Friday, August 22, 2014

Take a Closer Look

I subscribe to various blogs and the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) loop. Often the subject line will catch my eye, and I'll click on the link to take a closer look. Here are a few of my latest finds:

1.  I saw Elaine Stock advertise a guest post on her blog as, "Are You God to Your Characters." Before you get all up in arms, Connie Almony explains what she means. That title certainly made me do a double take, and I had to check it out. Will you?

2.  Sandra Ardoin hosted Mindy Obenhaus at her blog. Research fascinates me, and the way she injected realism into her novel required much daring. While I wouldn't go quite that far, she made me think of ways I could use my life experience to liven up my manuscripts.

3.  Carol Garvin, at Careann's Musings, shares a quote from Dale Carnegie.

Writers: What have you learned in the course of writing your manuscripts whether fiction or non-fiction?

Readers: Do you gravitate to posts with catchy titles or do you consider them gimmicky? Please share.

Photo Credit:  GlennPeb

Monday, August 18, 2014

Do You Give Yourself "Margin?"

Every time someone asks me to do something, I hear it. When I read, I'm reminded of it. When I set up a document, I have to set them.


When I make a commitment, I must allow for some margin in case things don't go as they should. And we all know that's almost guaranteed to happen.

There were times I didn't allow any or not enough breathing room:

-  The time I agreed to help with managing a writers conference, and my husband got sick. Any extra time built in disappeared, as well as the actual time set aside for the project. I ended up bowing out - not something I like to do.

-  The time a Condo Board member said, "It's only one meeting a month." NOT.

-  The time I took on a project, and my job situation changed.

-  The time I planned to get my house in shape, and I broke my elbow.

Yes, margin is critical to the success of any endeavor. Construction companies factor it in when they promise to get a job done by a certain date. Writers give themselves stricter deadlines than the ones imposed by their publishers.

Margin comes in handy when the car breaks down, dinner burns, Jr. calls from the Emergency Room, or a flight is cancelled.

We all need margin.

Writers:  Do you build margin into your projects? Please share a time when you didn't, and everything blew up.

Readers: Do you build margin into your daily lives? How about leaving 10 minutes early for an appointment, so you know you'll be on time? Please share.

Photo Credit: skingolf

Friday, August 15, 2014

Internet Treasure Hunt

When I was a kid, I enjoyed Nancy Drew. Many stories involved treasure maps or disciphering clues. The Internet is like a giant treasure hunt. Here are some of the things I've discovered in my travels:

1.  Zoe McCarthy gives 5 tips on building relationships. She stresses a genuine caring to see others succeed.

2.  K. M. Weiland guest posts at The Write Conversation about using lighting to communicate mood in a scene.

3.  I love teacups and saucers. While most of my modest collection aren't antiques, it's fun to read about them. Here's a website that gives tips for beginning collectors.

Writers:  What are some of the techniques you use to show danger or match a dark mood?

Readers: When reading a book, what makes a scene creepy for you?

Photo Credit:  alexdehnel

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Loss of The Tree of Hope

News Flash

Jonathan Cahn reveals the Tree of Hope at the site of 9/11 died this past spring and was removed. It represented the last Harbinger (warning) in the Isaiah prophecy.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Conference Pictures and Report

Left to Right:  Jeanette Levellie, Susan Panzica, and yours truly. This picture was taken in the cafeteria during our lunch break on Saturday. The Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference has trained, encouraged, and given opportunities to writers for over 25 years.

Susan Panzica is a non-fiction writer/speaker. She's been published in a Chicken Soup Anthology, is co-founder of The Justice Network, and blogs at Eternity Cafe. She's also written a book, and I can't wait until some smart editor snatches it up and gets it published.

Jeanette Levellie is my favorite funny lady. She presented two workshops at the conference - one on time management and the other on humor. Check out her book: Two Scoops of Grace with Chuckles on Top. 
Here's Jeanette again during her humor workshop. She's a sought after speaker, vocalist, and writer. She blogs at Wings of Mirth and Worth.

Lisa Crayton, Freelance Writer/Author/Teacher, and I met at the Philly Conference years ago and have stayed in touch. She taught a Continuing Session (5 1-Hour Classes) this year on You CAN Write Magazine Articles. This talented friend loves pouring into aspiring and published writers alike.

My own conference experience involved re-connecting with friends, meeting new ones, and getting some excellent advice on marketing and promotion. This year's theme centered around Write His Answer. The keynote speakers challenged and gave conferees ideas on how to communicate the love of Jesus Christ in today's culture. I came home rejuvenated, encouraged, and ready to press forward.

Writers: Have you ever attended a writers conference? If you have, please share your most memorable moment.

Readers: What book is on your nightstand this week?

Pictures: Susan J. Reinhardt @Copyright 2014

Friday, August 8, 2014

My Weekly Wonders

I love summer and enjoy nature's wonders. The Internet provides much inspiration, and the discovery process delights me. Here are some of my Weekly Wonders:

1.  Ray Edwards guest posts at Goins Writer. So much of the ads we see try to manipulate or scam the reader. Mr. Edwards takes us through steps that care, love, and provide real answers to real problems.

