IMG_1019I had a flashback today while walking on a bike path near my home. Scooter, my Yorkie-Poo, and I love to walk this 40-minute walk almost every day. (Except on the days when I don’t love it. When I’d rather be a couch potato. On those days, he loves the walk and I only go because it’s good for me and I’m tired of his begging.) Normally, my 81-year-old mother joins me, but since she wasn’t feeling well, it was just me and Scooter today. Without someone to talk to, I began noticing flowers along the sidewalk I hadn’t seen before. Suddenly, my mind flashed back to a conversation I had with my grandmother years ago.

IMG_1014When we lived in Germany, my grandmother came for a visit and we decided we needed some exercise. I put my youngest in the stroller while my five-year-old walked beside me holding my grandmother’s hand. We walked from our townhouse through a quaint German neighborhood and then across a field to get to the canal that led to a water reserve, which was a great place for exercise. As we walked across the field, my grandmother said, “Anneliese, look at the flowers.” I looked at the pretty wild flowers she pointed out to me and admired them. She said, “You must always notice the flowers around you. God put them there for your enjoyment.”

IMG_1020Years have gone by since that day. My children have grown and married, and my grandmother has gone home to be with the Lord, but her words have stayed with me. As I’ve faced various stresses in life, I’ve tried to make a point of noticing the flowers along my path — the blessings in my life. No matter how difficult the circumstances, if you seek Him, you will find Him. Even if it’s in the flower along your path.

“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” (Luke 12:27 ESV)

IMG_1012Jesus told us to “Consider the lilies.” Become aware of nature around us for there are lessons to be learned. Jesus was addressing our anxious thoughts in this verse. If God cares for flowers and grass that are here today and gone tomorrow, how much more will He care for you. So the next time you go for a walk, notice the flowers and remember how much you are loved and cared for. Call out to Jesus and ask Him to bring you through whatever trial you’re facing. Then ask Him to help you to become aware of His presence. He will help you not to feel alone. He will encourage you.

IMG_1023As I walked alone with Scooter today, I pulled out my iPhone and began taking pictures of the things I saw. I was amazed at how many flowers I pass every day and never notice them because I’m distracted by life. I’m grateful for my grandmother who shared her wisdom with me and helped me to experience the love of Jesus today through words she spoke to me long ago. “Anneliese, look at the flowers.”

Do you remember the book This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti? Well, the book I’m recommending today reminds me of his book where spiritual warfare is clearly portrayed in a fiction. The book I’m recommending is called Hillbrooke, New Beginnings by Beverly Joy Roberts.

This is the story of Pastor Rey, who was invited to become the lead pastor of a prestigious church in Michigan. When he and his wife, Callan, saw the church and how much of a salary they would be paid, they knew it was too good of an opportunity to turn down, so they accepted. At the same time, God stirred the hearts of a spirit-filled couple to begin attending Pastor Rey’s church for the purpose of lifting him up in prayer. When tragedy strikes, God gets a hold of this pastor’s heart and life, and he is never the same again. In this book you will see how only a handful of praying believers who are filled with faith can change the direction of a church to become God-centered and make a difference in their community.

This book was SO good!! It pulled me in right from the start. The author is quite a story teller. I loved the Pentecostal theme. It is very inspiring and absolutely true according to Scripture in what it teaches. I was literally wiping tears off my cheeks at some points in the story, not from sadness, but from realizing what the power of God can accomplish in hearts surrendered to Him. There is great character development and I felt real emotion for each of the main characters. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in this series.

IMG_0896.JPG-1.jpegThe days slip away as I cook meals, straighten the house, grocery shop, care for family and pets, run errands, go to church, talk on the phone, answer texts and emails, etc. I haven’t even mentioned conferences, weddings, showers, graduations, birthday parties, and the list goes on. Distractions to keep me from writing surround me. The clock keeps ticking and another week flies by.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not complaining. I love caring for my family and I love my life. I wouldn’t want to change it for anything in the world. But I also believe I can make time for the things I really desire to do. I don’t need to give up my aspirations when it’s possible to enjoy both. It’s a matter of managing my time.

