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Thursday, December 08, 2016

5 Ways to Nurture Your Creativity During Christmas

by Susan May Warren
First, I’ll just admit that I’m a bit of a writing addict.  I LOVE to write, even the rough draft stages and when I get an entire day to write it’s like, well, Christmas.  But I also love my family and just hanging out with them, doing puzzles, making cookies, chatting, laughing…so I love that there are mandatory breaks in my life to pry me away from my stories.  When I am in the middle of writing a book, up against a deadline, I’m so full of excitement it’s difficult to look up.  To eat.  To speak clearly.


But, because of Christmas, my brain gets a chance to breathe.
Letting your brain breathe is essential for creativity.  Even when I’m in the middle of a book, taking a day or two off to look up, get out in some fresh air, have a fun, no-stress conversation with friends can stir up a new perspective in my story, a fresh thematic thread, a undiscovered scene.  Letting my brain breathe also breathes new life into my novel.
So, while I won’t be writing, per say, over Christmas, I’ll still be working….and here’s how.
5 effective ways to breathe new life into your creativity while you let your brain cool off.
1. Get outside. Take a walk, run, go play on a playground…just breathe in the fresh air, the sunshine, listen to the wind, smell the snow/leaves/grass.  Somehow being away from the television, the football game (but TiVo it, because, well…it’s football!), the chatter, even the smells of the kitchen will allow you hear your thoughts.  And it’s these thoughts that will allow your creativity to stir to life.
2. Listen.  Here’s the truth:  I get in trouble when I open my mouth.  So, I force myself to listen.  And not just to the happenings in the family, but the stories of the past, and particularly the details of life in the days of our elders. Listen to the rich tales of the past and let it seed ideas for your novels (especially if you are a historical writer).  Take a few notes, ask a few questions and you’ll be surprised and delighted with the things you learn and the seeds of creativity planted.
3. Read a book. Preferably a novel. I suggest reading outside your genre because it will force you to relax and simply let a great novel nurture your creative side.  Turn off your internal editor and simply enjoy the characters, setting, plot points, even theme.  Even though you are not spending time analyzing it, the elements will sit into your brain like fertilizer, and allow those new ideas to grow.  Hey, it’s Christmas – give yourself the gift of reading!
4. Read your Bible, or some other spiritually nourishing book.  I read Oswald Chambers as well as my Bible every day and the daily nourishment of spiritual truth helps me sort out the focus of my daily tasks and even my novels. But when I have a stretch of time like Christmas break, I take extra time to read something that digs deeper – a longer Bible passage, maybe study the Greek of a verse, or perhaps I’ll read a commentary on a passage. (On my lineup for this year:  Jesus is better than you imagined.  I’m already three chapters in and love it.)  It’s like getting a deep tissue massage of my soul, working out the poisons of life and letting the truth flow.  In our busy worlds, if we don’t take time to feed our spirit, we will end up thirsty, and looking to quench it in quick, even unhealthy ways. Feed your soul now, while you have a moment.
5. Go to church. I’ve had the unique opportunity the past few weeks to attend churches different from my home church.  I love the freshness of a new worship situation – even a different denomination.  Over Thanksgiving, I attended a Lutheran church with my parents and soaked in the reverence the liturgy brings to my worship.  A few weeks before, I attended a fresh young church in the inner city with my daughter, and joined the exuberant praise of the college-age students. Their buoyant joy filled my heart with a new enthusiasm for praise.  Both pastors then offered sermons that gave me story ideas and answers for scenes I was struggling with.  I was able to go home, take notes on what I’d heard, and apply them to my story.  All that “breathing time” finally bore fruit.
I don’t know what your Christmas season includes, but give your brain time to breathe, and you’ll find that you’ll return in the new year ready to tackle those NaNoWriMo edits!
Merry Christmas!
Susie May
TWEETABLES

