Friday, December 27, 2013

Interview With Jeff Reynolds

By Jeff Reynolds

I guess I'm running out of people to interview. Or everybody was too busy Christmas shopping. Still, there may be another reason for the interview. So here goes -- 

Q. Jeff, welcome to Hoosier Ink, though I think you're not a stranger here. How did you get into the ACFW?

A. Thanks for the welcome, Jeff. (Is there an echo in here?) I wrote a novel in 2007-2008 (technically, my second, though the previous one from '84 never was published nor should it have been), was signed by a local self-publishing company which closed in '10 with coverage on the Star's front page and at least three of the four stations without my book getting to the press. I read The Complete Idiot's Guide To Writing Christian Fiction by Ron Benrey, which mentioned the ACFW. I joined, got involved with the local chapter and several loops including the critique group. As yet, this novel is still unpublished but it is much better than the edition that would have been published.

Q. In what ways did the book improve?

A. I originally had an idea of having a half dozen friends solve a mystery, so I had six main characters figuring it out and sharing POV. Even on the rough draft, I noticed three levels emerge among the six. Then, I thought about doing it in the first person, using one of the two characters most important to the story.

Q. It's not unusual for me ... er, you to be asking interview questions. Any particular reason why your posts here have been primarily interviews the last two years?

A. It just happened. I was impressed by a book I read -- You Are What You See by Scott Nehring. So I posted a review one month and interviewed him the next. Then, I thought of interviewing authors where there was a theological element, such as Donna Fletcher Crow's Monastery Murders or Eric Wilson's Jerusalem's Undead. Not surprising, I've had either referals (e.g. Christine Hunt via Scott Nehring) or requests by the author. As a result, most months I have at least one person to interview.

Q. What would you say were the highlights among your interviews?

A. In other words, which of my children are my favorites? Actually, Randy Singer made a similar comment to one of my questions. If I had a top favorite, it was that interview -- it's fun interviewing your favorite author. Another good memory was when my scheduled interviewee and I had a hard time connecting, so with about three days before posting time I contacted Kerry Nietz whose latest release Amish Vampires In Space just came out. Hopefully, each interview had spoken to and/or inspired somebody.

Q. I've noticed you've gotten comments from people you've interviewed on your questions. How do you approach the interview?

A. If I have time and opportunity, I'll read at least one novel by the author. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. So I'll check out the author's web page and read the Amazon reviews of their books. I look for things that catch my attention and for items that would not be in every interview. For a couple of interviews I did that weren't posted on Hoosier Ink, I read other interviews by that author to get ideas for questions and note what everybody else asks so I can be different.

Q. That's interesting. Let's use you for an example. What questions would you ask yourself if you were going to do an interview with you?

A. Trying to make your job easy, aren't you? Well, many people know my wife and I have been to about forty different zoos, so I might ask if there were any animals that inspired characters. In my case, I came up with a character in a novel I started (not the one above) named Cappie Berra after observing a capybara, the world's largest rodent. There are other trivial items in my life like getting to ask Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater a question at an assembly during my freshman year at high school or putting together a Christmas music program in Nashville, TN with several local songwriter friends.

Q. I have the impression that you are considering leaving the ACFW. If so, why? What's the future of your writing, and what will you be doing?

A. Where would you get an idea like that? However, yes, I'm probably going to leave this group. My national membership ends in March, so I don't see much of a point for renewing in the Chapter for three months. It has been a matter of prayer most of this year. The best answer is that I feel the Lord might be leading a different direction and I'm freeing myself for the future. Becky and I have thought of taking a mission trip, and I've debated running for public office, as well as several other things. 

Even though I've had an interest in writing since being a teenager, I've had other interests as well: Ceramics, songwriting, and ministry for example. I will be polishing my book and seeking some way to publish, be it traditional or e-book. It's possible in the future I might rejoin ACFW. I do appreciate everyone's prayers.

Q. Since this your last blog on Hoosier Ink, is there anything you want to add? And if some of the readers want to follow you, where would they go?

A. Thank me for interviewing you ... wait, did that come out right? I'd like to thank the people I've met (via the internet) through the ACFW in general, and especially the Indiana Chapter. I had the pleasure of serving in '12 as Chapter Secretary with Rich Barry, Darren Kehrer, and Ronda Wells. 