I’ll be honest with you. I’m a great procrastinator. I’ve learned to be very good at it over the course of my life. As a teenager, my mother would ask me to clean my bedroom. What she meant was, she wanted me to make my bed, dust, vacuum, and put away any clothes lying around. What I ended up doing instead was, cleaning my desk drawer out and going through old letters, reading them, and deciding which to keep and which to throw away. Then I made the bed and put away my clothes. But that made me aware of how messy my other drawers had gotten, so I would refold all my clothes and stack them nicely in each drawer. Finally, I would get to dusting and vacuuming. By the time I finished cleaning my room, my mother had cleaned the entire house, cooked and baked, and worked on laundry, too! Why, she probably even washed the windows, mowed the lawn, and cleaned the garage! Thankfully, I’ve grown up since then and can clean my whole house in a day, plus cook a meal, and even work on laundry. But the temptation to procrastinate is my constant companion. So how can a procrastinator manage time? Here are some things that are working for me:

  1. Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wiseIt’s an old saying, but loaded with wisdom. If I go to bed early enough, I wake up early, which allows me to get things done so I have more time for writing.
  2. Most days are filled with activity and I have to snatch time wherever I  can find it. If dinner has to cook for thirty minutes or an hour, that’s a good time to write. Thirty minutes here and thirty minutes there. I write when I can.
  3. Sometimes in the writing process, it’s absolutely necessary to devote a huge chunk of time if you want to make some fast progress. On those days, and I admit they are few and far between, I will stay in my lounging pants and tell my family I’m hiding in my room to write. And that’s exactly what I do. They know they can call me if there’s a fire, but they also understand I need some uninterrupted time alone. It’s so easy for those around you to invade your workspace if you are at the dining room table or sitting on your recliner. But if you hide in your bedroom and close the door, it may cause them to think before they interrupt your thought process. As I said IMG_0897.JPG-1.jpegalready, those days are few and far between, but this method works well when necessary.
  4. The final thing that has helped me with writing for hours at a time is a writer’s hideaway. For example, my husband and I rented a vintage studio apartment in a small obscure town only a couple hours from our home. We only stayed a couple of nights, but it was for the express purpose of using this as a writer’s retreat. Its vintage appearance was a great inspiration for a historical fiction writer like me. Its seclusion allowed for a feeling of isolation conducive for creative thought processing. My husband and I would take long walks to talk, explored artists’ galleries, and observed the people around us, then returned to our quaint and peaceful room. With a warm, gentle breeze blowing through the cranked-open vertical windows and the sounds of birds in the trees, I placed my fingers on the computer keyboard and allowed inspiration to carry me away — uninterrupted — in my writer’s hideaway.

If you’re reading this blog post, you are either a writer or perhaps your creativity is in a different direction. Whatever it is, don’t allow the busyness of life to keep you from your dream. You certainly must not give up the people who are counting on you and the things you are responsible for, but I’m certain there are activities you can set aside to pursue your goal. How much of your time is spent on Facebook, TV, searching the internet, talking on the phone, and so on? Be completely honest with yourself. Is there something useless or unnecessary that is robbing you of valuable time that could be spent on learning something new to help you obtain your dream? I love the quote by Reinhold Niebuhr.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” 

I had the privilege of attending a banquet recently where the guest speaker was a comedian. He was a hoot!! I mean, he was so funny people held onto their stomachs laughing so hard. His humorIMG_0629 was clean, so no one felt awkward. What made this guy so humorous was that he was truly being himself. He shared stories from his childhood and more recent experiences, too. He had learned to laugh at himself, and then gave us the opportunity to laugh with him. He was a great storyteller.

Years back, before internet, I received a letter from my sister while I lived in another country. Each sentence was truly my sister. The way she processes her thoughts were in every line I read. My heart squeezed with longing. I laughed at her humor and missed her as much as she said she missed me. The letter was special because she was being herself. Her essence was in every word written.

As a writer of a novel, blog, or letter, it’s important that I’m genuine. That doesn’t mean that I cannot develop my character and become a better person. It certainly doesn’t mean I don’t need to learn more about the craft of writing. It simply means I shouldn’t try to copy someone else’s voice or personality. Fake will show itself and turn readers away. Genuineness will delight, inspire, and pull the reader in. Of course, their will be those who do not like who you are. That’s okay. You cannot please everyone, so don’t try. But more people will be drawn to your writing if you are genuine than if you try something that doesn’t come natural to you.

Nothing is more painful than to have to listen to someone trying to be funny when they are completely out of their element. You want to laugh because you feel so badly for them, but it almost hurts to force a chuckle out. If you’re better at drama, then please delight us with a heartwarming story. We enjoy those, too.

Here’s another reason to be yourself. It’s difficult to be fake all the time. As an author, you will be meeting your readers face to face before long, and they will soon be disappointed that the person behind the book is very different from the person standing in front of them. But if you are genuine, you’ll be more of what you’ve already shown in your writing. You will be able to connect better with your audience when face to face. Those that are drawn to who you authentically are will most likely also be drawn to your writing.

 

Every writer blogs about writing, sharing all sorts of information pertaining to the entire process. Since I’m a newbie in the world of writers, I wondered what I could possibly say that hasn’t already been written at least a thousand times by authors who are more eloquent than I could ever hope to be. So I decided to share my personal experience in the process of writing my first novel.

