Write A Novel in Thirty Days?

Ever thought about writing a book?

Do you think you could create believable characters? Decide on their quirks? Hair and eye color? Hidden histories they don’t want to discuss?

Could you imagine a unique story world, send the players on their journey, map out their quest, see them through each crisis?

Tomorrow, November 1, National Novel Writing Month—affectionately shortened to NaNoWriMo—will once again challenge wannabe authors to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. Participants have from November 1 to 11:59 PM on November 30 to finish their projects. Emphasis is on the length of the work rather than quality, getting people to start writing and stay motivated through the process.

Sound easy?

Do the math. Thirty days divided into 50,000 words equals. . . yep, about 1700 words a day. Four double-spaced full-length pages every twenty-four hours.

The website (yes, there is one) provides tips for the newbie author, shares meeting places where other writers are gathering, and even deals with writer’s block. The goal of the site is to encourage creativity worldwide.

Writers can register their project on the website, posting profiles of their synopsis, and even excerpts from their works in progress. Word counts are monitored at the site with participating authors submitting a copy of the complete manuscript for automatic counting.

I’ve decided to participate privately. My current work in progress is already mapped out, setting is in place, characters are drawn, and conflict is in motion. What I need is the push of the daily word count to speed up my creativity. I tend to dawdle when the going gets murky.

So I will quietly join the more than 200,000 people who, since the project’s beginning in 1999, now take part in NaNoWriMo, pushing myself to add another 50,000 words to my current project, all of us collectively combining an estimated 2.8 billion words by month’s end.

 If you’re in a praying mindset, I could use all you have to offer. James 5:16 (NLT) says, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”

For more information see www.nanowrimo.org.

Making A Difference

On my return trip from St. Louis in September, I witnessed an incident aboard my flight which disturbed not only me, but several passengers around me.

A woman boarded the plane with a box in her hands and sat one seat ahead of me. She made a great show of stowing the box, getting situated for the trip. Not long afterward, the gate controller boarded the plane and approached.

The controller explained she’d learned the woman had brought a dog aboard and there was no mention of an animal either on the flight itinerary or on the woman’s boarding pass. Unless she could present documentation that the dog was a service animal or an emotional companion, the woman needed to buy the dog a ticket and transport him through proper channels.

The passenger flew into a rage, accusing the controller of singling her out. She shouted to everyone that she had flown all over the country and never been challenged. She threatened to report the controller to her superiors and demanded to know her first and last name. The controller remained calm and again requested documentation for the animal. The woman resisted, but in a show of righteous indignation, she grabbed her bag from the rack and produced a piece of paper. The controller looked dubious about its authenticity, but allowed the woman to remain on the airplane.

Those of us who rode behind the passenger shared quiet smiles as the plane prepared to fly. I’d been holding my breath so long I’d developed a tickle and coughed to clear my throat. The passenger whirled around in her seat and glared at me, a threat in her eyes. I stared back, but kept my thoughts private even as I prayed for all involved.

Throughout the rest of the flight, the passenger continued to harass the attendants, reminding them how badly she’d been treated and how she would make sure the controller was reported to the airlines when she landed. Even as she disembarked, she made threats, adding demeaning name-calling to her vocabulary.

Once home, I e-mailed the airline’s customer service to report the incident. I praised both the controller and the flight attendants for their continued calm in the face of this rude and threatening passenger. I also expressed my discomfort at having to travel with such an agitated person and felt she should be tagged, lest she disrupt future flights.

Today I received a  phone call from the airline thanking me for contacting them. The customer service agent told me that all incidents are recorded by the flight staff, but when passengers corroborate the story, their eyewitness account gives the airline muscle.

That e-mail took only five minutes of my time. But by doing what I considered my civic duty, I may have prevented a more serious incident in the future. Imagine what we could all do if we acted on the injustices we see. This degenerating world might become a better place. Luke 6:31

Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something. ~Author Unknown

Book Pick: Burning Sky by Debut Author Lori Benton

With Christmas still two months away, you may or may not be thinking about gift buying, but books make wonderful presents for those readers on your list. In the next several weeks I will be recommending authors I’ve recently discovered.

Today I introduce you to Lori Benton’s debut novel, Burning Sky, which won the 2014 Christy Award for first novel, Historical,  and book of the year.

Before I read it, I loaned Burning Sky to a friend who couldn’t “put it down.” Indeed, any reader who likes stories from another time will enjoy this compelling tale.

 Willa Obenchain is a woman caught between two worlds. Abducted by Mohawk Indians and renamed Burning Sky when she was fourteen, she is driven to return to her parents’ homestead in the aftermath of the Revolutionary War.  