Susan May Warren is owner of Novel Rocket and the founder of Novel.Academy. A Christy and RITA award-winning author of over fifty novels with Tyndale,BarbourSteeple HillSummerside Press and Revell publishers, she's an eight-time Christy award finalist, a three-time RITA Finalist, and a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award and the ACFW Carol. A popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation, she's also the author of the popular writing method, The Story Equation. A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at: www.susanmaywarren.com. Contact her at: susan@mybooktherapy.com.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Words are Wonderful Things

by Linore Rose Burkard

Writers are wordsmiths. We play with, struggle over, muddle in, misuse and pluck words into and out of our books or articles with anything from reckless abandon—the heady steam of inspiration—to plodding, pulling-teeth frustration. 

One day's work is like rolling full steam ahead, while another's is a journey on a horse-cart as we struggle to find the right words. If we do, the magic happens, the work sings, and we leave readers happy.

As writers we know perhaps more than anyone, the power of the written word.

And yet--what a struggle we have at times to get those words written.

We may over-write, under-write*, fail to write, or fail to thoroughly edit what we've written.  

Since this is my last post for the year for Novel Rocket, I offer the following words that I've gleaned over the past months to encourage you in your writing journey, whether you are at an acme of success, rolling along on a fast track, or climbing the trenches. (Do we ever leave the trenches? Even J.K. Rowling has to face a blank page when she writes.)

Enjoy the following—and if the shoe fits, well, you know what to do.  

It is never too late—in fiction or in life—to revise. -Nancy Thayer 
Write even when you don't want to, don't much like what you are writing, and aren't writing particularly well. -Agatha Christie 
Forget about all the reasons why something may not work. You only need to find one good reason why it will. -Dr. Robert Anthony 

I don't know of one 'overnight bestseller' that didn't take a year and a half to get there. -Mark Victor Hansen

I mailed a manuscript to fifteen publishers. The fifteenth one said yes. - Max Lucado                           

You cannot cross the sea by staring at the water. -R. Tagore (You cannot write a book by staring at a blank page. Write, now. Right now.)
Nothing will come of nothing. Dare mighty things. -Shakespeare
Every writer I know has trouble writing. -Joseph Conrad
It's not over til it's over, and it's never over. Don't give up too soon, and it is always too soon to quit. -Edward W. Smith
If God didn't have real plans for us and want to use us, he'd take us to heaven. It's that simple—and that complicated. -Anonymous
The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary. -Donald Kendall
Believe, when you are most unhappy, that there is something for you to do (or write) in this world. So long as you can sweeten another's pain, life is not in vain.    -Helen Keller
Writing is like a sculpture where you remove, you eliminate, in order to make the work visible. Even those pages you remove somehow remain. -Elie Wiesel 
You can't think yourself out of a writing block; you have to write yourself out of a thinking block. -John Rogers
In closing, a poem on the power of words. While the poet may have been thinking of the spoken word when she wrote this, it can apply to us who wield the pen as well.

Words are Wonderful Things 

Keep a watch on your words, my darling,
For words are wonderful things; 

They are sweet like the bees' fresh honey,
Like the bees they have terrible stings; 

They can bless like the warm, glad sunshine,
And brighten a lonely life;  

They can cut, in the strife of anger,
Like an open, two-edged knife. 

                                  Mrs. E.R. Miller

To your writing success,
Linore

*For word detectives: Under-write, a compound word, meaning not writing enough, or fully, to describe or portray a subject. NOT underwrite, as to accept liability.   

TWEETABLES




Linore Rose Burkard writes historical romance and, as L.R.Burkard, YA/suspense. Linore teaches workshops for writers, is a mother of five, and still homeschools her youngest daughter—preferably with coffee in one hand, and an  iPad in the other. 

For a chance to win a free copy of one of her books, simply subscribe to her mailing list at either of her websites (above). Winners are announced in each newsletter, which now has content for writers, readers, poets and dreamers. (That means you!) 

