Friday, December 30, 2011

Share the Gift: A Movement?

When I launched my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway in August, I dreamed it would spark a movement that would encourage others to share their gifts, to pass along their blessings in order to make the world a better place. Winner Sandra Marchetto is helping to make that dream come true.

Sandra received a Kindle 3G for winning my contest on December 16, 2011.

According to Share the Gift guidelines, she also chose a second Kindle 3G recipient--her son Willie, a college student who will now be able to download textbooks whenever he chooses, thanks to Kindle 3G capabilities.

But Sandra's generosity does not stop there. Prior to receiving her new Kindle 3G, Sandra owned a Kindle equipped for WiFi only. She plans to share her love for books by passing that Kindle on to a third recipient.

And that's not all. Now that Sandra's book collection is shifting to e-books, she has "boxes and boxes" of paperbacks to share. While she will keep the hard copy titles she holds most dear, she is donating the rest in manageable allotments to local residential centers and nursing homes. "They are loving it," she reports.

Sandra's desire to share the gift of reading began long before my contest, long before my novel Delivery was published, even long before Kindles existed.

When Willie was 18 months old, Sandra quit work to be a stay-at-home mom. At 7 A.M. on their first day at home, he carried a book into the living room and asked her to read to him. "As a child," she recalls, "Willie would sit for as long as someone would read to him. Most young children will only sit for a few pages, but he would go back for book after book." Sandra, a busy mom, took the time to read those stories to her son.

Sandra is a firm believer that the earlier children start reading, the more likely it is that they will develop a love for it. Her experience lends proof. At age 2 1/2, Willie loved books so much that he even read to his puppy Ginger while "sitting on his backup book . . . to make sure he had plenty of material to keep her interested."

Willie enjoys reading because Sandra shared a gift--her own love for books.

Now it's YOUR turn. Did a caring adult take time to read to you when you were a child? What role do books play in your life? How might you share your love for reading during the new year and beyond? I'll be looking for your answers in the comment section below.

Friday, December 23, 2011

On This Night

As I anticipate the smiles and squeals of loved ones unwrapping packages that surround our Christmas tree, a basic truth of gift giving comes to mind:

Our joy multiplies exponentially when we share.

So to spread some joy, I'm sharing "On This Night," a song my husband and I wrote to honor a babe lying in a manger. To listen, turn on your audio, click the arrow below, and celebrate the greatest gift of all, the gift God offered to save the world.

Merry Christmas. Share the joy. Christ the Savior is born!

(Photograph by Steve Prusik)

On This Night
(Composed by Steve Prusik, lyrics by Diana Prusik, instrumentals by Steve Prusik, vocals by Larry Gerst and Steve Prusik)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway Winner

Thanks to ALL who participated in this fun giveaway. Over the past 19 weeks, I've enjoyed your Weekend Peek In questions and comments, and I've had a great time getting to know each of you better. You have enriched my life, and I am grateful.

Although the Share the Gift giveaway has officially ended, please drop in each Friday because I have exciting plans for continued blog posts. I also plan to hold more fun giveaways in the future, so stay tuned.

Today's winner will share the gift by choosing a second Kindle 3G recipient. I encourage us all to share our time, our energy, our talents, our material possessions, our JOY to enrich the lives of others. In the generous spirit of Delivery's Mom Robinson, let's make this world a better place.

And now, the moment we've all been waiting for. (Drumroll, please.)

The Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway winner is . . .

Sandra Marchetto!

The winning question Sandra submitted is one I haven't answered on Weekend Peek In:

If tomorrow you had to choose between drawing/painting, photography, and writing, which would you choose and why?

Oh, my, what a challenging question! If I'm ever faced with that choice, I would pick writing because I believe creating stories provides more opportunities for me to touch the lives of others in meaningful ways.

Congratulations to Sandra, and Merry Christmas to all! I'll see you back here next week.

Weekend Peek In #19

Welcome to the final week of my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway. Thanks to all who have participated. The contest is now closed to new entries. Check back this evening to see who wins a Kindle 3G and chooses a second recipient. YOU might be the lucky one!

Meanwhile, let's turn to this week's reader's question:

What inspires you most when you are writing?

