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Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Day I Met JFK ~ by Eddie Jones

Eddie Jones is founder and CEO of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. He is also an award-winning author with Harper Collins. You can find Eddie on his Amazon author page  or at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (LPC).

The Day I Met JFK

Please note: what you are about to read is all hearsay. Perhaps even wholly fabricated.

I was there, but it was half a century ago and I was only like four or five at the time. My sister swears it happened, so it must have. My sister is are always right¾even when she’s wrong. That’s the first rule of diplomacy for little brothers.

In the summer 1960 Grandmamma Jones lived in a home we called the Green House. When I say “Green House” I am referring to the color of the home, not the name of the owner. It’s important to make this distinction because there is a branch of Greens growing out from the Jones family tree. There is also a cluster of Gays mixed into the foliage, but the Greens and the Gays have nothing to do with this story. I’m just pointing out the fact that home was green, not owned by a Green Jones.

Grandma Jones was a neighborly woman. By neighborly I mean nosey. She often visited her neighbors, even when she’d been warned to stay away. On this occasion, she marched us down to the Governor’s Mansion. I forget why. Knowing Grandma Jones, it most likely had something to do with canning tomatoes or picking up sticks. Grandma Jones would often hire us out for the day to clean up from some stranger’s yard. This was her way of getting us out of her hair while and teaching me to want more out of life than hard, physical, manual labor. That summer I decided I wanted to become President of the United States.

“She led us around back of the Governor’s Mansion,” my sister recalls, “and we sat on the back steps. The maids brought us lemonade.”

I do not know what Grandmamma Jones did while Marji and I sipped lemonade. I suppose she advised the governor on how he should run the state of North Carolina. Grandmamma Jones excelled at giving advice. She had the spiritual gift of discernment. By this I means she enjoyed discerning for others.

At some point, I wandered around to the front of the Governor’s Mansion. Around the same time JFK arrived in his motorcade. He wasn’t president, yet, and so the parade of vehicles wasn’t nearly as long as it would become later. Still, it was a big deal, so I stood and watched as JFK worked his way down the rope line.

“The President patted you on the head,” my sister recalls, “turned and walked up the steps into the Governor’s Mansion. Then you followed him. You got as far as the front foyer of the mansion before Grandmamma Jones rushed in and pulled you back out.”

Isn’t that the way it is with story telling goes sometimes? You get the action started, characters introduced, and hint at the main character’s motivation. (Little Eddie doesn’t want to really work. He wants to be in charge and boss people around, like his grandmother.) Then there’s the inciting incident: the event that alters the direction of your main character’s life.

For me, inciting incident occurred when Jackie and John Kennedy adopted me into their family and shipped me off to the Kennedy Compound in Kennebunkport, Maine

Wait, what?  That didn’t happen. If it had, my trip to the Governor’s Mansion that day would have been a huge deal and altered the direction of my life.

As writers, it’s important to discern the “casual events” in our stories from “causal events.” “Causal events” contribute to a character’s transformation. “Casual events” are simply props on a set. A green house. A family of Greens and Gays. A grandmother who is nosey and neighborly, but also leads the main character to his inciting incident.

I see anecdotal writing a lot in the novels pitched to me at writer’s conferences. Good writing, compelling characters, vivid scene development. Then I ask, “What does your main character want? What’s her inciting incident?” Often the answer is a blank stare.

Let’s have a little fun with this story. Suppose we changed the name from Little Eddie to William Jefferson Clinton and the location from Raleigh, NC to a small town in Arkansas. Can you see how the incident might take on new meaning? Same anecdote only now, instead of the grandmother pulling little Bill Clinton from the foyer he goes into the governor’s mansion, sits near JFK, and decides he will become president. Perhaps Jackie writes little Bill a note of encouragement. Now we have an inciting incident and possibly, a story.

Introduction, motivation, inciting incident. Without all three, you only have an anecdote. And without your sister along to recall the events, you might not even have that.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

That Magic Moment (when your setting comes to life)

By Elizabeth Ludwig

I’ve always dreamed of traveling to New York City. Ever since I set my Historical Romances there—Edge of Freedom Series (Bethany House Publishers)—I’ve imagined what it must have been like to walk the streets a hundred years ago, to see the ships sail into the harbor and witness the eager faces of the people as they stepped into America from Ellis Island. Alas, life intervened, and the trip I’d thought to take was pushed to the back burner.