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

What Are Your Priorities? What Are Mine?

by Michael Ehret
“Our life is the sum total of all the decisions we make every day, and those decisions are determined by our priorities.” Myles Munroe, 1959-2014, founded and led the Bahamas Faith Ministries International (BFMI)

There are so many things one can do. Many, many, many of them are good, prosperous, even inspirational. This post, my last for Novel Rocket, is about not doing any of those good, prosperous, and inspirational things.

Been thinking a lot about focus and priorities—and purpose. I’ve been given—and have developed—a certain skill set. The same is true for you.

But on top of that, God has gifted me with creativity and empathy, a combination that helps me see into the inner lives of people and develop scenarios that will, hopefully, not only entertain them but help them live better. My decisions have not always focused on using those gifts in the best ways—good ways, often, but not the best. It’s time to focus on using my gifts differently.

“I learned that we can do anything, but we can't do everything … . So think of your priorities not in terms of what activities you do, but when you do them. Timing is everything.”  Dan Millman is a former world champion athlete, university coach, martial arts instructor, and college professor
My original intent for this post—now, don’t laugh—was to outline for the writers who read it how to focus their time and attention on the things that matter. But as I started writing, it occurred to me that this is clearly not a subject I know anything about.

I’m learning a little, perhaps, bit by bit (thank you, Allen), but am in no position to suggest to any of you how to do it. With one key exception.

Do it with God. Do it with God intentionally. Because, if you don’t, this world will lead you more away from your calling than toward it.

“Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.” (Romans 12:2, The Voice)
Implied in this Scripture, which I have claimed as my life verse since my salvation as an adult in 1981, is the fact that this world will attempt to mold me (and you) and that, as a child of God, it is my responsibility to resist that attempt by staying close to God and perceiving, through prayer and study, His will for me.

It only took me 35 years to begin seeing this verse in a more full manner.

Maybe that’s what I can leave with you. Maybe that’s your takeaway. Stay close to the Lover of Your Soul. And leave room in your life for Him to lead. Then follow. Follow.

TWEETABLES

What Are Your Priorities? What Are Mine? by Michael Ehret (Click to Tweet)

It’s time to focus on using my gifts differently~ Michael Ehret (Click to Tweet)

Do it with God intentionally~ Michael Ehret (Click to Tweet)

____________________________________
 

Michael Ehret has accepted God's invitation and is a freelance editor at WritingOnTheFineLine.com. In addition, he's worked as editor-in-chief of the ACFW Journal at American Christian Fiction Writers. He pays the bills as a marketing communications writer and sharpened his writing and editing skills as a reporter for The Indianapolis News and The Indianapolis Star.




Monday, December 05, 2016

How To Know You Should Write Suspense


by Ronie Kendig

Years ago (we won’t mention how many decades I’m referring to) when I first got serious about writing, I explored many different genres. One of my favorites back then was historicals. But I quickly shifted into romantic suspense/military suspense and speculative fiction with suspense. In an interview recently, I was asked how I started writing suspense. Admittedly, that simply made me shrug. I’ve always been writing suspense in some form or fashion. But I wondered how other authors would answer that. 

So, I asked some of my suspense-writing friends how they knew they should write suspense. Here are their responses: 




When you're walking through a hotel at a theme park thinking, "A terrorist could hide out here for years..." 


I knew I needed to write suspense because I'd been doing it in my head since I was about 15. Twenty years later, I decided it was stupid to waste all these exciting stories on an audience of one (me) and started writing them down! 





So . . . I take a road trip to 'get away from writing' and fall into a Stephen King like scenario that is screaming 'write me!' I am writing it now.




I have no idea how to know if you should write suspense. It’s just what sticks in your brain. Funny story. Diann Hunt was writing RV There Yet and was going to have a moose poke its head in the RV. I said, “Di, moose are dangerous! They kill a lot of people every year.” She was thinking of Bullwinkle, and I was thinking of a person trampled to a bloody pulp, probably egged on by a killer. 







