Sunday, January 30, 2011

Angel Sister - Ready, Set, Go!

It's finally here. Angel Sister's official release date is Tuesday, February 1. I haven't been bookstore hopping so don't know if it's out there yet, but I'm hoping it is. It's somewhere because my editor let me know the book has already gone into a second printing. That's exciting! But I'm already so excited about this book finally being out for readers that good news like that is just icing on the cake. It's been a long time from when I wrote The End to maybe you as a reader picking it up and turning to Chapter 1. Longer than usual because we wanted the Shaker books to come out first.


But now it's Angel Sister's turn. The top picture is part of the back cover. I love the picture of Kate and Lorena playing. Of course Lorena on the front cover has been stealing people's hearts from the beginning. The cover art people at Revell do such a fantastic job with all my book covers, but with this one it's as if they lifted my little girl character, Lorena Birdsong, up out of the book and took her picture. She is just as I imagined her and the look on her face is perfect too. After you read the story, you can tell me if you think so too.
This story is straight from my heart. And from my mom's heart too since the seed of the idea came from all the stories she and her sisters used to tell about growing up during the Depression years. While the characters and story are completely fictional, the background of the story owes a lot of my mom's stories. The father in the story is a blacksmith. My grandfather was a blacksmith. The father in the story served in France during WW I. My grandfather was an army cook in France in WW I. My mom had three sisters and Kate in the book has three sisters - sort of. My mom used to tell about a couple of odd characters that gave birth to Fern and Graham in my story.
So the shadow of my mom's stories lingers throughout the book even though I made up the characters and what happened to them. I think that's why I'm so excited about this book. It feels like a gift I'm giving my mom. The sad part of that is my mom has dementia now and while she is still able to know I wrote the story with her background in mind, she can't really retain the words well enough to read it. She did read it in manuscript a couple of years ago, so that's good. But that too has leaked out of her memory. Even so, I'm happy to share her spirit with readers. My mom says they didn't have many things when they were kids, but they had plenty of the most important thing - love. So I hope if you read Angel Sister you will recognize that love and embrace my mom's story.
I'm sending out a newsletter tomorrow with details of a new giveaway to celebrate Angel Sister. Four ways to win. Sign up for the newsletter from my website The ways to win will also be posted on the Events and News page of my website. The prizes aren't big, but the contest is fun. I'll give more details Wednesday. There will be lots of other chances to win an autographed copy of Angel Sister on various internet sites too over the next few weeks.
As always thanks for reading and I appreciate your comments and e-mails - every one. Hope you had a weekend of sunshine the way we did here. And let me assure you, we needed that sunshine on our shoulders.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Editing - Theirs and Mine - Part 2

