Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Have you seen those prize bundles?!

I was just over at Project 320. I've already used up all my raffle tickets, so I can't try for any more of the bundles--and man, am I missing out! Have you gone over there since they started posting them?! There is some really beautiful stuff! Seriously, check it out. If nothing else, donate just $10 (they have a little thing you can print up now to give to someone if you're donating as a gift in someone else's name--a great way to finish up your Christmas shopping!) and help them get the last $600 they need to build the well. Yes, that's right, they've already raised $4,400--actually, more than that, but it was some un-round number I don't remember. :D Anyway, believe me, these gift baskets are incredible, and they're posting 3 new ones all week. (But then they're drawing winners each day, too, so if you see something you really like, best to jump on it.)

What an awesome opportunity, and what a wonderful project. I'm so glad I got to be a part of it.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Project 320

Want to build a well for water in Africa--for just $10? Head over to Project 320 and you can do just that by entering the raffle they're holding. The story of this is just incredible, and what better time than now in the Christmas season?

And hey, here's an idea--you know how you're always wracking your brain to figure out gifts for those hard-to-shop-for-people? Well, half the time they're hard to shop for because they already have everything they want. So why not make a donation in their name and make a nice little card that tells them they helped make the lives of a few hundred people better? They'll probably be thrilled to not have another sweater or tie or scarf or knick-knack that they don't really need--and they'll *really* thank you if they win one of the gift baskets!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Come see me! Buy my books!

Tomorrow (Friday) from 9a-11a I'm selling and signing my books at the Northglenn Dazbog (1050 W. 104th Ave). If you're in the area, come grab one of the best mochas in the world and do a little shopping--personalized and autographed books make a great Christmas gift for hard to shop for people! This event is hosted by the local Denver ACFW chapter, and we're also having a used book sale. Coffee and books--seriously, what better way to start your Friday?!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

LOST: My November

I could have sworn I had it right here. I was looking at it when I wrote my last blog post FIVE WEEKS AGO. It had some nice goals on it, some appointments, and a holiday. But I woke up this morning and realized I think I've lost it. It's gone.

And here I am on December first--STILL NOT WRITING MY NEXT BOOK. But, disappointed as I am, I have to once again give mad props to Scrivener for being such a freaking awesome program. I'm nearly done with the snowflake for MM--like, 18 scenes left to flesh out--and this is the longest this last step has taken me before. I was trying to figure out why, and I realized it's because the space where I'm writing all the scene details is so BIG. In the past I'd done this step in a spreadsheet, and even though I set the preferences so that the boxes would expand to fit whatever I typed, I still only had this teensy little box to look at while I wrote. And the small visual ended up limiting me. I wouldn't flesh things out as much as I could have, and I'd write in weird shorthand that would have me scratching my head later when it came time to actually write the scene. But this time around, I've got this nice wide column that just goes on forever, and I can type, type, type to my little heart's content and not worry about how small the space is I'm trying to squeeze everything into. And so, I *am* typing and typing and typing--including bits of dialogue that come to me, making notes to myself of things I want to make sure get mentioned in passing, even adding details like what someone is wearing if I think I might not remember when the time comes to actually write the scene. (And let's face it: I won't remember.)

So THAT'S why it's December 1 and I'm still not writing this book: because Scrivener is giving me the space I need to be as creative as I can be in this last snowflake step, which means once I do finally start writing it's going to go much, much faster. So it's all good, even if I am a whole month behind.

And speaking of being behind, I'm yet again doing major edits on Reinventing Rachel, which releases with Cook in September. It was supposed to release this past September, so you can't get much more behind than that. But wow y'all, this book is SO MUCH BETTER than I ever thought it would be. I'm really excited for you to read it. And for those of you out there who are slaving away on your manuscript, let me just say that Nicci Hubert is the absolutely best editor I've ever worked with. Which I'll admit isn't saying all that much since I've only worked with a few. And I've been blessed in that all the editors I've worked with have definitely be above par. But ho.lee.cow. If you *ever* have the chance to work with her, you must. MUST. If you could see the HUGE changes made from the first draft I submitted to her, to what we're working on now, you'd realize that the woman is some kind of editing superhero.

Alrighty--lunch is just about eaten, then I have phone calls galore to make (most definitely the worst part of my day--I HATE USING THE PHONE), then a small tome's worth of paperwork to fill out for yet another evaluation for PJ that is set for tomorrow, and then! Then! THEN I get to work on scenes and edits. Hope you're all having a lovely Tuesday. I promise not to let five weeks pass before writing again. I'll keep much closer tabs on my months from now on.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Scrivenings about Scrivener

Can't remember if I've blogged about The Best Writer's Software Ever here before, but I know I mentioned it on my newsletter. For those who read the blog and not the newsletter (silly people!) Scrivener is a unique writer's software that lets you do all sorts of amazing stuff. If I had more time I'd wax lyrical about all its amazing features, but since I'm itching to get back to character-building I'll just recommend you check out their website and watch the tutorial videos--or you can read the newsletter where I wrote about it. Seriously, if you're a writer, you need this software. Not just fiction writers, either--anyone would benefit from it.

The one thing some people see as a drawback of the program (not me, of course!) is that it is only written for Macs. The guy who developed it is a Mac guy, and actually learned how to code for Macs just so he could develop the software for the OS X platform. However, he gets asked *constantly* whether or not he'll make a PC version, and now he's taking a poll to see what the real interest for that version would be. If you like what you see but want it for Windows, click here and scroll to the bottom to go to their poll and give him a thumbs up for PC.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Help me research!

I've started the research for the next book and wow, this one's gonna be a research doozy! I'm looking at some books I may get for some of it, but it's always so much more helpful for me to be able to dialogue with people who are experienced in the area I'm researching, so I can ask the weird little questions that books don't typically address. So, to that end, I'm putting out a call! If you or someone you know has either had a heart transplant, knows someone who has, or has served on a medical team that performs heart transplants, and you/they would be interested in answering some questions for me, please send me a note. Thank you!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Done. Really.

When I got back from the ACFW conference, I "took back" my manuscript from Nicci the Wonder Editor because I had come up with so many changes I wanted to make. Well, when I started making those changes, I found other things to change, and then some more, and, well, I FINALLY finished last night, a month after starting "just a few quick changes." I just don't know how to stop!

What's funny is that two of the scenes I was going to change ended up not getting touched, at least not as extensively as I'd originally intended. But once I started reading through the book--for the first time since finishing it--SO MANY THINGS jumped out at me. But it was nearly all craft stuff. Wording--making it better. Description--cutting it or making it more compelling, since description ends up getting skimmed by the reader 90% of the time anyway. Explaining--Oh.My.Gosh. I spend WAY too much time hitting you, my poor readers, over the head with things! Can you say "control freak"? I'm working really, really hard on subtlty, and on trusting you to be smart enough to figure things out without me pointing them out and clarifying and explaining all the time.

So anyway. I think the book is way better now.I'll have to compare versions to see how many words I ended up cutting--I slashed entire paragraphs, entire pages in more than once place. Granted in some places I replaced those paragraphs with new ones, though none of the pages got replaced with entire pages, that's for sure.

And I have to say, this book turned out SO much better than I expected. Struggling with it for so long, rewriting it twice (or was it three times? It's been so long--I started it back before Abby was born!--I forget now how many incarnations it's had!), I just couldn't see it objectively anymore. I always get to that point with my books, but with this one I just couldn't bear to think about it anymore. But taking that month away and then coming back to make those "few changes" gave me the perspective I needed, and now I'm feeling a lot better about it. If I had more time, there are some changes I'd make, but it's time to let it go. There are *always* more changes that can be made; eventually you just have to shut the laptop and say, "No more!"

And so, I am officially done with Reinventing Rachel. Until Nicci the Wonder Editor sends me her comments, anyway. Until then--I have a week to get the snowflake done for Muscle Memories, the book I'm NaNoWriMo'ing starting (hopefully) November 1. I worked some more on it yesterday while sitting in the car with two sleeping girls at REI in Denver. I'm almost done with the third step, and I figured out one of the parts I was stuck on, so that's good. Still looking for more layers, trying to build in more complexity and twists. I think those came more easily with The Weight of Shadows. I'm hoping, though, that as I continue to snowflake more of those will pop up.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Public Service Announcement

Before braving snow and ice and a 45 minute drive in sub-freezing temperatures to go to an event, double check that you've got the right date. Because you're going to feel like a serious idiot if you get all the way down there only to discover that no one knows what you're talking about because the freaking book signing isn't until NEXT WEEK.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

My first weekend

It's been a long time since I let my weekend be a true weekend. Tpyically when I'm working on a book, I see every day as a work day. It's one of the difficulties of working at home--it's very easy to slip upstairs and do a little work, even when you're supposed to be taking a breather.

I got really burned out after working through the summer to get my rewrite finished. I was frustrated because I felt like I had no time to recharge, to do things that help me relax, like scrapbooking and reading and working on my fledgling crochet skills. Every spare minute was going towards getting the book done, and by the time it was done, so was I.

So I told Dan I was going to start forcing myself to take a weekend. It doesn't have to be Saturday and Sunday, and it doesn't even have to be two consecutive days. Just two days during the week when I can hide myself away and do things that fill me back up. Creativity doesn't exist in a vacuum, and my writing creativity is fueled when my craft-y creativity is exercised.

So I have some new yarn and am going to start a hat for Dan on my cheater loom. I'm going to finish my 2007 Heritage Makers scrapbook and get it printed. I'm going to start my 2008, 2009, and California-to-Colorado move scrapbooks. I'm going to start PJ's first year baby book. I'm going to pull out the crocheting my mother-in-law started me on and try to pick that back up. And I'm going to READ. I'm in the middle of Christa Parrish's "Watch Over Me"--she's a fabulous new voice in Christian fiction, and I highly recommend her--and just started Diana Gabaldon's newest installment in the Outlander series, which is not as engaging as her other books were, though that might just be becuase it's been over two years since I read the last book and have forgotten the majority of the subplots and minor characters.

Today I'm pinned beneath a sleeping PJ on the couch and watching hockey (Go Avalanche!) and football (Go Irish! Go Illinois!). Once Abby is up from her nap we're all going downtown for Oktoberfest. I'm really having to fight the impulse to do some research or something, but I don't want to start giving myself excuses. The desire to be productive is going to have to be satisfied by the 4 loads of laundry I've done today. I have a hard time letting myself "not to anything," but I need to remember that margin and recreation DOES do something--it refreshes and reorients and re-energizes.

PJ is awake; Abby is going on 3 hours of nap and should probably be dragged out of bed soon so she's not awake until 11PM. The last load of laundry is spinning in the washing machine and it's sunny out for Oktoberfest. My first weekend in a long time. I think I could get used to this.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Here we go!

Today marks the beginning of a new book project for me. This book is the second for my Zondervan contract and will release April 2011. So weird to think how long it takes for the whole process, eh? And what's really nuts is that starting this book will mean I have three books in process at one time. Oi! How my brain keeps them all straight, I don't know, especially considering how few other things I can keep track of in life. I guess my plots and characters are taking up all the space and crowding out all the day-to-day stuff. :)

This month I'll be working on the research and snowflake for the book. If you've been reading my blog for the last few years, then you know how much I loathe research. I used to love it in college. Now, not so much. I just want to get to the story! But this one is going to take some serious work to get certain parts of it right, and the only thing I hate more than research is having someone read my book and point out all the mistakes I made. I'll do the research after I've done the snowflake, since I'd rather get all the research done at once, and once the snowflake is done I should have figured out all the things I need to learn and verify. I actually started working on the snowflake last month--Dan bought me a Treo (my first ever cool phone--usually I get the "free with a two year contract" piece of junk) and I've been writing the first three steps in the memo program. And this time I'm going to augment the character-building steps with some of the character-building questions I learned in the "My Book Therapy" session at the ACFW conference.

As I did last year with The Weight of Shadows, I'll be using National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) in November to start the actual draft. I'm already registered, already changed my home region to Denver, and am hopeful that I might get to actually join some fellow NaNoWriMoers at a local writing meetup.

NaNoWriMo should get me at least 50,000 words into the draft if I stay disciplined, which means I'll have December to finish it up. Last year I stuck with my 1667 words a day (that's what you write every day during NaNoWriMo) and finished it in plenty of time; this year I'm hoping for the same, although my brother and his awesome wife Kelli will be here for a few days at Christmas, so I may find myself playing catch-up that last week of the month.

January I'll put the thing away, cleanse my head of the story, and dive into the snowflake for book number two of my David C. Cook contract. I actually started the snowflake for that one already, too, back when that was going to be the book I worked on this month. Then in February I'll print out this book, do my own editing, and then send it in March 1 to editor extraordinaire, Sue Brower. Five months and voila! A book!

In other news...

If you're not a subscriber to my newsletter, then you might not know that The Weight of Shadows is available on Amazon for pre-order. I hope you'll consider placing an order--I would really love to see the thing hit their best-seller chart the day it releases, a totally doable goal if folks take advantage of the pre-order feature. If you're willing to do that, may I suggest signing up for my newsletter first, so you can enter the contest I'm running when you place your order? Just sign up in the field to the right, and you'll get an email with a link to the current newsletter that describes the contest. It's a multi-layered contest, with the first ten pre-orderers getting a free book and all the orderers between now and April 1 getting a chance to win a $50 gift certificate to your favorite book store. After the book is released, another contest will start...but again, only newsletter subscribers are eligible! (The letter is bi-monthly, and not that long; you're not going to get inundated with mail, I promise.)

Well, at this rate, today is going to be a day of talking about research and plotting, and not actually doing any of it. Not good. Time to get to work!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Questions, questions...

I'm going to be making soem changes to my website, including adding a page especially for book clubs. I'd love to put some downloadable discussion questions for each book on that page--but to do that I need some questions! If you've read Worlds Collide or Violette Between and would like to submit a question, please email itto me at alison @ alison dot com and I'll list you as a contributor.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Come see me at The Journey Event!

On Oct. 10 I'll be at Glen Eyrie Castle Bookstore in Colorado Springs from 1-3, along with Becky Harling and Larry Killam, as part of The Journey Event 2009. This is a massive book signing event spread out over two days and four bookstores, with over twenty Christian authors participating.

If you own a business or live anywhere near Colorado Springs, and would be willing to post or distribute fliers for this event, please let me know and I'll get you some. Please be sure to let your church know to put it in the bulletin next weekend, too!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Conference thoughts and one last chance....

This weekend was the ACFW Conference--my first writer's conference as an attendee. (How weird that I've taught at one, but never attended one.) Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was only able to attend Thursday and Friday, and only for the workshops. But it was SO worth it. Thursday's session with Donald Maass of Writing the Breakout Novel fame was TREMENDOUS. If you are serious about your writing and ever have the opportunity to attend one of his sessions, DO IT. If that had been the only day I could attend, it would have been worth it. The other sessions I attended Friday were great, too, although in hindsight I should have signed up for the next track up on the ladder. I am really focused on improving my writing at a foundational level right now, but I underestimated how much I already know and found myself in a track that was a little too elementary for me. But I still learned some things, and now I know for sure next time what track to do.

Probably the most important thing I learned is that I need to swallow my pride, get over myself, and start seriously searching for a mentor. No more excuses. I can't expect to get any better just by reading books and attending one conference a decade. I need to be working one-on-one with someone who is a few steps ahead of me on the writing journey who can sharpen and challenge me. Seriously though? It SO scares me. I'm not good at taking criticism. I'm getting a lot better, but I really fear having someone tell me what I've written is crap. But if no one is speaking truth to you, how can you grow, right?

I'm going to be sending out my next newsletter this week. If you're not yet a subscriber, please take a second to become one by filling out the email field in the little box up there on the right. The next newsletter will highlight an exciting opportunity open only to newsletter subscribers, and you're not going to want to miss it!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Extremely Insightful

Have you ever met a Christian who seems way too happy? They're always in a good mood, nothing ever seems to get them down, they're always talking about how the Lord is blessing them and seem to think every adversity is a chance for God to show how he provides for his children? And you think to yourself, If this person ever faces any REAL trouble in life, that perma-smile and perky outlook are gonna go right out the window.

Well, I read Kimberley Woodhouse's book Welcome Home! My Journey to Extreme Joy and I can tell you I will never think that way again. Turns out joy can indeed persevere, flourish, and even thrive through adversity--and I'm talking some serious adversity here.

When I first started reading Welcome Home! I was a little...well...put off, honestly, by how Kim always seemed to see the bright side and stay so positive. I mean, no one would fault her for being a little cynical, a little jaded, after everything she and her family have been through. I thought maybe she was one of those Christians who is afraid to admit she's scared, or angry at God, or worried that maybe things aren't going to turn out okay in the end, lest a negative experience be all that it takes to sweep away her faith. I wanted her to admit, just once, that she doubted God's goodness, that at least once she decided to chuck Christianity altogether. I mean, that's how people are "supposed" to react when they're hit in the face with tragedy and strife. Sure, eventually they may come back to the faith, with a few dings in their shield of faith, but still wielding it nonetheless. But how can you face up in an honest way to those kinds of experiences and NOT be a little worse for the wear?

Oh me of little faith.

Kim reminded me--often--of James' words to "consider it pure joy...when faced with trials of many kinds." Oh yeah. Not that I forget about that verse--it's just that I tend to quote it while gritting my teeth and rolling my eyes. Not Kim, though. She has the audacity to take God at his word and believe that we actually CAN have joy--true, authentic joy, not a mask with a smile that hides our true feelings--in the midst of trials.

Welcome Home! was not only an inspiring story, but a mirror that showed me the inadequacy of my own faith. That might sound depressing--who wants to read a book that reminds them at every turn that they suck?--but it was actually incredibly uplifting. To see someone living out their faith the way the Bible encourages us to helped me to see the ways in which I need to deepen my own relationship with Christ. And since I'm the kind of person who needs "action points" to focus on, I was glad to have the pointers.

So...in a nutshell, the book was great and I highly recommend it. And you might have noticed Kim's name on the list of authors I posted last night who will be at the Denver book signing on Saturday. So after you've stopped by my table (nudge nudge) be sure to head over to Kim's and grab a copy of Welcome Home! I'm confident you'll find it as extremely insightful as I did.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Massive book signing even this Saturday!

So I'm gearing up for the long-awaited ACFW Annual Conference--woot!--and in my excitement nearly forgot to post about the huuuuuuge book signing event they're doing this Saturday. Nearly 100 authors (including me) will be signing their books at the conference bookstore. Bring your own copies, buy books at your favorite local bookstore, or get them at the signing!

September 19th, 2009
4:00-5:30 pm
Denver Marriott Tech Center
4900 S. Syracuse Street

Authors who will be participating:
Carolyne Aarsen
Diane Ashley
Ruth Axtell Morren
Karen Ball
Rick Barry
Christina Berry
Lauralee Bliss
Diana Brandmeyer
Sandra Bricker
Margaret Brownley
Candace Calvert
Robin Caroll
Jeanie Smith Cash
Colleen Coble
Brandilyn Collins
Mary Connealy
Shirley Connolly
Margaret Daley
Susan Page Davis
Mary Davis
Janet Dean
Megan DiMaria
Lena Nelson Dooley
Wanda Dyson
Leanna Ellis
Pamela Ewen
Miralee Ferrell
Linda Ford
Tina Ann Forkner
Darlene Franklin
Judy Gann
Jeff Gerke
Rhonda Gibson
Debby Giusti
Sandra Glahn
Elizabeth Goddard
Winnie Griggs
Rene Gutteridge
Cathy Marie Hake
Lisa Harris
Mary Hawkins
Roxanne Henke
Cynthia Hickey
Patti Hill
Denise Hunter
Annette Irby
Myra Johnson
Liz Johnson
Jenny Jones
Eileen Key
LAURIE Kingery
Kathleen Kovach
Harry Kraus
Jeanne Marie Leach
Tosca Lee
Julie Lessman
Loree Lough
Elizabeth Ludwig
Richard Mabry
Debbie Macomber
Joyce Magnin
Gail Gaymer Martin
Judy/Jude Martin-Urban/Urbanski
Debby Mayne
Aaron McCarver
Vickie McDonough
Dana Mentink
Robin Miller writing as Robin Caroll
DiAnn Mills
Stephanie Morrill
Janelle Mowery
Jill Elizabeth Nelson
Kevin Parsons
Golden Keyes Parsons
Donita K. Paul
Tracie Peterson
Allie Pleiter
Cara Putman
Tara Randel
Deborah Raney
Sandra Robbins
Kim Sawyer
Marc Schooley
Michael Sheehan
Shelley Shepard Gray
Ann Shorey
Beth Shriver
Sandra Lee Smith
Virginia Smith
Betsy St. Amant
Therese Stenzel
Stuart Stockton
Alison Strobel
Michelle Sutton
Camy Tang
Donn Taylor
Janice (Hanna) Thompson
Missy Tippens
Pamela Tracy
Carrie Turansky
Deborah Vogts
Jenness Walker
Dan Walsh
Susan May Warren
Michael Webb
Kit Wilkinson
Lisa Wingate
Beth Wiseman
Kimberley Woodhouse
Lenora Worth
Cheryl Wyatt
Kathleen Y'Barbo

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Searching for Style

I've been pondering lately what writing style I want to settle on and cultivate as my own. The style and tone of my books seems to change every time, and I know part of that is just maturing and growing as a writer, but I think it's time to aim for consistency.

But when I think about the authors I read that have multiple stand-alone books, I notice that, because their style is consistent, their books all "read" the same. In a series this would make sense--the same characters, the same voices, etc. But when the characters change, shouldn't the tone of the book as well?

A good example is Jodi Picoult. I love her books. I aspire to her level of plot and character development and use of figurative language. But it dawned on me after reading her most recent book that every character is eloquent, both in spoken word and thought, and that every book is written in the same style. There's almost always a major twist at the very end, when there's just a page or two left and you don't think she can possibly cram any more plot in there. There's almost always a marriage on the rocks in one way or another. There's almost always courtroom drama. There's always a plethora of well-crafted metaphors and similes sprinkled throughout the tight, crafted-within-an-inch-of-its-life-but-it-doesn't-read-that-way narrative. And, as I read this last book of hers, I found myself getting bored with it. I'm sorry, but 13-year-olds aren't that insightful or articulate. Mothers who are short on sleep and stressed to the nth degree aren't that coherent. And the ending? It didn't surprise me one iota, because I knew before I even loaded the book onto my Sony eReader that something tragic was going to happen at the very last second. No tears from me this time. In fact, I felt a little irritated, because I felt like she was trying to manipulate my emotions.

So, in light of that, I wonder if I ought to try to settle on one style or not. Maybe my "style" is that every book feels different, sounds different. My question to those of you who read authors who write stand-alones: do you notice a similarity between them? Does it make the books feel the same to you, or am I particularly sensitive (or is it picky?)? If an author's books didn't exhibit a consistent style, would you notice? Would you care?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Novel Math

39 scenes / 13 days = 3 scenes per day to meet my September 1 deadline.




Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Answer the call

The internet is a funny thing. You stumble upon someone's blog--some random person you don't know from Adam, who could be who they say they are and could also just be playing you--and something they say resonates with you, so you keep coming back. After a while you realize you know the names of their kids, the name of the guy who broke their heart, what they did last weekend and what they want to do with the rest of their life. You leave a comment now and then, and then they start to comment on your blog, and before long you're chatting over Gmail. The next thing you know, you refer to the person as "my friend."

I was lucky enough to meet "my friend" a few weeks ago when she was at ICRS here in Denver. Claudia, aka the Ragamuffin Diva, whose life is so different from mine it's hard to imagine we live on the same planet, much less in the same country, was just as fabulous and funny and sweet in person as she is on her blog. I honestly don't know how we got to the point where we truly were friends--friends who email, who talk on the phone, who lift each other up when we're beaten down and talk each other down when we're peering over the edge of the cliff of writing-induced insanity. But it happened, and my life is blessed and richer for having Claudia in my life.

Tonight I got an email from Claudia. Here's what it said:

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” – Dorothy Day

One of my favorite parts of Dorothy Day’s autobiography, The Long Loneliness is the postscript at the end. She writes, “We were just sitting there talking when…” She goes on say that Peter Maurin came, and lines of people needing bread—and she couldn’t tell them, “Go, be thou filled!” Folks moved in and the walls expanded. “It was as casual as that,” Dorothy writes, “It just came about. It just happened.”

My friend Lisa Samson and I were just sitting there talking when someone brought up human trafficking. I’ve always wanted to do something to relieve this brand of suffering. The needs are astounding, but these victims are so easily forgotten, truly the least of the least of these Jesus talked about. Turns out Lisa always wanted to do something for this needy group of people God loves so much, too. In the wee hours of the morning, a work of mercy and hospitality, The Living Room, was born.

We’re going to get a building in downtown Lexington. People have already offered their expertise to help us get started. In a safe, cozy respite, we’ll quietly offer compassion, coffee, and a comfortable seat to women who come off the street, or find their way to us by other means. We’re going to preach the gospel, but only use words when we absolutely must. If the ladies need more we’ll give them that, too. We’ll make wrap-around services available. God sent me to school, inexplicably, to be a social worker fifteen years ago. Now I know why. Ken and I, and the whole Burney brood were on our way to Lexington on August 3 for our first vision trip. We were so excited.

On July 28th, our car was stolen. Two days later, we got an eviction notice. Most of the time I’m given room to get our rent payments in. Our apartment managers know I’m a writer. My income comes in slowly, but I wasn’t given that wide and generous berth this time. We have ten days to leave. I don’t have the means to fix this. I’ve tried, in the most humbling, pride crushing ways, but I gots nuthin’. I have felt every terror and loneliness a mother with four children and a disabled husband would feel in this awful predicament. But I keep hearing voices—no, not that kind!—but friends urging me to ask my readers and cyber-friends for help. Among those voices is my soul-mother Dorothy Day who said, “the only solution is love, and that love comes with community.”

If I’ve had an intentional community, it’s been here in cyber-space. We have laughed, cried, prayed, and stumbled along on the journey together. Now, I need your help, as I never have before.

Will you join me in love? Could you find it in your heart to be a part of the solution to this difficult set of circumstances? I want you to be part of our mission to love people for Jesus. Will you help my family get to Lexington where opportunity awaits us? We would be so grateful.

It's a humbling thing to write a letter like that. But it's the right thing to do, to ask your community for help. I may be a couple thousand miles away from Inkster, Michigan where the Burney family lives, but I'm still a part of her community, because the body of Christ is not contained by state borders or divided by interstate highways. And so, because I am a part of her community, I'm going to help her in whatever ways I can--like by posting the ChipIn widget in the sidebar, and donating to her family.

They need a car. And a U-Haul. And gas to drive to Kentucky. And insurance for the car. And hotel rooms to stay in on the way down there. And food to eat. And cell phones. And rent once they're in Lexington. And while some book contracts and bestsellers for Claudia and some tattoo customers for Ken would be great, those aren't the kinds of things we can whip out of our pockets. All that other stuff, though--the car, the gas, the hotel rooms, the food--we can provide.

So here's the thing. I know there are a lot of you out there. Five bucks multiplied by 10--or 15, or 25, or 100--of you would go a LONG way to helping the Burneys. Even if all you can spare is one dollar, that's one dollar more than they have right now. The widget will bring you to PayPal. Don't worry if you don't have a Paypal account, you can still use the service.

Thanks in advance to all of you who are able to chip in.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Deadly Intent by Camy Tang

If you've read my blog for a while you'll probably remember the interviews I did with Camy Tang when she was blog-touring her first three chick-lit novels. I was lucky to recently have the chance to meet Camy in person and indulge in some seriously delicious cupcakes at an author reception at ICRS--it was great to finally meet the woman whose blog and books I'd been reading for some time. She's a crack-up, and I wish she lived a little closer than the Bay Area!

Camy recently took a turn on the genre trail and published her first romantic suspense with Stteple Hill, called Deadly Intent. Here's the back cover blurb:


The Grant family’s exclusive Sonoma spa is a place for rest and relaxation—not murder! Then Naomi Grant finds her client Jessica Ortiz bleeding to death in her massage room, and everything falls apart. The salon’s reputation is at stake...and so is Naomi’s freedom when she discovers that she is one of the main suspects! Her only solace is found with the other suspect—Dr. Devon Knightley, the victim’s ex-husband. But Devon is hiding secrets of his own. When they come to light, where can Naomi turn...and whom can she trust?

I interviewed Camy to find out a little more about her genre switch...

Your first three books are all chick-lit, but Deadly Intent is romantic suspense. What made you decide to change genres?

I love reading romantic suspense, and when the chance came to submit to Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense, I jumped at it! I'm very fortunate to be able to write for two different publishing houses.

How different was the process for you, writing in a different genre?

I actually had to "get into the mindset"! I watched a lot of NCIS and CSI—not for research, but just to get into that crime-fighting brain mode! I also listened to suspenseful movie music while I was writing.

What can we expect next from you--will you go back to chick-lit, or continue with romantic suspense?

My next novel is another humorous romantic suspense from Zondervan! It releases in May 2010, and the tentative title right now is BAD DOG: A NOVEL. Here's a little blurb, not official, but just to give you a taste of what it'll be like:

Tessa Ota, a professional dog trainer, is having a bad year.

While moving ahead with renovation plans for her new dog kenneling and training facility, Tessa needs to move in with her disapproving mother and her antagonist sister. She convinces her ex-boyfriend to take her dog for a few months … but discovers that his brother is the irate engineer whose car she rammed a few weeks earlier.

Charles Bretton has enough problems. His mama has just shown up on his doorstep all the way from Louisiana, and his brother has to move in with him after being kicked out of his apartment—with a dog in tow. And guess who the dog’s owner is?

His brother’s slovenliness, Mama’s diabetic bouts with low blood sugar, and the dog’s bad behavior are all distracting Charles from his wedding plans with a woman whose family connections will help Charles in his career. But he can’t help being attracted to the dog trainer whose sunny smile masks her bitterness at hypocritical Christians, and he starts to wonder about his own professed faith.

Will Tessa’s disjointed family and Charles’s disruptive home prevent both of them from discovering what’s really important?

What are you reading right now?

I admit, I read very widely, so right now I'm reading Julia Quinn's latest Regency historical romance, WHAT HAPPENS IN LONDON. Loving it! One day I'd like to visit London!

Thanks for chatting with me, Camy!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Coming out of hiding....

It's been quite a summer. I started it in California and am ending it in Colorado. I still have a lot of boxes to unpack, and some new furniture to stain in my "spare time," a book to finish editing and a book to finish writing, and a lot of books to read. I've been doing some thinking, too, about this blog and its purpose. Still thinking, but expect to see a lot more discussion about books and the craft of writing and less of the politics and parenting. Not that I'm going to stop blogging about those things--I'm just not going to do it here. The blog for those topics will be up and running soon, and when it goes live I'll add the link to the sidebar.

I'm trying to unearth my desk at the moment, but I wanted to come back in, say hi, and dust things off a little here while I was thinking about it. I'll be back to post some more in a day or two. Until then, leave me a comment and tell me what you read this summer. Would you recommend it? I'm always looking for another book to read....

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

You have three days. What are you getting her?

Any idea what to get your mom for Mother's Day this year? If you're still scrambling, let me give you a quick idea--a copy of Worlds Collide or Violette Between, with the promise that, in a day or two, she'll receive a beautiful bookplate with a personalized inscription from the author!

I absolutely love them and am so happy to be able to finally offer this for those of you who live nowhere near me but still want a signed book. :) All you have to do is send me an email at alison at alisonstrobel dot com and tell me:

1. What book the bookplate will go into (I have two styles, coordinated to the books' covers)
2. Who to sign the book to
3. Any special message (Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, etc.)
4. Where to send it

And the best part--they're free! So pick up a copy of Worlds Collide or Violette Between today and drop me a line. I'd love to wish your mom a Happy Mother's Day. :)

Monday, May 04, 2009

For my fellow Californians

Breaking my hiatus with this quick Public Service Announcement for my Cali homies:

Props 1A-1F are scams. Vote NO on May 19th!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Don't tell me you didn't see it coming

Here's the thing: 4 books, 2 kids, 1 husband, approximately 6 weeks until we move. The numbers don't lie. I'm in over my head. Something's gotta give, and it's gonna be the blog.

So, barring some really huge announcement that I don't currently know, chances are I won't be blogging for a while. If you're on Facebook, you can look for me there--I can handle composing the occasional status update--and if you get my newsletter then you'll be sure to get the latest news on my upcoming release, Reinventing Rachel. (And if you're not a subscriber, please sign up! The form's over on the right-hand side, or you can see it smack-dab in the middle of my website's homepage.)

In the meantime...

--> don't forget to sign up at DownsizeDC.org to help shrink the federal government back to its intended size. SUCH a fantastic organization, really really love them.

--> don't forget to check out the auction being held for Baby Ike and his family. It's looking pretty certain that the little guy is going to need reconstructive surgery on his esophagus, and when you've got crappy COBRA insurance (and have to fly from Texas to be there, and then have to stay for a month in the PICU, and the parents have to, like, eat and sleep somewhere), it gets PRICEY. There is some excellent stuff being auctioned (including the chance to name two characters in Reinventing Rachel!), and all the money raised goes to the family.

See ya later, alligators...

Monday, April 06, 2009

Just a friendly reminder...

If you're not a newsletter subscriber, you're missing out on the chance to name one of the characters in my David C. Cook novel, Reinventing Rachel. Sign up quick and enter! And if you *are* a subscriber, and you haven't entered the contest, then what are you waiting for? Either way, you have until Wednesday to get your entry in!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Two Abbyisms

We were leaving my parents' house and Abby was looking for the moon. She's a moon fanatic, always has been, and whenever we're out at night she insists on locating it. We couldn't find it tonight, and she looks to Dan and says, "Maybe it went on a treasure hunt."

Being the kick-butt dad that he is, Dan has taken over the more unpleasant aspects of the bedtime routine and brings Abby upstairs to my office to get me once she's ready for her story. She came in tonight and pointed to the little picture on her pajamas and said, "It says, 'I'm not tired'--but that's craziness. I am tired!"

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Don't let me in the kitchen, part 2

Today's cooking casualty was my plastic colander, which I (tried) to use to steam some veggies. I melted it.

And the part that really sucks is that, as I was setting it on top of the pot of water, I thought to myself, "Haha! Wouldn't it be just the thing if it totally melted the colander?" Heh. I'm going to listen to that little voice next time.

And for those who have asked what I was attempting to cook in the pot from the last post--I had poured n some Soy Vey teriyaki sauce with some Asain chicken dumplings from Trader Joe's. I don't like the sauce they came with, and I thought, "Hey, this will make them super yummy!" Which, with the second batch, it did. However, with the first batch, I left the heat too high and the skillet on the stove for too long. When I came back, the sauce had turned to tar and the dumplings were little undercooked islands anchored firmly to the bottom of the pan. Live and learn.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Monday, March 09, 2009

Have you entered the contest?

If you're a subscriber to my bi-monthly newsletter, then you know there's an awesome contest going on right now--and if you're not a subscriber, then you're going to want to sign up right now. Because three winners will be announced in the April issue, and those winners will be naming some of the characters in my upcoming David C. Cook release, Reinventing Rachel! (Or whatever the title is by the time it releases.)

Signing up is free and easy--just check out the right-hand sidebar of the blog and put your email addy in the email field. I'll send you a link to the current (and past) issues of the newsletter, and you can send in your contest entry anytime before April 16th.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Can I interest you in a little pandemic with that flu vaccine?

Reports are out revealing that Baxter Pharmaceuticals has admitted that it accidentally contaminated various vaccine batches with Avian Flu viruses. These batches were shipped to 18 countries.

Accidentally? Give me a flipping break. I find it hard to believe that the "highly contagious, possible beginning of a pandemic" viruses are kept on the same floor, much less the same building as the "keep you nice and healthy" (hardy-har-har) vaccines. No one is this stupid. This was deliberate because that doggone avian flu wasn't cooperating by mutating and jumping species like it needed to to cause serious harm. Big Pharma just has no patience, I swear.

So now what? Certainly we'll be hearing soon that, for the good of the planet, we all need to hustle down to the nearest jab center and get ourselves hopped up on the new avian flu vaccine. And for those of us who view vaccines as harmful and decide not to get one? The detainment centers await.

Read more here, and petition Congress to pass a civil rights act protecting Americans from forced medical treatment, including forced vaccination. Even if you are not opposed to vaccinations, you should be worried that the government thinks it should have the right to tell you that you MUST be medically treated a certain way, injected with whatever they want, etc. regardless of whether or not you want it. That's the kind of thinking that will lead to a ban on homeopathy, natural medicine, supplements, etc. And if you think I'm reaching too far with that, then check out this to see that they're already trying to.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

How cool is this?

First of all, thank you to everyone who is praying for Baby Ike. The surgery he had the other day ended with a tracheotomy. Kari hasn't said yet what exactly this means for him, if it's permanent, if it's a stopgap measure, or what, but it sounds like it's "permanent for now," if that makes sense. He's still struggling, though; his heart rate keeps dropping and they still don't know why. So the prayers are still very much needed.

