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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

My ACFW Conference Take

By Elizabeth Ludwig

I was privileged to attend the 2015 American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference recently in Dallas, Texas. This is an event that I’ve attended before. In fact, I’ve only missed a couple of conferences since I started writing for publication back in 2002. The math on this one is pretty simple…that’s fourteen conferences over a span of an equal number of years (give or take a year when life got in the way). 

On paper, the conference hasn’t changed much. The focus has always been directed toward teaching aspiring authors the craft of writing and inducting them in the intricate, and often treacherous, world of publishing. To accomplish this, the staff at ACFW do quite a remarkable job of scheduling informative workshops and speakers with a heart for authors. They also put together an impressive list of industry professionals—editors, agents, book reviewers, and media—for authors to meet and talk to about their respective writing projects. 

At one time, this was a very valuable experience. In 2002, as an unpublished, un-agented author with a dozen different writing projects and no clear sense of direction, what ACFW provided was instruction and guidance. Several years later, with thirteen book titles to my name, including a Carol Award Finalist, an ECPA bestseller/SELAH Award Finalist, and a Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence Finalist, I have to admit that the conference no longer holds the same allure. In addition, I honored to say that I am represented by one of the most respected agents in the business. 

ACFW 2015: Beth Adams, Elizabeth Ludwig, Susan Downs
So what is the takeaway for an author in my position? Why would I bother spending the money to go to a conference that I’ve attended at least twelve times before? 

If I’m honest, I struggled to answer that question before arriving in Dallas. I justified the expense with some inane excuses that sounded good but held very little validity. And then, I looked over my schedule. Along with the appointments I remembered, I had signed up to serve as an appointment monitor.

For two hours!

Two hours of doing nothing more than standing outside a door and holding up my hand to signal when the time on a fifteen-minute appointment expired (insert whine here). Two hours of pacing in bored stupor while the workshop I really wanted to attend went on without me and other people went in to speak with people I hoped to meet but now would not be able to…or so I thought. 

What really happened was that I stood outside the door and chatted with a representative from RT Book Reviews for almost all of those two hours. Shortly thereafter, we were joined by a representative from Library Journal who asked about my books, my career, and eventually my publishing history. Please understand…I have never, ever had the chance to rub elbows with such prestigious industry professionals for such an extended length of time. With my very best efforts, I could not have coordinated such an opportunity! 

In addition, I renewed old contacts as I walked editors and agents to their seats, introduced them to their respective appointments, and volunteered my services as timekeeper, hostess, and overall gopher. 

That, my friends, is the takeaway from a conference such as ACFW. It’s not always about the scheduled appointments. Sometimes, it’s about the chance meetings that only God can orchestrate. It’s about the friendships that happen over coffee, and the kinship that comes with shared prayers in crowded hallways. Finally, it’s about stepping out in faith, without an organized agenda but with a heart for service—even if that heart started out whining, and ended up being incredibly and unbelievably blessed. 

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. Book three in the series, Tide and Tempest, was recently named a finalist for the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Elizabeth was also named a finalist in the 2015 Selah Awards for her novella “One Holy Night”, part of the bestselling anthology collection, Christmas Comes to Bethlehem, Maine. She 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

Sticks And Stones? They Hurt. Words? They Can Kill Me

by James L. Rubart

Remember being told to memorize this classic line when you were a kid? “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

What a crock. 

Anyone who’s been alive for more than three years know that bruises and breaks to our bodies can heal much faster than the ones to our hearts and minds. In truth, countless word attacks are still not close to being healed; at least that’s the case with me. You too?

Two Quick Stories

Back in the late 90s, when I was still extremely nervous about my writing, I took a chance and asked an acquaintance (who shot TV commercials for my ad agency) to read a short story I’d written. At that point, I’d never shown any of my fiction to anyone but my wife so it wasn’t easy for me to take the risk. 

But since my  acquaintance was a director, I had this ill informed and ignorant idea that if he liked it, he could get it into the hands of people who knew about a thing or two about publishing. He didn’t read it, but  did give it to his camera man who my acquaintance said knew what made up a good story.   

His camera man read it. Said he didn’t get it, that it didn’t make sense. Disjointed. I took that to heart. The words went deep. Killed me. I shut down and buried my writing dream and didn’t risk again till years later. When I finally did, I showed the short story to four friends who all said it was one of the more powerful stories they’d ever read.

