Friday, January 29, 2016

Writers Conference/Believe/WND/Pray/Orchids

1.  Are you thinking about going to a writers conference in 2016? I found this link on The Write Conversation. This website has articles on what agents look for, how to get your blog noticed by using key words, and other subjects.

2.  James R. Preston guest posts at Writers in the Storm. He gives three reasons to believe in your work.

3.  Here's another reason to not take everything the mainstream media says as gospel truth. WND reports that the shooter at the Colorado Abortion Clinic was not a Republican as the media claimed. He had no ties to pro-life organizations, which condemned his actions. Check out the story.

4.  Lucinda McDowell Seacrest, at The Write Conversation, urges us to think and pray before we write. Who hasn't seen the virtual fist fights on Facebook? Our words carry power. It doesn't mean we shouldn't voice our opinions or concerns, but our attitudes and the way we express ourselves say a lot about who we are.

5.  Here we are deep into January. I'm longing for spring and flowers. A couple of people have given me orchid plants - much to my horror. The first one I received years ago, and I promptly killed it. In case someone has given you one of these beauties or their gorgeous blooms enticed you to bring them home, here's a website to help you keep them alive and thriving.

Writers:  Have you been to a writers conference? Please share your experience and how you benefited.

Readers:  Other than the Bible, what book has strengthened your faith or given you a new perspective on life? Please share.

Photo Credit:  Margan Zajdowicz

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

On My Nightstand - Submerged by Dani Pettrey

Bailey Craig returns to Yancey, Alaska after her aunt is killed in a plane crash. Certain residents won't let her forget her wild years, but the McKenna family takes her under their wing.

Cole McKenna, the man she once loved, is torn between memories and the obvious change in Bailey. As a member of a rescue team, he needs her help in finding clues to a string of murders.

Romantic suspense is one of my favorite genres. The author did a great job weaving the relationship between Bailey and Cole into the story.

The richness in detail made Submerged captivating. Dani Pettrey's research skills shine as she pours Russian history and vivid scenes of diving onto the page. The setting of Alaska gave the book a unique flavor.

I cared about these characters, their lives, and their futures. I'll be picking up the other books in the series. Overall, I give this book five stars for the writing, plot, and research. It's a winner.

Disclaimer: Neither the author nor the publisher requested a favorable review. I purchased the book, and all the opinions expressed are my honest evaluation.

Writers:  Do you find research tedious or do you enjoy it? Please elaborate on your response.

Readers:  Do you like an element of romance mixed in with suspense novels? Please share.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Writing: A Journey or a Race?

Woohoo! This isn't so bad. After quite a few heady acceptances, the stories of rejection from others rolled off me. What was the big deal? I was doing just fine. Then it happened.

Not one, but several rejection slips landed in my mailbox and inbox.

I took a deep breath. Okay, this wasn't the worst thing that could happen. Yeah, I'd hit the ground running at breakneck speed and crashed. Maybe it was time to slow down and get some education under my belt.

The problem:  I approached the educational aspect with the same intensity. Craft books, blog posts, workshops, and advice from other writers littered my desk. The rejections kept coming.

Desperate prayers followed. Finally, I did something I should have done from the beginning: I confessed that I couldn't do this in my own strength. If He wanted me to write, I needed His guidance, strength, wisdom, and favor.

The temptation to worry trailed me like that little dust cloud following a Charles Schulz Peanuts character. I kept writing, but slowed my pace. Not long after the "I give up trying to do this on my own prayer," the concept of using fiction techniques in non-fiction writing came my way. I could almost hear the Hallelujah Chorus.

Using dialogue and illustrations, I drafted and edited a devotional. Sweat beaded my brow as I stared at the "send button." I bit my lip, and reached for it. Once the piece zoomed into cyberspace, I checked my email every ten minutes. Yay! It was accepted.

The New Year is still young, but the lesson holds true. Put the Lord first in all you do, and trust Him to lead you on your journey.

Writers and Readers: What lessons have you learned in writing and life?

Photo Credit: leagun

Friday, January 22, 2016

Unpolished/Story Ideas/FRC/Get Organized/Recipe

1.  Traci Tyne Hilton guest posts at The Write Conversation. Her view of unpolished literary works certainly runs counter to traditional publishing models. Interesting post.

2.  Amber Schamel guest posts on Seriously Write. Sparking story ideas isn't as hard as we think. She illustrates her method and encourages writers to keep their eyes open.

3.  FRC puts out reliable information, and this issue of their update made my hair stand on end. For all their talk about privacy, the government is stripping away in small chunks. It makes me think of the old saying, "He's talking from both sides of his mouth," meaning contradictory statements.

Also covered is the lack of Christian refugees in this huge influx.

