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Tuesday

One Way Ticket


















I just realized I never made an official announcement on my blog that my Family Fiction contest entry is up. Sorry, you guys! I did decide to title it One Way Ticket... thanks for all your help with title suggestions. Above is a little promo picture I created to get the word out, so if you'd like to pin it or just generally share it with people, that would make me so excited. Here's the link, if you can't get the one in the photo to work properly... http://www.familyfiction.com/short-stories/create-romance-2012/one-way-ticket/

Thanks everyone! And please do let me know what you think! :)

Monday

Let's Practice Pitching!

Last Thursday, I did a post for The Writer's Alley, the group blog I'm a part of, and talked about pitching. If you missed it, you can find that post here. In that blog, I discuss in detail the elements of a successful pitch and outline the differences between a short pitch and a long pitch. I also gave some tips to give you an idea what to expect in your conference appointments and help you feel more prepared.

Today, I want to take all this information to an application level and actually work on brainstorming a few pitches with all of you. Something I love about pitches is that each person will highlight different parts of a story, consistent with their own particular writing voice. It's so interesting to see what people come up with!

So first let's review. An ideal pitch should include 1) Something your characters are moving toward 2) Something that's holding your characters back 3) Enough detail that we get a feel for your voice.

Remember that editors and agents are not out to to humiliate you. They genuinely want to hear what your story is about.  That's why they're attending the conference in the first place, and why they got into the book business. But they are also often tired from people who haven't spent time crafting a quality pitch... don't be discouraged by that.

Now I'm going to give a couple examples of famous movies and books to help break this down. First let's think about Pride and Prejudice. What is Elizabeth Bennett working toward? Well, two things come to mind. She would like a way to take care of her family, and she also wants to find true love. Unfortunately for her (but great for us as readers), her two goals work against each other when loveless prospects of marriage come. What is working against her? Well, pretty much everything about Mr. Darcy. He treats her as inferior to him, and yet throughout the book, a little part of her sees that he is the answer to both her goals at once.

So how can we get these concepts into a short little quip? Here's one idea that comes to mind...
Her family's ruin or her own? 
And then the long pitch could further articulate the story...
Elizabeth Bennett wears her independence like her custom-sewn clothes. But when her family needs financial stability, she must consider a marriage of convenience to provide for them, no matter the cost to herself. She'd love to find an alternative... if only it didn't involve that man. 


Let's take another example from the movie Casablanca. You know the one... brooding restaurant owner Rick has never gotten over his first love, but when she walks into the door of his bar with a patriot, he must decide who gets the exit visas... and who stays in Casablanca. How about something like this?
Two men. One woman. One stays, one goes.
Longer pitch...
Putting past love behind him was easier before Elisa walked into Rick's Cafe with her husband on her arm. Elisa and her patriot husband need the exit visas in Rick's possession in order to leave Casablanca. But before Rick hands out the visas, he's got some questions that he'd like answered. Like what really happened in Paris when she left him.



Isn't this fun? Allow yourself to brainstorm while you are working on your pitch, and don't get frustrated if it doesn't come right away. I've found that idea sometimes come at the strangest times. I thought up the pitch I used at last year's conference in the middle of the night!

Okay, so here comes the really fun part! Your turn! Everyone loves the movie You've Got Mail... I'd love to see what pitches you can come up with for it. Feel free to use a short pitch and/or a long pitch.

Also, if you want to include a pitch you are working on right now for one of your own projects, feel free to do that as well! I'm so interested to see what everyone is working on and would love to help if you if you have any questions!



Photos from http://www.ew.com/ew/gallery/0,,20570221_21120217,00.html and http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/Casablanca?from=Main.Casablanca

Wednesday

You are: Loved

Last week, we talked about seeing ourselves as God views us, as the people He has called us to be. Today I want to break that down a little bit and ask, "What does that actually look like?"

As I was thinking about what I wanted to blog about this week, a concept came to mind, and I really believe someone reading this needs to hear it today, so I hope it ministers to you. The concept is this: God loves you. I mean, really loves you.

