Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Story Hop

Grand Prize: $100 Amazon Gift Certificate!

Please join us in the celebration of our Lord and Savior, and rejoice with us our favorite Christmas movies and join us on a progressive Christmas story hop.

Here’s how it works:
  1. Go to each blog in the order that is listed below.
  2. Read the first section of the story. Then follow the link to the next section of the story.
  3. At each blog, comment to get entered in both the Grand Prize drawing ($100 Amazon Gift Card) and to be entered in each author’s individual drawing. Your comments can be about the story. Or you can tell us your favorite Christmas songs or movies or books. You can also tweet and like us on Facebook to be entered multiple times.
Feel free to browse each author’s bookshelf.

Comment on this blog and you will receive a FREE autographed, paperback copy of "Beyond Hope" or a FREE e-book download of "Beyond Hope" from Smashwords, whichever you prefer! I love Smashwords because readers can download novels in multiple formats. 

Blogs to visit for the Progressive Christmas Story, "A Christmas to Remember", should be visited in the order listed below:
  1.    Gloria Harchar
  2.    Emerald Barnes
  3.    Bonnie Blythe
  4.    Anita Green
  5.    Marian Merritt
  6.    Rich Bullock
  7.    Dawn Turner

My Favorite Christmas Songs

It's that time of year again. No matter where you go, there it is. Christmas music. If you're like me, by the time Christmas rolls around, you're so sick of most of it, you could puke. But I'll bet you're like me and have your favorites, too. Those songs you can listen to all year long and never get sick of them. (If only they were all so palatable over the long haul, eh? he he)

Two of my favorites are relatively new. The third is very traditional and has multiple renditions in several languages.

The traditional one that hits me deep is O Holy Night. I don't think anyone sings it as well as Nat King Cole did. What strikes me about this song is how beautifully it reveals what Christ came to do for us as well as how we should respond to His precious gift (fall on our knees and raise our voices in joyful praise).

The two songs I absolutely adore that aren't traditional Christmas songs but exemplify the meaning of the season are "Mary, Did You Know" and "Joseph's Song".

People have spent centuries speculating and talking about the kind of young woman Mary was that God chose her to be the mother of the Christ child. The Bible reveals her humble servant heart. The type of heart every single last one of us is supposed to have. Just think for a moment about the faith and obedience she showed.

But she wasn't the only one. And she isn't the only one I've often wondered about.

Have you ever thought about what kind of man God chose to raise His Son? Joseph was just as important in Jesus' life in many ways as Mary was. Think about the faith and obedience he exhibited, not to mention the love he must have had for Mary.

God worked through two humble, obedient people with incredible faith. It's amazing when you read scripture how often God chose the lowly of society to do incredible things. He chose a young virgin with a servant's heart to be mother to Jesus. He chose a humble carpenter to be Jesus' father. He chose a shepherd named David to be the king of His nation Israel. Jesus chose fishermen and tax collectors to share His message with a lost world.

As we think about the incredible gift God gave us by coming in the flesh to sacrifice Himself for our sins, how joyful and obedient is your heart? And who would He have you reach out to and share His love with?

So, what's your favorite song and why?

If you haven't yet read "A Christmas to Remember", check it out!

Participate in the Amazon gift card give away using Facebook or your email by clicking here December 13th through the 15th (be sure to leave a comment on this blog posting, too, to be eligible):

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

I SO Wanted to Scream...

Yep. Just like that. I SO understand.
Photo courtesy of slowpoke on
But I restrained myself. Barely. Doesn't mean I wasn't doing a lot of grumbling, not to mention outright declaring MS Word an idiot though.  *G*

Took me nearly 24 hours of working, re-working and re-working yet again, but I finally got "Beyond Hope" properly formatted so it uploaded to Smashwords and worked properly. So, as of Wednesday, December 5th, "Beyond Hope" is now available in all e-book formats as well as paperback.

What took so long, you might ask?

Well, I'll tell you.

Smashwords has a very long, very detailed document ("Style Guide" I believe is what they call it) that explains all the things you need to do to make sure the document format for your book is correct for uploading so it converts to the various e-book formats properly. The step that ended up trying to hang me was the "Normal" versus other paragraph formats.

Smashwords warns that if the "Normal" paragraph style is different from what you overwrite it with (such as highlighting text and changing it to TNR-13), the hidden "Normal" settings may rear their ugly little heads when the file is converted for e-book purposes.

Ain't it the truth!

I was at a loss to understand why I had text popping back and forth between Times New Roman and Arial fonts, as well as appearing in different sizes. I checked everything I could think of, but nada. I finally gave up and went to bed that night.