4.  I don't know about you, but this time of the year brings out my desire to get organized. While I've made progress, clutter still creates problems. I came across this article with 5 tips to deal with all the stuff. Perhaps it will help you as well.

5.  Recipe Corner. Here's a recipe for Butternut Squash Parmesan from Kraft. It looks yummy. I'll print it out and maybe even try it. (Maybe this is one of the reasons I have a problem with clutter - a lot of good intentions, but not a lot of acting on them. LOL!)

Writers:  What sparks story ideas for you?

Readers:  Do you print out recipes and then never make them? Please share.

Photo Credit:  dekok

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

On My Nightstand - A Man Called Blessed by Ted Dekker

After reading Blessed Child, I immediately purchased A Man Called Blessed. Caleb is now an adult and has lost some of his fire. When life settles into the pattern of daily living, his spirit grows restless.

Rebecca Solomon, a soldier who is tired of taking lives, embarks on an archaeological journey to find the original Ark of the Covenant. Her father's lifelong dream to return the Ark to Israel and rebuild the temple collides with the fears of government leaders that it will ignite a war.

This book takes off like a rocket and rarely pauses. The situation becomes more dire with every turn of the page - just the way I like my suspense. Supernatural elements and the varying character points of view make this a fascinating read.

I'd read one other Ted Dekker book in the past, but this series whet my reading appetite for more. Several of his novels are going on my Wish List.

Disclaimer:  Neither the author nor the publisher requested a review or provided this book. (Indeed, I doubt if they even know I exist.) I purchased it, and all opinions expressed are my honest assessment of the story.

Writers and Readers:  What are key elements you like to see in a suspense novel?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Writer Dehydration

My doctor recently informed me that I needed to drink more water. Even though I didn't feel thirsty, my body was dehydrated. He explained our bodies adjust to what we give them. After I began taking in more water, my thirst level increased. If I didn't get that extra water, it let me know it wasn't happy.

Our creativity can also suffer from dehydration. Yes, we need natural water, but we also require the water of the Word. When I get too busy and slack off - and it happens to all of us - my ability to put words on paper shrinks.

Writers' block isn't pretty.

We might be able to power through it by keeping an idea file, brainstorming with others, or admiring the beauty of nature, but it won't have the same, indefinable quality that makes our work sing. I've read some of my stuff when in that condition, and it's flat and lifeless.

The cure: Go back to the well that never runs dry. God is the One who puts the gift in us as a seed, but we must protect and nurture it.

Writers:  How does a lack of spiritual nourishment impact your creativity? Please share.

Readers: Do you notice a difference in your comprehension/sensitivity to spiritual truths if you become spiritually dehydrated? Please share.

Photo Credit:  Roger Kirby

Friday, January 15, 2016

Weather/Sagging Middles/The Voice/Persecution/Devo

1.  Angela Ackerman guest posts at Writers in the Storm. Using weather imagery in fiction is tricky, but she gives some important guidelines to avoid it becoming a cliche.

2.  Zoe M. McCarthy examines the works of 5 authors and how to avoid sagging middles in novels. This is one of those posts every aspiring author could use to hone their skills.

3.  If you haven't heard that Jordan Smith won The Voice, you're probably not on social media. His stellar performances are not only a reflection of his talent, but also of his faith that gives him strength and joy. My hope is that Jordan will continue to use the gift God gave him to express his faith.

4.  The continued murder of Christians in the Middle East is largely ignored by the media. I discovered this story on Why aren't Christians from the Middle East being encouraged to seek refugee status in other countries? They are the ones facing the greatest persecution.

5.  Alisa Hope Wagner did a thoughtful devotional on Zechariah 1:3. "Return to me, and I will return to you..."

Writers:  Do you use weather imagery in your manuscripts? How do you avoid cliches?

Readers: What keeps the middle of a book from sagging for you? Tension? Problems? Danger? All the above?

Photo Credit:  Jeffrey van Bijleveld

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

On My Nightstand - She's Mine by Tammy Doherty

Caitlin Harrington's life is in crash-and-burn mode. An ex-boyfriend is stalking her, her grandmother dies, and her job has gone the way of the do-do bird. She returns to her hometown of Naultag to settle the estate, but trouble is on her doorstep.

Sean Taggart rescues people from burning buildings, but saving Caitlin from her troubles is his greatest challenge. The beautiful woman tugs at his heart, but past experience makes him keep her at arm's length.

Tammy Doherty is a new author to me. I saw her book in one of the Facebook groups and on impulse bought it. Wow! She knows how to ramp up the tension. At the point where I thought the story was winding down, she threw in a twist that I never saw coming.

