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Monday, August 31, 2015

Dissecting The Male POV


by Patty Smith Hall

All right, class. The weekend is over and now it’s time to settle down because today, we have a lot of information to cover today on the fascinating, yet frustrating subject: The Male Point of View.

Why this particular subject? Because a large number of people who write have the XY chromosome combination and don’t have a clue as to what is going on in the mind of their male characters. It can be difficult to capture the male voice, frustrating at time. So after a great deal of research and in-depth study, I hope I can shed some light on the subject for you today.

The Scientific Facts
As a medical professional with years of research experience, I liked to start with the science behind male communication. Why do men communicate the way they do? Why don’t they talk as much as women? Is there a physiological reason they react the way they do in the heat of an emotional discussion?

First, a brief overview of the center of communication, the human brain. The brain has two hemispheres; the left which is the home of logic and reasoning and the right side which is the center of emotions, feelings, intuition and social relationships.

The differences between the male and female brain begin in utero. Male fetuses experience a testosterone bath between the 18th and 26th week of gestation that damages the connections between both sides of the brain, making each hemisphere work more independently of each other. This makes it harder for men to do things that require the use of both sides(language , expression feelings, managing emotions.) Men function best on one side of the brain than the other where as women(thanks to estrogen) can use both sides of her brain equally as well. Another interesting fact is that men possess a larger amydalae, a tiny set of glands at the base of the skull where highly emotional or frightening experiences are stored. This could explain why men have a greater ‘fight or flight’ response as well as flash back to the horrible even more often and with greater detail than women.

Men Really Are Like Waffles

This one-sidedness is also the reason why men are able to compartmentalize different areas of their lives into boxes and typically live in one box at a time.  When a man is in one box, it’s as if the other compartments don’t exist. They give 100 percent of their attention to whatever they’re involved in at the moment and tend to stay in the box they’re most successful in—that can be anything from work to video games to anything, as long as they feel like they’re achieving something. They can also think of nothing at all and have the ability to ignore everything else around them.

What Does That Mean For A Writer?

We have to keep in mind the why behind the male way of thinking and communicating in order to create a more well-rounded character. It would seem odd to find a hero who loves to spend hours talking on the phone or get in touch with his emotions. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, but if we intend to use such a trait, we’d better have a good explanation as to why our hero is like he is. Another  example might be our hero might not understand why the heroine is having trouble sleeping because he has the ability to think about nothing.

Having a gasp of these facts will help you build realistic male characters.

Come back on October 26th when we’ll be talking about the inherited characteristics of men that shape how he responds to life events.

What are other ways  you’ve incorporated these scientific facts in your male characters?  

 

New Hope Sweethearts

She’s ready to take back her life . . .or what’s left of it.

After ten years of caring for her invalid grandfather, Kallie Huffman is ready to claim her life as her own. Taking a job in the laboratory of New Hope Community Hospital seems like a logic choice while she waits for her nursing license to be reinstated. That is until she meets Lab Director Jefferson Muster. Kind and intelligent, the handsome doctor is everything Kallie has ever wanted in a man. But what about having a life of her own?

He’s never needed anyone’s help. . .until now.

Patients are dying at New Hope Community Hospital, and Jeff needs help to discover the culprit before another family loses a loved one. When help comes in the person of Kallie Huffman, the walls Jeff has constructed around his heart after a family tragedy start to crumble. But Kallie craves a life on her own terms. Can two people shaped by heartache put the past behind them and trust in love?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Breakthrough




by Marcia Lee Laycock

I love the Old Testament. The history of the Hebrew people is fascinating. The history of how God provided for them, sustained them and brought them to the place where He wanted them to be, is awe inspiring. The book of 2 Samuel, verses 17-20 is a perfect example. David has just taken the city of Jerusalem. The Philistines are massing for attack. Picture them as a formidable wall of enemies spread out across the valley. In the face of this, I would have been tempted to just attack. The enemy was obvious, David knew He was the anointed King and had God’s blessing. But he did not rush off to the attack. First, he prayed and asked God what he should do.

God answered and the enemy was defeated. David said, “as waters break out, the Lord has broken out against my enemies before me.” (2 Sam.5:20).

The word used for ‘break out’ means to breach like water in flood. If you have ever experienced a flood you will know the power that David witnessed. I remember clearly the day I witnessed that unstoppable force of nature.

We had purchased property on the banks of the Klondike River, about ten miles out of Dawson City, Yukon. We hauled an old trailer onto it, to live in while we built our log house. We were doing some work to that old trailer one afternoon in late spring when we heard what sounded like a very big freight train. But there were no railway tracks anywhere nearby. We stood still and listened.

