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First drafts – ugh!

April 1, 2014

A gift from my agent at the Books & Such retreat in Monterey.Sometimes I am happy to do anything but what I’m supposed to be doing. That is particularly true when I start a new book. First drafts – ugh! That little word counter at the bottom of the page stares at me like some sinister fiend taunting me. Just see if you can add to my number. Ha! If you do, will they be “keepable” words?

No, the word count thingy doesn’t really speak, but it does just sit there, and it’s daunting to think, “Okay, I’m at 1500 words, I need 1500 more. I can stop when I hit 3000 today.”

I would rather go for a walk. Or read Facebook posts. Or answer email. Or exercise. Or do laundry. Maybe clean the bathroom? How about those errands? Oh, I have a doctor visit. Too bad about that word count.

Except it is still waiting there at the end of the day. And to keep up with my deadlines, I have to add those words.

If only the next scene would just write itself.

Shari's Berries - a gift for getting starred reviews for SARAI.

I am definitely one of those writers who would rather “have written.” The rewrites are always more fun. Easier. Challenging.

First drafts are like diets. They both involve numbers, only on a diet we usually want to see the numbers go down. In a book, I want to see them go up.

Rewrites are like shopping for new clothes. The only thing I concern myself with is the price tag. They are the polish on the new look the diet has given me. Rewrites put the shine on the first round of words.

I hate dieting. And I hate first drafts.

Anyone want to go shopping? Oh yeah, I’ve got 87,000 more words to write first. (If I eat chocolate after every paragraph, how many pounds will I need to lose when I’m done?)



by jill at 7:34 pm in

This and that

March 27, 2014

IMG_2542I am looking out at a gray day here in Michigan and wondering when spring actually plans to arrive? Though I must say, we had a bunny in the yard last night, one of those sweet little promises that warm weather really is coming! As the earth (and the flowers I long for) choose life, so must we – and live it to the fullest!

Unfortunately, this week that has been harder to do as Randy and I have been sick with a kind of a mild flu. We were rather lazy, I must say through those few days of it. Just sat around in the family room and didn’t do much but read or watch TV. Thankfully, we are nearly normal again…heh…if you can ever call us normal! :)

In the midst of this, my goal has been to plot Deborah’s story. I finished (for the most part) her Idea Board, so I have at least some pictures of how I envision the characters. But the plot is slow going. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve seen my research question on Jael. Deborah’s story is her story as well, much like Leah is part of Rachel’s and Hagar and Lot’s wife are part of Sarai’s. We don’t live life in a vacuum, and I imagine that these women lived in families and communities and had influence over their small or larger world. We know Deborah had influence, but how did it start? How did she rise to such a position in a culture where men were supposed to be the appointed rulers?

Then there are the motives behind the actions of both women. That’s the toughest part for me, especially when it comes to Jael’s actions in killing the enemy Sisera. Sisera was a terrorist, and a bloodthirsty, rapist. Every man in Israel probably wanted to kill him. Yet it was a woman, not even of Israeli descent who did the job. She is a fascinating study, as is Deborah. But I sense that this could also be the hardest book I have written to date.

Other than that, I am trying to keep up with the rest of life. And sometimes I just sit back at night and collapse in front of reruns of Downton Abbey. It’s one of my favorite ways to unwind. Do you have a favorite way to relax from a busy day?

The timer for our dinner just went off and it’s way too early. Thankfully, it has a warming cycle!

Back to work.

Until next time~



Does God grow impatient?

March 21, 2014

I asked a friend today, “Do you think God grows impatient?” The answer was, “No, I don’t think so.” And of course, we know that God is patient. The New Testament says that God is love and love is very patient and kind…among many other qualities.

Does God grow weary? Verses tell us He does not grow weary or tired – not like we do. And yet Isaiah 1 quotes Him as saying He is weary of the evil among His people, and the way they come to sacrifice and celebrate before Him with blood on their hands.

Impatient? Weary? Not characteristics we often associate with our God.

We know God grows weary of sin – He grew weary of it in Noah’s day when He sent the flood. And He grew impatient with Moses in Deuteronomy 3:24-27 where Moses says…

Jordan River from bus1 (WinCE)“And I pleaded with the Lord at that time, saying, ‘O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours? Please let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.’ But the Lord was angry with me because of you and would not listen to me. And the Lord said to me, ‘Enough from you; do not speak to me of this matter again. Go up to the top of Pisgah and lift up your eyes westward and northward and southward and eastward, and look at it with your eyes, for you shall not go over this Jordan.”

