Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Defining, Discussing, and Setting a Personal Standard - Part II

Defining Christian speculative fiction is a bit more difficult than nailing down the meaning of other genres. From what I've read, it includes books containing angels and demons.

Books like Frank Peretti's, "This Present Darkness," and "Piercing the Darkness" fall into this category. I assume Kathryn Mackel's, "Hidden," would also fit this definition. The powers that be in CBA reason: 1) Angels and demons are real. 2)We don't know how they operate. 3)Therefore, the book is speculative.

What about books based on Biblical stories that contain scenarios not found in the scripture? Are these considered Christian speculative fiction?

Since I lived in New England for over 20 years, I'm aware of the spiritual warfare needed to survive in that area. Frank Peretti's books do not freak me out. While everything may not be 100% accurate, there's a lot of Biblical support for the spiritual battles taking place. Think about the story of Daniel praying, and the glimpse God gives us of the battle between angels and demonic princes.

What other books are considered Christian speculative fiction and why?

The Winners

And...the winners are:

Sarah H.

Amy L.

Rose M.

Congratulations! Please email me with your snail mail address. I'll ship out your book ASAP! My email address is: susanjreinhardt (at) gmail (dot) com.

Thanks for subscribing to Christina and Sherrie's newsletter. We hope you enjoy your prize.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Defining, Discussing, and Setting a Personal Standard - Part I

Every now and then, I see blog posts and discussions about "edgy" Christian fiction, speculative Christian fiction, and fantasy. I'd like to explore some of these terms, share my opinions, and open a discussion.

What is "edgy" Christian fiction? I've deduced it's being able to show this dark world in a realistic way. Villains are multi-faceted. Characters have substance abuse, sexual, and criminal issues. The "edgy" Christian fiction I've read expressed these behaviors without spelling out every detail. People are smart enough to figure out what's happening without seeing everything in technicolor.

Back when they allowed the first mild epithet to pass the lips of an actor, some hailed it as a step toward better movies. This small crack in the dam opened the general public to a flood of profanity, obscenity, and gratuitous violence, which is virtually impossible to stop. Why would we, as Christians, want to lower the standards God has set in His Word by following the world's example?

This week, I read an article about actor, Kirk Cameron. He's determined he will not kiss any woman other than his wife. When a scene called for a kiss with his leading lady, they brought in his wife as her double. I admire him for sticking to his convictions.

As a Christian writer, my first allegiance is to the Lord. I want my writing to impact readers in a way that will draw them to Him and not appeal to the base elements of human nature. When I was growing up, there was a saying: "If you have to use bad language, you do not have a good vocabulary." With an abundance of acceptable words at our disposal, let's use them and not resort to gutter talk in any form.

What are your opinions on this subject? How do you handle characters with rough edges?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Friday Round-Up - #16

For those of you interested in writing for a living, Kathryn Lang shared some great ways to get started, as well as links to other websites.

Publicity expert, Paul Hartunian, has a new site with free tips. This is the guy, who actually sold pieces of the Brooklyn Bridge.

If you haven't already entered the contest for a free book (3 winners), the September 30, 2008 deadline is rolling around fast.

Earlier this week, I sent a query to a publishing syndicate. Instead of stashing published articles in a file drawer, I figured it's about time I look into selling reprints. This evening, I received an email with the go-ahead to submit. I should receive an answer within 2 weeks whether or not they're interested. Pretty cool, huh?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On My Nightstand - Song of the Silent Harp by B. J. Hoff

B. J. Hoff transports the reader to Ireland during the mid-1800's Potato Famine. We huddle with the Kavanaugh family next to a fireplace, listening as death slips through the door. Heartless landlords hasten the grim reaper's progress through the small town. The only hope they have is embodied in Morgan Fitzgerald, whose wild ways and political activities keep him teetering on the edge of disaster.

The tale was riveting, the tension almost unbearable, and the hope for a happy outcome so strong I couldn't put the book down. If you enjoy historical fiction, Song of The Silent Harp is your cup of tea.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Lean, Mean, Writing Machine

Awhile back, I purchased a container of Brownie Bites. What harm could an occasional brownie do? The quantity consumed escalated from 1 to 2. Then it doubled to 4 of the delectable morsels per day.

A doctor appointment put an end to this madness. When I started removing my bracelet, watch, and earrings to shave off a few ounces, I knew I was in trouble. The sweet treats, combined with a lack of exercise after surgery, packed an additional ten pounds on my frame.

When I arrived home, I checked the number of calories in each brownie bite. 160 calories X 4 per day X 7 days per week = 4,480 calories per week. I didn't have the courage to calculate beyond a week. I'd have to fast more than 2 days to compensate for that many extra calories. Bye, bye brownies.

Chunky, non-productive words add weight to a novel, devotional, or article. I have difficulty paring down the number of words in a piece. When a devotional assignment insists on 150-250 words, I gulp and pray...a lot. The admonition to write tight keeps ringing in my ears.

In their Nangie 101 workshop, Angela Hunt and Nancy Rue talk about getting rid of "weasel words." Words like, "really, just, and actually" are a few words they highlighted. They suggest doing a search and replace command. Sigh. I love those words, and use them when I talk.

Now, I'm not only shedding pounds, but also words that fail to move the story forward. Hmm, I wonder how many words editors will cut from my 96,000-word novel. I sure hope there are enough left to stay in the 80,000-100,000 word range.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday Round-Up - #15

I received an email from Tekeme Studios directing me to their blog. They've announced the winners of their Authentic Parenting Contest (Mary DeMuth). Unfortunately, none of us won. The good news is they're giving a discount on a blog or website design. In order to take advantage of the offer, you must contact them within 7 days. http://tekemestudios.blogspot.com

A prayer request touched my heart. Please pray for Cindy and Gary Hogan. A short time ago, doctors diagnosed her with Stage 4 cervical cancer. They have a 5-year-old son, Michael. Gary is serving our country in Iraq. This family is in crisis, and they're asking Christians to stand with them in prayer for Cindy's healing. Thanks.

Thanks to my friend, Jessica, for pointing me to The Seekers blog. http://seekerville.blogspot.com

It's chilly this morning. As I shrugged into my sweater, I thought of all our friends at the AFCW Conference in Minneapolis. If it's cold here, I can imagine what the temperature is in that northern state. I hope they packed some warm clothes and a jacket.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What Do Painting & Writing Have In Common?

I'm not talking about the Mona Lisa here. No, I'm thinking in terms of rooms, specifically ceilings. After a contractor replaced a water-damaged ceiling in one of my bedrooms, it needed painting. So, yours truly purchased the supplies, and rolled up her sleeves. In the process, I learned a few things about painting and writing.

1. Don't stand directly under the paint roller. Doing so will result in painter becoming the paintee. By the time I finished, I resembled Spot in the old Dick and Jane first grade textbook.

When writing my draft, I got too close to my novel and lost objectivity. The manuscript became all wrapped up with my identity. When critique and editing began, it tore at my very being. Now, I try to hold my writing separate from who I am as a person. No more confusion between writer and work.

Keep paint on ceiling and book on page.

2. Prime a new ceiling before painting. I didn't do this. The ceiling soaked up paint like a thirsty camel. Instead of a quick primer coat and one paint coat, it took two heavy paint coats and two days of hard work to get the job done.

I'm a seat-of-the-pants writer. No matter how I try to outline or fully structure a book before writing, it doesn't work for me. Yet, even though I don't use a formal process, I do mull things over in my mind and do research for background, setting, and characters. Otherwise the first draft takes forever.

Prepare that ceiling and prepare before diving into the writing waters. 3. Visit the chiropractor AFTER painting the ceiling, not before. This one I got right. Two days of painting left me one hurting puppy. Any benefit from a previous adjustment would have been undone by this activity and required a second appointment.

