Dear reader, what do you crave?

IMG_7413Dear reader,

I grew up on fiction like All of a Kind Family, and The Borrowers, and Little House on the Prairie. I was so captivated by Laura Ingalls that I used to wear a mop cap to bed and a long dress during the day. I imagined being like the Mouse and the Motorcycle, zooming in and out of holes in the baseboards, drinking from a thimble and sleeping in a matchbox. That love of story transferred into writing poems and peculiar little stories, and then bigger stories, and then term papers and essays.

Somewhere along the line–possibly when I started having children of my own and could only squeeze in a few seconds of reading at a time before someone needed fed or woke from a nap–I switched from reading primarily fiction to nonfiction. For awhile, I lost a desire to read anything more than a devotion or chapter-length piece. That’s all I had time for, really.

When my youngest went off to first grade, I picked up my pen and started writing again. Even though I found myself writing nonfiction, at the same time I studied story knowing that words did no good if they didn’t captivate. I began to use concepts of storytelling in my work as a nurse to help patients retain important information about caring for chronic health conditions. I used principles of story when I wrote for newspapers and magazines.

And I realized with renewed fervor that the world spins with the energy of story.

I started devouring fiction again…Francine Rivers. Catherine Marshall. Ron Rash and Kaye Gibbons. Kathyrn Stockett and Barbara Kingsolver and Billie Letts and many, many, many more.

I have novels on my nightstand and in my car, on my floor and in the kitchen.

I have a list of over 200 hundred novels I want to read, and another hundred to add to that.

I can’t get enough story.

There are times in our lives–like when I was busy with three precious toddlers–when it’s really hard to read. Even when we do find the time, we fall asleep mid-paragraph because we’re exhausted. But at the end of the day, I believe we all crave story.

Facts and soundbites, memoir and rhetoric, tweets and posts are all well and good.

But if we’re really looking for the freedom that comes from dreaming of faraway lands and faraway hope, for the sort of truth that comes from a walk and not just a talk, then what we’re really looking for is story.

Fiction.

Art.

Triumph over chaos.

Not to mention the characters–oh, the characters!–like Jay Gatsby and Holden Caulfield, Holly Golightly and Scarlett O’Hara, Scout and The Cat in the Hat, Frog and Toad, Dr. Zhivago and Peter Pan, Aslan and Anna Karenina and Charlotte the Spider and Wilbur the Pig and Winn Dixie and Skeeter and so many more who are each imagined by one and brought to life by the hundreds of thousands who read them.

What do you think about story, dear reader?

Do you prefer fiction over nonfiction?

Do you agree with what John Cheever says, below?

What’s your favorite story?

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Dear reader, do you have coffee stains on your desk?

I do.

I don’t think about the stains much, except that they’re pretty easy to clean away with Windex.

Everything is pretty easy to clean away with Windex, right?

But you know, I kind of like them there, those brown rings on my desk…some of them to the right of where my laptop sets, some of them to the left…remnants of long mornings staring at my screen, wondering what to write next, what to do next, what to imagine next.

Most mornings I drink a cup or two before the third gets cold half way through as once again I’m lost in the process of writing.

Are you a creative?

You don’t have to be a writer to have cold, dry coffee stains next to your workstation.

You could be a painter.

A carpenter.

A businessman.

A nurse.

A doctor.

A waitress.

A computer geek.

Coffee stains around your work space testify to your dedication and your heart to do whatever it takes.

But what…or whom…are we doing it all for?

I found this verse (below) in Colossians, and was convicted (((again))) about committing my work, and my words, to the Lord.

Things that last are hard to come by these days. Lost in a computer blip, a soundbite, a performance review, a harsh word from a customer…

…maybe the writer of Ecclesiastes was right when he lamented that there’s nothing new under the sun and besides that, everything is just dust in the wind.

But I don’t think so.

Not if what we do, we do for the Lord.

A brush stroke,

a leveled frame,

a balanced ledger,

a fevered brow cooled,

an infection fought,

a coffee cup filled,

a computer code cracked…

…all of that lasts forever when done for the Lord.

What are you doing today?

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Dear Reader, do you ever wonder about book cover design?

As my upcoming third novel continues moving through the editing process, we’re starting one of my favorite stages: the book cover.

Seeing the “face,” if you will, of the creation that’s been rumbling around in my lonely, half-crazed noggin for a couple of years is (((almost))) as marvelous as seeing the face of a newborn baby.

Publishing houses are all different when it comes to cover design.

Some don’t let their authors have any say or even see samples before the cover design is set. Both of my publishing houses have asked me to send them my ideas and covers of other books I like. That doesn’t mean I get to tell them what to design–it just means they at least consider (which they’re not obligated at all to do) my thoughts and ideas.

The other reason I love, love, love the cover design stage is because–little known factI used to be a graphic designer.

I had my own consulting business, if you can believe that. And so as much as I like writing, I am enamoured with graphic design. In fact, I think graphic designers are amazing. The artists who designed the covers of How Sweet the Sound and Then Sings My Soul showed me not just one, but three outstand-incred-amazing choices for each of those books. They ultimately picked the “winner,” but I would have been equally proud of any of them.

Designers really have to know their stuff.

They have to consider how a book looks to readers at all angles, front, back and spine, as well as how it might best catch someone’s eye when it’s and mixed in with a bunch of other books on a shelf. They research what appeals to readers, market trends, and study new design techniques. Not to mention the fact that they have to try to capture the heart of 300+ pages in one single image.

That’s amazing, if you ask me!

Take this upcoming third novel of mine, slated for a summer, 2016, release, for example. I’m still not revealing much about the story, but I can tell you there’s a couple of guys, a couple of girls, a small Indiana town, and a lot of cows involved.

My editor asked me to send them some cover ideas, so here’s what I collected for them:


Do any of these catch your eye? Grab your attention? Whet your whistle?

What about her?ย 

She REALLY wants to be on the cover, but I don’t think they’ll let her…

And what about you, dear reader?ย 

Do you have any favorite book covers? Any you don’t like? Anything about a book cover that tends to make you pick it up to see what’s inside?