Thursday, June 28, 2012

There is Nothing New Under the Sun

The wind was picking up. Watching the approaching gale from her seat in the cockpit, Anne was grateful that Carousel had reached shelter before the storm hit. But as the sailboat's bare mast bobbed and weaved with the others in the harbor, Anne prayed for the sailors who were still out on Lake Michigan.

Notice the opening sentence, which I borrowed from Chi Libris. Chi Libris is a group of well-known Christian novelists that include Angela Hunt and James Scott Bell. The group decided to publish a book of short stories with five shared elements: the same opening sentence, mistaken identity, pursuit at a noted landmark, an unusual form of transportation, and the same last line ("So that's exactly what she did.") The plots vary widely, however. In fact, the point of their collection, What the Wind Picked Up, is to show that the same basic idea can generate many diverse stories.

That's one reason you can't copyright ideas. The idea itself doesn't make the story. It's what you do with the idea that counts.

But there's an even more important reason why you can't copyright ideas. The founding fathers included copyright provisions in the Constitution to encourage creative works, not to inhibit them. As Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, "there is nothing new under the sun." If ideas could be copyrighted, there would be nothing left to write about.

Here's one idea that is frequently found in literature. Two young people fall in love but are kept apart by their feuding families, and the consequences are tragic.

You could call Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet a case of mistaken identity in 16th Century Verona, Italy. The two protagonists fell in love before discovering who they had fallen in love with.

Move the setting to New York City in the 1950s, and you have West Side Story.

Then there is the apparently true story of the Hatfields and the McCoys in the Appalachian Mountains during the late 1800s. Their feud escalated after Johnse Hatfield began courting Roseanne McCoy, and Johnse's family had to rescue him from the angry McCoy men. Did Johnse escape on a horse or use some other form of transportation that we would consider unusual today?

Or travel back to even earlier times. Legend tells of two Native American lovers from rival tribes. When their chiefs forbade their marriage, the lovers swore that if they couldn't live together they would die together. Fleeing from their families, they embraced each other and jumped off the landmark now known as Lover's Leap in Illinois' Starved Rock State Park.

All of these stories use the same basic plot idea, and one (West Side Story) is still under copyright.

Now think of all the contemporary authors who have used that same plot idea. If you could copyright an idea, those stories wouldn't exist.

Let's look at another example.

Miss Read (pen name for Dora Saint) has written multiple books about everyday village life in England. While these books tend to have a main character, they center around an ensemble cast of ordinary, and mostly likeable, village residents.

Does that remind you of a series by a popular American authoress?

When I read Jan Karon's first Mitford book, I immediately thought of Miss Read and her Fairacre/Thrush Green books. It isn't that the writing style is similar--it isn't--or that the authors tell the same stories--they don't. But their books have a common theme.

I don't know if Jan Karon read Miss Read's books before writing her own. For the sake of my point, however, let's assume she did. And let's also assume Jan Karon knew she could use the same idea without violating copyright law.

So that's exactly what she did.

Kathryn Page Camp

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The (True!) Joys of Having ADD with Member Blogger Dawn Crandall

Most people aren't very surprised when they find out I have ADD. 

It probably (and hopefully) answers most of their questions as to why I am the way I am. I'm a tad out-going, think differently than almost everyone else I know, I'm a little unfiltered, and a bit talkative.

And do you know what? I thank God everyday that He made me this way. Because of my having ADD, I get to do what I like to do more than anything else in the world. 


I started taking the medication for ADD when I was seventeen years old and a junior in high school. It's true, I needed it pretty badly. I would never would have made it into college, let alone graduate from college, without it. It's rather unfortunate that I didn't learn much in school (like grammar and punctuation--I apologize now for any mistakes you might find in my comma placements!), as I was just scraping by before my junior year, getting my only good grades in the classes or subjects that had anything to do with Art or Creative Writing. But I suppose God had a specific reason for that too. I was also seventeen when I became a Christian, which was the true reason I ended up going to college and majoring in Christian Education.

I stopped taking the medication about thirteen years later. You'd think the medication prescribed to help me pay attention would help me focus on writing a book, right? But alas, no. It did the very opposite. I hadn't thought much about writing at all during those years because I was so entirely focused on everything else. When I did finally stop taking the medication, I realized that it was what had been blocking so much of what any writer needs most! My ability to think outside of what was going on in front of me was literally shut off for all those years. All along, I'd remembered how I had once LOVED writing from as far back as I could remember. It was after reading books like Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell and Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier as a teenager I knew I wanted to create a book someday. 

