In Others' WordsIn Others' Words

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

In My Words: Looking Beyond Happily Ever After

The optimist in me loves a story with a happily ever after.

The realist in me knows there is more to happily ever after than fairy tales tells us.

Cinderella marries the prince. Ditto Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel and Belle and Ariel. We close the storybook or watch the movie screen fade to black, the words "And They Lived Happily Ever After" disappearing as the houselights brighten.

The End.

Or is it?

In a fairy tale, sure. The words "Happily Ever After" sum up the rest of the story.

But what about real life--the world you and I live in?

I don't know about you, but I don't live inside a fairy tale. My husband Rob is a wonderful guy--truly heroic in many ways. But there was no Walt Disney-inspired magic about our relationship--no fairy godmother or lost glass slippers or spells to be broken. We fell in love, experiencing emotional bumps and bruises along the way.

When we vowed to love one another "for better, for worse," we never imagined how bad "worse" could be. We were optimistic, hope-filled newlyweds, oh-so-clueless about marriage.

Falling in love is an a-ma-zing experience. Consider romance movies or novels--aren't they mostly about two people falling in love, despite obstacles and misunderstandings and those "we shouldn't fall in love but we are" feelings warring against one another?

Staying in love--what happens beyond happily ever after--that's what real life is about. Consider these lyrics from the song "Happy Ending" by Sugarland:

We all know the stories
We all know the fairy tales
We all get the glory of making it for ourselves

From the beginning
We're all looking for a happy ending
Every dream of winning
Every love we've been in
Right from the beginning
We're all looking for a happy ending

In my writing life, I stop with the happy ending. In my real life, happily ever after is just the beginning of discovering the rest of the story--and what a happy ending looks like.

What about you? Do you like both romance and realism in a book? Or is a romance novel an escape from real life pressures, allowing you to savor a happy ending without  the intrusion of any harsh realities? 

photo by  channah/

Labels: , , ,

Monday, May 30, 2011

In Others' Words: Heroes

"I have long believed that sacrifice is the pinnacle 
of patriotism."~Bob Riley, politician

I was a military wife for 24 years. For two of those years, my family lived overseas--in Turkey to be specific. We moved with three kiddos, ages 5, 2 and 3 months. I remember telling my husband, "I didn't even know the Air Force could send you to Turkey. That must have been in the small print."

I finally understood patriotism when our first 4th of July rolled around while we lived at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. As I watched the fireworks and the jets flying over, tears streamed down my face. I had never been more proud to be an American.

The reality is, our overseas assignment was no real hardship compared to what some of my friends experienced. Sure, phone reception was unreliable and the products in the commissary, i.e. the military grocery store, were limited and often out-of-date.

But I didn't experience the heartache of losing my husband. I never stood beside a flag-draped coffin, surrounded by my children, wondering what the future held for me.

Several of my friends did. 

These are the people I remember on Memorial Day. Yes, I honor all of the military men and women who sacrificed their lives for our country. But I also think of my friend Susie--and her husband Mark. And my friend Barbara--and her husband John. 

I remember the ones we lost--and the ones who remained behind.

photo by linder6580/

Labels: , , ,

Friday, May 27, 2011

In Others' Words: Hope

"Hope is putting faith to work when doubting would be easier." ~ Author unknown

It's the end of the week.
I don't know what kind of week you've had. Mine has been crowded with reasons to smile (like my wedding anniversary) . . . and a few reasons for tears.
Vertigo, wretched experience that it is, came back. Knocked me off balance--literally.
I'm beginning to wonder if vertigo is going to play a continual game of hide 'n' seek with my health. Do I have to look over my shoulder and wonder when it's going to reappear? And when it will disappear again?
And then I reminded myself that my word for 2011 is hope.
I can either have hope in this situation.
Or not.
Yes, doubting would be easier.
I'm clinging to hope.