Story Number Two

In the summer of ’12 I taught a class on fiction at the Oregon Christian Writers Conference. During the class I asked the students to give me their pitch. I gave a quick response to each. A year later, one of the students came up to me and said, “You told me my idea wouldn’t work. You were flippant. You didn’t give me any reasons why it wouldn’t succeed and it really, really hurt.”

I was stunned. I didn’t remember saying that, and it's not my nature to react that way. But it doesn’t matter. That’s what she heard. (Are you impressed that she had the guts to confront me about it? I was. Highly. We talked it out and are now good friends--and she is a talented writer.)

The Moral of the Story(s)

Be careful. Of who you listen to. Of what you allow inside. Some people (like my director/camera man acquaintances) don’t know what they’re talking about. Talk to people who do know. Guard our hearts above all else, yes?

And realize that you might be saying things to writers a few paces behind you on the publishing path that will have a significant impact. For good. Or for pain. 
I don’t think we realize what an impact our words can make. Actually yeah, I guess I do. 

I remember vividly when I first jumped into the publishing world in ’06 and the offhand encouragement I received from a number of people I admired. They probably wouldn’t recall saying anything to me, but I remember. Their words gave me hope. Helped me persevere. Kept me on the path. I bet someone has done the same for you.

Yes, the words we write are powerful. We craft them to be that way. Just don’t forget how powerful the ones we speak can be and how we need to craft them with just as much wisdom.

James L. Rubart is 28 years old, but lives trapped inside an older man's body. He thinks he's still young enough to water ski like a madman, and dirt bike with his two grown sons, and loves to send readers on journeys they'll remember months after they finish one of his stories. He's the best-selling, Christy award winning author of seven novels as well as a professional speaker. During the day he runs his marketing company which helps businesses, authors, and publishers make more coin of the realm. He lives with his amazing wife on a small lake in eastern Washington. More at

Monday, September 28, 2015

Comparing ~ We All Do It

Don't forget to leave a comment, because every day you leave one this week, you'll be entered in the drawing for this week's books. It's our final week of birthday bash giveaways! Here's this week's nooks:

Borrowed with permission from The Write Conversation
by Vonda Skelton @VondaSkelton

No matter where we are on this writing
journey, we tend to compare.
Beginning in 2003 and continuing through 2011, Edie and I led yearly NCompass Writing Retreats. The goal of each retreat was to offer a time of refreshing, refueling, and of course, writing and rewriting. But in our last year of retreats, we realized that year’s focus was on another re: releasing.
Let’s face it, no matter where we are on this writing journey, we tend to compare. We compare our words to other writers and determine our worth. We compare their publications to our rejections. We long for their successes and see ourselves as failures.

Even multi-published mega-authors can succumb to comparison. Why did her book do so well when mine is obviously better? How could the movie producer choose his memoir over mine?

Comparison is a trap
Comparison is trap that can lead to anger, frustration, jealousy, and resentment. It can lead to quitting when God says to keep going.

But the correct response to comparison is simple: release it. Release the responsibility to succeed. Release the motivation to beat out others. Release the drive for big sales, major contracts, and movie deals.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t do our best to learn and grow as writers and to seek to get our work out–we should! His Word says to do everything with excellence. But it does mean the motivation must be more than simply money and recognition.

God is ultimately the one who determines our paths.
As followers of Christ, our motivation must be to please Him by developing the gift He’s given us, and then accept the truth that He is in control.

We can work hard and work smart and do everything we’re taught as writers…and still receive rejections.

Because we’re not in control.

We can take classes and rewrite till our fingers bleed…and never see our names on the cover of a book.

Because we’re not in control.

God can choose to bless a less-than-perfect book…while letting a well-written one sit on the shelf. And whether we agree or not, we must release it to Him.

It’s through the release that we truly become successful Christian writers. Because then He can use our words to change hearts for eternity…regardless of how we compare to others.

How do you find release from comparisons? Be sure to leave your tips in the comments section below.

Don't forget to join the conversation!

Vonda Skelton is a speaker and the author of four books: Seeing Through the Lies: Unmasking the Myths Women Believe and the 3-book Bitsy Burroughs mysteries for children 8-12 yo. She’s the founder and co-director of Christian Communicators Conference, offering speakers’ training and community for Christian women called to ministry. Vonda is a frequent instructor at writer’s conferences and keynotes at business, women’s, and associational events. You can find out more about Vonda, as well as writing opportunities and instruction at her writer’s blog, The Christian Writer’s Den at

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Winner of Week 1's Books is

Chappydebbie. If that's you, please contact me through Ground Control.


by Cynthia Ruchti

Of all the trees on our property, this one holds my attention. And affection. Its brilliant colors in autumn stir the poet in me. But that's not where its value lies for our family.

