Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Are You Shy?

Laurie, a friend of mine, blogged about being shy. Her post hit home with me, brought back so many memories--not all of them pleasant. I was shy too, painfully shy, and still am to a certain degree. I imagine a lot of writers wrestle with shyness and that's why we turn to writing. Our safe world. I'd certainly rather stare at a blank page than an unfriendly, judgmental face. There are lots of them out there.

I believe shyness comes from insecurity. I despise it when both traits rear their ugly heads. Here's what I do to fight them:

1) I joined Toastmasters and take part in their speaking assignments. If I ever have a heart attack it'll probably be during a Toastmaster speech. :) Mmmm, mall walking might get me first.

2) I volunteer to speak in writer's groups. Fun. I love writing and talking about it so I get lost in my topic. Lord knows if I make sense!

3) I join critique groups even though they feed my insecurity. I haven't learned how to combat this problem yet. A real battle. :(

4) I force myself to go to writer's conferences and speak with editors and agents. I love the seminars because I'm a perpetual student. I'd still be in college if I could afford it. :) I despise pitching my work to editors and agents. Can't begin to tell you how much.

5) I force myself to walk out my door each day and join the world when I'd rather stay home and be with my family.

But, thankfully, God gives us courage through His Word.

I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from my fears. Psalm 34:4

He's our rock and refuge so we need to call on Him before we ever get out of bed in the mornings. Sometimes I say, "Praise God, He's given me another day!"

God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

He's great at calming racing hearts. Really! Is that spirit of timidity our own creation?

I rise early, before the sun is up; I cry out for help and put my hope in your words. Psalm 119:147

His word should be our confidence. Sometimes I forget and trek off on my own. I feel sad when I realize I've abandoned God. Hallelujah, He never abandons me.
So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? Hebrews 13:6

Commit it to memory. We will not be afraid or intimidated or shy... we are in the Lord and He is in us. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. He is in us.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Something to Think About

How does the writer of creative articles (or anything else) become a professional?

This question is asked so often that I feel impelled to discuss it here: It seems to me that the amateur becomes a professional when he stops thinking of himself as an amateur, and regards himself as a serious, dedicated worker in a highly competitive profession. Only in so doing can he develop the professional working habits that he must have in order to succeed.

Taken from Writing the Creative Article
by Marjorie Holmes-Inspirational writer

Friday, July 25, 2008

Writing for Teen Magazines - Interested?

I've been teaching a nonfiction writing class for Lamar University for a few years now. It's fun. I had the honor of pulling together instructors for The Professional Writer's Center, better known as their Write Site and drawing up their mission statement. I'm always looking for courses to add by qualified writers. The story of how I fell into this job is a devo for Daily Devotions for Writers--a very nice, well-put-together book. For ordering info, click Daily Devotions for Writers or you can call 1-877-289-2665. Amazon has it too.

But let me get back on track here. I'm excited about a new class we're offering at Lamar called Writing for Teen Magazines. Jessica Burkhart is teaching it.
Jess has been writing and selling to magazines since she was 11 years old. She has a book coming out in early 2009. This young lady knows what she's talking about. If you're a member of RWA, she's been pubbed in their RWA Report magazine. If you subscribe to The Writer--she's been there too. Her knowledge and experience isn't limited to teen writing. Jess can teach you the ropes if you've dreamed of breaking into nonfiction for teens but you'll be able to use what you learn from her in other areas of writing.

Okay, I'm singing her praises way too much. Check her out for yourself:

Click HERE to read my interview with Jess and learn more about Writing for Teen Magazines.

Click HERE to visit her blog.

Click HERE to visit her website.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Keeper: The Black Cloister by Melanie Dobson

When my daughter left for college, seven years ago, I had one very real fear: that she would encounter a religious cult. After all, she was going to a secular college where they had a free speech alley. Anyone and everyone could stand in free speech alley to shout their message. And daughter enjoyed her own free speech and message: she walked the campus telling others about Christ, was involved in outreach for the BCM and her church, reached out to the homeless at odd hours and went on mission trips. In my mind, I could see some handsome, exuberant 'christian' talk her into joining him to spread the good news. And then...and then...

My fear was brought back to me as I read The Black Cloister by Melanie Dobson. Her characters are likable and the story reads true. I was right in the middle of the evil and believing every word of it. What a story! I've read other novels about religious cults, but never one as good as The Black Cloister.

Dobson's protagonist, Elise Friedman, needs to know her mother's story, and what was behind her mother's death. She risks her own life for answers. Dobson does an excellent job of showing how young people are recruited into cults and brainwashed. A frightening process. Authentic. She also paints a vivid picture of evil.

