Welcome!

Welcome to "Showers of Blessings" which is a blog for writers and their readers! It is my prayer you will find many blessings in these humble words as you open your heart to hear about my best friend, Jesus Christ. He has called me to write for Him and though I remain stunned by this, wondering how He could use someone like me in this competitive industry, I know He has equipped me to do the job or He would never have opened all the doors He has to a career in writing. He gets all the glory for such an awesome plan, believe me!

Below each post there is an indication of the number of comments for that post. If you click on that it will bring up the comments for you to read and allow you to leave a comment for me if you would like to do so. I look forward to hearing what you have to say and thank you for taking the time to step with me into the showers of blessings He shares with all of us through His Word!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Just to let you know I won't be posting until after the new year now. I am focused entirely on my family for the next couple of weeks--getting ready for Christmas with them, then resting up and getting organized for the coming year.

Hope you have a blessed and safe Christmas as you celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! And, a peaceful New Year's with all the hope God has planned for you in it!

See you in 2011!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

CHEROKEE STAR

Part Seven
(Continued from 12/5/10 post)

“Not unless you can stop the hate, Cherokee. His abuse created the hate, not you. But you’ve chosen to live in it instead of to live in freedom from it. That’s very sad, you know. It was your choice, not his. What a waste.”

The tears silently streamed down her cheeks and she made no attempt to wipe them away, as if they could somehow wash clean the memories of all those years of hatred if she let them flow. He studied her eyes, overwhelmed by the emotions he’d managed to bring out of her, probably for the first time ever.

“Why? Just tell me why?”

“Why, what?” the Sheriff asked.

“Why did he pick on a child like he did? Why did he force himself on me when I was unable to fight him off? And why did he pass me around to all his friends like I was a toy? What did I do to deserve that?”

Gulping back his emotions at the admission that, as he had suspected, there was more to her nightmare than she had earlier revealed, he said, “You didn’t do anything to deserve this kind of treatment, Cherokee. You were a young child whose innocence threatened his ability to control you. He apparently couldn’t stand facing that innocence so he took it from you. His mind was sick. That doesn’t excuse what he did but it might help you understand him better.”

“I don’t want to understand him! I want to kill him! With every breath I take, I want to kill him, over and over and over . . .” Her voice trailed off as sobs shook her whole body.

The Sheriff desperately wanted to embrace her and soothe away the little girl’s hurt still so raw and deep, but he knew that would be the wrong thing to do. So he just sat there staring at her. Better to let her talk than say the wrong thing and lose this moment.

“But I don’t really. Not deep down. You know?”

He nodded. “Sit down, Cherokee. Let me tell you about Someone who can help you with this hatred. It won’t change things, because you are still going to hang for all those people you killed. But maybe you have time to change one thing before it’s too late, and that could make all the difference in the world—and in the next.”

”What’s that?”

“Your heart. You have a song of freedom to sing, Cherokee Star. And you’d better learn the words quickly because you don’t have much time left. My Friend can teach you how to sing those lullabies again and mean them. He can bring you the peace you have looked for all these years in whiskey and guns, a peace that will finally drown out those voices in your nightmares. You said a while ago you were born again that morning you killed your father. But you can truly be born again in a different way, if you would like. It’s all up to you. Please listen, will you?”

THE END

Note to Readers: Let me know if you enjoyed this serial version of the story. I don't believe any person is beyond redemption at any point until he or she takes that last breath on earth. Cherokee didn't have many choices in her life but without Christ they were limited even further. Even a hardened Sheriff could see beyond her tough exterior to the tender heart of a young and scared woman who didn't understand the hand life had dealt her. It is my sincere prayer that Cherokee listened to him as he shared about the One who could change her for eternity and learn to face death with more dignity than she'd ever known in life. Though a fictional tale, Cherokee came alive for me as her story unfolded in one setting at the computer, and by the time I finished I was in tears for the tragedy of her wasted life, yet also filled with hope for the one last choice she had to make before her hanging.

Blessings, Laura

Sunday, December 5, 2010

CHEROKEE STAR
Part 6 (Continued From Post on 11/28/10)

He [the Sheriff] had opened his mouth to say something when she [Cherokee] suddenly whirled around and looked at him. He was startled not only by the unexpected move but also by what he saw. Tears streamed down her cheeks!

“That’s not true, what I just said about my mother. I remember now. She used to sing to me in the night after he got through with me and had fallen asleep on the floor in the lean-to. She’d creep in there and help me to her bed and lie there in the dark and sing softly in my ear until I feel asleep. Those same lullabies. I felt safe and warm there in her arms, listening to those soothing words I’d heard my Grandma sing. And I would dream of leaving there and becoming a famous singer.”

He wisely chose not to say a word, just let her talk it out. After another moment of silence, she continued.

“Why couldn’t I remember that? Why did I only remember that she never stopped him? I hated her for that.”

“Maybe this was all she felt strong enough to do for you, to comfort you afterward.”

“Maybe . . . but I was only a child. She was a grown woman. And she chose to live with that monster. Why didn’t she take my brother and me and just leave? Wouldn’t that have been better than forcing me to grow up like this—and to kill?”

“She never forced you to kill, Cherokee. That was your choice. She told you to take the money and get out, to go where you’d be safe. She had no way of knowing he’d come back and catch you before you could leave. She was trying to protect you the only way she knew how. Don’t be so harsh with her. You have made many of the same mistakes she did, you know.”

“What do you mean? I don’t have a little girl but if I did I certainly wouldn’t sit by and watch her being treated like I was without lifting a hand to help her. And I’m not living with a monster, you know.”

