Thursday, October 30, 2014

Book Recipe

You heard right.

Writers: Want an interesting "recipe" for writing a book? Here goes:


1 book
1 decade (give or take a year or two)
Twenty some-odd other books you've written over the course of that decade
10 years' worth of experience
A heaping of enthusiasm

1) Lose, deep-six, burn, leave on the New Jersey Path train (well, maybe you don't want to do that, but you get the picture) all traces of the original manuscript, leaving only the concept and a couple of memorable characters.

2) Combine the experience of that decade with what you've learned from writing the other books and pour it into a large heaping of enthusiasm.

3) Write and develop the new version of the original, bake well with love and generous doses of caffeine. As with any book, stir from Page 1 all the way to the words THE END.

4) Pray, pray, pray (to be done often during the whole process).

5) Edit, polish and publish.

Servings: Unknown, but it does go a long way. Absolutely no fat, cholesterol, carbs, or calories.

The result is a dish that is entirely new and uniquely different from the original. I haven't stressed about making it like the first book, which I don't remember as well except for certain events and, as I said, two VIP characters. One was a man in the original; she is now a female character and, in my opinion, readers will take to her even more.

It hasn't been easy. This has been a book like ONE SWEET DAY, which took longer to write, as well as more development because of the cast of characters. CRYSTAL WAVES has an even larger cast.

It's a journey that I never thought I would be taking again as a writer. I've enjoyed it and am really looking forward to sharing it with readers sometime next month.

So to the writers out there: If you've got a "lost" book like this somewhere, don't be afraid. Stock up on the coffee and jump in headfirst!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Shoes & Accessories for after 50

Up until this year, I've always been one of those women who LOVES jewelry. Especially the unusual kind or anything handmade or Bohemian! Usually, though, I end up picking up whatever's in clearance at Target or JC Penny or Belk. There are very few "real" items that I own--like my wedding band and the string of pearls to the right, a present from my husband that he recently had restrung for me. Everything else I own is costume.

But this year, I've started to pare down. Part of it, I think, IS being over 50. I had that discussion with my best friend, Linda, who agrees that there comes a time when you look around your house and realize you have TOO much stuff. A great part of it, too, is that this year (actually, it started happening last year), I would go into a store and *almost* pick up a necklace or another bracelet, and a familiar Still, Small Voice in my heart would ask, "Do you really need that?"

Does it look like I need more bracelets? This has been pared down, though it's taken a couple of years of doing so. It's taken being honest with myself, noticing what really gets worn, what just sits on this stand, and what has value because it was a gift. (Like my Pandora bracelet, which doesn't have a lot of beads yet, but it is of value to me as a gift from my husband, and most of the beads I do have are gifts from and representing my kids, daughters-in-law and grandchildren.

In case you haven't figured it out (and that's okay; I'm skirting around the issue anyway!), there is a scripture that keeps coming back to me. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Jesus, Matthew 6:19-21, NASB.

This scripture, and others, together with minimalist blogs that I've been reading over this year, have gotten me to take a good look at my little "treasures" that I've stored up in this house. More on all of that in another entry, but for now, I have found that less is more after 50 when it comes to accessories, too. Your tastes also change as you get older; what you absolutely, positively had to have, even at 40, now doesn't capture your attention or fit with your wardrobe or who you are now. pared-down I've gotten my necklaces! This has taken a lot of honesty, too. Yes, it was so cute when I bought it, and I had all good intentions to wear it...and then it rarely made it off my necklace shelf to see the light of day outside.

So this, plus my pearls, are seeing more of the light of day. I tend to add *very* sparingly to this. I'm opting for the elegance of simplicity, as well as wearing what I REALLY like. I really love flower jewelry, colorful beads, and understated, thinner necklaces with one pendant at the end of it, and I still love Bohemian. On the other hand, let's keep it simple: Let's have a few items I truly love on hand, something that will complement a dress or outfit, rather than accumulating stuff just for the sake of it.

Earrings have been a lot easier. Again, I only own one pair of "real" earrings--the pearl ones that go with my string of pearls. But at right are my current favorite earrings. Yes, I have more, but these are my go-tos, the ones I wear most of the time. The blue stone ones, especially, have garnered a lot of compliments! I consider those my Friday, Celebrate-the-End-of-the-Week earrings.

