Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Accidental Bride by Denise Hunter

A Writer’s Book Review 
by Hoosier Ink member Dawn Crandall

My favorite books are always ones in which the characters go through struggles to get their happy endings. Well, not really just struggles... but intense, heart-breaking, emotional pain. And this is why I am addicted to Denise Hunter’s writing. 

Her book The Accidental Bride was excellent. I was so exited to see that it was about Shay Brandenberger, a character from Denise Hunter’s first book in the Big Sky Romances series, A Cowboy’s Touch. She was referred to in the first book as a brokenhearted single-mom who was unable to get over her first love, Travis McCoy, who’d left her at the altar fourteen years ago.

Denise Hunter weaves an amazing story between these two—a story that had my heart hurting for both of them continually throughout the book. But don’t think it’s a downer of a book—it certainly is not. It is a book about a deep, undying love between seemingly star-crossed soul-mates. It’s about a love that wins in the end despite Shay and Travis’ very real fears and apprehensions caused by their past experiences—a love that wins despite everything standing in its way.  

This book is the second book in Denise Hunter’s Big Sky Romances series, but can also be read on its own. 

NetGalley (with permission from Thomas Nelson Publishing) supplied me with an electronic version of this book as an Advanced Reader’s Edition (which means it was an uncorrected proof and not the final interior of the novel) in return for my honest opinion of the book. I give Denise Hunters The Accidental Bride 5 stars. 

If I had this book in paper form I would pass it around to everyone I know and insist that they read it.

To read an excerpt from the first book in the series, A Cowboys Touch, click here.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Accidental Bride right now, click here



Coming Oct. 2nd: The Trouble with Cowboysthe final installment of the Big Sky Series!

Annie Wilkerson is Moose Creeks premiere horse trainer and equine columnist for Montana Living.

When her column is canceled, she’s given first shot at a new lovelorn column—and she can’t afford to turn it down. Only problem is... Annie's never been in love.

Always resourceful, she reluctantly strikes a deal with the town’s smooth-talking ladies’ man Dylan Taylor.  

But the more Annie tries to control things, the more they fall apart. And the trouble with this cowboy is that he might just be exactly what she needs.  


Dawn Crandall writes long inspirational historical romantic suspense from first person point of view and is represented by Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary Agency. She has written two books which are on submission as part of a series, and is working on the third. Soon after finishing her first book and becoming a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) in July 2011 she attended the ACFW national conference where she gained literary representation and soon-after became a 2012 ACFW Genesis Contest Semi-Finalist. She has a BA in Christian Education from Taylor University, writes full-time and lives in northeast Indiana with her ever-supportive engineer husband, Jonathan, and their two cats, Lilly and Pumpkin. Dawn co-hosts a book review blog called A Passion for Pages at apassionforpages.blogspot.com and tweets those reviews at @dawnwritesfirst. To find out more about her, visit her author webpage at dawncrandall.blogspot.com or her Facebook author page: facebook.com/DawnCrandallWritesFirst.

Monday, August 27, 2012

DANGER! Don't Put All Your EGGcellent Ideas in One Basket

            I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”  And you’ve probably read the Bible verse “Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well –Ecclesiastes 11:6.”  Sometimes, however, that advice can be hard to follow when you’re a writer focused on getting published in a sole genre.   
            We all know writers have creative imaginations.  I don’t think there’s a writer out there whose creativity produces stories for an absolute single genre.  Of course, there are lots of writers who accomplish publication for only one genre, but I guarantee their brain creates other WIPs—even if it’s just in their mind.
            So what happens when your only avenue for publication isn’t working out?  Like Chick Lit.  I remember being at the 2009 ACFW National Conference, when I heard that the subgenre category “Chick Lit” was considered a dying one.  This disappointing (nail-biting for some) news spread like wildfire.  And if you were an unfortunate chick (or lad) who labored for months in order to pitch that subgenre at the conference…you could forget about it, or go back to the hotel and change your one-sheet info to represent “Contemporary Fiction.”
            Why wait for this to happen?  Utilize that creative brain of yours and invest in “a collection of egg baskets.”  I know there’s only so much writing time in a day, therefore there’s a basket limit based on your own capability and preference.  But even two baskets are better than one. 
            Here’s my EGGsample:  I love to write in the romance genre—whether its historical, suspense or women’s fiction with a touch of romance.  How peachy, right?  Umm.  Yeah.  Not really.  I don’t have one published novel. 
Should I sit back and wait for romance writers to retire, in hopes that Jim Bob Publishers will pull my proposal out of the slush pile?  Absolutely not! 
            Three years ago, I submitted a column proposal to a local newspaper.  Six weeks later I received a call from the editor, who offered me 400 words per week.  I was ecstatic.  Was it a romance column?   Not exactly.  Actually, it’s a historical column about WWII letters, titled “Treasured Letters from the Past.”  Many of the letters I write about are from a love bird overseas, pouring out his heart to that special cute birdie back home in hopes that she’s waiting for him, too. 
            My column is not a romance novel, but it’s still a piece of my work which is consistently published every week.  In fact, this past week I was so excited when I glanced at the newspaper and saw my column printed on the front page!  That’s eggs in my basket. But it’s not my only basket.
            Make sure you invest your EGGstraordinary talent into more than one basket.
~Marjorie DeVries


Friday, August 24, 2012

Interview with Harry Wegley, Author of Hide And Seek

By Jeff Reynolds

I learned of Harry Wegley on the ACFW loop page. He has several published articles and an autobiography under the name H. L. Wegley. You'll find an interesting list of articles if you did a Google search on that name. Though, considering Harry's book deals with cyber-warfare, I might feel safer using the Startpage search engine, which doesn't store cookies and may keep me safer from Big Brother. Okay, let's get on to the interview.

