A New Home

What do you do for an encore?

Welcome to the new Spoiled For The Ordinary 2.0. I’ve been hanging out at my old location since ’06, but it was time for an upgrade. So here I am on WordPress, ready to go.

I’ve grown so much since I started to blog. I guess it is time for this to do so as well.

I will continue to talk about issues of faith as well as the ins and outs of fiction. Oh, and I like to have some fun in between. That’s the focus of the blog: faith, fiction, and fun.

As I looked back to my first post, this line stuck out to me:

 I serve a big God, a God of adventure and life. I serve in His kingdom, and because of that reason alone, I have been “spoiled for the ordinary”.

That still sums up what I want to do here.

To celebrate, I want to give something away.

I’ve got a brand new copy of Captives, the first book in the YA dystopian series by awesome author Jill Williamson. She’s crafted a great story, and I want people to know about it.

All you have to do is leave a comment on any post from now until May 19th. I’ll choose a random winner to receive Captives.

Thanks for stopping by. Let’s not be satisfied with ordinary. Let’s do this.

Gleanings From A Potato Head

Bronco Nation

Idahoans are used to being fodder when someone needs to reference a place in the U.S. that’s way out there. “They even know about this in Boise, Idaho!”

The Boise State Broncos and their blue football turf has helped change some of that (Go Broncos!) and given us more recognition. For writers, I have another reason why we’re not the remote, end-of-the-world place we may seem.

I just returned from the Idahope Writers Conference in Boise – the Idaho chapter of the ACFW. It was a great one day conference, and we didn’t lack for being potato heads.

So I’d like to share some gleanings I got from our author panel, which included:

These fine wordsmiths were asked several questions. One that interests all writers is, “How do you overcome writer’s block?”
Ellis: Finish your writing day with a scene hanging. When you come back, you have something to return to.
Hatcher: You need to know your characters better, or you’re trying to force them to do things that goes against their nature.
Collins: Kicking cabinets always helps!
Leavell: Read authors you hate. Then you’ll say, “I’m better than them!” Voila, instant motivation.
Williamson: Sometimes you have to make yourself. If you’re really stuck, skip to a fun scene or something you know is needed to keep you going.
Hatcher: Sometimes the blech, the garbage just has to come out, in order to let the good stuff start flowing. 
There’s a sampling of what our day was like. Thanks to all who made the Idahope Conference such a success. And here’s to writers and blue Smurf turf!

Critique Muscles

Work that cerebral cortex!

You’ve heard of muscle memory, right?

Athletes will do an activity over and over again until their body automatically does something. They don’t have to think about it, so they are able to focus on the bigger picture. They’re not the only ones that use muscle memory though. We writers have it in our fingers if we type. My boys are amazed at how fast my fingers can fly over the keyboard. Even though it isn’t always the highest accuracy, I still have good speed because I do it so much.

Do you exercise your critiquing muscles?

I’ve done some critiques with people along this writing journey, but it hasn’t been regular. Lately I’ve had more opportunity to offer suggestions to people. I’ve found an online critique partner, and I’m participating in the ACFW critique email loop.

Even though having my work reviewed is a bonus to find those words and phrases I’m blind to, I think the greater benefit is getting to critique people.

I’ve been reading books on craft, quality novels, and blog posts for years now. I’ve assimilated a lot of knowledge. But nothing beats the application of knowledge to truly get it.

Now that I’m looking at other people’s work and offering suggestions, I understand the reason for minimizing speaker tags. I see the flow of logic and the motivation/reaction unit so much better. By using it in other people’s writing, I’m developing muscle memory in looking for these things.

The end result is that I’m then able to take it back to my own work and see weaknesses better.

Of course we’re still going to have blind spots, but I’m amazed how things pop out at me more. It shouldn’t be surprising. Practice makes perfect, right?

If you get a chance to participate in a critique group, remember that it benefits you in more ways than one. It’s always good to help others and be a blessing when you are able, but you’ll get more than other people’s perspectives on your writing. Your perspective on your own writing will grow.

That Editing Thing

Time for the paper to bleed

Howdy y’all.

