Sunday, December 28, 2014

Force Recon Part 3


Last week, I listed the seven training packages candidates for Force Recon need to master.  Today, we’re going to learn a bit more about each of these packages.

The long-range communications training includes satellite communication (SAT/COM), Morse code, and multiband radios.  (For a woman who is still struggling to learn to use her i-phone, this is remarkable.)

In amphibious training, the warriors learn how to conduct hydrographic surveys and how to launch from submarines and other vessels.  In advanced dive course, they fine tune infiltration and extraction techniques.

Advanced parachuting demands that the candidates learn the techniques of HAHO (high altitude, high opening) into drop zones from 25,000 feet.

Foreign weapons training teaches the men to identify and fire weapons from other countries while arms training teaches how to call for close air support.

Finally, the field exercise demands that the candidate combine everything they’ve learned, including amphibious infiltrations and extractions, hydrographic surveys, mountain and desert patrols at bases around the United States, a parachute jump. 

After they have completed all of these exercises, they are assigned to bases around the world for another six months, where the focus is on direct action missions, including hostage rescues, takedowns of ships and oil platforms, and helicopter deployments.

Are you bursting with pride, as I am, in these courageous warriors who put everything on the line to protect the United States of America and our way of life?  I hope so.

May God bless you and the United States of America,


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Force Recon Part 2


Selection exams for Force Recon are held once a month.  Only three or four of the 15 to 20 candidates are actually selected to train.  Even after reaching this goal, many fail to complete the course because they are injured. 

Those who make the cut go on to the Force Reconnaissance Individual Training phase for six months.  There, they learn basic and advanced skills.  In addition, they learn infantry tactics, such as patrolling techniques and then must complete the Army’s airborne course:  the Combatant Driving School.  There, they learn open and closed-circuit breathing systems, and attend SERE (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape) School.

Candidates attend an eight week version of the US Army Ranger course at Force Recon’s advanced training school.  They undergo intense instruction in winter survival and rock climbing.  Pathfinder School and training in free-fall parachuting, shooting, and basic medical skills follow. 

As if this wasn’t enough, the candidates spend six months in Unit Training Phase, which includes seven packages:   long range communications, amphibious training,  arms training, foreign weapons training, advanced dive course, advanced parachuting, and a field exercise, where they combine everything they have learned.

Drop in next week for a more detailed view of these packages.

May God bless you and the United States of America,


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Force Recon


Marine Force Reconnaissance (Force Recon) has been around since World War II.  A friendly rivalry ensued between Force Recon and the SEALs, both of whom believed that they were the better-trained warriors.

Force Recon misses out on some of the more high profile missions that the SEALs, Rangers, and Green Berets are assigned.  I didn’t understand why until I learned that the US Marine Corps is not a member of the US Special Operations Command, which includes those vaulted teams mentioned above.

However, Force Recon warriors are trained to do most of what the other special operations teams can do … and some things that they cannot.   Like the SEALs, Force Recon hopefuls must undergo intense training.

First, they need to have three to five years of superior performance in the Corps and must hold the rank of corporal.  Most trainees wash out in trying to accomplish the first hurdle.  They must pass a physical screening test, which is directly followed by a PT test.  This test includes a timed three-mile run, pullups, sit-up, and completing  an obstacle course.  Twice. 

Then they move on to the swimming pool, where, wearing their uniforms, including boots, they jump in and swim 500 yards in 17 minutes. After this, they must tread water for one minute carrying their M16s.  They then hoist on 50 pound rusksacks (like giant backpacks) and go on a 2 ½ hour march. 

A written exam to test their professional competence follows, and, finally, if they make it this far, they are interviewed by Force Recon veterans who have the final say in determining whether or not the candidate has the right stuff to become part of Marine Force Reconnaissance.

May God bless you and the United States of America,


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Pearl Harbor


Today, we’re going to travel back in time, more than seventy years ago.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, was intended as a preventive action to keep the US Pacific Fleet from interfering with Japan’s military actions in Southeast Asia. Simultaneous attacks by the Japanese were also carried out on the US held Philippines and on Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
At 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time, Pearl Harbor was attacked by 353 Japanese fighter planes, bombers, and torpedo planes in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers.  Eight US Navy battleships were damaged, with four being sunk.  All but one, the Arizona, were later raised, and six of the eight were returned to service to be deployed in the battle. 
More than two thousand Americans were killed that morning, with nearly two thousand more wounded.
Ironically,  the attack, designed to intimidate and to force the United States from entering World War II, had the opposite effect.  On December 8, 1941, just one day following the attack, the United States declared war on Japan and Germany.  Up until that time, support for the War had been lukewarm, and, in fact, support for “non-intervention” had been strong. 
No longer.  The American people were beyond angry; they were incensed.   Japanese Admiral Yamamoto put it, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
May God bless you and the United States of America,


Sunday, November 30, 2014

SEALs: Defending America on the Sea, Air, and Land -- Part 8

Dear Reader,

Last week, we talked about the vehicles/crafts SEALs use to carry out their missions.  Today, we’re going to learn a bit about some of the weapons they employ.