All right, I admit it. This page is from way back when I used to write on the typewriter. Pre-computer days. The dark ages. But I kept this and used to carry it with me when I did school talks to demonstrate to the kids that editing is vital to making your story readable. I never did the cut and paste - the literal cut and paste - that some writers did prior to computers. I did circles and arrows. If you read Stephen King's On Writing you'll see some edited pages that he includes for examples of how he improves his stories. They look something like mine. This page is from one of my chapter books for kids that I wrote in the 1980's.
Now, in some ways, editing is easier. At least physically with the computer. But in other ways it's harder because once you delete something it's gone unless you save a dozen copies. You can't peek back under your cross-out and see what you said first. I miss that paper trail, but I don't miss all the retyping, etc. So it is the computer age and we embrace it. Just don't hit the wrong key and erase everything. I have done that. Lost my work for this reason or that. Computers can die in mid-sentence, you know. I have never been able to re-write a scene from scratch that felt as good as I remember that first written scene being. Whether that's true or not, I'll never know because that first scene went out into dark reaches of never recover land.
So in my last post I had gotten to the galleys and the copy-editor. That's what I'm doing now on my book, The Blessed, that will be out this summer. It's set in 1845. Today I came to the part of the story where I'd mentioned "Ring around the roses." My on-top-of-it editor put in a note that maybe it wasn't called ring around the roses or rosies until the mid 1800's. Kids sang it but where and how much and by what name. I did the safe edit. Cut it completely out after going out on the internet and not finding convincing proof that my character would have played ring around the roses by any name. Several years ago, I had a character in my Hollyhill books be an avid mystery story reader and had him reading John D. MacDonald. But MacDonald wasn't a popular author until several years after the time of my novel. My editor caught that too.
Good editors are priceless. They let you know if your timeline is screwed up. Are you letting your character age in real time? They keep up with those pesky minor characters who might not be in the book but two times, but if you call the same character by two different names, you can depend on a sharp-eyed reader noticing. There are literally hundreds of little things you have to watch out for to keep your story right.Spelling correctly and being a good proofreader are just two of them. Of course you know you can't depend on spell check. It can help catch some errors, but not whether you've said your when you meant you're or their instead of there. Oh, by the way, sharp-eyed readers abound, and I'm glad they do. I want readers to be intent on my story. What I don't want is to jerk them out of the story with clumsy prose.
So I've poured over the galleys, correcting everything the editor points out and all those things I see on my own during this new read through. It's probably been at least 6 months since I last reworked the story. That makes for fresh eyes to see sloppy writing that slipped past me in all my other edits. But I finally get it all read and to the end. I'm still not through.
After a few more weeks, I get the pages. This is my final chance to catch something wrong. Here I am reminded by the editor to not see things I want to completely rewrite. Some changes are fine. Typos corrected. A transition here and there made clearer. A pet word replaced with something fresher and newer. But there's a warning that if I make too many changes - more than 10 percent or something like that - then I'll be charged for the addtional corrections that aren't publisher's errors. But that's okay. By this time, I as the writer should be happy with what's on the page in front of me. I've already rewritten it a dozen times. So I proofread this time very carefully, but I'm only looking for minor mistakes that are easily fixable. I don't skim over this editing phase. Too many times I've found mistakes. Once a whole paragraph had been inadvertently left out. A necessary paragraph. Lots of times there will be typos. And sometimes there are those minor problems with a repetitive word or a lazy word that just slipped by me all those other editing times. Those things can still be fixed. Once more I read all the way through. Once more I get to the end.
By this time I've practically memorized the story, but I'm not really sick of it. I'm anxious for it to go to the next step. I've already seen the cover. The title has been chosen. It may even already be out there on or or for pre-sale. But my part is finished. At least the writing and editing part. The next time I see my story it will be in a book. One of those great editors who patiently worked over my book to make it the best it could be will send me a copy by rush delivery. That's always an exciting moment. Holding that finished book. Hoping readers are going to like it. Seeing the back cover. By the way, the back cover of my new release, Angel Sister is great with a picture of Kate and Lorena playing. Maybe ring around the rosies.
At this point, a lot of writers sit down and read through their book again just to make sure everything's the way it's supposed to be. I admit that I have never done that. But for my last book, I should have because even with all our careful edits, one rewritten transition sentence didn't make it into the final copy for printing. A few months after the book came out, one of those sharp-eyed readers asked me how come my characters were in one place one paragraph and in another place the next paragraph. A sentence had been accidently omitted. My editor fixed it for the next print run if there's another print run, but it really bothers me that all those books are out there with that scene looking like I wasn't a careful writer or proofreader. But those things happen. Other writers have said that whole sections were accidently left out or put in the wrong place. That happened to a few of those last books of mine too. A printing mistake that left out forty pages or so. Some readers let me know about that too. The point is mistakes happen even when everybody works hard to keep them from happening. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try to keep them from happening by editing as carefully and as completely as we can.
As I said in the first post - my aim is to make my writing smooth enough that the words disappear on the page and nothing, absolutely nothing is left but the movie playing in the reader's imagination. It takes two to bring a story to life. The writer and the reader. Thanks so much for being a reader. Oh yeah, and by the way, I may talk about the comma in my next post. Maybe it will be Editing 3 - How can one little squiggle of a mark cause so much trouble?
Thanks for your comments. And tune in Sunday. Besides the comma thing, I hope to announce a prize giveaway to celebrate the release of Angel Sister.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Editing - My Ideas and Theirs - Part 1

On my Facebook author's page last week I mentioned I would be editing my galleys for my next Shaker book this weekend. Someone asked me what exactly that meant. What did I have to do when I edited a book. So I told her I'd post a blog about editing.

