Thursday, August 30, 2007

Glorifying God and Faith

[Abraham] did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
Romans 4:19–21 ESV

Yesterday in my devotional time with the Lord, I came across these verses in my Daily Light devotional book. And I saw something I had never seen before. But before I explain what, I need to go back and explain a little.

The Daily Light is a devotional compiled back in the early 1900s. It has readings for morning and evening, and each reading has a theme verse in bold at the top of the reading with several verses that follow the theme. All scripture; nothing but God’s Word.

My grandmother got a copy of this devotional book when it first came out. Portions of it she clung to as promises that helped her get through some very difficult situations in her life (my sister has her original marked-up copy). Then my mother started to use it. And her testimony was similar to her mother's; portions of it she committed to memory because of how those particular scriptures helped her (I have that copy—torn, tattered, marked up—but oh so precious to see which portions helped her and when). As a young adult, I wanted a copy for myself. So I bought a paperback copy. All of these copies were in the King James Version.

Why is that last sentence important? Because my copy finally became so tattered and falling apart that I ordered a new hardback copy—this time in the English Standard Version. And that’s why a particular phrase jumped out at me in this passage. (I highly recommend having your devotional time in other versions of the scripture to gain fresh insight into God’s Word that can become superficial when reading from the same version over and over again.)

I’ve often been amazed at Abraham’s faith. Mostly because I’ve never felt like I had much faith. I’m constantly praying the prayer of the at-his-wit’s-end father in Luke 9 when he prayed, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” I’ve read the stories of the great men and women of faith in the past, and longed for that kind of faith to be real in my life. Others tell me that they see it, but I don’t, probably because of the struggle it is for me.

One Sunday many years ago now, I can remember my pastor in Illinois preached on this passage, focusing on Abraham’s incredible faith. At home, I said to my husband, “That’s all well and good . . . for Abraham . . . but HOW can I get that kind of faith?” Hmmm . . . wrong person to ask! My poor husband, all he could do is shrug. See, for him, it’s simple—just choose to believe God is who He says He is, God can do what He says He can do (yes, I took Beth Moore’s Believing God long after this incident).

At the time I was so frustrated with my husband . . . and, yes, God . . . for simplifying an issue I was having such a hard time getting my mind around. Little did I know the journey the Lord would take me on in order to teach me how simple faith really is.

It really is choosing to believe. Choosing to obey, even when I don’t understand it. My human mind isn’t going to grasp the fullness of every doctrine or aspect of God’s attributes. But when I finally give up my “right” to understand everything and accept what God says as true, I experience His grace, His love, and yes, His faithfulness—and I’m walking in faith.

What was the phrase that stood out this time? In verse 20, Abraham “grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.” Giving glory to God is simply accepting that He is who He says He is, that He can do what He says He can do. Period.

The Message makes this concept even clearer: He didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what He had said. . . . The same thing gets said about us when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless. The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God.

Wow! Abraham didn’t “tiptoe” around the promises God gave him. He didn’t ask “cautiously skeptical questions.” So why do I? As you can probably tell, I’m still on this journey of learning how to live by faith. I’ve made progress, but I still have a long way to go! And thank God, He will be with me each step of the way, faithfully teaching me to plunge into His promises.

God is good. God is faithful. And He loves each one of us with an everlasting love. I’m choosing to believe these things today. I hope you will join me in this wonderfully rewarding faith walk!

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Confusing Comma, 2

Today we’re talking about the serial comma. (For those of us who write mysteries, suspense, or thrillers—that’s comma, not killer. :-) ) According to the Chicago Manual of Style, the serial comma is the one before the conjunction in a series of words, phrases, or independent clauses. It helps keep the meaning clear to the reader, in my opinion.

For example:
Roger used a hammer, nails, and glue to repair the cabin’s window.
You may write an essay, read a book, or do your homework in this study hall.
Mary went to the store, Carol walked around the track, and Sharon stopped in for coffee.

However, if a conjunction is used between each of the elements in a series, no comma is needed.

For example:
Roger used a hammer and nails and glue to repair the cabin’s window.
You may write an essay or read a book or do your homework in this study hall.
This morning Mary went to the store and Carol walked around the track and Sharon stopped in for coffee.

While most book publishers follow the Chicago Manual of Style and use the serial comma, I know of several who don’t. One of the trends in grammar today is to use fewer commas, and this is one area where many believe less is better.

