Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Learning to YouTube!

Here's a teensy clip of Dragon's Mouth Spring in Yellowstone:

This is the first time I ever used my camera to produce a video clip!

And the second. Geysers lend themselves to it. I wish now I'd used the feature more!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Back from Yellowstone!

Jim and I were away for almost two weeks. We drove down to Vancouver Island to spend a few days with our kids, then headed south (a bit!) and across southern Washington and northern Oregon (back and forth across the Columbia River on nearly every bridge, just because it amused us) to Yellowstone.

A lot of Yellowstone National Park looks like the areas we're familiar with throughout the Canadian Rockies. We saw a lot of the same animals: elk, deer, moose, bighorn sheep, and black bears. Grizzlies we see here occasionally and did see there (with binoculars and imagination). We also saw wolves and pronghorn there and bison...many many MANY bison. I think they're planning to take over the world!

So truly the most amazing thing for Jim and I was the thermal activity. Even though I'd read about it and looked it up online, it was quite another thing to be driving along and see the ground bubbling here and there. The first sight we actually stopped to investigate (after we'd set up camp) was the Mud Volcano, shown here.

On our second day we did the geyser loops. We spent awhile walking the Norris Geyser loop and the Paint Pots before heading to the Old Faithful Geyser loop. We'd packed a picnic lunch for the Old Faithful waiting period. Here's hubby waiting for the geyser to blow!

We saw a lot of geysers go off along the boardwalk we walked after O.F. This one was really cool: Riverside Geyser. Such a variety of bubblers and geysers came out to amuse us! They are everything from little and cute to superhumungously impressive. Not only do they stink of sulfur (the Norris loop smelled worse!) but they sound cool. Some of them sounded like a bad bathtub drain gurgling away.

Our last day there four of us hiked up to the fire tower on Mount Washburn, a return hike of several hours duration. It wasn't particularly steep, but my body is used to an elevation of under 2000 feet. We'd spent most of the week at over 7500, but this hike took us over 10,000 feet. I could feel the lungs burn if I pushed too hard! There was truly a stupendous view all around from this mountain...including the view of the thunder storm that wafted over us! Thankfully we were nearly to the tower when it struck and so were able to pass most of the storm in an enclosed (and safe) setting.

The very best part of the trip was getting to meet two of my internet buddies and spend a few days getting to know their faces and voices to match with the chatting we do most days! Here you'll see Mar Fisk on the left and Bonnie on the right. What fun! Mar brought one of her sons and Bonnie was accompanied by her hubby and a son to round out our group.

Then Jim and I drove home through the night to get home in time for him to check out the farm and do some laundry before heading back to work. A whirlwind trip, but such fun!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Revision progress

Today I cleared 30K in my revision of Marks of Repentance. There were some pretty fun scenes in the last couple of chapters. Fun to write...and it seems to have shown, because my critiquers' comments proved that the situations came through as humorous as well. Hopefully I didn't lose the good bits in revision! :P

I am trying to streamline the writing, kill the redundancies, kill the passive voice, kill the repetitive sentence structures...kill everything that needs to be killed. And remember to add in the descriptions of the settings because these are traveling scenes. Many things to remember, in fact. All I know is I'm moving forward and I'll have to re-read later with a fresh eye to see if I'm actually cleaning it up or merely changing it.

But I've backed up the files and know that I won't be looking at them again for a couple of weeks. I may post again, but we're off on vacation in just a few days.


Book Tour - These Boots Weren't Made for Walking

Recently I've read These Boots Weren't Made for Walking by Melody Carlson. I guess the main genre it falls under is Christian women's fiction. The tone didn't really hit the chick lit spot, but then I don't know that it was supposed to.

I'm really not the kind of gal who gets obsessed with brand name clothing, so I found the zillions of mentions of brand name this-and-thats annoying. I realize many readers prefer that kind of specificity. I don't.

The main character, Cassidy, loses her job and her boyfriend in one fell swoop at the beginning of the novel--just after spending an exorbitant price on a pair of cute boots. She decides to move back home--in with Mom--while she rediscovers herself. What she discovers first is a mother who is busy doing the same--quite successfully, from all evidence. Cassidy can't believe what her recently divorced mother looks like and acts like.

Neither could I, sorry. My brain absolutely could not engage with this mother's behavior, even though by the end some of the reasons became apparent. She just didn't ring true to any fifty-something women I've ever known. Remember that I'm no fashion nut, though, so take my opinion with a grain of salt!

Cassidy's own story clips along at a more reasonable rate as she begins to pull herself together. The setting of an artsy ski hill resort town is one I'm familiar with and the various town folk seemed well drawn.