Jeff Reynolds: Welcome to the blog, Harry . You're probably expecting me to ask how you got into writing, but I'll ask the more important question: How did you come to know Christ?

Harry Wegley: Thanks for having me on your blog, Jeff. To answer your question, I need to back up to my early childhood years. From the time I was four or five, my parents took me to church, but until I was old enough to choose my own church, I attended one that taught some confusing things regarding salvation. I had a lot of questions about this central issue of Christianity. Instead of dealing with the doctrinal issues, I simply shoved the issue of my personal salvation to the back burner until adulthood was staring me in the face. I was a good, church-going kid, but not a saved one. Shortly after turning 18, I began dating this cute, Christian, young lady and she quickly challenged me on the salvation issue. The danger of what I had been doing for several years became clear to me, and I committed my life to Christ at 18 years of age. I didn't grow a lot for the first couple of years, while I wrestled with several doctrinal issues from my earlier church experience. But I was finally on the inside looking out, instead of the other way around. I married that young lady at age 20 and we picked out a fundamentally sound church. That's when my real spiritual growth started.

JR: Your blog page is titled "The Weather Scribe," and your bio reveals you're a meteorologist. How did you get into that field? And would you agree with those who say weather reporters are people lucky enough to be wrong 90% of the time and still keep their job?

HW: Understanding the forecast is where weathermen/women get a bad rap. You probably knew I was going to say something like that. Bear with me and try to think about a weather forecast this way -- HL Wegley says the probability of precipitation for Saturday is 50%. Now Joe wants to know whether he should water the newly spread fertilizer on his lawn, while Joanne is planning the family reunion picnic for Saturday. What do you do with a 50%, or a 40%, or a 30% probability of precipitation (POP) forecast? A business, in a cost-loss situation, knows exactly what to do with it, but the general public, for the most part, does not. If HL Wegley is a good forecaster, 50% of the time he says the POP is 50% it rains... AT THE WEATHER STATION. He is, in a probabilistic sense, correct and HL Wegley keeps his job, even gets a pay raise. But if it rains on Joanne's picnic ten miles away, HL Wegley is a -- I don't normally use those kinds of words. The disconnect between the way forecast information is conveyed and the way it's perceived by the public is but one highly simplistic example of the problems meteorologists must handle when forecasting for a large area, a large population, and a large number of possible weather events. In the Seattle area the weather can vary tremendously over fairly small geographical areas. So, my hat is off to anyone who can bust a forecast, admit it, smile, and go on.

How did I get into this crazy business? That's easy, Uncle Sam told me to. The Air Force said they would give me a full-ride scholarship, and staff sergeant's pay for 2 years, to get a degree provided they got to pick one of three majors I selected from a long list offered to me. My second choice was meteorology and they picked it. They sent me to a great school, Texas A&M. So far, one of the MCs in each of my first four novels has been both a Texas Aggie and a meteorologist.

JR: Your blog page also has a tab for apologetics. What interested you in that field?

HW: I've always had an interest in defense of the faith, but my interest became a ten-year obsession when I saw some people close to me turn, walk away from their Christian faith, and turn to other beliefs, beliefs that were indefensible. At first I wanted to bludgeon them with the truth, but I realized that wasn't scriptural and soon learned that it wasn't wise and was always counterproductive. As I've read more widely, apologists like Ravi Zacharias showed me that most objections to Christianity have existential roots. Sometimes individuals have been burned by "church people" and they blame Christianity as a whole. In other cases the hard knocks of living in a sin-cursed world raise questions about God and His goodness. In the past five or six years, I've tried to balance my study of the logic and facts surrounding the Christian worldview with developing answers to the questions that hurting people often ask. Cheerfully showing mercy, as spoken of in Romans 12, doesn't always come easily for someone whose gifts lie more in the area of discernment than mercy. I'm learning, but slowly.

JR: You have a novel coming out, Hide And Seek. Could you tell us a little about it? And if you'd like, any connections with either weather or apologetics?

HW: Hide and Seek is an espionage thriller about an ingenious plot to neutralize several critical U.S. military weapons systems using cyber-warfare. When the two very bright MCs, Lee and Jennifer, discover the sinister plot, they are targeted for elimination before they can disclose their findings. Their story contains both a love story and a survival story. Both stories are fraught with problems. One of which is Jennifer's stated agnosticism while Lee is a committed Christian. The book contains a couple of brief, interesting apologetical discussions between Jennifer and Lee. The weather connection is that Lee has degrees in Meteorology and Computer Science. Hey, he sounds like me. My wife says so too. She's jealous of Jennifer. Read the book and you'll understand why.

