What’s Happening in Your Neck of the Woods?

My kids have one week of school left! I’m excited because I don’t have to get up quite as early, but to be honest, I’m not looking forward to 8 extra hours of bickering. I’ll probably rent a camper and park it in the backyard. Not sure if I’ll put them or myself in it.

I’m working on revising the 2nd novel I wrote.  I was ecstatic about this book when I wrote it and thought I knew it all without ever reading a craft book (this is where you seasoned writers shout, “Amen!” 

Can I just say…for the love! It’s taking me longer to revise than my other mss because it’s pitiful. PIT-EEE-FULL!

But salvageable.

 The plot is solid. I’m pretty good at plot, I’ve yet to be asked to revise one (I have been asked to revise numerous other things.) 

For example, every key scene for my MCs were in a bed. LOL Nothing going on that shouldn’t, it’s just they ended up in the same room for one reason or another. As I was reading, I was like WTC? And the writing? First I had to go back and nail down whose POV it was going to be in per scene/chapter, because I’m a recovering headhopper (Thanks, Nora. I blame you.) Then I had to print it again and cut scenes. Some were a joke, some were great but not necessary and it was over 100K…almost 120K! I knocked out at least 5,000K just by removing “just”. I might be exaggerating. Probably not.

Then I had to amp up the tension between the two. My main character was too perfect and I wanted him that way when I wrote him, you know before reading a craft book or studying a novel. That meant completely re-writing the first several chapters since their motivations changed. Well his did. Hers is still the same.

Then I had to cut backstory. That knocked most of my word count down. I’m at 95K now (I’ll keep it no more than 100K) I’m still hunting for the right place to enter what I think is important, but haven’t found it, so I just highlight places it might work for when I print it, yet again. I’m almost done with getting it up to par for the kind of first draft I write now…now that I have read craft books, written more, studied more novels and read writing blogs.

I’m not frustrated. It’s been irritating at times, but it’s also been a good laugh and fun to see how far I’ve come and where my strengths and WEAKNESSES lie. And I’ve enjoyed getting to know the characters again, better.

In fact, Julie Jarnagin @JulieJarnagin and I played a #badwriting game one day and tweeted some ridiculous lines we wrote. It was fun and it was a great stress reliever. If you’re interested, tweet some of yours and use the hashtag! 

Practice does make progress!

Oh! This Sunday is my 17th anniversary! I know…I look so much younger. I was a wee babe when I married. I kind of was. 19. So this year I’ve been with my husband longer than I’ve been single. We’ve been together 18 years. We’re probably just doing dinner and a movie, but that’s us. We’re simple. 

Looks like we’re getting a membership to the Country Club again this year. Here’s all the reasons I don’t belong. I wrote this last summer. Top 5 Reasons I Do Not Belong at the Country Club.

What’s going on in your neck of the woods? Summer plans? Anniversaries coming up? Any funny WIP stories?

Urban Translation Fun!


I love reading the urban dictionary. It makes me laugh, and I enjoy using terms other people don’t know just to see if I can get them to use the phrase. This works well on my BFF “Jane.” 

Many times, I’ve used a word in a sentence over and over until I hear her mimic it. It’s grand fun. (Ugh, you hear the Dowton Abbey coming out in my dialogue?) 

So today, I’m posting 3 words with their definitions and nothing would please me more (that might be a lie) than if you would try to use these 3 words in a sentence! I will post the top 3 at a later date and we can all vote on the best one. 

Winner gets a guest post on my blog or a first chapter critiqued, if you’re a writer. If you’re a reader, you get to be spotlighted with a fun interview here on my blog! 



the book off:
The act of getting a book out on the train, tube bus, or plane in order to avoid talking to the person next to you. Substitutes include a newspaper, phone or iPod
shelf esteem:
When someone builds their self esteem from self help books
(btw, there’s nothing wrong with reading books to help you out!)
cookie duster:
A full mustache capable of dusting the tops of cookies
Okay, so get to it! Can you use these 3 words in a sentence?

