Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Red Herrings

by Mary Allen

A red herring is a distraction from the relevant, a misleading clue which ratchets up the suspense and keeps us guessing. Frankly, it’s hard to surprise others so a successful red herring is a delight that adds depth to a story. For example, think of when you realized the truth in “Sixth Sense”. Bet you didn’t see it coming. I didn’t and I usually have it the plot line figured out.

Genres that rely on red herrings are mysteries, suspense, and thrillers. For instance, perhaps the guy we think is evil isn’t so bad and the one we thought was good suddenly shows his true devilish bent. (Gasp!) This throws the hero deeper into danger.

Red herrings are not just for mysteries. Recently I read a book entitled “Something Mis ing” by Matthew Dicks. A thief obtains long term clients, catalogs their lives, and takes for his personal use items they would never miss such as extra rolls of toilet paper, boxes of macaroni or unopened salad dressing that is about to expire. Of course, being a thief, he does take the occasional big ticket item like a never-used silver platter. Problems arise when his attachment and loyalty to his clients compel him to intervene in their lives. How does he stop a violent crime, protect his client, and maintain his anonymity?

In this scenario Dicks drops a false clue that caused me to think I knew how our thief, Martin, is going to accomplish this noble deed. Then, it all goes sideways and much to my satisfaction, the problem is solved in a manner I never anticipated.



Red herrings are a bit of literary magic.





In some formulaic stories, such as romance, red herrings are not much used. We want the boy to get the girl, but even then the twists and turns they take to that destination can afford opportunity for misdirection. Maybe she chooses the guy you wouldn’t pick. In a nice little historical, “A Promise for Ellie” a bride to be is rethinking her upcoming nuptials to the boy she’s always loved. In this case, I thought I had the red herring by its sly little tail. Instead I picked the wrong guy. I should’ve seen it coming.

My chosen genre is women's fiction. In my upcoming release entitled, “God’s Love Most Gentle”, a pregnant missionary suffers from PTSD after witnessing her husband’s murder. For a while her dark secrets pull her further from God and deeper into trouble. Offsetting this is the comic relief of her widowed mother’s romances and I've added a little twist on the side. When it happens you say, 


and search the story to verify the facts. I hope my readers will enjoy it.

Red herrings are a bit of literary magic. Do you add them to your writing whatever your genre? What popular story held your favorite red herring? Perhaps an obscure story now stands out in your mind because of its ability to misdirect and thus surprise you. Tell me. I’d love to know it. 



Thursday, August 27, 2015

To Register or Not to Register*

By Kathryn Page Camp
 


Obtaining a copyright is as easy as getting the material out of your head and putting it down on paper or a computer drive. The minute you put it in tangible form, it is copyrighted.

“Wait,” you say, “don’t I have to register it with the government?”

No. You can, but you don’t have to.

There is a $35 registration fee for most textual works registered online, and the fee is higher if you do it the old-fashioned way. If you register multiple manuscripts, both the time and the money can add up.

Most copyright violators are unintentional infringers who simply don’t realize that the work is copyrighted. The easiest way to solve that problem is free: just add a copyright notice. You don’t have to register the material or even publish it to do that.

So why would anyone register a copyright?

First, registration provides a record that you created the material, which tends to discourage intentional infringers. Second, you can’t sue for copyright infringement until you have registered your copyright. And if you register it before the infringement occurs or no later than three months after publication, you can get statutory damages. That means the court can award you money even if you can’t prove that you lost any.

If you sign a book contract, check to see who is responsible for registering the copyright. If you publish an article in a print magazine or an e-zine, the magazine’s registration will not cover your article if you retain the copyright.

I can’t tell you when to register a copyright. That’s a personal decision. But here are the guidelines I use.

1.         Unpublished manuscripts. Contrary to what many people believe, it is almost unheard of for publishers and agents to steal material. Besides, you can’t copyright ideas and the elements that flow naturally from those ideas, so registration does not protect you if a publisher thinks you have a great idea but asks someone else to write it. I have never registered my unpublished material.

2.         Short published items, such as blog posts. I weigh the time and expense against the harm—emotional as well as economic—if someone steals the material. I also consider whether a copyright notice is sufficient. A magazine article that I intend to resell numerous times is worth registering. A blog post that I am unlikely to reuse isn’t.

