Why I’m Not Posting to this Blog Today

Okay. Here I go. Computer is booted up and ready to go and I am finally going to write that blog post I have committed to sending off at some point today. Nothing like leaving things to the last minute. But I’ve got it together now. I am ready to put words to paper and come up with something brilliant.

social mediaRight after I check my Facebook page to see if anyone has tried to contact me. Hey, new marketing advice from someone I’ve never heard of. Might be the missing piece I’ve been looking for to send my book sales soaring. Yes, I will subscribe to your newsletter. Sign me up.

Okay, back to work. Feeling a little sleepy though. Maybe I should go outside for a few minutes; a little fresh air might clear my head. I should probably take a quick look at the weather site to see what I should expect if and when I get out there. Looks pretty good. Okay, I’ll log out right…  Wait, that headline is interesting. Just going to click on that to see what the article is about. A bear roaming the streets in a town a thousand miles from here? Fascinating. How did they…? Stop. Focus. I’m supposed to be writing that post.

And I will. Right after I check the sports page to read the write-up on the game last night. Yes, I watched the game (what else did I have to do?) and know exactly what happened. Still…

Oh yeah. I need to register for NaNoWriMo and see who else has signed up that I can be buddies with. Preparing to write that novel is consuming far more of my time and thoughts these days than actually sitting down to write the thing would. Which reminds me, I need to do that too. I have a book contract, a looming deadline, another commitment. I have to write the third and final book in a trilogy. I’m going to get started on that soon. Maybe I’ll go back and read the last few chapters of book two in the series to get me in the zone again.

As soon as I send out a quick tweet so my readers know I’m still around and haven’t fallen off the face of the planet. There. Done. My 140-character contribution to the global conversation. Now back to that post.

Wow, that coffee smells good. I’ll just grab a cup to fortify myself so I can really be productive today. Oops. We’re out of cream. Better text a shopping list to my husband. If I take the time to go to the store, this post will never get written.

Okay, I’m back, fortifying cup of coffee in hand. Wait. What’s that notice in the bottom corner of my screen? My anti-virus coverage is about to expire? That can’t be good. I better renew that. Should I stay with the same company? As far as I know, I haven’t had a virus, so they must be all right. I’ll just e-mail my writer’s group and ask who everyone uses for protection. Really don’t want to lose all this great stuff I’ve written—or thought about writing, anyway—just because I didn’t go with the right company. There, I’ve put the question out there. I’ll go back on in a few minutes to see if anyone has responded.

My phone’s buzzing. My husband, responding to my text. Oh yeah. I forgot he has to work late tonight. I guess I better go to the store then.

No problem. I got quite a bit done this morning. Pretty sure there wasn’t anything else too pressing. If there was, it will still be here waiting for me tomorrow, I’m sure.

For some reason, it always is.

The Heart of the Matter

Nothing is scarier for a writer than to feel that they are out of words. It happens to me, alarmingly often, and from what I hear I’m far from the only one. The condition is akin to a fireman turning his hose onto a blazing fire only to realize there’s no water. Except, of course, that would matter.


It is the lot of writers, I believe, to constantly question themselves and their ability to produce anything anyone will ever want to read. And that’s what’s at the heart of what I feel on those melancholy occasions when I start to think I can’t produce such a thing. Does it even matter? If I never write another word in my life, would anyone care?

Two different questions, actually. I’m not entirely sure anyone would care, but I am fairly certain that it would matter. The reason for that is, while there is very little that my finite mind can comprehend about a holy, infinite God, I have come to realize something as I have written my novels. He is the giver of the stories. He is the creative source. I don’t think anyone who writes, or paints, or creates or plays music, can deny that there is a power outside of himself providing the inspiration.

And we are created in his image. Which means that we are creators too. Genesis contains no record of Adam and Eve writing or drawing or sculpting, but I’m sure they exhibited their creativity in many ways. Certainly they were the first witnesses to our wildly creative God in the plants and trees around them, and the endless parade of animals and birds and sea creatures passing before them to be named.

Thankfully, creativity continued to flow after the fall, a kind of compensation maybe, a gift from the Creator. So that yes, there would be pain and suffering and sickness and disease in the world now, but there would also be music. And the music would lift us, if only for a while, out of the pain and sorrow and give us the strength to go on.