JR: With your various experiences in life, what is your outlook for our world and your advice to the church based on that outlook?

HW: A ton of books are being published attempting to provide that advice, and they're written by some people much better equipped than me to provide an answer, but I'll take a shot at it. I first became aware of world events at about the time of Dwight Eisenhower's first election to the presidency in 1952. I was six years old. I can clearly remember all the radical changes of the 60's and have watched with sadness the downward moral spiral in America since then and the growing ascendancy of evil.

Unless our nation experiences a large-scale repentance and returns to God's principles, both in government and in our people's daily lives, this nation has a dark future. Christianity seems to be on the decline in our nation, in quantity and in quality. This is not the case in all nations. Despite severe persecution, the Church is growing and thriving in other parts of the world.

But, regardless of where you live, I would say to parents, plant the truths about God and your Christian faith deep in the hearts of your children. Teach them both the "what" and the "why" of your faith. Steel them against the tough times that appear to lie ahead. To the youth I would say, get to know God well by reading His word and observing what He has revealed to us about Himself. He is good and you can trust Him. Also, if your parents don't teach you, take it upon yourselves to learn what you believe and why you believe it. Know these things well enough to explain them to others and don't be afraid to do so. And finally, to everyone, watch and pray, for no one knows the moment, the hour, or the day of our Lord's return. It could be very soon. Live in light of that fact every day.

JR: Thank you for your time, and hope you have a blessed day.
HW: Thanks for hosting me on your blog, Jeff. May God bless you as you use your gifts to minister for Him. And please, have a little mercy on your local weather forecaster. Meteorology will never be an exact science.:)

Harry's webpage: H. L. Wegley
Harry's blog: The Weather Scribe
Book Trailer: Book Trailer

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Is Hard Work Creative?

Creativity can be hard work, but hard work isn't creative.

So far we have discovered that you can't copyright (1) titles, names, short phrases and slogans; (2) ideas; and (3) facts. This month we will cover a fourth category: material composed entirely of information that is common property and contains no original elements. It doesn't matter how hard you worked to compile and arrange the information.

Take telephone books, for example. They are composed of public facts (names, telephone numbers, and addresses) and organized based on logic rather than creativity. Think how useless a telephone book would be if the white pages weren't arranged alphabetically and the yellow pages weren't arranged by business category. It may not be fair when someone else copies your material and reaps the benefits of your hard work, but it is not a copyright violation.*

So what about cookbooks? You can't copyright recipes, but some cookbooks contain additional material. Where this mixture occurs, the publisher copyrights the compilation as a unit but knows that the individual elements retain their status as copyrightable or uncopyrightable material.

Look at these pages in The Melting Pot: A Quick and Easy Blend of Israeli Cuisine, by Tami Lehman-Wilzig and Miriam Blum. The page on the right lists the ingredients at the top then gives instructions on how to prepare the fish dish. The ingredients are facts and the instructions are procedures or methods that, as we will discover next month, also cannot be copyrighted. So anyone can copy the right-hand page word for word.

The left-hand page, however, contains creative material. The page starts with a copyrightable photograph, which is followed by the name of the recipe (not copyrightable), and ends with text that gives a short history on how fish were used in Jewish culture. While the facts given in that history cannot be copyrighted, the word arrangement can be. Since it would be inefficient and expensive to copyright each photograph and text entry separately, the cookbook itself is copyrighted as a compilation.

Of course, these same principles apply to other types of works. Readers to this blog are familiar with the Thomas Nelson publishing house. Harper House sued it for violating a copyright in a pocket organizer.** The court held that Thomas Nelson's version of the pocket organizer contained many of the same unprotectable elements (e.g., blank forms) but had not borrowed the copyrightable text.

Join me next month when I discuss the final category of uncopyrightable material.

Kathryn Page Camp


* Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Service Co., 499 U.S. 340 (1991).

** Harper House, Inc. v. Thomas Nelson, Inc., 889 F.2d 197 (9th Cir. 1989).

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Name Game

When our group of writerly sisters met, Natalie, who writes speculative fiction, had a problem. She couldn't settle on a name for her main character.

"I'm stuck," she said. "I can't write on until I have a name." She needed one suitable to both her genre and her character. The girl no longer worked. The character was gelling in her mind, but the name eluded her. So we sat around my dining room table brainstorming names--alas, to no avail.

A couple days after our gathering, Natalie sent out a Facebook message to us that she had found the perfect name. We all celebrated her victory.

Character names are extremely important. Try to imagine The Adventures of Clarence Finn, Harriet Eyre, The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Joe B. Smythe, or Robert the Pooh. What if Old Yeller had been named Golden Boy or Because of Winn-Dixie were Because of Walmart? Would a rose by any other name truly smell as sweet? I'm with Anne Shirley on that one. If roses were called skunk cabbages, they couldn't be as fragrant. (And would you want to read Bertha of Green Gables?)

