Sunday, February 27, 2011

3 in 30 March Goals!

In case you haven’t heard of 3 in 30, it is basically a large support group geared toward helping people achieve 3 of their goals in 30 days. They began in January, but March is the first month that I’m joining in. So here are my goals for March:

My first goal is to drink more water. I’ve gotten out of this habit and completely fallen back on Diet Coke and I can tell the difference. If I want to be active and lose weight, I need to stay hydrated. I’ve got a nice water bottle in storage, so when we get that out, I plan to use that to keep track of how many ounces of water I’ve had for the day—flylady style. I’ll keep colored bands around the bottle, and every time I fill the bottle up with water, I’ll move a strap up. This way I don’t forget how much I’ve had or try to cheat myself out of the benefits of staying hydrated.

Second on my list is to start walking…another habit I’ve let fall to the wayside. With all the moving and the frustration of getting three little kids ready to go out and being in hotel…well, I just haven’t had the patience to do anything. But now I say, no excuses. Get out and do it! Be a force of Nature (see my other blog!). I want to start by walking 3 times a week.

And last on my list is the most exciting for me. I want to finish my WIP, Dividing Spirits. I mean, finish it completely, editing and all that jazz. I’m on chapter 23 of my big edit/rewrite, which means I have 18 chapters left. After that will be at least one other run through to pick up anything I missed. I plan to devote at least 2 hours, 6 days a week to get this done.

So, who wants to join me? What are your goals for the month? Let's share and keep each other accountable!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Let's Share--Kids Say... Pt 2

As you all know, I've been complaining a lot about my situation over here in Hawaii the last few weeks. It's been rough--we've dealt with everything from illness to floods to broken air conditioners. Every now and then, we just need a good laugh.


Back in October or November, I hosted the first "Kids Say..." post. It was a big hit and we all got some pretty good laughs. If nothing else, it's good fodder for us writers out there.

Bring it on! What hilarious or endearing things have your children said?

Let's see--for my story. Hmmm...there's so many to choose from.

Well, a couple of night ago, Alana and Kyra were playing in the hotel room. They lined up the three chairs in the room and were hopping from one to the other. Connor so wishes he could play with his sisters, so he does his funny lil' crawl over to a chair and pulls himself up.

The next thing I know, Kyra is shaking her head and yelling at Connor.

"What's wrong, Kyra?" I asked.

"Connor is eats greasy balls."

Certain that I did not hear her write, I said, "Excuse me?"

"Connor has crazy balls."

My husband was now paying attention. "What?" he asked, laughing.

She shook her headful of curls and yelled at the top of her lungs, "Connor is driving me crazy nuts."

*SIGH* Kids...

You're turn!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Rejection Musings

It is my honor to introduce you all to a dear friend of mine. He's definitely one of a kind, but no one can hold a candle to the size of this guy's heart. He writes YA/MG fantasy novels and causes all around mayhem within our critique group. Ladies and gents, without further ado, Mr. Kurt Chambers!

First, can I just say, thank you so much, Ralene, for inviting me as a guest on your blog. It’s a real honour. Now I have to think of something to talk about. I’m currently in the process of submitting my fantasy novel, Truth Teller, so the first thing at the forefront of my mind is the dreaded ‘rejection letter.’ Dum, dum, dummmm! Yes, I know it’s not the nicest subject to talk about, but one all us writers have to face quite a lot.

How do you deal with rejection?

I think rejection is something that affects people in different ways depending on what stage in publishing game you are. I remember the first time I submitted my first novel. How exciting it was! I was so green, I knew absolutely nothing. Then, after checking my email every hour for the next few weeks, I finally got my reply. I quote…

Dear Mr Kurt Chambers.

We would like to thank you for submitting your material to our agency. After careful consideration, I am pleased to tell you we would like to offer you representation with our agency. Please find a copy of our contract attached to this email.

Yes, the first ever novel I wrote, and the first ever submission I sent, and I get offered a contract. I knew I was good, but that even surprised me! What were the chances of that happening? It was that very question that started alarm bells ringing in my head, what WERE the chances of that happening? Unfortunately, they turned out to be a bogus company after I did more research. A good lesson for all of us; always do your homework.

I’ve spoken to a few newbie authors that were actually pleased to receive a rejection letter. That always makes me laugh. I can remember feeling like that myself. The novelty soon wears off, trust me.

The biggest mistake I made when starting out was submitting before I was ready. I sent out blanket submissions to all the top agents and soon gained a big pile of rejection letters. I’m sure every up-and-coming author is guilty of this when starting out. It’s actually quite damaging. Every time you are rejected by someone, that’s your lot. It’s over! If you want to submit anything else to that agency or publisher, you have to write a new novel.

My advice to any new authors who are considering submitting: don’t be too hasty. Make sure your manuscript is as good as it can be. Tackle the dreaded synopsis and get a good critic group to look at it. And most importantly, have a killer query letter that will grab their attention right from the off. Easier said than done, I know, but your manuscript will not even be read if you don’t get your query just perfect.

To all those writers out there that have been rejected more times than they care to think about, I would just like to remind you that rejection comes for many different reasons. Way too many for me to list here in this blog. The least likely reason for rejection is because they didn’t like your work. Never take a rejection personally. If you are being rejected time and time again, take another look at your query letter. Consider writing another one. Read the many articles of advice you can find on the internet, then try again. After ten rejections, do this all over again.

Rejection sucks, but it’s something we all have to deal with. Never let it put you off or get you down. It only takes one acceptance and you’re off and running! Every successful author will tell you, the key to success is to never give up. Don’t let rejection erode your confidence, it’s just part of the game. I wish you all the luck in the world. You’re going to need it! Hahahaha! *evil laugh*

The Rejectionator.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Taste of Suspense

So, I totally spaced on posting today. I had it in my mind this morning to do so, but got lost in my edits. I went on a editing spree today--46 pages so far, may do more later tonight. We'll see how things go.

Anyway, so I thought I'd give you a taste of one of my suspense scenes, or well, part of it. Brief background: Graham and Ninevah have just arrived at Pastor Dan's house. The house is dark even though both Pastor Dan and Miralee's cars are there. Ready? And...go!

“That’s odd,” Graham said, shutting off the headlights.


“It’s only,” he glanced at the clock, “8:27, and the house is dark.”

Ninevah swung her legs out of the car. With a glance over her shoulder, she shrugged. “They’re probably just watching TV in the den. We wouldn’t see the light from here.”

“Yeah, the den.” His heart slowed to listen for the slightest sound as they climbed the steps. He turned the knob and eased the front door open. There was nothing. Silence. Darkness. He put an arm out to keep Ninevah behind him as he stuck his head inside.

She crossed her arms and rolled her eyes.

Ignoring her, he pulled his gun from the holster at his side. Quiet as he could, he cocked the hammer.

Ninevah’s eyes widened, her jaw dropped. “What are you doing?” she mouthed.

He shook his head and motioned again for her to stay put. He hoped his stern glare told her he was serious this time. Something wasn’t right. Tension oozed from the house.

He started with the den, straight back behind the stairs. With his gun pointed down, he kept to the wall and edged down the hall. He listened for a moment. No sounds. He stuck his head around the corner. It was dark in the room, but the glow of a streetlamp gave off enough light for him to see that the room was empty.

He turned around and moved back to the living room. Ninevah gave him a questioning look as he stole past the front door, but he held a hand to his lips. In the living room, the ticking of the grandfather clock unraveled the last bit of peace of mind he possessed. He swallowed hard and wiped the sweat from his brow.

A loud crash from the room beyond made him jump.

“Graham, are you okay?” Ninevah called from the porch, but he didn’t respond.

He put his gun out before him again and rushed through the entry. Nothing. No one was there. He eased the gun down and searched the kitchen for the source of the noise. Ninevah’s footsteps reached his ears. He turned to order her back to the front porch when he noticed the back door was open.

The screen door creaked on its hinges, swinging with the wind.

“I heard a cra—”

Graham waved for her to be quiet. Through the door, he could see the backyard. The trees tossed to and fro by the winds of an oncoming storm. He aimed his gun again and took two steps toward the back deck. That’s when he saw it.

A small pool of dark crimson caught his eye. His lungs froze.

He took another step. Blood pooled under a hand.

Another step. His heart thundered in his ears.

Another step.

Miralee lay on the wooden floor.

Okay, back to reality. What did you think? After some advice from a friend, I fleshed out the scene a bit.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Share the Love!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Did you know Valentine’s greetings have been popular since the Middle Ages? The written form didn’t appear until after 1400 AD, and the oldest known Valentine is in the British Museum. Interesting tidbits, right?

I love Valentine’s Day just because it is a celebration of love and romance. I know some people view it as another holiday propagated by big business, but not me. I think that these days we are all so busy rushing through our lives that I’m glad that there’s a holiday that reminds us to take time for the loved ones in our lives—be it a significant other or our family.

Let me tell you about one of the sweetest gifts I received from my husband. On our first Valentine’s together (we were still dating), my husband gave me a Valentine’s Barbie Doll. Yeah. At first, I was astounded…I had no idea what to say. A Barbie? Seriously?

