Category Archives: The Arts

God created us to reflect Him through the arts

How to Persevere and Succeed

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I’ve been writing since Spring of the year 2000.

The first seven years of writing were such fun. I wasn’t involved in any writing groups, I wasn’t trying to get anything published, and I didn’t feel any push to carry my writing to a higher level. Writing was an avocation when my vocation was teaching music.

I wrote for the sheer joy of putting stories, which had been clamoring to be expressed, on paper, and discovering that characters develop minds of their own, and lead me in mysterious and delightful directions.

In 2007 I finished my first novel. Flushed with the feeling of victory that comes from this achievement, I immediately registered for a writing conference. (I heard that’s what one does in order to meet agents and editors.)

 

I met with several agents, and one expressed interest in seeing some of my writing.

I thought, this is easy. I write a book, find an agent, get a contract, then the agent will quickly find representation, maybe with Harper Collins or Random House, etc. Within a few years I’ll be another successful and well-known author. My books will immediately sell well. I’ll have no trouble selling subsequent books. Marketing? What’s that?

At the conference, I heard lots of talk about platform, whatever that was. Uh, maybe that’s just for non-fiction writers.

Nope, that’s you, too, you ignorant fiction writer.

The nice agent eventually rejected my novel proposal. Surprise.

That’s painful. It’s like walking into a an invisible wall. Maybe that’s where we get the expression: you nose gets out of joint. I wanted to yell, or something:

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I kept praying. And writing.

Wake up call for me. Just writing a book does not guarantee immediate success.

Join a writer’s group, or two, I was advised.  I joined three, just to be safe.

Each week I drove 100 miles from Estes Park, Colorado to Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Made some writing friends, listened to lectures on the craft of writing, practiced.

Two years later, I submitted an article to a Christian publisher. And got published!

I kept praying and studying God’s Word so my own words would pour out helpful and inspiring stories. And kept writing.

Feeling more confident, I attended another, bigger writer conference in Denver. Rejected again. I have to say that, though agents and editors are busy—and I understand the frantic pace of their work—they barely listened to my pitch.

I went home and finished writing book number two. Submitted more articles and got lots of them published. I found another writing group and met wonderful people like Amanda Cabot, Jane Choate, Audra Harders, Leslie Ann Sartor: all great writers.

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I kept praying and studying, and serving in church. And writing. You can’t stop.

I also started entering writing contests. Little by little, over about a five-year period, my entries started doing very well. My scores went up and up.

I published more short stories and articles. Found an agent. Almost got my first book published, but at the last moment, the publishing board voted to reject my manuscript.

Back home, I parted ways with my lovely agent and struck out to independently seek publication for my now three-book series.

By now, I’d been in several critique groups, had written, re-written, edited, re-edited my books at least ten times. I still have several old versions on my computer. (It’s kind of bittersweet to read some of my earlier attempts.)

One day, I checked my email and noticed that Anaiah Press had contacted me. “We like your book and would like to publish it.”

Unfortunately, I was sitting in the food court of my local mall drinking a Starbucks Americano so I couldn’t  jump up and do the Snoopy dance. Well, I could’ve if I didn’t want about a hundred women to steer clear of me, glancing sidewards, clutching their purses close to their chests, muttering to their children, “stay away from that funny old woman.”

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Little did I know that the next six months were going to be intense with edits, re-writes, emails back and forth between the editor and me.

A month later, Write integrity Press offered me a three-book contract on my suspense series, The Hunted. More intense and long hours.

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Then, the books released on Amazon, within a few weeks of each other. I thought I’d lose my mind, what with all the marketing activity, combined with all the volunteer things I do in the community and my church.

I remember someone—a published author— telling me, “Once you get published, your time will never again be your own.” At the time, I kind of sniffed at her words. Easy for her to say. She’s published. She can’t relate. She’s forgotten the angst and frustration of trying to get your first book contract.

But, you know, that writer was absolutely right.

My fourth book will release in the beginning of 2019. And I’ve got another one just about ready to be submitted. And I’m working on two other manuscripts, as well.

Back story: Near the end of 2015, I had sat down before God and said, “Lord, I’m just about all in with this trying-to-get-published thing. If I don’t get a contract within a year, I’ll know you’re telling me to hang up my skates. I want to do only those things that are pleasing to you and are building up your kingdom. So please don’t let me waste time if it’s not going to happen.”

Six months later I landed my first full-length book contract. God is funny, that’s all I can say.

And now a few words on perseverance—the Christian way, that is:

As you’re doing the thing you hope to succeed in—it doesn’t have to be writing. Good grief, it could be learning a language, or trying to be an astronaut—here are some God-things to be doing simultaneously:

  1. Read and meditate on God’s Word. Every day.
  2. Pray for wisdom and understanding.
  3. Mindfully connect your daily trials—and your joys— to the truth of God’s Word.
  4. Now that you know what the Word of God says, practice obeying it.
  5. Make a daily habit of praising and worshiping the Lord.

