Shirlee Gone?

Obviously it has been too long since I've checked in here. I received a postcard all the way from Mexico in the time it's taken me to think of something interesting to say.

Yes, Darlene, I'm okay!

In the past month the following things have occurred in my life -

The home study for the adoption was complete - YAY!
My husband and I decided to request a child between the ages of 0 and 72 months rather than our original request of 36-60 months.
I completed numerous edits, copy edits and art fact sheets for several books.
I wrote a letter to China regarding the adoption (for the dossier).
I rewrote the letter to China.
And rewrote it.
Three kids got sick.
Three kids got better.
I got sick.
I sort of got better (the weather change is horrible for allergy sufferers!).
I learned that my second book in the Sinclair brothers trilogy is going to be out in December of next year.
Four kids participated in a fall recital.
Two kids completed one of three (yes, three) rehearsals for concerto competition.
I almost finished writing my book.
Almost being the key word.
My house became an absolute mess!!!
I brought four kids to (in no particular order)seventeen hours of piano lessons, three hours of rehearsal, 21 hours of gymnastics, three hours of dance, five hours of grocery shopping, three hours of doctors visits.

Things that did not happen in the past month -
I did not make a trip to the police station where I am to get a letter stating that my husband and I are not criminals (this is for our China dossier).
I did not call the doctor to get a second note about my husband and my own health. I also did not get the un-asked-for note notarized. (also for the dossier)
I did not clean my work area.
Nor did a I:
catch up on laundry
meet my goal of keeping the kitchen sink empty
lose five pounds
go for a walk every day
keep my sanity

If you caught on to the last, then you really are reading my blog!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Laws of Nature

So, I was talking to a very dear friend of mine about natural laws. You know stuff like - for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Those laws are what they are because God created them to be that. When writing our MASTERPIECES we need to keep these firmly in mind. Action always results in consequences. Both for ourselves and our characters.

My friend, Brenda Minton, knows a whole lot more about the writing process than I do. She's one of those wonderful people who is very determined to have all the information she needs to be successful. While I spent a few years quietly trying to figure this mad writer's world out on my own, she found some fantastic writers willing to share their knowledge. That's not to say that Brenda didn't 'make it' on her own. She did, but in the process, she formed some friendships that have given her shoulders to lean on and sounding boards for her questions. While we were talking, yesterday, the subject of action and consequences came up. We weren't discussing writing, but somehow ended up discussing how our fiction should mimic real life. She brought up something about crafting scenes that completely missed the mark with me. Being me, I just dumbly nodded (we were on the phone!), and said, "Yep, it's exactly like that." Because, while I've never read anything about what she was describing, I knew instinctively that the concept is right. For every action our characters take, there must be a consequence for which they must take another action. This circular movement builds wider arcs as each action becomes more important, each consequence more life changing.

If you find that your manuscripts fall flat, or that they seem to drag when they should be moving along quickly, think about action and consequences. Ask yourself - what will the consequence of that action be? What decision will have to be made because of that? What action will have to be taken? How can I build the stakes, make each decision, each consequence more important than the next?

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I'm beginning to think I should have two blogs. One for writing stuff and one for adoption stuff. However, I don't, so I'm going to go ahead and post adoption stuff here.

And, yes, it is four in the morning.

So, in April we started this process, thinking the homestudy would be done by August at the latest. It should have been. Things happened, though (as they are bound to do). Here we are mid-September and we're still not done the homestudy. On Friday I'm supposed to have my first interview with our social worker. I'm feeling a little nervous and I don't know why. Much as I've told myself not to get too emotionally involved in this process, the longer it stretches on, the more attached I feel to my far-away daughter. This, I'm thinking, could be a recipe for disaster. After all, who knows God's plan? We've gone into this with the idea that God would close doors that shouldn't be opened. That leaves room for lots of things to happen. Even the door to adoption slamming shut with a firmness that leaves no doubt that it's not meant to be. Really, I shouldn't get attached to a child who might not ever be part of our family.

Yet, here I am, sinking hip deep into emotional attachement and worrying that I may end up disappointed. I feel like a heroine in one of my novels. She knows she's attracted to the hero, but is sure that if she lets herself believe their relationship is going to happen she'll be hurt. Insert angsty music here.

I guess there's no help for it. I'm a mother. I have to love my children. Even if they are not yet in my arms. Which, unfortunately, means I'm going to end up being attached to a little girl who may never come home, and I may very well end up disappointed, because unlike the heroine's in my stories, I am NOT guaranteed a happy ending. At least not when it comes to the adoption.

On that dour note, I will post this poem (which I did not write, but which reflects my thought during these silent, thought-filled early morning hours perfectly )-KISSES IN THE WIND

I hold you in my heart and touch you in my dreams.
You are here each day with me, at least that's how it seems.

I know you wonder where we are... what's taking us so long.
But remember child, I love you so and God will keep you strong.

Now go outside and feel the breeze and let it touch your skin...
Because tonight, just as always, I blow you kisses in the wind.

May God hold you in His hand until I can be with you.
I promise you, my darling, I'm doing all that I can do.

Very soon, you'll have a family for real, not just pretend.
But for tonight, just as always, I blow you kisses in the wind.

May God wrap you in His arms and hold you very tight.
And let the angels bring the kisses that I send to you each night.
--- Unknown

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Queries Revisited

I know I've covered this topic before, but I've had three people email me asking for advice on writing a query, so I thought I'd touch on it again. The two most important things a writer can do when crafting her query are:

1. Hook the editor with a brief (by this I mean a paragraph or two) summary of the story.

2. Keep the letter professional and to the point.

I know these things sound like no-brainers, but doing them is a lot more difficult than it seems. We want so badly to get it all in - all the details, everything about our writing experience and affiliations, our thankfulness that the edtior has taken the time to read our queries. We're nearly busting with our need to impress in the few precious seconds it will take the editor to read our letter. What we need to remember is that editors see many, many queries a week. Ours will be one of those. Our job, then, is to make our query stand out. Not in garish colors or perky, cutesy phrases, but in professional, concise summaries of our work. Sure, there are editors out there who may smile at our purple paper and poetic prose (I am the author you will love. Please read my work with lots of love), but why take chances? So few people can write a compelling query that when one crosses an editor's desk s/he's bound to pause, to take those few moments to ask, 'could this be the new author I'm looking for?'.

And, of course, we are those new authors.

So, just a brief example of a query that works.

Dear Ms. Endlich,

A family cabin deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains is the perfect place for Martha Gabler to escape sympathetic friends when she breaks up with her fiancé, but her getaway turns deadly when she encounters a group of gun runners determined to keep her from revealing their identities.

Undercover ATF agent Tristan Sinclair is expecting to close down an illegal weapons ring. Instead, he’s fighting for the life of a woman whose faith and courage inspire him. Determined to keep her safe, Tristan travels to the sleepy town of Lakeview, Virginia, and learns that protecting Martha isn’t nearly as difficult as protecting his heart.

Approximately 60,000 words in length, THE GAURDIAN'S MISSION is a story of romantic suspense that will appeal to readers who enjoy books by Shirlee McCoy and Marta Perry. An avid reader of inspirational romantic suspense, I believe THE GAURDIAN'S MISSION will fit well in your Love Inspired Suspense line.

May I send you the completed manuscript?


Desperate Author

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Two weeks from today, I'm heading up to my brother's church in Williamsport, PA, for a fall festival. There'll be lots of fun things to do, and one thing that isn't so fun, but that is necessary. During the festival, the Red Cross will be taking donations. Blood donations. As a life-long needle-phobic, I'm feeling a little queasy thinking about it. As a recipient of five units of blood, I'm signed up to give.

During my college years, I gave blood five times. It never occurred to me that I might one day need that blood back. Fast forward to my daughter's birth, me in surgery with placenta previa, my head swimming as the blood poured from my body, my mind groggily coming to the conclusion that I could very well die.

Sound dramatic? It was. I'm not exaggerating the situation. You can check with my husband who has told me that he walked back into the room (after making sure our pre-term daughter was okay)and saw what looked like a war zone. Blood everywhere. Thanks to selfless donors, blood was available to replace what I'd lost. Five pints given. Five pints taken. Now it's my turn to give again.

Perhaps this seems like a morbid post. It is. It's also a scenario that plays out every day. Lives saved because people like you are willing to face the needles, the time crunch, the inconvenience. A half hour and a pint of your blood can save a life. I know it. I lived it.

Give. Because someone needs you to. Because one day you might need what you've so selflessly offered. Because someone you love might.

Give because it's the right thing to do. Because it matters. Because it will make a difference.


If you're in Williamsport in two weeks, I'll even hold your hand while you do it (after I've given and they've scraped me up off the pavement).

If not, you can find a blood donation center here - www.givelife.org or 1-800-GIVE-LIFE .

