Monday, August 31, 2009

Blood Brothers

In the Old Testament (or Covenant), a person or group would enter into a solemn agreement with another person or group. They did not seek those with the same strengths they enjoyed. Rather, they looked for those, who exhibited strength in an area where they were weak. The covenant was sealed with an exchange of clothing and blood. They vowed to stand up for, protect, and support each other.

Did you know as we are joined in covenant with the Lord Jesus Christ, we're also joined together as His body? When we're tempted to lash out at a fellow writer, editor, or agent, do we stop and consider they are part of our family? Do we recognize we're hurting ourselves as much as them?

Maybe we can't mesh with that sister or brother in Christ because our strengths and weaknesses are too similar. Do we ask the Lord to send a critique partner/mentor/writing friend to provide guidance where we need a boost, and who needs our expertise? A relationship based on complementary abilities will be far more harmonious than one with someone, who is your mirror image.

What are some of the areas where you need a helping hand? Have you found a critique partner or someone, who knows the right thing to say at the right time? What are your thoughts on the subject?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Round-Up - #64

Gail Gaymer Martin gives 10 Tips for Creativity.

Teaching kids how to write can be a tricky business. This article tells about the 4 Deadly Errors of Teaching Writing.

Susan Panzica, over at Eternity Cafe, posted a video of Vonda Skelton talking about true beauty. If you want a hearty laugh, pop over there. I watched it twice.

Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

On My Nightstand - A Whisper of Danger by Catherine Palmer

Catherine Palmer's book, "A Whisper of Danger," is the second book in the Treasures of the Heart series. Once again, the author scores big.

Jessica Thornton and her son, Spencer "Splinter" Thornton, move to Zanzibar after she inherits a house owned by her former art teacher. Upon their arrival, Jess is shocked when she bumps into her estranged husband, Rick.

A treasure hunt, a murder, and a determined husband all conspire to turn Jess' world upside down. Will she let go of her bitterness and resentment? Will she learn to trust again? Mama Hannah, from book 1, provides a strong dose of wisdom, while Jess learns she's not as self-sufficient as she thought.

Loved, loved, loved this book! I whipped through it in two days. (You can imagine how little I got done around here.) Catherine, if you're out there, I'd love to interview you. :)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Piano Fingers

Piano fingers. Yeah, that's what everyone said I possessed...long, slender fingers that could stretch across the keys. My Mom had the same type of hands, so my parents purchased a handsome spinet.

In spite of having piano fingers, I didn't have a piano heart. Practice time ranked right up there with going to the dentist. Much to my relief, a year-long struggle with music theory and piano finally came to an end. My repertoire consists of a showy arpeggio and a kiddie song that escapes me at the moment.

Writing is more than knowing what verb to use, whether you should use 's or s', or knowing how to self-edit. Creative writing is about vision and passion. It's about a message burning in your heart.

One author I know has a desire to present relationships from a Christian perspective. Another writes books based on themes of forgiveness, love, and kindness. Others write non-fiction, helping people survive grief and loss. The common denominator for all of them is a heart for God and people.

When rejections pile up, and I get sent back to re-write for what seems like the millionth time, my commitment to the vision keeps me on course. What keeps the writing fires burning in your life?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Round-Up - #63

Does your dialogue need help? Look no further. Christa Parrish shows us how to write realistic, relevant, revealing, and resonant dialogue.

Nettie Fudge, over at Write For The Journey, gives advice on what to do if you're struggling with your calling as a writer.

Molly Noble Bull, at Writer's Rest, advises us to get to the point when writing a synopsis.

Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

On My Nightstand-Veiled Freedom by J. M. Windle

Jeanette Windle is a former missionary kid, journalist, and a multi-published author of political suspense. Her experience, extensive research, and sharp writing put her right up there with the leading novelists of our day.

A cynical Special Ops turned Security guy, a naive Christian aide worker, and an embittered young man are brought together in Kabul, Afghanistan. Jeanette explores the issues of culture, religion, and politics with a sensitive, but realistic, touch. Even though the story is fictional, her writing enabled me to see and understand each character's behavior and motivation.

The book portrays the city as teetering on a sharp edge between peace and violence. Small, incremental events, as well as sudden crises, created a growing dread. How could this unbearable tension and conflict be resolved? The climax had me glued to my chair until I ran out of pages.