The weapon of choice for SEALs operating from a water environment is the Heckler and Koch 9mm MP-5A5 Sub-machine gun.  SEALs choose this weapon when in close quarter combat conditions. 

The Navy SEAL sniper rifle is Model 700 Remington.300 Winchester Magnum.  With its 10X Leupold day-scope, it is one of three sniper rifles favored by SEALS, the others being the M-14 with a Sniper kit and a McMillen 50 caliber SASR bolt action rifle.
The limpet mine is part of the SEAL combat swimmer standard equipment.  Attached to a vessel’s hull underwater and set to go off at a precise time after the swimmer is a safe distance away, this mine is a high explosive used for disabling and destroying surface vessels.

Can you imagine the skill and knowledge it takes to employ the above weapons?  SEALs possess not only great physical prowess but also have a high degree of mental acuity and ability to make split-second decisions.  Everything I learn about this special breed of warrior only reinforces my respect and admiration for them.

May the Lord bless you and the United States of America,


Sunday, November 23, 2014

SEALs: Defending America on the Sea, Air, and Land -- Part 7

One of the great things about SEALs is all the cool gadgets and vehicles they use in their missions.

The River Patrol Boat (PBR) is a heavily armed boat designed for high speed patrol and the insertion and extraction of SEAL teams.  The craft includes both single and twin .50 caliber machine gun mounts, 40-mm grenade launchers, and other small arms.

The Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) is a high buoyancy, extreme weather craft, also used for the insertion and extraction of SEALS.  Constructed of glass-reinforced plastic with an inflatable tube gunwale made of hypalon neoprene and nylon-reinforced fabric, the RHIB has the ability to operate in light-loaded condition in winds of 45 knots. 

The Combat Rubber Raiding Craft are used for clandestine surface insertion and extraction of amphibious forces.  SEALs use this craft to help their brothers-in-arms in the US Marine Corps to land and recover reconnaissance squads.

One more:  The Mini-Armored Troop Carrier (MATC) is a 36 foot all aluminum hull craft that is deployed for high-speed patrol, interdiction, and combat assault mission.  With its large well area, the MATC can transport combat-ready troops.  The MATC’s propulsion system has an internal jet pump.

These are but a few of the tools SEALs employ to get the job done.  As remarkable as these crafts are, they do not compare to the men who risk their lives with every mission, who put love of country and honor above all else. 

May the Lord bless you and the United States of America,


Sunday, November 16, 2014

SEALs: Defending America on the Sea, Air, and Land -- Part 6

We’re back to learning more about the SEALs.

One of the things that most intrigued me in my research  is the vast variety of skills SEAL trainees learn. 

One such skill involves a pair of  prospective SEALS exchanging SCUBA (Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus)  equipment underwater in the Combat Training Tank at the Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado. 

This exercise gives the trainees an extra measure of security in the water and with their equipment.  By simulating an emergency situation in which two divers musts survive from one man’s breathing apparatus, the students learn to depend on each other.

Teamwork is vital to SEAL training and operations.  Though trained to make lightning-quick decisions on their own and to use their instincts, SEALS work as teams and as buddies.

Another skill trainees must master is to swim with their hands and feet  bound.  Imitating a capture situation, the students learn to survive in the water in the most extreme circumstances.

Are you impressed yet with what these courageous warriors can do?  If so, drop by next week for more of their exploits.  If not, drop by anyway and come prepared to be impressed.

May the Lord bless you and the United States of America,


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Veteran's Day

Dear Readers,

We’re going to depart from learning about the SEALs today to talk about Veterans Day.  Originally known as Armistice Day, the name was officially changed to Veterans’ Day  on June 1, 1954.   November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars, including World War II and the Korean War.

World War I, known at the time as “The Great War,”  officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France.

However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"

The original concept to celebrate the end of all wars was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.

Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:
“Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed".

World War I was thought to be the end of world wars.  With the advent of World War II and the Korean War, veterans and others petitioned to have the day include a day to honor veterans of all conflicts in which America participated.

Over the years, there was some confusion over which day Veterans Day would be celebrated; however, the purpose of this sacred day will always be a celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and to sacrifice.

May the Lord bless you and the United States of America,


Sunday, November 2, 2014

SEALs: Defending America on the Sea, Air, and Land -- Part 5

Dear Readers,

It seems I can’t pull myself away from writing about SEALs.  I actually met an honest-to-goodness SEAL who came to our writers’ group and talked about his exploits.