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Raising the Super Star Kid

Okay, so I'm flipping through channels last night and see that there's a program about people who are desperately trying to get their children into the right schools. Not colleges, mind you. Kindergarten (or was it preschool). Obviously, I've missed the memo on this one. Who knew that kids had to start at three, four and five if they were to amount to anything (or everything)?

This phenomenon is one that's been bugging me for a while. When I was a kid, we went to school, maybe played sports on a team, took a dance class or two, maybe a musical instrument (if our parents had the money.). After school we did our homework and (gasp)played. I remember hide and go seek at dusk, t.v tag, statue. We'd run around in the yard with the neighborhood kids while the moms sat on the front stoop chatting about life. Anymore, I don't see kids playing outside. They're too busy becoming super athletes, super academics, super dancers, gymnasts, musicians (pick your poison). Don't get me wrong. I don't think there's anything terrible about giving kids opportunities to explore interests and passions. I don't think there's anything wrong with pushing your kids to try their best. I'm just not sure kids need hours of private tutors, private lessons, extra help so they can be SUPER KIDS.

Bad enough we moms must be super moms. Now we've also got to produce superstar kids? What's that about? And why are we all buying into it?

Personally, I'm not. Buying it, that is. I want my kids to do their best, but that doesn't mean they have to be THE best.

Hmmmmm, maybe it's time to give up that supermom notion, too.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Learning To Fall

My daughter is six and involved in gymnastics. I say involved because the program she's in is more than fun-time recreational gym. It's work. Hard work. I've been watching her recently and have noticed something interesting. A year ago, when she fell while practicing a skill, she'd lie on the ground for a moment looking stunned before picking herself up and trying again. Anymore, she falls and jumps right back up without even blinking twice. It seems that while she's been learning the skills, she's also been learning something else. She's been learning to fall.

The other day, she fell off the bar, landed pretty much on her face, swung back up and started the move again, this time completing it flawlessly. After practice, I asked if it hurt when she fell. Her response surprised me. Not no. Not yes. Instead, she said, "I think so, but I got it the second time I tried (it being the move and not the fall)!"

She thinks it hurt? How can she not know?

I have a theory about this. One I am more than willing to share.

Gymnasts are incredibly tough people. How can they not be? To take part in the sport they have to learn to feel pain, to work through it, to even ignore it. They have to experience failure and still believe they can achieve success. They have to fall, brush themselves off, and try again. And again. And again. The only way they can do this is if the pleasure of success outshines the painful falls; if those small triumphs can somehow ease even the biggest wipe outs.

See where I'm headed with this?

Of course you do!

Writing may not be a physically demanding activity, but mentally it can be excruciating. Like the young gymnast soaring from one bar to the next and falling flat on her face, we often find ourselves breathless with pain as our manuscripts are rejected. Slam! All the breath is knocked from our bodies and we're left gasping, wondering if we have the guts to go for it again.

In the past years, I've worked with a lot of writers. Some of them have tried again and again. Slamming down, getting up, slamming down again, until they finally found themselves soaring grasping that bar and swinging high. Others have fallen hard and stayed down, unable to recover from the pain.

There's a reason for both things, I think. God's will. His timing. His plan. But true success can only be had when we are willing to forget the pain and push ourselves whole heartedly toward that high bar again.

Write on!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Shirlee's Cheap Thrills

Okay, I admit it. Every once in a while, I log onto Amazon.com or Barnesandnoble.com and type in my name just so I can look at the list of books. It sounds stupid, I know. After all, it's not like I don't have most of the books here at the house. Still, there's something about seeing them on the computer that motivates me. There I am, Shirlee McCoy the AUTHOR. Who'd have thought it? Not any of my elementary school teachers. Not my middle school language teacher. A couple of high school teachers encouraged my writing, and maybe a college professor or two might have had an inkling that I'd be published one day.

What's my point? Just that we can never know what the future will bring, or how God will use our gifts. We can plan and set our goals. We should plan and set goals. In the end, though, it is God's timing that moves us forward into whatever success we might find. God and a whole lot of hard work and persistence.

When I was a kid, making up stories in my head and day dreaming my life away, I never thought I'd write books one day. The first time I remember actually thinking about writing a novel was when I was a young teen and my sister said she planned to write a book. Suddenly all that daydreaming didn't seem so pointless. I thought, "I can write a book." I actually began my first novel that day. Of course, writing a book is a lot more difficult than actually conceiving the idea. It took me another couple of decades to complete a novel. My sister is still trying to finish one.

I suppose I could still be where she is, not quite committed to the dream. Somehow, though, I was able to go from dream to effort and from effort to success. Maybe I was too much of a daydreamer to worry about how much money I would or wouldn't make or whether or not the sacrafice of time and sleep would be worth the eventual results.

You see, to be an author, we must suspend disbelief, stop worrying about reality, and sink wholeheartedly into the dream. Rejections, writer's block (and, yes, there is such a think), harsh critisisms, they must be in the periphery, shaping and molding us without causing us to colapse. We must be tough and soft at the same time. Committed without being overly attached to our ideas. Sure of ourselves without being arrogant. We must, in essence, be people of character. In an industry like the one we strive to be part of, living with Christ as our center provides the grounding that keeps our reputations pure. And whether we want to believe it or not, reputation means a lot.

Where is your focus today? Who is your model as you interact with the world and deal with the harsh reality that comes from pursuing your dreams?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

One of Those Days

This is the second post I've done. Let's see if either will show up before the night is over!

Recently, several people asked if there were more Lakeview books in my series. For those interested, here's the list in the order that the books take place -


The next three stories are also set in Lakeview, but are part of trilogy about the Sinclair brothers (who had appearances in WHEN SILENCE FALLS). I don't know how SH will market the books, so it remains to be seen whether the books are part of Lakeview or part of something else.

In case you're wondering how seven and three add up to twelve books, I also wrote books for two different continuities. That makes twelve books. Yep, I can still add most of the time.

Which reminds me, my daughter announced yesterday that she couldn't remember the name of one of the girls on her gymnastic team. I told her not to worry about it, because I forget things all the time. She replied. "I guess we're both just getting old." She's six.

Go Ahead and Eat Dessert First

I don't know why I picked that title. Maybe because I really wanted to eat dessert instead of dinner, but needed to set a good example for my kids.

Here's what I'm thinking about today - trials.

I have two dear friends that are going through very difficult times. Today they both called me. Neither was complaining, whining, or filled with self pity, but it was obvious both were struggling. I struggled, too. To say the right thing, to word my responses in ways that weren't coddling or dismissive, because I understood the truth of our conversations. My friends didn't want or need my advice, they just wanted my ear. And really that was all I could give them. After a while the conversation died down, we hung up, and I was left wondering if I'd helped at all.

It's tough when things are going just the way you planned and suddenly the floor drops out from under you. I think human nature demands we look for answers. Sin. Poor choices. Lack of faith. Most of the time, though, the truth is simply that trials are part of life. No matter how loved by God, no matter how close to Him, there will be times when we will walk into the brick wall of uncertainty and have a truckload of doubt crash down on our heads. Look at Job, so loved by God and yet he lost everything. One day life was good, the next he was sitting in ashes and covered with sores. In the end, God lifted Job up again, pulling him out of grief and pain and back into life renewed. In the darkest moments, this is what we need to remember. God may not intervene, but He is there, ready to create joy from sorrow and blessings from loss.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Title

After all the wonderful suggestions I received and passed on to my editor the title for book ten was taken to committee where a unanimous decision was reached. The title for my chocoholic's story is now - THE GUARDIAN'S MISSION.

It's growing on me. :0)

Planning a Writing Career

Much as I'd like to say otherwise, writing is a job. Sure, it's also an expression of self, an artistic endeavor, and a gift, but when the day is done, you're exhausted and you've got a thousand words to write it's just another job that must be done.

Not to pop any balloons or anything like that. The fact is, I love my job. I can't imagine doing anything else. As a matter of fact, I'm trained as a teacher, but I don't plan to ever go back to the classroom (my dining room table and my four kids aside) unless it's to teach writing at a community college or university. What's the sense? My dream is to write. It's what I'm doing.

Here's the thing, though. Writing is a tough job. And I'm not saying that because it opens us up to criticism and rejection. When I was a teacher, I went to school every day. I saw my boss. I saw my fellow teachers. I saw the results of my teaching efforts in test scores and kids' success. Every two weeks I got a paycheck that proved that I was indeed doing a job. As a writer, I don't talk to my editor every day. Mostly I don't talk to her even once a month. I know what I need to do and I focus my energy on doing it so that she can do her job (which involves a whole lot more than my manuscripts). That means that eighty-five percent of the time, I'm working on my own without any input from my 'boss'. She buys the book and sends me off to write it trusting that I can produce what I've said I can. I don't have a crowd of people standing around me cheering me on, I don't have a boss telling me every day what to do and how to do it, I don't have colleagues that I can meet at the water cooler to discuss plans with. And I don't get paychecks every two weeks. The money comes in as my books sell and my royalty statements arrive, or as I receive further advances for work done. That may mean months or weeks between paychecks.

