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Where do our ideas come from? Best answer: everywhere.

I’m visiting with friends and someone mentions a strange circumstance that intrigues me. Or talks about a quirky character they met. Or refers to a larger-than-life experience they read about online. These are all fodder for the idea mill.

 

First lesson: Be observant. Listen. Imagine how this or that can be recreated in our writing.

 

 

Sometimes good ideas slip away on me because I’m not convinced they are novel-worthy. Can I build an entire book around a particular idea? Will it really fit into my plan without messing it up? Perfectionist tendencies show up and may need to be squelched in order to give the brain free reign to imagine the possibilities.

 

Second lesson: Cast off perfectionist tendencies. Welcome the ideas and save them for later use.

 

 

As amazing as some of the ideas are that come to me, I have a confession to make: they often take leave as quickly as they come. I have an unfortunately poor memory. I may remember having a fantastic idea, but the gist of it is gone forever.

 

Third lesson: Write. It. Down. We can’t always trust our brain to remember even the most intriguing ideas. At least I can’t.

 

 

 

 

To recap:

* Observe

* Accept

* Note

Grab those ideas and run with them. They are everywhere, but they want tending.

NOTE: This post first appeared on the InScribe Professional blogsite on August 30, 2017.

ANOTHER NOTE: All photos from pixabay.com.

 

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I am not a green thumb by a long shot, nor will I ever be, but my gardening self-image improved substantially when I discovered the joy of perennials. (I hear some of your saying, “Duh!” But really, I didn’t know.)

I’ve always loved the randomness of English gardens, and now that I’ve welcomed perennials, I have my own version. Some of my seeds/plants came from my middle daughter, who has a green thumb she inherited from her paternal grandmother. Some were freebies from a neighbour who was trimming up her gorgeous yard.

My flower gardens will never make “Better Homes & Gardnes,” but they make me happy. After many years of failed flowerbeds and embarrassment in my “everybody gardens” neighbourhood, I can finally look out my windows and enjoy color and variety, with low maintenance.

The best thing about perennials is that you’re never quite sure what will come up. My box garden in front of my kitchen window is different every year. This year, the violas took over in joyful disarray.

I had to stick in a few red and yellow portulacas to add variety to the purples and yellows.

My favorites, the Maltese Cross (they are July bloomers, as am I, so I call them my birthday flowers, and I love red) are prolific this year, to the point of overwhelming one of my pretty purple and white lilies. I may have to do some transplanting before next spring.

I’m always amazed at how something comes from nothing.

We have long winters and short summers here on the Canadian prairies, so se perennials hurry to sprout up and bloom as long as the weather allows.

Lesson to learn: use my time wisely and bloom where I’m planted. We never know the joy we can bring to others just by being ourselves.

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Why Before What

The old and sometimes annoying question rises again: Why do I write?

I can’t say, as some writers do, that I can’t not write. I’d probably survive if I didn’t, but I would be much less of a person because I’d be denying the creative spirit within me. The one that comes from God. After all, our gifts are from the Father, and we ought not ignore them. I am so thankful that God has chosen me to use words to tell others about Him.

Why do I write?

When I think back to my first book, a historical novel set in pre-WWI Russia, I saw my story as:

1) a way of preserving my family history (“Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation” Joel 1:3.)

2) a way of passing on the story of God’s faithfulness in the past

So I had an idea of the why. As my books were published and I had the opportunity to present readings, I met people who shared my history and my faith story. It was then I realized that my readers were part of the “why.” They had invested in my books, so I wanted to share truthfully and faithfully. I wanted to influence them to see the God I had met through my stories.

I often find myself working through issues, beliefs, values or personal decisions as I create my stories. As writers, we become very vulnerable to those who read what we write. And it’s only in this way that we can engage readers, through our characters, and introduce them to the Father’s love.

As Kristy Cambron wrote recently in her Novel Rocket blog, Called to Story, we need to know the “why” before we attack the “how.” My favorite quote from this post is: [The why is] “a reminder of our eternal motivation when earthly setbacks threaten to derail.”

