Monday, April 30, 2007

Do You Have Any Idea?

The other night, my toddler woke up crying. So, I went into her room to scoop her up. Oh, what a sweetheart. I changed her then soothed her so she could go back to sleep. In my half-awake state, I sang “…I hope you know dear, how much I love you…”

What a phrase.

And I heard God whisper the same lyrics to me.

Oh, Jesus. No, I don’t think I do, not fully. But I want to.

I’ve swam in the warm pool of His love, but not His ocean. I want so much more of Him.

Lord, open my heart—make me capable of more deeply experiencing Your love. Expand my heart as the psalmist sang and fill it up with You, Your love.

Give me an idea of how big Your love for me is—in every dimension. Help me know You more intimately.

And help me receive.

Amen.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Guest Author: Trish Perry

This week we're in for another treat as author Trish Perry joins us with a fun chick-lit release to discuss.

Hi Trish. L
et’s begin with a bit about yourself. Tell us about your family and any other fun tidbits you want to share.

I live with my 15-year-old son, three nutty dogs, and Tuffy the feral cat in lovely Loudoun County, Virginia. My adult daughter and her hubby blessed me with a grandson almost four years ago. All of these family members are insane and hilarious, and my life with them is so good.

What made you want to become a writer and how long ago did you begin?

I started writing seriously about 12 years ago, while I was still in college (as an old lady, not as an actual college-aged gal). I was completing my degree is Psychology, and I planned to go to graduate school and become a therapist. But while working on my degree, I started writing quite a bit; first for Literature and English Composition classes, then for submission. I found I really loved writing! Several professors encouraged me in that direction, so I took creative writing courses while still in school. By the time I was due to begin work on my Doctorate, I had decided to write instead of counsel. But the degree still comes in handy, especially with character development and motive.

How did you first break into publishing?

First step, grasshoppah: submit submit submit! Right?

I published poetry and short vignettes first, then essays and short stories, but all the while I worked on my first novel manuscript. That book was a spiritual warfare story, and I couldn’t seem to get a break with it. The blessing was that I had an inkling of a romantic comedy idea brewing as I finished the first novel, so I started writing a chick lit next. With my chick lit manuscript I found my agent, who found my publisher. That entire process took about ten years, from first published poem to first published novel.

Wow, ten years! Gives us writers hope. :0) Now, for your new release: Tell us about your newest book “Too Good to be True.”

Actually, Annette, even though Too Good to Be True is my second release, it is the chick lit novel I refer to in the question above. I wrote Too Good to Be True first, and while my agent took it to various houses, I started writing a follow-up, which I called The Guy I’m Not Dating. When Harvest House gave me a two-book contract, they asked me to switch the order of the two books. So I had to shuffle “history” around a bit, but I think it all worked out well.

Too Good takes up where The Guy I’m Not Dating leaves off, but they’re both stand-alone books. You don’t need to read one to “get” the other. In Too Good, Ren Young, a twenty-something elementary schoolteacher, has just reached the one-year anniversary of the divorce forced upon her by her nonbelieving husband. That same morning she learns that the adoption process they had started while married has just fallen through. Then one more stressor causes her to pass right out in the middle of the boys’ department in her local Wal-Mart. Tru Sayers, a handsome young labor-and-delivery nurse, is there to “rescue” her. Eventually they become an item, but not without difficulties. They both have formidable mothers with plans of their own. Ren’s friends, all featured in The Guy I’m Not Dating, also factor into her romantic adventure, as do a considerable number of siblings and the little boy Ren had hoped to adopt. The book tackles some sobering topics, such as divorce, infidelity, single-parent adoption, infertility, and whacked out control-freak mamas, but it is fun all the way.

What was your favorite aspect of writing it?

I think the humor was what I enjoyed the most. I had just come off a rather serious manuscript when I started writing Too Good to Be True, and I was itching to have some fun. Amusing situations and lines of dialogue kept coming to me as I completed my spiritual-warfare manuscript, and I struggled to stay focused. So I wrote Too Good with a great sense of release.