I woke up the next morning with the answer. Sort of. I tried reformatting the entire document in case I'd missed something before. (Which incidentally is how I started this whole fiasco anyway, so I couldn't have missed anything. But you never know.) Tried uploading again and checked the format of the EPUB file. Doh! Still not fixed. In fact, not a single thing had changed. Argh!

Just as I was ready to give up and call in more knowledgeable reinforcements, it hit me. Of course! Check the base format of the "Normal" paragraph style. Ha ha! Got you!

Unbeknownst to me, and Lord alone knows when or how it happened, the "Normal" paragraph style had gotten changed in my version of MS Word. It was no longer Times New Roman, 12 point. It had shifted to Arial, 12 point.

I fixed that then highlighted the affected text in chapter 1 and selected "Normal" style. Viola! Once I knew for sure chapter 1 was fixed, I fixed the remaining chapters scene by scene (so I didn't have to redo the formats for chapter headings and scene breaks). Now, I was coasting.

Uploaded the new file and checked the EPUB. Doh! Then the entire text of chapter 1 was a smaller font than the entire rest of the book!  How in the world did that happen? I have no clue. So I highlighted the text of chapter 1, hit "Normal" again, and prayed it worked.

And it did! Yes! So, "Beyond Hope" is now available online in ALL e-book formats. Woohoo! (UPDATE 02/06/2015 - e-books for Beyond Hope has been removed from Smashwords and Barnes & Noble. It is currently only available for Kindle.)

Amazing what happens when those hidden things are revealed.

And you know what? It occurred to me there's a spiritual lesson in that. How often do we have "hidden things" in our lives that don't appear in one context (such as a paperback novel) but are revealed in a HUGE way in another (such as an EPUB file)? We try to deal with the outward signs (like those wonky font and text size changes) without actually getting to the root of the problem (like the base format of the "Normal" paragraph style). Until we deal with the root cause of the problem, we end up getting annoyed and frustrated like I did. I've been there, and I'm not just talking about writing.

Hm. God really can use anything to teach us, can't He?

So what kind of frustrations have you faced lately that God has used to teach you something? It could be something new or something He just revealed in a different light. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Where's Your "Wall"?

Photo courtesy of ccmackay
No, I'm not talking about your Facebook wall.  *G*

We writers all have a "wall". I was talking recently to another writer about it. She compared writing to running a long distance marathon. At some point, when running (or even walking), you hit a wall, that point where you just KNOW you can't go any further. You need to quit.

Photo courtesy of click

The "wall" in writing is, as I've discovered, that certain word count or range we have to reach before we can finally get our minds into the writing groove and things flow the way they should. And it's seldom child's play. Sometimes the story helps. Sometimes it gets stubborn and pushes back.

My "wall" is right around 1,500 words. Sometimes I'll get a few hundred words in, or even 1,200 or 1,300 words in, and think "That's it. I'm done. I can't go any further. I just don't have what it takes." Just like a marathon runner. BUT, just like a marathon runner, if I can keep going, push past that wall of "I'm done", I get a second wind, get into the rhythm and flow of the story, and I can generally go for hundreds or even thousands of words without stopping.

Sometimes, getting TO that 1,500 word point is a special form of torture. I eke them out a half dozen words at a time, maybe one or two hundred at a time if I'm lucky. But they come slow. If I quit before I reach that 1,500, it can be hours or even days or weeks before I pick up my writing again due to discouragement or simple lack of "inspiration." If I discipline myself to plant my butt in my chair and push the words until I reach that point, the flow suddenly breaks free and the story generally writes itself.

"But pushing makes for stilted writing," you may say? Well, yes, it often does. But who publishes their first draft anyway? All of us writers edit what we write. We all have to refine and deepen our stories beyond what we get with the first draft. So anything that's stilted can be remedied then. So the problem with the first draft having stilted sections is what exactly? (Take a hike, perfectionism.)

The benefit to pushing through the wall?  I have 1,500 words I wouldn't have had before, plus whatever comes afterwards that flows so nice and easy. And I don't allow the fact I'm sick, tired or simply not inspired to stop my writing in it's tracks. This is how I can have a good day with over 7,500 words written. If I let the wall win, I'm lucky to have 1,000.

There's one fact to writing. Writers write. We write when we're well, sick, happy, sad, wide awake, tired, inspired or totally uninspired. We write. Period.

(By the way, for those who are curious after my post from last week - I did finish my NaNovel on the morning of the 24th with just over 80K words written in November. I decided not to stop there since I'd set aside November to write and started a new novel the evening of the 24th. I certainly didn't have time in November to finish it, but I made some wonderful progress on it.)

So where's your "wall"? And how often do you let it win? Have you found any tactics, like many marathon runners seem to, that help you push past it? (Thanks again, Terri, for the perfect analogy!)