Consistency is the key to including or excluding the comma before the conjunction. This isn’t something that’s going to be a major roadblock to getting a contract. Once your book is contracted, the copy editors and proofreaders will make sure the serial comma is used according to house style.

As to other “news,” I will be hosting three more blog tours in the next six weeks: Montana Mistletoe, September 14; The Restitution, by MaryLu Tyndall, September 29; and The Begotten and The Betrayed by Lisa Tawn Bergren, October 3. All three of these books are excellent examples of their genres, and I’m happy to host these talented authors. If you missed the blog tour for Allison Bottke's latest fiction book, One Little Secret, see the August 23 post.

Have a great week! Check back in on Thursday for another installment in our grammar tips.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

One Little Secret Blog Tour

Today I am hosting my first-ever author on a blog tour. And I’m excited to introduce you to Allison Bottke, well known as the God Allows U-Turns lady. I met Allison when we were both in an intensive writing clinic with Tracie Peterson at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference several years ago. Allison brought her then manuscript to be critiqued and worked over, which is now her first fiction book, A Stitch in Time. Her second book, One Little Secret, has just released, and Allison is here to chat with us about her many projects.

Greetings from the land of 10,000 lakes! I won’t be able to say that for too much longer, as my dear hubby and I will be moving to Texas the end of this month. Every winter we wonder why we live in the Tundra … but not this winter! I moved here from Arizona when I met my husband back in 1994. He’s a 5th generation Faribault, MN native. Can you believe that? FIVE generations of Bottke’s have lived in this town of 20,000 souls. Wow. It made more sense for me to pack up my computer and move here when we met than to have him start his career in real estate over from scratch in AZ.

It’s been twelve great years, and I do so love our 25-acre farm in this lovely southern Minnesota town, but I’m not as fond of it in winter when it’s 20 below zero with a 40 below zero wind chill factor. Tragic! I am so NOT a winter kind of gal. Ice fishing and snowmobiles … not my cup of tea. It’s very difficult to walk in stiletto heels in the snow, and while two complete wardrobes may sound like fun, there’s simply no way to look even remotely thin wearing multiple layers of garments.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten my weather-whine out of the way (whew) let’s get on with the show!

I was 35 years old when I made my u-turn toward God. Some of you may be aware of my ministry called: GOD ALLOWS U-TURNS In fact, as an aside, we are collecting stories for three new volumes in our true short story anthology. So, if you’d like to submit your story for consideration, please read the Writer’s Guidelines on the God Allows U-Turns web site.
( )

My very first book was published in the year 2001, it was a collection of true short stories called GOD ALLOWS U-TURNS. Today, there are over 23 books (non-fiction AND fiction) under the God Allows U-Turns “brand.” It’s the release of ONE LITTLE SECRET, my 2nd “Boomer-Lit” novel that brings me here today.
( )

Wonder what “Boomer-Lit” is?

Typical “chick-lit” is written for a 20–30 year old target market. The protagonist is usually single, and struggling with her faith, career, family, love-life, and things young women often struggle with. In my books, I wanted to approach the issues that baby boomers are dealing with (women born between 1946–1964), things like the empty nest syndrome, aging parents, a change in career, retirement, menopause, and other health issues. I wanted to look at women in the prime of their life who were suddenly stepping out in faith to achieve the dreams of their heart. Women who weren’t afraid to take risks—who had the chutzpah to dare to dream big. That’s how “Boomer-Lit” was born.

I developed ONE LITTLE SECRET first as a screenplay called JUST A HOUSEWIFE. When Bethany House wanted a second novel after my debut novel called A STITCH IN TIME, I immediately thought of this story, realizing that it would make some great Boomer-Lit!

Here’s a little synopsis about ONE LITTLE SECRET…but I think Marjorie is posting a review … (Yes, I am. It's at the end.)

**** For Ursula Rhoades, her ONE LITTLE SECRET becomes her one big problem! ONE LITTLE SECRET fits seamlessly into a culture obsessed with reality TV and celebrity lives (think American Idol and E! channel). Delving into the life of a fictional rock star, ONE LITTLE SECRET takes readers on a fun-loving ride through Hollywood and the famous GRAMMY awards.