To my surprise, he wasn’t a big man.  He probably stood no taller than 5’8” and weighed less than 150 pounds.  He was wiry, had a keen sense of humor, and didn’t mind using words like “kill.”

The other attendees and I were captivated with him and his stories.  One lady who wrote romantic suspense  asked him what was the most efficient way to kill someone.  He said that if you didn’t mind some blood and gore, that running the person over the car was quick, easy, and efficient.

Wow!   I’d imagined something much more exotic, something with stealth and secrecy, but this warrior got right to the point.

Okay.  Enough of my stories.  Let’s get to some down-and-dirty facts about SEALS:

Fact:  President John F. Kennedy, on January 1, 1962, officially signed documents that led to the establishment of SEAL Teams One and Two in the Pacific and Atlantic fleets, respectively.  Personnel from the UDTs composed both groups. 

Fact:  The SEAL Teams were essential for operations in the Vietnam War.    They were the most highly decorated units assigned to duty in that conflict.

Fact:  Twenty years later, in 1983, the four remaining UDTS were officially un-established and reorganized into SEAL teams. 

I hope you enjoy learning more about SEALS as much as I have in researching them. 

May the Lord bless you and the United States of America,


Sunday, October 26, 2014

SEALs: Defending America on the Sea, Air, and Land -- Part 4

Dear Readers,

More about the SEALs.  (Can you tell that I am smitten by these courageous warriors?)

You have no doubt heard of BUD/S training.  This vigorous training is broken down into three phases.  The first consists of basic condition, which lasts eight weeks.  Physical training involves calisthenics, running, and, of course, swimming, all of which becoming more and more difficult as the weeks progress.

The fifth week of training earned the nickname “Hell Week” and for good reason.  It beings with five and a half days of continuous training with very little sleep.  The purpose of this week, to push the students to their limit and beyond, weeds out many applicants, testing them both physically and mentally.  Hydrographic reconnaissance takes up the remaining three weeks.

The second phase is the diving phase, seven weeks in duration.  Students learn combat SCUBA, with emphasis placed on long distance underwater dives, preparing the men for basic combat dives.

The third and final phase involves land warfare training and is ten weeks in length.  This phase incorporates demolition, reconnaissance, and focuses on teaching land navigation, patrolling techniques, rappelling, land navigation, and the handling of individual infantry weapons and military explosion.  

Wow!  Can you imagine what these warriors must undergo to call themselves SEALs, all with the goal of defending America?  It boggles my mind … and stirs my heart.   

May the Lord bless you and the United States of America,



Sunday, October 19, 2014

SEALs: Defending America on the Sea, Air, and Land -- Part 3

Dear Readers,

The gold Navy SEAL Trident is reputed to be one of the most difficult military insignias to earn.  Made up of four symbols, which each symbolize something different, the insignia was adopted in 1971.  The eagle represents freedom and American ideals, the musket the right to bear arms and defend American values, the anchor the US Navy, and the trident, which resembles a pitchfork, denotes the maritime nature of the SEALs.

Consider the following which the SEAL hopefuls must learn and accomplish:  underwater reconnaissance, detection of mines and booby traps, seamanship, use of rubber boats, rigorous physical conditioning, long distance surf swimming with equipment, handling of explosives, removal of obstacles, shallow water diving, close order drill, mine sweeping in shallow water.  

Now add to that drills in removing obstacles through use of hand-placed charges, speed and ability in analyzing and solving demolition problems,  night vision and observation of coastal silhouettes, armed and unarmed combat, stealth and concealment.

Perhaps most important in SEAL training is the reliance on and loyalty to team members.  As one leader pointed out, “There is no ‘I” in Team.”

SEALs are one of America’s first line of defense, taking the battle to the enemy.  Is it any wonder that they are the stuff of legends, inspiring movies and books?

May the Lord bless you and the United States of America,


Sunday, October 12, 2014

SEALs: Defending America on the Sea, Air, and Land -- Part 2

Dear Readers,

Lt. Commander Kauffman had a vision.  He saw the men who joined S&R and NCDUs as warriors who would do what other armed services personnel could not:  removing obstacles and demolition (a fancy word for blowing things up).  The training originally lasted eight weeks (10 for some groups).  Today, that training is 26 weeks

This program weeded out many who could not make the grade.  Some estimate the number of those who tried out but were not selected  at 70 percent.  That percentage remains high today.   Physical conditioning was emphasized as well as skills in removal and demolition.

NCDU training continued at Ft. Pierce until V-J Day in September, 1945 when some men were selected for advanced work.  These men were assigned to a UDT base at Maui, Hawaii where they underwent even more training. 