The Black Cloister grabbed me and wouldn't let me go until I reached the very last page. A week later, Elise Friedman's story is still with me. I think about her, shiver at the horror she faced. Every now and then I find myself wanting to breathe a prayer for her . . .

Thankfully, my daughter was sitting across the room while I read The Black Cloister. If she hadn't been in my sight, I would have called her every few hours to make sure she wasn't talking to strangers.

Aside from getting lost in the story, I learned a lot about the craft of writing.
Melanie Dobson is a master at keeping secrets and sprinkling just enough info to hang on to her reader. There's not one information dump in this entire book. Seems every nuance is strategically placed.

Dobson is also a master at painting a picture of evil without using one curse word. I have many favorite secular writers. It pains me to read profanity in their novels. Dobson proves you can show--yes, SHOW--evil characters without cursing or using God's name in vain.

This book is good. Very good. I wish I had written it. How I wish I could write this well.

The Black Cloister by Melanie Dobson is a keeper.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My Quote of the Month

You know how much I love quotes. They encourage me and make me think. Sometimes I read thoughts by other writers that truly speak to my soul and I don't want to lose them. I print them out to tape to my computer. The quote below is worthy of such a spot.

Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER reject yourself. That’s the job of the editor or agent. Don’t do their job for them! Your job is to write your best stuff. Your job is to present that in the most appealing way you can. Your job is to keep on keeping on until you make it. When you write something and then don’t even make an honest effort to sell it, you are rejecting yourself. Don’t do that!~Randy Ingermanson

I am so guilty of rejecting myself. Why? Is it fear of failure or fear of success? We've had this discussion before, I know, but I still ponder it. My daughter told me that her education professor discussed a particular kind of student that all teachers encounter at one time or another: the student who won't attempt anything if there's a chance of failure. Can you imagine? Since there's always a chance of failure that student--in essence--must never attempt anything new. Believe it or not, I know someone who has that trait.

Hopefully, we writers aren't that bad. Unless we've just started our writing journey, we're certainly familiar with failure. All writers are filled with a certain amount of doubt and insecurity. If s/he isn't then s/he's filled with a heck of a lot of arrogance, in my humble opinion.

Read Randy's quote again. Let it saturate your soul:

Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER reject yourself. That’s the job of the editor or agent. Don’t do their job for them! Your job is to write your best stuff. Your job is to present that in the most appealing way you can. Your job is to keep on keeping on until you make it. When you write something and then don’t even make an honest effort to sell it, you are rejecting yourself. Don’t do that!~Randy Ingermanson

Now go check out his website and subscribe to his newsletter. This guy knows what he's talking about and he has a heart for encouraging writers.

Monday, July 21, 2008

CFBA Presents Try Darkness by James Scott Bell

I've been out of town for the past week. Today I found Try Darkness by James Scott Bell in my P.O. Box. What a treat! Unfortunately, the review is due--like--now.

Glancing at the first page, I'm thrilled by the opening line:
The nun hit me in the mouth and said, "Get out of my house."
If that doesn't grab you nothing will. James Scott Bell never disappoints his reader. His Plot and Structure is my writing bible. So it's my pleasure to post this CFBA review while I disappear to my reading corner with Try Darkness.

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This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing Try Darkness
(Center Street - July 30, 2008) by James Scott Bell

JAMES SCOTT BELL is a former trial lawyer who now writes full time. He has also been the fiction columnist for Writers Digest magazine and adjunct professor of writing at Pepperdine University. The national bestselling author of several novels of suspense, he grew up and still lives in Los Angeles. His first Buchanan thriller, TRY DYING, was released to high critical praise, while his book on writing, Plot and Structure is one of the most popular writing books available today.

ABOUT THE BOOK: Ty Buchanan is living on the peaceful grounds of St. Monica’s, far away from the glamorous life he led as a rising trial lawyer for a big L.A. firm. Recovering from the death of his fiancĂ©e and a false accusation of murder, Buchanan has found his previous ambitions unrewarding. Now he prefers offering legal services to the poor and the underrepresented from his “office” at local coffee bar The Freudian Sip. With his new friends, the philosophizing Father Bob and basketball-playing Sister Mary Veritas, Buchanan has found a new family of sorts. One of his first clients is a mysterious woman who arrives with her six-year-old daughter. They are being illegally evicted from a downtown transient hotel, an interest that Ty soon discovers is represented by his old law firm and his former best friend, Al Bradshaw. Buchanan won’t back down. He’s going to fight for the woman’s rights. But then she ends up dead, and the case moves from the courtroom to the streets. Determined to find the killer and protect the little girl, who has no last name and no other family, Buchanan finds he must depend on skills he never needed in the employ of a civil law firm. The trail leads Buchanan through the sordid underbelly of the city and to the mansions and yachts of the rich and famous. No one is anxious to talk. But somebody wants Buchanan to shut up. For good. Now he must use every legal and physical edge he knows to keep himself and the girl alive. Once again evoking the neo-noir setting of contemporary Los Angeles, Bell delivers another thriller where darkness falls and the suspense never rests.

