Friday, July 29, 2016

Blogging Break (Pun Intended)

As most of you know, I broke my right wrist on June 25th. I'm grateful for answered prayer - I didn't need surgery.

With two weeks left in the royal purple cast and an unknown amount of physical therapy, I've decided to take a blogging break until Monday, September 12th. Hopefully, this will give me enough time to recover the strength in my hand/arm.

Prayer Requests:  1) Fully healed bone on last doctor visit. 2) Strength and no pain in wrist. 3) A smooth re-entry into my job, which requires heavy writing and computer use.

Thanks! See you in September. :)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Faces/Edit/Inspire/Distraction/Write Faster

1.  Bryn Donovan gives a list of facial expressions writers can use. I'm bookmarking this one.

2.  Diana Urban gives a list of words you should cut from your writing immediately.

3. This is a truly inspirational story of a deaf young man.

4.  Lynn Simpson talks about how she tried to fight distraction with more distraction. It didn't work. Check out her thoughtful post.

5. Bloggers - want to write content faster? Check out Zoe McCarthy's post.

Writer's: What are some of your favorite words to cut from your writing? One of mine is, "that."

Readers: I'm reading a book where the author uses some unique terminology to describe setting, emotions, etc. They make me smile, but sometimes distract me from the story. Do these type of devices add to your reading pleasure or annoy you? Please share.

P.S. Sorry there's no graphic. I had this post almost done when I broke my wrist a few weeks ago. It's a challenge typing much less searching for graphics.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Picture Books/Characters/Acquitted/Close to Home/Book Decor

1.  People think writing for kids is easy. Once you read 6 Essentials in Writing Picture Books, you'll have a different perspective. Joanne Sher guest posts at Zoe M. McCarthy's blog.

2.  Kathleen McCleary, at Writer Unboxed, talks about developing characters organically. She attended her 35th college reunion and asked questions. They always brought responses that were the beginnings of a story - loss, success, etc. Some of her methods appeal to my Seat-of-the-Pants writing style. Check it out.

3. reports that David Daleiden was acquitted of trying to sell baby body parts. The investigative reporter, whose videos sparked an outcry against Planned Parenthood, became the target of their supporters. Get the details here.

4.  Author, Blogger, and Facebook friend, Wendy Paine Miller, reflects on tragedy no longer seeming far away.

5.  When I came across the blog, Thrifty Style at 67, I parked there for quite a long time. This post on book decor begged entrance to a Friday Potpourri post. Enjoy!

Writers:  How do you create your characters? Do you do character charts or allow them to reveal their lives to you naturally? Please share.

Readers: What did you think of the book decor blog post? Do you use books as part of your decor? Please share.

Photo Credit:  

Friday, July 8, 2016

Non-Disclosure/Public Speaking/China/Writing Output/Planters

1.  Susan Spann, at Writers In The Storm, gives important advice on non-disclosure clauses in publishing contracts. She urges writers to consult an attorney if they see one in their contract. This is a must read for authors.

2.  Whether you're a non-fiction or fiction writer, marketing is part of the package. Zoe M. McCarthy gives tips on building confidence for public speaking.

3.  Many Christians experience persecution throughout the world. China Christians were forbidden to hold a prayer meeting recently. Please check out the post on how China is cracking down on believers.

4.  Jody Hedlund gives 3 Tips to Help Increase Writing Output. I'm going to try #3. :)

5.  Susan, at Writing Straight From the Heart, shares her experience with the hazards of using breakable containers outdoors.

Writers:  Do you have speaking engagements? How do you handle the jitters?

Readers:  Do you garden? What types of unusual planters have you used outdoors?

Photo Credit:  Brad Harrison

Friday, July 1, 2016

Controversy/Inner Dialogue/Genocide/Legal/Freelance

1.  There's a lot of controversy in the Christian publishing community over how far writers can push the boundaries when it comes to profanity, sexual content, and violence. Bruce Brady, at The Write Conversation, tackles this subject head-on.

2.  Zoe M. McCarthy talks about writing inner dialogue that speaks to the reader. As always, her posts are mini-workshops.

3.  Christian Headlines reports that few Christian Syrians are obtaining refugee status despite the declaration that ISIS is committing genocide.

4.  Jennifer, at Pen and Prosper, points out 3 legal issues that can enhance your blogging.

5.  Jean Fischer always writes informative posts. Here she does a Q&A on 11 Questions You Shouldn't Ask A Freelance Writer.

Writers:  What's your opinion on pushing the boundaries in Christian Fiction?

Readers:  Do you read only Christian Fiction? How do you feel about authors wanting to add more realism to their stories?

Photo Credit:  Simon Gurney

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Decorating With Books

I'm a big Pinterest fan. Visuals often inspire blog posts, and this one illustrates that fact. I've been seeing pins about decorating with books - everything from traditional libraries to Christmas trees made from books.

