Thursday, February 28, 2013

Deep Thinkers Retreat 2013

I titled this post Deep Thinkers 2013, because I hope there's a Deep Thinkers 2014, 2015, 2016... I've been warned that many people who attend become repeat offenders. :)

This picture may not prove that we're deep thinkers, but
I assure you we are. :)
My heart is so full right now. Full of writing, full of friendship and full of hope. As a writer seeking publication, I can't think of a better place to learn about the craft of writing and I can't think of any other teachers I'd rather study under. Susan May Warren, Rachel Hauck and Beth Vogt are masterminds in this industry.

Susan, Me & Rachel
If you haven't read their stories, I'd encourage you to change that now!

Me, Beth & Lindsay
One thing I was looking forward to the most was connecting with my new craft partner, Alena. We met in person at the ACFW Conference in Dallas last fall, and then again at the Storycrafter's Retreat in Minnesota, but we were looking forward to rooming together at Deep Thinkers to get to know one another better and to work out a plan and schedule for our partnership.
Me & Alena
Alena is an incredible mom, writer and friend. She and I both have four children and I know that I will learn so much from her - not only about writing, but also about parenting. She'll be visiting me in June (along with Melissa Tagg and Lindsay Harrel) and I can't wait to spend more time together!

I was also really excited to reconnect with some other good writing friends. I've now been to ACFW, Storycrafter's and Deep Thinkers with Lindsay Harrel. She's so much fun! I feel blessed to have her, and Jeanne (and so many others!) in my life.

Lindsay, Me & Jeanne
We spent five days learning from the best and I can't wait to put all the knowledge to work in my novels.

But some of the best moments from Deep Thinkers 2013 were the laughs. When you put twenty-one writers together in one house, there will be some great storytelling going on!

Me, Bethany & Jeanne
What about you? Have you been to a writing retreat before? What is your fondest memory?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Legacy of Writing

Today I'm a guest on Jessica Patch's Blog. I'm talking about my first kiss and all things romance.
~ ~ ~ ~

I've wanted to be a writer since I was about ten years old.

My oldest daughter discovered her desire to be a writer at an even younger age of seven. She's now eight and has more completed stories than I do!

Last week we found a box of stories from when I was young. I pulled a random one out of the pile. There is no date, but judging from my spelling and grammar, I imagine I was about twelve when I wrote it.

I read it out loud to my daughter as she silently listened.

In the midst of the story, it came to an abrupt end - I must have forgotten to finish it! I jokingly said: "Oh, no! What happens next?!?!"

She looked up at me with her great big green eyes and said in a hushed tone: "Can I finish it?"

I didn't even hesitate, but handed her the story. She ran off to her room as fast as her feet could carry her. Thirty minutes later she handed me back the story, with an ending.

At the risk of sharing a story with a thousand mistakes, on my twelve-year-old part, I thought I'd present this combined story.

It took twenty-one years to finish - at the hands of two child authors. I can't wait to see where my daughter's dream will take her.

Graveyard Confessions
By Gabrielle VanRisseghem (1992) & E. Meyer (2013)

The figure sat in the corner of the lonely graveyard. The night was dark and cold. And the moon gave a good light.

A widow got up from her dead husband’s grave. Just as she turned to leave her eye caught sight of the dark figure. She noticed the figure was shaking. The widow felt sad for the person.
Hesitantly leaving her spot, she walked over. She could see it was a young woman. Her knees to her chest and her head hung just enough so you could see her lower chin quivering. The girl was dressed in rags, from her worn soles on her feet to the ripped brim of her hat. Her jacket was brown with torn pockets and ripped sleeves. Her dress was of a deep green velvet, but the hem was torn and the dress was stained with mud and whatever else the young girl had managed to get into.

“Child, child?” The widow said in a wee whisper. She slowly lifted her head. Her deep green eyes shining up at the lady. Her long brown, fluffy hair pulled back into a loose twist.
“Yes,” she managed between sobs.

“I was wondering. Would you care to come to the restaurant around the corner?” The widow asked.
The girl nodded and stood up to leave.

The two women walked on in silence. The widow felt small compared to the girl.
Coming into the busy street, lights were everywhere. The widow could see the lovely features of the girl. She had high cheek bones and her lips were of a perfect shape. They were parted, slightly. The girl had beautiful green eyes, which were very large and round. Her hair was brunette and she was at least five foot seven. She didn’t even have a handkerchief to blow on. She walked like a proper young woman, but still her frame was shaking with sobs.

“Here it is. By the way, my name is Mrs. Anna Crasing.”
“My name is Amanda Lawrence.” The girl spoke in a thick English accent.