Why am I saying all this? Because the road to publication always begins with a dream. Acheiving that dream, though, is only the beginning of a very fun, fulfilling, and tough career. Careers require plans. If you haven't already jotted down your goals as an author, you should take the time to do it. Do you want to write one book a year? Two? Will you spend twenty hours a week writing or forty? Do you have a dream publisher, or just a vague idea of where your manuscript is headed?

I sold STILL WATERS four years ago in December. Up until that point, my plan was to sell a book in five years. Once I acheived my goal I immediately made a new one. I wanted to sell book ten within five years. I've worked hard to acheive that goal, knowing that name recognition is a good part of being successful in this industry and that the only way to have my name recognized by LI readers was to get more books out a year. I may be a busy homeschool mom, but I have spent time thinking through my writing career. I know what I want to acheive today, this month, and this year. I also know what my long term goals are.

Whether you're just starting out, or have been doing this for a while, I recommend that you take the time to think about your future as a writer. Dreams are nice, but it's concrete goals that set the stage for success.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Things That Bug Me

I've had a really bad headache for the past three days. It's got to be weather related. Anyhow, I'm trying to keep on top of it so I don't get a migraine. Shudder. The problem is that life goes on no matter how sick I feel, so I've just got to keep going and pray eventually this nasty pollen/heat/humidity will go away and take my headache with it!

In honor of my foul mood and pounding head, I'm making a list of things that bug me. Yes, I do get bugged by things. Generally, I'm a laid back, easy going person. My husband will agree with that. Really. I like people. Most of the time I look for the best in them. Sometimes, though, the best is hard to see. Especially when people make comments like:

1. Once you put your kids in school, you'll have more time to write. Then you can write more meaningful book.

2. You're a writer? I thought all you did was homeschool your kids.

3. You're adopting another kid? Isn't four enough?

4. I've always wanted to be a writer, but I wouldn't write those kind of books. I want to write something that matters.

5. You're so lucky.

6. I've always wanted to be a writer, but I just don't have the time.

I think that's it. I'm sure, though, that if given enough time, I could think of more.

That's one of the things about a bad mood. If we allow ourselves to dwell on it, we'll just keep sinking lower and lower into a pit of our own making. This morning I woke up with a verse running through my head - Philippians 4:8 Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things. When we choose to dwell on the negative, we become negative people. When we seek out the positive, we'll find it. That can only make us happier, more positive people.

In the long run, the things that bug me aren't nearly as important as the things that make me smile - my children, my husband, my family, my friends, the kids in my children's choir, the readers who search library and used book stores trying to find my books and those that write to tell me my stories touched their hearts. Today, I choose to dwell on the gifts rather than the grievances.

Go forth with joy!


In the past week or so, I've received many emails from readers who can not find LITTLE GIRL LOST. If you're looking for the second book in the Secrets of Stoneley series and find your way here, I do have some copies of the book which I am more than happy to send out. Just email me your address and I'll pop one in the mail for you. Of course, I have a limited supply of these books, but what I have, I'll share! :0)


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Preparing a Multi-Book Proposal

My friend Lynette who recently sold her second book to Steeple Hill asked me about writing a multi-book proposal. You can find Lynette and news about her books here -

If that link works it'll be a minor miracle considering how bad I am at this stuff.

Anyway, on to the subject at hand. Multi-book proposal writing.

First, I've got to be honest, I've never actually written one until this last sale, so I'm no expert.

Are you wondering how it's possible to get a multi-book contract without writing a multi-book proposal? So am I. Sometimes things fall into place. For me, I guess they did. My first sale was for two books - completely unexpected as I'd written one book and hadn't even suggested an idea for a second. My thought on this is that Steeple Hill was offering all their trade book authors multi-book contracts. They wanted STILL WATERS for their trade line. They offered me a two book deal. That seemed to set off a pattern which I'd love to have repeated over and over again. I feel truly blessed by how many books I've sold in multi-book deals. It doesn't typically happen this way, and my only answer to the question why is that God has reasons. It certainly isn't because of anything I've done.

Okay, that's not quite true. I have worked really hard. I meet my deadlines and I produce clean manuscripts (thanks to my freelance editor Sara Parker). I also listen to my editors and take their suggestions to heart. In other words, I try to make their work as easy as possible.

All that aside, I did finally decide to write a proposal for more than one book. In my latest proposal, I suggest a three book series. Here is how I set it up. First, I prepared a thorough proposal for the book I was working on. That included the three elements you saw in yesterday's post. It may seem like a lot of effort to come up with a sales handle, back cover copy, and promo sentence when you could simply send in three chapters and a synopsis, but by doing this you create a concise summary of your book. This allows the editor to know immediately whether or not the idea will work for her. It also looks very professional. That's always a plus!

Along with the above mentioned three elements, you also need to have a stellar three chapters and a three to eight page synopsis. Yes, I know three to eight pages is vague. I've had editors who like them short and editor who want more detail. If you're unpublished, I'd suggest the longer of the two because your synopsis allows the editor to see that your story works, that it has a clear plot and compelling characters, that it has both focus and direction. These are all vital characteristics of a well-written book.

In the proposal I just sold, I suggested three brothers and my cover letter read something like this -

Meet the Sinclair brothers - Tristan, Grayson, and Jude. One is an ATF agent, one is a lawyer, one is a New York cop. They're all men of faith, willing to do whatever it takes to protect the women they love. Once they find them, that is.

Lakeview Heroes, each of the brothers finds love in the most unexpected of places. Enclosed you'll find Tristan's story. The youngest of the three, Tristan is a man with a plan. Until Martha Gabler arrives on the scene and ruins it.

The next step is the hardest. Prepare a short summary of each of your proposed stories. This will give the editor an idea of where you're headed with the series. I'd suggest no more than a page. As a matter of fact, something along lines of the backcover blurb I posted yesterday would probably work. You don't need tons of details. Just enough to show the editor that you have a plan.

And, no, I stupidly did not include summaries when I proposed the Sinclair brothers. Don't follow my example. The fact is, I've already written nine books for Steeple Hill, and they have faith in me. Unless you are a multi-published author, you really do need to have a summary of each story. Even multi-published authors should have summaries. As I mentioned, sometimes I'm not all that savvy about such things until after the fact.

I think that's it.

We're Tye-dying shirts with my nieces and nephews today, so I've got to go prepare for the onslaught. If you have any questions about proposal writing, feel free to ask. It's the one part of writing that I actually feel pretty confident about!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Story

My editor has sent me back to the drawing board for the title.

For those who asked - here is the story (as well as a peek at how I set up my proposals):

Promo Sentence: When a camping trip turns deadly, a heart-broken woman and an undercover ATF agent must count on their faith and on each other to survive.

Sales Handle: Hero or hit man?

Back cover copy:A family cabin deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains is the perfect place for Martha Gabler to escape sympathetic friends when she breaks up with her fiancé, but her getaway turns deadly when she encounters a group of gun runners determined to keep her from revealing their identities.

Undercover ATF agent Tristan Sinclair is expecting to close down an illegal weapons ring. Instead, he’s fighting for the life of a woman whose faith and courage inspire him. Determined to keep her safe, Tristan travels to the sleepy town of Lakeview, Virginia, and learns that protecting Martha isn’t nearly as difficult as protecting his heart.

Titles, Titles, Titles

I'm really horrible at naming my books. Especially now that I've been told the titles need to be more 'hooky'. That's hook as in draw the reader in and let them know what the story is about immediately. You may be wondering how this is different than what I've been doing all along. Here is a list of my titles for my Lakeview series. Let's play that old Sesame Street game - Which of These Things is Not Like the Other -


Did you spot it? It's like a green apple in a bowl full of red ones. LAKEVIEW PROTECTOR. No, I didn't come up with that title. I came up with about fifteen others. None of which worked.

Personally, I like the idea of hooky titles. I think they really do make a reader stop and take notice. They specifically name key elements of the book and let the potential buyer know before even reading the back cover blurb what the story is about. Obviously, my seventh Lakeview book is about...gasp...a protector.

Here's the problem, I can't write hooky titles. I try. Really, I do. But they just don't come easy to me. Case in point - book number ten. You'd think that by this point, I'd be able to pull a title out in five seconds flat, but over the past twenty-four hours, I've begged, borrowed, and stolen ideas from a variety of people (including, at my editor's suggestion - and how bad must my ideas have been if she made this suggestion - my children).

