Monday, August 30, 2010

Philly Writers Conference - Part II

Marlene Bagnull's mission is to "Write His Answer." For 27 years, she's directed the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference. Her passion, dedication, and encouragement inspires countless writers to improve their craft and serve the Lord with their talents.

I selected Jeanette Windle's Continuing Session, "Focus on Fiction." Wow! If you ever get an opportunity to hear her teach, grab it. She writes political fiction, and her last novel, "Veiled Freedom," was nominated for a Christy Award.

Workshops I attended:

1) Rick Steele, from AMG, taught on Writing Tight and how to trim flabby writing.

2) Wanda Dyson's workshop on How to Write Gripping Suspense. I missed a chunk of this one because of an appointment.

3) Dr. John Perkins and Steve Lawson taught on Memoir Writing. I still have an interest in non-fiction and appreciated this class.

4) Bonnie Calhoun laced her class on Blogging, Facebook, and Twitter with a generous dose of humor.

5) Mike Dellosso, writer of supernatural suspense, talked about Creating Mood in Your Writing. I get goosebumps thinking about some of his examples.

6) Last, but not least, I signed up for Jesse Florea's (Focus on the Family) workshop on Begin & End With a Bang! He explored various types of leads and their effectiveness.

One thing I like about this conference is the availability of author/editor appointments. Depending on when you register and how many days you attend, you can get up to five 15-minute slots.

We all know how subjective writing evaluations and marketability assessments are, and this year was no exception. I got feedback ranging from: 1) Put this novel aside to 2) Send me the full manuscript. Of course, the last request came during my final appointment. I almost cancelled my meeting, but Clare convinced me to discuss the conflicting advice with the agent. I'm so glad I listened to her. Snoopy dance time!

I learned many lessons at this conference about perseverance and listening with my heart rather than my head. Ah, but that's a post for another day. What spiritual lessons have you learned at a conference?

Next Monday, I'll share some nuggets from the various keynote speakers and workshops.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #120

Janalyn Voight, at Author Haven, directs our attention to a video, giving simple instructions for setting up a website on Wordpress. I'll be trying this one out!

Carla Gade, at Writing to Distraction, gives a guide on developing a character's physical traits.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On My Nightstand - Bittersweet by Cathy Marie Hake

Laney McCain set her heart on marrying Galen O'Sullivan. Although she's grown-up, Galen still sees her as his best friend's kid sister. She makes a determined effort to show him she's no longer the little girl he remembers.

The Grubb family, Pa and his twins, Ishmael and Ivy, decide to squat on Galen's land. Trying to do the Christian thing, he allows them to stay in return for Ishmael's help on the farm. He doesn't know how much that decision will cost him down the road.

A wondrous future becomes a nightmare of mammoth proportions. How could anything good come from such a desperate situation? Galen, Laney, and a whole town get a lesson in forgiveness they'll never forget.

When I picked up this book, I settled down with familiar characters from Cathy's previous books. They once again drew me into their lives and the mid-1800's. I'd hoped she would tell Laney's story, and found it a pleasant read.

The author does a fine job getting to the heart of the characters' thoughts and emotions. When faced with circumstances that will impact their lives in a negative way, they wrestle with doing the right thing. A strong spiritual message permeates the story, and their actions are weighed by the scripture, as well as the social norms of the day.

Although this is a stand-alone novel, I think the reader would miss a lot by skipping over the previous book. Happy reading!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Philly Writers Conference - Part 1

Left to right: Clare C., Me, and Kathy L.

Blogging friend, Susan Panzica, of Eternity Cafe, introduced me to Clare via email prior to the conference. Kathy and I met at one of my first conferences. She critiqued an early version of my book, and taught me where a story should start.

Here's a picture of Clare. We hit it off immediately. She also writes futuristic suspense. Currently, she's working on a book with a medical theme. Think Andromeda Strain here. Clare is not only a writer, but also a wife, mom, manager of a laboratory, and a sweet, thoughtful person.

