Monday, October 31, 2011

One Less $40 Christmas Present

What's your Christmas budget this year? How much do you think your friends and family will spend on you this year? Could you do without giving/getting one $40 Christmas present?

I've always heard about Operation Christmas Child. From time to time I would pack a shoebox. If you aren't familiar with Operation Christmas Child, it's a ministry through Samaritan's Purse. You place things like hygiene items, school supplies, and small toys in a shoebox and it's Christmas for a child in another country. This year I am actually working with the shoebox promotion and collection team. As part of that I've learned a lot more about what those shoeboxes can do.

So where does the $40 come from? Samritan's Purse asks for $7 donation with each box to help with processing and shipping. That leaves $33 which can make one bang-up shoebox. One thing we've been doing at our church this year is packing boxes and selling them to people who want to donate a shoebox but either don't have time or feel too intimidated to pack one themselves. Every box I've packed falls between $30 and $40 after the shipping donation.

So maybe this year instead of buying a pair of shoes you pack a shoebox for a kid in another country. It just might change their life.

To learn more about Operation Christmas Child, go to Deadlines for donations are coming up soon. Check the website to find out where you can drop off your shoebox.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Free Fiction Friday - Installment 1.3

It’s time for Fiction Friday! How does Fiction Friday work? Well, kind of like those old Choose Your Own Adventure stories, but with a lot more room. Read the installment of the story below. At the end, you’ll find a question. You the reader will get to determine what happens next. Leave a comment. If one suggestion gets overwhelming support, the story will go that direction. If they’re all equally supported, I’ll pick one at random.  You get to determine where the plot goes. So read, enjoy, and tell me what you want to happen next.  

Past Segments:  12


                Olivia entered the drawing room only moments before the butler appeared at the door to announce the arrival of Lord Clampton, Viscount of Chesterfield. Her heartbeat sped up a bit in anticipation. The anticipation had nothing to do with the man itself and everything to do with the potential adventure that awaited her. At least, that was what she kept repeating to herself as she waited for him to enter the drawing room.
                She dressed carefully today, selecting a muslin gown in the palest of lavenders. Her mother claimed that it made her eyes look more lavender than gray. Her father said it was lovely, which really didn’t mean much since he said everything on her was lovely. Most importantly though, was that she felt lovely in it. Pale purple ribbons formed geometric patterns along the sleeves and neckline while a vine of embroidered violets graced the hem.
                Lord Clampton strode into the room. He stopped abruptly and looked around the drawing room, eyebrows arched high over dark brown eyes. “Where is your mother?”
                “I believe she is discussing the week’s menus.”
                “Why isn’t she here?”
                “Because I didn’t tell her you were coming. This is not our normal ‘at home’ day. She was not expecting visitors.”
                Lord Clampton’s eyebrows lowered abruptly into a frown. “Why didn’t you tell her?”
                “I have demands.”
                He cleared his throat. “Demands?”
                “Yes.” Olivia perched on the edge of a light blue chair. Her mother had purchased the chair with its gracefully bowed legs and powder blue color specifically for Olivia to receive callers in. Choosing the fabric and style for the chair had been as tiresome as a trip to the modiste for wardrobe fittings.
                Lord Clampton settled into the sofa that angled off to her right.
She cleared her throat before continuing. “First, I would like to know what type of conveyance we shall be traveling in.”
“My coach.”
“I need more details, please.”
"What do you want to know? It's black on the outside, green on the inside. It has four wheels and plenty of room."
Olivia sprang to her feet, causing Lord Clampton to hastily rise from the sofa. She crossed the room to peer out the window. "Did you drive it here?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Is that it? The coach we'll be taking?"
"Does this mean you've agreed to come?"
"No. I told you. I have demands." Olivia's face fell in disappointment as she inspected the vehicle pulled up in front of her house. "Please tell me that's not it."
A slight grin formed on Lord Clampton's face. "That's not it."
Olivia sat back down with a distracted nod. "Good. I would hate to have misjudged you. I expect you to have a much keener eye for quality than the town coach outside would indicate. I do hope you intend to replace it soon."
Lord Clampton froze in an awkward bent position, poised to sit back down upon the sofa. After a moment he cleared his throat and sat with a look of curiosity on his face. "Really?"
"Yes. In fact, I insist on it at least being a crane neck carriage if we are to travel long distances in it."
"Are those your demands?"
"Of course not. We are discussing practicalities at the moment. I understand that I will be going along to save you the trouble of conversing with your sister - "
Lord Clampton choked on air.
"- but who will be accompanying us to protect my reputation?"
"My aunt." Lord Clampton coughed discreetly into his handkerchief. "She tends to sleep in carriages and is not what one would consider good company on most days. She speaks in half sentences and mostly to herself, but she is respectable and in fact quite popular."
"Very good. And the coach? You still haven't answered me about the coach."
Again, the small self-satisfied smile graced Lord Clampton's face. "We shall be riding in a crane neck carriage. It even has elliptical springs and full glass windows. I trust that is of a high enough quality to satisfy your sensibilities?"
"Is that all, then?"
"No. We have addressed the necessary details. Now we shall discuss my conditions for acceptance."
"Your demands."
Olivia tilted her head in a small nod. "As you like."
"What is it you require above and beyond the removal from London? Dresses? Introductions? Prized invitations? I assure you my aunt can see to them all."
Olivia shook her head so hard the tight ringlets framing her face bounced back and forth in front of her eyes. "No, I'm afraid this will have to come from you."
"I'm not marrying you."
"I didn't ask you to. I have a book. I want you to pay to have it published."
Lord Clampton stared at her for a good ten seconds before taking a deep breath and opening his mouth. Nothing came out. Another ten seconds passed before he tried again. "A book."
"That you want to publish."
"Anonymously, I assume."
"Of course. I intend to use the name Mrs. Rochelle."
"And you want me to pay for it."
"That is my condition." Olivia held her breath and willed herself to remain calm. She wanted this desperately. Even if she managed to save half of her pin money every quarter it would take her years to save up the amount the publisher required. If Lord Clamption said no -   
                "Yes." Lord Clampton stood and made his way to the door. "We'll leave next week."
                "Come to dinner." Olivia restrained herself from clamping her hands over her mouth. Where had that come from? The invitation had blurted itself out before she even completed the thought.
                "Tonight?" Lord Clampton looked back over his shoulder, surprise evident on his face.
                "Bring your sister. I will have had a chance to talk to my parents by then. They will want to discuss details, I'm sure. This is a highly unusual situation, you know."
                "I know. Very well. My sister and I shall come for dinner." With a nod, he headed for the door once more.
                "Oh, and Lord Clampton?"
                He turned around again, eyebrows raised.
                "This bit about the book..."
                "We'll just keep that between ourselves, shall we?"
                "That would be nice."
                "Tonight, then." Lord Clampton nodded his head once more and left the drawing room.
                Olivia clapped her hands in glee. She was leaving London, escaping the hordes of dandies, and publishing her book. Life could not get any better.
                And then she met the sister.

