Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Stuck Plot=Clean House

Nothing motivates me to clean and organize like problems with my work in progress. Since Cathy and I haven't figured out a dramatic-enough crisis for Angel (the party planner) and a good enough reason to keep her and Wade (the guy who rescued her when she hit a deer) apart, and what in the world to do with Matt (the guy she saved with the Heimlich)...I've cleaned behind the dryer and the couch and organized the pantry with little labels on the shelves. The shopping is done, the gifts are wrapped, the house is decorated, and packages are on their way to Missouri. The Christmas letter, however, involves writing and also comes under the heading "Procrastination." My hope is that getting all this stuff done ahead of time will free up enough brain space for a plot breakthrough. If not, I'll have some serious catch-up to do. Any stuck plot solutions out there?

In the meantime, I'm counting blessings in the snow. A husband who can blow out all the candles on his cake in one breath is one of them. A grandson who celebrated his "half birthday" on the same day is another. And the gluten-free chocolate cake I made for both of them is yet one more!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Little Things

So many things crowded my brain this morning...creating too much noise for sleep. So I tip-toed down the stairs, laptop tucked under my arm, to greet a scene this writer rarely sees in winter (or any season for that matter). What is it about a sunrise that seems to wash away the concerns that can seem so huge in the dark? I was reminded all over again that God's promises are new every morning.

Now that I'm up, I'm choosing to focus on all that is beautiful. Choosing is the key here. I wasn't born with a "half full" disposition, but one baby step at a time I'm learning to pick praising over whining.

So here are some of the recent joys I'm thanking God for on this amazing snowy morning: Our grandson Cole turned two last week. He requested "Coo-coo pie" for his birthday, so his dad baked him a chocolate chip cookie pie. Notice, to the right of the boys, their little sister ready to join the fun literally any day now. We'd appreciate prayers for a quick and safe birth for little Lilly.

Cousins Keira and Oliver spent a lot of quality time together this past weekend. As long as we kept them from grabbing each other's ears and eyeballs they got along just fine!

We had Thanksgiving dinner at my mother's house with five and nine-tenths of our grandkids there. My little mom is 91 and still hosting holidays! One of the traditions she loves is putting an apron on my brother and watching him carve the turkey. He does an artful job.

Well, time to focus all this blessing-counting onto the fact that I can sit in my jammies, cozied up to a nice warm laptop, and "go to work." I just passed the halfway point in Pleasant Surprises, the first story in our Illinois series and I'm gaining ground on A Sweet Mess. Last week Cathy and I got our first look at the cover for Dream Chasers, coming out in March. It's blue and beautiful and I'll be sharing it soon. So, as I go off to work, I leave you with a reminder to choose praise over whine and savor all the little blessings. Take a lesson from my granddaughter Keira--imagine this kind of joy (Yes, that's a smile!) over a piece of celery and a camera!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pumpkin Praline Fudge

One of the joys of working on A Sweet Mess, the women's fiction book I'm writing, is that part of my research is learning the art of fudge making! In keeping with the season, here is a Thanksgivingy fudge recipe. I must admit I haven't made it...yet, so please let me know if you try it. I'd like to come up with a recipe for this that doesn't use marshmallow fluff--that stuff is ridiculously sweet!

Pumpkin Praline Fudge
· 3/4 cup unsalted butter, chopped
· 1.5 cups granulated sugar
· 1.5 cups brown sugar
· 2/3 cup evaporated milk
· 2/3 cup canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
· 1 tsp ground cinnamon
· 1/2 tsp ground ginger
· 1/4 tsp nutmeg
· 1/8 tsp cloves
· 1/8 tsp allspice
· 12 ounces white chocolate, chopped
· 7 ounces marshmallow cream or fluff
· 3/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans
1. Prepare a 9x13” baking pan by spraying it with cooking spray or lining it with foil.
2. Combine sugar, butter, evaporated milk, pumpkin, and spices in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, until it reaches soft-ball stage, 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.
3. Take the pan off the burner and stir in the white chocolate until it melts.
4. Scoop the marshmallow cream and stir it into the candy until smooth. Add the chopped nuts last and stir until well combined.
5. Spoon the candy into the baking pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
6. Allow to cool and harden at room temperature until firm, preferably overnight.
To Serve: Cut into 1x1 squares.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Multiple Deadlines