Then my husband’s eyes lit up. “It’s the river,” he said.

We rushed down to the banks of the Klondike to watch the yearly event that every Yukoner is happy to see – breakup. The sound of the ice shifting and grinding was so loud we could hardly hear one another speak. We watched as a massive tree erupted into the air like a missile. Then a huge slab of ice broke free and turned vertical. Immediately the river surged up and over its banks. We had to run to safety on higher ground.

I will never forget the evidence of the power of nature on that day. It was unstoppable. I am sure David never forgot the evidence of the power of his God as his enemies fell before him. God’s plan was enough - it broke through before David’s army. Because David’s God was unstoppable.

What enemies are coming against you? In a spiritual sense, what enemies keep you from the Lord? What spiritual barriers are keeping you from writing the words God wants you to send out into the world? Know that you have an all-powerful, unstoppable God who is just waiting for you to turn to Him and ask what you should do. He will answer.

But it is important to remember David’s attitude. He did not demand that God act, he did not demand a victory, he asked God to reveal His plan. Then he obeyed.

God has not changed since those long-ago days. He is still the Almighty, all powerful God who will defeat your enemies. May we all go to Him like David did, not with the arrogance of entitlement, but with the humility of a servant.
****

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 two 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.

Abundant Rain, an ebook devotional for writers can be downloaded here.


Her most recent release is the first book in a fantasy series, The Ambassadors

 
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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Let's Break Some Rules

I’ve always been someone who wants to know the rules and then do my best to follow them. When it comes to writing fiction, however, I honestly don’t think there are any rules. Oh, there are methods of writing that are preferred, and there are guidelines to follow which are especially helpful when you’re starting out. But hard, fast, break-em-and-you-go-to-writer’s-prison rules? Not so much.


You won't end up in writer jail. Really.
Have you ever been writing, moving along at a good clip, and then you hit a wall. You know exactly what you want to do, but it’s against the rules. So you stop, and you backtrack, and you try to figure out another way. Before you know it, nothing feels right, no words will come. You’re stuck.

What if, instead of worrying about the rules, you just break them? Not all the time, and not all the rules (there are rules of grammar and punctuation that really shouldn’t be messed with). If the thought of breaking through those boundaries makes you nervous, consider some of these “rules” and examples of authors who’ve broken them quite successfully.

Write in a Consistent POV/Tense
In his novel, The Martian, Andy Weir starts off in the POV of stranded astronaut Mark Watney. Mark is dictating to his personal log, so it’s first person, present tense. This goes on for about the first quarter of the book. Then, we switch over to the folks on earth, so it’s third person, past tense. There’s even a chapter that’s omniscient, as we learn about the life of a piece of material. It’s all over the place, but it works. It keeps the tension going. I dare you to put this book down. And, by the way, this is Weir’s first novel.

Head Hopping
This has become something of the cardinal sin of fiction writing. Believe it or not, there are authors who do this on a regular basis. For example, in her Parasol Protectorate series, Gail Carriger hops into whichever head makes the most sense. I will admit, I found it jarring at first, but when I realized it was done by choice, not by lack of skill (because she does it quite skillfully) I went along for quite an enjoyable, engaging ride.

Make Your Writing Accessible
A more pejorative way of putting this is “dumb it down.” The idea being, write to the lowest common denominator, and thereby widen your possible readership. I have two words: Michael Crichton. Crichton filled his novels with more factual science than most people absorb in a lifetime, and it didn’t seem to hurt his sales. I believe that people in general, especially people who love to read, want to be challenged. They want to learn and grow. If they can do that while being entertained, then even better.

Rule breaking isn’t for everybody, and it isn’t for every situation. If you write category romances, you won’t please your editor by turning in a manuscript that shifts from present tense to past tense, first person to third. It’s interesting to note that the rule-breakers I cited above all write science fiction, fantasy, and/or steampunk… genres that by their very definitions break rules and push boundaries. But we can still learn something from them, even if our own writing must follow a predetermined structure. Just for fun, pick a rule and break it. Consider it an exercise to stretch your creative muscles. Don’t stop to edit yourself, don’t take time to “fix” it. Just write for at least fifteen minutes. You may be surprised at what you end up with.

What do you think? Ready to break some rules?