Today, SEALS must complete a demanding SEALs Tactical Training, after completing BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL).  These men are considered the best of the best, giving everything they have to serve their country.

Drop in next week to learn about the coveted SEAL trident.

May the Lord bless you and the United States of America,


Sunday, October 5, 2014

SEALs: Defending America on the Sea, Air, and Land -- Part 1

Dear Readers,

Chances are you’ve watched a movie, read a book, or seen stories of the exploits of SEALs on the news. 

The acronym SEAL identifies the environments in which SEALs operate:  sea, air, and land.  Though equally adept (and deadly) in any of these environments, it is the water where SEALs feel most comfortable, where they return after completing a mission on the land or in the air.

SEALs trace their beginnings to the Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDUs) of World War II.  Initially, Scout and Raider units were joint Army and Navy, but were later composed of all Navy personnel.  Scout and Raiders made up amphibious reconnaissance units. 

Lt. Commander Draper L. Kauffman was hand selected as the leader of the NCDU project.  Kauffman had a wide experience of demolition work and bomb disposal which he incorporated in the training, setting up a vigorous program, including Hell Week, which remains a cornerstone of SEALs training today.

The NCDU had as their mission statement, “To have the responsibility for removing natural and manmade underwater obstacles, which are likely to obstruct landing operations.  This mission is performed in close cooperation with other units of the amphibious forces.”

More to come next week about the storied SEALs.

May the Lord bless you and the United States of America,


Sunday, September 28, 2014

My Admiration for our Armed Services ~ Part Three

September 28

Dear Readers,          

  Rangers have participated in every major conflict in which the United States has participated, even before they received their name.

            Their courage, perseverance, and tenacity has earned them national and international acclaim and respect, even from their enemies.

        The fifth stanza of the Ranger Creed states:
            “Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country.  I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might.  Surrender is not a Ranger word.  I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.”

            Is it any wonder that this special breed of men inspired the heroes of my books and those of many others?

            “Surrender is not a Ranger word.”

Click here for Part 1
Click here for Part 2

May you know the Lord loves you,

Sunday, September 21, 2014

My Admiration for our Armed Services ~ Part Two

September 21

Dear Readers, 

            In an earlier post, I wrote about my admiration for the men and women who serve our country in the armed services.  In particular, I am fascinated by those who come under the umbrella of Special Operations, more commonly referred to as Special Ops, from where I draw the heroes of my books.
            With that in mind, I did some research on the history of these elite warriors and thought I’d share some of what I learned with you.

            The word “Ranger” was first coined in World War II.

            Major General Lucian K. Truscott, then the liaison to the British Consulate, recognized that the Allied Forces needed to employ different techniques if they were to defeat the Axis powers.  On May 26, 1942, General Truscott submitted a proposal to General George Marshall to form a group of American soldiers similar to the British commandos.

            With the War Department’s agreement, the 1st Army Ranger Battalion was formed.  Truscutt chose the name “Ranger” because it sounded typically American. 

            General Russell P. Hartle, who commanded all Army Forces in Ireland, selected William O. Darby to lead this band of soldiers.  A strenuous weeding-out process followed, and on June 19, 1942 the Battalion of Rangers was activated.

            The Rangers lead invasions in Algeria and Tunisia, achieving much-needed victories for the Allies.  The most famous mission of the Rangers occurred during D-Day in the European Theatre when the battalion assaulted the cliffs of Pointe Du Hoc, France, taking out a large gun battery stationed there.

            Without this victory, German guns would have devastated the Allied Forces as they stormed Omaha Beach.

            Rangers continued their storied exploits in each of the conflicts in the ensuing years.

Click HERE for Part One

May you know the Lord loves you,

Sunday, September 14, 2014

My Admiration for our Armed Services ~ Part One

September 14

Dear Readers, 

            In an earlier post, I wrote about my admiration for the men and women who serve our country in the armed services.  In particular, I am fascinated by those who come under the umbrella of Special Operations, more commonly referred to as Special Ops, from where I draw the heroes of my books.
            With that in mind, I did some research on the history of these elite warriors and thought I’d share some of what I learned with you.

            Did you know that the Army Rangers can trace their beginnings back to the French and Indian Wars?  In 1756, Major Robert Rogers recruited nine companies of American colonists to fight for the British during the French and Indian Wars.

            Rogers appreciated the unique traits and cunning of the American frontiersman.  He understood that these men had skills necessary to survive in the “wilds.”  He used these skills to enhance traditional military training, turning out such heroes as Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, and Daniel Morgan, founder of Morgan’s Riflemen who fought against the British in the American Revolution.

