Tuesday, October 30, 2012

NaNoWriMo: Two Days and Counting!

  • Got idea? Check!
  • Completed a healthy chunk of research? Check!
  • Lined out characters? Check!
  • Laid out town? Check!
  • Interviewed characters? To do today!
  • Complete plot/subplot braid? To do tomorrow!
  • Bought coffee? Check!
  • Planned for quick meals? In progress...!
  • Proclaimed participation through social networks? To do today!
  • Reviewed NaNo site? To do tomorrow!
  • Warned family and friends? To do today!
  • Prayed? To do DAILY!
  • Sent my internal editorial staff on a month-long, well-deserved hiatus to the moon! To do at 6 a.m. November 1!
ANNOUNCEMENT TO ALL MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS: I love you very, very much. However, through the month of November--National Novel Writing Month, I will be participating in NaNoWriMo, which means I must write at least 2,084 words a day for 24 of the month's 30 days to meet my goal. If I miss a day or fail to make the count, I must compensate by writing more on other days. Therefore, I cannot engage in social activities or long, delightful phone conversations. I believe in the book I'm working on. Prayers and encouragement will be gratefully accepted. This is a first for me. Please feel free to ask me how things are going, as that will hold me accountable.

Comments, including seasoned advice, welcome. Be brief. Don't expect an answer until 1 December 2012 (exception: agents and editors).

Write on!
Because of Christ,

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Interview with Author Sharon Hinck

Sharon Hinck has just released the "Expanded Edition" of one of my favorite Christian speculative fiction series: The Restorer's Journey. For those of us who write in that genre, this is truly a series for all of us to read. Here is an interview that she has provided...

The Restorer’s Journey-Expanded Edition


The Restorer’s Journey-Expanded Edition

His choices have the power to save or destroy.

With a loved one’s life at stake, Jake charges through the portal into Lyric to stage a dramatic rescue, trusting that the signs that mark him as Restorer will guarantee success. But everything familiar in Lyric has vanished, swept away by deadly lies and a corrupt king. As inexorable forces conspire to turn him from his purpose, Jake finds his path leading to places beyond his courage.

While he confronts the temptation to flee his calling, Susan struggles in brutal captivity. Can she gain freedom before the enemy destroys her spirit, and will Jake choose to follow his destiny before everything is lost?

(Book three in the groundbreaking Sword of Lyric series, The Restorer’s Journey won a Carol Award for speculative fiction. This new expanded edition includes bonus scenes, a ten week devotional guide, and links to audio and video extras.)


This is the third book in the series. Is it the last?

I love the Sword of Lyric world, and hope to complete a fourth book. I began it years ago, but have been sidetracked for a while. In recent years I focused my energy on the bonus material for the expanded editions and getting the first three books back in print in these improved versions. Now that all three are available with all the beautiful new extras, my plan is to get back to finishing the fourth novel.

Of the three books, was this one your favorite?

No. It was the most difficult for me to write.

Although I’ve gotten reader mail from people who say this book was their favorite of the series, it’s a bit darker in tone. Susan’s struggle with captivity and mind poison hit a bit too close to home for me. Reading the book, you experience her suffering over a few days, but writing it, I had to spend many months with her in that Rhusican prison, and that was tough.

However, Jake’s storyline was great fun. He’s an idealist, as am I. Seeing him confront the disappointments in his quest, and also watching him overcome his weaknesses, was inspiring to me. In addition to adult readers, I have a lot of young readers, and I think they appreciated watching Susan’s 18-year-old son grow into his Restorer role.

How did you decide where to put in bonus elements?

Working with the publisher, we decided it was important to keep the flow of the story intact and free from distractions. So the book is designed with a large back-of-the-book section that can be used either after finishing the story, or during the reading of the main story. Small symbols and page numbers at the end of chapters direct readers to bonus scenes, and QR symbols in the margin invite readers to explore audio files, or recipes, or rules for playing Perish – all without interrupting the story.

It was important to me that people would feel that it was worth the investment to own The Restorer’s Journey-Expanded Edition, even if they had a copy of the original edition, so we packed this book with lots of added value.

Besides an entertaining read, what do you hope people experience in The Restorer’s Journey-Expanded Edition?