2.  The Christian Bookworm is a new site that alerts readers to Christian bargain or free books. They're still under construction, but I've signed up for their emails. Since they're so new, authors can suggest they highlight their ebooks.

3.  Edie Melson, at The Write Conversation, has a great checklist for editing your blog posts. Whether you're a professional writer or not, typos and wonky formatting detract from the quality of your blog. I've been blogging for six years, and these are the best tips I've come across.

Writers and Readers: Do you subscribe to a service that alerts you to Free or Bargain books? Please share your experience - positive or negative.

Photo Credit:  Krappweis

Monday, August 4, 2014

Cheat Sheet or Quick Reference Guide? Part II

Last week, we talked about Cheat Sheets and how they keep you from putting forth your best writing efforts.

When I read a craft book, blog post, or take an online course, I often think, "how am I ever going to remember all this material?" Well, the plain fact is I won't recall everything. Unlike a Cheat Sheet, a Quick Reference Guide is designed to summarize the important stuff without explaining every nuance related to the topic. It's a memory jogger, not a way to cut corners.

How do I construct a Quick Reference Guide?

1.  If a nugget jumps out while I'm reading a craft book or other educational tool, I jot it down. It's helpful to have more than one document or file with each focusing on a specific topic.

For example: I have a mental block with techy stuff.  "Now, how do I do an em dash?" I have the simple instructions printed out for quick reference. This way, I'm not searching the Internet every time I need an em dash.

2.  A short statement that gives me a fast definition of a term.

Jill Elizabeth Nelson's book, Rivet Your Reader With Deep Point of View,* drove a particular point home: Don't name your character's emotion. That simple statement keeps me on track when writing my novels.

I read this book while writing my second book, The Scent of Fear. One reader commented: "I don't know what you did in this book, but it's even better than the last one." I employed the principles in Jill's book to my writing.

3.  Writers Conferences

If you want to talk about cramming tons of information into your head, this is the place it happens. Many workshop presenters hand out notes to help you retain the material, but I rarely have time to go over them more than once.

I try to isolate the principles they're teaching and write them down. This helps me remember the highlights and apply them to my writing.

For example: Tim Shoemaker taught a workshop on Show, Don't Tell. He gave out a small tube and a lightweight ball. The lesson is embedded in my brain forever. I look through the tube at the ball. This represents what the Point of View Character sees, hears, and knows. This character cannot refer to what another character is thinking. He's not a mind reader.

These are the types of items that go on my Quick Reference Guides. Most of the time, they're not formal lists. They can be notes in a file that I can grab when I need them.

*I was unable to get the Amazon link to work in this post. This book is available on Kindle.

Writers: What Quick Reference Tips do you have for me?

Readers: Do you ever save household/DIY/craft or other tips to jog your memory about a subject? Please share.

Photo Credit:  xaila

Friday, August 1, 2014

Bouncing Around the Net

Let's take off down the Internet court and dribble that ball. Ready, set, shoot that basket!

1.  Heather Sellers guest blogs on the Writers Digest website. Here are 7 things she's learned so far in her writing career. Check out these valuable tips.

2.  Carol Garvin, at Careann's Musings, often blogs about gardening and nature. Her pictures are an integral part of her posts. She relates one of her experiences to the importance of attending writers conferences.

3.  Bruce Brady guest posts at The Write Conversation. He talks about not letting don'ts stop you. With a title like that, I had to read it.

Writers:  Have you attended a writers conference? Please share your experience.

Readers:  Have you ever undertaken a project people said was absurd (or impossible) and succeeded? Please share.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

On My Nightstand - Life Support by Candace Calvert

Please Note: The above link does not work in this post.

Nurse Lauren Barclay spends her entire life running interference for her wild-child sister, Jessica. She returns to Houston after a brief hiatus in Austin because of her sister's escalating problems.

Physician's Assistant and single dad to cute Emma, Elijah Landry is at odds with his father. The threat of a restraining order does nothing to stop his vigilant care for his disabled older brother.

Mounting family tensions and a hurricane make any chance of a relationship seem like an impossibility.

As in real life, Candace shows how people's actions reflect their past and can entrap them. There are no pat, easy answers in this book. Each character struggles through their conflicts in real time.

In my opinion, the storyline and characters all rate 5 stars. I loved the sweet father/daughter duo and their Newfoundland dog, Shrek. Even the characters offstage add color to this intriguing story.

Disclaimer:  I won this book in a blog contest. I was not paid or asked to give a favorable review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Cheat Sheet or Quick Reference Guide? Part I

Before the Internet, high school students would sometimes pick up notes that gave a summary of a book. Instead of reading for hours, they would base their report on the facts in these brief, but thorough, evaluations. Teachers hated them and could usually spot when a student used a "cheat sheet."

There's a saying that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. (Author unknown to me.) The problem with getting by on as little as possible becomes apparent when we hit a snag.

A lot of writers learn the buzz words and just enough to get by. They may even score publication. What happens though when the problems they face go beyond their "cheat sheet?"

