Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Art of Romance Writing

The Art of Romance Writing: Practical Advice from an International Bestselling Romance Writer
By Valerie Parv

This book has much practical advice about writing a romance novel, from choosing a name for your character, to making sure you keep your characters behaving according to the nature you've given them, to creating conflict, to choosing the right viewpoint.
It explains what sets romance apart from other genres: the required happy ending; characters that aren't perfect, but are perfect for each other; conflict arising from within the relationship itself, or the hero or heroine, rather than from an outside factor, like "the other woman".
The main task is to reinforce the message that love is possible at any age, in any circumstance. Apart from how to craft the story itself, Parv gives practical advice about waiting a few weeks after finishing your manuscript before sending it to a publisher; how to write a synopsis and a query letter; and how to find the right publisher for your sub-genre, inspirational, chick-lit, paranormal, single-title, etc.
She reminds writers to complete the manuscript at hand, as there is "nothing quite as seductive as the next idea. Jot it down and file it away. Return to the work at hand. There is nothing so vital to a new writer as finishing what you start."

Exciting Church History

By Clara H. Stuart

While I disagreed with the title of the book, since the last Apostle was John, I loved this book. It is historical fiction, about a Protestant who was martyred by Bloody Mary.
Contrary to the new meaning some try to give to the word, a martyr is still, and only someone who is killed for their faith, not someone who kills themselves for their faith.
Anyway, I had heard bits and pieces of Hugh Latimer's life in sermons, so I read this book to learn more. Stuart just brought this whole time period to life for me.
It follows Latimer's early days as a very self-disciplined priest in the Roman Catholic church. As a bishop, he goes to hear the confessions of other priests in his diocese. One, Thomas Bilney, known as Little Bilney for his stature, witnesses to Latimer through his confession by admitting that he had doubts about certain doctrines as they were contrary to Scripture. This made Latimer begin to question things as well and search out the truth.
As it was a difficult time of turmoil politicially and religiously, there was much persecution on both sides. Each side, Catholic and Protestant would imprision, torture or execute their enemies as soon as they would get into power. I didn't like that.
Latimer eventually became King Henry VIII's personal preacher. Once, when Latimer preached something that Henry did not like, Henry told him to return the following week to recant. When Latimer again stood before him, he first spoke in soliloquy:
"Hugh Latimer, consider before whom you stand; the King of England , who has power over your life, and so, Hugh Latimer, consider well your words." Then he added,
"Consider, also, Hugh Latimer, before whom you will one day stand; the King of Heaven and Earth, who has power not only to take your life, but to cast you into hell, and therefore, Hugh Latimer, consider well your words." And he preached the same sermon!
Other characters who you learn about are Thomas Cranmer and Nicholas Ridley, who were martyred as well. Cranmer was convinced to recant and signed the document. But when the time came to publicly read it , he proclaimed the opposite. He was so remorseful over his original recanting that as he was being burned at the stake, he thrust his hand into the fire first, saying, "Thou unworthy hand."
Latimer was burned at the stake with Ridley. Latimer's famous last words were, "Play the man, Master Ridley. For we shall this day light such a candle in England , I trust, as shall never be put out."

Wife or Author?

Just Jane: A Novel of Jane Austen's Life
By Nancy Moser

I loved this fictional account of the life of Jane Austen, told as if by Jane, herself. The author does a great job with the language and manners of the times, as well as in bringing out the wit and sarcasm of Austen.
It shows the various stages of her life and loves. Although she never married, she was surely in love, and was proposed to at least twice. She chose not to marry, as she was a romantic, and did not wish to marry someone she did not love. (What a concept!)
Most of the books' scenes are taken from biographies of her life, as well as any letters that may have remained. Her sister, Cassandra, destroyed the most personal letters after Jane's death at age 41.
I especially liked how the author described Austen's feelings about writing, her characters, and ultimately her books. She describes her books as her children, and when she first received them, she counted their fingers and toes.
Once, her chest filled with her completed manuscripts and current writing projects was inadvertantly placed on a coach heading to the coast and then to the West Indies. She was frantic. They represented years of work. They were her children. Her mother didn't understand why she was so upset. She was able to retrieve them and was sure never to be without them nearby.
She didn't seek fame, This was evident by the fact that originally her books did not even bear her name, but were published anonymously. Also, she refused to have her brother negotiate a better contract for Pride and Prejudice, as his wife had just died. She saw that publication was vindication that her work had merit. One man remarked that the writing was so clever that he couldn't believe it had been written by a woman. She was thrilled with the independence that came with earning an income, especially as her family was in a difficult financial situation at the time. She loved praise and was bothered by criticism, but more than anything she just wanted to write, to be free to be who she was, to use her gifts, and to create her own Mr. Darcy, since she was unable to find him for herself.
Undoubtedly, if she had married, she would have had a very different life and would probably not been free to pursue her writing career and the world would not be reading her works two hundred years later.
By letting the mating game go on without her, she was free to write and be, Just Jane.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Doping at the Olympic Games

Feb. 20, 2010

So, the Olympic Games are on in Vancouver. While they're fun to watch, I think I've become jaded over the years. I know that at this level, almost every one of the athletes is doping with performance enhancing steroids. There's no way records can keep getting beat as they are.