The two picked a spot by a big window.
Now it was time for Amanda to look over Mrs. Crasing. She was small. With deep brown eyes and dark brown hair. Her nose was sharp and her lips narrow and small.

Mrs. Crasing ordered coffee for them both. “Now dear, Amanda, start from the beginning.”
Amanda wiped her eyes and nose a few more times.

“It all started back in 1898 when my father and mother both died in a bad accident. My brothers, Benjamin and Samuel, they talked me into coming to America. We went to New York…”
I walked off the plat form and Sam, only eighteen, and Benny, only seventeen, know how to take care of me of sixteen.

“Benny, where is Sammy taking us to live?” I asked Benny.
“He said he had written to a man, Karl, Karl something. He said Sammy and I could work in the thread mill. He asked if there was a job for you. Said he’d talk to his wife. Never wrote back.”

As we came off the ship, all the sounds and looks were different. I could see people everywhere I looked. Since we came from a high society family, each of us had saved a large amount of money to start us off. We were set.
A man met us at the gates of the harbor. He brought s to a large building with many windows. From there we were set up in a large room. It had three beds. It was large all wood floors, white walls and a new electrical light was hanging from the ceiling. I was amazed at the light, for England didn’t have electric lights, yet.

The following day my brothers left for their work at 6:00 a.m. I got up, put on my dress of blue cameo. I walked down to the main floor and I found Mrs. Nowlwide. She was the wife of the man who found my brothers a job.
“Mrs. Nowlwide?” I called into her office.

“Yes.” An older woman with gray hair stepped out of a back room.
“Hello, I’m Amanda Lawrence. I’m living upstairs, your husband said I could find a job here.”

The lady gave me a warm smile.
“I just put a sign in the window for a waitress for the restaurant.” She was talking of a restaurant in the hotel I was living in.

“Could I apply for it?” I asked her. She nodded and handed me a form and a pen. I filled it out. She looked it over.
“Yes,” she nodded. “This will work. Do you know where the kitchen is?”

I nodded.
“Good, go there and ask the head cook, Miss Solonal, for an apron and tell her you’ll be the new waitress. She’ll show you what to do.” The woman smiled and I left.
(My story ends)
(My daughter's new ending)
“I did not notice I’ve seen her in the jailhouse when I was 6 years old. My dad said that she was a robber then. I went to do my job. A couple hours later I was robbed, my brothers were kept as slaves and that’s why I was in the graveyard. They got killed. I thought I could not make it and that’s where you come in.”

The widow said, “I lost family, too. Do you want to be my daughter?”
Amanda didn’t hesitate. She said yes.

A few months later, Amanda had everything her heart could desire.
The End.

What about you? If you're a writer, when did you know you wanted to write? If you're not a writer, how old were you when you knew what you wanted to do in life?

~ ~ ~ ~
Next week I'll be at the My Book Therapy Deep Thinkers Retreat in Florida, so I'm taking a blogging break! I'll be back to the blogosphere next Friday. Happy Blogging.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Minnesota Monday - All That Snow!

In the past few years we have had very dry winters. But this year, we've been blessed with an abundance of snow.

Here are some pictures from our latest snowstorm last week. It sounds like we could get more snow today and Thursday!

This is what our van looked like when we came out of church -
it was clean when we went in.

From the front window of our van on the drive home - what
you can't see behind that wall of snow is the Dairy Queen
which opened this week, just in time for the blizzard!!

This is our driveway and look how much snow accumulated in
the couple hours we were at church.

Our backyard and the Mississippi (it never freezes behind our
house, but it freezes to the north and the south of us).

The girls in the front yard making snow angels.

It snowed through the night (no school on Monday!) and the plows came
out the next morning. My boys had a blast watching the plows.
This is what I did during part of the storm after church on Sunday...
there are some perks to living in a cold climate.
What about you? Any large snowstorms in your neck of the woods lately? What's the weather like today where you live?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Book Review: Rebekah by Jill Eileen Smith

I love discovering a great new author, and that's exactly what I did when I picked up Jill Eileen Smith's new release, Rebekah.

Rebekah is based off the Biblical character in the Book of Genesis, and is the second in The Wives of the Patriarch Series. Rebekah was the woman chosen by God to be the wife of Isaac, who was the Promised Child. She became the mother of Jacob, the man who would later be called Israel and would be the Father of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

After her father's death, Rebekah is left at the mercy of her shrewd brother, Laban. He is responsible for finding Rebekah a suitable husband, and she is afraid he will choose the wrong one. When she is finally given in marriage to her cousin, Isaac, Rebekah is delighted to find the match God intended.

