Saturday, August 1, 2009

Little Feet

Little Feet

by Delia Latham



Pitty-patter. Pitty-patter.


I woke up to the sound and smiled as I lay there and just listened. Nothing outdoes the pitty-patter of little bitty feet to make the heart sing and the soul sigh with wonder. Especially when those little footsteps are your own beloved children's—or, in this case, grandchildren's.


Hubby and I have so enjoyed the opportunity for the past three weeks to have our oldest daughter and her two little ones—Savannah and Aidan—in our home. Since they live in California and we’re in Oklahoma, the chance to be with them for such a lengthy period of time doesn’t come often and is a definite salve for the soul. God always knows when our hearts are lonely, sad, bruised or broken, and He always prescribes the perfect antidote. He is the physician of all physicians!


Our time together for this visit is winding down far too quickly. I miss Jondra and the babies already, and they’re not even gone. But I’m so grateful for their visit. I am blessed!


Speaking of a salve for the soul … be sure to check out Debbie Thomas’ devotional, “First Aid for the Soul” in this edition.


Our guest author is Amanda Cabot. Chatting with this gracious lady was, for me, a distinct pleasure. If you enjoy reading the interview half as much as I loved getting it, this article alone will make the August “Bookshelf” a blessing.


I’m including a bonus article this month by Julie Dearyan. Her take on the constant struggle by most of us to “get everything done” is like a refreshing breeze in the summertime. Take a deep breath, relax, and forgive yourself for not being Wonder Woman or Superman. That’s not who God created you to be.


Writers … this month’s tips come from the pen of Tiffany Coulter, The Writing Career Coach. It’s good stuff. I guarantee you’ll find something beneficial in this piece.


Look in on the monthly drawing. You never know when your name will fill the winner’s spot!


Don’t forget that The Bookshelf is now a bi-monthly publication. The next edition will be posted at the beginning of October.


Enjoy the August edition! As always, feel free to comment on anything you like—or don’t like, of course. Just remember to keep a Christian spirit about anything less than positive you want to say.


And now I’m off to be with my grandbabies.


Pitty-patter, pitty-patter…


Note: I have revived my blog, The Melody Within. Please come on over from time to time and say hello! Also, if you're interested in writing information, I have a new article posted on Tracy Culleton's Fiction Writer's Mentor. Hope on over and check it out. I hope you find something helpful.


Blessings,


Author of Note - Amanda Cabot

Amanda Cabot

I’m delighted to welcome Amanda Cabot to The Bookshelf. Amanda, I want to hear all about your new novel, Paper Roses, and I have a few just-for-fun questions, as well. But first, tell us about yourself. Who is Amanda Cabot, the gal next door?

If the gal next door is the one who always has her book in a nose, then that’s me. My parents were avid readers, so when I was quite young, I decided I should be like them and learn to read. Ever since, books have been an important part of my life. For me it was a logical step from reading to writing. I took some detours along the way, including many years working a day job in Corporate America, but in my heart, I’ve always been a writer.

I peeked into your website. You majored in French. Now, I’m fascinated by that! It’s such a beautiful language. (I don’t speak it, but I love to hear it spoken.) Are you able to use the language in your books at all?

Un peu. (A little.) One of the reasons I created a fictional town populated with residents from Alsace was that half the town would speak French, while the other half spoke German. That gave me the opportunity to season the book with a few French and German phrases. I was once fluent in German, but – alas – those days have passed. Now I rely on a good friend whose native language is German for those phrases.

Love it! Your novel, Paper Roses, released in January. Tell us a little about the book.

I refer to Paper Roses as my mail-order-bride-meets-Cyrano-de-Bergerac book, but I suspect no editor would have bought it if I’d described it that way in my proposals. Here’s the blurb that helped sell the book:


Socialite Sarah Dobbs never thought she’d be a mail-order bride. But, then, she never thought she’d be destitute, shunned and her young sister’s only hope for a normal life. Drawn to the Texas Hill Country by the poetic letters she calls her paper roses, Sarah believes her secrets will be safe there. But the town is deeply divided and harbors its own secrets, including the identity of the person who murdered Sarah’s fiancĂ©. There’s no one she can trust, not Clay Canfield, and certainly not God. He’s abandoned her.


Talented physician Clay Canfield has only one desire: to find the man who murdered his brother and exact vengeance. He’ll never marry again, especially not a woman burdened with a child. As for faith, that’s not for him, any more than it is for Sarah.

But God has plans for Sarah and Clay, plans that challenge everything they hold dear.

Makes me want to snuggle up with a glass of Dr. Pepper and the book and hide out for a few hours. This book is the first in a trilogy. Can you share anything about the stories to follow?