I missed a couple posts between work and that editing thing. That fuuuun thing writers love to do.

Revision.

I’ve talked about this before and actually liked it at one point. It felt good to go back and rework a few chapters for a contest. Fix the sagging areas. The sharp areas got some extra sharpening. Polish it up to be shiny.

On the novel scale it is a little…harder.

It is a real trick making the writing tighter, building up and tearing down, and keeping everything flowing together. I’ve made some changes to the plot to heighten the tension. Now I have to follow the consequences through. Stupid butterfly effect.

I’m also dealing with word count issues. Most authors have to cut a lot of words to get it into range for their genre. I’ve got the opposite problem. I need to add 15,000 words. I’ve introduced a new major hurdle for my protagonist to overcome, but I’ll probably need to tweak some more things to expand the words without resorting to filler (Jenna was really, really, really, really, really tired from the flight).

It proves that writing a novel is a difficult task. I used to wonder if I’d finish my book at all. Now that I’ve done a draft, I wonder if I can wrestle it down and make it work from start to finish. I’ve come this far so I’m not going to stop. Thankfully I’m developing some trustworthy critique partners to help with things. (You should see how many times I use ‘turning’ in the text. Sheesh.)

What about you? What are your challenges with editing/revising? Are there parts of it you like? Any good tips for your fellow writers?

Book Review – Proof

Dr. Lilly Reeves has learned to take care of herself. Despite her childhood issues, she is a successful ER doctor who has a black belt and is a good shot. Unfortunately, she still becomes the victim of a serial rapist who manages to break into her apartment and drug her.

Detective Nathan Long has been working the case and thanks to Lilly he is able to finally catch the bad guy. Until the DNA tests point to a different man.

Now Lilly and Nathan face professional and personal challenges from the supposed mistake in identification. The question becomes can they figure out the answer before the criminal strikes again, or before he targets Lilly for knowledge she may carry?


This is the premise for the debut novel of Proof by Jordyn Redwood. As a pediatric ER nurse by day, Jordyn has the medical qualifications to weave a taut suspense within the world of health care. That’s exactly what Proof is.

The scenario that she conjures is scary and real, making the book an intense read. She sets up the mystery in the first chapter, and the twists and turns continue until the final pages. There is plenty of danger, action, and medical setting to satisfy readers of medical thrillers, mysteries, and typical suspense.

Her characters have a lot of depth and are all flawed. There’s no cardboard cutouts here. Lilly is a compelling protagonist, but some of her reaction to the assault is real and not very heroic, frankly. Too many writers ignore the consequences of actions in their books. Jordyn shows Lilly’s struggles to accept what has happened. This part of the book isn’t easy reading, but it is realistic and handled well. It dovetails with the plot and sets up consequences that drive a lot of the story along.

I’m in medicine myself, so I don’t know if the medical description is too technical for the average reader, but it is all very believable and plausible. I didn’t stumble over anything in this aspect of the book.

It is very strong for a debut author. I could nitpick about repetitive imagery that occasionally pops up, but it is weak criticism at best, and it shows that Jordyn has a natural affinity for the medical suspense genre. Any fan of thrillers or adrenaline-laced fiction will enjoy this read. I’m excited for what comes next in the series, as it is apparently part of a trilogy. Oh, and if you’re an author, her medical blog Redwood’s Medical Edge is a great resource to get answers to your medical questions.

Do you like fiction with a medical edge? Are there writers in the medical thriller niche you can recommend as well?

CFBA Tour – Rare Earth

A long time ago, in a blogosphere not so far away, I reviewed books for the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. I haven’t done so for a while, mostly due to trying to get my own writing done, but also because I was waiting for a book to really catch my attention.

Author Davis Bunn has done that with his latest book, Rare Earth.

Marc Royce is a fixer. A former intelligence agent who works for the government in scenarios that need subtlety and finesse, he is a man who fights the good fight to help others and to quell his own pain.

