Follow my journey toward publication. Laugh, cry, point and stare-- it's all good. I'll leave a trail so that you, my fellow author, may have a straighter path to finding your own elusive publishing contract. Adventure awaits. Let's travel together...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Guest post by: Jennifer Slattery

Do you remember those dances held during junior high and high school? How you and your friends would spend hours pre-dance talking about what you'd wear, how you'd do your hair, and...giggle, blush, giggle...who might ask you to dance? Only those dances never quite ended up how we envisioned, at least not in my school. Inevitably, the guys huddled near the far, heavily-shadowed wall while the girls spent their time crying in the bathroom or trying to comfort their near hysterical friend hiding in the stall. At least in Junior High. High School got a little better and people actually danced, and the bathrooms were far less crowded with splotchy-faced, sniffling girls.

But reading last week's excerpts actually brought me back even further...to sixth grade.
We didn't have dances--instead, our school hosted skating parties. Do you remember those? "Elvirah" blaring from those gigantic speakers while a disco ball lit up the room, making that feather pinned in your hair really stand out. (Those have come back, btw. Seriously.) We'd do the hokey-pokey, skate on one foot, then backward...but what the girls waited for, holding their breath and scanning the glittering room for their short, waif-thin and equally shy hero, was when the DJ announced, "Find a parnter!"

Now here's where it gets really fun, and extremely embarrassing, but remember I was a stupid kid with absolutely no life....

Who knew come skating party time, a boy--maybe even the boy--might hold my hand. Oh, the very thought made my stomach twirl.

In preparation, I slathered lotion on my hands the week leading up the event--and I mean slathered. Then, I'd rub it in and hold my hand out to my mom. "Are my hands soft? Feel them."

She'd laugh and feel my hand. Then I'd slather on more. "Feel them now."

She remained patient for about three or four applications.

What about you? Any stupid, cheek-burning stories to share?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

COTT Champ Lisa T Bergren

*Guest post by Michelle Massaro

Congratulations, Lisa T. Bergren, author of Waterfall! Lisa's winning excerpt was discovered by COTT's new Talent Scout, Katie McCurdy. You can read Katie's review here. This YA title is being highly-praised by adults and is only the second YA title to win at Clash Of The Titles. Visit Lisa's site to learn more about her.

About the book:

Gabriella has never spent a summer in Italy like this one.
Remaining means giving up all she’s known and loved…
and leaving means forfeiting what she’s come to know…and love itself.

Most American teenagers want a vacation in Italy, but the Bentarrini sisters have spent every summer of their lives with their parents, famed Etruscan scholars, among the romantic hills. Stuck among the rubble of medieval castles in rural Tuscany on yet another hot, dusty archaeological site, Gabi and Lia are bored out of their minds… until Gabi places her hand atop a handprint in an ancient tomb and finds herself in fourteenth-century Italy. And worse yet, in the middle of a fierce battle between knights of two opposing forces.

And thus does she come to be rescued by the knight-prince Marcello Falassi, who takes her back to his father’s castle—a castle Gabi has seen in ruins in another life. Suddenly Gabi’s summer in Italy is much, much more interesting. But what do you do when your knight in shining armor lives, literally, in a different world?

Sounds amazing, doesn't it? No wonder it won! If you're ready to read it, head to Amazon now. You can read Lisa's COTT interview here or check out her excerpt here.

Lisa, welcome to the COTT Hall of Fame. We're very happy to have you join us!

Readers, do you hunger for a well-written convo--one dripping with sarcasm or perhaps laced with unspoken meaning? Maybe you like a quick wit or a character whose comments make you LOL. Wish you could influence the dialogue of the fictional characters you read? This week COTT is hosting a showdown for the Snappiest Dialogue. Hurry on over and let our authors know what you like, and what you long to see, in the spoken interaction between characters. See you there!

* Michelle Massaro is the Assistant Editor for COTT and has a passion for evangelizing through fiction. She writes contemporary inspirational novels with heart-rending themes intended to frame the message of God’s healing love. Michelle has written for Romantic Times, Circle Of Friends, and Pentalk Community, among others. Find her on twitter @MLMassaro, Facebook, or her blog, Adventures in Writing, and join the fun.

Monday, August 29, 2011

My School Monday: History

Last week we hit a good groove with history. I pulled out My Father's World from last year which we hadn't quite finished up, and realized how much I miss it. I miss the assigned Bible readings, the art, the Jewish feasts, and even the classical composers. I miss it so much I'm considering purchasing the next one (Rome to Reformation) even though I'm already implementing history lessons with all of the following:

A Beka
Mystery of History

I just can't help it. I love it all. And I think there's time to cover it if we're reading together and I'm doing most of the reading. A Beka provides a Boom Boom Bam with quizzes and tests and the traditional textbook feel. It's at a fast pace and could bring us all the way to modern times within one school year (if that were all I was doing.) Mystery of History is more overview with interesting bits of info brought to attention, timelines, and written to the student in an informal "isn't this so cool" style. And Truthquest... ah, Truthquest is my heart. A Living Books approach with introductions to each era or country topic specifically designed to help students view history as His Story. All of the activities of mankind--every rise and fall of a nation, every war, every advancement--is seen through biblical glasses, teaching students to ask how people's beliefs about God affected their activities. Reminding them that it is God who has set this world in motion and He has always been in control.

