New Year’s resolutions…or not

But I can’t find my list of resolutions.

Anywhere.

So I either 1) put it somewhere I wouldn’t forget, and I’ll find it in another six months or so, or 2) the dog ate it, along with several grocery lists and the instructions for assembling my husband’s new bike, or 3) I never made a list in the first place.

I have a suspicion it’s door #3: I never made resolutions for 2017.

And here’s why:

  1. Years ago, I realized I didn’t have to wait for a new year to begin new habits or improve on old ones. Making resolutions is really procrastination, waiting for the right moment to begin a new project or make a change. Every writer I know has learned the truth – there is no ‘right’ moment to start writing. A new year is not going to magically make it happen. You just have to sit down and write. Now.
  2. Resolutions sugarcoat tough realities. Of course, a writer resolves to write a book every year. Some years, that actually happens. Yippee! Other years, that ambitious resolution gets buried by the nuts-and-bolts of marketing the last book you wrote, preventing you from even picking a topic or plot for the new book you wanted to write this year. Or you have a family crisis that demands all your attention and energy. Experienced writers know that life happens…and when it does, writing resolutions go out the window…until those same writers are ready to process what they’ve experienced and incorporate it into their next book, which may not be the next book they thought they’d be writing.
  3. Resolutions are limiting. Again, life is full of surprises, and when a writer feels tugged in a new direction, an old resolution can be inhibiting. Why keep hammering away on that novel you’ve worked over for years, when an unexpected opportunity to write (or co-write) a self-improvement book presents itself and you find yourself drawn to it? Good writers know they need to welcome growth opportunities, sometimes even before they finish old projects.

So you won’t find me writing resolutions for 2018 in the next week. Instead, I’m going to rejoice in all the satisfying things my writing life brought me in 2017: learning how to build my own website, hearing from a growing number of readers how much they enjoy my books, an unexpected nomination for a Christy Award from my publisher, invitations to speak to groups, returning to writing a blog, sharing my faith with published devotionals, and mentoring new writers.

Wait a minute. I am going to write one resolution after all. And here it is: Thank God every day for the gift of writing.

I know I can remember that. And I’ll never have to worry about the dog eating it, either…

Happy New Year, writers!

How about you? Do you make resolutions?

(This post appeared earlier today at https://wordservewatercooler.com/2017/12/26/new-years-resolutions-or-not/)

Book giveaway of Archangels 1 & 2!

It’s the season for giving, and I’m partnering with Goodreads.com to give away a set of my Archangels thrillers! Enter by Dec. 13 to have a chance to win a copy of both Heaven’s Gate AND Heart and Soul just in time for Christmas reading.

“You’ll stand up and cheer!” wrote one early reviewer of the books, which bring together cutting-edge science with Christian faith. “It’s a page-turner filled with thought-provoking ideas regarding the power of prayer and faith,” said another. With Amazon ratings of 4.5/5 stars, you know you’re in for a great read, and isn’t that what we all want when we pick up a book?

 

Lifting up faith and hope

Actually, one of the main reasons I began writing the Archangels series is because I was so tired of reading books that exploited evil. I thought I would scream in frustration if I read one more book about a serial killer, or a book that left me with a bad taste in my mouth regarding the awful things people do to each other. At that point, I resolved that I needed to write a series that lifted up faith, goodness, and hope DESPITE the evil in the world.

Archangels are the result, and judging from reader reviews, they hit the mark.

So I hope you’ll enter the giveaway. Or buy the books to read, or gift to someone else. In this holy season of Advent, as we await the return of our Lord and Redeemer, may we all fill our hearts with those most glorious gifts of faith, hope and charity!

For your chance to win, enter here.

 

 

 

 

Behind every writer

And so, since I am committed to transparency in my career, I confess that I, too, rely on a staff to help me produce books. Let me introduce you to Team Jan:

Eddy is my editor. His sharp eyes don’t miss much. In fact, he may be the most demanding editor I’ve ever had. After I’ve slogged and wrestled with a heartfelt devotional or a chapter of plot twists, he often wipes out what I have done with one (paw)stroke on the keyboard, requiring me to attack the material again. And without fail, I have to admit, the second version is always better. He teaches me that patience, diligence, and revision make a better writer out of a good one. I just wish he’d stop shedding so much on the keyboard.

Michael is my personal trainer. He knows that too much sitting stagnates the body and mind, so he insists on frequent breaks from writing to both tone my muscles and clear my thoughts. There’s nothing like a competitive game of tug-of-war with a 75-pound dog to take your mind off character development, and Michael makes sure I sweat through several rounds every day. Afterwards, I’m more than ready to bring a focused mind to my writing project. Or else I take a nap.