Rebekah and Isaac fall in love immediately, and revel in each other's nearness. But when their marriage is challenged by the birth of their twin sons, and the prophesy Rebekah has been given about them, misunderstanding, betrayal and disappointment follow. Rebekah and Isaac are left to wonder if their love for one another will withstand the trial.

What I loved about Rebekah is how Jill was able to fill in the blanks within the Biblical account. In the Book of Genesis, we're given the basic details of the real story of Rebekah. To bring the story to life, Jill used wonderful cultural details, vivid imagery to capture the setting, pertinent background information to help us understand the motivation of the principle characters and historical context to place us in the hearts and minds of Rebekah and Isaac.

This story is rich with secondary characters who play major roles in the telling of the tale. In some books, a large cast of characters can bog down the story, but I appreciated the diverse personalities in Rebekah and had no trouble distinguishing who was who.

I enjoyed reading Rebekah's story, and I look forward to reading Jill's other Biblical Fiction accounts of the women who played significant roles in the Bible.
~ ~ ~ ~
Available February 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I'm Entering the Frasier Contest

A year ago I decided it was time to start pursuing my dream to be a published author. I didn't know the first thing about getting published, but I was excited to find out! Little did I know how much I would learn in one year.

In many ways, learning about the publishing industry us like learning a new language. Not only did I discover foreign acronyms like POV, WIP, RUE, and CP, but I also learned about Beta Readers, Dark Moments, Head Hopping and Pitching – and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Without a guide to help me along the way, I would have easily become lost in a sea of confusion.

Along comes MBT – what? Another acronym? MBT stands for My Book Therapy and it's one of the lifelines in this industry.

My Book Therapy was founded by multi-award winning author Susan May Warren. I can't speak highly enough about Susie. Not only is she an incredible author, but she's also one of my favorite writing craft teachers.

I've been fortunate enough to attend the Pitch & Promotion Seminar at ACFW (don't get me started on another acronym!), and the Storycrafter's Retreat in Otsego, Minnesota (close to my home!), plus I'll be spending a week with her at the Deep Thinker's Retreat in Destin, Florida next week.

My Book Therapy is truly one of the best organizations available to aspiring authors. Through seminars, retreats, classes, teaching books and personal one-on-one book therapy, MBT has it all – but wait – there's one more thing MBT has: The Frasier Contest for unpublished authors!

This is the first year I've entered the Frasier Contest – and I can't wait for the feedback I'll receive. One of the most valuable tools to help me learn this new language is the honest and helpful feedback from other writers. Whether the news is good, or not so good, I know I can trust MBT to deliver constructive criticism of my writing. The Frasier is a great way to have an unbiased eye look at my story and give me the truth I need to make it better.

If you’re on the fence about entering the Frasier Contest, let me assure you that your time and money will be well spent. My Book Therapy is a stellar organization and I’m proud to be a member.

What about you? Have you entered the Frasier Contest before? What advice do you have for an unpublished author thinking about entering a contest?

~ ~ ~ ~
Entries for the 2013 MBT Frasier Contest for unpublished novelists will be accepted through Sunday, March 31, at 11:59 p.m. The contest is open to Voices members. The winner will receive a scholarship to a My Book Therapy coaching retreat ($500 value). Final round judges are award-winning author Susan May Warren; literary agent Steve Laube; and Shannon Marchese, senior fiction editor for WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. For more information, FAQs and to enter, visit 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Social Media - In 1898?

I'm sharing my "Way Back When-sday" blog post today, because I have a special post reserved for this Wednesday!
~ ~ ~ ~
Last week I had the awesome privilege of taking a couple hours all to myself! What did I do with that time? I went to our local historical society to do some research for my current work in progress (WIP), of course.

My computer behind me and the (awesome & new)
 microfilm reader beside me
For two hours I immersed myself in 1898 newspapers. I read the paper from January to the end of April and I could have continued, if no one needed me at home.
This was the first time I used the new microfilm reader! I
know I'm a bit of a dork, but this was awesome. :)
Image courtesy of the Morrison County Historical Society
What I love about newspapers from that time period is how personal they were. One of my favorite sections is the "Come And Gone" column where they reported who went where, who visited who, who came to town, who left for good, who is now employed where, etc.

Image courtesy of the Morrison County Historical Society
Another section of the paper was reserved for news specifically about local citizens. Who hosted a dinner party (and who was invited), who has been ill, who is going in for surgery, who has had a fire, who is constructing buildings and homes, who is filling in at the post office for the postmaster as he's been ill, and on and on and on! It paints a thorough picture of life in our town in 1898 - and it's wonderful fodder for a novel.

