Monday, February 25, 2013

Writer's Block -- Get Your Head in the Game!

What do you do when you've got writer's block?

That very question has wandered through my mind on many occasions as I've stared at my computer screen, racking my brain for any way to move my story forward. Overcoming writer's block is one of the greatest challenges for a writer, and there is no set way to clear the obstacles blocking your creativity. So, what are we supposed to do to get out of a writing slump?

After trying some distraction tactics -- playing a few games of Solitaire, walking around the block and getting a snack -- I came back to my work-in-progress (WIP) feeling energized and full of ideas. My fingers flew across the keys and the pages filled up. Chapters fell into place and I was well on my way to bringing another happily-ever-after to completion.

Until my brain froze up again.

During one of those blocked moments, I decided to watch a Dallas Mavericks basketball game I recorded the night before. Right in the middle of the game, it hit me.

Overcoming writer's block is exactly like basketball.

When Dirk Nowitzki is in a shooting slump, what does he do? Does he pass the ball to his teammates and let them control the game? Does he give up because he doesn't stand a chance of winning since his shot has disappeared? Does he stop fighting and ask to be benched until he gets his head back in the game?


Nowitzki keeps shooting the basketball.

He's learned something vital about shooting slumps. If he keeps shooting, the ball's bound to go in the hoop eventually. It may take 10 shots, or 20. It may take a thousand shots. He will spend lots of extra hours in the gym before and after every game and practice, and he may even get some advice from his coaches or teammates. But, if he keeps shooting -- keeps trying to push through the slump -- he knows the ball must sink through the hoop eventually.

Just as Dirk must keep shooting the basketball to get out of his slump, we writers must keep writing words to get out of our writer's block. Wherever you're stuck in your story, just write. Move the story forward. The scenes may not be perfect -- in fact, they may be downright awful -- but the important thing is to get the words on the page. It may take a while, and you may need advice from friends, family or professionals in the business. But in the end, the ideas will flow and you will be inspired once again. Then, even though you'll have scenes that need major editing, you'll have the bones of a great story . . . and a few ideas that bounce off the charts.

So, what are you waiting for?

It's game time! Get out there and write!

This article, written by Andrea Renee Cox, was previously published on My Book Therapy's Weekly Spark and is archived at:

Monday, February 18, 2013

Wishing on Willows by Katie Ganshert

Several of my friends have been attacked by grief this past year. Buckets of tears have been shed for mothers, fathers, husbands, brothers, grandparents, and even a beloved pet or two. All are loved. All will be missed. None will be forgotten.

Due to the quantity of sorrow within my circle of friends, my heart felt a massive connection to Wishing on Willows, Katie Ganshert's poignant sequel to Wildflowers from Winter. This follow-up book gave voice to the ache in my heart I felt for my grieving friends, yet failed to find the proper words to express. I believe this novel to be an impactful tool to piece together broken hearts and shattered dreams in such a way as to renew your hope and refresh your outlook on life.

In Wishing on Willows, widowed Robin Price juggles a struggling cafe, a grief support group, and being a single mother to an energetic almost-four-year-old. As if her plate wasn't full enough already, attractive developer Ian McKay struts into town with plans to knock down her beloved Willow Tree Cafe -- which would demolish the dream she shared with her late husband -- and build condominiums in its place. As Robin fights to save her cafe and the integrity of her town, she finds herself battling a deeper, even more personal battle: grief. When everything piles up and towers over her, will Robin be victorious in sending the developer packing? Or will she discover that sometimes all we need is "a tangible reminder that God can bring sweetness in the midst of pain?" (Quote from page 75.)

If you find yourself in the throes of grief, Wishing on Willows might be just the story you need to boost your confidence in God's unfailing love. When we struggle with emotions we aren't equipped to understand, the Lord is there to wrap us up in a spiritual hug and whisper assurances that we do not have to face our rock-bottom moments alone. He is our Rock. We may lean on His strength when we have none of our own.

Wishing on Willows by Katie Ganshert will be available on March 19, 2013. To learn more about Katie Ganshert, please visit her website: You may read the first chapter of Wishing on Willows at

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Tutor's Daughter

When I picked up The Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen, I expected to read about interesting, memorable characters living in the Regency Era. What I didn't expect to find was a brilliant mixture of mystery and innocent romance that kept me turning the book's pages . . . unable to stop reading until I had unearthed each secret right along with Miss Emma Smallwood. A nice surprise, The Tutor's Daughter was, and a book I would highly recommend to anyone who is a fan of Jane Austen (books or films). You won't be disappointed.

