Saturday, February 28, 2009

Salt Water Taffie by Janice Hanna and desserts!

I almost picked lemon meringue because I love lemon and lime desserts, but honestly, creme brulee is first, and strawberry shortcake is second. I like cherry things, too.

Now, are you ready to hear your diagnosis?

Remember, this is all in good fun(we need some of that, don't we?) and to take it with a grain of salt! (But there may be a bit of ginger peachy truth tucked into each...)

1. ANGEL FOOD CAKE -- Sweet, loving, cuddly You love all warm and fuzzy items. A little nutty at times. Sometimes you need an ice cream cone at the end of the day. Others perceive you as being childlike and immature at times.

2. BROWNIES -- You are adventurous, love new ideas, and are a champion of underdogs and a slayer of dragons. When tempers flare up you whip out your saber. You are always the oddball with a unique sense of humor and direction. You tend to be very loyal.

3. LEMON MERINGUE -- Smooth, sexy, &articulate with your hands, you are an excellent after-dinner speaker and a good teacher. But don't try to walk and chew gum at the same time. A bit of a diva at times, but you have many friends.

4. VANILLA CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE ICING -- Fun-loving, sassy, humorous, not very grounded in life; very indecisive and lack motivation. Everyone enjoys being around you, but you are a practical joker. Others should be cautious in making you mad. However, you are a friend for life.

5. STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE -- Romantic, warm, loving. You care about other people, can be counted on in a pinch and expect the same in return. Intuitively keen. Can be very emotional.

6. CHOCOLATE ON CHOCOLATE -- Sexy; always ready to give and receive. Very creative, adventurous, ambitious, and passionate. You can appear to have a cold exterior but are warm on the inside. Not afraid to take chances. Will not settle for anything average in life. Love to laugh.

7. ICE CREAM -- You like sports, whether it be baseball, football, basketball, or soccer. If you could, you would like to participate, but you enjoy watchingsports. You don't like to give up the remote control. You tend to be self-centered and high maintenance.

8. CARROT CAKE -- You are a very fun loving person, who likes to laugh. You are fun to be with. People like to hang out with you. You are a very warm hearted person and a little quirky at times. You have many loyal friends.

The winner of Janice Hanna (Thompson's) new Heartsong Presents book, Salt Water Taffie is my fellow strawberry shortcake lover, Cathy S.! No doubt Cathy has tasted Ivanhoe's strawberry shortcake, unless she is just a titan in self-control. I like mine with the soft serve ice cream they have.

Thanks to everyone who commented!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What Dessert Are YOU?

If all of the desserts listed below were sitting in front of you, which would you choose (sorry, you can only pick one!)

Now don't cheat on this one, go with the first dessert you choose!!! (pretty sad when grown people cheat.)

Supposedly this is very accurate. Pick your dessert, and then tune in tomorrow to see what psychiatrists think about you.(Do I really wanna do that??)

After taking this dessert personality test,post your choice in the comments below.

Here are your choices:

1. Angel Food Cake
2. Brownies
3. Lemon Meringue Pie
4. Vanilla Cake With Chocolate Icing
5. Strawberry Short Cake
6. Chocolate on Chocolate
7 Ice Cream
8. Carrot Cake

No!!! You can't change your mind.

OK - Now that you've made your choice this is what the research says about you...


And you are in a drawing for Janice Hanna's Salt Water Taffie (Barbour) if you leave a comment and your contact email (nameATispdotcom) This is a brand new book by someone who you may have known in the past as Janice A. Thompson. Because her father died of bone marrow cancer recently, Janice decided to write under her maiden name--Hanna--in memory of him.

I'll tell you my choice tomorrow, too. Yum!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I ran over my science teacher in an elevator because my family thinks I'm stupid, anyway.

Writers sometimes need prompts. Here are some for you. Is this formula writing??

Type out the sentence you end up with in the TITLE of your blog or in the comments below.

