Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Holiday Break

Christmas came and went. Tomorrow morning we have company coming for New Years. I love having guests come to stay. Since I'm not on a deadline at the moment, I plan on enjoying the New Year's festivities and then working on a play production I'll be directing in February. Modifications must be written to fit a time frame and there are requested additions to write.

This will be my first play to direct, and I'm looking forward to it. I'll have a few butterflies, but I'm sure things will go OK once we get started.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Still Writing

I've been in a funk lately. There, I said it.

Life has been a frenzy and my plate is overflowing. I still find time to write here and there between everything else that is going on. Hopefully things will slow down after New Year's, but that's not usually how my life pattern goes. Life is an adventure.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Writer's Space

As writers, we spend a fair amount of time in our own minds, lost in thought while the world whizzes by.

I've been a decorator my whole life and I'm always dreaming of the perfect writing space. Most of the time I sit on the bed propped up with pillows and write on a laptop, but I long for a space of my own. Many of you probably write on the traveling laptop, and there are a lot of good stories coming out of mobile spaces.

This office appeals to me because it has good light, is neatly arranged and can accomodate books, computer, printer, files, and anything else you need to have on hand. If you're a woman writer, it would be great to have near the kitchen and laundry room - where most of us spend our time. It's a good thing we can multi-task. It feels good to throw in a load of laundry and forget it while you write a few paragraphs. For many of us that is the only way we can get our chores done and still find time to write.

I hope you have the perfect space to write.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I confess that the only writing I've done in the past week is a children's book I wrote to go along with a doll I made for a little girl who likes fairies.


My name is Anastasia. I'm a wood nymph. I live in the thick woods near the Black Sea.

The nights get very cold here so my mother wove a blanket of wild boar hair, and filled my mattress with rabbit fur so I stay warm all winter.

In the spring when it rains, a Buttercup is my umbrella.

Every morning when I go outside to play, the butterflies are waiting. They are my friends. We play tag and hide-and-seek in the forest.

My favorite color is green. It reminds me of emeralds and the deep woods of home.

When I get thirsty, I drink dew drops and flower nectar.

I play outside all day. When the sun begins to set, I hurry home for supper.

Tonight Mama made mushrooms and honey raisin cake. After a day of playing outside, I'm starving! I eat two helpings of mushrooms and a big piece of cake before I'm full.

Now it's time for bed. Good Night.


I hope she has as much fun with the doll as I had making her. She is embelleshed to the hilt with beads, leaves, gauzy fabric, and jewels. The butterfly was supposed to be made from something called Angelica. It's apparently fibers that stick together when ironed.

I couldn't find it locally, so I put on my thinking cap and ended up using the plastic mesh that came on the Thanksgiving turkey. This justifies the craft drawer filled with all sorts of shiny packaging, candy foil, bits from cards, ribbons, etc. They always find a place in some sort of craft project.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I Did Not Forget

It's been a while since I posted.

I'm working on three different books now, though sporadically, it seems. Two of them are collaborations and it's fun, though sometimes our schedules are at odds with each other, so it takes longer to do than if I were working alone.

I was asked to direct a play at the governor's mansion. This is in the early stages and probably won't get off the ground until after Christmas, but it's nice to look forward to something new to do. I've never done anything like that, but then I've never written a play until recently and it has been fun and I've met many people I wouldn't have met if I didn't write it.

I, I, I. I just reread what I wrote and there are too many of them, but how can I tell you what's going on without using that word?

I marvel at people who seem to have it all together. Their houses are neat and clean, they have amazing careers, and always seem calm and collected. I am running in circles half the time. The house gets messed up way too often and I feel like I need three clones to do it all.

Such is my life, but I'm grateful for all of it. Without a little excitement, pressure, and stress, it would probably be boring.

Monday, November 28, 2011


From Thanksgiving through New Year's Day, we have twice as much to do as we usually have - especially if you are a woman.

This weekend one of our sons was here for Thanksgiving. I had cooked for days, cleaned house, and made everyone's favorite dishes. I marveled that the males of the house, dog included, waited on me to bring them something to drink, eat, and of course, bring football snacks. When the meal was over, they had no thought of all those dishes that needed washing or anything else other than their football enjoyment and full stomachs.

I'm not complaining (really) - it's just a fact of life in most households.

As a writer, I wonder how I'll find time to squeeze in a little creativity in the next six weeks. My list includes job hunting, house cleaning, shopping for gifts and mailing them since everyone else lives far away, cooking, making a few of the gifts, and running around like a chicken with its head cut off, all while trying to get enough rest and stay well enough to handle it all. Holidays are stressful. My husband was laid off his job and things are stressful anyway. Why isn't Hollywood calling to make a movie from my book? I've been to the movies lately and they could use some fresh new material.

Well, now that I've gotten that off my chest, back to the grist mill to grind out a few more chores before I run some errands.

I always remind women to take care of themselves. If you don't, you can't do all that is expected of you. Take that bubble bath tonight. Read a good book, or savor that bon-bon. You deserve it.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

NaNoWriMo Accomplished!

On November first when I began writing a 50,000 word novel in thirty days, it seemed like an insurmountable task.

I religiously wrote each day. It took a couple of hours to write at least 2,000 words per day.