As with most words, a name carries with it connotation and denotation, the latter being its actual meaning (which the writer can discover by visiting baby-naming sites). The connotation is the baggage the name carried with it, for the writer, but also for the reader. The two may be quite different, depending on personal experience with the name. For example, I won't name a positive character Jackie because a boy by that name tormented me throughout my public school years. Bonnie is out for me, too. You likely have a list of off-limit names.

Soon after Natalie's conundrum, I had my own naming quandary while writing my third middle-grade novel, this one for the lower end of that readers' range. It's set in east-central Indiana in the 1930s. My mc is a ten-year-old feisty girl who dares to confront her step-father about his parental skills--or lack thereof. I was torn between Leora and Tillie (short for Matilda June). I put out a plea to my critique group, the writers' group, and on my Quirky Quill blog and Facebook. Tillie won by a landslide. (Her older brother calls her "June Bug.")

Recently, I saw a cartoon on Pinterest in which two characters were talking. One remarked to the other that he felt disoriented because the writer kept changing the character's name.Have you ever agonized over a name? How did you resolve the dilemma? What factors went into your final choice? How many times did you change the name before you found the one? Feel free to leave a comment.

Write on!
Because of Christ,
Sharon Kirk Clifton

Postscript: If you know of young writers in your sphere of influence, consider pointing them to Quirky Quill, a blog written for and by MG/'tween readers. Thanks!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Peachy Parable

by Rachael Phillips
Once upon a time there was a peach tree.

I know, I know. I should never begin a story with a cliché, a passive verb, and a protagonist with a wooden personality. But grant me a little literary license here, and the peach tree and I might make it worth your while (think peach-pecan praline shortcake).
Now that we understand each other [clear throat], I repeat
Once upon a time there was a peach tree.
It aspired to be the best peach tree in the whole world. It opened its leafy arms to the sunshine. It devoured plenty of nutrients from the rich cocoa-brown soil and drank deeply of the freshest silver rainwater. It even went to ACFW conferences to improve its production. …

I know, author intrusion. Sorry. To resume—
 The tree’s creative juices flowed, its ideas flowered, and it just knew this was the year it would happen. Success! Shortcake! Bubbling hot, crusty peach pie, fresh from the oven!  

Brrrrrr. Instead, the tree was given the cold shoulder. The deep freeze, even.
Timing was everything, and everything went wrong.    

Nothing grew on the tree’s branches, not even itty-bitty nubbins of opportunity [sniff].   
Disappointed crows perched, squawking, “I thought you were doing something, here. Where are the peaches?”    

The peach tree wished it had a BB gun. Still, it preserved—er, persevered. Even the year after a particularly disappointing season, it conducted its usual drill. It opened its arms to the sunshine. It devoured plenty of nutrients from the rich cocoa-brown soil, drank deeply of the freshest silver rainwater, and, yes, attended even more conferences, though it knew the same old thing would happen.
But the same old thing didn’t happen.

No cold shoulder. No deep freeze.
Instead, warmth and showers of affirmation and, ta-da! A contract.  

Well, yes, it’s true I’ve never met a peach tree that signed a contract, but, hey, this is fiction. Camels can go through the eyes of needles, right?
Yes, I know I just mixed metaphors. Jesus did, too, sometimes. Deal with it.

Where was I? Oh, yes. The peach tree signed a contract, and then another, and suddenly its branches were loaded with dozens of big, delicious marketing opportunities. Dozens.

The proud, happy tree tried to support them all. Sometimes, though, she drooped and pooped out and even thought she might crack, especially when bunches of big, yummy prospects dropped from the tree’s branches before they even ripened. Plunk! Plunk! Plunk!
Ack! I can’t let those get away! God, why the feast or famine?

The Creator said, “Do you really want Me to halt the feast?”
The peach tree paused. Um, no.

She could re-learn to like what she loved. Not so hard, especially when she could share her flavorful bounty with dozens, hundreds, even thousands of people.
The droopy tree stood straight (more or less). “Thank You for the feast, Lord. I know You’ll be with me whether life’s a peach or the pits.”
“Don’t forget the pie in the sky isn’t fiction.” He smiled. “All this may have happened once upon a time. But you will live a for-real happy ever after.”

Monday, August 20, 2012

Becoming a Giant in Faith by JoAnn Durgin

Yesterday my husband, Jim, and I attended an event at Huber’s Winery & Orchards in the beautiful, rolling green hills (known as the “Knobs”) here in southern Indiana. The day was idyllic—perfect temperature with bright sunshine, a few clouds and enough of a breeze to keep it comfortable. Huber’s is a year-round, popular local attraction, as well as a tourist draw, where families go to pick fresh produce, feed the ducks, take carriage rides or hayrides (depending on the season), attend concerts, taste wine made on the premises or dine in the family-owned and operated restaurant. Jim and I were there to attend an event honoring those termed “Giants in Faith.”
As I listened to the stories of 29 individuals and/or couples who’ve served in ministry in one capacity or another (from age 10 to 92), I was awed. I was humbled. The ten-year-old sells lemonade, started an art class and holds a small fair in her backyard every year to raise thousands of dollars for the local children’s hospital. The oldest honoree has multiple degrees and has served as a missionary, Sunday school teacher, nurse and….well, you name it and she’s done it and appears tireless and ageless. One couple has been married 63 years, and in spite of the frailties of old age, they’re still serving the Lord side-by-side. With big, bright smiles. Another man we’re privileged to call a close personal friend felt God’s call and left his high-paying insurance sales job a couple of years ago to start a much-needed ministry for middle school and high school boys. Somehow, he’s managed to persuade the high school officials to allow them to meet in the high school once a week for meetings—training them in how to be effective communicators, leaders and young men of faith. What a vital ministry, and I so admire the strength and courage this man has to follow that passion and make it a reality. God opened the doors, and the kids are coming, praise the Lord.