My hope is that readers who are finding their own life adventures more difficult than expected will be encouraged by the journeys of Susan and Jake. The One chooses unlikely Restorers, but always guides and equips and provides. When the characters relied on their own strength or intellect, their tasks felt hopeless. But when they leaned on the One, they caught glimpses of amazing ways that the One was at work with love and purpose.

Where can people find the book?


Sharon writes “stories for the hero in all of us,” about ordinary people experiencing God’s grace in unexpected ways. Known for their authenticity, emotional range, and spiritual depth, her novels include contemporary fiction and the groundbreaking Sword of Lyric fantasy series, including The Restorer’s Journey–Expanded Edition. She’s been a Christy finalist and won three Carol awards. Sharon’s undergrad degree is in education, and she earned an M.A. in Communication. When she isn’t wrestling with words, Sharon loves interacting with visitors online:
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/sharon.hinck
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sharonhinck

Friday, October 26, 2012

Interview with Author Eric Wilson

By Jeff Reynolds
Halloween's right around the corner, but you're having a hard time finding a Christian vampire novel to read? Is there such a thing? (Okay, I'm talking about a vampire story written by a Christian, not one about vampires who are also Christians.)
This month, I have the honor of interviewing Eric Wilson. Wilson has several novels and novelizations out, including Jerusalem's Undead Trilogy, which you've probably guessed is the Christian vampire stories I'm telling you about.
Jeff Reynolds: While my focus is more on the Jerusalem's Undead Trilogy, I can't neglect that three of the books you've written have titles that some people might recognize, like Flywheel, Facing the Giants, and Fireproof. (You also wrote the novelization for October Baby, which came out September 1st.) First, how did you get that gig? Second, did it require a lot of contact with the Kendrick brothers? Or was it more like being in a room after all the other kids left and having the toys all to yourself?

Eric Wilson: My publisher put me in contact with the Kendricks, knowing that they wanted novelizations of their films. After a long interview process, I was chosen to do the books. I had a blast. The Kendricks gave me lots of freedom. As long as I kept everything in the films in the books, I could add subplots and backstories. They were great to work with. We brainstormed and laughed, then I tucked myself away and wrote like crazy (with each book being completed in 4-6 weeks).

JR: I've read the first of the Jerusalem's Undead Trilogy, Field of Blood. (The other installments are Haunt of Jackals and Valley of Bones.) What inspired this series?
EW: I was, and still am, annoyed with the amoral view of vampires in current culture. Traditionally and symbolically, they represent evil. They are a counterfeit of Jesus's blood providing immortal life. I wanted to write a trilogy for the mainstream market, without Christian lingo, that would go back to historical and biblical foundations for the concept of vampirism. My foundation for the stories started when I saw an article from Jerusalem, describing a 2000-year-old family grave discovered in the same field where Judas hung himself. What if Judas's blood had seeped into those graves? I had to explore the idea. I've traveled in Romania and Israel, so those countries were great inspiration for the setting.

JR: On your website (address given below), you wrote in a letter to critics: I've always aimed to reach those on the fringes of faith--ones who have wandered from the church, but still have a seed of belief; and ones who are too nervous to come through our doors, yet have a desire to know more about the God we serve. How has God used your books in general and the Jerusalem's Undead Trilogy specifically in reaching those you've described?
EW: Sadly, the Christian market is more intent on providing "safe" alternatives than world-changing art, whether in music or literature. That means it is very difficult in this market for a writer to reach those outside the church. Many Christian consumers want tidy stories with easy lessons and black and white morals, though in the real world, life doesn't always work that easily. I've tried to write stories (aside from the novelizations) that are nuanced in character development and biblical ideas. They're not tied up with pretty bows. I've found a core readership of Christians who love the multifaceted elements of my books.

With the Jerusalem's Undead Trilogy, I also found a core readership of nonbelievers. I've received numerous emails about the powerful symbolism of the thorns (sin) in the veins. I've had people say they were about to go feed their own addictions (fill in the blank), then thought of those thorns and chose not to do so. I've had others tell me they had never read a Bible, but went and bought one after reading the trilogy so they could learn more about the Nazarene Blood. It's been a great launching point for dialogue about sin, infestation, and the power of redemption and grace versus the attempts to find freedom on our own good efforts (such as Gina tries to do at the end of book one).

