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Sunday, August 31, 2014

He Knows. Does it Make You Squirm?

Posted by Marcia Lee Laycock
Some people find it a bit disconcerting that “big brother is watching.” I’ve heard people complain when they see ads on their social media that are specifically targeted to them. I admit it is a little spooky when something pops up and it’s obvious “they” know what I’ve been doing with my time and what I’ve purchased in the past while.

But at the same time I kind of like it. I like being made aware of things that interest me – youtube always lets me know when the Piano Guys post a new video, for instance, and I like getting that little email that tells me what new plays are coming to my favourite theatre. It kind of feels like “they” are looking out for me.

Being known by some faceless entity can be a little scary because we just aren’t sure who to trust. Being known by God can be terrifying. The idea that He knows our every move makes some people squirm. The idea that he knows the number of hairs on our head and cares about every move we make makes some people uncomfortable.

I kind of like it. No, actually, I love it. I love the words of Psalm 139 that says, “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me ... If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalm 139: 2 – 10).

As a writer and speaker I especially love the words, “before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely” (v.4). He knows the words I will write and speak. He is aware of the exact words that will change a life. He knows the impact they will have on those who read and hear them. He is in control of it all.

And I love the fact that He knows my name and has called me to write. He has given me this gift that I might know Him and that others might hear of Him through me. I look on this as a blessing and a privilege. I love the words of Isaiah 45:3 – “I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.”

He knows my name, He knows me and He knows the work He has for me to do. Because He is entirely trustworthy that doesn’t make me squirm. It makes me want to shout, hallelujah! 


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. Her second novel, A Tumbled Stone was recently short listed in the contemporary fiction category of The Word Awards. Marcia also has two devotional books in print. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. 

Newest Release - Book One in the fantasy series, The Ambassadors. Now available in ebook format on Amazon

Visit Marcia’s Website

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Give the Girl a Gun

Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing's Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. For entertainment, he reads historical books, where he finds ideas for new novels. For relaxation, he writes westerns. Whenever he has a chance, he takes his wife and two homeschooled children on crazy but fun research trips. Learn more about Peter's books, research, and family adventures at

Studying gender stereotypes is as much fun as I can have. Why? Because once upon a time, I believed those casts defined everyone. A woman’s place was locked in the kitchen while she gently pined for a life outside the home. A man worked a brutal eight-to-ten hour day, with only two days off a week. He longed for a castle at home while his pretty and demure woman waited on him.

There’s a Bible verse about it somewhere that justifies the idea—I didn’t know where—that’s just what I hear.

I just slapped myself so you don’t have to.

My writing reflected my beliefs. I didn’t see people as individuals. Instead, I followed the stereotypes, and my characters were locked into these gender rolls. The girl couldn't defend herself.

About a decade ago, everything changed. My wife and I reversed rolls when I went to college. I was so exhausted with a full time job and college (gender studies class, ironically) that my wife went to work and I stayed home. Homeschooling our two kiddos was a blast, cooking was a breeze, and keeping the house clean was simply daily maintenance.

Day two I was tired, but I kept up the same regiment.

By day five, frustrated by repetition in chores, I tried to design a laundry-folding machine and failed.

On the other hand, I was tickled to get to know the children better.

At the start of the next week, my wife came home from work exhausted. I was eager to tell her what the kids had done, but she just wanted to eat, relax a bit, and then go to bed. The thought ran through my mind—if she really loved me, wouldn’t she want to hear how my day went? To start the conversation, I asked her what happened at work, and she babbled, animated, for ten minutes, and then rolled over and went to sleep.

I know this was a jump, but I wondered if someone was making my wife happier than I could. Tossing and turning, I spent most of the night guessing where our relationship was going.

A few days later, I’d had it with the bag I’d been using for school. I went shopping, and overheard several ladies chatting about their husband’s clothing and how to get the funny smells out. I gossiped with them for a bit, and we arrived home late. My wife didn’t say anything, but I could tell she was a little peeved dinner wasn’t ready. I simmered. I’ve done a lot of cooking lately. Would it kill you to take us out to eat now and again? Just for a little break?

