Monday, March 29, 2010

Book Sneeze Review - Kaleidoscope

If you've ever seen the petite powerhouse, Patsy Clairmont, at a Women of Faith conference then you've heard her speak truth with wit and wisdom. Her new book, Kaleidoscope is a fast paced, spunky study on Proverbs. Patsy's exploration of the straightforward messages found in Proverbs is full of humor and insight. She takes the seemingly disjointed sayings and uses it to put together the surprising puzzle full of wisdom, advice, and reflection.

Each chapter brings to light imparted wisdom from the plainly-spoken passages of Proverbs. From Weighty Matters, which covers boasting, to Fading Flowers, which touches on passing beauty, Patsy uses common sense and laughter to drive the lessons home. She shares snippets from her own life and trials, using them to beautifully illustrate God’s love. Tackling our everyday foibles from anxiety to seeking God in times of trouble, Kaleidoscope is wonderful reminder of the precious messages about life found in the Bible.

Chapters can be done in a short time and have two sections after each lesson to help with study. The first section, titled Bits and Pieces, presents a series of questions that help the reader apply the Proverb to their own life. In the second section, Held to the Light, Patsy offers additional verses for further study.

I found Kaleidoscope to be a great alternative to my daily devotion. Short and to the point, the questions kept me thinking about the lesson throughout the day.  Patsy’s humor and heartwarming delivery truly packs a powerful spiritual punch. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to see the book of Proverbs in a new and surprising light.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

What Kind of Character...

Blogger and Character Therapist, Jeannie Campbell, is doing an article for Christian Fiction Online Magazine about the types of character stereotypes authors use.  She has a short, one minute, survey that you can take to help her gather data.

You don't have to be a writer, some of the questions concern characters you've read about in a novel. If you have a free moment, check out her blog, The Character Therapist.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Beautiful Picture

The boat and the boy(ee)
Originally uploaded by *JRFoto*
You know, the internet is an amazing tool especially to the writer. I’ve been working on my ‘One-Sheets’ a sort of page-long advertisement for your book that writers hand out at conferences. The format is pretty standard; the title of your book, a picture to set the mood, and then a few paragraphs that sums up the premise of your story. I’ve worked out all the text and needed a photo to properly encompass the feel of the romantic suspense featured on the One Sheet.

My problem is, that most of my pictures are of my kids. They aren’t really great material for what I’m trying to do. So I hop on a photo-sharing site and find the perfect…perfect picture. So I fire off an email to the photographer…all the way in Norway, mind you…telling what I want to use his photo for, and if I can have his permission. I get an answer within an hour.

He gives me permission and only asks that I give him credit for taking the picture. How amazing is that? So, to thank the most generous Norwegian guy ever, I am posting his picture on my blog for everyone to admire it. He is truly talented. And as I said, very generous.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


the fight
Originally uploaded by alicepopkorn
This week I am exploring conflict in the fiction novel. Conflict is the driving force behind any great drama. Conflict in the form of an internal struggle, an opposing force, even nature can take a serene scene and turn it into something surprising and compelling. Great stories have conflict in its many forms accost the main character and by extension, the reader.

One form of conflict is confrontation. Not the boring confrontation in a typical family, but the unusual, unexpected, the can’t-look-away type of family drama that keeps the reader hooked. Or maybe its confrontation in the form of a rivalry, for example, competing with your new boyfriend for a coveted job, or your father to win a case. Confrontation can be your main character against a destructive part of themselves, an addiction or a phobia. Perhaps they’re suffocated by the thought of enclosed spaces and they have to go spelunking to solve a crime, or save a loved one, and everything goes wrong.

This brings me to my next point. The conflict has to occur early on in the story. Some successful novelists say that they try to introduce conflict within the first two or three pages. It’s called in medias res, Latin for “into the middle of affairs”. It means dropping the reader in the thick of things. Star Wars is a great example of this literary device. We meet the young Luke Skywalker in the middle of a rebellion, during an epic battle his father helped ignite.

Its this device that made me love all those old detective novels I used to read. These books open on a courtroom and a contraversial verdict sends the crowd gathered into a rage. Two men, ready to shoot each other, each with their hand on a manila envelope. A meteor rockets into a field sending plumes of acrid smoke that downs anything living near it…these are great openers from some of my favorite stories. I got hooked immediately because the writer threw me into a conflict early on.

Conflict compels the characters to act, and the underlying motivation or drama gives them a reason to act outside of their comfort zone. And that, hooks the reader. It gives them the chance to hope for the heroine to face her demons, overcome the obstacle, and triumph. That’s what a good read is, an opportunity to take a journey with a compelling character. Whether it’s a race through the jungle, a frantic search for a missing child, or a desperate plea to stave off an execution, the reader has to care what happens and that only happens if you draw them into the story from the get-go.

Until next time…Go Write!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Do Laptops Mutiny?