            Another century saw a new generation of this special breed of warriors, such as Mosby who fought in the Civil War.  Mosby believed that by using highly trained men in extremely aggressive action, he could force the enemy to guard numerous fronts.  Once the enemy had divided its forces, Mosby and his raiders attacked the weakest point and overwhelmed the reduced numbers

            Though these men were never known as Rangers, much of the training and philosophies of present day Rangers evolved from these beginnings.

            Stay tune next week for more about the history of this courageous group of men.

May you know the Lord loves you,

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Tap Into Your Emotions, Then Use Them

            Fear, joy, love, sadness, surprise, anger. What do these six things have in common? They are all emotions, all of which we should be incorporating into our stories. Whether we write picture books or angst-ridden novels for the young adult set, we need to infuse our stories with emotion.
            I’m not talking about the purple prose of the novelists of earlier generations.  Nor am I talking about the writing of soap-operas or daytime dramas.  I’m talking about honest emotion that resonates within our readers and makes them think, “I’ve felt just that way.  I know what that character is going through.”

            Easier said than done. How do we tap into these emotions? What can we uses as triggers to free our writing of restraint and stiffness?

            Let’s take a look at the emotions I listed above and see how we can translate them to screen, then into books our readers won’t be able to put down.

              Fear.  I’ve never had to run from a vampire or face a serial killer.  But I have been frightened.  My fears frequently had to do when a child was sick.  When our then seven-year-old son, Robbie, faced serious surgery on his leg for osteomyelitis (infection of the bone), I was terrified.  My heart was beating so rapidly that I feared I was going to pass out when we received the diagnosis and the doctor described a brutal sounding operation where the bone would actually be scraped.  At the same time, my palms were sweaty, my stomach churning, my throat filled with bile.  

          These are physiological reactions of a body under extreme stress. I go back in my mind to that horrible time (it didn’t help that I was pregnant at the time with our fourth child) and tap into those feelings when I need to write a scene where my protagonist is terrified.  Are you thinking that the fears of a mother for a child are not the same as those of a young character facing down evil in the form of zombies?  Think again.  Those visceral responses are universal.  Use them.  It’s not enough to say “She was scared.”  You must find those emotions, then show the reader what your character is feeling.  Remember:  show, don’t tell.

              Joy.  What brings you joy?  When you think back over your life and try to pinpoint the most joyous events, what do you think of?  Is it the birth of a child?  Is it the sale of that first short story or book?  Is it that first  kiss between you and your spouse on your wedding day?  Whatever it is, relive it.  Bask in it.  Then bring those feelings to your character as she experiences overwhelming joy.

              Sadness. None of us escape this life unscathed by sadness and grief.  What has brought you intense sadness?  The death of a beloved pet when you were a child?  For those of us of a certain age, we might think of the death of a parent.  Many have experienced divorce, another kind of death.  Our current world situation is enough to make anyone sad.  Whatever produces sadness or grief within you can be used to describe those same emotions for your character who is enduring a heart-breaking situation.

              Surprise.  What surprises you?  Was it the birthday party that friends threw for you, even when you expressly told them that you didn’t want a party?  Was it a letter from a friend you haven’t seen in twenty years?  Was it a present from your husband for no particular reason?

               Anger.  Just as none of us escape this life untouched by sadness and grief, none of us escape without knowing, at least a few times, intense anger.  What makes you angry?  For me, it goes back to my family.  Hurts and slights to myself, I can pretty much pass off.  Let someone hurt my children, my husband, my friends, and I turn into a mama grizzly.  (Really, my husband says I skip the grizzly stage and go straight to mama wolverine, supposedly one of the most vicious animals alive.)  My claws come out, and I’m ready to do battle.  When I need to describe a character who is ready to fight, for survival, for standing up for the truth, for protecting a loved one, I go to those memories when someone threatened someone I love.  With that, my words take on an authenticity that goes far beyond the insipid phrase, “She was angry.”

      Find those emotions within yourself.  Find the triggers that will you back to when you felt fear, joy, sadness, surprise, or anger.  Then write with all the feeling inside of you.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Cover Reveal for KEEPING WATCH ~ A Love Inspired Suspense

Drum roll, please! 
I'm so pleased to reveal the cover for Keeping Watch, 
and to let you know the book is now available for pre-order.  
Release date is September 26th.

Available at: 

Several people have asked me how I came to write KEEPING WATCH.  A number of things played in to it.  Mostly, however, it was my admiration and respect for America's military men and women which prompted me to write this particular book.

The hero, Jake Rabb, is a genuine American hero.  He believes in America.  He believes in duty.  He believes in service.  He sacrificed much to serve his country as a Delta soldier, then comes home broken in body and spirit.  Danielle Barclay also believes in America, in duty, and in service.  She, too, is broken, although from different causes.

