Friday, October 3, 2008

Oops!

My newsletter is upside-down this month. Yep...I forgot that I needed to post from the last article to the first, instead of first to last. Hence, you get what was supposed to be the last article right up front, and it works down to the editorial.

If you'd rather read in order, just head over to the sidebar and select your October articles from the bottom up. LOL - Have fun!

A Little Extra Note

You asked for it, you got it! Here's one of my short stories. Hope you enjoy it!


DESERT BLOOMS


© 2006 Delia Latham


Sam was bellowing into the phone again. Ever since his hearing went bad, we’d fought about his loud mouth – especially on the phone.

I rushed into the kitchen and motioned for my husband to lower his voice. He impatiently waved me away and turned his back, increasing his volume just enough to be obvious.

“Oh, grow up!” I spat, stomping from the room in total disgust.

In my office, I slammed the door, fighting back tears. After thirty years, you’d think our relationship would be a little smoother than this!

A miserable glance at the calendar told me it actually wouldn’t be thirty years for another couple of days. Jodi had been hounding me to plan something special, but I simply could not work up any enthusiasm.

“Mom, it’s your thirtieth anniversary – you have to do something! Do you realize how few couples make it that far?”

“I know, I know, it’s a huge accomplishment,” I replied, rolling my eyes even though my voice dripped with more than enough sarcasm to get the point across. “Jodi, that’s only true if it’s working – and you know what kind of relationship your dad and I have.”

“Well, you always told me a good marriage takes a lot of work. What have you put into yours recently?”

Not much, I had to admit. Neither had Sam. For years, raising Jodi and Jamie had been our primary focus. Then Jodi got married, and Jamie was halfway across the country in college. Alone in our empty nest, Sam and I seemed to have forgotten how to be a couple.

“Sindie?” Sam cracked the door open.

“What?” I snapped.

Sam’s large bulk dwarfed my tiny office. Standing six feet three in his stocking feet, he still cut an impressive figure. Thick dark waves swept back from a high forehead. In my opinion, the smattering of gray at his temples lent a touch of sophistication.

As long as he keeps his mouth shut. I was instantly ashamed of the sour thought but helpless to prevent it.

“Do you have plans for the weekend?” His volume, as always, was two notches above acceptable.

Wincing, I bit back a biting comment. “Why?”

“I’d like to go see Jimmy.”

I smothered a sigh. The dreaded 10-hour drive through the desert. Yet how could I say no? My husband’s only brother was in such poor health, and Sam got to see him too seldom.

“I suppose we could,” I reluctantly conceded, forcing a small smile. “When did you want to leave?”

“Well, Monday’s a holiday. If I take tomorrow off, we’ll have four days.” He glanced at my disbelieving face, and quickly added, “But we can wait and leave tomorrow night, if you’d rather.”

“No, it’s okay,” I told him, feeling an unwelcome rush of guilt. When did I become so hard to get along with? “I’ll get things together tonight. We can leave in the morning.”

Sam smiled, and I found myself smiling back – just a little – in spite of myself. The man still possessed the sexiest smile I had ever seen.

* * *

Four hours into the trip, I was actually enjoying the drive. So far we had even managed to avoid any arguments.

“Just look at those wildflowers!” Sam drew a deep breath, enjoying their sweet fragrance. It wafted through the open vents that provided all the cool air we needed, given the mild weather. His blue eyes gleamed with appreciation for the desert in which he had grown up.

Even I could not deny its beauty. Yellow daisy-like blossoms and tall, purple blooms on graceful stems lined the highway and spilled over into the median. A few large bushes, heavy with vivid orange flowers whose name was beyond my slim horticultural knowledge, dotted the landscape. Further out, small patches of red burst into occasional view, like indecipherable splashes of bold paint on a muted canvas.

A myriad of other growing things created a backdrop for that stunning view. Yet I found myself struck by the miracle of those four blooming plants, humbled by their ability to exist side by side in this harsh, unforgiving environment. Granted, they each possessed a certain appeal, even alone. Together, however, they lent a dramatic, regal beauty to the desert floor, snuggled cozily beneath a soft green blanket.

I sent up a silent prayer of gratitude for the recent wave of generous rainfall. It had worked a spectacular magic on the arid Mojave, allowing me to see this erstwhile unappreciated part of the terrain in a different light.

“They’re gorgeous,” I replied. “I never realized the desert could be this pretty.”

Sam chuckled. “Well, I’m probably a bit biased, since I was raised out here, but I think it’s one of God’s most beautiful creations.”