I love all these things so much I'm tempted to teach two history courses simultaneously instead of trying to move quickly from ancient world history to modern times. I may begin a US History alongside our continuing World History so that we can spend all year on both. I'll give us a few more weeks to decide that though. Our schedule isn't down pat yet and I do need to make sure we don't get overloaded. Especially since she'll soon be starting a theater class once a week and next month, hopefully, a ceramics class.

This week we are looking forward to finishing up with Greece and diving into Rome. I can't wait to examine the landscape that Christ was born into and pop in our Drive Thru History video, Rome If You Want To. There is just so much good stuff out there.

I miss Amy during the day and wish she could go through these things with us, but we've also watched some good, solid videos on the Origin Of Humans and on Dragon Legends with her--things to give her food for thought as she sits through hours of teaching on how "early man" evolved and did this-or-that, or how humans sprang up long after dinosaurs died out. The great part is, she gets extra credit for it. *grin* Interested in these yourself? Here's a link to the free streaming videos: the Origin of Humans , Dinosaurs & Dragon Legends. There are a lot of good free resources on the AIG site so look around and be inspired!

I think Trevor's color of the week is going to be GREEN. I'll be posting some more pictures of him and his "school" projects on my facebook page so if you're a FB friend, come see my cutie! We made a school bus, some leafy crayon rubs, and lots of construction paper projects over the last 2.5 weeks. =)

Oh yeah, don't forget to visit my other haunt--Clash of the Titles. We just put up a new vote: Snappy Dialogue. Fun!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Story Improv: Miss Finch

Welcome to the results day for last weekend's Story Improv!
*Contributing Authors:

A passing horse and buggy splashed muddy water over Tracy's boots, soaking the hem of her dress. She paid it no heed. Gathering up her skirts, she confidently trudged across the soggy road, not bothering to avoid the puddles. That fool of a brother of hers had better not try to stop her this time. She had no intention of letting Samuel get away with this uncivilized behavior--business owner or not.

His behavior was getting out of hand and it was about to ruin her life. After all, who wanted to marry into a family of lunatics? Tracy wanted to marry and have children, all women did. She was eighteen. Most of her friends were married or at least engaged by now. It was almost too late for her. Soon she would be on the shelf and her life would be over.

Tracy made plenty sure when she opened the door to the mercantile that Samuel could gauge her mood with the slam.

"Got a bee in your bonnet?" He didn't even look up when she stormed in.

"How dare you? My students need those McGuffey readers? I gave you my order and the money. It's your job to follow through and order those books."

Tracy's green eyes focused on nothing but Samuel. He fidgeted with the ledger, looked up, and then chuckled at the firecracker of a woman in front of him.

The flames shooting from her eyes made him rethink his mirth.

"I'm sorry, Sis. I sent in the order; I know I did." He prayed she wouldn't be able to tell he was lying. He couldn't tell her that Thomas Radwell had made him cancel the order. She already disliked the man; this would only make it worse. But he owed Thomas his life and that was more important than a simple book order, wasn't it?

She just continued staring the way she always did, until he had to force himself not to squirm like a worm on a hook. Lord, he hated it when she did that. He considered telling her about Mr. Radwell and letting them fight it out themselves. That could be entertaining, he thought for a brief moment. They fought like cats and dogs every time they were together. It was very... passionate...

"If you'd of sent it in, it'd be here by now. Now fess up."

A breeze lifted her bonnet from where it hung down her back.

"Good afternoon, Miss Finch, and how is my lovely bird this afternoon?" Thomas Radwell's broad shoulders filled the door.

"About to peck my eye out." Samuel chuckled.

Tracy turned to face him as she carefully schooled her expression to hide the sudden racing of her stupid heart. "Mr. Radwell," she replied, inclining her head slightly. "Please excuse me. I have business to attend to." "Perhaps I may be of some assistance." Mr. Radwell replied as he followed her out the door and into the street. He smiled as he observed her straight-as-a-rod posture; she was beautiful when she was angry...

*Have a suggestion for a new Story Starter? Email me at Michelle_Massaro@hotmail.com.

Monday, August 22, 2011

My School Monday: In The Beginning

Good afternoon! Are you ready for a new week? I heard from our ES (Education Specialist) a few days ago and our first meeting is Thursday. I'm excited to get set up and get Kait some fun classes like pottery and horseback riding perhaps. The math curriculum I wanted was unavailable from the lending library so I'll have to purchase it but hopefully it will be worth it. Math is our biggest challenge this year and I'm not fully convinced she should be tackling so high a level. I'll have to monitor that and if a change is needed, pray for strength because she won't want to get "bumped back" no matter how advanced the math she's attempting is.

Trevor's color this week is yellow. In the car this morning, we looked for yellow things out the window. We saw plenty of fire hydrants, busses, signs, and Trevor spotted yellow cable coverings all by himself. Back home, we glued yellow strips of construction paper onto a black paper bee, added wings, stinger, face, and antennaes and viola!

Kaitlyn is having trouble with diagramming sentences. I suppose if you learn how to do this from the beginning, it's very helpful. But even for me, learning how to do this now is frustrating and feels like a waste of time to me. Maybe not for her since she's still young. But if it continues to be a source of stress I may have to change curriculums to one that doesn't use diagramming at all.

Amy came home today having begun learning history in class. They are starting with the Ice Age and unfortunately I am unprepared with very much material for her on that. I might try to order a couple DVDs but they may not arrive in time. However, there are some free streaming videos like this and this at AIG's website that we can watch. I think we'll do that this evening. She can even get extra credit for it!  Awesomeness. =)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Story Improv: Historical Romance

We're back with another chance to use our cooperative imaginations. Scroll down to read last week's full story. Let's just get right to it, shall we?

A passing horse and buggy splashed muddy water over Tracy's boots, soaking the hem of her dress. She paid it no heed. Gathering up her skirts, she confidently trudged across the soggy road, not bothering to avoid the puddles. That fool of a brother of hers had better not try to stop her this time. She had no intention of letting Samuel get away with this uncivilized behavior--business owner or not.

Into the Depths

Last week's Story Improv was really great! Here is the result, written by:

Mask, check. Tank, check. Underwater camera, check.

Forty-five minutes was all she had. Sabrina perched on the edge of the boat, her flippered feet dangling above the swooshing sea. She stared into the fathomless depths. It was down there somewhere. And she had to find it.

In the breath she took before diving from Mac's fishing boat, Sabrina pushed away the heavy sensation of pure fear that seized her. "I have to do this! Mac would have done it for me!"

Two weeks had gone by since Mac's death. No way he would go diving alone, and definitely not without checking his tanks to make sure they were full. This was the last place he'd been exploring--the last place they'd been exploring together. They were so close. She turned around and fell backward into the mirky waters. She wasn't one to dive alone, either, but she couldn't trust anyone. Something had gone wrong, and she was going to find the evidence to prove it.

Her gaze adjusted to the vast darkness of aqua and shadow, streams of afternoon sun filtering into endless sea. No treasure was worth his life. Even the last known resting place of The Queen's Dagger and its limitless mystery. Treasure? Death? Somehow she knew she wasn't alone in these waters.

Sabrina swam along slowly at first, allowing her vision to adjust to the murky water. Her skin prickled, and she knew without a single doubt that she wasn't alone. Someone or something shared this hazy water world with her. She paused, floating in the soundless deep for a heartbeat...two...three...every nerve screaming to return topside.

She refused to give into the fear that threatened to overwhelm her. She would NOT be deterred. Slowly, Sabrina circled in the water, taking in every detail she could make out in the hazy, dirty water. What if someone had followed her? Unease crawled up her spine, and she did another 360. Just to be sure. Nothing.

*Okay, Sabrina. Get a grip. No one knew you were coming here. Stop getting freaked out.* Drifting deeper into the murky depths, Sabrina tried to refocus. She had to do this. For herself. For her parents. For Mac. Suddenly, the temperature of the water shifted. Sabrina's senses spiked. What was that? It almost seemed like a shadow behind her. Before she could turn to investigate, arms encircled her from behind.

She fought against him, but his grip never waivered. He pulled her down, deeper into the darkness below. Sunlight faded from above, but another light blinked on from behind. It must have been her attacker's helmet lamp. Reefs of plantlife edged into her vision framing a wall of rock. She couldn't scream. Couldn't wiggle free? Is this what happened to Mac? The plantlife split in an unnatural fashion against the cliff edge to reveal a cave. Oh no! Once in there no one would ever be able to find her again. Fear as large as the darkness of the cave swallowed her as she took one last look at the open sea before disappearing into her black tomb.

Her attacker tethered her ankle to an invisible anchor, then turned and kicked away. The light of his helmet dimmed and shrank away as he left her there. To die. Flailing and kicking, she tried to remain calm and think. She groped along the walls and floor of the underwater cave. How many minutes had gone by? More importantly, how many did she have left? Her fingers found something smooth in the sand. Blindly exploring, she felt for its shape. Long. Sharp along the edges. She scraped the mud and sand away. If she could retrieve whatever this was, maybe she could use it to cut away her tethers.

Sabrina forced herself to stay calm. Hyperventilating would only deplete her oxygen more rapidly. She focused on uncovering the unknown object, praying as she worked. "God? You're my only hope of getting out of here alive. Please help me." One last desperate plunge of her desperate fingers into the sand, and the buried item broke free and rested in her hand. A knife! Its six-inch blade, a bright slice in the dark water, sent a glimmer of hope into her heart.

She hacked at her restraints. Once. Twice. Three times. The fourth time and her binds released. She checked her tank levels. A few minutes left. She took her flashlight from her belt, thankful her attacker hadn't bothered to take anything from her. She swung in a circle, shining the light as she turned. What was that in the shadows? She swam a little closer, daring to investigate.

Only a few feet upward and she surfaced inside a cave. No, not merely a cave- a massive cavern. She jerked off her mask and blinked the dim picture into view. The bow of a ship lay on its side and angled outward toward the exit of the cave. An exit. Tears burned her vision and the ship's bowed blurred. An old ship. Was this The Queen's Dagger? Had Mac made it this far?

Slowly she walked toward the broken ship lying on its side like a mortally wounded animal. The only sound was the splashing of water droplets falling from her body as she moved. Angling around the tip of the ship, curiosity getting the better of her, she sensed the presence again. Whipping around, hands raised to protect herself, she froze, the scream stuck in her throat as she came face to face with Mac - the husband she had buried six days before.

Sabrina woke to find herself alone on the deck of Mac's fishing boat. The waves rocked the boat and for a moment, she was disoriented. "Wasn't I just in the water...under the water....on a boat....Mac!" She sat up quickly, and then fell back on the deck, her head pounding. "Easy there...you passed out. Here, drink this." It was Mac, and he was wiping Sabrina's face with a cool cloth, while holding a metal cup in front of her face. Sabrina drank and then started to cough. "Mac?" was all she could say.

Staring into Mac's beautiful, worried eyes, Sabrina tried to focus on something, anything to center herself. It was like waking up in the twilight zone. Mac was alive and here with her. How was that possible? Her heart still hurt with the pain of losing him, and now...

Mac slid a finger down her cheek in a familiar one-fingered caress that ended, as it always had, at her lips. "It's really me, sweetheart. I'm so sorry you had to go through all that, but I didn't have a choice." Sudden, white-hot anger zipped its way through Sabrina's mind, and she sat up straight, knocking his hand away.

"Didn't have a choice? I could have died down there!"

"Love, I never would have let you die." The worry in his face shifted to reluctant determination. "But now that you've seen the ship, the only way you won't be killed is if you disappear from your life. We'll have to stage your death." If anyone else had said those words, she would have watched his eyes for a glimmer of amusement to surface, and waited for a punchline. But this was Mac. He would never frighten her unnecessarily. Sabrina stared over the edge of the boat into waves that crested sharp as dragon's teeth. "Mac? What in heaven is down there?"

She waited for his response, but he turned his head away looking out across the horizon. A distant rumbling caught her attention. They had company.

Mac knew who was coming and he knew that he and Sabrina could never outrun them. He turned back to gaze at the woman who held his heart. He was glad to have her with him again - and terrified that he would really lose her in the fight that was coming.

The shrieking of an alarm jolted his already jangled nerves and Mac whipped around searching frantically for a place to hide... and as he turned, looked across his pretty, sleeping wife to the alarm clock on the bedside table. He fell back on his pillow with a groan. So much for pizza with the works and Moose Track ice cream at 11pm. He was just getting too old...

*Make sure to join in our next group session this weekend, starting at midnight!

Meet Gina Holmes

I am very excited to have Gina Holmes here today to talk about her new book. Those of you who have read my novel will probably be able to figure out why I was immediately drawn to Gina and her work. She has successfully done what I am trying to do and that is inspiring! So everybody... here's Gina:

Gina Holmes is the bestselling author of Crossing Oceans and the newly released novel, DRY AS RAIN. She's the founder of Novel Rocket, (formerly Novel Journey), a registered nurse,  wife and mother who makes her home in Southern Virginia. You can learn more about her at http://www.ginaholmes.com/ 

Your debut novel hit ECPA, Amazon, PW and CBA bestsellers list (some throughout the span of a year!) For several weeks Crossing Oceans was the #1 free kindle download and then stay in the top hundred for a long time.
Beside the commercial success, your book was a finalist in every major Christian book award, including: Christy, ECPA, Retailer’s Choice, Carol Awards, and won RWA’s Inspirational Reader’s Choice and an INSPY. Does having that kind of success put the pressure on you for your second book?

I try not to think too much about it. I didn’t expect that kind of success but am very grateful for it. I had a lot of pressure on me on this releasing novel, not because of the success of the first book, but because, unlike the first, I didn’t have all the time in the world to write it. Some books flow smoothly, this one I had to yank out like a bad tooth. I faced multiple rewrites, some of them pretty major, all while trying to promote my all important first novel. I was still working full time, mothering, running Novel Journey (now Novel Rocket) and all of that, so this was a tough tough book for me to produce.
Tell our readers about your latest release, Dry as Rain:

I'm a really bad pitchman so I'll just repeat the back of the book copy:

Behind every broken vow lies a broken heart.
When Eric and Kyra Yoshida first met, they thought their love would last forever. But like many marriages, theirs has gradually crumbled, one thoughtless comment and misunderstanding at a time, until the ultimate betrayal pushes them beyond reconciliation. Though Eric longs to reunite with Kyra, the only woman he has truly loved, he has no idea how to repair the damage that’s been done.

Then a car accident erases part of Kyra’s memory—including her separation from Eric—and a glimmer of hope rises from the wreckage. Is this a precious opportunity for the fresh start Eric has longed for? Does he even deserve the chance to find forgiveness and win back Kyra’s heart . . . or will the truth blow up in his face, shattering their last hope for happiness? A richly engaging story of betrayal and redemption, Dry as Rain illuminates with striking emotional intensity the surprising truth of what it means to forgive.

You can read the first chapter HERE. 

"Holmes grabs the reader with a unique storyline about infidelity and what it truly means to forgive after betrayal.  By looking at the situation from a different angle, the author provides a great deal of food for thought and contemplation." RT Book Reviews – September, 2011

Library Journal says, "Fans of emotionally packed domestic fiction will love it."

This novel feels so much different than Crossing Oceans. Why did you choose to take such a different path?

I didn’t intend to write something completely different and I think it feels that way because of the characters telling the story. In Crossing Oceans, Jenny was our narrator and she was a melancholy, all woman sort.

In Dry as Rain, we have Eric, who is a man’s man and doesn’t think in flowery language and descriptions so it would have been wrong to write him that way. While both books have a heavy subject matter, Crossing Oceans was much more so. You can’t get heavier than dying, so it was bound to be more emotional, no matter how I wrote the next book.

But, my genre seems to be relational drama which both are and I like to pepper in a quirky cast and that’s true of both books.

You took a lot of chances in this book. First writing first person from a male’s perspective, secondly to have the protagonist someone who does a lot of things that aren’t very Christianly, like cheating on his wife, drinking, lying, etc. Are you afraid this might hurt your sales in the Christian market?

Afraid? No. Concerned, sure. While I don’t personally have a problem with Eric drinking a beer, the rest I have a problem with too. The thing is Eric’s a nominal Christian at the beginning of the book, lukewarm about his faith like many who call themselves followers of Christ. This is his journey though and he doesn’t end up where he begins. I wanted to tell the story as truthfully as I could and at the end of the day let the chips fall where they may.

What happened to your long-time website, Novel Journey?

http://www.noveljourney.blogspot.com/ is now http://www.novelrocket.com/ You can get to it by either address but we decided on an overhaul because we wanted to drop the blogspot address and just have a dot com. The guy who owned Novel Journey didn’t return our emails to sell so we had to do something a little different. This turned out to be a good thing maybe because we’d been chewing on broadening the site for some time. We’ve got some exciting changes now, the most notable is the addition of “Rocket Pages” a sort of Craig’s List for writers to find the services they need to launch and sustain their career.

What’s going on with you personally?

Well, I’m blissfully married, mom to two, stepmom to three, and owner of 2 dogs and a fish. I bought a guitar and hope to start fiddling with that soon and just writing a lot. Nothing too exciting over here but that’s the way I like it. I’m the happiest I’ve been in my life. I’ve accomplished many of the dreams and goals I’d hoped to and I always tell my husband, if I died today, I’d feel I lived and full and rewarding life. Not that I’m looking to die just yet.

What a beautiful place to be in, Gina. What are you working on now?

I can’t give the title yet as that’s a work in progress but it’s a story very close to my heart. I’m more excited about this one than anything I’ve ever written. Hopefully my publisher agrees and you see it on the stands in the next year or so. That’s really all I can say for now.

Always love to read the books that are closest to the author's heart. The passion comes out in the writing. Can't wait to hear more! Tell us something we don’t know about you.

I’ll tell you a few. I thought I was afraid of heights until I bungee-jumped and loved it. I’d love to skydive for the first time in the next year, white water raft and get at least a little skill on the guitar. My husband is a talented songwriter. My kids are the sweetest in the world, (yes, the world!), and I love to get my hands dirty. That should do it. Thanks for having me!

You're welcome, thanks for spending time with us today. It's a pleasure getting to know you! =)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Liebster Award!

I was awarded the Liebster Blog Award! I'm very excited and touched to have been given this award by Sheri Salatin. Sheri is a farmgirl, and proud of it! She writes gripping stories that lasso your heart with dirt-under-your-fingernails suspense and faith outfitted in workboots. You can check out her writing adventure, read about her farm, and get to know her better at her website.

Liebster means "beloved" or "favorite"

The Liebster is awarded to bloggers with less than 200 followers. It is an opportunity to shine the light on great blogs and their authors in an effort to build readership.

Here are the rules:
1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them.
2. Give the Liebster Blog Award to five bloggers and let them know in a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. Have blogging fun!

And now, for the new winners of the Liebster Blog Award:
Each of you ladies have earned this award by being wonderful bloggers. I see many of your happy faces in my comments or around the social media playground. You're always good for some great "take-away". I hope this award blesses you this week! 

Whatevah Wednesday: What's in a name?

As I begin work on a new book, I've been sifting through baby name sites, making lists, saying names aloud... trying to find my characters. This isn't easy for me. I don't know about other authors, but I have the hardest time choosing "the" name for my characters. Usually it's for one of two reasons. Either I'm too close to them, or I don't know them well enough yet.

This week I've been on the hunt for a name for my heroine, one that isn't too drab nor too fancy. And for her husband, a name that is solid, strong, dependable, and slightly boring. Then they need a last name, too! One that rolls off the tongue and might be seen on the cover of a book, but not sound snooty or rich. And of course it has to flow well with both the couple's first names. See how hard this is?

So I thought I'd poll my visitors on some possible names.
(if you pick "other" make sure you leave a suggestion.)

For my heroine: a modern day wife, mother, and aspiring author. Middle class.
Female Lead:

pollcode.com free polls

For her husband: a solid, hard working, quiet kind of guy.
The Husband

pollcode.com free polls
Last names:
Last Names

pollcode.com free polls

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

COTT's next Champ!

 *guest post by Jennifer Slattery

The next Clash of the Titles literary champion is Anne Patrick! Her her novel A Familiar Evil won the vote for Author’s Choice.

Here’s a blip of her COTT winning excerpt (excerpt B):

“Excuse me. I’m looking for Chief Russell.”

Jordan’s stomach did a nosedive at the familiar voice of her soon-to-be-ex-husband.

“You found her,” Frank answered.

Jordan looked up just as Sam smiled. “Indeed I have.” He started toward her desk.

Colleen barged through the opened door. “Chief, there’s an Agent Russell here to see…oh, I guess you found her.”

“Agent Russell,” Frank repeated. He turned back to Jordan, “Isn’t Russell your married name?” He then shifted his gaze back to Sam, “That must mean you’re her husband.”

“Not for much longer.” Jordan hurried around her desk and ushered Frank out the door. “You’ll be hearing from me.” She closed the door and looked at Sam. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m here at your request.”

Read the full excerpt here.

A few reader comments: 
  • I'm hooked! Loved the tension between Jordan and Sam.
  • Both were really good! I Liked Excerpt B because of the rather humorous exchange between husband and wife. :-) Definitely a book I'd want to get and read!
  • Love tension in Excerpt B. And there's promise of lots more!! 
After reading Anne’s tension-filled excerpt, we wanted to know how she came up with such great stories. Her answer? She writes on the fly.

“I’m a Pantser,” Anne said. “I never plan anything. As a matter of fact I didn’t know who the killer was in A Familiar Evil until toward the end of the book when he sprang out at me and said, ‘I’m your man.’ Of course I had suspected he was the one but I wasn’t for sure. There are several possibilities.”

Her plot ideas come to her just as unexpectedly. “Often times when I'm researching one book, ideas for another start to sprout,” Anne said. “Reading the paper is another good source for me. Life is truly stranger than fiction.

Read the full interview here.

What Anne had to say about her time on Clash:

"Thanks for having me here at COTT. You ladies are awesome!"

Want to join the fun? Hop on over to Clash of the Titles now to vote for our next literary champion and be entered into our drawing for a free book! And don’t forget to stop by Clash of the Titles Book Club to join our cyber-chat. We’re devouring Delia Latham’s Destiny’s Dream.

*Jennifer Slattery is the marketing manager for Clash of the Titles. She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, the Christian Pulse, and Samie Sisters. She’s also written for numerous other publications and websites including the Breakthrough Intercessor, Bloom!, Afictionado, the Christian Fiction Online Magazine, and Granola Bar Devotions. She has a short piece in Bethany House’s Love is a Flame (under a pen name) forwarded by Gary Chapman, another piece in Cathy Messecar’s A Still and Quiet Soul, and a third piece scheduled to appear in Majesty House’s Popcorn Miracles. You can find out more about her and her writing at Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud and you can catch some great writing tips at her writing blog, Words That Keep.

Monday, August 15, 2011

My School Monday: A Good Start


Last Wednesday was our first day of homeschool, as well as Brandon's first day of his Junior year at the public high school. I still had Amy home so I had her join in and do a few lessons too. We're using SOS 8th grade Bible and I had both girls do lessons in that. I also had Amy do a few lessons from our MFW history, focusing on the Dispersion and Ice Age. My goal is to get her ready for her public classroom where they'll be talking about "early man". Gag.

She started today. My heart is torn in this decision to let her finish out her elementary career at our public school. I often wonder if it's weakness on my part. I am basically inviting an anti-Christian teacher to influence and instruct her from his worldview. And I am giving him six full hours a day to do it. But that's not the biggest concern. Because I can stay on top of the curriculum and we can read the corresponding material from a Christian perspective and all that. The bigger concern is that I am also inviting 30 immature, inexperienced and untrained age-mates to influence her socially. How will my little girl change over the course of this year in her attitudes and heart? Sigh. I'm committed to keeping on top of everything that goes on in her life at school and preparing myself to pull  her out and bring her home at the first sign of trouble.

So as I said, I did some light schooling with her for a few days last week. She was here for Kaitlyn's first science experiment (see what fun homeschool can be?) and asked to help as we taped copper wire to a 9V battery and put the other ends into a glass of baking soda water. I laminated a pullout from an AIG magazine on fossil layers, we watched a video on the origins of humans, we prayed and did daily morning devotions. Last night and this morning I prayed over her that she would go out in her spiritual armor, protected from anything in that classroom trying to lure her away from the Lord. I hope that hearing me pray that aloud will make an impact.

I also have done some "school" with Trevor. He's only 2 so it's very informal, but it's just to give him something to do and keep him stimulated. He was very excited about his "school"--the Cars notebook I purchased at Staples. He loves to scribble in it as he sits in his little desk. We spent three days learning about the color blue and doing various art projects in that color. (This week we are moving on to red.)  The first day, we used several shades of blue crayons to color a blank white paper. The next day, we tore up construction paper in both light and dark blue and glued them to a piece of black construction paper on which I'd drawn a basic cloud shape. Friday, we used blue water color paint on white printer paper. He got to use some other colors that day too since he just couldn't resist. It was a lot of fun for all of us and I think it inspires Kait as well. She likes the privelege of being home to help teach her brother.

Kait is falling right in and doing very well. She thrives on workbook style material which is a bit surprising to me. She tends to do the minimum she can get away with, so workbooks with specific Q/A's keep her on top of her material better than essays alone. Therefore, the Abeka history is looking like a real good fit and I may look at their Health curriculum as well.