Many of us are broken in some manner.  Whether it is from an abusive background, from a debilitating disease, from the disappointments that this mortal life can heap upon us, we are broken.  Still, we keep marching forward, trying to make this world a better place, just as Jake and Dani do.

I hope in Jake and Dani that you will find pieces of yourself.  I hope that you will find yourself caught up in the developing love story of two broken souls.  I hope you will remember that the Father loves you more than you will ever know. 

With love and faith,

Thursday, August 28, 2014


           Kaizen is the Japanese term for the technique of taking small and steady steps to achieve big and lasting results.


            Despite its name, kaizen was first used in a systematic way during the Great Depression in America, though it was not called kaizen, as the nation fought its way out of joblessness and bank failures.  Then World War II threw the world into chaos, and American leaders realized how desperately the Allies needed military equipment.  The government created training courses called Training Within Industries (TWI) and offered them to corporate America.  Rather than suggesting the corporations use innovation, the TWI suggested managers use “continuous improvement.” 
            Managers were encouraged to look for the many small things that needed improvement.  Though some doubted that this “small potatoes” technique could produce results, they soon saw that small changes and improvements added up to big results.
            This philosophy was brought to Japan following the war, when General MacArthur’s occupation forces started the massive program of rebuilding the devastated country.   Since then, Japanese businesses have used this technique to achieve their business goals, making them a major player in the world economic campus.


            Fine, you say, but what does that have to do with writing a book?  I’m not writing a Japanese philosophy book or an American history book!  Nor am I writing a how-to book for corporations. 
            You probably aren’t writing any of these books, but maybe you need to employ the kaizen philosophy to finish the book you are writing.
            Let’s talk a bit about kaizen first, then we’ll get into how you can use the techniques to start, write, and finish your book
            When individuals or businesses want to make a change, they typically look to innovation.  After all, isn’t innovation, with its sometimes shocking, even radical reform, the fastest and best way to shake things up and get things done?
            Not necessarily.
            Innovation can be great.  It can also be intimidating to the many of us who resist huge changes and major disruptions in our lives.
            Kaizen is the opposite of innovation.  While innovation is based upon widespread, even drastic change and vision, kaizen builds upon the steady steps that, when put all together, end up in something wonderful.

1.                  Decide what task you want to do (write a book).  Break this task down into small, achievable steps.  Decide what kind of book you want to write—picture book, grade school reader, YA mystery, new adult, romance, whatever.  Decide upon the name of the protagonist.  Make a list of other characters.  Write down major plot points.  Take it one (small) step at a time.

2.                  Decide how much time you are willing to spend on this task each day.  Can you spend only seconds a day on your book?  Yes, I said seconds.  Kaizen is small steps, remember?  You will build on this, turning seconds into minutes, then hours.  If you decide you can spend only sixty seconds on your book, then seize that and rejoice in it.  You can spend those sixty seconds on asking your character questions.  (See below.)  You can spend them on deciding upon your character’s name. 

3.                  Spend that amount of time every day working toward your task, gradually building into longer amounts.  Some of you may have read a previous article of mine about writing a book one hundred words at a time.  This is much the same principle.  Do you remember the story of the tortoise and the hare?  The plodding tortoise eventually won the race.

4.                  Solve the small problems before they become big problems.  Do you have a problem with children occasionally interrupting your writing time?  Solve this before it becomes a daily or even hourly interruption.  Do you have a problem with finding even sixty seconds in your day for your writing?  Experiment with getting up a minute earlier every day.  That sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it, that getting up a minute earlier every day will enable you to write a book.

5.                  Reward yourself for each step you take.  Did you write an outline?  Reward yourself.  Did you spend the amount of time you set for yourself on your writing for the day?  Reward yourself again.  (I don’t recommend rewarding yourself with chocolate on a frequent basis.  It can be addictive, and the resulting pounds are difficult to get off!)

6.                  Recognize the small achievements, i.e. you wrote an outline or synopsis; you wrote the opening sentence; you completed the first scene; you completed the first chapter; you reached the halfway point.  Notice how these small achievements are gradually becoming bigger and bigger with every day.  You have momentum on your side as well as the feeling of satisfaction in meeting the small goals you’ve set yourself.