He is sent on assignment to Kenya, an east African country that had slid into crisis in recent years. A refugee camp is overwhelmed with people displaced due to a local volcanic eruption. The situation is volatile – there is little oversight, goods being withheld, and a population growing desperate by the hour.

As Marc lands and begins to grapple with the immediate problem, he is drawn to Kitra, a beautiful Israeli nurse who holds a secret and a grudge toward his cover company. The camp pastor Charles is Marc’s only ally as he navigates tribal chiefs, political intrigue, and power brokers. When more villagers are displaced by government order, the region is primed to explode over something called “rare earth.”

Marc has steep challenges before him: find the mystery of rare earth and Kitra’s missing brother before he is the next victim.
—-

I didn’t realize when I ordered the book that I had read one of Bunn’s earliest novels in the 1990s (so long ago now…). I was excited to read some of his newer work, and I was not disappointed.

Rare Earth is a suspense/action book with heart. Marc Royce is one of those heroes who is well-trained and knows how to respond in every situation. Even though he is special, he doesn’t come across as a cardboard character. I felt Marc’s doubts and hurts, and it provided real depth. Still, I enjoyed how he tackled situations and did what was necessary, including kicking some butt at times.

The plot is very current and deals with real world situations regarding rare earth and the phenomena of people being displaced for their land or resources. There was one too many meetings between power brokers (tribal chiefs, other councils) that got a little repetitive, but I always wanted to keep turning the page and reading more.

The faith element of the book is very well-handled and organic to the story. There is no preachiness, but spiritual life is realistically depicted, and this is a book anyone could enjoy.

The CBA market is developing more writers and books outside of the Amish/historical/romance genres over time. Davis Bunn has actually been around for a while, and even though I lost track of his works for a while, I will be eagerly watching for his new material after enjoying Rare Earth. Fans of action and suspense should definitely check him out.

Disclaimer: The publisher sent me a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes, without obligation for a positive review. I just like it anyway.

Short Story – “Batgirl”

Day 2 of My Greatest Hits – my goofy short story “Batgirl”

I must have been desperate.

Even though no one could see my green tights and pointy shoes in the beat-up minivan, I still felt like dying every time I passed a car. My jacket camouflaged my upper body, but I knew how dorky I looked underneath.

My cousin Matt was so excited when he called three weeks ago. “Dude, I won tickets to the San Diego/Dallas game at the new Cowboys Stadium in December. Dad said I could take you if you can get down here.”

No way!

I’d been a Cowboys fan since I was five years old, and I’d been waiting to see a game there as long as I can remember. After twelve years, I wasn’t going to miss this game.

Then reality landed.

My folks would let me go, but there was no money in the budget for a plane ticket. If I could earn the money, then it was a deal.

Too bad I’d blown all my summer lawn mowing money on a new MP3 player. I guess I could listen to the game…

No big. I’d get a job. Fall meant no more lawn jobs, but I’d do anything for the cash.

If there was anything.

I hit every place in town over the next two and a half weeks. No one was hiring, at least not a teenager. With the bad economy, too many people hunted for a paycheck.

Time ticked away. Halftime to the game, and I had nothing. I considered panhandling, but “Will work for a ticket to Dallas” probably wasn’t the best tactic.

Trudging through the mall after another rejection, I stumbled across a new store needing help. Their busy season loomed, and the manager wanted me to start right away.

Sweet.

Except for the uniform.

I pulled into the Grand View Mall, wishing for a handicap permit to dash in with the least amount of people staring and laughing. Instead I wandered up and down the aisles for ten minutes, looking for a close spot. No such luck. I swear this grandma pulled a “Tokyo Drift” move on me to hustle me out of the best spot left.

I parked at the end of a row.

Should I walk cool and confident or sprint in and draw more attention? I ended up with an awkward jog, then slow, speed up, slow down, that only magnified my loser status. I know Granny Speed Racer even pointed me out.

At least I was finally here. Yeah, people snickered walking by me, and I still felt like a freak, but it made sense when I walked into the Boo House, the temporary Halloween store. Where the required uniform was some type of costume.

The source of my embarrassment.