Meet Sarah Forgrave

When I see pictures of Sarah Forgrave, I think sophisticated, savvy, and fun. Sarah and I are agency mates and while I haven’t had a chance to meet her in person, I’m looking forward for that day. I like her blog because I get to meet new people, smile when she talks about being a mom to young kiddos, and she gives great health tips, that I never take, but should. 🙂
Sarah writes contemporary romance for the inspirational market and is represented by Mary Keeley of the Books & Such LiteraryAgency. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and was a runner-up in the 2010 Genesis contest. She’s also a regular contributor to The Writers Alley and the webzine Ungrind, and maintains a blog on her website, where she hosts monthly giveaways. When she’s not in front of the computer writing, she enjoys being a self-proclaimed health and fitness nut and stays busy chasing the bundles of energy that live in her house–her husband and her two young children.
JP: You’re a busy woman when it comes to the writing world. What one thing other than writing are you passionate about?
SF:I have a really strong passion for health and fitness and viewing our bodies as the temples that they are. I struggled with extra weight after my pregnancies and going through medical struggles. Regaining my health has been such a blessing in giving me more energy and strength to be the wife and mother God wants me to be. It really is possible for everyone to achieve! I believe so strongly in it that now I’m studying to become a certified fitness instructor. (Now I just have to pass the exam. Yikes!)
JP: Congrats! I’m sure you’ll pass the test. You’re very knowledgeable! And since you’re so healthy, you won’t need to worry about getting a bug to keep you from the test…speaking of bugs, when did you get the writer’s bug?
SF: How much time do you have? J I’ve had an unconventional path to writing, for sure. I think I’ve always had a writer’s gene tucked away somewhere, but in college I chose a more practical career choice and became an accountant. It wasn’t until after the birth of my son when I faced difficult medical issues that God got my attention. It took a year and a half of the medical journey before I finally heard His voice, but it was so loud and clear, I couldn’t have missed it!
JP: I admit, I’m jealous of those who can write and add. Numbers hate me. They really do. I think you just proved God speaks to us in difficult times and it’s always sweet and wonderful promises! Tell us one favorite line in one of your WIP’s and tell us why?  
SF: Hmm, I’d have to go with the opening line of my second book. “There comes a time in every woman’s life when her heel breaks and her backside meets concrete.” It took me forever to come up with a line that really grabbed me, and I remember it popping in my head while I was watching a movie. (Evidence that time spent in front of the TV is not a waste for writers. J)
JP: Honey, you ain’t just whistlin Dixie! Some of my best ideas come from something I see on TV! And that line? Um, fabulous! So perfect. I’d definitely keep reading, especially if the book came with a trip to the a private island. Ah, sigh. Name one place you’d like to go that you’ve never been and why?
SF: Oh goodness, it’s impossible for me to narrow this down. My bucket list includes wanting to visit all 7 continents, so can I choose the 5 that I haven’t visited yet? I don’t care what order…I just want to go. J
JP: What else is on that bucket list? I love reading them! If you were on one of those continents, what genre do you like to read? Do you write that genre? (Cause you’d also need your laptop while you’re there!)
SF: Mostly contemporary romance, which I also happen to write. I also love a good historical romance or women’s fiction that really brings the characters to life.
JP: Hey, we read some of the same things. I knew I liked you for more than your good looks! Okay, time to see the darker side of Sarah. If you could pick one villain from a book to be for a day, who would you choose?
SF: Hmm, that’s a tough one. I guess I’d choose the mean girl from Anne of Green Gables (I forget her name…Was it Josie?), simply because I’d get to visit Avonlea and meet Anne.
JP: I confess, I don’t think I’ve read Anne of Green Gables. Maybe one of them. It was a cartoon though, right? I’m almost certain, I saw a movie or show about it. But enough of how much TV I watch. It’s cold outside and Old Man Winter is beating us with his cane, what one thing do you love most about this season? What one thing do you like least about this season?
SF:I love watching the snowflakes fall, especially when I’m tucked away in my house with nowhere to go. The thing I like least? Ice storms and trying to chink off the layers from my car when I have to drive somewhere.
JP: Snow is pretty if I can stay behind the glass to watch it. The only thing pretty about ice storms is the trees. Like glass! Okay, I’m getting chills, let’s move on. Do you hunt down pictures of your characters from the internet? Care to share what your hero and heroine look like with us from your current WIP?
SF:I don’t usually hunt down pictures because I have such a vivid picture in my head…It’s hard to match it exactly. I did stumble across a picture of one of my heroes in a catalog. It’s an exact replica, including the dog. J
JP: I really ought to read catalogs more often! What would your characters say about you if they had the chance?
SF:Well, the characters from the book I’m editing would probably say, “When will you finally leave us alone?” LOL. I’ve been editing this thing for what feels like forever, so yeah, they’re probably ready for a break from me.
JP: Hilarious! I feel your editing pain. Really. I do. Can you give us a peek at your WIP?
SF:I would love to, but I’m still polishing this stuff for my agent, so I should probably hold off. I will say that it takes a unique twist on contemporary romance since it’s set in an Amish-centric town (but it’s not straightforward Amish fiction by any stretch). I grew up around the Amish, so I thought it’d be fun to explore the setting through the eyes of someone like me who interacted with them every day.
JP: Very interesting! I’m looking forward to reading it. Thanks so much for coming Sarah! I’ve had a blast. Before you go, tell everyone how they can connect with you and feel free to ask them a question. They’re awesome about chatting in the comments!
SF: I’d love to connect with readers on my blog. I do weekly author interviews and lots of book and Amazon giveaways. And I also blog about motherhood, health, and anything else that strikes my fancy. J 
You can also find me on Twitter and Facebook.
Going with the health theme, what’s the craziest diet you’ve ever tried? Any orange juice fasts or garlic and onion diets? J Or even if you’ve done traditional diets, how did they go?