As darkness approached, I sat spellbound, drinking in a glorious desert sunset. The distant mountains, in stark silhouette against a red and purple horizon, presented a breathtaking vista.

“Wow.”

“Nice, huh?”

“Incredible,” I said.

Sam reached across the console to run a gentle finger down my cheek. His eyes softened as they met mine, and he winked. My heart did an odd little somersault in unexpected response.

“Why, Mr. Mallory,” I teased. “Are you flirting with me?”

He raised a dark brow and shot me one of those heart-stopping crooked smiles. “Could be,” he said, and I didn’t even mind that his voice was a bit too loud in the confines of the car.

“Well, I never!” I said in my best Southern drawl.

“Darling, perhaps you should!” Sam shot back, and we both burst out laughing. How long has it been since we’ve laughed together like this?

A few moments later, he decelerated and took the exit toward Bullhead City, Arizona, a resort town separated from Laughlin, Nevada by the Colorado River. I knew enough about western geography to be aware that this was the X that marks the spot where California’s state line meets up with the other two.

“What’s up?” I questioned. “Are you getting tired?”

“Nope.”

In the dying light of day, with an impish grin splitting his face, my husband bore a startling resemblance to a certain boy I had dated over thirty years ago.

I couldn’t help grinning back. “What then?”

“I thought we’d spend the night here.”

“No way!” Not once in thirty years had we ever stayed overnight between our house and Jimmy’s. “Are you kidding me?”

“Of course, if you don’t want to – aww, you’re right. I’ll just cancel our reservations.” He fumbled around the center console for his cell phone, but I got to it first.

“Don’t you dare! Uh … what reservations?”

“For a room,” he drawled. “And for the Colin Raye show; I seem to recall you enjoying an occasional country tune. But if you’d rather not –”

“Sam!” I broke in, bewildered. “What’s going on?”

His cocky grin melted into a sheepish smile. “Well, someone gave me a rather broad hint that a thirtieth anniversary should not be overlooked – and that if I didn’t get my rear in gear I might not see a thirty-first.”

Jodi!” I laughed, feeling the weight of many unhappy months starting to ease away.

“She’s right, you know,” Sam said, suddenly serious. “We hardly know each other anymore, Sin, and I don’t much like it.”

I swallowed hard and lowered my gaze. “We’re not going to Jimmy’s?”

“Sure, we’ll visit him tomorrow; it’s only a few hours further. We’ll head back here Sunday morning.”

My head snapped back up. “Here? To Bullhead City?” Who are you and what have you done with my husband?

Sam nodded. “Yep. Sunday night we’ve got a moonlight dinner date on the Colorado River.”

I gasped. My husband on a dinner cruise? “You didn’t!”

“I did,” Sam said, with a rueful twist of his lips.

Impulsively, I leaned across the console to kiss his cheek. “Oh, Sam! I was so sure our marriage was over, that there was nothing left.”

“It’s not over.” The husky timbre of his voice somehow mattered more than its excessive volume. “It’s just been put on the back burner too long. But we’re going to change that.”

“We are?” I had a feeling my rather hum-drum brown eyes were as star-studded as any love-struck teenager’s, and I could not tear them away from my husband’s face.

Sam squeezed my hand and winked again. “I will,” he promised. “If you will.”

A tear streaked its way down my cheek, and Sam gently brushed it away. “You know, Sweetheart, I really meant it all those years ago, when I said ‘I do.’ And just for the record,” he added, touching a fingertip to his own lips and then – oh-so-softly – to mine, “I still do.”

Silently bemoaning the console between us, I leaned close to my big, loud husband and kissed his cheek, then placed my lips against his ear. He’s a little hard of hearing, after all, and I wanted to be certain he heard me.

“Guess what, Samuel Mallory? I still do, too!”

Notes in Review


(Note: This book released in February of this year. I posted it on My Book Bag, but I don't think it ever made it to The Bookshelf. If it did, well, you're getting a double dose of Tracey Bateman - always a good thing!)


You Had Me at Good-bye

  • Publisher: FaithWords (February 13, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446698948
Dancy Ames is a spoiled little New York rich girl with her future all laid out bright and shiny before her. She has good friends and a job she loves, which provides a nice little salary in addition to her wealthy Daddy’s credit card, which she uses to purchase all the little “necessities” not covered by her salary. And just to brighten the picture, there’s a coveted promotion on the horizon.

But then handsome Brit Jack Quinn takes a job at Lane Publishing, and Dancy’s plans take a swift nosedive. In no time at all, she finds herself jobless and in need of a new career.