Check out what Isaiah 43:4 says... "Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you".

The rest of the chapter is definitely worth reading, but for now, let's just break down those adjectives that are used in this verse to describe God's people. Precious. Honored. Loved.


But do we really live with this perspective? How often do we walk around as if instead, the adjectives over our heads are common, guilty, sinful? Has Christ not paid our ransom once and for all and called us His own?

I think that when you've been around church for a long time, you begin picking up a sense of false guilt, which is unfortunate. You start putting unrealistic goals on yourself, and then feel awful when you don't measure up. I didn't read my Bible for thirty minutes, and then pretty soon, we don't read our Bibles at all. I am preaching to the choir, by the way, when I say that. I'm not focused enough during worship, and then pretty soon, worship becomes another Sunday chore. Little by little, we take the gifts of God in our lives and adopt a false sense of guilt toward them. Instead of picking up these gifts, we leave them at the altar, and we pick up the very chains God has freed us from.

Remember what God has called you? Precious. Honored. Loved.

How would our mindset and actions change if we believed God when He tells us He loves us? Think of how a relationship changes once you know there's true love there. God is not out to trick us. We need not guard ourselves from Him. In actuality, it's the opposite. He's desperately calling us to so much more. He's laid out all these dreams and gifts in front of us, and He's cheering us on, begging us to pick them up and see what He has planned for us.

I challenge you today to claim the verse that says you have the mind of Christ. It's not a fight. It's already been bought for you. All you have to do is reach out and take it as your own. Become conscious of the way you think about God. Are you afraid of His punishment and disappointment? Do you feel ashamed? Or do you really believe you are what He has called you? Precious. Honored. Loved.

You are His own, and nothing you can do or have done will change His love.

*********

This is totally random, but I couldn't pass up the chance to share it with you. Today I got to meet up with my critique partner, Angie Dicken and have lunch! This woman is such a blessing in my life. It's like God knew I needed her as a friend, and didn't let the physical space between us keep that from happening. Here's a picture taken shortly after our excursion in the Godiva store.



Wednesday

Sufficiency


Do you have a dream, maybe something you're working towards, that feels like it will never become a reality?

Monday I had breakfast with a sweet writer friend who has recently felt God's pull on her heart to begin writing again. She has a graduate degree in English and is fabulous at it, but she's never written commercial fiction or non-fiction, so she's new to the game, to to speak. It's been such a privilege to meet with her and talk about writing because she has so much talent, more than she sees.

As I was talking to her, I caught this glimpse of where God is taking her on her journey. She doesn't see it herself yet, but I just get this sense He has big things in store for her. Big things. And you could be in that exact same situation. If God had put a call on your heart, it's for a reason. Your calling matters. Don't dismiss that.

How do we get from faith in the call to actually walking toward it, though? It sounds nice enough to believe on this big picture level, but what about when it means getting up an hour earlier in the morning, sacrificing time with friends, sitting in silence at a laptop for hours on end?

I'm talking a lot about writing because that's the relevant issue for me and for many of you as well, but really, this concept applies to anything. And the concept is this. When God calls us, He always equips us to do that work.

The thing is, we don't always see the tools He has given us because we aren't using them. It's like God has given us a toolset, and we've closed our eyes.

I truly believe that when the Bible says we have the mind of Christ and fulness through His sacrifice, we have access to those things this side of heaven. Yes, we struggle against our own fragility and the temptations of a broken world. We get sick, we sin, we deal with death. But even in that weakness, we are strong. We are whole because our identity is found in God.

Colossians 2:9-10 says, "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over ever power and authority."

What a powerful concept. In Christ, we have been brought to fullness. It's so difficult to grasp this thought, isn't it? What does fullness even look like? Well, this verse says that the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form through Christ, so that means we have access to the full power of God. To holiness. Redemption. Sacrifice. The same power that raised Christ from the dead, living in us.

In essence, we already have everything we need. 