For those of you in Austin, there are some awesome events being planned to help raise money for the family. Today there was a bake sale that netted over $700!!! But for those of us who aren't in Austin, we have a way now to a) help raise money for the Roy family, and b) get a little somethin'-somethin' for ourselves. Susan Beal is a crafter who does lots of beading stuff, and she has an etsy.com shop where she sells kits for beginners to make their own earrings and bracelets. She's currently donating *all* the proceeds from her etsy shop to this family. The kits are not expensive at all, either! So, think ahead to the rest of the year. What women in your life will be having a birthday, or a baby, or an anniversary, or whatever? How great would it be to be able to give her a gift that you not only made yourself, but that also benefited this family? Head over to Susan's etsy store and stock up!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Tuesday, 2/17, 11AM CST

Ike will be having surgery tomorrow. No details yet, sorry. Please pray!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Just found out...

...there's an online prayer vigil for baby Ike. Time slots are 30 minutes. Please take one, even if you can only pray for a few minutes during that slot. This family needs to be covered in prayer right now.

Pray for Ike-a-saurus

My heart is breaking right now. Baby Issac, affectionately known in the blogosphere as Ike-a-saurus his mama's blog, is one sick little boy. For those of you who've never checked out Kari's blog, Ike was born at 28.5 weeks after a very scary pregnancy and a lot of bedrest, and then continued to have one health issue after another. He recently had croup, but the stridor (whistling breathing that typically indicates a blockage of some kind in the airway) never went away, and yesterday was rushed to the ER with dangerously low O2 saturation levels. You can read the whole story here, but the bottom line is that this family is in serious need of our prays and our help because--oh yeah, forgot to mention--Ike daddy lost his job last month and all they have is COBRA, which we all know doesn't cover a whole lot.

Ike and his family live in Austin, TX, and Kari is part of a fantastic community of moms there who are pulling together to raise money for this family to help offset the medical bills. Yes, money is tight for everyone, but if you can spare *anything*, please donate, because we all know every little bit counts, especially when lots of people give a little bit. And if you live in or near Austin, keep an eye on the update website to see where fundraisers are being held so you can swing by and buy a cake or whatever happens to be for sale. And of course, if you have something you think might fetch a little cash for the family, be sure to talk to the mamas in charge on that site about donating your wares or services.

The internet is a weird thing. I've never met Kari, but I've been reading her blog for a while now, and she and I have talked a bit via Gmail chat and played a few games of Scrabulous. And even though we've never been face to face, I consider her a friend, and honestly, it's killing me that I'm not in Austin and can't *be there* to do something, you know? So I'll do what I can from here, and pray, and maybe someday I'll have the chance to give that sweet baby face a kiss.

Monday, February 09, 2009


I introduced Abby to the concept of a sticker chart yesterday. Given she adores stickers, I thought it would be a good plan to help us smooth out some of the rough patches of our day. It worked pretty well with the face washing and tooth brushing. But one of the items is going all day without her paci, and it's such a habit for her that she kept popping them in her mouth. At one point Dan said, "Honey, you've got a paci in your mouth--take it out so you can get your sticker tonight!" She looked at him, thought a moment, then said, "I don't want the sticker."

Ah well. At least the kid's got boundaries.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Teetering on the edge...

...and trying not to fall off the face of the earth. I certainly fell of the face of the blogosphere, though, didn't I! I've been desperately trying to keep all the plates spinning, and this one just didn't make it. My apologies. I have two book deadlines in March, have been sorting and organizing and decluttering in preparation for a relocation that could happen at any time, and two kids who require more mommy-time every day, it seems. I just haven't had the energy to blog on top of it.

My latest newsletter will be releasing on Friday, and if you aren't yet a subscriber, I encourage you to sign up, because I'll be announcing a big contest that you don't want to miss!

Also, if you're a Facebooker (and who isn't these days?) I hope you'll look for my fan page and "become a fan." There is a discussion board there where I've posted a few questions, and I'd love to read your opinions!

Monday, January 19, 2009

So long, farewell...

Today is our last full day in Colorado. The bags are as packed as they can be for still having 20 hours left in the hotel, and somehow, though I still don't know how, I managed to fit it all in the bags we came with, despite a productive trip to the REI flagship store in Denver for me and the Castle Rock Outlet Mall for Abby. It's about 60 degrees outside right now, and windy, which is perfect to help dry the clothes Penny Jane spilled Dan's Coke on and that I washed with shampoo in the bathroom sink. Though the open window keeps rattling the bedroom door where Penny Jane is sleeping--her second nap actually inside the hotel this whole vacation. (The other one was this morning, and all the other naps were in the car. Poor kid. Though I think the trip has helped her transition to one nap a day! Woot!)

We really love it here. Really love it. It's hard to go. But I'm eager for my own bed (this one sucks) and for Abby to go back to her own bed (she is a tornado when she sleeps, I swear) and for play dates with our friends.

But as the sun sets (or the moon rises, as the photo from our hotel room shows) on our trip, our minds are awhirl with possibilities for our future here. Can't wait to come back...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Look what we woke up to...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Good idea, bad execution

Yet another example of overreaching government is now threatening to put thousands of crafters, artisans, WAHMs (and WAHDs), and small business owners out of work. Because of all the recent toy recalls due to lead contamination, a law was passed that goes into effect next month requiring the testing of ANY child-related article--toys, clothes, etc.--for lead. Sounds great, until you realize that this law applies to consignment and second-hand stores and folks like the ones I feature in my newsletter every other month. From what I understand, some changes have already been introduced in Congress which will modify the law as it applies to consignment shops and the like, but independent toymakers are still being left out in the cold. Please contact your representatives and senators and ask them to support changes to the law that will protect these folks. A sample letter can be found here, and more information can be found here.