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Meet Guest Blogger Diane Stortz

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

 Please welcome my very special guest blogger and friend, Diane Stortz. If you've been wanting to read through the Bible and have never tried to do it in a year this is a wonderful opportunity. Diane has written a book I can't wait to get my hands on and I know my Bible study group will feel the same way. It's called, A Woman's Guide to Reading the Bible in a Year.   You can order it through Bethany House.

Diane has graciously offered to give away two copies of her book and autograph them as well. The book will be sent out to the winners sometime in early November.  Please leave a comment other than you would like to win the book, let us know what state you are living in, and an e-mail addy so we can reach you if you win a copy. The cut off date and time to comment will be next Sunday, September 2nd at 6:00 pm est.Void where prohibited. I will announce the winners next Monday, Labor Day.

 Why did you want to write this book, and who’s it for?

In 2000 I joined a group of women to read through the Bible in a year with the single focus of getting to know God better. I’d been a Christian a long time, but I’d never read a lot of the Bible, especially the Old Testament.
        We read about three chapters a day and met once a week to talk about what we’d read. We shared what stood out for us and asked lots of questions. I grew and changed significantly as a result, and so did many others who participated. That group stayed together for ten years and spun off two other groups.
        I find churches often tend to present the Bible as a book to study and apply. But first of all it is God speaking to us about who he is and what he does. Yes, there’s mystery, and some things are hard to understand. But the Word is meant to be heard, to be read. The words are food for us, and most of us are starving. I wanted to provide an example and encouragement to pick it up and read it.
        Any woman from any background who wants to read through the Bible can use this book—young or old, new or mature believer or simply curious, whether you’ve read a lot of the Bible before or you tried once and gave up halfway through Leviticus. You can use it on your own, with a friend, or—probably the best way—with a group.

How is it different from other guides to reading the Bible?

The focus is simply on reading to get to know God. The background information provided each week is short, so you can spend your time actually reading the Bible, not reading about it. And the reading plan alternates Old Testament and New Testament books most of the year, with Psalms divided into four parts. This prevents feeling stuck in the Old Testament for nine months, and you start to see amazing connections right from the start. The weeks aren’t dated, so you can begin anytime.

So what’s inside?

For each week of the year, there’s a list of that week’s readings plus two or three short paragraphs of background. Checkpoints is a list of five interesting objects, events, or people to watch for as you read throughout the week. In the Share the Journey section are prompts and writing space for recording your responses to what you read—what stands out, something you’ve learned about who God is, a passage or verse you’d like to remember, or questions you’d like to pursue.
        I also included ideas for groups, a time line and a few other helpful charts, a short history of the Bible we read today, and stories of women whose lives changed because they took this life-changing journey into the heart of God.

What tips do you have for using the book with a group?

Meeting with others every week to talk over what you’ve read provides great encouragement and accountability to keep reading throughout the year! In addition, we learn from one another when we hear what God is teaching other women in the group. I love how the cover Bethany House created for the book captures the idea of reading in community with other women.
        The book has lots of ideas to help groups succeed. The most important one is to create an environment where questions and struggles are welcome. Make it always OK to say “What do you think?” or “I don’t know.” This is especially important if group members come from a variety of backgrounds.

What’s your biggest hope for this book?

I hope many women will discover that they enjoy and love God’s Word and will see how their understanding develops as they continue to read it—in a year and for many years to come. God is good, and there’s a purpose for everything included in his Word. You’ll be amazed at how much more you understand if you simply keep reading to get to know God. His Word will accomplish his goals. He is more than able!

Is time with God's Word important to you? What has helped or hindered your Bible reading?

Diane has also written The Sweetest Story Bible:Sweet Thoughts and Sweet Words for Little Girls 
and also blogs at Christian Children's Authors

You can follow Diane at these additional links:

Have a Power Pop

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Everyone has a bad day once in awhile, but don't let it steal your joy.  Find something beautiful and colorful to lift your spirit, like the umbrella's in this picture. They just make me smile. I've found it important lately to distract myself with what is lovely and not to listen to the nightly news so often; something I do a lot. It's not that I don't want to stay informed, I probably want to stay informed too much, but why? It's not like I'm really going to miss anything. Someone is sure to tell me about it sooner or later.

M. Scott Peck's first line of his novel, The Road Less Traveled states, "Life is difficult." Looking back over my last 57 years I'd have to agree with that. But then again, any of us who live very long get smacked in the face by life again and again. So it isn't so much the bad day that gets us once in awhile but a multitude of bad days compounded by a multitude of bad news from around your neighborhood, your state, your country and the world.Maybe it's the loss of a loved one, a diagnosis of cancer, or a child's mental illness. My family has been through difficult times, see Streams in the Desert if interested.Your family's probably been through rough times too.  Maybe it's murder or suicide or drunk driving accidents or the loss of a job. Maybe it's forest fires, shootings, robberies, or the battle for the White House. Stop the world, I want to get off we say at times. But really we can't and really we shouldn't try because we can make a difference.