And there would be ugliness, and destruction, and the gradual disintegration of the planet, but there would be beauty too, in paintings and sculptures and stained glass and architecture. And that beauty would remind us that the God who painted the sunsets and sculpted the mountains and formed the stars is near to us even when he feels far away.

And work would be hard and we would struggle to survive and there would be war and conflict and death, but when we needed to escape the harsh reality of the world around us, we could pick up a book and get lost in a story, or be swept away by words of poetry, and remember that there is another world, and that we are only temporary sojourners in this one, and that, even here, we are never alone.

So it matters. It matters that we accept the gift from the creative God who calls some of us to paint, or to play an instrument, or to write. And if I feel like I don’t have any words of my own, it’s because I don’t. But I can trust the keeper of the words to give them to me when they are needed–to bring joy or offer comfort or provide hope.

And that is all that really matters.

Do You Want to Change The World?

signing declarationWriters can be agents of social change.

I was reminded of that truth after hearing a keynote address at a conference for animal humane workers. The speaker, Amy Mills, CEO of Emancipet, discussed the importance of social change to transform communities in order to improve our treatment of animals. But her words could also be applied to what traits writers need to cultivate to do their job well; in fact, I felt that Amy’s characteristics of social change makers accurately described many of the writers I know. Here are Amy’s six key traits; do you see yourself in any of them?

Social change makers:

  1. Collaborate across sectors. In my own writing, be it the fiction of the Birder Murder Mysteries or my best-selling memoir Saved by Gracie, I draw from many fields of expertise. My sources are birders, dog owners, psychologists, trainers, sociologists, scientific researchers, conservationists, biologists and historians, to name just a few. To be effective, writing has to draw from the world of knowledge.
  2. Are inclusive. Writers want their message to reach wide audiences. To do that, we keep an open mind about who might benefit from our work, and we rejoice when a new market presents itself as one that we might engage productively.
  3. Build empathy. For any piece of writing to succeed, it has to appeal to the heart of the reader. Having something meaningful to share is the first step of the writing process.
  4. Choose curiosity over judgment. The best writers try to see the world with fresh eyes to uncover what is true. Judgment can shut down avenues of investigation that might just lead to new revelations that will transform myself and my readers.
  5. Check assumptions. Writers make careers out of questioning assumptions. Sometimes, we even turn them upside down in the course of our creative process and/or production. The result is new perspectives and new ideas that can often improve readers’ personal or public lives.
  6. Learn from those they serve. Whether it’s hearing about new conservation efforts to protect bird habitat, or effective approaches to increasing animal adoption, or the need for more transparency about mental illness, every bit of research I’ve done for my books has not only taught me more about the world and the people and creatures in it, but how I myself can better connect with and serve my readers by passing along what I have learned. On a regular basis, I hear from readers about the ways my writing has affected them, and it guides me as I plan my next project. Without that feedback, my writing lacks focus, not to mention effectiveness.

Given these shared characteristics of writers and social change makers, I find myself considering my own work as a potential agent for change in the world; I won’t be the first author to do so, nor the last. “The pen is mightier than the sword,” may have come from the pen of English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839, but it expresses a timeless truth.

What will your pen accomplish today?  

On Zombies

Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of tweets and posts from friends excited about the new television season. Most of them talked about the dramas–obvious favorites. But no one mentioned my favorite:

The Walking Dead.

Here’s the thing. I have a husband and three teenage sons. I have not only missed, but probably never even been aware of, anything remotely pink-tinged or female-oriented that has been popular the last two decades. This includes Downton Abbey (gasp!), Legally Blonde (say it isn’t so!), Glee (I know, right?!), and Dancing with the Stars (oh, the shame!).

Instead, I can recite several monologues–without pause–from the Lord of the Rings trilogies by heart. I can impersonate Batman better than Christian Bale. And I *might have* wept at the new Star Wars 7 movie trailer.

Although the novels I write might be more likely to be read by women, I think my immersion in all-things-male helps my writing. (The exception would be that I tend to kill too many characters off in early drafts. Thankfully, my editors remind me I have to keep a few alive.) While I do binge read within my genre, reading and watching movies outside my genre often sparks my imagination anew, and in turn, helps refresh my writing voice and helps to keep me from writing what’s expected.

