Monday, June 30, 2014

Pick Up Sticks

Do you remember an old toy called, "pick-up sticks?" A bunch of them came in many colors, stuffed in a tin can. The whole idea was to throw them onto the floor or a table. Each player would take a turn picking up one stick, trying not to disturb any of the others. Of course, we always looked for the easiest ones.

As we grow, we start out tackling the simple stuff and celebrating the small victories. As more complex tasks come our way, they require more study and concentration. The stakes are higher - a scholarship, the honor roll, a diploma, an award, a publishing contract. The standards grow more precise and demanding.

We have a choice: keep pace and improve or settle for good enough.

Personally, I want to keep moving forward: spirit, soul, and body. I don't want to reach for the stick that poses no challenge and no risk. Maybe I'll fail 50 times, but I'll persevere until God moves me in another direction.

Writers and Readers: What are some of the challenges you've faced and won?

Photo Credit: homer seav

Friday, June 27, 2014

Hitting the Internet Highway

Let's jump on the Internet Highway and see what we find!

1.  Edie Melson, at The Write Conversation, asks, "How Much Information Should I Give Away for Free on My Blog?"

2.  Pauline Creedon guest posts at Seriously Write, on the subject of using blogs to promote e-books. This is Part 1 of a 2-part series and offers some excellent information and tips for both fiction and non-fiction authors.

3.  My characters LOVE apple pie and other desserts. For all you foodies and those who, like me, enjoy eating it, here's a link to some recipes.

Readers and Writers:  Have you ever participated in a blog hop or used/participated in a Rafflecopter drawing? Please tell us about your experience.

Photo Credit:  teddymafia

Monday, June 23, 2014

Redeeming the Time

I've been thinking a lot about Methuselah lately. You know, the oldest guy who ever lived? He was 969 years old when he died.

His name had a special meaning: When this child dies, the flood will come. As he grew older and older, I'm sure his great, great, great grandkids checked up on him to make sure he was still alive.

Even though he lived a long time, he still reached the end of his life on earth. I can imagine a conversation he might have had with one or more of those young whippersnappers. "You know, Noah, it seems like yesterday I was a youthful 200! Time sure does move fast."

We're so busy these days that it seems like we're either getting up or going to bed with little in between. Maybe it's time to slow down, to consider where and how we spend the most precious, non-renewable resource we have: our time.

God's Word tells us to redeem the time for the days are evil. The emphasis is always on God, family, and work, with specific times of rest and play factored into the equation. Everything's been turned upside down with leisure becoming the ultimate goal in life for many folks.

How this looks for each of us within God's parameters will vary. It's something I'm considering as new demands for my limited time surface.

Writers and readers: How do you prioritize your time? Please share.

Photo Credit:  gilsworth

Friday, June 20, 2014

Digging for Gems

1.  Dr. MaryAnn Diorio talks about combining prose and passion. Get into the character's head, but also into their heart.

2. Laurel Garver, at Laurel's Leaves, has a great post on how to keep your work in progress from stalling during unforeseen life events. I recently went through a week where a family crisis kept me away from the keyboard. Every writer/blogger will benefit from her words of wisdom.

3. Recently, The Chris Pugh Daily picked up and headlined my guest post from Elaine Stock's blog, Everyone's Story, from Twitter. Very exciting stuff!

Writers and Readers: What gems have you discovered on the Net this week?

Photo Credit:  lyana

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Blessings of Each Stage

When I was a kid, I couldn't wait to grow up. I could then make my own decisions, no longer have tons of homework, and eat as many cookies as I wanted. By now, I'm sure all of you are rolling on the floor, laughing.

As the truth of adulthood hits us, we look back and wish for the mostly carefree days of childhood. Someone else went out to work, paid the bills, and purchased what we needed. If we had a problem, they were there to kiss the boo-boo and make it all better. Those responsibilities transferred to us along the way.

Too bad we don't appreciate where we are at this point in our lives. Today's events will someday be viewed as "the good ol' days."

Just as childhood is a time of preparation for adult responsibilities, the early stages of a writer's journey is preparation for the publishing world. This time of discovery, learning, and building relationships with those in the industry will impact our future success.

Each stage of life and writing has its own challenges, but also its own blessings. Savor every moment and live it to the fullest.

Writers and Readers:  What were some of the reasons you wanted to grow-up fast, both as a person and as a writer?

Photo Credit:  appelcline

Friday, June 13, 2014

Sunny Day Internet Delights

I'm checking out favorite Internet hangouts on this sunny day. Of course, I won't stay long because the beautiful weather beckons me as it shines through my windows. For now, I'll take a quick run down Internet Lane.

1.  Dotti Adamek, at Ink Dots, is sharing 52 Author Dates. She's on Week 22. This Aussie writer has a way with words that will transport you into her world.