If you're a writer, life is difficult in that arena as well. We are either trying to get published, stay published, or debating whether to go the traditional route to publication or the indie route. You probably heard the latest regarding the Interview with Sue Grafton. I heard about it from The Kill Zone Blog on Sunday. James Scott Bell's post covered it and you can read more here. But here again we can make a difference, each of us in our own way can choose to keep our joy and do something positive.

My latest idea at the college where I work is to make what I call POWER POPS.  A power pop is a Tootsie Roll Pop with a scripture or quote wrapped around the stick to help someone else have a better day. It might not change the world but it can make a difference to that someone who receives. So here's my personal Power Pop for you to help you hang on to your joy.

Pick your favorite flavor. I'll take a red one. Yum. Here's the quote for my day.
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
                                        ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Here's my scripture for the day.

                                             For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. ~ 2nd Timothy 1:7

What quote or scripture will you wrap around the stick? My hope is that by the time you've polished off that pop you'll have a better state of mind to help you get through the day.

So go ahead. Pick a pop. 

Ten Things I've Learned Writing a Series

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Do the thing and you'll have the power." I've found that to be sound advice while writing the three books for my first published series. I feel like an Olympian with a gold medal. I've finished Book Three of The Ravensmoore Chronicles, Mystery of the Heart,  which releases January 2013. It's been an exhilarating, frustrating, hair-pulling, joyful experience.

1)  Don't count on having only one editor.
           I had a different editor for each novel.You're publishing house may work differently. This is a good question to ask before you sign on the dotted line. However, I learned a lot from all three of my editors.

2)  Beware if you write by the seat of your pants.
           That's me! I almost didn't make it through Chameleon, Book Two. I wrote this novel in scenes and I loved doing it that way but the time pressures got to me. It was through a lot of patience, blood, sweat, and tears and an incredible editor that I made it to, The End, with a smile on my face.  

3)  Beware if you plot yourself into a corner
           I spent a lot of time semi-plotting Book Three, Mystery of the Heart. I plotted myself into a difficult situation but found my way through it. It was time consuming, but I figured it out on my own.

4)  Be prepared to kill your darlings.
         It's true. I'm talking chapters. My editor for Book One cut about 25,000 words and eliminated my wedding scene at the end of the book. That hurt, but I accepted it. I think I'll eventually put that scene on my website for the curious.

5)  Keep track of everything
         You'd think this would be easy, a no-brainer. I lost track of names, eye color, ages, etc. Find a way that works for you. I'm now going to explore Scrivener and I did utilize Randy Ingermanson's Snow Flake method to some extent but found I couldn't quite be that detailed. I'm still exploring the best way for me to stay organized.

6)  Teaser chapters
          Write the first chapter of your next book in the series ahead of time. I didn't know I was going to have to do this and had to work hard to make it happen when I turned in Book One. I was prepared better when I had to have the teaser chapter ready at the end of Book Two.

7)  Reader Discussion Questions
          I hadn't even thought about this issue until recently. Book clubs might want these in your novels. I'll probably put discussion questions at the end of Book Three and I'll probably go back and put questions on my website for the first two novels.

8)  Know your limits.
          I've learned about the difficulties of writing while working full-time and coping with the unexpected. You will always need more time unless you're really experienced and know your abilities in this business. It's a learning curve as my agent Rachelle Gardner says and she is so right.

9)  Balancing writing, marketing, and social media, with your deadline.
          I think this is incredibly hard. You must help market your books and I enjoy doing this, but when you're trying to write your next novel, and do all that is going to help your novel be noticed in an oh so saturated market is, as we regency writers might say, beyond the pale. Just too much.

10) Be professional.
           No matter what happens be wise (I pray for the wisdom of Solomon). Keep your sense of humor and share your knowledge with others.  

There is so much more, little nuances that come into play. But if this is what you want with all your heart and soul you will find a way to do it. Do your best and trust God for the rest.

Are you considering a series? Got questions? Feel free to ask. I may not have the answer but someone else might. If you've written a series please share what you've learned along the way. 

I love this quote. So perfect for our struggles. "Flaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success." Dale Carnegie

Reader Discussion Questions

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I was recently asked to send some questions to a book club regarding my first novel. I was thrilled that the hostess had chosen my book, Secrets of the Heart, to discuss. So I'm currently pulling together a list of questions. It's fun. I have to admit that it would have been easier if I'd done this right away when my book was being published. Now I have to go back to book one while I'm editing book three and try to think of questions that might stimulate conversation at a book club gathering.

Since I am in the midst of editing I'm thinking I should just go ahead and and think of questions that readers may want to discuss at the end of book three. I also think I'll develop a section of my blog for this for those readers that are interested.

As an author I ask myself a lot of questions when I start writing a book and I decide to write a book based on how much it interests me hoping that it will interest others. Some of these very same questions may in fact be those reader questions. Perhaps this practice could help us deepen our novels. What do you think?

Do you like reading novels where the author provides reader questions? Do you do this yourself for your own books whether or not you are published? Is this something you've seen more often in contemporary novels than historical novels? More often in non-fiction than fiction?