If you would like to read chapters 1 & 2, go HERE

“Bell has created in Buchanan an appealing and series-worthy protagonist, and the tale equally balances action and drama, motion and emotion. Readers who pride themselves on figuring out the answers before an author reveals them are in for a surprise, too: Bell is very good at keeping secrets. Fans of thrillers with lawyers as their central characters—Lescroart and Margolin, especially—will welcome this new addition to their must-read lists.”—Booklist

“Engaging whodunit series kickoff . . . Readers will enjoy Bell's talent for description and character development.”—Publishers Weekly

“James Scott Bell has written himself into a niche that traditionally has been reserved for the likes of Raymond Chandler.” —Los Angeles Times

“A master of suspense.”—Library Journal

“One of the best writers out there, bar none.”—In the Library Review

Friday, July 18, 2008

Out of Pocket - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more I'll be out of pocket for several days. There are stories and ideas everywhere. Grab you one and start writing.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Persistence: Something to Think About

"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race." ~Calvin Coolidge

My motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging. ~Hank Aaron

Nearly every man who develops an idea works at it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then gets discouraged. That's not the place to become discouraged. ~Thomas A. Edison

Never consider the possibility of failure; as long as you persist, you will be successful. ~Brian Tracy

Never discourage anyone... who continually makes progress, no matter how slow. ~Plato

Never, never, never, never give up. ~Winston Churchill

No matter how far you walk, how hard you work, or how bad it hurts, you'll always get to where you need to be. ~Unknown

Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit. ~Vincent Lombardi

One man has enthusiasm for 30 minutes, another for 30 days, but it is the man who has it for 30 years who makes a success of his life. ~Edward B. Butler

Only those who have the patience to do simple things perfectly will acquire the skill to do difficult things easily. ~Johann Friedrich von Schiller

Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Chat with Author Melanie Wells

I almost forgot to tell you about the chat with author Melanie Wells. This should be great. My daughter has read all of Melanie's books and enjoyed them. In fact, daughter got really creeped out. If you want to know how Melanie creates fear in the heart of her readers, chat with her. And don't be shy. Ask Melanie how she does it.

Here are the details:

Melanie Wells Joins Readers on Online Bookstore Chat

WHO: Melanie Wells, author of the critically acclaimed Dylan Foster series – “When the Day of Evil Comes,” “The Soul Hunter” and the newly-released “My Soul to Keep.” Wells will join the family-friendly online bookstore,, to discuss her insights on the fiction series, writing, building story lines and using one’s creativity and imagination to shape character development.

WHAT: “Authors at Abunga” Chat with Melanie Wells
Wells’ Dylan Foster trilogy is packed with both humor and suspense. Each thriller tracks the mayhem surrounding Wells’ unlikely heroine, college psychology professor Dylan Foster. Wells, who is also a psychotherapist and accomplished musician, will provide insights into her writing style, how stories are created, and where characters come from.

WHEN: Wednesday, July 16, 200811 a.m. – Noon PDT / 1 – 2 p.m. CDT / 2 – 3 p.m. EDT (LIVE) Click here to join the fun.

DETAILS: Wells is the first author to be featured on the newly-created “Authors at Abunga” chats by A Texas native, Wells is an accomplished musician (she’s a fiddle player) a licensed psychotherapist, and the founder and director of Dallas-based LifeWorks counseling associates . See here.

Beginning with “When the Day of Evil Comes,” each of Wells’ novels weaves a gripping tale in which the quirky, likeable Dylan Foster wrestles with her own personal demon -- Peter Terry – “a spiritual and emotional stalker,” Wells says, ”Peter Terry is a compelling character who rings true for all of us. He is a metaphor for the opposition we all have in our lives. And we can all relate to Dylan, who often feels like she’s fighting forest fires with a squirt gun.” More info found here. is an online bookstore founded to provide families a protected shopping environment. Headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn., offers more than 1.6 million family-friendly books, savings through distributor-direct prices and support to nonprofit organizations by donating 5 percent of each transaction to a customer-selected charity.

For more information, visit this place.

Winners Because . . .

