Friday, February 12, 2016

Synopsis/Praying Writers/Candace Cameron Bure/Recipe/Anxiety

1.  A synopsis challenges most writers, and I'm no exception. Donna L. H. Smith wrote a good article on what should be included in this piece and how to format it.

2.  The Writer's Alley posted on, "Praying The Bible for Writers." It will encourage and warm your heart.

3.  Christian Headlines reports that Candace Cameron Bure was named, "Celebrity of the Year," by Fox411. As a Christian, she's taken a lot of heat for her beliefs and stood fast. The honor is well deserved.

4.  Here's a great roasted winter veggie recipe from Ina Garten, at the Food Network.

5.  Dr. Mary Ann Diorio asks, "Are You Anxious About the Future?"

Writers:  What Bible verses speak to you, as a writer?

Readers:  Do you read books by celebrities? If so, please share some of your favorites.

Photo Credit: Bern Altman

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

New-to-Me Author - Reclaiming Brynn by Susan Crawford

Brynn Harper never dreams that her job working with Nicole, a young woman fighting substance abuse, will reconnect her with someone from the past. She's become adept at burying the hurt.

Garrett Davis messed up his life big time by getting in with the wrong crowd. It cost him everything - his family and his relationship with Brynn. He gets his life together and finds purpose in helping others.

Susan Crawford is a new-to-me author I met on Facebook. I picked up her book even though I don't usually go for romance minus a suspense or historical context.

Reclaiming Brynn held my interest, and I liked both main characters. She did a good job making them realistic. The plot, setting, and supporting characters were well done.

Overall, I'd give Reclaiming Brynn four stars. If you like sweet romances with a faith thread, this is worth picking up. I'll definitely look for more of the author's books and hope she'll write some longer novels.

Disclaimer: Neither the author nor the publisher requested this review. I didn't receive any compensation, and, as always, all opinions expressed are mine alone.

Writers:  If you write fiction, do you prefer doing novellas or full-length novels? Why?

Readers:  What are your thoughts regarding novellas and full-length novels? Which do you prefer - a short, quick read or a longer, more detailed story? Please share.

Monday, February 8, 2016

A Blizzard of Kindness

After a mild December and part of January, the infamous Blizzard of 2016 dumped 30 inches of snow where I live. Old Man Winter sure had the last laugh on us that day. It's like he stored all the snow and then dumped it on us at one time.

Baltimore and New York shut down, not allowing anyone to enter their borders. Philadelphia stopped its trains and buses. Snow plows barreled down highway, trying to keep the roads clear.

Yet, good things happened as well. Kids scaled snow mountains and slid down them. Neighbors came to the rescue of those who couldn't do their own shoveling. People were nice to each other.

Sometimes writers and authors encounter those who put us down, question our abilities, belittle our stories, and wound with their Frankenstein edits. Some will complain if they have to pay anything for an ebook. They are the blizzards of the writing life that leave us frozen and unable to move forward.

Thankfully, the majority of the writing community helps others the way those neighbors came to the aid of their fellow man. When we need someone to give an opinion on a book cover, point us to a resource, critique our work, or teach us what they've learned over the years, they share their knowledge.

I'm grateful for the authors and writers in my life:

1.  The friends who critique my work and pray for me.
2.  Those who gave me one of their book proposals, so I could use it as a template.
3.  All the bloggers who invite others to guest post, be interviewed, or highlight a new release.
4.  My agent's assistant, who teaches me about Social Media marketing and guides me through the maze of publishing.
5.  Established authors who made introductions to the powers-that-be in the publishing industry and gave endorsements.

Part of the writing community that are unsung heroes are our readers. They reach out and:

1.  Review our books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and other outlets.
2.  Share our blog posts, Facebook updates, and Tweets.
3.  Tell their friends about the great book they read.
4.  Encourage us with their enthusiasm and appetite for more of our work.
5.  Snap up our new releases and older titles.

