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Sunday, February 28, 2010

New and um... reserving opinion on the better

I'm not sure who to blame for this one.

I'll start with Rachelle Gardner. Very nice woman, great agent (or so my friends say), and one of the brightest minds in the business. She tweeted about this whole revision/plotting thing, so I thought, hmmm... I should check it out.

Enter Keli Gwyn's blog.

I realized that I know a lot of people who use this method of putting stuff on sticky notes and moving it around. They all swear by it. I have a behemoth of a book that needs editing so I can send it to my agent so he can send it to all sorts of lovely places.

Let's be honest here. After my last rejection, which I got pretty darn close to the day I finished this book, I've had a lot of doubts about my ability as a writer. This is not the place to argue with me on it or try to tell me I'm wonderful. That's not my point. My point is that I've been doubting. So this book has sat. Instead of getting it submitted, I've written two partials (and synopses), written and submitted some articles, and done just about everything I can to pretend I don't have this book waiting to be edited.

Keli's post inspired me. I thought that maybe if I tried something new, I'd get out of my rut, find confidence that I don't suck, edit this book, and SUBMIT!!!

As if God heard my plea for a sign, Office Max sent me a paper bag in the mail. Fifteen percent off anything that fits in the bag. So I went forth to the supplier of tools to get me to the Promised Land and bought a variety of colored post-it notes.

Today, I sat down with poster board, post-its, and the book that needs editing.

My dog took one look at the setup and went into hiding. How am I supposed to work without my muse? To be honest, I'm not sure I blame him. I wanted to hide, too.

Where on earth do you start? In the beginning. Right. I started to read the beginning of the book. Not a good idea after going to a conference and learning about great openings. Mine is... subpar. However, I fought the urge to edit and pressed on.

I'll be honest. I just started chapter four and I'm not liking this. Maybe it'll make more sense once I've gotten more done, but right now, it looks pretty ugly. And I'm not sure I have any better handle on this story and what I need to do to clean it up than I did before I started.

I thought about giving up, but I also realized that I haven't yet given it a fair shot. Of course, as soon as I put my post-its away, my dog came back. Maybe my dog is smarter than I am. I don't know. However, I will finish this bloody, gruesome task, and I will either have a better book or have just wasted a whole lotta time as a result.

Wish me luck!

(And if you happen to plot with post-its and like it, do share your success stories!)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sick Kids, Working Husbands, and Life

It's been a crazy week.

Monday morning, my 9yo woke up with a bad cough and didn't want to go to school. This is the kid who never wants to miss school, so I knew she was sick. The next day, ditto. I took her to the doctor, and the poor kid had a bad case of bronchitis. Some antibiotics and more time off school later, I have a semi normal kid back.

Monday also began hubby's insane work schedule. He went to work at 6:30 a.m., came home around 4p.m., then went back to work at 11p.m. He got home around 8a.m., then went back to work at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. He didn't get home again until 2p.m. on Wednesday. He went back to work at 10p.m. on Wednesday, then came home at 4a.m. Thursday, he worked from 8a.m. until 4p.m. Today was a normal day- from 6:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.

Crazy, right? This week, I got a taste of being a single mom- except I have a great husband working hard to support us. But I was stuck at home with a sick kid and life got pretty messed up for me. As I watched my exhausted husband go from work to falling into bed for a couple of precious hours and back to work again, I realized I wasn't the only one paying attention to his hard work and dedication. My daughter, who is usually in school and doesn't see daddy's long hours, realized just how hard her father works.

As I explained to our daughter about what a great dad she's got, I realized just how much I take for granted what an amazing husband I have. Sure, I tell him that he's great, but how often do I let him know that I appreciate him? So I've been telling him more, and making it known. He's not perfect, but he does his best. He's a pretty great guy, and I'm lucky to have him.

The more I started appreciating my hubby, the more I started to realize that I have a lot of wonderful things in my life that I don't always appreciate the way I should. So today, I am grateful. And appreciative. More importantly, I'm trying to take notice of the things I need to show more appreciation for. There's a lot to appreciate about this world.