I craved adult conversation. An online group for stay at home fathers accepted my ‘join’ request. Watching them complain about the little things their wives did was too annoying. I quit right away.

Suddenly it dawned on me that I walked the path of a stereotypical housewife. I harbored feelings that had nothing to do with my gender, but simply as a human being playing a role in a family. The necessity of the roll I’d taken dictated natural emotions and needed support just like any job.

It realized all my characters were locked into gender stereotypes.

I changed my female characters in my books. No longer demure and helpless, I empowered them with weapons of all sorts, from determination and cunning to love and swords. Sometimes they save the men. Sometimes children save grownups. If all possible, I let her defend herself.

I gave the girl a gun.

A few weeks later, I went back to work. Sheesh, being a stay at home mom was too difficult.

Gideon's Call is an unprecedented tale of tragedy and triumph amid the backdrop of the Civil War through the story of Tad, a very clever slave boy who comes of age as America’s war reaches the sea islands of South Carolina. Tad’s desire to better himself is obstructed by the color of his skin, until Northern soldiers force the evacuation of white plantation owners, setting 10,000 slaves free in a single day. These circumstances seem like a dream, except that the newly freed slaves have no money, no education, and little hope for the future—unless someone rises up to lead them. Based on true events, Gideon’s Call is the dramatic tale of a young man who battles the shame of his past and faces the horrors of war and unimaginable prejudice to become the deliverer of thousands of freed slaves.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Writing in Selling Genres or Writing Issue Fiction? What's An Author to Do? ~ Jennifer Slattery

Writing Issue Fiction
By Jennifer Slattery
I wanted to hurl. Or cry. Except there were way too many people EVERYWHERE. So I did the only thing I knew to do—run! I spent the rest of the evening in my hotel room, tears streaking my puffy face with mascara.
It was my first national conference, and quite frankly, I arrived to my initial appointment more than a little cocky, believing I had crafted the next literary masterpiece.
Obviously this was pre-critique partners.
Appointment after appointment, my confidence waned and seriously considered smashing my computer to bits, forever destroying every story within it.
Apparently my genre of choice—if you can call it that—wasn’t selling. Rather, at the height of the recession, everyone wanted to find what I coin lollypop tales where the greatest character conflict evolved around a bad hair day or mismatched socks.
“People don’t want to read about real life,” I heard. “Theirs is hard enough already.”
My friends, wanting to encourage me and to help the thousands-upon-thousands of words I’d PAINstakingly pounded gain actual ink, urged me to write a sweet, fun romance.
Everything in me rebelled at the thought. Not that there’s anything wrong with sweet and fun. It’s a big world, after all, filled with many genres that appeal to a widely diverse readership, and I actually enjoy adding a fair amount of hilarity to my stories.
With an equal amount of depth centered on real issues—issues I felt we as a collective church needed to address.
Back home the following Monday, God and I had a long, very melodramatic talk. (Insert image of a snotty faced, pouting, foot stomping thirty-something two-year-old.)
In essence, I told Him if I couldn’t write stories with depth that focused on Christians reaching out to some really tough and incredibly broken folks, I didn’t want to write at all.
“This,” I said, pointing to the floor, as if words would suddenly appear there to emphasize my point, “is what I want to write.”
“Then do it.” The thought came so quickly and with such clarity, halting my tantrum, I knew it came from God.
I stood there, mid-stomp, stunned.
“Uh... Okay, then.”
And then I returned to my computer where I proceeded to pound out another million or so words, over half of which I quickly deleted.
Fast forward a couple years to another conference where, wise enough to know 90% of my work stunk but as convinced as ever of my calling, I met my publisher who was... Yep, you guessed it. Looking for issue or “missional” fiction.  
I was glad I’d held tight to my stories, my passion, my brand. Because God knew all along, and by the time I signed my first contract with Dr. Andrea Mullins from New Hope Publisher, I had five completed manuscripts waiting. She asked to see them all, offering two additional contracts in the months that followed.
Meanwhile, “issue” fiction has grown with an increasing number of publishers looking for stories that deal with things like domestic violence, alcoholism, orphanology… homelessness. *wink*
This doesn’t surprise me. Studies tell us millennials are the most cause-oriented generation yet. Meaning, they’re passionate about social justice issues. It’s only natural their taste in fiction would show a similar pattern. If this growing shift is any indication, issue fiction will thrive for some time.
So what’s the point?
We writers are an insecure bunch who like to measure our work against market trends or the most recent best seller. But if we’re not careful, we’ll lose our sensitivity to the still, small voice beckoning from within. The One who created us to write that very story burning within—perhaps the story we’ve been told will never sell.
In other words, write what you love and leave the rest to God.

