Write a Novel in a Month

Long, long ago in a life that now seems far, far away, a friend I’d met in an online writing class convinced me to join her in the NaNoWriMo challenge. If you aren’t a writer, you might be scratching your head. NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writers Month. The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. 

In spite of the fact that my November 2001 calendar boasted my baby’s birthday (his 7th), Thanksgiving, and a trip as chaperone on my daughter’s 5th grade outdoor education trip (I think it was 2 nights/3 days), I signed up. By the end of that month, I had written just over 50,000 words. Suddenly I had a finished novel— and no idea what to do with it. It was a huge turning point. God led me to a writer’s group. I learned about revisions and submissions. I attended a writers conference. I got rejections. I finished three other novels before beginning the one that would become Wings of a Dream.

In the joy of finishing that first book, I never imagined that ten years later I’d be standing at the precipice of another such writing challenge, this time with fellow historical authors, all of us needing a jumpstart on our books. My third to-be-published book. With Bethany House, no less. Who knew what amazing things the Lord would do in one short decade! 

So starting tomorrow my fingers will spend four weeks flying across the keyboard, exploring new characters, a new plot. And while I have a general idea where this story is going, I confess I’m wildly excited to see what surprising things each new day will bring. I’ll continue to blog, but forgive me if some days are a quick historical tidbit instead of a longer post. And I’d be grateful for your prayers as I explore this new story.


A Sunday Psalm

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it;
let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy;
they will sing before the Lord, for He comes,
He comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in His truth. 
    --Psalm 96:11-13


Learning from Rehoboam

It is said that studying history will help us to avoid the mistakes of the past. That is sometimes a fearful thing when you so easily recognize yourself in stories from the days of old. For that reason, I both love and hate reading the books of Kings and Chronicles in the Bible.  

Take, for instance, King Rehoboam. As the son of King Solomon, the grandson of King David, he expected to step right in and rule Israel. Instead, he unwisely listened to his friends rather than his father’s older advisors and all but Judah and Benjamin rejected his authority and followed another king. (1 Kings 12:1-17; 2 Chronicles 10:1-16) This foolishness might be excusable in a youth, but Rehoboam was 41 years old! (1 Kings 14:21; 2 Chronicles 12:13) He obviously wanted to exert his authority, to prove he had power rather than be kind and gracious and to humbly lead the people God has given him to rule. A large portion of them walked away, leaving him, I’m sure, open-mouthed and sputtering. 

As kings (and we) are wont to do when authority is spurned, Rehoboam gathered his people to war against his brothers turned enemies. But the Lord came to him and said no. So they put down their weapons and didn’t fight. (1 Kings 12:24; 2 Chronicles 11:4) Rehoboam listened to the Lord’s instructions, apparently now content with the small portion of Israel that the Lord had given him to rule. And things were good. All the priests and Levites came to live under Rehoboam’s rule in Judah. (2 Chronicles 11:14-15) As did “those from every tribe of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the Lord, the God of Israel.” (2 Chronicles 11:16) For three years, Rehoboam led Judah and Benjamin as they walked in the ways of David and Solomon. (2 Chronicles 11:17)

Great story, right? 

Not exactly. Here’s the part where I cringe— and maybe you will, too. “After Rehoboam’s position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 12:1)


Once Rehoboam and his people were established and strong, they disregarded God. We are told that God sent Egypt to discipline them in the 5th year of Rehoboam’s reign. (1 Kings 14:25; 2 Chronicles 12:2) Just two years to go from walking in the ways of David and Solomon to abandoning the law of the Lord and falling into great depravity. (1 Kings 14:22-24)

Rehoboam and the leaders humbled themselves before God after the Egyptians arrived. (2 Chronicles 12:12) God graciously regarded their repentance. But there were still consequences for their sin. Consequences that lingered beyond their own generation. Consequences that still speak to me today. 

As I read these annals of the past and see my own fickle heart, the words of Come,Thou Fount of Every Blessing sprang to mind. 

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above. 

This is my prayer today. Is it yours, too?