How much of your own story goes into your novels?

Not much. My storylines are never autobiographical. But certainly plenty of me goes into my novels. I can’t help but bleed into my main characters, especially in their dialogue. Much of my attitude is in there, but not a great deal of my story.

One thing that I do sometimes include is, if my son and I have a funny conversation, for instance, and a particularly good line pops out there, I’ll save it in a file for a place in one of my books. Or if I’m going along minding my own business and my imagination wonders what my particular situation at that moment would be like “if . . . ,” I’ll jot that scenario down for the file, too.

But you have to watch it when you put your own life into your fiction. Real life should be appreciated and kept pretty sacred, I think. Sometimes I consider that old movie, “Starting Over,” in which a songwriter would immediately sit down to write a song based on something she’d just experienced, even if it was hugely traumatic. She viewed her real life as one big brainstorming session. She was hilarious and awful; I don’t ever want to become like that.

How much has your writing changed since your last release (“The Guy I’m Not Dating”)?

I think I’m more pensive before I start writing now. I do a bit more “head work” than I used to, before sitting down to the computer. It’s like playing chess (which I don’t do, so I’m guessing here, or possibly I’m full of baloney). Rather than just sitting down and making moves, I ponder several moves ahead now before writing anything. So I’m more likely to write something in Chapter One that is groundwork for Chapter Ten. It all works out about the same, really, because there is such a thing as revision, where you go back and make those necessary adjustments and additions during your rewrites. But this change in style isn’t deliberate. It’s just the way I find I’m writing these days.

What are you writing now and do you have release dates for upcoming novels?

No release dates yet, alas. I started the third book in my current series, tentatively titled, ‘Til Depth Do Us Part. It features two characters from the first two books, whom readers keep suggesting as main characters after reading the first two books. That makes me happy; as if I chose well for the third book idea. But I’ve had to set that aside and am now putting together something Harvest House wants to consider. In Too Good to Be True, my heroine checks out a book from the library, the title of which I made up, without a great deal of thought. My editor loved the title and asked me to think about writing a book around it. Isn’t that a fun idea? And I’m also putting together a possible five-book proposal, which my agent would like to show to some houses. All of those future books are up in the air right now. We’ll see which happens first!

Sounds exciting! What advice do you have for aspiring writers who await seeing their names in print?

Pray first, of course. If you’re writing to show appreciation for the gift He gave you, you’ll want to be sure to stay under His wing while doing it. He does such amazing things, in His own time, and His guidance is of absolute importance.

Try to get to a conference or two, join a local writing group, join an online writing group (American Christian Fiction Writers is the best) [amen!], and read about the craft. I’d be happy to supply a list of suggested reading to anyone who wants to write me, care of my website (www.trishperrybooks.com)

And just keep writing. A writer so worthy of respect is that person who just plugs away, despite not being published yet. She has manuscripts stacking up, and she keeps writing and doing the above things while submitting, waiting, hoping. When she gets signed, she’s going to have so much to offer her publishers. And when a publisher considers one of her manuscripts and asks, “How serious is this writer? Does she have anything else written?” she’ll wow the publishers with her devotion to writing. What you’re writing now, whether it gets published or not, is never time wasted.

What a great perspective. One last question, what is your biggest dream?

Yikes! I’ll stick with the writing realm for that one, just to make it simpler! I dream of a point in time when I’ll feel confident in stepping up to a podium to share the Lord and myself with readers and fellow writers. I’ve already realized part of that dream, in the form of reader feedback. When the Lord moves a reader to express joy or blessing to me because of something I wrote, He moves me a bit closer to feeling confident that others will feel joy or blessing if I represent Him well as a speaker. When I listen to a writer/speaker like Liz Curtis Higgs or Florence Littauer, I see Him using them. I dream of His using me that way.

Thanks for sharing with us, Trish! God bless your endeavors!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Guest Authors: Anita Higman and Janice Thompson

Thanks for inviting me (Anita Higman) and Janice Thompson to your blog. We’re excited about a novel we’ve written together.