I used to hear published authors complain about multiple deadlines and my thought was "I wish!" And then this week I got a little taste of it. I'm still not complaining! Cathy and I just finished going over the galley for Dream Chasers--our chance to read through the whole book just as it will look in print and make final changes. The next thing on my list is to fill out the cover art form for Stillwater Promise. (Picture a snowy Minnesota scene) . Tonight we will get together to sign the contract for Pleasant Surprises, the first book in our Illinois series. And while all this fun stuff is going on, I'm working at doubling my words-per-week to meet our Heartsong deadline and hopefully to finish A Sweet Mess, the first book in the Fudge Fairy, Inc. series I'm working on alone. I would love to get this manuscript done by Valentine's Day. I have a "nod" from an agent and a couple publishers--meaning they're at least willing to look at it when it's finished. If any of you feel prodded to pray for this project, I'd be grateful.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Another Contest!

It's Here!
Holding a book you've authored in your hands for the first time is much like cradling a child you've just given birth to. Two days ago I finally got to "hug" a copy of Walk With Me! It won't go out to the Heartsong book club until December, but I have a few copies. If you'd like to be one of the first to read and write a review, post a 50-word-or-less reason why you want to read this romance. Be creative and ping my heartstrings with your plea!! (Family and critique partners excluded--you'll get your own copy anyway!) I'll pick a winner on November 6.

The Eyes of God

My greatest joy at this stage in life is to have every one of my kids and grandkids under the same roof. We were blessed with that this past weekend. Eighteen of us plus little Lilly who we won't meet for another two months. I could sit for hours and just watch all the different interactions...my four daughters-in-law sorting through baby clothes together...my four manly sons scattering like leaves in the wind when I sneak up with the camera... I love the baby swapping as Keira and Oliver get passed around a circle of aunts and uncles. The six "big" kids took over the island in the kitchen with pipe cleaners, colored puff balls, googly eyes, and lots of glue. Reagan, Sage, Ethan, and Peter created cute little creatures, wacky glasses, and hats. Sawyer, our resident scientist, constructed an H2O molecule and a DNA chain! Things turned silly when googly eyes started sprouting on foreheads!

I won't claim that this deep spiritual thought came to me in the midst of the goofiness, but when I looked at the pictures later it occurred to me that the eyes of our Heavenly Father are always on these kids. I love this verse from Zephaniah: "The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." Years ago I read that verse and it hit me with enough force to leave a lasting mark. God spoke these words over Jerusalem, but I believe they apply to His children as individuals, too. Almighty God, Creator of the Universe, stands over us and rejoices with singing!

Knowing that we each get such tender, unique attention from Him prompts me all the more to pray for my kids and grandkids. I started praying for my boys (and their future wives) when they were babies and God has been so faithful and generous with his answers. What a privilege to pray for the next generation. Of all the things we try to do as parents and grandparents to raise our offspring in the ways of God, I believe with all my heart that prayer is the single most important thing. And it's NEVER too late to start!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

New News

Trish Perry, author of the very fun book The Guy I'm Not Dating, interviewed me on her blog this week. Stop by and leave a comment to be eligible to win a copy of Walk with Me: http://www.trishperrybooks.com/

More news: Heartsong Presents offered Cathy and me another 3-book contract! We're praising God and getting to work on this series that tells the stories of three generations of women who call Galena, Illinois home. On Sunday of this week, hubby Bill is running the Chicago Marathon. Guess what I'll be doing while he's running for almost four hours? Research! You can look forward to a romantic scene in Grant Park because, due to the timing of this new contract, our hero in book one, Pleasant Surprises, just became a marathon runner! Although, the romantic scenes I've had with Bill at the finish line are always a little...restrained. It's hard to hug a sweaty guy covered in Mylar!