Writers and Readers: Who are the heroes in your life? How do you express your gratitude?

Photo Credit: Copyright c Susan J. Reinhardt 1/24/16

Friday, February 5, 2016

De-Clutter/Novel Opening/Love/Freedom/Hope

1. I found an article on My Love of Words about de-cluttering that piqued my curiosity. What's the one thing you're doing that's making it harder than it should be to part with "stuff?"

2.  Multi-published author, Jody Hedlund, talks about the importance of crafting a great opening to your novel.

3.  Bruce Brady posts at The Write Conversation on the subject of, "Write With Love." Since February is Valentine's month, I thought I'd share this with you. :)

4.  Christian Headlines reports that a doctor has lost his privileges at a hospital due to his values. Freedom of speech and religion are increasingly at risk. Check out this article.

5.  Marja Meijers, at Fresh Insights On Ancient Truths, talks about "HOPE."

Writers:  What is the hardest part of writing a dynamite opening for your fiction or non-fiction pieces?

Readers:  Do you have any techniques that help with de-cluttering? Please share. I could use some!

Photo Credit: ibon san martin

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

On My Nightstand - The Master's Calling by Amber Schamel

Malon Ben-Tyrus is now an adult and desires freedom from the tyranny of Rome. He's sure Jesus will take his rightful place as ruler. When things don't work out the way he expects, he's devastated. His disappointment is compounded by other troubles, and he wonders if he and his family will survive.

This is the final book in Amber's Series. To get the most out of this novel, you'll want to read the others first. They're all good, but The Master's Calling was my favorite.

The author kept the pace moving along. Each character was well-defined, and I cared about Malon. As in the other books in this series, Amber's setting put me in the story.

The Master's Calling gets a rating of 5 stars.

Writers:  Research is a key part of writing a novel. What resources do you use for your settings or historical details?

Readers: Do you enjoy Biblical Fiction? What are some of the titles you've read?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Newbie Corner - What Is Head-Hopping?

Yeah, the term produces some interesting mental images. Think about it in terms of jumping from one character's thoughts to another character's thoughts in the middle of a scene

There needs to be a clear distinction between each character. Open a novel and watch for those separators that say, "You're now in Character A's head." Why is this so important? If a reader has to stop and figure out who's thinking, it takes them out of the story, slows the action, and makes reading a chore instead of a pleasure.

What does head-hopping look like?

Example:  Lindy leaned forward, her chin resting on her hand. Mike knew how to coach kids and bring out their full potential. Her heart did a little flip when he turned and waved. What a hunk.

After practice, he walked over to her and sat down. "Hey, I didn't think you'd be able to get here today. Would you like to go for a burger or something?"

She'd go almost anywhere with Mike. Those blue eyes made the sky dull in comparison. "Sure. You must be starving by now."

Wow, he couldn't believe how God blessed him with such a beautiful girlfriend. Her beauty appealed to him even more because of her kindness and the effort she made to support him.

THERE IT IS:  The last paragraph switches from her thoughts to his thoughts in the same scene.

How do we correct that scene?

Take out the last paragraph and substitute:

He stood and reached for her hand. "Yeah, the kids gave me a workout today. Let's go to the Burger Shack. I got paid today, so I'll buy you one of those banana splits you love."

Maybe it was silly, but his thoughtfulness always made her go weak in the knees.

Note: He's interacting with her, but we're anchored in her thoughts. It takes some practice to stay focused,  but it will become easier as time goes by. One of the benefits of reading well-written books is seeing how an author "does it right."

Writers: Is head-hopping a difficult concept for you? Please share your experience.

Readers: Have you ever read a story and had to go back over a sentence to figure out who was thinking/talking? What effect did it have on your reading experience?

Photo Credit:  Claudio Guzman

Friday, January 29, 2016

Writers Conference/Believe/WND/Pray/Orchids

1.  Are you thinking about going to a writers conference in 2016? I found this link on The Write Conversation. This website has articles on what agents look for, how to get your blog noticed by using key words, and other subjects.

