Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Saturday, March 25, 2017

40 Adventures for 40 Years, Part 2

Our lives haven’t exactly been a whirlwind of activity since my last report, although we’ve added four places to our kissing list: church (after the service, not during); my sister Shanon’s house (with an audience of extended family); the sidewalk outside the Learning Centre where Jon works (where one of the students happened to be walking by and was no doubt grossed out); and the back seat of our friends Shaun and Tracy’s car. They were completely scandalized.

Besides adding to our kissing exploits, we’ve checked off just one item from our list of forty things to celebrate our fortieth year of marriage. We did it together with Shaun and Tracy, which is how we ended up in their car.

It was Item #4: “See The Shack.” I had added it to our list as soon as I heard the movie was coming out, knowing we’d want to see it. We first read the book in 2008 and heard its author, William Paul Young, speak at a Breakforth conference in 2009. I enjoyed the book well enough. But Jon found it transformative and re-read it and listened to it numerous times in the intervening years. And yes, I’m quite aware there’s much controversy about the author’s theology and whether or not the book and movie are heretical. I am not here to argue and will refuse to engage if invited. It’s fiction, okay? Love it or hate it, but take it as an engaging story and don’t make it your new Bible.

The four of us discussed the movie over crepes afterwards and on the hour-long ride home. We agreed it was well done, well cast, filled with hope, and true to the book. My favorite part is when Jesus is trying to coax Mac to get out of the boat, and Mac is afraid. He's seen scary things in the water.

“You are imagining a future without me in it,” Jesus says. “Such a thing does not exist.”

That’s exactly it, isn’t it? Every time we’re worried or afraid or simply cannot face another day, we are imagining a future without Jesus in it. And such a thing does not exist.

When I look back over my life, every moment—from the best to the most rotten—he’s been there. Even when I doubted his presence. So why should I think there will be any moments or days or tragedies in my future where Jesus will not be there to see me through? How I need this reminder!

Stay tuned for more anniversary adventures throughout 2017.

Friday, March 10, 2017

40 Adventures for 40 Years - Part 1

Hubby and I will be marking our fortieth anniversary in 2017, which is a miracle on so many levels—not the least of which is the fact that only a few years ago, the only people who got to celebrate fortieth anniversaries were old. Now, even kids like us are doing it. I think it has something to do with the weird time warp that happened when we flipped to a new century. And they thought Y2K was a non-event.

Anyway, we decided we’d spend the whole year celebrating with a list of 40 activities to do together—some big, most little, a few crazy. Some definitely outside our comfort zone. In no particular order.

And of course, I’ll take my readers along for the ride. Vicariously, I mean.

So here we are, more than two months into this fortieth year and we’ve only checked off two things. Unless you count Item #40, which is “Kiss in 40 Places Outside the House,” followed by 40 blank lines, ten of which have been filled in. We’ve kissed in the CanadaInn parking lot, Stride Place, the airport, our son’s house, outside our bank, on the sidewalk on Garry Street in Winnipeg, the McNally Robinson parking lot, Grant Park theatre, the Pony Corral restaurant, and behind City Hall. So we’re on track with the kissing thing even if Hubs isn't a fan of public displays of affection. We’ll have to step it up a notch in order to cover the remainder of the list.

Item #39, “Do a Jigsaw Puzzle,” has not been checked off yet, but it was begun last Christmas Eve and is still in progress—much to my annoyance—on our dining table.  Jon has done the lion’s share since I have the attention span of a Chihuahua when it comes to puzzles.

Item #1 was accomplished on February 12, although it was a bit of a cheat, since it wasn’t actually on the original list. The mayor offered me two free tickets to the Men’s Provincial Curling Championship—any game. We hadn’t watched live curling in years, or curling at this level ever, and thought it would be fun to do something different. We added it to our list in place of something we were pretty sure we couldn’t pull off.

And it was fun. It’s mind-boggling how the curlers can get so expert at a sport that comes with so many crazy variables. We chose the final draw and got to watch Mike McEwen lead his team to the championship win. Although I gotta confess, it might have been more interesting to watch the one where a temper tantrum taught a player a tough lesson.