Being penniless, I didn’t have money to buy something in the store, even with my 5% discount. The manager, (dressed as the Hulk), needed me the next day, leaving no time to hit a thrift store. I sped home, hoping the deep dark recesses of storage would hide a cool surprise.

Rather than a cruel disguise.

Dad had an ensemble wardrobe of polos and khakis, so he was no help. The younger siblings had mini Star Wars stuff. The Force was not with them. But good ol’ Mom and her theatre days…

My boss (now as Frankenstein) showed me the break room. Time to doff my jacket, revealing the rest of my gruesome ensemble. I put on my pointy hat, adjusted my belt and dagger, and prepared to brave the crowds.

The game better be worth it.

Frankenstein showed me the cash register and gave a quick tour. Fake weapons there, masks behind the counter. Blood, gore, and makeup on aisle 13. Except – they were all aisle 13. Lots of goodies to make any Halloween creepy or goofy.

The first half hour passed uneventfully. I seemed to blend in – no one laughed in my face at least. I wondered for the hundredth time how women could stand wearing tights. Or superheroes for that matter. I felt so exposed.

I kept busy cleaning up after kids trying out the props and leaving swords and guns everywhere. Helped me learn the layout quickly. Besides Franky, another employee stood by the cash register filing her nails. Blood red nails. I didn’t think they were fake, and I wondered if she only looked like a vampire today or if she dressed that way all the time. She fit in here at least.

I bent over to pick up a dismembered hand when I heard a musical voice behind me. “Let me guess, you’re looking for your shadow.”

Not my best side showing. I wheeled up and around.

Holy fireworks Batman!

I mean, Batgirl. I faced an angel in black vinyl. Her blonde hair cascaded onto her cape, while pools of azure peered out from her mask. Her spiky-heeled boots elevated her petite frame to almost eye-level with me. I felt a huge grin spread on my face as I noted her soft cherry-scented lips smiling at me.

I wanted to say something witty and charming. I think I stared dumbly and drooled.

She giggled. I melted.

“I hope you’re the new guy. If you dress like that all the time, I’m in trouble.”

“Why would you be in trouble?”

“Because you look better in tights than me!” She laughed again as my face flashed crimson at record speed. Gotta recover.

“So you’re, uh, Batgirl?”

She glanced around slyly. “Smart AND a snappy dresser. Frank knows how to pick ’em.”

Breathe. Stay cool. “Are you Stephanie then?”

Now she looked puzzled. “I’m not Stephanie. My name is…”

“Oh, my mistake. Since you’re blonde, I thought you were the new Batgirl, Stephanie Brown. Of course, the original Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, was a redhead. But I’m sure you knew that.”

Another confused look. “Actually I didn’t know that. I just thought it was cute.”

Way to go, geek! “Oh, you’re very cute. You don’t even need red hair, and, um…”

Mayday. Going down in flames here.

She grinned. “I’d better go check in. Catch you later in Neverland.”

She headed for the back, her skirt sashaying all the way. I wanted to gaze at her forever, but I caught an irate Frankenstein in my peripheral vision. Time to get to work.

I think the crowds followed her in. I could barely get a glance at her between bratty kids and haggard moms. Vampire girl just stayed at the cash register and glowered. Frank kept stocking new merchandise, so Batgirl and I did the customer service and clean up.

I tried to act nonchalant, but the leggings starting to chafe made it harder each minute. I’d bide my time, find the right moment. Hopefully one without a wedgie.

The right moment would be after my buddy Goose left.

He bobbed a head above the crowds. I couldn’t miss him. I didn’t need him here.

“Dude, what’s with the…”

“Don’t! Just, don’t go there.”

“Okay man, chill. So how’s the working man?”

“You know,” I looked at the last item I’d picked up. “Gotta keep up with the bloody chainsaws.”

“Dude, who’s that superchick over there?”

What was her name? I can’t believe my nerd breakout cut her off from giving it to me. Brilliant.

“You think I’m going to tell you? You’ll just blab about some embarrassing moment.”

Goose thought about it. “Like the time you choked on the communion wafer at church?”