The original title was purposefully hooky - A HERO BY CHANCE. It was also knowingly bad. I expected to have to change it, but somehow neglected to think up new ideas. Probably because any idea I did come up with was equally bad. At this point, I'm wondering if the book will have a title at all. After consulting with friends, family and kids, there are a more than a few possibilities. Among them - Guardian Hero, Her Kind of Hero, Gunrunner Hero, Her Perfect Hero, A Hero By Design, Unlikely Hero, A Forever Hero, A Hero to Count on, A True Hero, Hero on the Mountain, A Hero at Heart, A Hero at Mind, A Sheep In Wolf's Clothing, The Lost and Lonely Hero, The Hero that is an Agent but is Protecting Someone

The ones in bold are the ones my kids came up with.

What will my editors come up with? That's the real question.

BTW, I'm still taking suggestions. Feel free to make some!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Double Digits

Yesterday, I received an email from my editor which stated that she wanted to buy my proposed manuscript. I was very excited for two reasons. First, I'm always excited when I sell a book. Second, I love my chocoholic heroine and I'm THRILLED that Melissa Endlich and Krista Stroever do, too (I plugged in the names in case anyone happens to have a great RS manuscript to send in). Third (ooops, I guess there are more than two reasons), I had a personal goal of selling book # ten by the end of this year and I DID IT!

To my surprise, when I spoke to Melissa on the phone she said she wants to buy all three of my Sinclair brothers' stories. That will make book 10, 11, and 12.

Wow! I can't quite wrap my mind around that. I remember when I sold the first two books, and I wondered if I'd be a one book wonder. I remember just two weeks ago wondering if I'd ever sell another book again. I remember all those moments of doubt and angst as I got ready to mail my proposal in.

It's strange how life is. You can be so convinced you're going to succeed and then fail. And you can be completely sure you'll fail and then succeed. It's in God's hands. Talent alone is never the driving force in success. Determination and faith - those are the things that eventually see you through.

Sabrina, if you're out there we need to chat!

Monday, July 16, 2007

And They're Off

My hero and heroine finally took a one-way flight to New York. The manuscript will hit my editor's desk on her first day back from RWA. Poor Melissa. I didn't actually plan it that way. I was holding on to that proposal as if my entire life depended on its success. Which, of course, it didn't.

If you're wondering, I suppose I like the story. Actually, I love the story, but I'm sure I'll hate it before the wait is over.

And just so that no one thinks I'm a shoe-in for a contract because I'm already published, there is a good possibility Steeple Hill won't buy the story that I just sent out. See, it's not about whether I love my chocoholic heroine and her hunky hero. It's not even just about whether the writing is good or the story is compelling. It is also about timing. Has anyone else done any thing like this recently?

It's about personal taste. Will my editor hate the fact that my villain is a freckle-faced killer (Probably not, but she might get annoyed with number of times I say it. I do so love to repeat myself!)?

It's about supply and demand. Are there slots that need filling and is my book going to be marketable enough to be fit into one of them?

Though rejection always feels very personal, it's not. Most often it's simply a matter of two or three of the above things combining to make an editor think - not this one. Not this time.

It stinks (I know this from experience), but it's part of the process.

I'm going to keep that in mind as I wait and wonder how my chapters and synopsis are fairing.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

How to Say Goodbye

Okay, I admit it. I've been holding on to my proposal for six weeks. It's been done, finished, ready to go for all that time, but I'm still holding onto it. Every day before I begin working on THE BOOK, I open up my proposal file and read it through. I change words, I change sentences, I wonder if it make sense. Then I tell myself that I'm going to print it out and mail it off.

And then I don't. Print it out. Or mail it off.

This isn't my usual MO. I'm usually quite good at saying goodbye. Maybe I'm really busy right now and doubting my abilities because of it. Maybe there's something not quite right about the story and my instincts are trying to tell me that. Maybe I'm just afraid of failure.

Whatever the case, I need to get that proposal out the door.

If you've got something you've finished, but are holding on to, here's my sure-fire way to get your baby out the door.

1. Read it again.
Yes, I know you've read it a half-million times, but read it once more. Not on the computer scree, either. Print it out. Read it like it's a book. Mark any grammatical errors, missed words, or poorly worded sentences with red.
2. Make the changes.
If you've found any of the above, fix them. Rework sentences, reread paragraphs, spend time working toward elusive perfection.
3. Tell yourself you've done it.
You've made the manuscript the best it can be without editorial help. You've polished and shined until your book nearly glows. There is nothing (repeat it with me...nothing) more that you can do.
4. Print it out again.
5. Do not read this copy.
Instead, clip it and slide it into the envelope it will make its journey in.
6. Write your cover letter. Make it brief and professional.
7. Package everything together and seal the envelope.
8. Immediately head for the post office and send that baby out.
Do not let children, pets, jobs or husbands interfere with this task. If you do, the envelope will remain where you've lain it for the next six weeks.

Easy, right?

So why haven't you done it?

Why haven't I done it?

Believe it or not, I know the answer to this. Once we send our manuscripts out, we can no longer rework, revise, recreate. Our words and, therefore, pieces of our soul are racing toward their destination and we know they aren't perfect. No matter how many times we search, our eyes aren't refined enough to show us all the flaws. We know they're there and we want desperately to see them, but even as we find and fix, more mistakes remain and are made. Instinctively, we know this. We just don't want to accept it. In a world where good isn't necessarily saleable, we need great, fantastic, beyond the norm. Until we send our book off, we can hope it is that, dream it is that. Once it's gone, there's no chance to make it what we're striving so hard for.

Here's something else we must know and accept. No manuscript is perfect, no story is without flaw. We're not alone in our imperfection. We're the norm. Our words aren't being compared to other, better manuscripts. They're being weighed in the heart reaction of the editor. When she reads, does the story come alive? Do the characters touch her? Does she want to keep turning pages? If so, the flaws - small and large - will be noticed only as items that need changing, not as deal-breaker, send-this-back-to-that-horrid-writer catastrophes.

Okay. So let's get this done. We've got much better things to do with our time than rework already reworked writing. Like writing the next book!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

What's at the Bottom of the Bowl?

When I was a kid, my grandmother had beautiful blue and white china painted with swirls and flowers and other (to me) exotic things. At the bottom of each bowl was a scene. I believe they were China inspired. Maybe Japanese. We're talking several decades here, so my memory is dim. What I do remember is this - there were certain things that I did not like to eat: Oatmeal (ew!), clam chowder (double ew!), that weird chicken stuff my grandfather made (shudder). My grandmother, being pragmatic and wise, would put these things in the blue and white bowls and I would immediately begin scooping food into my mouth. I hated the taste, but I loved the end result. Each bite revealed a bit more of the picture at the bottom of the bowl and each time I saw the picture I'd discover something new in it. Eventually, the bowl would be empty, the picture revealed, and I'd have those few moments to daydream and imagine as I stared into the oatmeal speckled depths of painted fantasy.

Oddly enough, these memories had been lost to me for a while. My busy life sometimes prevents me from looking back. A week ago, I was sitting in church, listening to a sermon about Heaven, thinking about loved ones who'd traveled on ahead of me, and I thought about those bowls. I realized then, that life is often the same. Hard to swallow, difficult to get down, but in the end revealing a picture filled with details and ripe with fantastic revelations.

I'm not a kid anymore. I'm not so hot for surprises. At times I think it would be easier to be given an empty life bowl....one with a clear view to the bottom and the painting waiting there for me. As I work on a novel and struggle to bring it to life, I wonder if I'm meant to do this. If perhaps the contents of another bowl might be easier to swallow. Really....how insane is it to sit in front of a computer, typing away hours of one's life? How crazy to daydream the lives of make believe people? How difficult to never know if an idea will fly or fail? Each bite out of the bowl reveals only a tiny bit of the picture beneath and that's soon covered with the muck and mire of an author's life. Still, I press on, one sentence at a time, one page at a time, alone in my quest for the story's end.



But I believe, and maybe you do, too, that we are knit together in our mother's womb with talents and gifts that can be used or not. When the going is tough, we can collapse and retreat, or we can keep moving forward, knowing that we are doing what we are meant to do. Personally, I believe that scooping a mouthful of bitter defeat gets me a step closer to that glorious picture. The one painted by God. The one only He can see.

Yes, it's true that I'm doing a lot of internal searching late. Chalk it up to heading for that BIG birthday. Or perhaps moving toward our daughter so far away from home. Or maybe it's just me, scooping, scooping, scooping at the oatmeal, the chowder, the chicken, looking for the beauty beneath the struggles.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

And So It Begins

My second son will be eleven next month. We call him (with great affection) the absent minded professor. The world just isn't big enough to contain Caleb. Often, he's deeply involved in thoughts that have nothing to do with whatever might be going on in his physical world. Thus, my sweet Caleb is always the last to walk out the door when we're going somewhere, the last to realize I'm handing out snacks, the last to involve himself in conversations (quite often he'll pipe in with his opinion five minutes after the conversation is over!). He often trips, bumps his head, walks into things that most people would see and avoid. In essence, Caleb is me when I was a kid. Daydreamer. Story maker. Thinker.