Looking over the titles of the Christy winners, I have to wonder what these books have in common, why they're winners. Anyone know? Good writing is a given, but what makes these stories special? Is it the way the author tells the story or is it the story itself? The characters, maybe? Or could it be the author's voice ? The subject s/he tackled?

Unfortunately, I haven't read any of these books. Where do I start? Should I read the winners? But then I'll need to read the finalists to compare to the winners. From my way of thinking, I should also read other books in the genre--those that weren't even nominated--just to compare. My work is cut out for me. So many books and so little time.

What do you do? Have you read all these books? What makes them special? Your opinion counts so talk to me.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

And The Winners Are . . .

The Christy Award is named in honor of Catherine Marshall’s novel and of her contribution to growth of the fiction Christians love to read. Click here to learn more about The Christy Awards.

Here are the Christy Award nominees for 2008 and the winners. What a blessing to be a nominee, and what an honor to be chosen by God, our Father in Heaven, to write novels that glorify Him.

Chasing Fireflies by Charles Martin (Thomas Nelson)
In High Places by Tom Morrisey (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
Quaker Summer by Lisa Samson (Thomas Nelson)

CONTEMPORARY (Series, Sequels and Novellas)
Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon (Viking Penguin)
A Time to Mend by Sally John and Gary Smalley (Thomas Nelson)
What Lies Within by Karen Ball (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)

Lady of Milkweed Manor by Julie Klassen (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
A Proper Pursuit by Lynn Austin (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
Tendering in the Storm by Jane Kirkpatrick (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)

LITS (tie)
Doesn't She Look Natural by Angela Hunt (Tyndale House Publishers)
Hallie's Heart by Shelly Beach (Kregel Publications)
Let Them Eat Cake by Sandra Byrd (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)
Trophy Wives Club by Kristin Billerbeck (Avon Inspire, a division of HarperCollins Publishers)

Lightning and Lace by DiAnn Mills (Barbour Publishing)
Remember to Forget by Deborah Raney (Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster)
Remembered by Tamera Alexander (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

The Cure by Athol Dickson (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
My Hands Came Away Red by Lisa McKay (Moody Publishers)
The Pawn by Steven James (Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Auralia's Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)
The Restorer by Sharon Hinck (NavPress Publishing Group)
Scarlet by Stephen R. Lawhead (Thomas Nelson)

Auralia's Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)
Demon: A Memoir by Tosca Lee (NavPress Publishing Group)
The Stones Cry Out by Sibella Giorello (Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Hollywood Nobody by Lisa Samson (NavPress Publishing Group)
In Between by Jenny B. Jones (NavPress Publishing Group)
Maggie Come Lately by Michelle Buckman (NavPress Publishing Group)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

From Me for You...About Dry Creek Sweethearts

Attention: some of you have asked when Louisiana Saturday Night is going to resume. August 2nd. We'll have our next author interview on that day. Okay?

I picked up a Love Inspired yesterday called Dry Creek Sweethearts by Janet Tronstad. Evidently it's one of many books that take place in Dry Creek. Makes me want to put it back and pretend I don't know it exists. I tend to shy away from series because I feel obligated to read them all.

This book grabbed me because of its wonderful first line: "I don't care if he did grow up in Dry Creek; he's still not one of us. Not anymore."

Anyone who is anyone knows you can't just plop down in a small town and ever fit in or belong. You have to be born there. So, I read on to the second line, and the third. Soon, before I knew it, I was nearing chapter three.

To tell the truth, the plot of this book is like one of my own: hero sets off to achieve his dream and leaves heroine behind. How many times has that been written? And why did it grab me this time? My goodness, the heroine's name is Linda. How simple can you get? To make matters stranger, the hero's name is Duane Enger--and Duane is a real person--but not the person in the story. The real Duane Enger is the author's brother-in-law and he gave Tronstad permission to use his name. That alone is curious, isn't it?

Tronstad uses a lot of back story in the first couple of chapters. She does a lot of telling too. This is stuff I'd really mark up if I was her critique partner. And you know something. . . if I did mark it up and tell her to change it, then I might have really screwed up her voice. 'Cause this works.

I'm notorious for putting a book down and not finishing it if it doesn't flow for me. The older I get, the shorter my attention span. I have to admit that I've been troubled as to why Dry Creek Sweethearts holds my attention. I think I've finally figured it out.

Tronstad's style is nice, smooth. She writes visually. I can picture heroine Linda stacking chairs and mopping the floor of her cafe over and over again.
A woman who needed to mop a floor that often didn't have time to be thinking about some man who had left her behind to pursue his fantasy of stardom.