God had already told Moses he would not enter the land. We don’t know how many times Moses had asked after that for Him to change His mind, but apparently God had heard enough. We might consider that impatient, but it is a holy impatience, from One who has the right to say “no.”

God also has the right to declare what is good and right, and to expect us (His creation) to live by His standards. When we don’t, we tax His patience. And He declares that His Spirit will not always strive with men. He does grow weary of our continual refusal to do what is just and right and to walk humbly with our God.

And yet, His patience is also infinite. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

God has given us ample reason to trust Him, to have confidence in what we do not see. Moses was commended for such faith, even though in his humanness, he sometimes tried God’s patience.

How grateful I am for that patience! And how grateful that God is still waiting to forgive us when we test it.



by jill at 5:12 pm in

Lord, do you not care?

March 15, 2014

IMG_1850“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

The occasion for this question was a dinner party. Martha (not Martha Stewart, though they possess similar interest in being a good hostess) had invited Jesus and his disciples to stay at her home, fully expecting her sister to help her with the work. But Mary (her sister) was more interested in sitting with the men, listening to Jesus teach. The English Standard Version said of Martha, she was “distracted with much serving.”

I relate to Martha way too well. I have the desire to be Mary, but if I were role playing, I would fit better into Martha’s sandals. (These pics are two of my culinary attempts, though Martha might have been more likely to serve fish or stew.)

IMG_1866If Jesus and His disciples were passing through my village, and I had the privilege of hosting dinner for Him, you can bet I’d be busy cooking, cleaning, making sure the candles were lit, setting the table so it was just right, ridding the house of any unpleasant clutter or odor. And I wouldn’t have started the day He arrived. I’d have been working hard at least a full week ahead. I would enlist my husband, and if this had occurred when my kids were small, them too. If you ask anyone in my family they can testify that I stress over normal company. I would stress big time if my guest was God.

But the other part of me, the Mary side, would have spent that time preparing my heart to meet Him. I would have pondered His past teachings as I went about my daily tasks. And when He arrived, I would sit near Him and soak up every word. I would ask questions, if the time allowed. I would have savored and treasured such a moment. I would have known He cared.

Martha, on the other hand was distracted and focused on putting on the best dinner party ever. All she could see was the work in front of her, and that no one was offering a hand to help her complete it.

Lord, do you not care…?”

Martha’s anxiety and distractedness took her focus off Jesus and put it on her service to Him. Why couldn’t Mary and Martha have both listened as Jesus taught, and then served a simple meal together afterward? Martha could have treated the day like a Sabbath if she had known ahead of time He was coming. The stew and unleavened bread could have been kept warm and waiting.

Instead, Martha wanted to make the dinner party one of her finest, and she missed the whole point of Jesus’ visit.

“Lord, do you not care?” And then in the next breath, she gave Jesus advice on how He could change the way she felt. “Tell her then to help me!”

I wonder how it must have felt to have Jesus meet her gaze and defend her sister. Mary’s choice was good. Martha was over-anxious when she didn’t need to be.

Martha’s anxiety led to stress, which led to doubt. “Lord, do you not care…?”

How often in our day-to-day anxieties do we feel the same?


by jill at 8:58 pm in

March 2014 Christian Fiction Releases

March 12, 2014

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

Wild Mint Tea by Valerie Comer — A local-foods chef caters events to keep her farm, but the first wedding comes with a ruggedly handsome brother-of-the-bride with no interest in settling to one place. (Contemporary Romance from Choose Now Publishing)

Dancing with Fireflies by Denise Hunter — Jade McKinley felt like a weed in a rose garden growing up in Chapel Springs. When she left, she thought she’d never look back. But now, pregnant, alone, and broke, she has no other choice but to return. The mayor of Chapel Springs, Daniel Dawson, has been an honorary member of the McKinley family for years. While his own home life was almost non-existent, Daniel fit right into the boisterous McKinley family. He’s loved Jade for years, but she always saw him as a big brother. Now that she’s back, his feelings are stronger than ever. Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson & Zondervan])

Love Redeemed by Kelly Irvin — Phoebe Christner is thrilled when the families of her close-knit Amish community decide to spend a week at the lake. And it doesn’t hurt that Michael Daugherty will be coming along. They’ll find ways to spend time together–she’s certain of it–and their romance will have time to blossom. But when tragedy strikes, Phoebe and Michael are torn apart by their pain and the knowledge of their guilt. (Contemporary Romance from Harvest House Publishers)