Sometimes, my inspiration comes from simple sensory experiences, like a scent, a sound, a texture. For instance, a summer raindrop soothing my cheek inspired the scene in Delivery in which Jake and Ida let a summer downpour wash away their troubles, at least for that moment.

I also draw inspiration from the creative works of others. Music is a prime example, particularly passion-filled ballads. Much like Wynona Judd sings in "Flies on the Butter," my character Livi in effect can never go home again. Sure, she can return to her childhood residence, but she can never return to the time in her life when her brother Buddy was alive and well. And much like Mark Schultz sings in "Cloud of Witnesses," Livi's witnesses--particularly the Wilson Florist gang--come running in her darker hours to circle around her and offer much needed love and support.

Emotion-charged memories are strong sources of inspiration for me as well. Holding my grandma's hand while the Lord took her home fortified my faith in God and my belief that Heaven is real. That profound experience inspired the nursing home scene in which Livi faces her doubts for a final time. Recollections of my own grief and joy gave birth to Livi's grief and joy.

But of all that kindles my writing, what inspires me most?

Prayer. Connecting with God before my fingers even hit the keyboard helps me focus on writing for His glory. If I didn't write with that purpose as my main objective, I wouldn't want to write at all.

Now its YOUR turn. What inspires you to do what you do, to follow your dreams, to answer your calling? I can't wait to read your answer in the comment section below.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Weekend Peek In #18

Welcome to Week 18 of my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway. Keep those entries coming. Next week, we'll learn who wins. Will it be YOU?

This week's Weekend Peek In question comes from a faithful entrant who regularly sends daily entries for more chances to win.

Do you have a favorite season?

Assuming we define season as one of four periods of the year--winter, spring, summer, or fall--I am blessed to live in an area that experiences each one. Each season brings its own blessings.

Many people in my area wish to flock southward at the first sign of frost, but experiencing winter without snow and ice would depress me. I love to bundle up on a frigid day, grab my camera, and head outdoors. Once my lens adapts to the cold so it stops fogging up, winter offers spectacular photo opportunities, like this one that I discovered in my holly bush in my own front yard:

Watching the earth come to life in the spring rejuvenates my spirit and offers an explosion of color for photography. I spotted this gorgeous shrub, a flowering quince, on a local street corner during a morning stroll:

Missouri's heat and humidity make summer my least favorite season, unless I am fortunate enough to travel to milder summer climates like the Rocky Mountains or my favorite vacation spot--Door County, Wisconsin. Despite my aversion to sweating, I still force myself outdoors during this time of year, especially after a summer thunderstorm. A soaking shower leaves much beauty behind, like this raindrop on lily grass, which again I found in my own front yard:

By far my favorite season is autumn. Fall foliage, crisp air, bonfires, apple butter, pumpkin bread, the Concord grape harvest, hayrides, and nature hikes--life doesn't get much better, at least in my neck of the woods. Need proof? Take a look at the beauty my husband captured on an autumn hike in Hawn State Park, near Ste. Genevieve, Missouri.

If we expand our definition of season, however, to include a period of the year immediately before and after a special holiday, Christmas trumps autumn for me. Celebrating my Savior's birth ranks at the top of my favorite things. I love to shop, wrap gifts, and decorate for the occasion. This year, our family will celebrate Christmas in our new home (new to us, at least), but here's our former living room after Santa's arrival on a recent Christmas Eve:

As Christmas 2011 approaches, take time to remember the reason for the season. Whether or not you win next week's Kindle giveaway, I encourage you to share your gifts--your material possessions, your talents, your spiritual joy--to enrich the lives of others.

What about YOU? What is your favorite season? I'm excited to see your answer in the comment section below.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Weekend Peek In #17

Welcome to week 17 of my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway. Only two weeks left until one person wins a Kindle 3G AND chooses a second person to also receive a Kindle 3G. The winner could be YOU!

This week's reader's question forces me to think about an unfamiliar topic: leisure.

Which of your artistic talents do you find more relaxing?

My favorite creative outlets include writing, photography, floral designing, painting, and drawing. I find each one exciting and fulfilling, but which one brings me the most relaxation?


When my pencil meets paper, I disappear into a world where my thoughts meander, where my tension dissolves, where the demands of my daily life fade away.