3.         Longer published items, such as books. For longer material that could reach a sizeable audience, registration becomes more time- and cost-effective. Although the law does not require registration, it does require copies of each hardcopy book (including books published only in paperback) to be deposited with the Library of Congress, and registration serves both functions. In my opinion, all published books (e-books or hardcopy) should be registered.

For more information on copyright registration, go to www.copyright.gov and download the publication called “Copyright Basics,” which can be found under the Publications/Circulars tab. One warning, however. The Copyright Office’s publications stay close to the statutory language, so they do not directly address blogs and other formats that did not exist when the laws were written.

__________

*  This is an updated reprint of a guest post I originally wrote for the “Story and Logic” blog. It was first published in 2013.

__________

Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Her most recent book, Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal (KP/PK Publishing 2013), is a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection. Kathryn is also the author of In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion (FaithWalk Publishing 2006) and numerous articles. You can learn more about Kathryn at www.kathrynpagecamp.com.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What Robin Jones Gunn Means to Me

By Kelly Bridgewater

From Amazon
This is the eighth month of me writing about the authors who have influenced me as a writer. If you missed any previous posts, please return to them and read up on how these certain authors influenced me. There were C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, J. K. Rowling, Arthur Conan Doyle, Alexandre Dumas, Frances Hodgson Burnett, and Steven James.

This month, I want to focus on the author who introduced me to the Christian fiction genre. She was the first Christian author to write for the Young Adult readers. Know who I’m talking about. At the 2013 ACFW conference, she was the Keynote speaker, and I had her autograph one of my classic copies of her book.

Have you figured out who I’m talking about yet?

If you guessed Robin Jones Gunn, then you would be right. As a fifteen year old, I was immersed in reading, but I filled my days and evenings with The Baby-sitter Club, Sweet Valley High and University, Nancy Drew,  and other books for young adults. My father had a subscription to the Focus on the Family  magazine. There was an advertisement for the next book in the Christy Miller Series called True Friends, which was the seventh book in the series. My father knew how much I loved to read, but he wanted to introduce me to Christian books, so she purchased the book.

I loved it and wanted the previous six books in the series. The book affected me as a young teenage girl who grew up in the church but had gotten made fun of because of my strong belief in Christ. Joining Christy Miller as she struggles with the issues I faced as a teenager made her realistic for me. Gunn did a good job at allowing me to understand that being a Christian as a teenager is not a bad thing, it is actually a good thing. We have values and guidelines to help us set our lives upon.

From when I got to meet Robin Jones Gun at the 2013 ACFW Conference
It might be funny for the secular community that the public school preaches, but in the end, I’m the one that didn’t have to deal with unplanned pregnancies, STD’s, hang-over, and failing grades.

Robin Jones Gunn introduced me to the Christian Fiction genre and helped me stand strong as a Christian in a world where being a Christian was frowned on. Her stories comforted me and allowed me to stand strong as I took a stand on sex before marriage and drugs.


What author helped you to stand stronger in your faith? What book did they right that inspired you to keep your faith?

Monday, August 17, 2015

How Kids in Fiction Can Be Effective by JoAnn Durgin



  
I love writing children into my books. They’re cute, they add to the dynamics of a story, and—let’s face it—they pull on our heartstrings. I think one of the primary reasons I enjoy writing (and reading) about children so much is because we, as adults, can learn so much from them! There’s nothing like the innocence, and yet the (sometimes blunt) honesty, of a child. They tell it like it is as they see people, life, and situations without the “filters” we’ve learned to adapt as we’ve grown older. Children can teach us patience, but they can also make us stop and think before we speak.

Case in point: When our oldest, Sarah, was a toddler, I used to call people “turkey” when they did something I didn’t like. I remember driving with her one day on the highway and someone cut me off. From the backseat, Sarah yelled, “You turkey!” In a way, it was cute. In another way, I’m thankful I hadn’t used a stronger word. When a child actor spews a profane word, others laugh, but oh how it riles me! Hearing Sarah repeat my words that taught me a valuable lesson as a new mother. I need to be very careful of the words that come from my mouth.