Melody Carlson has published over 100 books for adults, children, and teens, including On This Day, Finding Alice, the Notes from a Spinning Planet series, and Homeward, which won the Rita Award from Romance Writers of America. She and her husband, the parents of two grown sons, make their home near the Cascade Mountains in Central Oregon. Melody is a full-time writer as well as an avid gardener, biker, skier, and hiker.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Zette Appreciation Day

Today I would like to tell you about someone who gives tirelessly of herself in order to help others: Lazette Gifford.

I first met Zette over five years ago at Forward Motion Writers' Community. At the time she was a trusted moderator and back-up to site owner Holly Lisle.

Forward Motion has meant just about EVERYTHING to me from a writing point of view over the past five years. I can't recommend it highly enough to anyone who wants to hone their skills in any genre or any length. I avidly soaked up anything and everything the forums and chat offered.

If I remember right, it was 2003 or so when Holly felt like she was giving too much time to the growing site to keep her publishing career moving forward and she asked Zette if she would take over the running of FM. I'm very thankful that Zette agreed. The whole idea of forward motion is that you often can't repay someone for their help by paying them back, but you CAN pay forward. Zette embodies this theme a hundred times over.

I can only scratch the surface of what all Zette does to keep FM going. Much of it is behind the scenes--keeping tabs on forum posts, answering email questions, fending off accusations by people who think they know best how to run a forum with over ten thousand members. She keeps things smooth on the surface as well, reorganizing the board structure as FM evolves and teaching a totally free 2-year novel course with an annual intake.

For the past two and a half years I've been honored to serve FM as a moderator under Zette's guidance. It's through her expert leadership style that FM is such an immensely popular and positive place to hang out.

The name of her main writing blog, Joyously Prolific, suits Zette to a tee. Her love of words is an inspiration to many of us. She finds time to write at least 1000 words each day (to an annual goal of one million words--not a typo!), and often *wins* NaNoWriMo multiple times each November.

From Zette's site:
Lazette Gifford's published work includes two chapbooks and half a Double Dog from Yard Dog Press (Honor Bound, Star Bound and Farstep Station). Her story, Between a Rock and a God's Place, appeared in the Issue #21 of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine and she's had numerous stories published in ezines, and small press anthologies. Her novels include The Dark Staff Series and The Singer and St. Jude Series from Double Dragon Publishing, Muse and Ruins from One More Word Publishing, and the upcoming Mirrors from Zumaya Press. Lazette is the owner of Forward Motion (, a large on-line community for writers, and she is the editor for Vision: A Resource for Writers (, now in its seventh year of production. She is also the Associate Publisher for Dragon Tooth Fantasy, an imprint of Double Dragon Publishing.

She also is wife to Russ for nearly thirty years, a person-who-belongs-to-cats, an avid photographer, photo manipulator, and encourager extraordinaire.

Today is a day we honor Zette for what she has meant to us. I know for a fact that my writing skills would be much less today if I had not had Zette's influence. I'm also honored to consider her my friend.


Word about this day went out by whisper campaign. If you're reading about it for the first time and want to join in, please do. Once you've posted your tribute to Zette today, please post a comment at Stray Thoughts, Margaret Fisk's blog. She's keeping the official log book.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

More on The Restorer

What makes a novel *good*?

I think most of us agree on the characteristics of a good novel, though we may not always agree about whether a certain novel exemplifies them or not.

We long to identify with the characters--at least one of them. We must care what happens to them (plot). The backdrop--whether it be contemporary Your-Town, some historical place, or an imaginary place or time--must ring true. The writing itself needs to be strong and well-paced. Sentences need to be structured for maximum benefit; spelling and grammar errors ruthlessly eliminated.

Some writers are masters at some of these. In theory, when all these areas are strong, the writer becomes the author of a published work. And still the readers won't all agree on the strength of the various areas.

When I come back from my vacation towards the end of June, I plan to surf the CSFF blog tour regarding The Restorer. I believe that I'm not the only tourist who will strongly affirm that these areas are all very strong in Sharon Hinck's writing.

Susan Mitchell is the main character. Here's how she introduces herself:

The attic hideaway was all Mark's idea. He meant to be helpful, and I admit he had good reason to be worried about me.

I couldn't seem to cope with the little things anymore--scrubbing jam off the kitchen counter for the millionth time, carrying decaying science projects out to the garbage, answering the constant questions from two teens and two grade-schoolers. Was I the only person in the house who knew where to find clean socks?

Self-help books told me to regroup--find time to feed my soul. But when I'd sit at the kitchen table with my journal, the children would fly toward me like metal filings to a magnet.

Mark had noticed how often I'd been snapping at the kids. More troubling than my short temper, a heavy fog had settled on me. It pressed down with growing weight and separated me from everyone else. I didn't have the energy to care anymore.

You can see that Susan is not a perfect person. She doesn't have it all together. She seems remarkably like a human being. I've had my bouts with depression--or at least wallowed in some serious discouragement--so I can empathize with Susan. Right there, at the beginning of the novel, I see a hurting woman and I hope she finds the light at the end of the tunnel--and that the light is NOT that of an oncoming train.