2.  James R. Preston guest posts at Writers in the Storm. He gives three reasons to believe in your work.

3.  Here's another reason to not take everything the mainstream media says as gospel truth. WND reports that the shooter at the Colorado Abortion Clinic was not a Republican as the media claimed. He had no ties to pro-life organizations, which condemned his actions. Check out the story.

4.  Lucinda McDowell Seacrest, at The Write Conversation, urges us to think and pray before we write. Who hasn't seen the virtual fist fights on Facebook? Our words carry power. It doesn't mean we shouldn't voice our opinions or concerns, but our attitudes and the way we express ourselves say a lot about who we are.

5.  Here we are deep into January. I'm longing for spring and flowers. A couple of people have given me orchid plants - much to my horror. The first one I received years ago, and I promptly killed it. In case someone has given you one of these beauties or their gorgeous blooms enticed you to bring them home, here's a website to help you keep them alive and thriving.

Writers:  Have you been to a writers conference? Please share your experience and how you benefited.

Readers:  Other than the Bible, what book has strengthened your faith or given you a new perspective on life? Please share.

Photo Credit:  Margan Zajdowicz

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

On My Nightstand - Submerged by Dani Pettrey

Bailey Craig returns to Yancey, Alaska after her aunt is killed in a plane crash. Certain residents won't let her forget her wild years, but the McKenna family takes her under their wing.

Cole McKenna, the man she once loved, is torn between memories and the obvious change in Bailey. As a member of a rescue team, he needs her help in finding clues to a string of murders.

Romantic suspense is one of my favorite genres. The author did a great job weaving the relationship between Bailey and Cole into the story.

The richness in detail made Submerged captivating. Dani Pettrey's research skills shine as she pours Russian history and vivid scenes of diving onto the page. The setting of Alaska gave the book a unique flavor.

I cared about these characters, their lives, and their futures. I'll be picking up the other books in the series. Overall, I give this book five stars for the writing, plot, and research. It's a winner.

Disclaimer: Neither the author nor the publisher requested a favorable review. I purchased the book, and all the opinions expressed are my honest evaluation.

Writers:  Do you find research tedious or do you enjoy it? Please elaborate on your response.

Readers:  Do you like an element of romance mixed in with suspense novels? Please share.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Writing: A Journey or a Race?

Woohoo! This isn't so bad. After quite a few heady acceptances, the stories of rejection from others rolled off me. What was the big deal? I was doing just fine. Then it happened.

Not one, but several rejection slips landed in my mailbox and inbox.

I took a deep breath. Okay, this wasn't the worst thing that could happen. Yeah, I'd hit the ground running at breakneck speed and crashed. Maybe it was time to slow down and get some education under my belt.

The problem:  I approached the educational aspect with the same intensity. Craft books, blog posts, workshops, and advice from other writers littered my desk. The rejections kept coming.

Desperate prayers followed. Finally, I did something I should have done from the beginning: I confessed that I couldn't do this in my own strength. If He wanted me to write, I needed His guidance, strength, wisdom, and favor.

The temptation to worry trailed me like that little dust cloud following a Charles Schulz Peanuts character. I kept writing, but slowed my pace. Not long after the "I give up trying to do this on my own prayer," the concept of using fiction techniques in non-fiction writing came my way. I could almost hear the Hallelujah Chorus.

Using dialogue and illustrations, I drafted and edited a devotional. Sweat beaded my brow as I stared at the "send button." I bit my lip, and reached for it. Once the piece zoomed into cyberspace, I checked my email every ten minutes. Yay! It was accepted.

The New Year is still young, but the lesson holds true. Put the Lord first in all you do, and trust Him to lead you on your journey.

Writers and Readers: What lessons have you learned in writing and life?