When I created the above pencil drawing, for example, I didn't need to worry about defining characters or deepening conflict, as I do when I write fiction like Delivery, or to adjust aperture or ISO settings, as I do when I shoot photography. I didn't need to mix the perfect colors or wash messy brushes, as I do when I paint. I simply grabbed pencils and paper and lost myself in sculpting the image with graphite. Simple ingredients. Simple process.

So if drawing requires the least preparation and the least mental energy of my favorite activities, why do I choose it least often? It seems I prefer the two creative endeavors that bring me the most stress: writing and photography. But it's the best kind of stress--the kind that rejuvenates my spirit. Since exhilaration is more appealing to me than relaxation, and since life is short, weaving words and snapping shutters wins out most often. I'll likely finish writing my next novel before I'll complete another pencil drawing, not because I don't love drawing but because I love writing more. And because there aren't enough hours in the day to do it all!

What about YOU? What activity do you find most relaxing? Do you participate in it often? Why or why not? I'll be looking for your answers in the comment section below.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Weekend Peek In #16

Week 16 of my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway is here! In fewer than three weeks, one person will win a Kindle 3G and choose a second Kindle 3G recipient. The contest closes to entries at midnight (CST) on December 14, 2011, so if you haven't already entered, now is the perfect time.

Amid all the holiday bustle, this week's reader's question helps put our focus on the reason for the Christmas season.

What is your favorite hymn?

Psalm 96:1 says, "Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth." With an abundance of contemporary Christian music being produced these days, we now have more beautiful songs than ever to sing to the Lord, but no matter how many new lyrics come along, I will always love traditional hymns.

Songs like "Amazing Grace," "It is Well with My Soul," and "How Great Thou Art" make me all teary-eyed and goose-bumpy for God. One hymn in particular has been my favorite since adolescence: "Because He Lives" by Bill and Gloria Gaither. I am hooked from the first verse:

"God sent His son, they called Him Jesus;
He came to love, heal, and forgive.
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!"

The chorus alone helps me get through whatever trials life throws my way.

"Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!"

By now, this poignant hymn has grabbed my heart, and it gives another squeeze during the second verse. I often sang it while rocking my own babes.

"How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days because He lives!"

By the final verse, I'm breaking out the tissues:

"And then one day, I'll cross the river,
I'll fight life's final war with pain;
And then, as death gives way to vict'ry
I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He lives!"

From birth to death and everything in between, this hymn reminds us we can endure it all "Because He Lives." No wonder it's my favorite!

Now it's YOUR turn. What hymn stirs your heart and soul? Help us sing to the Lord today by sharing your answer in the comment section below.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Weekend Peek In #15

Welcome to week 15 of my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway. I'll draw the winning name in just four weeks. Keep those entries coming, folks!

This week's reader's question is one I am asked often.

When can we expect a sequel to Delivery or any other books?

At a writers conference, Karen Kingsbury once told me she writes a novel in six weeks. What? At first, I thought I had misheard her. No! She explained that her books usually play like movies in her head, and she just writes them down.

Excuse me while I pick my chin up off the floor.

I'll admit that when I'm writing a scene, it often plays like a movie in my head; however, a scene flowing is far different than an entire story magically unfolding before me.

Unless God performs a miracle on me, I'll never churn out a novel in only six weeks, but I am hard at work on ideas for my next book. When can readers expect it? Since I'm not Karen Kingsbury, only God knows the answer.

But you can help! Please pray that God will put stories on my heart that readers will connect with and be touched by.

I would also love your input. What kind of novels do YOU like to read? What types of stories leave hand prints on YOUR heart? I'll be looking for your answers in the comment section below.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Weekend Peek In #14

Welcome to week 14 of my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway. I'll draw the winning name in just five weeks. Have you entered yet?

Now, for this week's reader's question:

What is your favorite verse?

Assuming this reader is referring to a Bible verse, I'm not sure I could isolate one as my favorite, but with Thanksgiving upon us, the scripture most on my mind is, "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 NIV).

Sure, it's easy to be thankful for the blessings in my life. A warm home. Clean water. Plentiful food. Good health. Great friends. A loving family. And the list goes on.

But to give thanks in all circumstances--even during times of sorrow and suffering? Seriously, God, is this possible?

Even when my youngest son barely survived a fiery car crash?