You look at your hot tub cover folded halfway open and think how you could hide a body in the water under the remaining half. 

and/or
Nothing excites you more than learning the man standing next to you at your kid’s soccer game is an experienced homicide profiler.
and/or
You hear of a poisonous plant and wonder who you could kill with it.
and/or
You guess the twists in all suspense books and movies.
and/or
You greet your young daughter’s new boyfriend (whom you immediately know is a weasel) by saying, “I’m her mother—and I kill people for a living.”

I've always been partial to suspense, but I knew I'd found my calling when I woke up the middle of the night and saw a man standing in my bedroom...or rather the silhouette of a man. I froze, immediately awake, wondering if I could be quick enough to reach my gun before he pounced on me. We were at a stalemate for what seemed like an eternity before I dared move. I flipped on the lamp and realized what I'd thought was a man was actually the dark outline of several pairs of shoes hanging on my over-the-door shoe hanger against my white closet door. I laughed at myself, but it took a long time to be able to go back to sleep. 






If you're a criminal at heart but don't have the guts to actually do the deed. Or, you'r quite the hero in your own imagination. You know, those who can't do. . . uh, write. 






You quickly survey the best escape plan in case someone with deadly intent shows up---EVERYWHERE YOU GO! (TRUE for me!)

When you can’t stop reading it. 


Let me tell you, I can keep people in suspenders for days! OH! You mean suspense! Well, ever since I was a child, I loved telling stories, beginning with writing in my dream journal. I took classes and refined my craft. In 1984, I had a sci-fi dream that I wrote out and decided to make into a full story. Thus, the "Da Guv" was created and began the "Tales of the Interverse Faire" series. 


Ronie Kendig 
How do I know? Because I fall asleep writing romance. Seriously. And no matter where I went, I worked out tactical plans for safe ingress/egress, and what could go wrong. I say I don’t like theme parks, but it’s really the crowds and the innumerable scenarios that hit me while trapped in hour-long queues. 





When you have a brain that wonders what would have happened if Anne Shirley arrived in Avonlea and found a dead body en route to Green Gables. (Thereafter she launches Carrots Investigations and ropes in Gilbert Blythe as her Watson)


When a writer realizes the world is a dangerous place, and you want to show readers there is hope.


Everywhere you look you think about everything that could go wrong. 
There’s a kidnapping or murder happening behind every bush. 



From the days of Nancy Drew I've loved reading suspense and mysteries, so it was natural I'd write them. It's the only way I get to be part of frightening situations that would paralyze me in real life. 



When you take notes while watching every true crime drama on the Investigation Discovery network.


I realized I should write suspense when I took a hard look at my life. Thoughts that every white conversion van contained a kidnapped child...or a dead body. A good look at my bookshelf loaded with books on "how to poison" or "how to murder someone and get away with it" was also a clue. 



No choice, with my background. :0 
[Carrie has an extensive background in forensic art and instruction.]











Are you a suspense writer? Or do you have a quip regarding How to Know You Should Write Suspense? Share it with us in the comments! 


TWEETABLE



Ronie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling author of more than a dozen novels. She grew up an Army brat and seeks to honor our military heroes through her stories. Now, she and her husband, an Army veteran, have an adventurous life in Northern Virginia with their children and a retired military working dog, VVolt N629. 

Her newest release, Conspiracy of Silence (12/6), is receiving rave reviews. 

Kendig keeps the tensions high and the pace lightning fast, with military action scenes worthy of Vince Flynn.--Publishers Weekly

"... fast-moving, roller-coaster thriller..."--Booklist

"... an explosive, action-packed global journey .... Kendig has pulled out all the stops in this highly entertaining read that has plot elements of a Tom Clancy or Dan Brown novel. ... Kendig has out done herself."--RT Book Reviews Top Pick

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Too Much Christmas


by Marcia Lee Laycock

“I baked a bit.” My mother-in-law smiled as my husband piled the tins of cookies, Christmas cakes, chocolates and tarts on the counter.

