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.

Thanks!

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.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Newbie Corner - Those Who THINK They Know




As a newbie, I often showed my work to anyone and everyone. The results were not pretty, but I learned some lessons on both receiving and giving criticism.

1.  The Frankenstein Critique/Edit - This person lives to rip your manuscript or non-fiction work to shreds. There's no encouragement, constructive criticism, or kindness. Yes, writers must develop a thick skin, and it's never easy to hear your manuscript needs a lot of work. Still, there are some people who take their critiquing to a point of brutality. It's best to seek out those who are tough, but fair.

2.  The Pseudo Expert - This person is a fellow newbie disguised as an expert. It's one thing to share the knowledge they've gleaned with a fellow writer. It's another thing to view what they say as gospel truth.

3.  The Professional Who Thinks They've Nailed Your Story - They just don't "get it," but make pronouncements on your plot and characters that have no resemblance to what you wrote.

I've had people go on and on about my story, and I've walked away marveling at the assumptions they made. They were so far off the mark that I tossed whatever they said in the trash. From that point on, I avoided showing my work to them.


Writers:  Have you come across people who THINK they know where you're going with a story, but are clueless? Please share.

Readers:  Have you looked at a cover and jumped to a conclusion about the nature of a story? Do you read the back cover blurb and/or a few pages of the book, so you have a better idea of what the story is about? Please share.



















Friday, June 3, 2016

Time Thieves/5 Common Mistakes/Nat'l Day of Prayer/Milestones/Comparison




1.  Edie Melson, at The Write Conversation, talks about an issue common to all of us - time thieves. What actions are robbing you of your time?

2.  Jerry B. Jenkins talks about The 5 Most Common Mistakes in Beginners' Manuscripts. This is a must-read for newbies and a great refresher for the more advanced writer.

3.  Jonathan Cahn Opens National Day of Prayer With Prophetic Warning. Powerful. Only a revival will save this nation.

4.  Jeanette Levellie, at Hope Splashes, talks about milestone birthdays.

5.  Susan Panzica, at Eternity Cafe, talks about, The Comparison Thief." It's short, but packs quite a punch.

Writers:  Did Edie Melson's list ring an "uh-oh" bell? Please share.

Readers:  Have you had any tough milestone birthdays? Please share.

Photo Credit:  Brad Harrison

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

On My Nightstand - The Grandma Chronicles by Annie Keys




While I don't usually review non-fiction books, I came across this little gem and wanted to share it with all of you. Annie has the sweetest writing voice, reminding me of baking cookies with grandma and lots of homespun wisdom.

The book is a series of short vignettes, illustrating a particular Biblical truth. Her humor had me laughing until tears rolled down my face. I'll forever remember the story of her run-in with narcotics officers.

Her stories are the perfect example of troubles later becoming precious memories. I thoroughly enjoyed The Grandma Chronicles and give it 5 Stars.

Disclaimer: I purchased this book and did not receive any payment from the author or publisher for my review. All opinions, as usual, are mine and mine alone.

Writers:  If you write non-fiction or fiction, have you tried incorporating humor? Please share.

Readers:  Do you like short stories with Biblical applications? Please share.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day Thoughts




On this day, we honor those who fought and died for our freedom. Of course, we honor all of our veterans. Today, however, I want to focus on our part in the process.

As a child, I was taught the value of citizenship. It was a privilege to vote and participate in the process. Where I grew up, the schools were used as polling places. My parents and I would walk there, and they'd each take a turn voting. A big deal? You bet it was.

It's still a big deal. It horrifies me when I hear people say they won't vote for whatever reason. By not voting, people are making a choice whether they like it or not. They're giving one candidate an advantage over another.

I also see what I call, "personality wars." Instead of addressing issues, people are looking at which candidate wows them with their rhetoric or destroys the other people in the race with their tongues.

How do I decide who to vote for? Here are the main things:

1.  I pray God will help me sort through the noise and get to the heart of what each candidate truly believes.

2.  I educate myself on the records of those running for office. Do they respect the Constitution and our freedoms? Do they pledge to uphold the Constitution or do they seek to destroy or ignore it?

3.  History teaches us many lessons. Winston Churchill kept a positive attitude during the dark days of World War II. I've read about many who prayed and saw the tide turn in favor of freedom.