The desire to travel to the places I wrote about stayed with me, however, which is why I was so excited when my husband offered me the chance of a lifetime…the chance to choose where I wanted to go on vacation. Anywhere. Just the two of us. A second honeymoon, of sorts.

While I appreciated the offer, I really couldn’t believe that my hubby was going to let me choose our destination with entirely no input from him.

I get to pick?” I asked, a trifle skeptically. “Anywhere at all?”

“Absolutely,” he said. “Anywhere you want to go.”

With a broad spectrum of places to choose from spread out before me, I found I didn’t even hesitate. I knew where I wanted to go. I was writing about it in my newest series.

“I want to go to Sugarcreek, Ohio,” I said.

My husband stared back at me unblinking. “You want to go…where is Sugarcreek, Ohio?”

I have to laugh, thinking back on the expression on his face as I write this. For those who aren’t familiar with it (like my poor hubby), Sugarcreek lies in the heart of Amish country. It’s nestled amidst rolling hills and acres of farmland…basically it’s about as far away socially from New York City as you can get, but I was determined to see it and experience for myself the sights and sounds and people I’d only written about.

And so, with surprisingly little argument from my husband, we packed our suitcases and headed north to the Carlisle Inn, a gracious little gem perched on the outskirts of Sugarcreek. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend you visit. It was by far the most beautiful, restful place we’ve ever stayed, and the staff were both friendly and accommodating.

Carlisle Inn
Once in Sugarcreek, my husband and I picked up a handful of maps and set off to discover what there was to do in Amish country on a Sunday afternoon. Don’t laugh…we actually found the drive through the acres and acres of carefully maintained farmland to be quite enjoyable and relaxing! More importantly, I got to see with my own eyes the things my character, Cheryl Cooper, saw when she first came to Sugarcreek in my book Where Hope Dwells.

Afterward, my husband and I popped into Park Street Pizza for a delectable bite of their famous Rueben Pizza—the same pizza Cheryl nibbled on with her date, Levi Miller, in At Home in Sugarcreek. I have to admit, I probably looked pretty silly gawking about the place, imagining where my characters sat, what they said, who they saw. I was also honored to do a book signing at the Honey Bee Café, another one of Cheryl’s favorite places to eat. It was all quite surreal, and very much a dream come true for this author gal.

Of course, I couldn’t leave Ohio without snapping a picture against the giant billboard that first welcomed me—and Cheryl—to Sugarcreek. It will forever serve as a reminder of that magical moment when the places I’d written about sprang to life, and when I could, however briefly, step into the pages of my very own books. I hope you’ll join me there!

Elizabeth Ludwig is the 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. Currently, she is working on a series called the Sugarcreek Amish Mysteries available from Guideposts. 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


Dana Mentink is a two time American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award winner. She is the author of over thirty titles in the suspense and lighthearted romance genres. Her suspense novel, Betrayal in the Badlands, earned a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award and she has also been honored with a Holt Medallion Award of Merit. She is pleased to write for Harlequins Love Inspired Suspense and Harlequin Heartwarming. Besides writing, she busies herself teaching third grade. Mostly, she loves to be home with Papa Bear, Yogi, Boo Boo, a dog with social anxiety problems, a chubby box turtle and a feisty parakeet.

My writing is going to the dogs lately. No kidding. It's strange how life parallels art sometimes. As I worked on Sit, Stay, Love, my first dog-themed book about a pro baseball pitcher and a geriatric pooch named Tippy, my own sweet old doggie was about to take her final walk. Nala was a part of our family for thirteen years and I knew that she was entering her final weeks as I pounded away on my keyboard. I found the scenes I wrote about the fictional Tippy were extra poignant, as I watched my sweet Nala enjoy napping in the sun and eagerly plodding along through her (slow) morning walks.

In addition to Sit, Stay, Love, I was working on a K-9 continuity for Love Inspired Suspense! I delved into the world of bloodhounds, otherwise known as “noses with dogs attached" for that story. So while my fictional dogs flourished, my own darling Nala passed away, just as both books were headed off to the editors. Oh how I cried. I still do. There will never be another dog like my adorable Nala, my writing partner, my devoted friend. For a long time the house felt empty without the jingle of her collar, and I looked for her in the hallway and lying on the grass in every patch of sunlight.