When my eldest son suffered a brain hemorrhage requiring brain surgery?

When my eldest granddaughter narrowly escaped an apartment fire?

When my mom battles cancer after my grandmother, grandfather, father, father-in-law, and step-father-in-law lost that fight?

When my precious eight-year-old niece died after a double-lung transplant failed? Even then?

God's answer is yes, even then!

But how?

Am I to be thankful for car crashes, surgeries, devastation, illnesses, and death? No! God doesn't ask us to give thanks for all circumstances. He asks us to give thanks in all circumstances. Ah, there's the key!

In crushing circumstances, I learned some life-changing lessons. I learned to stop taking life for granted because each day, each hour, each minute is a gift. Every opportunity to spend time with loved ones is a blessing. We are never guaranteed another breath, and neither are those dear to us.

Through brokenness, I better grasped who God really is. Through suffering, I gained a new understanding of the sacrifice Christ made on that cross. Through heartbreak, I learned the truth of God's promise that if I turn to Him, He will carry me through situations I could never endure alone. More fully than ever, I realized that through Christ, death is merely the beginning of eternal life.

In short, these hardships and tragedies taught me to be thankful in all circumstances. And for that, I am . . . well, thankful.

Now, it's YOUR turn. What is your favorite Bible verse . . . and what are you thankful for? I'll be looking for your answers in the comment section below.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Weekend Peek In #13

Welcome to Week 13 of my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway. Only six weeks left until we find out who wins, but it's not too late to enter. Are you ready for this week's reader's question? I am!

What author/authors are your go-to when you are looking for something new to read?

Two of my favorite authors who work hard to bring new books to readers are Patti Lacy and Candace Calvert.

Imagine my excitement when I visited with these wonderful writers in person at the 2011 American Christian Fiction Writers conference.

Are you ready to be excited too? Both ladies are taking a short break from their busy writing schedules to pop in for a visit today--right here!

First, let's welcome Patti Lacy, a dear author friend who invited me to room with her at the ACFW conference and to dine with her and writer Britt Sanchez at a St. Louis cafe.

Patti, I adore you AND your talented, skillful writing. Please tell us about the driving force in your fiction.

Through my work, I try to fictionally depict Romans 8:28, God working for good in all things, even those that are dark, hidden, and scary. When brought to light by the love of Christ, all things can be made possible!

Thanks for letting me visit, Diana! It was great rooming with you in St. Louis!

Hanging out with you was one of the highlights of ACFW for me, Patti. You excel in depicting Romans 8:28 in your novels. That's one of many reasons I love your books so much. Thanks for dropping in today!

So what books has Patti written, and where does she get her unique story ideas?

Snippets of secrets, newspaper clippings, a teary, long-suppressed memory grab Patti Lacy's heart, then beg to be written. In An Irishwoman's Tale, Patti shared the story of a best friend, torn from her beloved Irish coast and dumped into a dysfunctional home in Lisle, Illinois.

What the Bayou Saw explores a blood oath made down by a Louisiana bayou on the day Kennedy was killed. A Chicago Tribune article about a mother's first...and ride with her baby compelled Patti to contact a Minnesota woman and pen her story in The Rhythm of Secrets, one of my favorite Patti Lacy books.

Patti's fourth book, Reclaiming Lily, explores the lives of two women from two cultures...and the child that divides them. Reclaiming Lily springboards off the memory of a brave Chinese doctor, determined to save her family. But from who...and what?

I recently finished reading Reclaiming Lily, and what a story of love, faith, and sacrifice it is! See a book trailer for this captivating novel, and learn more about Patti on her website here.

As Patti dashes off to write more novels, here comes another dear writer friend, Candace Calvert. She's the author of the page-turner Mercy Hospital series: Critical Care, Disaster Status, and Code Triage.

Candace, welcome to Weekend Peek In. I loved our visit at ACFW, and you know I'm a fan of your novels. Please tell us more about your writing.

Because I'm a former ER nurse, I like to think that my stories offer a "prescription for hope." And that readers who "scrub in" will find pulse-pounding action, charismatic characters, and warm romance. Think: Grey's Anatomy finds its soul!

Not only is action in your stories pulse-pounding, your handsome book covers are too. I'm so glad you dropped in today. I can't wait to read your next book--and to see its cover!