Because I was recently (this morning!) asked by a friend if I would ever consider writing a romance about a "mature" woman, I want to point out that one of the heroines in this Illinois series is in her forties and another in her sixties. And, yes, they all fall in love!!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Pedal Pushers -- Thoughts that spur me on while biking country roads

Finding Beauty
I went out for a ride around four this afternoon. My bike and I made long flat shadows as the sun inched toward the trees. Most of the oranges and reds are muted now, but I was struck by the beauty in the browns and tans. Crinkled-paper leaves on corn stalks, closed and rusted heads of Queen Anne's lace, weeds that hid all summer in green grass, are now blushing red. To think that all of this richness comes only in the process of dying...

I could chase that metaphor down a lot of paths, but I chose to ponder why it is so hard for me--and I imagine I'm not alone--to find beauty in the death of a vision. I thought back to the years when I joked of wallpapering a room with rejection slips. My goal was to see my first book published by the time I was 25. But with two little boys, I couldn't wrap my brain around tackling a novel, so I worked on poetry and short stories. In my "office"--a corner under the bare beams in the attic--I typed them out in triplicate, sacrificing a few trees in the process. And then I waited for the mail. And waited...and when it came I filled file folders with rejection slips. Why was it that I felt the calling to write but wasn't getting anywhere? Maybe I'd read the signals wrong. Another son was born, 25 came and went, as did my thirties... Maybe, I thought, I should just stick to journaling, leaving a legacy only for my future grandchildren.

And then one day in 1992, the phone rang. Without preamble, Cathy, my friend of 18 years, said, "I just threw a book at the wall. We can write better than this!" And so it began. By this point I was raising four boys. Cathy had three children. But we took up the challenge. And then came the unbelievable moment when Heartsong accepted Beauty for Ashes.

Looking back, of course, I can see the beauty in those discouraging days. In 1977, the year I turned 25--the age I'd planned to be published--I called myself a Christian, but really didn't know what that meant. I had so much to learn...about life, about the Lord, and about the craft. By 1994, when Beauty for Ashes came out,the genre of Inspirational Romance, which didn't even exist in 1977, was gaining attention. Heartsong Presents was a new line, looking for new writers. God's time, God's project.

I want to learn from the canvas I stared at on my ride today. I want to recognize that rust and brown and tawny gold are just as beautiful as summer greens and vibrant reds. The lesson I want to hang on to is...even as I long for spring, I can enjoy the journey and the beauty of the season and know that God is never late. And that would be my prayer for you.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Thrill of the Hunt

Thrill of the Hunt, a short story I wrote, is in the October edition of the Christian Fiction Online Magazine. Check it out at http://christianfictiononlinemagazine.com/thrill_of_the_hunt.html.

Another Fabulous ACFW Conference

I've been home for nine days since the conference, putting all I learned into a joy-filled, tear-jerking ending to Stillwater Promise, the third book in the Heartsong Series I'm writing with Cathy Wienke.

Angela Hunt was the keynote speaker. She is such a gracious lady. It's easy to imagine those who are well-published as being up on some untouchable pedestal, but Angie was so real and approachable as she presented the realities of the writing life with hope and humor.

One of the highlights of the week was the booksigning at the Mall of America. Imagine 125 authors sitting at tables that lined the middle of hallways while shoppers walked by. It was so much fun to talk to avid Christian fiction fans and to observe a few people who didn't know such a thing existed!

The Barbour Publishing editors arranged a unique get-together for their authors on Friday night at the conference. They blessed us with tickets to the Aquarium on the lower level of the Mall and after walking under glass arches where sharks swam overhead we had a room all to ourselves with snacks and desserts and time to meet and catch up with editors Becky Germany (L below), JoAnne Simmons (R below), and Susan Downs, and other Barbour authors.

By far the best part of the week was connecting with friends. I met people I only knew by name from the ACFW loop, and others I've met at past conferences. (Like Zoe McCarthy, L below, and Cynthia Ruchti, signing A Cup of Comfort for Writers, R below) What an amazing experience. And then to have the privilege of worshiping with all those friends! Wow....

Next year's conference will be in Denver. If you're a fiction writer, start sticking your pennies in the cookie jar. This time of learning and connecting is SO worth it!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

From gooey to heart-warming to certifiably wacko...tagline contest entries ran the gamut.