Let’s see. Where should I start? I love connected stories, so all three of the Texas Dreams books are set in the same fictional Texas town, and the heroes of books two and three are introduced in the previous book. (The heroines are new arrivals.) But, since one of the things that annoys me as a reader is having to read books in order, I’m careful to have each of mine – even when they’re part of a series – stand alone.

As for the second book – if Paper Roses was my mail-order-bride book, Scattered Petals (due out next March) is my marriage-of-convenience book. Only, in this case, it’s a matter of inconvenience. Great inconvenience for the hero and heroine.

As part of the titling process, my publisher asked me to describe the book in two sentences. For someone who’s hard-pressed to stay within word count limits, that was a challenge, but here’s what I wrote for them.

All her life, Priscilla Morton has longed for adventure, and so she heads for Texas, never dreaming that the adventure will leave her alone, badly injured and dependent on a handsome rancher who reminds her of her worst nightmare. Zachary Webster knows he’ll never marry, for that would involve admitting the biggest mistake of his life, but how can he refuse to help Priscilla, even if she’s a reminder of his sin?

(You’ll note that those were two rather long sentences.)

I did notice that! :) Love the cover!

How long have you been writing? Was there an “aha” moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve been writing for almost as long as I can remember. I can’t say that there was an “aha” moment, because I think wanting to be a writer simply evolved from loving to read, but I do remember being seven years old and announcing to my parents that when I grew up I was going to be a writer. Admittedly, my first efforts, which included two plays that my fifth-grade teacher allowed me to produce for the other classes and a very short-lived neighborhood newspaper, were less than stellar, but I never stopped dreaming of being a published author.

Where do you find inspiration for your stories?

Almost anywhere. One of the good/bad things about my day job was that I was a very frequent flyer. The good part was that I was able to visit a lot of different places, and some of them provided inspiration for books. For example, I was sitting in a restaurant in Phoenix, eating alone (one of the bad things about all the traveling), when the Muzak started playing “Stranger in Paradise.” “What a great title for a book,” I said to myself. (No, I haven’t gotten to the point where I talk out loud and cause strangers to stare.) That started the whole process of asking questions. “Where’s paradise?” Answer: Hawaii. “Why would someone be there and feel like a stranger?” The answers to that question turned into a book. Even though I changed the title, the story begins in Hawaii and the hero and heroine are definitely strangers there.

What a wonderful example! How much time do you spend writing?

Now that I’m retired from my day job, I spend mornings writing. By that, I mean the actual sitting at the desk or keyboard, turning ideas into words. Afternoons include answering email, working on promotions and letting ideas percolate. So, I guess you could say that I write full time.

What’s your best piece of advice for new and aspiring writers?

I have three pieces of advice. The first is to read extensively in the genre you want to write. That’s the best way to learn what a publisher is buying. Secondly, join a writer’s group. ACFW is wonderful for writers in the Christian marketplace, and Romance Writers of America is excellent for anyone interested in writing romance. A writer’s group provides support, networking and so many other resources to the aspiring writer that I can’t over emphasize the importance of joining one. And lastly, never give up. Rejection is a fact of life. I won’t sugarcoat it: Rejection hurts. But if you let it defeat you, if you stop sending out your manuscript just because it was rejected, you’ll never be published. Believe in your book and in yourself. Oh … that was four pieces of advice. Sorry!

We’ll take all we can get! Give us one writing tip that you personally find invaluable.

Use the children’s section of the library for your preliminary research. The books there cover the highlights, which is all you need to know when you’re starting a book, and they’re short, so you get the basics quickly. Later, when you’re actually writing the book, you may need a “grown-up” book for specific details, but the kids’ section will get you started quickly.

Excellent idea, and one I’ve never heard before.

Now for that off-the-cuff stuff I mentioned. If you could ask any person, living or dead, a random question – what question would you ask of whom?

I’d ask my father (who’s been dead for over twenty-five years) to talk about his experiences in WWII. He was stationed in northern Africa and western Europe, and I’m sure the experiences influenced him, but what he did during the war was never mentioned in our home.

What books are on your bedside table right now?

A Claim of Her Own by Stephanie Whitson, The Enclave by Karen Hancock and an older release, Tying the Knot by Susan May Warren.

What word annoys you more than any other?

“Closure” when used to mean coming to an end. It’s so overused.

What “super power” would you like to borrow for awhile?

It may not be a super power, but I’d love to not have to sleep. Just think of all the books I could read (and write) and all the places I could visit if I didn’t need eight hours of sleep a night.

Share a grammatical pet peeve…go ahead, sound off.

Poor punctuation. Specifically, I deplore the tendency to replace semi-colons with commas in compound sentences. I feel so strongly about this that I wrote an article for one of my writers’ groups entitled “In Defense of the Semi-Colon.”

