Monday, April 30, 2012

Blogoversary Extravaganza

I'm excited! Christian Writer/Reader Connection is celebrating its 4th Blogoversary.

When I began this journey, I wondered if I'd have enough material or energy to keep going for even a year. God's faithfulness has brought me through both good and discouraging times.

In celebration, I'm announcing my:


Starting this Wednesday, I'll be doing giveaways and asking various people to guest post.

Grab a party hat, a balloon, and have some virtual birthday cake! We're going to have a party.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #203

Mary Vee, at The Writers Alley, talks about the gift of writing and what we do with it.

Writers: How are you using the gift of writing?

Readers: What are the special gifts God has given you, whether writing or something else?

Have a blessed weekend!
Photo: fangol

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

In My Kindle - Chasing Mona Lisa by Tricia Goyer & Mike Yorkey

WWII is drawing to a close, and France's liberation near. The Nazis decide to steal the greatest art treasure: The Mona Lisa. The grand painting is tucked away for safekeeping in the countryside. Will the enemy grab it or will the good guys return it to the Louvre?

A disclaimer is in order here. While there's a sweet romantic thread, this is one tension-filled story. War isn't pretty, and the violence tends toward the graphic. That said, the book held my attention from the outset and never let go for a second.

Chasing Mona Lisa was my first Kindle book! The action scenes were perfect for my workout times. In fact, I went over my usual stint on the treadmill and bike because I was so engrossed in this novel.

Writers: How do you carve out reading time from your busy schedule?

Readers: Do you have a Kindle? How has it increased your reading time, if at all? I'd love to hear some unique ways to expand reading time.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Follow the Leader

Did you ever play Follow the Leader? I did. The neighborhood kids would select a leader and then embark on amazing adventures. I always experienced a bit of anxiety since I'm not athletic. What if the leader wanted us to do something beyond my abilities?

My writing critique partners and mentors are like that leader. They push me to move past my limitations and try new things. One of them assigned me the task of doing a proposal. I gulped. I'd never done a full proposal. With a little help from my friends, a sample proposal, some research, and a LOT of prayer, I tackled the job. Now that I've done one proposal, which met the approval of my mentor, I've lost my fear in that area.

Writers: What are some of the tasks related to pitching a book that once made you quake? How did you overcome it?

Readers: While you may not relate to my writing analogy, we all have areas in life where we must take a risk and attempt something difficult. What tasks have you taken on that once made you fearful?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #202

Angie Dicken, at the Writers Alley, charges us to "Mind the Gap (In Your Manuscripts, of course!)."

Writers: What kind of gaps plague your manuscripts?

Readers: What kind of gaps frustrate you as a reader?

Have a blessed weekend!

Photo: mktroch

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

On My Nightstand - The Maid of Fairbourne Hall - Julie Klassen

When Margaret Macy feels threatened by her stepfather and his nephew, she flees to another town. There she finds work as a maid for a wealthy family in spite of her lack of qualifications. She's totally shocked when she discovers it's the home of her former beau.

Nathaniel Upchurch returns from the family plantation in Barbados a new man. With a stronger relationship with the Lord and convictions against slavery, he's prepared to tackle the mess his brother has made of the finances. The one area that still causes him pain is the rejection he suffered at the hands of the beautiful Miss Macy.

The young woman's schemes to evade her stepfather, maintain her disguise, and survive until she comes into her inheritance takes some hair-raising twists and turns. I couldn't imagine how it would all work out, but the author did a great job.

Julie Klassen is one of my favorite authors. Her descriptions of the countryside, knowledge of local customs, and vivid characters all held my interest.

If I were to give out stars, this one would get 5. I never hesitate to pick up one of her well-written stories.

Writers & Readers: Have you read any of Julie's books? Which one was your favorite and why?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Award Time!

Tyrean, at Tyrean's Writing Spot, surprised and delighted me with The Versatile Blogger Award. I hope you'll pop over to her blog and say, "hi."

I'm supposed to give this award to 15 bloggers and then share 7 things about myself. Giving the award to others is the easy part. I'm not so sure about the interesting facts. :)

This list is by no means complete. Even though I can give the award to so many, there are many other bloggers, who exemplify versatility and provide fun and informative posts. No pressure - if you can't join in due to time constraints, don't feel like you must.

