I Got This -God

A week and a half ago I headed to the ACFW Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. I packed my suitcase to the brim with everything I’d need, got my sheets ready for appointments, and somewhere along the way ended up dragging along a gut full of nerves.

Several things of note happened on this trip.

The first happened during the landing into Nashville. I was using my One Sheets (essentially back cover blurb and elevator pitches) to memorize during my flight for my agent/editor appointments. I’m not sure if anyone else is like me, but it is hard to concentrate when there’s loads of action going on around me. Suffice to say my memorization wasn’t taking, and so I bowed my head in prayer. When I opened my eyes back up and looked out the plane window I saw a full-sized rainbow across the window.

RainbowEven if you don’t believe in signs, this was a goose-bump moment for me. It really sealed for me that God had this.

I got into the hotel and up to my room too late to check in to the conference that night, and so I had to miss out on the genre dinner. This dinner is where some of the conference goers dress up in clothes that match their genre, such as period dresses for historical romance writers. I was really sorry to miss it, but had a great dinner with two of my Splicketeer team, so I felt as if I was truly blessed to have friends around to talk to and share a meal.

The next day we got to choose which continuing education class we wanted to go to. I chose Allen Arnold’s The Two Realms, because, well Realms. Allen started the class by informing us he had purchased and prayed over one hundred thirty notebooks. When he felt moved by the Spirit, he wrote down what God was telling him. Then during class he passed the notebooks out at random to everyone attending.

It was another God moment for me.

In the notebook Allen gave me was written: “With Me, you have all the time in the world. You are not late but right on time. –God

Okay, God. It’s been ten long years of learning to write and getting my stories down. But You’ve got it. The timing is Yours. Okay, I’ve got it.

Well, I still had nerves the whole time I was at conference. There were a few times I had to withdraw from everyone and just go somewhere quiet. I had three appointments, only one of which ended up with a request. I did get to brainstorm my brand and platform with the wonderful Julie Gwinn of the Seymour Agency. So I counted that as a win.

Kathy, Dawn, and Diane at the galaAt the gala, my nerves were really going crazy. I sat by two of my Iowa/Nebraska ACFW buddies, Diane Kenyon and Kathleen Anderson, who herself was up for a Genesis award. After Kathleen won and came back to the table it was my turn. When they called my name as the winner of the Speculative genre, I literally jumped. I vaguely remember going up to the stage and saying a few words. My inner concentration was on trying to keep my knees from buckling and collapsing to the floor.

I did get to watch the replay on You Tube, and realize I looked much more in control than I felt. It was an amazing night. And though I don’t have a contract yet for my fantasy novel, I’m making progress on building my platform. I actually have had a couple of people ask me where they can find my books.

Imagine that!

I can’t get there fast enough, but I know that God has this. He told me twice to make sure it got through my insecure brain. So, I’m taking that rainbow promise with a notebook message on the side to heart.

Yep. God’s got this. And what an amazing ride this last year has been!

Inksper Wins Genesis Award

Saturday night, I sat glued to my computer screen watching the ACFW Awards Gala in Nashville, TN. Sure, I knew several of the finalists in both the Genesis and the Carol Award categories, but I there was one person’s name I couldn’t wait to hear called.

The Genesis Awards are for unpublished authors and the Carol Awards recognizes published authors. The gala starts with dinner, then gives away some special awards, and finally gets to the Genesis Awards.

After what seemed like forever, her category came. “And the nominees for the Genesis Speculative category are . . .”

I didn’t breathe, and I knew she wasn’t breathing either.

“And the winner is–Dawn Ford!”

I screamed. My daughter came running downstairs. I watched her take the stage and give her acceptance speech with such poise and grace.

Rom. 13:7 says to “give honor to those to whom honor is due,” and it’s certainly due Dawn. She has stuck with writing, and she’s prayed and sought God’s direction. She has worked hard at honing her craft, working and reworking stories, and sticking with the category of heart. We couldn’t be more proud.

It's hard to see everyone at once, but here's Dawn's flat posse.
It’s hard to see everyone at once, but here’s Dawn’s flat posse.