True Romance

A couple of months ago I got on the schedule for a great blog that highlights stories of true life romances-- mostly from authors. Then on the last morning of the ACFW conference, I sat beside a sweet lady at breakfast. We got to talking, and guess what? Yep. It's her blog! It was so fun to meet Shannon Vannatter, author of Christian romance novels and blogger.

So, if you want to hear a little more about my true life romance, hop on over to Shannon's blog. Today (Wednesday) will be the story of how I met my husband. Then on Friday will be the most romantic thing he ever did for me. C'mon. You know you want to know! Oh--and there will be a drawing for Wings of a Dream, so leave a comment! See you there!


A George Bailey Moment

Every year I watch It’s a Wonderful Life at Christmastime. And every year I cry (read: bawl like a baby) at the end, when George Bailey realizes how many friends he has and how much his friends and family care about him. 

I’ve been feeling a bit George Bailey-esque these past few weeks. I’ve had some amazing book signings due to an influx of friends and family. Honestly, I never realized I had so many friends! Each one has touched my heart with their willingness to support me with the purchase of a book (or in some cases, many books) only because they knew I wrote it, not because they had any knowledge of me as a writer. Kind of like George Bailey’s friends who just came running when he needed them without asking questions. Like George Bailey, I’m quite humbled at the outpouring of support. 

If you have made the effort to come to one of my book signings, thank you. If you’ve spent your hard earned money on a copy of my book, thank you. If you’ve taken the time to read my little story, thank you. And if you’ve stepped out and told someone else about it, whether personally or as a review somewhere, I am more grateful than you know. 

While my heart always swells with joy for George Bailey at that final scene, I have a feeling that this year the moment will be even more poignant. No longer will I imagine how he felt. Now I will know. 


A Sunday Psalm

The Lord reigns, He is robed in majesty;
the Lord is robed in majesty and is armed with strength.
The world is firmly established;
it cannot be moved. 
Your throne was established long ago;
You are from all eternity.
      --Psalm 93:1-2


Winner of Reclaiming LIly

Thank you to everyone who left a comment about Reclaiming Lily. I know Patti appreciates your interest in her book. And thanks to random.org, who supplied the winning number.

And the winner is . . .

Mountain Mama

Congratulations! I'll be emailing you to get your mailing information.

And thanks to Patti for hanging around and commenting. You are awesome, Patti!



Do you ever get stuck? I’m in that place right now. I guess you might have noticed I didn’t post on Wednesday. It wasn’t that I didn’t have time to write something. In fact, I had a piece written and ready to go. And then I second guessed myself. I took it down.

I find myself doing that a lot lately. Writing a facebook status— then deleting it. Writing a tweet— then deleting it. Even writing pages of prose— then deleting. 

I’m stuck. I say what I have to say, or what the story says to me, then I read over it. I waffle. Not that what I’ve had to say is in any way bad. Or mean. Or inappropriate. But I worry that it is stupid. Or irrelevant. Or just . . . forgettable. Suddenly I’m so much more conscious of what other people will think about my words. Or worse yet, if my words will cause anyone to think of me at all.

In many ways, therein lies the answer. I’m thinking too much of myself. Assigning too much importance to the markings on my screen. And so I pray. Again. Fervently. I pray for words to flow and for my only concern to be whether or not the Giver of Words notices and approves. If they make Him smile. If they bring Him joy. 

I’m stuck. But I’m working to get unstuck. Or rather I’m trying to be still, so that the Lord can free me from the mire of my own making. 


Reclaiming Lily by Patti Lacy

Heads up! I’m giving away a copy of this book! Read on for details. 

I met Patti Lacy in cyberspace a couple of years ago. Though published, I learned she had signed a contract with Bethany House right after I did. Then I read one of her books, The Rhythm of Secrets, and was blown away by the emotional punch it packed. Last month, I finally got to hug her neck in person at the ACFW conference!

Needless to say, I’ve been very excited about her new book, Reclaiming Lily. The premise had me hooked the moment I read it. A daughter adopted from China, straddling two cultures that have collide in an out-of-control teenager. The Chinese sister she’s never known now a doctor in the US with family medical history that is a ticking time bomb. A perfect recipe for drama.