A few weeks ago, our church had children's week. All the kids participated in the service. As children's choir leader, I helped organize the children, giving as many as possible jobs. We had several children play instruments. Some read scripture. Others were ushers. Caleb read a poem he'd written for a visit to an assisted living facility. Afterwards, the pastor told Caleb that he wanted to publish his poem in our church newsletter. Sure enough, a few weeks later, we received the newsletter with Caleb's poem printed inside. When I showed my son, he took the newsletter from my hand, a half-smile playing across his face as he read. Then he looked up, his big blue eyes behind those thick-lensed absent-minded professor glasses filled with awe, and said - "My first publication. I'm a real author now."

My heart soared and broke simultaneously. My son the writer. It's in his blood like it's in mine. The passion for stories. The determination. The near obsession with the written word. A hard path to travel. A joyful one. But one that must be accepted for whatever God will make it to be. The further along the path I wander, the more I know how little of the journey is in my hands. I write. God moves...bringing my words where He will.

Maybe I can teach my son that as he grows. Maybe it's just something that has to be learned by experience. One way or another, I know Caleb's path as a writer will be as rocky and wonderful as mine.

Happy 4th!

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Writing Dilemma

If you're reading this you're probably a writer, maybe a mother, more than likely working either at home or outside the home. In other words - you're busy. With a million chores and responsibilities calling you away from writing, it seems almost impossible to focus on putting word to page. Perhaps you're wondering if you should even try. After all, isn't your time better spent doing laundry, dishes, windows, and floors? Couldn't you make more money more quickly if you did what any rational person would and got a job (or a second job, or even a third one)? If you don't need the money, you surely need the time. More time for you, more time for your spouse, more time for kids, family, friends.

This is the writing dilemma. On the one hand, every writer I know believes writing is what she's meant to do. On the other, she believes that writing is secondary to the rest of her life.

So, how does a woman balance writing and life?

She doesn't.

Instead, she carves out time for writing and makes it as much of a priority as floors, laundry, and dishes. I know this is hard. I've lived it for a long time. My struggle is always this - I'm a Christian who believes my most important job is raising my children. How in the world does that coincide with writing books (which takes an inordinate amount of time and energy and perseverance). Both tasks are limitless, draining and difficult. Neither has a clear-cut end. After all, we will continue to be mothers long after our kid leave the house, and when we finish one book, there is always another to write.

How can one person possibly be called to do both?

The answer to that is as simple as it is complicated - God, in is His infinite wisdom and all-knowing power, has willed it to be so. He does not give more than we can handle, but He always gives more than we can handle alone. If this were easy, we wouldn't have to return again and again to the feet of the cross. If it were easy, we wouldn't have to lean ever more heavily on the shoulders that bore our sins and carried them away.

If it were easy, everyone would do it.

But it isn't.

The task is for those strong enough to persevere, weak enough to know their limits, and wise enough to understand that God can and will give us what we need to be successful as He defines the term.

Perhaps that's the hardest task of all - knowing that what we define as success doesn't always match with God's vision and plan. If writing is our life, so is failure, disappointment, and disillusion. In that, we learn to be humble, to stretch beyond our comfort zones, and to rely not on the world's opinion, but on the peace that we achieve when we are working hard toward His vision for our life.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Where oh Where Did My Post Go...take 2

I think I've got another MIA post.

Let's see if this one shows up.

Monday, June 25, 2007


Going on vacation did not refresh me.I repeat - it did NOT refresh me.

I want to say it did. I'd like to believe it did. But at eight o'clock on Monday morning, knowing that VBS is tonight and that my kids are riding a weekend long sugar high, I'm thinking I'm not refreshed enough for the week ahead. I'm tired. I'm grumpy.

I'm simply not ready.

Really, by this time in the day we should be at the dining room/homeschool table, bent over school books, writing reports on Booker T. Washington (went to the plantation where he was a slave)and D-day (visited the memorial in Bedford...if you're ever there, go see it!). Instead, I'm listening to ds #3 cry because he doesn't want to do gym, dd encourage her brother in a loud and obnoxious (I can say that, I'm her mom)voice, and ds#1 boss everyone around. DS#2 is busy creating a fantasy world. I'll leave him to it for a while.

I think the kids and I need some focus. Unfortunately, I'm the adult. It's my job to focus everyone. If I had the energy, I might do it.

Whether or not I do remains to be seen.

Writing? Ha! I've still got to finish the proposal. The writing portion is done, but I want to prepare the package. We'll see if that gets out this week.

On a happier note, I'm making steady progress on the book in a month.

How about you?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

We're Off to See the Wizard!

Well, not quite. We are, however, heading off into the sunset (or sunrise, as the case may be). A few days of vacation will go a long way in getting rid of kid, mom, and dad grumpies. Of which there seems to be a lot lately. Or so I'm thinking.

When we get home, I've got to mail in a new book idea, finish the manuscript I'm working on and face the unfortunate laundry that vacation always results in. While we're away, I'm going to relax. For me that means polishing up a few writing ideas while the sounds of rural night life dance in the air around me. Somehow the rhythm and pulse of Smith Mountain Lake sooths me, helping me focus on ideas that have been percolating in my suburbanite brain (read that: over-stimulated brain). In the hush of water lapping against earth, the softness of night's silence, I can hear my thoughts again. And find direction where there was only floundering before.

Perhaps that is simply because it is there that I hear Him most clearly...the Spirit's nudge just a little stronger when there aren't so many voices pulling my attention away from it.

Everyone needs a place and a time like that, don't you think? Without it we run, run, run.....full tilt hearing nothing but the cacophony of demands that spring from one job to the next. Home school, writing, house work, vacation Bible school, children's choir, Sunday School. More, more, more. Faster, faster, faster. Like one of those spinning tops - at first making tight, effectives circles, but eventually growing wider in its circuit, sloppier in its form, controlled by momentum that is quickly fading, energy that is fast seeping away.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Now About the Adoption

It's funny that my writing and the adoption process seem to be so closely linked in my mind. They have absolutely nothing to do with each other except for one thing - they're both a lot of work!

We've completed the paper work that's involved with the home study, had a health inspector and fire marshal visit our home, been to the vet to make sure our cats were updated on all their vaccinations, been to animal control to pick up licenses for the cats. Rodney and I have been fingerprinted, had our motor vehicle records scrutinized, filled out financial statement (twice!), purchased and turned in copies of our marriage license and birth certificates for every member of the family (not cheap!). Filled out multi-question self-studies, family history reports for each of us, home safety check-lists. Each of the kids visited the doctor for Hep A vaccines and boosters on their chicken pox vaccination. Rodney and I both have appointments to get physicals which mostly involve drug screening, HIV tests, a tetanus shot and a Hep A vaccination (Hepatitis A is a problem in China).

And this is all before we have our individual meetings with our social worker.

Needless to say, I'm beginning to wonder if there is an end in sight.

Of course, this is how I always feel when I'm writing a book. Will I ever finish? Will there ever be a completed project? What will the end results be? The unknown is a scary but necessary evil in life. We have no choice but to step forward in faith when we feel that God is calling us to do something. Doing so is often uncomfortable, pulling us into unfamiliar territory and forcing us out of our comfort zone. It's there that we grow, becoming stronger as our faith sustains us and carries us through.

Don't let fear keep you from moving toward your goal and dreams. Whatever they may be!

A Book in Month


I'm on deadline. I have well over two months before the book is due, but I want to have it finished by the second week of July. This will give me plenty of time to set the book aside, pass it on to my freelance editor, and then get back to it with fresh eyes. In my opinion those things are necessary for the creation of a clean, well-written book.

If you think it's not possible to write a book in a month, think again. Steeple Hill has changed its word count. Manuscripts need only be 55-60 thousand words. That means two thousand words for thirty days. Piece of cake. Really. I've done this before.

Trust me when I say that if Shirlee McCoy aka Queen of Procrastination can write a book in a month anyone can do it. The key is to stick to the daily goal. Don't go back and reread, don't edit, don't angst over how bad the writing is. Write your two thousand words with the idea that you'll have another month to go back and rework and rewrite.

Remember, a first draft is just that. The idea that a person can write a clean first draft that needs no revising or polishing is a beyond my comprehension. I'm sure there are people out there who can, but I'm not one of them. By forcing myself to finish the first draft quickly, I allow plenty of time for polishing and rewriting. Which is always so much easier than getting the first draft done.

Want to write a book in a month?

