Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Real Writers

"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit."
~ Richard Bach

Writers, real writers, write...whether they ever get published or not. How exactly does that look, though? Does that mean real writers don't take breaks? Don't throw in the proverbial towel now and then? Don't chuck their pens at the wall and stomp their feet sometimes for months on end?

Nope. Doesn't mean that at all.

Sooner or later, every writer feels like quitting. It's part of the writing game. Rejection after rejection, waiting and waiting, seeing other less 'worthy' work get published while yours languishes...these things build up until you finally spew out, "I quit!"

But real writers don't mean they'll live and die in that state of non-production. A good temper tantrum now and then, a setting aside of the keyboard for a month or two, these kinds of quirks are normal.

And if nothing else, real writers are a quirky bunch

Monday, July 30, 2012

What's Up With Zombies?

Not quite sure why, but these 'lovable' living dead are totally trendy. If I happened to have a finished manuscript about a zombie apocalypse ready to pitch to a publisher, I'd be holding a contract in my hot little hand in a quick-slap minute. 

But I don't.

And the thing is, even if I sat down and started writing the Great American Zombie Novel right now, by the time I typed "The End," the fickle public would already be onto the next latest woo-hoo.

Which brings me to the point of this post...

While it's tempting to write something that'll get your foot in the door at a publishing house, jumping on the current bandwagon isn't necessarily the best way to go. Writing about a topic that you don't have a passion for, that doesn't even mildly interest you, is going to show up in your voice, kind of like a white-bread country singer attempting some hoodrat rap. It's hard to disguise.

My advice? 

Go ahead and consider all the hot-selling genres then do a little introspection before embarking on writing one yourself. It's not wrong to write to the market unless those trendy topics make you throw up. If that's the case, you'd be better off writing about something you love. Then shelve it and wait around until that genre is once again in vogue. What goes around eventually does come around, though you might have to wait a long time.

Unless, of course, zombies really do take over the world.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Question Jar Take 2

FAQ's in your face on Fun Friday (say that 5 times really fast).


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Than vs Then

photo from http://free-extras.com/

The Vikings are better than the Packers, but then again, I am biased because I’m from Minnesota.

Before you go getting all football-up-in-my-face, let me just say publicly that honestly, I don’t care about either team. I’m simply making a point of how to use THAN and THEN, possibly the two most confused words in world history.

Here’s the deal:
THAN is a comparison.
THEN is a description of time.
Sure, you can get more technical and talk about conjunctions and phrases and adverbs, but who in the world is going to remember that?

Even easier, you don’t have to remember what both mean. Pick one and run with it. Personally, I just remember that THAN is a comparison. So if I’m writing something and it’s not a comparison, I make sure I use THEN. Savvy?

Let’s take this out for a test drive.

I will always rather go shopping THAN to the gym.

In this sentence, I’m comparing shopping and exercise. Seriously, is there really any choice to make? This is where the word THAN comes in handy.

I will go shopping THEN toodle over to the gym.

See the sequence of events? Yep. I’ve got my priorities straight. I’m not comparing shopping or the gym in this sentence, so THEN is the right word to use.

There you have it. Easy peasy. Now if I could just figure out lay and lie.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Do I Really Have To Come Home???

It's so hard to come back to reality. Could you easily park your rear in a chair after a long weekend of this:

Aren't those fantastic?! And it was even more fabulous seeing them in real time. 

Coming home after a canoe trip, it's tough to sit in the house and write. Actually, coming home from any vacation it's hard to stare at a screen of words instead of God's handiwork.

But (and I've always got a big but)...use those memories, those feelings, those experiences in your story. I don't have any wild canoe chases going on in my current WIP, but can I work in a blazing sunset? You bet. The way the sun prickled on my cheeks when I upturned my face toward the sky? Yep. And for sure I'll add in somewhere how uncomfortable it is to sit in damp clothes.

Those are the kinds of details that connect with readers, and are a great way to relive your recent vacation.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Grammar Gem o' the Day

Don't panic. I'm not about to attempt to explain the difference between lay, lie, or laid. It will take an act of God to pound that one into my head.

Nope, today we're going to tackle the difference between two words that in the past have put my puzzler into overdrive. 

Affect and Effect

Here's the dirty little secret I recently discovered. Affect is almost always a verb and effect is almost always a noun. Example:

Music affects people's moods.
Music's effects can be stressful or soothing.

Get it? I do. Finally. Granted, as always with grammar, there are some exceptions, but for now, I'm just going to ignore those and revel in my new-found grammatical prowess.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Pixar Pointers

You know those cute little Pixar movies, the ones that entertain adults and children alike? Think Toy Story, Up, and most recently Brave. Of course you know them. Everyone does. Wouldn't you like your writing to be as well known?

There are some basics that Pixar uses when creating a story. Here are a few that wouldn't hurt to apply to your own writing...

- What is your character good at or comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at him/her.
- Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle.
- When you're stuck, make a list of what wouldn't happen next. Sometimes the material to get you unstuck will show up.
- Coincidences that get your character into trouble are great. Coincidences that get your character out of trouble, not so much.
- Discount the first thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd. And the 3rd, 4th & 5th. Surprise yourself and you'll surprise your reader.

Solid advice from a bunch of cartoon creators, eh?

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Formula For Award Winning Writing

Yes! You CAN discover the secret formula for a blockbuster hit of a book. It's right here, on Fun Friday...


