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The best time of day to write

All my adult life I’ve felt guilty about my circadian rhythm. Add to that the knowledge that my favorite authors rise and shine in the wee hours of the morning to write, and I feel even more guilty for being a Night Owl.

I capitalized Night Owl because the Night Owl is actually my college mascot. Something tells me I’m not going to escape this particular identity.

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I was discussing this issue with my son. Since I start student teaching next week, I’m a little freaked out about when I’ll be able to get my writing time in. I’m a true believer in “you don’t find time to write you make time.” But, as someone who lives with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, I’m aware that my body will only allow me to be alert so many hours in the day.

The way I often get through the day is that I have to take a 20-minute nap in the afternoon (or longer depending how bad I’m feeling) to get through the rest of the day. I then take a B-12 vitamin and move along. I can usually squeeze out an evening of writing that way.

But many of my favorite authors are morning authors–Kate DiCamillo, for one (I love her voice!).  Wouldn’t it be better if I was more like her? Over and over again I’ve beat myself up for not being up with the robins getting that worm. (Okay, so I don’t like worms, but my worm would be a manuscript.)

Does the fact that I’m not a morning writer mean I’ll never be a best-seller?

Not according to this amazing infograph:

Opposite Habits of Famous Writers.
Opposite Habits of Famous Writers by Bid4Papers

Is this cool or what?

I’ve got to grasp the fact that it doesn’t matter when I write. It only matters that I write. Every day. For several hours.

(Excuse me while I grab another cup of tea, and pet my dogs and cats, sit very still in the light of the moon, and write very, very slow.)

If you want more proof it’s okay to be a night writer, check out this awesome blog post by Jeff Goins here: Why You Should Be Writing at Night.

When is your favorite time of the day write/craft/read good books/do what you love most?

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Writer Wednesday with Award-Winning Author, Bob Hostetler

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I met Bob Hostetler at a recent ACFW-Indiana meeting. I had no idea how much I admired his work until I saw his book table. And there it was. A book that had a huge influence on my life as a youth minister and teen Sunday School teacher:

I raised my kids and a whole passel of other kids on this book. It’s an excellent apologetic in layman’s terms. I think I’ve quoted most of it for the past 20 years over and over again. The title itself is one of my favorite phrases.

I was fortunate enough to visit with Bob during our luncheon that day and he was nice enough to agree to an interview!

Grab your cuppa (I’ve got my iced tea ready!) and get ready to glean wisdom from an award-winning, best-selling author. 

Thanks for agreeing to the interview Bob! I’m really looking forward to your next book! And I don’t care if I am gushing like a giddy schoolgirl. Its delicious purple cover (purple is my FAVE) and delectable content has me salivating already!

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Bob says, “Don’t check your brains at the door!”

Top 10 Christmas Gifts for Busy Writers (Or at least for this one)

I love writerly gifts. But most of the time, my friends and family haven’t a clue what such things are. I may leave my computer open to this post in case Mr. Himself walks by…

Here are my top 10 picks this Christmas in no particular order.

Number One:

 Jane Austen Action Figures and anything Jane Austen.

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Such as this,

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this,

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and this.

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Just because I love all things Jane Austen. And these are absolutely frivolous and uniquely writerly and readerly.

Number Two:

Stickers for my laptop. Such as this NASA one.

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It’s cool for people to think I’m a rocket scientist when I’m out in public writing. Then again, the astronaut sloth sticker might clue them in to what I really am.

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Or the  NASA “I need my space” one.

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Seriously, though, this one is perfect.

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As is this one. And you can’t beat the price! Okay, forget the gifting. I’m getting these myself.

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Number Three:

I am in total love with this gift idea! It’s a Moleskin notebook in a Moleskin gift box! How perfect. No need to explain why any writer wouldn’t love this one, right?

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Number Four:

Altwork Station.

Source: endgadget.com

Source: endgadget.com

When I make my first million I’m so getting one of these.  You’ve got to see this for yourself! (Watch the video. You’ll be putting this one on your list, too.)

Number Five:

Bookends. I have so many books. I’m never without a need for bookends. And since I’m really into elephants, I love these little guys.

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Every writer can use a nice set of bookends

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or even a cute bookshelf!

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Number Six:

Movie passes!

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Fiction writers love movies. Mainly they like to go and rip apart every scene, dissect each word, analyze the dialogue, conflicts, and more. Sometimes they want to sit in a movie alone and savor every morsel. Writers are weird. You might want to get the passes for them  to go to the movies alone unless they happen to have patient friends who understand. Or you have a unique writer friend who’s an extrovert. Unlike me. It’s not that I’m anti-social. I’m just an in-her-head-all-the-time kind of gal. Okay, fine. My kids think I’m anti-social.