JR: Last year we had a speaker at the ACFW Indiana Chapter talk about branding. It seems having both Facing the Giants and Field of Blood in your bibliography isn't a textbook example. How do you/your publisher effectively market books intended for two distinct and not necessarily compatible audiences?

EW: I've never cared a whit for branding. I care about writing what God puts in my heart, but my ideals tend to get in the way of practical concerns. To my detriment, that has affected my sales. Some people doubt that the guy who wrote Fireproof could write a good vampire story. Others wonder why a guy who wrote a highly original vampire trilogy would waste his time with preachy storytelling like Facing the Giants. The reality is that I'm an out-of-the-box thinker, constantly wrestling through scriptural issues, but I'm also deeply committed to the Bible being the truth. Both aspects are part of who I am. I try to be true to that.

JR: Christian vampire stories sound a bit unorthodox (though it's clear the Collectors in your series technically aren't vampires; in Field of Blood one mentions they like the taste of garlic). How controversial has this trilogy been? If so, how do you use the controversy to your advantage as an author?
EW: Vampires are a demonic representation of evil, always have been traditionally. In that sense, my Collectors are very much vampires. And most novels nowadays have played with those old standbys--garlic, mirrors, and such. I didn't ever write this as a "Christian vampire" trilogy. First, it's not Christian vampires. Second, I wanted it to reach nonbelievers.

The controversy only came from those who hadn't read it and assumed I was "of the devil" or I was trying to "cash in on the
Twilight books by fleecing the Christian flock." If people don't do their research and know a little about me (I'm a deeply devoted Christian, husband, with a Bachelor's degree from an accredited Bible college), then I don't worry too much about their jabs. But, the reality is that the trilogy would've sold much better outside the Christian market.

When Thomas Nelson first signed me for the trilogy, they had an imprint called WestBow that was aimed at mainstream readers. That imprint folded soon after I came on board, and that meant the trilogy got bogged down in an Amish-driven market of that time.

JR: More recently, in addition to the October Baby novelization, you've written a novella and have released the first two installments of a new series. Would you like to tell us about these?
EW: For my own career survival, I've tried to be more aware of branding. My more recent books have been more specifically written for the Christian market, while still dealing with complex issues.

One Step Away
is about a modern family targeted by a shadowy figure from their past. When they get $6,000,000, they don't realize they are part of an experiment. On a twist of the story of Job, they are blessed instead of cursed to see if they will turn their backs on God.Two Seconds Late is a modern twist on the story of Esther. A young woman is dating a state politician, and she discovers a conspiracy to get human tracking implants legalized, for the safety of children and the elderly. She has no idea that big business, politics, and even a Russian assassin have stakes in this, and she alone has been raised up for "such a time as this."October Baby was a blast to write. Based on the screenplay by Theresa Preston and the Erwin brothers, it is a nuanced story. about a 19-year-old girl who discovers that her parents are not her birth parents. In fact, she was an abortion survivor. This sends her on a coming-of-age quest to find her birth mother and the facts surrounding her birth. I was able to add subplots and layers. The book will make you laugh and cry. It's full of humor, drama, a bit of romance, and somehow avoids getting preachy on this delicate subject. The abortion-clinic nurse is one of the heroes of the story, for example.

JR: Thank you for your time, and have a blessed day.
EW: I appreciate it, Jeff. Thank you. May all of us discover the power of the Nazarene Blood, and be free from the thorns that try to entangle us.

Eric Wilson's Webpage: http://wilsonwriter.com

And if you'd like to see the trailer for either Field of Blood or One Step Away? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4t9GUMhY7N8

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Photos Are Creative Works

As with anything else, photographs must have some minimum creativity to enjoy copyright protection. But almost every photograph qualifies.*

Consider this picture of Autumn colors, which I took earlier this month at Crapo Park in Burlington, Iowa. I didn't create the subject, nor did I stage the picture. But I did choose the camera settings and select the scene that filled the frame. I even get credit for being in the right place at the right time.

Then there's the second picture, which I used in last month's post on art versus science. The posed subject may not look very creative, but the copyright laws say it is. The first holder has a candlestick in it to demonstrate its function, and the second is empty so the viewer can get a better idea of its design. All purposefully done to make a point.

Because both photos meet the standards for creativity, you can't use either without my permission.