After the initial devastation, she decides the time might be right to finish that novel she’s been kinda sorta working on for…well, forever. But Jack seems to have found a way into even the world inside her head, annoying hunk that he is! And it doesn’t help that unwelcome little surprises keep cropping up here and there and everywhere to add to the general confusion.

With her life clearly on the downslide, Dancy really has no choice but to turn to God for solutions. Can He…will He work things out for a Fifth Avenue princess?


You Had Me at Good-bye is a fun storyline, and an interesting peek into a world where money is no object, and anything over a size two is plus-size. Tracey Bateman has a style all her own, and a unique ability to make readers laugh out loud. At the same time, she paints a heart-warming picture of spiritual growth, emotional development and love in the making.

Don’t miss this delightful romance!

Notes on Writing - Margaret Daley

Crucial Little Nuts & Bolts of Writing


I wanted to discuss some of the “nuts and bolts” of this writing business. Some of my observations and lessons I’ve learned over the twenty-eight years I have been writing.


1. Talent is important but equally or more important is perseverance with some luck thrown in.


2. Rejection is part of writing and sending your work out. We have to learn to move on and not let it stop us from writing. I have seen some very talented writers give up because of rejection (refer back to number one). Have a support group to help you through the rejections. We all need it from time to time. You should see my file of rejections!


3. Set a schedule to write. If not, it is easy to get sidetracked. Life happens.


4. The second sale is often harder than the first. It doesn’t get any easier after you sell the first book. The good part of this is that it keeps you on your toes and hopefully makes you a better writer. Don’t stop trying to improve your craft.


5. Deadlines are important to make. I can’t stress that enough. We are professionals and want to be treated as professionals.


6. Networking is important and can open doors for you whether it is through a conference, chapter meeting or online groups.


7. Critique groups can be good but remember the book is yours ultimately and you have to decide what advice to take or not take.


8. No agent is better than a bad agent.


9. Learn when to give up on a project and move on to a new one. I have heard of some writers working on the same book for years--polishing and polishing it. Learn to let go.


10. This business is subjective. One editor may not like your writing while another may. So don’t give up on a project because of one rejection (refer back to number one).


11. This business is cyclical. What is popular today, may not be tomorrow.


12. Take time for yourself and be aware of the signs of burnout. Stress will take its toll on you and your family.


13. Think twice before quitting your day job. This business is so unpredictable. I realize a day job can get in the way of writing sometimes (I have one) but there is value in having a job outside the home. I have gained a lot from working that I use in my writing. I interact with students and people who have enriched my writing and observations.


14. When something is bothering you about your book, listen to that inner voice. I have found it is usually right whether it is a plot element, the structure of a sentence, or a piece of dialogue.


15. One way to see if your story (especially the dialogue) reads well and is naturally sounding is to read it out loud or use one of those computer programs to read your manuscript to you. With dialogue listen to the people you encounter. Be careful about using a thick accent. It can stop your reader when she is reading your story. You don’t want the reader to stop to figure out what the character was trying to say. Also, unless your character is a foreigner, we use contractions a lot in America in our dialogue.


16. Have fun with your writing. It will show in your work.


17. Research. It shows if you don't. But don't feel you have to put everything in the book that you discover when you research. That shows, too.


Margaret Daley has been married to her husband, Mike, for over 35 years. “He is my support and my best friend,” the author says. A teacher, Margaret loves working with students with special needs. She also participates in Special Olympics as a coach with her students. She is a mother of one, a son named Shaun. When she’s not working, she loves to read, travel, and go to lunch and a movie with a friend.


www.margaretdaley.com

Author of Note - Sharon Dunn

Welcome to “The Bookshelf,” Sharon! It’s nice to get to know another Christian author. Hey, you had a new release back in January of 2008 – congratulations! And your final installment of the Bargain Hunters mysteries, Death at a Discount, will be out January 2009. We want to know all about it, but first, a little

about you as a writer.


How long have you been writing?

Since the second grade. I stayed up all night writing poems about my mom, my dad, and my dog. My mom kept coming into my room telling me to go to sleep. As far as writing as a profession, I have always dabbled in writing but I guess I decided to treat it seriously when I was pregnant with my oldest son fifteen years ago. That was when I joined a critique group and bought a Writers Market.


How much time do you devote to writing?

I try to do three or four hours a day seven days a week. If I don’t have anything pressing, Sunday is a light day where I take a break or just do administrative writing stuff.


Do you have a favorite location in which to work?

Although I have a laptop that I can move around the house, it really does work best to stay at my desk. I don’t take my laptop to the library or a coffee shop because it would be too easy to get distracted. My desk is situated in a corner so it blocks out most distractions.


