Category Archives: The Arts

God created us to reflect Him through the arts

It’s All Connected

A few months ago I put out a call on social media for anyone interested in reading my newest release, Haven’s Hope. One of those who responded was a lovely gal named Katie. Katie wrote a review for my book and posted it on Amazon. Thank you, Katie.

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Then Katie asked if I happened to know any people who had gone on short term missions or any missionaries who had ever hosted short-term missionaries. She wants to write a book on the subject. It could be any missionary, going anywhere in the world. I said I thought I could do some asking and perhaps gather some names and email addresses.

 

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So, a couple of weeks went by during which I contacted some folks at my church who were able to supply me with email addresses I could give to Katie.

I sent them along, and she thanked me.

Yesterday, Katie sent me a very nice thank you note, letting me know that my one email address plus two additional names netted even more interviews than she’d hope for. Katie posted on Facebook some of her interview with the missionary whose address I had supplied, which then came to the attention of an editor of ChristianWritingToday.com. He was willing to give her photos for her book, and tell her about his thirty plus years as a photographer and journalist for short-term missions. And as a bonus, since he’s also a writer, he wants to stay in touch with Katie.

Maybe they’ll one day collaborate on another project.

It always amazes me how all of our lives connect and touch each other in ways only the Master weaver knows. Like like a single dip of an oar in the sea, you never know where your words or actions will ripple.

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Lessons From a Paraglider

Bruce and I went for a hike last Saturday at the Blanchard. Forest Block. I really enjoy this hike. It’s about seven miles round trip: just right for a morning’s outing. The trail starts out like this.

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I love how the trees stretch and lean toward each other like they’re whispering secrets about the hikers who pass underneath.

Even though this hike is a there and back type—I usually like loops because I don’t like seeing the same thing twice on a hike—this one has a delightful reward: the Sound and the San Juan Islands.

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At the overlook, Bruce and I snacked on trail mix and I snapped a few photos. Right about when we had decided to head on back, a guy and a gal showed up with some colorful cloths bundles and began to unroll it on a gravelly pad just below where we sat.

Aha, they’re going to paraglide. I got my camera ready to grab their images as they floated off.

But, my gosh, they took the longest time preparing for their flight. A couple of other folks showed up, and by their questions to the flying duo, I could tell they knew something about the sport, themselves.

The young man unrolled the kite-like cloth, smoothed it, checked it. Talked. Answered questions. Studied the area, studied the wind conditions. (Barely a breeze.) I wondered how in the world they could get their gliders up in the air with so little wind.

I couldn’t see the woman. She was hidden from view by some bushes. But the guy stood near the precipice, studying, examining, checking his equipment.

Finally, he suited up: harness, helmet. Checking, checking again. And he seemed to enjoy instructing the onlookers about the sport.

I stood there for a full fifteen minutes, holding my camera up, waiting.

The guy was extraordinarily deliberate and methodical. Like a good thriller, his actions made me tingle with anticipation, whetting my appetite, holding me in suspense. Any second, now. Any second.

I’m sure he had no idea I was watching from uphill, practically jumping up and down in my impatience to see him take off.

He raised his arms, like a frigate bird drying its wings. Yes! Get ready…

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And then…and then…

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Lift off!

Immediately afterward, the guy disappeared from view, and I was concerned he’d  plummeted to the sea.

But a couple of seconds later, he re-emerged:

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Beautiful. Almost makes me want to paraglide.

Almost.

Some takeaways from my fifteen minute observation of the paraglider:

  1. The guy was experienced. He didn’t just think he could paraglide. By his conversation and by the way he handled his equipment, he had done this thing many times.
  2. He took his time, which I think is the mark of a seasoned sportsman.
  3. He was gracious to the people who asked him questions. He had a calm, almost humble, attitude, and he was willing to take the time to explain his method.
  4. He patiently waited to take off until his female partner, with her paragliding stuff, was also ready to take off.

Some good questions for me in my writing life or for you and whatever you aspire to:

  • Am I doing all I can to gain experience and continue building my skills, like this paraglider?
  • Am I kind, and am I able to explain my methods to others?
  • Do I take the time to ensure I’m producing a well-thought out, superior product?
  • Can I work well with others, showing consideration and respect for their individual needs and preferences?

I am so glad I stayed to watch this paragliding man. My photos will remind me to imitate a paraglider whenever I work on another writing project.

 

Love to Write

Whenever I talk about writing, I usually speak first about the glory of words.

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There are words like “tumultuous, ” and “desultory,” “magnanimous, ” and “quotidian.” Cool words. The kind of words you learn in high school English class. Don’t you just want to wrap your mouth around those words and squeeze out every delicious syllable?

I’ve always loved words. I love how they make me feel. I love the way words sweep me away into the writer’s alternative world.

I remember in the fourth grade, once a week we got to march down to the school library and pick out a book. Finally, I got the chance to check out a book I wanted to read, not the boring biographies my mom kept trying to get me to read. I loved books about dogs and wildlife and nature. I took out books on birds and reptiles, sharks, and big cats, and wolves. I also loved poetry, especially Carl Sandburg and Emily Dickenson. I checked out books on art and how to sketch.

I loved those hardbound books with the clear plastic covers. Our teacher would reward us for getting our assignments done by reading to us another chapter of some riveting children’s novel. As she shifted the book from one hand to another, the plastic cover made this wonderful little plastick-y, riffle-y sound. Today, when I hear that plastic sound, it brings me back to fourth grade.

I liked writing book reports, and never found it very challenging. My teacher taught me these elements: Who, what, when, where, why—and sometimes—how.

Writing a book is kind of like writing a book report, only bigger, and way more engaging. “Who” is in a situation? “What’s” the problem? “Why” is he/she struggling with this problem? “When” will she learn what she needs to know to overcome her obstacle? “Where” will she go to discover the answer? “How” will she go about dealing with her obstacle or enemy? How has she changed through this process of growing and struggling?

All good books answer these questions even if the ending solution isn’t what I hoped it would be. Right now I’m in the middle of Chevy Steven’s (suspense writer) “Never Let You Go.” It’s about an abusive, control-freak, ex-husband who’s out to regain his wife, or kill her. Totally engrossing book, if you like to be scared—which I do. And yes, it answers all the “W” questions.

Here are the books I’ve read in the past six weeks.

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Oh, and these, too:

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As well as reading a lot this season, I’m writing, too.  Which brings me to my note to my…

E-newsletter subscribers:

I’m editing and preparing to place a small ebook on my website for my newsletter subscribers. This is a short book based on deleted scenes from my latest release, Haven’s Hope. if you sign up for my newsletter, you will be able to get this novella-length book for free.

Have you ever wondered how your life could have gone another direction if you had simply taken an alternative route to work, or had a random conversation with somebody and it changed your life? These deleted scenes from Haven’s Hope will give you, the reader, a chance to see “might have been” with Haven.

I’ll make another announcement when the file is ready for downloading.

Have a great day. Blessings to you from the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

 

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!