Here are a few pictures of my book nook. I love the way the volumes express my interests. :)

This room is decorated in soft yellows with varying shades of blue. The books add a pop of color to keep the room from looking too matchy-matchy.

I found the needlepoint footstool in an Amish Country antique shop. The colors were perfect for the space.

The sunny location partially inspired the color scheme. I also saw a bedroom in Better Homes and Gardens with blue and yellow and thought it would be perfect for my home.

Writers and Readers:  Do you have a writing/reading nook? Do you use books to decorate in unusual ways? Please share. 

P.S. I'm not a photographer, so please excuse the amateurish pictures.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Plan B - Or Why I Missed a Post

No, the dog didn't eat my post. (I don't have one.) I fell on Saturday, 6/25/16, and broke my wrist. Life has a way of surprising us.

I have one Wednesday post (tomorrow) scheduled and four Friday posts, so I hope you'll visit on those days. Maybe by then I'll be able to write more.

Thanks for your understanding and support.

Writers and Readers: What kind of Plan B do you have when life throws you the unexpected?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Cliches/Dialogue/Free Speech/Hope/Devo

1.  I confess. I like cliches, and my critique partners and editor are always pointing them out. When I saw this post on Writer Unboxed, my reaction was, "YES!" Jo Eberhardt doesn't advocate drowning our readers in these devices, but used sparingly, they can save a lot of writing. Check out, "In Defense of Cliches."  (Notes: This is not a Christian site.)

2.  Writing dialogue is one of my favorite aspects of writing, but it can be tricky. Amy Sue Nathan guest posts at Writers In The Storm on fine tuning your dialogue.

3.  California is trying to pass a law fining and even arresting those who do investigative reporting. This includes bloggers and websites that report/show/tweet these stories. The video footage on Planned Parenthood was so devastating that efforts to silence those exposing the horrors ignore the foundation of free speech.

4.  Whether you're a writer or a reader, Gail Kittleson's guest post at Elaine Stock's blog will resonate with you. Choose hope.

5.  Jeanette Levellie shares her experience, and declares, "So, this is what hell feels like."

Writers:  Do you like cliches? Please share your struggles with erasing them from your writing.

Readers:  How do you maintain your hope level?

Photo Credit:  Colin Cochrane

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Shrinking TBR Pile

While my TBR (To Be Read) Pile usually rivals the Empire State Building, it now resembles a one-story house. Why? I've limited my book purchases in an effort to catch up. Also, some of the books on my Kindle put me to sleep faster than a hot beverage before bed.

I'm getting a bit desperate for some great books. So, my blogger buddies, what books would you recommend for me? My favorite genres are suspense, mystery, and historical romance.


Photo Credit:  Svilen Milev

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Newbie Corner - Three Dead Giveaways You're a Newbie

Every writer learns step by step, and many fall beginner traps. Instead of following that road, why not learn from the mistakes of others? Here are three frequent craft issues found in their manuscripts:

1.  Giving backstory instead of diving into the action. Backstory is a history of what went on before your story starts. It's also called an information dump. Angela Hunt and Nancy Rue taught a continuing class at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference several years ago.

The rule:  No backstory for 60 pages.

Why? The goal is to raise story questions in the reader and lead them on a path of discovery. Backstory can be meted out in tantalizing bits along the way.

2.  Introducing too many characters at once. I remember starting a book and the author introduced five characters on the first page. I didn't get past the first chapter. While I write multiple point of view characters, I've learned to bring them in throughout the storyline.

3.  Not following genre expectations. Romances generally use two point of view characters with others in a secondary role. In the Christian Book Association (CBA), profanity, explicit sex scenes, and gratuitous violence are a no-no.

If you're writing a mystery, know the mechanics of a who-dun-it or a cozy mystery. We'll talk more about these subjects at another time.

If you've raised your hand and said, "I've done that," don't despair. Learn from your mistakes and practice, practice, practice. Yes, I've done some of these things. Someday, you'll share your experience with others and help them avoid, "The Marks of a Newbie."

Writers:  What newbie pitfalls did you fall into on your writing journey? Please share.

Readers:  What makes you want to keep turning the pages of a novel?

Photo Credit: Bret Underberg-Davis

Friday, June 17, 2016

Overstating/Visual/China/Aging/Christian Fiction

1.  Karen Lange, at Write Now, did a helpful article on, "Are You Guilty of Overstating?" It's tempting to pepper our readers with exclamation points, all caps, and extreme pronouncements.

2.  Margie Lawson guest posts at Writers in the Storm. Sometimes we think we're showing, but we're really telling. Margie asks, "What's the visual?" Wow! This is a workshop in a blog post

3.  China has oppressed Christians for many years. Here's their latest action, giving rise to speculation more stringent regulation is on the horizon. See this report by the NY Times. At the rate we're going in the U.S., we could be facing some of this ourselves.