Your Heartsong is entitled, Larkspur Dreams. What’s the theme of your novel?

Anita: Letting God grow us beyond ourselves.

Janice: Opposites not only attract; God often uses our “polar opposite” to complete/fulfill us.

Anita, you and Janice coauthored Larkspur Dreams. How do writers go about coauthoring?

Anita: There are a number of ways to coauthor a novel. One writer can do the research and the other writer can actually write the story. Or coauthors can each choose a character and write from that character’s POV. In the three books we’re writing together, I guess you could say I’m writing the body and wings of the stories, and Janice is helping to make them fly. She has a quite a gift for critiquing.

Janice: Working with Anita is a breeze because she conceives and fully plots the stories then lets me add my thoughts/tidbits to give them flavor. She is so quirky and fun to work with, and I am very proud of the stories we have co-produced. I especially loved the character of Larkspur because I see so much of myself in her.

Were there times when it was hard to work together?

Anita: No hard times. Janice Thompson is a gentle dove of a woman. She is not only talented, but easy to work with. There were a few times in one of the novels that I found myself writing in a way that strayed from the general concept of a Heartsong romance. Janice made some good suggestions, which steered me in the right direction.

Janice: I can honestly say that I’ve never worked with anyone who was so willing to accept critique and/or take suggestions as Anita. She is a precious friend and collaborative partner. I already knew she was talented (even before we began this project) but had no idea how gracious she would be. Since I’ve written for the Heartsong line for years, I was able to “teach her the ropes” (as it were) and she was a ready learner! That’s not to say she hasn’t taught me a thing or two. I’ve learned much from her throughout this process, particularly as it applies to romantic tension. She’s far better at that than I am, and I’m happy to admit it.

Why did you choose to be a writer?

Anita: Ever since I was a little girl, I had this need to express myself in some sort of artistic medium. I’ve tried a number of things: piano, painting, decorating, and acting. But I’ve never been very good at any these endeavors, except writing. I guess really then—writing chose me.

Janice: Like Anita, I’ve always been artistic. As a youngster, I sang, danced and played the piano. I was also very involved in theater as a young person. I’ve been writing since childhood. I wrote my first novella in 6th grade, then went on to write musical comedies for the stage before turning to books in the mid-90’s. Like Anita, I can truly say that I didn’t choose writing; it chose me. Or, perhaps I should say that God chose it for me, as a gift.

How would you describe the characters in Larkspur Dreams?

Anita: Lark and Everett are total opposites. Lark is a sanguine and a free-spirit who loves people and loves being alive. Everett is a cautious guy who enjoys numbers more than people. I love throwing characters together who’ll stir up trouble just by being in the same room.

Janice: As mentioned above, I really related to Larkspur on many levels. She’s as fun-loving and free-spirited as they come. All artsy types will agree! To give her a love interest like Everett (ironically, my grandfather’s name) was terrific because we really got to explore the “opposites attract” principle. It worked like a charm!

Did you both enjoy working with these characters? Why?

Anita: Many of my characters are bits of me. Lark is only a small part of me. I’m more of a melancholy/choleric, and Lark is really a true sanguine with a little bit of phlegmatic thrown in. She is the life of the party, and everybody loves being around her. I enjoyed writing about Lark, because I am a Lark-wannabe. Aren’t we all?

Janice: Will I embarrass myself too much if I say that I enjoy being the life of the party, like Larkspur? I do! I’m a real people person, and I thrive on the affections of the people God has placed in my life. Consequently, I really loved this character. As for Everett. . . I had to “grasp” the concept that someone could actually “be” like that. He seemed foreign to me! But, of course, he was Lark’s perfect/ideal man!

How long have you been writing?

