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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.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

On Writing Christmas Novels

by Dan Walsh

As the 2016 holiday season began, I released my 5th Christmas novel, called Finding Riley. I’m not sure how many NR writers have ever considered or even attempted to write a Christmas novel before, but for those who have, I thought you might benefit if I shared some of the things I’ve learned along the way. I’m by no means an expert, but I’ve definitely had some real success with my Christmas books over the years.

The fact that this newest one is my 5th Christmas novel should be a clue (would I keep doing something over and over again if it flopped?). The truth is, my Christmas novels have been some of my biggest bestsellers. Which may seem odd, considering the window for selling them is only about 3 months out of the year.

I don’t know about you, but come January 1st, something strange happens (apparently not just to me but to almost everyone in the country). During the holidays, most of us love all-things-Christmas. Christmas music, Christmas movies, Christmas cookies, Christmas decorations (in the stores and all over town). And Christmas books. Millions of people love to read Christmas books; stories set during "the most wonderful time of the year.”

But right after New Year’s Day, we’re all done with Christmas. Totally and completely done.

In retail bookstores, Christmas books come off the shelves. There are no shelves in online stores like Amazon, but sales of Christmas novels plummet in early January. No one is in the mood to read them anymore. This sales slump on Christmas novels generally continues for the next 9 months.

But guess what happens after that? That’s right, it’s Christmas time again. And suddenly, millions of people are in the mood to read Christmas books once again. This pattern repeats itself over and over  every year. My first novel, The Unfinished Gift, was a Christmas novel. It came out during the holiday season of 2009, and it sold extremely well (even won 2 Carol Awards). It’s fair to say, this book launched my writing career. But in January 2010, it came off the shelves. It sold poorly from January and all through the spring and summer months. Then it came back again the following October and for the next 2 months sold even more copies than it had the year before.

It has continued to sell very well every holiday season since. As have all my other Christmas novels. Which is why, this year, I’ve written and published another – Finding Riley. Already it is selling very well and getting great reviews.

So if you’ve been thinking about writing a Christmas novel, you can see I think it’s a worthwhile pursuit. Here are a few things to consider before you jump in:
  • If you aren’t someone who already loves the Christmas season, you might want to skip this idea. I think the best Christmas stories are written by people who absolutely love Christmas. Their stories become the overflow of the joy and excitement they feel when Christmastime is here.
  • As with any good novel, a Christmas story needs to have all kinds of conflict and struggle woven into the plot. The characters must be people the reader will care about from the very first chapter. But it’s imperative, no matter how much tension and peril you put into the story, the climax should lead to a happy and hopeful ending (preferably on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning).
  • One nice thing about Christmas novels is they can typically be shorter in length. My 5 average between 50,000 to 65,000 words, whereas my other novels are more like 80,000 words or more. But usually, you can still charge the same price.
  • Writing Christmas novels, I think, takes an extra measure of creativity and imagination. Mainly because, you will likely have to be writing it during the late spring and summer when you’re not in a Christmas mood (and neither is anyone or anything else around you). I’m not sure why it works out this way, but every one of my Christmas novels was written in the hot summer months (for me, in Florida).
As you can see, I’m a fan. A big fan of Christmas and Christmas novels. If you’ve written any, I’d love to hear your story. If you’re thinking about writing one and have any questions, feel free to ask. And…if you’re looking for a brand new Christmas story to read this year by an old Christmas storytelling veteran, may I recommend…Finding Riley!

TWEETABLES

Writing Christmas Novels by Dan Walsh (Click to Tweet)

Millions of people love to read Christmas books~ Dan Walsh (Click to Tweet)


 *     *    *

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 17 novels, including The Unfinished Gift, The Reunion and When Night Comes. He has won 3 Carol Awards (finalist 6 times) and 3 Selah Awards. Three of his books were finalists for Inspirational Book of the Year (RT Book Reviews). Dan is a member of ACFW and Word Weavers. He lives with his wife, Cindi, in the Daytona Beach area where they love to take walks and spend time with their grandkids. Click here to connect with Dan or check out his books.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

5 Keys to Finding Your Focus

by Elizabeth Ludwig

My prayer when I first started out on this writing journey was simple—Lord, please help me to get published, and let my words touch someone’s heart.

Oh, how that prayer has changed over time! After my first book contract, I quickly discovered how unpredictable the publishing industry can be (an article for another time). The joy of holding my first published book disintegrated when I learned that the subsequent two books in the series would not be published as had been promised, and I added this line to my prayer—Lord, please help me to get published, and let my words touch someone’s heart, and let there be another contract.