Taglines: Do we need them?

So…my website isn’t quite ready and that’s okay. But with the website comes my new tagline. 

If I’ve emailed you recently, you’ve seen it. 

What is a tagline? It’s kind of a guarantee. It’s the “what and who” you are or what your product is all about. 

In a few short words. 

Less is better. 

“Coke is it.” 

“Just Do It.” Easy to remember and easy to associate with the product or person. “Have it Your Way.” “The Un-Cola.” All tags to products. I bet you recognized them didn’t you?

Now, many will say our name is our brand and I agree. I know names and don’t know all of their tags, if they even have one, but when I visit a site, especially one I’m not familiar with, in a few words, I want to know what it is I’m getting or who I’m getting. That’s a personal thing–that’s me. What I want. So a tagline is important for me because I look for them. 

My tagline was romantic suspense…overflowing hope and thus the waterfall on this blog. I liked it.  But I don’t just write romantic suspense. I’m not a steam-punk, historical fiction, paranormal YA cross-over or anything like that. 

You will get romance in all of my novels, but they aren’t all suspenseful (50/50).   So I had to think about me. Who am I? I’m not just a writer. I’m a speaker. I need a tag that fits both.

What can I promise to audiences and readers–whether a book, article, or blog post? 

I prayed about it. Beat my head against the wall, trying to come up with something clever. Waiting on God, as usual. I’m always waiting around on Him. 😉 

I didn’t want to lose my “overflowing hope.” I loved that line. And that’s when I realized what I give readers. What ALL writers want to give readers. An experience.

What is an experience? Webster’s dictionary says,”the fact or state of having been affected by or gained knowledge through direct observation or participation.”  

What can I guarantee people? What am I all about?

HOPE. “A wish or desire accompanied by confident expectation of its fulfillment.” 

So my new tagline:

Experience Hope

Flashy, clever, witty? No. But it’s who I am. It’s what I say. And it’s what I write.

I will also have a melt down if someone tells me, “Oh so and so has had that for 10 years.” 

Photo credit: freedigitalphotos

What’s your tagline? Do you have one? Why or why not? Need help brainstorming? Do you think they’re even necessary?

Meet Kimberley Gardner Graham

Okay, before we even begin, let’s all take a deep breath and push the envy down. I know. She’s gorgeous. And not just on the outside. Kimberley has one of the most beautiful insides! She loves Jesus with every part of her being and it shines like a beacon. 

I rode on a plane with her to Denver last year for the Writing for the Soul conference–and never knew it! We’re from the same area.  It was at the conference, where she finaled, that we met and discovered this. 

Since then we’ve kept in touch and even had coffee at the fabulous bookstore she likes to write in. She’s witty and clever and so much fun to be around. I’ve had the chance to read the book that she’s finaled with AGAIN! It’s a beautiful story. Truly literary fiction at its finest. The winner will be revealed this Thursday! 

