I’ve never been good at multitasking, and the older I get, the more easily I’m confused. So when I get busy, I can’t think about blogging.

I know you’ve been dying to know what I’ve been up to, so here’s the latest:

Book signing yesterday at my local Christian bookstore. Was pleased that when I sent the newspaper a media release announcing the event, they actually printed it!! More or less–they cut it to ribbons, but they printed all the most important stuff. Nevertheless, the event was neither well attended nor profitable. I didn’t expect much, so I wasn’t disappointed. If I’d seriously wanted a crowd, I would have changed my name to Michelle Obama.

Okay, not seriously. But I had an enjoyable afternoon chatting with the other author present, who as it happens goes to the same church I do, and we have some mutual friends. We just never met before.

Words in the Wind. On Friday, I returned the first round of edits for Book #2 in my Gateway to Gannah series. I was concerned the chronology might be confusing at one point, and the editor agreed this was possibly a problem. So I reorganized some scenes. It was a bit of work, but I think it reads better now. We’ll see what the editor says when she goes through it again.

I had another concern about the end. Personally, I rather liked it, but my critique buddies were divided on the issue. One hated it with a holy passion, another’s response was I love it! I love it! I love it!, and a couple others said they saw what the first person objected to but it didn’t bother them so much. So I was curious to see what the editor would have to say about it. She offered a suggestion that was easy to implement, and I think everyone will be satisfied with the result. I’m getting excited to see this baby in print, and am eager (and a little worried) to see the cover art.

Incidentally, while reviewing the manuscript I realized I really like the book. Better than The Story in the Stars. I think readers will agree.

Family matters continue to make me smile. Our son recently got engaged and they’re planning an October wedding. Our daughter is still awaiting the arrival of the children they’re adopting (see my blog post about that, if you haven’t already). There’s a possibility these two events might happen at roughly the same time. This could make things interesting, but we’re not alarmed. Just taking things one step at a time. However, to avoid the extra drama and expense, I’ve decided to forgo the ACFW conference in September.

And on the subject of the adoptees, when I blogged about it, I neglected to include a link you might be interested in. The family has established a fund to which people can contribute to the cause, should they feel so moved. If you’d like to help, click here.

Travel plans. Some of my writer friends are getting together for a retreat the first weekend in May. We did this last year, too, and had a wonderful time. One of said friends, Susan, is currently vacationing with her husband. They plan to stop here on Tuesday this week, visit a bit, then on Thursday, take me with them when they head for home. After we arrive in Iowa, they’ll deliver me to Glenda, who will have to put up with me for a week, poor thing. Among other things, a book signing in Pella is on the itinerary. Then we’ll retreat on May 4 – 6, after which I’ll fly the friendly skies homeward.

So now you know not only what I’ve been doing, but what I’m planning to do in the near future. I’m sure you feel ever so much better now that this mystery is solved. The next puzzle is: will I blog during my travels? Or will I neglect my duties again?

We’ll find out together!




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The One-Star Review

I’ve seen/heard so much about the dreaded one-star reviews my fellow-authors receive, after I published my first book last year, I almost felt disappointed that I hadn’t gotten a one-star of my own.

This kind of feedback usually reveals more about the reviewer than the book in question. I don’t know about you, but when I start reading a book I dislike—whether it’s poorly written, dull as unseasoned egg white, or outright offensive for some reason—I cut my losses, put the book down, and start another. I read fiction for pleasure (as well as professional research); why torture myself reading something I don’t enjoy? Merely so I can blow off steam composing a scathing review? I don’t get the point.

I’ve said all along that the consistently positive reader feedback I’ve received so far in no way indicates that everyone loves The Story in the Stars. All it means is that the people who dislike it have been too polite to say anything.

Until now. Yesterday, I discovered a one-star review posted on Goodreads by a reader calling herself International Cat Lady.