Number Seven:

A vintage typewriter. Just because. Personally, I’d love to have a pink one:

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Or this one from my childhood. I can still remember its smell!

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Source: http://goo.gl/OmyMrA

And if the below picture is really a thing, please, please, please, someone show me where I can get this one!

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Source: http://stillcracking.com/want-one-2/

It does look like you can make your own according to this website, but a circuitry aficionado I’m not. However, I’m a writer, and there’s nothing a writer loves more than dreaming–besides caffeine and chocolate. Which brings us to

Number Eight:

Our own caffeine station. Deborah Raney has one I absolutely love! Mine would lean more toward tea, diet Mt. Dew, milk (with a Splenda — you’ve got to try it! It’s like a legal milkshake) and water. I don’t drink coffee. But I don’t mind those who do because I love the smell of it. Wouldn’t a little station in a cozy home office be wonderful?

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How cute is this???

Number Nine:

Our own private lair.

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I have a huge Pinterest board dedicated to this (with over 600 delectable images!).  I’d love my own little cabin in the backyard. But Mr. Himself is hesitant to create such a thing because he’s afraid I’d never come back in the main house.  He might be right about that. (See Number Six.)

Number Ten:

Contracts. Lots and lots of contracts.

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If I haven’t hit on anything your writer friend or family member might like, you can check out this amazing Etsy list here. There are plenty of things there any writer would love. And I like shopping at Etsy because it supports independent creatives like me.

What are your top ten Christmas wishes (besides peace, health and unicorns)? Is there anything on my list you’d like to have, too? Weigh in!

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What’s on your writing desk, Elaine Stock?

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Today I’m excited to feature one of my dear writing pals, Elaine Stock. She is represented by the same literary agent I am, the lovely Linda Glaz. I’m so happy that my readers get to know Elaine. She has a very engaging blog. You’ll want to check it out.

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Karla:  I love this picture of you and your cat! I write surrounded by my pets, too.

Elaine:  Although this photograph of myself is a tribute to my not long ago writing muse of the past nineteen and a half years, Wild Cat, who left me for a much better forever writing spot this past October, what you see is pretty much my writing place. Oh, I do have this great big antique oak desk that is presently in the corner of the kitchen. I think. Is that what’s under the printer, mounds of paper that can never, ever be thrown away, and writing how-to books?

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered

Karla: Oh yes. I have one of those mysterious wooden things you call desks, too. I’m sure it’s under there somewhere. Along with a pony, maybe? I’m very sorry about the loss of your cat. As an animal lover with five fur babies myself, and having had many over the years, I know how very precious they are to us.

Where do you like to write the most?

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Elaine: With limited space, I’ve come to appreciate this corner of the sofa. It’s the closest to the wood stove in the winter, plus I look out four big windows and a backdoor for views of the countryside. Since the photo was taken I now have an additional pink marble side table. On good days I use the coffee table and side table as desk extensions—of course! To add a little more zest in my drive I’ll keep a mug of coffee—if early in the morning—or hot tea or plain old tap water. I’m not into snacking—really!—but may indulge in fruit or a granola bar if the blood sugar sags.

Karla: I don’t think I know the meaning of “not into snacking.” I wish I did! I envy that! Thanks for sharing your lovely writing space with us, Elaine. It sounds absolutely cozy and inspiring.

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Karla writing from her snack fort.

Here’s a bit more about Elaine. I hope you’ll make every effort to connect with her, Dear Reader!

Elaine Stock never expected that a college major in psychology and sociology would walk her through the see-saw industries of food service and the weight-loss business; co-ownership with her husband in piano restoration and 10 years in community service. All great fodder for writing fiction.

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(c) Elaine Stock

In the spring of 2011 she placed in the Semi-finals category in the ACFW Genesis Contest for her novel WALK WITH ME. In 2013 she received the honor of My Book Therapy’s Frasier Bronze Medalist award for her novel NO GOING BACK. And in 2014 she was blessed with the news that her short story IN HIS OWN TIME won the People’s Choice Award in the FamilyFiction Contest, which was published in the printed anthology, THE STORY: 2014 Anthology. November 2014 saw her short story, THE FOREVER CHRISTMAS GIFT, released in CHRISTMAS TREASURES: A COLLECTION OF CHRISTMAS SHORT STORIES. In January 2015 she became a regular contributing author to Happy Sis Magazine (http://happysis.com) aimed at an international readership to “inspire women to know Christ and to grow in faith, integrity, confidence, success and happiness.”