 Kimberley Gardner Graham grew up in Madison, Mississippi. She’s always been fascinated with the art of storytelling, but for most of her life she studied the visual arts, not the literary arts.
Before earning her BFA in Graphic Design and Photography from Memphis College of Art, Kimberley studied design at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and photography at Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon.
She now lives in Memphis, Tennessee with her husband and three wonderful children and believes that through writing, she’s able to use the creative gifts God’s given her to tell stories that bring glory and honor to the Lord.
The Rocking Horse of Tuscumbia is her first novel and is a two-time finalist in the Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest. The results of the 2011 contest will be announced at the Writing for the Soul conference in Denver this month.
JP: Tell us a little about your book that finaled (again yay) in OFN!
KG: The Rocking Horse of Tuscumbia is a novel about a spiritually blind and deaf woman who confronts her long-buried past after returning to her hometown; the birthplace of Helen Keller.
JP: What inspired you to write about Helen Keller’s hometown?
KG: The, short but very true, answer is that the Holy Spirit inspired me to write about Tuscumbia. Before I started writing the book, I’d never been to Tuscumbia, Alabama and I’d never written anything longer than a three-page paper (and even three pages didn’t come easily). It wasn’t until after I visited a friend in Birmingham and drove through the foothills near the Tennessee River that I began to feel the first promptings toward this story, its characters, and that amazing little town.
Finally, after wrestling with the Lord for several weeks, I crawled out of bed one night and started writing in my journal what would later become the first chapter of the book. That journal entry was written on July 30, 2006 at 1:20 in the morning.  At the top of the page, in bold print, I wrote the words, “OK FINE.” That was just the first of many times throughout this five-year journey when I’ve had to open my hands, surrender, and trust God to do the rest. I stopped writing and researching after about a year and tried to remind God of my inabilities. 
Thankfully, I serve a King who doesn’t see my failures. He’s kindly continued to push and encourage me, despite my stubbornness. We’ve had a lot of “okay, fine” moments when He’s graciously helped me accept His glory-filled guidance. I’m beginning to see that it’s a whole lot easier to do what God’s prompting me to do than it is to ignore Him—go figure.
JP: I can totally see you writing “OK FINE”! I can relate to those kind of moments. And I’m praising God every day because He doesn’t see me the way I do. Love that. I think we’re getting an idea here, but what is one thing you’re passionate about, besides writing? Why?
KG: I’m passionate about my family and the work God is doing in and through my husband and each of our three kids. I’m passionate about a lot of things, and sometimes that causes me to get sidetracked and thrown off balance. 
I’m involved in several ministries in my church and in my city, but I have to be careful not to put them before my mission to glorify the Lord. When I get overly passionate about the project, I sometimes forget about the people or the call to serve. My husband keeps me in check and reminds me that my writing (like my painting, photography, parenting, etc.) is a secondary calling.
JP: Balance. That’s tough for me too! Let’s stray away from writing for a minute. If you were stuck on an island with one villain from a book or movie, who would you pick and why? 
KG: I’d have to pick the wolf from Three Little Pigs. If the third, musically-inclined, piggy can outsmart Big Bad Wolf then hopefully I can too…and wolf probably doesn’t taste too bad either.
JP: I’d guess it’d taste like chicken…like every other odd meat. Speaking of food, what food could you never live without? 
KG: Ask me after a few days on the island–I’ll probably say wolf.
JP: ROFL! You should have starred in the movie The Grey with Liam Neeson. Okay, back to writing before I bust a gut laughing at your answer. What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?
KG: Write what’s inside and screaming to get out…
and then go back and change all of the -ing words to -ed words.
JP: Ain’t that the truth! Great advice for all of us. Words. They make us or break us…not really–well sorta, that just sounded good at the moment, but since we’re on to words, are you working on a new project? Can you give us a peek at what it is?
KG: Yes, I’d LOVE to tell you about the project I’m working on now. The Rocking Horse of Tuscumbia is the first novel in a non-sequential series I’m calling The River Cities Series. The second book tells the story of one of the characters from the Tuscumbia book and is set in a neighborhood in Memphis called Binghampton where my family has been serving for about seven years now. I’m thrilled to be writing about a place so close to home.
JP: Me too, because we have the same home. Not literally. I do not live with Kimberley and her family, people. I’m talking area. A-re-a. And I’m so glad because it’s nice to have a writer friend so close. Our busy schedules don’t allow us to get together quite as often as we’d like. We really should remedy that, yah know?
Thanks so much for spending some time with me at my online home! Tell everyone where they can connect with you and before you go, would you like to ask a question.
You can connect with me through facebook, or follow me via my poor, abandoned Twitter account
After years of studying Helen Keller and the amazing life she lived despite being blind and deaf, I’ve become fascinated with how Christ graciously unveils the eyes of those who seek Him. I’m still trying to understand that God doesn’t JUST want me seek Him with my eyes and ears, but also with all of my heart and soul (see Deuteronomy 4:29).
So, my question is this: 
What are some of your most valued eye-opening, heart-clenching, soul-stirring moments—times when the Lord has shown Himself to you?

***Thanks everyone for all the encouragement and questions this past Friday on my first vlog! You can watch it HERE! If you still want to ask questions or throw out a topic for me to ramble about it, email me at jrpatch(at)yahoo(dot)com, twitter me a DM, or leave me a message on FB (links at the sidebar)

***Wednesday, we’ll pick up with our series on strength! Talking about how to protect yourself from an unseen enemy. 

Oh, and Happy Valentines Day tomorrow! 

Disappointing Final Chapter

Today was supposed to be the grand opening of my new online home, but some unforeseen events transpired and it looks like it’s going to be later in the week. I’m not giving out another date, you’ll just have to be surprised. 