You might think it would upset me, but it doesn’t. I’m serious about that. I’ve disliked a number of books that others raved about; it’s only reasonable to expect that others won’t like what I love. And I’m aware there are many who won’t agree with the basic premise of the story. So, my curiosity aroused, I read the comments to see if the views expressed were merely personal, or if she addressed real errors that should be corrected.

Here’s the review in its entirety:

Such a disappointment! This book popped up on my Goodreads suggestion bar as a recommended Goodreads author, and all of its reviews were 5 stars. I love good sci-fi, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Boy was I disappointed. For starters, it was Christian fiction. I am not a Christian (I am not religious at all), although I do respect people of all religions. I try to avoid all religious fiction (not fiction in which characters are religious, but fiction with an intent to proselytize) because I do not wish to be preached to. Not only was this book Christian fiction, but it worked the Christianity (and not an allegory like, say, the Chronicles of Narnia, but straight-up Jesus Christ on the Cross Christianity) into the outer-space-and-aliens story so subtly it was like being run over by a truck. When it got to the part about how Darwin was wrong, I nearly threw my Kindle across the room.

But it wasn’t just the overwhelming Christianity. There were typos and grammar errors, and the Kindle formatting was awful. The plot barely made any sense, and the resolution certainly didn’t. I won’t write any spoilers for those of you who will disregard my review and read the book anyway, but let’s just say the plot did not hold up. (And no, it would not have held up had Anderson substituted a fully fictional religion for Christianity.)

The religious objection doesn’t offend me. In fact, I very much appreciate the fact that she specified the problem was its “straight-up Jesus Christ on the Cross Christianity” rather than just religion in general. It shows she’s aware of the subtle but significant difference between external religion and the supernaturally transforming faith of biblical Christianity. If she’s offended by the idea of Jesus as Christ, that’s her problem, not mine. (And for her, it’s the very biggest of problems! I pray she resolves it before she takes her last breath.)

However, typos, grammar errors, and “awful” Kindle formatting do concern me. It’s rare to find a print book with no errors, and I’m aware of a few in Stars that slipped through the editing and proofreading screens. Typos, that is. I’m not aware of any grammar errors. I seriously don’t think either is a glaring problem with this book, and those that exist certainly aren’t serious enough to knock four stars off an otherwise good review.

I can’t speak for the Kindle formatting, since I have no Kindle and have never had the opportunity to see what the ebook version looks like. No one else has mentioned these formatting problems, but if you’ve found some, I hope you’ll let me know what and where they are so they can be corrected.

The plot issues she cites are the greatest cause for concern. An incomprehensible plot would, in fact, make a book deserving of a bad review. But her complaint gave no specifics. Is something missing? Does a character lack believable motivation? What scenario doesn’t hold water? She doesn’t say; she merely states the plot barely made sense, especially the resolution.

If she’d pointed to something in particular, I’d definitely take a look at it to see if it can be fixed. If I’d received similar comments from others, I’d be making a serious analysis of my story line. However, when everyone else who’s read and commented says the story engrossed them – when readers accost me to complain about lost sleep because they couldn’t put the book down – and when one tells me she read it twice, once quickly because she had to find out what was going to happen next and then again more slowly so she could thoroughly enjoy it – I have to conclude that the comprehension problem is with the reader rather than plot construction.

The story is about laying aside deep-seated hatred and distrust in order to understand others. It’s about how the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ (straight up Jesus Christ on the cross, down from the cross, and up from the grave – accept no substitutes!) can free us from misconceptions.  It illustrates this through the interaction of the two main characters, and the resolution occurs when they both come to understand it.

Could it be that the reviewer can’t follow the plot because she’s too blinded by her own prejudices to get the picture?

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Starving Artists And How Not to Be One

Not all writers are blessed, as I am, with a partner who provides such complete support. I have the luxury of writing without having to worry about paying the bills because my husband not only encourages my writing, but subsidizes it.