When I started fullsizeoutput_19bbmy first draft, I only knew I wanted to tell a story. In reading blogs and books about writing, I discovered that most authors encourage writers to create an outline before starting the first draft. Did I heed that advice? No.

The other advice I had read was that the first draft should simply be written off the top of your head and don’t worry about editing any part of it. Just write it. It will be awful, but just keep writing. Get the story down on paper or on your computer screen. Did I do that? Yes. I wrote furiously
for months and months…and months. However, after over a year of writing, I dearly wished I had created an outline. It was hard to remember what I had written at the beginning of my draft. I think an outline would have kept me organized and on track. When I realized my mistake, I tried writing an outline over half-way through my first draft, but it was too little, too late. I still felt confused. I think this may have made my writing process a lot longer than it needed to be.

Once I finally completed my first draft, I began to fine tune it. This part was fun. The story began to take shape, and it looked and sounded like a real novel. The thesaurus became my second-best friend. It helped me find words to develop vivid imagery. My first-best friend was Google. It helped me with researching character names, scenery, history, locations, and any question that arose in the process of novel writing. (I’m currently learning how to use Pinterest to help with the research of my next book. Perhaps I’ll share about that in another post.)

While working on the third draft of my book, I read that most authors will read through their work at least eight times before publishing it. I was shocked! Eight times, really? After reading through my work for the fourth time, I sent it off to my editor and proofreaders. I gave it to them with excitement and trepidation. Would they like my work? Did I even have potential as a writer or was I just a dreamer? I tried to prepare myself not to be defensive and unwilling to accept constructive criticism, but I also hoped they wouldn’t find much to criticize in my work. Ha!

I have to say that the critique and revisions from my editor and proofreaders, as well as the words of encouragement, helped immensely. They were good suggestions. Their fresh eyes helped me see things in a new light. After that entire process, I re-read my work again…for the fifth time, or was it the sixth? It was hard to keep count at this point. You just do what you have to do until it feels right. I sent it to my proofreaders for a final look and received those revisions back. After, I corrected a few typographical errors, etc., I was ready to read through my book for the sixth or seventh time.

Looking ahead, I  realize that once I have my book formatted for printing and ebook publishing, I will need to read through the work again to make sure it formatted correctly. I believe that will bring me up to the eighth read-through of my novel. It seems these experienced writers — who are way ahead of me — really do know what they’re talking about.

I’m truly grateful for all the bloggers who are giving advice and sharing their personal experiences about writing, editing, publishing, and promoting. I’ve gained greater knowledge and understanding about the craft of writing from these experts, as well as from those who, like me, are starting out and simply sharing thoughts about their journey. The adventure of writing has stretched me further than I ever imagined and broadened my scope of knowledge of history, geography, vocabulary, etc. It’s been a great journey so far and I’m looking forward to starting the process all over again with my next novel, but this time I’ll start with an outline before beginning my first draft.

Whenever I read for entertainment, I want something that will make me chuckle but also have some depth to it. Basically, I want something similar to my life, but a guaranteed happy ending. Entertainment shouldn’t make me cry tears of sadness for too long, and especially not at the end. That’s just my opinion, of course. If I should ever have a need to cry, there are plenty of true stories I can read. But if I’m going to read a fiction, then let it have a happy ending. And if the writer can cause me to laugh and shed a gentle tear in the process of reading the pages of their novel, all the better. Emotions are part of life, but a happy ending is what fictions are made for. I want to feel good when I get to the end of the book.

Having said all that, I wonder if you’ve ever read a regency novel by Kristi Ann Hunter? I was doing a search for Christian historical fiction authors and came across this writer. After reading her description about herself on her website, I decided to read one of her books. She had humor and even sarcasm in her bio, and I wanted to see if her books are as entertaining as she is. The book pictured above is the one I purchased and I was not disappointed.  Funny thing is, when I looked through my Kindle library, I saw that I already owned another one of her books. I liked that one too. However, let me tell you about this one since it’s only $1.99 on Kindle currently. If you click on the book above, it will take you to Amazon so you can purchase your copy while it’s on sale. This is what it’s about:

Trent and Adelaide are forced to marry after finding themselves in a compromising situation. Trent’s dream was to have a love match like his parents. Unfortunately, as a gentleman, those dreams had to die in order to save Adelaide’s reputation. But being willing to marry her is not the same as truly accepting her as his wife.

Adelaide has virtually no experience of life in London society. She’d been left in the country while her mother focused all her attention and resources on bringing out her beautiful, older daughter. Even after the older daughter marries, Adelaide continues to be left in the country. So when Trent takes Adelaide to London following their wedding, she has much to learn about what is expected of her and how to be a wife.