The photo is one I took in Mexico. It's a sunrise--a reminder of one of my favorite Scriptures:

The LORD's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness. (Lam. 3:22-23 NAS)

Did you have a rough week? Struggling with doubt? May you find reason for hope!

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, May 26, 2011

In My Words: Me and My Revision Letter (Part 2)

When confronted with a revision letter, a writer's first reaction might be "No, thanks." We've given our work-in-progress (WIP) months--sometimes years--of attention. Isn't it good enough?

Well, yes, your story is good enough. Good enough to warrant your agent's or editor's attention. Good enough for them to invest their expertise to help make your story better.

Here are 4 steps to work through your revision letter:
  1. Mull over the big picture. As I mentioned in Me and My Revision Letter (Part 1), read through your letter once to get the big picture. And then, let the letter sit for a day or two. Let your agent know you're mulling, not sulking. I sent my agent Rachelle Gardner a "got it and I'm so excited" e-mail after I received my revision letter that got lost in cyberspace. Rachelle sent me a "You okay?" e-mail and I assured her that she didn't need to talk me down off a ledge. I'd taken the letter with me on the regularly scheduled date night with my husband. Yes, he's used to living with a writer.
  2. Do one revision at a time. Rachelle advised me to tackle revisions one at a time. I handled the smaller changes first and then dealt with the more challenging rewrites. Rachelle suggested cutting down on the use of nicknames. Using nicknames was fine--but she felt I'd overdone it. Easy fix with Search and Remove. 
  3. Pray about the process. I also prayed as I revised. Truth be told, I'd prayed through the whole process of writing Wish You Were Here. Why stop now? I needed to strengthen was the spiritual thread, so I prayed: If Allison and Daniel and Seth were real people, what would God have to say to them? 
  4. Be open to major changes. Be willing to do something drastic. By the time revisions were done, a third POV showed up in my book. This character was in the story all along--he just hadn't said much. Adding his POV deepened the story and also heightened the tension. I don't know why I hadn't seen the need for this before--but I'm thankful Rachelle suggested it.

What helped you work through your revision letter? Setting a timer? Eating chocolate? How do you think you'll tackle a revision letter?

photo by fugue/

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

In Others' Words: Joy

"There is joy in all."~ Anne Sexton, American poet

I found myself embracing and pushing away from this quote. Believing and disbelieving it. 

Joy in all.


Yes, I think so.

I've had my disappointments. The joy in that? The comfort of friends.

I've been discouraged. The joy in that? Discouragement doesn't last. There's always a moment when the gray cloud lifts and--there it is again--hope.

I've been told no. The joy in that? Sometimes "no" turns out to be the absolute best answer. And when it wasn't, I learned to live with "no."

Joy in all?


If you look for it.

What about you? Where have you found unexpected joy in all of life?

photo by iancuthber/

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

In My Words: Me and My Revision Letter (Part 1)

I loved getting a revision letter from my agent, Rachelle Gardner.


My enthusiasm prompted me to print off all eight pages and dance around my office, singing a silly little "I got my revision letter" song. I'm sorry to say there are no photos or video recordings of this event. Then again, maybe I'm not sorry. Some things are best left to your imagination.

Why would an author dance and sing with eight pages of suggested edits?

I'll give you three reasons:

  1. I'd attended a local ACFW workshop where romantic suspense author Colleen Coble advocated embracing revision letters. She acknowledged you might be surprised by suggested changes. That you might disagree with some of the recommendations. But Colleen still called for a "let-me-have-it-I-can-take-it" approach to revision letters. And I decided to approach those eight pages the Colleen Coble way: with a positive attitude.
  2. Rachelle told me she had faith in me as a novelist--so much so, she recommended I set aside the nonfiction book we both believed in. Rachelle was on my team, so any suggested changes were for my benefit and the betterment of my novel.
  3. The revision letter started off positively. Rachelle began by listing what she loved about Wish You Were Here. And then, rather than saying, "Here's what I don't like," she said, "Here are suggestions for making your book even stronger." How could I not listen to feedback like that?