In a land of glitz and glamour, Ursula Rhoades isn't fazed in the least by the constant parade of Prada. She has a beautiful home, a loving family, and fulfilling volunteer opportunities that leave this fashionable and loving Bel-Air housewife completely content, even if she did have to give up her dreams when she married Don so many years ago. Enter Nikolai Prevelakis, or Nik Prevel to his fans, the hottest young music star in the country. But it isn't enough. Handsome, famous, and living the life of a rock star, Nik isn't content. When his path crosses Ursula's, he sees the opportunity he's been waiting for. But what seems like a harmless little secret changes their lives forever—and becomes one big secret everyone's trying to figure out!

ONE LITTLE SECRET is a Hollywood fairy tale with all the pleasures of escapist literature mixed with gentle lessons on using the talents God has given you, the power of sacrifice, self-esteem, and the value of being "just a housewife."

I had a blast writing this book. I had even more fun developing a contest to go with it. We’re actually giving away an all expense paid trip to Hollywood for two in the event the book gets optioned for a film. Readers can vote on who they think would make the best Ursula and Nik—from stars like Catherine Zeta Jones and Antonio Banderas. It’s a fun and funky contest, how about stopping by and voting, okay? Check out the contest here, we call it The Hollywood Casting Call Contest —

I’ve been asked what prompted me to step into fiction, after so many books in the God Allows U-Turns series?

I’ve always wanted to write fiction. In fact, when I grow up I’d like to work in the world of film—writing screenplays. I have a deep love for creating those sappy, romantic comedy fairy-tale love stories that women can escape into. However, as I mentioned earlier, I had a major life-changing epiphany at the age of 35 that brought me closer to God in a very profound way. As a result of that, I founded GOD ALLOWS U-TURNS. In sharing not only my story of a changed life, but the stories of hundreds of others as well, I was blessed to enter the world of publishing and get my feet wet—I was able to make connections with editors and publishers who were able to see my passion for reaching people with a message of faith.

I also began attending writer’s conferences as an instructor, and while there I was able to take classes as a student with some amazing novelists who generously shared their craft in workshop sessions. I soaked up everything I could about how to write fiction—taking notes—buying tapes—listening over and over again to teachers like Angela Hunt, Gayle Roper, Brandilyn Collins, James Scott Bell, Jack Cavanaugh, Lauraine Snelling, and Tracie Peterson. It was after taking a 3-day long intensive workshop with Tracie Peterson that I was able to fine-tune my work-in-progress and submit it with a proposal to Bethany House. The rest, as they say, is history. Bethany House signed me to write two novels and the whirlwind began.

I’ve just been contracted by David C. Cook Publishers to write three new Boomer-Lit books in a series I’ve called THE VA VA VA BOOM series. All three books will introduce entrepreneurial boomer babes who own their own businesses. Additionally, each woman has a deep dark secret and a deep dream desire. The first book in the series will release in 2009.

For years I’ve been known as the “God Allows U-Turns Poster Girl.” I’ve been blessed with that moniker and it’s always a joy to share with people how my life direction radically changed. Yet over the years, I found myself being drawn to the challenges my fellow baby boomer sisters were experiencing. In late 2006 I woke up one day with the idea to develop a Web site separate from devoted to boomer women. We launched the new business, on January 1st of 2007. A cornerstone of the outreach is a monthly electronic e-zine that we call a “Dream-Zine.” It’s called Boomer Babes with Brilliant Dreams and our goal is to empower and encourage baby boomer women to achieve the dreams of their heart. ( )

Our Mission Statement is, “Boomer Babes Rock, where fun, fashion, food, family, and faith merge to empower and inspire boomer women around the world!”
( )

Here’s the definition that appears on my Web site. “A Boomer Babe was born between 1946 and 1964, we are women who are comfortable enough in our own skin to realize that the mid-life years can be some of the best and most exciting in our entire life. That the hubris of youth is behind us and the wisdom of the years has made us pretty darn attractive—both inside and out. We are Boomer Babes and we’re proud of it!”

I love encouraging all women, no matter what age, to achieve their dreams. I could go on and on about this, but I think I need to say good-bye now. However, please allow me to close with this…the fact I’ve been published at all boggles my mind. I want to encourage your readers who have a desire to write to never give up! I also want them to stop judging themselves against other writers. I’m a high school drop out with a ninth grade education and a GED. I quit school after the 9th grade to run away from home and get married. I was going to live happily ever after in my fairy tale dream.