There is a distinction between natural subjects and posed pictures, however. I can stop you from using my photo of the leaves in Crapo Park, but I can't prevent you from going there at the same time next year and taking your own photograph. With a posed picture, I can keep you from copying the pose as well as the actual photograph. That's because the subject is also a result of my creativity.

As with my photographs, yours are also copyrighted. That's a good thing.

Because it isn't just our writing that is creative.

Kathryn Page Camp
* For an in-depth discussion of the elements that make a photograph creative, see Mannion v. Coors Brewing Co., 377 F.Supp.2d 244 (S.D.N.Y. 2005).

Friday, October 19, 2012

God calls craftsmen

I came with a grain offering to the tabernacle. I saw the horns of the altar for the first time. We washed our hands with a laver, saw the bronze sea and finally went through purple, scarlet and blue curtains and gold pillars into the holy place. We found it dim, lit by a lampstand with seven oil lamps (a menorah in other words) and filled with incense.

Finally we saw the Ark of the Covenant.


We went to see the Tabernacle Experience at First Baptist Church in Elkhart today. This is a traveling ministry that features a life-size replica of the Wilderness Tabernacle.

Of course they cannot travel with that much gold, silver, bronze and finely woven tapestries, not to mention the Ark of the Covenant. They use replicas to teach about God's dwelling place with the Israelites.

One comment about the Tabernacle craftsmen gladdened my writer's heart. God called the "master workmen" in the King James version. The master builders were called by name and their leader, Bezale-el, was filled with the spirit of God, in understanding, wisdom, knowledge and all manner of workmanship. Others were called wise-hearted as they helped create the structure and equipment of the Tabernacle according to God's plan.

While we are not working in gold, silver, bronze, fine fabrics, wood and leather, we are still craftsmen.

How encouraging that God calls us by name and equips us to create works for Him. As I work out plot tangles or other problems I can remind myself that the workmen received a plan from God but also wisdom and skills to carry it out.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Where's Home In Your Heart?

Last Thursday night, I strolled with my family through the streets of my hometown—New Albany, Indiana—enjoying the annual Harvest Homecoming Festival. It was a glorious fall evening with a slight chill in the air necessitating a sweater or jacket. The theme for this 45th festival is “Harvest Goes Hollywood.” We sampled homemade fudge, sipped hot chocolate, greeted old friends and made some new ones. A concerted effort by a number of groups to revitalize the downtown business district has been successful and, as a result, charming, independently-owned restaurants and shops are now drawing in younger families and the “hip” crowd to a once-dying economy. What an exciting transformation! The aromas of roasted nuts and caramel corn mingled with chicken and dumplings, corn dogs and pork sandwiches. Something for everyone. The caf├ęs and art galleries opened their doors wide. Vendors in many booths sold all manner of colorful and creative wares, from T-shirts and trinkets to expensive jewelry and artwork. Firefighters gave kids a tour of the engine and ambulance. Bands and dancers performed live on the festival stage. All the while, Miss Harvest Homecoming moved among the crowd, wearing her tiara and sash. Groups of teenagers congregated in front of the music store, older folks observed from picnic tables, and young couples pushed strollers.  As much as any other time in my life, it impacted me tonight that this is Americana. This is what life’s about. Small town life at its best with families enjoying a beloved hometown tradition together, strengthening ties and the spirit of community.  
As a senior in high school, I couldn’t wait to get away from New Albany, part of Kentuckiana where it sits on the banks of the Ohio and often called the “sunny side of Louisville.” Let me make it clear I was in no way ashamed of my hometown, but I inherited an independent spirit from my mother and wanted to embrace and experience the world. Unlike the majority of my counterparts, I wanted to live and work in a big city, travel to Europe, see Broadway plays and meet all sorts of fabulous, interesting people. When I packed up and moved to the Ball State University campus as a freshman, I only returned home during summer breaks, holidays and vacations for the next 28 years. Along the way, I married my husband, Jim, gave birth to our three children (ages 16 to 23) and lived in Texas, California, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts before coming back home in late 2005 with my family in-tow. Funny how life comes full circle sometimes. I'm proof that you can come home again and yes, Dorothy, there truly is “no place like home.” On my website, I make this statement: “I’ve ‘been around’ in the nicest sense of the word.” As a writer, living in different regions of the country has given me a broader perspective of this great nation and its people, customs, cultures, and geography. I wouldn't have traded those experiences for anything, and they've made me the person I am today.  
When our son Matthew graduates from high school in two years, I’ll be able to say all three of our kids have graduated from New Albany High School—the oldest public high school in Indiana (1853) which served as a hospital during the Civil War, and first in the nation to have an FM broadcast radio station commissioned by the FCC. Notable alumni include Billy Herman (Hall of Fame MLB player during the 1930s and 1940s), Sherman Minton (U.S. Senator and associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court), Josh Dallas (actor, currently on ABC’s popular “Once Upon a Time”), Fuzzy Zoeller (U.S. Open and Master’s Champ—and part of my family), and Edwin Hubble (astronomer for whom the Hubble Space Telescope is named) was a notable faculty member. 
My question to you: “Where’s home in your heart?” As New Albany begins its Bicentennial celebration in 2013, I’m so proud to be a “returnee” to my sweet hometown, full of rich heritage and tradition. You see, the Lord knew where I belonged all along. It just took me a while to see it, and to find my way home again. But oh, I'm so glad I did. My prayer for you, my friends, is that you’ll be so abundantly blessed. Matthew 5:16