Her own blog, Everyone’s Story (http://elainestock.com) has grown in its over 4-year existence, receiving an average of 8,000 viewer monthly visits. She weekly hosts authors, writers, and readers, which helps to further her reach and connection to many on an international level. Everyone’s Story’s theme is to uplift and encourage all through the power of story and hope.

Connect with Elaine here:

Twitter http://www.twitter.com/ElaineStock

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/AuthorElaineStock

Goodreads  http://goodreads.com/ElaineStock

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Would you and your writing spaces like to be featured on my blog? Find out how!

Don’t hate me because I’m doing NaNoWriMo

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I owe my current writing career to NaNoWriMo. I latched onto this November madness like it was a precious diamond in 2003 and I have yet to let go. I am quoted in the founder’s book, No Plot No Problem. As I’ve said before, I blame Chris Baty for the madness I experience now as a struggling writer.

no-plot-no-problem-baty-chris-9780811845052Way back then, I even had to borrow a lap top from Chris to participate. That’s when I learned I really could power through 50K words and not die. And once I did, I had the bug. There was no way I could live the rest of my life and not write stories. Up to that point, I thought I could only write non-fiction. I had no idea what an art fiction was.

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I’m a tough customer. Fiction has to be deep and I have to learn something from it in order to read it. I have many more nonfiction books in my library than I do fiction. I’m an insatiable life-long student. My kids say they can’t remember a time I wasn’t going to school and learning something new.

nanowrimoA lot of novelists think that NaNoWriMo is for beginners, but I’m here to tell you that writing 50K words in 30 days is nothing to sneeze at. And to think I did it the first time without a thought as to an outline or destination. I’m impressed with the person I was back then. I just sat down and wrote by the seat of my pants. I think the thing that separates me from a lot of people is that I’m not afraid to try and fail.

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This year I’m taking some college students with me on this crazy journey. We’re getting together tonight for a pep talk and will get together each week between now and 50K words. I’m excited because I love mentoring young writers.

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Why don’t you do NaNoWriMo? And if you are doing it, what drives you to participate? Let me know in the comments below!

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Why do I write?

111steampunktypewriterThis past summer someone put my feet to the fire and asked me why I spent so much time writing: “So what if you write. All you have left after spending on all that time are words on a page. Who cares? There are other things to do besides sit and write all day.”

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When I told some of my writers friends I was being criticized for being a writer, I got some fabulous feedback. Things that I believed but couldn’t think to say at the time. (I tend to freeze up when I’m confronted and only think of answers later.) I’ve kept these answers and pondered them in my heart. Writing is a solitary experience, and when someone is critical, it makes me feel even more alone.

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Kathy Rouser’s answer was one I absolutely identify with:

“I think of Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire, when he said that when he ran he felt God’s pleasure.

Writing’s a calling, it’s a release. Words on a page make up a story that could change a life–or save
one. Just like brushstrokes of paint on a canvas make a painting, if you don’t keep adding to
the story and finishing it, you’ll never know what a difference could make–even just for you.

And if you’re being obedient to the Lord, that’s the most important thing of all.”

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This is so true. I feel alive when I’m writing. If there was one thing I was born to do, it is to put words on a page. Words and letters are as much a part of me as the nose on my face. I can’t imagine a life without them.

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Author Rick Barry wrote:

“To belittle words on a page is to belittle God. The Almighty saw fit to record much history, much revelation, and much emotion and inspiration in the form of written words. Anyone who takes the position that words on a page are pointless… I can’t begin to express the ignorance that suggests. And true, our words are not God’s divine inspired Word, but we are created in God’s image, and I believe it pleases Him when we try to be like Him, to follow His example, and to touch others with words.

…Every Sunday pastors step into pulpits the world over. They deliver sermons that are nothing more than words they wrote on a page, either in outline form or in full paragraphs. God uses words to touch human beings for the better!

…I can’t count the times that I have been contacted by people who have read my piddly words on a page and told me that those words worked powerfully in them, helping them to overcome problems or to become a better person.”

 

111womanwriting2My agent, Linda Glaz wrote:

 “‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.…John 1:1′
 
I guess now we know just exactly how important a word can be…”
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“…writing, like the other arts is a form of God’s divine expression though us; we each are called to gifts from the Spirit. A former atheist found conversion after reading the beauty of a poem when he realized that in order to feel such an emotional response to mere words, he must be more than the animals around him. He must have a soul. Even Jesus taught us with stories, using parables, because He knew we would listen and understand.”
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What a blessing to have writer friends! They propped me up when I was feeling a bit discouraged.
But what about my own thoughts on why I write? Next week I’ll write more about my feelings on the subject. Stay tuned! (I blog about writing on Tuesdays.)
What about you? Do you write? If so, why?