This tree is the daughter of a massive maple that once graced a different part of the yard. The day a storm toppled it, we mourned, even the youngest child. It had served as sentry, fort, hiding place, shade, shelter, goal post, and bird habitat for possibly a hundred years or more.

The parent tree died twenty-five years ago.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

What I learned About Writing at Disney World by DiAnn Mills

What I learned About Writing at Disney World
by DiAnn Mills

The imagination has no boundaries at Disney World. From Epcot to Magic Kingdom, you can experience one thrill after another. The imagineers refuse to limit their minds to logic and reason. They dream first, knowing if an idea bursts into the mind, a means to make it happen is there also. Color, sound, fantasy, and animation combine to entertain and establish memories long after the visitor returns to reality.

Dream on!

Some of the visitors never want to return to the real world. They much prefer the one where love and laughter rule the day.

Isn’t that what we want to provide for the readers? Don’t we long for them to close our books but never close their minds to the delight of the adventure?

Our goal is for our readers to root themselves in our story world and never leave.

Disney’s Mission statement as of 2013 shows their commitment to creativity and quality: “The Walt Disney Company's objective is to be one of the world's leading producers and providers of entertainment and information, using its portfolio of brands to differentiate its content, services and consumer products….”

Garbage Band Rhythm - Who would ever think?
Here is what I learned about story after visiting Disney World.

1. Characters come to life with smiles, gestures, and personality.
2. Characters are timeless. We remember each one and how they touched our hearts.
3. A story world is painted on a canvas with a setting that enhances every   moment of the story.
4. Content is king. Every word must be bathed in gold then polished and put on display for the world to admire.
5. Experience is the takeaway. Writers succeed when the reader closes the door to the outside world—repeatedly.
6. Disney holds the keys to the kingdom of marketing and promotion. Lovers of the magic are free to maintain the enjoyment with reminders they can hold, sing, view, wear, dance to, and even eat! Writers too must develop ways for readers to find full satisfaction in story.
7. Writers always have room to grow and expand story techniques. Each new set of characters and plot are stronger and more defined. Stronger dialogue and deeper emotion draws the reader into critical situations. Setting enhances a richer theme.

Walt Disney’s philosophy is an inspiration for all of us. “All our dreams can come true - if we have the courage to pursue them." 

Think about your current story. Can you incorporate the Disney philosophy into your adventure? Do you have the courage to pursue the world of story?

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; the 2015 president of the Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope, & Love chapter; a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and International Thriller Writers. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. 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

Friday, September 25, 2015

19 Things to Remember When Writing Gets Tough

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

It’s easy to get discouraged in the writing industry. It’s a tough business, and as they say on Project runway, “One day you’re in, and one day you’re out.”

So what’s a writer to do?

Here’s my list of things to remember when publishing doesn’t go your way:

1. We always have a choice, we can get stronger through adversity or defeated by it. This is true in life, and also in publishing.

2. Failure is an option, but it’s not as bad as you think. Some of my most valuable lessons have come through repeated failure. The key is to not let failure stop you.

3. Publishing is subjective business. What one editor loves, another hates. Don’t let one or two opinions stop you in your tracks.

4. It’s important to cultivate a positive attitude. Having a positive outlook doesn’t mean you ignore the negative, you just don’t let it defeat you.

5. The best opportunities are often disguised as problems.

6. Success has nothing to do with perfection. It’s important to strive to be the best we can be. But perfection is out of reach. Don’t let a lack of it hold you back.

Every writer needs a tribe.
7. Every writer needs a tribe. We need others traveling a similar path to encourage us and hold us accountable.

8. Every writer’s journey is different. Although we need companions, we have to remember our path is unique. Comparing your opportunities and milestones are not a productive use of your time.

9. Courage isn’t the absence of fear. We all are afraid of things—failure, the blank page, not living up to expectations. But the cogurageous writer continues on in spite of fear.

10. Publishing is five percent talent and ninety-five percent perseverance. The tide will turn. It may seem like your turn with success with never come, but that’s only true if you quit.

The harder the climb, the better the view
11. The harder the climb, the better view. When we work for something, we value it more.

12. Publishing is a process, not a destination. We look at others ahead of us and feel like they’ve arrived. Truthfully, no one has ever arrived.

13. It takes as long as it takes. There are so many things that go into the publishing equation. The key is to not rush the process.

14. In this business, a lot of success does come from who you know. Networking is vital. Learn the lesson early and you’ll find the path easier.