Of course you do.

So, I dare you to try.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Feeling Defensive??

I brought my cats to the vet Friday. My kids were with me. As the vet examined Cosmo, he asked one of my kids if school was out for the year. My son said, "we're homeschooled." The vet looked in the cat's mouth, pressed on his belly, and then said, "so, tell me, what are you doing regarding social health?"

I think - social health? Do cats have social health? Do they need special classes? Is there something I'm supposed to be doing that I'm not? Are cats even social??

I scrambled around for an answer, nearly speechless for once and feeling like a parent who's forgotten to bring her kid in for important inoculations. Finally, I said, "Well, we're home with them all day."

The vet glanced up from the cat, nodded sagely and said, "Yes, well that's my point. Your kids are home with you all day. Do they have friends? What do you do to meet their social needs?"

My kids? This was about my kids? I thought he was examining my cats, but apparently not.

Maybe I should have been rude and told the guy it was none of his business, but I just don't have it in me. Besides, it always amuses me to see how quickly people change their mind about my homeschooling when they find out I was trained as a teacher and taught public school for several years. Immediately, I become more than a strange creature with odd ideas about child rearing and become knowledgeable and wise.

If only people knew the truth. :0)

Anyway, in case you're wondering, I took some time to explain exactly how my kids are 'socialized', including all their activities and their friends. I know I didn't need to, but somehow I always feel compelled. Let me prove that what I'm doing is okay. Let me show you that I'm not harming my kids in anyway.

I suppose it's natural to feel defensive when questioned about something personal and close to your heart. I find that I'm the same way about writing. It's very easy to jump to the defensive when someone questions what I've done in a book or a manuscript. Learning to be silent, to listen and to wait are the key to dealing with constructive and not so constructive criticism. By nature, being writers puts us in the spotlight and leaves us vulnerable. It's not easy to put heart and soul on the line. It is even harder to absorb and accept rather than defend when we feel we're being criticized. Unfortunately, it's part of the deal.

Every job has positives and negatives. Writing is no different. To be successful one must be willing to be vulnerable without getting defensive. Sometimes this means basking in the glow of well earned praise. Sometimes it means rising up from the rubble when your words have been knocked down, torn up and trampled into dust.

Like parenting, writing isn't for the faint of heart.

Of course nothing worth while is.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Where Oh Where Did My Post Go?

I'm back from New York and wrote a nice long post about the trip. Unfortunately, it's missing. I don't know why it's missing. I just know it is.

Fortunately, other things aren't missing. Like my kids. They all survived unscathed.

It's always fun to be away from home and always great to be back. Of course, now I must write, write, write. Which means feeling better about my writing. Which is sometimes much harder than it seems.

That's the trouble with what we do. No matter how many books we publish, how many compliments we get, how many rejections we file away, how many contests we fail to final in, writing really comes down to one thing - belief. Belief in self. In one's ability to succeed. Belief in the story, the characters, the plot.

Some days that's easier than others. Sometimes we ride on a high, feeling good about what we're doing and where we're headed. Other times we realize how little we know about our craft and how little talent we have in comparison to the great big pool of talent that exists in the world. Granted there are people who are always riding that high, always convinced they've got the key to success in the tips of their fingers. Personally, I think it's healthier to have a little doubt.

Sometimes, though, I have a lot of doubt.

If you ever have that problem, if you're ever dwelling in the pit of uncertainty, frozen by your conviction that you're not good enough to succeed in this business, take my advice and write anyway. The only cure for the writer's blues is to sit down and do what we love most.

Gotta scoot.

Who knows. Maybe that missing post will show up one day!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

My Editor is Bossy (and several other things I learned in New York)

New York was an interesting and fun experience. I learned a lot. Since I know you are all dying to hear each profound revelation, I will list them all in no particular order:

1. My editor is bossy.... when she's trying to save her authors from being trampled on a subway escalator. Who knew that there were rules regarding which side of the escaltor to ride on? You probably did, but I did not. Thankfully, Melissa was there to save me from certain death by stampede. I'd like to think she saved me because she couldn't stand the thought of losing me as an author (because I'm so talented. snort), but I'm pretty sure she'd have done the same for anyone. She's a great lady. Now that I owe her my life, I may have to stop being so obnoxious to her.

2. My editor doesn't have nearly as many manuscripts cluttering her office as I imagined. Sad, I know. However, truth is truth, and the truth is that I imagined piles of papers stacked to the ceiling. Melissa only had a few stacks of very happy looking manuscripts. They are all being well fed, well watered, and, of course, well read. My husband is going to download pictures. I got Melissa's permission to post them...so eventually you'll get a peak inside an editor's office. Aren't you feeling the thrill? Seriously...doesn't every author want to know what an edtior's desk looks like? Now I know. Which might not be such a good thing. Maybe they'll send goons to threaten me...keep quiet about what you've seen or we'll send dirty laundry gremlins to your house to multiply the dirty clothes that were waiting for you when you got home.

BTW...just an aside...Krista Stroever has the neatest office I have ever seen. This did not surprise me. She's the most terrifyingly organized woman I've ever met. If I didn't like and respect her so much, I'd have to suspect terrible things about her just to make myself feel better. Alas, Krista is a wonderful person and all I can do is wish that I had half the organizational skills she does. Sigh.

3. The cupcakes aren't worth the trip, but the doughnuts are.

4. Broadway Street is much longer than it seems to be.
Walking from 12hundredsomething Broadway to 233 Broadway in 90 degree weather when you've got an appointment with your editor is NOT a good idea.

5. A sea of humanity actually does look like a sea. Waves, wiggles, flow and all.

I'm sure I have more to add, but my children need some mommy TLC, so I must be off.

The book signing was a blast. The cover art on the new historical line is SOOOOOO great. If you're hoping to write for the LI historical line keep those manuscripts heading in to New York.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Look Out New York, here I come!

Two posts in one day. I'm as surprised as you are!

I'm leaving for New York and the BEA on Friday.

I can't believe I'm doing a book signing in the New York, but more than that, I can't believe I'm going to get to see my editor's office and the notorious slush pile. I've been dreaming about this moment for years.

Not really, but it sure sounded good, didn't it? Actually, I've been wanting to see the building that Harlequin is housed in. I'm into cool architecture, so this should be a real treat. My train leaves around seven a.m. on Friday even though I'm not signing until Saturday morning. I'll stay Friday and Saturday night. The fact that I could easily have taken the train in on Saturday morning, signed and been home Saturday night is something that I refuse to contemplate. At the moment, I am desperate for a break. Not from my hubby or kids, just from the endless routine of mommy-hood, writer-hood, and every other hood that I wear (as opposed to hats).

My mom and I are going to travel together and do some sightseeing Friday and Saturday afternoon and evening. Friday I'm heading to Harlequin to meet with Melissa, we'll take the tour of the offices and then have lunch. I've been very blessed in that I've clicked with all my editors and have a very easy working relationship with them. I enjoy them as people as much as I enjoy their expertise, so it should be a fun time.

The book I'm signing is coming out next month. VALLEY OF SHADOWS is the fifth book in my Lakeview series and is actually a follow up to EVEN IN THE DARKNESS. That means another visit to Thailand and Mae Hong Son. And another visit with Hawke. Now he was a truly great hero to write!

Of course, I nervous. Book signings always make me that way. What a blessing though, to be invited to do this!

I'm going to take pictures and have my husband post them on my website when I return.

The Health Inspector Cometh and Why You Shouldn't Put Off That Writing Project

In the midst of the end of the school year craziness (and I won't bore you with all that means), the health inspector called to set up an appointment to inspect my house. Yes, it's true. As part of our adoption home study, we had to have the fire inspector and the health inspector out for a visit. I didn't mind the fire inspector so much. We've got smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers. What could he possibly find to criticize?

The health inspector, however, freaked me out.

Don't get me wrong, my house is no pig sty. It's relatively neat and clean (unless you count deadline days...I don't). It's just that the thought of someone coming in, opening closest and cupboards, checking for hidden dirt and clutter and secret ugliness bothers me. In preparation for THE DAY, I frantically cleaned out every cupboard and every closet, I scrubbed tubs and sinks, swept floors and forced my poor husband to install the toilet in our downstairs bathroom (which is currently under construction). In other words, I cleaned more in three days than I generally do in two weeks.

When the inspector arrived I was ready. I don't know what I was expecting (maybe a white glove wearing, clip board carrying member of the clean team). What I got was a very nice twenty-something guy who sauntered into my house, checked my hot water to make sure it was working, measured my daughter's bedroom, measured our bathroom, asked where I kept toxic substances, checked our play fort for sturdiness and left.

Very anticlimactic. See, it seems that the health inspector was looking for reasons to give us a passing inspection rather than searching for reasons to fail us. Go figure.