I've got her book, Celtic Cross, on my Kindle and plan to read it soon. Discovering a new-to-me author that I like makes me one hungry reader.

She's Mine gets five stars.

Disclaimer: Neither the author nor the publisher requested or paid me to review this book. I purchased it, and the opinions expressed are mine.

Writers: Whether you write romance or some other genre, do you save a little twist for the end of your manuscript? Please share.

Readers:  Do you like to figure out whodunit or do you enjoy being surprised? Please share your thoughts.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Stereotypes/Anthologies/Deadlines/Immigration/New Year

1.  Kristina McMorris guest posts at Writer Unboxed on the subject of Stereotypical Perspectives. She gives great advice on incorporating characteristics based on common knowledge. I think you'll find this article thought provoking and a good balance between showing reality and the desire to avoid offense.

2.  I've written for anthologies, and I know many of you have as well. Susan Spann posts at Writers In The Storm on the subject of, "Show Me The Money: Royalties in Anthology Contracts." She defines certain terms and gives examples of contract language.

3.  Whether we're writers or not, we all face deadlines. I came across this blog post by Carol Garvin on the subject. The insights she gives crystallized some thoughts for me.

4.  You'd have to be totally cut off from TV and the Internet not to hear the growing debate on immigration. This article by the Family Research Council gives a logical, sane view and frames the debate from an ideological perspective. I highly recommend it.

5.  We've landed! On the moon - yes, but that was a long time ago. No, I'm referring to 2016, a New Year.

Along with the New Year comes time management challenges. Jeanette Levellie released her new book, Shock the Clock, the middle of December 2015.

Why do we need this type of advice? If everything stayed on a neat schedule, we could do this with our eyes closed. Unfortunately, it's like hitting a moving target. Just when you think you've got everything figured out, a tire goes flat or Junior breaks a leg.

Check out this interview at Write Now and her new book.

Writers:  What kind of issues derail your writing time?

Readers:  Do you set goals for the New Year? Please share.

Photo Credit:  Richard Dudley

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

On My Nightstand - Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke

Hannah Sterling's parents shielded her from family secrets. When her widowed mother dies, the mysteries haunt her to the point she cannot function. She discovers a letter and decides to pursue all leads in the hopes of eliminating their effects on her life.

Against her aunt's wishes, she travels to Germany. More questions surface and few answers until her tour guide, Carl Schmidt, reveals what he knows.

Cathy Gohlke once again crafts a book that keeps me thinking between reading opportunities. Her characters' dialogue and emotional responses to their situations are natural and seamless.

Very few authors achieve the level of writing I see in this book and her other novels. These are the types of books aspiring novelists need to absorb.

Whether you're a reader or a writer, Secrets She Kept will satisfy your thirst for a well-written story.  A scale of one to five is inadequate. This one is off the charts.

Disclaimer: The author and publisher did not request a review or provide a copy of this book. I purchased it, and all opinions expressed here are mine.

Writers:  Do you have a favorite author that makes you sit back and enjoy a story without the internal editor kicking in? Please share.

Readers:  Do you value book reviews or ignore them? Why?

Monday, January 4, 2016

What's In A Name?

A person's name can express far more than simple delight with how it rolls off your tongue or honoring a relative. Parents get overly creative with cutesy spellings that leave girls with little or no hope of ever finding a barrette or necklace with their name. Even worse, it can open a child up to bullying or teasing because of an unfortunate word association.

In certain cultures an individual's last name identifies their family's occupation. I happened upon the name of Zimmerman for my family in The Moses Conspiracy during a search for German surnames. This one jumped out when I discovered it meant, "carpenter," which was the primary skill of the father.

My character name choices are not always that deliberate. As Kendra from Out of The Mist formed in my mind, her name came along with it. Feisty and with a determination to succeed, education was at the top of her list. She valued knowledge above everything else.

Sitting at my desk one day, the name Justine popped into my head, and I jotted it on a yellow sticky note. It stayed there for over a year before she introduced herself in my latest manuscript. Perhaps the memory of a young choir member, who visited in our home while I was growing up, influenced her development.

One of my favorite names, David, is also used in my books. It means, "beloved." It holds a special place in my heart because my late husband was a David. When you see that name crop up in my work, you know this character is going to be a good guy.

Another way I name characters is by looking at baby name websites. I also check out lists of names that were popular during certain years. On a research trip, I drove along country roads and looked at names plastered on mailboxes. My ear is always attuned to a name that might work in a manuscript.

The meaning of a name can give an indication of personality traits or add to the mystique of your storyline. Give the subject serious thought when starting a manuscript.

Writers:  How do you name your characters?

Readers:  Does an unusual name in a story bother you or intrigue you? Why or why not?

Photo Credit:  Deon Staffelbach