I know a lot of women like the bigger earrings, but at 54, I'm just finding the smaller, more understated and dainty earrings suit me. Those big, fun hoop earrings are some that I still love--but again, better to have earrings you really love than to buy out everything the store has in stock, clearance or otherwise.

And the daintier ones go soooooo nice with short hair!

Shoes have been more of a problem to pare down. First of all, you need a great pair of running shoes, for walking, for comfort, for work (if you're allowed to wear them). If you hike, you need a pair of hiking boots (like the ones peeking out in this picture). If you're a North Carolinian, how can you NOT have some flip-flops?! I'm sure some women, even after 50, can't do without their high heels.

Again, I'm at a point where I know what I love. Your clothes will rule what you have as shoes to a large degree, too. I've come to three conclusions:

1) I want to be comfortable
2) I prefer kitten heels to high heels


3) I really love boots. Cowboy boots, black boots, ankle boots, short boots (like these in the picture, still in great shape from last year). When the weather calls for them. Otherwise, I really love sandals, though I haven't managed to pare down in that area OR the boots.

Keep in mind when there are days that a colorful scarf (or one of those infinity ones that Linda rocks!) will better suit an outfit than a necklace, any day.

Full disclosure: I'm NOT a belt person. I only own 2. So I guess that's one area that's easy for me to pare down.

How about you? Have you gone through your accessories? Have you found what you love, what you use all the time, what was nice at 25 but now it's just collecting dust?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Health & Fashion After 50

Let's face it: Just because a woman isn't 25 anymore doesn't mean she doesn't want to look and feel her best. What worked at 25, fashion- and health-wise, may not always work at 50+.

In this entry, let's take fashion first. Now I'm not an expert on fashion by any stretch of the imagination. Yet as someone who is looking to simplify and pare down in all areas, including her wardrobe, I have come to realize that less is more. As someone who doesn't have a big budget to work with, I've come to appreciate the idea of staples.  As in, wardrobe staples. Something even designers advise women to have in their closets.

Before I mention my own choice staples--those go-to, mix & match clothes that I love and feel good wearing, let me point out that I've come to the conclusion that I'm happy with my size. Size 6 in Misses, size 7 in Junior, occasionally a size 4, depending on the cut/designer/store.

I mention this only because I've spent part of this summer trying to get down to smaller sizes until I came to the conclusion--and God impressed upon my heart--that happiness is not found in dress or jeans size. Neither is joy, and happiness and joy are not the same thing. Trust me, though: Neither the Misses nor the Junior sections in a store will give you self-esteem, confidence, poise, or well-being. All of those things should come from within. They don't come with a price tag attached, no matter what this consumer-driven society tells us.

Another thing, too: It's okay if we, as "mature" women, can't wear what we wore at 18 or even 30. I'm not saying that we have to dress like old ladies, either. In fact, women of our generation, those last few years of the Baby Boomers, have a more youthful style, more fun and bright and fashionable, than generations before us.

I like what a friend and former coworker once told me: "A woman should dress like an actress making an entrance onto the stage." She meant the clothes themselves; I believe it's about the confidence and healthy self-image the "actress" wears like a dazzling gown.

Now here are my "staples." These are all personal choices, but I found it interesting while surfing the Internet that others consider some of these to be their staples, too.

A comfortable pair of mid-rise, "skinny" (straight-leg) jeans
Remember the days of not eating a bite all day at college because you poured yourself into skintight Jordache jeans that morning? Yeah, um, no, those days are over for me. Let's go for fit, style AND comfort. And lunch, ya'll. Let's go for lunch that day, too! Look for the words "curvy" and "stretch denim." These look great with the legs tucked into boots, with kitten heels or ankle boots, high heels (if you wear them) and sandals.

A comfortable pair of mid-rise, boot-cut jeans
(Please see above for the skinny jeans comments, because they fit here, too!) Oh--and I prefer Levis, but Old Navy and Target have some great selections in these, too. In both, skinny and boot-cut, the dark denim just looks dressier.

A pair of black jeans; a pair of white jeans.
These can be dressed up very nicely. They're also both the Un-jeans of the jeans world.

Stretchy, long- or short-sleeved solid tops
Stock up on all colors! Dress up with scarves, necklaces, or just a cute sweater.

Tank tops, preferably solid
Yes, you heard right. Tanks! You can wear these under a shrug or another shirt. They look great with jeans, skirts, shorts, you name it. Make sure the fit is good.