So, here's the thing...and yes, friends, I can relate this to writing.

There are times when I put off writing related projects because I just know every word is going to be scrutinized and found lacking. I'm sure that editors and agents are searching for problems and looking for a reason to reject me. I'll waffle around, not completing a proposal, or completing it and not sending it in because I'm terrified of having all my dirty little writing secrets revealed and being shown as the fraud I am (Shirlee McCoy - author impersonator). If I allow myself to, I can sit on projects for several months.

Unfortunately, time is not an authors friend.

In the end rationality and practicality win out (why write if I'm not going to let my words be seen?) and I send my projects out, heading to the post office with sweaty palms, churning stomach, and the certainty that I am about to be rejected and eviscerated.

Meanwhile in New York, my editor is busily reading her pile of manuscripts. Though one might picture a curmudgeon, gloomily eying the to-be-read pile with various amounts of cynicism, that couldn't be further from the truth. Let me assure you that she is not wearing thick rimmed glasses and a scowl, she is not a card carrying member of the red pen society, and she does not have a giant "rejected because you stink as a writer so please don't ever submit to me again!" stamp clutched in her hand. Like the health inspector who was looking for reasons to give my house a passing grade, my editor is looking for reasons to give manuscripts space on book shelves. Her job isn't to find bad manuscripts, but to find good ones. Sure she notices when a plot isn't working or characters are weak, but she also notices when writers have promise, talent, and that special spark that makes their stories come to life. She isn't red-lining every mistake, keeping a journal and computer log about who misspelled which words how many times. Of course, she must reject more manuscripts than she buys, but what makes her happy is reading those manuscripts that stand out as just a cut above the rest.

If, like me, you worry and sweat over sending your baby off to be scrutinized, relax. Things aren't nearly as scary as they might seem. In the end, good storytelling wins out every time. So, write your stories, make them sing, then send them off. You may be surprised at how painless it all really is!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

To Network or Not

While I was waiting to hear back on STILL WATERS, I met several pre-pubbed authors and even joined a critique group. Up to that point, I'd been writing in a cocoon, completely oblivious to anything and everything that had to do with the writing world. As I immersed myself into a totally new culture, I heard a lot of talk about the benefits of networking, the importance of attending conferences, and the need to know people. This worried me.

I knew a lot of people. However, it was obvious that those people were not the right people and that somehow my career as a writer was going to be hurt by my inability to connect with the right crowd. I began to feel like a high school freshmen standing on the fringe of the popular clique - never invited in, always just a smile away from being part of them. I didn't have the money for conferences. My kids were seven, five, four, and one. I barely had time to put words on page, let alone chat with groups of writers, rub shoulders with editors, and fly to writing conferences. Was I destined to fail before I'd even begun?

A few years later, I can say with certainty that it isn't conferences or people who help an author toward success. It's hard work, determination, perseverance in the face of rejection. It's trusting in gut instincts and believing in a story enough to carry it through to completion. Writing isn't about rules, it isn't about hobnobbing, it isn't about conferences or contests. It's about the joy of putting words to paper, it's about creating word pictures that come to life in the mind of readers. It's about work, work, work.

If you find time for other things...good. If not, don't sweat it. You're going to be just fine!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Why My Cat Drinks From the Toilet (and other things I don't understand)

I have two cats. One of them loves to drink from the toilet. I don't understand this as he always has clean, fresh water available to him. We adopted the older cat when he was one. He drinks from his water bowl. We adopted Cosmo when he was a baby. He drinks from the toilet. Figure that one out, because I can't.

Here's another thing I can't figure out - why is it that it's okay to adopt a child if you're childless, or if you have (let's say) three son and no daughters, or two daughters and no sons, but not so okay when you've got four biological children of various genders? Why is it okay to have two or three kids, maybe even four, but not five or six? Perhaps the more important question is - why do people in our society feel they have the right to comment on personal decisions that have nothing to do with them, but don't feel the need to step in and lend a hand during times of trouble? Just a case in point: a few months ago my car broke down. I was stuck nearly in the middle of an intersection on a very busy road. I managed to back out of the intersection, but was blocking an entire lane of traffic. For fifteen minutes I sat waiting for my husband to arrive, my hazard lights on, cars whizzing by. In that time not one person stopped to ask if I needed help, no one offered assistance, no one even acknowledged my trouble (unless you count angry horn-honking as acknowledgment). Juxtaposed to that, we've decided to adopt and I've already had at least three people ask me why in shocked and horrified voices. Two have even gone so far as to say (this is very near a quote)that my husband and I are being greedy and selfish to want more children. I'm not particularly bothered by these comments, but I do wonder how a culture supports the rise of both the intense "be true to yourself, pursue your passions, live for you" mentality and the "I have the right to stick my nose into a near stranger's business" philosophy. In a time when individuality and isolationism are embraced, it seems strange that so many people are so worried about the decisions of others.

Perhaps this is a good thing. At least people are passionate about their thoughts and beliefs. If only we could harness that, become a culture built on community and neighborhood again; a place where we value the contributions of others and work hard to help those we see every day rather than focusing so intently on ourselves and our achievements. This life is not about what we do for ourselves, but about what we do for others. It's about service not in a wide sense of the word, not in a showy look-what-I-did-to-help sense, but in a quiet sense of selflessness, of seeking to help those that are quietly suffering - an elderly neighbor, a person we barely know who has lost someone near to them. Saving whales and dolphins is great, but let's also save those who are quietly slipping away because they have no sense of community, no sense of belonging, and no feeling that someone cares.

Shirlee's word count for Tuesday- - 5,000. Yes, that's a negative number. I've had to restart my proposal because it stinks. Let's see if I can finish it this week. How about your writing? Feel free to post word counts.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Would One Matter?

As a writer and one-time American studies major, I often find myself looking at news and media and wondering how much of what I'm hearing is truth and how much is a step to the right or left of fact. After the horrible tragedy Monday, I listened to several news reports and watched with horror as the number of dead rose. There are no words in any language that can describe such carnage, or that can adequately express the grief of those who lost loved ones in such a violent senseless way. I don't mean to be part of the cacophony of voices expressing opinion, horror, or national grief. There is no way my shock can compare to that of parents, students, wives, husbands, children who are living first-hand the consequences of selfish and sinful humanity. I won't dare touch on motive, won't mention the killer, won't debate sin versus sickness. To those who lost people close to them, those things don't matter.

What matters is that they lost someone they loved. That someone is not a group lying broken and bloody on a classroom floor. S/he is an individual, loved, cherished and now gone. As the media repeats over and over again that this is the worst mass murder in American history, one must ask - would this much attention be given to one soul, one broken body, one grieving family? Are we horrified by the sheer number of deaths, by the violent manner of the murders, or are we truly grieving the humanity lost that day?

Media and opinion aside, let us not lose sight of the fact that this act was not committed against a group of thirty-two, but rather against thirty-two individuals. Each should be mourned, his life remembered not because he was part of a national catastrophe, but because he was loved.

Shirlee's word count for Tuesday - 2,025

Saturday, April 14, 2007


That has nothing to do with writing....but maybe it does (if I try hard enough).

I was watching t.v. last night instead of writing (which is what I should have been doing). Actually, I was going through my normal procrastination routine - write a word, watch t.v., write two words, watch more t.v. In one hour's time, I'd managed to write a paragraph and see two programs and a LOT of commercials. One commercial in particular caught my attention. There's a school bus, a bunch of rowdy children, a school bus driver who walks onto the bus, looks at the kids with horror, opens a DVD player and turns it on. Immediately the children go into a state of near coma - staring wide-eyed at the screen, mouths gaping open as whatever is playing plays. The bus driver smiles and the commercial goes on. Something about a car providing you with what you need to keep everyone happy.

Is that what it takes to make people happy? Keep the kids quiet and occupied, keep the parents free from irritation, keep everyone doing their own thing rather than engaging?

Years ago, I read a book for a college class titled THE PLUG IN DRUG. An interesting read, the book compared the physiological response to television to that obtained by drug use. It's been a while since I read it, but I found it on Amazon plus a revised version. http://www.amazon.com/Plug-Drug-Television-Children-Revised/dp/0140076980/ref=sr_1_3/002-9051680-9599254?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1176551884&sr=1-3

Silly as it may seem, there's truth in the statement that American children spend more time with other people, on the computer, or plugged into video games and t.v. than they do with their parents. Sharing space in a house or a ride does not mean active communication is occurring. It only means we're sharing space.

As a writer and a mother, I must work hard to balance work and motherhood. Staying involved in my children's lives is key to creating a lasting relationship with them. Personally, I think that's much more important than a peace and quiet.

Shirlee's word count for 4/13 - 1500.

