Posts Tagged ‘Brenda Anderson’
Posted on March 20, 2013 - by Brenda Anderson
I admit I haven’t had difficulty with writer’s block so far, that’ll likely come once I have looming deadlines. But for those days when the creative juices aren’t flowing quite as good as they should, I put my WIP away, choose ten random words, then create a story using those words. The story is often nonsensical, usually hilarious, and almost always reinvigorates the right side of my brain.
So, for the fun of it, I’m going to pluck ten random words from a book that’s sitting on my desk and write a quick story. I don’t think about it, stress about it, worry about plotting. I just have fun writing.
If you’re feeling brave, take these words, create your own story, and share it in the comments below.
One day, while eating rice mixed with peaches, I discovered a broken tooth. A human tooth. Shocked, I gasped in a deep breath and covered my mouth. Was it one of mine? My tongue made a random inventory and discovered all was fine, so I exhaled in relief.
But where had it come from? And how did it get in my rice?
I saw my cat’s tail sticking out from beneath the table. Could it be hers? Right. <face palm> Like a cat’s tooth resembled a human’s.
So, whose could it be? Did it come in the box of rice? Ewww. Just the thought made me shudder. I grabbed the box of rice, poured the remaining eight cups of rice onto a cookie sheet, and sifted through it creating diagonal rows. Nothing. Good thing, too. I didn’t want to put the rice company out of business.
If I didn’t discover the answer pretty soon, I’d need an intervention!
“Mommy! Mommy!” My youngest came running into the kitchen holding up a tube of toothpaste. “I wost a toof when I eated peaches.” He opened his mouth up wide. Sure enough, there was a big gap in the front of his mouth.
I held up the found tooth and smiled. The mystery was solved.
Now, it’s your turn! See how creative you can get.
Posted on March 6, 2013 - by Brenda Anderson
In January of 1997 my husband and I were living in Moorhead, Minnesota (the city right across the Red River from Fargo, North Dakota). We had three small children (4, 2, and almost 1), and were three and a half hours away from the Twin Cities area where our families lived. It’s not a bad drive, but it’s not fun with three small children. In addition, all the friends I had made in the seven years of living in the FM area had moved away.
Then my husband received news we’d been hoping and praying for: he was offered a new and better position in Brooklyn Park, MN, a northern suburb of Minneapolis. Obviously, we were thrilled.
The job location was perfect, only minutes from Marv’s parents’ home. He could stay there until our house sold. Keeping our home toy clutter-free wouldn’t be so bad as long as the house sold quickly.
And that became my daily prayer, that our house would sell.
There were a few problems with that. First of all, that winter was a doozy. We had eight freeway-closing, school-closing (a rarity) blizzards that dropped a total of 117 inches of snow. Who’s looking to buy a home in that? Four of those blizzards occurred after my husband moved to the Twin Cities. Still, he made it home every weekend.
Then, along with that record snowfall, came the threat of flooding. A 100-year flood was forecast. Again, people weren’t exactly in the moving mood. That threat became reality as water not only spilled over the banks of the Red River that April, but also crept inland across the flat farmlands. Homes miles away from the river were swamped. (See photos <here>)
We lived a mere block and a half away from the river. A new daily prayer was added, that our home would survive.
I remember listening to the radio nightly as the announcers would plead for more sandbaggers to dam a broken levy or to build taller levies where water climbed higher than expected. At one point the announcers warned the entire area that if we heard sirens, we were to evacuate immediately.
All this was happening with my husband 220 miles away. I called him that night of the warning and begged him to come home. That drive took him down I-94 where, for miles, ditch water was licking at the freeway.
The waters eventually receded, and our home was spared, but now it was May, and our home had been on the market for three months. A definite negative for home buyers. But I continued to pray that our house would sell, that God would bring our family back together.
Well, summer came then said goodbye, then fall swept in, and then another winter. We were beginning to believe our prayers would never be answered.
The stress of keeping a house immaculate with three toddlers was overwhelming, especially without local friend support, so that December of 1997 we took the house off the market. I wanted to enjoy Christmas. I wanted the kids to be able to play and make a mess. I wanted them to be able to be kids.
Shortly after Christmas, we listed the house again and our prayers were more fervent than ever. Finally, weeks later, we received one contingency offer, then another non-contingency.
14 months of keeping toys picked up–14 months apart from my husband, of him driving back and forth amid rain, snow, ice–14 months of being alone with three small children. After 14 months of praying, we finally put out that Sold sign.
Why we had to wait that long, I doubt I’ll ever know, but I did learn from the experience.