Item #37. We’ve also crossed off “Eat at Nuburger” and declared their burgers the best ever! There are three locations in Winnipeg; we went to the one in Osborne Village. Formerly known as “Unburger,” they changed their name when people assumed they were vegetarian only. I’d have drawn the same conclusion. (They do have vegetarian options, but their beef, chicken, and bison are locally raised.) Hubs had the “Deliciousmosttastious Bacon Cheddar” and I had the “Delicious ‘n Tasty Cheddar” on fantastic multi-grain bread. We brought home a menu and will definitely want to return to try some of their other combinations. Fantastic!

Stay tuned for more anniversary adventures throughout 2017.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Enter to Win!

There are only five days left to enter this chance to win a free copy of my novel, The Silver Suitcase, along with more than 45 historical novels by a variety of amazing authors, and the grand prize of a Kindle fire. Enter now!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

My Thoughts on Scrivener

Last year I took the leap and purchased Scrivener writing software, and have been asked for my thoughts on it. I have a few— now that I’ve completed one book with it. Or rather, one first draft with it. I used it for Bleak Landing (releasing from Waterfall Press this August), but once it came time to send the manuscript to my beta readers and then to my editor, I needed to export it to MS Word. Exporting it to Word wasn’t quite as slick as they say and required some reformatting on my part. Not a deal breaker, though. From there on, I was working in MS Word because that’s what my editor/publisher uses.

I confess I had Scrivener on my computer for a long time before I actually started using it. It has an overwhelming number of bells and whistles for an old lady like me. I felt intimidated and frustrated because I’d spent the money and wasn’t using it, yet I knew if I could just figure it out, I’d probably love it. Finally, I went ahead and purchased Joseph Michael’s Learn Scrivener Fast course and was able to get a handle on the program. He’s a genius at breaking it down into bite-size pieces that you can build on.

The course is a series of easily-digested videos from two to ten minutes long that you can work your way through in snippets of time. I still haven’t watched them all, so I’ll need to go back and do that now that my project is behind me. So I guess my first piece of advice would be, if you’re going to get the software, get the course too. Even if you’re a natural wiz at computers and can figure it all out, there’ll be neat features you might miss on your own. Once you’ve bought the course, you can go back any time and rewatch or reread the lessons.

In a nutshell, the biggest difference with Scrivener over Word is that you’re working with three panels in front of you: on the left is a list of all your files related to the project. So you can easily hop from chapter to chapter or to a character list or to a bit of research you’ve stored there, including pictures and links to websites. You can also keep a file of deleted scenes in case you ever want to retrieve them. Everything is organized and handy.

In the center is your working panel, much like the page you’re used to working on in Word but with a lot of extra cool features (like a little bar in the bottom corner that shows you how close you’re getting to your word count goal for the chapter. It’s like your own private cheerleader, changing color as you approach the finish line!) This panel can display your entire manuscript or just one chapter, or an entire bulletin board of “index cards” outlining each chapter—all with just one click. 

In the right-hand panel are more tools you can use, like keeping a synopsis of your current chapter in front of you, and project notes. One of the things I used this for was to display a table showing my goals for each week with a check box when I completed the required word count. Of course, these side boxes can be minimized at any time to get them out of your way.

What I absolutely LOVED:

  • The free 30-day trial they offer is good for thirty days of actual use. This means if you work with it one day and then don’t open it again for several days or weeks (like I did), you still have 29 days to work with it before you decide to buy. And so on.
  • The ability to click from one chapter to another or to my research files without having to scroll through a bunch of text or do a “search” and then lose my place. For example, What did I name that dog? Weeks may have passed since I mentioned him, and now I don’t recall what chapter I introduced the dog in. I can simply click on the “characters” tab for the dog owner where I’ll see the full description for that character, including the name of his dog. As I add characters, I can easily create a page for them and add these details for future reference—and then just click back to my chapter and I’m right where I left off. Of course, you can do all this in Word, but you need to keep separate documents. With Scrivener, everything related to your project is all right in front of you.