See, it is about writing. :0)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Whatever Works

There are a lot of writing how-to books on the market. There are books on writing from the heart, books on writing the novel that lives inside you, books on plotting, characterization, word craft, synopsis writing, proposal writing.

As a reader and a writer, I applaud the concept of the how-to book. As a pragmatic person not given to believe there's only one way to do any particular thing, I'm doubtful any book can make a writer's path easier. The fact is, all the plotting, all the word crafting, all the writing from the heart can't create a book that's going to sell. While reading books about writing may clarify our writing strengths and weaknesses, it does not guarantee success because it only provides tools for a job that takes both craftsmanship, creativity and talent. Hand me a book about painting, a paint brush, canvas and paint and I will prove my point. I may be able to paint, but I'll never be able to paint well.

This is not meant to be a discouraging post, but rather one that will give you a practical look at a career that takes a myriad of abilities. An author must have a small measure of writing ability, a fair amount of story telling talent, a large amount of self discipline and an even larger amount of determination. Even if a writer sells her very first novel, there is no guarantee a second or third sale will quickly follow. To be a writer, one must be willing to commit to a career that has more ups and downs than the stock market and just as much uncertainty.

As I ready myself to mail in a proposal, I realize anew just how uncertain what I do is. Just because I sold a book yesterday does not mean that what I write will still be relevant today. My goal as a writer is always to press on through defeat, disappointment and disillusion. When I doubt myself, when others doubt me, when I wonder if I really have what it takes to be an author, I return to the root of who I am - a persistent, optimistic story teller who may not sell the next story, but who will keep writing. There is no magic bullet, no quick fix, no short cut. I work one plodding word at a time, one page, one paragraph, one idea. I don't use charts, graphs, or note cards. I do things my way with grim determination and an eye for detail. It works. For me.

The question is...all those writing books and conference workshops aside....what is going to work for you? How will you take your idea and lay it out on paper, craft it into something beautiful, something worth spending late nights reading? How will you take the rules, the devices, the words of wisdom and shape them into something that is uniquely yours?

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Snow and Other Good Reasons to Write

It's April 7th and snowing. I'm not quite sure what to make of it. One thing is for sure, it doesn't feel like spring.

Fortunately, the book I'm working on takes place in winter. It's hard to write warm weather when it's freezing out!

Speaking of which.....

If you've been procrastinating, putting off, perhaps even avoiding here are a few good reasons to write -

It's the Best Kind of Therapy.

Sad? Angry? Feeling a little crazy? Sometimes it's hard to write when we feel emotionally drained or overly excited. Really, though, that's the best time to put words to page. To write compelling characters we must understand the depth of their pain and the height of their joy. Don't be afraid to let your own emotions color the sentences and paragraphs you're crafting. It's easy enough to tone down emotion in our stories, but not so easy to add it in once the story is complete.

Little Steps Bring Big Success.

Any task can seem overwhelming if we look at it in its entirety. Piled-high laundry, overflowing sink, too-tight jeans. If we look at all we have to accomplish, we often feel like we can't accomplish anything. While I tend to be a big-picture person, the big picture is often overwhelming. To keep myself moving forward, I focus on one small task at a time - one load of laundry, one load of dishes, one pound, one paragraph, one page. Sure one page doesn't seem like much, but over the course of a year, I'll have written a novel.

It Isn't the Destination. It's the Journey.

I can't remember who said that, but I agree. If you're putting off writing because you don't think you'll get published, or because you're not sure you know enough about writing, or because you can't (pick your poison) attend conferences, afford a good computer printer, network, enter contests, etc, then you're missing the point of being a writer. The truth is, a real writer writes. Published or not. Certain of success or not. Ready or not. She writes. It's part of her journey and part of her life, a gift knit into the very fiber of her being. The rhythms of words and sounds, the melody of characterization and plot, those are things she learns as she experiments with stories and ideas.

So, on this snowy April day, write. Because you should. Because you have to. Because it's your gift and your burden.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Writing Through the Chaos

It's no secret that I've got four kids home with me all day every day. It's no secret that those children are noisy, active, and interesting kids. They require attention. They require interventions. They require love, affection, meals, clean clothes. Normal stuff for normal kids.

It's also no secret that I'm an author. I write inspirational romantic suspense stories. I write about women who aren't married and who usually do not have kids. I write about peaceful worlds thrown into chaos. These stories do not reflect my life.

My life is a normality of chaos. Of noise and fun, excitement, irritations. Challenges. Blessings. To fit writing into the that takes creativity. If you're having trouble finding the time for your writing you may find these suggestions helpful.

1) prioritize.

What's really important in your life? Full time job? Family? Kids? Clean house? Make a list of what you need to accomplish. Decide which things cannot be neglected. Decide which things can wait. Laundry will be there tomorrow. People may not. If you've got a kid that's struggling, a friend that needs you, a husband who wants to go pick out light fixtures for the office, those are things that shouldn't be put off. If you've got dirty clothes sitting in a hamper...Yeah, that maybe can wait (unless your kids are running naked through the house). Put writing on your list of priorities somewhere between people and laundry. Then make time for it every day.

2)Learn to go with the flow and write in the moment.

Yeah, the kids are loud, but don't make that your excuse for not finishing the manuscript that's been on the burner for two years. It is possible to write when there is noise and interruptions. The key is to be happy about it. IE, don't let yourself focus on the noise. Take advantage of those moments when the kids are bouncing on the bed, or cheerfully playing hide and go seek in the house. Write when there's time. Don't wait for the time to write to come. It won't.

3) Banish the excuse demon.

Because he sure would rather you make excuses than fulfill your calling. Whether it's writing, mothering, being a missionary, getting a new job, buying another house. We can always find excuses to not go in the direction God is leading. Mostly it's because we're afraid. We convince ourselves that tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or next year will be better timing. Remember, though, you might not have tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year. You are only certain of having this moment. Whatever it is you're putting off, do it today. Once you begin to do the jobs as they come to you, you'll find that you've got a lot more time on your hands.

4) Trust

In His timing and His plan. If there really isn't time now to work toward your goals and toward the desire He's put on your heart, spend as much time as you can readying yourself for the moment when the time will be right. Save money so you can stay home, devote yourself to what He's put in your life now, trust that eventually He'll open doors that will allow you to move toward your dreams. Most of all, learn your place in the world and your purpose. After all, God really does have one for you.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Exciting Stuff

There are several exciting things going on in my life lately. I'm sure you're not all that interested, but that's okay, I'm going to write about them anyway! :0)

First, I've been dieting. Yes, I know. I've been down this path before. Usually with little success. However, this year has been different. As my weight has crept up, so has my fatigue. You see, I had mono years ago, and haven't had good energy level since. So, extra weight = less energy. Less energy is never good when you're homeschooling four kids and writing books. I won't say cleaning house because my hubby will laugh if I do. Anyhow, less energy is really bad when you don't have high energy levels to start. Thus, the diet. Or should I say - a new way of eating? I think that fits better. I'm down 23lbs. 17 more to go.

And, yes, I feel better.

Second exciting thing in my life - I've been invited to attend the BEA in New York City. http://www.bookexpoamerica.com/App/homepage.cfm?

I don't know if that link will work, but the long and short of it is this - BEA is the largest book expo in North America. There will be tons of book publishers, some really famous authors, other not so famous authors, and me. I'm signing VALLEY OF SHADOWS on June 2 from 12-12:45. I'm really looking forward to it.

Third exciting thing - my husband and I are looking toward adoption to expand our already large family (I'm adding that because we do know that we have a large family). Nothing is final, yet. We've still got a long way to go in this particular journey, so we'll see what happens. As with everything in life, this is in God's hands. We met with the social worker Monday and filled out a bunch of forms. Now we're filling out a bunch more. Thankfully, my youngest sister has been through this before and is going through it again, so she's helping me with some of the detail work. Rodney and I don't know if we'll actually end this journey with a fifth child, but we know that God wants us to at least try. So, here we are, trying.

One thing I've realized as I've gotten older is that not making a decision is the same as making one. If we choose not to pursue things (whether weight loss, book signing, adoption, new jobs, moves, writing books, etc.) we've actually made the choice not to have those things in our lives. Sometimes that's because God has told us clearly not to move forward. Sometimes it's simply because we're afraid. Maybe we're afraid we'll make a mistake and ruin our lives. Maybe we're afraid we'll fail and be disappointed. In the end, I think the real issue is lack of faith. As Christians we believe that God will allow what is good and right in our lives. He sees our lives stretching out - a beautiful tapestry of His making - and He knows what is right and good for it. When we choose to not take a certain path because we're afraid it may not lead where we want, we're taking control out of God's hands and putting it in our own. Sometimes we've just got to step out in faith, knowing that the path we're on may lead to a different place than we first imagined it would, but knowing, too, that wherever we end up will be exactly where He wants us to be.