Pick the month you were born:
January-------I kicked
February------I loved
March--------I karate chopped
April----------I licked
May----------I jumped on
June----------I smelled
July-----------I did the Macarena With
August--------I had lunch with
September----I danced with
October-------I sang to
November-----I yelled at
December-----I ran over

Pick the day (number) you were born on:
1-------a birdbath
2-------a monster
3-------a phone
4-------a fork
5-------a snowman
6-------a gangster
7-------my mobile phone
8-------my dog
9-------my best friends' boyfriend
10-------my neighbour
11-------my science teacher
12-------a banana
13-------a fireman
14-------a stuffed animal
15-------a goat
16-------a pickle
17-------your mom
18-------a spoon
19------ - a smurf
20-------a baseball bat
21-------a ninja
22-------Chuck Norris
23-------a noodle
24-------a squirrel
25-------a football player
26-------my sister
27-------my brother
28-------an iPod
29-------a surfer
30-------a homeless guy
31-------a llama

What is the last number of the year you were born:
1--------- In my car
2 --------- On your car
3 ----------- In a hole
4 ----------- Under your bed
5 ----------- Riding a Motorcycle
6 --------- sliding down a hill
7 --------- in an elevator
8---------- at the dinner table
9 -------- In line at the bank
0 -------- in your bathroom

Pick the color of shirt you are wearing:
White---------because I'm cool like that
Black---------because that's how I roll.
Pink-----------because I'm NOT crazy.
Red-----------because the voices told me to.
Blue-----------because I'm sexy and I do what I want
Green---------because I think I need some serious help.
Purple---------because I'm AWESOME!
Gray----------because Big Bird said to and he's my leader.
Yellow--------because someone offered me 1,000,000 dollars
Orange--------because my family thinks I'm stupid anyway.
Brown---------because I can.
Other----------because I'm a Ninja!
None----------because I can't control myself!

Now type out the sentence you made.

I can't wait to see what you get stuck with!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Age Before Beauty by Virginia Smith

One of the favorite aspects of my job is to get books to read. Someone once said that since they'd learned to write fiction that it ruined reading for them--they always wanted to edit or fix the books they now read. Not true with me. Unless I'm reading a book for review or judging, I really can let myself be lost in the story, just for fun.

My friend, Ginny Smith, writes such books that allow me to kick back and just read for the fun of it. Her books are fun and about real life. Her latest book in her Sister-to-Sister series just came out, Age before Beauty (by Virginia Smith, Revell.)

About the book:
Age before Beauty (Book 2 in the Sister-to-Sister Series)

Desperate to stay home with her baby, Allie Harrod launches a new career. Sure, she dropped out of Girl Scouts because she was lousy at cookie sales, but makeup is different, right? She'll do anything to make enough money to cover her share of the household bills, but how can she focus on her business when her list of problems is growing? None of her pre-baby clothes fit, her checking account is dwindling, and her mother-in-law has decided to move in! To top it off, her husband's attractive coworker suddenly needs his help every weekend. Middle sister Joan insists that God has the answers to all her problems, but Allie isn't so sure. Can she really trust him?

Age before Beauty
By Virginia Smith
Publisher: Revell
Paperback: 320 pages
ISBN: 978-800732332
Cover Price: $13.99

Ginny answered these questions about Age before Beauty to give you an idea of the way she goes about writing her novels, and this one in particular. If you are working on your own fiction, there are some things to learn about that process that she shares:

What was the inspiration behind Age before Beauty?

Allie is a typical older sister, used to controlling everyone and everything. Okay, I admit it – I’m the oldest of three sisters, so a lot of Allie’s struggles came straight from my own life. Also, my middle sister gave birth to a baby right before I started writing Age before Beauty,so of course some of her thoughts and feelings had to show up in the story as well. I had a lot of fun blending characteristics and experiences from both of us.

 Do you often put yourself into your stories?

There’s a piece of me in every character I’ve ever written. If I’m going to write a believable character, one that resonates with a reader, I have to be able to get inside her head, and in order to do that I have to find some common ground with her. But often it’s just a minor element of commonality, and pretty soon the character’s personality begins to grow and take on unique qualities. Allie, for instance, is the ultimate problem solver, and that comes directly from me. But some of her conflicts—like with her mother-in-law, for instance—are all her own.

 When a ‘rash’ appears on Joanie’s face, Allie panics. Have you ever
overreacted to a situation involving your child?

Yes, that’s one of the things I pulled from my own life. My ‘baby’ is twenty-six years old, so I had to dig into some pretty old memories. But I still remember how embarrassing it was to sit in the doctor’s office after an emergency phone call and have him tell me my infant was not dying of a terrible disease, but just had a case of gas.

 Eric and Allie were raised in vastly different environments, and that
affects their marriage. Do you think that happens in real life?

Definitely. Children build expectations about their own romantic relationships based on what they saw growing up. So when our parents’ marriage fails, as Allie’s did, that’s bound to affect how we approach marriage. In Allie’s case, she sees similarities between Eric and her father, and she leaps to the conclusion that that Eric will one day leave her, as her father did. I had the same fears in the early years of my marriage. It took me several years of counseling and prayer, but I know
I serve a God who overcomes obstacles. Today my husband and I have a strong, thriving marriage.

