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Monday, November 30, 2015

Dissecting the Male POV--Part Two by Patty Smith Hall

Today, we’re going to dive right into the second part of dissecting the male POV, the inherited characteristics of each and every man to ever grace the planet, attributes that are sometime taken for granted when we’re mapping out our characters. If you missed part one of the series, don’t worry—you can find it here.

But let’s begin. I don’t know about you but I love to see all the pictures of everyone’s babies and grandchildren that pop up on Facebook. In each sweet face, you can see tiny glimpses of the past—grandma’s nose, Daddy’s blue eyes, Mommy’s dimple. A characteristic imprinted into their DNA. But doesn’t stop there—how many times have you heard that a child got their single-minded determination from their father or their sweet nature from their mom?

But what about Adam, the first man? Did he inherit any innate characteristics from his Father? Absolutely! In fact, man inherited two characteristics, one of which we’re going to talk about today—that of the provider.

Think back to those first few moments after God discovered Adam and Eve in the Garden after they’d eaten the forbidden fruit. Even in their sin, God had so much love for the humans He’d created, He provided them with clothing to cover their nakedness. Adam saw this and it awoke in him this need to serve, to make sure Eve, their children and those he feels responsible for were taken care of.

It’s also the curse God had given Adam after the fall (Genesis 3:17-18.) Men may not like to work but they do it anyway because the need to provide for their family is so strong. They rank each other by their job; the better the position, the more respect the other men give him. So to be unemployed brings shame to most men which strikes at his self confidence and make him think he’s ‘less’ of a man because he can’t provide. Providing gives a man meaning and purpose in his life. Men consider it an honor to provide.

But there are different levels of how the provider characteristic plays out in a man’s life. The man with an underdeveloped need to provide lacks ambition and drive. These are the guys you find playing video games or messing with their cars. Think Howard Wolowitz from The Big Bang Theory. Here’s a guy with a degree from MIT, hanging out with all these research scientists and does he feel the need to further his career by going back to school? No, he’s too busy playing video games and chasing women while still living at home with his mother. Howard finally starts to grow up once he gets married but some men in this category don’t. They feel little urgency to provide, and this lack of ambition hurts the men themselves as well as the women who love them.

The man with an overdeveloped need to provide place a great deal of emphasis on their career, their goals and their ambition. They’re workaholics who may provide material things but spend so much time working, they don’t nurture their relationships or take care of their spiritual needs. Sometimes, the need to provide gets them into debt, or they become so obsessed with providing for the future, they fail to provide their family with basic needs. An example of this would be Howard Langston (Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character) in  the movie, Jingle All the Way. Howard is so involved in providing a beautiful house and a good life for his family, he fails to nurture his relationship wit his son. He breaks his promise to be at a karate belt promotion because he’s too busy making a business deal. He forgets to pick up the only toy his son asks for at Christmas.

Keeping this trait and it’s variations in mind when you’re developing your male characters will make him feel real to your readers.

Next month, part three--Man as the Protector

Home from the war, army nurse Thea Miller is determined to adopt her late sister's baby and begin a new life. But someone else has the same intentions—the town sheriff and Thea's old friend, Mack Worthington. Now, in order to keep her niece in the family, Thea must reach an agreement with him.

Mack isn't sure Thea—whose actions once hurt him badly—is committed to baby Sarah. And a judge may never approve a single-parent adoption for either of them. But what if they got married? It would be a marriage in name only. Yet the more time Mack spends with Thea, the more he begins to believe their pretend family can become the real one they've both been longing for.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thankful for the Right Words

Jesus speaking the right words.

by Marcia Lee Laycock

I hit send and sighed. This first draft of the first act of my new play didn’t come easily and I wasn’t happy with what I’d produced. I knew there was something wrong but couldn’t put my finger on what it was that left me wanting to drag the document into the trash. I thought about doing just that for the next few days as I watched my inbox with trepidation, believing my instructor’s comments would not make me happy. When her critique arrived I sighed again and hit open. 

As usual, the instructor was frank about her thoughts and didn’t hold back the criticism. But there were things she liked so I was encouraged. Then I got to the part that I knew wasn’t right. And I started to smile. My instructor didn’t mince words but they were words I wanted to hear – words that clarified why the lines weren’t working, words that made me want to jump right back in and get to work on it again. They were words that made me glad I hadn’t dragged the document into the trash. And I was thankful.

The problem? My instructor expressed it this way – “It’s your characters telling us what to make of that moment that begins to feel like the playwright “telling us” what to think and feel, instead of trusting the moment and the image to speak for themselves. I like to think that I am called to plant the image, the debate, the relationship and I let the Holy Spirit do the rest. People love to figure things out for themselves. I think this is why Jesus spoke in obscure parables and resisted explaining right away. It’s a holy practice - to ponder.”