Perhaps what impressed me most was the humility shown by those being honored. They shifted, looked down at the floor or up at the ceiling, and many seemed embarrassed. Others wore pasted-on smiles and some appeared as though they’d rather the floor would open and swallow them. The friend I just mentioned is a trailblazer, without a doubt, although he doesn’t see himself that way. Most definitely, he’s called of God. As we were speaking with some friends and prepared to leave the event yesterday, I mentioned how I felt I needed to be doing more for the cause of Christ. Not because I ever expect to be honored as a “Giant in Faith,” but…well, just because. Jim reminded me of all the things I’ve done through the years working with children and youth and in the local church when we served in ministry together in California, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and then here in my native Indiana. Then another close friend (and honoree) said, “JoAnn, you’ve moved on to another type of ministry, and all those other ministries were a prelude and helped to prepare you for what you’ve been called to do now. You write Christian books and probably reach more people than most of us in this room combined.” Wow. I was humbled all over again, but not because of any sense of self-importance.

You see, it helps to be reminded we all have a purpose, a reason, a ministry unique to our spiritual gifts and talents. It’s part of God’s wonderful grace and another way of showing us His love. What we do with those gifts and talents is up to us. Take this blog, for instance. There are those who are gifted teachers and editors, and I so admire them all for sharing and imparting that knowledge. I write Christian romance, but I try to dig beneath the surface and impart spiritual truths through my books—through the eyes of my characters and their stories. It’s my personal goal and ministry to make people smile and be uplifted, but I’m not doing my “job” if they don’t walk away and feel they’ve been “fed” in some way from  God’s word. So, I write stories of much more than romance…I write stories of faith, family and deep friendships. Not everyone will like them, and that’s part of the lesson you learn when you become a published author. But for every one who doesn’t, there’s another you touch in some way. God knows, and that’s all that really matters.

I’ll admit, sometimes I’m weary and exhausted and take time to be refreshed. The best way to do that is to immerse myself in God’s Word and prayer. Read favorite verses of scripture and meditate on them. And then there’s refreshment that comes in entirely unexpected and wonderful ways, such as the letter from a woman right here in Indiana I received telling me how the second book in my series touched her, and her marriage, in a life-changing way. Those are some heady words, my friends. Again, it’s not about me. I write for an audience of One but with that higher purpose in mind. I may not be serving as a missionary in a foreign land, but I’m serving right here. Right where I live. And that’s my calling, and my ministry. What I do with that calling is my choice, but also my responsibility.

How are you serving Him today? Are you following your special and unique calling?

Blessings, friends. Matthew 5:16

JoAnn is the author of The Lewis Legacy Series published by Torn Veil Books (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada). Her fourth book in the series, Daydreams, releases in late 2012, as well as a Christmas novella, Meet Me Under the Mistletoe, from Pelican Book Group/White Rose Publishing. She'd love to hear from you via her website at www.joanndurgin.com or on Facebook. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

What Will Your Editor Check?

Straight out of college I landed a job proofreading and later editing book manuscripts for a Christian publisher. Nowadays I'm more interested in writing my own stories than editing for others, but to this day I freelance edit for one magazine publisher.

"What do you look for when you edit?" a friend asked. "What do you do?"

I've edited so long that I never considered this work to be educational, but for writers wanting to know, following are a few typical things I check when reading a manuscript. Perhaps knowing them will help you to polish your own work to a brighter brilliance:

- Spelling (I know, "Duh." But you'd be amazed what kind of spelling errors I catch, even from PhDs.) This includes foreign words, which should be spelled as perfectly as English ones. (There will always be readers who know the right way to spell it, so don't ruin your story for them by flubbing on the spelling.)

- Numbers. A number is a fantastic place for an error to hide. If you type a street address, a ZIP code, a Bible verse reference, or anything else using numerals, you have a chance of including a typo that can pass many proofreaders' eyes undetected. Better to catch these mistakes before publication.

- Incorrect quoting. Multiple errors can happen in a quote. Here's one sample based on a real manuscript I read: As Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, etc." (In other words, never place anything inside the quote marks unless the speaker literally spoke it. In this case, there's no recorded instance that Jesus ever said, "Etc.")

- Logic. Quite commonly, a writer understands exactly what he/she is trying to say, but the words on the page do a poor job of expressing those thoughts. If an idea comes across as muddled or illogical, either I'll fix it, or I'll flag it for the author to rewrite.