Her husband called me a little while after the gala concluded. He hadn’t be able to watch the whole thing because of work, but I was able send him this link. You can check it out, too, and see Dawn at the 36:40 on the counter.

Then, today in church, Dawn’s son was our song leader. He had to brag on his mom and lead a song of celebration in her honor.

And did I mention she took all her Inksper and writing buddies with her? She called us her Flat Posse, and she took us to meals and even to listen to the speakers. What a commitment to the learning of her peers!

Speaking of learning, another big surprise that occurred at ACFW was the announcement that Minnesota’s N.I.C.E. chapter was the Chapter of the Year. Our own Brenda Anderson is the president of Minnesota N.I.C.E. and this group was truly blessed by her leadership.

Lots of our Inksper friends took home awards, too, and we congratulate all of the finalists and winners in each category.

 

New Year Pep Talk

My advice is more like a pep talk. But isn’t that what the new year is for? Giving ourselves a shot in the arm, a kick in the seat, a new focus for our hectic world.

Dream in Living Color. Too often in life we live in a cycle of sameness. Our life patterns are the same day after day, week after week, until we have a life full of different shades of the same color. Even though we have moments of inspiration, we ignore those impulses or we don’t put enough energy into them to bring them to life. We give up too early and too easy, and that inspiration/impulse fades into the background.

Have you ever seen a painting that was so real it felt like it was alive? Somehow the artist captures the subject, weaving shadows with light and breathes life onto the canvas. How do they do that? I suggest it’s by taking a piece of their soul and inserting it into their work. We fear what others will see when we cut open ourselves and give them an inside look at our heart and soul. It’s downright terrifying. But if we choose to live a monochromatic life, our dreams will never burst forth with living color. Take a chance. We don’t need impulse control! Follow that moment of inspiration (and stick with it!) and see what different colors it brings to your life.

Believe In You. Easier said than done sometimes. Life, if we let it, can drag us down by our hair. We get tossed Believearound and lose ourselves in the opinions of others, in socially accepted norms (ugh!), and in what we wish we could be. Besides being fearfully and wonderfully  made by our Creator, we are unique. No really. I watched a video recently where the speaker talked about how scientists have crunched the numbers on exactly what the odds were that you’d be here at this very moment in time, taking in consideration dinosaurs, wars, weather events, etc… It is One in Four Hundred Trillion chance that you would be alive right now. You. Are. Special. You defied the odds and exist. Now you must believe that you exist for a purpose. Embrace it. I believe in you. Do you?

Want It More Than You Fear It. That is my motto for this year. Once I set my mind to something – not the half-Amelia Earhart quotehearted times I say ‘yeah I want to do this or that’ but the determined yes I will do this or that – I follow it through, no matter what. Even if I fail and have to make amends, I don’t give up or walk away. I’ve decided to want something more than I fear it. When that palpitation of fear hits me I’m going to take a deep breath, wait for it to pass, and keep moving. Amelia Earhart said, “The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is mere tenacity.” Fear didn’t rule Amelia, she flew. She was lost doing the thing she most desired in life. She was lost, but she wasn’t forgotten. Amelia Earhart made an impact. Isn’t that what we all want? To make some kind of impact in life? Want it more than you fear it.

Surviving Camp

Summer time. A time for mosquitoes, sunburns, and camp. Today Lorna is out at our church camp, Nebraska Youth Camp in Kearney, Nebraska, serving as a bible teacher, so it is my great pleasure to introduce Shari Barr’s new Camp Club Girls, Operation Excitement! book. In honor of Operation Excitement’s release, we are sharing our camping stories with you.

My idea of camping is a log cabin in the woods with electricity, running water, and inside latrines. Since I never went to camp as a kid, here’s my top 10 tips on how to survive camp from a non-camper’s perspective. (The picture of me was the one time I went to camp to get it ready for the campers, so I HAVE camped, I just don’t like to camp.)

Dawn at camp1. Always take the low bunk. Unless the last one to choose bunks is a girl named Big Bertha. You may want to be magnanimous and take the top bunk instead.

2. Camp mattresses are not Posturepedic. Unless you are a rich kid going to a ritzy camp, which may exist but I’m doubtful it does.  Otherwise plan to bring an extra blanket to sleep on.