Here's Kathy with her husband, Michael. While Kathy is working on a mystery, Michael is exploring various genres. He left the conference all fired up and ready to write. I thought it was so neat they shared a mutual love of writing.

Yay! These pictures came from my new-to-me digital camera. It only took me an hour to install the software and download the pictures. Don't laugh - that's a major accomplishment for me. This is the gal, whose MP3 player is still sitting in the packaging on her desk. Maybe I'll get brave and figure out how to set it up after my success with the camera.

Next Monday, I'll post Part II of the Conference. Oh, and did I mention that an agent requested my full manuscript? Stay tuned...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #112

Kathy Ide, over at PixnPens, helps refine our memoirs.

William Zinsser talks about On Memoir, Truth and Writing Well.

Have an awesome weekend!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

On My Nightstand - Faking Grace by Tamara Leigh

Maizy Grace Stewart has a part-time job with a Nashville newspaper, but it's not enough to pay the bills. She applies to Steeple Side Christian Resources for a second part-time position, but can she convince them she's a practicing Christian?

She concocts the 5-Step Program to Authentic Christian Faith and drops her first name. Her plan might stand a chance if Jack Prentiss, Managing Editor and to-die-for handsome Brit, wasn't trying to prove she's faking grace.

While at Steeple Side, she meets people who are flawed but doing their best to live the Christian life. When she's pressured to do a negative story on life at a Christian company, she's torn between reverting to Maizy Grace or protecting her new friends.

Tamara Leigh scores again with this fun tale of romance and spiritual growth. Sit back and enjoy Maizy Grace's misadventures. If chick lit appeals to you, you'll adore this book.

Disclaimer: I won this book in a blog contest. Neither the author nor the publisher paid me any fee to review it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Letters Versus Emails

While enjoying a rather entertaining email message from a friend, a question popped into my mind. Would most of these transmissions be forever lost once they were read? How many people save electronic letters that touch their heart or tickle their funny bone?

When Beloved and I were courting, we wrote each other letters. This was no easy task for him since dyslexia made putting words on paper quite a chore. Yet, he persevered. Even though he's now in heaven, I can go back and read those letters. Sweet memories make me smile as I think of the kind, loving man I married. Would I still have those notes if they'd been sent via email? I'm not sure.

There's something precious about a hand-written letter. A part of the person is embedded in the words, knowing their hands wrote on and physically touched the paper.

Perhaps I'm a hopeless romantic, but a letter holds a special place in my heart. I feel the same way about books. The beautiful covers, and the tactile experience of holding an author's work while curled up on a sofa can never be replaced by a computer screen.

I love the convenience and fast delivery of email, but I miss opening my mailbox and receiving a note from a friend or loved one. How about you? Are you ready to toss the handwritten letter onto the junk pile or do you yearn to keep that personal touch? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #111

Jennifer Hudson Taylor alerts us to a great resource for historical fiction writers: FREE archived old magazines.

Jan Cline writes about her concerns over having the right credentials as a writer. Have you wondered whether or not your platform and life experiences are sufficient to land you a contract?

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

On My Nightstand - No Greater Love by Kathi Macias

When I won this book in a blog contest, I thought I knew what to expect. I was wrong. From the first page, "No Greater Love," by Kathi Macias plunged me into a historical time period marked by incredible evil.

Chioma and her only living relative, a younger brother, work on the Vorster Farm in South Africa. She's learned to measure every word, every expression, and project the correct body language to survive. Trapped in a world where Apartheid strangles her people, she watches for an opportunity to get revenge on those she considers white devils.

The Vorster family also knows tragedy and sorrow. Indoctrinated from birth that Apartheid is correct and even godly, they walk in deception. Will the Word of God and a small journal, get through to them?

Kathi's masterful use of setting and characters took me on a journey I'll never forget. I walked through the jungle with Chioma, stared through her eyes at certain death, and struggled to forgive her enemies.

Even though, "No Greater Love," carried great pain, I read it in two days. Seeing those years through the eyes of people, albeit fictional, brought a keen understanding of something I'd only read about in history books or newspapers. Have lots of tissues on hand before you read this story.