While Candace's book covers ARE terrific, the quality of her writing speaks for itself. In fact, Critical Care is a 2010 Carol Award finalist.

And Code Triage is currently on the ECPA BestSeller list with books written by the likes of Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, and Jerry B. Jenkins!

If you start reading Candace's Mercy Hospital series now, you'll finish in time for her new Grace Medical series to debut in May. The first book, Trauma Plan, is set in San Antonio. Get your heart set on reading this one:

"Sidelined by injuries from a vicious assault, nurse chaplain Riley Hale is determined to return to ER duties. But how can she show she’s competent when the hospital won’t let her attempt even simple tasks? Determined to prove herself, Riley volunteers at a controversial urban free clinic despite her fears about the maverick doctor in charge.

Dr. Jack Travis defends his clinic like he’s commander of the Alamo. He’ll fight the community’s efforts to shut its doors, even if he must use Riley Hale’s influential family name to make it happen.

As Riley strives to regain her skills, Jack finds that she shares his compassion—and stirs his lonely heart. Riley senses that beneath Jack’s rough exterior is a man she can believe in. But when clinic protests escalate and questions surface about his past, Jack goes into battle mode, and Riley wonders if it’s dangerous to trust him with her heart."

Who can wait for May after reading THAT book description? To keep up with Grace Medical series progress, "scrub in" with Candace on her website here.

Like my novel Delivery, Patti and Candace's books can be downloaded on your ereader. Print editions are also available.

You could begin compiling your digital library with these fine novels if you win my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway. December 16, 2011, is coming soon. The winner could be YOU, so send your entry now!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Weekend Peek In #12

Week 12 is here! This week's reader's question leaves us asking, "What if?"

If you wouldn't have chosen teaching as your career, what do you think you would have become?.

I have so many jobs I'd love to do! Let's explore a few:

Neo-natal nurse? Few things tug at my heart more than brand new babies, particularly wee ones with special medical needs like my granddaughter, pictured below. She took an emergency helicopter ride with paramedics to a St. Louis hospital when she was thirteen days old.

Historian? Every community should have a museum of local history. Interviewing residents, collecting memorabilia, taking photos, and building displays are tasks right up my alley.

Archaeologist? Unearthing artifacts to study how people lived in other cultures and other eras would be an adventure. And of course, I'd have my camera ready to document each finding!

Shopkeeper? I sometimes dream of owning a quaint boutique, a place with atmosphere where townsfolk could hang out, sip coffee, browse books, purchase flowers, and listen to live music--my husband on piano, my daughter on guitar, my son on . . . tuba? Okay, maybe I'd nix the tuba--even if he did make All-State Band.

Of course, I have experience in other areas besides teaching--art, photography, and floral designing, to name a few. But for me, the career of all careers encompasses these professions and more.

If I could choose a profession besides teaching, I'd become a novelist! Fiction writers are blessed to experience a multitude of careers vicariously through their characters. Hmmmm. I think I'll give it a whirl! :-)

What if YOU had chosen a different career? What would you be doing now? Please share your dream job in the comment section below. And don't forget to enter my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Weekend Peek In #11

Welcome to Week 11 of my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway. On December 16, 2011, one lucky person will win a Kindle 3G AND choose the recipient of a second Kindle 3G--just in time for Christmas. Have you entered yet? The reader who submitted this week's Weekend Peek In question has!

In writing about Ida's decline, did you have to do medical research into signs and symptoms of her condition?

William Wordsworth writes, "Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility." Fiction often takes its origin in that way as well. My depiction of my character Ida's decline is one example.

Ida's character is not based upon my grandmother, but as my beloved grandma neared the end of her life on earth, she suffered some devastating effects of dementia. To write certain scenes in Delivery, I drew not only from memories of events surrounding my grandma's illness but also from my resulting emotions, as Wordsworth so aptly put, "recollected in tranquility."

Walking a loved one through a terminal illness can bring both hardship and blessings to all involved. My emotions warred while I held my grandmother's hand as she departed this life. I shed joyful tears that she was leaving behind a broken body to join her Savior for a pain-free eternity. I shed mournful tears that she was leaving me as well. I later channeled those emotions into similar scenes in Delivery, which I hope brings those scenes to life and touches readers' hearts.