* Knowing *why* you have to wait isn’t a given. Sure, God has His reasons, but we’re not owed an answer. But, God does know what’s best for you, and He’ll walk you through this season.
* Don’t give up. Over 3000 years ago, the Israelites fled from Egypt, aimed for the promised land–their new home. A trip that should have taken days turned into 40 years of wandering–and then, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, only the children and grandchildren reached the new home. The point is, they never stopped. They didn’t give up. The 23rd Psalm says, “Yeah, though I walk through the valley …” They were in the valley, but kept on moving and eventually came through it. When you are ensconced in that season of waiting, keep moving. During our wait, we were discouraged, but that didn’t stop us from living life, and life certainly didn’t stop around us.
* Expect a roller coaster ride. The Israelites desert wandering offered moments of hope and times of despair. While you’re waiting, expect it to be a roller coaster ride. Expect to see those glimmers of hope that are snatched away by defeat. Expect daylight and tunnels of darkness before eventually arriving at your destination.
* The answer may look far different than you anticipated. Those same Israelites awaited the Messiah for centuries, but when He did come, they didn’t recognize him. Jesus wasn’t the majestic, warrior king they expected, and they rejected Him. Your waiting season will end, but keep listening, and be prepared for the unexpected answer. While we eventually received the hoped-for answer, that wasn’t a guarantee.
I’m in another waiting season right now, waiting for an answer from an agent, but I refuse to sit still. I had high hopes at one point, but then they were snatched away. So I wait. And I keep writing and editing. I plan to enter contests and query more agents. When this wait is finally over, I pray I will recognize God’s answer.
Are you in a waiting season? Have you previously experienced a tough waiting period? I’d love to hear about it.
Posted on February 20, 2013 - by Brenda Anderson
I tend to be an eclectic reader. I’ll read contemporaries, romance, historical, thriller, fantasy, etc. I’m willing to give anything a try, as a well-written novel will transcend genre. So, when I was considering my theme for this Heroes topic , I perused my bookshelves to see which authors I read regularly.
Here are a few names that stuck out: Charles Martin, Vince Flynn, J. Mark Bertrand, William Kent Krueger, Tim Downs, Steven James, Travis Thrasher, Michael Connelly … Well, I think you get the idea. For some reason, I gravitate toward the male voice.
Part of that could be because I grew up with four bruiser-type brothers and much preferred tackle football to cooking (or most any other typical female pursuit). I’m certain those years laid the foundation for my current reading interests.
While I do have several favorite female authors sprinkled among the guys, it’s books by the authors listed above I won’t miss, perhaps because they obviously know how to write a male protagonist. No gushy stuff from them. Oftentimes the heroes are pure testosterone (Check out Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp). Other times, heroes display a quiet, reflective, raw strength (Charles Martins’ protagonists).
Male authors don’t seem to have a problem in writing flawed characters. Check out William Kent Krueger’s Corcorn O’Connor, Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, or J. Mark Bertrand’s Roland March (all cops, interestingly enough). Bosch and March are especially flawed, almost to the point of being unlikable, yet they have some charisma or personality trait that makes you root for them. And then there’s Tim Downs’ bug man Nick Polchak who has an affinity for all things bugs. <shiver> But Nick Polchak is one of the most unique and endearing heroes in today’s fiction.
These authors aren’t afraid of romance either. You won’t find much in their books that’s touchy-feely. You won’t see a lot of batting eyelashes or flushing cheeks, or experience pitter-pattering hearts, and that’s just fine with me. Their romances seem more straight-forward–they get to the point rather than playing the flower-petal game of “She loves me. She loves me not…” Steven James Patrick Bowers is always struggling in the romance department. I’m hoping by the end of the Bowers’ series, he’ll have it figured out.
Perhaps my love for writing from a male perspective stems from my enjoyment of the male author’s voice. Perhaps that’s why my men are typically more fully developed than the female characters. And, according to my male beta-readers, my guys happen to be right-on (okay, so I had one dude saying burgundy three times in a scene–that’s gone now, all right?)
Yeah, sometimes their heroes are a mixture of Adonis, Hercules, and Einstein, and I’ll roll my eyes at that, but I’ll forgive them that little flaw. Wouldn’t you?
Are there any male authors you regularly enjoy reading?
Posted on February 6, 2013 - by Brenda Anderson
Scenes are one of the basic building blocks of a novel. Each scene is a micro-story with a beginning, middle, and end that has its own goals, story arc, and purpose. It should advance the story and change the characters, propelling the reader toward the novel’s resolution and conclusion.