 Allie jumps head-first into a home sales business, selling makeup and
cleaning products. Any basis in reality from that situation?

Not personally. That element of the story came from the accumulated experiences of several young moms I know. One is my sister, of course, who yearned to stay home with her new baby. And one is a friend of my daughter’s who did quit her job and launched a makeup sales business in order to stay home with her infant. I’ll be honest about something–when I first got the idea for this story, I intended to poke a bit of fun at the ‘pyramid scheme’ type businesses. But a funny thing happened. This young mom loves her business, and she’s become wildly successful at it. She credits her business for changing her life in many ways. I interviewed several others who told me the same thing. My perception of that type of sales job totally changed. So the story became less about poking fun at that industry, and more about the extremes an obsessive personality will go to in order to accomplish her goals. I think the story is much better this way.

 Is there an overall message in Age before Beauty?

Well, I didn’t set out to write a book with a message. I wanted to write an entertaining story with realistic characters that people can identify with. But I’m a Christian, and I write from a Christian worldview, so the hope I have in the Lord comes through in all my books. In Age before Beauty, I hope readers walk away with a renewed sense of assurance that God is in control, and that no problem is too tough for Him to handle.

 Age before Beauty is the second book in the Sister-to-Sister Series,
following Stuck in the Middle, which was about the middle
Sanderson sister. But there are three sisters. Will there be another

Absolutely! In fact, I just finished writing the first draft of Last but Not Least, which will hit bookstores in February of 2010. The central character is Tori, the youngest Sanderson sister, whose life is completely different than the other two. She’s a professional girl, a real ‘chick’ with a fetish for designer clothes. There are some really funny escapades in that book, and of course more of the heartwarming family relationships that I loved in the first two. Last but Not Least will wrap up the Sister-to-Sister Series, and I’ve thrown in a couple of surprises that I think readers will enjoy.

Virginia Smith left her job as a corporate director to become a full time writer and speaker with the release of her first novel Just As I Am. Since then she has contracted ten novels and published numerous articles and short stories. She writes contemporary humorous novels for the Christian market, including Murder by Mushroom, Stuck in the Middle, and her newest releases, A Taste of Murder and Age before Beauty.

In March of 2008 she was named "Writer of the Year" at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. An energetic speaker, Virginia loves to exemplify God's truth by comparing real-life situations to well-known works of fiction, such as her popular talk, "Biblical Truths in Star Trek." Visit Ginny online at

Friday, February 13, 2009

Entering a fiction writing contest? Be Strong and Courageous

This time of year many people are entering contests for their writing to be judged. The contestants enter for a myriad of reasons, but mostly they want to see how they're measuring up in the publishing world. Sometimes that is like hitting a moving target! But if you follow a few guidelines, you can get the most of the experience and walk about not too battered.

Having judged a few contests (as well as having judged manuscripts for agents and editors) I thought I would post a checklist to go over before sending out a fiction entry. You want to make the strongest showing that you can, but also realize that no matter what the final tally, you can take away comments from judges who can help you along on that journey to publication. I know plenty of writers who entered a writing contest, scored low, but kept writing and processing, and were published not long after the prizes were distributed. It happens. And plenty of high scored pieces have yet to make it to publication. No matter. You just turn in the best piece of writing that you can produce and see what flies.

1. What's the audience? Whatever the contest caters to (Christian, romance, mainstream, sci fi....) be aware that the judge is a part of that audience and will judge within the parameters of that market.

2. Does my entry fit the genre that I'm entering? If you are not sure, see if you can write a short synopsis or "back of the book" copy and decide if it'd fit on the shelf with that genre.

3. What is my theme? It should be a natural part of the piece. Find it, highlight it. The judge will find it, whether you know what it is or not. Theme will out. Theme should ask a question (and your piece answers it.) Even short pieces should have theme.

4. How's my pacing? Read it out loud. Listen to the cadence and the beats. You often catch things you wouldn't by reading it aloud.Make every word count.

5. Are my characters convincing? Even if your setting is totally out there in Siberia or on the Titania-Starship, you must suspend any disbelief and draw people into your world. Characters convince us it's real.

6. Show or Tell? Don't tell the judge--show him.

7. If you have a Christian entry, it should contain a spiritual thread that isn't tacked on. (Don't just stick some verse in.) It's probably best to find a theme or Christian worldview that weaves into the very fiber of your characters or setting.Worldview is a part of this and every fiction book is written from someone's worldview.