At the end, I verified the word count with NaNoWriMo and they sent this colorful certificate to commemorate the accomplishment of writing a first draft in thirty days. It actually took me twenty three days, but I was in a rush because of Thanksgiving and knew I would spend a lot of time in the kitchen for that.

I actually think this novel has some legs and I'm looking forward to polishing it up a bit.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Trying To Do It All

I knew this would happen: Just before Thanksgiving my to-do lists explode into much more than a list. They become a notebook filled with pages of things to do, things to clean, stuff to bake, all in an effort to make sure everyone has the perfect holiday experience. I'm not quite as bad off as that woman on the Target commercials, but I understand how she feels.

On top of that, I'm doing the NaNoWriMo project. I've worked hard to stay ahead of the word count, but my book really wants to end and it's at 49,000 words. I need another 1,000 to qualify.

Today will be filled with pie baking, entertaining company, pre-washing vegetables, and all sorts of normal daily activities, plus my car is sitting in the driveway with a flat tire, and I have a dinner engagement elsewhere. (For my male readers, that means at least an hour spent getting presentable before I can leave the house: showering, fixing hair and makeup, finding something dressier to wear than my normal jeans or sweat pants and t-shirts, etc.).

Holidays are hectic in the best of times. Might I suggest they move NaNoWriMo to a non-major holiday month?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Day Off For Good Reason

Around midnight, a fire started high up in the hills of our city. As of now, two thousand acres of land have burned taking some beautiful homes with them. We are all on alert in case we need to evacuate. I have a list of things to grab in that case, including my laptop and flash drive - a writer can't lose her work.

Keeping one ear on the news isn't conducive to writing, so until the wind dies down and the fires are under control, I'm staying busy doing other things.

Friday, November 11, 2011

How is Your Writing Going?

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo, you are spending a fair amount of time at the keyboard. My husband hooked me up with a huge ergonomic keyboard that does way more than I have figured out how to do. It includes a fancy mouse that keeps your hand from going numb.

I've been happily writing away and staying on track with my word count. The ideas are flowing and I believe this may be an event I want to repeat every year. I always free-write the first draft and find the ideas and phrasing in my first draft are sometimes better than if I had taken more time and labored over it for weeks. Here's hoping for a good outcome for everyone participating.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Free Writing Books

I just noticed there are lots of free Kindle books on Amazon about Writing.

The free books change regularly, so check them out soon before the price goes up again.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ahead of Schedule

With everything else that goes on every day, I'm surprised to be ahead of schedule on the NaNoWriMo book I'm working on. It is actually 7,000 words ahead of schedule, which is a good thing. If I happen to get stuck and can't think of anything to write, I have a couple of days to think about it and catch up.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Clam Chowder for a Blustery Night

Nothing tastes better on a cold night than a bowl of clam chowder. This recipe came from and it's perfect just the way it is. It's also a quick and easy meal - perfect for a busy writer.

You'll need:

6-7 pieces bacon, cut in half inch slices
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cans clams (I think they were about 6 oz. each)
6-7 potatoes
2 cans cream of celery soup
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 Tbs. butter
1 tsp. dried dill

Cook bacon in large pot till crispy. Add onions and cook till translucent. Wash and dice potatoes (I prefer red ones) and add to the pot along with the clam juice from the cans. Cook covered for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.

Add clams, soup, cream, milk, and dill. Stir to mix ingredients. Add butter and melt into the chowder. Simmer 30-45 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking.

Serve with oyster crackers.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Today I wrote 2,287 words on my NaNoWriMo novel. It hardly seemed like any work at all to write that many words. My goal is to write 2,000 words per day for 25 days. If I can write a little more than that each day, it will be great, especially since we will have company for a week during Thanksgiving.

When I get into the zone, two hours can seem like ten minutes. I love that about writing.

Here's what I did for the past three days to get ready for this writing marathon:

1. Outlined the story (though things can change at any time). This story
has been in my head for a long time, so the direction it was going was
gelled already.

2. Researched the things I needed to know to make it believable. I
wrote a list of questions and it took very little time to find all the answers to three pages of them. Since I'm researching two different cultures and their religions, I saved the links on a word page for further references if I need them. There will be other questions that pop up, but I've covered most of them. I still have to search for regional foods and music and a few indicental things like that.

3. Did a name search for given and sir names for the characters and chose
names for them.

4. Found pictures of people who look like I envision the characters in my
mind. I will buy a poster board today and stick the pictures on it so they are fresh in my mind at all times.

That's it. I'll flesh it out as I go and hope for the best! Are any of you joining me on this quest?

Tonight it is supposed to get very cold, so I'm off to the store to get what I need to make clam chowder. Have a great day!

Friday, October 28, 2011


There are 3 more days to sign up for NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month. If you haven't heard of this before, it is held each year in the month of November. As if we don't have enough to do with the holidays coming up, but sometimes when we are the busiest, we get the most done.

That is why I signed up. I tend to write when the mood hits. It's hard to force good writing, and there are days when life gets in the way and finding the time to sit and let your imagination run free isn't always easy.

The premise of NaNoWriMo is that between November 1 and November 30, you will write a 50,000 word novel. It must be original and you can't have a co-writer. No one will read this novel if you don't want them to. The word count is verified by scrambling the novel and sending the words to NaNoWriMo to verify the count. They, then erase it after they have verified the count.