 

So let’s keep in mind why we write as a prerequisite to the “how” and the “what.”

On that note: why do you write?

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I read something on Facebook this morning that resonated with me:

Discussion is always better than argument because argument is to find

“who is right” and discussion is to find “what is right.”

(origin unknown)

As writers who work from a Christian worldview, we need to know what we believe, and to communicate those truths clearly. It’s a huge responsibility. We must be accurate and insightful, led by God’s Spirit.

However, I see a trend coming in. Again. I know it’s as old as time but it concerns me nonetheless. We are being distracted from the main truths of our faith by those who incite arguments about the details. The small things. The insidious whispers that interrupt and infiltrate our lives and our work.

I have experienced some of this distraction in my own life, and it is always about “who is right.” By wasting time and energy, and creating alienation, we can be led away from communicating the important tenets of faith.

 

 

 

I suggest we need to focus on the basics, the core of Scripture, the heart of the Gospel. One concise statement of faith is the Apostles’ Creed:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

 If we enjoy discussion on details beyond this succinct statement, that’s fine. But let’s not be distracted from the work God has given us to do by those who prefer arguments.

“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels” II Timothy 2:23.

“But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless” Titus 3:9.

And, let’s pray for a heart of love, which helps us to understand others, withstand temptation, and stand strong in every area of our lives.

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I love rural living. I was born and raised on a farm, and later married a farmer. It’s the best life. I love the peace and solitude, the privacy, the space to live away from the gawking eyes of others.

But there is one thing in particular that detracts from this utopic life. It’s the problem of mail / courier service.

I don’t mind driving to pick up my mail, and I’m thankful we still have service in our little hamlet. But international companies often refuse to send items through Canada Post. A PO Box does not, in their estimation, constitute an official address. I’ve offered my land description (including the color of my house), but they don’t think that’s funny.

I realize in cities, people can choose mailboxes in order to remain anonymous. But where I live, my box number is my address. 

Example: I ordered two boxes of my books from amazon. I pleaded with them to send by mail, but they cannot do that, especially to a foreign country like Canada. I contacted Canada Customs, and they told me all my out-of-country packages go to Winnipeg, so if I can pick them up there, it’s all good. Only an eight-hour drive.

If, however, I want my order to come nearer to my home, I have to use UPS, for a small fee. UPS takes it as far as Saskatoon, and then offloads to a truck delivery service. Since I don’t have a street address, I have asked the community center (which houses the municipal office) to accept my parcels, where I pick them up once I’ve been notified. BUT, if I don’t know when the truck arrives, I’m not there to pick up the parcels and pay the fee, so the trucker—in this case, Mario— takes them back to Saskatoon, and the circus begins.

This time I managed to pay the fee over the phone, so the truck will drop off my books tomorrow, paid. I hope.

I still wouldn’t trade my rural life for regular courier service, but I would love to receive my orders through the mail.

Have you experienced something similar? What have you done about it?

 

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“My Danny”

About a month ago, I was pleased and honored to have my picture taken with “my Danny,” and to present him with a copy of the book I dedicated to him. This is Jacob Eckert, the man who told me the story of his early life in China, which I fictionalized in my latest historical novel, In a Foreign Land.

Jake has become a hero of mine. In his long life—he is 88 now—he has suffered many things that would have broken or at least discouraged a lesser man. But he carried on. He is wiry, hale and hearty, excited about life, gentle and kind. He speaks English, High German, Low German, Russian, Mandarin, and a smattering of Korean from his time in the Chinese Army during the Korean War. He has a black belt in Karate and still maintains a good sense of balance. And he loves to tell stories.

When my daughters were reading In a Foreign Land, they asked me which parts were true and which were made up. I’ll tell you what I told them: almost every event that happened to Danny and Luise is true, except the romance with Rachel. The characters of Dubrowsky, Phillip and Jasch come from the first book, Other Side of the River. Mi-sook is purely fictional. She was included for interest sake, but also because Jake told me about a colony of Koreans that had been resettled from North Korea to an area west and north of where he lived in northern China.