For the last five and a half years I've been off the medication and spending my time developing my voice and my brand of writing. After figuring out how to hone my "day-dreaming" into actual stories that I wanted to write, it didn't take me very long to figure out that this was what I was made for. I wrote my book and got two agent offers within a week of sending my proposals. I've completed another now, and I am on my third. It's a long waiting game to find out what's going to eventually happen with these books, but I'm happy because I'm writing. And truthfully, I really have never been good at anything else... because drawing doesn't count.  

It's true, I'm a bit scatter-brained. In everyday life, I pretty much need to be told what to do and where to be. But I sure can focus on what interests me... and that is brain-storming plots and writing ultra-complex, involved love stories that teach a multitude of spiritual life-lessons, not only to my main character (which I write in first person point of view), but also the reader.

I'm very much like the kitten (and yes, I love kittens and jump at the chance to use them whenever possible) in this picture, who's, in essence saying, "Who cares what everyone else is looking at or paying attention to? I've already found what I love most... and it's this amazing, green jingle ball!"  

Writing books is my amazing, green jingle ball. There's nothing in the world I would rather be doing than paying attention to the plot of my current Work In Progress.  


{About Dawn Crandall}

(Updated since 2012) Dawn Crandall is the author of The Hesitant Heiress (August 2014), The Bound Heart (November 2014) and The Captive Imposter (February 2015), all part of The Everstone Chronicles series from Whitaker House. A graduate of Taylor University with a degree in Christian Education, and a former bookseller at Barnes & Noble, Dawn didn’t begin writing until 2010 when her husband found out about her long-buried dream of writing a book. Without a doubt about someday becoming traditionally published, he encouraged her to quit working in order to focus on writing. It didn’t take her long to realize that writing books was what she was made to do. Dawn is represented by Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary.
Apart from writing books, Dawn is also a first-time mom to a precious little boy (born March 2014) and also serves with her husband in a pre-marriage mentor program at their local church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Dawn is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, secretary for the Indiana ACFW Chapter (Hoosier Ink), and associate member of the Great Lakes ACFW Chapter.
The Everstone Chronicles is Dawn’s first series with Whitaker House. All three books composing the series were semifinalists in ACFW’s prestigious Genesis Writing Contest, the third book going on to become a finalist in 2013.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Interview with Janalyn Voigt, Author of DawnSinger

This month, it's my privilege to interview Janalyn Voigt. I discovered her via the ACFW loop, which directed me to her web-page Novel Books. As a result, I've added two enjoyable books to my library through contests she offered. DawnSinger, Janalyn's debut novel will be released July 3rd, and it's currently available for pre-order on Amazon.

JR: Welcome to Hoosier Ink, Janalyn. Could you start off by telling us about yourself and what prompted you to start writing.

JV: It happened over time. My father instilled a love of literature in me at an early age when he read chapters from "The Wizard of Oz," "Robinson Crusoe" and other classics as bedtime stories. When I grew older, and he stopped reading bedtime stories, I put myself to sleep with tales I "wrote" in my head.

As a precocious reader, I soon graduated to the novels in my parent's bookcase. I'm sure those books contributed to my growth as a writer. Eventually, I scribbled my own stories on paper. A teacher noticed my storytelling ability when I was twelve. As a result of his encouragement, I identified my desire to write novels.

I live in a beautiful corner of the Pacific Northwest. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, gardening, and finding adventures in the great outdoors. I dream of owning a horse, exploring all the national parks, and visiting European castles.

JR: Congratulations on the release of DawnSinger. Could you give a brief synopsis for the story?

JV: The High Queen is dying… At the royal summons, Shae mounts a wingabeast and soars through the air to the high hold of Faeraven, where all is not as it seems. Visions warn her of danger, and a dark soul touches hers in the night. When she encounters an attractive but disturbing musician, her wayward heart awakens. But then there is Kai, a guardian of Faeraven and of Shae. Secrets bind him to her, and her safety lies at the center of every decision he makes. On a desperate journey fraught with peril and the unknown, they battle warlike garns, waevens, ferocious raptors, and the wraiths of their own regrets. Yet, they must endure the campaign long enough to release the DawnKing—and the salvation he offers—into a divided land. To prevail, each must learn that sometimes victory comes only through surrender.

JR: I'd like to hear about the journey it took for your book to get published.