I also see the side effects of them. For example, there was a Chinese woman who won gold in short track speed skating. As soon as she stepped up to the line, I said, "Steroids." She had bad acne; a tell-tale sign. These are not adolescents, they are grown men and women, but they are obviously doping.

Sometimes you see the results a few years later, when seemingly healthy athletes drop dead. That's the steroids that have caused damage to the heart muscle. Just ask Arnold Schwarzenegger.

They don't seem to be sorry about winning by cheating; they're only sorry about getting caught. So it's not about who's the better athlete, but who has the better Doctor who can make sure you get the effects of the drugs but have them out of your system in time for the drug tests. I think they should be able to come to any athlete who competes at that level, at any point in their training and test them. Of course they wouldn't, because of the legalities involved in the various countries, but they would weed out the cheaters pretty quick.

They announced that there had been a large group of athletes (at least 30) who had been expelled just before the games began. They wouldn't announce what countries they were from. I think they should have. Sad to say, I have a feeling some were from Finland. They are very poorly represented in many sports, like biathlon and cross-country skiing, but that's just a guess. They were hosting some big event a few years back and most were disqualified due to doping. It was a huge embarrassment for them. I felt ashamed for them, too.

The world celebrates the Games as the height of human achievement in sport, but I think it's a failed experiment. It only confirms that man is fallen and full of pride.

Short Days, Long Nights; Long Weeks, Short Weekends

Date: February 22, 2010.

Outside my window...wet snow. Sloppy roads. To Torontonians, any forecast with snow in it is automatically a 'storm'.
I am thinking...I'm glad my daughter had a good spring break in Bermuda. She brought me a towel and fridge magnet. My husband asked for a snow globe. It has a pirate head in it. My youngest asked for a tacky shirt. She was given a zebra print top with BER-MU-DA in neon pink lettering. She said, "I hate it! Thanks." Then she wore it to youth group. I have a crazy family, but I love them.
I am thankful for...the wedding we attended on Saturday. Kathy was a beautiful bride. Hassan has waited for her for seven years. He even got to marry the right woman. The service was worshipful and her Dad preached a great sermon. Our eldest came along with us. Our youngest was at a church conference.
From the kitchen...bass fillets in a tomato and cream sauce, rice and carrots.
I am wearing...jeans and a purple sweater.
I am reading...Be Sweet by Diann Hunt. It's Christian chick-lit.
I am hoping...to reconcile with my husband. We've been out of sorts for a day. I was very crabby and then we had a rare argument yesterday due to a miscommunication. I don't like it when things aren't right between us.
I am hearing...the soothing sounds of the GO train. I tell you, I'm quite liking this mode of transportation and the uninterrupted writing and reading time.
Around the house...I'm surprised that a 'move-in ready' house can cost so much. Not just big things like furniture or blinds or mattresses, but artwork and floor mats and supplies for three bathrooms. Although I must admit, I really like having more than one bathroom.
One of my favourite things...knowing what to make for dinner each day. While I was off, I planned our dinners for two weeks based on what we had in the freezer. Now I just check the whiteboard on the fridge. I'm hoping to be able to keep this up.
Some plans for the week...working four twelves. Arrgh! Not pleased, but I have to make up for all the time I had off for the move. It makes the weekends even more hectic. This weekend we have to buy a new stove, since this oven takes twice as long to bake anything. It's too unreliable. We also need to buy some bedroom furniture for our youngest daughter. Sunday evening after church, we're having the College and Careers group to our house for our first meeting.

Mercy and Grace

"Because of His mercy, we don't get what we deserve:
Because of His grace, we get what we don't deserve."

Pia Thompson

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Epiphany! Writers Write.

Feb. 18, 2010

This is the beginning of my attempt at implementing the things I'm learning in the book, A Novel Idea. It's like being at a Writers' Conference, specifically for writers of inspirational fiction, of which I am one. It's written by many of my favourite authors. One day I would love to attend a real conference on writing, and meet some of these authors. But for now, I'll learn on the cheap, and try to improve.

So, one of the lessons I've learned was to get some routine into my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants writing. I tend to wait until the muses strike. I need to be "intentional" (how's that for a buzz word?) about my writing. How much of what I write ends up here depends on content. I just moved and my commute to work is much longer. It includes 45 minutes each way on a commuter train. It's at off hours (one of the benefits of shift work), so there's not usually anyone looking over my shoulder. To give you an example, from where I'm sitting, I can see only four other people. I like the privacy factor when I'm writing, not that I have great secrets to tell, but because my writing is MY writing at this point.

So I purposed that I would use the commute on my way TO work in the evening as my uninterrupted writing time, and use my return trip in the morning a my uninterrupted reading time. That way, I'm more alert for my writing, and the reading in the morning keeps me from missing my stop. Plus, I love reading. So now I can experience both of my 'loves' each day.