Are you disappointed? All the hype and then…nothing.
Let’s learn a lesson from this. When we’re writing, remember to follow through. As we lead readers towards the climax, we have to keep in mind that the end has to be equal to or greater than the threads we use to pull them along.

If you’re writing a romance, and the tension intensifies all through the book, let the ending be a bang! A satisfaction that leaves readers thinking about it for days.
If it’s a mystery, and you’re leading readers to an unknown murderer, make the twists and the revelation send their jaw to the floor. 
If it’s suspense, don’t peter out at the end with an easy save for the hero. Make it hard for him or her to win. 
Have I missed anything? 
Chime in, Writers.
Readers: name a book you’ve read lately that gave you a satisfying end and why?

WHEN my website goes up, I promise I’m still giving away prizes. I may have several just because I’ve left you all in suspense for so long. 🙂 

When Characters Meet

Wow me, please. Yes! Thank you! 
I’m talking about introducing the heroine and hero in a story. If you know me at all or follow this blog regularly, then you know I rarely write about writing. There are too many good writing blogs out there with people who can explain things much better than I, so I leave it to them.

But a comment left on my blog last Friday, the four books I’ve read over the last week and two days, and digging into an old ms of mine (polishing rewriting) has me thinking about how characters in stories meet for the first time.

The comment was left by Beth Vogt and she talked about when she met her husband, in a Karate studio, and he put her on the ground–also she was engaged to someone else. Of course she hooked me right there. My heart actually fluttered. 

There are a billion ways to introduce a hero and heroine, the earlier the better they say, but sometimes it may come fifty pages in. I wouldn’t personally go much further than that and some will disagree with even fifty pages. But as a reader, I think if things are moving fast…say a murder…then finding the hero a few chapters in is okay and it doesn’t bother me.

But when they do, it better be with a bang.  I want sparks the minute they walk on scene together. 

I finished up Love on the Line by DeeAnne Gist. When her hero,who’s working undercover as a telephone repairman, meets the heroine, the switchboard operator, sparks fly. He is demanding and she’s a woman who doesn’t want to be told what to do or what to hand over (a key and a desk) to a man. The attraction is there, but the attitude is off the charts. And it sold me.  The other 2 books I read have wonderful introductions as well, but for sake of time I chose the last book I read of hers.

In Save the Date, (another book I just finished) by Jenny B. Jones, the hero was mean to the heroine in the past and she hasn’t forgotten, but she can’t deny that he seems different and it helps that he’s delicious to look at it! The witty, and super sarcastic, banter between the two right off the bat…sold me! 

When there’s ZERO tension between two characters–when they’re both nice to each other but otherwise unavailable, nothing moves in me. It’s boring. Sadly, I have read a few books where the beginning is much like this. Some I’ve pushed through simply because I hate not to finish a book. A couple picked up about halfway (but really, shouldn’t we start off that way between two characters?) and the others never did pick up and as bad as I hated it, I dropped the books. But I don’t want to talk about books that failed, and honestly, it’s not like I’ve read dozens that have. So…

What are some of your favorite “meeting” scenes in books? Share the scene or just the book and author if you’re in a hurry. What was it about their first encounter that hooked you?

My Top 4 New Year Plans As a Writer

I missed you! Hope you a wonderful Christmas and NYE! 

Today is a repost from last year (but I had maybe 10 followers so you probably haven’t read it), anywho, since I haven’t accomplished any of them,  I’m giving it a go again! On Wednesday, I’ll be posting a more serious plan–as in ONE WORD for the year and tying it into a devotional so don’t miss it! Today? Enjoy!

Well, a year has come and is about to be gone. Profound, I know. I’ve been hearing lots of New Year’s resolutions. The same ones I hear every year. Lose weight. Eat healthier. Spend more time with family. Those seem to be the top three.
I don’t make resolutions. I make plans. Maybe they are resolutions. I just call them personal plans for the new year.

This year, I’m going to work on a few that involve the debilitation of being a writer. You writers may get to shout a few amens in agreement, and those of you who are not…this may explain my eccentric and sometimes morbid behavior.

Here are a few areas I need to work on.