4.  Dena Netherton, at My Father's World, My Father's Words, writes about the words, "At Your Age..."

5.  Publisher's Weekly has an interesting article on the Business of Christian Fiction. There's a quote from Gilead Publishing that surprised me both as an author and reader.

Writers:  Were you surprised by the number of Christian Fiction titles put out annually? What are your thoughts?

Readers:  Do you relate to Dena Netherton's observations on how younger people treat older people? (You don't have to be older to comment on this. It would be interesting to have younger people's reactions to her post.)

Photo Credit: Colin de kroon

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

On My Nightstand - Like a Flower in Bloom by Siri Mitchell

Charlotte Withersby comes from a long line of botanists. She loves working with her father on various books and articles. When her uncle, The Admiral, and her father insist it's time for her to put aside botany and focus on getting married, she's convinced her father will change his mind. He's depended on her for everything.

When Edward Trimble, a provider of botanical specimens, arrives at their house, her father hires him to take Charlotte's place. Now, she's forced to make an effort in the marriage department. Her outspoken ways make the transition from career woman to marriage material an ordeal.

This is one of those books requiring two sets of marks: Writing craft and story. Siri Mitchell's writing brings the characters to life and evokes an emotional reaction in this reader. While her research is impeccable, I found the extreme detail of botanical facts slowed the story to a crawl for me. While I admired Charlotte's expertise on the subject and her devotion to her father, I didn't like her much as a person. The Christian thread also seemed more like an afterthought than an integral part of the story.

I've read a couple of her other books and enjoyed them. This one - not so much. I'd give Like a Flower in Bloom a 4 for writing craft and a 3 for story.

Disclaimer: Neither the author nor the publisher paid me for this review. I purchased the print book, and all opinions are mine and mine alone.

Writers:  How do you decide what details from your research to include in your books/articles?

Readers:  How do you feel about intense technical information in a story? Does it overwhelm you or enhance the story?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Flashbacks - My Observations

A flashback moves the reader from the present to the past. It may happen multiple times in a story. This technique is often frowned upon by editors, but I'm seeing more and more of them in books. When they're done well, they can be effective. By the same token, they can:

1.  Stop the forward action of a story.
2.  Confuse the reader.
3.  Take the edge off the story's tension.

Recently, I reviewed the book, "The Butterfly and The Violin." This was an example of a story with effective flashbacks. As I've mulled over why I think it worked so well, I came up with these thoughts:

1.  The historical content and present-day content were separated and didn't create confusion.
2.  The past provided a mystery for the present-day characters, while the reader had two stories that provided questions and interesting twists.
3.  At the end, both the past and present intertwined and came to satisfying conclusions.

Writers:  Do you use flashbacks in your stories? Please share.

Readers:  What is your opinion of flashbacks? Do you like them? Do they annoy you? Please share.

Photo Credit:  Guido Giardino

Friday, June 10, 2016

Writing Craft/Resilient Writer/Trafficking/Parenting/Facebook Policy

1.  Zoe M. McCarthy gives examples on How to Write Infrequent Phrases. I should print this one out - very useful.

2.  Writing takes a great deal of perseverance. Edie Melson, at The Write Conversation, says, "Become a Resilient Writer by Remembering these 15 Things."

3.  Human trafficking is a widespread problem. WND reports on a girl, who escaped her Boko Haram captors. She's urging everyone to keep working on freeing those kidnapped.

4.  Parenting is a daunting task. Maria Morgan shares, "Sometimes Blunders Bring Blessings."

5.  Writers on Facebook need this article on how Facebook's new policy on Branded Content will affect them. Edie Melson once again comes to the rescue and clarifies the issue for us.

Writers:  What are some of the ways you handle the ups and downs of the writing life?

Readers:  Have you noticed more articles on the subject of human trafficking? Did you know there are organizations that raise awareness and provide aid to the victims? What are your thoughts on the subject?

Photo Credit:  Zach Davis

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

On My Nightstand - Finding Me by Kathryn Cushman

After Kelli Huddleston's father and stepmother die, she discovers the story of how her biological mother and siblings died in a fire was a total fabrication. She embarks on a search for her true identity.

Yet, she struggles with the repercussions. Will digging up the past wreck her future and wound those who were abandoned by the one person she loved and trusted her whole life?

This story started off a bit slowly for me, but I stayed with it. After all, this was billed as "Contemporary Fiction," not suspense. It soon engaged me, and I enjoyed the plot and characters.

Kelli and her boss, Kenmore, were my favorite characters. He acted as a mentor of sorts, but also grew and opened to new ways of doing things as a result of their friendship. Beth, the overzealous friend, pushed Kelli to face her fears, but I did find her annoying at times. The element of romance added an interesting complication to Kelli's dilemma.

Overall, this was a fascinating story and worth the investment of time. I'm giving this book 4 Stars.

Writers and Readers: Do you enjoy reading Contemporary Fiction? Please share.