JV: My Tales of Faeraven series, of which DawnSinger is book one, began as a story to entertain my little girl during a drive. For the main character of my story, I twisted the name of her doll, Cinda, and came up with "Syl Marinda," a half-breed princess in a divided land. Long after my daughter had forgotten that first story, the world of Elderland took shape in my mind. I could picture its trees, creatures, and landscapes. As time passed, the characters deepened and grew, and so did the struggles of the alliance of Faeraven, a group of kingdoms unified under a High Queen in Elderland. Through several attempts, I tried to record the story as it unfolded for me, but I kept backing up in time because much of the history in the story demanded to be told. Syl Marinda doesn't even enter the scene until close to the end of WayFarer, book two in the series. She is the heroine of DawnKing, book three.

I had quite a story lodged in my mind, but I needed to grow as a writer before I could do it justice. I gleaned magazine credits, but I seemed unable to take the next step into becoming a published novelist. I needed to let go of my own vision of how my writing career would play out. It took my receiving a series of disappointments and turning away from writing for a number of years for me to do that. When I returned, I prayed about what I should write, and the answer popped into my head almost immediately. DawnSinger, the first novel of the series I'd abandoned all those years ago. Although I abandoned my writing dream, Tales of Faeraven and its people never left me. If anything they matured as I did, becoming more complex. I now knew them well.

A little over a year after I began writing DawnSinger, I signed a contract with a small press that would later back out of the contract. That was devastating, but I needed to see that I wouldn't turn away from writing ever again. I signed with Harbourlight just a few months later. I lost a contract for one novel but received a two-book contract and found an agent in a single day. Barbara Scott of Wordserve Literary agreed to negotiate my contract and to represent me.

JR: Which of the following best describes DawnSinger: A true allegory like John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress? A story rich with Spiritual symbolism like the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis? Or a story that reflects a Christian worldview like Tolkien's Ring Trilogy?

JV: Wow, that's a tough question because in reality DawnSinger combines all three. Allegory works its way into everything I write, often without my even being aware it's there. Allegory expresses itself through symbolism in my stories. And because I am a Christian, my story just naturally expresses a Christian worldview.

JR: I enjoy reading your interviews and book reviews on Novel Books. Do any interviews stand out as being your favorite (or least favorite)?

JV: I enjoyed interviewing Lauralee Bliss because she described how she found out about a book contract while hiking the Appalachian Trail. I love that she wasn't sitting in front of a computer staring at a screen but actually out living life. Michelle Griep's interview was particularly appealing due to her sense of humor. And when Sarah Sundin explained her writing process, I was taking notes. :o) My least favorite author feature was Stephen Bly's Finding Love in a Classic Western, not because of the quality of the post but because I had to publish it the week he died. He was a dear man and a great writer who is missed by many.

JR: One thing you're doing on the website is a book reading challenge. How are you doing on yours, and any interesting books that you've read?

JV: I've had to back down my reading due to contract obligations, so I probably need to revise my expectations. I'll always read, though, just at a more leisurely pace than a book a week. I don't understand writers who say they don't read. Much of my storytelling craft I've learned from analyzing the books I read. Besides that, reading another author's novel is like sitting down to a dinner you didn't have to cook.

JR: Thank you for your time, and I can't wait to read DawnSinger.

JV: Thanks for featuring me, Jeff. I can't wait for you to read DawnSinger either! :o)

Check out Janalyn's webpages. Maybe you'll be lucky like me and win a book!
Janalyn Voigt              Novel Books  

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Preparation of Prayer

Photo credit: Stock.xchng
It is likely that if you are reading this shortly after it posts I am currently running on too much caffeine, too little sleep, hoarse from cheering, and slightly emotional. You see, tomorrow morning I join twenty-two 7th and 8th grade students from my youth group as we converge with hundreds of others for the annual youth conference. Four days of staying up late, eating junk food, laughing, cheering, worshipping, and growing together.

There is much to prepare before I head off with Son #1 and the rest of our junior high youth group. Packing, getting the house if order, writing out the schedule for the other two kids while they stay home with Dad, are just a few. But the most important preparation is one that works no matter the ministry--prayer.

As I pack my clothes, I ask God to clothe these kids with righteousness. I pray He outfits them in the wardrobe He sees best for each one. I pray they learn to put on the full armor of God.