Leather jacket
One that comes to your waist, no longer. It's a cool item, whether black or red, and it looks good with jeans, skirts, and pants.

Black skirt and black dress pants
I prefer both to be comfortable. And I also happen to be one of those people who believes you can never have too many black pants! Black is so basic, and it can be paired with a top or sweater of bold or multiple colors. If that's a black pencil skirt, even better.

I would also like to include a very pretty, very feminine and crisp, button-down white blouse. Something that pearls, real or bought at Target, would enhance.

Agree with my list? Disagree? What are your staples?

Tomorrow--let's talk shoes & accessories!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Quickie Notes, aka FYIs

Would you believe I'm blogging while cooking dinner for tomorrow, plus messaging Big Son up in New Jersey? Who says we 50-something grandmothers can't multi-task?

I meant to cook as soon as we got back from bowling tonight but then got wrapped up in working on CRYSTAL WAVES. (You might be wondering why I'm cooking tomorrow's dinner tonight. Wednesday nights are busy in this household, with hubby coming back from his ministry late, so we have to schedule dinner accordingly.) So while the Italian dressing chicken cooks and the potatoes and carrots brown, here are some quickie notes (or you can call them FYIs, since they're both). Just things I want to make clear before anything else comes up!

1) First things first: FOR THE LOVE OF SUMMER, the 3rd and final book of THE JOYFUL NOISE SERIES, will most likely be published in the first quarter of 2015. Sorry for the delay on that--CRYSTAL WAVES sort of took over the top spot in the publishing schedule!

2) CRYSTAL WAVES, which will be coming out in paperback, will be having its own giveaway on Goodreads. I'll be announcing that both here and on Goodreads when the time comes.

3) There will be a sweet romance novella in between CRYSTAL WAVES and FOR THE LOVE OF SUMMER, something light that will tentatively be coming out in January 2015. This won't be specifically Christian/inspirational, but it WILL be classified as a sweet romance, one that you can share with the young (teen or young adult) reader in your life.

4) Sometime next year, look for the return of Consuelo Vazquez (my other pen name), that will be a 20th Century Historical that follows a Cuban-American family. More news on that to follow.

5) By the time CRYSTAL WAVES is published, that makes 4 books written and published this year. Barring anything that comes up, I anticipate that 2015 will be just as busy, writing-wise. Nothing is set in stone yet, but I'm looking forward to at least one of those works being a historical. Check back here often for news.

That's it for now. Back to the Italian dressing chicken for me...and good night to you!

Monday, October 6, 2014


Here is a cover that I never thought I'd have the pleasure of sharing with readers. Even though its release probably isn't going to be until early November, the cover for CRYSTAL WAVES is making its first appearance here on my blog. As always, bookmark this page for more info and upcoming news on this new Christian mainstream novel. Hoping and praying it blesses you!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sleep, Health & Creativity

A relaxing cup of tea. A hot bath or shower. Spa-style music, unencumbered by words and voices. A book on my Ipad that I'll read until I can't keep my eyes open anymore.

Those are a few of the nightly rituals that send me on my way to a night of fitful, restful sleep. On lazy days when we don't go anywhere and we don't have guests, lounging out at home, I've also become a fan of the afternoon siesta.

I didn't always feel that way about sleep. Years ago, early in my writing career, someone told me and a group of other writers that "Sleep is overrated." The idea being, of course, that sleep takes time away from writing, writing, writing. For years I subscribed to that view--not always, because I've always worked a full-time job, besides being a wife and mother. Still, many nights I'd go to bed at 1, 2, and even 3 AM or later. I'd get up at 7 and function on only 4 or 5 hours of sleep.

It's not often that I do that anymore.

Maybe what you did at 35 or even 40 isn't as easily done when you're over 50. Really, it has more to do with the fact that, over the years, I've found that physical rest does more for health and creativity than insanely pushing yourself each and every weekend. According to studies, getting enough sleep at night also works together with exercise and healthy eating for losing and maintaining weight.

Getting enough sleep at night:

* Makes you alert enough to approach your WIP. There's nothing more miserable than trying to force yourself to work when you're either too tired or not feeling well. Maybe some writers report they work well under those circumstances, but it's not typically the time I've done my best work. Your energy also won't be tapped out earlier than usual, so maybe you can go an extra hour or two to write before going to bed. An extra hour or two...not the entire night.