Jennifer Slattery writes Missional Romance for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. Her debut novel, Beyond I Do, is currently available in print and e-book format for a great price! You can find it here: 
Jennifer loves helping aspiring authors grow in their craft, and has editing slots open beginning in November. Find out more here:
Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. 
Beyond I Do:
Will seeing beyond the present unite them or tear them apart?
Marriage . . . it’s more than a happily ever after. Eternally more.
Ainsley Meadows, raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignite a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancĂ©. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.

Novel Rocket Staff: Kelly Klepfer

Thursday, August 28, 2014

7 Highly Effective Ways to Be Your Own Worst Enemy

Thomas Smith is an award winning writer, newspaper reporter, TV news producer, playwright and essayist. His supernatural suspense novel, Something Stirs, is available at a bookstore near you. In addition to writing he enjoys teaching classes for beginning writers at conferences and local writers’ groups. He has been a joke writer for Joan Rivers and his comedy material has been performed on The Tonight Show. Currently in his fifth decade of service, he is considerably younger than most people his age. Find Thomas on Twitter and Facebook.

Writing is part craft and part business. To become a professional writer, whether you’re writing ad copy or the next great American novel, the process is the same. Study the market, produce the work, edit the work, send it off. Repeat the process. And while it sounds simple on the surface, we often find multiple ways to throw the proverbial monkey wrench into the system.


Here are 7 excellent ways to derail a writing career.

1. Be overly concerned about being creative. One of the biggest problems with being “creative” is the danger that you use it as a license to do things your way instead of the way they should be done. We are all creative. We create things all the time; grocery lists, notes to friends, e-mails, reports for work. Many times, however, creativity is simply Latin for EGO. “Creative” people often think that rules for other writers do not apply to creative writers. The standards for writing (format, word count, etc.) are there for a reason. The person who invented the flush toilet was being creative, but he didn’t try to make it a piece of living room furniture.

2. Spend as much time as possible waiting for inspiration. Sometimes you will write in a flash of white-hot inspiration, but that is often the exception and not the rule. Deadlines do not care how inspired you are. The professional writer sometimes drags himself/herself kicking and screaming to the blank screen and typing every word is an act of sheer willpower. The fact is, on most days writing is simply what you do because you are a writer. As Stephen King says in his book, On Writing, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

There is no muse that whispers sweet nothings in your ear. There is only the desire to do the thing you claim to love doing. The truth is, inspiration tends to visit those who are busy writing.

3. Develop the I am so much more talented than those other writers attitude. Some writers feel they have arrived, and cannot for the life of themselves figure out why other folks are selling and they aren’t. To compensate, they sometimes see their work as better than it is (sometimes on purpose). Often a writer who insists on doing things their way instead of abiding by the rules, paying their dues, etc. climb up on their pedestals and proclaim to anyone who will listen, “They are all hacks but me.” But be careful. Publishing is a small universe. And like Santa, editors keep track of who is naughty and who is nice.

4. Learn the I just don't have any ideas mantra. Let’s be brutally honest here: Ideas are easy to come up with unless your head fell off.  You have ideas every day. It's just that a lot of story/article/book/play ideas seem average or even awful at first because they require a little work to make them "sing" and we want them to come into the world fully formed. However, it is in the process of writing and rewriting that the little gem shines through. Not having any ideas usually means the ideas you have just haven’t set off all the bells and whistles in your head yet.

