Once Upon a Time

coffee, cup, laptop, memeHello! Happy Thursday morning! I’ve got my  cup of coffee, and I’m ready to work. So, what’s stopping me? The squirrels playing outside my window. The robins hopping around the yard, enjoying the springlike weather. Distraction is a writer’s worst enemy.

I know the phrase, “once upon a time” is clichéd, over-used and abused. But those words still get my imagination going. Like the castle and fireworks, along with Disney’s theme music. You settle in, prepared for a treat.

I used to tuck my little ones into bed and after prayers, I’d say, “Once upon a time, a long, time ago…” and make up a story, usually silly, but always sprinkled with characters who shared their names. It never failed to make them giggle.

The thing is, that little phrase never failed to conjure up a tale. It’s ancient, but it works. You can’t really use it in writing, unless you’re being sarcastic or ironic. An editor would view those words much as she would “a dark and stormy night.”

Backstory-effective. Once upon a time often sits in the back of my mind as I begin work on a new historical. It helps me slip quietly out of the here-and-now, into the “that was then.” [Click to tweet]

I close my eyes and let my imagination carry me places I once knew so well. Riding along in the back seat of my parents’ car, the windows are down, and it’s dark outside. I hear the croak of the bullfrog, peep of tree frogs, millions of insects. The call of the whippoorwill. The lowing of cattle.

The night air, heavy with the scent of freshly-turned earth, cools my cheek. My parents’ quiet voices lull me to sleep. What sweet memories I have of days gone by.

These are just the things to stir the juices of my imagination. My characters come alive as I recreate long-ago scenes. I need to get better at it. Too often, I forget to include enough to help my readers “see” the imaginary rooms where my characters live. I forget, because I’m so familiar with them.

Walking in the barn lot at Grandma’s, I almost always heard a sound as if a dog followed along behind. Yet, there was no dog. It may have been the echo of my own footsteps. It never frightened me, only intrigued me. Stirred my overly active imagination.

I pretended it was one of my grandparents’ old hound dogs, long ago turned to dust in the ground—a faithful old friend that just couldn’t leave—couldn’t be parted from his favorite people. I never told that story, but I might someday. If I do, those old memories will serve me well. Maybe I’ll even start it out with once upon a time.

How about you?  Do you have a favorite memory, or an intriguing thought from days gone by? I’d love to hear it!

Sense and Sensibility – a Short Review

coffee, cup, laptop, memeHello, Thursday Morning friends! I hope you’ve had a wonderful week so far. If not—hey, it’s Thursday—almost Friday! Valentine’s Day is over. I hope those of you who celebrate the day had a wonderful one. Any time I can spend with my long-time husband and favorite person is a good day.

And while we’re talking about love, my Grace Award-winning novel, Annabelle’s Ruth, is on sale for 99 cents! Just a couple more days, though. Don’t tell anyone, but this is my favorite book! Here’s a clickable link: Annabelle’s Ruth – 99¢ on Kindle!

Since this is the month of romance, I think it’s about time for another movie review. I got busy and found a good one to share. Okay, it’s not specifically a movie, but a BBC miniseries. However, it’s an Austen—one of my all-time favorite stories—Sense and Sensibility. This is the 2008 version with Hattie Morahan as Elinor, Charity Wakefield as Marianne, Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey, Beauty and the Beast) as Edward Ferrars, David Morrissey as Colonel Brandon, and Dominic Cooper as Willoughby.

First of all let me say, I liked the movie version with Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant. Ms. Thompson is a brilliant, versatile actress, but she seemed so much older than the character in the book—it bothered me. Sense and Sensibility is high on my list of forever stories. One of those I can read and reread. I love the rich story line and character development. In the original book the lead character, Elinor, is nineteen. Her sister Marianne is a couple of years younger.

So, when I found the BBC version listed on Hulu, I clicked it right away. Even though I was not familiar with either of the ladies on the cover, I was quickly captured by the cinematography. I knew the story well enough to expect wild coastal beauty when they arrived at their cottage, and this film delivered. The characters are well developed, warm, and likeable (except for the ones who are cold and unlikeable). That would be the hoity-toity sister-in-law, Mrs. John Dashwood.

There’s more detail regarding Sir John Middleton’s family (Mrs. Henry Dashwood’s cousin who owns the cottage). Some of this was left out of the movie version, but they have more time to deal with it in a miniseries.

Overall, I enjoyed this version enough that I watched it a second time. I couldn’t help comparing it to the movie version. One thing that stood out in the movie was the music. It was grand and glorious throughout. The miniseries didn’t place so much emphasis on the score, but it was still haunting and beautiful at times. I love the sound of the crashing waves.

In Austen’s original book, this story is somewhat dark, as the author explores the deep emotional crises this family endures. Being the  most sensitive, Marianne has difficulty coping. She’s more deeply involved, so suffers greatly and outwardly. Colonel Brandon, by far the most romantic character, is probably the only one who can control the girl, though nearly twice her age. The age gap was not as much of a consideration back then as it is now.  🙂

I recommend this miniseries if you have access to it, especially if you’re an Austen fan. It’s very well written, acted, and ends on a positive note. If you’ve never read the book, you’ll still enjoy the story.

In my opinion, there’s no better way to develop the craft of fiction writing than to read, and to watch really good fiction. It’s inspiring! What makes a story come alive? What do you love most of all about a work of fiction?

