What’s in a Label?

Mike Duran has a thought-provoking post on Novel Rocket today. The comment I left is probably inane, but this is a subject dear to my heart. I’ve talked about here but also felt compelled to babble a little further. And since the whole thing is a muddled mess anyway, what’s a little more mud?

For some, the label Christian Fiction denotes a safe haven. For others, weak sugar water. Still others consider it to be evil, believing no fiction can glorify God or edify believers.

I understand the various nuances of the question and, I think, the arguments on all sides. Oddly, I both agree and disagree with all of them. I’m not usually so wishy-washy! It makes me wonder what I’m doing here.

At the moment, what I’m doing here is inviting you to enter into the discussion. Thoughts?


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Pik Speaks His Mind

I wish I had a pic of Pik. (In case you haven’t read The Story in the Stars, he’s one of the characters.)

I tried to find a sample photo online, but without success. I searched for “tall blond man wearing cosmetics” and got some weird images, but none resembled Pik. I thought maybe I’d describe him for you as well as I could and then find a picture of a woman wearing the her make-up in the Karkar style. So I searched for “curlicue eyeliner.” Again, nada.

So I have no pictures for my post today. Just a link to Laurie Jenkins’s interview with him on her blog.

I hope you’ll skip on over and enjoy it. It’s fun.

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On Second Thought…

One of my favorite lines in The Story in the Stars is found in Chapter 21.

Concerning the opinionated character, Dr. Pik:

He’d had second thoughts about this trip right from the start. Then third thoughts, and fourth, all confirming the second. That is, that his first thoughts, which caused him to embark on this insane adventure, were in error.

Who among us has never reconsidered a previous decision and found it to be a mistake? To make the perfectly right choice the first time, every time, means we must know every facet of every option, every nuance, every cause and every effect, and predict every outcome of every variable with certainty.

In other words, we have to be God.

Or, we have to prayerfully consult God and follow His perfect leading.

Many believers do that where big decisions are concerned, but I don’t think we’re expected to pause in the produce section and pray over every apple we put in the bag. Our understanding and knowledge are imperfect; our judgments are not infallible.  Let’s acknowledge that and not be ashamed of picking a bad apple now and then.

We can make a wise, considered decision that leads, despite our caution, to an unpleasant result. Or, we might do something with little planning that turns out better than we could ever have dreamed. How can we know? Simple answer: we can’t.

Besides that, what’s sensible this decade might be foolishness in the next; circumstances, situations and perspectives can change. It’s a wise person who’s willing to re-think old truths without letting go of what’s eternally true.

Here’s a list of statements I’ve made over the years that I later had second thoughts about:

  • I doubt I’ll ever marry, but certainly not before I’m 25.
  • We’ll be friends forever.
  • I’m never having children.
  • I wouldn’t want to live without a dog.
  • That’s where I draw the line; if I can’t get a head of lettuce for 39 cents or less, I’ll do without.
  • Yuck; I don’t read Christian fiction.
  • Ten thousand dollars for a used vehicle? Are you insane?
  • Some of that sci-fi stuff is okay I guess, but it’s just not my thing.
  • Why would I want a home computer? It’s nothing but an expensive toy.
  • The airwaves are free; I’ll never pay for TV service.
  • Broadband would be nice, but the only options for the area where I live are too expensive. I’ll stick with dial-up.
  • Twitter is for the birds; it’s nothing but a waste of time and I refuse to even get started.

I’m sure there are others, but these are the ones that come to mind.

What have you had to entertain second thoughts about?

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All This Organizing is Making Me Hungry

Nowadays you can get any recipe you want online. But whatever the source, I prefer mine to be printed on paper. And, like most women who have been preparing meals for a number of years, I have quite an accumulation.

After my mom died in 2003, my sister gave me a box that she said contained our maternal grandmother’s recipes. When she told me what it was, I got excited. But once I looked through the contents, my enthusiasm faded a bit. The box held a scrapbook, and the scrapbook contained old recipes. Some are in printed leaflets, some are handwritten, and many were clipped from newspapers. I cherish it, especially since the fading inscription on the inside cover, written with a fountain pen in graceful old-fashioned handwriting, was my grandmother’s maiden name. She apparently started the collection before she was married, which would make the scrapbook about a hundred years old. Some are a little newer, and in my mom’s handwriting. But there aren’t many “receipts” in it, and none look like anything I’d want to make.