It's just a matter of picking up those gifts and using them in our lives.

Sometimes I think about what our daily lives and thoughts would look like if they were visualized. Imagine a soldier with protective armor and a gun. And instead of picking those things up, he doubts himself. There's a battle going on, but instead of heading into it, he wanders around aimlessly, unsure of his next step. His command is clear and he has all he needs. But for whatever reason--fear, insecurity, feelings of insufficiency--he can't seem to pick up his equipment and move forward. And so, in no man's land, he has a fateful end.

If you were to create a similar visual of your own life, what would it look like?

What is holding you back today? Jesus has already raged battle for those things, and the victory has been won. I know we hear that all the time in Christian circles, but how often do we really let it sink in? The battle is already won. We don't have to keep fighting it. We don't have to keep fighting against ourselves, our doubts, our own feelings of insufficiency. We don't have to have it all figured out.

All He asks is that we pick up the gifts He has given us and go. Because the unknown we're walking toward isn't unknown to Him, and He's already got it charted out. He's not leading you down this direction for no reason. So be of good hope, and keep keeping on.

2 Corinthians 12:9, "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."

Do you ever find yourself picking burdens back up and walking around with them? Why do you think we're prone to doing this?




Monday

Making Your Title Sexy


Got your attention, didn't it?


I have included for illustration's sake a photo of Justin Timberlake only because he did, of course, bring sexy back. To be honest, Lance was always my favorite NSYNC member, and well . . . you know how that turned out.

Today is all about--you guessed it! Creating titles that catch your readers' attention. Titling your manuscript can be so difficult, because you have to sum up the sentiment and all the layers of your book into a short little phrase. Some people will tell you not to spend too much time on your title because a publishing house will change it anyway, but I would disagree with that, because you need a good title to catch the attention of a publishing house or agent in the first place. Not to mention, wouldn't you rather have the chance to title it yourself, picking something that's consistent with your book's overall vibe? So here are some things to keep in mind when working on your titles that should increase your chances of getting to keep the original title when the book does sell.


  • Your title is your first opportunity for marketing. So make it good.
  • Use a consistent tone as what you use in the book. Have you read My Life As A Doormat by Rene Gutteridge? It's pretty much one of the best books of all time, and the tone throughout is as funny as the title sounds. What about A Grownup Kind of Pretty by Jocelyn Jackson? I rented this one from the library but couldn't get into it enough to finish. That said, I love the title and think it showcases Jocelyn's lyrical writing style so well.
  • Create a hook that catches attention and makes us what to find out what this story's all about.
  • Add layers of depth to the title's implications. Another one of my favorite books of all time is Miss Invisible by Laura Jensen Walker. At the beginning of the story, two main things drive the character: she is indeed a "miss" and it not exactly thrilled about that fact, and she prefers, at all costs, to remain invisible.
  • Keep it relatively short.
  • Create a title that will only become more interesting after someone has read the story. Examples of this are Pride and Prejudice, To Kill A Mockingbird, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Eats, Shoots, & Leaves, and Where the Wild Things Are.
  • Keep the target audience in mind. 
A good title, like a good cover, can set you apart from other books as readers who may be unfamiliar with your writing browse through the bookshelves. In my opinion, it's one of the most important ways to catch the attention of readers. I know I've picked up many books based off their titles alone. Haven't you?

Okay, so now I need your help! I'm entering Family Fiction's short romance contest, and I need a clever title that will catch everyone's attention. Here's my setup. A woman is in an airplane, and she fingers her engagement ring, considering whether or not her fiance has found the note she left in his mailbox to break up with him. Then she gets off the plane and runs into her true love from the past--the man from the lake house. Need I say more? She sees him, and makes her confession. She is in town again for a reason. She is dying. He's clearly upset, but he tells her he's taking her back to the lake house, which she finds out he bought because he never did get over her. So it's in the discovery of terminal illness that she finally starts living.