What surprised me about the book was that I expected  the American family to be center stage. But Reclaiming Lily is truly Kai’s story. I found myself enthralled with her history through the cultural revolution in China. How it changed and shaped her. How it propelled her into the conflict in which she finds herself in the story. Of course we learn about the adoptive family, too, but I found myself glad that Kai carried the story because I was fascinated by her thought processes and her history. In the end, they all felt like family. 

Obviously I’m not going to give the story away, but suffice it to say I enjoyed the journey. Patti’s tag line for her fiction is Spanning Seas and Secrets. Reclaiming Lily does exactly that. 

I happened to get two copies of this book, so I’m giving away one. (It’s contemporary fiction, in case you didn’t pick that up.) Just leave a comment and you’ll be entered in the random drawing. You have through Friday, October 21, to comment for a chance to win!


A Sunday Psalm

But I am like an olive tree
flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God's unfailing love for ever and ever.
I will praise You forever for what You have done;
in Your name I will hope, for Your name is good.
I will praise You in the presence of Your saints.
    --Psalm 52:8-9


Interview and Giveaway

Andrea's Take

Andrea is having a Birthday Bash on her blog this week and today she chose to interview me and give away a copy of Wings of a Dream! Click here and come to the party!


What Are You Trying to Teach Me, Lord?

In my mind, this was the week to settle back into my writing routine. I looked forward it. Planned for it. By Monday morning i was almost giddy in anticipation. 

Then, as often happens, life intervened. A sick child. Errands that demanded attention. Suddenly my day had slipped away. I did a little bit of writing, but not what I’d intended to accomplish. At first, I was frustrated, determined to recover those lost hours later in the night. To push myself harder and longer. But as I sat down with my Bible and my journal, I found a question rolling around in my mind.

What are you trying to teach me, Lord?

So many times when situations batter my well-laid plans, I sniff Satan in the air. But this time, I stopped to consider. Was this a moment for pushing through the obstacles— or for embracing them? 

It occurred to me that perhaps the Lord didn’t want me to start  fumbling around with the new story yet. Perhaps He desired me to slow down, not speed up. To enjoy a day of my son at home, albeit sick, when I hadn’t seen him for almost two weeks. Perhaps He used those situations to stay my hand, to let ideas simmer a little longer, to allow some new thought or situation to invade the story world. To trust that when He said, “Go,” that He would keep unexpected distractions at bay, as He has so often done before. 

I pondered this. Took a deep breath and set aside my lofty agenda. Not in laziness or procrastination, but with a firm belief that the Lord was asking this of me. Only time will tell, I guess, if I read the situation rightly. But given the peace that took control of my heart that day, my guess is that I did. 
Sometimes God doesn’t ask me to accomplish. Sometimes He just asks me to be. 


Making the Most of Opportunity

When I signed my book contract, I made a few commitments to the Lord for the new journey. One of them was that I would embrace every opportunity He brought my way to promote my book. Now, if you know me well, you know this didn’t mean I’d be a marketing machine. That’s just not me. It did mean, however, that if an opportunity came my way—even if it was out of my comfort zone—I’d do it.

So a couple of weeks ago, when an independent bookseller called and asked if I’d like to participate in a book signing with a NYT bestselling romance author, I said yes, though it tied my stomach in knots. I understood from the first it wouldn’t be about selling tons of books. It would be about making new contacts and gleaning wisdom from a writer who’d walked this road longer, and apparently walked it well. And I was okay with that. At least until the day arrived. Then I found myself dreading sitting quietly to the side while people swarmed the other author. But I knew the Lord had opened this door—I’d done nothing to seek it on my own—and so I prayed He would show me very clearly why I was to be there.

I arrived to find a flurry of people, though not as many as I’d anticipated. And I learned that award-winning, bestselling author Jodi Thomas had brought one of her award-winning co-authors, Phyliss Miranda, with her. I set up my books next to Phyliss, feeling like a wallflower at a high school dance. But I needn’t have worried. Phyliss struck up a conversation right away and made me feel at home. When she and Jodi discovered that this was my debut novel, they gave me several sheets of their “autographed copy” stickers to put on the books I signed, something they do whenever they meet a debut author. 