It's important to learn as much as we can about our chosen profession. When we understand the underlying principles, we can find solutions to the inevitable roadblocks we encounter in our works in progress.

Writers:  Please share what steps you take to increase your knowledge?

Readers:  In your chosen profession, how do you improve your skills?

Photo Credit:  bredmaker

Friday, July 25, 2014

Blog Hopping Friday

1.  Cathy Gohlke shares the research challenges she encountered while writing her latest historical novel, Saving Amelie. A Christy-award winning author, her words of wisdom gave me much to consider.

2.  Pamela Christian tackles a subject many find difficult: God Is Not to Blame for Evil. I've included this thought-provoking post because she presents a powerful case.

3.  Lori Hatcher guest posts on The Write Conversation. A devotional writer, she talks about Pray and Work, A Writer's Two-Fold Mandate. I think you'll appreciate this inspirational piece.

Writers:  How do you get into a character's head when they lived in a different time period?

Readers:  What do you think of Pam's post, God Is Not to Blame for Evil? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Photo Credit:  maplerose

Monday, July 21, 2014

Pay Attention!

I've always had a fascination with those guards, who stand at attention. Tourists snapping pictures, kids trying to make them laugh or respond to questions - nothing distracts them. We can learn a thing or two from these dedicated sentries.

1.  Focus - They have a job to do, and they do it without making excuses. Can you imagine one of them going to his commander and complaining that he can't stand still that long?

We writers grumble way too much. I'm too tired to write. I can't think of anything. This is too hard. Yes, emergencies happen, but a daily occurrence? I don't think so.

2.  Training - These guards are prepared for their task. They go through rigorous training, so they'll know what to do in the event they're called upon to defend their post.

Are we willing to put in the time and effort to learn our craft? Do we give our best effort when it comes to the work we produce?

3.  Professional - They take their assignment seriously. It's an honor, and they treat it as such.

Do those of us who get writing assignments - no matter how small or how big - realize the privilege we've been given? There are plenty of others, who would jump at the opportunity to write for publication.

Writers and Readers: Please share your thoughts on the privilege we've been given in our writing or other profession? How long did it take you to achieve your goals?

Photo Credit: lumix2004

Friday, July 18, 2014

Diving into the Internet

Water sports are popular this time of the year, but this girl restricts her diving to the Internet. Here are some of the things I've discovered:

1.  For those of you who've never been to The Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference, you're missing a great experience. Director Marlene Bagnull not only brings in topnotch faculty, but also encourages conferees in their spiritual walk.

I've been attending for the last nine years. I've met my agent and many others, who've impacted my writing life. The workshops enabled me to polish my debut novel, which ultimately led to a contract.

The conference runs from July 30 - August 2.

2.  Do you write for yourself or write with others in mind? Bruce Brady guest posts at The Write Conversation and shows how we can increase our audience.

3.  Marja Meijers, at Fresh Insights on Ancient Truths, talks about life on the couch.

Writers and Readers: When you write/blog, how do you keep your audience in mind? Praying for them? Thinking about what will spark their imagination?

What steps do you take to keep from living on automatic pilot?

Have a blessed week!

Photo Credit:  Phutureuk

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Non-Techy Tip

I learned to type on a manual typewriter starting in 7th grade. Yeah, I'm THAT old. The transition from the manual to electric typewriter fueled my fears. After all, others told me if you held a key down too long, you'd get a whole line of zzz's on the paper.

You can imagine my consternation at the advent of the computer age. My first introduction to this new addition left me totally befuddled. Back then, what you typed on the screen wasn't always what you'd get.

Fast forward to the present. The Internet presents its own challenges to the non-techy person. My eyes still glaze over when someone gets too detailed. Give me a simple cheat sheet, please. Ah, but I've found ways to adapt. Here's a tip that might even help the techies out there:

Do you want to post on Facebook groups, but don't want to/are mystified by/too cheap to use those fancy scheduling programs? Manually posting is a daunting task, but I've got a secret. Shh, I'll tell you, but keep it between us.

Type several posts in Word, and save the document. Minimize the document in your browser, and open a group. Pull up the Word document, copy the post you want to insert in the group, and again minimize the document. *Paste the copied item into the group, and hit "post."

Go to the next group and repeat from * above. As one of my blogging friends would say, "easy peasy."

Writers and Readers:  Do you have any non-techy computer tips? Please share. 

Photo Credit:  hoboton

Friday, July 11, 2014

Exploring the Net

1.  Edie Melson, at The Write Conversation, gives the scoop on Links and how to use them effectively.

2.  Two weeks ago, I linked to Pauline Creedon's post on using blogs to promote e-books, Part 1. Here is Part 2.

3.  Wow, The Procrastiwriter nailed it for me today! I'm working on the first draft of my fourth book. Her comment about it being like an awkward teenager made me sit up and take notice.

While I love doing the first draft, I sometimes think, "this is awful," or "will this come together?" What's kept me going is past experience. It always works out if I'm diligent in the editing phase.

Writers and Readers:  Patience is an essential ingredient in writing and in life. Please share your thoughts on how patience brought you to a satisfying conclusion of a project.

Photo Credit:  mishie