This is an exercise in discipline and should give writers who finish it a great feeling of accomplishment. Your novel will be basically a month long free writing session where you write to your heart's content without worrying about editing. Only a portion of writers who sign up to do this actually finish the task. The ones who do will receive a certificate. Established writers do this, first time writers do it, and writers all over the world do it. You'll be in good company and there are many chapters across the U.S. and probably in other countries as well, that meet to give each other encouragement and have parties at the end to celebrate the accomplishment.

I have a story idea that has been pecking at my brain for a while that I plan to use for this project. Fifty thousand words divided by thirty days is 1666.66 words per day. That's too many sixes for comfort and I want to give myself a little extra time in case I have a day where the words don't flow or I get too busy to do it, so I'm aiming for twenty five days and two thousand words per day.

Many people end up with published books from this project. If you are interested in doing this, go to to get started.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Channeling Your Muse

Do you have a ritual you do before you sit down to write? Doing certain things before you settle down at the keyboard can put you in the right frame of mind and help you get into the job of writing quicker.

Like brushing your teeth or reading a few minutes before bedtime can calm you down to sleep, a ritual performed before writing can put your mind on track to write. Your ritual will be different from mine or anyone elses. It may be as simple as preparing your favorite cup of tea or saying a quick prayer. It doesn't matter what it is, as long as you do it each time you write.

What's your ritual?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Writing By the Sexes

This is merely an observation on the sexes in writing - not a criticism of either side.

When I read a book written by a man, I notice that emphasis is put on the action. You don't see anything in your mind's eye of the surroundings. The action is described in exquisite detail. You may know that the character is wearing a leather jacket, from which he pulls an XYZ type of specialized revolver, and you may know the sun is shining in his eyes or that there is a crowd of people through which he is searching for the bad guy, but that's about it. The rest of the scene involves the actions he goes through and what is happening around him - with no descriptions.

If a woman is writing the same story, you know what she's wearing, how hot or cold it is, the architecture of the building she is about to enter, and even though she has a silencer on the gun, you'll hear the bullet as it riccochets off a white marble pillar and sends tiny shards of marble chips flying into a large pot of geraniums with ivy cascading over the edge.

What this tells me is that men and women read differently. It's the Mars/Venus syndrome. Men don't care about the details. They are watching a football game no matter what the action is: play by play, who's ahead, who's penalized etc.

Women are aware of the aesthetics of their surroundings. They like things to be coordinated, pleasant to the senses, and the ends to be tied up in a neat little bow, which generally means they aren't writing an action scene involving guns and other masculine props, but there are always exceptions.

Men like to feel their heart pumping with non-stop action or else looking at a beautiful woman. The beautiful woman is generally where a man will spend the most time with descriptions when he is writing. It's the old Jeff Foxworthy line: Men want three things: a remote control, a beer, and to see somethin' nekked.

Women want their hearts to race with emotions, but their kind of action involves two hearts and sweaty limbs. This and everything else is described in tiny bits that allow you to see the story unfold in your mind.

Hmmmm..... a male/female collaboration sounds like a really good read.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


I have a book ready to publish on Kindle Direct Publishing, but I'm having a terrible time with the spacing going awry when I post it on KDP.

The book has graphics and some charts plus some items listed in columns. The pictures aren't coming through, even though I've done them in the format asked by Kindle and the columns are not in columns any longer when I post the book. Is anyone else having this problem? Do you have any tips? I'm pulling my hair out!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Office With A View

As a woman who loves to decorate, I have a folder of home offices saved for inspiration when I have the space to actually set one up. I love this one with the great wooded view and the giant cup of coffee. What more could a writer want?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Book Cover Design

This morning I'm wrestling with a book cover. I know what I want it to look like, but I'm having trouble getting the design program to cooperate.

We're told that book covers are very important to the success of the book. I'm a visual person, so I understand that.

When my oldest son was little, he wanted to do everything himself. He wanted to put on his own jacket, button his own shirt, velcro his own tennis shoes. Whenever I tried to help him he loudly proclaimed, "Me do it! Wet me do it!" He got that from his mom who likes to do things herself too.

Since I plan on writing other books, I would like to learn how to do it myself. Do you design your own book covers or pay someone to do it for you? What software do you use to design your book covers?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Writing in Slow Motion

I read all the time about writers who spend months researching before they start writing. I have a lot to learn and spend a lot of time each day figuring out how to do things on the computer that I'm not familiar with; the research is the easy part.

Lately, I'm learning something every day. Most writer blogs give advice on how to do things. One of these days I'll feel comfortable advising people, but for now I'm learning by experience, reading a lot of other people's sage advice, and working on my books.

I would say the actual writing is much easier than all the rest. These days writers have to be all facets of the publishing process as well as marketing. Most of us didn't sign up for this, but this is the direction things have gone so far. It, unfortunately, takes up a chunk of the time we could be writing and being productive.

I trudge onward and upward toward the shining goal of a wildly successful book. Some people make it. Why not me?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Working Away

I'm happily working away on two books at the moment. One of them will be ready soon and I'll fill you in on it when it's ready. I'm brain storming for a title.