Often when we say "I don't have any ideas" it means we haven't allowed our minds to wander or we have tried to force an idea to happen in the midst of committee meetings, taking the kids to soccer practice, and organizing the PTA meeting. We forget to play the what if game. For example: What if I found a human head in the dryer at the laundromat? What if I found an elf sitting on the rim of the sugar bowl? What if I picked up an instrument in a music shop and was suddenly able to play like a prodigy?

5. Remind yourself and others you don’t have enough time to write. This one should actually be at the top of the list, but no matter where it falls, it is probably not true. You may not have enough desire to write (and that’s OK), but when you look at your daily routine, how much of your time is spent doing other things? Things like watching TV, going home for lunch, texting, lurking on Facebook, Tweeting what you had for breakfast, vacuuming because it’s Thursday and not because the carpet needs it? Try getting up 15-30 minutes earlier or going to bed 15-30 minutes later. Don’t use “I don’t have long stretches of time to work” as an excuse. Writing 15 minutes a day is writing. You can knock out an essay in a week at that rate. Mystery and Appalachian story writer, Sharyn McCrumb is a case in point:

“Until 1988, I had little children in diapers, I had fifteen hours of graduate work every quarter and term papers on Chaucer, and I had a full-time job. Besides that, I was writing a book a year.”

Granted, there are those who really don’t enough time in the day to write. Some people care for elderly parents, special needs children, or work three jobs to make ends meet. THEY have an excuse. But most of us don’t fall in that category.

6. Don’t learn to accept constructive criticism. Sometimes what we write is pretty good. Other times it’s not. And it is easy to be so invested in what you want to say that you miss what you’ve actually said. Chances are your mama, daddy, brother, sister, husband, wife, children, pastor, and best friend will all tell you what a good job you have done on your story, Stumpy the Tree Lizard and the Lost Treasure of Swampy Bottom (whether they actually read it all or not). And once you’ve had your ego stroked, it’s time for a real critique. Join a critique group (one that will tell you the truth), find a writing partner, or hire an English teacher at the local high school, college, or community college to read Stumpy’s adventure. Then take an honest look at their comments and do what needs to be done. (Remember…even Dean Koontz, Frank Peretti, Jonathan Maberry, and James Patterson have editors).

7. Develop the Nobody will publish my writing attitude. If you know that for a fact, then don’t do it. BUT (and that’s a Kardashian-sized but), you have to consider there are tens of thousands of magazines and thousands of publishers out there, and the writer who comes across as a professional and has the perseverance to keep trying has an automatic advantage over the competition. Just because you haven’t sold (or sold enough) YET, doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Most writers have had the thought that no one will publish their work. The successful ones ignored the thought and got back to work.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Debut Author, Sarah Loudin Thomas Shows a Veteran that She Knows How to Launch a Book!

Yvonne Lehman
Yvonne Lehman is an award-winning, best-selling author of more than 3,000,000 books in print, who founded and directed the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for 25 years, is now director of the Blue Ridge “Autumn in the Mountains” Novelist Retreat. She mentors for the Christian Writers Guild. She earned a Master’s Degree in English from Western Carolina University and has taught English and Creative Writing on the college level. Her latest releases include eight ebooks for Barbour’s Truly Yours line and a Harlequin/Heartsong series set in Savannah GA: The Caretaker’s Son, Lessons in Love, Seeking Mr. Perfect, (released in March, August, & November 2013). Her 50th novel is Hearts that Survive – A Novel of the TITANIC

Well, since I know what it’s like to think a first book leads to fame and fortune (and later face reality) and this newly published writer lives locally, I figured she might need me to be supportive. After all I’ve sat in bookstores pretending to be a manikin because customers won’t even come near me.

Sarah Loudin Thomas
Sarah Loudin Thomas’s book is titled, Miracle in a Dry Season, and I had my suspicions which one might describe that Sunday afternoon book launching.