From Cynthia Ruchti (a Wisconsin resident and finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Contest--soon to be famous for her edgy fiction spiked with startling humor.):
Becky Melby--sweeter than marshmallow fluff, funnier than marshmallow fluff stuck to the seat of Pastor's pants
Fiction with wit and grace, which is ENTIRELY different than Will and Grace
Writing fiction for fun and very little profit (This is, sadly, one of my favorites!)
A chuckle and a chortle and a lettuce-eating tortle
Official fiction writer of the not-all-motorcycle-riders-are-bowlegged club (Cynthia hasn’t met my sweet motorcycle-riding man yet!)
Amusing and moving and books you should be choosing
(Want more of Cynthia’s writing? Check out her sites under Favorite Links)

From Dan Brown (Yes, yes I’ve known him for years. I’m even related. Think he’ll endorse my next book?? Okay, so it’s not that Dan Brown. This one is a pastor serving at the Milwaukee Rescue Mission, but he could well be a published novelist or author of children’s books one day. Keep on writing, Dan!):
Christian fiction that glorifies God
God glorifying romance writing
Writing fiction for the glory of God and the joy of His people
Proclaiming the Truth of God through fiction
Fiction that changes lives with the truth of Christ

From my oldest son, Scott, his wife Kristen, and three of my amazing grandkids. Reagan is 12, twins Sawyer and Sage are 10. Kristen’s mother, Grandma Carol, lives with them and bakes fabulous bread, decadent desserts, and sews dreamy little girl clothes. (See link below)
Kristen: Christian fiction for the realist, the dreamer, and the wild at heart
Where Christian fiction meets real life...but the guys are always hotties and the heroines have red hair (Another one of my favorites...just a bit too long to print on business cards! And, hey, they don’t ALL have red hair!)
Christian fiction that makes ya feel good all over, more n' anyplace else (that's Kristen's hillbilly entry--they live in the Ozarks!)
Christian fiction...yeah, you KNOW you wanna read it!
It's my Christian romance and I want it NOW!
Off the shelf and into the world (This one’s worth stealing, writer friends)

Reagan: Go away, I'm sleeping!
Sawyer: Christian fiction, even for kids who love science
Sage: Christian books that my Grandma writes

Grandma Carol:
Christian fiction that whets the appetite and feeds the soul
Christian fiction, take it like a daily laxative to feel clean through-and-through (Come on, fiction writers, you know you want to borrow this line! It’s free for the taking!)
Christian fiction for blessings packed down and running over
Christian fiction to soothe the cares of the world
Christian fiction....like Christmas every day!

The last, and yes, the least...my firstborn just turned 34, but you have to know I grounded him for this one:
Scott: Christian fiction for the emotionally weak and socially introverted. (Now don’t that just make you want to run right out and buy his mama’s books?)

Thank you all for your support!

This is how I want my stories to feel...like hot chocolate on a snowy day! Thanks, Tiffany, for putting it into words. And thanks to Sawyer and Sage for the perfect picture to capture the feeling!

A bit more info on the winner, Tiffany Kinerson:

Tiffany and her husband live in Kingwood, Texas, with their two boys and a 90-lb. black Lab. She is an American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Contest finalist and also a finalist in the Romance Writers of America "Get Your Stiletto in the Door" Contest for her current WIP (Work In Progress). It’s called Stand on My Own Two Hands, and I've had the privilege of a sneak preview. Funny, insightful...and set in Alaska! Here it is in a nutshell: An uptown girl from Houston runs off to Alaska to prove herself and along the way learns how to stand...not just on her own two feet (anyone can do that), but on her two hands. Because with God all things are possible.
Tiffany is also a contributor to a great blog for moms: http://www.momstories.org/

