Monday, October 31, 2011

Stretch Those Muscles

Is that a cute kitty face or what? My black and white tuxedo cat, Abraham, loved to brace himself against the bookcase and stretch to his full length. He'd make the same face as the cat in this picture. Then he'd march around, working the muscles in his legs in slow motion. After this display of feline flexibility, Abraham would settle down with a contented sigh.

I get the same satisfaction from working my writer muscles. Oooh, trying some new technique to make my character come alive pushes me to the limit. Mmm, describing taste sensations send me running for the chocolate.

Writers: Have you stretched your writer muscles lately? How?

Readers: Have you read anything lately that made you sit up and take notice? If you can recall a phrase that made you smile, tickled your funny bone, or made you wish you'd said that? Please share.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #180

Kay Strom wrote a tongue-in-cheek post called, "Adverbally Yours." I couldn't resist sharing it with all of you.

Have you ever gone back and read an old novel through your "writer's eyes?" I wonder what the rules will be like 20 years from now? Will adverbs come back into fashion like platform shoes, padded shoulders, and wide-legged pants?

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On My Nightstand - Betrayed by J. M. Windle

Vicki Andrews' latest assignment takes her to Guatemala. Her charity requires a thorough evaluation prior to extending support to the faith-based organization helping children. While there, she meets her sister, who works with an environmental group. Holly expresses concern over corruption.

Her observations of a nearby garbage dump where people live and eek out an existence. She notices movement in a garbage bag, and is shocked when she discovers her sister, shot and dying. The authorities write off the incident as just another incident in the crime-ridden city.

Vicki goes on a quest to find her sister's killer. Even as she works to uncover the truth, others try to prevent it from being revealed.

Jeanette Windle's grasp of conditions in underdeveloped nations reflects her experience as a missionary kid. The setting details, political maneuvering, and moral dilemmas leave no doubt that such scenarios occur in real life. The mind-bending logic of the enemy reveals the lengths to which people and governments will go for money and power.

The author includes an element of romance in the midst of a chaotic situation, as well as a strong spiritual thread. At 365 pages, this book kept me engaged. I'd love to read a sequel.

Do you like action/adventure/political books? Why or why not?

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Big Picture

Doing jigsaw puzzles is a favorite activity at a local elderly housing complex. At any given time, three or four puzzles are in progress. Having all the pieces in a big pile looks overwhelming to my inexperienced eyes. I watch these folks separate the straight edged parts and begin to fit them around the edge. There's a definite order to their work. They refer to the picture on the cover often to verify they're on the right track.

Writing a book or article is much like putting a puzzle together. We have a vision for a story and take steps to achieve our goals. A setting is built, characters developed, and conflicts devised. Our early efforts may not look like much, but we have the big picture in our heads, and we work until the guy gets the gal, the murderer is caught, or the crisis is resolved.

Some of us have a more detailed picture than others. As a seat-of-the-pants writer, I may not have all the little nuances in an outline, but I know where to start and where to end. By keeping focused on where we want to go with our story, we don't get bogged down by all the daily glitches.

The end result of both the puzzler's and the writer's work brings much pleasure to others. They'll display the projects for a time, but then they move forward. There's always another puzzle to put together or book idea to spur them on.

Writers: How do you face the daunting task of writing a book?

Readers: Do you see all the individual pieces that make up a book or is the picture seamless?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Winner of Carla Stewart's Book, "Broken Wings"

Congratulations to JESSICA NELSON! You've won Carla Stewart's book, "Broken Wings." As soon as you respond to my email with your address, I'll forward it to Carla.

Thanks to all, who participated in the comments. Carla and I enjoyed doing the interview and interacting with you.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #179

Do you ever get frustrated at the gap between your vision for a story and the actual writing? Carol J. Garvin, at Careann's Musings, posted a video by radio personality, Ira Glass, on that subject.

She posed an interesting question on whether or not you'd really want to know the road would be long and difficult. What do you think?

Have a blessed weekend!