            Now that you understand the basic premises of kaizen, start applying them to the actual writing of your book.
            Begin with asking small questions.  “What if I did this?  What if I did that?   Small questions evolve into small thoughts which evolve into small actions.  Small steps, if done in a steady but confident manner, can result in a huge reward.
            What questions can you ask yourself in starting a book?
            Don’t start with “What kind of character will appeal to my readers?”  That’s far too sweeping and broad and nebulous.  You don’t want sweeping and broad and nebulous.  You want small and concise and manageable.  What about asking yourself “What can my character do on the first page that will hook my readers?”  Or “What trait does my character most dislike about herself?” Or “What word most accurately defines my character?”  Or “What person in my character’s life had the most effect on him or her?”  Find the right small questions to ask your character to set you on the right track
            What next?
            Let’s tackle small thoughts.  Can your character have a recurring problem with a negative self-image that, try as might, he can’t shake?  What thought might be running through his mind?  “I’m a loser who will never amount to anything.”  This may lead you to ask questions of your character about his  background.  (Questions lead to thoughts and thoughts lead to more questions.)  What makes you think you’re a loser?  Who told you that?  Was it your parents?  An older sibling?  Classmates?  Friends who really weren’t friends at all?  A mean-spirited teacher who didn’t recognize the gifts inside you?
            What is at stake that his negative thoughts will keep him from achieving?   (Note:  you are thinking in small, bite-sized chunks, but your character should be dreaming big. Determining what is “big” to your character is distinctive to him:  his age, his background, his family constellation, his dreams.  Obviously what is big to a three-year-old will not be big to a sixteen-year-old.)
            What if he wants to earn a full-ride scholarship to a prestigious college and his negative self-image prevents him from asking his teacher for a letter of recommendation?  What if he doesn’t have the confidence to take the required test to apply for the scholarship?  What if he is intimidated by his high-achieving father and is too afraid to ask him to sign the permission slip to take the test?  Are you beginning to see how the small questions you asked yourself at the beginning of the process have lead to small thoughts which result in more questions and more thoughts.
            Where do these thoughts lead?
            To action!  Small actions, that is.
            What small action can your protagonist take that will push her forward on her journey?  Can she decide that she wants to try out for the cheerleading team?  Maybe her small step in that process is to take a gymnastics class.  Maybe it’s to ask a friend to coach her in the cheerleading moves?  Can she decide that she wants to change her boring look for a more up-to-date one?  Maybe her small step is to buy a new lip gloss.  Maybe it’s to get her hair cut.  Maybe it’s to seek out her aunt who always looks fabulous.
            Keep using the technique of asking small questions of your character, leading to small thoughts, and resulting in small actions.  Don’t expect more of your character than you expect of yourself.  Let her take the baby steps in achieving her goal just as your are taking baby steps in achieving yours of writing a book.


            When I first learned of kaizen, I was immediately intrigued.  As a person resistant to large changes, I knew I could make small changes to become more productive, more creative in my writing.  (I’ve also started applying it in other areas of my life.)
            Knowing that I don’t have to write 5,000 words in a day (yes, I know a writer who does that) freed me into knowing I could write 500 words in a day. 
            Employing kaizen techniques won’t change you or your writing overnight, but it can change your life—one step at a time.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Feedback: Where To Go

            Writers, especially new writers, need feedback.  Honest and helpful feedback can take our writing to the next level.  But where to find it?  Where do we go for constructive feedback that will enable us to strengthen and improve our writing?

Several sources come to mind:

            Contests.  Do your networking and find out about contests in your genre.  Do you have only a synopsis and several chapters?  Look for a contest that wants only a partial.  Do you have a full manuscript?  You can broaden your sights a bit and search for a contest that demands a full manuscript.  Be careful in reading the contest rules.  Most contests have fairly stringent rules in how to submit, what format to use, word length, etc.  If feedback is truly your goal, look for contests which promise critiques and suggestions, rather than just scores.  Though it’s wonderful to receive a top score, of course, it is more beneficial to receive an honest but constructive critique.  Look also at the judges.  Are they listed as published or unpublished?  Are any editors and/or agents you are interested in submitting to acting as judges?  You’ll want to consider those contests very seriously.

            Critique partner.  Finding a compatible critique partner is invaluable.  Look for one who is at a similar stage of writing as your own.  Look, as well, for one whose writing pace matches your own.  If you write one book a year and your critique partner puts out six, you’re likely to have problems. Look for a partner who can both give and accept criticism.  Examine your own ability to give and receive constructive criticism.  A partner who praises everything you write, deservedly or not, is probably not going to be much help to your writing.  On the other hand, a partner who is unrelentingly negative may well discourage you from writing ever again.  As in so many things, balance is key.  Check with your local library.  Writers frequently make friends with librarians.

            Critique group.  Once again, a critique group can be great. But…  (You knew that was coming, didn’t you?)  Beware of trying to “be all things to all people.”  Have you heard the definition of a camel?  A camel is a horse designed by a committee.  I’ve known of several writers (myself included) who tried to change their writing style and voice in accordance to all of the suggestions given at a group.  In the end, they (and I) ended up with a mishmash that read like a hodgepodge, reflecting neither their or my style and voice.  Accept what criticisms will strengthen your writing.  Then politely thank everyone for their help, whether or not you used their suggestions.  Don’t know where to go to find a group?  Again, check with your library.  Also, do an online search for a nearby writers’ group.