I don’t know why I’d never seen it before. In my memory, Mom kept her recipes in a plastic box. It probably started out as an organized collection on 3 x 5 notecards, but by the time I came along, it had degenerated into a hodgepodge of clippings tossed in any-old-where. Kind of like most of us, right?

Like Mom, I started out with good intentions. I had a nice new recipe box, fancy cards, and a couple of good cookbooks. If I liked a recipe from one of the books, I copied it onto the card to make it easier to find (and to follow—books tend to close at the most inopportune times). But unlike my mom, I love to cook, and I’m always trying new things. My new little recipe box was soon outgrown.

I’ve tried several organizational methods over the years, and finally—inspired in part by the old scrapbook—I arrived at a system that works. I keep “family favorites,” those I make over and over, in a small looseleaf notebook on the kitchen counter. All the gazillion clippings I find that look interesting but haven’t tried yet—or those that I’ve tried but don’t expect to make often—go in a larger notebook.

Correction: in four big notebooks. One for main dish recipes (divided according to type); one for cakes, breads and cookies; another for for pies, puddings, fruit desserts, candies, pickles and jellies; and the last, veggies, salads, rice dishes and miscellaneous. All four are pretty well bulging.

Note: Don’t tell me about the benefits of scanning and storing on my computer. I tried that route and don’t like it, so go away and leave me alone.

Where were we? Oh, yes: I haven’t mentioned the folder I keep behind the paper towel holder. That’s where I put recipes that I plan to make soon. Except, sometimes “soon” turns out to be never.

After that folder got too full and I started a second, it occurred to me that maybe it was time to rid them out and do a major reorganization.

So that’s what I’ve been doing this weekend. First, I sorted through everything in the folders. Then I filed the recipes in the big notebooks. Then I started going through the stuff I already had stored to see if I really wanted it. A lot of it ended up in the burn barrel; after all, if I haven’t tried it after 20 years, I probably never will. I finished reorganizing the Main Dish notebook this morning. Will probably sort through the rest of them this week.

Note the white notebook of family favorites beside the knife rack...

I now have a new collection of “will try soon” recipes in the folder on the counter. But they number only a few.

The exercise made me hungry, and as a result, I’ve been cooking all afternoon.

Brownies, anyone?

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Good Advice for Writers

Social Media. Ugh.

I never figured out the original Rubik’s Cube, and I’m not doing any better with this version.

As authors, we have the responsibility (to ourselves and to our publishers, if those aren’t one and the same) to promote our books. What good does it do to write them if no one reads them? And how can anyone read them if no one knows they’re out there?

But many of us writer types are introverts. We don’t like self-promotion. We just want to be left alone to write and would rather someone else tooted our horn.

Guess what? That’s not going to happen. If it’s my book, it’s my job to get out the word.

The Internet has opened up opportunities for us that writers have never had before. As some like Amanda Hocking have shown, the possibilities for authorial success are practically unlimited. (And yes, I mean “practically” literally.)

But this brave new world is vast and bewildering, and we can easily get lost. James Scott Bell offers some excellent advice on the subject. Not the step-by-step instructions we might crave, but some basic guidelines for planning our strategy.

I like his last point best:

5) Don’t sweat it.

No one knows what works. In fact, even the stuff that works doesn’t work all the time. This is a fluid and un-measurable sea we’re in. So find a good balance, provide quality,  be consistent and patient.

Most of all, write great books. That’s the key to repeat business, which is what makes a career.

Thanks, Jim. That’s just what I needed. And now, back to work writing my next great book.


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Launch Pad 2012 – Writing Contest

We launch today!

This is an opportunity for unpublished novelists to share their writing with the public and boost their manuscript out of the slush pile and into the hands of a compatible publishing professional.

Every month, June through November, Novel Rocket will choose one category winner and post that writer’s first chapter on the blog. The Grand Prize winner will be chosen from among those six, and the recipient of that award will be announced in December.