Here are some possible titles: 
The Moment Life Begins
The Lake House
Love in an Airport Terminal
Sweet Memories: The Past that Wouldn't Stay Gone
Old flames, Baggage, and a Note in the Mailbox
Baggage Claim
The Sun Sets in Georgia

Which of these titles do you like the best? Or can you come up with another one? Also, would you be willing to give some examples of your own favorite book titles? I'm interested to see what everyone's interests are!








*Photos from http://www.dosomething.org/category/tags/justin-timberlake, http://revdavidh.blogspot.com/2012/05/family-ministry-where-wild-things-are.html

Wednesday

Your Thoughts: The Language of Christianity, Part 3


For the past couple weeks, I've been writing about post-modernism's effect on the western conception of Christianity. We've talked about how the construction of binaries is problematic in its attempt to unravel the unity of Truth, and how these same binaries create a relationship where we come to see others in the world as different from us, moving away from the empathy and equality so prioritized in the teachings of Christ. If you missed them, you can find Part 1 and Part 2 here.

Today we're going to take these concepts and apply them on a more personal level. I think the majority of Christians would agree that truth, in order to be truth, must be absolute. And while we may slip into an "us" versus "them" mindset often, rarely is that our conscious intent.

But what of the battle going on in our own minds? What of the "you" versus "that person" relationship we create with our conception of ourselves? With what we are doing versus what we should be? With our "actual" potential versus our dreams?

1 Cor. 2:16 says believers of God have "the mind of Christ."

I truly believe that everything we are called to be, we are equipped to be in Christ.

So why are we not living that way? 

Well, as a guess, I'd say it has something to do with our perspective being off. We look to define ourselves by others around us. Even if we do have a strong sense of purpose, we go out into the world, and every day, a little bit of that is beaten out of us, until we stop believing in our calling because it's become too hard.

We believe in purpose, but we doubt our ability. We believe in change, but we doubt our role. We believe in God, but we doubt His care in our lives.

The key to changing this cycle lies in changing our thought lives. The Bible says in Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."


I believe this command is not a passive one, that there is all-out warfare going on inside our minds. What we choose to entertain in our thoughts shapes our attitudes, our values, our hearts, the core of who we are.



Source: Uploaded by user via Charyn on Pinterest



What does your thought life look like? I'm not talking about sin here, although that also applies. I'm talking more about self-talk: the way we perceive who we are in Christ. Because if we really knew the depths of His love for us, His belief in us--that He would care enough to give His very life--how much different would our own lives look like?

How much of your time do you spend putting yourself down? Unravelling the truth God has spoken over your heart and your life? Is there something you (or others around you) have convinced yourself you absolutely cannot do or face, though you have a seed of a dream planted in your heart? How is that keeping you from the call of God upon your life?

Somewhere along the line, we've started believing that faith in God's ministry through our lives is equivalent with pride. That's a lie. There is nothing wrong with being confident in the person God has called us to be, so long as our confidence is in Him.

Putting yourself down, convincing yourself you're unworthy or unable again and again strips away the tools and gifts God has given you to fulfill your calling. This is not humility. True humility is full confidence in the proper source.

How do we escape these self-doubts? How do we know who we are in Christ? 


(NLT) Ephesians 1:9-11 God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.

God's plan is to unite us with Christ. He is our sufficiency. In Him, we have all that we need. The earth is broken and we will have struggles. We will fight against our frail nature and will struggle with pain until He takes us home. But the beautiful thing about Christianity is this: we are truly and fully, already His.

What role do you see thoughts as having? How do thoughts, which seem so internalized, affect our behavior? Why is a proper thought life so dependent upon the existence of truth?

Monday

Using Mind Mapping to Evoke Reader Emotion

First of all, let me apologize for any egregious errors you may find in today's blog. I have Sudafed brain right now. Complete with sinus pressure and the sleepy blehs.