Anita: I’ve been writing for twenty-two years. It’s been a long journey, a hard journey at times, but I’m glad I didn’t get off the train. During those many years, I had a variety of books published, mostly nonfiction, but the passion for writing novels never left me. When I first started this whole process, my kids were little. It became difficult to sit down and concentrate on writing, but I did find bits of time. Also, kids go to bed earlier than adults, so I used that block of time to write rather than watch television. Now, empty nest is around the corner, so soon I’ll have even more time to write.

Janice: I’ve been writing professionally since the 90’s. As mentioned earlier, I wrote musical comedies for the stage. (I was a drama director at a Christian school of the arts for several years.) My first “published” works were magazine articles, then I sold my first novel (Duty to Die) in 2000. Since then, I’ve written/published over 20 books, in nearly every genre: historical fiction, contemporary inspirational romance, cozy mystery, non-fiction devotional, and Christian living.

When did you have your first success as a writer?

Anita: After several years of writing, I had some gradual success—books for children, books of one-act plays, and nonfiction for women. These successes were enough to keep me going toward my ultimate goal, which was to write novels.

Janice: This may sound a bit silly, but my first real writing “success” happened my senior year in high school, when I was chosen to help write the senior production. I had a blast, and the scene I crafted (a 1930’s/Busby Berkeley-esque “The Show Must Go On” scene) was a huge success. I can’t tell you what fun I had, or how great it felt for people to respond as they did.

Do you have any special methods of getting into the writing zone, such as favorite scents, music, or certain foods?

Anita: Sometimes I go to a local French café, order coffee and scrambled eggs, and then write a rough chapter. The noise, music, and bustle energizes me creatively.

Janice: An "ideal" writing situation for me would involve someplace like Starbucks (or otherwise) with a cup of my favorite hot beverage in my hand (to be discussed below). Ironically, when I'm at home, I can't stand having music going. I find it terribly distracting... something about the "beat" drives me nutty. Having the television on is okay, but it's often muted. Crazy, I know. I'm a fanatic about my Diet Dr. Pepper and several flavors of hot tea. I particularly love Earl Grey and Chai Latte, among others. And I'm nuts about hot chocolate in the wintertime. I'm also crazy about my puppies. I have two red mini-dachshunds named Sasha and Copper. They usually settle in next to me on the sofa, Sasha on my right, Copper on my left. When we're all in place (with a cup of tea or a Diet Dr. Pepper on the end table, depending on the season) I'm ready to begin. Of course, I usually have to weed through several emails (clearing a path) before I can actually start writing. Whew! Sounds like quite a process, doesn't it?! It's a wonder I get anything done at all!

What is your best advice for aspiring writers?

Anita: If you feel called to write, don’t let people discourage you. I’m sure they don’t realize the impact of their words, but negative remarks can undermine our courage and joy. Comments similar to: “Maybe you weren’t really meant to be published.” Or, “Are you making any money at this yet?” Perhaps you’ve heard, “Why can’t you write like my favorite author?” Honestly, I could go on and on here. Writing is a great and honorable profession—one that can challenge, inspire, and change people’s lives. If you love words and love arranging them into stories, then don’t let the battering influence of dispiriting comments shatter your dream. Keep pressing on!

Janice: I often say this to young/new writers: Learn the craft, but don’t necessarily write what the publishers/agents/houses tell you to write. Trends change. Stick with the stories God places on your heart and if He intends them to be published, He will find the right publishing house in the right time.

What are your writing plans for the future?

Anita: I’d love to write romantic suspense. I’m also interested in fantasy.

Janice: I’m open to whatever God wants (and I really mean that). If He shifts me in a new direction (women’s fiction, for example) I’m following His lead! If He asks me to lay the writing down for a season in order to accomplish a different task, I’m open to that, too.

We’d love for you to visit our websites at www.anitahigman.com and www.janiceathompson.com. If you’re interested in our Heartsong novel, Larkspur Dreams, it can be ordered online right now through Barbour Publishing at http://www.barbourbooks.com/book/detail/larkspur-dreams-h-s-734/

Thanks for inviting us to your blog. It’s been fun!