Yes! That was it exactly. I had simply gone too far, said too much, given too many answers instead of leaving the questions to be pondered.

And I wondered, do I do this when I’m talking with people who don’t know my Jesus? Do I go too far in trying to lead them to Him? I thought about the time when I came to Christ, a tumultuous time in my life when I desperately needed answers but did not want to hear them. I thought about my brother, simply saying, “God bless,” every time he left my home. Those two words tolled like a bell. He didn’t have to preach at me. The Holy Spirit was quite capable of making those two words do their work in my heart and my life.

“A holy practice, to ponder.” Yes. And another holy practice – to write sparingly, allowing the Holy Spirit room there, too.

“Writing is not like painting where you add. It is not what you put on the canvas that the reader sees. Writing is more like a sculpture where you remove, you eliminate in order to make the work visible.” (Elie Wiesel, author of Night)

“This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand””(Matthew 13:13). 

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 on Smashwords or on Amazon

It is also now available in Journal format on Amazon. 

Sign up to receive her devotional column, The Spur

Saturday, November 28, 2015

How a Writer Faces the Holidays

How a Writer Faces the Holidays
By DiAnn Mills

For some people, The holidays are about the food and gifts. For others, the holidays are about spending time with family and friends. Some can’t wait to experience the latest football game. Then there are writers. Oh, we love the food, family, parties, gifts, and friends, but what about the inevitable questions that shake the foundation of our self-confidence? I’m talking about the statements that cause us to wonder who the real turkey is.

We all have family who resembles these birds.

Comments like:
1. Let me introduce you to our family writer. He/she hasn’t sold anything, but writing is a nice hobby.
2. How many hours do you spend on your computer?
3. Aren’t you neglecting your family with that crazy dream?
4. Aren’t there meds for OCD people like you?
5. Making any money yet?
6. I heard a writer has to be on drugs or drunk to sell stuff that sells. Which are you?

I could go on about our loving family and friends who really do mean well, but they often take a vicious stab at our hearts at a time when we should be concentrating on the most wonderful time of the year. Instead of sinking our hurt feelings into another generous slice of pumpkin pie, why not memorize a list of all the writer blessings received during the year? 

Creativity! We have the artist touch of communicating through the written word. We see the world in unexpected beauty and share our adventures.
Opportunity! We have so many ways to share our gift. All a writer has to do is find a need and write it.

 Joy! Writers love what they do. We can’t wait to hit the computer keys. How sad to spend hours on a craft we don’t enjoy.

Imagination! The unique personalities sitting around the table allow our characters to have those special quirks. Don’t be a turkey and explain to critical people where we find our impressive characters.

Fruitfulness! When everyone is watching football, napping, or eating again, we plot our next story.

Preparation! This is my favorite. A writer who prepares the holiday feasts can imagine all of her characters are coming to dinner—what they’d like to eat and of course the conversation.

Shopping! While everyone else hits the 5:00 a.m. shopping malls and fights crowds, writers waken early to sip coffee and in the quiet hours, their stories come alive.

Love makes the difference.

As the year comes to a close, we writers can learn from our past victories and challenges, update our bios, dust off our proposals, commit to learning more about our craft, explore new publishing trends, and seek a serious writer to mentor. Writers enhance the world so we can be a blessing to others—even those special family members and friends.

How are you blessed as a writer?

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.

She 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.

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; International Thriller Writers, and the Faith, Hope, and Love chapter of Romance Writers of America. She is co-director of 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. 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, November 27, 2015

10 Tips to Help You Get More Twitter Followers

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

Once we see the value in Twitter, the next thing we need to know is how to get more followers. 

I haven’t run into many people who don’t want to increase their numbers, so today I’m going to share 10 tips to help writers get more Twitter followers. 

Why do I want more Twitter followers?
  • It gives me credibility
  • It increases my reach, and makes it easier to spread the word, no matter what my message.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Writer's Thanksgiving

Peter Leavell is an award winning
historian and novelist.
One hundred and two pilgrims landed at Plymouth in December and promptly starved. Half died as they worked through the winter to erect buildings.

All the children survived. Every one.

As the year 1621 dawned, Native Americans helped catch eels for the starving colonists. Corn thrived in the warm spring. Bean and squash vines grew around the thick stalks. 

Plymouth colonists might survive the next winter.

As harvest time neared, the men, women, and children from England were stunned. 

In England, fall brought in heavy cloud cover and smothered the land with rainy days and warm nights. The leaves along the canals and rivers curled, died, and fell into piles of rotten green and gray. 