One way to clean up your novel is by taking it apart scene by scene. Analyze them by asking yourself the following questions. In the end you should have a deeper, more purposeful scene. Or perhaps you’ll decide it can be deleted–that can be painful, but eliminating unnecessary scenes does create a tighter story.
- Is this scene necessary for the story? Before you dive into perfecting the scene, perhaps this is the most important question to ask. Does the novel as a whole survive without that scene? If the action doesn’t move the story forward to its resolution, if the reader doesn’t learn something new and pertinent, consider eliminating the scene. I know, ouch. As writers, most of us have written that scene we absolutely love. The narrative flows, the dialogue is witty, and the descriptions draw us right into the setting, but … It’s not necessary. Some of my favorite scenes have ended up in the *deleted* file.
- Have I grounded the setting? Does the reader know where and when this scene is taking place? The setting needs to be grounded in the first paragraph or your reader will be adrift.
- Have I made use of SHIFTS, aka the six senses? (yes, six–I talked about them <here>). While it’s not necessary to employ all the senses in every scene, the more you use, the deeper you involve the reader. A good rule of thumb is to appeal to at least three senses per scene. A writer typically uses hearing and seeing; see how many additional sensory images you can add. Often it just takes a single word to deepen the story.
- Have I stayed in one person’s POV? Sorry, no head-hopping allowed!
- Is the POV character the one most impacted by the scene? If not, consider changing the POV. Then the reader will intimately feel the tension.
- Does the POV character have an established goal? What does your character want to accomplish or prevent happening? Do they have a strategy to achieve that goal? By establishing a specific goal, you’ve created a question in the reader’s mind of “Will So-and-so achieve their goal?” and they’ll keep reading to find the answer.
- Does this scene have conflict? Is there something standing in the way of your POV character from reaching their scene goal? If not, add a few stumbling blocks.
- Do my characters experience tension? Is there any inner turmoil going on, pulling your character in two or more directions?
- Is there a climax? A high point where emotions are escalated?
- Are my characters changed by what’s occurred in the scene?
- Does the resolution hook the reader and make them want to turn the page? If you’ve ended with a *happily-ever-after* resolution, it’s easy for the reader to put the book down. Make certain you’ve planted some question in your reader’s mind that will force them to read on.
Admittedly, I’m guilty of not asking all these questions when I edit or critique, but I plan to keep these questions beside the computer from now on.
Posted on January 23, 2013 - by Brenda Anderson
When I got up this morning, our outdoor thermostat read (-15) degrees. I’ll admit, even for us hardy Minnesotan’s that’s a tad nippy and we tend to hibernate. But hibernation is just fine as long as I can have a fire burning in the fireplace, homemade buttered popcorn, and a good movie. There’s nothing better to warm the bones than an evening of laughter.
Admittedly, I’m not terribly crazy about modern comedies, but that’s okay–there are plenty of older movies. The titles I’ve listed below are ones I’ll never tire of watching.
THE COURT JESTER (1955) - A hapless carnival performer masquerades as the court jester as part of a plot against an evil ruler who has overthrown the rightful king.
There’s no one who portrays bumbling nervousness with such aplomb as Danny Kaye. And no one can twist around the English language with the precision of Danny Kaye as you can see in the below snippet showcasing the hilarious “Pellet with the poison” scene:
This movie also stars a very young–and even sexy (yes, sexy)–Angela Lansbury.
AUNTIE MAME (1958) - An orphan goes to live with his free-spirited aunt. Conflict ensues when the executor of his father’s estate objects to the aunt’s lifestyle.
This movie starring Rosalind Russell is the perfect Girl’s-day-out movie. You can’t help but love and laugh with the unflappable, untamable, flamboyant, Bohemian Mame Dennis as she keeps getting herself into scrapes. But she’s also fiercely protective and deeply loving and that makes you root for her even as you cringe at her antics. I’ve watched this movie dozens of times and it never gets old.
GALAXY QUEST (1999) - The alumni cast of a cult space TV show have to play their roles as the real thing when an alien race needs their help.
Okay, this Star Trek spoof isn’t that old but as a Trekkie I find this movie laugh-out-loud hilarious. The movie manages to poke fun at many Star Trek idiosyncrasies including Star Trek’s over-the-top, costume-wearing, Klingon-language learning fans. It even spotlights the red-shirt wearing crew member who every Trekkie recognizes as a DCP (Disposable Crew Person). The stellar ensemble cast (includes Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, and Sam Rockwell) are all brilliant. If you’re a Star Trek fan (and even if you’re not) Netflix it or run to Redbox right now. You won’t regret it.
