Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Meditations: ...For the Joy Set Before Me

There are some people who have a long-term outlook on life and some with a short-term outlook. Long-term people tend to be visionaries. They can envision the big picture long before it manifests. Short-term people tend to be more practical. Each step is their focus more than the end result.

I fall into the later category. I consider myself to be very practical. Often when my husband and I discuss the long-term goals of the family, my response is normally, “Can I get through today first?” That is one of the wonderful things about my marriage. My husband is a visionary and I’m more practical. He has the plan and I provide the steps to get it done. We balance each other out.

But on my own, I struggle with seeing the big picture. Often, especially when I’m working on a long project, there seems to be no end in sight. I’m often discouraged when faced with a daunting task because my focus is so limited. I’m only thinking about how to get through today.

Of course, writing novels can be very discouraging sometimes. It seems like days after days, week after week of writing with seemingly no forward movement. And one-hundred thousand words can seem like a lifetime away to a short-term minded person like me.

One day I was praying about my WIP, and it dawned on me that my attitude was wrong. I was approaching the project with dread. My negative self-talk had me thinking I would never finish it. But then a portion of a scripture popped into my head, “…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.”

Jesus was a visionary. He could see the big picture when He walked the earth. He saw us, in our sin with no way to freedom, and endured the cross. We were the joy set before Him.

I realized that I needed to broaden my mindset about my WIP. I needed to focus the big picture instead of drowning in the details of everyday. If you’ve visited my blog before, you probably know that I plan to use a portion of my earnings from a publishing contract to provide clean water for someone in need. That’s the joy. A town or community will no longer have to suffer the effects of drinking contaminated water. I just needed a little reminder of the joy that was set before me.

So if you are like me, frustrated at the length of the situations in your life, focus on the big picture. Don’t let your heart be weighted down with the minute details of your challenge. And even if you don’t have a specific goal, you can look forward to bring God glory with your life.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tea & Read: The Vigilante's Bride

Title: The Vigilante’s Bride
Author: Yvonne Harris
Rating: Glad I got it from the library (or free)

I love cowboy stories. I don’t know why but I tend to gravitate to them. But the Vigilant’s Bride proves that not all cowboys are created equal.

Luke Sullivan robs a stagecoach to get revenge but ends up abducting a family passenger, also. Emily McCarthy is unhappy about her abduction, but finds herself falling for Luke and in the middle of a fight between him and a powerful rancher.

I’ve written lots of reviews and few times have I struggled in figuring out what I wanted to say. This book left me wordless, and not in a good way. The best way I can describe this book was that book had one major flaw: the main character. Unfortunately, Luke Sullivan created a sad domino effect on the rest of the book.

I had a hard time reconciling his two sides. At the beginning of the book, he’s displayed as a ruthless vigilante. Then he switches to someone so kind and compassionate that I found it hard to believe he was the same person. The whole book hangs on the premise of his vigilante status, but I wasn’t feeling it. Sadly, when other characters made mention of Luke’s reputation for being callous, I found his later transformation hard to believe.

The rest of the book fell apart since most of the plot was pinned on Luke. I found myself more interested in the orphanage subplot than Luke and Emily. And I actually enjoyed the development and execution of that subplot and found myself wishing that the whole book had been about it. I didn’t give the book the lowest rating because of this.

I believe I would give Yvonne Harris’ book another chance. This book wasn’t horrid; Luke just needed a little more character development.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My Life in Stiches: Knitting vs. Crochet

In the years I spent crafting, I realized that people are either knit or crochet. Most people. My husband and I are an exception to the rule: we do both. My husband taught me to crochet and I taught him to knit. Yay for being weird.

I also think it’s weird that people can’t tell knitting from crochet. I can’t tell you the number of times someone asked me if I was crocheting while knitting and vise versa. To me, they are two totally different animals (needles=knitting, hook=crochet). But recently, when someone else mistook my knitting for crochet, I started thinking about the differences between the two.

So here is the Unofficial Terri Haynes Knitting vs. Crocheting list.


1. Better looking pieces. Knitting produces garments that don’t smack of homemade.
2. Yarn usage. Knitting uses far less yarn to complete small projects.
3. Ease of correcting mistakes. Now that I’ve learned how to do it, correcting my knitting boo-boos are simple.
4. Travel Friendly. Most knitting projects are small enough to stick in a bag and go. I knit on the Metro all the time. I don’t think I would try that with crochet. Also, knitting is the only thing I can do in the car without getting motion sickness. Bonus!