Accompanying her father to Ebbington Manor to tutor the youngest two Weston sons sparks hope and wariness within Miss Emma Smallwood -- hope, to see Phillip again, the Weston she was quite fond of as a young girl; wariness, at being trapped under the same roof as Henry, the oldest Weston who pulled plenty of pranks on her as a child. As Emma settles into her new routine at Ebbington, mysterious things begin happening around her. Who plays the pianoforte so beautifully in the dark of night? Will Emma discover who leaves love letters under her door? Secrets abound as every person living in Ebbington Manor seems to hold fast to at least one hidden truth, including Emma herself. Will a tempest rise when all the secrets come to light? Find out in Julie Klassen's latest novel, The Tutor's Daughter.

Aunt Jane tells Emma (on page 23), "But that does not mean I don't sometimes wonder what I might have missed. What my life might have been like, had I said yes to a little adventure of my own." This message of encouragement to Emma is quite easily applied to many a person's life. How many of us have wondered what life would have been like, had we chosen a different course in life? Said yes instead of no to a risky venture? I don't know about you, but my mind has wandered into 'What-If-Land' a few times. Guess what I've discovered: I wouldn't change anything. The choices I've made throughout my 25 years have been used by God to form me into the God-fearing woman I am today. Without those decisions and a few misadventures along the way, I wouldn't be as creative, strong, intelligent, caring, loving, trustworthy, etc. my family and friends tell me I am. No, I would not change one choice I've made. Would you?

Another line from The Tutor's Daughter I found that may be implemented in my life is on page 343. While facing imminent death, Henry Weston says, "You think all you like. I am going to pray." When I cannot think my way out of a difficult situation . . . when I can't think of the right words for a scene in my novels . . . when I can't think of how to best help a friend . . . I pray. God hears and answers my prayers, each and every one. Even though, sometimes, the answers aren't what I expected or wanted to hear, they're always what I NEEDED to hear. God is always faithful to listen and answer, according to His will. My only hope is this: that I don't wait to pray until I CAN'T THINK. I want to be proactive in my life, and I want talking and listening to God to be the best part of my day.

Tell me this:

How has God touched your life this week? Was it a gentle reminder? Or perhaps an abrupt wake-up call? Did He use you to touch someone else's life?

Is there anything you wish you could do over? A decision you would make differently, if given the chance? What would you do differently next time?

Please join the conversation! I look forward to hearing from you.

If you want to learn more about Julie Klassen, see photos from her trip to England, or order a copy of The Tutor's Daughter, please visit

Monday, February 4, 2013

THE COCONUT: Fruit or Nut?

At the mall this past weekend, I bought a neat windchime . . . made from a coconut! When the disk in the center of the hollowed-out chimes bangs around in the wind, it puts out this deep, reedy sound that makes me think of white sand and a Caribbean beach. (And I've never before set foot outside the U.S.) While admiring my unique find, the cogs in my mind began turning the wheels of my brain, and I wondered:

Is the coconut a fruit or a nut?

And that's where my research began. Soon, my kitchen table was covered with encyclopedias, thesauruses, dictionaries, pens, and a notebook. (Yes, I still use my handy-dandy encyclopedias, even though the internet makes searching faster. There's just something about looking for information in a physical book, with pages to be turned . . . But that is another topic altogether.)

According to two different encyclopedias and, the coconut is a fruit. claims it is a nut. Other sources say it's neither and is, in fact, a seed. I suppose the debate shall continue . . .

Whether it's a fruit, nut, or seed, the coconut grows on one of the most useful of the palm trees, called the coconut palm. Vinegar, coconut water, and coconut oil are made from these trees. Their wood is used for building, and the leaves for thatching huts. Baskets, hats, brooms, and ropes are created from the leaves, as well. The list of things made from the coconut palm tree is quite lengthy, which came as a surprise to me. You never know what you're going to learn when you open a book!

Here are a few interesting facts about the coconut you may not have known:

Did you know . . .

. . . if a coconut falls into the sea, it will float?

. . . a good coconut palm may produce 50 coconuts a year?

. . . a well-tended coconut palm can produce twice that?

. . . coconut water is identical to human blood plasma and has been used as a universal donor?

. . . coconut palms may grow to be 30 meters high? That's over 98 feet tall!

. . . if you burn the husk of a coconut, you are using a mosquito repellent?

. . . more than 20 billion coconuts are harvested each year?

. . . coconuts do not contain cholesterol, as cholesterol is only found in animals?

How do YOU use coconuts? Please CHIME in!