Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The (Pep) Talk

by Mary Allen

There comes a moment in every WIP in which it seems that the kindest thing to do is hit the delete button, empty the trash, and start fresh.

Don’t do it. It’s less dramatic than the lusty zing of ripping a page from a manual typewriter, wadding it up with a growl, and pitching it across the room, but it’s more permanent. 

Pause. Take a breath.

This is where a critique group is helpful. In my opinion, the best group is the one that meets face to face. It’s a luxury most don’t have. Don’t despair. Help is out there. ACFW offers on-line critique groups for your specific genre. Even established writers might find an occasional critique session helpful.

There is also this wonderful invention called a phone. It allows you to call another writer and moan to an empathetic ear.

"This WIP is terrible! It’ll never be finished! What brain freeze made me think I could write?"

Of course, you’ll then hear how they’ve been through the same thing. Oddly, such an exchange can fortify you rather than confirm that throwing in the towel and throwing out the “trash” is the best step. It reminds you that these feelings are normal and will pass. Soon, you will fall in love with your story again. Don’t wallow in self-pity. Swallow your pride and make the call.

Writing fiction can be a love-hate relationship. You pour yourself into the story for hours on end and like eating an entire pie at a sitting– no matter how good it is—you get sick of it. Stuffed. Glutted. Gorged. A little fast may be in order. Take a break from it. Throw yourself into your family, church activity, praising God, or a nature walk. Sometimes simply removing self completely, if briefly, from the effort of writing will refresh you and vitality miraculously reappears in your already-written word.

Remember this the next time you are tempted to take overly drastic steps with your WIP.

How many times have you “given up” on writing? How many WIP have cause you to run from the room screaming? How many have you trashed and regretted it? Speak up. Your episode might just be the pep talk some fellow author needs today.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Brilliant Blog Award Winners Announced!

This post first appeared on Karla Akins' blog.

As you may know if you read any of my posts last week, I've launched a new contest this year. I'm recognizing outstanding blogs. Blogs that catch my eye. Blogs that I love.

In choosing blogs for this award, I follow the rubric below. Now, keep in mind, anytime there's a contest that pits one thing against the other, a judge's opinion is extremely subjective. Also, as this is my first time doing this type of thing, this rubric is subject to change. As I learn more about what works and what doesn't in creating a great blog, and as I scrutinize blogs more carefully this year, I'm certain to figure out other important or not-so-important elements.


But I also go with a gut reaction when I'm at the blog site. If there's a quick intake of air, if I feel that my time has been well-spent, if I feel butterflies -- chances are it's a blog that even lines up with the rubric I've created.

By the way, I'm not comparing blogs with over 1000 subscribers to blogs under 1000 subscribers. All blogs are considered in this contest as separate entities apart from their popularity. I don't choose a blog simply because it's more popular. There are a lot of popular blogs I don't read or don't like. I choose them for how they appeal to me or meet my needs as a Christian writer.

Now. On to the awards! Drum roll please!


My first pick is in the Secular Travel Blog category. I've chosen Camels and Chocolate by Kristen Luna. I've followed Kristen for quite a few years now. But when she gave her blog and website a makeover, I was mesmerized. There's really nothing I don't like about this blog. Copious pictures. An engaging writing style. Useful information. Not to mention the aesthetics of this blog are second to none. Congratulations, Kristen! Giving you this award is a no-brainer. Readers, if you want to know how to do a blog in an engaging way, study this one!

Food category -- The Miss Nini Blog.  Full disclosure: "Miss Nini" is a friend of mine from way back when I lived in Iowa. But we haven't seen one another in person for more than 20 years! And we just recently (about a year ago) got back in touch via Facebook. She and her husband, a very successful sheep farmer, attended our little storefront church in Anita, Iowa years ago. And now she's a famous baker! She's won tons of awards at the Iowa State Fair, been a contestant on Shark Tank, and got her picture in the New York Times.

But that's not why I love her blog. First, who doesn't love baked goods, right? But I also love Miss Nini's writing style. You have no idea how thrilled I was to learn she is writing a book now.  Her turns of phrase are as delicious as your kitchen concoctions, I assure you.

My next two picks are in the Christian writing category. These go to:


I have fallen in love with Zoe M. McCarthy's writing advice. One of the reasons I like it so much is that it's worthy of my time and the posts are usually moderate in length. I get a lot of info without spending a lot of time. Several of her posts I've bookmarked. The information is so worthy. I never delete a post that shows up in my mailbox.


Karen Wingate's blog, Grace on Parade, contains rich content. And I absolutely love the daisies! Her web design is lovely. But it's the content that's impressive. Each post is well-thought-out. Each post conveys a message. I like that.

So, tell me, Dear Reader, what are your favorite blogs so far this year? Weigh in!

And congratulations to January's winners! Write on, ladies! I'll be in touch with the secret code for posting the button to your blog (if I haven't given it to you before now).