READER CONTEST: Leave a comment and enter to win your own copy of Larkspur Dreams! Check back on Monday the 23rd to discover the winner! :0)

Thank you Anita and Janice visiting! We've loved having you here!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

My Beloved's

Recently I added a picture to the bottom of my blog, with a Scripture from the greatest Song. "I am my Beloved's and He is mine." (Song 6:3) I have been a student of the Song of Songs for nearly a decade. My favorite application is allegorical--seeing Jesus as the Bridegroom and Christians as the bride. The message that Jesus is the Bridegroom has radically changed my life.

Here are some characteristics about God that I’ve delved into because of this bridal understanding:


God sings over you. What a beautiful picture. This truth comes against any lies about God being angry at our weakness as we try to live for Him. He is delighted you are part of His family. He can’t help himself! He bursts out into song over you. (The entire Song of Songs is evidence of one song we will sing with Him one day.)

The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 (NKJV)

He rejoices over you. Again, because you said “yes” to Him, you are now His “lily among thorns.” In a world of people who reject Him, you are an oasis of love for the Bridegroom’s heart. (Song 2:2—“as the lily among thorns, so is My love among the daughters”)

and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” Isaiah 62:5b (MKJV)

There are pleasures at His right hand, in His presence (here and in eternity). When I truly gave myself, in full belief, to this truth, I spent much more time with Him. What I used to call “prayer” became a vital, living communion with Jesus, the Bridegroom God. Because His message to me through His Word was acceptance (Ephesians 1:6 “to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.”) and affirmation (He calls us ‘beloved’ and ‘My love’) I opened my heart to Him. And He answered my prayers and revealed Himself to Me. (John 14:21He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me. And he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will reveal Myself to him.” and Song of Songs 1:2 -- “Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth; for Your loves are better than wine.” (MKJV)

“You will make Me know the way of life; in Your presence is fullness of joys. At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11, MKJV)

The kisses of God. These are those instances when you experience a new, life-giving revelation of the Lord—a truth about Him settles deeply in your spirit as an ‘ah-hah’ moment. This happens at the conjunction of prayer with reading and studying His Word (the Bible). In the Song of Songs, the bride (believers) ask for the kisses of the Bridegroom God (Jesus). We want Him to speak to us.

Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth; for Your loves are better than wine.(Song of Songs 1:2, MKJV)

We’ve found that His love is better than any other pleasure on earth. We discover the truth in Jesus’ words from Scripture “People shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (see Matthew 4:4) In other words, true life, abundant life is a by-product of a living, vital relationship with the One who rejoices over us, our Bridegroom God.

May His words delight your soul today and give you joy in His presence.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Joy

The joy of Easter morning is still holding onto me. Isn't it amazing what happens when we zero in on what the Creator of the universe--a holy God-- did for us in order to bring us to Himself? Jesus, the perfect and tender-hearted One, suffered in our place so anyone who wants to can be reconciled to God. All we have to do is say yes and live for Him. Life in Him is joyous.

Our family spent Easter morning singing at church, remembering God's great mercy toward us. In preparation for Easter morning, we watched a movie depicting Jesus' ministry on earth. I cherish some of the scenes in that film--Jesus calling Nathanael to be His disciple--"I saw you under the fig tree." His prophetic vision won Nathanael over. But this was only a small sign from God. There would be much bigger signs to witness to the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. Or the first time Phillip sees Jesus standing there. Before He says a word, Phillip looks undone--just gazing into the face of Jesus. A fantastic depiction of a tender-hearted soul facing the Savior. Meditating on these visuals reminds me how personal God is and that brings me joy.

God witnesses to us in our daily lives as we watch for His work. We prayed for a woman yesterday who wanted healing. I don't know exactly what was wrong, but as we prayed, I felt the Spirit of God settle over us in warmth and power. I can never get enough of Him. His touch brings me joy.

I believe that's how we were created, to respond to His touch, to crave it. This is the only holy obsession--to long for God, His presence and His Word. There is no greater pleasure in the world than experiencing Him. As we await our own turn to gaze on His face, He grants us joy.