When I needed medical facts and statistics, for instance to create a realistic timeline for Ida's decline, I turned to credible internet sources and to Linda, a best friend from childhood who happens to be a registered nurse.

In fact, Linda read my manuscript to check for medical accuracy, allowing me to concentrate more on the creative side of the story. It helps to know people in the know!

While a novel is a product of the author's imagination, fiction needs accurate roots. A novelist should check facts with expert sources, but emotions ring most true when the author draws from life experiences, authenticating the story world.

I hope Delivery's readers find Ida's journey and her daughter Livi's growth through it not only authentic but heart-stirring as well!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Weekend Peek In #10

We're officially on the downhill slide now with my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway. Ten weeks down, nine to go until we learn the name of the lucky winner. Don't forget to enter daily for more chances to win!

This week's reader's question allows us to dream, so please be sure to share your answer, too.

If you could choose anywhere in the world to live, other than Missouri (insert your home state), where would it be and why?

Where? Anywhere near the Rocky Mountains or Door County, Wisconsin.

Why? I'll let a few of our family vacation pictures speak my thousand words.

Now, it's YOUR turn! Other than your current state, where in the world would you choose to live and why?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Weekend Peek In #9

We're almost to the half-way point with my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway. Nine weeks down, ten weeks to go!

Babies are the topic of this week's reader's question. I'd love for all you parents and grandparents to chime in with your answers, too!

As a mother and grandmother, what is the most important piece of advice that you would give to a brand new mommy-to-be?

This question comes at a perfect time for me, since my eldest daughter and her husband are expecting their first child this winter. (Aren't they an adorable family already?)

(Photo courtesy of Miranda Prusik)

I could rattle off a long list of helpful parenting tips for new and expectant moms and dads, but choosing "the most important piece of advice" requires more thought. So much goes into being a good parent that even the most effective parents can hardly accomplish it all.

But when I focus on what's most important, my answer boils down to two words: Be intentional.

Be intentional in nurturing your baby's physical needs.

Be intentional in nurturing your baby's emotional needs.

And perhaps most importantly, be intentional in nurturing your baby's spiritual needs.

Feed her body.

(Photo by Diana Prusk)

Feed her heart.

(Photo courtesy of Miranda Prusik)

Feed her soul.

(Photo courtesy of Steve Prusik)

I can't take credit for this advice, since it comes from scripture: "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (KJV Proverbs 22:6).

And that "when he is old" part? Parents, hang on to those words. In some cases, it may take that long to see the fruits of your efforts.

Seasoned parents and grandparents, now it's your turn. Please share your wisdom with parents-to-be like my daughter and son-in-love in the comment section below. Help them prepare for that special delivery!

Speaking of delivery, I'm celebrating the release of my novel by that name: Delivery. On December 16, 2011, I'll announce the winner of my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway, just in time for Christmas. The contest closes to entries at midnight on December 14. That means if you enter daily, you have 68 more chances to win. What are you waiting for?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Weekend Peek In #8

Eight weeks down, eleven weeks to go until someone wins my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway.

This week's reader's question leaves me thankful for good girlfriends.

Which character did you have the most fun creating and why?


Like Gretta, a few of my gifted girlfriends can inject heavy moments with perfect doses of humor at ideal times.

No matter how serious the circumstances may be, I can count on them to transform tears of sorrow into tears of joy.

Some of my girlfriends can pull the zaniest stunts or speak the frankest truths and somehow emerge more endearing to others than ever before.

Spending time with friends like these is cheap therapy, lightening my heart and lifting my spirits--rejuvenating my soul.

Creating a character with similar traits had the same effect on me. To be honest, Gretta represents ingredients God skimped on when He created me. At the very least, He gave me a dash while those like Gretta received double fists full. Ingredients like the talent to be silly when the moment is tense, the willingness to damage self pride in order to help others smile. Instead, I often find myself paralyzed by the fear of what others might think if I toss my inhibitions aside.

Some may view people like Gretta as attention seekers, since all eyes end up on them. But I view shenanigans like Gretta's as displays of selflessness--willingness to risk personal embarrassment in order to help broken hearts heal.

When we are able to get ourselves out of the way like Gretta does in Delivery, we allow God more room to work. He certainly works through Gretta, even though her sister Livi would hesitate to admit it. Yet Livi may benefit most from Gretta's wacky ways.