“I should say you did!” He said, and we all chuckled.

Then Christmas day came and the turkey and mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes and stuffing and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pies. We ate the left overs for weeks. I think I gained at least five pounds through that season, and I think it’s still sitting on my hips. By the time my mother-in-law left we were all feeling like we’d had a little too much Christmas. One of my daughters commented that maybe it would be a good idea to scale things down a notch the next year.

In our prosperous North American society, it’s easy to take things to an excess that is neither of spiritual benefit nor physically healthy. All the gift giving and trappings of Christmas are good to a point, but when things go overboard the true significance of the season can easily be buried under all the celebration. We get excited about the decorating and baking and gift buying and forget that our Saviour was born in a rough stable with no glitz, no glitter and most likely the most basic of food and drink. Those who knew His true identity came in secret to pay homage. Even the angels were restricted in their announcement, appearing to the most humble of that society, shepherds tending their flocks. That first Christmas day was the most significant time in history, yet it was wrapped, not in loud fanfare and celebration, but in a quiet awe and reverence.

We are a little like the apostle Peter after he witnessed one of the most astounding events of Christ’s time on the earth—His transfiguration. Seeing Elijah and Moses speaking with Jesus, Peter exclaims, “I will put up three shelters…” (Matthew 17:4). His first inclination was to celebrate but he had no idea what he was saying, no idea that he was in fact bringing Jesus down to the same level as the two prophets of old. God the Father does not waste any time correcting him. “While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5).

The father dismissed Peter’s plan to surround the event with “trappings” and made it clear what they should do instead. It was a rather straight-forward command, “Listen to him!”

As I prepare to write my annual Christmas short story, I will try to remember that command. I’ll try to look beyond all the trappings of Christmas and focus on the One who was born to give His life for us. I’ll 

TWEETABLES

Too Much Christmas by Mracia Laycock(Click to Tweet)

That first Christmas day was wrapped in a quiet awe and reverence~ Mracia Laycock(Click to Tweet)



Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor's wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was short listed in The Word Awards. Marcia also has four devotional books in print and has contributed to several anthologies. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan.



Her most recent release is Christmas, a book of short stories that will revive your Christmas Spirit. Now available on Amazon.




Sign up to receive her devotional column, The Spur








Saturday, December 03, 2016

Telling Children the Real Christmas Story

by Ron Estrada

I have a bone to pick.

The audience gasps. “What? Ron is annoyed with something or someone? It can’t be.”

Ron waits patiently while you all laugh at your little joke. “Ahem.” Maybe not so patiently.

As children, we were all told the Christmas Story in Sunday School or by our parents or by the kid on our bus who’d attended every Metallica concert within a hundred mile radius. His version was a bit different.

But, you know what? At least his version was honest. Wrong. But honest.

Every year the Christmas Story went the same:

Mary gets pregnant.

An angel appears to Joseph.

Stuff happens.

Long journey to Bethlehem.

Cows and pigs and chickens.

Jesus is born.

More stuff happens.

Wise men drop in.

Snoopy wins first prize in the lights and display contest.

We heard the story so many times that we gloss over it when we read the first chapters of Luke. I think it’s time we stop glossing.

Did you know that it was only a few years ago that I realized that the wise men visited Jesus in a “house”? That’s what my many versions of the text say. In fact, many of the “facts” we learn as children are merely a Reader’s Digest version of the Christmas Story so we can get the kids off to bed early because, as you all know, the real Christmas Story is how many curse words fly out of Dad’s mouth as he begins the all night journey of “some assembly required.”

Okay, I take it back. Stop praying for me.

Now, admittedly, we’ve done better over the years. In our “reality age,” we like to see and read the truth as it happened. No sugar-coating. War movies now contain enough blood and carnage to satisfy the most avid gamer. When cowboys go off to do battle with the Indians, it turns out we were not always the good guys. And the adult movie versions of Christ’s birth and crucifixion are disturbingly realistic (I barely got through The Passion. I will not see it twice).