1. Karen Lange, at Write Now
2. Jeanette Levellie, at On Wings of Mirth and Worth
3. Susan Panzica, at Eternity Cafe
4. Nancy, at Boomers and Saints
5. Wendy Paine Miller, at Thoughts That Move
6. Jean Fischer, at In The Compost Pile
7. Jill Kemerer
8. Marja Meijers, at Fresh Insights On Ancient Truths
9. Terri Tiffany, at Terri Tiffany, Inspirational Writer
10. Dena Netherton, at God n Me
11. Jessica Nelson, at BookingIt
12. Diane Estrella, at That's What I'm Here For
13. Loree Huebner, at Between You, Me, and the Gatepost
14. Rhonda, at The Natives Are Getting Restless
15. Sarah Forgrave

Congrats to all of you! You've given me many hours of reading pleasure.

Now, I suppose I have to write something about yours truly. Here goes:

1.  I've gone from Kindle basher to Kindle fan since Christmas. The convenience of having books with me minus the bulk is freeing. Also, I don't need to hold it in my hands while at the gym. Yes, I'm a happy reader. It doesn't replace real books, but both formats have their place.

2.  I'm not big on following fashion fads. (Now, there's an annoying alliteration.) As a child, I mourned when I outgrew a favorite outfit. I like classic pieces that I can wear for years. By the time I catch up with trends, they're usually out of style anyway.

3.  Confession time: I love to shop. Maybe it's because of all the times my mother, grandmother, and I would go out together. The memories still make me all warm and fuzzy. I don't have to buy anything to enjoy the experience. Antique stores and malls are a prime example. They're like museums, and a great research source.

4.   Spring is my favorite season. I love the flowering trees with their profusion of pink and white blooms. Sweater weather - not too hot, not too cold - energizes me.

5.  While I'm not a hoarder, I am a collector. Books, dolls, thimbles, and Noah's Ark trinkets are my primary interests. Glassware also makes my heart beat a little faster, but I don't have room to collect it.

6.  Unlike most writers, I'm not an introvert. As a young person, I was shy and not what you would call, "popular." Thankfully, I outgrew the shyness. One of the reasons blogging makes me happy is the connection with so many fabulous people.

7.  Cookies without milk rates as an incomplete. I come from a long line of dunkers. Some of my earliest memories involve watching my mother and grandmothers dip cookies and cake into coffee, tea, or milk. I even developed my own system, so there would be no interruption between cookie consumption.

Okay, I survived that exercise. Did anything on my list surprise you?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #201

Inluvwithwords talks about mothering our characters a little too much.

Writers: Are you the overprotective type or do you make your characters suffer?

Readers: Do you ever think a writer has gone overboard with the number of problems they give their story people? Why?

Have a blessed weekend!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Author Interview - Jeanette Levellie - Part 2

Don't forget, Jen has a fabulous giveaway on her Facebook pages.

4) Welcome back, Jen! You're known for your humor. Is this a natural gift or did you study to acquire it?

I grew up in a sarcastic family. I learned to look at everything with a little snarky attitude. I turn it around and tell on myself, so that I'm not mean to others, but I have to be cautious so it doesn't get out of hand. I think my humor is mostly a grace gift from the Lord, but I've learned to increase it from reading humorists like James Watkins, Philip Gulley, and Erma Bombeck. No matter how big  your gift is, you can always increase it by hanging out with people more gifted than you are.

5) What advice would you give a non-fiction writer, who wants to publish a book?

A) Pray and ask God to lead you down the path He wants for you. Everyone's trail is different, and the biggest mistake we can  make is to try and follow another sheep rather than the Shepherd.

B) Hone your skills--determine to grow. Read craft books, go on blogs, join a critique group, and attend writers conferences.

C) As the Lord to put people in your path that can help you achieve the goals and dreams He's put in your heart. As BIG! We are talking God here. He formed the universe with the word of His power and raised Jesus from death and us from Satan's grip. He can surely open a few doors for you. But you have to ask, and expect Him to come through.

D) Be humble enough to take advice people give you.

E) Then set your bootie in the chair and write, write, write and submit, submit, submit.

Bio: A spunky pastor's wife of thirty-plus years, Jeanette Levellie authors a bi-weekly humor/inspirational column, God Is Bigger, a popular feature in the Paris Beacon News since 2001. She has published stories in Guideposts anthologies, Love is a Verb Devotional with Gary Chapman, articles in Christian and secular magazines, greeting card verses, and poems for calendars. She is also a prolific speaker for both Christian and secular groups and loves to make people laugh while sharing her love for God and life.