But time has a way of passing, doesn't it? Spring has brought us a wild, wiry little mutt named Junie. We went to the Animal Rescue foundation in search of an older, mid-sized dog and we emerged with a ten-pound puppy who adores her squeaky toys and steals my pencils at every opportunity.

Odd, that a similar wild, wiry little mutt named Jellybean is currently finding his way into my work-in-progress. Junie's a bundle of zany energy, she eats absolutely everything and as I type this, she is knocking all the pillows off the sofa. Will this insanity be a part of Jellybean's character in Paws for Love? Oh you betcha. I wonder what our box turtle will think after she awakens from her three-month hibernation to find out there's a puppy waiting to sniff, poke and pester her? "Doggone it!" I imagine she'll say before she goes to find a nice hole to hide in.
I don't even want to know what the parakeet thinks!

Sit Stay Love
Take one abrasive professional athlete, a quirky out-of-work schoolteacher, and an overweight geriatric dog, and you're ready for a lesson in love...Tippy style.

Pro baseball pitcher Cal Crawford is not a dog guy. When he inherits his deceased mother's elderly dog, Tippy, he's quick to call on a pet-sitting service.

Gina isn't thrilled to be a dog sitter when her aspirations lie in the classroom. Furthermore, she can't abide the unfriendly Cal, a man with all the charm of a wet towel. But with no other prospects and a deep love for all things canine, she takes the job caring for Tippy.

As Gina travels through Cal's world with Tippy in tow, she begins to see Cal in a different light. Gina longs to show Cal the God-given blessings in his life that have nothing to do with baseball or fame. When her longing blooms into attraction, Gina does her best to suppress it. But Cal is falling in love with her too...

Discover the charming story of Tippy, the dog who brought a family together.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Horror as the Perfect Christian Genre?

Almost eight years ago on this very blog I asked the question Is Christian Horror Becoming a Trend? Of course, a lot has changed over those years. Many of the "trends" I mentioned in that post -- Coach's Midnight Diner, Fear & Trembling ezine, 'Christian Chillers,' -- are now defunct. However, the essential question about the compatibility of the horror genre and a biblical worldview is still alive and well. Most recently, it was asked by novelist Thomas Smith over at The Horror Zine. 

Smith was kind enough to interview me for his piece, Christian Horror: It's Not as Strange as It Sounds. Here's a snippet:

As Mike Duran has observed, “I don’t like the term 'Christian Horror.' Yes, I use that term. But it’s only as a common descriptor of a genre label that religious writers would understand. The truth is, marketing anything as 'Christian' will immediately turn off most non-Christian audiences.  Sure, it may attract religious readers. But the general reading or movie-going public is not beholden to such labels. For example, The Conjuring was directed by two avowed Christians. Nevertheless, the film is rightly marketed as horror. There is a tremendous amount of religious iconography and jargon in the movie. However, the moment you label the film 'Christian,' you heighten the narrow expectations of a certain demographic while chasing others away. Which is why I go easy on the 'Christian Horror' label.” 
In the CBA the idea of Christian horror as an actual genre is relatively new although there have been many books over the past two-hundred plus years that could fall under that heading, including: The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis (1942); Seeker to the Dead, by A. M. Burrage (1942); The Room in the Tower and Other Stories, by E. F. Benson (1912); The Monk, by Matthew Gregory Lewis (1796). All of the books sold well to Christian and non-Christian readers alike. It is only recently that the publishing industry has narrowed their collective foci and kept the horror story on the fringe. And in the ABA world works like The Stand (Stephen King) and The Darkest Evening of the Year (Dean Koontz), while not strictly Christian fiction, deal with intense theological questions of good, evil, and divine influence. 
“Christian publishing houses largely miss ANY opportunity to exploit the power of the horror genre,” Duran says. “Whereas Christian artists have historically employed horrific imagery in their art to shock and stir the imagination (like Dante, Bosch, Machen, and Charles Williams), contemporary Christian publishing is in a death grip to more conservative evangelical audiences. This is why the typical fare of mainstream Christian publishers is Amish fiction and romantic suspense.” 
If we look at horror for the Christian market in its simplest form, it is a vehicle for conveying ideas. It is the canvas on which the story is told. Nothing more, nothing less. Just as writers use science fiction, romance, adventure history, and humor to tell their stories, the horror writer does the same thing.
So while the "trend" I was hoping for did not materialize, the fact that the question continues to be asked is evidence, I believe, of its relevance and validity. Christian authors continue to approach horror as a valid literary and artistic genre. While it is true that the Christian fiction industry and its readers have never fully embraced the possibilities, Christian authors and readers continue to see the genre as a legitimate "vehicle for conveying [biblical] ideas." So while "Christian Horror" might not be trending, Christians who write and read in the genre are very much alive and well. You can read Smith's entire piece HERE.