So, after my little song and dance, and after I read the fun love-this-and-this-and-this section of the letter, it was time to read the rest of the letter.

And I did. Several times.

And then I put my revision letter on my desk and walked away from it.

I wasn't angry or upset. But I wanted to give myself time to mull over Rachelle's suggestions before I started making any changes. And make changes I did.

But that's another blog post.

See you Thursday for the rest of the story.

Until then, anybody else have a revision story to share? Did you love your revision letter? Twirl it around the room a few times? Or was the revision letter one more rough patch along the writing road?

Labels: , , ,

Monday, May 23, 2011

In Others' Words: Being Yourself

"To be happy, it first takes being comfortable in your own shoes. The rest can work up from there." ~ Sophia Bush, actress

I'll admit it: I like shoe shopping. Style is always important, but if the shoes look good and feel lousy--tight, uncomfortable--they go  back in the box and on the shelf.

Sometimes being comfortable with myself feels like shoe shopping. Who do I feel like today? Did I squeeze my personality into a bunch of shoulds and shouldn'ts? Did I try to fit into the latest fad--or was I true to myself, to who God made me to be?

I'm not really all about being happy because "happy" comes and goes with changes in your circumstances. But there is some fundamental truth to today's quote. Happiness--being content--starts with being comfortable with who you are. 

And who you are doesn't go out of style.

So here's a question for you: If you had to describe who you are by choosing a pair of shoes, what type of shoes would you be? Are you comfortable with that? 

photo by johnnyberg/

Labels: , ,

Friday, May 20, 2011

In My Words: One Word

Most of my friends know that I don't do New Year's Resolutions. Over the years, I've lost too many long lists of good intentions before the end of January.
Instead, I focus on a word--one word--for the year. I've found that it's fairly easy to keep track of one word for 365 days.
My word for 2011 is hope.
I like to have visual reminders of my word for the year. So, I've got a little silver "hope" dangling off my desk lamp. And another "hope" looped over my rear view mirror in my car. My husband tucked an insulated mug labeled with the word "hope" in my Christmas stocking, along with a little wooden plaque that reads: "The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him." (Lamentations 3:25) I keep it on the kitchen counter so I see it often.

With 140 days gone in 2011, I've had reasons to cling to hope. Reasons to offer hope to people I care about. I'm sticking with my word choice.
What about you? Did you make any resolutions way-back in January? How's that going for you? Want to trade in that list--if you can still find it--for a word? And if you can't find your list of resolutions, stop looking. Instead, pick a word.
Just one word.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Warning: Editing + Fatigue = a Cranky Editor

My friend Doug, aka "Wise Guy," likes to say, "Fatigue makes cowards of us all."

This quote is attributed to both the great football coach Vince Lombardi and General George S. Patton Jr, of WWII fame.

Here's my version: Fatigue makes editors cranky.

Earlier this week, I was beyond tired. I also had mounds of editing to do. As the night slipped into the early morning, I found myself ... um ... acting out.

I talked to the computer screen. I asked questions like: "Did the writer forget the word count?" "How can I say this in one word instead of ten?" ""How many articles am I missing?"

My computer never answered me. So please, no one suggest medication.

I stopped typing, pounding my keyboard into submission. I'm surprised I didn't dislocate some of the keys.

I updated my Facebook status with snarky comments about the proper number of spaces between sentences. (One.) Several editors replied. Seems I'm not the only one who is up late editing.

At one point, I put my hands over my face and muttered, "I love my job. I love my job. I love my job."

And I do.

I was just overtired. The hours in my day ran out before my commitments ended.

That night I appreciated the solitary aspect of editing. No one else heard my ranting--except my husband, who brought me tea and hugs. I think of myself as an editor who respects writers. But if you'd sat in my office Tuesday night, you'd have thought otherwise.

All the ranting and raving? That was just the fatigue talking.