“Oh, yes, you are, young lady, most definitely! You live with the monster of your nightmares. Every time you close your eyes, he’s right there. And it fuels your hatred and bitterness so much that when you wake up you feel compelled to go out and try to kill him again and again. That’s your monster. And now he’s won.”

“Won? What are you talking about? I’m the one who ‘won’. I have had more money than I ever dreamed I could have owned in my whole life, enough to buy anything I want. Far more than he ever had in his miserable life. And the power to take more anytime I desire to do so. People are afraid of me when I walk down the street and if they forget for a moment, the posters will remind them of just how dangerous I am. He hasn’t won anything. He’s dead and I killed him.”

To Be Continued . . .

Sunday, November 28, 2010

CHEROKEE STAR
Part Five (Continued from Post on 11/21/10)

The Sheriff just shook his head in wonder. What on earth happened in those nightmares to create this monster sitting here in front of me?
“And what about after that?”

“I ran out of money eventually. So I decided to get me some more. I met up with a cowboy about that time who seemed nice enough at first, I mean, not at all like the men I’d known. Told me he’d just robbed a stagecoach and how easy it was, even though there were a few moments when he’d wished he had a partner. And then he asked if I’d like to join him in robbing another one. So I thought why not? And we did, shot everyone on board.”

“Oh, Cherokee, why? They wouldn’t have hurt you. Okay, take the money if that’s what you need. But don’t kill people, too. They were just minding their own business, not hurting you a bit. I’m sure they wouldn’t have fought you for the money, so why not just let them go?”

“You’d never understand. Don’t know if you are just stupid or what. Actually, I don’t even understand why I need to kill, just that it’s there. You know, that’s just what it is, a ‘need.’ To kill until the nightmares stop.”

“Well, they’re going to stop, that I can guarantee you. The moment your neck snaps at the end of the rope, they will stop. But a far greater one will begin.”

“You mean in Hell?”

“Yep, in Hell. I can see that you were paying some attention at least in those tent revivals you mentioned attending while you were growing up. That’s precisely where you are going, because you certainly cannot get into Heaven with that attitude.”

“Ah, that Heaven stuff sounds too ‘nice’ for my tastes, anyway. Bet I can gun down anyone I come across in Hell. I’m faster and meaner than any of them!”

“Yes, I’d say you are, Cherokee Star. You certainly don’t stand for any of the values your people have always lived.”

“What do you mean by my people?”

“The Cherokees. Now you are the one being stupid. You said your mother’s mother taught you the lullabies. She must have taught you something more than that, about respecting other people and being honorable. The Cherokees don’t take a breath without that thought being foremost in their minds. I’ve known Cherokees all my life. And they do not live their lives like you have chosen to do. That’s why they are called one of the civilized tribes, because they have chosen a different path.”

“Well, you forget, I’m also my father’s little girl,” she said, her words frosty with sarcasm. “And he taught me well. My mother may have been a Cherokee but she sure never acted like the ones you’re talking about.”

Suddenly Cherokee stood up and turned her back to the Sheriff. He could taste the tension in the room but wasn’t sure if he should remain quiet or demand that she sit back down. He didn’t trust her when he couldn’t see those eyes. They might be made of ice but at least he had studied them enough this day to feel certain he would know if she was about to grab him by the throat and squeeze the life out of him before Stanley could get the door unlocked and get her off him. He shuddered at the thought, not out of fear but out of sadness at the waste.

To Be Continued . . .

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hope you all are enjoying this story. Wish I could have posted the whole thing at once but it was too long. Let me know what you think!


CHEROKEE STAR
Part Four (Continued from Post on 11/14/10)

“What about your dreams, Cherokee? Surely you had them from time to time. Don’t they ever come back in the darkness, making you wish things had been different?”

“Only nightmares come in the darkness, unless I’ve had enough whiskey to drown out the voices. And then I can sleep in peace. Dreams are for sissies, not for people like me.”

“Yeah, I remember. Hard. Well, you are hard all right. But you are going to have to face the fact that very soon you will confront Someone you cannot fool with your tough act.”

She frowned. “Who? What are you talking about?”

“God, Cherokee. You are going to hang for your crimes, you know that. And when you die you will have to face God and explain all this to Him.”

“He doesn’t care about me any more than anyone else. What, are you going to preach at me now? I’ve had my share of that, too. Went to a couple of tent revivals when I was a kid, hoping that I’d find some way to escape the monster living in my house. But there was no escape. Only empty words, fine for those who don’t have to fight off a monster every night in bed.”

“Cherokee, there is no doubt that you have had a tough life. But life wasn’t supposed to be that way. Besides the singing, what else did you hope for that never happened?”

She closed her eyes for a moment as though in deep thought, then popped open those deep blues which were so captivating the heart of her jailer. “That someone would love me for who I was instead of for what I could do for them. Read that somewhere one time, that there are those who do that. But I never believed it. Again, empty words designed to lure you into the reach of that serpent’s sharp teeth.”

“Not empty words, Cherokee. True ones. I can see deep down under all that hardness and hatred you’ve built up around your heart that you are scared. You are worried about facing God with what you’ve done, even if you won’t admit it out loud to me. But you cover it up with all this talk about snakes and with all your efforts to be so tough, just so that no one will see.”

“See what?”

“That you are real. That you hurt, deep down inside. That you don’t really want to be like this.”

“Of course I do! I could have changed. Just chose not to. What’s the point? After I killed once, there was no turning back. Besides, it felt good.”

“What do you mean, ‘good’?”

“Just that. I was terrified the second before I pulled that trigger the first time, but the moment I did I found courage for the first time. I had power and I used it to stop him. And to take what I wanted. And I felt good for the first time in my life. I liked that feeling of power and the thrill of seeing his body lying there and knowing I caused it. I never imagined I could feel that way. And I couldn’t wait to feel that way again.”