I have a hard time NOT daydreaming up new plots and storylines, like when I’m at church. Pastor is preaching and delivering the word and I watch the sweet elderly lady who passes out handfuls of candy–throwing it really–and all I see are members of the congregation, dropping like flies because the candy has been poisoned. The old woman is shocked when she finds out, declaring she didn’t do it as they drag her poor soul off in cuffs. I look around and find a single mom sitting two rows back and use her to refuse to believe old lady “nameless” has poisoned the church. What motive does she have? She enlists, I look around and find a young widowed man, ah him, yes!… and together they investigate. (and fall in love duh!) At this point I’m jerked back into reality as our Pastor says, “Answer me when I ask you a question.” I don’t know if I should holler yes, no, or amen. Have I just missed a word for me? What was that reference again? My husband scowls at me…knowing. My best friend leans over and asks, “Who did it? The Royal Ranger teacher or the Youth Pastor?”

This may be the hardest goal for me. I can find a story in anything! Just two days ago, my friend shared with me about her nephew and some of his nefarious behavior. Immediately I explained to her why he was a narcissist sociopath, on his way to becoming a homicidal maniac, and then instead of offering to pray for him…I asked if she could get me about thirty minutes alone with him to pick his demented juvenile mind and test my theory. Yep. I really did. I was seeing backstory all over the place!

I’m constantly eavesdropping in restaurants, movie lines, grocery stores, doctors’ offices, anywhere I can find crowds of people. I zone out of the conversation at hand–the one I’m supposed to be involved in, and find out that some stranger’s sister stole her boyfriend and she found out from the Hispanic gardener by slip of the tongue. She’s now dating the Hispanic gardener.

 My husband and I took a trip to Rhode Island last year, he was marrying his cousin! I love saying that!  (He’s an ordained minister.) It was beautiful and it happened to be the setting in a book I was about to write. We sat on the bench at a pier overlooking the water, and he talked and talked. Then he said, “Isn’t this place just beautiful, Jess?”
“Yes, I can see why Scarlet loves it. No wonder Noah can’t leave.” Sigh.

My husband cleared his throat, “Jess,I’ve gotten used to you living in a fictional world, but please tell me you’re at least holding my hand!”
“Hmmm…oh, of course. Definitely.”


“Mom, I have pretend people in my head too, but I don’t sit in front of the computer all day and play with them!” My son Myles expressed that after he’d asked for a glass of milk about two hundred times. At least that’s what he said…I never heard him. I’m a master of tuning out what’s going on at home. I stick my skull candy in and I’m off. When I look up, my house looks like a tornado hit it. I’m going to pay attention more and find better balance between writing and spending time with my family.

4. GET OUT MORE (other than to research) 
Before long, my friends are going to stop asking me to do anything!
“You want to come to my jewelry party?”
“You wanna get lunch?”
“Hey, let’s go shopping!”
Right now, they may be plotting an intervention. Every free opportunity I don’t HAVE to be somewhere, I’m at home. In my chair. On my laptop. Writing. Yeah, I need to rekindle my social life.

So there you have it, ladies and gents! My top 4 things to change that pertain to writing. What’s on your list?

What To Do When the Unexpected Happens


Have you ever made plans only to have them unexpectedly and forever altered? Me too. I didn’t think I was alone. One of my favorite Christmas movies is Christmas Vacation. And one of my favorite scenes is when Clark Griswold has been expecting a big, fat bonus and then when it finally comes…it’s a jelly of the month club. He falls apart and loses some sanity for a few moments. 

That’s happened to me before. I’ve been making plans. Good ones. Nothing over the top. Working toward them. You probably have too. I mean after all, putting in a pool for the fam isn’t exactly a bad idea for summer fun, and that’s what Clark was planning.



“The preparations of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.” Proverbs 16:1

I can think of several occasions I’ve felt like I’ve been given jelly when what I was expecting was a nice big fat bonus–to bless me with putting that “pool” in. I love what Clark’s cousin, Eddie, says. “That’s the gift that keeps on giving…”



Even unexpected good gifts, promises, dreams can feel like jelly because they still come with some cost.

It reminds me of Mary. A young girl, and by young I mean she could have been 13 or 14 when she was betrothed. Nowadays we put men in prison for asking the hand of a girl that young. But then, it was customary.



Imagine the great, and unexpected news she was given. I imagine she was filling up her hope chest and preparing for Joseph to come, like a thief in the night–since that’s how the bridegroom came. I wonder if she was thinking about children, teaching them how to bake bread, sew, whatever it was they taught them…preparing her heart for life. All good plans.

And the angel Gabriel came and interrupted her preparations, her plans. Oh, it was wonderful news, but I think it may have felt a little like having jelly at times. It came with a price, like anything God conceives in us. A beautiful promise, gift, dream…it grows….

And with that we have to grow, stretch, and feel things move inside us. Pain comes as we move closer to that fulfillment. 

No doubt Mary was the talk of the town/s. 

“Did you hear Mary was pregnant?”

“Mmm…hmmmm, you know who the baby daddy is?”