3. People CAN tell when you don’t shower. Be kind, lather and shine. (No that doesn’t rhyme, but I’m not a poet, just a spectator whose sense of smell is in perfect, working order.)

4. Do not pack heavy. A common sense tip, however Lorna can tell you I don’t pack light. Ever. There really is only so much room to spread out before your camp buddies start talking revenge.

5. New shoes should never be broken in the same day you go hiking. Unless you like blisters, which I do not. Wear them around for about a week before you take them to camp. Your feet will thank you.

6. The outdoors has lots of bugs and crawly things. If you’re squeamish, don’t bunk with me. Someone has to be brave enough to kill the spiders, and that just isn’t going to be me.

7. Don’t get lost. This may sound simple, but I’ve learned the hard way moss grows on all sides of the trees, and I can get lost in my own back yard if the circumstances are right.

8. Always bring ample socks and underwear. Trust me on this one.

9. Don’t forget to bring a flashlight. That said, don’t forget the batteries for your trusty flashlight. For those of you city slickers, there are no lights (save lightening bugs and moonlight) in the wild. You might find the smooth path you take during the day becoming an obstacle course at night, and it doubles as a weapon when the dark begins to make you ninja paranoid.

10. Booby traps are your best security while sleeping. Especially if you go to bed early and others in your cabin don’t, and you know they’re fond of practical jokes.

Operation excitement 1

What’s your camp story? Tell us about it in the comment section below to get your name in a drawing for Shari’s book Operation: ExcitementThe more you comment on any Inksper blog post dated June 23 – July 4, 2014, the greater your chances of winning. The giveaway ends at midnight on July 4, central time, and is open to continental U. S. residents only.

Here’s the blurb to Shari’s book, Operation Excitement, featuring three Camp Club Girl’s stories in one book:
Join the Camp Club Girls on a series of clue-filled adventures and cheer them on as they crack the case in this entertaining 3-in-1 story collection. Whether the Camp Club Girls are vanquishing vermin in Vermont, searching for stolen sea lion pups on the Oregon Coast, or investigating peculiar elk stampedes in Estes Park, you’ll encounter six charming characters who combine their mystery-solving skills to save the day.

Here’s where you can buy it online: Operation Excitement!

Even For Me

Growing up, Easter was just another day. Nothing special. I do remember going on one egg hunt when we visited my Aunt Lela when I was five or six years old. But my family wasn’t religious. That attitude changed almost twenty years ago when I was baptized. Easter now holds an actual meaning, a reason for the celebration.

This past Sunday my husband led the worship singing. We had a few extra guests visiting and the room was full of voices praising God and lifting His name high. It was the kind of singing that gives you goosebumps, and then gives them to you again later when you think about it again. I love that feeling.

The day John and I were baptized we had our family come down to celebrate with us. Our oldest and middle sons were young, probably too young to remember that day except through the photos we have. Up to that point Easter meant for us an egg hunt for the boys and a meal at John’s Grandpa’s house. After that day it meant a whole lot more.

I wouldn’t be the person I am without those three days in history. The day our Lord and Savior took the beating for my sin. He was made fun of, had his clothes bet away, and a name hung over his head. So much humiliation. So much shame. And yet He did it and on the third day He arose, victorious.

It gives me goosebumps every time I think about it. It brings tears to my eyes knowing what He suffered so that I could be redeemed.

He died so He could tear down the walls of death and I could live with Him in eternity. Not just for me, but even for me.

 

Through A Child’s Eyes

Jesus with childrenAny of us who have had children know that it would have taken awhile before Mary was able to travel after having given birth to Jesus. In that period of time, it would seem natural that others in the area would have seen the baby Savior before Joseph and Mary moved on. It is pure conjecture, but if I had to choose to be someone who witnessed Jesus, I would’ve chosen to be a child, possibly the Inn keeper’s child or a neighborhood child whose curiosity got the best of them and they stopped by to catch a glimpse at the new born baby. Children have an amazing ability to see things we, as jaded critical adults, do not. What would a child see when they looked upon the face of glory manifest?

In Matthew 19:14  Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

And in Matthew 18:10 He says, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.