Of course we all know about editing our work, our letters, our e-mails, our posts or tweets. Sometimes I don't edit those posts so well and typos sneak through. I hate typos and spelling words wrong. Don't mind it when somebody else does it. Just when I do. But nobody's perfect. And that's what I have to remember when I get the editing suggestions back from my editors. I may think I have it perfect or as near perfect as I can get it, but fresh eyes see new imperfections. To be truthful, I see imperfections every time I read over one of my manuscripts. If I had to wait until I had it where none of those imperfections popped up, I'd never be finished with a story.

So the initial editing is my idea, what I do before I submit the manuscript to an editor. I write the story and then spend a lot of hours going over the story to make sure I've written it the way I wanted and that I've used the best words and haven't repeated everything a dozen times. I make sure names stay the same all the way through the book and eye colors too. I cut out everything that seems to slow down the scene and that is not absolutely necessary. Sometimes I work on a sentence for a long time, rewriting and rewriting it to make it sound right and then realize it doesn't need to be there at all. Delete key time. I can look at that as wasted time or I can look at that as practicing my editing skills and honing my editor's eye.

I don't mind doing this kind of editing. I like it in fact. I like polishing a finished story. I want it to shine the best it can. I don't mind working it over a dozen times or however many times it takes. I want to submit a clean manuscript. That is, one without those typos and repetitive words and other things that might yank a reader out of the story. Because to me that's one of the purposes of smooth writing. To make the words disappear and the story come to life in the readers' mind.

So I scrub and polish my words and sentences. Then I send it off to the editor. My editor reads my story and perhaps spots some holes or places she thinks could be better written or explained. She sends back a letter suggesting changes to improve the story. This can be major rewrite time for an author. It can also be a difficult time for the writer. For me. Because I love my story. I love the words I've chosen to make my scenes come to life. And now here's someone saying maybe I didn't do it right. I've found it's best to read over the suggestions and stew about them for a while. At this point, it's never a good idea to call your editor or e-mail her either. It's better to wait. To let her suggestions absorb into the editing corner of your brain until you realize that she's got a point. This or that scene could be better. That section was overwritten, underwritten, left murky, made too clear. This or that character could come to life better with a bit more work. A good editor is the best kind of friend to a writer - the kind who will tell you when you've got mustard on your face or you forgot to take the tag off your new jeans. Mine will tell me where my story isn't right and give me a chance to fix it.

Okay so I've worked through the first editors suggestions and changed some things and perhaps argued for some other things that got to stay the same. I don't do that often and when I do I try to go back and write something somewhere that will make the scene better even while staying almost the same. My acquiring editor is satisfied. The book is put on the schedule for whatever month to be released. That's usually at least a year away.

Then the book goes to a copy-editor. This editor reads through the book slowly looking for every kind of stumble and lack. She makes sure words are spelled correctly and that in a historical novel like mine I haven't used an expression that wasn't in common use. She helps to make sure the years and ages match up correctly. She makes sure the names are right all the way through. She tells me when the transitions are murky. She sticks in commas that I always want to take out. She notes run on sentences for me to rewrite. (It's a good thing this journal doesn't have a copy editor.) She notes if I have a favorite word that I've over used.

I always have a favorite word. This time, believe it or not, it's mashed. Usually it's still. I love to do transition with still. I'm also very fond of just. But I've begun to notice those more in my first edits so now a new word generally pops up to give me fits. Every time. They must do computer searches. That's what I have to do to try to fix the problem. Especially with still. I don't even see that word most of the time when I'm reading over my work.

This is becoming a run on post. My editor wouldn't be happy. So I'm going to do Editing part 2 on Wednesday. If you've got questions, leave a comment and I'll try to come up with an answer maybe without being mashed down with still and just. Still, I just don't know. I'm hoping my inner editor can take over this week and get these galleys done so I can get back to struggling with Shaker book 5. But then nobody promised me writing would be easy, but easy or hard it's all I've ever wanted to do.