- Dangling modifiers. Modifiers are words or phrases that...well...modify something else in the sentence. Grammarians say they "dangle" when they're used improperly. Here's one spoken at a college commencement ceremony when honorary degrees were being bestowed:

"An alumnus and longtime friend of ________ University, the Lord has greatly blessed Pastor Johnson." (Name changed.) Literally, the speaker claimed that the Almighty was an alumnus even though he intended for his modifier to refer to Pastor Johnson.

         Here's another:

"Walking through a meadow in springtime, my allergies will always flare up." Wrong. Literally, this says that the person's allergies can go walking in a meadow (either with or without the person), so "walking through a meadow in springtime" is the dangling modifier. Better to say, "If I go walking through a meadow in springtime, my allergies will flare up."

-Age appropriateness. If your manuscript is destined for elementary schoolers, I'm going to flag any long $5 word that your audience will be unlikely to know. Don't dumb down your work, but don't force your readers to keep a dictionary handy either. Communicate!

-Unnecessary jargon. Many professions or hobbies use jargon unknown to the typical reader. If you must include some, either tip off the readers to the meaning or else switch to a generic word. Again, resist the urge to impress with your vocabulary when the real goal should be to communicate.

-Believability. Can your readers believe what you wrote in its own context? I once proofread a story in which the author included a bridge over a river. In fact, that bridge was a key feature of the setting. However, she plainly described the bridge as a couple hundred years old. Made of untreated pine. And on a blazing, sunny day, sap oozed from the timbers and made the surface sticky. Flag on the play! Untreated pine (a relatively soft wood) exposed to the sun, the wind, the rain, and the snow every day is going to rot away in less than two centuries. It will no longer exist, let alone be oozing fresh sap.

-Scientific credibility. I'm no scientist, but I'm interested in science. If I suspect you're playing hanky-panky with known principles of science, I'll question it.

-Geographic reality. Please don't make the Nile River flow south, nor the Mississippi River to flow north. I once proofed a children's novel that included the artist's illustrations. One picture showed the family car descending a small mountain road with the Mackinaw Bridge dead ahead, a couple miles farther north. In that case, I flagged the artwork, not the text. I've been on that highway. There is no such mountain (or even big hill) in that spot.

Well, there are many other blips that can pop onto an editor's radar. But this brief sampling can help you to eliminate many boo-boos that can make an editor shake his head. Happy writing!

--Rick Barry

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Planning for Purpose

Can you remember what your life looked like when you were 12-years-old? Now, I know for some of you that requires accessing memories that are much farther in the past than for others.

As a 12-year-old girl, I spent my days in middle school. I had my first male teacher. I took piano lessons and played softball. I wore braces on my teeth and friendship pins on my tennis shoes. I changed classes for each period, took computer class for the first time, and got contact lenses. I also won my first writing contest.

This week I’ve been thinking about how God prepares us and provides for us all throughout our lives for the purposes He desires for us to complete (Eph. 2:10).  God promises us that he does, indeed, have plans for us to accomplish (Jer. 29:11) and that He will pave the way for us and equip us with whatever we need (Eph. 4:11-12),(Heb. 13:20-21) and that it will all be for the good of His people and according to His will.

This week I interviewed a mother and daughter whose just-released  book, Time to Choose: Growing Up Under Hitler and Watching History Repeat Itself, chronicles the mother’s upbringing in war-torn Eastern Europe during the first half of the twentieth century and her immigration to the United States. As a 12-year-old in Yugoslavia, Hilda’s family thrived as farmers because they knew how to work hard. She tended the chickens, herded the cows, and gathered vegetables from the garden and fruit from the trees. She helped her mother cook for their large family and hired help. She also began life as a refugee and took over the responsibility to care for herself and her family.

What struck me as I read the book and then talked with this remarkable woman, was the way God prepared her for the tasks He would set before her over the years.  He equipped her with the work ethic to provide for her family, even as a young teenager. He readied her to journey across Europe and on to America. He trained her to look to Him for every need she had and to obey even when it didn’t make sense. And eighty years ago, He placed her as the often-unnoticed baby of the family, where she frequently heard and saw things that would later become the basis for this call-to-action book.

So, what about you? How has God prepared you for the life you're living now? What in your past prepared you for your future? When you look back at your childhood, what clues do you see that you would be a writer? What events—good, bad, or ugly—is God using now to bring about His will for your life or those in your circle of influence?

*If you'd like to read my Amazon book review of Time to Choose, please click here.

Nikki Studebaker Barcus


Friday, August 17, 2012

In God's hands ...

A skittish paint mare snorted and her eyes widened as her trainer approached her with a terrifying object in his hand. The thing was big and noisy. He could wad it into a ball or unroll it and let it flap in the breeze. It snapped and crackled and crinkled, and moved chaotically. All those factors combined to horrify the mare.

She couldn't get away because he held her lead rope in his hand. She scrambled backwards and thrashed from side to side, but the ghastly thing was inescapable.

She had to face it, because the trainer would not let her run away. She was probably wondering why she ever trusted him in the first place.

After several minutes she braced herself and let him get closer with the thing in his hand. Then he brushed her with it, unfolded some of it and waved it around.

Finally she let him unfold it completely and drape it over her.

She looked pretty silly covered in a blue tarp but with the trainer's help, she survived the ordeal.