Have a great day and a productive week!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The End of a Season

It's the last official day of summer and I plan to take the laptop outside and enjoy it. I know we'll still have Indian Summer, those hot fall days that bridge the gap between summer and fall's crisp days.

Working in a different setting makes my mind react in different ways - sometimes good and sometimes not so good. A crowded airport isn't the most conducive to work, though some of you may be able to shut out all the noises and get productive in that setting, but working outside on the patio with the birds chirping and an occasional sound from a neighbor's house or an airplane going by is just my cup of tea.

I have a new/old project to work on today and I'm looking forward to seeing it with older more experienced eyes and making it better than before.

Have a great day and enjoy the last day of summer.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Never Pass Up An Opportunity

The past few months have brought opportunities that I never could have imagined. Some I accepted because friends asked me to do them and some I felt obligated to do, but they have all been enriching.

As writers, we are more internal people than external, and would rather shut ourselves up in a room with a computer and play out things on the page.

Yesterday was Constitution Day and at the last minute, I was asked to tell the story of Emily Geiger, a teenage Revolutionary War heroine. It was WAY out of my comfort zone to speak to hundreds of people and tell a story to them, but I felt obligated since they couldn't find a teenage girl who would do it.

People came by in groups of a dozen or so and I did my best to tell them the story as if they were sitting in my living room and I was relaying a great story to them. The feedback was encouraging to say the least! Teens shook my hand and thanked me. You could see on their faces they were all getting into the drama of Emily's story. The expressions changed as the drama unfolded and ended with smiles, clapping, thanks, and hand shaking.

After the first round, when my voice stopped shaking, I really got into it and had fun. After all, a writer is also a storyteller. It was a lovely day and I met some great people.

The point of all this is to say: Opportunities are everywhere. Don't automatically say no because you don't think you have time or it's not your forte or whatever excuse you may want to give. I keep a running list with dates of all the events, projects, achievements (no matter how small) to remind myself of how far down the path I have traveled. I've just begun on my route, but I'm looking forward to reaching the point where I can look backwards too. Every writer started with that first article, book, play, or engagement. Each of our paths is different and mine is different than I thought it would be, but it's my path and I'm enjoying watching it bloom and grow.

My motto these days is to accept things outside my comfort zone. It kind of reminds me of a fence I built in my early 20's. We bought brick that matched the house and I laid brick posts every 10 feet around the perimeter of the yard. Because the yard sloped up, I used a level string to keep the posts looking neat and even. After the posts were up, I put up privacy wood sections, also leveled with the use of the string to fill in the spaces between the brick posts. It was a lot of work. I had never done something like that and once I got started, I wished I hadn't ever begun, but at that stage, it had to be finished or it would have looked horrible. I developed a rash from the cement, but I persevered. When the wood was cut, I rounded the top of each board using a dinner plate. The result was quite nice.

I have begun many projects in my life, not knowing what I was getting myself into, and having to finish them because leaving it half done was not an option I was willing to accept. Along the way, I've learned how to do many things I never thought I could do. Now, people call me for advice on how to do things.

It's funny how that works - do a few things and suddenly everyone thinks you are the expert.

My writing experience did not start with a degree in journalism, English, or anything else applicable. It began with a life of stories, a big imagination, a love of reading and a love of knowledge. I have no mentor watching over me, but people have come into my path and given me opportunities, encouragement, and tasks to do that have been wonderful additions to my journey. Now, when someone asks me to do something that I automatically want to say "no" to, I think about it before answering. What new avenues could this open up for me? Can I help someone or teach something along the way? Will I meet new people who I can help or who might be helpful to me? It's give and take and makes you feel great when you can help someone else. Don't always expect something in return.

Looking at opportunities in a new light may keep you from passing on something that could be a wonderful break for you and a blessinig to others.

And the Winner Is

The winner of the autographed copy of The Doctor's Lady by Jody Hedlund is

(drum roll)

Debi from Eufala, OK. Debi, please send me your address by email: to

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Book Giveaway

Don't forget to leave a comment here with your name for a chance to get an autographed copy of Jody Hedlund's The Doctor's Lady. The drawing is on Friday.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Good Advice

Jody Hedlund guest posts on Rachelle Gardner's blog and gives excellent advice to all writers.

Betty Davis's line "Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy ride." fits a writer's life. There will be ups and downs, highs, and lows, and emotions swinging like a pendulum. Not letting those extremes affect you are part of the road we travel.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

11 Reasons to Own a Kindle or other E-Reader

1. You can carry a whole library on one device.

2. You don't have to touch the germy magazines at the doctor's office.

3. It fits in your purse or brief case and hardly weighs anything.

4. You can always carry it with you. Then if you sit next to someone on
the bus, plane, train, tram, or dentist's office that you don't want to
talk to, READ.

5. There are many free books and e-books are less expensive in general.

6. If you want a new one, you can have a new book in 60 seconds -

7. An e-reader is easier to hold than a book if you have arthritis.

8. Adjustable type!

9. When you travel, you aren't loaded down with several books and your

10. Time standing in line at the bank, Post Office, DMV, etc. goes much

11. Thousands of great skins.

I'm sure you have your own reasons for loving your e-reader. That said, there are a few books I prefer to have an actual physical copy of than an electronic copy. These are: cookbooks, art books, decorating books, how-to books, and I just can't for the life of me picture an e-coffee table book.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Book Giveaway

Here's your chance to get an autographed copy of Jody Hedlund's new book, The Doctor's Lady.