The Scent of Wood

The Scent of the Wood

Learning a trade from a father was essential. A tradition of following in a father’s footsteps. And so this young man obeys by mimicking the work of his father’s hands.

In the humble beginning of his apprenticeship, he is learning from his father to carve out the design of the wood, to slide his hands across the wood and feel the grain, and to carry stacks of wood.

Still a young lad and learning his trade, he needs the direction of his father’s callused hands to guide his unskilled hands, which now need a little rest.

Stepping away from the carpenter’s bench, he walks outside the shop to take a break from his work and stretch his back.

Standing in the warm, noon sun, he picks at another of the daily splinters in his hands, as the rhythm of the hammer pounds in the background. Extending his arms toward the sky, he says a prayer of thanksgiving to God the Father.

He breathes in fresh air to rid his nostrils of sawdust. First shaking his head to dislodge more sawdust tangled in his hair, he then removes his sandals and shakes out the wood shavings.

As the sun’s warmth soothes his aching muscles, he wonders when he first loved the savory aroma of wood. From the stories his father has told him, he decides the first whiffs seeped into his memory from the wooden trough at his birth.

When that dreadful day of agony came, did it revive all those scented memories of His childhood? All harbingers of torment upon a wooden cross.

What did those harbingers herald? 
  • Stepping aside from His carpenter’s life meant stepping into His glorified life.
  • The sawdust that clung to His hair now exchanged for a crown of thorns encircling His head.
  • Stretching His sore back could never compare to the excruciating pain from the flesh-revealing stripes received from a scourging.
  • The removing of His sandals to rid them of sawdust; now removing them reveals His feet for nine inch nails.
  • The wood He once carried on His shoulders was exchanged for a cross-beam along the Via Dolorosa.
  • His hands, once suffering splinters from sliding them across the grain of the wood, now feeling the pain of puncture from the shards of the wooden cross-beam.
  • The hammer that pounded in the background now pounds in rhythmic timbre upon the nail heads, piercing His hands.
  • The memory-scent of the wood, embedded in His nostrils, infuses His soul as the punctured wood releases that familiar fragrance.
  • The fresh air He so easily breathed in, now barely makes it into His nostrils as He struggles to breathe.
  • His muscles that ached from work now throb from the pain of crucifixion, which no soothing sun can ever relieve.
  • His arms extended once prayer to His Father.

Following His heavenly Father’s guidance, this young Man obeyed...unto death.

And the scent of the wood was released from obedience. A sweet aroma to the Father.

Easter blessings, Lynn

Lynn Mosher loves to dig into God’s Word and treasure hunts for golden nuggets along the road Home. Lynn lives with her hubby (since 1966) in their Kentucky nest, emptied now of three kidlets and embracing three giggly grand-chicklets. Her greatest passion is to share those nuggets in her devotionals and inspirational stories, fulfilling God’s call on her life to encourage others and glorify the Lord. Lynn writes monthly for several sites and bi-weekly at her online residence, Heading Home. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Critique Groups - How to Find the Perfect One for You

Groups that meet together socially enjoy the friendships.
By DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

Writers search for the best ways to receive helpful feedback for their manuscripts. We all desire to develop new skills by learning from those who know the craft. Face to face meetings offer an opportunity for the writer to reach professional goals. Meeting with a select group of writers who share the same joys and challenges inspires us to continue toward our goals.

Critique partners can help us define our manuscripts. But finding the personality and expertise with other writers is like searching for a new doctor. Not everyone is a good fit. A writer seeks those special people who have the same or advanced skills. To some writers, a critique group who writes in the same genre is helpful.

Critique partners who meet in person develop trust and share social time. Online critiquing help battle the time crunch. I’ve done both and understand the advantages and —the disadvantages.

Positive feedback makes us better writers!
If a situation no longer works for whatever reason, graciously resign from your commitment. A sense of responsibility is not a reason to continue in a relationship that no longer has value.