All the while horse trainer Lew Sterrett preached to a crowd at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds in Goshen, using horses to illustrate Biblical truths about faith, trust and leadership.

This illustration from Sterrett's "Sermon on the Mount" program stayed in my mind.

While he was working with the mare and the tarp he explained that everything is in God's hand, even trouble.

Everything is in God's hand, including but not limited to my worries about my family, the farm and drought and my writing career.

The trainer meant no harm to the horse. The exercise would de-sensitize her and make her more useful in the future, more trusting and more obedient.

I've been trying to look at my troubles that way -- that I can trust the Lord to lead me through situations, that he has a plan, that he is higher than I am and knows where we are going just like a well-trained horse going down a trail.

Just like every other part of our lives, our writing endeavours are in the Lord's hand.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Six Reasons to Bless the Quotidian

Weeding, watering, feeding, fetching, cooking, washing.

These are a smattering of the quotidian, the every day tasks that are therefore common and ordinary. They are the present, ongoing jobs that cease only when one draws final breath.

These daily demands frustrate, discourage and sometimes drive us writers to despair. Why can't we break our earthy bonds? Wouldn't it be far better, we wonder, if daily tasks were done once for all so that waking hours could be given to what we find useful, valuable? I think yes.

But Kathleen Norris taught me otherwise. Through The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and "Women's Work" she has uncovered the beauty--and indeed the need--for the quotidian. What good are they to a writer?

The domestic pins her to real life. Dailiness requires a writer to traffic in the concrete, the specific, always good fodder for fiction. Before sitting down to this entry I blanched dozens of Roma tomatoes picked just this morning. Now I know not only the shade of yellow that the tomato blossoms have given my favorite work shirt; I also know the tomatoes' tangy scent, the slip of boiled skins losing their grip and the pop of a core prised from a tomato's fleshy walls.

The mundane invites contemplation. Years ago I read Douglas Gresham's biography of C.S. Lewis. The author chronicled the frustration of Lewis's brother Warnie over the incessant interruptions of Mrs. Moore, the mother of a friend whom Lewis had promised to take into his care, should the need arise. It did, and Lewis was beckoned to her service almost hourly. I used to wonder what additional stories Lewis might have written if it weren't for Mrs. Moore. Now I wonder whether the stories that have shaped me would have come to be apart from Mrs. Moore. My guess is Lewis invited Mrs. Moore's demands to mold him and his stories.

Every day chores cultivate humility. They remind the writer of his finiteness. Although the day may seem to stretch long as a highway across Kansas, the work will not go on forever.  Fatigue visits daily and bids us lay our burdens down until the morning. The dark of night is a welcome cloak.

The ordinary cultivate thankfulness and dependence. To have the strength, to have the will, to have the mind to work, all are gifts of the present. And no task need be done alone. Christ is present in every moment to strengthen, to guide, to give courage to do the task again now.

The commonplace opens our eyes to see and savor the holy in the mundane. Washing a sink full of dishes reminds me that Christ my Husband washes me with the water of His Word. As I daily redress the wound I sustained from last weekend's short-but-exciting career in downhill mountain biking I remember that Christ gladly took far deeper wounds so that I am healed. Spreading clean, white linens on a bed gives me an idea of the pure white linen prepared to clothe all who belong to Christ.

The daily creates a thin place between heaven and earth. This thin place is where the temporal and the eternal overlap. Think of manna in the desert, the daily animal sacrifices that provided a covering for Israel's sin, the remembering of the Lord's sacrifice by the eating of bread and the drinking of wine, our Lord's teaching us to ask for daily bread and commanding His children to not worry about tomorrow since today is troubled enough.

Engaging the every day deepens a writer. The quotidian form him into a fuller person, enabling him to find common ground with every person he encounters, for no one who draws breath has slipped his earthy bonds.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Business Cards

Before I share a bit about business cards, I must share I could hardly find this blog composing spot. How "things have changed" during the time I took several months off to move and travel! For me, this has already been a year of too much change. . . anyone else feel that way?!

One of the MANY changes for me is my business card (name card or calling card). Because I changed addresses and phone numbers, hundreds of my pricey color and glossy cards are now extinct. So these days I'm using a temporary cheapy card as I decide the appearance of my next business card. This is what the front side of my temporary card looks like. The back is blank. (Click on it to see it better.)

Since a new business card is on my mind these days (now and then), that's what I'm blogging about, hoping some of you who read this will have some great suggestions for me and others to use from your own experiences. Also, it's an important topic I don't think we've discussed here yet.

From decades of using cards, I have these random observations:
  • Glossy fronts are great, but not glossy backs. They're nearly impossible to write on.
  • Books covers make great fronts. They stir up interest and discussion with potential readers.
  • Some type fonts and sizes are difficult to read, like my current temporary card above.
  • Until now, I've had one card per book (so I could show the covers). But now I want to put all my books on one card. So I'm wondering: what's the best way to do that? Maybe like my temporary card? Or maybe a folded card? Or maybe a bookmark card? If anyone has experiences with the last two, I hope you'll comment.
  • So I no longer have to ditch heaps of cards when my contact info changes, I think I'll only include my website and website e-mail address on the card. It's easy to change phone numbers and mailing addresses on websites. Not so on cards. I have before crossed out and written over, but I know that's tacky (although economical)!
In a month or two, I should have my new business card ready to post, along with suggestions why having a card is important.