What I wasn’t so keen on—at first:
·         Scrivener has no built-in thesaurus, but it does have a tool that takes you directly to  At first, I didn’t think I’d like this but it turned out all right, especially since the online thesaurus usually offers you more choices than the one built in to Word. It could be problematic if you have a slow connection or are trying to work off line, though. 

What I could do without:
Honestly, it’s just TOO MUCH. There are features and buttons I will never use, and I almost wish they made a dumbed-down, easier version. Much of the program is designed for self-publishing, so I suppose people who are creating their own e-books and uploading them are thrilled with those tools. That’s just not me.

Overall, I’d say the advantages definitely made the investment worth it and I’m confident I will find this to be truer as I continue using Scrivener for future projects.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

How to know when it's time to take your characters to bed

So, I’m editing my third novel, Bleak Landing, which releases in August. I’ve learned that I love the editing process more than the actual writing, probably because you’re taking something you had to tear your hair out just to get onto the page and now you’ve got help to polish it and make it much better. I’m learning that a good editor is worth their weight in coffee pods—and not the cheap kind. 

The way it works is, I receive my manuscript back from my development editor, Shari. What was once three hundred plain, black-and-white, double-spaced pages is now a rainbow of Track Changes, averaging three or more per paragraph. I’m eager to dig in, knowing I have about two weeks to work my way through all Shari’s comments and suggestions and return it. Then we do a second, shorter round the same way. A few weeks later, I’ll get it back from the copy editor and go through the process one last time before my baby is completely out of my hands.

Right now I’m in the middle of the first round. Most of the time, it’s just a matter of clicking on either “accept” or “reject” or choosing a more precise word. Sometimes it means clarifying a whole sentence for the reader or deleting an unnecessary one. Sometimes it’s verifying a historical element. Occasionally, Shari challenges me to rework an entire scene to make it more engaging for the reader. She’ll write something like, “This is a little pat/cliché. I know you can give me something even stronger.” Or “I’m not sure this is convincingly romantic enough.”

If that challenge happens to come at 8:00 on a Friday night after I’ve met my obligation at my day job, grocery shopped, made dinner, cleaned the kitchen, and already spent a couple of hours editing at a desk that’s in desperate need of tidying and the pain in my shoulders is screaming for relief—I can get a little surly. I want to yell at Shari, “You’re wrong, you tyrant! I can’t give you something stronger. This is it. I was proud of that scene! It’s the best I can do. So shut up and leave me alone!”

Yeah, that’s when you know it’s time to close the laptop and call it a day. Take your characters to bed with you and pray they’ll show you better words by morning.

In the middle of this process, my second book, Maggie’s War, is launching—a bit of a timing misfortune on the publisher’s part. But I can’t whine about it and still appear professional, especially when I’ve only just got my nose in the door of this business. So I’m juggling plans for three launch events, radio interviews, and newspaper ads. I’m keeping track of receipts, preparing speeches and door prizes, and responding to early reviewers. Oh yes, and it’s really time to put up another blog post. And how can I answer questions about the second novel when my head’s all wrapped up in the third? The characters and situations are all muddled together.

Seems a bit much for a woman who still can’t get through the day without a substantial nap.

But guess what? Lots of writers would kill to have the problems I’m describing. I could have called this post “Be careful what you wish for.” After all, I wanted this. Prayed for this. It seems when God opens a flood gate, he does a thorough job. Sure, I could throw up my hands and say “forget it.” I could return the manuscript just the way it is, collect the remainder of my advance, and call it a career. The book would still be published. Sales would be disappointing. Reviews would be dismal. A chance at another contract would be gone. I could spend the rest of my life on the couch watching Netflix or reading other writers’ books, ignoring the words on my laptop’s wallpaper: “I want to see what happens if I don’t give up.”

It’s seven a.m. and I’ve had a decent sleep. My desk is still a mess. The bathroom’s dirty and laundry waits. I’ve got a book launch in three days. But I’ll go back and tackle that troublesome scene because, deep down, I know Shari is right. I can do better. And I owe it to her, to my readers, to myself, and most of all, to my Creator, to give it my very best.

But first, another cup of coffee. The cheap kind. Sigh.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17