If you read the interview with Jody (scroll down) you know this Inspirational Historical Romance is about the first white woman to travel across country on what became known as the Oregon Trail.

To enter, leave a comment here with your name. Do not sign in as anonymous. The drawing will be held on Friday, September 16th. Be sure to check back and see who won. If the winner does not respond, I'll re-draw from the remaining names. Good Luck! U.S. mailing addresses only, please.

Friday, September 2, 2011

What Do You Eat (Or Drink) While Writing?

I see this question everywhere lately. Writers nosh on donuts, coffee, specific candies, fast food, and countless other specific foods that put them in the writing zone.

Maybe it's a habit. Maybe their best seller was written while they nibbled on Cheeto's or ate bags of Snickers candy bars. Maybe it is considered a good luck charm.

I might bring a cup of homemade soup to the computer desk, but I really hate crumbs, sticky stuff, or spills on the keyboard, so I tend to go eat somewhere else and then go back to writing. I think the walk from office to table is good for me and keeps the blood flowing. No specific food or beverage turns on my writer switch, although I've been known to keep a bottle of water handy.

How about you? Do you have a "writing" snack?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Interview With Author Jody Hedlund

This week I had the privilege of previewing Jody Hedlund’s new book, The Doctor’s Lady.

Jody is the author of two historic novels, The Preacher’s Bride and The Doctor’s Lady. Both are historical romances based upon real people. The focus of both books is unlauded women who played a big part in history.

In The Doctor’s Lady, Priscilla White bears the painful knowledge that she’ll never be able to be a mother. Having felt God’s call to missionary work, she determines to remain single, put her pain behind her, and answer God’s call.

Dr. Eli Ernest wants to start a medical clinic and mission in unsettled Oregon Country. He’s not interested in taking a wife because of the dangers of life in the West and the fact that no white woman has ever attempted the overland crossing.

But Priscilla and Eli both receive news from the mission board: No longer will they send unmarried men and women into the field. Left scrambling for options, Priscilla and Eli agree to a partnership; a marriage in name only that will allow them to follow God’s leading into the mission field. But as they journey west, this decision will be tested by the hardships of the trip and by the unexpected turnings of their hearts.

You can view the book trailer here:

Karina: Jody, what was the inspiration behind The Doctor’s Lady?

Jody: This book is inspired by the true life story of Narcissa Whitman, the first white woman to brave the dangers of overland trail and travel west. In 1836, she married Dr. Whitman, and the next day left her childhood home and would never return, for the purpose of starting a mission among the Nez Perce natives.

It was my hope in this story to bring Narcissa Whitman to life. This heroic woman has often been ignored and at times even disparaged. In reality, she exuded incredible courage to attempt a trip many proclaimed foolishly dangerous. It was called an “unheard of journey for females.” Because of her willingness to brave the unknown, she led the way for the many women who would follow in her footsteps in what would later become known as the Oregon Trail.

Karina: What message do you hope readers take away?

Jody: I hope readers are inspired to try new things and brave dangerous prospects in the pursuit of their dreams. When we go after the things that matter, we’ll have to take risks and we’ll experience setbacks and obstacles. But if we persevere, we can reach our destination and do great things along the way.

Karina: What Hollywood movie stars would you cast for your characters?

Jody: Dr. Eli Ernest needs to be played by Kevin Costner whose rugged, scruffy look in Dances with Wolves is exactly the way I envisioned Dr. Ernest. Eli is a man full of passion and unafraid of danger, and yet willing to learn and grow through the challenges he faces.

Priscilla White needs to be played by Gwynneth Paltrow. Priscilla is a beautiful and elegant lady with Gwynneth’s looks in Emma. She’s not physically strong and she’s a bit na├»ve, and yet she’s determined and courageous.

Karina: Good choices! Now that I’ve read the book, I can see both of them in the roles of Eli and Priscilla.

Karina: How long did it take to write the book? What was most challenging?

Jody: The research took six to eight weeks. I wrote the first draft in approximately five months and fell in love with it.

However, the editing phase was the most challenging. Somehow in the first draft, I gave my main characters problems and character arcs that were too unlikable. My editors encouraged me to revamp my characters so that they would be more positive and appealing to readers. The editing phase took much longer than I’d anticipated and spanned several months, including two sets of major rewrites.

Karina: What’s next for you?

Jody: In 2012, my next historical romance releases. I’m really excited about this story because it’s set in my home state of Michigan. It takes place during the 1880’s at a time in history when the lumber era was at its height. Although the story isn’t inspired by a true person the way my first two books have been, I do include several real people, particularly a real villain by the name of James Carr who was notorious in central Michigan for his violence and for introducing white slavery into the state.

The heroine of the story is a young woman, Lily Young, who is looking for her sister who’s caught up into the degradation of lumber camp life. While Lily searches for her missing sister, she fights against the evil that runs rampant around her, and she fights not to lose her heart to the lumber baron who turns a blind eye to the lawlessness of the lumber business.