And I’m pretty sure I read that, because I remember cheering for the title. :) What color crayon best describes you on a good day? Bad day?

A good day would be midnight blue. No, I don’t think of blue as a depressing color. It’s deep, vivid and full of life. A bad day – beige. Totally boring and lifeless.

Thank you for hanging out at The Bookshelf for awhile, Amanda! Where can my readers find Paper Roses?

Paper Roses should be available at all brick-and-mortar bookstores, although since it was released six months ago, readers may need to special-order it. It’s definitely available at the “usual suspects” online retailers: Amazon, BN.com, Christianbook.com, etc.

Thanks again, and we hope you sell a million!

Thanks so much for inviting me to join you. I had a great time.


About Amanda Cabot:


With both parents avid readers, it's no surprise that Amanda Cabot learned to read at an early age. From there it was only a small step to deciding to become a writer. Of course, deciding and becoming are two different things, as she soon discovered. Fortunately for the world, her first attempts at fiction were not published, but she did meet her goal of selling a novel by her thirtieth birthday. Since then she’s sold more than twenty novels under a variety of pseudonyms. Paper Roses is her first book for the CBA market. When she’s not writing, Amanda enjoys sewing, cooking and – of course – reading.


Visit Amanda's website


Notes of Devotion - Debbie Fuller Thomas

First Aid for the Soul

Drawing Your Reader in to Your Story


Tiffany Colter

When writing, whether fiction or non-fiction, the key is to effectively connect with your reader. This will be a little different based on the expectations of the reader. Romance readers want an emotional experience with the promise of a happy ending. People who read the suspense genre want to feel the growing danger as the antagonist draws closer to their prey. Mystery readers want to connect intellectually on some level with their point of view character. They want to peel back the layers of the mystery and see if they can guess the villain before the character in the story does.


Understanding these expectations are crucial to connecting with your reader early on-but that is just the beginning. How do you fulfill the promise of an engaging story once a reader has offered you a bit of their time?


Recently on my Writing Career Coach blog I challenged readers to look at the first few pages of a few books they enjoy. I told them to look at the opening and notice how the story was created, the senses engaged, the questions posed and the emotions triggered. Setting up with a strong opening will get them to go beyond scanning you on a shelf. It will give you the opportunity to build the relationship with your reader. That is what writing is. It is a relationship built by communication between your character and the reader. For those precious hours spent between the pages of your book, the reader cares intimately for the person living in a world of your imagination.


As with any relationship, you must know your reader. You must see your writing as an experience for them rather than an achievement for you. You must be willing to recognize the needs of each kind of reader. As I said at the opening, different fiction readers read for different reasons.


What if you already know all of this? What then? How can you build writing that will land you that contract? Or the next one?


I have found that reading a variety of genres is the key to deepening my writing and engaging my reader. This is important because, while people have a primary preference, there is often a secondary need as well. Why else would there be a rise of Romantic Suspense and other such blended genres? It is because, like our characters, our readers have a variety of interests that they want to explore.


Let me share an example of what I mean. I write primarily Suspense Thrillers. I love to tangle and weave plot lines and make readers afraid to turn out their lights at night. However, I recently recognized a lack of emotion in my books. I was leaving the struggle purely external with very little for the protagonist to face within themselves. This makes a thin character. To resolve this issue I began to read Romance books, cover to cover, back to back. As soon as I finish one I pick up the next book [or book on Tape]. The emotional tangles experienced by the characters of those books helped me to think creatively about how to tangle personal issues in to the threads of my story.


But how can you do this practically? Here are three quick exercises to get you started. I suggest, however, that you buy books on craft [I have a list of them on my blog, but Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel is among my favorites.]


1. Decide what question you want to stick in the reader’s mind and set it up in the first few lines. It should eat at them until they know the answer.


2. Read a book outside of your genre and look for one thing you can incorporate into your own writing.


3. Engage the 5 senses and the emotions in the first few sentences. Let us smell or hear something. Then tell us how to feel about it. Draw us in.


If you begin to look outside your genre, without leaving it completely, you will deepen your characters as well as your relationship with your reader. By recognizing the importance of this role in your writing you will grow as an author and hone your unique writer’s voice.


Tiffany Colter, The Writing Career Coach, is an award-winning writer whose credits include national magazines, local papers, E-zines and blogs. Topics have ranged from reporting on-assignment about local businesses to national trends in the writing market. Every month more than 40 pieces authored by Tiffany appear online or in print. She speaks regularly to Writers groups & Business Owners as well as individuals. The Writing Career Coach Program was born out of her desire to provide affordable options to aspiring writers.

Tiffany has a degree in Political Science from the University of Toledo where she graduated Summa cum Laude from the Honors College. She is fluent in three languages, writes suspense-thrillers and reads business books as readily as she does a novel.