I have great respect for the many who are compelled to write but must also hold down a full-time job in order to feed themselves and their dependents.  I’m the sort who needs her sleep and can’t think clearly without a sufficient amount, so I don’t know how anyone can write coherently in the morning’s wee hours or at the end of a long, stressful day.

Because I’ve never been in the position of having to support myself with my writing — nor have I been in the writing business very long — I have no tried and proven wisdom for those struggling artists. However, I recently ran across an excellent post on the subject by author Lawrence Block. Clearly, he knows what he’s talking about, and the article needs no further introduction: Getting By on a Writer’s Income.

If you’re a struggling writer — or are in any position where your income is variable and uncertain — read, learn, and be encouraged!

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Full and Running Over

You’ve probably seen the prayer of the mother of young children: Lord, grant me the patience to endure my blessings.

As amazing as parental blessings are, grandparental joys are deeper, richer and wider. But sometimes, just as tiring. On Monday, Craig and I concluded a week’s visit in Virginia with our 2nd daughter and her family, feeling full and running over. And ready to go home.

The purpose of the visit was threefold: 1) for Grandpa to build the stairway on the playhouse he built last summer but had to suspend work for awhile because of a bad back; 2) to help with a garage sale; and 3) to celebrate a grandson’s fifth birthday.

The garage sale was a little out of the ordinary. It was a fund-raiser for a project they’re working on, and they’d received donations from scads of people. I have no idea how many contributed, but the amount of stuff they were given to sell was huge, filling the two-car garage, driveway, entire front yard, and the basement. (You can walk into their basement through a ground-level patio door at the back of the house, and they filled the area with bins and racks of clothing for sale.) I intended to take pictures of the massive event, but it was so chaotic, I didn’t find the time. It’s probably one of those things you can’t capture in a picture, anyway; it had to be seen to be appreciated.

It was a lot of work. A LOT of work. For the sale itself, they enlisted all four parents as well as a few friends, and it kept us all hopping. But that’s not counting the several weeks’ worth of preparation and the final clean-up. It was worth it, though; they made a tidy sum.

So what’s this project they’re raising funds for, you may ask? Answer: an international adoption. Though they have three natural-born children, they’re adopting two more — from  the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They’ve been going through this expensive process for quite some time and are now in the final leg, hoping to receive the children in a few months.

As I mentioned a couple days ago, this post has been difficult to write. For some reason, I can’t seem to put all my bubbling-over feelings into words.

I’ve never been the kind of person who enjoys being around children. I loved my own, and I love my grandkids; but I don’t enjoy children in general. Therefore it’s been hard for me to wrap my mind around why my daughter and her husband would want to adopt when they have three of their own.

They both love kids (unlike me). It breaks their hearts to think of all the children in the world who have no one to love them. Orphans are tragic in any country, of course; but in some places, like the Congo, those children have less hope for the future than a stray dog has in an American pound. Any thinking, feeling human being would want to help them, but the situation is staggering. What can be done for them?

En masse? Not much. But individually, a few can be helped.

My daughter and son-in-law know they can’t change the world—but they can change the universe for two children.

It’s a tremendous expense; it’s an enormous amount of work; they’ll pay for it over the rest of their lives with an ocean of toil and tears. But they know that, and are doing it anyway.

So when people ask me about my grandchildren, I tell them I have three, with two on the way. And I’m every bit as proud and happy—and looking forward to holding the next two in my arms—as I would be if my daughter were carrying them in her womb.

That doesn’t put all my feelings into words, but it’s a start. Maybe I’ll write a book about it someday.

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We Interrupt the Regularly Scheduled Programming…

Yesterday I struggled to compose a post about our recent trip to Virginia. Not sure why it was so hard, because it was a great trip, and I knew exactly what I wanted to say.

But while I drafted and redrafted and gritted my teeth and started over, my friend Glenda Mathes posted a notice on her blog announcing my next book signing. So while I’m working my own post, I’ll borrow hers. Check this out.

Thanks, Glenda!

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