JoAnn Durgin is the author of the popular Lewis Legacy Series, contemporary romantic adventures full of faith, family and love (Torn Veil Books): Awakening, Second Time Around and Twin Hearts are available in both paperback and ebook from all major online Christian book retailers. Book #4 in the series, Daydreams, is coming in December 2012. Meet Me Under the Mistletoe, a Christmas novella from Pelican Book Group (White Rose), is expected to release in the next month. She'd love to hear from you at her website, www.joanndurgin.com or on Facebook.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Writer's Review of Julie Lessman's "A Love Surrendered" by member blogger Dawn Crandall

I hardly know what to write... where to start... except to say I am so in love with the words in this book. No, scratch that—I think I’m in love with all of the words in all of Julie Lessman’s books.

I spent a long time reading A Love Surrendered—longer than usual because, first of all, my preparing for the ACFW conference got in the way, then attending the conference took up about a week, and then I felt the need to go through my own 88,000 word manuscript (in three days) one last time before sending it off... but mostly, because I just plain didn’t want it to end!

Ah, yes—all the while I was thinking about Steven O’Connor and Annie Kennedy—trapped in the midst of their intense, angst-filled relationship. When will he see how double-minded he is? Why won’t he admit he’s in love with her? When would she tell her sister? And HOW ON EARTH ARE THESE TWO EVER TRULY GOING TO BE TOGETHER? 

Yes, well. You get the gist. 

And then there’s the whole entire rest of the 400+ page book filled with sub-plots involving the parents and the other five siblings (and their spouses) of the O’Connor clan... and oh, how they’re all still so intriguing!

At the end of Chapter 14... I’m pretty sure I was in love the most right there. It still gives me chills just thinking about it. I took a picture of the words on my kindle so I can see them anytime I want. These potent, soul-stirring words have nothing to do with the romance between the two star-crossed lovers, but between the God of the universe and one stubborn, hard-headed man—and that man’s heart being won over by the best Lover of all. 

Oh... and he was.

Thankfully there is still one more booka prequel, actuallyabout the OConnor clan that comes out next month in eBook form. A Light in the Window is the (ever-complicated, Im sure) love story between the OConnor parents, Patrick and Marcy... and I JUST downloaded it to my kindle in preps for a blog tour next month (Yippee!). You can just bet you know what book Ill be reading next. Its true, I wish I could have Julies words pumped into my veins. 

I received a complimentary and unedited (it hasn’t quite been through the complete editing process yet) eBook version of A Love Surrendered by Revell Books (through NetGalley.com) in order to give a review containing my complete and utterly honest opinion. 

I give Julie Lessmans A Love Surrendered 5 GLOWING Stars.


READ THESE BOOKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Daughters of Boston” Series

The “Winds of Change” Series
And One Last Thing!

Love At Any Cost, book one in Julies new series “The Heart of San Francisco” comes out in April!
 Fooled by a pretty boy once,
shame on him.
Fooled by a pretty boy twice,
shame on me.