Gracie is my spiritual director. We start every day with a walking meditation and prayer that helps set my priorities for the day. Many of my best pieces of writing result from the inspiration I find while in her company; her ability to live intensely in the moment motivates me to pay attention to details in the world around me. Sometimes, she points me to hidden pathways, inviting me to stretch my horizons of experience, which then influence my writing. I try to be open to those new directions, although the one that unexpectedly dumped me into a muddy gully was not one of her better ideas.

And finally, there’s Otis, the perfect project manager. When I’m stressing about a deadline, he calms me down by modeling relaxed behavior, reminding me that too often, I’m the one putting pressure on myself to perform. His easy-going nature encourages me to take my career with a proverbial grain of salt – or in his case, with a couple of Purina Kitty Treats – because in the big scheme of things, writing is just one facet of my life. Like every good project manager, Otis knows the value of balance…and the value of a good belly rub every now and then.

Who’s on your team?

 

 

 

This post is also appearing today at https://wordservewatercooler.com/2017/09/07/behind-every-writer/. The WordServe Water Cooler is a blog “encouraging, engaging, and enriching others throughout their writing journey,” and its contributors come from the WordServe Literary Agency, of which I am most gratefully a part.

 

 

 

 

 

Regrets of an author

A decade ago – before my first novel was published – I read about the promotional events of established authors with more than a touch of envy. For a while, it seemed like every best-selling novelist was going on a Caribbean cruise with their most devoted readers, with the author’s expenses paid by the cruise lines. Other famous writers were paid to host ski weekends at glamorous resorts, or welcomed their fans to a luxurious spa vacation. I even heard about a relatively unknown novelist who got paid by a tour company to spend a week touring Ireland with her readers.

Erin Go Bragh.

One of these days, I used to assure myself, I will be published, and the requests to accompany readers to exotic destinations will come pouring in. Hawaii would be nice. Or Tahiti. I’d even consider a cruise down the Nile or a trip to Australia’s Outback.

 

When dreams come true…

And then in 2008, North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc. published my first Birder Murder Mystery, The Boreal Owl Murder.  Lo and behold, within six months, I did indeed receive my first invitation to go on a cruise as a guest author.

To the Arctic.

In January.

Very funny, I thought. One of my friends had clearly set up the invitation as a joke. After all, I lived in Minnesota at that point – any time I wanted to experience bone-biting cold in January, all I had to do was walk to my mailbox at the end of our driveway.

Two weeks later, I had an email from my publisher. They’d received an inquiry from a Norwegian tour company asking to verify my email address because they hadn’t heard back from me about their Arctic trip invitation.

It wasn’t a joke. I was invited to go on an adventure cruise to the Arctic in January. Sub-zero temperatures, rubber rafts, and stormy seas. Probably icebergs and polar bears, too. Maybe even killer whales.

Fortunately – I mean, unfortunately – I couldn’t make the trip because I had a previous commitment…to survival. I passed on the Arctic cruise.

 

Maybe I should have given it a bit more consideration

Now it’s years later, and I’m more experienced as an author. Book events and speaking gigs are a way of life when I’m promoting a new book. No one has yet offered to give me a free vacation in return for my hosting readers at a secluded tropical location, but I can still hope. In retrospect, I realize I probably should have gone on that Arctic cruise to connect with new readers. I can handle a little cold.

Of course, it’s also August, and I now live in Texas, where I’m sweltering in 100-degree heat. Icebergs don’t sound all that bad.

Maybe the email address for the Norwegian tour company is still somewhere in my files…

 

 

 

Welcome to my new website!

Nine years ago, my first Bob White Birder Murder Mystery was published, launching me as an author – a dream I’d had since I was five years old and first stepped into a public library. I was astounded at the sheer volume of books on racks and decided right then I wanted my name on a book’s spine in a library. It took me another 48 years to get there…

Since then, I’ve written six more Birder Murders, an international best-selling memoir, Saved by Gracie, about how our dog helped me overcome anxiety, and the first two books in my supernatural Christian thriller series, titled Archangels. Along the way, I’ve blogged on my own website, guest-blogged for many others, and contributed devotionals to FaithHappenings.com for their subscribers.

In the last two years, I’ve also experienced a major life change: my husband retired from his career in high tech in Minnesota, and we moved to the Hill Country in Texas. Life is different here in many ways, and I find it is changing me, as well, so I decided it was time to revamp my website to better reflect who I am now as an author. It’s pretty simple, really, because what I want to do with my life is:

Laugh.

Live in awe.

Practice gratitude.

Love God.

In the months ahead, I hope to blog on a regular basis about those four topics. Sometimes I’ll tell funny stories, and sometimes I’ll offer more serious reflection. As always, I hope to entertain you, my reader, and share with you the wonder and mystery of life. To that end, I’m even going to throw in photos for laughs, for inspiration, for sheer beauty. If you like what you read and see, please subscribe to the blog by clicking on the RSS feed on the right side of the page. If you really like it, please share and invite others to visit this website. Thanks!