                This week's question has to do with Lord Clampton's sister. What's she like? Is she a perfect lady, a total pill, a chatterbox, or something else entirely. Leave a description and, if you can think of one, the first sentence she'll say when she meets Olivia.

                Jacob and Elizabeth I hope you enjoyed seeing your plot elements in the story. I had to alter Elizabeth's a bit to fit the time period a bit more accurately, so I drew a second one as well.

This installment is now closed for suggestions.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Life Lessons From a Deer Stand

No, I didn't go hunting this weekend. I don't think I'll ever go hunting. I prefer to imagine my meat comes nicely packed in Styrofoam and plastic.

I did, however, attend a fall festival with my kids this weekend. Now, I've been to and participated in a lot of fall festivals in my day, but I've never found any of them particularly unique. Most of the time they're full of carnival booths and cake walks, hot dog plates and bounce houses. Occasionally you'll find one with a small hay ride.

This fall festival was really different. When we got to the church, we piled into a huge trailer lined with hay bales. They had two rigs running - two large tractors pulling hay filled trailers filled with people. The hay ride went through a large field, stopping occasionally to allow the passengers to get out and visit a series of booths. Each booth was set up in the back of a pick-up truck. At each one they told a Bible story and handed out candy to the kids. One of the booths was the story of Zaccheus. In order for the guy playing Zaccheus to be up a tree the whole time, he was sitting in a deer stand.

The whole thing was really neat. I stood at the top of the hill looking down on the set up and it struck me that there aren't a lot of churches that would have the resources to do what this church did - a large open field, access to lots of tractors and pick-ups, and, of course, a deer stand for Zaccheus. They took what they had and did something unique and engaging with it.

So many times we look at what we don't have and can't do because we see other groups or churches doing things a certain way. What we should be doing is seeing what we can do with what God has given us.

