Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Writer's Guide to the First Amendment: Proceed with Caution

If you’ve been following my 2014 posts, you know that the First Amendment is not a “get out of jail free” card. It’s a priceless freedom, and I’m grateful for it. But if you don’t understand its limits, you could find yourself liable for damages and attorneys’ fees.

Contrary to what some people believe, the First Amendment does not allow you to say (or write) whatever you want. Its protections are designed to promote open discussion, but it does not authorize anarchy.

As a writer, the First Amendment can work for you or against you. It can work for you if you want to engage in a robust public debate without having to check and double-check every fact for accuracy. It can work against you if you expect it to protect you from statements you don’t believe yourself. (See my June 26, 2014 and July 24, 2014 posts.)

It can work for you if you bring your arguments into a public forum at a reasonable time and place and in a reasonable manner. It can work against you if you take those arguments onto private property or act in a way that disturbs the peace. (See my March 27, 2014 post.)

It can work for you if you honor the copyright and trademark laws. It can work against you if you ignore those laws.

Yes, the First Amendment protects most speech. But it doesn’t protect everything.*

So how can you ensure that it works for you? While there are no guarantees, here are my best suggestions:

  • Do your homework. If you still have doubts about the truthfulness of the information, turn off the computer and put down the pen.
  • Make your arguments in a public place or to a willing audience. Don’t force anyone to listen.
  • Learn how copyrights and trademarks work, and don’t infringe on the owners’ rights. (Watch for future posts on these issues.)


*There are several other types of unprotected speech that Christians are unlikely to engage in. See my April 24, 2014 post for more information.


Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Her most recent book, Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal (KP/PK Publishing 2013), is a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection. 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

Sunday, December 21, 2014

I love research yes I do…

I love research, how about you?

Okay, I admit it. I was a cheerleader for a while. But not because I could do the splits or do a cartwheel very well. I was just tall – for my age. And it was a small school and there were only three girls on the varsity cheer leading squad, and you get the idea.

Anyway, I’m not writing this month about cheer leading (although I can get happy enough to cheer when I think about this). I am writing about RESEARCH. Research is awesome. I’m kind of hearing “Everything is awesome” from the LEGO movie in the back of my mind right now. Because, for me, everything is awesome when I have something to research.

When a writer researches something she is like Indiana Jones exploring ancient places seeking out a highly valuable bit of a civilization long forgotten “that belongs in a museum!” Only instead of tucking away the highly valuable bit (what she learns) in the back corner of a museum or in a stenciled box at Area 51, she shares it through “story.” And while Indy’s whip and right cross are pretty impressive, “story” has got to be one of the most powerful tools given to humankind.

And what, at least in part, makes “story” so powerful? Research! It is through proper research that readers aren’t sucked out of the world created by the writer. Everything lines up. There aren’t little discrepancies that make the reader halt and say, “Wait a minute. Is that right? I thought…” Yes, it’s all achieved through research, lovely research.

What doesn’t help my personal obsession for research is the fact that I work in a university library. It’s a little cruel, actually. All those
books about every conceivable subject, every time period known to man, from every country in the world just a few steps away. I think God’s trying to teach me something. I think it’s working, maybe, this week. But that’s not the point!

The point is that research well done is important for a believable story. I have to pray a lot while I’m researching because it’s so easy for me be lose myself in all of the information. It’s fascinating to me. Probably how a moth regards the open flame of a taper candle. With God’s help, though, I get what I need and I am safely drawn back out of the sea of facts to write the story He has placed on my heart.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a writer. And if you’re a writer, I just imagine you have some inkling of what I’m talking about. But if you’re a writer who struggles with research and doesn’t find it as awesome as I do, be encouraged. God will equip you with everything you need to walk in the purpose He has for your life. He promised, and He doesn’t lie.


Humbly submitted by H.T. Lord

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Why Write?

By Kelly Bridgewater

Why write? That is a good question. As writers, we spend many hours sitting with our butt in the chair, talking to our characters and plotting our storylines mixed with climax and rising action. We attend writing conferences with published and unpublished authors. We enjoy talking about our characters, either good or bad, without worrying what anyone else says.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. An argument seen at the mall. A glimpse of case or incident on the evening news. An idea while waiting for the children to be picked up from school. I don’t know about you, but my ideas always come when I’m far away from a piece of paper, so I slip out my Samsung Galaxy Note and write myself a reminder note. I enjoy watching a number of crime shows on television. Sometimes I see an idea on the show, than I wonder how I can flip the incident around a little and make it something of my own.

But with all this craziness called the writing life, what is the ultimate reason for doing it?

One of my favorite writing books is Writing for the Soul by multi-published and best seller Jerry B. Jenkins.  He says, “I call writing a sacred profession because I believe God chose the written word to communicate with man” (55). When we write, we are pouring our hearts onto the page. We create characters to go through the troubles of life, however, as Christians, we allow God to help heal them. In return, we allow our readers to experience true healing through Christ even if it is through make believe characters. “Allow yourself to be moved,” Jenkins further writes, “and write what moves you” (56). If we aren’t moved by the power of God, will our readers?