Proving His love and faithfulness, God did provide another contract. I remember celebrating with thanksgiving the upcoming Christmas novella that would allow me to tell the story of my walk into adulthood. But then the book cover came, and I realized that readers would need a microscope to read the teeny-tiny letters of my name beneath the big, bold letters of the lead author, and I added this line to my prayer—Lord, please help me to get published, and let my words touch someone’s heart, and let there be another contract, and someday, Lord, let my name be the prominent one on the cover.

Since then, I’ve added many lines to that first simple prayer. Weights like good sales numbers, positive reviews, and contest awards now encumber what was once a sincere desire. God reminded me of this during a dark period of wrestling with Him over the path I was to follow. I knew I would have to refocus, and that meant developing five keys:

Key #1: Practice loving God. Everything else will follow
 I always thought there should be an eleventh commandment, and it would read something like this—Thou shalt live thy life with thanksgiving and remember the good that God has done. Later, I realized that this was a commandment and it was connected to the first and greatest—Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (NIV)

Key #2: Do like Facebook and “share”
Hello, my name is Elizabeth Ludwig, and I love facebook. There, I’ve said it. Unfortunately, things like social media, while intended to bring us closer, end up making us rivals. How can we help but be competitive when we’re doing nothing but reading about the successes of others? Still God instructs us to rejoice with those who rejoice, and follows it with a command to mourn with those who mourn. This means taking our eyes off ourselves and focusing on where our friends are.

Key #3: Take up a memorial stone
My writing journey has been filled will all sorts of highs and lows—good reviews followed by bad reviews, new contract followed by poor sales numbers, encouragement followed by discouragement. I realized it was very easy to lose my focus when the only thing I was concentrating on was the lows, but in the back of my mind was a story from the Old Testament. Remember Joshua and his instruction to the Israelites to “take up a stone”? This was to serve as a reminder to the people about God’s intervention in helping them cross the River Jordan, and it can serve as reminder today—about where He has led us and where we have yet to go.

Key #4: Remember God’s plan and cling to it
Writing a book requires quite a bit of time and a whole lot of dedication. On top of the initial commitment, writing something readers will love means pouring a good bit of myself into the work—my pain, the things I’ve learned and lived, even a smidgeon of honesty as I reveal my own personal struggles and vices. When at last the time comes to write “The End”, the finished product can feel very personal—almost like an extension of myself—which is why having a book be unsuccessful can be so excruciatingly painful. Yet God’s word says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (NKJV)

Key #5: Follow God…even if He leads you away from the one thing you thought you couldn’t live without 
Remember this saying? If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it. It’s from a poem by an unknown author, and it was brought to mind recently when I was struggling to remember why I even began this writing journey in the first place. Along with all the typical highs and lows, I was facing deadlines, trying to meet promotional and marketing demands, and juggling commitments at home and work. I’m ashamed to admit, this led to an extended period of self-pity, typified by the one question repeated over and over in every situation—why? Well, God had an answer for Job when he asked that question, and He had an answer for me—you didn’t get where you are by yourself. I brought you here, I will lead you on. Follow Me.

TWEETABLES
5 Keys to Finding Your Focus by Elizabeth Ludwig (Click to Tweet)

Practice loving God. Everything else will follow~ Elizabeth Ludwig (Click to Tweet)


Remember God’s plan and cling to it~ Elizabeth Ludwig (Click to Tweet)


Elizabeth Ludwig is the award-winning author of No Safe Harbor and Dark Road Home, Books One and Two in the popular Edge of Freedom series from Bethany House Publishers. Her literary blog, The Borrowed Book, enjoys a wide readership. Elizabeth is an accomplished speaker and teacher, often attending conferences and seminars where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. Along with her husband and children, she makes her home in the great state of Texas. To learn more, visit ElizabethLudwig.com.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Prequel to The Remnant, by Author Monte Wolverton

The Remnant by Monte Wolverton
By Monte Wolverton

On a sweltering noon in late September of 2062, Bob Day was walking south along the narrow 2nd St. NW in Washington D.C. He was on a lunch break from his job at a small Capitol Hill publisher. He had skipped breakfast that morning and he was ravenous—seriously drooling for a California Chicken Club at Hamilton’s Bar and Grill. Bob rationalized that the avocado would certainly cancel out the bacon. Not that there had been any California avocados for the last 40 years. Now they all came from Mexico or Central America—the world’s breadbasket.

Bob was well aware of the big international standoff that had been going on for a week—something about a Russian-backed coup in Mexico City, and the Pope (who was staying there in the Western Vatican) being under house arrest. The U.S. wanted the Russians out. Other nations had taken sides. Powerful warcraft with armed particle beam weapons were cruising around the skies. It all sounded nuts to Bob, and the D.C. culture made even the most earnest person jaded about such crises. And anyway, skilled diplomats and politicians were surely negotiating some kind of truce—possibly within a few blocks.

Bob pushed open the old oak door of Hamilton’s, stepped into the cool air and claimed a table. He ordered a sandwich and a Widmer Hefeweizen (still made in Oregon, but from Mexican hops, wheat and barley). While he waited, he got involved in a holovideo of an ongoing soccer game floating in the center of the room. Coup notwithstanding, Ciudad Juárez was pummeling Atlanta.

His food and drink finally came. Darn—he had let time get away from him, and he still had 50 pages to edit this afternoon. He wolfed down the Chicken Club and quaffed the beer, scanned his ID tat for the 52 dollar tab and walked out the door. This time he decided to walk south around the block and take 1st St. back to his office.

As usual, a view of the brilliant Capitol dome in the midday sun gave Bob a twinge of pride. Funny thing was, when he looked skyward, he saw what seemed to be two suns. One was the normal sun, high in the southern sky. The other was a pinpoint of rapidly intensifying light directly overhead. Then the air began to shimmer. Cars careened off the street. Pedestrians fell limp in their tracks, and with a wave of searing heat that seemed to catch the very air on fire, the capitol dome began to vaporize.

Bob’ mouth opened but no sound came out. He barely had a chance to experience horror, sadness and pain as everything, including Bob, turned to powder. Next thing he knew, he was in some kind of different place.


TWEETABLES

Prequel to The Remnant, by Author Monte Wolverton (Click to Tweet)

New Book Sneak Peek by Monte Wolverton (Click to Tweet)


Author Monte Wolverton
Monte Wolverton is an author, illustrator and syndicated editorial cartoonist. His 2014 novel, Chasing 120, won an Illumination book award. He serves on the boards of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists and Plain Truth Ministries, where he is also as associate editor and contributing writer. His work has appeared frequently in MAD magazine and more recently in Washington (DC) Monthly magazine. He participated in the 2014 St.-Just-le-Martel Editorial Cartoon Festival in France, and in 2015 was invited to serve as a judge for the prestigious Xaimen International Animation Festival in China. He is an ordained minister and holds an MA from Goddard College in Vermont. Wolverton resides in his native southwest Washington State with his wife Kaye.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Backing Away From the Cliffs of Insanity



By Beth K. Vogt

Any Princess Bride aficionados reading this today? If so, when I drop the phrase, “The Cliffs of Insanity,” you’ll instantly envision the harrowing cliffs scaled by Vizzini, Inigo Montoya, and Princess Buttercup – with thanks to Fezzik – and then later climbed by The Dread Pirate Roberts.

If you’re not familiar with The Princess Bride – Gasp! – you may have read “The Cliffs of Insanity” and thought, “Oh yeah. I’m a writer. I’ve spent some time perched on the edge of those cliffs.”

I get it. Being a writer is crazy-making.