Ephesians 4:29: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (NIV)

Our son, Matthew, is high-functioning autistic (Asperger’s Syndrome), but—at age 19—he is very intelligent yet still has the sweetness of a boy much younger than his chronological age. People often don’t know how to respond to Matthew’s openness and complete ease in saying “I love you.” One of his teachers in high school told him that she wasn’t allowed to respond when he told her he loved her. But then she confided to me she would pull him aside each day and whisper, “I love you, too, Matthew.” His helpful spirit and genuine love for people shines in everything he does. He doesn’t care what others think about him, and there are times when I really envy that quality!

Our daughter, Chelsea, is very loving, but also quite headstrong and independent. She’s also blessed us with our first grandchild, Amelia Grace (see her photo; you can’t miss the huge headband!). My husband, Jim, and I are reminded all over again how quickly children grow. It’s amazing the changes Amelia has gone through each month. At six months old, she’s now rocking on her haunches and giving us that “Just you wait!” look. I have the feeling once she starts crawling, she’ll be pulling up and walking soon after. I can’t wait until she starts talking!

All in all, children are an incomparable blessing from the Lord.

Psalm 127:3: Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. (NIV)

I can’t imagine my upcoming Christmas story, Starlight in Her Eyes, without my sweet little six-year-old, Lily, who challenges my cheeky Brit, Colin Young. He’s not used to little ones, but he’s a natural, and they take to one another quickly. Children are also now figuring quite prominently into my Lewis Legacy Series. In my estimation, my stories are richer for the addition of children.

What have your kids—or a child you know (or have known in the past) taught you? I’d love to hear, so please feel free to share!

I’ll leave you with an excerpt from my latest release, Enchantment, Book #6 in my Lewis Legacy Series, where little Joe Lewis has a man-to-man chat with his father, Sam, about Gracie, a little girl who keeps punching Joe in the arm.

Here’s that excerpt:

“Dad, I’ve got a problem.”
Joe only called him Dad when he wanted a heart-to-heart chat. His boy was almost four going on forty. He took things so seriously. His TeamWork reports could wait. “Sure, son. Want to go sit on the porch and talk?”
“Uh huh.” Joe walked beside Sam from the office and out onto the porch. The early evening had cooled a bit and a slight breeze rustled the leaves of the towering trees.
In a few minutes, he’d walk his children over to the dining hall for dinner. He’d put in an appearance earlier but Lexa had shooed him out, telling him everything was under control. The tantalizing aromas of food filled the air. The ladies of the One Nation Church had been cooking for hours, and they were all in for quite a feast tonight.
After Joe dropped into one of the rockers, Sam took the other. “Tell me what’s bothering you.”
“Gracie.”
“Ah.” Resting one elbow on the arm of the chair, Sam began to rock as he stared out over the expanse of the camp. Maybe it was no surprise that—as the son of two former financial planners—Joe already exhibited signs of an analytical, logical mind. Sam’s brother, Will, was Joe’s personal hero these days. When he’d first heard Will had been named a shuttle commander for an upcoming NASA mission, Joe had whooped and hollered and declared he wanted to be an astronaut. No doubt they’d be paying a lot of visits to Johnson Space Center.
Sam glanced over at Joe. “How’s that arm?” Since they’d arrived at the camp, Joe had complained that Gracie punched him at every available opportunity. He knew Natalie and Marc were working with their daughter to try and control her inclination to sock Joe, apparently Gracie’s sole target.
Joe rubbed his fingers over his upper right arm. At least no bruises were visible. “Sore. Like always when Gracie’s around. It’s good she lives in Massa….”
“Massachusetts. Why do you think she hits you?”
Scrunching his features into a frown, Joe appeared to consider the question. “’Cause she’s mean.”
“Is she mean all the time?”
“No. She’s nice to Hannah and Leah. And Luke. She wants to carry Emily around like she’s her baby. Chloe thinks Gracie’s okay when she’s not bossy.”
The corners of Sam’s mouth quirked. “And what do you think?”
“I think Gracie hates boys.”
“That could be it, although I doubt it’s as strong as hate. Do you like Gracie? Even though she’s a girl?”
“Sort of. If she’d stop hitting me all the time, I might like her better. I don’t hate her.” Joe’s feet didn’t reach the porch floor, so he scooted to the edge of the chair. Pushing off with both feet, he began to rock.
“You know, Joe, sometimes girls hit boys for the opposite reason. Maybe Gracie punches you in the arm because—deep down inside—she secretly likes you.”
“She sure has a funny way of showing it.”
Sam laughed. “You know, your mother wasn’t sure she liked me all that much when she first met me, either. It was at our first TeamWork mission together outside San Antonio.”
“Did Mommy hit you?”
“She did, but it was an accident. We had a flat tire on the old Volvo station wagon—the one in the garage out back at home in Houston—and I was trying to fix it. When Mommy tried to hand me a wrench, it slipped out of her hand and hit my leg.”
“So she didn’t mean to do it.” The implication from Joe being the situation was different since Gracie intended to hit him. Smart boy.
“No, no. It was heavy and slippery. But she sure made a big impression on me. And I think Gracie’s made an impression on you.”
Joe tilted his head. “What’s that mean?”
Sam chuckled and ran one hand over his chin. “It means I started liking your mother.”
“Because she hit you?”
He wasn’t doing the best job of explaining. “Mommy got my attention, but then she kept my attention because she was different from all the other girls. In a good way.”
“Yeah. Gracie’s different, too, but does that mean I have to like her?”
Joe asked insightful questions that helped to keep Sam sharp. He learned from his children on a daily basis, and that was one of his favorite parts of being a father. “As a Christian, we’re told in the Bible to love one another. I always try to do that even when people do things I don’t like.”
“Like what?” Joe rocked away in his chair and looked at him with wide-eyed innocence.
“They lie or they cheat. Or they do something they know could hurt someone else and they do it, anyway.”
“Yep.” Joe shook his head with a sad expression. The compassion in his boy—even for Gracie—warmed his heart. They wouldn’t be having this discussion now if he didn’t care.
“Sometimes it’s hard to like people, Joe. All God asks is that we try. Be patient with Gracie. God’s working in her heart just like He’s working on you and me.”
Joe nodded. “Makes sense. My tummy growled. Is it time to eat?”
“So did mine.” Sam lifted from the chair. “Let’s go get your sisters and head on over to the dining hall. Thanks for the talk, son.”
“Anytime, Dad.”