Talk to you Wednesday, and I'd love to hear what you think about editing.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Juggling Books

Do you ever have trouble taking too much out on your plate? You know you'll never be able to eat it all or you know you shouldn't eat it all if you ever want to be happy again reading the numbers on your bathroom scales. I don't have too much trouble with dipping out too much food on my plate any more. My problem is having the munchies. Do you think that's contagious?

No, my problem right now is overloading my plate with work. I think I can do it all. Facebook. Twitter. (Although I have to admit I'm not sure I'm not about to fall out of that tree. It's so noisy with all that tweeting going on that I'm not sure anybody is listening to anybody else.) Then there's blogging. I like blogging. Of course I've been a confirmed journal keeper since I was a kid. Of course I never expected to keep any kind of journal that wasn't hidden away in a drawer.

I've got plenty of those journal notebooks dating back to when I was about twelve. Journals are a great stress reliever for a writer. A great place to vent about your frustrations and worries, doubts and disappointments. A shoulder to cry on that can absorb whatever you want to say. But on the flip side, it's also a great place to record the successes of your writing life. Those first sales. The times you write "the end." The times you write "Chapter 1." The times the words come fast and furious and the story blooms in your mind. It's good to write about those so that when you need encouragement because you think you can't write another good word, you can go back and see that you have written other books all the way through even when the middle was giving you fits. You can see that although some books were rejected leaving you dejected, other books were accepted leaving you ecstatic.

Right now I'm needing some of that encouragement as I try to get going on my new Shaker book. I've set a goal of doing five pages a day. I'm behind already on my page count, but I'm started even though what happens next is going to be as much a surprise to me as it would be to you. I like being surprised sometimes by my stories, but I'm thinking I need to know a smidgen about what's going to happen next. I'm getting the feeling that this bunch of characters is laughing at me and daring me to figure out their stories.

I'm anxious to get some pages written because my plate keeps getting more dipped out on it. I'm blessed with three books in various stages of getting ready for publication. This weekend I'll probably need to start line edits on the Shaker book due out this summer. Right on the heels of that my editor is going to suggest ways to improve my book set in Louisville during the 1850s. And then there's Angel Sister due out in ten days. I'm soooo excited about that and want to do some things to spread the news about this story. There are internet interviews to do, newsletters to get out, a website to update, book launches to plan. And I am going to come up with some kind of giveaway to celebrate just as soon as I decide what to give away. I usually give away books, but I was wondering if I might do something different this time. Maybe gift cards. But I do like giving away books.

So I'm juggling books along with all the other things that have to be done. Taking care of Mom, seeing the grandkids, church, cooking and sweeping the floor now and again. We all have to do some juggling from time to time and we all have trouble keeping everything up in the air.

Even Barbara Walters who has probably spent a lifetime juggling everything she does. Here's what she says. "Most of us have trouble juggling. The woman who says she doesn't is someone whom I admire but have never met."

So I'm not going to worry if I drop a ball while I'm juggling my too full plate. I'll just grab whatever it is and pitch it back into the air and feel blessed to have three books to be juggling. Stressed but very blessed. Hope your plate is full of blessings and spinning right along.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Packages in the Mail