I don’t think it’s just angels that can see the face of God when looking upon a child. Have you ever witnessed a tender moment of a Child with babyyoung child looking at a baby? I’m always amazed at their inherent ability to understand how precious that little babe is, and how gentle that bundle of energy can be toward them.

If I looked through a child’s eyes into the face of my Savior I’m sure I would’ve beheld the face of God. I remember when I looked upon my own children’s face for the first time the infinite joy and love that overcame me. Why is it that babies in general tend to bring out the best in people? Who can deny God in the face of these newly born creations? Not me.

So if I were to behold the face of Jesus, I would want to be as innocent as He. Through a child’s eyes.

Changing Lives

Fierce BarbiesBesides the obvious benefits of getting up and staying in my sweat pants all day to work and the short commute to my coffee pot in the morning, I’d have to say one of the other biggest blessings of being a writer is the fact that I can change lives. The lives I’m talking about are my characters. If I write a scene in and don’t like it, I delete it and start over again. I can add things and take things away according to how I see the story playing out in my head.

Haven’t you ever read a book or watched a movie and said to yourself, no!- that’s not what should have happened, this is what should’ve happened… Since I was a girl playing with my Barbie dolls, I have acted out stories first one way and then another just for fun. When one story line got dull or boring, I changed it up and added new drama. Then off I’d go on another story line until I got tired of that one.

But I never seemed to get tired of playing with stories in my head. I would fall asleep at night telling myself stories. I would daydream on car rides thinking about something that could play out in the stories in my head. When talking to people I’ve mastered the head nod and laugh to cover the fact I spaced off into storyland in my head and haven’t heard a word someone’s said for a few minutes. I try, honest, I do. I just can’t seem to help myself.Novel pin

So playing around in the lives of my characters comes naturally. I love it! So, if I ever tell you to be careful because you may get written into my next manuscript, I’m probably not joking around. It’s probably just the thing I need to add to my hero (or villain, whichever feels appropriate at the moment) to change things up.

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We’re giving away a copy of Rose Ross Zediker’s current release, Wedding on the Rocks to one lucky winner. The contest runs until November 30th. All you need to do it leave a comment!

Wedding On the Rocks Cover 1JENNIFER EDWARDS IS BACK HOME AGAIN…

When she traded small-town life for the bright lights of Chicago, Jennifer Edwards yearned to discover a world beyond Faith, South Dakota. So when her father’s illness calls her home to run their cattle ranch, she tells herself it’s temporary. Then why is she even thinking about a future with archaeology professor Brett Lange-the boy she left behind-whose life’s work is digging up the past?

Twelve years ago, Brett had a crush on Jennifer the size of the T-rex that put his hometown on the map. Now she’s a citified magazine editor who prefers designer duds to dungarees. Except that’s not the real Jennifer. Brett needs to make her see how a little faith can go a long way in uniting two perfectly-in-sync hearts.

Twenty-five

1238052_579647302097078_795978790_nTwenty-five years ago my husband John and I got married in a little church in his hometown of Modale, Iowa. Since I had found out I was pregnant with my first son, we bypassed the proposal and decided to get married as quick as possible. To make it worse, John had just graduated culinary school and we were broke. I wore a hand-me-down wedding gown given to me by John’s sister Lori (which was getting snugger, and snugger every day), but couldn’t find my shoes. There were no white dress shoes in any of the stores close by and I did not have time to go to the city to find them, so I wore a pair of slippers. I still cringe when I think of it. We honeymooned in the Red Lion in Omaha, and were back at work in two days.

Our parents, bless them, did everything they could to give us a beautiful wedding, and it was. But I always longed for something we could called our own. Something that wasn’t patched together with borrowed pieces and parts.

Last year I started talking to hubs about redoing our wedding vows and having a celebration for our twenty-fifth anniversary. This Proposal picture for blogtime, I told him, we would do it the way we wanted to and make it our own. As this year rolled through, John kept telling me there would be no way to afford a celebration and a vacation, I would have to choose which one I wanted the most. I was adamant about having a celebration. He assured me he had something planned, but said not to get my hopes up, it wouldn’t be anything grand.