Fear is one of our greatest enemies. It's time for believers to get on their knees and pray for our country like they never have before. God is greater than any circumstance. If we first turn our hearts back to Him and then seek His intervention in our nation, we'll see the situation turn around.

The one thing that's not a viable option - doing nothing.

Writers and readers:  Freedom of speech, religion, etc. have a direct impact on our ability to write and express our views. Please keep the comments civil and share your thoughts.

Photo Credit:  Mark Alan

Friday, May 27, 2016

Action Scenes/Sequelphobia/Headlines/Pray/Jessica Nelson Cover


1.  Jessie Rita Hoffman guest posts at Writer Unboxed. Writing an action scene can make or break a novel. She gives some excellent instruction on how to make your scene effective.

2.  Barbara Hartzler guest posted at Elaine Stock's blog a few weeks ago. The title grabbed me:  Do You Suffer From Sequelphobia? Every writer who has a successful first book wonders whether or not they can do it again.

3.  Christian Headlines presented an article on the targeting of Christian colleges for their gender views. When are we going to stand up to the bullies, who want to take our religious freedoms away?

4.  Canadian blogger, Lynn Simpson, posts on the devastating fires in her region. She comes to the conclusion there are no words to express what's happening. Only pray.

5.  Readers - Watch for the release of Jessica Nelson's novel, "A Hasty Betrothal," coming out in August 2016. I've read a couple of her books, and they're wonderful stories.

Writers:  What problems do you run into when writing action scenes?

Readers:  When reading a series, are you often disappointed by the second book? Please share.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

On My Nightstand - The Marked Star by Vicki Hinze




















Elle Bostwick is a singing Superstar, who gets kidnapped in London. But...whodunit? Was it the terrorist group, NINA, or the CIA?

She ends up with a group assigned to protect her and answer those questions. Elle is shocked when one of the men, Nick, is the guy she loved as an eighteen-year-old girl long before she achieved fame.

Vicki Hinze is the author of over 30 books, specializing in romantic suspense. For me, that's a winning combination. I enjoyed the characters and the plot. I'll be checking out her other books.

I'm giving The Marked Star a rating of 5 Stars.

Disclaimer: While I won this ebook in a giveaway, the opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone. I didn't receive any remuneration for this review.

Writers:  Have you tried incorporating romance with suspense/mystery/history? Please share.

Readers:  If you enjoy romance, do you like the added zing suspense, etc. gives to the storyline? Please share.


Monday, May 23, 2016

Reading and Writing - A Stiff Minuet or a Waltz - Part 2




The more I read both non-fiction and fiction, the more I wanted to write. Yet, my brief attempts and the lack of resources made it seem impossible. I still wrote here and there, but limited it to materials we needed for our Sunday School and tape ministry. The two activities - reading and writing - were related but separate in my mind and heart.

When my late husband and I were dating, I shared some of my work with him. He liked how I illustrated my points and urged me to pursue my dream. After we were married, I looked for connections in my new state to the Christian writing community. I finally discovered a writer's group that met in the next town.

These wonderful folks critiqued my work, told me about writers conferences, and linked me with resources. A small regional conference caught my eye, but the thought of presenting my writing to the professionals terrified me. My husband encouraged me to attend. Okay - he almost shoved me out the door.

There I met an editor of an online publication, who liked my sample. She assigned a devotional to me, and I sat there like the proverbial "deer in the headlights." We not only worked together for several years, but also became friends.

As I took my first writer baby steps, I learned many things:

1.  Reading in your genre will help you grow as a writer.

2.  Fiction techniques used in non-fiction resulted in more acceptances.

3.  The only way to mature as a writer was to actually sit down and write.

Attending conference workshops, prowling writing blogs, and picking the brains of other writers, gave me a new perspective on reading. I gained an appreciation for the non-fiction and fiction I devoured. While the entertainment/learning aspect was still there, I discovered a new source of inspiration for my own work.

Reading and writing - we were finally waltzing together.

Writers:  What impact did reading have on your writing dreams?

Readers:  While enjoying a wonderful book, have you ever thought about writing one yourself? Please share.

Photo Credit:  Benjamin Earwicker