When I first started writing back in the dark ages - well, maybe not that long ago but well before the electonic age - I typed my first stories on a manual typewriter with carbon copies. I had strong fingers and correcting mistakes on those carbon copies developed my patience or drove me completely bananas. There was no e-mail or electronic submissions. Everything went out in the mail. I carefully put my work in manila envelopes and enclosed a self-addressed, stamped manila envelope for the possible return of my article or story. More like the probable return. A manila envelope with my address in my own handwriting is not what I wanted to see in the mailbox. I wanted to see white business envelopes with my name typed neatly on them. Of course then there were the manila envelopes or large white envelopes with my name typed on a label. Those were fun to get because that could be copies of some magazine that had published one of my stories.
Times have changed. Often as not everything is done via e-mail these days. But the memory of hope whenever I went to the mailbox is still entrenched in my mind. So a week or so ago when I opened my mailbox to see a large white envelope with my name and address on it definitely not in my handwriting, it brought back memories. I had no idea what I could be getting. A calendar perhaps with a request for a donation? An advertisement for a stove that would cut my heating costs in half? A very long letter from a long last friend?
Do you do that? Study the writing on an envelope along with the postmark to try to figure out what's inside when all you really need to do is tear the envelope open to find out. I do that all the time. Makes mail more fun. And this particular piece of mail turned out to be fun. I did finally open it up and inside were three copies of the American Christian Writers magazine, Christian Communicator. Staring up at me from the cover was - me. A big picture of me smiling out at everybody.
I don't suppose I had any reason to be surprised. Mary Gaskins, the friend with me in the picture above, had interviewed me for the article that day we were at the Shaker village, but that had been a while back. Mary had already published an article about our day at the village on the internet and I completely let it slip my mind that she had submitted another article to the Christian Communicator. But she did a great job writing about me being a "Homegrown Writer." That's definitely what I am. Homegrown. I improved my writing by trial and error practicing. I did the same with publishing. If one thing didn't work, I looked around to see if I could write something else that might.
I also got another exciting package this week. This one from FedEx. My first copy of Angel Sister. They sent two copies hot off the press so I could share one with Mom whose stories of growing up in the thirties helped make my story come to life. More about that in the weeks ahead. Release date is February 1.
Hope you get many good packages and letters in your mailboxes whether electronic or the real thing - a tin box on a post out by the road like mine. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Expert Writing Advice

"An expert is someone who tells you why you can't do something." Alec Issigonis

One afternoon last week I was working away in my office with everything humming along. Then I went for a walk and when I got back the electricity to my office and all that part of the house was off. We tripped all the breakers in the box on and off. Nothing happened. Except I had to reset every clock in the house. But still no juice getting to my computer and lights in my office. It seemed a sign. A higher power in control of the power had turned me off. No ice had downed any lines. The front part of the house still glowed with light. The t.v. was playing. But my office was dead. I couldn't write.

Of course I think it's a little sad that the loss of electricity so disturbs my writing world. Whatever happened to the inkpen and wirebound notebooks where I scribbled my first stories? Well, I don't know about the ink pen, but I have to admit I know exactly where those notebooks are. I would probably cringe to read them now, but I kept them. Will keep them forever. My children can cringe if they read them right before they pitch them in the garbage after I pass on. There are some things a writer can't throw away even when she should.

Words. That's the hardest thing for us to throw away. Our words. It's hard to slice and dice our beautiful words. I find it even harder to slice and dice other people's words. Aspiring writers come to me wanting encouragement. I want to give encouragement, but I'm far from an expert editor on anybody else's work. My own words - those I can edit. Ruthlessly.

But I have to be in the story to do editing and to immerse myself into other people's stories requires far too much creative energy. I need whatever creative energy I can catch hold of to make my own story hunt. And I don't want to be the kind of expert who just tells somebody they can't do what they want to do. Because I don't know how good they can be.

I learned this lesson years ago when I was asked to teach a class on fiction writing and prior to the class, I critiqued the first chapters of the participants' novels. One of the writers seemed to be completely off base and to have no handle on how to put together a story. But then we had a read aloud session. She brought something else to read and what she read that day was the best in the class. I still worry that my comments on her writing weren't as encouraging as she needed them to be. But she was a writer something like me. I sensed it in the way she rejected my what I hoped was positive criticisms. She knew she could write and she wasn't about to let a little upstart of a writer who had lucked into publishing a novel tell her any different. I'm glad. Because I'm not an expert just because I've managed to publish a few books. That makes me blessed and perhaps a stubborn hard-working writer, but not an expert about anybody else's writing.