I'd also like to thank my victims -- er, interviewees: Scott Nehring, Donna Fletcher Crow, Julie Cave, Cynthia Simmons, Janalyn Voigt, H. L. Wegley, Christine Hunt, Eric Wilson, Stephanie Guerrero, Laura Popp, Mary Elizabeth Hall, Randy Singer, Amy Wallace, Pamela S. Meyers, Lynette Eason, former Indiana Chapter member Morgan Busse, Heidi Glick, Deanna Dodson (aka Julianna Deering), Kerry Nietz, Suzanne Hartmann, Adam and Andrea Graham, Wanda Dyson, Debbie Malone, Karla Akins, Jayne Self, Janet Sketchley (the last five were posted on a different blog but not Hoosier Ink), critique partners Ellen Parker and Donna Benson, and especially Rick Barry, Darren Kehrer, Dawn Crandall, and Suzie Bixler.

I mentioned another blog I do interviews. I'm part of a four person rotation for Sleuths and Suspects (, and will be continuing with them. I interviewed one of my other S&S contributors, Heidi Glick, on Hoosier Ink, and another, Debbie Malone, for S&S. Of course, you can also keep up with me on Facebook, at

Thank you for letting me part of this blog the past three years, and I hope I encouraged some of you through those blogs.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Case of the Obstinate Movie Star

Tony Curtis wasn’t content to be a famous movie star. He wanted to be a novelist, too.

He started on that path when Doubleday & Company offered him a two-book contract. With the help of a skillful, hands-on editor, his first novel was a commercial success. But only one of them was a gifted writer, and it wasn't Tony Curtis.

His second attempt was problematic from the beginning. First, he kept missing his deadlines. Second, for whatever reason (probably the frequent employment moves in the publishing business), this book ended up with a different editor. And because of Curtis’ personal circumstances at the time, he didn't have the same face-to-face relationship as he did with his first editor. Still, the new editor put in substantial time and effort and provided detailed comments on Curtis’ partial draft.

Then Doubleday got his "final" draft. Curtis had ignored much of the editor’s advice. To make matters worse, the ending just didn’t work. The publishing house determined that the manuscript was unsalvageable, terminated the contract, and asked for its advance back.

Tony Curtis refused, and Doubleday sued. Fortunately for Doubleday, the publishing contract required Curtis to provide a satisfactory manuscript. That may sound like a “get out of jail free” clause that allows a publisher to change its mind for any reason at all, but it isn’t. According to the courts, a publisher can only invoke the clause if it is honestly dissatisfied with the quality or completeness of the manuscript. Because Doubleday acted in good faith, it got its advance back.

So if your editor has suggestions for improving your manuscript, you might want to listen.

Join me on January 23 and every fourth Thursday throughout 2014 for a new series called “A Writer’s Guide to the First Amendment.”

* * * * *

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

Thursday, December 19, 2013

What Have You Accomplished in 2013?

We’re within twelve days of the end of another year, and many of us are probably tempted to cry “Woe is me!” along with Jacob Marley.

I started writing my first novel in the spring of 2011, what I’ve termed writing seriously. I still have no agent, no book contract, no published novel, no block-long lines of adoring fans waiting to get a glimpse of me. Woe is me!

Or is there woe?

A blog post at Books & Such and the resulting comments inspired me to do a year-end inventory. Of course, businesses do this all the time, all those year-end annual reports full of boring numbers. But if writing is our business, why shouldn’t we do a year-end inventory, a listing of all our writing accomplishments, big and small? I don’t want to be prideful. But this exercise could provide that shot in the arm of encouragement with just the right dosage to show ourselves that we are productive even when discouragement whispers that we’re not.

Consider these potential accomplishments, in no particular order except how they jumped into my brain ~

How many books have you started/finished/edited/polished/submitted?
Enter any contests?
Attend any conferences (writing/blogging/marketing)?
Begin or continue to nurture any critique partnerships?
Form any new relationships within the industry?
Write blog posts, whether for your personal blog or guest blogs? How many?
Read craft books?
Meet with a local group?
Take that first step to begin a mentoring relationship?
Follow/learn from blogs within the industry?
Short stories or magazine articles sold?

How did you do? Look at all you’ve accomplished!

Now, rather than lament, you can rejoice like Scrooge that the fog has cleared and the view is glorious.

Merry Christmas, and prayers for a blessed New Year!

Meghan Carver is a pre-published novelist who, as of this blog post, refuses to cry “Woe is me!” but instead count her accomplishments in 2013 including one book written, polished, and submitted; another book started and in the plotting stage; scribbled notes for several more stories; quiz sold to Clubhouse Magazine; attendance at conference; a critique partnership begun; three meetings with the state chapter; 142 personal blog posts; various contributions to other blogs; and semi-final in the Genesis contest. Whew! J

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Do hobbits celebrate Christmas?