Isn’t that our entire purpose for writing? To lead more people to the saving grace of God. I pray before I sit down and write every word. I want God to do what he wants with my plot line. I want him to use me to write a story that will draw even one person to him. That is the legacy I want a reader in the future who picks up my books to say: That I led them to a better understanding of the love of God.  It doesn’t matter if I make the New York Times best-seller list, but I have sold my soul to the world and didn’t share my love of God with others.

I believe we have a great responsibility every time we sit down and write the words God has laid on our hearts. We wouldn’t be having the desire to write if God didn’t give us the urge to create every single day.

What is your purpose in writing? Do you want to lead others to God with your words?

Jenkins, Jerry B. Writing for the Soul. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 2006. Print.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Blog Away, Blog Away, Blog Away All....

By Darren Kehrer

So you have a blog, it's based on Blogger, and you have a smart phone. Guess what? There is a Blogger app available for most smart phones via your version of an "app store." I will, however, specifically be focusing on the version of the app that is available for Apple iOS.
It turns out that many people didn't know it even exists. Now you can blog on the fly, answer posts on other people's blogs, and check on your own blog at a moments notice while being mobile.

What else can you do:

  • Compose a post that you can save as a draft or even publish immediately
  • View a list of your saved and published posts
  • You can switch accounts (for those of you that have multiple blogs).
  • Upload pics from your phone
  • Add labels to your posts
  • Add location information to your posts (not always advisable)
....and all from your iPhone or iPad.

If you haven 't tried it, it is FREE.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Education of a Storyteller

Louis L'Amour dropped out of public school at the tenth grade, but that was not the end of his education. He jumped from one job to another in the years to come, always in the company of books. His voracious appetite for reading took him through Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and countless other classics, where he gathered critical mass for his reactor of fiction-writing creativity.

Daniel Boorstin once mentioned to L'Amour that he was researching a book on the great explorers of human history, and the celebrated writer of Western novels immediately gave him a rundown of the leading editions of Marco Polo's Travels. "Then I had the pleasure of seeing his ample, well-thumbed collection of Maco Poliana neatly shelved on the walls of his study," Boorstin recalled.

L'Amour's study had 16-foot-high ceilings, stacked high with books on custom-made shelves. "The bookshelves that Louis designed were much like the man himself. Each tall row of shelves made a kind of book-covered door that could be swung open to reveal another sixteen-foot set of book-covered shelves fixed to the wall behind. Louis was a modest man, slow to reveal what he actually knew" (Education of a Wandering Man, vi).

If you've read a L'Amour story, you know that's true: He makes no great show of knowledge about the geography, climate, flora and fauna of the desert Southwest; but you also realize the story is being told by a man who knows what he's talking about. Some of that familiarity was formed on his annual camping trips in the desert. Far more grew out of what Boorstin called L'Amour's "spectacularly serendipitous" reading habits.

Another year is about to begin. What are you reading now? What books are close at hand for the spare moments to come? Remember, the education of a storyteller never ends.

Joe Allison and his wife, Judy, live in Anderson IN, where Joe serves as Editorial Director of Discipleship Resources & Curriculum for Warner Press, 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

Monday, December 1, 2014

If you never try, you'll never know!

If you're like me and have a lifelong dream of being a successful author, there’s one thing you can count on.


The sooner you embrace it, the sooner you’ll get on with the business of doing what you love: creating consumable content. 

 That’s the great thing about the writing biz. Words are consumable. Like food. McDonald’s gets rejected everyday as people pass it up for Wendy’s or Arby’s. But McDonald’s doesn’t quit and try to become like those restaurants. Nope. It just stays the course and keeps doing what it does best: being McDonald’s. 

Because food is consumable, and people get hungry at least three times a day, chances are good that during one of those hunger-fits, they’ll get a hankerin’ for a Big Mac. (Or in my case, a yogurt parfait and a diet Iced Tea--my faves!)

If a writer stays the course, and views rejection as bumps in the road rather than barriers, eventually someone’s going to get a hankerin’ for what they’re writing, and will gobble it up. 

Take the case of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the author of Tarzan. Imagine his disappointment when he opened this letter:
August 20, 1913

Dear Sir:

We are returning under separate cover The All-Story magazine (Oct 1912) containing your story, “Tarzan of the Apes.” We have given the work careful consideration and while interesting we find it does not fit in with our plans for the present year. Thanking you for submitting the story to us. We are
Yours very truly
Rand McNally & Co. 
Fortunately, Edgar Rice Burroughs realized that Rand McNally simply wasn’t hungry for Tarzan that day, so he continued to submit his story and finally talked All-Story Magazine to accept it as a serialization. Two years later it was published as a novel. It has since sold more than 50 million copies and been made into countless adaptations for the screen!