Blessings, friends.
 ~JoAnn


 


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Stories: where do they come from?

I’ve seen several articles about story ideas – where to find them, how to get them, how to figure out which ones are good and which ones are not. But I must admit haven’t read any of them.


I haven’t read any of them because I don’t have any trouble coming up with a story idea. In fact, sometimes it feels like they seek me out, tackle me to ground and won’t release me until I write them down.

To borrow a phrase from Jeff Gerke – I’m a plot-firster. So What is going to happen in a story comes easily to me. Sometimes a little too easy. I am a cautious person by nature. I prefer a steady trickle of information coming to me about a story.

from Fotolia by kevron2001
Often, though, I get blasted with a tidal wave of images, names, plot twists and resolutions all at one time. The experience leaves me gasping for air and trying to put the pieces together in its wake. 

The tough part for me is character development. Because as the characters become more fully developed, I begin to see them. “That’s good,” I can hear you say.

Well, yes and no. It’s good for the reason you’re thinking. The better you see a character the easier it is to write him or her.

The not good part for me is as they become more developed, more aware of their existence, they become very demanding. I can almost see them standing in the corner with their arms crossed or hands on their hips, a single eyebrow cocked with disapproval. They just stand there waiting for me to write their stories. You’d think they could be a little more understanding. I mean really!

Back to the question at hand… So where do stories come from? I can only answer for myself and my single largest source for stories is the Bible. The Holy Spirit is such a visual writer. There are tons of images that illustrate Truth (Jesus, His character) throughout all 66 books of the Bible.

Proverbs is loaded with mini-scenarios that could be fleshed out as a full-fledged novel or at least a short story. I’m often inspired by what I learn during Bible studies, too. A personal revelation turns into a seed of a story that illustrates another aspect of who God is and why He is God alone.

Ultimately, I must credit God as the source of all my story ideas. The very author and finisher of our faith. How loving and how generous He is that He would share Himself with us in “story?”

Thank you, Jesus, for not keeping your story to yourself. May every story I write reflect your good news and bring you glory.


Humbly submitted by H.T. Lord