I'm thankful I didn't seek out a professional editor for my first draft. I wrote and re-wrote until it was in decent shape. Friends and my writers' group pointed out some problems. I learned from workshops and craft books.

Ah yes, save the chiropractor and the editor for when you really need them.

Have you learned any writing lessons the hard way? I'd love to hear about it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Seven Random Facts About Me

Author Robin Hatcher posted a meme on her blog and challenged others to participate in the fun. So...for what it's worth, here goes:

1. As a kid, I suffered through piano and voice lessons for a year. Today, I can play an impressive arpeggio, a sad version of chopsticks, and possibly Old MacDonald Had A Farm. I say, "possibly," because I'd need the music, and I'm not sure I remember how to read it. The upside to this experience: I learned this is not what I was cut out to do.

2. When Billy Graham came to New York City in the 60's, my mother and I signed up as counselors and joined the choir. (Put me in a BIG group, and I can pull off the singing thing.) Cliff Barrows astonished us with his ability to teach several hundred strangers harmonies in record time. My choir pin still resides in my jewelry box.

3. Doll collecting is a passion, which carried over from childhood. Penny Playpal, Shirley Temple, and Toodles have traveled with me through 7 moves. I sure wish I had my Barbie. She'd be worth a pretty penny today.

I haven't added to the collection in recent years. There comes a point when you have to choose between furniture and dolls. Most of them are packed away from the last major move. Someday, I'd like to get one of those etegeres with glass shelves and display the darlings.

4. Growing up in New York City, the Bronx Zoo provided many forays into the exotic world of animals. Back then, the concept of showing animals in a natural setting hadn't caught on yet. Lions and tigers paced in old-fashioned cages, while mothers kept their young'uns from getting too close. The monkeys and elephants were the main attraction for me.

5. My high school was across the street from a residential school for the deaf. Thus began my fascination with sign language. Years later, a pastor's wife did a sign language special, rekindling my interest. After a bit of searching, I located a teacher at another church and took lessons for a year. (Methinks there's a pattern here.)

Eventually, I was part of a sign language troupe. I also signed the worship for our church services. Unlike piano and singing, sign language remains an important part of my life.

6. In case you haven't figured it out from my blog, purple is my favorite color. I decorate with it, wear it, and everyone associates me with it. My friends and family know they can't go wrong with color if they choose purple.

7. I'm a big Peanuts fan. I have a link to the Snoopy Dance on my computer compliments of my cousin. When I need to chill out for a few minutes, I hit the link and enjoy Snoopy, Woodstock, and Schroeder as they cavort to the Peanuts music. It's almost as good as chocolate. Okay, okay, let's not get crazy here. Chocolate always comes out way ahead. :)

So, I'm tagging Sarah, Jessica, Annie, and anyone else who'd like to participate. I can't wait to read seven random facts about you.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Round-Up - #14

It's been one of those mornings, folks. None of the links for today's post worked, so I'm starting from scratch. Argh.

In case you missed my Contest Time post, check it out. It's dated Wednesday, September 10, 2008. When I hit the link, Blogger told me the page didn't exist. Trust me. It does. The contest deadline is September 30, 2008, so check it out soon.

Terry Whalin has an interesting post on marketing. In his usual no-nonsense, cut-to-the-chase style, he illustrates an important principle. http://terrywhalin.blogspot.com/2008/09/charged-to-promote.html

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Meet my friends, Christina Berry and Sherrie Ashcraft.

They are a mother-daughter writing team who put out an infrequent, humorous newsletter. Here's a taste of what you might get, should you choose to sign up: For the first time in the long, illustrious history of our careers we are going to committee!