Writing what’s expected helps us avoid feeling ashamed of our art. And yet, in the same way you didn’t expect to see a title like “On Zombies” here at the WordServe Water Cooler, writing the unexpected often grabs a reader’s attention.

A favorite resource for many writers is Stephen King’s book, On Writing. Here’s what he says after a teacher accused him of “writing junk” and “wasting his abilities” on horror and science fiction:

“I had no answer to give. I was ashamed. I have spent a good many years since–too many, I think–being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction and poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it…”

If King had listened to that teacher, if he had not continued to think and write out-of-the-box stories, we’d really be missing out.

I’d like to challenge you to consider reading or viewing something completely unexpected for a change.

Silence the voices in your head telling you what you should write, and discover what you want to write, what compels you, what compels others in out-of-your-genre work.

In the meantime, I think I’ll go rent a copy of Legally Blonde.

Great Expectations. Or Not.

Every part of the novel-writing journey is painful interesting, but the most interesting of all has to be the last few days leading up to a release. Under no other circumstances in my life do I experience such an intense combination of excitement and abject terror.

I have a new romantic suspense book coming out soon. Today, to be exact. (By way of a shameless plug, it’s The End Begins, Book 1 of The Seven Trilogy, a love story between a Christian woman and the army captain sent to keep the believers in line when martial law is declared after a terrorist attack.)


The idea that my work is about to go out there for everyone to read—painfully akin to being stripped naked and critiqued by perfect strangers—has, at times, overwhelmed me to the point of barely being able to draw in a breath and seriously considering calling the whole thing off. Minutes later, the idea that my work is about to go out there for everyone to read—thereby bringing the circle that is the writing process to completion and fulfillment—can fill me with inexpressible joy and anticipation.

My thoughts swing wildly from one end of the expectation spectrum to the other as I wait for the big moment to arrive.

This book could sell thousands of copies and make me a best-selling author.
No one will ever hear about, let alone read, this book.
What I’ve written could actually change the world.
The general reaction among readers will be “Meh.”
The legacy of this novel will endure long after I have gone to the grave.
This novel will sit on my parents’ shelf, gathering dust, until it is eventually bagged up and carted off to a thrift store.

The process is crazy-making; there is no doubt about it.

Thankfully, there is an out to the temptation to work myself into a near-catatonic state of over-anxiety and unrealistic expectations. I can remind myself that it doesn’t matter. Not even a little bit. The story came from God. I have no doubt of that. I am deeply aware, as I am writing, that the words are not coming from me but from a source outside of and greater than myself. And since God doesn’t do anything without a purpose, it follows that he has a plan for my novel.

That plan may be for millions of people to read it. For what is contained between the covers of my book to change the world forever. Or for the impact to echo down through generations like a shout hurled into the vast depths of the Grand Canyon. Or it may be for ten people to take a look at it, nine of whom will toss it aside, unmoved, and forget about it immediately.

If that one last person is meant to read it and somehow be changed or impacted by it and that is what happens, then in God’s economy the novel will have been a resounding success.

And as a believer, it must then be a resounding success in my mind as well.

Which takes a tremendous amount of pressure off of the events of this day (did I mention The End Begins is being released, even as you peruse this post?)

Order a copy and read it immediately. Or don’t. But if you think of it, do say a prayer that God will use it for whatever purpose he has in mind.

Which is the greatest expectation for my work that I can have.

Mars versus Venus: Attracting Readers of the Opposite Sex 2/2

Today, we’re continuing our discussion on reading novels by the opposite sex and what we can learn from that experience. Western historical author Peter Leavell talks about his experience reading my medical thriller Proof. You can read about my experience reading Peter’s western novel here.

1. Have you read this genre before? If not, why not?

ProofHRphotoPeter:  Suspense I have read. Medical thrillers I have not. Perhaps I’ve avoided the genre because of Grey’s Anatomy. Being a man, I never differentiated drama and thriller, giving the two an unfair shake. I didn’t watch Grey’s Anatomy because of a man the ladies chatted about—McDreamy—which instilled as much interest in me as a bunch of guys talking about a great new clip for a .22 rifle might in a lady.