So at that point, Sharon Hinck has covered the first two points for me. There is a character I can identify with and I care what happens to her. Not as much as I will later on when I know her better and see what is stacked against her, but the seeds have been planted.

The backdrop---ahhh. Long pleasant sigh. This is a fantasy novel. Even though it starts off in the Real World, by the second chapter Susan has been sucked through a portal into an alternate dimension of some sort. What ties it to Earth I don't know. All I know is that this isn't your typical fantasy landscape. I tend to write the more typical medieval-ish settings (although mostly sans elves and dragons), so I enjoyed seeing what Sharon Hinck's mind came up with. The land where the People of the Verses live is fairly high tech with automated trains and rooms that are lit by glowing walls. The various regions are easy to keep straight and have their own identity. The setting is rich and beautiful to look at aside from the characters dancing across the page.

The pace of the story and the mechanics of the writing are equally solid. Susan is forced to determine who is friend and foe in this strange world and it isn't always easy. She soon finds the place she has been called to fill--that of a Restorer--but not everyone recognizes her gifts in this area. And Sharon Hinck tosses her famous curve ball a few times, not that the plot was progressing too predictably before that. Even with all the curve balls, Susan's story comes to a reasonably satisfying conclusion. I say 'reasonably' because things are set up for the second novel, The Restorer's Son, due out in October 2007. Methinks I should pre-order it. Sigh. Four months.

I think the most negative thing I can think of to say about The Restorer is that Susan Mitchell drew a LOT of comparisons with the Real World, having an uncle who'd told her about this, or an experience that reminded her of that. Seems natural to try to anchor the new and absurd to what you've known before, but I once wondered if she knew something (or someone who knew something) about everything. If that's a confusing sentence, so be it. I'm trying not to give away spoilers! Honestly, it was only something I noticed a few times and then submerged back into the story, but I'm seriously trying to give a balanced report on the novel.

May I highly recommend you purchase The Restorer by Sharon Hinck?

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Restorer

I have raved a few times in the last six or eight months about Sharon Hinck and her awesome writing. She's written a couple of mom-lit type books about Becky Miller that I totally enjoyed though not being precisely in the target audience. Seeing what Sharon could do with mom-lit made me curious--okay, avidly anticipating with drool--to see her newest debut, a fantasy novel.

The Restorer is the book I've been waiting for. I have various reactions to novels. Occasionally they make me believe I should be publishable NOW. Sometimes they stretch my thinking, show me how an author can make certain techniques work. Sometimes I am awed by the imagination shown. Sometimes...sometimes a book pulls me in so completely that I barely remember to come up for air.

The Restorer is that kind of book. I checked my mailbox at church Saturday evening when we went in for worship team practice and knew immediately which book must be in that padded envelope. Tore the wrap off. The book is beautiful. It's fat. The cover evokes a feeling... I flipped through it.

My team wondered why I wasn't quick on the uptake adjusting sound levels. Oh, right. Supposed to be setting up the sound system for practice. But the back cover copy sounded so cool.

In a fierce struggle for survival, don't mess with a Mom.

Susan Mitchell needed a change--any kind of change. Nearly twenty years of marriage to her college sweetheart, Mark, had given her two teenagers and two grade-schoolers, along with miles of unmatched socks, sticky countertops, and the ever-growing hum of sheer bedlam. When had she become so...insignificant? Hadn't God once had a plan for her?

Well, at least mark had a plan: for an attic hideaway free of iPods and science projects and cookie crumbs. But before Susan can finish her first journal entry, she finds herself pulled through a portal into a world grappling for its soul and waiting for a promised Restorer. Someone does have a plan for her--one she never would have imagined. While she struggles to adapt to a foreign culture full of unfamiliar technologies and taboos, she faces unexpected battles, min-poisoning enemies, and a profound spiritual journey. Her adventure will forever change her family, her faith, and how she experience love--from the One.

Oh. I have the sound levels set for the basics. The team can start going through their list. I'll just read the acknowledgments and endorsements.

"Fresh and compelling. Sharon zigged every time I expected her to zag, and the world she created is full of mystery and suspense and the awe of discovery. But it's the character who keep you coming back for more."
Robin Parrish, author of Relentless, creator of Infuze

Heh. I asked Sharon about that same thing with Renovating Becky Miller. She does a good job of sending the stories in directions I hadn't anticipated.

And why does the worship team think I should be adjusting levels for the guitars? Deal with it, I'll make sure it's good Sunday morning. Now I'm reading the first chapter and don't want to be interrupted.

I finished the book--all 477 pages--by Sunday evening. I did NOT take the book to church Sunday morning and the worship team did a fine job.

I'll be posting again about this book this week. The official tour isn't for a couple weeks, but I'll be away on vacation then. And you NEEDED to know about this book.