Hollywood is maturing. Novelists are maturing.

Is it time to allow our children’s version of Bible stories to mature as well?

Is it wrong to take our board books and include the next chapter of the David and Goliath story and show that severed head? Maybe.

Should we let the kiddies know that Lot’s daughters were a tad naughty after that whole pillar of salt incident? Probably not.

But is it too much to tell a child that the wise men probably showed up long after the birth of Jesus? Maybe as much as two years? I think they can handle that harsh reality. And they can probably handle many of the other details of the Bible often left out of the children’s versions.

Why am I on this rant? Because, if some of my favorite radio preachers and teachers are correct, Bible illiteracy is the number one problem among Christians. We cannot defend our faith because we don’t know it. Too harsh? I don’t think so. And part of that fault has to begin with how we write Biblical accounts for our children.

Yes, we have to condense some things. Simplify the language. Include a flannel graph. But we can help them along on their long journey of Bible study by giving them accurate details at an early age.

In my last past about writing for kids, I stated that we should never “write down” to our young audience. They’re smarter than we give them credit for. They want the truth. And maybe, just maybe, some of those ten year-old boys would find Sunday School much more interesting if a severed head did show up in the midst of their nice lesson (I’m thinking a pop-up book).

So what do you think? Are we sugar coating Bible stories too much for the kids? As Christian kidlit writers, should we begin the push toward accuracy and reality in our rendition of Bible stories?

TWEETABLES




Ron Estrada has multiple published magazine articles, including a regular column in the bi-monthly Women2Women Michigan. He also freelances as a technical writer, specializing in white papers for manufacturing and consumer products. He writes spec fiction, hovering somewhere between post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction (he prefers the term pre-Last Days), but has also dabbled in Mystery and Suspense. Turn-ons include long walks to Frosty Boy and dinner by Kindle light. His real-writer’s blog can be found at RonEstradaBooks.com.  You can e-mail him at rmestrada@ameritech.net or catch him (at pretty much any time) on Facebook. Twitter handle is @RonEstrada. CB handle is God’s Gift.

Friday, December 02, 2016

10 Things I Learned About Writing From Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

I always struggle with blogging balance around the holidays. I want to join in the fun, but I get a little tired of all the non-writing posts I read everywhere. Today I want to share my version of a compromise—Top 10 Things I Learned About being a Writer From Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

I love all the Christmas specials that come around every year during the holidays, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has always been one of my favorites. I identify with his lack of self-confidence, his heart for his friends and especially his gumption when Santa called on him to step up and guide the sleigh that night. 

And it occurs to me that, as writers, there are a lot of valuable lessons in this holiday tale. 

What I learned about being a writer from Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer:

1. We’re all born with a special gift. 

2. At some point we all feel like that special gift is a curse.

3. Hiding who we really are are brings out the bullies and naysayers.

4. We all need time to mature into our gift.

5. Trying to live up to the image of who others think we should be won’t bring anything but trouble and heartache.

6. True friends will see beyond our differences and embrace the essence of who we are.

7. We’re given that special gift for a reason and a purpose.

8. Running away from who we are doesn’t ever solve anything.

9. There will come a time when you have to decide to work within your gift, not around it.

And the best lesson of all . . . 
10. Being who God meant you to be will bless others as much as you.

How about you? Care to share something you’ve learned from an unlikely source? Be sure to share your thoughts below in the comments section.

TWEETABLE
10 things I learned about #writing from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer -@EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Edie Melson—author, blogger, speaker—has written numerous books, including her most recent, fiction, Alone, and nonfiction, While My Child is AwayShe’s also the military family blogger at Guideposts.org. Her popular blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month. She’s the director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and a member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She’s the the Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine, Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy, and the Senior Editor for NovelRocket.com.