So if some events in this latest novel sound stranger than fiction, it’s because they are. I have included “the story behind the story” in the back matter of “In a Foreign Land” if you are interested in reading more about Jacob Eckert.

I’m glad I could publish this story independently. It would be a shame for it to have remained unpublished because “it’s too foreign a setting for readers to identify with.” I’ve had that feedback from agents in the past.

I am so thankful to Jake for telling me his story, to my dear friends and colleagues who helped in many ways to make this book better than it was before they read it, and especially to Marcia Laycock at Small Pond Press for her professional edit, Rik Hall at Wild Seas Formatting for his formatting expertise, and Fred Koop at Fred Koop Designs for catching my idea for a cover and making it better than I ever could.

To all indie authors out there: keep learning, keep working, believe that it can be done. And remember that there are still heroes among us.

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April 2017 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:
sandpiper-cove

Sandpiper Cove by Irene Hannon — When a police chief and an ex-con join forces to keep a young man from falling into a life of crime, sparks fly. Given their backgrounds, it’s not a promising match—but in Hope Harbor, anything is possible. (Contemporary Romance from Revell [Baker])

oh-baby

Oh Baby by Delia Latham — Dawni Manors seeks peace in Angel Falls, Texas. What she finds is a cowboy, an abandoned infant, and emotional chaos. If the Heart’s Haven angels really are there, what in the world are they thinking? (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

General:
a-fragile-hope

A Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti — Where does a relationship expert turn when his wife leaves him and carries a tiny heartbeat with her? (General from Abingdon Press)

waiting-for-butterflies

Waiting for Butterflies by Karen Sargent — When tragedy strikes, Maggie discovers a mother’s love never ends–not even when her life does. Longing for her family after her sudden death, she becomes a lingering spirit and returns home where she helplessly witnesses her family’s downward spiral in the aftermath of her passing. Her husband is haunted by past mistakes and struggles to redeem himself. Her teenage daughter silently drowns in her own guilt, secretly believing she caused her mother’s death. Only her five-year-old, full of innocence, can sense her presence. Although limited by her family’s grief and lack of faith, Maggie is determined to keep a sacred promise and save her family before her second chance runs out. (General from Walrus Publishing [Amphorae Publishing Group])

Mystery:

sunset-in-old-savannahSunset in Old Savannah by Mary Ellis — When a philandering husband turns up dead, two crack detectives find more suspects than moss-draped oaks in charming old Savannah, including a scheming business partner, a resentful mistress, and a ne’er-do-well brother. (Mystery from Harvest House Publishers)

Historical:
above-rubies

Above Rubies by Keely Brooke Keith — In 1863, young teacher Olivia Owens establishes the first school in the remote settlement of Good Springs while finding love. (Historical, Independently Published)

Historical Romance:

 

a-rose-so-fair

A Rose So Fair by Myra Johnson — Caleb Wieland would give anything to win farm girl Rose Linwood’s heart, but Rose’s stubborn independence is proving as thorny as the flower for which she’s named. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)
under-the-same-sky

Under the Same Sky by Cynthia Roemer — In 1854 Illinois, Becky Hollister wants nothing more than to live out her days on the prairie, building a life for herself alongside her future husband. But when a tornado rips through her parents’ farm, killing her mother and sister, she must leave the only home she’s ever known and the man she’s begun to love to accompany her injured father to St. Louis.
Catapulted into a world of unknowns, Becky finds solace in corresponding with Matthew Brody, the handsome pastor back home. But when word comes that he is all but engaged to someone else, she must call upon her faith to decipher her future. (Historical Romance from Mantle Rock Publishing)
the-pony-express-collection

