Tuesday, July 22, 2008

God's Own Sanctuary

My husband and I took a short trip to the mountains of Colorado and New Mexico to locate our peace of mind. Somewhere along the journey of a rough 2008, we'd lost it. Along the nature trails we wandered noticing the wildflowers thrusting blooms out of a rock, butterflies sniffing one flower after another, and beaver dams changing the flow of rushing streams. The majesty of a chain of several 14,000+ high mountains made us feel small. In the flight of the tiny hummingbirds outside our room, we located our peace again.

I love the beautiful manmade sanctuaries where we worship weekly. Our own church, maintained by loving hands, gives comfort and charm and creates an atmosphere for God to move in our lives. Nature is God's own sanctuary, opening the arms of gigantic trees to welcome us, mountains to put our problems into perspective, and sturdy wildflowers that remind us God is bigger than circumstances. The one who makes the hummingbird fly against all odds controls mine and Charles' problems. Sometimes we must pause and remember that.

Are you needing a worship service in God's sanctuary? You don't have to drive to the Rocky Mountains. Perhaps a lake, small hills near your home, or in your own backyard (in the morning when it's cooler if you live in Texas) is right for you. If you're feeling overwhelmed, I urge you to seek His presence in the chapel He created Himself. He will always met us there.
God bless you all.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Thin line between life and death

On Sunday July 6 I scared my husband. He thought he'd lost me. I, of course, only know what he told me. I've suffered from back pain for awhile with increasing difficulty of movement. That morning I literally slid from the bed and my husband pulled me up. I couldn't move, so to say my morning started out normal would be a farce. Normal routine would be to take my muscle relaxer first and then fix breakfast. Even walking hurt my back so my husband helped me get our breakfast on the table, then I dropped into my chair. We thanked God for his provision and Charles prayed God's healing on my back.

By the time I'd had two bites of eggs, I turned in my seat. "I'm sick at my stomach. I'll go sit in the recliner." I remember saying "I can't do it." The next thing I remember my husband patted me with soft words. "The ambulance is on it's way." Someone heaved my body and I vomited. A voice called to me. "Just a slight stick now," and someone stuck a needle in my hand. Two women undressed me. "There's noone here but your husband and us." After awhile consciousness began to return as my husband and my pastor prayed at my bedside. For the first time my eyes focused on people and surroundings.

My husband told me my head fell in my plate. When he lifted me back and took my plate from my lap, no color remained in my face. My mouth flew open, my eyes rolled back. Seizure type movements overcame my upper body, then I went rigid. He thought I had slipped into eternity.

Fortunately, my blood pressure rose. All tests proved okay. A freak sequence of events caused an improbable consequence. Today I'm thankful God brought me back. The experience reminded me how thin a line there is between life and death. When we're relatively healthy and active, we believe ourselves indestructable, but one second can put us in a grave with loved ones singing around us.

What would you do if you knew you would die soon? Makes you think, doesn't it. Would you spend more and more time at the office working. Would you pass up time to spend with your children or grandchildren because laundry mounted? Would you put off that phone call or letter you'd been going to get around to? Would you do something for the Lord today?

God gave me a new viewpoint. I intend to remember the lesson hopefully until I'm 112.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Short timer's attitude

Have any of you decided to switch jobs or ministries, but had to finish out a time period before you left? We call that short timer's attitude. Two years ago when I left the position I'd held for 18 years, I spent seven months finding someone to replace me and training her. During that time, I felt my life stopped-on hold- until I actually left.

Now I'm finding something of the same feelings with a ministry to girls at my church I've been involved with for 5 1/2 years. I've given notice, but will continue to teach through May with some helps until after the first part of August. I try to get excited about teaching,but the luster has gone. The girls aggravate more than they used to. I find I dread Wedsnesday nights where I used to look forward to them.

How have you handled this problem? I've prayed. But I'm stuck in limbo. I can't focus on my new upcoming ministry and I don't want to focus on my present ministry.
Any ideas out there?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Purpose

That word purpose has been drifting back and forth in my rattled brain since Monday night's Bible study. The quote which said, "David fulfilled his purpose in his generation." Am I completing mine?

Our lives divide into categories. How can I be sure I've fulfilled my purpose even in the area of wife, mother and grandmother much less writing? Is my purpose to write publishable books to inspire and encourage? short stories? go to conferences and workshops to meet people I'm supposed to stand in the gap for? Am I supposed to study the craft so I can better hold up the arms of those who write and teach?

Look at Isaiah 55:10,11 NIV "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth, and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

My purpose may not be known this side of heaven, but I can be sure if I follow Jesus one step (one drop of rain) at a time, God's purpose will be fulfilled.