Veiled Freedom is a must-read book for suspense lovers, as well as those interested in world affairs. I'd read another Jeanette Windle book in a heartbeat.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Research Boo-Boos

My very first Sunday School teaching assignment was a group of kids, ages five and six. I watched some of them grow up, but others left the church for one reason or another.

I didn't see them for many years. They remained a snapshot, frozen in time. Years later, I met several of them at a church anniversary celebration. I say, "met," because I didn't recognize them. The kids grew up! Fancy that. They were no longer the adorable five-year-olds I remembered, but grown men and women.

Recently, my former boss told us about his trip to Washington, D.C. Procedures for White House Tours have changed drastically since I visited years ago. Although I didn't go on that particular tour, people just went there and waited on line. Now, you have to contact your Congressional representative, go through a security check, and hope you get one of the coveted spots on a tour.

My book includes a tour of the White House. Unfortunately, I relied on my very old memory concerning the procedure...a snapshot, frozen in time. After hearing this story, quite a few paragraphs required changes.

Yup, this is one time when you don't take it for granted your memory will work in today's world or in the futuristic one you're inventing. Five-year-olds grow up, and rules change.

Have you ever written something based on an old memory, and then discovered it was no longer accurate? I'd love to hear about it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Round-Up - #62

Many of you know I've had problems commenting on some blogs. No matter how hard I try, there's one comment format that refuses to accept my pearls of wisdom.

Finally, someone came up with a solution. My good friend, Karen Lang, discovered the following steps to reconfigure the comment format to a pop-up window:

Go to the Blogger Dashboard

Select Settings

Choose pop-up window format option.

I was able to comment on her blog for the first time. Yay!

Many others have experienced difficulties with the other type of format. You may be losing a lot of comments because of this glitch. Well, here's a solution. Switch over to the pop-up window format.

This is a mini-review for Karen Lang's informative booklet, "The Only Homeschool Co-op Booklet You Need to Start Your Very Own Best Co-op EVER!" That's quite a mouthful, but describes the contents. Homeschool Co-ops provide group learning experiences, socialization, and fun ways to handle subjects that generally cause a lot of eye-rolling among students.

Karen gives sample projects and games, as well as a list of books and guides to assist the homeschooling parent. Even if you don't have a large, formal co-op, the booklet will provide some great ideas and teaching tips.

I guess this was Karen Lang Day here at Christian Writer/Reader Connection! Thanks, Karen, for your stick-to-it attitude in finding a way for me and others to comment on your blog, as well as your excellent homeschool co-op booklet.

Haved a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Author Interview-Jane Kirkpatrick-Part IV

We finish up our interview with Jane today. I feel like I've been to a writing workshop at a conference!

3. What projects do you have on the horizon?

I'm currently working on the revisions of, "An Absence so Great," the sequel to, "A Flickering Light," based on my grandmother's life as an early photographer. It's due out in April 2010. Then, I have three more books to write with Water Brook/Multnomah, a division of Random House. These are only a few of the projects in the works.

Jane has written 18 books, including three non-fiction titles beginning with Homestead, the story of her family's move from suburbia to Starvation Lane in rural Oregon where she learned to deal with rocks and rattlesnakes and the writing life. She and her husband, Jerry, live there still at the end of eleven miles of dirt road.

The author's mission is to "inspire and promote through speaking and writing the power of story to Divinely heal and transform." Writing blends her work as a former mental health therapist and administrator, working with families and women, her faith life as well as a love of history and the power of personal stories.

Quotable Quote: "It isn't necessary for Oprah to know my name; it's to be faithful to the stories I've been given and to tell them the best way I know how and to trust that I'm not alone in the telling."

Thanks, Jane, for pulling up a chair and giving us some great lessons and inspirational thoughts.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference - Part II

Even though the appointments were in the same building as the classes this year, I missed a couple of workshops. This gave me time to peruse the book, freebie, and ministry tables.

Six appointments were spread over the three days. I'll give you a list with a brief description of each one:

Sue Brower, Zondervan, wasn't looking for clients. She labeled my book Futuristic Fiction, which I liked.

Diana Flegal, an agent with Hartline, said she didn't handle my genre, but suggested several other possibilities. At the end of the appointment, she prayed with me.