What resources do you have at your fingertips that would allow you to do something new and different?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fiction Friday - Installment 1.2

It’s time for Fiction Friday! How does Fiction Friday work? Well, kind of like those old Choose Your Own Adventure stories, but with a lot more room. Read the beginning of the story below. At the end, you’ll find a question. You the reader will get to determine what happens next. Leave a comment. If one suggestion gets overwhelming support, the story will go that direction. If they’re all equally supported, I’ll pick one at random.  You get to determine where the plot goes. So read, enjoy, and tell me what you want to happen next.  

Past Segments:  1


                “I have a proposition for you.”
                Olivia stumbled. The only thing that kept her from hitting the floor in an embarrassing heap was the tightening of Lord Clampton’s strong arm around her waist. He pulled her upright and propelled her into the next spin of the dance so fast, she was sure no one else noticed the near catastrophe.
                “I beg your pardon,” Olivia said once she caught her breath again. “I believe we should make for the edge of the dance floor, sir.”
                Lord Clampton’s grin leaned towards menacing. “You do not want to hear what I have to say?”
                “You have said quite enough.”
                “My, my, Lady Olivia, what could you possibly think I was referring to?”
                Olivia’s breath cut sharply into her lungs. Why was it that every time she dealt with the viscount, she was left feeling ridiculous? She refused to let him get the better of her this time. No matter what twist he tried to throw at her, she would not allow him to win this encounter.
                “What you meant matters not. I am not interested in any proposition of any kind from you.”
                “Even if it involves getting you out of London for the rest of the season?” Lord Clampton’s face was the picture of complete innocence.
                Olivia’s eyes narrowed. He could not know how much she longed to be anywhere but London. “You must be mad to think a young girl would want to leave London in the middle of her first season.”
                “I have watched you, Lady Olivia. You have not been enjoying yourself.”
                “You have – What do you mean you have watched me?”
                Lord Clampton shrugged. “I have watched many girls. You are the one who seems to suit my purpose best.”
                Why had no one told her he was insane?
                “My sister is traveling with me for the next couple of months. I am in need of a companion for her. I believe you would suit her needs admirably.”
                “Yes. You have heard of the concept, I assume.”
                “Of course, but… I am not in need of employment.” Olivia’s eyebrows drew together in confusion. She was grateful that the dance was drawing to a close. With any luck, they would be near the door at the close of the song. A trip to the retiring room was definitely in order. It was the only place she could be assured of not being asked to dance by anyone else.
                “I have no intention of paying you.”
                “Then what is in it for me?”
                The music ended. Olivia dipped low into a curtsy while Lord Clampton executed a much shallower, but elegant bow. “Have you ever left London?”
                Olivia didn’t answer. It was well known that her father preferred the city to the country. One of the things she had been looking forward to now that she was actually out in society was her first country house party invitation. Much to her mother’s chagrin, she loved to read about places beyond Hyde Park and Bond Street. Her main prayer was to marry a man who wanted to take her traveling. Could she really escape this matrimony madhouse and travel without getting married yet?
                Lord Clampton gently took her hand and looped her arm into his as he escorted her back to her mother. “I can see you’re thinking about it. I shall call on you tomorrow to discuss it in more detail. Please endeavor to be home at three o’clock.”
The next afternoon, Olivia paced back and forth in her bedroom. She glanced at the clock. It was a quarter to three. He would be here soon.
She tossed all night thinking about Lord Clampton’s offer. Breakfast that morning had been the deciding factor for her. Her mother dissected every moment from last night’s ball over coddled eggs and toast. The prospect of having every morning begin with a recitation of her uncomfortable encounters from the night before was daunting indeed. The alternative of actually seeing part of the country and putting off the husband hunt for another year was very appealing.
Ten to three.
Could she really do this? The potential contact with Lord Clampton would probably be enough for her parents to agree. He might be a viscount now, but he was in line for an earldom. He had an impeccable reputation, a solid family fortune, and a solid future.
Five to three.
Olivia took a deep breath. She looked out her window. The view was the same it had always been. The desire to see something, anything else was overpowering.
Three o’clock.
She pulled open the door of her bedroom and started downstairs. She would agree to accompany the viscount’s sister, but first she had a few requirements of her own.

What do you think? What is Olivia going to demand in return for providing companionship for Lord Clampton’s sister? Leave it in the comments below.  If you see one you like already, comment about it. Comments will close Thursday about noon-ish. The answer and the next installment will be up next Friday.                This week congratulations go to Alana. Hope you enjoyed seeing your plot line come to life!

This installment is now closed to plot suggestions. Please look for the next installment to make your recommendations. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Look - I'm quoted!