Crash course in publication terminology for you normal, sane subscribers who haven't crossed over to the dark side of humanity by deciding to write a book. The process of publishing goes a little something like this:

~Write a stunning, brilliant book

~Discover you know nothing and revise for nearly a decade

~Land an agent who believes in your work and can magically penetrate the force field surrounding publishing houses OR attend conferences that temporarily allow you to stand in the blinding presence of editors from said publishing houses

~Pitch--as in try to sell your story, not throw an inside fastball--for one week to twenty years

~Get an editor interested in the book

~Be rejected

~Repeat the last two steps for an indefinite period of time

~Finally, have multiple editors from the same house express interest and tell you they're taking the project to committee

The committee consists of the editors, vice presidents of the company, the marketing department, and other publishing bigwigs. The committee meets and exists for the purpose of saying "no." The goal is to make it IMPOSSIBLE for them to reject the book.

And so we sit, on the cusp of having all our dreams come true, of total validation of our worth as people ... um, okay, that might be expecting a bit much from getting published. Anyway, the house that's interested in our joint book is meeting tomorrow (Wednesday, August 20). Please, please pray for the Lord's will to be done. (Your prayers will not earn you an extra entry in our contest, but we think some of you will pray for us anyway.)

Here's the funny part about this newsletter: they ended up not going to committee that day because the company's fiscal year starts in October, so the decision has been postponed until then! Guess they need to add another step to the process ...

To help them out, I'm running a contest. If you sign up using this link to the Ashberry Lane Newsletter and designate me as the one who referred you, you'll be entered into a drawing for a free book. The best part is we won't have only 1 winner, but 3.

October Song by Beverly Lewis

Land of My Heart (Heirs of Montana #1) by Tracie Peterson

The Coming Storm (Heirs of Montana #2) by Tracie Peterson

And that's just from me!

You'll also be entered to win an MP3 player or free autographed books for the life of their writing career, should it ever occur. The Christian Writer/Reader Connection contest will end on September 30, Christina's birthday. The Ashberry Lane giveaway will occur when they have 1,000 subscribers. Hey, they're already more than halfway there! The more people you have sign up, the more chances you have to win.

**This post written by Susan as told to Christina.

Christina Berry

www.ashberrylane.net www.authorchristinaberry.blogspot.com www.shoutlife.com/christinaberry

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Creative Process

In sports, athletes sometimes experience a false start. Everyone is called back, and they begin again. We often jump the gun and commence writing before our ideas have sufficient time to develop. What we view as writer's block can actually be the result of going into the work phase too fast.

Currently, I'm writing a story for A Cup of Comfort for the Grieving Heart. With plenty of personal experience, reams of notes, and 2 years walking through this time of mourning, the story seemed ripe. I prayed God would give me direction and help me sort and sift out what didn't belong in this particular piece. Part of this process included reading and re-reading the publisher's guidelines.

The first version tore me up on the inside. I wrote full steam ahead for a hour, and virtually collapsed. The piece emphasized too much pain and not enough hope. Version 2 came closer to hitting the mark, but didn't quite achieve the take-away element. At this point, frustration reared its ugly head. Should I put this project aside? Maybe I was wrong about the timing. Again, I brought it before the Lord, asking for direction.

My prayers were answered in an unexpected way. Several blog posts caught my attention at the time I was grappling with this story. The problem didn't originate in the piece, but in my lack of understanding about the creative process. As I read, it dawned on me how I'd often stumbled through these phases without realizing I was following a pattern. With my newfound knowledge, I could flow with these principles and defuse the negative self-talk when the writing appeared to be stalled. You can read Kristy Holl's posts for yourself at http://writers-first-aid.blogspot.com Check out posts dated August 22 - September 5, 2008.

Version 3 is written, ready for my writers' group to critique, and close to the submission point. Whether or not it's accepted by this anthology or somewhere else, I've gained valuable insights on how a story develops.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Friday Round-Up - #13

A gentleman from my writers' group started an organization with 2 other men called, "Veterans Helping Veterans." Since they are in the start-up phase, they do not have a website yet. Their mission includes a visitation program for hospitalized veterans to encourage and offer prayer. A women's auxiliary will minister to the wives and children of veterans. They also want to provide needy families of veterans with clothing, food, and necessary transportation.