But in New England, sunlight drenched the days and the nights grew bitterly cold. The weather was perfect for fall.
Fall, north of Plymouth

Vast forests erupted in carpets of orange, yellow, and red leaves. Golden fields stood ripe for harvest. Frigid rivers teemed with fish. Pilgrims' minds turned to God with thankfulness.

They sat down to eat.

It wasn’t a party. Nor was it a holiday. More of a tradition—a feast since the food was unimaginably plentiful. But to the Indians, parties happened to be their specialty.

The log cabins, lined with clay, reflected the fires that roasted five deer the Pokanoket brought. Other fires heated stews of meat and vegetables. Pilgrims and Indians alike sat on the ground or on rocks, shoveling food into their mouths with knives.

Sometimes as writers, we go through lean times. We struggle to find the perfect word here, a meaningful thought there. Chances are, we won't survive the manuscript. Some do. Others give up. 

Trust in God that He will bring a harvest. Because we don't write to be famous any more than the Pilgrims dreamed of being household names. We write for survival. And some day, when harvest time is here, we can feast with those we love on the bounties of our work. 

Don't forget to give thanks to God for the bountiful harvest you've already received!

Historical note: President Lincoln, during the Civil War, created the holiday Thanksgiving, where we immortalized the Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock in holiday.

Which would have incensed the Pilgrims. They believed holidays were not of God.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


by Alton Gansky

Perhaps it began with a stick used to draw an image in the dirt. Some would date it back to cave drawings—early finger painting. Then came wood styluses used to press cuneiform in to wet clay. We can’t overlook mallet and chisel used to create hieroglyphics on the walls of ancient tombs and the occasional obelisk or stone column. Papyrus and paper led to pointed sticks dipped in ink and bird-feather quills. (Did you know we get our word “bible,” as in The Holy Bible, from Byblos, the name of a city on the Mediterranean where early paper was made from reeds?) Then in the middle of the sixteenth century the wood cased, graphite pencil was designed. Turns out, it was a durable invention. We still use them today. It is said that John Steinbeck would use as many as 60 pencils a day in his writing. East of Eden required the sacrifice of 300 pencils.

Of course we can’t forget fountain pens and their successor the ball point pen. Then there is the glorious typewriter which invaded the business and writing world in the late 1800s. (I collect typewriters. My oldest is from 1919 and was invented by a Canadian Methodist minister…but I digress.) The typewriter made literary creation faster and easier. Some would argue that faster is not better. Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough, most recently of The Wright Brothers fame, uses an old typewriter he bought secondhand in the 1960s because if slows him down. I use a computer because it speeds me up. (And again I digress.)

Then came computers and word processors. I wrote my master’s thesis on a designated word processor which was fantastic—back then. Now a decent smart phone can do more. There was desktop publishing that allowed anyone to make flyers, print ads, and even magazines. Books became e-books. Letters became e-mail. Phone calls became texting (don’t get me started).

All of this to say, writers have always made use of tools to do their work. There’s a lot of time and technology between using a stick to draw a picture in the dirt and self-publishing. For the most part, it has been revolutionary and I’m glad for it. That being said, I sometimes fear that writers can become so focused on the tools the use to write that they overlook the greatest tool they have: an imagination fueled brain.

Someone once asked me what kind of computer they needed to write a novel. I said all they needed to get started was paper and a box of pencils. James A. Michener did his work by hand and hired a typist. Erle Stanley Gardner of Perry Mason fame dictated his work to secretaries.

It is easy to get caught up in the tools at the expense of the idea and that is a tragedy. Yes, if we write on a computer, then we need to master the software we use, but the focus should be on the story, not the tool. Sure we love our tools. Such is true in many professions. I used to do a good deal of woodworking and no one loves their tools more than woodworkers. A woodworker might loan you a tool or two but reach for his chisels and you might pull back a bloody stump. Chefs are that way about their knives. Put a piece of paper in front of a writer, a real writer, then he or she will start creating. Pencils, pen, crayon, typewriter, computer keyboard, it doesn’t matter, but the story.

When a writer is in “the zone and the words flow like water” she will not let her attention drift to how nice a keyboard she’s using. The focus starts with story, stays with story, and ends with story. The tool that makes that happen is found in the tool chest between our ears.

Writers long to be influenced. Not controlled. What we like is to bathe frequently in the natural springs of imagination. Swim in the story of others, drink from the well of movies, plumb the depths of an ocean of ideas. In doing so, you find your own story rising to the surface of your mind. It will tell you what to do from there.

Be careful, however, about what you allow to influence you. We tend to be picky about what we eat. We need to be just as picky about what we let influence our craft. Listen to the best, read the best, study the best, then be the best.

Alton Gansky is a writer with so many ideas he trips over them in the night.

Monday, November 23, 2015

How to Engage Your Reader: Guaranteed!