Broken Message
Originally uploaded by lrargerich
I am a gleeful techie. I love gadgets, and software, and all the wonderful ways they enable creativity. My computer holds a special place in my day-to-day life because not only are my manuscripts on it…so are all of my children’s grades. So suffice it to say, that even though all my important documents, pictures, and information are backed up…it drives me crazy that my computer is beginning to mutiny.

It started with random shutting off, usually in the middle of grade submissions. Argh! I have a cooling fan under it, I periodically use disk cleaner, registry back up, and I delete my temporary files regularly. So why is the portal to the written world fighting back…more importantly…is there a sale on computers coming up?

I took typing in high-school. It was required and we used actual typewriters. In fact, we fought over the new electric ones because you didn’t have to manually return the carriage. I remember that white typing correction film that never quite did the trick. How far we’ve come, and yet, when things go awry with my laptop, I start to wonder if old school isn’t the way to go. I mean, if something goes wrong with a typewriter, I break out the screw driver and fix it. I don’t have to wait for a guy in a bug to show up, pocket protector and all.

I’m going to take another look at the hard drive and maybe run some more diagnostics on my precious laptop before I start to panic. I wanted to give a shout out to my daughter for getting off the family computer long enough to let me post this. Until next time…gulp…hopefully…rb

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Where are my ZZZZ's?

I think I need to get some sleep. I may be going a little batty with the insomnia. I stayed up until 2:30 last night and it seems that being incredibly tired does not mean you are also sleepy. I've tried the hot milk, the low lights, the no screen-time therapies...I'm still awake.

For those of you that know me, you are aware that I’ve battled insomnia since my early teens. In fact, one of the ways I spent my time alone at night was either baking or writing. My husband requested that I stop waking him up at one in the morning with the smell of brownies baking…he was getting tired of buying bigger pants. So I’m sticking to writing until my eyes get blurry.

One interesting thing about lurking on the web so late at night is the weird websites that pop up on an aggregator site I use. I made a digital snowflake, named it, and sent it into the cyber storm…apparently some gal in Portugal is having the same problem because her snowflake wafted past mine. You should try it. The site is

I’ve made countless origami animals, learned to fold a dollar bill into a ring, and took a 360 degree virtual tour of the Great Wall of China complete with motion captured tourists. There’s a site where you can shop by color, that’s right…color. lets you move your cursor over colored circles and when you click your mouse on a certain color, anything of that hue that is for sale on the web, pops up. I’m considering a pair of bright orange shamrock buttons…just in case I need them this St. Patrick’s Day.

I should be doing research. I need to find out what the different gang tattoos mean. Not to mention that fact that I think I had a character visit a museum that is actually in another part of the country. Ooh…and of course, I should look up a good brownie recipe. My husband looks way to peaceful…sleeping…effortlessly. Hmmm…

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Heart of the Matter

String of hearts
Originally uploaded by aussiegall
I received an email the other night from a fellow blogger that my main character would be featured in her Treatment Tuesday article on her blog, here.
The blog, written by a licensed therapist, takes character sketches and uses them to break down the motivations and actions of people in your novel.

To a writer, this is a great tool. I want my characters to be complex, layered individuals that the reader likes. You have to want to cheer for them, yell that they are being stupid, or hope for them to get the guy in the end. On the other hand, you can’t have a ‘Shrinking Violet’ whipping out a pistol and chasing down a bad guy, unless you’ve sufficiently motivated her to do so.

So I sketched out the main character for my next book, Ruby Dawn, and sent it in to the Character Therapist blog. I had a lot of questions about a series of calamities that Ruby faces, such as how she would react given her troubled past. I also had a few questions about closure in her life over familial abandonment, and a returning love interest.

I have to say, Jeannie did a wonderful job addressing my questions and offering sage advice. It was a fun experience and I feel like it helped me to confirm that I am on the right track. Feel free to hop over to the blog, there is a link in the first sentence of this entry, and The Character Therapist is also in my blog roll on the side bar. I’d love to know what you think.

Thanks again for all of your support and encouragement!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