I am unsure how much the Christmas season lends itself to confession, but I have a confession to make - I love J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and everything that goes with it. I can’t help myself!

I have watched the Lord of the Rings movies more times than I would like to admit (same with the Hobbit), including the extended versions (well worth your time, by the way). I have, of course, also watched the cartoon version of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. They were a lot scarier when I was a little girl than when I watched them 20 years ago with my then future husband, but Gollum still creeped me out!

We now own a very nice slipcase-covered copy of the Hobbit, as well as the graphic novel, the trilogy, an atlas of Middle-earth and the Silmarillion - although, I must admit I have had a very difficult time of warming up to the Silmarillion. I will of course try again some day, just because.

And yet, after all this exposure to Middle-earth I can’t answer whether or not hobbits celebrate Christmas. I’m thinking the answer is no. While fellow lovers of Tolkien’s world all know how much hobbits like a good party, Tolkien was very good about avoiding religious holidays. Come to think of it, he was very good at avoiding religion in general or otherwise. Interesting…

"Bag End" from © cdca beckoetter on Fotolia 
Well, I guess that’s one of the many ways Tolkien and I differ – I think hobbits would love Christmas! At least, I know they would love the feasting and gift-giving parts. I also think it would be perfectly fun to gather with Bilbo and Frodo’s family and friends at Bag End. The food would be tasty and the conversation merry (and Merry might even be there, too). Of course, there would be singing and story telling after we eat, and I imagine a hobbit or two would find a nap in another room, just like we humans often do.

If Christmas was celebrated in Middle-earth, do you think there would be hobbit versions of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus? Or elf versions (and I don’t mean Santa’s elves either)? Or dwarf versions? Dwarves kind of look like miniature versions of Santa Claus, maybe they would take to that legend easier than their need of a Savior; they are pretty independent and stubborn, but so are people for that matter.

I think the nativity would still be of Joseph, Mary and Jesus as humans, but perhaps there would be elves and dwarves among the wise men, hobbits among the shepherds and maybe even a hobbit singing while accompanied by the little drummer boy. Initially it may be difficult to differentiate between the boy and the hobbit, of course, but ultimately the furry feet would serve as the tell-tale sign of which is which.

No matter how real Middle-earth can seem to readers, we all know it’s still a fiction. However, Jesus is not and perhaps that’s part of the reason why Tolkien didn’t include His existence in his stories; it would just be too confusing.

I am no Tolkien, and I will never claim to be. Thankfully God didn’t make me to be either. It is my hope that I, too, can produce fantasy stories that capture a reader’s imagination, but I further hope that while the reader knows it's fiction, she will find the courage to believe God isn’t. That somehow she will know God is real and His love for her is also real.

So I may have answered my own question, but if I’m wrong, feel free to let me know. Until then, and in the voice of the one without whom the ring of power could not have been destroyed, I will conclude this post assuming - Hobbitses doesn’t celebrate Christmas, does they, precious? No, my love, they doesn’t.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

I'll Take You There

My daughter had hit a rough patch in her marriage. She and her husband were seeing a Christian counselor, but the emotional stress seemed more than she could bear. In desperation, she sent me a text message: "I wish I could be with you guys right now."

What could I do? Much as I wanted to relieve the pressure she felt, I dare not suggest that she pack her bags and come home to Mom and Dad. That would only make her problems worse. But I could offer her another kind of escape...into the world of imagination. So I texted back:
Let’s go to Granny’s porch to eat some watermelon...The sun’s just gone down and the jar flies are singing (ee-oh-ee-oh-ee-oh-ee-oh-eeeee). Tell me what you see.
This memory came from an evening we actually shared at my mother's home in Tennessee twenty years before.  It was a pleasant, peaceful memory for all of us. We couldn't actually go there anymore because my mother had been in an Alzheimer's center for years, and that house was sold long ago. But my daughter texted back:
I see Bouncer and Cricket [Granny's dogs] doing laps around the perimeter of the yard, trying their darnedest to teach those squirrels a lesson…I see Uncle Dan and Keith crafting a complicated firework cannon with Coke cans and duct tape…Howard is bringing a handful of fresh veggies up from the garden…corn, ‘maters, zucchini…
Together we recreated this scene from our past, and it became a soothing balm for my daughter's spirit. She later said, "With that one message you wrapped your arms around me, Daddy (through a veil of tears)…"

I believe this is an important way God can use the stories we write. With just a few descriptive hints (e.g., the jar flies' song), we can take readers to another time and place to gain a fresh perspective on what's happening here and now. Don't disdain the value of "escapist" fiction, because sometimes our readers need exactly that: an opportunity to withdraw from the heat of the battle to be refreshed and renewed. We can spirit them away to such a place, using memories that we have in common.