She can be reached through her websites www.WritingCareerCoach.com and www.TheBalancedLife.com

Notes in Review - Ruby's Slippers

Ruby’s Slippers
by Leanna Ellis



Dottie (Dorothy) Meyers lives on a small Kansas farm, alone but for her little dog Toto – oops ... Otto. When a tornado rips through her property, it not only demolishes the home she’s lived in all her life, but knocks the middle-aged maiden out cold. She awakens three months later at Rainbow’s End, an assisted living facility in California. Near her bed are a pair of ruby slippers – a gift from the father she hasn’t seen since she was four.


Haunted by childhood memories and a longing to meet the Daddy she barely remembers, Dottie sets out on a journey to Seattle (the Emerald City). Traveling with her are three friends: Sophia, whose mastectomy left her constantly rearranging the “stuffing” in strategic places on her body. A free thinker, she jokes that her son sometimes thinks she’s lost her brain; Tim, Dottie’s elderly uncle by marriage. He gave his whole heart to Elizabeth, who’s younger brother is Dottie’s father. When Elizabeth died, Tim thought his heart died with her; Leo, Sophia’s wild and woolly son, who lives by himself in a cabin in the woods. He looks fearsome, and he makes a lot of noise, but Dottie soon discovers that a part of Leo is nothing more than a scared little boy who mourns the absence of a father in his life, just as she does.


And then there’s Duncan Meyers, who lives in Seattle in a house that’s nothing short of a mansion. Why did he abandon his family all those years ago? And why did he leave those unusual slippers for his daughter while she lay in a coma?


Dottie’s actress sister, Abby, is busy playing the part of the wicked witch in a traveling production of The Wizard of Oz. For some reason, she desperately wants Dottie’s ruby slippers … and she’s not alone. More than one person is out to get those shoes.


The little group of friends learn a lot of important lessons about themselves and each other on their way to Seattle. Focused on guarding the shoes and mentally clinging to the past, will Dottie fail to see the promise of a brighter future? Hurt and disillusioned by her father’s abandonment, will she ever again trust another man with her heart? In search of her Daddy’s affection, will she fail to see the flawless love her heavenly Father has offered all along?


It’s a modern-day Wizard of Oz with Cinderella undertones. But this is no fairy tale or fantasy, with magical resolutions and guaranteed happy endings. It’s a deeply moving story of hurt and healing, of love and loss, of hope and redemption. Immensely entertaining, it is chock full of wit, grit, humor and heartache. Truly unforgettable, Ruby’s Slippers has the potential to be a classic.


Don’t miss this one!

A Special Note - Julie Dearyan

Julie Dearyan

I Can Get Everything Done...


Really, I can.


1. Sweep garage

2. Move forward edits on fiction, The Last Noelle

3. Finish nonfiction book proposal

4. Find receipts for writing expenses at bottom of purse and file them

5. Help child with lizard project

6. Fix dinner

7. Comfort a hurting friend

8. Give someone a compliment

9. Read a Proverb

10. Exercise (just a walk would be good! Use time to reflect on Proverb)

11. Practice piano


Okay, so I can’t.


Every morning, I am full and energy and I’m sure I will be able to get everything done on my list. By the end of the day, I wearily read through my list and see that I only comforted a hurting friend, read a Proverb, and encouraged someone.


Frustration sets in. I wished that I’d had the energy and the foresight to plan and get everything done. Maybe if I read a new book on organization (when would I find time to do that?) or planned my time better, I would get more done.


Then I look at what I did accomplish. I did comfort a friend. I somehow had time to read a Proverb. And when someone came my way who needed encouragement, I took the time I needed to make that happen.


God is the reason I have a list. He gave me breath and energy and the ability to accomplish stuff. And what I got done was exactly what He wanted me to get done. I read once that the Christian can get everything done that he needs to get done. Why? Because what God has for us to do, we can accomplish. We will probably never get everything done that we want to get done but we can do what God wants us to do. His list isn’t a burden—it is a delight. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.


Our list isn’t important. Stuff won’t matter in eternity. But when people come my way who need a bit of encouragement, I better be ready. When a hurting friend comes to see me, I want to be there with a hug. And if I don’t stay deep in the Word of God, I won’t have the wisdom and energy to love others the way I’m commanded to love.


Take a moment to look at your list. Are you too preoccupied with all the things you need to accomplish instead of what God wants you to do?


I would like to sweep the garage and finish the edits but maybe that can wait for a day or two.


Lord, help me to depend on you for the strength to get the things done that You would have me to do.


Julie Scudder Dearyan is the editor of Victory in Grace. She has been published in Clubhouse, Focus on the Family, Marriage Partnership, and other publications. Her fiction has finaled in the Genesis Contest and RWA’s Get Your Stiletto in the door contest.


Visit Julie's website