5 Bad Habits of Writers

Originally uploaded by greg westfall.
I often hear people call writing the solitary life when they should call it the sedentary life. Most of the work I do is on the computer and in my head, so moving isn’t really a top priority. I woke up the other morning and had a huge kink in my neck and I knew it was the four straight hours at the computer the night before that did it. I’m not as young as I once was and this writer’s lifestyle was starting to put a damper on my style. I decided to revamp the way I do things and to do that; I need to figure out what I’m doing wrong in the first place. I came up with five habits that writers engage in that can lead to problems down the road. I researched healthy alternatives and practices to counteract those habits and I’ll share them with you.
• Number one on the list is bad posture. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt a know in my neck or on my back from sitting incorrectly at the computer. A good chair goes a long way, but resting your feet on a small stool and sitting up straight really make a difference in the way you feel. I’ve also invested in a wrist pad and some ergonomic pillows for my back. These minor adjustments help to reduce the stress on your back, neck, and shoulders, minimizing headaches. Protecting the angle of your wrists lowers the risk of carpal tunnel issues later.
• Another bad habit that most writers admit to is unhealthy snacking. You know who you are! We drink way too much coffee, gobble easy to grab pantry goodies, and tend to meet at coffee houses…enough said. This type of eating can cause sluggishness and that’s never a good thing if you’re writing. I learned recently that healthy snacking, or grazing, helps to improve brain function. This is something I can’t’ afford to pass up. I try to have pre-cut veggies, nuts, and fruit next to me on the desk now and I have to say…I feel better. Another thing that helps alertness is water. Try substituting some of your favorite drink for water flavored with a sliced lemon or orange. Keeping in pre bottled in the fridge helps me when I’m feeling lazy.
• Not sleeping enough is the habit I am most guilty of. I tend to write at night, because that is when the home schooling is done, and my kids are in bed. I often don’t go to bed until after midnight. One solution is to make sure to set aside a realistic time to type and then step away from the computer. Sleep is not only restorative to your body, a properly rested person is more creative, alert, and has a better recollection than a tired counterpart. Want to improve your efficiency? Get some sleep.
• Not exercising is a huge problem for people that work at a sedentary job because the gym may be the only time we go outside. You computer types know what I’m talking about. Fortunately I have some freakishly healthy friends that motivate me to get off my chair and go to the gym with them. Not only do I physically feel better, I am also mentally relaxed and that bodes well for the characters I write. When I’m cooped up and nihilistic, people tend to get blown up or eaten by strange creatures.
• Finally, there’s the tendency to STRESS! This can be the worst of the five because a stress can affect both mind and body. From deadlines, to equipment malfunction, to just too many distractions…stress can derail anyone’s goals. There are some great tools out there to help the writer get control of their task. Software, classes to improve organization, even taking an hour to make a list of your goals that day help to keep stress at a minimum. Set aside time to write, and then honor it – both by starting on time, and walking away when the time is up. Finally, find a critique group and complain to people who truly understand what you’re talking about. Some support and understanding often make a huge difference.

I hope these tips help make your writing time more fun and efficient. Until next time…Go Write!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin. ~Victor Kiam

In a Dance With Time
Originally uploaded by it's life.
One of the hardest things to do is to motivate myself to write when it’s late at night and I’m tired. I find that if the task ahead is daunting or boring, I develop sudden addiction to the random article button on Wikipedia. My husband is the best procrastinator I have ever seen. He raises the bar in our house. I once saw him peek over a pile of ungraded tests to tell me that I just had to take a look at the graph on the computer showing the difference in deforestation rate in Haiti versus The Dominican Republic…he was serious.

Because writing is a solitary task, and I don’t have a publisher’s deadline looming, it’s sometimes hard to get my hind-quarters in gear. In light of this, I decided to ask people what they did to help curb the procrastination urge. Not just other writers, but people in general. They had some helpful advice. Now, I know that not everyone who reads this blog is a writer, but the tricks I learned are helpful for any task.

First, we need to recognize why we do it. Common reasons we avoid are the fear of failure, or the need to be perfect. But sometimes life gets all of our attention and we forget to carve out time. My favorite reason is that I’m constantly rewarding myself to do so. If I don’t work on my book, I can watch my favorite show or go meet a friend for coffee. I usually write at night after the kids are asleep, so sleep is a pretty good enticement to put off writing.

Second, we need to recognize the things we do to put off our task. Do you pretend it doesn’t exist, or convince yourself you can’t function in such a cluttered space? How about setting unrealistic stretches of time…in most instances, you don’t in fact need an entire day to do your task.

Third, we overcome these stumbling blocks with some simple tricks.
• Leave out your work. It’s a great reminder. This way, I have to see my papers, research notebooks, and plot blocks every time I pass by my desk.
• Set a reasonable goal. I can’t finish my entire book in one sitting, but I can do a chapter, or a scene. I often set page goals.
• Avoid distractions. I am a notorious web crawler. So I make sure NOT to open my browser when I’m supposed to be writing. If I need to look something up, I write it down and do research later.
• Have a deadline/appointed nagger. I meet with my writing circle every other week and we require two to three chapters. This is highly motivating. I’m accountable to someone taking time out of their day to meet with me. I want to be prepared.
• Understand that there are consequences either way. If I put things off, I will have a nagging feeling in my gut. I’ll get stressed because I know I should be further along in my work. On the other hand, consequences to not putting it off are relief. I feel accomplished and hopeful. I get ice cream.

Putting these tips into action helps me to stay on task. What are you tricks to combat procrastination? Let me know. Until then…Get To Work!