8. Go back and read aloud now, this time looking for missing words, punctuation, misspellings, grammar, context clues--all that stuff that will make your copy as clean as possible. A couple flicks of a red pen will not doom your entry, but a clean copy is a happy copy.

9. Make sure you have details about character occupations/dress/living, setting, or genre correct. This becomes particularly important in historical settings. Know the language of your characters and their vocabulary. If you need to, for your own sake, make a vocabulary list for your story.

10. Let your entry go and work on something else or keep working on this piece to get ready for the market. Don't sit waiting for it. Read a writing craft book. Read books in the genre you entered. Make notes of the publishers of those books/authors in this genre. Keep a 3-ring notebook for this piece for development and put your judges' comments in with this.


It's not the end of the world, and you don't need to trash the judges, if they didn't "get" your writing. Keep your reactions and hurt among your writing friends, not spit into the judges' faces. You may never know who the judges were of the first round. The world is a small place with big ears. The judge you "trash" may very well have your manuscript in front of her when you DO send it out to that agent or editor (as a first reader or assistant or just because the editor wanted an opinion.) How YOU react to criticism is noted.

Listen, I've heard some pretty harsh comments in the past from contestants (from Christians, too) who entered contests. Because they got low scores or tough comments(thus eliminating them from the final round,) suddenly they feel the need to vent about the process or the judges. Contestants went so far as to question the motives of those judges, their character, their experience or their affiliations. Don't do this. If you disagree with the judge, fine--disagree(among your friends, not on a forum.) When you send that manuscript to an editor, just remember that the publishing world is very, very small and the contest is only a small part on the road to becoming a published author.

A note about judges: Most judges get paid NOTHING to judge, and just want to give back and help those who enter the contests. They put in tons of thought, time, and expertise, only to be told they know nothing about what they're doing. Leaves a bad taste in the mouths of those who took time and concern to make comments to those hoping to land a publishing contract.

It's true that not every comment is written in stone. Publishing is a fluid business. What flies one day, crashes into the Hudson the next. Judges have precise instructions and try their best to follow the guidelines laid out by the contest. If you truly have a beef about what a judge said, probably this would best be directed to those who set up the guidelines/contest, so it can be addressed from within context. It could be that it was a guideline that the judge was following needs adjustment, or it could be you don't understand the criteria. This is all a part of understanding what each publishing house wants. Isn't that the goal?

Read your criticisms with an open heart, not a wounded one. The contest may or may not get your writing in front of an editor with whom you really want to work. Write thank you notes to everyone (judges, organizers) and appreciate that this is just one more step. Your name, once revealed, should not bring pain to the judges.

And if you do well, thank your judges! They are proud of you, too.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Times they be a'changin'

Kelly McGillis, an actress in movies, Top Gun and Witness, went from this back then, to....

...this now. If you're not frozen in time in a movie or maybe a staute, then somehow time marches on.

With all that in mind I want you to think about responding to my poll over to the right. I've been making so many changes in my life the past couple months that I haven't written many posts on this blog or my When I Was Just a Kid blog.

When I started this blog awhile back, I took an entire year before putting up my first post on this blog. I didn't know quite what to do with it. And I was trying to rediscover my own "voice" in writing fiction, so I practiced here. I talked about anything that interested me.(Trying to rediscover my passions.) I got the idea here first to do nostalgic interviews and that's when the other blog was born.

Now that I have a direction of what I am writing in fiction, I am still getting requests and questions about writing fiction from the years of evaluating it. You see, in my day job over the years I have been a first reader for agents and editors, have book doctored and coached some authors through the agent-connections, seen a few of these authors be published, been a judge and book reviewer for published books, judged in writing contests for the unpublished, and written a few articles or been interviewed about fiction writing. I have gathered some insight over the course of these roles.

I may never see my own fiction published. Who knows what they want? But if I can help someone else get to that position, well, that brings me joy, too.

Take the poll to the right and leave comments on what you would like to know and see. Maybe I can even get a few people in the publishing industry to answer some questions. The URL of this blog is so I would like to get the focus of this particular blog back to that.

In the meantime this week I will be finishing up a free evaluation that I gave away on Seekerville on my guest blog.(Dare Your Reader) I am also wondering if there is a market for this type of evaluation. I still evaluate both published books and manuscripts (for publishing companies and an agent.) If you would be interested in something like that, leave a comment about that, too.

Go ahead and vote in the poll on the right (and you can vote for more than one item.)And look for a new look on the Chat 'n' Chew soon. It's all about me and my interests...and all about you, too.