Jilted by a fortune hunter, cowgirl Cassady McClare is a spunky Texas oil heiress without a fortune who would just as soon hogtie a man as look at him … until Jamie MacKenna, a handsome pauper looking to marry well lassos her heart. But when Jamie discovers the woman he loves is poorer than him, Cassie finds herself bucked by love a second time, sending her back to Texas to lick her wounds and heal her heart. In her absence, Jamie discovers money can’t buy love, but love built on faith can set a heart free, a truth he discovers a little too late … or is it?
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.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Platform (And I Don't Mean Your Shoes)

Back in the day when we still used typewriters--back when I was writing my first articles (yes, that far back)--we would have never imagined the world of social media. The only people I might run into would be my postman as I hung out at my mailbox (for months or years.) My first articles for a newspaper were written by hand! (Yes, I need that exclamation mark.) My first computer was a marvel. I composed newsletters on that thing, losing a few through the click of a button. My screams were heard for blocks. Oh, and just try to read that dot-matrix print out.

Definitely I love the ease of communication with the publishing world--agents, editors, other writers, the readers. Also, I love that I can retrieve most of what I've written through back up. But this new level of social media in a writer's life really has this introvert longing for the days of quiet retreat. How do we build that platform we're told we need? I didn't have a clue, but I did love email and being able to communicate. That at least helps. It does make me nervous at how I'm presenting my message. I want to be clear and to not meander too far from what I'm spending time writing. How do I stay on track? What best conveys who I am as a writer?

I went on a search of books to read about the subject and I thought I'd share the titles I'm working through on my Kindle. Living where I do, I love that I can sit in my jammies and search for books--at midnight if I so choose. This has helped me the most. I'm in the middle of working through them so no reviews yet. Blogging is my first order of my makeover, thus the blog-heavy titles.

1. 31 Days to Finding Your Blogging Mojo by Bryan Allain.
2. You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins.
3. Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt.
4. Are You There, Blog? It's Me, Writer by Kristin Lamb
5. We Are Not Alone: The Writer's Guide to Social Media by Kristin Lamb.

Kristin Lamb also has a blog talking about social media, and everyone knows about Michael Hyatt (if you don't, go there--reserve days to go over the site.) The main thing is get your writing time mapped out first, then discover what time you have left to work in the kind of social media you feel fits you best. You don't have to do it all. Agent Amanda Luedeke of the MacGregor Literary focuses her blog posts (Thursdays with Amanda) on social media and that platform, too, so go there. 

What kinds of things are you doing in social media? What intimidates you most? Are there any blogs or resources you are following to get your platform established? Do tell! 


Saturday, October 6, 2012

"Write So That No One Despairs"

A long-time professor of creative writing and successful novelist himself, John Gardner advised his students "to write with the assumption that one out of a hundred people who read one's work may be dying, or have some loved one dying. " He urged them "to write so that no one commits suicide, no one despairs...Every writer should be aware that he might be read by the desperate, by people who might be persuaded toward life or death."

For this reason, he cautioned, "The true artist is never so lost in his imaginary world that he forgets the real world, where teenagers have a chemical propensity toward anguish, people between their thirties and forties have a tendency to get divorced, and people in their seventies have a tendency toward loneliness, poverty, self-pity, and sometimes anger. The true artist never chooses to be a bad physician. He gets his sense of worth and honor from his conviction that art is powerful--even bad art" (Gardner, The Art of Fiction, 201-202).

Writers' conferences, workshops, and blogs insist that we strive for commercial viability. Is our work marketable? Is it entertaining? But Gardner confronts us with a question even more insistent: Is our work encouraging?

Our readers may be caught in the gears of daily life, like Charlie Chaplin in "Modern Times." They read our stories to find respite from the pain; and yet, because we try to portray life as it really is, we run the risk of drawing them in deeper and making their pain acute. Even fatal.

I remember reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby in a high-school study hall. The book left me in such despair that I struggled with depression for months afteward and swore off reading novels for years. Great literature? Yes. Great reading for a teenager trying to find his way in the world? It certainly wasn't that for me.

The next novel I read four or five years later was The Bishop's Mantle, by Alice Sligh Turnbull. I suppose Turnbull will never be as well-known as Fitzgerald, and I'm sure her novel didn't sell as many copies, but God used it as a healing balm for my soul. Turnbull helped me to see that the world still had room for compassionate, sacrificial young men, and I could be one of them.

Joe Allison and his wife, Judy, live in Anderson IN, where Joe serves as Coordinator of Publishing for Church of God Ministries, Inc. Joe has several nonfiction books in print, including Swords and Whetstones: A Guide to Christian Bible Study Resources. He's currently writing a trilogy of Christian historical novels set in the Great Depression.