1. Pain. I find that when I’ve knitting for a long time, both hands hurt, instead of just one.
2. Financial impact. With crochet, you buy have to buy a maximum of three set of hooks, and that’s if you want bamboo or a set of small needles for crocheting thread. With knitting, not only do you have to purchase needles in the right size, but you have to buy ones with the right length and even double pointing needles. And you need stoppers for the end of your needles. All that adds up after a while.

1. Crochet is fast. In the time it takes me to knit one baby blanket, I could do three crocheted ones.
2. Multi-tasking. I find I can multi-task, say watching a movie or talking on the phone, easier with crochet than knit. But that might be because I haven’t been knitting as long as I’ve been crocheting.
3. Colors. To me, and I may be in the minority, changing colors in crochet is easier than in knit.

1. Wrist pain. With the circular motion of crocheting, your wrist tends to hurt before your hands.
2. Cheesy factor. No matter how nice your crochet, it still looks cheesy (unless it’s a blanket or something). I saw a little boy in a crochet hat one day and I cringed.
3. Patterns. There are many patterns out there crochet, but after a while, they all started looking the same to me. There only so many afghans you can make. And you can’t really make nice socks.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tea & Read: Amy Inspired

Title: Amy Inspired
Author: Bethany Pierce
Rating: Wall Target Practice

I have a funny way of picking books. It’s a mix of half interest, half discernment. When I saw this book on the shelf at Borders, the cover caught my eye. I didn’t read the blurb on the back and touched it every time I saw it, but never bought it. So when I was offered an opportunity to review it, I jumped at the chance and soon found it that my discernment was working. It was trying to tell me that I wouldn’t like the book.

Amy Gallagher is an inspiring writer struggling with the fact that she’s unpublished. She meets Eli, a mysterious man that intrigues her. Through her relationship with him and her other family and friends, she tries to reconcile her dreams with what is going on around her.

My chief complaint, and the one on which all my other complaints hang on, was plot pacing. More than once, I wondered where the plot was going or if it was going anywhere at all. Amy seems to meander through life with no clear direction of what she wants. The book didn’t give the sense of a clear beginning, middle and end. It was more like a string of random events Amy’s life. I think random is the best way to describe this book

The fact that the plot was hard to determine threw everything else in the book off kilter. The characters were engaging enough, but after a while, I stopped caring about them. Especially since I had no way to judge which events in Amy’s and the other character’s lives were significant. And I didn’t really get a sense of Amy’s character arc. She seemed as confused and random at the end of the book as she was at the beginning.

Sadly, I think the thing I enjoyed the most about this book was the setting. Pierce did a good job of describing the college town setting. Other than that, this book was a hard read.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Life in Stiches: What's Wrong with This Picture?

Photographer: Andres Rueda
I have a sad confession to make: I have never finished a knitting project for myself. I’ve made scarves, cowls, a hat, two baby blankets but nothing for me. I have the yarn already in my stash, but the “Me Projects” just kept getting pushed to the bottom my list. My husband has made more stuff for me than I have.

What’s wrong with this picture?

At least I know why I do this. I love giving gifts (one of my top Love Languages is gift-giving) and I love making projects for others. Think about it: nothing says love than knowing that someone invested weeks (and in my case, months) into making some for you. That they went to the yarn shop and picked a pattern and color with you in mind. I love seeing that joy in people’s eyes. Love it, love it, love it.

But I know I will eventually have to make something for myself. I have two cowls, Traveling Woman, a pair of socks and a pinwheel sweater in my “Me” queue. I get to them eventually, once I’ve made something for everyone I know. Yeah, I know. I’m a sucker.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tea & Read: Digitalis

Title: Digitalis
Author: Ronie Kendig
Rating: Spend the Day Sleepy

Last Friday, I posted a review of the first book in the Discarded Heroes series.

Digitalis features Former Marine sniper Colton "Cowboy" Neeley and Piper Blum, daughter of daughter of dissident Yakov Rosenblum. When Piper and her father finds themselves in grave danger, Colton and the team go on a heart-thumping adventure.

If you’ve read any of my other reviews, there are a few things that make me extremely happy in a novel. Kendig hits them all in this novel.

The characters are great. I love the fact that Colton goes from tough former Marine to lovesick puppy around Piper. It brings an enjoyable depth to his character. I also love that Piper isn’t just a pretty face. She brings her own flair to the book, Ziva style. The characters have believable flaws, no crying over hangnails here. They all grapple with the decisions they have to make and the consequences of them.