 Wow. That gives me hope. But I'd sure like to know what gave Burroughs absolute belief in his story. It took considerable courage not only to keep his chin up, but to fearlessly re-submit Tarzan at the risk of another rejection. That's tenacity and perseverance--two qualities modern writers need to feast on to nourish their backbones.

As you re-evaluate your writing accomplishments in 2014, and make plans for 2015, remember to look at the set-backs in submissions as pauses, not stops. 

Work on the next thing. And the next. Keep writing. Remember Tarzan swinging through those trees. Every vine you grab is a new opportunity. There are countless choices aka vines out there--you just have to keep reaching and swinging!

Humans love stories, and eventually someone will be starving for the very stories you’re dishing up.

Success is delicious.

I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Writer's Guide to the First Amendment: Commercial Speech

I’m already tired of Christmas commercials. Maybe I should petition the government to ban them. Oh, wait. Those regulations would violate the First Amendment freedom of speech. So never mind.

Commercial speech, such as advertisements, gets less protection than non-commercial speech. But less does not mean none. As a general matter, governmental entities cannot regulate commercial speech unless the speech:

  • concerns an illegal activity (e.g., the government can ban advertisements for heroin),
  • is misleading, or
  • the government’s interest in restricting the speech is substantial and the particular regulation directly advances that interest. (This category is so limited that I can’t even come up with a good example.)
Furthermore, the regulation must be narrowly tailored to serve the government’s interest. For example, the government cannot ban advertisements for all drugs when only some are illegal.*

Commercial speech may also receive less protection under statutory and common laws that give private parties the right to sue each other (e.g., lawsuits for libel). Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court has never decided how the commercial speech doctrine applies to private lawsuits and the lower courts don’t always agree with each other.  

But what is commercial speech? Legally, it is any speech that proposes an economic transaction. In lay terms, commercial speech is any speech—verbal, written, or otherwise—that is trying to get you to pay for something the speaker has to offer. This doesn’t necessarily require an explicit solicitation, however. Merely using a trademark on an educational brochure may be enough.

On the other hand, the mere fact that the speaker/writer is in it for the money doesn’t make it commercial speech. Many reporters wouldn’t write news articles if they didn’t get paid, but that doesn’t make the articles commercial speech. And even though you hope your novel will make you a millionaire, it isn’t commercial speech, either.

But that advertisement for your novel and the bookmark or postcard you created to promote it are commercial speech. If you use them to misrepresent the book, you could get into trouble. But no government can pass a regulation prohibiting you from advertising the novel.

So go ahead and join the Christmas rush.


* This test comes from Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. v. Public Service Commission, 447 U.S. 557 (1980), as modified by Board of Trustees v. Fox, 492 U.S. 469 (1989).


Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Her most recent book, Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal (KP/PK Publishing 2013), is a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection. 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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Thanksgiving Prayer

By Kelly Bridgewater

Heavenly Father,

As we come to another season of thankfulness and my birthday, I want to thank you for a few things this past year. First, I want to thank you for my husband, Michael, for the past thirteen years. Without him, I don’t know if I would have finished my Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. I probably would be worrying about how to pay my bills. I wouldn’t be exploring my ability to write. I wouldn’t be a stay-at-home who has the time to write while watching my children grow. Even being at home, my children seem to grow too fast at times, but then on the other hand, they sometime don’t appear to grow at all. The life of a parent.

I want to thank you for Elijah, my oldest son, who is in seventh grade and twelve years old. I love the creativity you have given him, and the child-like faith he still has even though the world is probably pressuring him to change. I enjoy watching him build and play with his Lego’s. However, please help him control his hyper movements and allow him to be a big brother not a parent. His time will come soon enough.

Next, I want to thank you for Isaiah, my middle child, who is in fourth grade and nine years old. I enjoy his moments of wanting to be cuddled, even at his age. He loves to crawl in my lap and just talk to me. It still feels nice when he wants to do that. Isaiah love language is spending time with others. When you don’t pay attention to him, then he starts to become moody. However, please teach him how to control his temper and learn to keep his room clean.

Obadiah. My baby. He appears to be so big at times, that I can’t believe it. He started kindergarten this year, which still surprises me. Lord, keep his love of learning going as he advances through the years. Allow him to absorb all he can from his teachers and never leave his competive spirit. I pray for his grace and understanding as he grows older. I pray that his joy of sitting in my lap and being read to advances him to a life-long reader.

I thank you, Lord, for my two dogs, Happy, our seven-year-old golden retriever, and Snoopy, our three-year-old Beagle. I couldn’t imagine anyone having a home without a dog. They love you unconditionally and are always happy to see you. Whenever you feel down, they know it and will sit next to you, wanting you to pet them, which will put a smile on both your faces.

Last, I want to thank you for the desire to write. I want to use my words to lead others to you. I want to create a story where the reader forgets their reading a book, but they learn something about your grace and love and ponder if they should be seeking you with their life.

Thank you, Lord. I appreciate the path you have set my life upon.


This same prayer will be featured on my blog, Creating Justice One Suspense at at Time,  this Friday, November 21st. Thank you!