  • You bet your life on maybes, dependent on the kindness of others. Agents, editors, publishers, reviewers. And, really, their decisions determining your success have nothing to do with kindness. Publishing is business, bay-bee.
  • You balance your hopes on the seesaw of contradictions. Write your passion vs. write what the market wants. Traditional publishing vs. indie. Which do you choose?
  • You hear – and listen to – voices. There’s no ignoring the imaginary characters in your head that tell you what they’re going to do. Meanwhile, there are ever-present voices real world voices. Your boss. Your spouse. Your kids. Your friends. All demand you focus on the here and now. 
  • You face unending professional challenges. The changing world of publishing. Waiting and waiting for the longed-for yes. Accepting rejections. The mixture of joy and jealousy when a friend earns "the call." 
The craziest part? You chose this life. You're committed to this insanity, a.k.a. “the dream.” Here are a few suggestions for managing the madness:
  • Pick your mentors wisely. Writers like Poe and Hemingway battled the writing craziness by indulging in mind-altering escapes. Look elsewhere for your role models. I admire my mentors for their faith and life choices, not just their writing skills. And if you’re farther along the writing road than other writers – and you always are! – mentor to someone else.
  • Don't let all your dreams be based on maybes. I have limited control over my success as a writer. There is more to my life than writing. I'm pursuing other dreams with both short and long-term goals.
  • Choose between your passion and writing for the market. Or not. Maybe you'll be the lucky author who hits the market when your passions collide with what "they" want. (Romantic-Amish-Vampire-Time-Travel-Steampunk-with-a-moral, anyone?)
  • Jump off the seesaw. The whole "balancing the writing world with the real world" challenge? I may never master that. Sometimes my mind seems to be inhabited by shrieking eels, all screaming, "If only my husband, my kids, my friends would leave me alone, I could accomplish the more important goals!" That’s when I know it's time to shut down my computer, walk away from what I’m writing, and reconnect with family.
  • Acknowledge how you’re feeling – the good and the bad. If a wide range of emotions is good for our fictional characters, why are they bad for us? Sometimes we're conflicted: over-the-moon-happy for our friend who landed a contract and also disappointed we're not the one signing on the dotted line. That's reality. I’ve found the best way to battle jealousy is to purposely celebrate someone else’s success. Write them a note or post a “So happy for you” message on Facebook.
How do you back away from the Cliffs of Insanity? (And do you know what cliffs were featured in The Princess Bride?)

TWEETABLES

Backing Away From the Cliffs of Insanity by Beth K. Vogt (Click to Tweet)

Managing the writing madness~ Beth K. Vogt (Click to Tweet)

Being a writer is crazy-making~ Beth K. Vogt (Click to Tweet)

Beth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author and editor who said she’d never write fiction. She’s the wife of an Air Force family physician (now in solo practice) who said she’d never marry a doctor—or anyone in the military. She’s a mom of four who said she’d never have kids. Now Beth believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” As a contemporary romance novelist, Beth is a 2016 Christy Award winner and 2016 Carol Award winner for her novel Crazy Little Thing Called Love.  She was also a 2015 RITA® Finalist for her novel Somebody Like You, which was one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2014. In 2015, Beth introduced her destination wedding series with both an e-novella, Can’t Buy Me Love, and a novel, Crazy Little Thing Called Love. She continued the series in 2016 with the e-novella You Can’t Hurry Love (May) and the novel Almost Like Being in Love (June). Her novella A November Bride was part of the Year of Wedding Series by Zondervan. Beth enjoys writing contemporary romance because she believes there’s more to happily-ever-after than the fairy tales tell us. Find out more about her books at bethvogt.com. An established magazine writer and former editor of Connections, the leadership magazine for MOPS International, Beth is also part of the leadership team for My Book Therapy, the writing community founded by best-selling author Susan May Warren. She lives in Colorado with her husband Rob, who has adjusted to discussing the lives of imaginary people, and their youngest daughter, Christa, who loves to play volleyball and enjoys writing her own stories.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Worry and the Journey to Publication

By Lindsay Harrel

Last week I was cleaning out my home office—which had slowly become the junk room in our house. I’ve been putting it off for awhile now, but with the upcoming arrival of a new baby, it had to be done. When sorting through items I’d long forgotten about, I came upon a journal from five years ago.

As I read, I discovered entries from the very beginning of my writing journey. There were some entries where I was excited to finally be pursuing this dream, one I’d held in my heart since childhood. Other entries expounded upon all the knowledge I’d been gaining through craft books, conferences, and other sources.

But then there were the entries filled with something I’ve struggled with most of my life: worry. Pages and pages full of questions and doubts. Would I ever be able to make this a reality? Would I give up after a year of trying? Would I find out I really didn’t have what it takes to be a published author?

There was one journal entry dated about six months into my journey that really stood out to me. In it, I went back and forth on whether to submit my first novel to an editor who had requested it. I agonized over that decision, fearing that if it wasn’t ready (which it wasn’t!!), I’d ruin any future chances I had in the industry—but also worrying that if I didn’t take that chance, I’d always regret it.

You guys—if I’ve learned anything, it’s that one single action can’t destroy someone’s chances at publication forever (of course, I’m not talking about something that burns bridges or is egregious, rude, or ill-mannered). Either you believe God is in this or you don’t. He has the perfect timing, the perfect path for YOU.

I saw a meme going around the Internet this month that said, “If it doesn’t open, it’s not your door.” Over the last five years, I’ve stood at many doors and knocked incessantly, begging them to open—to no avail. Then I worried about why they didn’t open. Was I not worthy? Had God forgotten about me? Did I unknowingly upset someone important?