The winner will receive a crystal rocket trophy much like that pictured here. Also, Novel Rocket will make arrangements for the writer to connect with an agent or editor to look at the winning manuscript with a serious view toward representation or publication. We can’t know who this industry professional will be until we determine the winner, because it will depend on the genre of the work, the intended audience, and the writer’s background.

When Gina Holmes of Novel Rocket (then known as Novel Journey) introduced our 2010 winner to an agent, the two hit it off so well, the agent offered the writer a contract that same day. This year’s winner is currently preparing her manuscript for presentation, but we hope for similarly delightful results for her as well.

If you’ve written a novel that you feel is ready to unleash on the world but have been unable to find it a home in the the traditional publishing world, this might be the opportunity you’ve been looking for. The Official Rules can be found here.

One caveat: a modest entry fee is required this year for the first time. That’s because every entrant is provided with a thoughtful critique. Since the judges are busy writers, this sometimes puts a bit of a crimp in their schedules, and it seemed fair to offer them some small compensation.

However, since every entrant gets a critique, he’ll benefit from entering even if he’s not the winner. The judges are all affiliated with Novel Rocket. Experienced writers all, some of them multi-published authors, each has a finger on the pulse of the industry and is current on what sells and what prompts an editor to reject a submission. And that’s the kind of people you want offering input and advice on your work-in-progress.

So what do you think? Ready to take the plunge?


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Life is Like a Box of Chocolates

I’m not Forrest Gump, but my mamma used to have some good sayings too. The one that comes to mind today is this: If you put your troubles on the table, you’ll pick your own up again.

That is to say (in case that didn’t make any sense to you), if you lay out your woes and compare them with everyone else’s, you’ll soon realize that yours aren’t so bad after all.

This week I’ve been fuming over issues with major appliances, disputes with credit card and health insurance companies, Internet glitches, weariness due to difficulty sleeping, and stupid computer tricks (stupid on my part – I’m not blaming the computer in this case). In other words, life as usual.

It all started when the store lost our refrigerator. Well, no it started in November, when the credit card company lost our payment. (Which I’d mailed instead of paying online because I couldn’t get into the site for some reason. Another frustration.) But this week, it all started when the store lost our ‘fridge. And then the doctor’s office didn’t have any of the free samples blood pressure medication he’s been giving me for the past couple of years, so he wrote me a prescription. And the drug store wouldn’t fill it because the insurance company wouldn’t approve it without prior authorization from the doctor.

The doctor is supposed to request the authorization form, but it’s not his policy to have his office staff spend all their time wrestling with insurance issues. (Umm… isn’t that part of the job?) So the patient has to do all the legwork.

Okay, fine, I’m used to legwork, I can do it.

Or so I thought. That was Wednesday. I won’t bore you with a detailed list of all the steps this legwork has taken, but it’s now Friday evening.  I have one day of medication left, and it’s not likely the issue will be resolved over the weekend. If the frustrating process didn’t make my blood pressure rise, going off the medication after the last pill is gone tomorrow certainly will.

But I’ll tell you want bothers me more: if I were thinner and more active, I wouldn’t need the medication to begin with and would have avoided this problem.

I can tell myself I’ll exercise more, eat less, quit being a lazy glutton. And maybe I will – maybe I’ll actually make some changes and be able to legitimately kick the BP med habit. (That is, opposed to illegitimately going off it because I can’t get it, as it looks like I’ll be doing this weekend.)

But that wouldn’t change the fact that the health care system is messed up. Even if I can bring my BP down through diet and exercise, other situations will arise, and we’ll be banging our heads against another wall before long.

(Oh, but wait. The new health care bill is going to straighten all that out. Make it simpler, more affordable, smooth out all the rough spots. Pardon me, I’d forgotten that our benevolent government has everything under control. Whew!)

I’m always quick to proclaim that I’m abundantly blessed. I truly have nothing to complain about; others have far greater worries than I. More serious health issues than essential hypertension. More substantial financial problems than a dispute about a late fee. More consequential computer issues than an intermittent Internet connection.  And other tragic woes — like my friend who just lost a grandchild. It’s enough to make me hang my head in shame for thinking I had a bad week.

I put my troubles on the table in order to air them out, organize, and make sense out of them. But I’m thankful to be able pick them up again and move on.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to re-do the Launch Pad Contest page on the Novel Rocket blog that I accidentally deleted today.

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