What do you need to take notice of and appreciate?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Random thoughts while trying to write

Last week, I decided to change the opening of my latest book. Partially because I'm actually listening *gasp* to my agent and taking his advice on some things. Partially because el Camelito also agreed that I needed a new opening. Partially because after reading my synopsis, my crit partners hate my hero because he's too perfect. And mostly because I'm just not satisfied with this silly man.

Can I just be up front and say that change is hard?

I've been working on this for a while... I let it percolate in my head, and am now putting it on paper. One page into my hero's POV, here are my thoughts:

1. He sounds gay. Crap. I can't have a gay hero.
2. Why does he have such stupid reasons for not being married?
3. Crap. If I change this, then I have to change my synopsis and make him more conflicted than I want him to be.
4. Crap. If I don't change this, then he's going to be too perfect and everyone will keep hating him.
5. Wow, I say crap a lot.
6. Crap. He still sounds gay.
7. If I kill him now, no one will know the difference.
8. What is wrong with this stupid man?
9. I think this sparkly nail polish my 5yo made me wear is hindering my ability to write.
10. Maybe I should just go read.

We will not discuss how many cups of tea I've had to drink nor how many girl scout cookies I've eaten.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Setting up expectations

I am in love with the idea of being a fabulous cook. The truth is, I'm an average cook. I use a lot of the same tried and true recipes, and my attempts at venturing out often fall flat. Such was the case of my perfect dinner the other night.

The recipe was for Sicilian Pot Roast. The recipe sounded so good, and as I pictured it in my mind, I thought for sure it would be the perfect family meal. I was a bit intimidated by adding red pepper flakes, since my kids don't go for spicy. However, no one noticed the red pepper flakes. For me, the problem was the grated lemon peel. I'll admit right off that there's a reason I buy my cheese grated. I HATE grating cheese. Since it's the same price as the stuff you grate yourself, I have absolutely no guilt buying the grated stuff.

So there I am, grating a lemon, because that's what the recipe requires. Instead, I grated my thumb.

The rest of the preparations were fairly simple. I regretted buying whole olives instead of sliced, because slicing olives is a pain. Fortunately, I did not cut myself. Dinner smelled amazing. I couldn't wait to eat it. Everything was coming together nicely for a wonderful family dinner. Then hubby called and said he'd be home late- which meant missing my fabulous dinner. When dinner was ready, the kids ate- and were unimpressed. In fact, they thought the sauce, the one I sacrificed my thumb for, was icky.

I admit to having a bit of a pity party for myself that this dinner I'd worked so hard on received a lackluster response. Even hubby, who finally got home and sat on the couch to scarf his down, said "it's okay."

Which brings me to this morning. The kids are home from school, which to them means I am their full-time cook. They wanted breakfast. I am not used to making breakfast on a weekday. They have cereal and all that, but for some reason, I decided I'd make them breakfast this morning. Except I didn't want to make them breakfast. So I made...

Toaster waffles!

The kids were so excited to eat frozen waffles that I'd just popped into the toaster. I got the jubilant reaction I'd hoped to get with my Sicilian pot roast. But no, they saved it for toaster waffles.

Expectations are a funny thing. I read somewhere that the main source of disappointment in people's lives is unrealized expectations. We build things up so big in our heads, but when we get there, it's not nearly as grand as we thought they'd be. Like my dinner, we prepare and prepare, injuring ourselves in the process of trying to make something perfect. But it doesn't get the reaction we thought it would be. When we simplify our expectations, we get moments like we had this morning. Where I thought I was just giving them a mediocre meal, but they thought of it as the ultimate treat.

I need to adjust my expectations. To accept that my family won't always love what I make, but they still love me. A lesson I should apply to more than just my cooking. What about you? What are some of your unrealistic expectations?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Even in the Petty Places

Most of my prayers tend to be on the petty side. “Dear God, don't make me late to this meeting.” or “Dear God, could you help me find the ring I lost.” Things that have little to no eternal significance. I am often guilty of treating God like Santa Claus.