I did look at a picture of McDreamy. I’d say he’s more McOkay. But the buzz about a show with a sexy man (no one ever discussed the plot) destroyed my interest in medical anything. Because I wasn’t really interested in a handsome, flawed doctor. Wait. Now that I put it that way, it doesn’t sound so bad.

2. What did you find surprising about the book? About the genre?

Peter:  A thriller? Medical thriller? As a historical fiction author, the novels didn’t enter my scope of reading—perhaps a Civil War amputation with a dude taking a shot of whisky then biting down on a bullet. When I picked up Jordyn Redwood’s book, I expected some dude who stole morphine and gets caught at the end.

His romance or her romance would be the crux of the novel. Granted, I would still find a romance interesting. Not so with Jordyn’s book. Serial rapist. Twists and turns. Thrilling action and flawed characters looking for redemption. Yeah, the novel had a lot more than I thought.

Being squeamish in the extreme, I thought I would get lightheaded a lot. I had a few bullets on the ready to bite down on, and was thinking about whiskey. But I didn’t need them. In fact, the first scene had medical thrills that pulled me in so fast I couldn’t put the rest of the novel down.

Jordyn: Wow, I didn’t know you were squeamish about medical things. I could have warned you a little bit.

3. Would you read this genre again?

Peter:  Only if Jordyn recommended. Like I said, I’m squeamish, so I have to tread carefully. It’s one thing to thrust a sword through an enemy. I’m okay with that. But to go into details about stitching a laceration? Or worse, drawing blood? Yeah, pass me a paper bag to breath into.

4. Did you feel like you gained any insight into the opposite sex having read the book?

Peter: Tons of insight. Proof’s main character, Dr. Lilly Reeves, is keenly aware of her relationships with others. In fact, the entire novel flows in terms of relationships, giving the writing a flowing style that makes every action from a character reflect on another character—or somehow affect them. Guys (generally speaking) are vaguely aware some people are more important than others in his life, like say a mother.

Lilly gets advice from friends. A guy’s opinion, again generally speaking, is his standard, and any good advice given him is simply an oversight in his movement forward. He simply adjusts and keeps moving forward.

Emotions play such an important role in a woman’s life and in Jordyn’s novel. Men seem to see emotions as an obstacle and try to rid themselves of them as quickly as possible. Women seem to work through emotions with long thought processes and long talks with friends. Interesting to read, at least for me, but if the entire novel is this process it can be tedious and frustrating.

Jodyn’s novel has characters’ thought processes, but they’re anything but tedious. They’re short, and blessedly to the point. A man gets a thought in his head and simply goes for it, and he’ll deal with the consequences with apologies and flowers later. That gives him time to ramble aimlessly about facts that don’t relate to anything.

Also, women characters in Jordyn’s novel are keenly aware of their bodies. Where their elbows are, for example, at any given time. Touches. Blood flowing through veins. They are also aware of everyone else’s body language. Many men simply blunder through life, knocking things over because they forget to steer their legs. Men are cute that way, I guess, and really need a woman to steer.

Interestingly, Jordyn’s characters, men and women, reflect real life. Both men and women are trying to run from something. Events, emotions, the past. Both sexes deal with problems differently. Both reflect reality.

5. What do you think might be lacking from reading this book authored by the opposite sex that you like in novels written by your sex?

Peter:  Jordyn takes great pains to show how people are cared for. A man would skip that part. Also, how will the feelings of those she knows be affected by her decisions? A man would focus on how lives will be changed. In his mind, the stakes must be higher than feelings. Jordyn’s novel is the perfect mixture of both.

What about you? Do you typically read novels authored by the opposite sex. Why or why not?


PeterLPeter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. For entertainment, he reads historical books, where he finds ideas for new novels. Whenever he has a chance, he takes his wife and two homeschooled children on crazy but fun research trips. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com.


Mars versus Venus: Attracting Readers of the Opposite Sex 1/2

A couple of months ago, I noticed that Peter posted to FaceBook a blog post that he and some other male authors had written giving reasons why females should read their novels.

I’d been feeling this way about my own medical thriller novels—that men weren’t reading them because they were authored by a female and so I posed this idea to Peter that we should trade our books and have a conversation about author gender and readership. I read his western novel West for the Black Hills and Peter read my debut medical thriller, Proof.

west-for-the-black-hills-hi-resToday, I’m posting about my experience in reading West for the Black Hills and on Thursday, Peter will post about his experience reading Proof.