Image courtesy of the Morrison County Historical Society
As I read through the newspaper, I was struck with the realization that Social Media is not a new invention. As humans, we're a curious lot of people, and we like to know what's going on with the people in our community. Whether that community is our neighborhood, our town, the blogosphere or Facebook/Twitter, we enjoy learning about people's lives.

The important thing is to use that information well. Social media can be a great tool - or a scary weapon.

What about you? Would you enjoy sitting in a museum and reading newspapers from 1898? Would you like if your local newspaper kept tabs on your every move? :)

Thursday, February 7, 2013


My favorite part of blogging is reading your comments, so today I'm asking a question.

My husband was on a panel with four men at a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) Meeting. The moms in the group had a chance to ask the men any question they wanted. I was surprised at the consistency of most of the questions - they had a lot to do with communication.

My question is this: If you're married, what is the most important thing you've learned about communicating with your spouse? If you're not married, what have you learned about communication while observing couples you know?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

Welcome to the NEXT BIG THING Blog Hop.

What is a blog hop? Basically, it’s a way for readers to discover authors new to them.  I hope you'll find new-to-you authors whose works you enjoy.  On this stop on the blog hop, you'll find a bit of information on me and one of my books and links to five other authors you can explore!

My gratitude to fellow author, J. L. Mbewe, for inviting me to participate in this event.  You can click the following links to learn more about Jennette and her books.

In this blog hop, my fellow authors and I, in our respective blogs, have answered ten questions about our current book or work-in-progress (giving you a sneak peek). We've also included some behind-the-scenes information about how and why we write what we write -- the characters, inspirations, plotting and other choices we make. I hope you enjoy it!
Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions. Here is my Next Big Thing! 

1. What is the working title of your book?
Enticing Julia Morgan
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
I grew up on a large estate where my father was the caretaker. We lived above the carriage house and I spent many long hours daydreaming as I looked up at the two large mansions on the hill. The idea for my story came from the history of the homes. They were built by the "Pine Tree Bachelors" who came to town in 1891 as twenty-five and twenty-six year old men. They were extremely eligible, handsome and wealthy - but they had no intentions of marrying anytime soon.
3. What genre does your book come under?
Historical Romantic Fiction
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Noah Mills as Noah
(When I was looking up "tall, dark
and handsome," Noah Mills came up and
I loved his name and thought it fit
his character well)

Paul Walker as Alex

Katie Holmes as Julia
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When two confirmed bachelors agree a genteel wife will be good for business, they flip a coin to see who will have to wed - until Miss Julia Morgan arrives in their rough, river town - now neither man is willing to leave anything to chance.

6. Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

My book is a work in progress (WIP). I hope to have it published with a traditional publisher.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I'm only on chapter five of this WIP and I started it about three weeks ago. My last completed story took me about four months to write.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

In a lot of ways it reminds me of A Proper Pursuit, by Lynn Austin or She Walks in Beauty, by Siri Mitchell.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I'm constantly inspired by the history of my hometown - and the "Pine Tree Bachelors" are no exception. Charles Weyerhaeuser (son of Frederick Weyerhaeuser, a lumber baron and still one of the wealthiest Americans in history) and Peter "Drew" Musser, remained highly sought after bachelors into their thirties. In the mean time, they built two beautiful mansions side by side on the banks of the Mississippi River. I love their real-life stories, but I'm only using them as inspirations. My fictional story will be much different.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

My story is set in 1898, during the emergence of the upper-middle class in America, when Victorian etiquette and manners were vital to remain in High Society and "low-breeding" was frowned upon. I love this era. In my opinion, it's one of the most romantic times in American history.

Below you will find authors who will be joining me virtually, via blog, next week. Please be sure to bookmark their sites and add them to your calendars for updates on their upcoming books! Happy Writing and Reading!

Jessica R. Patch
Melissa Tagg
Sarah Thomas

What about you? What inspires you to write? And, if you're not a writer, what era in history do you most enjoy to read about?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Minnesota Winter Carnival

In 1885 a New York reporter visited St. Paul and declared the city to be another Siberia. He said it was "unfit for human habitation."

Offended by the attack, the people of St. Paul decided to retaliate by showing the world how much fun winter in Minnesota can be.

In 1886 the Minnesota Winter Carnival was born. It was held in the month of January.

One of the highlights of the first Winter Carnival was this ice castle. It was built with over 35,000 blocks of ice taken from Minnesota lakes.

The ice castle has been the centerpiece of a festival that has continued to grow for many years. The festival has included bobsledding, ice horse racing (on frozen lakes), a royal crowning, dogsled races, snow and ice sculpting contests, a parade and much more.

Ice Sculptures
Snow Sculptures
What about you? Have you been to a Winter Carnival? Would you like to go?