Establish a few ground rules with a potential critique group or partner so writers understand the expectations. Each member must be committed to the group and willing to give back.

Here are a few considerations:

  • Will you and your partner(s) meet online or in a physical place?
  • How many pages will be exchanged?
  • How many writers will be in the group?
  • Will the critiques be a line edit or a content edit?
  • What will be the turnaround time?
  • How will you handle a critique partner who fails to submit her work on a consistent basis?
These guidelines will help ensure success for any critique groups. Merely tweak for the format that best suits the writers’ needs.

1.  Determine how many writers in the group.
2.  Establish a meeting place.
3.  Establish manuscript format.
  • 1 inch margins
  • Double Spacing
  • 12 point - Times New Roman or New Courier Font
  • Header with automatic page numbering
4.  Establish length of submitted manuscript.
5.  Automatically format the manuscript to number lines.
6.  Members understand the manuscript’s contents and genre.
7.  Submit polished writing as though each member is an editor.
8.  Writer brings copies of manuscript for each participant.
9.  Someone other than the writer reads the work aloud.
10. Writer is permitted two minute lead-in before work is read.
11. Writer does not speak during the reading.
12. Each writer is given 15 minutes of critique time.
13. It is inappropriate to interrupt.
14. Always thank the person who has given the critique.
15. Don’t take suggestions personally.
16. Ground rules for constructive criticism. Use the Oreo method. Begin with a       compliment, make appropriate suggestions, close the critique with encouragement. Honesty is critical, but unkind remarks are forbidden. Harshness does not make a better writer.
17. Make specific suggestions. General comments do not help the writer.
18. Address punctuation, flow, content, and credibility.
19. Critique according to writer’s ability/level of expertise.
20. Each member of the group is responsible for adhering to guidelines.
21. If a writer doesn’t submit her own writing, she shouldn’t critique other’s work.
22. Enjoy the experience! This is a time to admire and respect your peers.

I treasure the friendship of my critique partners. We pray and play together, which ensures our friendships are mentally and spiritually rewarding. 

What tips can you offer for a successful critique group?

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

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

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association; 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.

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

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

Friday, March 25, 2016

8 Things That Will Derail Your Writing Goals the Fastest

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.

8 Things That Will Derail Your Writing Goals the Fastest

Through the years I’ve discovered something about writing that I never expected. I always believed that to be a successful writer you had to  learn to write better, be diligent about networking and keep submitting. Those are all important, but it turns out the biggest things that affect my writing happen in my head.

By allowing all sorts of negative thoughts, emotions and habits creep into my mind I was defeating myself before I put the first word on the page. I’d like to share 8 things that will derail your writing goals the fastest, and invite you to learn from my mistakes.

1. Looking Back, instead of ahead. It’s easy to get lost in the past, rehearsing old mistakes instead of looking ahead. You can’t make much forward progress if you spend all your time looking in the rearview mirror.

2. Believing You’re not Good Enough. I have trouble looking at what I do and being satisfied. This is a business where you need to have confidence in yourself and in your calling to be a writer.

3. Comparing Yourself to Others. There are always going to be people out there who are more talented, who got the break you hoped for, who are further ahead on the writing journey. Learn right now that THEY are none of your concern. You need to focus on you, not others.

4. Spending Time Talking about Writing Instead of Writing. This is a tough one. It’s so much easier to spend time with writers, to read writing books and blogs, even attend writing events than it is to put your butt in the chair and pound out words.

5. Setting Goals with Strings Attached. Set your goals and go for them all out. Don’t set limits or conditions.

6. Negative Self Talk. I am way harder on myself than others are. I can rattle off about a million reasons that I’m not good enough, won’t be able to succeed, shouldn’t have the chances that come my way. I have to work hard not to defeat myself before I get started.

7. Not Returning to Writing after a Break. There are times when we have to step away from writing. The reasons can range from illness, to family commitments, to all sorts of things. And truthfully the longer I’m away from regular writing time, the harder it is to come back. But even that’s no excuse for putting in the time I need to move forward with my writing goals.

8. Expecting Talent to Get You Where You Want to Be. Raw talent is a good thing. BUT it’s not the best thing. The best things are discipline and an unwillingness to give up. Trust me, with writing, good things come to those who persevere.

These are some of the things that have kept me from moving forward with my writing career. I’ve learned—often the hard way—to avoid them at all cost. How about you? What has kept you from writing success? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the section below.