Phyliss, Me, and Jodi

Over the course of the evening, I actually sold a few books, but that wasn’t why I was there. I was there to get to know and to learn from two gracious and humble ladies. What did I learn? That the number of books sold at an event isn’t as important as the connection with the booksellers. That some books take longer to write than others, and sometimes, even after 20 years of writing, it takes time to understand exactly what story you are trying to tell. That it is hard to do events where you have no relationship with the store or its employees. That you should network with readers and book reviewers every where you go. 

Some of these things I’d heard before, of course. But it helped to hear them again. Mostly I drank in their encouragement. I left there with three new friends--two authors and a bookseller. And I thanked the Lord that He’d given me that opportunity. The one I’d been dreading all morning. 

Phyliss, Me, Jodi, and Gayle, the bookstore owner


A Sunday Psalm

Praise be to the Lord,
for He heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in Him and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song.
The Lord is the strength of His people,
a fortress of salvation for His anointed one.
Save Your people and bless Your inheritance;
be their Shepherd and carry them forever.
    --Psalm 28:6-9


There You'll FInd Me by Jenny B. Jones

I still very much enjoy reading YA (Young Adult) fiction. A good story is a good story, no matter the age of the protagonist. 

I also very much enjoy reading things written by those authors I call friends. And after spending time with a new friend in July at She Speaks and then again in September at ACFW, it made it very natural to pick up Jenny B. Jones’s newest YA book, There You’ll Find Me. 

Of course, being a sucker for anything set in the British Isles, I immediately took to this story that takes place in Ireland. But it was more than the setting that kept me reading. I loved her characters, loved the unexpected twists and turns in the story, loved the “realness” of the issues. 

It is a novel about letting go, about leaving behind control, about navigating the messiness of life and not being embittered by it. Jenny says in her note at the end that this book “kicked her tail” trying to get it right. Well, my friend, I think it worked. You got it just right.


Glad To Be Home!

We are finally home! After five days at the ACFW Conference in St. Louis, a quick two days at home--ending with participating on an author panel at a library event, we (Jeff got to go with me on this trip!) then embarked on a seven day excursion to Jeff’s hometown of Huntingdon, PA. 

My sweet in-laws and the extended family came out in droves for my book signing on a cold and rainy Saturday. A few people ventured in after reading about me and the book in a sweet article in the local newspaper by my new friend April Feagley. (She loves to read historical fiction and she loves Jesus! We instantly clicked!) Of course I told you a little about the great researching--and the Lord even brought to light some long-hidden records on our last day in town!

I’m (again) climbing out from under the piles that have accumulated while I’ve been away. But don’t worry. You’ll find me back here on Friday--hopefully with something new to say! In the meantime, here are a few pictures from my book signing at Harmony Christian Store last weekend. Enjoy!


Adventures in Research

I spent Thursday and Friday of last week researching. In fact, I’m headed back to the library to look through old newspapers this morning, too. I came looking for specifics about the Huntingdon Home for Orphan and Friendless Children, a private “orphanage” that began in the late 1800s but did so much more than take in orphaned children. Really they were a ministry to poor and neglected children whether their parents had died or not. 

At first it seemed as if there would be few details to find. Then Kelly, head of the Huntingdon County Historical Society, decided to call her predecessor, Nancy Shedd, who has done extensive research herself into the orphan home. 

Nancy graciously met me and as we talked through what was known, she suddenly thought of a place she hadn’t searched for documents--the Juniata College archives. She made a phone call. Later that afternoon, the archivist emailed us both with a list of items in her possession. Nancy and I made our way to see them on Friday. And what a treasure trove we found! I came away with most of what I wanted to find out, and with a new friend as well. It is always fun to spend time with others who share your passion for research, especially when it is on the same topic!

And the really cool thing about Nancy? Her great-grandmother was the first matron of the home after the founder, David Emmert, relinquished that role!

I love how God connects me with just the right people when I venture into these adventures of research!


A Sunday Psalm

I will listen to what God the Lord will say;
He promises peace to His people, His saints--
but let them not return to their folly.
Surely His salvation is near those who fear Him,
that His glory may dwell in our land.
    --Psalm 85:8-9