The best advice I could have gotten early in my quest for publication was "Write." That's still the best advice for up and coming writers. You know that might still be the best advice for me. "Write." Then again that might be the second best advice for wanna be writers. The best will always be to read. Or maybe you have a different idea? What is the best writing advice you've ever gotten or read or maybe given someone?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Everybody has a Story to Tell

My grandkids love stories. They like to have them read to them. As soon as they start learning the words, they like to read stories. And they like to be told stories. It doesn't matter how impromptu the story is or whether it has plot holes. They just love to hear somebody tell them a story.
And everybody has a story to tell. My book, Angel Sister is edging ever nearer release date. I ordered some copies last week and they said they might be shipped on the eleventh. Two days from now. I'm excited.
I get excited about every new book that I have, but this one seems different somehow. Maybe because it's been so long in the works. And because the background story/setting and the spark of the original idea came from the stories Mom used to tell me about growing up in her little community of Alton. I changed the name to Rosey Corner envisioning a possible series. The Rosey Corner Series has a nice sound, but that didn't get off the ground. But this book finally has gotten off the desk and bound up into a book and is ready to go out into the world of readers.
It is my mama's story in many ways. She had three sisters. Kate in the book has three sisters - sort of. Mama's daddy was a blacksmith. Kate's daddy is a blacksmith. Mama's father served in France during WW I. Kate's father served in France in WW I. Mom's mother and father loved books and reading. Kate's mother and father love books and reading. Mom knew a strange woman and her kind brother in her little town. Kate knows a very strange woman and her kind brother in Angel Sister.
The comparisons mostly end there except for the setting. The story I made up is mine and not Mom's. But she had a story. Everybody has a story. People come up to me all the time and say "Boy, you'd have a bestseller if you'd write my story." And I have heard some pretty interesting stories. So maybe I would. But the thing is I have to tell my story. Even with Mom's story, I had to change it, make the characters mine before I could write the story.
I wasn't trying to write a biography. I was writing fiction. That means I made stuff up. Lots of stuff. At the same time the best fiction is something the reader can believe could be true. At least while he or she is reading. Some of the truest things in a fiction story - things a writer sticks in her story because they really happened - those can be the very things that make a reader think no, that would never happen.
It's absolutely true that truth is often stranger than fiction. Fern's cedar palaces in Angel Sister are some of those true things. The odd woman from Mom's childhood actually did cut cedars and make what she called cedar palaces. While I expanded on the idea for my book, that whole part of the story has a seed of truth in it.
So it's my job as a writer to listen when somebody tells me they have a story. I won't be telling his or her story after I hear it, but whatever I hear, whatever I read, whatever I dream up goes into that idea pool in my inner writer mind and sometimes bits of a story pop out and add to the truth of my story. Everybody has a story to tell. Hope you have a good week continuing your story,

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Talking Writing with Jan Watson

One of the best things about writing for the inspirational market is the other writers I've met and how they always seem to be smiling and glad to hear about your successes. Or if things aren't going so well for you, to offer a sympathetic ear and a caring offer to pray about whatever problem might be bothering you.

Here I am with Jan Watson. This picture was taken at the 2009 Kentucky Book Fair, but we still look just as young as then. Jan and I get together for lunch when we can because there's no one who can understand a writer better than another writer. The first thing Jan said to me today was "Oh, it's so good to see a human face instead of a computer screen." She has a July 1 deadline. I have a July 1 deadline. She's halfway through with her first draft. I've typed Chapter One. Neither of us claim to be fast writers. I have more reason to be feeling a little deadline panic than she does, but we both decided it was good to have a little R & R today.
So what do two writers talk about when they get together? Books, of course. Their own. The ones they've read. How hard it is to get those words down that make a new book. And sometimes they talk about their beginnings. Jan was a nurse at Central Baptist in her pre-writing days and helped a lot of babies into the world. I have been a writer from the time I was a child and never wanted to do anything else. Jan says she could quit writing and be happy. I say I can never quit writing and be happy. Jan won the Christian Writers' Guild Operation First Novel prize in 2004 and her novel, Troublesome Creek was published in 2005. Her story won everybody's heart and she's on her sixth novel about the same set of characters, because readers love her Copper Brown. Jan's never written a book that didn't sell. I've written several that I had to retire to my closet shelf. But I've also written twenty-one books that have made it out on the store shelves . That's because I've been writing more years than she has. A lot more years. Jan is one of those people you like on sight and she has such a Christian spirit of love. It's no wonder that she's so in demand as a speaker and writing teacher.
So we were talking books and future books and I told her we should collaborate on a book titled On the Writing Trail with Jan and Ann. I don't think this project is getting off the ground, but it was good for a laugh and a little critiquing. While I thought it was a great title, Jan had some problems with the Writing Trail part. A wonderful collaborative partnership doomed before it even got off the ground. We have too many deadlines and she has at least three better ideas for future books.
We decided we'd better take it one book at a time and make a date for lunch again this summer to celebrate July and met deadlines. At least I'm hoping for a met deadline. Oh to be halfway through like Jan. But I did type Chapter One. That's something.
Thanks for reading and if we do ever do any Jan and Ann writing, you'll be the first to know. On the other hand, why ruin a great friendship? Some people work best on their own. I'm definitely one of that kind of writers. And Jan's solo way is working pretty good for her too. You can find out more about Jan's books at