These activities are not some magical way to manipulate God into doing things your way. Instead, this is the way to grow in seeing your life the way God sees it, and growing in your desire to bring Him honor.

I wish you God’s best. His ways are higher and better than our ways. Commit your way to the Lord.

God bless you as you persevere in working—yes, it is work— toward your goal.

Col. 3:17 “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (NIV Version)

Word Spreads

We moved to our new house about five months ago. And since then, I’ve put up a hummingbird feeder. One dominant male hummingbird owns that feeder and won’t let any other hummingbirds feed off of it.

And then, I temporarily set up a plate—taped to the bannister—and daily replenished the black oil sunflower seeds that juncos, chickadees, and various types of finches love. Even crows.

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There must be a grapevine among birds, I’m sure. Because, when I first set up the feed stations it took a couple of days for the first birds to show up.

Within a couple of days more came. And more. And more.

Then came the battle with the squirrels. I was more than happy to feed them, too. Yet, I had no idea that they would prove to be absolute gluttons, leaving no bird seed for the little feathered creatures. One rather mangy-looking squirrel jumped onto our bannister and ate and ate and ate. He did this day after day. Eventually, after a minute of this gorging, I’d run out and scare him away.

But he kept coming back, getting fatter and fatter.

Enough is enough, I told myself.

I purchased a squirrel-proof feeder that uses the squirrel’s weight against him. Today, I watched him reached out and place his little paws on the bird perches of the feeder. (I wish I had gotten a picture of him, but he was too quick.) When his paws came to rest on the perch, his weight pressed the feeder downward while the inside canister, holding the seeds remained stationary, effectively preventing him from reaching the seeds.

When I was still using a plastic plate, Mr. Squirrel could help himself:

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Now that I’ve switched to the squirrel-proof feeder, Mr. Squirrel can’t get the food, and word of my feeder is spreading to the entire neighborhood of sunflower-eating birds. And my, how they are enjoying the meal. They’ll easily finish off an entire canister of seeds in one day.

I don’t know how they do it, but birds are really good at communicating with other birds.

I wish my book marketing worked as well. I have three books out there on Amazon. Really good stories, in both ebook format and paperback. If you haven’t seen my books, you can go to the top of my website and click on “my books” to see the covers and back-cover blurb. There’s also a link for each book that will take you to Amazon.com.

The books are selling, but it seems that my readers are not spreading the word. If you’ve purchased and read Haven’s Hope or Haven’s Flight or High Country Dilemma, I sincerely hope—and ask you—to please leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. The stories are God-honoring and each has an inspirational and redemptive message. Wouldn’t we all like books like this to get into the hands of readers?

It’s really easy to leave a review. Get onto Amazon.com. Type in the title of my book and my name. This will bring you to the book page. Scroll down until you see the words “leave a review.” Write a one or two sentence review. It could be as simple as: “I liked this book, and you will, too.” Then rate the book on the one-to-five-star rating scale, with five being the best.

That’s it. Just like birds, word will spread about my books. Yippee, hooray!

Thank you so much!

Haven’s Hope Launches

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Click here to purchase the book through Amazon

Reader friends, it’s been a long time coming, but Tuesday, Feb. 6th, 2018 is the day of release. Haven’s Hope is the thrilling, adventure-packed sequel to Haven’s Flight. It will be available on Amazon.com as an ebook and a paperback.

Just look at that cover. Doesn’t it make you feel kind of tingly and nervous? Aren’t you curious to see if Dade Colton actually captures sweet Haven and imprisons her in his mountain hideout?

Haven’s Hope: Feel the Fear – Savor the Romance

HAVEN’S HOPE gives one woman’s answer to these questions:

  • Does God still love me even when bad things happen?
  • Is good really more powerful than evil?
  • How can I be freed from guilt?

Haven Ellingsen has escaped the man who relentlessly hunted her in the Cascade Mountains. But when an old friend from her dangerous past shows up unexpectedly to warn her that Dade Colton is determined to re-capture her, Haven makes the only safe decision: to go into hiding once more. But where? Who can she trust? If only she could tell someone about her tragic secret. But Dade’s threat to kill anyone who helps her would put that person’s life in jeopardy, too.

Dr. Petter Eriksen saves lives every day at Mercy Hospital Emergency Department. Driven by guilt after the accidental death of his little sister, he can’t believe in a good God. But when a beautiful and mysterious young woman moves into the cabin on his uncle’s Christian Retreat, Petter wonders if her love and simple faith have the power to shatter the barrier he has erected around his heart? And can he save her from a madman?