Jeanette is a mother of two grown children, three grandchildren, and servant to four cats. She lives in Paris (not the French one), Illinois with her husband, Kevin. Her hobbies include dining out, talking baby talk to her cats, avoiding housework, reading, and watching old classic movies.

To buy Two Scoops of Grace with Chuckles on Top, go to: Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble.

Question for Writers and Readers: What nuggets did you take away from this interview?

I particularly liked Jen's advice to follow the Shepherd rather than the sheep.

Monday, April 9, 2012

We Have Ignition!

Get to know me, and you'll soon discover my knowledge of all things mechanical borders on non-existent. My car is a prime example. Put gas in the tank, turn on the ignition, and leave the rest to a professional; that's my motto.

I'm embarrassed to say that sometimes I don't even get those simple things right and need a refresher course. Mind you, I've owned my vehicle more than a decade. Yet, starting my chariot can become problematic when I least expect it. I've called AAA and been towed, only to have my mechanic (Hi Mike!) scratch his head and say nothing is wrong.

This happened again recently. Desperate, I went to the Lord. What am I doing wrong here? Why won't this crazy car start for me? It even starts for my mother, but sputters out the minute I try. A scripture popped into my head at that moment. Don't ask me where it is because I'm not sure. It's something to the effect, "If a trumpeter gives an uncertain sound, who will go to war?"

I must have heard wrong. I examined those words from every angle in my head, and it finally clicked. When I was turning the key, I wasn't do so with confidence. My hesitation resulted in the car not responding as it should.

While this is all interesting (at least to me), I'm sure you're wondering what on earth this has to do with writing anything much less a book. Hmm, have you ever sat at the computer and just stared at the screen? I doubt if there's a writer alive, who hasn't experienced this. And what about all those times when you began The Great American Novel (or substitute your country if you're not from here) only to run out of steam?

I've got the answer! Write with confidence. Put those words on the computer or paper with wild abandon. Don't be hesitant in your writing, but write from your heart. They WILL need lots of revisions, but you'll get the basic idea out there where you can see it.

Is this a totally new concept to me? Not. But, like my car, I need a reminder every now and then to get my fingers flying across the keyboard.

Writers: How about you? What little tricks have you discovered to keep your story engine purring?

Readers: Can you tell when the author is "in the groove?" What does that do for you as a reader?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #200

Are you looking for some advice on how to produce a great novel? I located an article by Larry Brooks, of Storyfix, on the secret weapon of storytelling.

Writers: What did you think of his "secret weapon."

Readers: Did you relate to his method? What makes a story a "wow experience" for you?

In case you didn't notice, this is Friday Round-Up #200! Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Author Interview - Jeanette Levellie - Part 1

Let me say upfront: I'm totally biased when it comes to my good friend, Jeanette Levellie. She's a star in my estimation. Even though I'd read bits and pieces of her work over the years, I was unprepared for the effect her book had on me. My emotions ran the gamut of laughing, crying, and "wow, I never thought of it that way."

Her book launches this month. It's in both print and Ebook format (Kindle, Nook). This book is a read-it-more-than-once keeper.

Jen is doing a a super drawing on her Facebook pages. There will be free downloads of her book for ten winners, who like one of her Facebook pages. A second giveaway is a drawing for those who read her book and answer ten EASY questions. The winner will get a $100 gift card to one of the following: Amazon, B and N, CBD, WalMart, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, or Ruby Tuesday.

I'm happy to welcome her to Christian Writer/Reader Connection to share the details of her journey.

1) What prompted you to embark on a writing career? I never intended to have a career at it--I wrote articles and devotionals and calendar poems for several years. Then I had an idea to approach my newspaper's editor and ask if I could do a column combining humor and inspiration. He agreed. That was 11 years ago.

Over that time, many people have told me I needed to turn the columns into a book. I always said, "NO, I don't. Getting a book published is too much work and trouble. I just want to have fun (hey, that sounds like a song title!). After so many people asking me to write a book, I started seeking the Lord to see if He wanted me to pursue publication. He led me to a friend, Clella Camp, who published a devo called, Just Walking, and she encouraged me to attend a writers conference. That was in 2008.