She had made a life with the Mohawks, but as circumstances changed for her there, she tries to reclaim her white roots. What she finds is an empty farm, her missing parents labeled Tories, and a young man named Richard Waring, whom she once admired,  determined to claim the Obenchain land.

Willa stumbles upon an unlikely ally in wounded botanist Neil MacGregor, who is lying in her path, nearly dead. Without a horse and on foot, she moves Neil to her parents farm and nurses him back to health. Together they explore the changes Willa’s twelve year absence has brought to the land.

Strong feelings against “savages” in the nearby town of Shiloh leaves Willa’s safety at risk. When her Mohawk brother appears and challenges her place among the whites instead of his people, Willa must choose the world in which she will spend her future.

Will she find the courage to begin again? Can her shielded heart allow love to find her once more? Which of the men seeking her hand will she choose?

Available from Amazon Books and Christian Book Distributors.


A Piece of History Rolls Away

Have you heard the latest?

Joining the ranks of the glass bottle and the egg timer, the cardboard tube in the center of a roll of toilet paper will soon be extinct. When I saw this advertised on television this week, I gasped. The longtime staple for children’s art projects and other varied uses will be no more.

The tissue manufacturer at the heart of this move declares that Americans throw away enough cardboard tubes each year to fill the Empire State Building. Seriously? Have they considered all the handy uses those little tubes provide?

What will teachers use for homemade kaleidoscopes? Soundless trumpets? Funnels?

Or budding Thomas Edisons use for test telephones?

Will domestic cats snag a square of tissue and tear through the house with nothing at roll’s end to stop them from continuing on into the neighborhood? Can’t you see all the houses wrapped in white?

 Makes one suspicious of what will become of leftover tubes. Will they be packaged like donut holes and offered at craft store checkouts? Hoarded? Will desperate artisans rummage through thrift shops and garage sales seeking undamaged tubes the way beachcombers scan the berm for unbroken sand dollars?

Is this the first domino to fall in a line of them? Will tube biscuits be sold without a tube? Christmas wrap only come folded? Will we resort to magazines?

Imagine, if in transport, the rolls get squashed and they hang lopsided from the rod in the bathroom. Who wants to listen to them unwind in the night? Ka-thump, ka-thump, ka-thump.

Fifty years from now, your grandchild will stare at you and ask the question we all dread. “Grams, did you ever see a Dodo?”

And your answer will be, “No, they were gone before my time. But I remember the toilet paper tube.”

“What’s a toilet paper tube?”



Readers, if this little bit of nonsense makes you smile, I’ll be delighted.

Proverbs 17:22a: “A joyful heart is good medicine. . .”

St. Louis–Mix of Old and New

My trip last week to St. Louis, Missouri  for the American Christian Writers Conference lacked the usual assortment of plane delays and traveler faux pas about which I have blogged in the past. No misread gates, no flight delays, and no cancellations plagued me this trip, which have forced rerouting of my entire itinerary a number of times. Perhaps I’ve finally graduated to seasoned tourist after fumbling my way through the TSA  rules and regulations in recent years.

My midnight shuttle to the hotel transported me through darkened city streets, buildings aglow against the nighttime skyline. My driver explained the points of interest as we traveled, and I anticipated seeing more in the daylight. The view from my window the next morning revealed a city of contrasts—old structures flanked by new, streets raw from construction waiting for a layer of asphalt. Many of the newer buildings were being built to look like those years older, giving the city the feel of a once-upon-a-time grandeur.

Though I stayed at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch, my room did not face the park where the structure fills the landscape. Built in the form of a flattened catenary arch, the stainless steel crescent is 632 feet high, the centerpiece of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and an internationally recognized symbol of St. Louis.

Originally constructed in 1967 as a tribute to the western expansion of the United States, the impressive Gateway Arch is the world’s tallest man-made monument in the Western Hemisphere and is Missouri’s tallest accessible building. Yes, you can go inside and view the landscape below, but even as I ventured out to photograph the structure, the park was undergoing construction of new sidewalks. Detours pointed the way to the Arch, but I decided to forego further investigation.

All of St. Louis, it seems, is in a state of repair. My driver on the return trip to the airport explained that the older parts of the city, where abandoned brick buildings stand like fallen soldiers, have been purchased. A developer intends to restore as many of the structures as he can, preserving what remains of what once was a prosperous and thriving gateway to the West. I glimpsed some of the old buildings that line the freeway, as well as those that have met with the remodeler’s touch, and was glad something is being done to return the city to its earlier greatness.

In the future, the phrase “Meet me in St. Louis” may hold a much more beautiful meaning for those who visit.