Photo credit: ror d

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Interview with Carla Stewart & Giveaway - Part 2

Carla Stewart, author of  "Chasing Lilacs" and "Broken Wings," joins us today for the second part of our interview. Giveaway details are at the bottom of this post. We interrupt this post for an important announcement:

NEWSFLASH! After you finish this post, I hope you'll pop over to Jill Kemerer's blog where I'm answering her "Five Easy Questions."

4) Hi, Carla! I'm brimming with questions for you. What advice would you give writers seeking publication?

Community is the best gift you can give yourself. Writing groups, conferences, critique partners - the human interaction keeps the solitary life of writing from feeling like you are alone. Although it's a cliche, iron really does sharpen iron. Pay attention to what those who've walked before have to offer in craft and networking. For your writing, don't be afraid of being unique.

5) I notice you're fairly active with Social Media. How do you strike a balance between writing and marketing? What's your favorite Social Media outlet and why?

Marketing is a huge time gobbler. I struggle continuously with it and am still eager to learn more about how to be an effective marketer. My favorite is FaceBook. Even with its drawbacks, it's the most efficient way for me to interact with family, friends, colleagues, and readers. I'm by nature a social person, so I like being able to offer congrats, condolences, and words of encouragement to a variety of people all in one place. I'm not crazy about the "selling something" aspect. Hopefully, people will buy my books because I've developed a relationship with them.

6) What authors influenced your work in the early days of your career?

I've always been a fan of mysteries and thought when I wrote my own novels, they'd be mysteries. I did write one, and it was terrible (the one in the bottom of the closet). Then I discovered Anne Tyler, and I knew relationship stories were what resonated in my heart. Rosamund Pilcher, Barbara Kingsolver, Billie Letts, and Sue Monk Kidd were some early influencers and great examples of literary women's fiction writers.

I didn't know CBA had literary equivalents and was delighted to learn of Lisa Samson, Susan Meissner, Mary DeMuth, Dale Cramer, and Charles Martin. So many wonderful authors to love and learn from.

7) I'm looking forward to reading more of your books. Can you share about your current WIP?

"Stardust" (Faith Words) will be out early next summer. It's lighter in tone than "Broken Wings," but still has some knotty issues. I've returned to a nostalgic time and found some real characters in the bayou country of East Texas. The year is 1952 at the height of the polio epidemic. Here's a thumbnail sketch:

The Stardust Tourist Court beckons an East Texas widow to a new life, but when her dead husband's mistress arrives and polio strikes, George Peyton's dreams are crippled.

Susan, thank you for having me! I've had a grand time!

Bio: Carla Stewart's writing reflects her passion for times gone by. She's the author of two current novels, "Chasing Lilacs" and "Broken Wings," an alum of the Guideposts Writer's Workshop, two-time winner of the ACFW Genesis contest, and a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award. She believes in Jesus, the power of the written word, and a good cup of coffee. She and her husband have four adult sons and six grandchildren. You can find Carla at Follow her on Twitter:!/ChasingLilacs and FaceBook:

Giveaway details:
1) To enter, comment on this post, including your email. Sorry - no email, no entry. You can have up to two entries by commenting on Part 1 and Part 2 of the interview.

2) Residents of the U.S. are eligible for this giveaway. It is void where prohibited, and the winner is responsible for their eligibility.

3) You must be a Follower of Christian Writer/Reader Connection to enter the giveaway.

4) Deadline: Saturday, 10/22/11, 11:59 p.m. The winner will be selected by random drawing, emailed, and announced on the blog on Sunday, 10/23/11. When I receive the winner's snail mail address, I'll forward it to Carla, who will mail you her book, "Broken Wings."
Disclaimer: I have not received any remuneration for doing this interview from the author or the publisher. I loved the book and wanted to showcase the author.

Writers: Carla said, "...don't be afraid of being unique." Do you shy away from writing something that's not a current favorite? Also, what authors have influenced your writing journey?

Readers: What was your favorite part of this interview and why?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Keep Your Creativity Well Oiled

When I purchased my first car, a family member emphasized the importance of changing the oil at regular intervals. This exercise would keep the parts from wearing out or freezing up. The advice stuck with me, and I've always maintained my vehicles.