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

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Two Thumbs Up for Movieguide® Scriptwriting Classes!

Before I flew to Camarillo, California, to attend four days of concentrated scriptwriting classes at the office of Movieguide®, several writer friends asked me to bring back a report. Here it is.
First, let me explain that one major reason I registered for “How to Succeed in Hollywood (Without Losing Your Soul)” was simply to improve my novel-writing skills. After all, novels deal with characters, conflicts, plots, and dialogue just as movies do. I reasoned that the class would sharpen my thinking and my writing. The class accomplished that goal, but gave so much more.
As Dr. Ted Baehr and Dr. Sarah-Jane Murray poured themselves into our group (limited to 9 students to give more personal attention), their passion for scriptwriting was obvious. All of us received new insights and practical instruction in such skills as:
  * Developing a premise, which guides the overall story
  * Developing a treatment that supports the premise
  * Creating a plot that includes the major components and proper pacing
  * Casting intriguing characters and orchestrating their interaction
  * How to compose crisp dialogue that wastes no words
As I expected, the information received would be fascinating for any novelist, but especially for a writer with any hope of getting a book adapted into a movie (many books defy film adaptation by their very structure). However, the driving purpose behind the Movieguide® classes is to introduce successful Christian authors to the realm of screenwriting to influence Hollywood and our world with messages born from God-centered worldviews and from the Bible itself.
Sounds unrealistic? Not after the friends at Movieguide® point out that films with positive role models and faith-filled messages consistently outsell movies tainted by foul language, sex, and violence. So the modern reality is that even non-Christian Hollywood producers are searching for well-written uplifting screenplays, because they see how such movies yield greater profits at the box office. The irony? So many Christians fled Hollywood decades ago that relatively few know the tips and tricks of producing a quality script that looks and sounds professional. Dr. Baehr and the friends at Movieguide® have a vision for changing that situation and training authors who know the Lord to expand their repertoire so they can write and pitch a movie script as well as they write and pitch their novels.
Intrigued? If so, the next four-day session of concentrated classes will be held April 10-13, 2014. The cost for classes is $1,000, which includes meals. To register or to learn more, call  (805) 383-2000, or email the secretary Tahlia at:

P.S. Dr. Ted Baehr has also written a book that will both educate and inspire you. The title is the same as that of the class: How to Succeed in Hollywood (Without Losing Your Soul). I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Year End Mourning and Joy

     The holidays—Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve—follow closely upon each other sending us in a rush, making our heads spin. For many of us these days are accompanied by dreary gray with the sun on a short schedule. Too-long evenings stretch interminably, sapping energy, spontaneity, and creativity. This whole mix adds to regrets of another year passed with plans incomplete. It may even occur to us that opportunities have been wasted. We fear our most cherished hopes – perhaps for publication are once again dashed.

     In “Journey to Christmas” my chapbook of poetry of the thoughts and feelings of those involved in the first Christmas, Joseph is in this same predicament. He had spent hours, days, weeks, maybe even months preparing a home for his cherished hope - Mary. The news of her pregnancy, of which he had no part, was bitter. It seemed all was lost. All his work and preparation was a mockery. He was ready to cast it all away, forgetting that God has his own way of doing things that often sends us over the rough road, tests our inner strength, reveals our true motivations, and uncovers our weaknesses.

     If you are experiencing year-end blues, think of Joseph and how what he thought to be true was exactly the opposite of how things turned out. Within months, he found himself to be happily married and raising the Messiah. It was an unexpected culmination of many of his heart’s desires. As you compare your 2012 to Joseph’s feelings, take heart. It’s not over until God says it’s over. He’s doing a great thing in you, in his own time.

Mourning His Loss

Grief over what we’ve lost is natural even if what we’re losing has not been ours except in our dreams.
I’ve worked upon this house
Muscles straining timbers,
slapping mortar into place,
making it respectable.
Now, lamplight flickers on white walls
in a room we’ll never share
as husband and wife,
pure, sweet, Mary and I.
I cannot believe it’s true.
Was it her naïveté
or her gentle kindness
That did her in?
I only know we’re through.