Karina: Jody, thank you for visiting with me and telling us about your book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I have to tell you that your extensive research and attention to detail has paid off. The Doctor’s Lady is a compelling read and gives us a clear picture of what the pioneers went through to settle the American West.

History books mention the men who accomplished great things, but rarely mention the women behind them.

Abraham Lincoln is credited with this statement: “I have never studied the art of paying compliments to women; but I must say that if all that has been said by orators and poets since the creation of the world in praise of women were applied to the women of America, it would not do them justice for their conduct during this war.” Throughout history women have been in the background doing great things.

Now I’m going to go get a copy of The Preacher’s Bride and read that one too. The Doctor’s Lady will be available on September 1.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tough Situation - Having to Critique a Not So Good Book

If you've ever had to critique a book that was riddled with flaws, you know how uncomfortable it makes you feel. You don't want to crush the author's dreams, but someone needs to tell them the truth. They have worked long and hard on this book and yet, they missed the mark for some reason or another.

Try to find something positive about it. Maybe the story has great potential, or they built up a great climax and surprise ending. You should be able to find something to encourage them. Then read this post by Brian McKenzie and gently tell them what they should work on.

As a writer, they will have to accept criticism, but you can deliver it as kindly as possible so you don't hurt their feelings too much and cause them to give up.

Friday, August 26, 2011

What I'm Reading:

I seem to always be reading several books at once. Usually they consist of some business related books, some technical books, and something for pure entertainment.

Right now I'm reading:

Zarella's Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas by Dan Zarella (free today and tomorrow on Kindle)

Warrior Writer by Bob Mayer

We Are Not Alone: The Writer's Guide to Social Media by Kristin Lamb

And last, but only because I read this at the end of the day to relax: The Doctor's Lady by Jody Hedlund

What's on your bookshelf?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Outlining a Story

Over and over I read about plotting your story, having a detailed outline of each chapter, knowing exactly where the story will go and how fast. There are software programs to help you do this, window after window that you can open while you are writing to make sure you don't veer off track.

Talk about taking the joy out of it! I guess I fall into the category of fly by the seat of the pants writer. I have a general idea of how the story starts and where it will lead, but the middle is the fun part. Getting started is the hardest, and the ending usually falls neatly into place with lots of interwoven things leading up to it. For me, it's not like a recipe where you add a cup of tension, mixed with a cup of attraction, with 1/4 cup trouble, 1/8 cup side line stories and a pinch of salt mixed in; then pour into a pan and bake for 6 months and Voila! You have a scientifically calculated book. I don't think I'll ever be able to write that way.

I feel my way through the story and pour my heart and soul into it. I'm not slamming writers who write the calculated way - just saying, it's not for me.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Written Word

A while back, I was at home looking through a box of old photos and letters we found when a relative passed away. There were post cards and hand written letters that showed much of what life was like for our family 100 years ago. It was interesting to read and we learned more about them than we had known before. You can tell a lot about a person by their handwriting and they spoke of favorite dishes, who they had visited, the weather, what they had been doing, how the crops were faring, a big flood, and so on.

It bothers me that so much of our communication these days is electronic and will be lost for our families. Granted, there weren't stacks of letters in that box, so I am sure many of them were thrown out, but I love history and believe we can all learn something from our ancestors, how they lived, what they were like.

Many of us have some sort of family tree and can show you the names and dates, but that doesn't tell you anything about the person. I look at those names and wonder what their hobbies were, where did they live, did they have a sense of humor, did they like music? A list of names is just a boring list of names. It's the personal stories that interest me.

I can't imagine not being able to access the internet and answer the thousands of questions in my brain. How great it is to be able to e-mail friends and send photos in the blink of an eye, but how many of our letters are being saved for posterity? A hand written letter is a gift from the writer. I only have one friend who writes letters any more. Each week we fill each other in on what is going on in our lives. We look for pretty note cards and stationery to write on. It is actually therapeutic to sit down in a quiet place and write to my dear friend, but I'm afraid it is becoming a lost art.

Technology has allowed us to do things no one ever imagined 50-100 years ago, but in ways, it isn't progress at all. We are all so busy and racing to keep up we miss out on the beauty of a hand written letter. People's handwriting has, in most cases, gotten much worse. Children text with abbreviations, would rather watch tv than read, and spelling is atrocious. Progress? At what cost?

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Kathryn Stockett's manuscript for The Help, which has been on the Best Seller list forever, and is out in movie form this week, is the perfect reason to not give up. It was rejected 60 times before being accepted by a publishing company. Kathryn never gave up and kept revising and editing the book until it was snapped up and hit the Best Seller list.

Kudos to her for being so tenacious. It is one of my favorite books and I'm looking forward to seeing the movie.

Rejection letters don't necessarily mean the book isn't a good one. It means the person reading it wasn't into that type of story, or had their desk full of other potential books, or they were hungry, or had a head cold, or any other numerous reasons. I love it when they send you a letter that says 'this isn't the type of book we publish', yet on their website, it clearly states it is. They are people too and are probably overwhelmed at the volume of query letters and submissions they receive. Sometimes it feels like finding a needle in a haystack to find someone who loves your book as much as you do. The lesson here is to keep trying.