2.  Jeanette Levellie, at On Wings of Mirth and Worth, has a new take on writing a romance.

3.  Karen Lange, at Write Now, shows how The Top 5 list can light a writing spark for both you and your kids.

Writers and Readers:  Do lists intrigue and inspire you? What kind of lists do you make other than the dreaded To-Do List? I like to make lists of blog post ideas, possible character names with an emphasis on what they mean.

Photo Credit:  Jonesls

Monday, June 9, 2014

Critique Partners and Covenant

Throughout the Bible, we're shown that God is big on covenant. It's far more serious than a contract because of the vows taken. We can learn a lot about relationships from these covenants and apply them to our lives.

People often select a mate based on unimportant or unrealistic criteria. How beautiful or good looking is the other person? Do they have a lot of money? They'll look for someone, who is a mirror image of themselves. After all, they have to be almost the same in order for it to work, don't they?

When people entered into a covenant in scripture, they looked for someone who had the skills and abilities they lacked. In return, they provided the knowledge and talent that person needed. So, a farmer family might enter into covenant with a warrior family. They would provide food, while the other family would protect them.

Selecting critique partners can be done with or without thoughtful consideration. I have three people that I trust with my story babies and heart:

1.  They are experienced, serious writers.

2.  They not only care about my story, but also about me as a person. Like a good parent, they want the best for me and my work. Even when they are firm and point out areas that need work, it's done with kindness.

3.  Each one has expertise in an area where I'm unfamiliar or not as advanced. One has an extensive background in the publishing industry, as well as being super techy. Another has a speaking ministry, a way of putting things into perspective, and a sharp eye for details I've missed. My third critique partner is a cheerleader from the word, "go." They're all published authors and understand the challenges that involves.

I've made some mistakes in the past, entrusting my work to those who ripped both me and my work apart. Others have come into my life for a specific reason and period of time. My critique partners are solid. I can count on them, and they can count on me.

Writers:  How do you look for in a critique partner?

Readers:  How do you choose someone, who will help you and hold you accountable?

Photo Credit:  pongster

Friday, June 6, 2014

Strolling Around the Internet

It's been a tough couple of weeks, so I'm taking an easy stroll around the Net. Taking my time, I've discovered some interesting tidbits, some funny stories, and a few things I wouldn't mind trying out.

Lace up your comfy walking shoes and join me!

1.  Shanan, the Procrastiwriter, guest posts over at The Positive Writer. She tells us what Rocky taught her about writing knock-out main characters - an entertaining and informative lesson.

2.  The title of Emily Akin's blog post, Journaling: Do You or Don't You?,  drew me into her cyber home. I've been jotting my thoughts in grungy notebooks, pastel journals, and faux suede volumes for years. Whether you're an aspiring author or like to record daily events, I think you'll find this interesting.

3.  Need a laugh? My friend, Sandie, a.k.a. Chatty Crone, always has something funny on her blog from cartoons to pictures readers send her way. She's not only humorous, but throws in quotes and thoughts along the way. Please keep her in prayer as she's undergoing surgery on June 11th for breast cancer.

Writers and Readers:  Are you captivated by pretty journals with all those blank pages? What kind of things do you write - daily events, struggles, Bible insights, funny things your kids say? 

Photo Credit:  remind

Monday, June 2, 2014

Story Instability

My Mom broke her hip several months ago. She required surgery and extensive physical therapy. The muscles on the side she injured were weak, and they gave her exercises to strengthen them.

As she got better, she began getting around without using her walker or cane. Because the muscles were still not strong, this caused her to lean to the right when walking and created a "Leaning Tower of Pisa" effect.

The therapist explained the necessity of using the cane when not using the walker to help her stand straight. By not using anything, she was training her muscles to continue the unsteady gait. This could lead to another devastating fall.

As writers, we can get into bad habits that will be hard to break. We're often told we must learn the rules before deliberately breaking them for some literary purpose. Why should we listen?

1.  Story instability - Head hopping keeps the reader off balance. They're forced to do a mental shift when the author should be switching those gears for them. I can almost see them tipping their heads to the side and saying, "who's talking now?"

2.  Story dysfunction - I once read a book where the author introduced at least 20 characters on the first page. They weren't doing anything in particular. I tried to get through the first chapter, but finally gave up. A famous commercial once demanded, "Where's the beef?" In this case, I said, "Where's the story?"

3.  Story demise - We get one chance to make a good impression on publishing professionals and readers. Blow that one chance, and it will take a lot to persuade them to pick up our work again.

No matter how much natural storytelling ability we have, it's worth the effort to learn the craft. Just like bad habits in life, incorrect techniques can be difficult to remedy once they're ingrained in our minds.

Writers:  Have you picked up any bad writing habits along the way? How did you re-train your brain?

Readers:  If a book doesn't grab your attention on the first page, will you continue reading it?

Photo Credit:  mzacha