I got an iPhone on Saturday. For months, I've been going on and on about how I didn't want a smart phone and just wanted to keep my basic plan. Well, consider me converted. I am totally in love with this phone already. And, like any new iPhone owner, I've been endlessly searching for cool apps. I know, I know. Some of you already have iPhones and are thinking, "Come on. That was so nine months ago." But this whole app land is new to me, and I can't stop searching.

Something I discovered earlier this afternoon is a free app called Mindjet. Have you heard of it? You can use it for a variety of different tasks, but I decided to use it to create outlines for my two main characters. Essentially, it gives you a blank space to create a bubbly outline, and allows you to add pictures and code each entry with a specific color and shape.

Now let me start by saying I'm not usually one to outline or plot. So if you're a SOTP writer, this might be a good option for you. For some reason, the bubbles make it feel less like a structured outline and more like brainstorming.

You don't need the app to do this kind of brainstorming, though... a pencil and paper will work just as well! The key here is to keep from criticizing yourself. Think of it more like an organized brainstorm.

So how can you use mind mapping in a way that will benefit your current work in progress?

Well, what I chose to do is use it to map out my characters' GMC's (goal, motivation, conflict). Both My Book Therapy and James Scott Bell recommend a variation of this technique. If you really boil down what goes into crafting a strong character, it's three things.


  • Goal: Your characters have to have at least one thing they're pushing toward, working for, throughout the course of the novel. You can have smaller goals that you address in each scene, but you also need a larger goal that will carry your characters on toward a bigger task and ultimately challenge them to become a better version of themselves. One of my main characters' goals is to keep the peace with her overbearing mother.
  • Motivation: Now go deeper. What is pushing your character to want to achieve these goals? Goals are usually more external, where as the motivation is usually more internal. The character I mentioned above wants to keep the peace because her father left when she was young, and she blames herself for what happened. 
  • Conflict: What external forces are pulling against your characters, keeping them from their goals? In a romance, you need more than two characters who fall in love. You need solid reasons why they can't be together until the end. The more believable the conflict and the higher the stakes, the more emotion you can create for the reader as your characters struggle to overcome these conflicts. The conflict in this example is that the character falls in love, against her mother's wishes.

Now, I realize that these three things are not new to most of you, just as they weren't new to me. But I'd never actually sat down to map them out, and boy was I amazed at some of the secrets my characters were hiding.

I'm about two-thirds of the way through my WIP, and doing this exercise really helped me refocus on what aspects and struggles I need to be highlighting and deepening. Regardless of whether you're just starting a new book or in the editing stage, writing out these three things can help you gain a greater level of clarity.

In addition to clarity, though, mind mapping can also help you develop the emotional layers of your book. The reason for that is simple enough... the better you understand your characters' goals, motivation, and conflicts, the deeper the story you will be able to write. If readers have a firm grasp of what's at stake for your characters, they will not only identify with these characters, but they will also worry, which keeps them reading. Think about the books and characters that have stuck with you over the years. Are they not the ones whose struggles you identified with, whose anxieties you felt as your own?

Have you ever tried mind mapping before? Do you have any advice on sharpening your GMC's? And while we're at it, do you have any writing related apps you'd recommend?

Friday

Beautiful Bloggers


A couple weeks ago, Amanda Fanger gave me this Beautiful Blogger Award, and I was very excited because I've always wanted one of these types of things, but, let's face it, you can't really download one of the banners yourself. Well, I guess you could, and I thought about it, but really, I would've lost my street cred. So thank you, Amanda, for your kindness!


And now comes the hard part. I have to choose seven other bloggers to pass this along to. Not an easy task, considering the number of you I adore. But since I must narrow it down, I'm nominating...

Check out these ladies' blogs... I'm sure you'll like them as much as I do. 

Happy Friday, everyone!




Wednesday

I AM: The Language of Christianity, Part 2

Exodus 3:14-- God said to Moses, "I AM who I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

Wow, what a powerful passage that speaks to the depths of who we are in Christ and the nature of God.