Because inquiring minds still want to know … where to you get your ideas?

Ideas come from a hundred different sources. I think one of the greatest sources has been just with my own spiritual battles and discoveries. In my Ruby Taylor series, the theme was that God could redeem anyone regardless of what they had done. The series shows a woman coming to the Lord at 30 and how she finds healing, not instantly but over time. With the Bargain Hunters series I wanted to combine two things that I love: a solid mystery and the search for a good deal. With the first book in that series, Death of a Garage Sale Newbie, the first scene where a woman leaves a frantic phone on her friend’s answering machine saying she had discovered something illegal and that she is afraid just popped into my head. I heard the first line of that book, saw the scene, and started writing to see where it would go.


What is your most “quirky” writing habit?

An insane love for Post-It notes. They are all over my desk. I post reminders about things in the book that need to be fixed, about character descriptions and even questions that I have about my book. As I deal with each issue in the revision, I toss the Post-It.


How do you apply your faith to your writing?

You can’t force the faith issue in a book, it will sound too preachy. I don’t think it is good to start a book with an agenda in mind, it is better to start a book with characters in a dilemma. If you have characters who are Christians, faith issue will become a part of the plot.


Tell us about your series The Bargain Hunter mysteries.

Death of a Garage Sale Newbie is the first book in the Bargain Hunter mystery series. Garage Sale Newbie features four women who are bonded together by the need to clip coupons and be first in line at doorbuster sales. When one of the bargain hunters is found dead, it is up to the other three to figure out what happened to her and why. Ginger, a recent empty nester and bargain hunting expert leads Suzanne, mother of three with one on the way, and Kindra, a college student with a taste for designer clothes without the budget, to hunt down clues instead of good deals in the fictional town of Three Horses, Montana. In the other two books Death of a Six Foot Teddy Bear and the upcoming Death at a Discount, the bargain hunter ladies find themselves drawn into new mysteries. The ladies get to travel a bit in book two and book three. First to the fictional city of Calamity, Nevada to outlet shop and attend the world’s largest garage sale in Death of a Six Foot Teddy Bear and then in Death at a Discount, Ginger and her buddies are stranded (with a murderer and some suspects) at a shopping network when a snowstorm hits Denver.


What do you do when you’re not writing?

I don’t have a lot of spare time. Part of the sacrifice of writing is that I had to give up some hobbies. I used to sew quite a bit. Now, I just have piles of patterns and fabric that I haven’t touched in years. When I do have a spare moment, I like to read or spend time with my kids and husband. Sometime we go to parks or on bike rides or just watch movies.


What bit of advice do you have for new or aspiring writers?

You don’t have to be super smart to be a good novelist, I’m Exhibit One for that. You do need to understand what it means to tell a good story. Study the elements o storytelling, plot structure, character arc etc.

Next, if you want to succeed as a writer, you have to be teachable. That means you have to be able to listen to critique and feedback without becoming defensive, otherwise you won’t grow as a writer. I’m not talking about people that tear apart what you have written just for the joy of being cruel. Stay away from those people. Also, people like your mom and your third grade teacher who thought everything you wrote was fantastic are not that helpful either. Seek out people who will give you truthful but tactful critique.

Finally, become a writer for the right reason, because you love sitting alone at your keyboard reworking a sentence until it sparkles. Don’t become a writer because you need the money and attention. There are easier, less painful ways to get money and attention. Throwing yourself in front of a bus for the insurance comes to mind.


Sharon Dunn lives with her hubby of twenty years, three kids, and three cats. Book two in her Ruby Taylor mystery series Sassy Cinderella and the Valiant Vigilante won the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year award. Her first Bargain Hunter mystery, Death of a Garage Sale Newbie received a second place award for Book of the Year at the recent ACFW conference. When she isn’t writing, she is making pets out of the dust bunnies under her furniture.

www.sharondunnbooks.com

Notes of Devotion - Rhonda Clark

God is the Sugar in the Cookies of Our Lives (Part 3)

Spreading God’s Sweetness

If you are wise and understand God's ways, live a life of steady goodness so that only good deeds will pour forth. And if you don't brag about the good you do, then you will be truly wise! James 3:13(NLT)


When you taste a cookie, the first thing you notice is its sweetness. You expect a sugary-sweet taste. Even young children prefer a sweet taste, I know my kids did. They would (and still do) select the sweet over any other choice of taste. That’s all right, God hardwired us to enjoy sweetness.


We don’t only enjoy sweet cookies, but we prefer other sweet things, too. Fruits delight our taste buds; flowers fill our nostrils with a sappy fragrance; maple trees give us pleasure on our pancakes; and perfumes entice us to enjoy others’ company. The world is filled with sweetness.