How has the selfless act of a friend delivered joy into your life? How has a friend's humor rejuvenated your soul? Please share your experience in the comment section below because I'd love to hear about it!

Have you thanked that friend lately? How cool would it be to thank them with a Kindle 3G if you win my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway? A Kindle for you, a Kindle for them to brighten their day for brightening your life. See details on the "Contest" menu item above. Enter daily for more chances to win.

Step out of your comfort zone to be a little zany today in order to make someone smile, Gretta-style! And if you feel brave enough, stop back by to tell us about it. Share the gift!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Weekend Peek In #7

Welcome to Week 7 of my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway.

Ever dream of becoming an author? This week's reader's question might help you find the tools you need to make that dream come true!

What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?

Read, read, read.

Study how successful writers do it. If you want to write fiction, examine how novelists craft plots, grow characters, and hook readers. How do they orchestrate character goals, motivation, and conflicts? Pay attention to how they structure sentences, paragraphs, scenes, chapters. Scrutinize their command of language. Do they limit the use of adverbs? Are their verbs powerful? Do they show, not tell? See how the pros handle it, and apply that to your own story in your own voice.

Learn, learn, learn.

Dozens of excellent books on writing are available at online or brick and mortar book stores. Those I've read include Getting into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn from Actors by Brandilyn Collins, Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, and Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell.

You can also learn a heap of valuable information from the many blogs designed for writers. A few of my favorites are posted by author Camy Tang, leadership expert Michael Hyatt, Books & Such Literary Agency, and literary agent Rachelle Gardner.

One of the best ways to learn about writing is to join a writers organization and attend conferences. I belong to two: Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and American Christian Fiction Writers. At the CWG Writing for the Soul conference, I learned from experts like Brandilyn Collins, author of Seatbelt Suspense novels, and Jerry B. Jenkins, New York Times bestselling author of over 175 books, including the Left Behind series which has sold over 70 million copies.

I also gained inspiration from keynote speakers like Liz Curtis Higgs and Karen Kingsbury.

As this blog posts, I am joining about 700 writing professionals at the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference, held this year in St. Louis. (Photo courtesy of John Craig.)

There, I'm learning from experts like Stanley Williams, international award-winning video producer, filmmaker, show creator, and author of The Moral Premise, and Randy Ingermanson, award-winning novelist/theoretical physicist who teaches his Snowflake Method of novel writing.

Writers conferences are packed with opportunities to hone your writing skills; to network with authors, agents, editors, and publishers; and to be inspired by keynote speakers and veteran authors.

Write, write, write.

The novel writing process can take months or years of planting yourself in a chair day after day, week after week, to plan, research, write, revise, edit, revise, rewrite, revise. Writing takes as much patience and perseverance as it does inspiration and talent. You must be willing to do the work.

Pray, pray, pray.

If you knew your novel would never become a bestseller, would you choose to write it anyway? If your answer is yes, the writing life might be for you. Praying and listening for God's direction will help you know for sure.

The path to publishing can be a long one. Once you complete your manuscript, you are only part way there. The traditional route to publishing includes querying agents, writing book proposals, and facing a host of other challenges that experts like Michael Hyatt and Rachelle Gardner can teach you how to conquer. No matter how hard you might work, it is important to remember that for every story of author success, there are dozens of stories of author disappointments. Author Kathryn Stockett's experience shows how difficult the journey to publishing can be. Stockett received sixty rejections before her novel The Help found a publishing home. Now, it is a wildly popular bestseller with a movie to match, but most published books never attain that status.

A recap of my advice? Read. Learn. Write. Pray. And not necessarily in that order. Mix and match and repeat as often as necessary until you are successful . . . and never, ever, EVER give up.

Whether you want to write or not, what goals have you worked hard to attain? What goals are you still striving for? How has prayer played a role in that? Please tell us about your journey in the comment section below because I'd love to know!

From the time I wrote the first sentence, I spent about six years reading, learning, writing, and praying before Tyndale published Delivery as part of the Digital First Initiative. To celebrate, I'm offering my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway. See details by clicking the "Contest" menu item above. Several motivated people are taking advantage of entering daily to earn more chances to win. Are you?