What do our winners get? Winners get to display the Brilliant Blog Button on their website. Readers can click on the button to vote for them for Blog of the Year. Fun, right?

Do you have an award-worthy blog or know of one? Let me know in the comments below. And take time to congratulate January's winners!

Karla is the author of several history books for
homeschoolers including O Canada Her Story,Sacagawea and Jacques Cartier. Her first novel, The Pastor's Wife Wears Biker Boots features a homeschool mom. Her work has also been published in The Old Schoolhouse MagazineSplickety Magazine, and she currently writes for Happy Sis Magazine. You can find more information about her life and ministry

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Writing about Other Cultures

I recently completed a middle-grade historical novel about a Japanese American girl who lived in California at the start of World War II. Now that Desert Jewels is circulating to publishers, I am working on my second middle-grade historical. Creating Esther is about a Native American girl who leaves the reservation in 1895 to attend an Indian boarding school.

This year I’m going to depart from the legal theme and write about lessons I’ve learned from writing outside my culture. But I’m going to use this first post to answer the most basic question: Why bother?

It would be easier to stick with what I know, and there are dangers in writing about races and cultures I don’t belong to. These days “political correctness” trumps intent, and many well-meaning authors have been condemned for their perceived insensitivity and bias.

Earlier this month, Scholastic pulled a picture book called A Birthday Cake for George Washington after receiving numerous complaints that it presented a false picture of slavery. The problem wasn’t that the story and the illustrations were incorrect. In fact, the author had done extensive research about George Washington’s slave cook and his relationship with the family, and the illustrator’s work was consistent with the author’s research. The main reason for the complaints was that the illustrations showed smiling slaves. (Although I wasn't able to get a copy of the book, it appears that they were smiling because they took pride in their work, not because they were happy in their lot. In fact, as far as I can tell, the book tries to point out that there is nothing sweet about living in slavery.) To learn more about this controversy and get the author’s side of the story, read her thoughtful blog post at this link:

This isn’t the first time Scholastic has faced a similar controversy. Its Dear America series included a book called My Heart is on the Ground: The Diary of Nannie Little Rose, a Sioux Girl, which takes place at the Carlisle Indian School in 1880. That book covers the same subject as Creating Esther, although my story takes place at a fictional—but realistic—boarding school. While My Heart is on the Ground did show some of the negatives of boarding school life and the efforts to Europeanize the Native Americans, the complaint was that the book didn’t go far enough and that the protagonist ended up embracing the white lifestyle.

I’ve read My Heart is on the Ground and done extensive research on the Native American boarding schools. I agree that the book paints too humane a picture of the experience, but I’m not willing to assume—as some of the commenters do—that the white author was attempting to cover up the truth. And it is well documented that some of the graduates of the Carlisle Indian School did embrace the white lifestyle.

I am half German, one-quarter English, and one-quarter French-Canadian (therefore French) in ancestry, so I am the quintessential European American. I’ve never been subjected to any real discrimination, not even when I was a woman working in a male-dominated industry. So why would I step outside my own experience and risk the criticism that can come from writing about other races?

It’s because European Americans like me need to understand our role in marginalizing people from cultures that are different than ours. This gap can be as wide as the one between Native Americans and European Americans or as narrow as the 19th Century divide between upper-class English Americans and working-class Irish Americans. But if we want to be part of the solution rather than the problem, we must understand how those events affect the subjects of our prejudice.

While I’m making every effort to avoid the controversy that surrounds A Birthday Cake for George Washington and My Heart is on the Ground, there is no guarantee that I’ll succeed. I have done my best to ensure that Desert Jewels presents a realistic picture of the loss of freedom and the terrible conditions in the incarceration camps. Creating Esther shows the horrors of the boarding school life and the loss of identity resulting from the schools’ mostly unsuccessful attempts to Europeanize the Native American students. But life in the camps wasn’t all misery, and a number of teachers at the Indian boarding schools truly thought they were doing what was best for the students. Those facts are part of the reality, too, and they must be included to paint an accurate picture. But including them may open me up to criticism.

It’s a risk I’m willing to take.


The photograph at the head of this post was taken at the Raphael Weill Public School in San Francisco, California in April 1942, shortly before the Japanese American children in the picture were sent to incarceration camps. Dorothea Lange took the picture as part of her official duties as an employee of the United States government. Because it is a government document, the photo is in the public domain.


Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal was a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection for April 2014. The second edition of Kathryn’s first book, In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion, was released on September 30, 2015. You can learn more about Kathryn at

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Authors who Inspire Me Recap

By Kelly Bridgewater

Every month during 2015, I took a writer and showed how I became familiar with their works, then wrote how their writing has improved my writing. If you missed any of the actual post, click on the name of the author, and it will link you right back to that page.

     1.)    C. S.Lewis
Lewis taught me the love of creating stories with my imagination and the ability to create a passion for the written word. He is one of my favorite writers who I return to when I want a good read to explore Narnia or learn more about something in the literary field.