Go check out this article written by Laurie Alice Eakes over on Novel Rocket.

Aside from it being an interesting article about what regency novels are, I'm quoted in it. There's one whole paragraph with my name on it. Sure, it's a far cry from a publishing credit but it's still kinda cool to see my name somewhere that I didn't write it.

If, by some chance, you wandered over here out of curiosity after seeing my name... Hi! Be sure to check out the Fiction Friday post and get in on the fun of creating a Regency romance together.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fiction Friday - Installment 1.1

It’s time for Fiction Friday! How does Fiction Friday work? Well, kind of like those old Choose Your Own Adventure stories, but with a lot more room. Read the beginning of the story below. At the end, you’ll find a question. You the reader will get to determine what happens next. Leave a comment. If one suggestion gets overwhelming support, the story will go that direction. If they’re all equally supported, I’ll pick one at random.  You get to determine where the plot goes. So read, enjoy, and tell me what you want to happen next.

FICTION FRIDAY – Installment 1.1

London, 1816
                Olivia wondered how hard she would have to step on Lord Clampton’s foot to do any damage. Her evening slippers were certainly not substantial enough to inflict pain on their own. Truth be told, she doubted she could put enough force behind the effort to do any good even if she were wearing her sturdiest walking boots.
                She supposed it wasn’t really fair of her to wish injury on the man. Just because her mother had forced her to accept his request of a dance didn’t mean she had to condemn the man for asking. She should be contemplating ways to step on her mother’s foot instead.
                The thought made her smile. Her mother’s shoes were just a thin as her own. She wouldn’t have to stomp very hard at all.
                “You’re smiling.”
                Olivia’s eyes darted up to meet with those of Lord Clampton. He led her around the floor so smoothly; it was easy to let her mind wander.
                “I am glad you’re enjoying the dance. I was under the impression you didn’t want to dance with me.”
                The man was more observant than she gave him credit for. Regardless of her true feelings, however, she couldn’t insult the man in the middle of a ballroom.
                “You dance divinely.” Well, that much was true. “Of course I am enjoying the dance.”
That was a nice evasion, Olivia thought.
                Lord Clampton’s smile didn’t reach his eyes.  “You are a most gracious liar, Miss Bedford.”
                Olivia had the grace to blush. They were on the very fringe of the dance floor. Hardly any time at all would be required to reach the doors to the terrace. A little bit more time and she could slip out the side entrance and flee to the ladies’ retiring room. How much of a scene would it create if she slipped away?
                As she spun around once more, Olivia sighed. It would cause a huge scene. She could see her mother. Her open fan was not placed strategically enough to hide her self-satisfied smile.
                “One has to wonder what it is about me that causes you dread. I thought you had decided to turn that potted palm into a dress, you were so intent on hiding in it.”
                Olivia winced. If she ignored him, would he stop talking? It was highly ungentlemanly of him to embarrass her like this. Of course, it was highly unladylike of her to behave the way she had in the first place.  She just didn’t want to dance with him. It wasn’t even Lord Clampton himself that she was avoiding. It was that entire class of highly desirable, eligible men: the top tier bachelors that every mother in London dreamed of her daughter catching.
                The fact was they made Olivia nervous. One would think she’d have gotten past it by now. She had been blessed with clear ivory skin, bright blue eyes, and rich honey colored hair. She drew eligible men like bees to, well, honey.
Her entire life had been spent being admired. Patted on the head and told she was pretty. Olivia was thankful for that, truly she was. Who wanted to go through life ugly? She just wished people didn’t automatically assume that the looks were paired with an obsession over ribbon colors and fashion plates and little else.
                Olivia brought herself sharply back to the dance floor. Lord Clampton had been talking and she had no idea what he was saying.
                “So, you see you have nothing to worry about. I have no intention of flattering you or quoting sonnets to your beauty.”
                Olivia blinked in surprise. What had he said to preclude that statement? Should she be insulted by it?
                “I have no intention of aligning myself with all of your other relentless suitors, Miss Bedford.”
                “You don’t?” Thank you, God!
                “No, I asked you to dance because I have something far from normal to talk to you about.”
                Olivia’s heart began to beat a little faster.  Ideas of what he could possibly mean by that starting running through her head. The world seemed to slow down. The music became a surging roar in her ears. Her partner took a deep breath. Slowly, his mouth opened and he began to speak.

                Your turn! What is Lord Clampton about to say? Is he a romantic, lovesick suitor about to ask for her hand on the dance floor? Is he a bad guy about to blackmail her? Is he about to do the whole “My friend thinks your cute” thing? Is it something else? Leave it in the comments below.  If you see one you like already, comment about it. Comments will close Thursday about noon-ish. The answer and the next installment will be up next Friday. 

