Friday, October 26, 2018

Seasons, Settings, and Story Selections

Some people read a favorite book every year. I don’t have such a tradition, but what I read and when is conditional.

I often gravitate towards a book set within geographical parameters, and prefer a particular genre in a specific time of year. Perhaps it’s odd to say so, but I’ve come to realize seasons and settings tend to influence my reading selections—my mood, apparently tied to my surroundings, and or the weather, driving what reading material sparks my interest.

I don’t think I’m alone either.

Various authors have declared a book they wrote was based on place they visited. I get that. I love to travel, and discovering new places usually inspires me as a writer. As a reader, that’s true as well.

For example, when I went to New Orleans for a visit, I picked up books with a little Creole and Cajun influence. I’ve downloaded books with a beach setting when I knew I was headed for warm weather, blue skies, and the hypnotic pulse of ocean waves. 

Just as a particular setting will direct my reading interests, seasons slant me toward specific genres.
Fall weather makes me think of soup, crackers, woolen socks, and a good mystery…preferably by a good fire. It’s the cool weather I think. 

And color coated trees with brisk winds that make me want to stay home—dive into something that will challenge my intellect, as I race through pages looking for clues and identifying red herrings that might otherwise throw me off the trail for solving the mystery.

Winter, however, brings out my nostalgic side. Holidays and family traditions make reading inspirational true stories, dramas, and historical fiction come to life. I want to hunker down, keep the cold weather out and read as many as humanly possible.

Then spring rolls around, and I’m filled with restlessness. Eager to step outside, I explore, for real and vicariously—tucking fictional adventures into my bag, I look for places to visit, or outdoor spots where I can sit and read.

Last, but certainly not least, when days finally heat up from summer, I enjoy flavorful fruits, weekend getaways with my hubby, and a good romance between Hallmark worthy characters. 

What about you? What influences what you read?

Penelope grew up in Tennessee, but has lived in various states and a few countries outside the United States. She holds a BS in Business/Political Science and a MS in Multinational Commerce from Boston University. 

After working in the field of banking and finance, she left to invest her time with her children at home, and occasionally worked as a substitute teacher. Today, she resides in Indiana with her family where she serves in her church, and occasionally teaches a Bible study or Precepts.

An avid reader of fiction and perpetual student of Biblical truth, she is pursing the life of a writer. She believes her roots, faith, and her experience with other places and cultures, all meld into the voice that splashes onto the pages of her novels.

A Powerful Voice and A Furrow So Deep are Christian Romances published through Anaiah Press, LLC. And her Christmas novella, My Christmas Hope, will be released November 16, 2018.

To follow Penelope on social media:

Monday, October 22, 2018

The Apple in Your Toolbox

By Darren Kehrer

One of the most important tools in the writer's toolbox is the technology we use to spin our tales, log our adventures, and record the journeys throughout everyday life. Our computers, tablets, and cell phones have replaced the ink and quill of writers in days of old.

We all have our favorite devices, brands, and systems that make up the devices in our well-rounded toolbox. Like lightsabers to Jedi Knights, these are the tools of our trade. For me, my toolbox seems to full of Apples, as in Apple products that is.

Regardless of the device, a few important practices can keep all of your "tools" in great shape. No matter the device, be sure to follow are part of your routines:
  • Back up your devices: Computer, Tablet, or cell phone
    • Use an external HD or online service.
  • Use A/V or Malware software:
    • Do your research. Use one that is reputable, not a CPU hog, and is routinely well supported and updated.
    • Yes, MacOS can be vulnerable, but they are a tougher nut to crack. The bottom line is that Mac's need to be setup properly in order to be secure. Do not assume that, after powering up your new Mac, you are fully protected. I recommend Malwarebytes for Mac (which is FREE).
    • The bottom line: users can be tricked into something malicious. Know how to use your technology in order to prevent issues.
  • Don't use extremely outdated software or devices that access the Internet.
    • Using outdated technology or software can open you up to issues that come in the form of incompatible software, bugs, and security issues.
    • Technology is constantly evolving. The minimum requirements for software and security are always on the move.
    • For major software updates, however, give yourself a week or so to make sure no major bugs found their way into the update that would result in hindering your product work flow.
  • Keep a good array of apps to accomplish various tasks: 
    • MS Word, Apple Pages, Scrivener, and Storyist are great writing apps.
    • There are many other apps for drawing, logos, mind mapping, and image editors that all have a place to help you in your writing process.
  • Keep up with technology news.
    • Pick 3 sources to keep up with news about the devices and software you use. This is key to being alerted about issues, bugs, and updates.
Over the next several months, my posts will be focusing on best practices, great writing software, and a few pieces of software you may not even know about.

An Apple a day keeps your writing progress here to stay!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Iron Sharpens Iron--The Conference Season

The Big Dance, the national ACFW Conference of 2018, has taken its place in history. Much as I would’ve loved it, I didn’t get to attend for a variety of reasons. However the writing world is filled with conferences and retreats—Christian, secular, romance writers, children’s writers, state and regional gatherings. All have something good to offer—an opportunity to learn the craft, gather information on trends, and rub shoulders with agents, editors, and writers. Each event has its own distinct flavor.

Annually, I budget  a specific amount to attend a conference somewhere. So this year, for the first time, I went to the Breathe Conference at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Beautiful campus dressed in glorious fall colors! The conference lasted two days and was chock full of breakout sessions. There were so many good ones to choose from that I’ll order several recorded sessions that I missed.

Here’s what I got out of my weekend.

1. Spiritual refreshment. From Marvin Williams’s Sunday sermon to Jocelyn Green’s keynote speeches, The Word infused every speaker’s message. What a blessing! 

2. Specific feedback on my work. Knowing my WIP isn’t ready for prime time, I made a couple of one-on-one appointments with editors and asked, “If these first pages of a novel crossed your desk, what would be your reasons for rejecting it?” Now, that’s not as negative as it sounds since other editors have responded to queries telling me the writing is excellent, but the story “doesn’t  grab me.” The conference was an opportunity to find out exactly where I was losing the reader. Now I know what to work on.

3. Friendships nurtured. Karen, my online critique buddy also attended the conference. Members of our group, The Scriblerians, hail from as far west as Arizona, as far north as Minnesota, as far south as Texas and Louisiana, and beyond the border to Canada. We cherish every chance we get to meet up in person. Karen's purpose in attending the conference was a little different from mine. She was seeking information to build up and finesse her platform, so she concentrated on offerings about newsletters, podcasts, and the like.

Conferences can cost as little as ninety-nine dollars for a weekend (check out Taylor University’s workshop in August) or run into a couple thousand dollars depending on length, venue, and faculty. ACFW even has a free at-home conference that offers sessions concurrently with the live conference.

No matter which meeting you decide would work best for you, go for it. You won’t be sorry. By joining with others in this industry, you become a better writer. As Solomon wrote in Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron.”

Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She is currently working on a middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister.
Linda had always figured she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to learning the craft. She still visits the school and teaches creative writing workshops.
Where Linda can be found on the web: