Sandra Orchard
Reflection — JUST LOVE ME

I asked my dear friend, Lisa Jamieson, if I could post this reflection she included in a recent ministry newsletter. I hope it speaks to you as much as it did me.

Do you ever wonder if you have a “calling” on your life?

Have you noticed how many of your friends are wrestling to understand their own greater purpose?

I believe that our culture at large is presenting increasing pressures to be contributors and world-changers. Even the Christian community and a plethora of books are promoting ways to find our purpose.

Having a sense of purpose is essential but our understanding of what that really means can become twisted. We can become tempted to define our value to God and the world by whether or not we are doing something “of significance.” This way of thinking is dangerous. It makes us vulnerable to dissatisfaction, comparisons, restlessness and low self-esteem. It takes our eyes off of God and puts our attention on ourselves.

Jesus didn’t tell us to go change the world. He said, “go bear fruit.” Jesus’ aim was not for us to feel pressure or shame. He said, “take my burden on you for it is light” and He assured us that it was through Him alone that the world could have “life to the full.”

Scan 12

God doesn’t need us to accomplish anything. But he does want us to join Him in loving others. (See Psalm 139:7-12 and 1 Corinthians 15:10.)

Maybe it would help to change up the way we talk about this issue and redefine a couple of things according to the heart of God and His ways.  Bear with me for a moment as I attempt to define two important words according to my understanding of God’s Word:

purpose
1.      The reason for which you were created and exist
“ I was born to love the Lord God with my whole heart, soul and mind.”
“I was made to live my life as a spiritual act of worship (whether I am making dinner, mowing the lawn, playing with children, sharing the Gospel or any other such thing).”
“I must become undistracted by the trappings of cultural values (job titles, accolades, an accumulation of volunteer hours, etc.) and devote myself foremost to trusting God and demonstrating that love by loving others, moment by moment, as He would.”
References: Matthew 22:37, Deuteronomy 11:22, Romans 12:1-2, John 13:34-35

dream
1.      A cherished aspiration, ideal or hope impressed on a person by the Holy Spirit
“ I sense this prompting about an idea, vision or perspective is from God because it lines up with scripture.”
“I want a heart that breaks over the things that break God’s heart.”
“This specific passion or strategy I’m excited about promotes God’s plan.”
“I am experiencing a sense of urgency to see God’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”
References: Psalm 23:1-3, Hebrews 6:11, Hebrews 12:1-2, James 1:2-4, Acts 2:17, Colossians 3:23

Friend, instead of a purpose, maybe all you lack is a dream.

Ask God about it. He, after all, is the planter of passions and talents. He, of course, is the weaver of our soul and the one who appoints us in relationships. Until heaven we will not fully know what Kingdom purposes God has squeezed out of our often hum-drum existence. We can, however, trust that He is making much of our seeking Him and sharing Him.

Pray that God would help you see how He has already placed you in roles and relationships where you have significant contribution to make. Your daily routines may seem mundane but they are ripe with opportunity in God’s way of seeing. Ask Him to prompt you with a dream and show you any new places where He would want you to join Him.

I am learning something in my own life that gives me a precious sense of peace and freedom while reminding me how deeply I am loved by my Heavenly Father. Whenever I start feeling confused about whether I am following God’s specific “plan” or wondering if I am stewarding my gifts to their fullest, God whispers again this most basic request:

“Just love me.”

It is my prayer that everyone reading with me today will experience the fruit of a love affair with God — fruit like big dreams, big power (from the Holy Spirit in you) and a big love for others that motivates you to persevere in faith as a fully engaged disciple.

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” Philippians 2:13

Lisa Jamieson Lisa Jamieson is a national speaker, consultant and author of books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns. She is executive director of Walk Right In Ministries and a gifted disciple-maker helping people engage intimately with God and more meaningfully within the Family of God—especially when life is challenging. As the youngest of Lisa’s three daughters has Angelman Syndrome, she has become champion for individuals and families experiencing disabilities. Her story has been featured internationally on television and radio including “Words to Live By,” Canada’s “100 Huntley Street” and My Refuge Radio in Belize. Lisa’s favorite writing is group-texting with her husband Larry and their adult daughters.

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Join Me at Write Canada

header_WriteCanada_2015

Write Canada is Canada’s largest writers’ conference for Christian writers, in an all new venue for 2015!

@ Novotel North York

3 Park Home Avenue

Toronto, Ontario

June 11-13, 2015

If you’re an aspiring writer, fiction or non-fiction, this is a great place to meet and pitch to editors and agents, have your worked critiqued, participate in top notch classes and connect with other writers. I’m excited to be asked back to teach an expanded five-hour continuing class in Fiction Basics, as well as, a class on writing about crime and to participate in a panel of Love Inspired authors.

There are 5 Continuing Classes to choose from, 24 workshops and panels, 2 bonus intensive workshops for intermediate writers and…special linked-in seminars for professional writers with James Scott Bell and Mary DeMuthWC-friends 1

The conference, organized by The Word Guild, has something for everyone–authors, journalists, bloggers, columnists and poets. And new this year, students who become members of The Word Guild can sign up for Saturday alone for only $15 + HST!

In addition to faculty appointments, attendees may also make appointments with a professional photographer and a videographer.

The keynote speakers are Bill Fledderus, senior editor at Faith Today, and TV journalist Cheryl Weber.

Also new this year, the Awards Gala–a black tie dinner and ceremony–will follow the conference. Last Friday I heard that both my entries are finalist: Identity Withheld in the romance category; and Blind Trust in the mystery category. Yee!

If this sounds like an event you’d like to check out, don’t delay because the early bird prices end May 13th.

WC-friends

I have made many wonderful writing friends at previous Write Canada conferences and met my agent at one. The smaller size of the conference (about 200 people) allowed us to have several lengthy conversations during breaks and meals, which is an added perk I so appreciate about this more intimate conference than some larger ones I’ve attended.

WC-agent

Hope to see you there! Be sure to let me know if you’re coming.

FRESH INK STUDENT AWARDS!

Connected to Write Canada, this contest is designed to encourage Canadian student writers. Enter original works of fiction or nonfiction to a maximum length of 1500 words OR the first three chapters of a work in progress (up to 15 pages). Read on for more details.
Contest closes on May 15th at midnight EST

Age Categories: High School (ages 14 – 18)  & College/University (ages 17-30)
Genre Categories:
– Short story (1,500 words or less)
– Non-fiction piece (1,500 words or less)
– Poetry (1,500 words or less)
– First three chapters of an unpublished novel-does not have to be finished (15
pages or less)

Prizes are awarded to Winners and Finalists
Grand prize for each Age Category (2 winners in total):
– Free Saturday admission to Write Canada Conference including a personal meet
up with a professional of your choice.
– $100 cash prize.
– Free student membership in The Word Guild.*
– Valuable detailed comments and marks from those in the writing industry.

For full contest details and to enter CLICK HERE  

 

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A Weekend Writing Adventure

This past Saturday, I had a blast leading a workshop at a retreat for Hospice Niagara Volunteers.

Hospice Niagara is a fabulous organization that provides compassionate care, hope, and encouragement to residents of Niagara with life-limiting progressive illnesses, as well as support to their caregivers, families and those who grieve their deaths.

Of the more than 350 volunteers with Hospice Niagara, 80 attended the retreat. And as the comedian who opened the event for us noted, with the majority of those volunteers being women, it’s a great place for retired single men to meet women…ur, volunteer. 😀

The theme for the retreat was about Inner Growth – stretching oneself to try and learn about new things. So…with the help of my daughter…

writers workshop b

I took my group of about twenty participants on a whirlwind tour of my journey from know-nothing newbie to published author, (which as it turned out, inspired some of the memoir writers in the group to do some revising to incorporate more fiction techniques into their writing). Then I coaxed everyone (well…almost everyone) into unleashing their imaginations as we brainstormed the plot and characters for a collaborative mystery story.

We had a riot, exploring motives and methods for…ur…killing off someone at the retreat–fictionally, of course.

We tallied an impressive list of suspects among the attendees. My secret suspicions that one person in our midst was CIA turned out to be not far off, as he later admitted to me that he was a former federal investigator.

Guess whose number I now have on speed dial? 😉

As part of my demonstration of how writers use seemingly incidental events as red herrings or secret reveals, my daughter wowed the participants with her acting talents

We also talked about how eccentric characters add so much to the texture of a story and searched the room for a few.

Finger Knitting

Enter Barb, our finger knitting lady–a topic for a whole other blog!

We also decided Barb would make a wonderful sleuth, since she loves to read mysteries, especially yours truly’s. How can I not admire her taste? 😆

As a bonus, I’m writing the story we brainstormed and sending it to the participants and my newsletter subscribers (click here to not miss it).

The faint of heart will be happy to learn that to keep the story short, our sleuth needed to solve the mystery at the event, so I opted to not allow our would-be murderer to actually succeed. That way the paramedics can truck off the victim to the hospital, as of yet unaware of the cause for his near-death condition, so we can dispense with the police getting in our sleuth’s way with all their rules and regulations.  😎

You can learn more about my talks and workshops on my Invite Sandra Orchard to Speak at your Event page.

Here’s a clip from this past weekend’s event (right click to open in a new window to allow time to load

Your Turn: What kind of topics would you like to hear an author talk about?

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Readers’ & Writers’ Dream Auction Ends Soon

The American Christian Fiction Writers Association is hosting an online silent auction with over 70 items worth checking out!

Link to ACFW

If you are an aspiring writer, you won’t want to miss the amazing deals on everything from manuscript and proposal critiques from multi-published authors and agents to mentoring sessions with illustrious icons of the industry like Michael Hauge.

Readers will also find some tempting book bundles, some that actually include a Kindle to read them on!

But hurry, because bidding ends in 24 hours–9 pm Monday, April 5th, Eastern Daylight Savings Time.

Click here to check out the item list

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Happy Easter
I wish you all a blessed Easter as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.


Serenity-Sunset


“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10


Attention Aspiring Love Inspired Writers!

The Love Inspired Editors have just announced a new fast-track pitch opportunity. You can find all the details here:

http://community.harlequin.com/forumdisplay.php/105-From-Blurb-to-Book

You will need to sign in to the Harlequin community to see the info and take part in the discussion with editors/ask questions.

Here’s the Timeline copied from their post:
ROUND ONE
March 16 – SHOW US YOUR STUFF. Submit the 100 words or less blurb and first page of your inspirational romance, romantic suspense or historical romance manuscript to Blurb2Book@harlequin.ca starting today.
April 3 – All entries must be in house. The editors will review the entries over the next ten days and choose the teams.

ROUND TWO
April 13 – REEL US IN. Editors will announce which entries will be joining a team and which editors will be mentoring each team. The authors on the teams will be invited to submit their proposal by May 1 to the email box.
May 1 – All proposals must be in house. Editors will review the submissions from their team over the next 2 weeks and narrow down the ones that seem most promising to move on to the next stage.

ROUND THREE
May 15 – SEAL THE DEAL. Editors will announce which team members will be going on to the final round. Qualifying authors will be invited to submit their complete manuscript. Authors who are not moving on will privately receive personalized feedback. Authors who are moving on will have until July 15 to submit their full manuscripts.
July 15 – All entries must be in house. Editors will review the submissions from their team and decide next steps (reject, request a revision, or offer a contract). By the end of 75 days, decisions will be made to contract, send a revision letter or reject each of the stories. All authors who submit full manuscripts will receive notification of our decision within this time frame.

Final Results!

August 30 – We will announce the results in a blog post that wraps up the pitch, shares our thoughts on the highs and lows, highlights any sales and gives stats on the results for the full manuscript submissions.

Sound exciting? If you think you could rock this pitch, get ready to show us your stuff. Read our team bios, the info on formatting guidelines, the inspirational success stories and the blogs on what each line is looking for and how to write an amazing blurb and first page, then start those books. Be sure to follow the guidelines for Love Inspired, Love Inspired Suspense and Love Inspired Historical. Only one entry per author, please. Deadlines are tight, so keep writing while you’re waiting to hear back. And if your book is complete now, don’t forget to tell us in your email. You never know. We might want to pounce on your book right away. Ready, set, GO!

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The More Things Change…

The crazier I get! How’s that for a twist on the old axiom?

ID-100218357- Crazy Woman

Okay, I apparently turn blonde and beautiful, too. ;)

In our house, if the kids don’t clean their room, they have to live with the mess, dust bunnies and all.

How about in your house?

Well, most of us keep a lot more clutter hanging around on our computers and Facebook has decided to be a merciful parent and clean our rooms for us–at least the cyber room holding all the pages we’ve liked.

Now, if we don’t regularly interact with a page we’ve liked, not only will they remove it from our news feed, they’ll remove us as a fan of the page. :-(

[Update: Now, I’m not sure what to believe, but contrary to the explanation that circulated over the weekend, today I read that Facebook’s purge was only of deactivated accounts, which makes perfect sense, and doesn’t feel nearly so Big Brother. Although the reality about news feeds I address below still applies.]

All that to say that once I got over the sinking feeling that a crowd of readers suddenly decided they didn’t like me and then learned about Facebook’s new policy, the implications to unwitting fans started to sink in.

If the reason you liked my Facebook page was to ensure you don’t miss news of new releases, or to hear about giveaways, or specials, or freebies I come across from time to time, please occasionally pop by and like a post so that you’ll be sure to see the most popular posts in your news feeds. ID-10088174-sign posts

If you liked my page for the more personal updates or to interact about current writing projects, such as helping me flesh out characters, pick names and titles, that kind of thing, you probably won’t notice any change if you post the occasional comment or like the occasional post. (And my apologies that you might’ve already seen a version of this explanation on FB)

By the way, those comments have been incredibly helpful and inspiring. Thank you!!!

If Facebook gives you hives, and you don’t want to miss reminders about new releases, please subscribe to my Sandra Orchard newsletter, which I put out for new releases or big news (3-4 times/year at the most). The bonus bribe,  uh deal, with that is I will send you a link to a couple of free novellas I’ve written exclusively for my subscribers, and I always give a book away to a randomly drawn subscriber in each newsletter.

Of course…you may need to keep an eye on your spam folder or, in the case of gmail, that folder they regulate a lot of mass emails to. 😕

 

Crazy woman image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Signposts image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Reading & Writing Romantic Suspense
HQN Quiz RS

For the next two weeks, Harlequin is hosting a Romantic Suspense Event.

And starting at 12:01 PM EST today, if you hop over to their Facebook page, you can take their quiz to find out which series is your perfect read for a chance to win a full year’s subscription!
Of course, I hope you’ll choose the series I write for:
Love Inspired Suspense.
LIS Books Collage

Then join us next week at the Love Inspired Suspense forum at Harlequin.com for a variety of discussions:

      Mon will be the continuity and favorite dogs/hero dogs.
Wed will be characters you’d like to see/character name suggestions.
      Fri will be suspenseful settings/settings you’d like to see.
[I’ll add links here once their live]
OR…

IF YOU HAVE A HANKERING TO WRITE ROMANTIC SUSPENSE

Read on…
First of all, if you aspire to write a romantic suspense, it’s important to understand that it is not simply a romance with a suspense thread. Romantic suspense readers want both a satisfying romance, and a suspense plot that is complicated enough that she won’t easily figure it out or, worse, become annoyed with your characters when they don’t.

So make it your goal to write a novel that is 100% suspense AND 100% romance–two strands of a rope inseparably intertwined throughout the story.

My editors want the danger to be evident from the start, ideally from the first line, or paragraph, definitely before the end of the first page.

For Love Inspired Suspense, both the hero and heroine need to be introduced and connected to the suspense within the first chapter. In single title romantic suspense, depending on chapter lengths, you might introduce the heroine and suspense plot in the first chapter, the hero and his connection in the second, each with clear goals, and bring them together in the third, perhaps clashing over opposing goals or opposing means of reaching the same goal.

I personally prefer to see both the hero and heroine introduced, and if possible to meet, in the first chapter. But either way, jumping right into the suspense is key. If you spend the beginning writing set-up or only writing about the romance, you will lose your reader before the suspense starts.

Although not essential, I also personally like to keep the bad guy a mystery to both my reader and my hero and heroine. That means, I tend not to include scenes in the villain’s pov (point of view)  unless they are anonymous or ambiguous and invite more questions than they answer. To me, keeping the villain a mystery adds more interest and tension to the plot, since the reader will only see things unfold from the hero and heroine’s viewpoint, and therefore share their emotional reactions to what’s happening on the page. Moreover, it keeps the romantic tension center stage, instead of detouring to a few pages where the hero and heroine might not even be on the page.

What is essential, however, is that the heroine be in jeopardy throughout the novel, and that both the hero and heroine have a stake in the outcome.

Let me repeat that another way.