May He fill you with pure joy this week.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Name

How many Michaels do you know? Or how many Joshuas? Maybe you would have to use both hands to count how many Sarahs you have met in your life. Maybe your name is Sarah.

Two years ago, my husband and I had a baby. We had chosen a first name, but we scoured baby name books for just the right middle name. We found lists of names—top tens. Do you know the most popular name for boys over the past several decades? It's a toss up between Michael and Jacob. Those two names top the ten most picked time and time again. Must be something solid about them, or respectable. Sarah, Emily and Hannah are very popular girl names.

Naming a child is important. And this was very true in the Hebrew culture. Parents named their children after a relative or after a theme. Like our culture, names were repeated in waves of popularity—Judas, Joseph, Joshua. For hundreds of years, since the prophecies of Malachi, the Jews had been looking for their coming Messiah. They knew that only Jehovah could save. One of the names that was very common at that time summed up that very idea: Jehovah is salvation. That name?

Jesus. (Or Yeshua in Hebrew)

In our culture, you rarely find a person who has been named Jesus. I’ve seen the name more used in the Hispanic culture and pronounced in Spanish (i.e., the J sounds like an English H, as in José), than used in English.

But at the time of Jesus of Nazareth, there may have been several Jesus’ running around. Several. There are even two named by Paul the apostle in the Bible: Jesus of Nazareth—the Messiah, and Jesus, called Justus (Col. 4:11).

As we approach Resurrection Sunday I am thrilled with the truth that my Jesus, the Savior and the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world has risen! Those who came to His empty tomb that Sunday know that only His grave clothes were left behind.

Those who sat in the upper room, testified that Jesus had met two of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. As they testified, His presence was with them (“wherever two or more are gathered in My name, there I am in the midst of them”—see Matthew 18:20). When they spoke of Him, He appeared to them. In His glorified body, He didn’t have to use the door, which was locked for fear. But He visited them in the flesh.

Mary knows He lives. He met her in the garden and she ran and told the others that He had risen. This One so loved and mourned by His own had risen, just as He said He would. This One who is sovereign over life and Who is Life explained it this way:

“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I might take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down from Myself. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it again. I have received this commandment from My Father.” (John 10:17-18, ModernKJV)

Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God who is God, lives.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Made to Worship

The crowds around Jesus spread their palm branches and even their cloaks on the road so that He would ride through the gate and into their midst on a pathway paved in worship. The King was entering the city of Jerusalem in preparation for Passover.

The crowds had some expectations. They wanted a Savior from the vicious rule of Rome, a Deliverer to rescue them and restore God's ways among the nation of Israel. In their hearts, the crowd had a plan for this Man on the donkey that day.

Less than a week later, when their expectations weren't met, the people turned on Jesus. He didn't set up His throne and declare Himself King. He didn't roust the Romans and restore the kingdom to God. He didn't do what they wanted. And they turned on Him.

The Object of their worship became the One they condemned to die.

But we cannot dictate the acts of this God.

My daughters and I watched a concert on a sitcom recently. The lead singer starts in quietly on the piano set up on stage and the camera pans back to reveal the audience swaying, with arms raised. My daughters mentioned to me: hey, mom, they're worshipping! I knew by my girls' faces that they realized something true of humanity in that moment. We are made to worship. Every human heart will seek a focus for worship. We were made to want to give our hearts to something, because our Creator wants us to give our whole selves to Him, to His love.

Music softens our hearts and helps us open ourselves up. At church (or anywhere) we raise our arms toward Jesus as we worship. We surrender ourselves in those moments (and hopefully beyond) to the One Who made us. We delight in Him. We give ourselves to Him and learn from Him where we're going, not try to earn His favor so we can tell Him where He's going in our lives.

Jesus said the Father is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. No barriers, no lies, no controlling efforts, just honest connection with the God of the universe--heart to heart.

We're fast approaching Resurrection Day. Come. Let us worship the King.