Friday, September 5, 2008


Thank you to all of you who submitted amazingly creative tagline ideas for my blog. As you can see, we have a winner! I’ve chosen one that really spoke to my heart.
Tiffany Kinerson, a writer you’ll be hearing about soon, sent this: Warm romance with a dollop of faith. . .drink it in. (I've tweaked her idea just a teensy bit.) Tiffany added, “Your stories remind me of the kind of thing that I'd want to make a cup of coffee and run a warm bath to read. Pure comfort.” I’ll be seeing Tiffany at the ACFW conference in Minneapolis in less than two weeks, so I can personally deliver her gift certificate for Barnes and Noble--which she can use at the HUGE booksigning at Mall of America--check previous post for details.
A close runner-up came from Cynthia Ruchti, another writer on the verge of publication. I really like this line and intend to use it somewhere: Love means never having to say it’s fiction.
Again, thank you to everyone who sent suggestions. Tune in next week for a list of some of the funniest lines you’ll ever read. I was literally spitting food at my computer screen as I read some of your submissions!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Walk with Me is Editor's #1 Contemporary Pick for 2008!

A simple little two-line e-mail from our editor last week left me in shock...and praising God while doing a happy feet dance! JoAnne Simmons, Heartsong Presents Editor, simply said, "Just wanted to let you know I mentioned you in my blog post today on http://www.editcafe.blogspot.com/. Thanks for your hard work!" I assumed she had mentioned that Walk with Me, along with four other books, will be released next month. It turned out to be a bit more than that. Take a look at the Edit Cafe' blog entry for August 29 and you'll understand my little dance.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pedal Pushers -- Thoughts that spur me on while biking country roads

My timing is off--His isn't.

While riding on the bike trail this morning I came around a turn and before me was a bridge that crosses the Fox River. On the opposite side of the river, was a maple tree in full fall color. Neon orange and yellow and apple green. My first thought was "Wow, Lord, how beautiful!!" My second thought was, "But it's way too early! It's not even September yet. I'm not ready for fall!" As I crossed the bridge and rode past the blazingly beautiful tree, I thought of all the events in my life that have produced that same ridiculous response from me. The first that came to mind was the day I found out I was going to become a grandmother. (Warning...tears forming...this could get sappy.) My first thoughts: "A baby...how exciting! My firstborn is going to be a father!" My second thought: "Wait a minute. I'm only 42. I have a nine year old. I'm not ready to be called Grandma!"

How wonderful that God so often ignores us! Because let me tell you, the birth of Reagan Savannah Melby two days before Christmas that year changed my life forever...and I am SO, SO grateful! If I'd waited to be "ready" I'd still be single, childless, and probably living at home with Mommy! We never know what's around the next bend. Chances are we won't feel ready for it. I saw a poster once that said, "Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God." You never know, that thing you think you're not ready for might just end up changing your life forever...like the gorgeous young lady who is now taller than Grandma Becky and, by the looks of things, will probably be strong enough to carry me around in my old age!

Monday, August 25, 2008


I'm new to blogging and I got stumped with the second line! So I'm asking for your help. I need a one-liner under my name that describes the kind of fiction I write. Something like "Christian Fiction that Rings True," but without cliches, please! If you've read anything I've written, you're eligible. Please email your suggestions to bmelby1@wi.rr.com. I'll pick the winner on September 5 and that person will receive a $10 gift card to an as-yet-undecided-but-fabulous store or restaurant. I may even post the runners-up so that author friends can steal them. And I'll be sure to post the slightly-off-center entries I expect from my sons (pictured at right--makes a mother proud...).

Pedal Pushers -- Thoughts that spur me on while biking country roads

This morning I was riding my bike--very appropriately on Church Road--and pondering the fact that I'm way too isolated and insulated these days. I don't recommend self-deprecation as a great way to start the day, but that's where my head was at eight a.m. on this blue-sky day. As I was beating myself up for not interacting with my neighbors and not being actively involved in ministry over the summer, a mama raccoon darted across the road ahead of me. Two babies streaked behind her faster than I'd ever seen raccoons move. What an amazing visual...and answer to my whining! Rather than focusing on what I'm not doing, I need to chase after God with the same kind of desperation those baby raccoons felt. Like Psalm 42 says..."As a deer pants after the water, so my heart pants after You."

How often does my interaction with the Lord involve desperation for Him alone? A few tears whisked on the wind this morning as I cried out for more of Jesus.

If we seek Him first, ALL these things will be added...including serving.