Have you seen any of these movies? What funny movies never get old for you?
Posted on January 9, 2013 - by Brenda Anderson
There are so many worthwhile giving and volunteering opportunities, it’s difficult narrowing them down. Do I talk about New Life Family Services, an organization that helps women and men through every aspect of an unplanned pregnancy? Or what about The Literacy Site, a site where you simply click the Click Here to Give button, and you’re automatically donating money for books? Oh, and I can’t forget Go Red for Women, an organization that raises awareness about heart disease in women (the number one killer among women! February 1 is National Wear Red Day).
But, I digress.
Perhaps the most rewarding volunteering I do is with the family. One activity we participate in every year is Operation Christmas Child, an organization that collects shoe boxes that individuals, families, and others fill with gifts for needy children. Our family organizes this event in our church by advertising it, giving out empty shoe boxes, and collecting and delivering the full boxes to an area collection site.
Click <here> to watch a brief video showing one of our church techies having a little bit of fun with the empty shoe boxes.
Whether your family simply fills a shoe box or works in an OCC distribution center, it’s a great way to show your children how blessed we really are, and how important it is to give back.
One fun and easy way for the entire family to give back is by donating time to area food packing organizations such as Feed My Starving Children or Kids Against Hunger. You get to pack nutritious meals to send to the poor in your area and around the world. The packing events are always a lot of fun and go by too fast. It would be a great way to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, or other significant events, or even just because. Both organizations are looking for donations and volunteers. (For those of you in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area, I need to put in a plug for the Omaha Kids Against Hunger run by my very good friends Kelly Jo and Nick Yaksich.)
Another organization our family supports together is Soldiers’ Angels. It’s a nonprofit that provides aid, support, and comfort to those serving in the armed forces. Through Soldiers’ Angels, we adopted a soldier several years ago who, at the time, was stationed in Iraq. All that was required of us was to write him a letter once a week, then send one to two care packages per month. They ask for a six-month commitment with no promise of returned letters.
We were greatly blessed by our soldier who loved corresponding with the kids and answering their myriad of questions. He’d send pictures and coins and other gifts. He even sent me a draft of a YA story he’s written. He became like a big brother to our kids. It’s been wonderfully rewarding for our entire family.
As I’m writing this post, the Soldiers’ Angels website shows that 185 heroes are waiting to be adopted. I’m challenging our readers to click on the banner below and adopt a soldier. All that’s required of you is a few minutes a week spent writing a letter and then mailing a care package once or twice a month. Let’s leave no hero behind.
Posted on December 26, 2012 - by Brenda Anderson
I realize that we’re supposed to write about Christmas disasters, but I can’t for the life of me think of anything that would qualify (unless I wrote about the Christmas Eve diaper disaster, but I really don’t think you want to hear about that!). Instead I’m reminded of a Christmas that could have been remembered for our loss, a Christmas that could have been weighted with sorrow, but was lifted by joy.
On December 20, 1995, my grandma passed away unexpectedly. She’d been healthy up until that point, and had recently returned from a trip to New York. Losing her was heartbreaking.
But then, on December 21, at 8:45 in the morning, my brother, Gary, and his wife Sandy got the call they’d been waiting on since the first of September, a wait that up until that point kept getting delayed: their soon-to-be adopted son was arriving from Korea that night at 10 pm. As a matter of fact, he was already on the plane!
Their five-month-old son Matthew (the name means gift of Yahweh or gift from God) was welcomed at the airport at 9:45 that evening by a slew of relatives eager to grasp onto joy. The very next day, at my grandma’s wake, many of us met little Matthew Bryant for the very first time.
We all wondered at this amazing gift from God–the author and giver of life. We marveled at His perfect timing. We all knew Grandma was in Jesus’ arms, still the sadness could have overwhelmed the holiday, if not for the gift of a child.
Matthew’s arrival turned our sorrow into joy–our mourning into celebration.
What a beautiful reminder about the real reason for celebrating Christmas.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:
and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called
The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Posted on December 12, 2012 - by Brenda Anderson
My earliest memories of reading go back to a little attic playroom in my grandparent’s home. They had a wealth of books from Mike Mulligan to Ping among the dolls and Tonka trucks. And there was one Christmas story that I dearly loved: Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree, written and illustrated by Robert Barry.