2) What was it like moving from writing columns and short pieces to tackling a book? What was the hardest part of the transition? The easiest?

The book is a compilation of columns and short pieces, but I needed a theme to weave them together. I noticed that I write a lot about the Lord's grace and mercy, so I decided to choose the articles that focused on that theme. Plus, I tried to pick ones that had an element of humor in them.

The hardest part of any book is writing the proposal. I've written four now, and I think we should receive a million dollars, a mink coat, and a trip around the world each time one is complete. Oh, and a boatload of chocolate!

The easiest part was looking up Scriptures to go with each piece. I love to peruse the Word of God and find fun, wise nuggets in there. It never grows old; it's like a perpetual ice cream cone that doesn't deplete, no matter how many bites you take. How blessed we are to serve a God that has given us this living, breathing book to guide, encourage and help us.

3) Please tell us a little about the book.

Two Scoops of Grace with Chuckles on Top is a light-hearted look at God's enormous heart. I've taken 72 stories of everyday battles, brouhahas, and bliss and added a touch of humor. My goal is to make you laugh, help you like yourself, and enable you to receive God's love. I've aimed it primarily at Christians, but it has some "salt" sprinkled in it as well, to make pre-believers thirsty to know Jesus.

Susan: We'll share Part 2 of the interview next Wednesday, April 11, 2012.

Question for writers:  Have you considered writing a non-fiction book? If yes, what type?

Question for readers: Is humor an important element in non-fiction books for you? If so, why?

Personally, I'm a spoonful-of-sugar-makes-the-medicine-go-down type of gal!

Monday, April 2, 2012

When to Follow-Up

To follow-up or not to follow-up: that is the question. No Shakespeare didn't pen those words, but it's a question every writer or business person asks. Since I'm both, I have a double dilemma. Here are a few instances where contacting a client or contest coordinator paid off big time:

1.  I recently entered the Genesis Contest. While the receipt arrived for my submission fee, I didn't hear from anyone. Was my formatting perfect? Ahem, not likely in this case. I emailed the coordinator and requested verification that they'd received my pages.

Bottom line, they had received it, but for some reason I wasn't getting their emails about some minor corrections to the formatting. I'm glad I didn't assume everything was okay. I made the changes, and they sent me confirmation that I was officially entered. Whew!

2.  Not all companies send an order acknowledgment, so I like to verify receipt. Since all of my orders are drop shipped to the customer, I also check to see that everything is moving along as it should. The last time I did this, I was told the order had not been shipped. Thankfully, the client was understanding.

3.  An agent requested a partial manuscript, but I didn't hear from him for three months. I sent a brief note, asking for the status. He immediately responded with a kind note.

So, how do we know when to follow-up and when to wait and see?

1.  Be a Sleuth.

I'm on the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) loop. There's often news about the Genesis Contest, Conference, and other aspects of the organization. When I have something pending, I read all notices about that item. It's how I discovered their procedures and the little glitches they were encountering.

Agents and publishing houses put their policies on their websites. Do your homework before contacting them.

2.  Watch for Anything Unusual.

Most of the time, quotes, orders, and deliveries are turnkey. So, when something is taking too long, a red flag goes up. Often, it's nothing, but I'd rather risk being wrong than have an unhappy client.

3.  Listen for Those Prompts From the Lord.

You mean He cares about this stuff? Sure, He does! He's interested in anything that concerns His kids. I'll get a thought or something out of the ordinary will catch my eye. At times, everything looks fine, but when I investigate, I discover a small problem that could become a major bungle if not addressed.

How can I tell the difference between His promptings and my own thinking? If I'm in a panic or fearful, it's probably me stressing out. If the thought is gentle and stays there, it's usually the Lord trying to get my attention. You know what? If you goof, so what? Chalk it up to a learning experience on hearing His voice.

Writers: How do you decide when it's prudent to follow-up on a submission?

Readers: We have many situations in life where checking to make sure everything is on track can prevent serious consequences. Do you have some examples or tips on taking preventive steps?



Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Winner

Congratulations to:   TYREAN!!!

You've won Cathy Gohlke's book, "Promise Me This." Please send me your snail mail address, and I'll forward it to Cathy.

Thanks to all who entered the giveaway. Watch for my big Blogoversary Extravaganza in May. Yes, there'll be lots of giveaways. :)