Photo Credit: leagun

Friday, January 22, 2016

Unpolished/Story Ideas/FRC/Get Organized/Recipe

1.  Traci Tyne Hilton guest posts at The Write Conversation. Her view of unpolished literary works certainly runs counter to traditional publishing models. Interesting post.

2.  Amber Schamel guest posts on Seriously Write. Sparking story ideas isn't as hard as we think. She illustrates her method and encourages writers to keep their eyes open.

3.  FRC puts out reliable information, and this issue of their update made my hair stand on end. For all their talk about privacy, the government is stripping away in small chunks. It makes me think of the old saying, "He's talking from both sides of his mouth," meaning contradictory statements.

Also covered is the lack of Christian refugees in this huge influx.

4.  I don't know about you, but this time of the year brings out my desire to get organized. While I've made progress, clutter still creates problems. I came across this article with 5 tips to deal with all the stuff. Perhaps it will help you as well.

5.  Recipe Corner. Here's a recipe for Butternut Squash Parmesan from Kraft. It looks yummy. I'll print it out and maybe even try it. (Maybe this is one of the reasons I have a problem with clutter - a lot of good intentions, but not a lot of acting on them. LOL!)

Writers:  What sparks story ideas for you?

Readers:  Do you print out recipes and then never make them? Please share.

Photo Credit:  dekok

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

On My Nightstand - A Man Called Blessed by Ted Dekker

After reading Blessed Child, I immediately purchased A Man Called Blessed. Caleb is now an adult and has lost some of his fire. When life settles into the pattern of daily living, his spirit grows restless.

Rebecca Solomon, a soldier who is tired of taking lives, embarks on an archaeological journey to find the original Ark of the Covenant. Her father's lifelong dream to return the Ark to Israel and rebuild the temple collides with the fears of government leaders that it will ignite a war.

This book takes off like a rocket and rarely pauses. The situation becomes more dire with every turn of the page - just the way I like my suspense. Supernatural elements and the varying character points of view make this a fascinating read.

I'd read one other Ted Dekker book in the past, but this series whet my reading appetite for more. Several of his novels are going on my Wish List.

Disclaimer:  Neither the author nor the publisher requested a review or provided this book. (Indeed, I doubt if they even know I exist.) I purchased it, and all opinions expressed are my honest assessment of the story.

Writers and Readers:  What are key elements you like to see in a suspense novel?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Writer Dehydration

My doctor recently informed me that I needed to drink more water. Even though I didn't feel thirsty, my body was dehydrated. He explained our bodies adjust to what we give them. After I began taking in more water, my thirst level increased. If I didn't get that extra water, it let me know it wasn't happy.

Our creativity can also suffer from dehydration. Yes, we need natural water, but we also require the water of the Word. When I get too busy and slack off - and it happens to all of us - my ability to put words on paper shrinks.

Writers' block isn't pretty.

We might be able to power through it by keeping an idea file, brainstorming with others, or admiring the beauty of nature, but it won't have the same, indefinable quality that makes our work sing. I've read some of my stuff when in that condition, and it's flat and lifeless.

The cure: Go back to the well that never runs dry. God is the One who puts the gift in us as a seed, but we must protect and nurture it.

Writers:  How does a lack of spiritual nourishment impact your creativity? Please share.

Readers: Do you notice a difference in your comprehension/sensitivity to spiritual truths if you become spiritually dehydrated? Please share.

Photo Credit:  Roger Kirby

Friday, January 15, 2016

Weather/Sagging Middles/The Voice/Persecution/Devo

1.  Angela Ackerman guest posts at Writers in the Storm. Using weather imagery in fiction is tricky, but she gives some important guidelines to avoid it becoming a cliche.

2.  Zoe M. McCarthy examines the works of 5 authors and how to avoid sagging middles in novels. This is one of those posts every aspiring author could use to hone their skills.