So there you have it. Our first (short) week. Now it's time for me to get back to the kiddos in the other room and get the Bob & Larry fruit snacks out of Trevor's reach!  I hope you all have a blessed week.

Share one good thing that happened to you last week.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Story Improv: Into The Depths

First of all, HAPPY 16th ANNIVERSARY, HONEY! =)

K, ready to play? Here's how it works-- I give a story starter, and you guys take it from there. Each comment continues the story until we reach the end, wherever that may be! You may contribute as many times to the thread as you like but try to keep each addition to just a couple sentences. Next week I will post the story in its entirety and credit the authors, so make sure and leave your name. If you leave your blog address I'll include that too. Have fun!

Mask, check. Tank, check. Underwater camera, check.

Forty-five minutes was all she had. Sabrina perched on the edge of the boat, her flippered feet dangling above the swooshing sea. She stared into the fathomless depths. It was down there somewhere. And she had to find it.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fiction Friday: Zendah Encounter

Thanks to the following contributors to last week's Story Improv! 

Captain Buigly aimed his laser, carefully lining up the cross-hairs. Once he engaged the beam, it would take eight seconds to turn the hull of The Sender into space dust. His training should have taken over by now. Instead, he fought the tremor in his trigger finger as sweat beaded on his upper lip.

He was under orders from the Admiral. Blow those terrorists from Zendah to bits. The only problem was that Lt. Collins and his small recon team were still on-board.
And, contrary to every rule book in the fleet, Lt. Collins' young son was on board and waiting for news of his father. The thought of facing that wide-eyed, innocent little boy, looking into those big blue eyes and telling him that his father was dead, was making Captain Buigly sweat...and hesitate.

Suddenly, our intrepid hero adjusted his aim to take out the power couplings that held the energy core together. Now, the terrorists could neither leave nor fire any of their weapons against anyone in defense. He had bought some precious time to save the recon team and to save himself from the horror of looking into that little boy's eyes.

It would take only minutes for the Admiral to discover this and send another team to finish the job. The Captain raced to the small shuttle; if he could get to the enemy ship in time, then maybe...

As he was about to launch the shuttle his radio crackled to life and he heard the broken message from Lt. Collins...blocking out the static as best he could, he almost staggered with relief as he heard his friend's voice. The recon team had managed to steal a shuttle from the Zendan ship and were clearing the shuttle bay at that very moment. They needed 20 seconds - then the captain could annihilate the enemy ship. Mission accomplished. They were ALL going home.

 * If you want to see your name and blog featured on my site, make sure to play along. ;-) I'll try to post a new Story Starter each weekend, depending on interest.

Have a blessed weekend--it's my anniversary tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

BRB (Whatevah Wednesday)

I'd planned to post about our first day of school, but I didn't get my pictures offloaded before it was time for church. So I'll post that either tomorrow or Friday, and in the meantime, please enjoy this photo of a mouse playing the pan flute.

Monday, August 8, 2011

My School Monday: the countdown has begun

Today I am over at K. Dawn's blog talking about COTT Champ Shellie Neumeier's YA title, Driven. I hope you'll stop by and say "hi" to me there!

In our house, school starts for the high-schoolers this Wednesday. I'm starting Kaitlyn that day, too. So we are really down to the wire with whatever prep we still need.

We picked up some paper and notebooks for everyone, and new colored pencils and construction paper. There wasn't a whole lot since I gave my giant binder to my son to use. The big thing though, is my son needs a graphing calculator and we can't afford one. They're so expensive! If they could use an ipod there are free apps we could use. I really wish they'd let him do that. It's not a phone.

Aside from that, I've been setting up SoS (Switched On Schoolhouse) with my "custom curriculum" for Kaitlyn. A time-consuming process, but sooo fun for me. I LOVE seeing the calendar populate with daily lessons for the whole year! I'm a nerd, what can I say? We also went to the Open House for the new Corona learning center of River Springs. Several approved venders were there and I'm so excited to get Kait into a couple of these classes. Check it out:  horse-back riding, ceramics, photography, theater, and piano lessons. The tough part will be choosing because I don't think we can do more than two per semester. But I'm excited about this homeschooling year, and praying that it bears a huge harvest of fruit in Kaitlyn's heart, her walk with God, and our relationship. Not to mention academics, but that should go without saying.

I'm praying about how to handle Amy's being in public school for 6th after all. Although this doesn't do anything for the social concerns, I am planning to sort of co-teach her. Bring some lessons alongside what they do in class, but of my choosing and from Christian worldview. Mostly this applies to history since I know they'll cover "early man," and later dive into Greek gods. I'm going to attempt to have her work through the Bible curriculum I got for Kaitlyn, working on it twice a week in the afternoons. Have you done anything like this? Please share!