The Pony Express Romance Collection by Barbara Tifft Blakey, Mary Davis, Darlene Franklin, Cynthia Hickey, Maureen Lang, Debby Lee, Donna Schlachter, Connie Stevens and Pegg Thomas — Nine historical romances revive the brief era of the Pony Express. Join the race from Missouri, across the plains and mountains to California and back again as brave Pony Express riders and their supporters along the route work to get mail across country in just ten days. It is an outstanding task in the years 1860 to 1861, and only a few are up to the job. Faced with challenges of terrain, weather, hostile natives, sickness, and more, can these adventurous pioneers hold fast, and can they also find lasting love in the midst of daily trials? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Romantic Suspense:
plain-targetPlain Target by Dana R. Lynn — Horse trainer Jess McGrath only wants to clear her disgraced brother’s name, but enemies keep coming out of the woodwork and danger only gets closer. Jess soon learns that no place is safe—and no one can be trusted…except for the last white knight she’d ever expect to ride to her rescue. Paramedic Seth Travis was the boy behind her high school humiliation, but he’s also the man keeping her alive. When they find sanctuary in the Amish community, can they uncover answers in time to stop a killer—and resolve their past in time to build a future together? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
dangerous-testimony

Dangerous Testimony by Dana Mentink — Four weeks before she’s set to testify at a gang murder trial, someone is determined to make sure that Candace Gallagher Andrews never takes the stand. When nowhere is safe for the private investigator or her little girl, Candace turns to the only person she can trust—longtime friend and former navy SEAL Marco Quidel. For Marco, protecting Candace is not just another duty. As the trial date nears and the killer stalks ever closer, Marco knows fear for the first time—the fear of losing Candace and her daughter. But while Marco begins seeing Candace as more than just a friend, her late husband’s memory is never far from her mind. So he must keep Candace alive—and not get emotionally involved—long enough to put away a killer. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

deep-extractionDeep Extraction by DiAnn Mills — Special Agent Tori Templeton is determined to find who killed her best friend’s husband. Tori finds an unexpected ally in the newest member of the task force, recently reinstated Deputy US Marshal Cole Jeffers. As Tori and Cole dig deeper into Nathan’s personal and business affairs, they uncover more than they bargained for. And the closer they get to finding the real killer?and to each other?the more intent someone is on silencing them for good. (Romantic Suspense from Tyndale House)

final-verdict

Final Verdict by Jessica R. Patch — When Aurora Daniels becomes the target of someone seeking their own twisted justice, Sheriff Beckett Marsh is the only one who can rescue her. As a public defender, Aurora has angered plenty of people in town—and in her past. And while Beckett constantly clashes with the feisty lawyer professionally, it’s his duty to protect and serve. Guarding her 24/7 is now his sole assignment. He may not have been able to save his fiancée from a dangerous felon, but he’ll do whatever it takes to keep Aurora alive. Even if working with her to catch and convict this ruthless killer puts his heart in the crosshairs. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
guardian

Guardian by Terri Reed — When a fellow FBI agent is kidnapped and a protected witness vanishes, Leo Gallagher will stop at nothing to find them both. So when he discovers a link between the case and a single mother in Wyoming, Leo and his trusty K-9 partner rush to question Alicia Duncan. Could she be the key to locating the missing persons? Not if a killer has anything to say about it. Someone is determined to keep Alicia from talking, so Leo and his chocolate Lab must keep her and her little boy safe on their family ranch. With danger lurking around every corner, Leo must work overtime to not lose another person who’s important to him. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
witch

Witch by Denise Weimer — Having restored Michael Johnson’s ancestors’ house and apothecary shop and begun applying the lessons of family and forgiveness unearthed from the past, Jennifer Rushmore expects to complete her first preservation job with the simple relocation of a log home. But as her crew reconstructs the 1787 cabin, home to the first Dunham doctor, attacks on those involved throw suspicion on neighbors and friends alike. And while Jennifer has trusted God and Michael with the pain of her past, it appears Michael’s been keeping his own secrets. Will she use a dream job offer from Savannah as an escape, or will a haunting tale from a Colonial diary convince her to rely on the faithfulness of his love? (Romantic Suspense from Canterbury House Publishing)

Speculative Romance/Fantasy:
the-fairetellings-series

The Fairetellings Series (Books 1 through 3) by Kristen Reed — Discover a trio of enchanting novellas inspired by three beloved fairy tales: Cinderella, Snow White, and Beauty and the Beast. (Speculative Romance/Fantasy, Independently Published)

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