Fatigue. It happens. But it doesn't give me an excuse to slander writers. I don't know how tired that writer was when she hit "Send" and submitted an article that was 200 words over the requested word count. (Yeah, word count is an editorial pet peeve of mine. I'll admit it.)

I'm also responsible to balance my commitments as both a writer and an editor--and a wife and a mom--so that fatigue doesn't ambush me. That's called being a professional.

What about you? Does fatigue make you cranky? How do you manage your real life and your writing life so that you're not blindsided by exhaustion?

Photo by gozdeo/

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In Others' Words: Dream

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." 
~Mark Twain, author

What's holding you back?

Safe harbor is so . . . safe.
I dare you to push away from the familiar, the comfortable and go for your dream.
Don't look back 20 years from now--or even one year from now--and find all those days filled up with a bunch of "I wish I hads."

You were made for more. 

Psalm 139: 13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; 

      you formed me in my mother's womb. 

   I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking! 
      Body and soul, I am marvelously made! 
      I worship in adoration—what a creation! 
   You know me inside and out, 
      you know every bone in my body; 
   You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, 
      how I was sculpted from nothing into something. 
   Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; 
      all the stages of my life were spread out before you, 
   The days of my life all prepared 
      before I'd even lived one day. 

Photo by uks77/

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

In My Words: The Lure of Legitimacy

For the past decade, I've set goals.
Attend conferences.
Pitch articles.
Deal with rejection. (Repeat.)
Be published.
Pitch a nonfiction book idea.
Be published.
Gain an agent.
Become a magazine editor.
Try my hand at fiction. (Was I crazy?)
Land a fiction contract. (Can you say gobsmacked?)

I've accomplished many of my goals. Not all of them--but quite a few--and even a few that surprised me. Why, then, do I still struggle with feeling less than legitimate? When will I stop striving? It would be oh-so-nice to look at my resume and say, "Enough."

The writing life is one of measurements. Are you published? Where? Did you get a byline on that magazine piece? Were you paid in dollars or author copies? How many articles have you written? Dozens? Hundreds?  How many books? Been on TV? Radio? How many people do you speak to on a regular basis? How may people follow your blog? Your tweets? Your Facebook comments?

I can always peer ahead and see others who are bigger "names" than me. Focusing on who they are and who I'm not undermines my confidence. I can also look back and find at least one someone who's not as far along the writing road as me. That makes me feel better.

What a way to live.

Why do I write? To prove something? Yes, sometimes I'm trying to prove something. To myself. To those voices in my head questioning my value. To whoever is watching me, evaluating me, and finding me wanting.

But before I ever put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, I should know that I know that I know that I have inestimable value. Why?

Not because I say so.

Not because you say so.

Not because a reader or reviewer says so.

Not because a publisher or editor says so.

I have value--legitimacy--because my Creator loves me. It's as simple--and as difficult to grasp--as that. He made me in his image. He has plans for my life--and those plans include writing. He also knew writing is a tough-on-the-ego pursuit when he fashioned within me a writer's heart.

Here's the conclusion: What are you setting your sights on: your goals or your worth? Goals come and go. Some you hit. Some you miss. Value, when you realize what you're worth in your Creator's eyes--that's constant.

Photo by kikashi/

Labels: , , ,

Monday, May 16, 2011

In Others' Words: Mountains

A view of Pike's Peak through The Siamese Twins (photo by Amy Vogt)

"I've learned that everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it." ~Author Unknown

One of my favorite things to do in Colorado is hike. I savor the sunshine and the shadows of the woods, the uncertainty of what's around the next bend in the trail, even the ache of tired muscles. There are times when a hike proves more challenging than expected. I work hard to stifle my complaints. I'm tired. I'm thirsty. Can we turn around? Instead, I focus on the time spent with my family and friends, knowing that pushing past my "this wasn't what I signed up for" grumpiness will tinge my memories with a particular brand of satisfaction.