“She says, God, but…I saw her with that guy down by the watering well.”




Her own husband was going to divorce her quietly. No one probably believed, except her cousin Elizabeth…because she had her own miracle growing inside her! Thank God when we have a wonderful gift growing inside us, that He planted, He always makes sure to supply us with at least one person to encourage us, to believe in us.

Mary believed. She had child-like faith, probably because she was a child, really.


“Blessed is she who believed for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” Luke 1:45
Even when it came time to give birth to that dream, to labor through and deliver it, it came with pain, sweat, tears, and a price. They couldn’t even get a room! There in Bethlehem, the House of Bread, in the stable, Mary’s unexpected gift,–one she didn’t deserve–but was given to her by simple, beautiful grace, was born. And they laid the Bread of Heaven in a sheep trough, another glorious picture, and the heavenly army that had followed Him–the Angel of the Lord– the Commander of the LORD’s Army–sang Him His first lullaby. 
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” Luke 2:14
I don’t know what your dream is, what God has conceived inside of you, but without faith it is impossible to please God. I know if He’s planted it, He will grow it. It won’t be easy. You’ll stretch, you’ll endure those around you who won’t believe with you and maybe some of those people will be loved ones, friends, co-workers. You’ll adjust, even your walk will change as you carry a growing dream or promise inside you.

The stretching will be painful, the labor–strenuous. At times, you might not even be able to catch your breath. Pant if you need to. It won’t come without sweat, fatigue, and some grunting. It takes time. The time may seem to tick by slowly. But it will be born. God will see it to fulfillment.

“And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You….” Psalm 9:10
What stage are you in? Conception, growing, labor? Have you birthed your promise or dream? Have you given up?
*This is a portion of what I’m speaking on this weekend at a Women’s Christmas Banquet, so if you go to Central Christian Church, you’re going to hear this again!


Must Meet Monday: Melissa Tagg

I’m drawn to the witty, clever, and funny exterior with a warm, gooey and deeply spiritual inside.  And that’s Melissa Tagg in a nutshell. Okay, not a nutshell, but in real life. (refer to Wayne’s World.)

I have no idea how I stumbled upon “Tagg’s” blog. I call her that. I don’t know if she likes it or not. But it doesn’t really matter, now does it? No one ever asked me if I liked being called “Little Oz” “Ozzy” or “Short Oz.” I digress. My point is, Tagg’s personality and fun writing style caught me up and she’s one of the very first people I hunt down on MWF. Yep, I enjoy her blog that much! Go see for yourself. 

Native Iowan and former reporter Melissa Tagg, is a big fan of love and laughs…which is why she writes humor-laced contemporary romance. (Well, that and the amazing paycheck she’s sure will come any day now.) In addition to her homeless ministry day job, she is also the marketing/live events coordinator for My Book Therapy. She won the 2010 Frasier Award and finaled in the 2010 ACFW Genesis Contest. 