Sometimes you hide; sometimes you stand and fight.

 

 

 

 

Hate To Write Bios

 

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Today, I was tasked with writing two bio’s, a short one and a longer one for my publisher. Really short is not so hard because there’s so little you can say. You just write, “Dena Netherton used to sing and teach, but now she writes. Here’s what she writes…”

Bada bing, bada boom.

The slightly longer bio is harder. Because, if it were a really long bio I could write all sorts of boring stuff that you really don’t want to read, and it would be okay, ’cause it’s supposed to be long.

But @250 words is challenging. I can’t be boring, but I can’t do the Joe Friday style—”just the facts, Ma’am—” either.

Should I leave out all the usual stuff about being born and raised near San Francisco, where I studied (the Midwest), and where I’ve lived? (Just about everywhere in the continental US.)

The middle-sized bios I don’t like are this kind: “Jane lives in the country with two cats, three dogs, and a grumpy husband. But she loves coffee. Lots of it. In her free time she loves to go to yard sales.”

First of all, I don’t have a dog or a cat (please don’t come down on me; I love animals, particularly donkeys), and my husband is perfectly lovely. I’m not a particularly interesting person, either. On the plus side, I have musical talent, a high IQ, and I’m told my stories are pretty exciting. And I find everyone fascinating, so I’m good at listening.

On the negative? I’m short and looking older every time I pass the mirror. I love donuts, but I shouldn’t. Things stress me out because I’m a perfectionist. My memory isn’t as good as it was two decades ago.

Some weird things happened to me:

A police officer practically tackled me one dark night in San Francisco because he thought I was intending to bomb a high-ranking city official’s house.

I—a shy, Christian, non pot-smoking gal— rode a hippy bus, packed with pot-smoking, skinny-dipping, free-lovin’ hippies cross country. Somewhere between Cheyenne and Lincoln, NE, I got to share my faith with a guy. I still wonder what happened to him.

I’ve been assaulted several times—never seriously, though—while traveling to some of my many musical gigs.

I tumbled down a dark flight of stairs, but some unseen force—obviously an angel— caught me and gently placed me in a seated position on the steps.

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Now that you know these weird facts, you’ll never have to read an entire long bio of Dena Netherton.

But I’m still trying to figure out how to be interesting at under 250 words.

 

 

What If?: Writing Suspense

I have an imagination that seems to be suited for suspense. Maybe it comes from being the youngest child in my family and having to sort out when my bigger siblings were joke-threatening, or when they really meant it.

Disclaimer: I love my brothers and sisters and our sibling disagreements never amounted to more than squabbles. Nothing serious.

For example, when I annoyed my older sister too much, she’d say, “You’re going to get it.”

And I’d say, “Yeah? Well, what are you gonna do to me?”

“Just wait and see.”

She’d make a sudden move toward me—which might start as a wrestle to the floor, followed by an awful tickling session—and I’d squeal and run away.

My older brother left me with worse angst. The kind that comes from not having things fully explained. For a child too young for much abstract thought, my brother’s stories about the horrors of getting a cavity and having a “giant drill” blasting away inside my mouth sent me running to my dad for confirmation. Naturally, I’d pictured the dentist wielding a jackhammer.

And then there was the other story he told me about giant ants who ate people. This was loosely based on a newspaper article about swarms of giant ants attacking villagers in the Amazon. But I didn’t know where the Amazon jungle was when I was five. And my brother didn’t bother to explain that “giant” might have been one inch long, not six feet long. He joked about the ants coming up from my grandmother’s kitchen cabinets to get us at night. I was really scared of cabinets for several years.

Like earlier generations of children fed a nightly story-time of Grimm’s fairy tales, I learned to fear the dark, and what’s around the corner or inside certain cabinets, and to wonder if that horse in the pasture down the road is really just a horse, or an enchanted prince.

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Suspense—whether I’m writing a scene or a chapter or an entire novel— is all about unanswered questions. Now that I’m not wondering about the tall tales my brothers and sisters told me, here are the suspenseful questions I mused about this week. (I particularly like number 5)

  1. Is that religious gal I met at the bookstore for real? What’s behind her smile? Am I a new friend to her, or a potential cult follower?
  2. Do I know my friends well enough to trust them with a secret that means life or death for me?
  3. What if I woke up to find my family has disappeared and everyone insisted I never had a family?
  4. What if my husband were a foreign agent and he only told me this on his deathbed? But he left me with a post office key.
  5. What if anyone you were touching could not die? What if the wrong sort of people found out about your gift? What if they kidnapped you?

 

Do you like to read suspense? Some people read for escape. Is that why you read? What did you wonder about this week?