This has been my week for rejections. Easy then to question God's intent for putting these characters in my head and love for writing in my mind, but God would have me forget all that and follow-up on the "words" He's planted.

Just for today, my prayer is "Fulfill Your purpose in me whatever it is."
Time to put that character to work in my story.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

How do you feel about multiple submissions?

Last September at the ACFW conference I learned about writers who sent proposals to several agents at the same time. I'd been convinced that was a no-no. An agent asked for my proposal, then a few weeks later, that agent asked for the full manuscript. Being as yet unpublished in long fiction, I jumped for joy. My only question came from her letter which asked for an exclusive

An exclusive? Wasn't that what they always got? I did what any self-respecting want-a-be would do. I asked the writers on my loops. The consensus was sending to several agents at one time was not only accepted but expected. I received several opinions about the length of time to give an agent an exclusive if I wished to do that. I did.

Now I'm in the process of choosing four agents whom I personally like and think I could work with. I will send my latest manuscript to them all.

At our local RWA chapter meeting last Saturday, our speaker told us multiple submissions were okay even for publishers if we apprised them of our intentions. I've always heard that was bad form. You sent to one editor, gave them whatever time they needed to decide (sometimes months), then when it was rejected (Please, no), you spruced it up and sent it to another. Our speaker said one publisher kept her manuscript for five years.

But, oh the risk. They could reject it immediately if you tell them it's a multiple submission. Do I have the nerve? I'm shaking in my Texas boots here.

If you're reading this blog, let me know your thoughts on this. Is this really acceptable practice for most agents and publishers? Personally, I hope so. What do you think?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

DiAnn Mill's Fiction Mentoring Clinic

Each year most of us make decisions about what will help our writing the most. I'm not rolling in money and most of the writers I know fall into that same category, so we choose. We go to this conference, but leave off another. We enter 1-2 contests, but decline on others. We choose an online course as opposed to going out of town. This year my first choice was to attend DiAnn Mill's 3 day workshop in Tulsa, OK.
Now that the workshop has completed, my evaluation tells me it was one of the best writing decisions I have made. The compacted training covers every facet from title to marketing.
Goals stated on that first day are met and surpassed by the end of the third.
Wednesday we studied deepening characterization using the characters in our WIP and showing them in different situations. With an evil gleam, DiAnn leaned toward us. "We have time for one more exercise." And we did, many many times, evaluating them as a group, so everyone gave their own input. That day ended with our titles. Often a member of the group had the right title input for another participant.
Thursday we began with our first sentence hook and our story hook, always working at tightening our first five pages. DiAnn's clarified dialogue purpose and place. A movie with strange twists give us examples of symbolism and tightening the "sagging middle."
Though I had a family emergency pull me away Thursday night, I've received an e-mail of class notes for Friday from DiAnn on plotting the longer book and the "grabber proposal" and "plots that dance."
Because we attended the workshop, we were invited to join a loop where further help will be forthcoming in weeks and months to come.
I've now finished what DiAnn says never do with my summary of the workshop. "No flashbacks or back story in the first fifty pages." That statement will strengthen my fiction along with much other great helps. I now have a new scene to write and an improved beginning. I've learned to subscribe to the tension on every page.
Thanks, DiAnn, and thanks to the other seven people in my class. If you're in the process of choosing where to spend your money and time to learn, go to DiAnn's web site and check out when and where her next fiction mentoring clinic will be given. Trust me, you'll be glad you did.
Happy writing all,
Janet K. Brown

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Critique group

For years I wrote for myself, selling a few short stories on the way, and reading Writer's Digest magazine along with ordering some of their books. Two and a half years ago I decided to get in earnest about learning the craft of writing. WOW, did I find out how much I didn't know. Since then I've went to two major conferences, one mini conference, did several online courses, joined two local groups and three national ones along with three online loops.

All of the above has taught me a lot. Today I'd like to focus on having a critique group. I would set these guidelines for someone thinking about this idea.

1. Join a group that writes similar things & has similar interests.

2. Critique with positive as well as negative ideas. We learn from both.

3. Encourage each other along the way & keep up with each of the group's writing journey.

4. Join with people you like. (This is important. We take criticism better from people we like.)

5. Keep the group small in size so you can critique & be critiqued without being overwhelmed.

(I'd suggest 3- 7 people)



Our group is called Burkburnett Critique Group. It consists of four ladies. We all write Christian women's or YA fiction, some romance, some mystery, some paranormal, some general. We critique online as we finish something we'd like other's input on. We meet once a month to encourage and train.



Critique groups can be a valuable tool on the road to being published and will continue to benefit you after you receive "the call".

Happy writing all,

Janet K. Brown