Last week we talked about the language of Christianity and how we refer to others. Our conversation often creates a polarizing "us" verses "them" relationship with those we deem different from us, even though God has proclaimed "them" to be quite the same. This mindset becomes a problem not only because it's hurtful, but also because, on a much deeper, theological level, it undermines the truth of God we say we're standing upon.

The postmodernist movement insists (and that word is ironic, isn't it, considering the movement's rejection of truth) that there is no such thing as absolute truth. There is no such thing as God or reliable morality, really, outside of the ever-shifting perspective of the people in this world. That might sound convenient for avoiding hurting people's feelings, but the reality is, this is very scary. And not just from a Christian perspective. It's scary when you need solid footing for any kind of moral or humanitarian or environmental claim. It's scary if you're a woman in an abusive marriage, if you're a slave to human trafficking, if you're Buddist under the threat of terrorist bombings, or if you're just a Pit Bull, forced every day into dog fighting.

Postmodernism might seem convenient, but the rejection of truth ultimately breaks down any kind of compassionate cause. After all, who are we to insist what is right, what is moral for another person, another country, another society? Either we are extremely egotistical to assert our own feeble notions of the world over everyone else, or we simply let these situations be and do nothing. Because, like it or not, outside of God, you have no ground to make any kind of humanitarian claim. Yes, you can certainly be moral. But it's always a shifting ground. What is socially acceptable one minute may be rejected the next. Hello, Hunger Games.

Therein, we run into a problem: Where do we locate the source of morality? From what source do we arm ourselves with the tools needed to fight against the evils of the world? Rhetoric and conversation? That's always changing. Our own consciences? But what of the discrepancies?

Ultimately, the only satisfying answer to what it means to be human and to preserve human dignity is a theological one. Perhaps not necessarily Christian (which is where faith comes in), but theological, nonetheless. Without absolute truth, we have nothing when it comes to true compassion. Nothing but hearts that are breaking over the state of the world--of the hurting--with no reason why.

There is a reason why.

There is a reason why you were born, why you have lived, why you are living. 


There is something you can do to change the world. Right where you are.

When Moses asks God to identify himself, wondering how he will ever explain this sudden appearance of the pure presence of the Almighty to the Israelites, how does God answer? How could He? What phrase or name or definition or description could He possibly give that would help Moses understand the fullness of His presence?

The answer? I AM.

This verse has always bothered me. I felt like God was using a cop-out, honestly. I wanted more detailed answers. I wanted more explanation. But as I began to study postmodernist thought, I began to understand. God's answer to Moses was the most powerful thing.

Often, because we live in a postmodern moment, we make the assumption that everything we know exists as the opposite of something else. Some examples (and I used a few of these last week) are hot versus cold, dark verses light, ugly versus pretty, Christian verses sinner, gay verses straight, male verses female, liberal verses conservative, and the list goes on and on...

This kind of thinking has leaked into popular Christian teaching. We consistently hear Biblical (and unBiblical, for that matter) concepts crafted as negatives, rather than a positive motivation toward which we should be striving. What if we changed our way of thinking to how we might love God more, rather than worrying over boundaries? What if instead of fearing the law, we feared the One who overcame it?

Do not have sex before you're married.
Do not commit adultery.
Do not gossip.
Do not steal, or cheat.
Do not watch or read anything compromising.


But what about...

Wait patiently and honor God, your spouse, and yourself. Live a life of purity.
Be faithful to the vows you have made.
Encourage one another as God has encouraged you.
In everything, live your life as unto the One who gave life to you.
Fill your mind with good things, for out of your heart comes your very being.


The problem here is that we begin to believe evil actually has some power over our lives and our identities. We believe the lie that our faith is just another thing that exists within a binary, but in this case, it's good versus evil. Even if "good" comes out on top of the equation, we still have a problem. A big one. Within this structure lies the assumption that evil has a pure presence that can in some way compete with God, with holiness. But this perspective is inconsistent with Biblical Christianity. Remember the verse from Exodus?

God is. He is pure presence. He is truth. He is living.

Evil is not.

There is truth, and there is the perversion of truth. There is no such entity as non-truth.