Mike Dellosso, a blogging friend and multi-published author of Supernatural Suspense, checked out my first chapter and liked what he saw. He pointed out that I needed to get the year of my story into my one-sheet.

Cindy Sproles, of Devotions US, liked the content of my devotional. I need to tweak the format to match their guidelines and send it to her.

Kathy Mackel, multi-published author and screenwriter, caught a cliche and made several other suggestions to tighten my writing.

Jeanette Windle, multi-published author of Political Suspense and a representative of Kregel Publications, felt I should set my novel in the present rather than the future. She also said, "I needed to make it a meaner world," to make it more believable.

The remaining workshops I attended were, "Writing the Series," taught by Lindsay Guzzardo, of Guideposts, and "From Platform to Print," taught by Jeanette Windle. Lindsay covered subjects like how to know whether or not there's enough material to sustain a series, carrying the theme throughout the books, and the keynote statement or pitch.

Jeanette gave a wonderful lesson on structuring a non-fiction book and the two different kinds of writers: A Writer Who Speaks (someone more comfortable in their writing cave than in front of an audience) and A Speaker Who Writes (someone who's great on the speaker's platform, but struggles to get it all on paper).

So, my friends, what kind of writer are you? Are you more comfortable writing or speaking?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference - Part I

On Thursday morning, at 6:00 A.M. sharp, my friends, Eva and Leslie, arrived at my house. With all the girl talk, the one-hour drive seemed like ten minutes. After breakfast and the opening session, we split up to attend our classes.

The first Continuing Session began at 10:15 A.M. I chose, "Write From The Start," taught by Larry Leech, II. His relaxed, interactive teaching style put me at ease.

My favorite session centered on the fine art of interviewing. After teaching the principles of how to obtain and conduct an interview, he asked two classmates to demonstrate. We learned a lot about the interviewee and were impressed by the interviewer's skills. Larry then selected yours truly to interview the tough cookie (him), who wouldn't part with more than a basic answer. I surprised him with a tough question halfway through the interview, and got a "gold star" for my efforts. Such fun!

Majoring in the Minors, taught by Christa Parrish, focused on how to flesh out secondary characters and weed out those, who did not add to the story. She mentioned a manuscript that had several characters with names starting with "J." Something in my brain clicked, and I began a list of my characters. Oops, six of them started with that letter...a little confusing and weird for the reader.

Have you interviewed anyone over the phone or in person? What was the experience like for you?

Are all of you mentally checking your manuscript for names beginning with the same letter? I found it surprising that my mind gravitated to so many "J" names.

Tomorrow, I'll do an extra post to finish up my report on the Philly Conference. Have a great day!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Author Interview-Jane Kirkpatrick - Part III

We asked Jane how she conducts her research. Today, she parts the curtain and gives us a peek at a few more of her techniques.

I try to visit the places I write about. If I can't, I request material from the area's Chamber of Commerce on history, plants, birds, and rivers.

I read as many first person accounts in historical museums as people write about growing up in a region. Hunter and fisherman stories are some of the best because they are so tuned into the landscape and usually very detailed reporters concerning how to find a trail through the Everglades or where to locate fresh water in the swamps.

Ebay is a great place to find people passionate about particular subjects, such as early photography or the St. Louis World's Fair. You don't have to buy the items to view the pictures. That helps create authenticity in a scene.

The book, "Structuring the Novel," by Meredith and Fitzgerald suggests answering three questions before writing, which I always do: What is my intention, what is my attitude, and what is my purpose. I may take three pages to answer each question, but I whittle them down to one sentence each that I put on top of my computer. When I'm lost, I can look back at my three answers and take the next step.

2. When creating your characters, how do you keep track of so many personalities?

Ron Benry, author of, "Idiot's Guide to Writing Christian Fiction," offered people involved in a Christian novelists list serve, a little program he developed. I think he's done something much better now, but I still use this one. Prior to this program, I had a page in a notebook for each character. As the character developed and began using a phrase like, "Oh, hiyah!" for frustration, I'd jot it down. I also have boxes of files for each book that might include photographs of the actual person or a photograph of an anonymous person who fits my mental description of that character and any other details that deepen the characterization.