So…after driving forever I came upon this neat little white church on a hill with blue grass hillbilly music coming out of it. What kind of church is that? Certainly not my Baptist one! But I covered my head in case a Baptist was watching and went in where a crowd, a whole crowd... and I thought, this can't be for a book signing or else these people are getting free books because most anybody knows you can go on Kindle and get a book for 99c. There were birds (sea gulls) hanging from the ceiling so I thought they might think books will be launched toward the birds and they fly them out into space or something.

Anyway, I soon saw that smiling face of Sarah's like she thought all was okay. I asked a stranger (they were all strangers) what kind of church and she told me. I said you don't have Sunday evening services, and she said no, happily.

Sarah went up to the microphone and welcomed us and invited us into the sanctuary. I asked a woman how many attend church there and she said about 40. I counted about 55 people there. Sarah's darlin' husband introduced her, said this is the most excited he's been since their wedding day... or maybe he said "proudest"??? Anyway, Sarah got teary. Was so loving and sweet.

Sara told about getting into writing, the idea for her book and gave away an apron and ladle - those were won by a man! She read excerpts from her book. It was sweet and professional and interesting.

Then... we couldn't get to the kitchen without going through the library (great planning!) - a table was laid out with her books and two women there to sell them—$14.99 book for $10.00 (perfect!)—then pretty Sarah sat like a pro at a round table smiling up a storm and signing for everybody. Some even loaded up their arms with two or more books!

We ate the best beans ever, several kinds of cornbread, peach cobbler, and ice cream. We also drank tea, lemonade and coffee while the hillbilly band played on.

Then... the band guy said get up and square dance. Sarah came over and made her husband get up. Another couple joined them. Then four more. Then a man held out his hand to me and I said, “Why not?” and acted like I knew what I was doing. Fun, fun, fun!

Oh my goodness gracious, I thought, in between doh-se-dohing, sashaying, twirling, yellowrocking, allemanding, stomping, that girl knows how to have a Book Launch Party!!

During a break, the band got religious, and sang. I remember most the loooooong one about the wine... the wine... the water into wine....Jesus turned the water into into wine... Jesus turned the water into wine…

hen there was one about being the black sheep of the family. (Too much wine, you reckon?)

But the point is... Sarah knows how to celebrate… and sell her book! I think she’s our area’s new rising star debut author! I read her book and the story is gooooooood, too!

Her publisher has contracted her for two other novels in the Appalachian Blessings series. She even got a comment by New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber who called this first novel, “Wonderful, simply wonderful…sure to grip the heart of every reader.”

Ann Tatlock, Christy-award winning author of Promises to Keep, said, “It’s charming, whimsical, and intelligently written.”

Miracle in a Dry Season
Miracle in a Dry Season
It’s 1954 and Perla Long’s arrival in the sleepy town of Wise, West Virginia, was supposed to go unnoticed. She just wants a quiet, safe place for her and her daughter, Sadie, where the mistakes of her past can stay hidden. But then drought comes to Wise, and Perla is pulled into the turmoil of a town desperately in need of a miracle.

Casewell Phillips has resigned himself to life as a bachelor…until he meets Perla. She’s everything he’s sought in a woman, but he can’t get past the sense that she’s hiding something. As the drought worsens, Perla’s unique gift divides the town in two, bringing both gratitude and condemnation, and placing the pair in the middle of a storm of anger and forgiveness, fear and faith.

And here’s what Library Journal’s starred review had to say: “Once in a while a new author comes along with a work that makes you sit up and take notice. Thomas has crafted a tale of this proportion.”

It’s my delightful privilege to know her. You too, will be delighted to get to know Sarah. 

Sarah Loudin Thomas grew up on a 100-acre farm in French Creek, WV, the seventh generation to live there. Her Christian fiction is set in West Virginia and celebrates the people, the land, and the heritage of Appalachia. Her first novel, Miracle in a Dry Season, releases August 2014 through Bethany House. Sarah is represented by Wendy Lawton of Books & Such Literary Agency. Connect with Sarah on her blog, through Facebook and on Twitter.