“How soon before you killed the second time?”

“About two days. I was out on the trail and a cowboy came riding up, claiming that he was lost and asked if I knew how to get to Santa Fe. I knew all right because I’d just come from there. But I wasn’t about to tell him. It was his fault that he was lost. And he wanted me to help him? Hah! Where was he when I needed help? So I shot him, just for the fun of it. I took his horse and some money and left him there for the vultures. Serves him right for getting lost.”

To Be Continued . . .

Sunday, November 14, 2010

CHEROKEE STAR
Part Three (Continued from Post on 11/7/10)

Deputy Olson came running to the cell door at the sound of the banging and yelling, and Cherokee eased back a few inches but didn’t take her seat, as the Sheriff also pulled back instinctively.

“You okay, Sheriff?” the Deputy asked, his hand on his gun in the holster, ready to use it if need be.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine, Stanley. Go on back up front.” He did as told but obviously was not happy about it.

“Sit down, Cherokee.”

She just glared at him for a moment, then without further words took a seat, those blue eyes daring him to order her around again.

“Didn’t you ever have any goals for your life while you were growing up? No child, not even one who has been mistreated the way you were, grows up wanting to roam around robbing and killing and terrorizing decent folk. Wasn’t there something you wanted to do with your future?”

She chewed her lip for a moment while studying the Sheriff’s face. Finally she said simply, “I wanted to be a singer.” The Sheriff stifled a laugh at this idea and she went on. “More than anything else, I wanted to sing. My mother’s mother taught me some Cherokee lullabies when I was very small and I loved the sound of those mysterious Indian words set to such haunting music. She gave me the only love I’ve ever known and when she died, something in me changed.”

Another moment of silence passed. Finally she said, “Hard.”

“Excuse me?”

“Hard. I became hard, in my heart and in my mind. Had to, to survive. Wasn’t what I wanted but no one ever asked me what I wanted. Generally just told me what they wanted and then took it. Or beat me until I gave it to them.”

“I guess you did have to protect yourself like that, Cherokee. What about all those people you murdered, though? Didn’t that ever bother you? They were someone’s mother, friend, grandfather. Can you honestly tell me that didn’t get to you?”

“Just thought of my father every time and that made it all right. I could do it then. As I said, I made my heart hard and it never meant anything to me. Like killing a snake out on the trail who gets too close to your bedding. You’re not about to let him in, no matter how cold it is. Pure survival. Kill or be killed.”

The Sheriff just shook his head.

“What? You don’t believe me? I could shoot you between the eyes right now and it wouldn’t mean a thing. “You’re a snake to me, wanting to get in my bed.”

“Oh, Cherokee, for heaven’s sake, grow up. Not every man wants to do to you what your father did.”

“Maybe. Maybe not. What difference does it make? You would eventually. Admit it. And I’m going to stop every man from even thinking about that before he has a chance to do it. Snake, remember? Slithering up close to you, hoping you won’t notice, hoping you’ll think it’s okay that he’s just warming himself close to the fire instead of planning to crawl in next to your warm body as soon as your head is turned.”

“You’ve spent too many lonely hours out on the trail, young lady. You don’t even understand what the simplest kindness means any more.”

“They all mean the same thing, Sheriff. And I won’t give anyone the chance to get the better of Cherokee Star. She’ll give them what they deserve before they have a chance to take anything from her ever again! That’s why all the robbing and killing. It meant nothing to me, except money to buy more whiskey and bullets.”

To Be Continued . . .

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cherokee Star
Part Two (Continued from post on 11/4/10)

“So you finally just had enough one day and shot him?”

“It was for the money.”

“Money?”

“Yeah. He had a bunch of it stashed in an old pair of boots he kept in the barn, and he didn’t think we knew where it was. But we knew. We all knew. Ma told me to take it one day after he rode out toward town, to take it and get out before he killed me.”

“Sounds to me like she cared about you, even though she never did anything to help you when it really mattered. At least you have that.”

“Yeah, I suppose. Mostly, she thought if I was gone he would settle down and quit being so angry all the time. So I did what she told me, grabbed a couple of things—didn’t have much I could call my own back then—and went out to the barn and took the money. Saw his old pistol lying there, too, so I grabbed it as well. Good thing, because as I turned to saddle my horse, he walked in. Like to have scared me to death, seeing him standing there in the doorway like that. His face was white as a sheet and for the first time in my life, he didn’t have nothin’ to say. Just stood there, all quiet like, studying me kind of like a snake studies his prey before striking, figuring out the best angle and all.”

She stopped and stared down at her boots, as though lost in her thoughts for a moment. The Sheriff hesitated, not sure if he should push her to talk or just wait. Again, the blue eyes met his brown ones evenly, unafraid, almost cocky.

And suddenly, she laughed. He blinked, startled for a moment.

Her voice stronger this time, she continued. “I had a jacket thrown over my arm, hiding my gun in my hand. I remember my hand was shaking so badly I didn’t think I could pull that trigger even if I could get it aimed before he shot me. But then he just lunged at me, screaming at the top of his voice such horrible words, most I didn’t even know what they meant. He’d called me a lot of names in my life but these . . . well, I just reacted, you know? I just plain shot him before he got two steps in my direction, without even thinking about it any more. My mother came running in a moment later, followed by my little brother.”

“What did she say to you? Was she upset?”

“She made this funny little gurgling sound in her throat for several moments and just stared at his body lying there. Then she told me to get out and never come back. So I did. I took that money and I rode as fast and as far as I could straight south. Thought maybe I could make it to Mexico eventually and they wouldn’t come after me there.”