15. You are stronger than you think. So often we underestimate ourselves. Stop and look back at what you’ve already accomplished and give yourself a pat on the back.

16. Every writer struggles with insecurity. It doesn’t matter if we’ve never published a book or published fifty. The blank page remains an enemy to be vanquished.

17. Nothing lasts forever, not even the writing slumps.

18. Flexibility is key. We can make plans, but just because things don’t turn out the way we hope is no excuse to give up.

19. Finally, remember these words, A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

These are the things I try to remember when publishing gets tough. What would you add to the list? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Edie Melson is the author of numerous books, as well as a freelance writer and editor. Her blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains ChristianWriters Conference and the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy. She’s also the Military Family Blogger at Guideposts. Com, Social Media Director for SouthernWriters Magazine and the Senior Editor for Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook. Don't miss her new book from Worthy Inspired, WHILE MY SOLDIER SERVES.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Winner of Week 3's Books is...

Pam K. You commented on Deborah Raney's post. Please contact me through Ground Control.

The Generation Gap Boogie/Rap

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.

‘No complaints from the peanut gallery,’ my wife told my daughter.

My daughter, Kade, 12 years old, stared at my wife. Finally, she gave a long, drawn out, ‘okayyyy.’

'She doesn’t know what you mean,' I said, looking up from my computer as I was writing a blog for Novel Rocket. ‘Kade, tell mommy what you think a peanut gallery is.’

'A long, white hall.' She held her hands wide. 'Sterile, like a hospital. But white floors, white walls, white ceilings. Every so often is a glass case on a pedestal. Light shines like a spotlight on the exhibits.'

She paused, then said in a whisper, 'A peanut.' She closed her hand, making a fist. 'A peanut gallery where people view…peanuts. In the shell.'

The generational gap happens every generation. Tocqueville commented that ‘Among democratic nations, each generation is a new people.’ If democracy creates an entirely new people, then surely one generation that grew up listening to vinyl recordings of four English-accented teens named after a bug, and another generation watching SpongeBob anywhere on the planet with a smartphone means there may be a slight language gap.

Four generations are currently reading and writing. Four different sets of values. Four sets of technological breakthroughs.

What can be done to bridge the gap between generations? Especially when writing?

The key is to learn about the other generations. And what we learn naturally shows up in our work.

A few tips:

—One generation seeks to escape reality, while another seeks to cope with reality. Still another believes they create their reality. All generations need books with these themes. Embrace them instead of ridiculing them.

—Understand why they do what they do. Is texting important—or do they feel it's nonsense? One group feels in close contact with friends by punching words with thumbs, while the other still thinks talking on the phone is a brilliant invention. Both styles of keeping in contact with friends are pretty amazing.

—People really are eager to show off their technology. Watch and learn!

—Don’t define a person by their age. Start off by defining them by their interests. Get to know them.

—Mentor. For example, I have a few ‘disciples’ of other generations I work with. They are eager for instant feedback, and as they ask questions, their questions help me shape what’s important to them. For example ‘Did you wear bellbottoms?’ means they’re interested in fashion.

—Our generation’s taboos are another generation’s entertainment. Generations fight different battles.

—One generation ago, a family might get by on a single income, so stay-at-home moms were more common. Now, it’s almost impossible to feed a family on a single income. Both generations’ values will be different. Is either wrong? No.

—Christian values never go out of style. The golden rule always works, no matter the generation! Embrace them!

Why limit your audience? Rock the generation gap! Stop commenting from the peanut gallery about the other generations and take them out to eat! You never know, you may learn something.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Steps to Success, by Dr. Linda Seger

Dr. Linda Seger has a Th.D. in Drama and Theology, and created a script consulting business in 1981, based on her dissertation project about the elements needed to make a script work. She has written 13 books, 9 of them on screenwriting. She is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Redemptive Film Festival for her 30+ years of work as a script consultant, the Candlelight Award from Regents University for being a "Light to the Entertainment Industry," the Distinguished Alumni Award from Pacific School of Religion, and The Moondance Film Festival Living Legacy Award for her support of Women in the Film Industry. For more of her bio, see her website.

NEW! Spiritual Steps on the Road to Success

I have another new book out - the revised edition of SPIRITUAL STEPS ON THE ROAD TO SUCCESS: Gaining the Goal Without Losing Your Soul. It's easy to find on and

If you are spiritually inclined, you might find it interesting because it deals with success from a spiritual perspective. When I was trying to get my career started, I found spiritual issues had to do with struggles, anxiety, overcoming obstacles, knowing when to push or to wait, trying to stay kind when not everyone was kind to me. When I started to do better in my career, I discovered the issues changed, which is the focus of this book. 