All I wished for was to celebrate our marriage lasting beyond everyone’s expectations—even our own. It really meant a lot to me to do this. So I kept the faith.

There were a few signs that something was in the works for our anniversary, but hubs continued to tell me not to put too high expectations on the day. So when John bought me a beautiful new dress and said he was going to have family pictures taken as my gift for our anniversary, I was disappointed it wasn’t everything I had planned in my own mind, but knew what I wanted was asking a lot, so I didn’t complain.

Vow renewal holding handsUnder the guise of having a catering party for work, hubs left for the day taking our youngest son Colton with him to help, which is not unusual—no flags raised there. My best friend, our dear Lorna Seilstad, took me out shopping for shoes to match the dress and for an outfit to wear out to eat after our photo session. All she said was that John had it all handled and she was sure I would like what was planned. John loves to keep secrets, so that did not seem odd to me. I made it home in time to get my hair done, and waited for my chariot, our niece, to arrive to pick me up and take me to where the photos were going to be done.

But there was a problem. My oldest son had left something out at the farm while he was there the day before and we needed to go pick him up before we could go get pictures done in the city where we were supposed to meet my  husband and youngest son. Our middle son was going to join us in the city since he was busy in college and couldn’t get home earlier. Because none of these issues raised any red flags, and my oldest son is prone to losing things, I bought it.

I knew I was ‘had’ the instant I saw the sign that said “Free Proposal” and my niece turned into a dirt road between corn fields and parked the car. There, all dressed up, were my boys, my nieces and John. He got down on one knee, pulled out a ring, and proposed to me. (There was much crying.)

The next surprise was all our friends and family waiting for us in the pasture of our farm on down the road. The kids and a few amazing 25th wedding anniversary for blogothers had decorated a wonderland of lights and books strung from one tree to the next all across my memory garden. In the center of my memory garden was a book arch over a platform made from books. My middle son Dylan had come up with the idea, and with the help of my brother Rodd, John was able to put it together. I was stunned.

There surrounded by friends and family John and I renewed our vows. I was not wearing a borrowed dress that barely fit, but one my husband had hand-picked for me to wear. My shoes were not slippers, but like Cinderella, they were perfect and the best part was Lorna helped me to pick them out. My oldest son chose my flowers to go with the fall theme, and they were gorgeous. What meant the world to me was that everyone was there together and celebrating a life held together by a tapestry of faith and belief in God. I know without Him, we would not have lasted to have this celebration and for that I am so thankful to God.

Boat picture for blogLast week John and I flew down to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands to celebrate in real honeymoon style. The islands were simply amazing and I couldn’t have imagined anything so perfect. I can’t believe how far we’ve come in twenty-five years. I dont’ think I would have believed you if you had told me the day of my wedding back in 1988 that in twenty five years I would be redoing it all, and in such a grand way. John took my wishes and turned them into reality.

Every year for the rest of our lives I will remember with sweet fondness how John made all of my wishes turn into dreams come true. It only took twenty-five years, but boy did he do good!

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We’re celebrating the release of Shannon’s latest title, Rodeo Queen for the next two weeks. Shannon is giving away 2 print copies. All comments will go into a drawing. Deadline: Nov 16, 11:59 pm central time.
                                                                    

CAITLYN WENTWORTH LOVES BEING A RODEO QUEEN 

Until she starts receiving threatening letters from a stalker. The good news is, the Texas Ranger assigned to her case is none other than her former sweetheart Mitch Warren—the man who chose his career over love.

Mitch vows to focus on protecting the woman he’s never forgotten. But Caitlyn stirs up memories best left in the past. When Mitch insists on hiding Caitlyn away on his family’s San Antonio ranch, will he keep things professional or seek out a second chance?

Along for the Ride

Pella meetingOn a rainy April day back in 2008 I sat beside Lorna Seilstad on our way out to Pella, Iowa. Lorna had learned of a meeting of Iowa writers and although excited about the prospect of meeting other writers, was a little intimidated to go by herself. I, being the great supporting character that I am, offered to go with her. It was just a fun trip to get out of town and have some girl time.

Little did I know that day would change Lorna and my paths forever. The meeting did start out a little rocky, we were waiting in the loft for the women to come—they were waiting below for us to get there—it ended up to be fortuitous since that is where we met Judith Miller.