* Gives you enough energy the next day to work out. Whether you walk, go to the gym, do yoga or ride your at-home exercise back, your workout has overall benefits that include clearing your head and relieving stress. In turn, that translates to an easier flow of creativity. Ever try to workout when you've had only 3 or 4 hours of sleep?

* Writing, writing, writing at a breakneck pace, and at the cost of your own health, doesn't guarantee your best work. It probably guarantees a LOT of work, but not necessarily your best. Can we take good care of ourselves and still give our best to our writing?

* There's a definite correlation between getting enough sleep and stress relief. As someone who has suffered with stress and anxiety, I have noticed the difference that getting enough sleep makes for relieving stress. With stress, like clutter, out of the way, creativity flows more smoothly.

So now, years later, I would have to disagree.

Sleep is not overrated.

So put on the chamomile tea. Listen to Sounds of the Ocean. Lie down on clean and crisp sheets and blankets, especially now that it's autumn and the weather is cooler, perfect for sleep, and pretend you're floating on the clouds, right into a deep and wonderful sleep.

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, oh LORD, will keep me safe. - Psalm 4:8

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Movie Review: LEFT BEHIND

Let me start off by saying that this isn't the highly popular and successful God's Not Dead, which--bonus!--featured the Newsboys. This movie also obviously had a bigger budget than The Encounter, though I'm not so sure it has as big a heart as that little film. It didn't have the emotional impact of The Passion of the Christ, nor the beauty and excitement of The Bible as presented by the History Channel. Both of those films, too, left Hollywood dazed and unable to comprehend their success with the public. I did find this version much better done than the original Left Behind, which was released 14 years ago, with Kirk Cameron (who, as most know, is a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ) as reporter Buck Williams.
Didn't read the series the movie's based on? That's okay; I only read one, myself, and that was Glorious Appearing. Still, I was very excited about this new Left Behind coming out. I also know from surfing the Internet that some Christians were suspicious of the choice to cast Nicolas Cage in the role of Captain Rayford Steele. (Now how's THAT for a romance hero name! Ha! Sorry, I couldn't resist.) I had no such problem because my husband and I have always liked him as an actor. Yes, he plays some crazies at times, but Nicolas Cage has always had this knack for playing characters with a quiet sadness about them, a touch of sweetness. If you get the chance, rent Moonstruck, It Could Happen to You, or Peggy Sue Got Married, and see if he doesn't make you fall in love with his character. Even in some of his later works, that vulnerable and tender quality is there.
And it's there in this movie, too...once we get past the Captain Romeo of the Skies portion. 

Basically, this story is about an airline pilot whose daughter, Chloe (played here by Cassi Thompson) comes home to surprise him for his birthday. This family's been through a lot of changes, and it seems to have been brought about by Mrs. Steele's (the lovely Lea Thompson in that role) acceptance of the Lord as her Savior. She has only been a Christian for a year, and supposedly that has caused problems between her and Captain Romeo, though the writers don't do an adequate job of depicting that, since Ray Steele is very respectful when talking about his wife. He even got chuckles from our audience last night when he said (paraphrased), "If she had to leave me for another man, why not Jesus?" 

Mom's relationship with Christ DOES form a wedge between her and her daughter. We don't know what Chloe's actually majoring in; we're just told she's in college. At the airport she meets Buck Williams, who's catching the plane that Dad's flying. That conversation reveals some things about both characters and the plot. Chad Michael Murray did a great job in the role originally played by Kirk Cameron. As Christians, both I and my husband were taken aback by a scene at the very beginning involving a Christian woman looking to debate Buck about current events and how they relate to the end times. Chloe "defends" him, though both women come off as petty and trying to one-up each other, and for a supposedly Christian film, we're given a "crazy Christian lady" straight out of a Stephen King novel. It seemed mocking in nature, and just didn't feel right.

But anyway, Dad takes the flight and misses his b-day celebration, but he's really having a secret tryst to London with his middle-age crisis fling, Hattie Durham. (Buck Williams; Rayford Steele. Why does the gorgeous, flirtatious, young blonde have a name like "Hattie?" Do you know anybody with the name "Hattie" under 75 years old?) But let's go on. Chloe has an argument with Mom, who DOES come across as a sincere and loving Christian who wants her family to be saved, and all of us have had similar conversations with our loved ones, so that was very realistic. But Chloe is not ready to make that decision; she gets angry and goes out for a while, taking her younger brother (Ramie?) with her to the mall. Her brother's a little guy, she's about 20, 21 or so, and their brief relationship is loving and a sweet part of the movie. Dad's about 37,000 feet up in the air, and both he and Kirk--sorry, Buck! I still missed the lovable Kirk Cameron in this!--are on their way to London.