The suspense plot shouldn’t simply be something the hero and heroine stumble into, which thereby puts them in danger, until they find a way out. It shouldn’t be a situation with which they have no personal connection other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Not that that can’t make a compelling story. My Daphne DuMaurier Award winning manuscript was a compelling read to the readers, agents and editors who gave it high scores. However, publishers turned it down precisely because the hero and heroine had no personal stake in the outcome of the jeopardy they’d happened into…well, besides getting out alive.  😀

There was tons of romance. There was lots of suspense of the “oh, no, what’s going to happen next?” variety, and the two were tightly intertwined. But aside from survival, the outcome of the suspense plot had no personal consequences to either of them.

Do you understand the difference?

Another important thing to keep in mind as you devise your suspense plot is to play fair with your reader. You can’t pull a convenient explanation or twist out of the blue; you have to set it up first.

Details are the key to setting up suspense and having fun with the reader. As a writer you leave all kinds of toys on the floor in a scene, use them.

But keep in mind that you can’t slow down for many home and apple pie romance scenes or deep spiritual introspection or discussions in the middle of a fast-paced suspense. They’re fine in a straight romance. But need to be utilized sparingly in romantic suspense.

Lastly, don’t wrap up your suspense too early and leave the reader with only the romance to support the end of the book. Or vice versa.

Remember the image of the rope. Romantic suspense readers want both romance and suspense all the way through the novel. And… inspy readers want to also see a satisfying spiritual growth or realization in the characters.

Being forced together via the suspense plot, forges a positive change in the hero’s and heroine’s characters; growth that must take place before the romance can culminate in a happy ending.

Read that last paragraph again.

It is the bare bones blueprint of how the essential elements of a romantic suspense are inextricably connected.

Your Turn: I hope this brief overview has provided a better grasp of areas of your story that might need some attention. Feel free to ask questions. I’ll be happy to try to answer them.

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Finding Inspiration

For the past week, I’ve been in dream-up-a-new-story mode. This one is for the Love Inspired Suspense line. Since people often ask me how I come up with ideas, I thought I’d share some recent examples with you.

Ideas for snippets of scenes come from anywhere and everywhere; from a conversation at the dinner table; an interesting character I see while out and about; an intriguing news article or this gorgeous sight outside my office window this morning:

Sunrise on SnowThis particular image got me thinking that my heroine should see this the morning after a particularly traumatic evening to renew her hope. Then again…

You know what they say about red sky in the morning?

Shepherds heed warning.

That goes double for characters in my books. 😉

The original idea for the story I’m fleshing out right now actually started in 2011, while visiting a critically ill friend when her male nurse paid a visit. He was pretty handsome and so we had fun dreaming up a story featuring him.

His role has changed over the years, as the story ruminated in the recesses of my computer (ur mind). But that was the seed.

Story ideas often spring from what-if questions, too.

In this case, we asked: What if the bad guys go after the wrong woman?

It makes for lots of potential dicey situations, which my editor always loves to see. 😀

And…from the beginning, we planned to include a dog in a key role in the story.

That idea came about during a creative exercise I did for writer’s block, in which you choose three random words then write a few sentence vignette that incorporates them.

I liked the vignette so much, that at this point, it is still part of my opening scene.

Since I had so much fun with Rusty, Zach’s son’s dog in Identity Withheld, I’m looking forward to discovering this new dog’s personality. The inspiration for Rusty came from a newsletter subscriber who told me about the crazy things her childhood dog used to do and from an adorable Golden Doodle I met while out walking.

I haven’t settled on the particulars for my newest dog character. I’m thinking Ranger sounds like a fun name and I’m thinking a Blue Heeler (Australian Cattle dog) might fit the bill.

They’re courageous, watchful, protective of family, distrustful of strangers, high energy. Sounds perfect for a suspense don’t you think.

Of course, my Bella thinks she should be the model for the character:

BellaAwardShe is after all an award-winning actor. Even it was only in my daughter’s film for schdue southool.  😉

I personally think she’s been watching too much Due South and has illusions of grandeur. 😎

Your Turn: Any suggestions?

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A Romance Story for your Valentine’s Day

open+heart

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY

For the past two weeks on the Craftie Ladies of Love Inspired blog, we’ve been sharing a collaborative, seat-of-our-pants serial historical romance for our readers. You can begin reading by clicking here.

And then click on “newer posts” beneath the post to see subsequent installments in the story, which culminates with today’s post…I think. 😉

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Sandra Orchard
Sandra Orchard
Sandra Orchard

 
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