The story begins at Mr. Willowby’s mansion of a home. A grand tree is brought in and set up, but it’s too tall. No problem! They just snip off the top of the tree and present the top to the upstairs maid. But the tree is too big for her, and she too snips off the top and throws it away. That little tree then gets snipped by the gardener, a bear family, a fox, and a rabbit. Until finally, that teeny-weeny topper is picked up by a mouse family …
Who happen to reside in Mr. Willowby’s home.
Nothing is wasted.
Isn’t that the way it is with God? The God who knows our very thoughts, who knit us together in our mother’s womb? (Psalm 139) The very God who numbers the hairs on our head? (Matthew 29:30, Luke 12:7). No detail of our lives is unimportant. Nothing is too small. With God, nothing is thrown-away.
So when we question our worth or our gifts, remember no gift, no talent is too small. All is precious in His sight.
Or when we’re struggling through a waiting period, every moment is to be treasured …
Everything is important.
Just like the smallest tip of Mr. Willowby’s tree …
And just like those long-ago moments spent in a quiet attic.
Posted on November 28, 2012 - by Brenda Anderson
There’s nothing I enjoy more than finding new, gifted authors, and 2012 has introduced several who have earned a second look. There’s something for every taste, so if you’re clueless about what to get that special someone, try one of these books and support a new author.
Becky Wade, in her first novel for the Christian market, My Stubborn Heart, set a new standard for romance authors. I love her gritty story and authentic characters! Her next novel, Undeniably Yours, comes out in April and is available for pre-order. I will be first in line to get this one!
Another author who reset the level for romance writers is Katie Ganshert. Her Wildflowers from Winter was poetically written and the characters were true to life. I also loved the small town, Iowa farm setting. Having grown up on a farm in Minnesota, the setting really resonated with me. Katie’s next work, Wishing on Willows, also comes out in April of 2013 and is available to pre-order.
Kellie Coates Gilbert took a gritty look at life in her debut, Mother of Pearl. The story is about a mother who finds out her high school-aged daughter has been having a relationship with a football coach. It’s not easy reading, but Gilbert deals with the topic with a gentle, yet instructive hand. You’ll want to read this book with tissues handy.
Women writers weren’t the only ones with dazzling debuts. Todd M. Johnson, a Twin City attorney, delivered a fascinating legal thriller, The Deposit Slip. I especially liked that his courtroom scenes weren’t long and drawn out as legal fiction has a tendency to do. And Johnson deftly developed likable characters we could root for.
M.K. Gilroy is not a stranger to the publishing world, but Cuts Like a Knife is his first venture as a novelist, a successful venture at that. Gilroy introduced us to Detective Kristen Connor, a dedicated, sometimes cynical cop with a quirky but close family. Gilroy even throws in a hint of romance. Gilroy followed up Cuts Like a Knife with another winner that came out this fall, Every Breath You Take, which again stars Kristen Connor.
Did you discover any debut authors this year?
Posted on November 14, 2012 - by Brenda Anderson
For many of us those early teen years were difficult. I remember being a Christian without that necessary “friend” support. Not in school. Not even at church. Truthfully, the kids in my Sunday school class were often worse than the kids from school, and that hurt more.
I’d always been a reader and found kinship with characters in books from Trixie Belden to Nancy Drew, but the faith element was missing. And that was the element I hungered for. I needed a friend, either in real life or in literature, who shared my faith, who could relate to me on a deeper, spiritual level.
It was a lonely time.
And then when I was thirteen I received a short novel from my pastor for Christmas, and it opened my eyes to a new world of literature. Behold a Pale Horse by Joe Musser won’t win any literary awards, and I won’t get into an theological discussion regarding its eschatology lessons, but it did show me that there were stories out there with people like me. Other Christians dealing with life. I wasn’t alone.
Then I discovered the Christian bookstore in a nearby town and I began devouring the books in the YA section. The Danny Orlis series by Bernard Palmer were Hardy Boy-like stories that had Christian teens solving mysteries. I graduated to the books by John Benton–these were gritty stories about teen runaways and prostitutes, and they dealt with teen pregnancy and mental illness. No topic was off-limits as Benton’s books portrayed lives that were truly lonely. Until God scooped them up from their low places.
And those stories taught me that I am never alone.
At the BibleGateway.com site, I searched for the phrase “I am with you” (NIV) and came up with 21 verses. That’s twenty-one times God is reminding us “Don’t be afraid, I am with you.” Even when we have those moments when we can’t hear His voice, He is with us. Even when everything seems to be going wrong, He is with us. And when you feel you have no friends, Jesus is there.
We are never alone–it took a simple, nondescript book to help me realize that.
“Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit…”