JP: See? How funny is she? Congrats on your awards, Tagg. When did you get the writer’s bug?
MT: Oh goodness, I think around the time I got teeth. (Uh, because I’ve always liked to “chew” on a good story…? Okay, should’ve let that one go.) Seriously, though, I’ve loved stories as long as I can remember. Sometime in my childhood it must’ve dawned on me that stories don’t just happen – someone writes them. And I decided I must be one of those someones. J
JP:  Badump, bump, ching! Tell us one favorite line in one of your WIP’s and tell us why?
MT: Okay, I promise I’m not being lazy here, but I’m going to give you the first line of my book! I’ve had about 12 different first lines and thanks to inspiration from Susan May Warren’s  teaching AND a blog post by awesome friend/upcoming debut author Beth Vogt, I finally have an opener I love.
             Here it is:
                 On any other day of the year, she could almost forgive herself for the lie.
JP: Ooooh! Good one. I’d tell  you if I hated it. What day of the year is that? I ask. And almost means she never has forgiven herself. Well, done, friend. Well done. I could camp on this for a bit longer but I won’t so let’s move along. Do you listen to music while you write? I totally feel a Coldplay plug-in coming on.
MT: Oh, I love Coldplay so much Cupid should probably recruit me. Their new album, Mylo Xyloto, is fab-u-lous!!
But actually, I rarely listen to music when I write because it’s too easy for me to start singing instead of staying immersed in the scene. If I do, it’s usually instrumental – and something fitting to the mood of my scene. Oddly (or really not so oddly if you know me) my best music for writing is a strings orchestra recording of Rogers & Hammerstein’s greatest hits. OR (and feel free to laugh), I have a string quartet album of Coldplay songs.
JP: Thanks for permission. I’m giggling. I’ll admit, yah know since you said I could feel free! So, what genre do you like to read? Do you write that genre?
MT: I adore romantic comedy with lots of hilarity, but also character depth (think Jenny B. Jones) – which is definitely what I aspire to write. But I read lots of genres: I enjoy both women’s fiction and contemporary romance – though I will confess to being slightly picky with romance. I also love a good thriller or suspense and even the random fantasy here and there. (I’m a massively huge fan of Ted Dekker’s earlier books, especially the Circle series.)  And, thanks to both Susan May Warren and Deeanne Gist’s fabulous historicals, I’m now a historical fiction fan, too. Someday I’d love to try writing historical for the fun of it.
JP: Well, I can’t wait to read your books. If you could pick one villain from a book to be for a day, who would you choose?
            MT: First of all, kudos on seriously fun questions.
            JP: Thanks! I do like to try and keep things fun. Is everyone having  fun? If not, please lie and say “yes.” 
MT: I’d have to say Captain Hook from Peter Pan. Because he gets to hang out in Neverland and has fabulous hair. Although, the hook would make typing and playing piano a challenge…
JP: He does have great hair! Great answer. Fall is here, what one thing do you love most about this season? What one thing do you like least about this season?
MT: I love so many things about fall – by far my favorite season – but probably my faves are all things pumpkin: Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice creamer, pumpkin bars, pumpkin scented candles.
            Least favorite is definitely its length. Autumn is way too short.
JP: I agree. I am making gooey-pumpkin butter cake for Turkey Day. Bet you wish you were gonna be here, huh? I’ll send you a picture. Speaking of pictures, do you hunt down any of your characters from the internet? Care to share what your hero and heroine look like with us from your current WIP?
           MT: Sometimes I do that, yes! For my current book, here’s who we’ve got:

Put Levis and a tool belt on her, and Lauren Graham IS Miranda Woodruff, my heroine.
JP: I like her! But you know, I’ve never watched Gilmore Girls or Parenthood. Chics in toolbelts. Awesome. I see some comedic scenes for sure!
MT: Honestly, I didn’t mean for this to happen, but I’ve been picturing my main male character, Matthew Knox, as Jason Ritter. (Both Graham and Ritter are in the TV show Parenthood.)
JP: Are they paired together on the show? They look cute together! 

And if you give Owen Wilson a black moptop instead of blonde, he’s totally Blake “Blaze” Hunziker, my other main dude. (Apparently I’ve filled this book with dark haired folks.)

JP: I tend to gravitate toward dark haired males myself. Okay, I’m so fanning myself right now. 🙂  What would your characters say about you if they had the chance?

MT: Oh dear, they’d totally ruin the cool and confident vibe I’m sure I give off around real people. (Real people, please stop laughing.) No, my characters would probably gab about my writing mood swings. If they behave and a scene goes well, I go all giddy. When they don’t cooperate, I sink into the depths of despair. They’d also probably express concern over my need to speak dialogue out loud as I’m typing and act out scenes…
JP: OMG! I do that too! Or if I’m picturing a scene while I’m driving sometimes it comes out my mouth before I realize it. I always hope people think I’m singing or on a bluetooth! Your characters are great now give us a peek into the story!
           MT: Sure thing! Here’s a blurb for my second WIP, From the Ground Up.
Since the first season of her popular homebuilding show, celebrity Miranda Woodruff has entertained viewers with stories of the husband who taught her all she knows. Too bad said “husband” abandoned her before the season aired…and before the wedding. Now facing teetering ratings and with media curiosity at an all-time high, Miranda’s producer insists she come up with a husband – real deal or not. Mock mate in tow, she sets out to save her show. But then nosy reporter Matthew Knox lands on her doorstep, lugging his own set of personal baggage and desperate for a breakout story. The only thing worse? The reappearance of her former fiancé.
Juggling secrets and supposed spouses, Miranda’s heart is in for a major renovation as God shows her where her true identity lies.
JP: Okay, I’d buy this book today, yah hear me? It sounds awesome! Thanks so much for coming by and hanging out with us today, Tagg. It’s been a blast and I’ve been smiling and giggling the whole time. Is there anything you’d like to ask the peeps that hang around my “waterfall” cooler? They’d be happy to answer, as they are the most awesomest people around!
I loved your question about what villain I’d be for a day if I could. So can I copy you and ask that one to everyone else? And thanks so much for having me. How fun!!

Okay, everyone, if you could be a villain for one day, who would you be? Get creative, get dark, get on it! Tell us! 

And even more importantly connect with Melissa on facebook, her blog, and twitter