Karen Ball has been blessed to use her love of words and story during over 30 years in publishing. Karen built  and led successful fiction lines for Tyndale, Multnomah, Zondervan, and, most recently, the B&H Publishing Group. As a literary agent at The Steve LaubeAgency, she’s had the honor of discovering several best-selling novelists, including Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, Sharon Ewell Foster, Liz Curtis Higgs, and, most recently, Ginny Yttrup, whose debut novel Publisher’s Weekly declared “a masterpiece!” Karen has also worked with numerous top authors, including Angela Hunt, Robin Jones Gunn, Robin Lee Hatcher, Brandilyn Collins, and many others. In addition, Karen is a best-selling, award-winning novelist and a popular speaker. She lives in Oregon with her husband, father, and two four-legged, furry “kids.”

* * *

I have been a fiction fan for a lot of years—basically, as long as I’ve been reading. But lately, the books I’m drawn to are more memoirs and what I’d call creative nonfiction. Nonfiction message in a creative, unexpected format. As I’ve read these books, I’ve been asking myself why I’m drawn to them. No, more than that… Why I’m drawn into them.

Lately I picked up another memoir, whose title shall remain nameless, and opened the cover, expecting the same rush of anticipation, the sense of being transported inside someone else’s life and mind and skin.

It didn’t happen.

Oh, I stuck with the book for about 35 pages, but life is just too short to stick with a book that doesn’t speak to you. So I closed the cover and tossed the book into my “At-least-I-can-give-it-to-charity-and-claim-a-deduction” bag. And I started to wonder. What made the difference? Why was I left cold by that book?

The answer was actually pretty simple: The author wasn’t sharing his (which I’m using here just to avoid the dreaded his/her or painfully incorrect thus utterly unusable their, but I’m not saying the author of this book was, in reality, a him-person) story. He was, in fact, reporting it.

From a distance.

I wasn’t engaged because the author wasn’t engaged. He wasn’t in the story. No, I don’t mean his name wasn’t in it. It was. But there was no sense of him, or of any of the people he mentioned, or of the place… He wasn’t close enough, so I didn’t care. He talked about people, but didn’t show them to me. He mentioned events, but there was no sense of how those events affected his heart or mind or soul. He just gave the information, as though that was sufficient and the reader would be transformed by it.

But having a strong message is only one part of the equation. Connecting with your readers is as much about HOW you share the message as anything else. In fact, I believe it’s the most important element of writing a book that will astonish, entertain, enlighten, and change readers.  All writers, fiction or nonfiction, need to be storytellers. We need to get into the heart and grit and emotion of what we’re writing, sharing our stories in such a way that the reader sees, feels, smells it, hears, and tastes it.

“But my message is hard,” you say. “And those experiences that taught me about it were even harder. The things I saw, the things I did…I don’t want to go through them again.”
Well then, don’t write a book about them. Because if you’re not pouring yourself, heart and soul, into what you’re writing…if you’re not willing to, as they say, cut a vein and bleed on the page…if you’re afraid to dig into the dark places as well as savor the light…then friend, don’t write a book. Give a report. Share an account. Make a chart. Pin it, Tweet it, Instagram it. But don’t, for the love of Poughkeepsie, write a book. Because what’s the point if it’s not going to change you as well as your readers?

Years ago I wrote a novel based on the struggles my husband and I had experienced in our marriage. When I was ready to write, Don and I were in a good place. We’d been through years of counseling and were becoming friends as well as spouses. As I contemplated writing the novel, I admit I was afraid. God had brought us through so much. We’d had some terrible times. Dark times. Angry, spiteful, bitter times. It was only God’s work in our hearts that saved our marriage. And frankly, I didn’t want to go through all that again. What if it made me mad at Don again? What if it set us back? I took those fears to God, and He did two things. Reminded me that I really wanted to encourage people struggling in their marriages, to speak truth to them in the face of all the non-truth the world spouts. And then He gave me the idea to put together some picture frames with pictures I loved of Don.

You know what? When I dug into the writing, it was hard. And yes, I felt a lot of those emotions again. But every time I did I looked at those pictures, and what I saw wasn’t the bad times, it was the miracle of redemption and restoration. And when I finished the book, I was more in love with Don than ever. That novel, The Breaking Point, debuted on the bestseller list. I’ve received letter after letter from men and women thanking me for being willing to write such an authentic story, letting them know they weren’t alone and that God could heal what seemed irrevocably broken.

So that’s my challenge for you, writers. Especially for you wonderful folks crafting nonfiction. Get closer. Dig deep. Open up. Let it pour out of you, splashing on the page in all it’s glorious messiness and reality. Feel as you write. Be invested. Be in your words.
Then let me know when your book is done. Because that’s a book I want to read.