An Amish Garden by Beth Wiseman, Vannetta Chapman, Kathleen Fuller, and Tricia Goyer — A collection of charming Amish stories centered around the theme of gardening by four of this genre’s most popular authors. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson & Zondervan])

Historical Romance:

Healer of Carthage by Lynne Gentry — A modern-day doctor gets trapped in third-century Carthage, Rome, where she uncovers buried secrets, confronts Christian persecution, and battles a deadly epidemic to save the man she loves. Historical Romance from Howard [Simon & Schuster])

Tide and Tempest by Elizabeth Ludwig — Two years ago, her fiancé perished during their voyage to America. Now she discovers it may have been murder… (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)

Vow Unbroken by Caryl McAdoo– Susannah Baylor, a spunky young widow with a young daughter and teenage nephew in her care, raises cotton on a small farm in northeast Texas. When a local buyer reneges on his offer to purchase her crop, she finds herself with only one option: cart her cotton to market in Jefferson herself. Sue employs Henry Buckmeyer to accompany her and the children. Facing the elements and other dangers, the foursome starts out with the common goal of getting their goods to market. (Historical Romance from Howard [Simon & Schuster])

The Guardian’s Promise by Christina Rich — An evil queen and her royal guards will stop at nothing to find – and kill – the rightful heir to the throne of Judah. When their pursuit leads them to Mira’s village, only her father’s bond servant, Ari, a man shrouded in secrets, can keep Mira safe. (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])


Because of the Rain by Deborah Raney — One unimaginable night changes a couple’s lives forever. Their love for God and for each other is put to the ultimate test as they confront heart-wrenching decisions. (Contemporary from Greenbrier Books)

The Shepherd’s Song by Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers– Psalm 23, written on a piece of paper, travels around the world changing the lives of twelve people. (Contemporary from Howard [Simon & Schuster])

Faith Departed by Elizabeth Maddrey — Starting a family was supposed to be easy. Twin sisters June and July have never encountered an obstacle they couldn’t overcome. Married just after graduating college, the girls and their husbands remained a close-knit group. Now settled and successful, the next logical step is children. But as the couples struggle to conceive, each must reconcile the goodness of God with their present suffering. Will their faith be strong enough to triumph in the midst of trial? (Contemporary Women’s Fiction from HopeSprings)

Romantic Suspense:

Beneath a Navajo Moon by Lisa Carter — What happens when love and danger collide deep in the heart of the Navajo Nation? (Romantic Suspense from Abingdon Press)

Stolen Memories by Liz Johnson — Attacked and left for dead, “Julie Thomas” has amnesia, and doesn’t know why anyone would want to hurt her. But when surveillance video of that night shows Julie holding a baby—a baby nowhere to be found—she panics. Is the child hers? Where is she now? With no answers and no place to go, Julie accepts Detective Zach Jones’s offer to help her solve both mysteries. The handsome, loyal cop makes her feel safe. But someone is trying very hard to make sure her memories stay buried forever. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Dark Tide by Susan Sleeman — When the woman Derrick Justice has never stopped loving and the baby he’s come to adore are in a killer’s crosshairs, can Derrick trap the cold-blooded murderer before he strikes again? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Historical Mystery:

Death by the Book by Julianna Deering — Drew Farthering is determined to convince his American sweetheart Madeline Parker to accept his marriage proposal and stay on at his English country estate, but a series of baffling murders, each with a cryptic clue pinned into the body of the victim, might keep him from doing so . . . permanently. (Historical Mystery from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)


Final Trimester by Dianna T. Benson — Paramedic Jodi Duncan recognizes the work of a serial killer before Myrtle Beach PD even suspects a connection between the deaths of two pregnant women. Despite the vast differences in the two cases, Jodi urges Detective Nate Quigley to think outside the box. After digging deep into the separate investigations, Nate finds no evidence to support a serial killer theory, and he warns Jodi to back off police business, which only fuels her obsession with the cases. (Medical Mystery from Ellechor Publishing House)

Murder Simply Brewed by Vannetta Chapman — When the coffee shop manager is murdered in Middlebury’s Amish Artisan Village, two women from different walks of life must join together to solve the mystery and in the process renew their faith in God’s promises. (Cozy Mystery from Zondervan)

Red Gold by Sandy Nadeau — When someone tries to sabotage Mandy Phillips’ Colorado guest ranch, she risks everything to protect her guests and the land she loves. (Mystery from Harbourlight Books [Pelican])

by jill at 1:04 pm in