The pacing is fantastic. I didn’t skim a single page. As in the first book, Kendig hooks you into Colton’s and Piper’s world with such effectiveness that I never questioned the credibility of the events. Speaking of events, the plot kept me guessing unto the end, including the way the romance between Colton and Piper developed.

And of course, the book has lots of carnage.

I know this book is labeled as a romance book, but I’ve recommended it and the first book in the series, Nightshade, to my husband. It’s the perfect balance of man book and sigh-worthy romance. There aren’t enough man books out there and I’m glad to finally have a book I can share with him.

Kendig has earned her spot on my “I’ll buy your books without question” list. I’m looking forward to reading the third book in the series.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My Life in Stiches: Secret Santa

My knitting group scheduled a Secret Santa swap and we exchanged our gifts this week. I was a little nervous about the swap, mainly because of the questionnaire. It shouldn’t have been scary. It was a simple form asking what my favorite yarns and colors. Harmless, right? Unless you don’t know the answer to any of those questions.

I consider myself a new knitter even though I’ve been knitting for about two years now. That’s a good amount of time, but I know very little about fiber content and colorways. I do know yarn weights from my crochet background, but that’s pretty much it. So as I stared at this form, I kept saying, “I don’t know.” So I filled in everything I did know (which was pretty much just my favorite colors and food allergies) and sent it off into the vast universe that is my knitting group

Fortunately, the ladies know more about yarn than I do because Tammy, my Secret Santa, hooked me up. She got me a gorgeous hank of Miss Babs French Marigold sock yarn. It’s so pretty that I almost don’t want to knit it (but I will). When I got home from the swap, I had the hank sitting on my lap like a puppy, petting it while I looked for a pattern.

I can’t wait to cast on with it, but I’m happy to continue to pet it for now

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday Meditations: Are You Going Somewhere With This?

I’ve been doing my End of Year evaluations of my life. You know, the ones we do when we realized twelve months have slipped through our fingers leaving us holding a long list of things we wanted to do. As I consider my writing life in 2010, I realized that I need to get back to learning more about writing.

In past years, it wasn’t unusual for me to go to the library and check out a bag full of writing craft books. I would hoard writing books. As a matter of fact, I have a stack of writing books I’ve purchased sitting on my bedroom floor (mainly because I have no more shelf space). I would dive into these books, doing the exercises and trying to put some of what I learned into practice. But this past year…not so much.

I don’t know why I fell away from reading writing craft books, but I can see the difference they made. I’ve started reading them again. Not so much as a New Year’s resolution. Mostly because I tired of feeling stuck with my writing and learning craft is a great way to grow and progress as a writer.

One book I’ve been reading lately is James Scott Bell’s The Art of War for Writers. My writing library includes all of his writing craft books. I purchased this book over the summer and hadn’t cracked the cover until now. I greatly respect Bell as writer and an instructor. I had the pleasure of talking with him at the Greater Philadelphia Writers Conference several years ago.

In his book, there is a section called Strategy (the book is bases on Sun Tao’s Art of War). The first entry covers strategic planning for writers. Bell states that writers have to approach their writing as a business and create a business plan which includes a vision statement.

Sounds simple, right?

Then why don’t I have a vision statement for my writing?

I don’t have a vision statement. I should, but I don’t. It’s not like I don’t know the power of vision. With a vision, the people perish, right? Don’t I know that scripture to be true? Why, yes. Yes, I do.

When I read Bell’s instruction to create a business plan, I had to seriously ask myself, “Are you going anywhere with this?” Sadly, I’ve been straddling the fence between writing for a hobby and writing as a career for a long time. I’ve spent the past few years running on the fuel my desire to write produced but that wasn’t enough. I need to get off the fence and be serious about my writing. I need to go to the land of career novelist.

Bell’s advice helped me to see that I’ve either get serious about my writing CAREER and figure out where I’m going with this gift that God gave me. God has a plan for this. I just need to figure out what He wants and how.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Tea & Read: Nightshade

Title: Nightshade
Author: Ronie Kendig
Rating: Spend the Day Sleepy

I love it when random moments result in greatness. I love it even more when casual encounters turn into great reading. That’s exactly what happened during the ACFW conference last year.

I had gone to the bookstore during a time when different authors were set up for book signings. I’d browsed through the bookstore and nothing caught my eye, so I wandered around the book signing tables. One of the authors had military gear set up at her table. Me being a military wife, I went over to check things out. That and the fact that I love finding new favorite authors.