So what have you been doing to get ready? New haircuts, shoes, pencil boxes?
Also, share your favorite sack lunches for school days!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Story Improv, Space Style

Here's this weekend's Story Improv. Better late than never, right? If you don't know the rules, they're simple. Jump in and continue the story with a line or two of your own, trying to keep the flow and tone cohesive as possible. Oh, and then send a few friends over to play. The fun of creating together is exponential to the number of entries. You yourself may visit and add lines more than once, so check back often to see how your story is growing. I'll keep it up today and tomorrow so there's plenty of time. If you post as Anon, consider leaving your name so I can give you credit when I post the story in its entirety later next week. =)

How about we shake things up a go for a Sci-Fi? Let's go:

Captain Buigly aimed his laser, carefully lining up the cross-hairs. Once he engaged the beam, it would take eight seconds to turn the hull of The Sender into space dust. His training should have taken over by now. Instead, he fought the tremor in his trigger finger as sweat beaded on his upper lip.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Another COTT Champ!

guest post by April W Gardner

Clash of the Titles is proud to announce that author Marianne Evans with her novel, Hearts Crossing, is our newest champion!

About the book: 
Collin Edwards, a former parishioner at Woodland Church, has renounced God without apology, his faith drained away in the face of a tragic loss.

Daveny Montgomery cares deeply about her relationship with God, and the community of Woodland. Lately though, she's been in a rut, longing for something to reignite her spiritual enthusiasm.

A beautification project at Woodland seems the answer for them both. Daveny spearheads the effort and Collin assists, but only with the renovations, and only because he wants to know Daveny better. Despite his deepening feelings for her, even stepping into the common areas of the church stirs tension and anger.

Can Daveny trust in Collin’s fledgling return to faith? And can Collin ever accept the fact that while he turned his back on God, God never turned his back on him?

Marianne competed with the 
Adam and Andrea Graham, and their YA book Tales of the Dim Knight.

What readers said:
  • I'm amazed--can't wait to read more!
  • These books have very different plots and backgrounds, but both sound as though they are great books. Congratulations to the writers.
  • Both were so well done and packed with emotion. This just keeps getting harder and harder!
A glimpse at Marianne's winning excerpt:
It has been an honor to "clash" with such a worthy opponent! :-) I love Clash of the Titles.
Officer Lance Edwards banged hard on the front door of the home. A cacophony of sound increased. “Saint Clair Shores PD. Open up.” Seated in the squad car, Collin Edwards watched his brother cast a quick glance back at the squad car then up and down the street.
Lance trotted back to the vehicle, opening the door. “I'm calling for back up.” He was laser focused. “Stay where you are, and keep alert.”
“Yeah. Got it.” Collin frowned as Lance barked into the car radio and activated the roof top light bars. He left the car to return to the front door.
This time the door was yanked open. A hulking, angry man filled the entrance.
“Step outside, sir.” Lance rested a hand against the butt of his gun.

About her Clash Marianne said:

Next week, April Gardner hosts a special "Author's Choice" Clash. Anything goes with this one--authors chose their favorite excerpts from their own works to submit, and we narrowed it down to the top two for readers to vote on. Spread the word!

-April W Gardner is the Sr. Editor at Clash of the Titles 
and author of Wounded Spirits.

Monday, August 1, 2011

My School Monday: Schedules

Happy Monday! Today I'm writing about schedules. Scheduling is the most difficult part of homeschooling my family. The other two "big kids" go to two different public schools on two different schedules. They get different breaks, too. Brandon starts on the 10th. But Amy doesn't go back until the 15th. Later, Amy will have the whole month of November, and then March, off-track. And Brandon will have a longer break in December than she will. Kaitlyn can't take both kids' vacation schedules, so that means having to do school while one of her siblings is lounging around playing video games. And it usually rains on their parade because they can't come out and use the TV while I'm teaching Kait. Can you hear my weary sigh? It's no fun for mom to make one kid watch another enjoy something they can't.

If I didn't have these concerns, I think I'd try the Sabbath Week schedule. The Sabbath Week schedule basically has 6 weeks of school, then 1 week of rest, then you spread out your other weeks off however you want them. So perhaps 4 full weeks in December to really enjoy the holidays, a 2 week vacation with the family in there somewhere, and of course the usual week off at Easter, and a few weeks to use as "summer". I think the average school year is 36 weeks, so after the four annual Sabbath weeks you have 12 weeks to play with for vacationing! I love the idea of the 6 weeks at a time, but I'm not so sure how that would line up with the other kids' schedules. I may still give it a try but I expect some bumps in that road for my situation.

The micro scheduling is also on my mind this week. Our day-to-day. I want/need to fit so much in and I'm not sure how best to arrange our day. I would like to try blocking our time and doing certain subjects on certain days, but I"m not sure how much each subject needs. This is an area I'd love to hear from friends and readers about. I'm expecting we might have to do math every day. But if I could give her even one day off and fit our math into 4 days per week, I think she'd really respond to that. But here are the other subjects I want to cover (warning: it's a lot!)

Language Arts
Reading (actual time to read/discuss the books I'll assign)
Life Skills
*2 hr. classes 2x weekly through charter school. We're not signed up yet but classes usually offered are things like Art and Photography and I love to get her in on that. I include this as a time constraint on the above curriculum. Not to mention the very active toddler we contend with during school hours, too. Is it hopeless?

So what do you think? How long do you spend on each subject per day (or per week)? If you don't homeschool but still juggle several different tasks requiring time organization, I'd love a peek at your schedule too.

Have a blessed week--see ya Wednesday!