“Exactly. Now go look for a costume. The manager doesn’t seem to like me talking.” And if I’m going to be talking, I want it to be with her.

“Okay, I’ll let you get back to…” he looked at my get-up one more time, “work.”

I heard him muttering something about a pirate hook hand on his way to the food court. Finally, I could work my way over to Batgirl. I had to at least get her name! Now, where was she?

I turned around and saw her in the Star Wars section as an unhappy looking patron turned from her and stomped toward the monster manager.

I had a bad feeling about this.

Two rambunctious kids dueled with lightsabers by me. I chased away the padawans and took the toy weapons over toward Batgirl as the woman returned with our boss.

“This is the rude girl. I can’t believe what she said to me!”

Frank’s green lips frowned. “What did you tell her?”

Bat’s eyes filled her mask holes. “She asked me where our Star Wars stuff was, and when I brought her here, she wanted to know the sizes we had in the Slave Leia outfits.”

The woman cut her off. “She said I was too fat for it, to not bother with trying it.”

The image of this lady in a metal bikini shivered my spine.

“I didn’t say that! I suggested that it might not fit and recommended an alternative.”

“It came across that I was fat. My boyfriend wanted me in the slave outfit, not Leia’s stupid white gown. Now our Halloween will be ruined!”

The discontented customer wailed loudly at this, as Batgirl looked dumbfounded at the accusation. Frankenstein stood with an expectant glare. I thought he was going to blow his fake bolts off.

“Do you have something to say?”

“I’m sorry she’s upset, but I didn’t mean to insult her. I was trying to help.”

“You know this is the second complaint I’ve had this week.”

“That lady was going to let her little boy be Freddy Krueger! All I said was I didn’t think that was a good idea.”

My hands shook the lightsabers as I watched the back and forth. I couldn’t believe the scene developing.

“If you’re going to insult my customers, maybe you don’t need to work here.”

Her bottom lip trembled a little as she responded. “Mr. Stein, I am not trying to insult anyone, but I am not going to lie about things. I have to be true to who I am.”

Was his name really Stein?

Not important. Frank huffed at her strong words for a moment, struggling for an answer. The wanna-be Leia goaded him. “If this type of miscreant is working here, I’ll take my business elsewhere.”

“I’m afraid you’ll have to be true somewhere else. Get your things, clock out, and go home. You’re fired.”

Her jaw dropped. “But Mr. Stein, I don’t have a ride until the mall closes today. Can’t we all calm down and talk about this?”

“No, I can’t lose business in this economy. You’ll have to find somewhere in the mall to wait, I guess.”

“Dressed like this?” she asked with a quivering voice.

“Not my problem.”

She burst into full blown tears walking to the back room for her things. I didn’t realize I was standing there slack-jawed, but Frankenstein turned his anger toward me. “I don’t think this concerns you. Get back to work.”

I turned to put the sabers back when Batgirl came out of the back, still crying. She had her mask off, but even with red, puffy eyes she still radiated a beauty and a strength. I couldn’t believe Frankenstein was such a monster.

My chance with this angel was walking out the door. A split-second decision.

“Wait up…Batgirl! I’ll give you a ride home.”

Frank glowered at me. “If you leave, don’t bother coming back.”

She looked at me, hopeful.

The game?

Or the girl?

“Let me get my jacket.”

I ran to the break room and back out as fast as I could manage in my outfit. Frankenstein stomped a boot as I ran past, shouting that I must not have needed the money that badly.

No, I just had a new priority. Goodbye football game.

“Hello Batgirl.”

It’s The Little Things

Patient in photo may differ in real life
As a PA, I examine people all day long. I do a lot of physicals, and it can get routine. I have a little trick that helps me through the day.
When examining my patient, my back is to the garbage can. You know the little black tips on the ear light (otoscope for those medically inclined)? I like to toss them over my shoulder in a no-look shot. I miss more than my fair share, but the patient isn’t expecting it, and it usually makes them perk up a little, enhancing our interaction together.

 Laughter is the best medicine, right?