How do we keep our creativity flowing and in good condition? Here are a few suggestions:

1) Write! Don't allow your skills to get rusty from neglect.

2) Read! An active mind will fuel new ideas.

3) Insights! Ask the Lord to give you illumination as you read His Word and quality books.

4) Time! Give yourself time to acquire the mechanics of writing.

5) Encourage yourself! I love the Psalms. David prayed, worshipped, sang, and kept God's Word in the forefront of his mind. He persisted, trusted, and believed in God's promises.

How do you maintain your creativity and keep it running like a well-oiled machine?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #178

We've all been there. Inspiration rains down on us, and we start the future bestseller. Somewhere along the line, our writing seems flat and even boring.

Gail Gaymer Martin, of Writing Right, gives suggestions on how to get the story moving again.

Writers: What methods do you use to get your story off life support?

Readers: What makes you lose interest in a book?

Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Interview with Carla Stewart & Giveaway - Part 1

When I read Carla Stewart's book, "Broken Wings," I couldn't wait to approach her for an interview. Not only has she agreed to the interview, but she's sponsoring a giveaway for her book. See the bottom of this post for details.

Without further preliminaries, let's get on with the interview.

1) Welcome, Carla! We'd love to hear about your journey to publication. Were you "discovered" or was it a long road?

Definitely the long road. It took almost nine years to the day from the time I got serious about writing (bought the book, put on the writer's hat, and whispered, "I'm a writer.")

2) Is your genre considered Contemporary Women's Fiction? Did you face any obstacles because of the genre you selected? If so, please share your experience and how you overcame them.

What I write straddles the fence between contemporary and historical. I usually call it nostalgic women's fiction. This is something of an anomaly in the CBA, so yes, there have been obstacles. My first book, "Chasing Lilacs," was rejected many times before it found a home. It was six years in the making!

In retrospect, I think my belief in the story, being willing to rewrite it a dozen times, and listening to the experienced and wise people God put in my path led to it finally being published. Now, I don't think of it as an obstacle, but a learning process and God's timing.

3) What was your inspiration for, "Broken Wings?" Did you base some or all of it on incidents in your life?

It began with a short story I wrote a number of years ago based on my own family's tales about the Great Depression and Black Sunday in particular. In "Sand Plum Summer," three orphans were taken in by a farm family when their mother perished in the worst dust storm in history.

I loved this story and thought of the characters from time to time. It was almost like they were waiting backstage for their cue to make an entrance. It kept coming back to me that the oldest of those three orphans surely had a story to tell.

Then one day, I read a newspaper article about the possible renovation of Tulsa's Big Ten Ballroom, a jazz hall in the forties and fifties. I knew at once my little orphan had grown up to become a jazz singer. She would be quite elderly now, of course, but perhaps she needed to tell  her story.

None of, "Broken Wings," is based on my life or people I know, but about a month after I'd received the contract offer, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with mid-stage Alzheimer's. The story took on a very personal meaning as I was writing it.

Next week, Carla will share her advice for writers seeking publication, discuss social media, and talk about those who influenced her career.

Writers: Are you facing obstacles with your choice of genre? How do you stay motivated?

Readers: Do you ever wish publishers would expand their horizons beyond their usual offerings?

And now what you've been waiting for...the giveaway details!

1. Please comment on this post, including your email address. Sorry - no email, no entry. You can have up to two entries if you comment here and on Part II of the interview.

2. You must be a Follower of Christian Writer/Reader Connection.

3. The giveaway is limited to residents of the U.S. and is void where prohibited. The winner is responsible for their eligibility.

4. Deadline: Saturday, October 22, 2011, at 11:59 p.m. The winner will be selected in a random drawing, notified by email, and announced on Sunday, October 23, 2011 on the blog.

5. When the winner sends me their snail mail address, I will forward it to Carla. She will send you, "Broken Wings."

Disclaimer: I have not received any remuneration for this interview from either the author or the publisher. I loved the book and wanted to showcase the author. :)

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Care & Feeding of Readers

We've looked at the care and feeding of writers, but what about readers? What can we do as writers to make the reading experience a pleasure? What can readers do to enhance enjoyment of a story?