And then Duane hits town, sick and lonely and filled with some deep dark sorrow that even he doesn't understand. We know sparks are going to fly as soon as he gets well--maybe sooner. Poor guy doesn't even know why he's returned to Dry Creek.

Here's one of my favorite paragraphs:

No one had told him that being a rock star would ruin any life he'd planned to have. Although the thought had been coming to him lately, that maybe he didn't really want a life after all. That maybe the idea of having a real life scared him to death. That when he asked Linda to marry him someday, he'd never really expected someday to come. A man like him had no business getting married anyway. He'd never even seen a marriage up close. He wouldn't even know how to fake being a good husband.

Talk about a lost soul. Have you ever pursued a dream only to have it gobble you up and spit you out? Looks like Duane has. In fact, I think I've pinpointed just why this book grabbed me the way it has, and why I'll finish reading it.

Because. . . Dry Creek Sweethearts reads like a good country western song sings. I love the angst, and I sure do like my country.

But here's what I learned from author Janet Tronstad: Showing is good, but don't be afraid to tell. Give back story when the story screams for back story. Introspection is okay too, if and when it draws us closer to the characters. In other words, write your story the way it naturally falls. Someone will tell you if it doesn't work. It might be a crit partner, an agent, an editor or a reviewer, but it will always be your story and if it makes it to book form, someone out there is going to love it.
I've never read Janet Tronstad but yep, I'll be checking out her other stories set in Dry Creek, Montana. Maybe you should too.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Room with a View?

Do you write in a wonderful office with a beautiful view of wildflowers and mountains? Do you pound the keys while watching soap operas, Gilmore Girls, Scrubs or CSI? When do you write? What's your routine and how does it affect you if something interferes with that routine?

I have a friend who takes off for the library on periodic writing binges. At what point do you decide to hit the library, Erica? I like that idea. I believe Erica is On The Write Path to publication. :) Another friend writes her books by hand--every morning--in a coffee shop. I believe she's published somewhere in the vicinity of fifteen books. Can you imagine writing that many pages by hand? Other writers--professional and wannabe--methodically turn out two pages a day, no more no less.

The point is: there's really no excuse not to write if writing is our passion. Time and place doesn't matter. We'll find a way. IF we're truly driven toward reaching our goal, our dream of writing a book, completing it, selling it, we'll make it happen.

Agree? Send me your thoughts.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Naming our Characters

I've been struggling to find time to write. Well, actually, I'm struggling to determine what to write. An editor has Miranda's Mistake so I'm wondering if I should jump right into the stories of two secondary characters in the book or if I should start something completely new. If dear editor rejects MM, then I don't know that I'll have an interest in writing books using Miranda's friends even though the stories stand alone. :) Then again, if I change the names of the characters, they won't be Miranda's friends. Make sense?

Isn't it funny how a name can change everything? When I wrote The Groom Wore Blue Suede Shoes, my hero was named Johnny. It fit him. Then an unfortunate thing happened. Author Cassie Miles published a Harlequin Intrigue series with books called Heartbreak Hotel, Are you lonesome Tonight?, and Don't Be Cruel. One of her main characters was named Johnny. So what did I do? I changed my hero's name--forever changing his personality. Dumb! Especially since my book hadn't sold yet, wouldn't be out for at least two years. Especially since no one in a million years would compare me or connect me to a writer like Cassie Miles. I should have left my Johnny alone instead of weakening his character with a name like . . . forget it. I can't even say it. :) Just believe me when I say I betrayed the poor guy.

Stick to your guns when you name your characters unless an editor makes the suggestion. Would you even dream of changing your child's name five years later, or ten? Of course not. Well, on second thought . . .

I knew a young man named Dean. His mom has been a best friend since our high school days. As it usually happens, there was a gap in our friendship and during that gap, Dean became James. He started using his first name. My thought is--he can use it. I won't. To me he will always be Dean because I've been calling him that since the day he was born.

How do you name your characters? Or your children? ha!
Do you ever change a name mid-stream? Why?
Does the name change affect your character's personality or am I just a weirdo?

Let's talk!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Bayou Writers Group

The Bayou Writers Group congregate from 10-12 on the first Saturday of each month at Carnegie Library in downtown Lake Charles. We're a friendly bunch of writers--published and unpublished. Our goal is to encourage each other and keep each other informed about marketing and writing and that ever-changing world of publishing.

We'd love for you to join us. We have a great little conference each year so mark your calendar for November 15, 2008. I'll tell you all about our speakers later.

In the meantime, write on!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy Fourth of July

Watch a Fourth of July video here.

See a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson

You can also view an image of the Declaration of Independence

Thought for the Day: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance.”- Psalm 33:12