Now I look back and I shake my head. The worry did me absolutely no good. The doubt didn’t help me blossom into a better writer. It only weighed me down and choked the life and energy out of me. It wasn’t until I was able to “let go and let God” have control that I was at peace in my writing journey. I put my head down and kept writing. One book. Another. Another. And another.

And then, seemingly out of the blue (though it wasn’t out of the blue for God), I received my first contract in March of this year. My debut novel, One More Song to Sing, is set to release later this week, on December 1.

I was talking about this with a friend of mine recently. She grinned and said, “Remember all that worrying you did? Guess it wasn’t necessary after all.” She was totally right. Let me tell you, I didn’t add a single moment to my life by worrying (Matthew 6:27).

Learn from my mistakes. Don’t let worry take over your journey. Fight back. Replace those ugly lies Satan is feeding you with healthy doses of the Truth.

God has the right door for you. It may not look the way you thought it would. It may take a lot longer to reach it than you wanted. But every step along this journey is one that leads you closer to your goal.

Keep fighting—and keep writing.

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Bio:
Lindsay Harrel is a lifelong book nerd who lives in Arizona with her young family, and two golden retrievers in serious need of training. Besides writing, singing, and hanging out with family and friends, Lindsay enjoys making a fool of herself at Zumba, curling up with anything by Jane Austen, and savoring sour candy one piece at a time. Her debut novel, One More Song to Sing, releases December 2016. Connect with her at www.LindsayHarrel.com.





Book Blurb:


More than two decades ago, Olivia Lovett left her old life behind in the red dirt of Oklahoma and forged a career in Nashville as a country music star. Now her voice is failing, forcing her to find a new dream just as the secrets of her past come knocking at the door. Long-time friend Andrew Grant agrees to partner in a new business venture—but would he stick around if he knew her whole story?

After the tragic loss of her father, twenty-one-year-old Ellie Evans headed to Nashville seeking more than just fame. For two years, she’s waitressed, strummed, and sung her way to what may finally be her big break when Olivia offers to sign her to the budding record label. More than anything, Ellie just wants to be seen: by her future fans, by Nick Perry—a fellow musician with a killer smile and kind eyes—and above all else, by the mother who abandoned her. If the spotlight never shines on her, will Ellie ever feel whole?

One More Song to Sing is a romantic drama about the power of forgiveness, second chances, and a God who never fails to see us.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Why Fiction?

By DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

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Christian writers are often posed the questions:


“Why fiction when you could be writing nonfiction?”
 

“If you feel writing is a ministry, then why are you putting your time and effort into fiction?”
 

“A real Christian would be writing something with real sustenance, not fiction.”
 

When I first started writing in 1996, I swallowed my displeasure with those questions and composed a gracious response that sounded like I was playing defense for a losing team. 

Not any more. I’m proud of what I do, and I'm not ashamed of my purpose. After years of following my passion for communicating the written word through story, I simply term the individual questioning my life’s work as a “low information reader.” They mean well. 

"Isn’t nonfiction the means by which people learn how to live life to its fullest and better themselves?"

Not necessarily.
 

How many abused women purchase books about how to prevent a beating? Do those women reach for information on a retailer’s shelf about abused victim’s legal rights, or counseling, or finding courage in the midst of pain?
 

How many victims of human trafficking find freedom by asking their captor to buy them a book about overcoming trust issues or how to escape an inappropriate relationship?
 

How many addictions were resolved by forcing the sufferer to read a book about drug abuse?
 

How many marriages were saved because a woman shoved a counseling book into her husband’s face? 

How many relationships survived because a man insisted his wife read books about how to cook, clean, child care, etc?
 

You get the picture. 

It’s unlikely any of the above examples found solace, peace, answers, escape, or courage in a nonfiction book because they were either too frightened to be found reading it, or they simply weren’t interested. But that victim could read a novel about abuse, human trafficking, an addiction, or a failing marriage and learn how someone changed and grew into a better person. 

A novel provides hope and inspires the reader to make needed changes.
 

A novel is a non-threatening environment that offers sound solutions to real problems. The abuser, the captor, the addicted person, or the unfaithful spouse will not feel exposed when their victims engage in a novel. 

The writer plants the seeds of change and subtlety challengers the reader to grow beyond her own world.
 