1. Remember the reader cannot see what you envision. They need description, showing, and great word choices to paint a picture in their minds.

2. Have mercy and eliminate those favorite words or at least use them sparingly. When readers see a word too many times in a book, they start counting. Guess what? It pulls them out of the story.

3. The reader hasn't looked over your shoulder while you poured over research material. Define terms they may not understand.

4.  As a follow-up to number 3 above, don't try to impress your reader with all your technical knowledge. Not everyone in your audience is a doctor, nurse, engineer, computer geek, etc. Realism is good, but losing your reader isn't.

5.  Pray for your reader as you write, as you brainstorm with others, and as you develop your characters and storylines.


1.  If you hate long novels, avoid anything thicker than an inch.

2.  Know your reading style. Do you read on the go? An eReader might be a great investment. Does the look and feel of a "real" book make you happy on the inside? Find a comfy chair and settle down with one.

3.  Does a genre make you want to run out of the room screaming? For your peace of mind and the author's, please don't buy it and then post nasty reviews on Amazon or your blog.

4.  I like books that are stand-alone novels, but are also a series. Tamara Alexander's Fountain Creek Chronicles gave me many hours of reading pleasure. If you enjoy following characters from one book to another, feed the reader within by picking up a series.

5.  Before you choose a book, do your homework. Read reviews, blogs, author websites, and author interviews. You'll feel more confident in your selections, and there will be less chance of disappointment.

Writers and readers: Do you have any suggestions for the care and feeding of the reader?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #177

With so many of our blogging friends getting agents and contracts, I thought this post might be useful. Jennifer Hudson Taylor gives a timeline for all those tasks necessary to launching a book.

Even if you're not at this stage, you might want to file this for future reference. Question: Are you a plan ahead type person or do you cram in everything at the last minute?

Have a blessed weekend!

Photo credit: Ask (

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

On My Nightstand - Remembered by Tamara Alexander

Veronique Girard travels from Paris, France to the Colorado Territory to fulfill a promise made to her dying mother. After an exhausting journey, she arrives in the small town of Willow Creek.

Her plans to search for her missing father run into major obstacles. The petite Frenchwoman finds a solution with the help of a kind livery owner.

Jack Brennan decides to work as a freighter, carrying goods to remote mining camps. When someone purchases his wagon, his patience wears thin.

Veronique and Jack agree to a working arrangement. Both are looking for healing and peace, and find it in the most unexpected way.

I devoured this book. The interaction between Veronique and Jack ranged from hilarious to endearing. The author is an expert at the whole "emotional reaction unit" technique.

The third of the Fountain Creek Chronicles, Remembered, was my favorite. I only wish I'd read the three books closer together. Tamara wove in details from the other books and hinted at others. While a stand-alone novel, I recommend you read all three in sequence.

A big "YES" for this delicious historical romance!

Disclaimer: I received this three-volume book as a gift from my Mom. I did not receive any remuneration from the publisher or author for this review/recommendation. All opinions, as always, are entirely mine.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Ruined Reader?

A former judge once said he found it difficult to enjoy reading. His training in the law made him dissect every word.

Several weeks ago, I asked a question at the end of my post about whether or not typos, misspellings, and other mistakes ruined the reading experience. Most people noticed the mistakes, but forged ahead. Some found it almost painful.

When I attended workshops and read craft books, my errors stood out like a huge ink blot. My observations weren't limited to my work, but also included the many books I read. I chose to overlook the minor annoyances and shut down the internal editor. If the problems overwhelmed the story, it became almost impossible to keep reading.

Once I understood some of the mechanics involved in writing, my appreciation for a well-written book and great storytelling skyrocketed. When the author's story world drew me in, it was nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Question for Writers: Has your knowledge lessened the pleasure of reading a good story that isn't well written? Do you edit as you read?

Question for Readers: What makes you throw your hands up and quit reading a book?