Next Wednesday, I'll get into more specifics about how this concept can shape the way we think about God-- and ourselves-- on a more personal, practical level. So be sure to come back for the next part of the series.

Have you ever caught yourself thinking in this good versus evil mentality? How can this be harmful?



Monday

All that Jazz


What are you passionate about? What kinds of things do you enjoy doing? Maybe you're really great at cooking, or knitting, or you actually don't kill the flowers you plant in your garden. Maybe you have kids who say really hilarious things that bring you joy, or you've got some secret skills at ballroom dancing. 

Have you ever thought about incorporating these things into your writing?

Your passion can make all the difference in fueling your writing and giving it that extra little spark. It can also play into your voice as a writer.

For me, my passion is animal rescue. In my first book, my lead character has a paralyzed pit bull who she's rescued. She loves her dog very much, and this ended up being a great way for me to use symbolism and also to show the deeper layers of my character's emotions. I also tried to address some common misconceptions about rescue dogs in my writing.


This topic came naturally to me, and it was easy to imagine how the character would feel about her dog because I care about animals so deeply. Above is a picture of me with a lab mix named Pepper who was abandoned in my neighborhood. My husband and I noticed that she was hanging out near these people's yard and both expected her to go home. A few days went by, and she was still there. At that point, we realized what had happened.

Someone abandoned her.

This happens to dogs all the time, and it makes me sick. People think they can just throw away a life because it's inconvenient for them to keep up with a responsibility they chose to take on. Meanwhile, dogs like Pepper have no way to understand what's happening. She was probably waiting in the same spot that whole time because she was expecting them to come back. They didn't. We tried to put her in our car to drive her home, but she was so scared every time my husband picked her up that she started shaking and would leap away from the car. So my husband ended up carrying her home. We found an no-kill animal rescue that would take her, and she got adopted within three days. We found out later that our other neighbors had already called animal control to come pick her up and take her to the animal shelter. Had we not picked her up when we did, there is no way she would've made it out of the animal shelter alive. She is a black dog, a mix breed, and adult, and was too skinny. These are all factors that would've kept her from getting adopted. That's the reality of animal control. Only about 1 out of every 2 dogs that go into an animal shelter come out. That's why rescues are so important.

Pepper now lives with a very nice family with kids she watches over.


Something similar happened with this dog, Lexie. As you can see from the photo, Lexie is a gorgeous, purebred Sheltie. She almost walked into my husband's car one day as he was driving home. She was filthy and way too hot. She had a small leash attached to a dirty collar, so we assumed someone must've lost her on a walk. We posted "Found Dog" signs all over our neighborhood and surrounding streets, expecting a call in no time. No one ever came for her. Worked out in the end because tests showed Lexie was severely heartworm positive. She wouldn't have lived much longer without treatment. We were fortunate that she is purebred and were easily able to get her into a Sheltie rescue. She was adopted several months later by a wonderful vet in New Orleans and is now doing great. This little dog that was too scared to even drink water or eat a treat at our house is now loves bananas and toys that make annoying noises, according to her family. It might sound silly to you that I would pray for a dog, but I did with Lexie. I love this dog. We had her two days, and that was all it took for me. But there's no way she would've gotten along well with our Cocker Spaniels, and I knew she could find a better home if I let her go. And she did. :) I begged God to send her a sweet family who would love her and who she could love in return, never again facing the neglect she'd once endured. I am so thankful He answered the way He did.

When I was brainstorming my new novel with my agent a few months ago, she suggested I include a dog in the story because it's a topic I care about and also a topic people identify with. After all, who doesn't like dogs? Even if you aren't a dogs-in-the-house kind of person, who hasn't smiled when they see a puppy?

I thought I'd include a couple pictures of Maddie and Schroeder's new haircuts, because--well, aren't they just so cute?






What topics are important to you? Do you have a particular skill that's interesting? Have you ever considered writing about these things? I can't wait to hear about all the issues and interests that matter to you!