Some of the chapter headings are: Willing to be Blessed, Meeting the 7 Deadly Sins, (I think we meet them all) Becoming Important, (There are lots of issues that come up when one becomes a public person), Becoming Unimportant, Connecting not Competing for Success, Developing a Sense of Smell (so we sniff out the scoundrels - I presume we all meet a few), and Save Time for Tragedy, Save Room for Miracles. 

The Forward is by Martha Williamson, writer and executive producer of "Touched by an Angel." And the book won a Gold Medal Illumination Book Award. (Sub-category was The Enduring Light Award.) 

The book is written from a fairly broad spiritual perspective. I'm a Quaker (a rather tolerant group), grew up Lutheran, many years ago meditated at the Zen Center in L.A., occasionally sing in the choir at the 2nd Baptist Church when in Houston, have some knowledge of many spiritual disciplines, so there's nothing here about trying to convert anyone and I don't think anything offensive to any spiritual discipline. I always have readers give me feed-back and for a book like this, I have Christian and non-Christian readers to see if the issues resonate. I consider the issues to be universal. I interviewed many spiritual people from all 6 continents, and from a broad range of careers in arts, sciences, business, religion, etc. including a harpist from Tasmania, an Aborigine from Australia, a businessman from Singapore, a scientist from England, etc. A really fascinating group of people that further enhanced the issues. 

If you buy it and like it, I’d very much appreciate it if you would write a review on one or more of the following websites. In today's book selling world, one review is worth 1,000! You may find my new book in either paperback or ebook format at the following links, to purchase, to give as a gift, or to post reviews:

SpiritualSteps paperback at Indie Bound (this allows you either to mail order, or to have the book sent to your local independent bookstore:

In the next 6 months or so, there will be another edition of a screenwriting book. I will only email this list for the occasional book announcements, which may be every 6 months or so.

I’d also love it if you would join my more frequent email newsletter list. Please sign up on my website at

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Humble Typewriter

by Alton Gansky @AltonGansky

There’s been a new addition to our family.

No, not THAT kind of addition. I have become the proud owner of a typewriter. Remember those? Big. Boat anchor heavy. Clunky. Noisy. In short: wonderful.

I’ve been wanting an old typewriter. It’s an affliction that strikes many writers. I don’t know how many business cards from authors I’ve received over the years that included a photo of some old typewriter.

Writers often develop an interest in the way writing used to be done, and although most of us would not want to return to those days when everyone in your family and several of your closest neighbors knew when you were writing. How could they not? The rhythmic clacking of the type bar as letters were pounded into the paper have been known to travel great distances.

My new typewriter is from 1950 (so I use the word new ironically). Technically, it is a Royal KMG made in 1950. The KMG model debuted in 1949 although it is pretty much the same as KMM models that had been made for much longer. The big difference is that the KMG is gray, hence the G in KMG.

I suspect that most people will look at the picture above and see only obsolete technology. Let me tell you what I see. I see the same model of typewriter Ray Bradbury used to write Fahrenheit 451. He didn’t own it. He paid ten cents an hour to use the one in his local library.

I see the same kind of machine that helped Saul Bellow, winner of a Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature, the National Medal of Arts, and the only author to receive the National Book Award for Fiction three times, do his work.

It’s a long list of famous names including William Faulkner, playwright Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Dorothy Parker, Rod Serling, and many others.
Each writer approaches a project in his or her own way. David McCullough still writes using a secondhand Royal KMM he picked up over forty years ago. That’s right.

Every book the biographer has written (he’s won two Pulitzers and a couple of National Book Awards) he has composed on that one typewriter. His reason? The typewriter slows him down. He has pounded out all of his books the old fashion way. Sure he had no choice in 1964 when he bought the typewriter, but he does have a choice today and he chooses his old Royal.

I’m not sure I could do what Mr. McCullough does, but I admire him for being able to create such wonderful books the old fashion way.

As you can tell, I love my new old typewriter and I hope to collect more. I don’t plan to abandon my computer. I don’t think I could sever the invisible chords that connect us, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate the beauty, mechanical complexity, and history of the good ol’ typewriter.

By the way, the term “typewriter” used to apply as much to the typist as to the device the typist used. That’s right, a person can be a typewriter.

So, do you have an old typewriter hanging around your house? Does it inspire you?

Alton Gansky is the author of over forty books, novels and nonfiction. 

He is also the director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.