Getting to the top of the mountain is great. Achieving any goal is well worth a celebratory moment. Or two. But I've learned you can't live on the mountain top. There's always the next goal. Real living comes in the climb. When you don't quit. When you help someone else who's more tired than you. When you discover you're stronger than you ever imagined. 

So, what about you? Climbing any mountains? Don't focus on just getting to the top. Stop. Take a breather. And realize how much you've already accomplished.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Rest of the Story--Well, Really, the Reason There is a Story At All

"Writing is a solitary occupation. Family, friends, and society are the natural enemies of the writer."
 ~Jessamyn West, writer

Landing my book contract wasn't a solo act.
I don't agree with Jessamyn West putting a "Wanted" poster on anyone who might interrupt her writing life. Yes, there are times when it's just me and my work-in-progress (WIP). But I'm surrounded by family and friends who helped me achieve my writing dreams. And I thank God for each and every one of them. For brevity's sake, I'll focus on the other writers I've met along the writing road.
Roxanne and Me 

Three years ago, I had this secret. I was writing fiction--and no one except my husband knew. And then one day I called my longtime friend and writing buddy Roxanne Sherwood and confessed, "I'm writing a novel." She didn't laugh. Didn't gasp and say, "You can't do that! You write nonfiction."
Nope. Roxanne cheered me on. Told me I could do this. She even volunteered to read my first feeble attempts at telling Allison's and Daniel's story, helping me improve each scene.

Fiction Critique Group: Mary, Me, Donita and Evangeline

The next person I whispered my secret to was bestselling author Donita K. Paul, a fellow Colorado Springs resident and friend. She surprised me by inviting me to join a critique group with her, her daughter Evangeline Denmark (also an author), and Mary Agius, another writer. They were the first ones to read my novel aloud. They pretended not to notice when I sat on the couch during the first meeting and shook--literally shook--while Donita read the first five pages of my story.

The MBT Ponderers
And then I met award-winning author Susan May Warren at an ACFW conference. Fast-forward to the first MBT Storycrafters Retreat, where I learned the fundamentals of story and tore my novel apart. Romantic suspense became contemporary romance. Fifty thousand words downsized to twenty thousand. Suz answered my unspoken prayer for assurance when she looked at me and said, "You can so write fiction!"
I also met the Ponderers--eighteen women from all over the country who bonded over writing. (And that's another blog post.)

In the past year, one of a kind author Rachel Hauck, aka Madame Mentor, came alongside me too, challenging me to write a deeper story as I worked on my second novel. Rachel won't let me settle--and for that, I'm thankful.
These are the writers--the women I am humbled to call friends--who helped me turn burnout into an amazing dream come true.
Talk about beauty from ashes.

Rachel, Me and Suz

So while Jessamyn West may insist on solitary confinement to write, I choose to embrace the amazing community God's provided for me.  I'm a better writer for it--I've found a place where I'm accepted and where my dreams flourished.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, May 09, 2011

Burnout & Hearing Voices: Why This is a Good Thing

Me and my agent, Rachelle Gardner, savoring the moment.

"A bend in the road is not the end of the road ... unless you fail to make the turn."

Burnout can be a good thing.
Two days ago I sat with my agent Rachelle Gardner and signed a contract for a two-book deal with Howard Books. And yes, I made sure my husband Rob took pictures to record the moment. My debut novel, a contemporary romance with the working title Wish You Were Here, will be published May 2012.