Visit Joe's blog at http://hoosierwriter.wordpress.com

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What’s Your Writing Verse?

A few years into my writing journey, I was frustrated and anxious. Events were not unfolding as I thought they should, yet I still felt that deep desire to write. If I was doing what God wanted me to do, why was I experiencing roadblocks? When I set aside a time of prayer and Bible reading to find my focus, Proverbs 16:3 seemed to jump off of the page in large letters.  After studying it in several translations, I’ve paraphrased it:

Entrust your efforts completely to the LORD and he will cause your thoughts to align with his so that your works shall be established and successful.

Through one sentence with a simple message God built my confidence and clarified my focus. That is renewed every time I revisit this verse.

1.       I’m not alone. I’m in a relationship with the almighty, all-powerful God.
2.       I must exercise faith.  If I say, “Sit back. I’ve got this one God.”  He will, until I learn how hopelessly bereft I am doing it my way.
3.       When I take his path, step by step, my thoughts merge into his will. He gives fresh and new desires in my heart that I find pleasing, joyful, fulfilling.  God doesn’t usually take me on the route that I’ve mapped out, but he always takes me on the best route.
4.       The results are successful, externally as well as internally.
5.       I find myself firmly in places I didn’t know I would go, but which bring satisfying results to me and which touch others.

The verse deserved a place on my office wall where my forgetful heart can readily see it. How about you? What verse has God given you for your writing life? If you haven’t accepted it, take some time to quiet yourself before God. He has so much he wants to give you. A Writing Verse is just one.

Mary Allen lives in the Midwest. She was La Porte County Poet Laureate from 2010-2011 and serves as Arts in the Park Poetry Chair. Mary can be found on  The Barn Door.net, has published numerous article, two real life stories in "Kernels of Hope", and a book of poems, "Journey to Christmas"

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Writing Cave

Chevy in my writing chair

Writing caves. We all have one. Some are fancier than others. Certainly many are neater than mine.

Inspired by Coleen Coble's "nest," I'm posting my writing chair (above). Nothing fancy. Just a chair, laptop, and a shelf full of books I use for research. And yes, sometimes that big dog sits next to me while I type (and my other two pooches as well).

Jake (left) and Frankie (right)
I also have an office, but I mainly use that for when I need to be hooked to the printer or my writing chair is surrounded by too much noise. Usually I can work with noise (I have a scary ability to tune out anything), but sometimes if I'm pushing a deadline, the noise bothers me.

My writing chair is my favorite place to write because it's comfy, but sometimes it's too comfy and I have to move to the office so I don't fall asleep.

And if I'm really pushing against a deadline and the house is just too much, I'll go to the library or somewhere on earth with wi-fi. (I have to write connected to the Internet -- Google is my research buddy.)

I had planned on showing you my office, but life happened, and as I type this, I have a toothache the size of Texas. (I'm hoping I'm making some sense through pain pill brain fog.) And right now, my office isn't presentable. I have an assortment of boxes full of Christmas presents tucked in there right now. (Yes, Christmas. Can you believe it's that time again?)

My choice of music for writing depends on the genre I'm writing at the time. I'm in the middle of a southern historical so I pull up Pandora and listen to bluegrass or Brother Where Art Thou type songs. If I'm working on my nonfiction projects, I will listen to classical. Romance? Josh Groban and Andrea Boccelli. And of course, I fill most of my listening time with praise and worship songs.

But there are those delicious moments when I don't listen to anything at all, and I am in complete harmony with my inner self and the world around me goes away. You know what I mean, don't you? When you write for hours and you look up surprised to find yourself in your writing chair instead of 1832? I love that.

Where is your favorite spot to write? Do you stay in your office or do you have a favorite chair? Where do you find you are most productive? At home? Library? I'm always looking for new locations for inspiration! What about music or TV? What do you listen to when you write? Share your ideas!

 Karla Akins is a pastor's wife, mother of five, grandma to five beautiful little girls and author of the best-selling Jacques Cartier (that went #1 on Amazon in its category) and O Canada! Her Story.  One of her columns on MNN.com was featured on the CNN homepage. 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. When she's not writing she dreams of riding her motorcycle through the Smoky Mountains.