This place will make someone else
A good home.
Someone who will care for it,
not tear it—and us— down,
throw away everything
for a youthful fling.
Mary. Mary. How could you?
You were like sweet honey and sunshine.
Who snuffed the light that once was you
cheering the darkness?
The dark and silent night
mocks me and each decision
I could make.
for all she’s done,
who am I to throw the first stone?
Am I so perfect? No.
But, I can’t marry her either.
I will divorce her quietly.
It is settled.
How it wearies me.
Oh, that I would never wake
to the uneasy task tomorrow brings.

Merry Christmas, ACFW friends. May Jesus live so large in your hearts that others see Him when the look at you, recognize Him when they read your writing, and be drawn to Him by the love within you.

Mary Allen is a Hoosier author and poet. She was the La Porte County Poet Laureate 2010. 

To order your e-book copy of "Journey to Christmas" go to

Sunday, December 1, 2013


I love Indiana history, so, as a Hoosier author, I’m always on the lookout for an interesting Indiana story setting. As we enter the season of the celebration of our Savior’s birth, it occurred to me that a little town on Indiana’s southern border could make the perfect setting for a Christmas themed story.


The town of Santa Claus, Indiana is situated in Spencer County along the Ohio River. With a population of under three thousand, Santa Claus would likely be but another sleepy little river town if not for its unusual name. How that name came to be, however, is so tangled in legend that the truth may be hard to untwine, lending a mythical aura to the town, which somehow seems altogether appropriate.


What we do know is that the community was platted in 1849 and originally given the name Santa Fe. It kept that name until the mid 1850’s when the town applied for a post office. The US Post Office Department denied the town's request informing them that the name Santa Fe was already taken, so if they wanted a post office they'd need to change the town’s name.


Okay, here’s were the historical facts get a little foggy. Where’s Rudolph when you need him? According to legend, on Christmas Eve, as the townspeople concluded services at the little log church, they convened their final town meeting for the year. The single order of business was to select a new name for the town, but they were having trouble coming to a consensus of what the new name should be. As the story goes, a sudden gust of wind blew open the church door and the sound of distant sleigh bells were heard. The children began to excitedly exclaim “Santa Claus! It’s Santa Claus!” The adults, probably tired and eager to head home for a warm supper and bed, grasped onto the name. The scriptures tell us that “A little child shall lead them,” so who is to say the inspiration for the town’s new name wasn’t heaven-sent? In any event, I love the story and I’d like to believe it’s true. My imagination goes wild. . .


Back to fact. On May 1st of 1856, the U.S. Post Office Department approved a post office for the town of Santa Claus, Indiana. In 1895, the name was changed to one word; Santaclaus and the place faded into obscurity until 1914 when the town’s post master, James Martin, began promoting the town’s festive postmark on Christmas cards. He even began answering children’s letters to Santa; a practice that is still carried on by volunteers today.


In 1929, a growing volume of holiday mail began flowing into the tiny post office to get the official “Santa Claus” postmark. This caught the attention of Ripley’s Believe It or Not and the town of Santa Claus, Indiana was featured in their newspaper cartoon. Thrust into the national spotlight, the little post office was deluged with over a million pieces of mail.


Santa's Candy Castle
In 1932 Santa Claus, Indiana came to the attention of a man named Milton Harris. The idea of the place sparked Harris’ imagination, and he dreamed of developing a themed attraction called “Santa Claus Town in the little southern Indiana berg. There Santa would work year round and it would be Christmas morning every day. With the dedication of Santa’s Candy Castle, Harris, with postmaster Miller, launched Santa Claus Town—America’s first theme park—December 22nd 1935. The attraction included Santa’s workshop complete with the jolly old guy himself and his elves, and a Toy Village where children could play with popular American made toys; something out of reach for many tykes during the Depression years.


A second attraction, Santa Claus Park, was crowned by a twenty-two foot tall cement statue of Santa which stood atop the highest hill in town. I remember seeing that statue when I visited the place as a child after it became Santa Claus Land, owned and operated by Louis Koch and his son, William. What fun to see Santa in the middle of the summer!  

Later renamed Holiday World, the amusement park at Santa Claus, Indiana has grown and grown and is now a fond childhood memory for my two own daughters.


Despite the widely held belief that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, we Hoosiers know better. The jolly old elf really resides right here in good ole Indiana, and we have the postmark to prove it!

As for my Santa Claus, Indiana story. . .I don't have it yet, but it's percolating.