Today I thought about some of the little touches I’m putting into my WIP. They’re the things that may not matter to others, but it keeps my interest in this project I’ve worked on for so long. They also may lead to story threads.

I’m a soccer fan, and I’m listening to the Euro2012 tournament in between patients. I had my heroine be a star player for her high school team (much better than I ever was). At first it was just a character detail from my background work.

Then it became a plot hinge.

It helped me introduce another character and the connection shared between her and my protagonist. I had no idea that it would turn out that way, but it fit perfectly.

Another tech for the dust bin of history…
Another time I saw a magazine ad with the image of a man and woman resting on the beach, his arm around her from behind (the “spooning” position). I liked the picture, so I cut it out and kept it in my writing notebook for kicks and giggles. I didn’t know how I could work it into my story, but I didn’t forget it.

I recently hit a point where it made sense to put this set-up in, sans the beach. It isn’t important in the scheme of things, but it suggests I should listen to my gut whenever I notice details or come up with some character quirk. You never know when these ideas will play out.
Too bad I lost the memory in my old Palm Pilot (remember those?) where I had so many ideas stashed.

It’s The Little Things

Patient in photo may differ in real life
As a PA, I examine people all day long. I do a lot of physicals, and it can get routine. I have a little trick that helps me through the day.
When examining my patient, my back is to the garbage can. You know the little black tips on the ear light (otoscope for those medically inclined)? I like to toss them over my shoulder in a no-look shot. I miss more than my fair share, but the patient isn’t expecting it, and it usually makes them perk up a little, enhancing our interaction together.

 Laughter is the best medicine, right?

Today I thought about some of the little touches I’m putting into my WIP. They’re the things that may not matter to others, but it keeps my interest in this project I’ve worked on for so long. They also may lead to story threads.

I’m a soccer fan, and I’m listening to the Euro2012 tournament in between patients. I had my heroine be a star player for her high school team (much better than I ever was). At first it was just a character detail from my background work.

Then it became a plot hinge.

It helped me introduce another character and the connection shared between her and my protagonist. I had no idea that it would turn out that way, but it fit perfectly.

Another tech for the dust bin of history…
Another time I saw a magazine ad with the image of a man and woman resting on the beach, his arm around her from behind (the “spooning” position). I liked the picture, so I cut it out and kept it in my writing notebook for kicks and giggles. I didn’t know how I could work it into my story, but I didn’t forget it.

I recently hit a point where it made sense to put this set-up in, sans the beach. It isn’t important in the scheme of things, but it suggests I should listen to my gut whenever I notice details or come up with some character quirk. You never know when these ideas will play out.
Too bad I lost the memory in my old Palm Pilot (remember those?) where I had so many ideas stashed.

On Violence

Sometimes Writing Wednesday can tip into…Tipped Thursday? Hmm, I’ll have to work on that one.

Anyhoo.

The massive success of the book and movie version of The Hunger Games has brought up the subject of violence in literature again. Some people look at the deeper meaning of the story, and some people can’t get past the teen on teen violence.

They must not remember high school.

Kidding! However, the world of Christian fiction has an interesting dichotomy. Sex and naughty words are a no go, but violence is tolerated/accepted much more. Mike Duran has a good post on this conundrum that I recommend.

I’ve talked about it at length here. My most recent post linked to a couple of articles that took opposite viewpoints.

I also participate in blog tours for books regularly. In 2007 there was a book featured that had some scenes that stimulated my thoughts on the topic of violence.

It ended up spurring six days of posts, with some great discussion on all of the posts. Since it seems relevant with the Hunger Games discussion, as well as catching me up quickly to my blogging delay, I present links to each of the posts.

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6

The take home points were that the Bible is not sanitized when it comes to violence, but it is also not written to entertain but to narrate events that happened and to show consequences. If a Christian author uses violence, it should fit the story and not be done in a gratuitous manner, and they should be sensitive to the Holy Spirit in how to show it. We can’t be afraid of the professional weaker brother, but discernment is always a good thing to exercise.

What say you? Have you noticed excessive or gratuitous violence in a CBA book before? Is there a level for “too much?”