I can still remember the confused look Ronie Kendig gave me when I walked up without a book to sign. She probably thought I was crazy when I asked her to tell me a little bit about herself so I could decide if I wanted to buy her book.

But before she could open her mouth, another woman walked up to the table and started gushing about the book and its main character, Max. The woman finished by saying, “I love Max.” As Ronie had signed her book, I said, “I’m sold.” I walked back into the bookstore and bought a copy of Nightshade for Ronie to sign. She wrote, Thank you so much for taking a chance with Max and his team! No, thank you Ronie, for writing an amazing book.

Nightshade is the first book in the Discarded Heroes Series. It is the story of Max Jacobs, a former Navy seal. He is home from war and battling PTSD. Things are not going well in his marriage either; his wife has a restraining order against him. But Max is giving an opportunity to be a part of a team and a great adventure follows.

I think the best part of this book was the characters. I read a lot of Christian fiction and for the past few months I’ve been feeling like I’ve been reading the same characters only in different settings. But not with Max and Sydney. Kendig created fresh and engaging characters. And she accomplished something that I always enjoy: she wrote flawed characters without making them annoying.

And talk about a page turning. I found myself zipping through the story but the pace wasn’t too fast. It was balanced, keeping me locked in for the ride. Kendig is also to be praised for her treatment of the military. Max and his team are very realistic, going beyond the normal military stereotypes.

This book pulled my emotions like taffy. I went from curiosity to intrigue to heartbreak to anger and back again. And like the woman at the book signing table, I love Max.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My Life in Stitches: Sick & Knitting

Lacy Leaf Hat made with Rowan Tapestry
 Last week I caught a cold. I don’t know who the Outbreak monkey was, (if you don’t get the joke, watch the movie. Patrick Dempsey is hot even when he’s violent dying from a killer virus) but everyone in my family was sick except my nine-year old. It started suddenly on Sunday night and lasted through the following Thursday. It completely shut me down.

The funny thing was that I had just finished a lengthy project that Sunday, a baby blanket. And before the cold got bad, I casted-on my next project, a hat for a friend. There I was, to weak to do anything. So I propped myself up in a chair and knitted while listening to an audiobook. As a matter of fact, all I did for three days was pray, journal and read my Bible in the morning, knit and listen to Look to the East by Maureen Lang for the rest of the day. And eat, of course.

It was quite refreshing to go from a time consuming project to a quick one. I think that helped fuel me. And I was excited about my first knitting-in-the-round project. I zipped the rows after I got the hang of the pattern (translation: after I made a million mistakes and went back and fixed them).

I am pleased to say that I finished the hat in two days. That was even after starting over twice and taking out a couple of rows a couple of times. I even casted-on my next project. I wish they all went this quick. If I keep going at this rate, I may be able to refill my stash bins with more yarn. Yay cold!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Monday Meditations: New Me

New Year’s Resolutions are challenging for me. Don’t get me wrong; making them isn’t difficult. It’s keeping them that present the problem. For my entire adult life, I’ve made New Year’s resolutions, even if I resolved not to make any. And every year I’ve broke them, normally within the first couple of week in January. Each time, I’ve proclaimed that I don’t have enough discipline.

The temptation to make a resolution is so strong, especially during the last few days of the year. All those “Best of 2010” lists on TV don’t help either. And this year, I felt myself giving into the lure of making a list. I will write and edit two novels next year. I will pray more. I will lose 10 pounds. I will…whatever.

Then it hit me: some of these items were very familiar. They appeared on other year’s resolutions. They were proof resolutions don’t work for me; if I could keep them, I would have done it by now and thus they wouldn’t be on this year’s potential list. So I decided not to make a list at all. Unfortunately, I still felt the tug of having measurable goals for 2011 but not feeling comfortable with doing the same ol, same ol’.

As I prayed about my quandary, God gave me a totally different perspective. Instead of making specific, itemized lists, I should set my goals on who I want to be as a person for 2011. I don’t want to just accomplish a few random items. I want to be a better Christian, wife, mother, sister, friend, intercessor, and writer. I want to be the Terri God is pleased with.

The beauty of this approach is that it’s broader than making specific lists. I won’t be locked into guilt-fueled busyness. After all, isn’t that all resolutions are? An attempt to soothe the remorse we feel about all unfinished goals of last year? I want to grow. At the end of 2011, I want to assess myself and say “Wow, I am so not the person I was last year. I’m better.” I think that’s about all I should be concerned with.