If the suggestion of using story to change dire circumstances sounds familiar, then you’ve read your Bible. Jesus used stories to convict, teach, and comfort the people to whom He ministered. He orchestrated a means of entertainment through culture to reach the people of His day. Story still meets a psychological or spiritual need in 2016, and I believe story will be a means of helping people until this earth ceases to spin.
 

I challenge the novelist to explore the passions of her theme and premise. Don’t be afraid to tackle the tough issues with grace and truth within the pages of an excellent story.
 

Now I ask you: Why do you write fiction?

Tweet this: Why Fiction?





 

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and The Author Roadmap with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Hey, Maybe It’s Time To Move On…

by Rachel Hauck
While everyone is in the throws of NaNoWriMo, some times we have to pause and take stock of where we are in our current WIP. Some of you… it’s time to move on.
“How do I know when it’s time to move on from a story I’ve been working on for so long?”
Great question! I worked on my first book for two years. I tell you, it discouraged me because I wondered how I could ever make any kind of living if writing took so long!
But it was my learning book and at least half of those two years were spent with me editing the book from a complicated, multi-plot story to a straight up romance.
I sent it out and received rejections. It was in the late ‘90s and there weren’t many options, but the doors I knocked on replied, “No thank you.”
By then, I was tired of the book. I didn’t know what else to do with it. It was time to move on.
Another idea came to me while sitting at a high school football game and I got to work on that right away. It was fresh, fun, alive in my heart.
I also changed my strategy. I decided to write a Heartsong Presents. With the first book, I tried for a Bethany House WWII saga. Rightfully, they turned me down.
So for my skill level, maybe a smaller, more focused story – romance – was the answer.
That story became my first published novel! In e-format. Yep, I sold it to an e-publisher.
By now, the Lord had connected me with a published Heartsong author and we collaborated together to create the Lambert series.
So, I was on my way.
The first book slept peacefully in my closet. Later, when I needed parts of a novel for Love Starts With Elle hero, Heath McCord, I pulled from that book.
So, where are you with your novel? Is it your first? Your fifth? Tenth? Are you struggling to keep going? Do you have vision or a passion for the story?
Is it time to move on?
Here’s some guidelines for sticking with a story:
  1. Good feedback from editors, agents or other knowledgeable writers?
  2. Your vision and passion remains high for the story.
  3. You can see clearly how to improve the manuscript.
  4. You’ve not rewritten it so many times – based on feedback – you can see the original heart of the story.
  5. You final in contests or get manuscript requests from editors or agents.

Here’s when you need to move on from a story:
  1. You’ve changed it so many times – based on feedback – you don’t recognize the original vision.
  2. You’re heart and passion for the story couldn’t fill a thimble.
  3. You have no idea how to improve the manuscript. If you have an idea, you’re not sure you want to do it.
  4. It’s been rejected by everyone you’ve submitted to and your mentors are suggesting a new, fresh idea.
  5. Your contest scores indicate you have a long way to go.
  6. You’ve learned much more about the business and know your book will not readily fit into the current market. That’s cool! Move on.
There are stories all over the map about the publication journey. Author Tamera Alexander worked on her first book for four years before it got published. On the other hand, author Jill Eileen Smith had ten or more closet manuscripts gathered up over twenty years.
Charles Martin had 120+ rejections before he sold The Dead Don’t Dance. Susan Warren wrote four or five novels before she sold a novella to Tyndale. When they asked her, “What else do you have?” She pulled out and polished those closet manuscripts.
There’s no end to possibilities. To closed and opened doors.
What is God saying about the book that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere? It’s okay to put it away and start over.
Here’s what I find on a rewrite – when I try to edit what I’ve already written, I tend to stick with that story and accept the weaknesses. But when I start over from scratch, I craft the story with stronger elements. I work through the weaknesses. The story isn’t as fun or flowing as the first draft because I’m actually thinking through and working out the problems.
So often, when trying to rewrite or improve a first novel, or a well-rejected novel, we can’t see what really needs to be changed to make the manuscript sellable.
If that’s where you are, start over. Sometimes we don’t want to start over because we don’t want to wait for publication. But it could be on the first or rewritten-rejected manuscript, we could find ourselves waiting forever.
Only you can determine if it’s time to set a manuscript aside, but if you do, do so with confidence and give your whole heart to your next work!
Happy Writing.
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New York Times & USA Today best-selling, award-winning author Rachel Hauck loves a great story. She is on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers and leads worship for their annual conference. In 2013 she was named ACFW's Mentor of the Year. She lives in Florida with her husband and ornery cat. Read more about Rachel at www.rachelhauck.com.