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Would C. S. Lewis be too distracted to write today?

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C.S. Lewis hard at work

I love reading about the writing habits of great writers. Maybe it’s because I’m looking for that one secret element that made them great.

I guess there is one secret that’s consistent with all of them: they worked hard. So much harder than we do today. I’ll explain in a bit.

But first, let’s look at what C.S. Lewis had to say about an ideal writing day in his book, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of my Early Life.

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“[I] settled into a routine which has ever since served in my mind as an archetype, so that what I still mean when I speak of a “normal” day (and lament that normal days are so rare) is a day of the Bookham pattern. For if I could please myself I would always live as I lived there. I would choose always to breakfast at exactly eight and to be at my desk by nine, there to read or write till one. If a cup of good tea or coffee could be brought me about eleven, so much the better. A step or so out of doors for a pint of beer would not do quite so well; for a man does not want to drink alone and if you meet a friend in the taproom the break is likely to be extended beyond its ten minutes. At one precisely lunch should be on the table…”

This “Bookham pattern” he speaks of developed after his father withdrew him from public school and brought him home to be tutored. It was then that a daily routine he grew to love developed.

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And what writer wouldn’t love to have someone bring them coffee or tea, and have a lunch ready for us at 1:00 PM? It sounds heavenly to me, if not to you.

But I suppose that there are things about my writing life that would appeal to Lewis as well–a microwave or Keurig for making tea for example. We may not have housekeepers but we have gadgets that serve us well. Or we serve them. Either way, I think Lewis would have enjoyed them. (PS I don’t have a Keurig but I’m accepting donations…)

Keurig Special Edition (B60)After his lunch, Lewis enjoyed a walk. This is something that I have yet to work into my day consistently. But I know I do feel better and have much more energy when I  exercise. And scientists claim that it makes us smarter:

“Walking 40 minutes four times a week changed the size and organization of participants’ brains in one year, resulting in the formation of new neurons and larger memory centers, according to a study from the University of Illinois.”  (Source: Want to boost your brain power?)

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People knew that walking was good for them long before studies proved it. C. S. Lewis enjoyed walking every afternoon. And unbeknownst to him, it’s probably what got him through the afternoon blahs some full-time writers experience:

“By two at the latest I would be on the road. Not, except at rare intervals, with a friend. Walking and talking are two very great pleasures, but it is a mistake to combine them. Our own noise blots out the sounds and silences of the outdoor world; and talking leads almost inevitably to smoking, and then farewell to nature as far as one of our senses is concerned. The only friend to walk with is one … who so exactly shares your taste for each mood of the countryside that a glance, a halt, or at most a nudge, is enough to assure us that the pleasure is shared.”

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Oh how I love this quote! I tire too easily at ceaseless chatter. There are times when a soul needs time to contemplate, and writers and artists tend to crave silence more than most. I’ve been accused of being anti-social because of my lack of need to share every one of my thoughts. Perhaps it’s because I write them that I feel no need to express them verbally. But I also find it a wearying task to explain them to others. I simply don’t desire to.

Besides walking alone, Lewis also preferred to take his tea alone soon after his walk:

“The return from the walk, and the arrival of tea, should be exactly coincident, and not later than a quarter past four. Tea should be taken in solitude…”

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The man loved his solitude! Proof positive that there are those of us who simply must have it.

It’s tempting to accuse Lewis of being persnickety, but before we make that mistake, we must remember that he is describing an ideal day. And how often does one have those?

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Like us, Lewis had distractions, one of them being mail. He had a love-hate relationship with mail because he was compelled to answer every letter he received. I can imagine he’d have the same attitude towards email that we do today!

“But when is a man to write his letters? You forget that I am describing the happy life I led with Kirk or the ideal life I would live now if I could. And it is essential of the happy life that a man would have almost no mail and never dread the postman’s knock.”

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Writers today complain about time being eaten up with social networking, but I would guess that Lewis spent just as much time writing letters. He was a prolific letter writer and was extremely generous with advice. Also keep in mind, he wrote his letters and manuscripts by hand. How much easier we have it today than writers did even twenty years ago. I’m old enough to have written many a story on a typewriter with gallons of white-out at my side.