However, as He's taken me through some situations recently, He showed me something spectacular. God cares about my petty things, too. So many times, He answers those prayers in the affirmative or shows me why my request wasn't the best. Other times, He doesn't, but as I've thought about some of those petty things, and wished I wasn't so petty, He spoke to me.

If I care about these little details of your life, don't you think I care about the bigger ones?

As I walked through this time, God shared something else.

My prayers aren't about the giving and receiving of stuff. Well, maybe on the surface level. To God, though, they continue to be about knowing me intimately. When you love someone intimately, you want to hear about everything. No, it doesn't matter on an eternal level whether or not I'm late to a meeting or find my missing rings. On a relational level, though, it is about my willingness to show Him all of my junk- from the minutiae to the overwhelming.

I learned that every place we choose to walk with God can be a Thin Place. He wants to meet us in every aspect of our lives- even in the petty places.


As part of the blog tour for Mary DeMuth's book, Thin Places, she is holding a contest to win a Kindle.

Kindle Contest Details:

In Mary DeMuth’s memoir, Thin Places, she walks us through her journey from hurt to healing as she developed a deep, joyful relationship with Jesus. Thin places are those times where the division between this world and the eternal fades; they are snatches of holy ground, tucked into the corners of our world, where we might just catch a glimpse of eternity. Now, we invite you to tell your story of a thin place in your own life . . . and we’re giving you the opportunity to win a Kindle reader for doing so!

Here’s how to participate:
1) In exactly 259 words – the retail value of a Kindle reader – tell us about a time you experienced a “thin place” in your life. These would be aha moments, beautiful realizations when the Son of God bursts through the hazy fog of our monotony and shines on us afresh, times when God has reminded or reassured you that he is real and present.
2) Post your essay on your blog or website. Once you’ve posted to your blog, add a direct link to your post (not just your website) in the Mr. Linky widget found at the end of this post. If you post to a Facebook account or do not have a place to post, then submit your essay in the body of an email to info at blogtourspot dot com. Your entry must be received (either by Mr. Linky or email) by midnight, Friday, February 12th to be eligible for the contest.
3) Personally invite at least two people you know to join the contest. You can do that by email, in person, or by adding an invitation to your blog posting. This will be done on the honor system (we don’t need to know names), but please help us by spreading the word. Please link directly to this post. Entries in your own linking system/comments will not be included. (Danica adds: GO HERE TO ENTER!!)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thin Places by Mary DeMuth

Mary DeMuth's memoir, Thin Places, speaks to those moments in life when God reaches down to touch our lives.

My first thought when I read her book was, "wow, that must've been an incredibly healing experience for her." My second thought was about how I tend to judge people and their memoirs. So many times, a memoir is merely an excuse to blame everyone else for all the bad things that have happened in their lives. Mary does not do that. She examines the painful things most of us would just as soon leave alone through the lens of God's protection and grace.

Her book reminds me in some ways of the Footprints poem, only from the angle of showing the places where God carried her in celebration of the fact that He did carry her.

After reading Thin Places, I realized that I have many stories inside me that need healing- places where I still wonder, "where was God?" I decided to write my own memoir. Not one that I ever intend for anyone else to read, but something for me and God. Our place to record ways He showed up in my own life.

Thank you, Mary, for being vulnerable so that others could find healing for their own painful memories.

About Thin Places

Every two minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted and of the millions of sexual abuse and rape victims, 15 percent are under the age of 12, according to a 2007 study by the U.S. Department of Justice. Critically acclaimed author Mary DeMuth is among the millions of adults who are victims of childhood rape and are living with the emotional scars of the haunting abuse.

DeMuth bravely shares her painful story in her new memoir, Thin Places (February 2010). Repeatedly raped by two neighborhood boys at a young age, DeMuth details her traumatic and disturbing childhood in the memoir. Raised in a broken home, she lost her biological father when she was ten and was stripped of her innocence growing up in an unstable environment where drugs were commonplace.