As I pack enough junk food to put down an elephant, and throw in a few healthy alternatives, I beseech Him to fill them with spiritual nourishment during the next four days. I pray they hunger for His word and to do His will, while at conference and beyond.

As I pack my coach's t-shirt, I pray for a spirit of unity among our group and for the students to always come out on top in the battles set before them, on and off the court. I pray that they will be good sportsmen in life, as well as in the games. I pray victory for their lives and futures. I pray the competitions will wear them out just enough that they can sit still and focus on the message.

As I  pack supplies for them to decorate their doors, I pray these students embrace their individuality and that they radiate a joy and peace from the inside, not just look good on the outside.

As I pack my camera, I pray that they will capture their own "snapshots"--those memories of special moments with friends and times when they knew God spoke just to them or felt real.

As I pack the Visine, because I always need it, I pray their eyes will be opened to the truth of the gospel. I pray for any who have not yet made commitments to have the scales removed from their eyes.

As I pack my bedding, I pray they are covered by a blanket of protection. I pray against injury and attacks from the enemy, especially in the forms of distractions, temptations, and fatigue.

I'm preparing by praying. I'm praying for relationships to be cemented, lives to be surrendered, and eternity impacted all in the span of four days. And God always answers.

Prayer needs to be applied to every ministry. Do you pray before you write? Do you pray while you write? Do you pray your reader might find freedom through a character's arc? Do you pray that God might use your fiction to impart His truth in the life of someone? Do you pray that relationships might be mended, lives surrendered, and eternity impacted in the span of 200-and-some pages?

If you, do, remember that God always answers. If you don't, why not start today? Because prayer prepares the soil of ministry.

Nikki Studebaker Barcus

Theme ...

Last time I wrote, I thought about repeated elements in my stories. I found I often included a "churchy" character who was not really saved, just going through the motions. My heart aches for people like that.

This month I started thinking about some other main points or themes in my stories. Only one is published -- the others are in progress. Or under the bed!

I kept coming back to the authority of Scripture and was surprised to find it's a cornerstone of my stories.

As I was doing research about the Quakers in Indiana I discovered there was a major church split, "The Great Separation" in the 1830s throughout the Society of Friends. Some groups firmly believed in the Scripture above all, but others believed personal revelation was just as important.

A story I'm working on now includes a scene where a Friend tries to explain the controversy to a neighbor, who is surprised that such a question about Scripture would even come up.

In another WIP, a young Civil War widow is troubled as her mother-in-law embraces Spiritualism -- the New Age movement of the Victorian era. The mother-in-law is grieving the loss of her only son and feels there are better answers outside the Bible than in it. The daughter-in-law is troubled because she never questioned Scripture before. But Spiritualism sounds so modern and scientific. What if there is something to it? All this complicates her new romance with a cavalry officer.

In a contemporary one that I'm working on, a young woman who is a new Christian moves home with her parents to help them start an artists' commune. Her parents are post-modernists who believe all truths are equal and valid until she starts to date a conservative Christian farmer.

In all the stories the happy endings include most of the characters agreeing on the authority of Scripture.To me Scripture is like a light house shining through a fog of relativism and decisions based on emotion. The Bible is my anchor and that's one thing I want to pass on to my children as well as readers.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Social Media: On the Fence about Goodreads?

Authors Need to Connect! (Indiana ACFW)
I've heard a lot of talk about social media and how to use it as an author/writer. We all set up our pages. We watch others. Ask questions. And wonder--am I wasting my time? Do I really need to be here?

I love Goodreads! As an avid reader and long time published book reviewer and columnist in the past, it has really been fun for me, like a hobby, to pursue/friend authors there, as well as load up the books I've read. I have met lots of like-minded readers, too.And of course, as a writer now writing my own manuscript, I hope to be already there if I do publish.

One of the things I love are the focus groups there.(There are legions of them.) For example, Love Inspired authors have discussion groups, which are like bulletin boards with topics—we talk about more than the books, but I think the authors like getting feedback and even information from their readers who join up with the group because these are their true readers. There are other groups—some started by authors but some started by readers. You need to look for them. Find your corner.

Here’s a link to the Love Inspired group: just to get a look at how it's set up. (You might even want to join if that's your area.) I get the discussion on digest  in my email. I can enter in as I have time or if a topic interests me.

Also, I want you to know as a reader when I go to look for you, the author, or for your book, it frustrates me to no end if you don’t even have a profile or your books loaded up. Argh! And you probably need to be checking in occasionally because I notice if you just put up the profile and that’s all you do. As a reader it’s fun to see your blog there (yes, you can load up your blog feed to it so I can catch up with you,) and also just to see if you have a new book. 