“Cherokee, you were only twelve and you shot him in self-defense. That’s not a crime. Why didn’t you stay and explain to the Sheriff what happened instead of running away?”

“He was my father’s best friend. What kind of justice do you think he’d give a half-breed like me? Besides, he was one of the ones who . . . ”

She stopped and stared at the boots again.

“Who, what?”

“Oh, never mind. I don’t like to think about that part of my life. I was born that morning as a new person and I’ve never really looked back. Cherokee Star knew then she could take care of herself.” She suddenly jumped out of her seat and pounded the table with her fist, her face so close to his he could smell her rancid breath. “And she didn’t need no man to tell her what to do any more!”

To Be Continued . . .

Thursday, November 4, 2010

GOOD NEWS!

The great news right now is that I have finally completed the manuscript for my historical romance novel, From Now Until Forever! Now I’m finishing up the Proposal on it for a prospective agent, in the hopes she will agree to represent me in marketing the book to publishers. Pray for her heart to be receptive and for wisdom for my mind as I try to market myself as well as my book!

Today I’m trying an experiment so let me know what you think. It is a serial of seven parts called "Cherokee Star". Set in the Old West it is a short story about the harsh realities many women faced back then and explores the choices one in particular made in order to cope with them, yet it offers hope even at the end of life.


CHEROKEE STAR
Part One

“Well, come to stare at the condemned woman, have you? You won’t be the first man to have stared at me, so go ahead – stare away. I don’t care any more.” She set her chin and glared at him, the hatred in her blue eyes causing even a hardened man like him to have to work at fighting back the shivers running up his spine. He was grateful she didn’t have a gun.

“Sit down, Cherokee. I didn’t come to ‘stare’ as you put it, just to talk to you a bit. Occurred to me that you have never really talked about your crimes and I would really like to understand you before it’s too late.”

“Understand? What is there to understand? I killed ’em all, pure and simple.” The young woman stalked over to the tiny barred window and gazed out at the gallows being hastily constructed in the courtyard below. “People are going to have themselves a party in a couple of days, aren’t they?”

When she didn’t move, quietly the man sat down at the table and with his boot shoved the other chair toward her. “Sit down, Cherokee. Let’s talk.”

“About what?”

“About your life and how you got to this point. Perhaps you should start at the beginning.”

She whirled around to face him defiantly. “You mean, when I was born?”

“No, not that far back. Come on, sit down, will you? When was the first time you realized that your life was taking a wrong turn?”

“The first time I shot a man.” And she plunked down in the chair with a smug smile on her face. “But it definitely wasn’t a ‘wrong turn’. I knew what I was doing and I’m glad I did it.”

There was silence as the man tapped the key to the cell on the table, turning it over and over in his hand. He just stared at her as he waited, hoping she would continue.

“I was only twelve years old. It was my father. Hated that man more than anyone I’ve ever known. And I guess I do have to start when I was born, because as long as I can remember I had suffered from his drunken rages. If he came home giggling like a kid then we knew we were safe, he’d just go to sleep without lifting a hand against any of us. But if he came home sullen . . . ”

“That’s when the beatings would start?”

The blue eyes bore into the man’s heart until he felt like a tomato plant withering in the hot sun and he had to look away. Quietly, so the words could barely be heard and he had to strain his ears to be sure he caught each one, she continued.

“No, that’s when he’d drag me out of my bed and into the lean-to, while my brother would cover his ears with a pillow to shut out my screams. Or, so he told me later.”

“What was your mother doing?”

“Same thing, I guess. At least, she never tried to stop him. Why didn’t she at least try?”

“Wish I could answer that, Cherokee. But I can understand you’d like an answer, deserve one, too. So you finally just had enough one day and shot him?”

“It was for the money.”

To Be Continued . . .

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tools of The Trade

This is the third in a three-part series of posts concerning The Writers Toolbox and how she can most effectively use these tools to improve her writing. Hope they jump-start your imagination so you can add to these tools with those you have found to be most helpful!

Carpenter’s Pencil

Use this tool to write on the manuscript itself any notes which seem important to a passage as you reread it time and again. It can be in the form of a red pen or pencil or even colored markers, indicating various questions or problems. Perhaps a green one for poor description, or yellow for consideration to be cut, or orange for rewording? Or perhaps all kinds of symbols—such as stars for weak description, triangles for dialogue which needs attention, or squares for material which needs to be cut or reworded. Then when you glance at the pages later, you can easily spot those areas which need revision. I’ve done this with Word Find, to highlight the words which I use too often so I can eliminate them. Don’t be afraid to mark up the pages in early drafts; your mind can’t possibly hold it all and the use of a pencil will alert you to potential problems which need consideration later!

Plane

Use it to smooth out the rough edges of your manuscript. The more obvious needs are to check spelling and grammar usage but less obvious ones might be clich├ęs and metaphors which contradict mood or content and therefore appear to be silly and distracting. Yes, spell check is a marvelous tool but remember to always, always, always follow up with your own keen eye to misspellings. There is a reason for those little squiggly lines under some of your words; find out what they mean and figure out how to eliminate them, don’t simply ignore them. Otherwise, your book will have those rough edges which editors are not crazy about!

Level

Use it to balance everything out once the work is almost complete. Step back and take a hard look at the piece/book to see if it needs an extra chapter or cutting one or more existing ones. Also look carefully at the length of your words and sentences and vary these according to the action. Shorter sentences build tension, for instance, but varying the length will also hold the reader’s interest. Another area to look at is the structure of the sentences; that is, are they all subject/verb/object ones? Try inserting questions here and there as well to keep things intriguing for the reader. Balance is especially critical for a non-fiction book where the length of chapters needs to be somewhat even. Examine the Table of Contents to discover this at a glance and see if your eye catches a glaring hole or excessive material which should be cut. Then check out each chapter as well with the same focus in mind and make sure that bubble stays in the middle!