            Agent.  Agents can be a great source of feedback.  However, you need to be on the cusp of selling before even considering submitting to an agent.  Agents, like editors, are busy people who have a finite amount of time.  Don’t waste yours or theirs by submitting a manuscript that is far from polished.  As you did with contests, research your targeted agent.  Does he want a partial or a complete manuscript?  Does he accept manuscripts from unpublished authors?  Does he accept the kind of book you are writing?  Don’t reveal yourself to be a rank amateur by sending an inspirational book to an agent who accepts only contemporary, mainstream books.  Agents have long memories.  Don’t antagonize one by sending him something completely inappropriate.

            Okay, we’ve talked about possible places to find feedback and the importance of finding helpful, constructive feedback. Sometimes, we may become so desperate for it that we will go to extraordinary lengths for this feedback, even going so far as to paying a “literary service”
            There are people who advertise themselves as a “literary service” who promise to give feedback and critique  There are legitimate services, of course.  That said, understand that there are many unscrupulous services that offer a few generic suggestions and little else.  Don’t be misled by grandiose promises that such a service will “polish your manuscript, submit, and sell it,” all for a “modest” fee. 
            What is the best thing you can do for your writing?  Write the best book you can.  If you are unpublished, finish that first book.  It will be the most important book you ever write, whether or not it sells.  Find feedback along the way.  Then, give back.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014


RWA Conference is coming up soon, July 23-26, and ACFW is Sept 25-27, in St. Louis.  So I'm going to post some articles about what I've learned about conferences.


            Attending a writers’ conference is a heady experience.  My first conference was especially exciting as I learned there that I had sold my first book.  It was a modest sale, but it remains the most important one in my career.
            Still, conference was  a stressful time.  Looking back, I wish I had known a few things to help me navigate the experience and come out at the other end feeling confident and happy instead of worn-out. 
            I came up with the following for anyone contemplating attending a conference:

                    Accept where you are in your writing career.  Are you a brand new writer?  Rejoice in that and take workshops to help you develop the craft of writing.  Is a writer you admire presenting a workshop?  Take her class.  Afterward, tell her how much you like her books.  No writer tires of hearing that someone loves her books.  Are you on the verge of being published?  Rejoice in that as well.  Take some classes on polishing your manuscript and how to submit to different publishing houses.  Are you published?  Once again, rejoice.  Perhaps it’s time you concentrated on classes about social media, networking, and marketing.  Don’t let yourself become complacent, but do know that writing is a journey, not a destination.

                   Leave the comparisons at home.  Do not compare yourself to other writers.  Their journey is theirs.  Your journey to publication is yours alone.  Comparisons are dangerous.  If your career isn’t as advanced as that of a friend, you may feel that you lack the talent and drive to succeed.  If your career is more advanced than that of others, you may feel smug or you may feel that they are resentful of your success.  Neither is a good place to be.  This goes back to the first tip of accepting yourself. 

                      Believe the best about your fellow attendees.  Don’t assume the woman who cut in front of you in the line to meet a best-selling author did so on purpose.  Chances are she didn’t realize she what she was doing.  Expect others to treat you in a respectful way and do the same for them.

                      Be helpful.  If you see someone who looks lost, take time to help him find the workshop he’s looking for.  I’ve never regretted taking time from my schedule to help someone else. Is there a woman sitting by herself who looks lonely?  Ask her to join you or your group.  Invite her to sit with you at the luncheon.  Be willing to help a harassed hostess find the lost forms she was to hand out.   

                    Spend more time listening than talking.  After all, you’re there to learn.  Listen to the workshop presenters.  Listen to the keynote speaker.  Listen to other writers who are talking about their works-in-progress.  Tuck away any gems of knowledge you glean and resolve to take them home and use them in your writing.   People will notice your respectful manner.  (They will also notice the attention hog who talks non-stop about herself and her writing but in a far different way.)  They may even decide that you are a great conversationalist!

                     Have a schedule of workshops to attend but be flexible.  It’s great to identify the workshops you feel might best benefit you and your career, but if you stumble upon something that looks promising, don’t pass it by because it wasn’t in your schedule.  Part of the fun of conference is the serendipity of learning new things, making new friends, going to a class you hadn’t planned on.  Take time out of the day to meet with friends from your writers’ chapter. 

                     Finally, relax.  Conference represents a significant commitment in money, time, and energy.  But don’t let it make you crazy.  Find your niche in the scheme of things.  Make some new friends.  Understand that you are there to learn and to give of yourself when you can.

            Conferences can be overwhelming.  Make your experience a memorable one by finding where you’re comfortable, then stretching yourself a bit.  Don’t try to do everything.  Expect to learn.  Then have fun!