But Thin Places is about hope and healing more than it is about the traumatic events of DeMuth’s childhood. According to DeMuth, thin places are “snatches of time, moments really, when we sense God intersecting our world in tangible, unmistakable ways.” When she encountered the true love of Jesus at a Young Life camp in high school, DeMuth’s life trajectory changed. God reassembled the pieces of her emotionally fragile self, which initiated true healing and peace.

“Folks may wonder why I’ve spent all this time looking back,” says DeMuth, “dredging up what God sees of my story, what my eyes see. Jesus says truth sets people free. This is my way of doing that—of telling the stark truth on the page so others can be set free.”

DeMuth’s desire is to see readers set free from their family secrets. In light of that, she’s started a blog for readers to anonymously share their family secrets. Since the blog launched in February 2009, over 200 survivors have emailed their family secrets for DeMuth to anonymously post, and the blog was featured on Christianity Today’s blog, Her.meneutics. For more information, visit: http://blog.myfamilysecrets.org.

“Thin Places offers a poignant look at the development of a well-known Christian writer,” says Christian Retailing, and author Tosca Lee calls Thin Places, “brave, moving and poignant.”

Writing is a cathartic experience for DeMuth, and remnants from her past influence her books. They are infused into her nonfiction parenting advice as well as her fictional characters and plots. Her literary fiction features gritty story lines and touches on the dark subject of abuse. Her first novel, Watching the Tree Limbs, featured a 9-year-old girl who was raped by a neighborhood bully, and the Defiance Texas Trilogy examines the emotional pain that results from the disappearance of a young girl in Texas. DeMuth talks about these writing projects in Thin Places. “Writing [Watching the Tree Limbs] is a thin place where I see
God’s desire to heal me,” says DeMuth, “and I understand that He loves me no matter what emotions I express.”

About the Author:

Mary DeMuth
Author and speaker Mary DeMuth helps people turn their trials to triumph. Her books include Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God; Building the Christian Family You Never Had; Watching the Tree Limbs; Wishing on Dandelions; Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture and the first two books in the Defiance, Texas Trilogy: Daisy Chain and A Slow Burn.
National media regularly seek Mary’s candid ability to connect with their listeners. Her radio appearances include FamilyLife Today, Moody Midday Connection, Point of View and U.S.A. Radio Network and is frequently featured on Chuck Colson’s BreakPoint. She has published articles in In Touch, HomeLife, Writer’s Digest and The Writer.
Mary lives with her husband Patrick and their three children in Texas.

Learn more about Mary at http://marydemuth.com.

Thin Places
Release: February 2010
Soft cover, 224 pp., $14.99
ISBN: 031028418X

Monday, February 08, 2010

What am I REALLY up to?

Yes, that would be the question everyone is asking since it's been nothing but book reviews lately.

Okay, probably not. I just liked how mysterious it sounded to pose that question.

Here's a quick update on my life over the past couple of weeks:

1. I got a rejection. It sucked. I am almost over it.
2. I went to visit Camy. I will probably blog about it. Possibly not until after the statute of limitations has passed. Wait. Wrong trip. I think everything Camy and I did was legal.
3. I went on a writing retreat with my local critique group. It was fabulous. I will probably blog about that one too. After I figure out the statute of limitations.
4. I learned to knit socks. I knitted a sock, then I ripped it out because it was too big. I've ripped it out about three times now, not counting false starts. So I have nothing to show for it. I'm confident this time will be the one. Or I will rip it out again.
5. I have not killed anyone. But I have had some killer tea.
6. I plotted two books and written a partial on one of them.
7. I've read. A lot. I need to write the reviews now.
8. I started a new Bible study with some friends. I still need to catch up on homework.
9. I've written five articles that I will submit very soon.
10. I've had a lot of great events with work that have kept me very busy.

PHEW! I was a little worried that I couldn't come up with ten things. So that's been my life. Grab a cup of tea and tell me what's been going on in yours. Or tell me which thing you want me to blog about first.

