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 - 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!