There are probably many more tools which could be added to this toolbox, for it will be most effective if it is personalized just for your type and style of writing. Use your common sense when putting together the items you need for a specific project and you will find creating your masterpiece will be easier than you ever believed it could be. Having the right tools and the knowledge of how they work will bring your dream of being published closer to reality!


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tools of the Trade

This is the second in a three-part series designed to help equip writers with the tools they need to complete the job of writing God has called them to do. Please see last week’s post for the first part; the last installment will appear next weekend. Let me know what you think!

Nails/Screws/Bolts/Nuts/Washers
Use these to finish off your manuscript in fine form as you fit the precise word exactly where it is needed to hold the entire project together. They may be little and seem worthless at first glance, but without them your book will be wobbly and insecure. Words are what we writers are all about, after all. Leave out the adjectives and adverbs and use powerful and specific verbs and nouns instead. Be sure you have used the correct one of these various tools for a particular spot which needs tightening and also ensure you haven’t repeated words within a sentence or paragraph, preferably even within a document. Learn what each is for and how to use them properly, then apply where required!

Screwdriver

Use it to put the screws (see above) into place and tighten them securely. A thesaurus and a dictionary are vital to your writing, whether in book form or on the computer from a software program of your own choosing. If a word doesn’t seem to be fitting properly, check to ensure that you have used the correct screwdriver for the job; a slot-head won’t work on a Phillips-head screw, obviously, and vice versa. Many synonyms exist for words in English but if one can’t be found, then consider rewording to perhaps use an antonym instead. And be careful not to over tighten—that is, to use words simply because you know they exist and like the sound of them. No one enjoys reading “superfluous verbiage” when simple words will do. And in the same manner, don’t try to use a screwdriver when a hammer is needed!

Hammer

Use it to pound in the nails (see above) as needed. When revising your manuscript, tap lightly at first until you are certain you have the wording you want. Then hammer away on those words until they fit tightly into the meaning of the passage. And don’t forget the nail remover part of a hammer. If you discover the nail is wrong for the hole or has been stripped of its purpose by overuse, pull it out and start over finding the correct nail for that spot!

Wrench

Use it to tighten the nuts and bolts of your manuscript. Ensure you have the correct size and type of words you need, then tighten as much as possible to give the project a finished feel readers will appreciate (including publishers!). Every step in tightening your writing is a good one and well worth the effort. This tool may seem bulky at first but there is no other one which can be used for this purpose, so don’t overlook it in the revision process!

Chisel

Use with the hammer to chip away at your manuscript wherever you find repetitive words and phrases. Word find is a marvelous tool for this and will help you discover which ones you use the most. A writer friend of mine has called these “Writer’s Warts” and she is so right. They can mar a page quicker than spilled ink, because ink is easy to spot whereas these are more insidious since they are hidden to our eyes as a rule. Another reader can also help with finding them but it still is your job to use the chisel effectively whenever required!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

With this post I’m starting a three-part series called The Writer’s Toolbox, designed to give authors some practical advice for their writing. While best taken as a whole, I believe these ideas will still serve the purpose divided up, so each section will be of reasonable length for a Blog. I hope you enjoy them!

The Writer’s Toolbox

For a writer to be successful at her profession, she must employ a number of tools. It is not wise to be scatter-brained about this, for order and organization are the keys to using those tools effectively. That is, once she has educated herself on how to use each one and understands its purpose thoroughly, her writing will clearly show the benefit.
My husband is a homebuilder and while he generally employs those with the proper tools to do a specific contracting job on his houses, from time to time he takes hammer in hand and corrects or completes a task himself. Several years ago I bought him a small soft-sided toolbox to carry in his car so he could have those tools he uses the most often handy and ready when they are needed. I truly didn’t think he would use it much and if his first reaction was any indication of his own attitude about the gift, he didn’t either! However, to the surprise of both of us, it has become one of his most essential items for work.
As mentioned earlier, organization and order are key to using tools effectively. Therefore, gather the items below and keep them handy whenever you begin to write. Learning about these tools and how to use them, as well as practicing with them often, will increase your confidence and ability in writing and speaking circumstances alike and take you one step closer to your hope of being published someday.

Measuring Tape

Use it to figure out the parameters of your writing project. Study each publisher’s guidelines, learn the requirements for your genre, and read constantly to see them in action within the pages of a book which has already been published. Don’t worry excessively about meeting another author’s standards, however; they won’t be precisely the same for your project. Learn the rules so when you break them, you will fully understand that you are doing so and exactly why. And don’t forget to review your WIP (work in progress) from time to time during the writing/revision process to ensure it is fitting well within those original parameters—still measuring up!

Electric Drill

Use it on your computer with the cut and paste feature, to move sentences, paragraphs, even entire sections at a time without having to retype. Those of us who grew up before computers find ourselves wishing we’d had the ability to do this while typing endless papers in high school and college on regular typewriters. It is amazing how many writers don’t understand how to use cut and paste even though they do all their composing on a computer. If you don’t know how to effectively use this tool, learn today. It can save you endless hours of needless frustration. You can drill the marked passage into any portion of your manuscript, consider its new placement, and then cut it out again if need be. A drill works both forward and in reverse, remember!