You will find loads of articles that tell you the successful writers are the ones who never gave up. Eventually, you will find your place in the publishing world if you follow your dream and keep writing, submitting, and not let those rejection letters get to you. They are part of the process and each one brings you closer to getting published.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

At the Crossroads

The publishing industry has been impacted by self publishing and e-books. This impact seems to have everyone scratching their heads and wondering what should be the next step.

On on hand, self publishing and e-books has opened up a whole new world for writers everywhere. Suddenly, everyone is a writer. Everyone has a story to tell and many of them are worthwhile stories. Traditional publishing is not the only way to get a book out there. Publishers now recognize the currents are deep and swirling and are being very choosy about which books they publish, often opting for just the established authors.

This choice has caused a mushroom effect in electronic and self-published books. Many successful books are not the best written or the best stories. It's a volatile time for a writer, especially new writers. The measuring stick is broken and the gates are open wide. We watch with bated breath to see what will happen and where the pieces will fall. In the mean time, a writer must write; and there is no stopping it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Character Descriptions

Character descriptions can be tricky. It's easy to fall back on the obvious; tall, dark hair, green eyes. If you want to flesh out your characters and make them really come alive, describe something about this person that is unique to him or her.

Author Jody Hedlund has an excellent article on describing the characters in your writing.

I have the honor of previewing Jody's new book The Doctor's Lady which will be out on September 1, 2011, and interviewing her on this site. Watch for it soon.

Friday, July 29, 2011

It's Been Great

I'm so sad to see Borders closing. Until the doors are locked and the shelves empty, I'll be checking off my book wish list and enjoying a little reading therapy from one of my favorite stores.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Using Music to Get Into the Mood

When you are writing a book in a different era, or even one in current times, music can help you get into the mood of the book. For example: if you are writing about the Roaring Twenties, play jazz or ragtime to put you into the mood and mind set. If your book is set in Greece, put on some Greek folk music - anything that suits your story. Music can remind you of experiences you have had and evoke emotions that would otherwise be dormant in your subconscious. In addition to all your other research, music is a great tool.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Mother's Heart

I spent the past few days with my sons. One of them has a new job and will be moving 1700 miles away and I wanted to squeeze in as much time as I could with him before he left. He will be getting married in a couple of months and that brings a whole new set of emotions.

Emotions in writing are what make us feel what is on the page. Living those emotions makes us able to convey that feeling. It all works in a beautiful way to give meaning and depth to a story.

As writers we constantly strive to make our word come alive in the reader's mind. The next time you are experiencing extreme anger, frustration, joy, pain, or love, stop for just a moment to think about how that emotion makes you feel. It may be a fleeting feeling or a feeling that weighs you down for days or weeks. Whichever it is, you stand to gain as a writer. Emotions and experiences shape us little by little until we become the people we are today. They can also enrich your writing into something very special.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Expand Your Mind

The past couple of months have been filled with learning. It has been said that we only use 10% of our brains. Others say that is a generous estimate.

If you've ever done the exercises in Betty Edward's book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, you know the feeling when you use a part of the brain that has been lax for too long. The right side is the artistic, creative side. It is more developed in some because they use it more frequently. When you draw, the right side of the brain kicks in and like an unused muscle, gets tired and it takes more effort to make it work. When you finish doing an exercise in this book (unless you draw all the time), you can actually feel your brain.

The same applies if you are learning lots of new material. The bottom line is, if you want to expand your mind, use it.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? Last night I sat in a room full of middle aged savvy women who knew nothing about Twitter and most knew nothing about Facebook. Still, we were all willing and eager to learn something new about social media - the apparent wave of the future.

A very generous, Bob Hastings, gave his time and knowledge and patiently answered our questions to help us on our way. Now I know just enough to be dangerous.

Join me on Twitter @KarinaRussell

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Editing Your Baby

Writing a book feels a little like giving birth. For months you have poured your heart out, worked diligently, and created something unique to you.

Now comes the editing phase. This can be hard on writers. You don't want to change the idea you were trying to convey when you wrote it. It's painful to cut whole paragraphs or whole chapters. What will you fill in with? Your book is getting shorter and shorter the more you cut.

Never fear. Having someone else read and make suggestions is extremely helpful. They aren't as attached to it as you are and can make some good suggestions that can help the story along and actually make it better. To have the best experience here, I would say you need someone to help you who reads and likes the genre you are writing. Try reading it out loud to yourself. You will know when a sentence or chapter feels forced, labored, inconsistent, or unnecessary. You'll know if you need to reword or if you are using words too often. You have instinct, or you wouldn't be doing this in the first place.

In the end, it is still your baby and you'll be proud of the work you put into the story and the fact that you have a finished book.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Watered Down

I recently was asked to write an historic play to teach American history and to be used in the public school system. I questioned how it should be written, since so many of the stories referenced God and since our country was largely begun as a place where everyone had freedom to worship as they pleased. I was told to write it as my heart led me. Since I am a Christian, it naturally led me to tell it as it happened. These stories can't be improved upon. They are fantastic!

Our founding fathers prayed for guidance when they wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Our Nation's capital is filled with references to this belief, on buildings, in documents, and in historical accounts. A reliance on Divine Providence is what made America into a great nation. How else could they have written a Constitution that could see so far into the future and still be relevant 235 years later? How else could miraculous events have happened? The hand of God is evident in the majority of the stories of America's early years. Many of these stories were included in the history books years ago, but now are being forgotten. Unless we tell them, our children won't know what a great Nation we come from.