The Marriage Project by Kathi Lipp

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

The Marriage Project

Harvest House Publishers (December 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Kathi Lipp for sending me a review copy.***


Kathi is married to Roger, the Worship Arts Director at Church on the Hill in San Jose. They have four kids and live in San Jose, CA. When she’s not doing laundry, Kathi is a full-time speaker and writer whose articles have appeared in Focus on the Family, Today’s Christian Woman and Christian Parenting Today. Her first books, The Husband Project and The Marriage Project were both released by Harvest House.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (December 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736925287
ISBN-13: 978-0736925280

I really like the concept of this book. Like Kathi, I read tons of marriage and relationship books, and this one is by far the most practical of them all. I like how she gives a lot of concrete examples and ideas for couples to try. He doesn't know it yet (surprise honey!!) but my Valentine's gift to my husband this year is that we're going to talk about this book, and we're going to do the 21 day project. I like having specific ideas of what I can do with my husband to make our marriage stronger.

If anyone wants to join us in this adventure (the book recommends doing it with other couples), leave a comment and we'll coordinate details.


Why The Marriage Project?

With every deed you are sowing a seed, though the harvest you may not see.

-- Ella Wheeler Wilcox

I have a shelf full of marriage books and I bet if you‘ve been married for any amount of time, you do too.

Most of the books that we own are great books. They talk about God’s desire for a healthy marriage, the theories behind a healthy marriage, and what a healthy marriage should look like if you apply these principles.

Some of those marriage books have had a great impact on my relationship with my husband.

Most of them? They ended up on our bookshelf as things I feel guilty for 1) not implementing on a daily basis and 2) not dusting.

When Roger and I got married we both brought two teenagers, two full-time jobs, and a host of volunteer activities into the relationship. There just wasn’t much time to be sitting up in bed after a long day, taking turns reading pages out of marriage enhancement books and staring longingly, with great resolve, into each other’s eyes.

On the other hand, Roger and I both determined to make this marriage work. We each had been in marriages that ended in divorce, and we were committed to being absolutely intentional to do everything we could, in God’s power, to see that we had a marriage that not only lasted, but also was honoring to Him and filled with joy.

That’s when the crazy ideas started to flow.

First, there was The Husband Project, where I challenged my friends (and myself) to bless our men for 21 days without expecting anything in return. While most women kept it a secret from their husbands, I had to tell Roger eventually (he had a right to know what book I was working on seven hours a day).

After that, Roger and I wanted a project to complete as a couple. The results of that are what you hold in your hand.

I wanted a way to bless my marriage that was very practical, fun, following God’s plan and purpose for marriage (and perhaps just a little bit flirty). I needed something that wasn’t just a theory about what to do about my marriage – I wanted some checkboxes. I wanted something that would instruct me, “This is what you do, now go and do it.”

That is what I needed, and that is what I ended up writing.

Becoming an Expert on Your Own Marriage

I’m definitely not a marriage expert. After one failed marriage and just four years into my second one, I’m probably not the first person you’d approach for marital advice. (Although the fact that Roger and I got married with four teenagers between us, and we’re still together, should earn us some kind of presidential Medal of Honor. Or at least a nifty certificate in a leatherette case.)

So I gleaned and condensed the very best advice from every marriage book on our shelves and adapted it into short, doable steps – or projects, that we could work on together.

This is how I have to manage almost every area of my life – whether it’s healthy eating, child rearing, Bible study, and most recently, marriage. It’s not enough that I know what I’m supposed to do; I need to have a plan to get up and do it.

Through these crazy little projects (most taking less than five or ten minutes) my husband and I learned new things about each other. We rediscovered what makes each other tick, confirmed some basics we already knew, and found new and exciting ways to encourage one another. While I may not be a marriage expert, I became an expert on my marriage.

I love how The Message Bible illustrates the words of James when it comes to putting feet to our thoughts:

Dear friends, do you think you'll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, "Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!" and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense? (James 2:14-17)

We can talk about marriage all day long. We can buy books and listen to podcasts about how we should have great marriages. We can listen to sermons and do Bible studies. But, unless we put some God-acts to our God-talk, no one benefits.

Hundreds of couples have done the Projects before you. These simple acts have been proven to change not only people’s behavior, but also their attitudes. I pray that God pours out His blessings on you and your marriage as you put feet to His plan for your marriage.