Yeah, I'm still smiling.
Me--an avowed I'm-not-a-fiction-writer writer--landing a two-book deal?
How did I cross from the black and white world of nonfiction to the "Can you hear the voices?" world of fiction?
Three years ago, I felt as creative as, well, an old, dried up ink pen. I told Rob I would never write another word. Never, ever, ever. He came home several days later and found me typing away.
Rob: "What are you doing?"
Me: "Writing."
Rob: "But you said you were never going to write another word. Never, ever, ever."
Me: "This doesn't count. I'm writing a novel. Just for fun. No one will ever see this."
And for a while, that's all the story was. Fun. No pressure. I ignored all but the most necessary nonfiction deadlines--I do edit a magazine, after all--and created characters. Chose names. Careers. Plotted crises.
One day as I ran errands, my hero and heroine started talking to me at the same time. Instead of driving to the nearest pharmacy and requesting meds, I listened. I also asked Daniel and Allison, my hero and heroine, to take turns talking to me, instead of talking over one another.
You see what happened? I heard Voices. And talked back to them.
Burnout--supposedly a very bad thing--had turned into a bend in the writing road. And around that bend lurked the Dark Side, aka the unexpected opportunity to write fiction.
Over time, my perspective, my passion, my commitment to fiction changed. Other writers helped me get where I was last Saturday--signing on that oh-so-unexpected dotted line. To hear about them, check back Wednesday.
(Ah, a cliffhanger blog post. See, I've learned a few things these past three years!)

Yep, that's me. Signing on the oh-so-unexpected dotted line.

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, May 06, 2011

In My Words: Fear

There was a season in my life when I could have made you quite a long list detailing my fears.
I was afraid of the dark.
I was afraid of the basement--yeah, creepy. I even told my husband we wouldn't own a house with a basement. (We do.)
I was afraid of Vincent Price movies. (Have you ever seen The Pit and the Pendulum?)
I was afraid of failing. As if I could avoid that!
I was afraid . . . well, you get the idea.
And then it got to the point that I was afraid I'd be controlled by fears for the rest of my life.
Something had to change.
And something did.
I began a relationship with my very patient, very understanding Creator, and as the Psalmist says, "I called upon the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears." (Psalm 34:4)
This doesn't mean God let me opt-out of scary situations. In fact, I found myself facing things I never imagined. But now I know I don't have to face them alone. God is with me. 
Basements? No problem.
Vincent Price movies? I'll pass.
Fear--well, the reality is life is scary sometimes. I've learned it's okay to admit I'm afraid. I know where to run in the dark times.

Psalm 18: 1-3  "I love You, O LORD, my strength. 
    The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, 
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge ... "

Photo by bradimarte/

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

In Others' Words: Accomplishments

"Sweat is the cologne of accomplishment." ~Heywood Hale Broun, American sportswriter and actor

That's me with my husband Rob. I'm tired and sweaty--but I'm smiling because, you see, I've just completed a run. Me, of all people! The woman who hates to run, had taken up running and found that--surprise!--I kinda liked it.

And so I insisted someone take a photo of me and Rob in all our sweaty, exhausted glory because I'd accomplished something. 

I'm sad to report that, because of a minor car accident that did some damage to my neck, I'm no longer running. Yeah, that's not fun. But I understand Broun's quote all the better because of that year I decided to run--and found, much to my surprise, I could. 

What about you? When you relish the sweet smell of success, what are you thinking about?

Labels: , , ,

Monday, May 02, 2011

In Others' Words: Common Sense

"Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes."
 ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, poet, essayist and philosopher

There's a lot to like about my friend Terri. Back when we lived in the same town, she got up every morning and made her two boys breakfast. Instead of making me feel guilty about serving my kids cereal, she just explained it was another way to love on her sons. And I could love my kids by feeding them cereal--that was fine too. 

Terri also knows how to laugh--I can hear it echoing in my heart even now--and she knows how to assess a situation and see what needs to be done and then "git 'er done."

The thing I admire most about Terri is that she overflows with common sense--and she doesn't mind sharing. When we were both involved with women's ministry, she was the one who figured out how we'd feed 100 women during an overnight retreat--and made it look effortless. I just stood back and did whatever she said. Her decisions were a thing of beauty--truly. Genius in action. I decided it was okay that I wasn't a fount of common sense. I was blessed to just follow her lead.

Do you share your common sense with others? Or have you been helped by someone else's "genius in working clothes?" I'd love to hear your story!

Labels: , , ,

e-newsletter signup
Free Resources
Books and CDs
For Writers
For Moms Over 35