Another lesson I learned was to write fast. My tendency as a perfectionist is to write maybe one scene and edit and edit and then edit some more. I need to learn to turn off my internal/infernal editor and just get my words on paper. It's hard to come back to edit nothing, so I need to keep writing, even if it's no good, so I'll have something to edit. Can I do it? Time will tell. Have I already become so set in my ways that I can't change? I hope not.

Another suggestion that I'm hoping to implement with each of my stories is the plot skeleton suggested by Angela Hunt. I need to establish the framework of each of my stories, so that I can add flesh to those bones later on. As it stands, I have vague ideas of where each story is going but with few exceptions, I'm making it up as I go along. After I've answered those questions about inner and outer conflict, etc. I can put it in paragraph form. This will then be the synopsis of each of my stories. I say stories because, yes, I have more than one. I have seven babies, at various stages of gestation. I haven't experienced writer's block. I have no shortage of ideas for books, I just need to set six of them aside for now and focus on only one. I need to birth one of them, just to know I can do it.

I always did like the freedom of taking any one of my 'babies' that interested me more than others at a given moment, and writing a scene as the inspiration hit. But if I'm ever going to move my writing hobby into something more, it seems I have to discipline myself.

What is the goal of my writing overall? I want to use my writing to glorify God, and tell the stories He puts in my heart to share. In my wildest dreams, I'd love to be able to write full time and make enough money to give up nursing. Secondarily, I'd be happy, no, ecstatic to have at least one book published. I know that I'll continue to write even if none of those things happen, because I am a writer. It's who I am. It's what I do. I have to write. Those words have to come out or I'll burst.

I still refer to what I write as my stories because to me, it'll only be a book when it's published. Am I an author? Not yet. But I am a writer. How do I know? Because writers write.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Root Vegetables

This recipe is from the food network show The Main. It is so good, it even makes brussel sprouts tasty.

Carrots and parsnips, peeled and coarsely chopped. Saute in olive oil and butter, with salt and pepper. Add half a leek, washed and coarsely chopped. Cut tips from brussel sprouts, add to pan. Add thyme to taste. Add white wine and honey. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add button mushrooms. Simmer additional ten minutes longer, or until tender.

Moved In

Feb. 15, 2010

Outside my window...Cool winter day, but no snow. Much like at the Vancouver Olympics.
I am thinking...that the move went so smoothly and we're all unpacked. Only the unfinished basement is full of boxes, but we'll get to them. At least every room is set up, except we still need to buy a few pieces of furniture and decor like art and mirrors. I want to find the right ones though, so it'll come.
I am thankful for...this house. It feels like home already. It' soooo beautiful.
From the kitchen...sole and root vegetables. It was so good. The recipe for the vegetables was from the food network's The Main, and it even made brussel sprouts tasty. I'll post the recipe.
I am wearing...jeans and a light purple sweater.
I am reading...A Novel Idea by various Christian writers. It is like attending a Writers' Conference about writing inspirational fiction, which is my genre.
I am hoping...I can figure out how to get to work tomorrow night. I need to use three different types of transit systems, so three fares, plus I need to get to know the schedules for each. I've been off work for 25 days, and I really should have been blogging and reading and writing more than I have, but the move has taken all my time, and I would have felt guilty relaxing when my house wasn't in order yet.
I am hearing...the Vancouver Winter Olympics: Snowboard cross. Canada won gold, silver and bronze medals yesterday.
Around the house...our eldest is in Bermuda for spring break. One of her school friends lives there so she only had to pay for her flight. They have a house on the beach so she's having a good time. I'm quite sure when I was in college I could have gone on such a trip, but I'm glad she was able to go. Today is family day, every store is closed, so we hung out at home. It was my last day off. We've already had friends over several times.
One of my favourite things...the hot tub. My husband just figured out how to run it. He changed the water, added the chemicals and heated it up. We tried it out with my friend, Leah last night. I was in a bit too long and felt faint and nauseous.
Some plans for the week...three nights of work, then three long weeks of four nights. I have to make up for all this time off. That's gonna be tough. We also have my friend, Kathy's wedding on Saturday.

What is Christianity About?

"How could anyone imagine that Christianity is about sin rather than the forgiveness of sin? How could anyone look at the cross and see only the shame of what we did to Christ rather than the glory of what he did for us? The prodigal had to 'come to himself' (acknowledge his self-centredness) before he could 'come to his father.' The humiliation of penitence was necessary before the joy of reconciliation. There would be no ring, no robe, no kiss, no feast if he had remained in the far country or returned impenitent. A guilty conscience is a great blessing, but only if it drives us to come home."

John Stott
The Cross of Christ

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Benefits of the Cross of Christ

"It is in the substitutionary death of Christ that sin is overcome and wrath is averted, so that God can look upon man with pleasure, and man can look upon God without fear. Sin is expiated and God's wrath is propitiated."

-John Stott-