Pliers

Use this tool to jerk out extraneous words and phrases as needed. Write freely on your first draft but then get down to business after that, using these abundantly. I often will pull out sentences and save them to a new document until I’m confident they are not needed elsewhere, then simply delete the new document without keeping it once I’m satisfied with the original passage. This tool is one of the most needed by all writers so don’t feel discouraged if you find yourself using it constantly as that is what it is there for!

Saw

Use this tool along with the ones above to cut out material which is not needed and which drags your manuscript down. Wordiness is the kiss of death for a writer, yet we all tend to indulge in it from time to time. Best advice for this? Less is always better. Seek out the scenes which do not move the plot forward, which have no real relevance to the action (no matter how beautiful the prose!), and use this tool on them. If a word, a gesture, a paragraph, a scene, a chapter, even a plot twist do not serve the primary plot they need to be eliminated. And this tool is just the one to do the job!

Next week we will look at several more tools you might never have considered necessary for writing!







Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sometimes life deals us a hand which we never saw coming and leaves us reeling. Other times events unfold in slow motion and seem to take forever to develop, yet we know where they are leading and desperately wish we could bypass the conclusion. Either way, if we are not solidly grounded in our faith, we can be blown away by the ferocity or perhaps feel as though we are on a speeding train about to veer off a 40-foot trestle into the chasm below.

Christ has promised never to leave us and He always keeps His word. I have found this to be absolutely true in countless instances throughout my 61 years, and there is no reason to believe He will suddenly change the way He operates now! Even if I cannot see my way clear to the next step, I can know Who holds that step and Who holds me. And the resulting peace truly does pass all human understanding, all common sense, all intelligent logic. Just as He promised. And now my husband Gary and I have begun to move down a difficult path which will require every ounce of faith we can muster to move forward with confidence and courage, born of our deep faith in God’s goodness and mercy.

Gary has been diagnosed with cryptogenic cirrhosis of the liver which basically means they haven’t a clue what caused it, since he doesn’t fit any of the usual risk factors for the disease. There is nothing which can be done to cure the cirrhosis itself but they can treat the numerous symptoms as they arise and hope to stay one step ahead of the more deadly aspects of it as long as possible. His primary problem at this point is extreme and unpredictable fatigue which often makes completing the simplest of tasks impossible and at best makes them take longer than normal. He is on a large number of medications to take care of the various symptoms which have arisen so far but since he is not a viable candidate at this point for a liver transplant, according to the doctors there is little long-term hope. He has about a 5-10 year life expectancy right now as long as he is stable, but we are actively praying for a miraculous healing which will defy the doctors’ reasoning! However, whatever God has planned for him ultimately we know will bring the Lord much honor even through our suffering.

This situation has rearranged many of our family’s priorities and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Therefore, posting on a regular basis for my Blog has become an impossible commitment regardless of how important it is. The Blog will be done on a weekly basis if I am able and if not, whenever I am. Please know I will make every effort to adhere to my self-imposed deadline on this but cannot predict what my life will hold from one day to the next. And truthfully, who can??

Over these last few weeks my writing has continued as much as I have been able to squeeze it in here and there between doctor appointments, as well as spending time with my husband whenever I can. I want my readers to understand the complications in my lifestyle right now but make no apologies for my limitations, either. This Blog is not for the purposes of revealing details of my personal life nearly as much as it is designed to showcase my writing ability and inform my Followers of news about my writing career as it develops, within the scope of how God is leading me through it. Therefore, this will be my last reference to my husband’s illness except as necessary; I mention it this time only to give my readers a solid reason for my recent extended absence in posting. If you would lift Gary up in prayer as the Holy Spirit brings him to mind, I would greatly appreciate it. His spirits are good because his eternal future is secure in His Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. And together Gary and I give God the complete glory and submit to His divine sovereignty over our lives. May He receive any honor due for walking with us through this dark valley!

Please see the next post for exciting news about my writing!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The last month has been a blur, a happy one but nevertheless events and time have run together with hardly a moment to breathe in between! Our granddaughter was born a month ago tomorrow, a distinct answer to prayer since her mother had been put on high risk for a premature delivery more than four months prior to the birth. And what a joy she has been to all of us already, blessing our lives with pure delight. Thank you for prayers for her and for her mother.

This is the reason I have failed to post to this blog for the past several weeks and while a good reason it has resulted in my neglect of it (and all my writing) as I struggled to help my family deal with this situation. Not to mention get reacquainted with my sweet husband, who has gotten the short end of things for such a long time lately! Now I’m finally ready to get back into the swing of things and will redouble my efforts to post weekly again.

As I did my Quiet Time this morning I was studying a book I read recently which has impressed me greatly. It is Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear by Max Lucado, and if you have not read it I highly recommend it. Unfortunately I find myself guided in many of my decisions and daily routine by fear more than by faith. I have to constantly do battle with my enemy to allow God’s voice to drown out all others including my own, or I would never accomplish anything out of fear….of failure, of wrong choices, of defeat, of pain or suffering, of rejection. Ah, rejection, that ten-thousand dollar word for writers! Literally.

One of the questions asked in the book's study guide which I spent quite a bit of time contemplating today was where I most need God’s mercy in my life right now. The answer is, in multiple ways! But seriously, I wrote in my journal, “To conquer my fear of the future with confidence in the present because of the past.” And that about sums it up. I seem to live in fear of what seems certain to transpire as well as what could perhaps happen at some point. This is not how a Christian is supposed to live and I have no intentions of remaining entrapped in a vicious cycle of pain and defeat, which is the counterfeit plan my enemy has for my life. I choose, instead, to live above that muck not because of who I am but because of whose I am. God has a plan for my life which is not for harm but for good (Jeremiah 29:11) so why fear that? He has never once let me down and I have no reason to believe He is going to start now. My timing and choices may not be His but that doesn’t mean He has abandoned me or failed to keep His Word. Quite the contrary.