*  *  *


Jennifer AlLee was born in Hollywood, California, and grew up above a mortuary one block away from the famous intersection of Hollywood & Vine. Now she lives in the grace-filled city of Las Vegas, which just goes to prove she’s been blessed with a unique life. When she’s not busy spinning tales, she enjoys playing games with friends, attending live theater and movies, and singing at the top of her lungs to whatever happens to be playing on Pandora. Although she’s thrilled to be living out her lifelong dream of being a novelist, she considers raising her son to be her greatest creative accomplishment. You can visit her on Facebook, Pinterest, or her website.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Who Decides to Publish Your Book?

The following blog post is shared by permission from the Steve Laube Agency blog    


The editor you met with at a writers’ conference liked your proposal and asked you to send it to her after the conference. She was already talking about format and promotion ideas. Or you submitted a proposal and received an enthusiastic response from the acquisitions editor. Four (or maybe six to eight) months later, a rejection letter showed up in your inbox or mailbox.

What happened?

No matter how much editors like potential books, they don’t have final say in sending contracts A lot of other people are involved in the decision of whether to issue a contract or a rejection letter.

Before becoming an agent I worked 11 years as an acquisitions editor and later as an editorial director for Bethany House Publishers. Most publishers have two physical board meetings to help make the decision whether or not to publish a book. This process varies from publisher to publisher and each company has its own name for its board meetings. Thus many authors get confused when hearing different labels.

Some rejections state that “the book did not get past the committee.” This statement can mean a lot of things. It could even mean it didn’t get past stage one below. So take a comment like that with a grain of salt, or at least get clarification if you wish to know how far your book actually went in the process.

Let’s look at the stages your proposal goes through in this process (all of this presupposes that you already have a literary agent who has helped your craft your proposal so that it will get reviewed by the right person at the right publisher):

Stage One: Editor

The first stage is with the editor, one-on-one. This person must decide which book projects he or she wants to sponsor to colleagues. Most rejections happen at this desk. For some reason it didn’t click. Rarely does anyone else in the company see the rejected proposal at this stage. Some junior editors may show it to a senior editor, but not in a formal presentation meeting.

Stage Two: Editorial Board

The second stage is the editorial board. Editors gather together and pitch their discoveries to other editors. The editors create consensus for the project and occasionally brainstorm a different direction for it. If you get approval at this stage, many editors will call the agent or you and tell you the good news. But this is only a mid-level step.

Stage Three: Publishing Board

The third stage is the publishing board meeting (aka pub board). This is the biggie. Again, each company operates differently, so consider this description as a generalization. In this meeting are the company executives, presidents, vice-presidents, sales and marketing folks, and editorial representatives. I’ve heard of these meetings having as many as 20 people in attendance. Likely it is closer to 10 at the most.

Most editors have worked hard prior to this meeting. They have put together pro-formas that show the projected sales and profitability of the project. Likely they have already gone to the sales department and received a sales projection. Some go as far as gathering printing bids for the book prior to the meeting. Each member of the committee receives the pro-forma and a copy of the book proposal. (I can’t emphasize enough the power of a top notch proposal.). The executives receive this information before the meeting but not all are able to read it in advance.

It is this meeting where every objection possible is thrown at the book. Participants come up with reasons why this idea is a failure and why it should never be published. The discussion can be brutal. The editor is the advocate who defends the book against objections. If it survives this gauntlet, it will likely survive the general marketplace. In my time at Bethany House each project took a minimum of 15 minutes to present and receive rejection or approval. But some discussions lasted an hour.

There were times I went into the meeting expecting a slam dunk and got rejected. Other times I thought I’d get shot down but ended up with approval. An editor considers it a good day when 80 percent of what he or she presents in the pub board meeting gets approved.

Reasons for approval can be everything from pure economics to personal agendas by an executive. If that executive loves the topic, he can push the rest of the meeting toward approval. If everyone is tired and cranky, then the proposal may be doomed for publishing success. This is a subjective business, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the pub board meeting.

At this stage, the editor has company approval of the book. Some publishers authorize the contractual parameters in this meeting. Others have to have a separate meeting with the finance department.
But now is usually when the editor calls you or your agent with the good news. Negotiations begin on the contract, and you are on your way to your next published book.


Steve Laube, a literary agent and president of The Steve Laube Agency, has been in the book industry for over 31 years, first as a bookstore manager where he was awarded the National Store of the Year by CBA. He then spent over a decade with Bethany House Publishers and was named the Editor of the Year in 2002. He later became an agent and has represented over 700 new books and was named Agent of the Year by ACFW. His office is in Phoenix, Arizona.
Originally published Published in The Advanced Christian Writer, September/October 2005. Revised 2009 and 2015.