I hope you enjoyed this week’s Hello, Thursday Morning, and will return again next week. Not sure what I’ll tackle next. See you soon!

Click to Tweet: Hello Thursday Morning! Time for another movie review – BBC’s 2008 version of Sense and Sensibility. Loved it!

What Now?

coffee, cup, laptop, memeHello, Thursday Morning! We’re expecting a little sunshine today. I’m hopeful as I wait to see if it will happen.  I’ve even arranged my violets to catch a few rays.

While trying to decide what to write about this week, I remembered a quick encounter with a new acquaintance over the weekend. I often run across people who are interested in writing. Many times, as soon as they find out what I do, they bring up a story idea, or tell me they’ve “always wanted to do that.” But, they don’t know how to begin.

As a member of the planning committee for the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, I’m in a position to help them. A writers conference is a great place for brand new writers to get information and training. Among the valuable things you’ll receive, is fellowship with other writers.

Yes, writers conferences require an investment. A smaller, local conference usually costs less, and you don’t always need to pay for a hotel, unless you have a long drive home, or just want to stay nearby.

Many conferences also offer tuition help. Check their website for information.

How do you know if it’s a good conference? Sometimes, you can find enough information on the website. Many conferences have reviews and testimonials posted. But the best way is to look at the faculty and keynote speaker. If you’re not familiar with any of the names, look them up.

Another important consideration: what classes do they offer? Does anything pique your interest? For instance, if you’re planning to write a memoir, or a devotional, do they offer nonfiction workshops?

Where do you begin? Check the internet–Google “writing conferences”–and you’ll get a lot of suggestions. But be specific. If you’re interested only in romance writing or speculative fiction, input those words to narrow your search. Also, a good writers magazine will list conferences and make suggestions.

If you’re looking for a good faith-based conference in the mid-south, there’s a one-day conference near Memphis, Tennessee. Here’s the link to the website: Mid-South Christian Writers Conference. It’s a one-day conference, happening Saturday, March 17. They have a Friday night meet-and-greet listed as well.

The Kentucky Christian Writers Conference is a two-day conference, June 22-23, with a meet-and-greet in the evening on June 21. It’s held in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. They offer fiction and nonfiction education and encouragement, as well as marketing, business, and technology.

Why do you need a writers conference? As I mentioned before, the opportunity to meet other writers makes a good conference fun. Also, there will be opportunities to meet agents, editors, and mentors. You’ll gain knowledge of the industry, and be encouraged to pursue your dreams.

A good regional conference is the first stepping stone on a journey that may lead to your destiny. The important thing is to go with expectation. Make yourself friendly, and you’ll gain more than knowledge.

When you’re ready for something bigger, check out a conference like the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference ACFW, being held in Nashville, Tennessee later this year.

What now? If you can’t afford a conference, these conferences have Facebook pages. Like their pages and get involved with other writers. There are so many good writing blogs, where you can learn the tools of the craft of writing. I’ve listed several good writing blogs below.

What now? The important thing is, pursue your dream. Write. Get information and learn the craft.

The Write Conversation

Almost an Author

Southern Writers Magazine (blog)

Inspired Prompt

There are so many more!


The Prayer He Prayed for Us

coffee, cup, laptop, memeHello, Thursday morning! Grab a cup of coffee and  join me. My Thursdays are usually a little less frazzled than the rest of the week. I go through my morning routine, visit and market online, then get out my latest manuscript and start creating.

The last couple of weeks have been a little different, as I’ve completed one book and am starting another. I have lots of preparation to do in front of the June release date.

Regardless of all that, I still want to spend time reading and studying the Word of God. That’s my morning meditation. My breathing session. It’s both relaxing and invigorating. Gets my mind flowing. Oh, and you thought that was the coffee! 🙂

This week, I’m meditating something new. I’m thinking about the prayers of Jesus, and how I can pattern mine after His. He didn’t pray complicated prayers. He had such a close relationship with God the Father, he just carried on a conversation. And then I found this one–

  • Jesus prayed for us. For US. You, and me.
I’m praying not only for them,
But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me. John 17:20
  • “Them” and “their” in this passage refers to his disciples. “Those” refers to us—those who come after—those who believe. He goes on to say:
 “The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.”
  • And now, we are, “all of them.” He wants us working together, not struggling against each other, because…
“Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.”
  • There’s a purpose beyond our own comfort. Believers should live in unity, loving one another. This is the natural result of our common belief. If you mix yeast into flour, add a sweetener like honey or sugar, then add some warm milk, you will see a natural reaction. We are the yeast and the flour, mixed together. The milk is the Word of God. The sweetener—the honey—is the love.
 Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me.”
  • The evidence is love. He loved us first. When the man who would later become my husband first showed an interest in me, I was a little surprised. It was unexpected. But when he acted as though he liked me, and wanted to keep seeing me, I was encouraged to believe in the possibility he might love me someday.
  • Jesus loved us first. You could say He pursues us.
 “Father, I want those you gave me
To be with me, right where I am,
So they can see my glory, the splendor you gave me,
Having loved me long before there ever was a world.”
  • All of this happened because God loved first. We are made for His glory.
So, here’s my prayer for you:
May you glorify God through the life you live today, exhibiting the love of Christ, so others may believe in Him, and become one of “those”.
Scriptures — John 17: 20-25 The Message