To conquer fear I must claim Scripture, for then I am refuting Satan’s lies as Jesus did. If He loved me in the past and will love me for eternity, why on earth do I fall for the deception that He doesn’t love me now? Instead I choose to stand firm and fight the battle against fear rather than giving in to it and living in defeat. My prayer is that you will join me!

Monday, April 5, 2010

At church yesterday morning I met a new friend, introduced to me by a mutual friend who told her I am an author. It was thrilling to hear this and know someone beyond myself believes in my ability to write! Before she could ask what all I have written I told her about my current WIP, giving her a thumbnail sketch of the plot and then telling her it would be a few more months before it is completed. I explained to her that the manuscript would have to make the rounds of potential publishers at that point and that it would take about a year after acceptance for it be released. As I spoke these words, I was reminded of how God's timing is not ours, His purpose not ours, His ways a far cry from our understanding as a rule.

But let me quickly add, God has a way of keeping me totally humble with this new role He has called me to fulfill. When I related the incident to my husband he asked if I told her I had written numerous chapters rather than books! Yes, he's right, I have written quite a few chapters and if you add up all the ones for other books which also are not finished, they do add up fast. I'm trying not to be discouraged by this honesty but instead take it as a sobering reminder from the Lord to keep on pounding out those pages so I can finally say the book is finished! Of course, then all the revisions begin, but that is another story...

As God teaches me how to trust His methods and timeline rather than taking things into hand and forcing them into my own, He also brings to mind many equally as humbling situations concerning my writing. Whenever I am tempted to fantasize about the excitement of releasing my first book, for instance, He is there to whisper, "Not yet!" First comes the work, then the glory. Well, sort of at least. In truth, it's a tradeoff, more hard work but of a different sort is all.

"Dig deep into your mind and heart and dredge up all those forgotten emotions and experiences," He tells me, "so I can continue to use them in your writing. I will redeem your mistakes and place your feet above the mire of the enemy's counterfeit plans to slow you down and divert you from the path I have planned for you. Just keep at it and don't give up."

No, writing is not easy by any means but neither is it wasted time and effort. Whether or not the words ever end up on paper in a book on a shelf at some point, God has purpose for them. I just have to obey and trust His word to bring that purpose about!

Thank YOU for being a part of that divine purpose. May His showers of mercy fall on your life this week!

Laura

Monday, March 29, 2010

The past couple of weeks have been full of writing, for a change, and I feel like I've made some significant progress on the book. My Prayer Team must be praying hard! Hope they keep it up because I still have a long way to go to reach my goal of completing the manuscript and having it ready to begin the submission process. At least I'm moving in the right direction and that alone is exciting. I'm grateful for every drop of God's blessings sprinkled over this project and over my efforts.

One of the themes of this WIP (work in progress) is confronting the reality of what happens when God doesn't meet our expectations, seems He hasn't kept His promises. We know from the Scriptures He will never let us down, will always keep His Word, is not vindictive or absent from our trials. But life is often vastly different from how we think it is going to be. And therein lies our predicament. We make this mess for ourselves and through His strength alone we have to give it up to Him to straighten out in our minds. I personally can only to this by immersing myself in the pages of the Bible, claiming His promises and renewing my focus. I've discovered it is the concept of our perspective which plays with our thoughts and feelings. His ways are not ours and His thoughts are higher than ours could ever be.

So if you are facing one of those times in your life this week, cling to this thought and refuse to give in to the disappointment and bitterness. It lurks around every corner and jumps on us at every unguarded moment; we are all subject to it with every breath. But we have a secret weapon and our faith calls us to use it instead of acting in defeat before we begin. May God's refreshing showers wash away the stench of despair which threatens to overwhelm, and even if your feet are in a deep valley right now may your heart enjoy the mountaintop view!

Have a blessed week and let the Holy Spirit guard your heart and mind as you rest in Him!

Laura

Monday, March 15, 2010

Blessings can come into our lives in many forms and often in ways we least expect. We may not even be looking for them to appear when suddenly they settle over us like a warm blanket on a cool night and bring welcome peace. Other times they explode as unanticipated fireworks which cannot be missed.

Such was the former case when a relatively new friend asked me the other day if I'd been writing this week. She had actually listened when I told her about my writing and cared enough to hold me accountable! This shower of blessing was truly refreshing and, interestingly enough, came when I was in the middle of polishing off the short version of my synopsis. So I was writing at that moment, as a matter of fact, and struggling to summarize a complex plot in as few words as possible while still conveying the full depth of emotion and story line contained in it. And when I returned to my work, there the blessing was: the "right words" just waiting to be discovered, needing only the nourishment of friendship to bring it into bloom. How awesome are You, O Lord!

The explosion in my life, on the other hand, has nothing to do with my writing but is the exciting gift which has turned our quiet life upside down: getting to have two of our grandchildren with us for a few days while they are on Spring Break. With two preschoolers literally running loose in our world, the sparks are flying aplenty. What joy to bask in their excitement at the smallest things in life, which I always seem too busy to fully embrace except when they are around. It is a great deal of hard physical work but gets easier each time they come to visit as they grow more independent and mature emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally. Their chatter provides me with enough entertainment to last for a while--at least until the next time they are here! How their parents do this day in and day out amazes me, but we did with our girls and though it was a challenge at times it was always an honor, mixed with humor and joy. And the pride we feel for our children as they now have families of thier own is immense, a true blessing which "explodes" all over us from time to time with such happiness it's hard to put into words.