The group is currently seeking non-profit status. Funding will be sought from grants, businesses, individuals, and fund raisers. For veterans and their families in the South Eastern Pennsylvania area, a Pot Luck Picnic will be held on September 28, 2008 from 2:30 P.M. until dusk at the Franconia Community Park. Please use the Allentown Rd. entrance. R.S.V.P.: Roger Sovocool at 215-453-1435 or Mike Reynolds at 215-723-6814. Soft drinks will be provided, as well as live Gospel Music and Bluegrass, sports, and games.

Either of the individuals mentioned above can provide additional details on the group's vision and activities.


Crystal, over at the Chat 'N Chew Cafe, posted a Color Career Counselor test. The basic test is free. http://www.careerpath.com/careertests/colorcareercounselor.aspx I took the test and came out as a Creator. Suggested career paths ranged from Advertising Executive to Author. (Yay!) The secondary career path called me an Organizer. (They should see my desk.) Anyway, it was fun, and I thought I'd pass it along to you.

A friend sent me an announcement about, "Churchmouse Publications," which is open to submissions. Check out their website at: http://www.churchmousepublications.com/ I emailed them and requested their guidelines. They are looking for both new and established artists, authors, creators, and photographers. I'm still researching this opportunity. If any of you have experience with publishing syndicates, please share your knowledge with us.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

On My Nightstand - The Novelist by Angela Hunt

Jordan Casey, best-selling author, is challenged to drop her literary persona and write something from her heart. Her seemingly perfect life is thrown into chaos by her son's self-destructive behavior.

For the first time, she spins a tale that moves full circle from an idyllic life, to disaster, and ultimately to redemption. The effects of her journey touch multiple lives as she reaches into the depths of her being and cries out to God for answers.

Once again, Angela Hunt gives us a story that provokes contemplation and soul-searching. Her books are a must-read for any serious writer.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Little Nuances - Lee Warren

Lee Warren, over at Little Nuances blog, posted some advice for newbie bloggers. He has some nuggets I think you'll appreciate.


He recently celebrated his third "blogoversary." Congratulations, Lee.

Monday, September 1, 2008

How Do I Choose Books? Let Me Count The Ways

Ah books. The romance bloomed in childhood and continues to this day. Many authors and marketing people suffer angst over encouraging people to buy books. As a writer and passionate reader, here's how I make my personal book-buying decisions:

Genre - I'll try new genres, but a strong story is essential. Same-old, same-old with a different setting and characters becomes a cure for insomnia.

Lately, I've experienced some genre surprises. Edgy fiction makes me think. I don't always agree with the ideas, but at least it keeps me engaged. A foray into Christian chick lit provided laughs, while still carrying a serious undertone.

Author - Have I ever heard of this person? What kind of reviews are out there? Have any of my friends read this book?

I once heard someone say the difference between a woman sports fan and a man sports fan is she wants to know about the athlete's life, while the guy is primarily concerned about the athlete's performance. As a woman, I need to connect with the author, as well as the book. It's one of the reasons I read blogs almost as voraciously as I read books.

My list - Since my funds rarely keep pace with my reading appetite, I've started a Wish List on Amazon. The stress of remembering titles and authors drawing my attention became overwhelming.

Speaking of Amazon, I do shop there. Another happy place is my local Christian bookstore, especially when they send out flyers with coupons. Hurray for coupons! This weekend, they have a 25% off coupon on regular and sale-priced merchandise, making them competitive with Amazon and my other favorite, Christianbook.com.

While I suppose a lot of people read the back-cover copy, I'm not one of them. If I turn a book over, it's to check the price. My research is done via computer and word of mouth. When I go into a store, 99.9% of the time I know exactly what I want. However, seeing something I want on sale with the added spice of a coupon often causes me to switch gears (and usually spend more than I'd planned).

With all the books out there, how do you decide what to purchase?