Since our human nature is to enjoy sweetness, then why do we treat each other with bitterness? Why do we as Christians allow our emotions and attitude to reflect hatred and anger? God’s grace fills us with His sweetness and goodness. In turn, we should spread that sweetness to others. There’s an old wives tale that says, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” but we spend our days bitter and angry. Do we really believe we can minister to others with that sort of attitude? We can’t. Every day we must fill ourselves with God’s word so that we may show His goodness and grace to others.


Today, I challenge you to spread more honey than vinegar so that you will show God’s grace.

Lord, forgive me for my bitter attitude. Fill my soul with your goodness so that others will see Your sweetness in my life. I want others to see how wonderful Your blessings are. In Your Holy Name, Amen.


Rhonda Clark is a freelance writer and novelist. Her sought after articles have been featured in many e-zines. She has won commendations for her short, faith-based articles from Faithwriters.com. Her short stories have been featured on a story time radio show on station WHBK. She is a graduate of Texas A & M University-Texarkana.

She’s a wife and stay-at-home mother of two.


Where Rhonda's articles can be found:

Faithwriters.com

Faith Cycle Ministries

Journey: Women of Passions Magazine

Haruah Magazine

Riders & Reapers Magazine

Christian Online Magazine

Home in a Foreign Land

2 Kings 19:24
I have dug wells in foreign lands and drunk the water there.


This past month, I’ve begun to know how it must feel to be a stranger in a foreign land.

I’m sure most of you are aware that my husband and I moved from California to Okmulgee, Oklahoma this past month. We arrived here on September 1, which at the very least makes our arrival date easy to remember. It was Labor Day, and boy-oh-boy, did we ever labor! In the days and weeks since then, we have worked almost non-stop: unloading the truck, unpacking boxes and putting the house in order – to say nothing of trying to bring some semblance of order to the wild tangle of Oklahoma plant life on our 3-acre property! Since we left our brawny boys back home – the ones who usually help when we need extra muscle – we’ve had to do it almost entirely alone. Thank God for the few kind souls who have taken pity on us and lent their time and strength to help us get the heavier stuff taken care of!


So we’re extremely tired. But aside from all the work involved, we don’t know many people. Johnny’s aunt and uncle – wonderful folks whom I love with all my heart – live about three miles from us, and have been our rocks since we’ve been here. I had met their pastor’s wife a couple of times before we came here. (LaJoyce Martin is a multi-published author of Christian fiction, very well-known in the United Pentecostal world.) Other than that, we knew no one…and let me tell you, there have been moments when I felt that we had truly “dug wells in a foreign land and drunk the water there…”


Oh, and did I mention the tiggers and chicks…ummm, chiggers and ticks? I say that in a jesting way, because I know they’re out there. The ”tiggers” had their way with my ankles when we first arrived, before we got things mowed down and trimmed up a bit. The “chicks” haven’t bothered with us yet – thank God and all that is holy! May they continue to snub California blood!


But God is good, and He’s the same no matter where one chooses to call home. He’s been a comfort when loneliness threatened to overwhelm us. He’s been a friend in those moments when we missed our family so much it hurt almost physically. He’s been a Rock of strength when ours was gone. God is God in whatever state, in whatever country, town or city. He is there, and He never changes. He is still God, and He is still good!


Margaret Daley (see her Writing Tips in this edition of The Bookshelf) contacted me with word that she lives nearby, and an invitation to a monthly meeting of Christian writers. I'm thrilled about that, and already beginning to feel more at home. Thank you, Margaret!


I hope you enjoy the October Bookshelf, which is full of good things, good people, good advice…and just plain good reading. There’s nothing foreign or unfamiliar about this newsletter! J It’s the same fun, informative, encouraging publication it’s always been…thanks to the talented authors and wonderful friends who help make it that way month after month.


Grab a cup of something delicious, curl up and get comfortable, and read on…after you check out the pics below...


Here's our place. As of this coming weekend, it will be yellow with white trim. Doesn't that sound oh-so-cozy? (I heard "tiggers and chicks" dislike yellow...LOL - just kidding)












This is Hummer, one of my new friends. He's going away for awhile, but has promised to return again next year.

















Meet Cheetah, one of our three new "mousers."

We were told we'd need them out here in the wilds. She's young, and still training for her new post, but isn't she pretty? (This from someone who is admittedly not an "animal person." But if it's a choice between cats and mice...) She and her two cohorts live outside, but they spend a lot of time dreaming about being inside...see below.







I'm not giving in!