We'll pick up the thread of this interview next Wednesday, 8/12/09.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Off to the Philly Conference

I'll do my best to moderate comments when I get home at night. The blog posts are scheduled, so I hope you'll stop by and comment as usual.

Have a great week!

Author Interview-Jane Kirkpatrick - Part II

We're continuing our visit with multi-published Author, Jane Kirkpatrick. Welcome back!

1. Jane, the depth of your research is amazing. Do you go through a particular process before starting a novel? Can you give us some tips on effective research?

I've always been caught up with the details of history, which is why I peruse antique stores, museums, and watch Antique's Road Show with a note pad in hand. On any given day, I ask myself how my character might have dealt with a grumpy store clerk or a bad tooth or a broken arm fifty miles from the nearest doctor.

Because most of my characters are based on real people, I create a timeline usually beginning with their birth, where they were, who the family consisted of at that point, etc. As I track family tree material, I'm also looking at current events at the same time and asking myself what the family would have known of the beginning of the War of 1812 or when news of Lincoln's assassination might have reached them in far away Oregon Territory. I read what others might have written about the character or the event (as in the Oregon Trail disaster of 1852 that I wrote of in the Kinship and Courage Series), and read books like "The History of the Cholera Epidemic." I make a note of particular events that seem intriguing to me with where I learned about it (museum notes, a book, etc.) and a reference right on the timeline, so I can go back and find it later for more detail.

Photographs are very important in my research. I Google, "Penny Postcards" and then enter the county I'm looking for and find a range of picture postcards during the early 20th century when they were popular. My latest novel, "A Flickering Light," is about my grandmother, an early photographer in Minnesota. I located a postcard picture of the "Northwest Stammers School" in Milwaukee, which played into the storyline as her younger brother stammered as a result of an accident that my grandmother felt some guilt about. She was in Milwaukee running a photographic studio in 1911, so the school played into the storyline. I would not have known about it without seeking out photographs of the region and period.

Due to the vast amount of material Jane provided, we'll continue this interview on Friday in place of the Friday Round-Up.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Another Award!

My friend, Jen, over at Audience of One, gave me the Superior Scribbler award. Thanks, Jen, for your kind words. I'm grateful the Lord brought two kindred spirits together.

Now, I'm supposed to tell you five interesting things about me that you may not know. Here goes:

1. The "J" in my name stands for, "Joyce." I almost became Joyce Ann, but the lady in the next bed gave her baby that name. Mom didn't want to be a copycat, so I became Susan Joyce.

2. I can't even look at Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches. During Beloved's hospital stays and doctor appointments, I brought PBJ's with me because they were fast, cheap, and portable. Every time I see one, it reminds me of those rough times.

3. The first time I attended a writers conference, an editor asked me to do a devotional. I've been writing them ever since.

4. It's a good thing I don't have cable TV. I'm a huge Home and Garden TV (HGTV) fan. Antiquing, home decorating, crafts, gardening are all favorite pastimes. I'd be tempted to spend too much time watching that channel.

5. While I enjoy reading historicals in the Regency period, Jane Austen makes me gag. Please do not write me nasty letters.

Okay, now I get to pass this award along to five bloggers.

1. Christina Berry, at Posting With Purpose, shares her life and her writing journey. We've "known" each other for a couple of years. Her generous heart and steadfast friendship mean so much to me.

2. Rita Gerlach, InSpire, shares the behind-the-scenes stuff we all want to know about. I'm thankful for her support of Christian writers, me in particular. :)

3. Terri Tiffany, not only writes stories that leave an imprint on the heart, but also blog posts. Transparent and warm, she makes you feel like you've dropped in for a friendly chat.

4. Karen Lange, at Write Now, always has a thought-provoking post, a book review, or a bit of wisdom for writers. I've turned to her many times for advice, and I'm proud to call her, "friend."

5. Jaime at, The Jaime Reports, makes me laugh with her quirky humor and wonderful graphics. Keep doling out that medicine, Jaime. You keep the rest of us from getting too serious for our own good.

There were at least a dozen others, who deserve this award. Check out my blogroll, and you'll find them. :)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Contest Winner

Congratulations to Eileen Astels Watson! You've won Deb Raney's book, "A Vow to Cherish."

Please email me your snail mail address, and I'll send out your book ASAP. Happy reading!