I enjoyed both main characters. The book was often hard to put down because I was curious to see how this marriage would succeed. Adelaide is a sweet and patient young lady. I found it fascinating to see this couple work at getting to know each other while letting go of old dreams. By trusting God, we always find He uses unpleasant situations in our lives to work out His purposes for us.

 

From time to time, I will review and recommend a book to you. Most of these books will be romances, but the one I’m highlighting today is not a romance. It’s the true story of a young man searching for truth. In the beginning, he wasn’t searching, but rather trying to prove to Christians that Islam is the only religion that accurately explains the truth about who God is. Unfortunately, most Christians he encountered didn’t know their Bible as well as this young man knew his holy book. In college, he meets a young Christian man who challenges his thinking beyond anything he could have imagined. Now he must decide for himself who he is going to believe. Is Jesus really the Son of God?

I highly recommend this book. It will pull you in and answer questions you never thought to ask. It will enlighten your mind and grow your faith. Click on the book below for your copy of this amazing story. It is currently only $2.99 at Amazon.

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” ― William G.T. Shedd

Ship sailing.png

I was never one of the “cool” kids in elementary school. It wasn’t that I lacked friends, but I didn’t quite fit in either. After all, I wasn’t born in this country. My name sounded foreign at a time when every girl seemed to be named Debbie, Terry, or Joan. No one had the name Anneliese. I also grew faster than most students and stood at 5’6″ (my current height) by the age of twelve. Add to that the fact that my church considered slacks for women a sin since it was men’s clothing, so I wore dresses or skirts until the fourth grade when my church became more lenient on that issue. The first time I wore long pants to school, I thought my friends’ eyes were going to pop out. I wanted to crawl under a rock and be as inconspicuous as possible. It felt safest to be unnoticed by the crowd.

I’m glad I outgrew my fears — for the most part. Forcing myself out of my comfort zone to experience life, I stood on a platform and played my recorder solo at school. I stood on several platforms over the years for various reasons. With my young family, I moved to Germany for four years and integrated quite nicely. I faced each fear and overcame it. Interestingly enough, the things that caused the most fear, gave me the greatest sense of accomplishment afterwards.

I love the above quote by William G.T. Shedd. We were not created to simply exist. God gave each of us gifts, talents, interests, and passions to be used. It’s our responsibility to look for ways to develop them in order to better the lives of others.

I’ve written a historical romance that will soon be published. You may be asking, how can anyone benefit from a romance? If you don’t know the answer, you obviously are not a Christian romance reader. And that’s okay. We’re all different. Our interests vary. If reading Christian historical romances is not for you, you won’t like my book. And that doesn’t hurt my feelings. There are books I don’t like reading either. But to answer the question, when you pick up a romance, or any fiction, and begin to get lost in its pages, you enter another person’s world. You feel their pain and their triumphs, and you learn lessons along the way. I read a story once where the main character always saw the positive side to everything. She consistently believed for the best in people. I want to be like her. Books inspire me to become a better person. By writing a novel, I’ve once again stepped out of my comfort zone to embrace life, and I hope to encourage someone in some way.

Dear reader, what are you afraid of trying? Is there a gift you haven’t allowed yourself to develop because of your fears? Or perhaps you have faced your fears and are already reaping the benefits. I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment.

George Eliot said, “It’s never too late to start what you might have been.” I’ve taken this advice and have started a new phase of my life — writing. Not just any writing. I’ve done that. I’ve written hundreds of letters, kept journals, written articles for newsletters, and so on. But what I haven’t done is written the one thing that really interests me. A romance that helps to inspire, give hope, and hopefully even cause the reader to chuckle a bit. I’ve decided it’s time to finally begin.

I could make excuses. I’m certainly not young anymore, so why start now? I don’t understand all the modern technologies and apps. What if my friends laugh at me? How will I feel when I’m criticized? There are numerous excuses I could make, but what I can’t get away from is this. How will I feel at the end of my life if I haven’t pursued this dream?

If I live to be my parents’ age, I may still have 30 or more years of life ahead of me. What will I do with those years? Perhaps it’s time to start checking off items on my bucket list. One of the top items on that list is writing a Christian historical romance. And guess what? I did it! It’s not quite ready to be published yet, but soon — very soon. And I find my fingers are itching to begin the next book in the series.

I have only one regret about the entire book-writing process. I wish I had started sooner. But what I will never have to regret is to not have started at all.

Is there something you have dreamed of doing? Have you given up on it? Are you listening to the excuses in your head that tell you it’s too late? Hopefully this post will inspire you to allow courage to rise up in your heart. Begin dreaming again. But this time, make that dream come true.

“‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'” Jeremiah 29:11 NASB