1. Have you read this genre before? If not, why not?

Jordyn: I have not read a western novel before. Honestly, I didn’t think I would like them. The vision I had in my mind was of a dusty ranch in the middle of nowhere—what exciting things could happen? I definitely need tension, conflict and mystery in my novels to keep me engaged as a reader. I didn’t think this was the crux of the genre. My preconceived notion was that they were slow, almost literary novels (flowery prose with long sections of description) about the good ole west. I’ve tried to watch a few westerns on television and couldn’t get into them.

Peter: I should have added more tumbleweeds and stray dogs. Ha! Honestly, I get bored with the average western, too.

2. What did you find surprising about the book? About the genre?

Jordyn: What I found most surprising was the things I love about suspense novels are present in this novel. Mystery, intrigue—a few good twists and turns that definitely popped my eyes open a few times. West for the Black Hills definitely had me turning pages. I set other books aside to finish this one—which says a lot for an author who has a very large TBR (to be read) pile.

Peter: Thanks, Jordyn. I must admit, I was transported to another world with your novel. I even skipped my history reading at night because I had to know what happened.

3. Would you read this genre again?

Jordyn: This is a conundrum. Is it just Peter’s writing that I like or is he a good representation of the genre and other western novels are like this? Do I risk picking up another western novel to see what I think about it? I’m not sure of that yet, but I’m definitely a Peter Leavell convert for sure. Maybe that’s our next challenge—he recommends another western author to me—his favorite western novel—and I’ll see what I think about it.

4. Did you feel like you gained any insight into the opposite sex having read their book?

Jordyn: I felt like there were some themes that ran through the novel that provided some insight into the male mind. What follows are a few excerpts from West for the Black Hills and my thoughts on what I thought could be the male perspective.

“I prayed for forgiveness. The violence of deadwood had led to this punishment, no doubt, God’s poetic justice doled out for my sins. Turn the other cheek. And I had defended myself, defended Raven with violence. Should I have just let her go? I pulled the thin blanket over my shoulders. Was God trying to tell me my possessions belonged to others? I didn’t care about most of my possessions, but my horses were different. I loved them.”

From this passage—I thought—do men think more than women that God punishes for sin?

“‘Is self defense right? Jesus died without defending Himself.’”

There seemed to be a running theme of self defense and proper use of violence.  When is it okay to hurt/kill someone if you believe in Jesus who was decidedly non-violent—allowing Himself to be convicted innocently for the crimes of all humanity which led to him suffering one of the most violent deaths possible?

“’I’m no expert on the Bible, but you’re thoughtful enough about your actions that I know you read it. God used plenty of people in the Bible to dole out justice. Stop thinking about the philosophical reasoning behind everything and do your job.’”

I think this might be a male thought process because a woman defending herself that leads to another’s death probably doesn’t think this way because she knows she would have died without action on her part. A woman is probably thinking, “He had it coming and I’m lucky to be alive.”

“He crossed his arms. “Sometimes we’ve got to do the thing we hate most. Almost preordained. God seems to enjoy making sure there’s something we have to do that makes us uncomfortable.’”

In this passage, I thought there was a more universal theme that touches most Christians I know. Personally, I’ve felt God ask me to step outside my comfort zone to do things that I would never do—all legal of course.

5. What made the novel less enjoyable for you that you think may have stemmed from the author being of the opposite sex?

Jordyn: Sometimes I felt like Peter’s writing was very stark and factual but it didn’t detract me because I’ve been told this can be my writing style as well. It could also be how Peter wanted to portray the main character, Philip Anderson, and that’s why he wrote in this manner. Philip’s had a hard life so perhaps this writing is meant to convey that. I do feel like there is more emotional insight into a character from a female authored novel—more insight into thoughts and feelings. The emotional punch is heftier. Some of this is portrayed through the eyes of the heroine in the novel—that Philip won’t even share his feelings with her. So, really, I tend to wonder if this is more just Peter’s writing genius in disguise in a sense.

Peter: To find out it I’m a genius in disguise, you’ll have to read my historical fiction Gideon’s Call to see if the writing voice is different! How’s that for a marketing ploy?

What about you? Do you typically read novels authored by the opposite sex. Why or why not?