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Celebrating a New Year

"Today is the first day of the rest of your life." That quote is on a refrigerator magnet my daughter brought home years ago. We've had a lot of new years and new days since then, but that doesn't make the saying any less true. There's also the saying about yesterday being gone, tomorrow is not here and all we have is the present. We need to treat it like the gift it is and rejoice in the precious present and embrace our new beginnings.

But New Year's is a time when we're more aware of those new beginnings. The chance to change. The motivation to change. The challenge to change. I don't usually make New Year's resolutions because I don't want to only be ready to change once a year. I want to be ready to do some resolving to change any time I recognize that I need to do that changing. That's pretty often.

But this year I'm seeing the necessity for making a few changes and it happens to be right now here at New Year's. I'm going to have to carve some working time out of my schedule. I'm going to have to stop letting myself be distracted by the many tasks and chores - fun and not so fun - of writing and do the writing. So much of Facebook and even posting here on my on-line journal feeds my need to write, but not that deeper need to create a story. So I am searching for hours each day to do the real writing.

A self-employed writer has to learn discipline or nothing gets written. That writer sees other writers posting that they wrote thousands of words or three books a year and it's easy to begin to feel a tad down in the dumps. That writer - me - knows she's never going to be able to spill out words like that, but that writer also knows without a regular schedule with a goal of so many pages a day, no book will ever get written. So in spite of life happening with a mother who needs me along with all the usual busyness of my life, I'm going to have to find a new writing routine. That's my New Year's goal. I'm ready to begin on the book. I have the characters. I have a bit of the idea. Now to find the hours. Early or late or squeezed in the middle, I will find them. God willing, the book will get written.

So what are your resolutions? Changes you want to make in this new year of 2011. The second decade already of the 21st century. Wow! Time does speed past. Just ask my mom who is feeling her age tonight. She was sad earlier because she was feeling old and didn't want to leave us. All I could think to tell her was that she was looking at it from the wrong direction and that she needed to look back at all the good years she'd had and the love she'd shared with us so long. But that probably didn't help much. The hugs I gave her may have helped more and in the end I'm sharing her tears because I'm not ready for any leave taking either.

But if you've stuck with me this long, on to happier things. I drew the winners for my Christmas/New Year's giveaway. I'm going to be keeping the Post Office in business for a while. The never won before winner is Eva who left a comment here on the blog to enter. Linda H won the Christmas story drawing. She's the one whose best Christmas was surviving a heart attack this year. I do appreciate all of you who entered and I had such fun reading your Christmas memory stories. The other winners are Laurie L, Crystal C, Sandra A and Laurie C. I'll be contacting you by e-mail to find out which books you want and to get your mailing addresses. I hunted up some of the surprises today. One's a Shaker Christmas ornament. I have two Shaker wooden bookmarks, a Shaker clothespin and cake tester bundle of straws and other possibilities along with some good books by well-known Christian authors.

So thanks for reading and for entering my book giveaway. Give me a week or two and I'll think up something to give away to celebrate Angel Sister being released. Enjoy!