But that’s NOT what happened. As a teenager, I was looking for love in all the wrong places. As a Boomer Babe, I know a whole lot more about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. I also know a whole lot more about pursuing the dreams of our heart…walking in God’s purpose for our life, and making life-changing U-Turns. Boomer Babes Rock is all about living the great American dream. It’s about deciding today… that THIS is the break-out year when you’re going to make things happen—and happen in a BIG way! And that’s what ONE LITTLE SECRET is about. It’s about a dynamic woman who takes a risk to make her lifelong dream come true.

Writing is not about formal education, or who you know, or how long you’ve been at it. It’s about perseverance and risk and belief in yourself—and knowing that inevitably, God will make a way where there seems to be no way. Thanks, Marjorie, for hosting me on your blog today. It’s been a joy visiting with you and your readers. I welcome any comments about ONE LITTLE SECRET and I’ll stop back to check in with you soon!

Have a blessed day!


MARJORIE’S REVIEW AND COMMENTS… I finished reading One Little Secret early this morning. Allison has given you a synopsis of the book, so I won’t go into that again. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book for several reasons. As a Boomer Babe who is starting to see her dreams come to fruition, I love reading about women who realize their dreams in their mid-life. In many ways, I identify with Ursula. And in other ways, Ursula’s dream opened my eyes to a world I’ve never followed very closely. The reminder that God gives us the desires of our hearts when we delight in Him was a timely one for me. Allison has subtly woven several biblical principles of marriage, sacrifice, commitment, and love into her story of realizing dreams—ones we all have, ones I believe are God-ordained. As I read, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a quote my husband loves: I’ve dreamed many a dream that were gone at the break of dawn. But I’ve realized enough of my dreams to make me want to dream on.

Thank you for joining us today. Please leave your comments for Allison. Also, I have one extra copy of One Little Secret that I will send to one person who leaves a comment telling us what dream you’ve long held that you would love to see realized. No offense to the younger readers, but. . .this book goes to a Boomer Babe, so you’ll have to include proof that you are a Baby Boomer along with your dream.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Catch up

Goodness. I knew I hadn't posted for a while, but I just saw it's been a whole month! Yet another sign of how crazy my life is. And another reminder that I need to slow it down. Since I blogged last, I've been in Philadelphia with my friend and mentor, Marlene Bagnull, assisting her with last-minute details for and then being at the Great Philadelphia Writers Conference. I also stayed a couple of days after the conference to help her start the mopping up details. I arrived back home late last Monday. I was also involved with the Nangie 303 clinic with Angela Hunt and Nancy Rue. I learned so much and came away greatly encouraged with my continued development as a writer.

This last week, I've been busy trying to meet several publishers deadlines for proofreading projects. I took Thursday off to drive our HIS Writers (Denver ACFW chapter) board to my cabin west of Boulder, about 15 miles from the Continental Divide. It's very rustic—no phone service, no electricity, no running water—but it's a great place to get away and focus on the Lord. Something we all needed. We didn't get any planning done, but we did have a wonderful time of prayers and meeting with God. I thank the Lord for Paula, Bonnie, Jill, and Kathy.

Then on Saturday, I was at the cabin again—wow! Twice in one week! Doesn't happen very often. This time I went with my husband and son. Randy will be heading back to college for his last semester of undergrad work this coming Saturday, so we're trying to spend some time with him, doing the things he doesn't get to do very often. And I don't think he's been to cabin for at least a year now. We did a little hiking, after the guys set up a new heating stove for the main room of our cabin.

Today is my husband's birthday! Happy birthday, honey. Yesterday we celebrated as a family; our daughter joined us for church and dinner. (She attends a different church in the area.) Good family time!

I plan to have a lighter week . . . after I finish one more project for a publisher today. I'm looking forward to another day in the mountains with Randy. He's climbing a fourteener today with friends; he's missed the mountains this summer, so he's trying to make up for lost time! And I don't mind, because I'm always up for a trip to the mountains. God is good! And we are blessed to own a cabin where we can get away and relax and enjoy His creation.

Have a good week! Thanks to all those who have left comments lately. I appreciate each of you.

Upcoming posts: We'll get back to the punctuation posts next week. On Thursday, I'll be posting a review of One Little Secret and an interview with the author, Allison Bottke. I'm enjoying the book immensely!