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One of the letters he wrote to a young fan, Joan Lancaster, is good advice for writers still today. Notice how he doesn’t patronize or talk down to her:

“1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

 

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

 

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

 

4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

 

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

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One of C.S. Lewis’s Desks

After his tea on a “normal” day, Lewis went back to work:

“At five a man should be at work again, and at it till seven. Then, at the evening meal and after, comes the time for talk, or, failing that, for lighter reading; and unless you are making a night of it with your cronies (and at Bookham I had none) there is no reason why you should ever be in bed later than eleven.”

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C.S. Lewis hard at work

It sounds like a lovely ideal day. But Lewis didn’t have children to care for, chores to do (I’ve read he was an abysmal housekeeper as was his wife whom he married late in life but she was also ill), and focused mostly on the work at hand. Still, he probably had interruptions as we do.

My ideal day would include hours alone, too. But alas, I work mostly in my home office where my family ignores the “Writer at Work Do Not Disturb” signs. To them it’s not a writer at work, but a Mom at home, ready to answer questions, rescue the cat from the dog, and break up an argument between twins.

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However, I have technology the likes of which Lewis couldn’t have imagined. I have word processors that correct my spelling, and search engines for my research. I have over a thousand books in my ereaders and can type 95 or more WPM. I don’t have to invest in paper to send a letter or even a stamp. Perhaps this makes up for the solitude Lewis had.

Just imagine what things he could have created had he lived in our time. Or would he have been too distracted?

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What do you think? Let me know what your ideal day would look like. I’d love to discuss this with you!

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See what I did there?

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Punny Guy: Author Tom Threadgill

I have a writing buddy who loves puns.

He’s super hilarious and you’d never know by his sense of humor that he writes bloody suspense novels.

You can follow his blog here: Tom Threadgill.

Do you like puns? Write some of them for me in the comments below!

And don’t forget to head over to my contest where I’m giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Enjoy these punny pics! Which one’s your favorite?

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I’m baaaaaaack

It’s been too long since I got to blog and I miss it! Juggling life and a book deadline are a huge challenge. But with God’s grace, I’ve emerged from the cave with my mind still intact.

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(Okay, fine, so that’s a subjective opinion. But just because some people think sitting on the roof singing “Yellow Submarine” is crazy doesn’t mean it is.)

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This deadline was extremely difficult for Mr. Himself. I’m hoping next time I get a contract my deadline won’t be so pressing. But hey, when you get the rare-these-days publishing contract you can’t exactly make demands. If they need a book by a certain date, you’ve got to make it happen.  Still, Mr. Himself felt very neglected. Poor fellow. I felt bad.

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How my husband sees himself when I’m on a deadline

I have a lot to consider as I go forward. I need to somehow keep my family happy while I pursue the dream. And I think it’s harder for women than for men.

What say you?

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Live blogging from Realm Makers Conference with BREAKING NEWS!

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I’m in Radnor, PA for the Realm Makers Conference! I am a slightly surprised to find myself here but there’s a nagging in my heart to learn how to write compelling YA, specifically in the Steampunk vein.

I’m not really sure what to expect, but so far things are good. On my drive to Pennsylvania there was a rainbow! That’s a good sign, right?

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It took me two days to drive here from Indiana. Today before I checked into the conference I stopped at a mall in King of Prussia, PA, and had lunch at Ruby’s Diner. The clam chowder was so scrumptious I was tempted to order another cup!

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I sat in the diner and worked on my work in progress. I was pleasantly surprised to discover I can write pretty well in a diner environment. I need to try it again. Although, there aren’t any diners in my neck of the woods. Certainly not ones that have such great decor.

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I was wishing my guys were with me to enjoy such pretty bikes!

The conference is on Villanova University’s campus. The college has beautiful old stone buildings and we’re staying in dorms. The dorm I’m in is actually an apartment. I have the entire thing to myself but there’s enough room for 4 people.

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Tonight as I type this I’m at the Splickety Magazine Critique Party. On the panel critiquing the first few pages of novels submitted and chosen before the conference are Tosca Lee, Jeff Gerke, Steve Laube and Avily Jerome.

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I’m so excited to hear Tosca Lee speak in the morning! I love her books. She has the sort of writing voice I love. Like liquid velvet.

I’ll post again tomorrow (hopefully I’ll have some time to sneak in here to share with you) and let you know all I’m learning. Tonight the panel seems to be in unison regarding that first hook in the first few pages of a book. Lovely writing might be beautiful, but will it keep a reader’s attention? If you want to be published, you need to learn to write what sells.

But if you want to write for your own pleasure, then write what you want!

Tonight Steve Laube announced the new name of his publishing company (formerly Marcher Lord Press): Enclave Publishing! You heard it here first!

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Steve Laube making the announcement:

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Tons of excitement tonight! I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

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