Until then, warm summer and rain blessings,
Millie Samuelson
Millie's books are available in paperback and inexpensive Kindle from www.Amazon.com:
  • Hungry River: A Yangtze River Novel (Dragon River Trilogy Book One)
  • Dragon Wall: A Great Wall Novel (Dragon River Trilogy Book Two)
  • Women of the Last Supper: "We Were There Too" (new edition releasing this fall)
  • Jade Cross: A Stone Ten Keepers Novel (Dragon River Trilogy Book Three, 2013 or 2014)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Reality Check

A week ago I had the privilege of chatting on the phone with a good friend in our Indiana chapter about my writing and where I want to go with it. She had a lot of good advice and gave me a pep talk. Some of you have agents and your agent will do this, but if you don't have an agent, do you have someone who can get you back into the game? Someone who shrinks your head and gets you back on course? My friend cares about me and prays for me. I'm blessed. And I pray for her and hope I can give her a boost in her writing.

After our talk I tried to come up with some questions to direct my writing goals and the next manuscript. I'm thinking about my mission statement, too.  I'm still working through the questions, but maybe some of them will help you in your own reality check (if you're at this place and not in the middle of a current WIP.) I try to write down a stream of questions to guide my thinking as I move on to my next project.

1. What do you do if you're not writing? What are you thinking about? 
2. What are your favorite stories? What drives you crazy in some stories?
3. Coke or Pepsi? Coffee or tea? Do M & Ms leave a mess on the keyboard?
4. Coffee shop or home in a closet? Where are my index cards?
5. If I were a color...if I were a tree...wait! That's not important. Really. Next. Question.
6. Here is your $25,000.00 advance. What do you spend it on??
7. What book do you wish you had written? Why haven't you?
8. Favorite author? Why? What do you like about that author's stories?
9. You've just been contacted for a reality show. What will they call your show?
10. Why are you still here? Shouldn't you be writing???????

~ Crystal Laine Miller 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Three Tips for Creating Compelling Characters

I don’t know about you, but characters often make or break a story for me.  As a writer, I try to remember what makes some characters and their stories more compelling for me than others.  Here are a few tips I try to keep in mind as I write based on the characters that I love to read about again and again.

1)   Give your characters a few quirks.

Quirks are those things that we all have – whether we acknowledge them – that make us unique. It might be a penchant for constantly getting into trouble ala Anne of Green Gables, the girl who made lots of mistakes but tried to only make the same ones once. Or it might be a foilable like fighting the need to control EVERYTHING in our lives. 

2)   Put those characters into a situation that will force them to do the one thing they promised to never do.

In A Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island, the heroine Alanna Stone has promised never to return

Monday, August 6, 2012

Writers are weird.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Recently I drove a friend of mine to a downtown Indianapolis hotel because her son had an early appointment at Riley Children’s Hospital the next day. On our way there, on downtown Meridian Street, a police car zoomed out in front of our car and stopped. The officer jumped out, drew his gun and shouted at a suspect to get down on the ground.

My passengers (my friend and her mother) screamed and ducked.

I grinned ear to ear and took in everything. “Oh this is awesome. Check out that gun!”

I memorized every detail – the size of the gun, the stance of the officer, the way he held his weapon, his tone of voice, how neatly pressed his shirt was, and his tall, skinny frame. I studied everything carefully, thrilled to be witnessing a real-time live crime drama.

My friends, frightened and shaking, stayed on the floor.

It reminds me of the time in Kansas many years ago (okay, over 30 if you must know) when my boyfriend and I had a gun held to our heads for being parked in a farmer’s field looking at stars through my boyfriend’s zoom lens camera. (We really were looking at the moon and the stars. Honest. Really. Why don’t you believe me?)

The owner of the field pulled his muscle truck up behind us and put on his fog lights. Minutes later his son pulled up and did the same.  They got out of their trucks and walked up to our car.

They were drunk.

They had rifles.

They cocked them, held them to our heads and yelled at us for being in their field

I prayed while my boyfriend cried.

Somehow we negotiated our way out of the drunkard's line of fire.  As soon as we escaped unharmed I turned to my boyfriend and said, “I can’t wait to write this down!”

He left me because of that.

Writers are weird. They can’t go through anything without filing it away as “research.”

Some writers scream when they see a stick up and then there are those of us who just can’t wait to write it all down.

Are you as weird as I am? What experiences do you remember hurrying to write down?

 Karla Akins is a pastor's wife, mother of five, grandma to five beautiful little girls and author of O Canada! Her Story.  Represented by Hartline Literary Agency, she lives in North Manchester with her husband, twin teenage boys with autism, mother-in-law with Alzheimer's and three rambunctious dogs. Her favorite color is purple, favorite hobby is book-hoarding, and favorite food group is cupcakes. When she's not writing she dreams of riding her motorcycle through the Smoky Mountains.