Please note: Neither the publisher nor the author paid any fee or requested a favorable review of this book.

Have you ever read a historical fiction book that impacted your understanding of a time period? I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Grasshopper or Overcomer?

Moses sent 12 spies to check out the Promised Land. All of them saw the same things, but 10 came back with a bad report, while Caleb and Joshua gave a favorable report. Ten concurred the land flowed with milk and honey, but saw themselves as grasshoppers among the giants inhabiting the land. Joshua and Caleb gave the same report, but declared the nation well able to undertake the challenge.

How do we see ourselves as writers? Do we look at the giants of few publishing slots for many authors, a small platform, weaknesses in our craft, the impact of the economy on the industry, and the emergence of new technologies? Do we allow these things to make us lose heart and quit? Are we a teeny, tiny speck on the book industry's radar--the proverbial grasshopper?

Or do we have the faith and courage of Joshua and Caleb? Will we go forward, trusting God, and face the obstacles strewn across our path? I want to be known as an Overcomer. How about you?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #110

For all you romance lovers, whether writers or readers, Linda, at Alacarte, gives us the history of how the, "X," came to represent the kiss.

Kristen Johnson, over at Adventures of History Girl, tells us about the origins of a beloved office supply - the Post-It-Note.

Have a super fabulous weekend!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Author Interview - Sarah Sundin - Part II

Welcome back to our interview with Sarah Sundin.

4. I'm always interested in how other writers research their settings and timeframes. We'd enjoy hearing about your methods.

I have to confess, I have over two hundred books and websites in my bibliography. Yes, that's sick. I started with basic texts on World War II, then got more detailed. Bibliographies are a great resource--when a book is mentioned in multiple bibliographies, it warrants attention. My local library can obtain any book in the county system free of charge, and can locate books nationwide for a nominal fee. They've found some obscure books for me.

The most challenging research was on how to fly a B-17. Since the heroes in this series are B-17 bomber pilots--but I'm not a pilot--I read a "How to Fly a Plane" book to get the basics, purchased copies of the actual B-17 pilot's manual and the training film (pure gold!), and ran the flying scenes past a pilot friend. For home front information, I use everything from Top Ten lists, to fashion style guides, to the Time Capsule series with extracts from Time Magazine. Lately, I've been poring over microfilm of my local newspaper for everything from rationing updates, to the weather, to fun little trivia, like how the PTA met at Mrs. So-and-So's house on D Street where they knit socks for soldiers.

5. Finally, when will your next book be launched? How long does it take you to write a book?

"A Memory Between Us" comes out in September 2010, and the third book in the series comes out in August 2011. Each book in the series took about two years to research, write, and edit.

Thank you, Sarah, for an excellent and informative interview.

Here's a question for our readers: What are some of your favorite research methods?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Fictionalizing Your Experiences

How do you use your experiences in a fiction or non-fiction piece and maintain your privacy? Better yet, how do you use situations involving others without them getting mad at you?

Below are some ideas to help you maintain your balance on this tightrope:

1. When developing a character, make it a composite of several people. Aunt Mary won't snub you at the next reunion--unless, of course, you use a mannerism that is peculiar to her and easily recognizable.

2. There are situations you won't want to write about, but can take the emotions associated with them to bring life to your characters or non-fiction pieces. For example: If you've lost a loved one, you'll be able to write about a character, who has endured multiple losses. You can overlay your emotions onto her situation.

3. Never write about real people without getting their permission in writing or changing the names of those involved. You might also want to disguise or change the setting. I'm sure you've seen stories where there's an asterisk after the person's name and a footnote saying the name has been changed to protect them.

If the story is about you, but you wish to remain anonymous, use a pen name. Using a real person's story without their written permission could open you to a lawsuit. (Please note: I am not an attorney and cannot give legal advice. This is just a warning to be safe rather than sorry.)

What are some of the ways you fictionalize your real-life scenes? Have you ever gotten into trouble writing about someone you know?