On closer reflection, though, I realized that it was a symbol that he was paying attention. In my apartment, I had some rather expensive collector Barbie dolls on display that were given to me by a friend of my family. Although I had never mentioned them, he noticed. He noticed and he cared enough to invest in my interests. It’s not huge…no diamond earrings or vibrant roses, but perfect all the same.

And even to this day, my mom sends me a crisp $20 bill in a card with a little note telling me/us to splurge on my/ourselves. Not allowed to spend it on groceries or bills or anything “rational”.

Love comes in all shapes and forms and all kinds of fun! Here are some wonderful ways to show people you care:

1. Leave little notes around for them to find. I even heard a story about a mom and daughter who had an ugly shirt that somehow they started passing back and forth whenever they’d visit one another. The visitor would find a creative place to hide it where the other wouldn’t find it for awhile, and then when they found it, they would be reminded of the other person and their special bond.

2. Make a nice dinner—this can be for family or SO. Splurge a bit and get the good steak and whip up some fantastic sides. Light some candles. Use the good china. Or even make it a living room picnic!

3. Find your favorite photo, blow it up (doesn’t have to be huge), and find a nice frame. On the back of the frame, write a short blurb about why this is your favorite photo and then place it in a prominent spot for all to see.

4. Give them a call at work or on the cell just to say hi and tell them that you love them. Ask if there’s anything they need. Often when we call people, we have some ulterior motive, something we want. Make it all about them!

5. Show interest in a hobby of theirs. You may not be blown away by it, but you might learn something. Or better yet, pick up a new hobby together!

The nice thing about these suggestions is that they can be done anytime (not just V-day) for anyone. Now it’s your turn! What do you do to show your loved ones that you care? Or even better, what can we do to show those we barely know that we care?

Have a blessed day!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Patience is...

Patience is what keeps me from marching over to the housing office and ripping off some heads.

Whew! Glad I got that out of my system.

No, I don't have violent tendancies, though sometimes life in the military may lend toward that. lol... The content filter at the hotel where we're staying keeps blocking out Blogger. It's very frustrating and annoying. I can't communicate with all my lovely blogging buddies, nor can I keep up with my obligations to you, the readers, here or over at Encourage. Empower. Extend. and that just makes me miss you all so much more!

For now, though, the filter is letting me through and I'm taking full advantage! If I don't respond to comments, though, you'll know why. The evil content filter has struck again!

Because of my other obligations, I am making a couple of changes here at Faith, Hope, and Suspense. I'm going to cut down my posts to Monday, Wednesday, Friday, which will help me maintain my sanity. I'm also going to open my blog to guest bloggers!

That's right...I'm going to let others use my blog to have their voice heard...whatever they want to say about writing or faith, I'm up for it. Well, not "whatever", but you know what I mean. If you're interested, you can email me at raleneburke (at) yahoo (dot) com and we'll see what we can work out. This will usually be on Wednesdays, offset by interviews, I hope.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Preparing for Genesis

I'm braving it this year. This year is the time to step out of comfort zone. To just do it. To take a deep breath and plunge into the unknown.

This year...

I'm entering the Genesis contest!

I've been putting it off for a couple of years with life excuses--and this year I could do the same. I'm tired of excuses though. My motto for the year: "No excuses."

So, now I'm in the midst of preparing for the ACFW Genesis contest. Here are my tips for contests:

1. Read the guidelines carefully. It is really pointless to enter a contest and be disqualified because you used the wrong format, especailly since it is easily avoidable.

2. Grammar should be superb. With all the information out there these days, there's really no excuse. Programs like Microsoft Word can catch a lot of grammatical errors, but that doens't mean you should depend on them alone because they don't see everything.

3. Use extra eyes. Have several people read over your entry. Sometimes we are too close to our story to see what needs fixed. Try it out on a few readers just to make sure you're not missing anything.

4. Get the entry in several days before the deadline. This gives you a cushion in case anything should go wrong. If there's a fee, you want to make sure it has time to go through so that you still have time to resubmit the fee if it doesn't go through the first time.

Right now, I'm working on my synopsis. This is only the second one I've written and I'm kind of nervous about it. Like most novelists, I'm great at expanding on something and turning it into a 90K novel. However, condensing a novel down to ONE page. Oy! I think I've done it, though. I just hope it's moderately interesting, especially with all that telling!

What about you? Have you entered any contests lately? Are you entering the Genesis contest?

Over the next week on my other blog, Encourage. Empower. Extend., we're hosting a Valentine's contest. So stop by and join in the fun!