3.  If you haven't heard that Jordan Smith won The Voice, you're probably not on social media. His stellar performances are not only a reflection of his talent, but also of his faith that gives him strength and joy. My hope is that Jordan will continue to use the gift God gave him to express his faith.

4.  The continued murder of Christians in the Middle East is largely ignored by the media. I discovered this story on Why aren't Christians from the Middle East being encouraged to seek refugee status in other countries? They are the ones facing the greatest persecution.

5.  Alisa Hope Wagner did a thoughtful devotional on Zechariah 1:3. "Return to me, and I will return to you..."

Writers:  Do you use weather imagery in your manuscripts? How do you avoid cliches?

Readers: What keeps the middle of a book from sagging for you? Tension? Problems? Danger? All the above?

Photo Credit:  Jeffrey van Bijleveld

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

On My Nightstand - She's Mine by Tammy Doherty

Caitlin Harrington's life is in crash-and-burn mode. An ex-boyfriend is stalking her, her grandmother dies, and her job has gone the way of the do-do bird. She returns to her hometown of Naultag to settle the estate, but trouble is on her doorstep.

Sean Taggart rescues people from burning buildings, but saving Caitlin from her troubles is his greatest challenge. The beautiful woman tugs at his heart, but past experience makes him keep her at arm's length.

Tammy Doherty is a new author to me. I saw her book in one of the Facebook groups and on impulse bought it. Wow! She knows how to ramp up the tension. At the point where I thought the story was winding down, she threw in a twist that I never saw coming.

I've got her book, Celtic Cross, on my Kindle and plan to read it soon. Discovering a new-to-me author that I like makes me one hungry reader.

She's Mine gets five stars.

Disclaimer: Neither the author nor the publisher requested or paid me to review this book. I purchased it, and the opinions expressed are mine.

Writers: Whether you write romance or some other genre, do you save a little twist for the end of your manuscript? Please share.

Readers:  Do you like to figure out whodunit or do you enjoy being surprised? Please share your thoughts.

Monday, January 11, 2016

New Year's Resolutions - No, Thanks!

Everyone's been posting about New Year's Resolutions. I.don' Why? Because they're a recipe for failure.

Think about it. You write down 3, 4, 5, maybe even twenty things you want to do or change. On January 1, you're all gung-ho. By January 15, you've whittled down the list by one third. By February 1st, you're back to Christmas Day, dreaming about how your life is about to undergo a major metamorphosis.

Welcome back to the cocoon.

What's the answer, dear writer and reader? After doing the same thing for umpteen years, the answer hit me between the eyes: Change happens from the inside out, not the outside in. If I don't renew my mind with the  Word of God and fellowship with the Lord, it will automatically side with my flesh. Of course, I knew that, but the application escaped me in some areas.

Example: I'm going to cut back on social media. Yes, this is confession time. Facebook attracts me like a box of chocolate doughnuts. ...and don't get me started on Pinterest. I get on that site, and I'm lost for an hour. But I digress - you see how easy it is to get off onto a tangent?

The first thing necessary to create real change is getting scripture on the matter. No, I won't find a verse that says, "Thou shalt not spend thy entire life on Facebook." Even if I did, it wouldn't help. Jesus said it best, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind." 

Ah, I'm to love Him more than Facebook, more than writing, more than filling my mind with all the fun, good things around me. If I fill my life with them, there's no room for Him. If I ask Him what His priorities are for my life, what His goals are for my life, the extra baggage gets stripped away.

And I'm truly free. Free from the whole performance orientation thing, free from distractions. His Spirit catches mine, and we fly through each assignment. In between, there's time for the sweet treats of life - leisure activities, hobbies - in the right quantities and in the right order.

I've thought of many things I'd like to accomplish or change in 2016. As I spend time in the Word and pray, He will direct my paths.

Writers:  Is prayer an integral part of your writing life? How do you keep the demands from overwhelming you?

Readers:  How do you keep all the good stuff from crowding out the important stuff of life?

Photo Credit: Background vector designed by Freepik