I also love to see what YOU read or who your favorites are. On the Books & Such Agency blog they have a feed in the sidebar showing what they’re reading and I take note of that, but it's especially interesting to me on Goodreads, a place for books.You don’t have to rate those books (unless you want to show your favorites.) Here’s Debbie Macomber’s page. Learn from her, grasshoppers. (She’s a bestseller.) She may have assistants doing hers now, but you can be your own assistant until you’re a bestseller :

Also, you can add your Goodreads feed to Facebook and to your blog. You can get all kinds of html to add to your blog from Goodreads, even your reviews, complete with the book cover. People can see what books I have made my favorites on my blog and on my Facebook profile.

I love entering the book giveaways! I have my address already in the Goodreads giveaway site (only the author will see it if I win.)A list will show what books are up for grabs and when you can enter.

AND it’s a place for advertising your book, as well. So many authors and publishers have put up their book ads on it and yes, I click them if I’m interested!

I know there are more aspects, like the quotes. You can put your own quotes up from your books as an author. You can like them, and have them show up on Facebook, too.  

 I haven’t gotten half the books I’ve read up, but I’m working on it. You and I both don’t have time to spend too much time in any particular social media, but this is one place you at least want to have a presence. I uploaded several friends’ books there and I really didn’t have time for that, but it’s one of the places I do influence for friends. (So I did.) If your book isn’t even up there, how am I supposed to put up my review? I might go the extra mile for a friend, but not for everyone.

Goodreads also shows you people who have books similar to your list. You can do comparisons or find a new book. Your friends can send out a recommendation, too, to their list of friends.You can send out recommendations, too.

There are Listopia lists to vote on, too. I like doing that and seeing what others like. You can create a list, vote on lists, find lists (and see if your book is there!)

Anyway, as an author, you should have at the least:
1.    Your profile, bio, a photo, your links.
2.    Your books uploaded so people can find them to put them on their page or review them.
3.    Friend your fans.
4.    If you get a good review on Goodreads, you can message that person to thank them. (There’s a way to send a message on Goodreads.)
5.    Get your influencers (ones who’ve agreed to influence) to put up reviews on THEIR Goodreads page. (Suggest it, don’t bug them to death about it, though…fine line….Ha. Cry a little, I guess.)

It takes time to build a presence, like anything else worth doing. Spend some of your marketing time there, because most (not all, of course) on Goodreads are readers.

Don’t ask me about Shelfari. I never liked it there, but I loved Goodreads. I don’t know why. And be sure to friend me on Goodreads!


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Mid-Write Crisis

It hit me when I was ironing. Halfway through my husband’s shirt I realized my blog due date was less than three days away, and I had nothing to say, especially not to thoughtful wordsmiths.

I haven’t thought much about writing since my story nearly died. Just after New Year’s Day I filled a brown box with black-clipped chapters, fat note files, rubber banded notecards, stacks of books and a handful of marked-up maps. I sealed it with strapping tape and wrote OUT OF BOUNDS in bold black. The pen’s permanent scent hung in the air for a good half hour that Saturday morning.

So the story has endured the attic’s dark cold and heat for more than five months. Not that the story is off limits. Ironically, the story’s title is Out of Bounds. It may return to the light of day, but not today. It’s not ready. Neither am I.

You may be a recovering writer, too. When the tale that gripped you is taken, what then? Or when you yourself pack it away, maybe even throw it away, where to turn? What to say when the words have been knocked out of you?

I don’t have the answer, but I’ve begun again. In One Year to a Writing Life Susan Tiberghien suggests beginning the writing life with daily journaling. (Journal contains jour, French for “day.” How, through two years of French and two degrees in English, have I missed that gem?) Julia Cameron prescribes morning pages, three flowing, uncensored pages at the day’s start to record what is seen, heard, smelled, felt. Blank journals have proved the doorway into an all-new world waiting exploration, discovery and most importantly, liberation.

So today I’m leafing through the last six months. They are laced with exuberance over a twenty-fifth anniversary, frustration with a faraway son, fanning a flickering story idea, yearning for Jesus, and the recurring cry, “LORD, have mercy.”

And He has. He has not only bound up the wound, but borne it, too; not only offered hope but given new life. Disappointment opens doors we dread but dare not pass.