      2.)    J. R. R. Tolkien
Tolkien taught me that conflict between others is important to creating a good story. Even though we rooted for Frodo and Samwise to reach Mount Doom to dispose of the ring, we still felt bad for crazy Gollum who became obsessed with the ring and could think of nothing else.

     3.)    J. K. Rowling
Rowling has taught me to build a world that everyone will love, even if it is the most popular genre at the moment. Write what you love and what you feel inspired to write. If God allows you to have the desire and the skills to write it, then God will help make it a reality.  With her ability to story build and her sentence structure, I have improved my writing.

      4.)    Arthur Conan Doyle
Doyle taught me that adventure is important to a great story that captures the readers’ attention for generations to come. A great story can surpass the changing time and move into the classics if the story is well-written.
       5.)    Alexandre Dumas
Dumas opened my eyes up to the world of classic literature. Before then, I had to read boring books like Animal Farm by George Orwell, which stifled my curiosity toward older books. But Dumas showed me that classic literature could be fun. You just have to find the right one to spark your interest.

      6.)    Frances Hodgson Burnett
      Burnett taught me that if a child’s story is written well then it can be read by any age. Like C. S. Lewis states, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” This is proven by J. K. Rowling with her Harry Potter masterpieces that have been enjoyed by young adults and adults alike. I completely agree with C.S. Lewis, if an adult can’t return to the books they enjoyed as a child, then the story wasn’t well-written to begin with. Being a parent of three small boys, I want my children to return to the stories that have captured their heart when they were innocent and young. A simple written story can capture the imagination and steal the hearts of the readers, which any great story should do.

      7.)    Steven James
      James taught me to push the limits when it comes to writing Christian suspense. Not all Christian suspense books have to be completely planned out and PG for the “saved” audience. We are like the secular audience in that we like a story that grips us and tightens more and more as the story progresses. Likewise, he encouraged me to not choose the first bad thing that happened to our characters. Make a list and allow them to squirm. As a writer, you don’t want the reader to guess the ending before they arrive there.

     8.)    Robin Jones Gunn
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.

    9.)    Dee Henderson
Henderson taught me the love of Christian suspense, mysteries, and thrillers. Without her, I would not have been introduced to the genre, and I thank her for that.
Warren creates stories that grab at your heart and doesn’t let go. I still buy her books and review them the moment they are offered by the publishing company. I couldn’t ask for someone who writes so well and uses the talent God has given her to teach and encourage others to write better.

Lessman has taught me how to construct a romance that is realistic and grabs the reader’s attention. I have spend time reading her book that she wrote on writing romance titled Romance-ology 101: Writing Romantic Tension for the Inspirational and Sweet Markets. I have spent time studying and losing myself in the romance she sparks between her hero and heroines. The love is realistic and grips my heart with every story.

Sundin has taught me that reading historical fiction can teach me about a time period by giving an inside look into the brave women and men who populated our world during that era. I love learning about the horrors of the Holocaust from the eyes of survivors or nurses who bravely went across the front line to help our soldiers.

I really hoped you enjoy taking this journey with me. I truly enjoyed finding out who inspires my writing. What are the names of some of the writers who inspire you? How do they inspire you to improve your writing or reading experience?

Sunday, January 17, 2016


“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”  1 Cor. 13:12 (KJV)

The picture I chose to accompany this month’s blog brought this scripture to mind. It also inspired the title and theme, that and a little prayer asking God for help.

The longer I contemplate the word, “Transitions,” the more incidences come to mind of how it can apply to our lives. Basically, our lives are a series of transitions – birth, toddler, preschooler, grade schooler, tween, teen, adult – to name one just one series.

And for the believer, I would say the first transition would be learning what it means to be “a new creature” in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). This transition is not a one-time thing either, but a journey, THE journey that takes us into eternity with our heavenly Father – the biggest transition of all.

As a writer, I stink at transitions. Every paper that was handed back to me in college was marked for too many commas and my lack of transitions.

Here’s a bit of irony for you, I’ve noticed a pattern recently during my morning writing sessions. You see, I’m not starting from scratch on my story. I am interweaving original scenes with new ones. 
Guess what the new ones are. Yep, transitional scenes. What can I say? It’s what the story has been missing.

The Elements of Style by Strunk and White define “transition” like this, “A word or group of words that aids in coherence in writing by showing the connections between ideas.”

It sounds simple enough, but just like the picture with the castle view on foggy winter morning, transitions are not always so clear to me. Fortunately, the author and finisher of our faith is always available to help me – to help you – when asked in faith, believing.

Learning to write in the early morning has proved to be a life transition for me, as well. But this is one transition I am especially happy to make, and with Christ’s help, I may even master.

May God bless all your life transitions, the ones in your writer’s life and in your writing, too.

Humbly submitted by H.T. Lord