Then the Lord takes His bride from the earth, and that includes babies, kids and those believers who are ready. Incidentally, some non-Christian reviewers had a real problem with that, saying, in effect, "God takes all those goody-goody Christians and leaves the rest of us to fend for ourselves during the tribulation." I should also add, some believers don't believe in the Rapture, or they believe it will be mid-Trib, post-Trib, etc. Here's how to remedy all that: Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and JUST BE READY. "So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!" -- Luke 21:28, NLT. Just in case, BE READY.

That's when Left Behind goes into full swing. I won't spoil anything for you, even if you've seen the original, because this doesn't totally follow the original. There are some light, humorous moments provided by one particular passenger, and one scene with Jordin Sparks that makes no sense at all, which seems to have been written in just to give Jordin Sparks something to do. She does look beautiful, though, and she sings the closing song.

All in all, I'm going to give Left Behind 3 1/2 stars out of 5. Despite some of its problems, it does entertain, Nicolas Cage does give a solid performance, as do Cassi Thompson and Chad Michael Murray, and the little that we see of Lea Thompson. As a Christian, it also does manage to make you take a moment from this physical world we're living in, with all its strife, suffering, and violence, and it reminds you to stand and look up, because the Lord is coming back. That makes it a movie worth seeing. One last note: It was, by far, MUCH better than the drippingly sweet and poorly done, Heaven is For Real.

And for a more in-depth review, which was also fair, funny, and well done, check out Christian Geek Central's video.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

In Praise of CHOCOLATE

"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." - Charles Schultz

Yes, you heard right. I'm blogging about chocolate only days after blogging about this healthful year. Believe it or not, it does tie in together.


Not fruits. Not veggies. Not healthy smoothies that combine the two. Not lean protein or low-fat cheese or sugar-free this-and-that.


Not one of those fun-size, two-bites-and-it's-gone, baby bars, either. One of my friends recently claimed she's satisfied with one or two of those, and I'm no one to question her. At times, that's all I need, too.

But let's get real, ya'll: When I have my once-a-week chocolate treat, I make it worth my time. I have deliciousness in its full size, all 210 luscious calories of it, like the one above, aka The Great American Chocolate Bar.

This year, at 54, the same year I maintained my weight in the mid-120s, I also realized that I really enjoy having a candy bar now and then. Whether it's a Snickers, a Nestle's Crunch Bar, a pack of plain M&Ms, or a Hershey bar (seriously, I love them ALL), if I have give in to the desire to have one, I'm set for a week.

I know that sounds crazy, but it's true. I have my chocolate satisfies me and makes my tastebuds all excited...I get it out of my system, and the rest of the week I'm happy with fruits, veggies, nuts, lean means, whole grains, and all that other good stuff. For chocolate, I gladly--no, I passionately--give up the 6, 7, or 8 flex points from my WW weekly allowance of 49.

It's called everything in moderation. Not eating 5 candy bars, but being happy with just that one candy bar. And everything about it is pleasurable, too. Buying it is fun; holding it in its neat wrapper is fun; toting it around for a day or two in my purse, sometimes, until the urge to eat it really hits, is fun. Taking my time with it, to savor it, to give chocolate the chance to release whatever chemical magic it releases that makes the human heart all light and bubbly.

Chocolate is food, something to eat. We refer to it as "sinful" and "decadent," and when we have it, we feel guilty and say, "I was bad today and had a Milky Way bar." In reality, it's not sinful; it's food, it's a special treat, and it's delicious. We're not "bad" when we have it. Like Carrie Underwood has said, "Sometimes a girl just has to have chocolate!"

I don't apologize for my weekly chocolate. Sometimes, like this week, I'll have one chocolate bar...and then have one more, later in the week. I don't do that often. That's all right; I have permission to do that. From me. Permission to eat what I really love.

And I Really Love Chocolate.

"And it melts, God forgive me, it melts ever so slowly on your tongue, and tortures you with pleasure." - Yvette Marceau in Chocolat

"Eat chocolate every day and be happy." - Carolina Herrera

"Chocolate symbolizes, as does no other food, luxury, comfort, sensuality, gratification, and love." - Karl Petzke