Now, things are changing at so great a pace, it's alarming. And these changes threaten to eliminate all that America stands for. I was rather proud of my first play. I learned a lot about our Country. As I discussed with a friend, we both remember having to memorize dates to pass the history test and missed the wonderful stories, so going back to read the stories and not having to think about the dates was amazing.

If you have read 1776 by David McCullough, you know some of these stories, though there are many before and after this time.

When I presented the play, they liked it. But they cautioned me that with so many references to God, it would never make it into the school system. I was disheartened, but I'm praying that God will show me the way to get the point across. Even without the mention of God's name, the events are downright miraculous and can't be explained any other way. God was with Godly men and women who were willing to risk it all, even their lives, to make a better place to live.

Our laws dictate that we dilute our history down to something boring and unrecognizeable. The greatness of our founding fathers is being left behind in the telling of our history. I can't help but think that children would be so excited by the real events and fall asleep in class to the watered down ones.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Writer's Software

I have been investigating software for writers. There are many different kinds with different features in all different price ranges. Based on the information I was able to find, the most expensive isn't necessarily the best. Most have multiple file capacity that can sort information, but I have been doing that on my laptop with no problem. Separate files are kept inside one book file with character pictures, outlines, and everything else. Writer's programs usually include color coding to keep you in the tense you started writing, separate side bars for outlines, chapter numbers, descriptions and the like. They may have a dictionary and thesaurus or not. If you are thinking of using one of these programs, be sure to check out all the features and make sure it has what you use most.

We live in a gadget age where there is a program or ap for everything. But many of the electronic useages are too impersonal or take too long to use. Sometimes manual is best - in my opinion, at least. I can keep track of my schedule much faster and easier with a pen and planner. I am used to a method that I devised and suits me. Sometimes new fangled gadgets are great and sometimes it's just more stuff to deal with. I reserve the right to change my mind down the road if someone can show me the benefits of using one of these.

Do you use a writer's software? What did you do before you had the software?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Character Sheets

There are many ways to keep track of pertinent character information and flesh out your characters. For me the most simple and handiest way to keep track of it all is to use a notebook.

You'll find a variety of check sheets and questions to ask yourself online. These can help you think of traits to keep track of, but initially, you'll want to write down the name, where they live, age, occupation, and any other pertinent information. Then start thinking in terms of personal traits and characteristics. What do they look like? What goals do they have? Do they dislike children, afraid of snakes - anything else that defines this person. The more ideas you write down, the better idea you have of who this character is in terms of the story. You may not use all the things you write down, so start with the most important and filter down.

When you are writing a scene with this character, open your notebook to that page. Six chapters after you mentioned the name of the place where they work, you may not remember. Your character sheet will remind you of these basics and save you lots of time scrolling through your story.

One way to make this person interesting is to give them a trait that sounds completely off the wall and in contrast to everything else. You may have a kindergarten teacher who loves bungee jumping or a preacher who dances the Rumba in his living room for exercise. Explaining how these things came about can make for an interesting story and dimensional characters.

If you have already started your book and haven't done character sheets, do them anyway and watch your characters come alive.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Research, Reading, Study

I'm back at work after a holiday weekend. This time it's research, reading, and study. I enjoy this phase as much as the actual writing and it's so important to make sure you've done your homework and know what you are talking about before you write.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Fourth of July

I just wrote a play on American history and I'm feeling very patriotic this year.

Take some time to remember why we celebrate this holiday. Have a great 4th.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Visual Aids

I have been doing this, but it wasn't until I saw Piper Maitland's blog that I realized other people do it too. A visual always helps with descriptions when you write. Go on an internet search and find the perfect house, perfect decor, perfect setting, perfect dress, or whatever suits the scene you are writing.

If you are writing fiction, you can go all out. There are no limits. Then describe the textures, colors, sounds, scents, etc. that make your story come alive. Just be sure to stay on track with the story and not get side tracked describing every little thing.

Writers today have an advantage with the internet. Use this source to help you feel the mood of your setting and increase the impact of your story. Whatever you can imagine, can be. Your character can look like Cary Grant or Robert Pattinson or whomever makes your heart throb. He can live in a gorgeous English house like this (William Morris's Kelmscott) or in a cabin in Alaska or a hut on a beach in Fiji and your descriptions will ring true.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bright Ideas

Where do you get ideas for stories? Ideas are all around us. News stories and headlines, conversations, people watching, reading other books, or watching movies can all give you ideas. As you watch people, interact with others, or read, think about the characters. Maybe one of the characters has an interesting vocation that could be the center of a story. I imagine what people at the mall are doing. Why do they dress like that? What is their life like. You can read a lot from a person's expression, posture, and appearance.

Imagine what it would be like to live in another country or another period in history.

Look for writing prompts. They are intended to make you think and can spawn countless scenarios. Each writer's mind works a little differently based on the experiences they've had in life. This is what makes all our stories unique. If a room full of writers were all asked to write a story on a certain topic, all the stories would be different. That's the beauty of it all.