Comments are now closed. Be sure to check installment 1.2 to see what Lord Clampton has to say! 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Courage Makes a Difference

Many years ago, a church had a vision. To make a movie with the message, skills, and resources God provided them. Flywheel, a movie many of you have never heard of, came to be. That small, relatively local success spurred them on to bigger things. Facing the Giants played in theaters nationwide. It caught the attention of other people. Fireproof was born and marriages and lives were changed.

The latest movie from Sherwood Baptist Church is out now. Courageous was the top earning debut film the week it came out. After its second weekend it is still hanging in there on the top ten movie chart. I have heard countless tales of fathers changing the way they do things because of this movie.

So fellow writers, hang in there. Fellow Christians with a dream, keep on. Standing firm for God may not garner us New York Times #1 Bestsellers, but I hope that is not what we're writing for. If nothing else, the success of this movie proves that there are people - lots of people - out there, open to receiving a message from God through their entertainment.

Take this as a reminder. Let it be an encouragement. When we allow God to create through us, miracles happen, lives are changed, and sometimes even earthly success is achieved.

Way to go, Courageous. Your courage to stand firm and not compromise is making a difference.

Looking for something to do this week? Go check out Courageous! Click here to check out the official site.

Have you seen Courageous? What other God-honoring movies have you seen lately? When was the last time a movie changed your life?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Don't Get Peed On

We were driving down the interstate today when something very disgusting happened. Clipping along at 65 miles per hour behind a livestock truck didn't seem all that eventful...

... until a cow in the truck decided to relieve himself. That's right, pee flew through the air and decorated the windshield. Thoroughly disgusting.

Moral of the story? Even if you think you are whizzing along in the right direction, if you're following the wrong thing, you might get peed on.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Life Lessons from GRW Conference - Part 2

We've all heard the seemingly farfetched stories of churches splitting over what color to paint the sanctuary. When we hear these stories we think, "There's no way... this is the body of Christ. there's no way we could be that petty." But we are! We so are! How many times have you asked someone why they don't go to church and their answer has something to do with not liking the style of music or someone at the church is too different from them? It would seem that human nature is the biggest obstacle in the church. We are too selfish, too comfortable, too whatever to actually get along with each other.

That's a load of bunk.

During the banquet Saturday night it occurred to me that I had been spending the weekend with a startling variety of individuals. There, in a wild dancing crowd of women (well, it was a romance writers' convention) were tattoos, short skirts, and wild hair rubbing shoulders with diamonds, gowns, and sleek chignons. A group of people with interests running from inspirational influence to vampires and werewolves, erotica to super squeaky no-shirts-off clean and we were all focused on the same thing: becoming better writers.

We all love what we do so much that we put aside everything we do differently to improve the things we do the same. So is that it? As a church do we just not love Jesus enough to say the rest of it is details? Maybe there's too many options. If we don't like this church we can go find another one. Whatever it is, I had to wonder why, for that moment in time I saw more unity in a hotel ballroom than I see most weeks in a church sanctuary.

What are your thoughts? Why can't we, as a body of believers, unite on the one thing we have in common and move past the differences?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Life Lessons from GRW Conference

I know you were all expecting to see the first post in a wonderful series about prioritizing your time today. Well, maybe not that specifically, but you were looking forward to a post about saving time and money.

I was, too.

But then I went to conference. I had an AMAZING weekend. I had some fun, made some friends, and most importantly learned a lot. All week (and possibly into next depending on how much I have to say) I'll be sharing some of what I learned from M&M (Moonlight and Magnolias - the Georgia Romance Writers Conference).

Lesson #1 - Listen to God

It is amazing how many times in my life I have had to relearn this lesson. I went to the conference because God told me to. It took me a while to hear Him, because I didn't think it was something we could do financially or practically. God made it happen.

So I took some time and listened to God. After turning over .... again... the book I want to sell so desperately,  I asked Him what he wanted for my blog. I know, I know, I should have done that the first time, but... oops.

So if you read that Coming Attractions post a couple of weeks ago scrap it. It's incorrect. Instead this blog is going to focus on lessons learned from things around us, like conferences and MarioKart. So pull up a chair, grab a cup of tea, and tell me about a time when God said, "You didn't listen to me, and now you have to go do it all over again."

And that series about prioritizing and managing time? I'll pull it out eventually. But not until God tells me to.