Speaking of Spring Break, our family used to take advantage of those glorious days of reprieve from the normal routine to take a variety of trips and the memories are precious to my heart. They were fun times of getting out of our ruts and bonding together when life tried desperately to pull us apart. My husband and I were reminiscing about one of those experiences just a couple of days ago, as we laughed at the memory of sitting in a condo on the beach at Galveston huddled around a board game or snuggled down in blankets watching movies compliments of our video camera hookup because outside it was barely thirty degrees and raining with a raging wind, obscuring our view of the ocean. It certainly wasn't funny at the time but it gave our hearts a lift to recall how much fun the four of us had in spite of the circumstances. Again, blessings galore, just not fully reconigzed until the moment had passed.

The definition of blessing is the experience of divine favor which gives happiness and protection from misfortune. How we interpret that can make all the difference in the world--is it God's hand or our hard work and creativity which has brought the "blessing" to fruition? My prayer this week is for you to recognize and experience the multitude of ways, both large and small, in which God has His hand on your life, then receive them with thanksgiving for His goodness! Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him. Psalms 34:8

Monday, March 8, 2010

Greetings from one who labors to honor God with her words while holding onto her sanity in the storms of life. At times I feel utterly overwhelmed. But it is then I try to take a step back before reacting so I don't run ahead of the Lord. Of course, it doesn't always work out that way, but when it does, what joy and peace I feel instead of the chaos and disorder my enemy desires for me!

One of my daughters is experiencing a difficult pregnancy and we are all anguishing along with her during these long weeks and months of waiting. I don't "wait" easily! But God is teaching me through this timely reminder of who is the source of all life--Almighty God Himself--as well as who is the sustainer of life--again, our Precious Savior! Praying for this tiny baby and for her future is one of the greatest honors I've had as a mother and grandmother, just as praying for her two brothers and for her two cousins was when they were being formed by His hands in utter seclusion (Psalm 139:15). And I'm deeply grateful I can leave these little ones confidently in His capable hands when I say "Amen" and know there is no entity in the universe which can snatch them out again.

What does all this have to do with writing, you ask? My writing is borne out of my life's circumstances and fulfills, I believe, a destiny God planned for me before I took one breath on this earth (Psalm 139:16). So going back to the basics, you might say, has helped re-focus my heart on what is important every day I live. It is my sincere prayer that I can honor Him as His Spirit guides my words moment by moment, all to His glory alone! The busyness of my various commitments are extra blessings I receive from serving God, and I do hope you can see His blessings in your life as well. But if we miss a personal commitment to Jesus Christ in our eagerness to help others, it is all for nothing. My words will be empty and meaningless, my efforts hollow and full of frustration. I draw near to His heart when I recall my beginnings more than sixty years ago, and this is the very best place to be!

The raindrops falling right now are refreshing the earth and bringing life to the tiny buds of flowers on the trees and popping up out of the ground everywhere I look. In the same way, may God's refreshing showers bless your life this coming week with joy and peace beyond explanation!

Laura

Sunday, February 28, 2010

This week has been rough on my writing schedule, with so much else going on that it has been hard to focus on writing and to accomplish my goal of writing, or at least editing and/or rewriting, a chapter a day. But the characters have been much in my mind and that has helped me feel close to the book even though I'm not actually at my computer writing.

One of the themes of this book is identifying and staying in God's Will. It didn't start out that way but that is precisely what the book really is about! I know God is saying something to me through this experience of "living" the plot of the book so I have been trying to listen with God-sensitive ears. Amazing that the Lord would take me on the same journey I am taking my characters!

In spite of the crazy week (and I have an even crazier one ahead this week!) I believe I have made progress in understanding and knowing the characters in this piece a little better--just as I have made progress in knowing and understanding with a fresh awareness how God's Will plays out in my life. This is one of the most awesome blessings God has shared with me this week and I pray that He will continue to shower me in this way during these busy days. May God's rich blessings be on you as well!

Laura

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Well, here we go with this new venture! In case you are wondering why my "address" says Belle it is because that is from my middle name. For your information, I plan on updating my blog at least once a week or as often as I possibly can.

God has showered His blessings on my life in such a multitude of ways but never more than how He called and has sustained me as I write for Him. This blog seems a perfect way to share these blessings with others, provided they read my posts! So feel free to share this blog with others and I encourage you to comment on the posts as well. Each one counts as a contact with publishers and agents as I build a platform from which to market my books once a manuscript is completed.

My latest blessing has been having a Prayer Team in place to pray for my writing. These are friends who are dear to my heart but also have believed in my ability and calling to write, some for years. They have encouraged me, held me accountable, and loved me through some difficult times. Now they are organized to pray for me on a regular basis. The Lord placed this concept on my heart some time ago but it took me several months to get things going by first bathing it in prayer, recruiting those who were willing to serve, and sending out a prayer list for this month of specific needs. I cannot express my gratitude deeply enough to these precious ladies! It is my sincere hope this group of women will lift me up to the Lord even as I struggle to get each word down on paper (or the computer screen, actually!), pray about decisions such as an agent or publisher, and compile all the vast research I've done on each book. Thus, I will have in place a hedge of protection to protect me from distractions and discouragement. My enemy is cunning and powerful, but I serve a God who is mightier than he!

And this God has used Ephesians 3:16-21 in my life in countless ways so it will be my guide in this blog as well. I desire only to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ with my writing, never myself, and pray that lives will be changed for eternity because of the words He has put into my heart and which I have been obedient to record in my writings.

Thank You, Lord, for going down deep into the soil of my heart so that my roots will go down deep into Your love, guarding my heart and life as I rest in You! We'll talk soon. Meanwhile, I pray many showers of blessings will fall on you, my most important readers!!

Laura