It never fails to amaze me how God moved us at the right time and the right place to meet the right person for our future.

I was still along for the ride. Judy encouraged Lorna to join the ACFW. Not to be left out, I joined also, even though I really wasn’t seriously writing. But, I had recently been able to quit working which gave me time to work on my writing, even if it was just for fun.

In the meantime Lorna submitted her manuscript to the Genesis contest, received an offer to publish it, and off we went together to the First ACFW conferenceACFW conference that fall. I can honestly say both our minds exploded just a bit at that experience.

I went to one agent meeting that year, and looking back I had no clue what I was doing. And it didn’t go so well, but I did get bitten by the bug. After that conference, I knew what I wanted to do.

I don’t know that Lorna ever saw any real promise in my writing. Looking back, as most of us do, I realize how much I had to learn. But it was only because Lorna had the courage first, to take that initial step out of her comfort zone, that I got to go along for the ride. It was, after all, in God’s plan all along. I know that now.

So, the author that influenced me the most is none other than our very own Lorna Seilstad. Because she never once laughed at my efforts (although she did chuckle—and still does—at some of my crazy ideas) and she continues to encourage me every time we talk. She’s relentless in her support, always willing to listen, and read, and every once in a while chastise me when I need it.

I’m blessed to have a best friend who has cut the path ahead of me because God knew if I had to do it myself, I never would. He sent me along for the ride, first.

An Abundant Harvest

corn seedMatthew 13:23 (ERV) But what is the seed that fell on the good ground? That seed is like the person who hears the teaching and understands it. That person grows and produces fruit, sometimes a hundred times more, sometimes sixty times more, and sometimes thirty times more.

Two years ago my husband and I purchased his grandfather’s three acres outside of Modale, a town fifteen miles to the north of where we live. Being near the Missouri River, this land is sandy ground. Because of this, normally when it rains it doesn’t take long for the sun or wind to dry it out. Weeds thrive in this sandy soil, and critters like ground hogs and moles just love digging through it. And because the farm had become so overgrown before we bought it, we had to work hard just to get the ground cleared before it could be tilled.

This past spring I bought a kit to test the soil. Turns out everything you test soil for—ph levels, acidity, nitrogen, you name it, were low049 to non-existent. Now that doesn’t mean we couldn’t grow anything. What it means is that we have to work ten times harder for anything to prosper at all. We needed a good fertilizing plan and we knew it was going to take time to build up the soil to where it was rich and fertile once again.

Along with the critters, sandy soil, and low levels in the soil, we have a farmer who sprays his crops in the field behind our farm. It was on one of the windiest days at the beginning of summer when he chose to spray, the chemicals drifting over everything we had worked hard to sow. Our garden had just begun to take off. You can understand our frustration when a couple of plants succumbed to the effects of the chemicals, and burn spots showed up on plants several hundred feet away from the field.

Then there was our sweet corn crop. Last year, during a horribly dry summer, we grew a bountiful sweet corn crop. We were able to water the plants, and although not as good as if it were rain, the plants continued to prosper and we were able to put up several quarts of frozen corn. This past year we had to plant late because of the cool, wet spring. With the abundant rain, our sweet corn seed rotted in the ground. We were able to replant, but it was much too late, and when the summer heat came on the plants were much too young to handle it. Our crop matured little over four feet high and grew stunted ears of corn. It was such a disappointment.

John and I wondered many times in the short period of two years what was the use if all of our time, effort, and money were going to be a wash? Have you known this disappointment in trying to bring someone to Christ? Is this frustration something you’ve felt in your own spiritual walk? Do you let life, like the uncontrollable weather and seasons, dictate your attitude and growth?

fertile soilGood, fertile soil. Farmers know it’s worth its weight in gold. God’s truth, the fertile soil which we as seeds are planted in, will embrace us giving every good thing we need to prosper and bear good, rich fruit. That is as long as we take the nourishment the soil (Word) has to provide. God promises in Matthew 13:23 that if we continue to labor to understand the Word, His Word, the day will come when the fruitful harvest in our lives is truly abundant.