Thursday, July 19, 2012

10k... The Home Stretch

I started my latest WIP in November. My goal was to finish it in 9 months, just like a 'real' baby...which means I've only got 12 days remaining until the delivery. I suspect this one might be a little late, by a week or so, just like all my other kids. Not only will I be sans computer for 5 of those days (camping trip), but for me, the last 10k are as tough as the first.

Why is it the last 10,000 words on a manuscript are so hard to write??? 

- Because you know that when you type the end, the adventure is over. It's kind of like celebrating your kid's 18th birthday. You know they'll soon be out of the house, and even though there's been hard times and all-out grief, doggone if you won't miss them. This goes for kids and characters.

- The pressure is on to tie up ALL the loose ends. Did you miss one? Are you sure? It's the kind of thing that wakes you up in the middle of the night.

- Traditionally, the last several chapters are the climax, so you want to get it right. You know it's the fireworks of the whole story, so you fret over the right amount of ka-boom. Too little and the whole novel fizzles to a disappointing ending. Too much and it won't be believable.

These are the top 3 bugaboos slowing me down, making me late. Don't worry, though. There is a cure. With my first pregnancy, a wise older woman told me that eating hot fudge sundaes in the evening would move things right along. She was correct. It didn't make me go into labor any faster, but the yum factor sure took my mind off what was ailing me. 

My suggestion for making it through the last 10k of your WIP? You guessed it...hot fudge sundaes.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Excuse Me, Your Personality Slip is Showing

Taken from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/
"For books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul whose progeny they are;

Nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest effigy and extraction of that living intellect which bred them."

~ John Milton (Areopagitica 1644)

Sometimes I get asked, "How much of yourself is in your books? Are any of the characters you?"

Answers: Everything. All.

Writing a novel is not a sterile environment. The author doesn't gear up in a haz-mat suit or scrub-a-dub in a bleach shower before, during, or after writing. Writers' fingerprints are everywhere in a novel.

Think of one of your favorite books. The author who wrote it is a conglomeration of all the characters (yes, even the antagonist). Wouldn't it be fun to meet that person? I've had several opportunities to meet my favorite authors and yep, I can totally see bits and pieces of their characters in their personalities.

John Milton sure had it right 400 years ago.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer Reading Ideas

Looking for some great summer fiction to toss in your beach bag? Have I got a list for you!

I am a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). Each year, they award the best in Christian fiction. Yesterday, they published the list of this year's nominees. Normally I wait to publish this until the finalists are announced, but this year 3 of my crit buddies made the list...WOO-HOO! A palm-stinging high-five to Lisa Ludwig, Yvonne Anderson, and Sandra Moore.

Debut Novel:
Fairer Than Morning  by Rosslyn Elliott (Thomas Nelson – Ami McConnell, Editor)
The Loom by Shella Gillus (Guideposts – Beth Adams, Editor)
Give the Lady a Ride by Linda W. Yezak (Sky Sail [Port Yonder Press] – Chila Woychik, Editor)

Long Contemporary:
Lost Melody by Lori Copeland/Virginia Smith (Zondervan – Sue Brower, Editor)
The Search by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Revell – Andrea Doering, Editor)
Larkspur Cove by Lisa Wingate (Bethany House Publishers – Sarah Long/Dave Long, Editors)

Long Contemporary Romance:      
Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones (Thomas Nelson – Jamie Chavez/Natalie Hanemann, Editors)
Lilly's Wedding Quilt by Kelly M. Long (Thomas Nelson – Natalie Hanemann, Editor)
My Foolish Heart by Susan May Warren (Tyndale – Karen Watson, Editor)

Long Historical:
Captive Trail by Susan Page Davis (Moody Publishers/River North – Deborah Keiser, Editor)
Fairer Than Morning  by Rosslyn Elliott (Thomas Nelson – Ami McConnell, Editor)
Mine Is the Night by Liz Curtis Higgs (WaterBrook Press – Laura Barker, Editor)

Long Historical Romance:
The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen (Bethany House Publishers – Karen Schurrer, Editor)
Lilies in Moonlight by Allison Pittman (Multnomah Publishers – Alice Crider, Editor)
To Win Her Heart by Karen Witemeyer (Bethany House Publishers – Karen Schurrer, Editor)

Falling to Pieces: A Shipshewana Amish Mystery by Vannetta Chapman (Zondervan – Sue Brower, Editor)
Died in the Wool by Elizabeth Ludwig/Janelle Mowery (Barbour Publishing – Rebecca Germany, Editor)
Yesterday's Secrets by Kelly Ann Riley (Guideposts – Beth Adams, Editor)

An Accidental Christmas from A Biltmore Christmas by Diane T. Ashley/Aaron McCarver (Barbour Publishing – Rebecca Germany, Editor)
Reese: All Along  from Smitten by Denise Hunter (Thomas Nelson – Ami McConnell/LB Norton, Editors)
A Star in the Night from A Log Cabin Christmas by Liz Johnson (Barbour Publishing – Rebecca Germany, Editor)

Romantic Suspense:
Lonestar Angel by Colleen Coble (Thomas Nelson – Ami McConnell, Editor)
Deadly Pursuit by Irene Hannon (Revell – Jennifer Leep, Editor)
Wolfsbane by Ronie Kendig (Barbour Publishing – Rebecca Germany/Julee Schwarzburg, Editor)

Short Contemporary:
The Protector by Shelley Shepard Gray (Avon Inspire/Harper Collins – Cindy DiTiberio)
Lakeside Reunion by Lisa Jordan (Love Inspired – Melissa Endlich, Editor)
Oklahoma Reunion by Tina Radcliffe (Love Inspired – Melissa Endlich/Rachel Burkot, Editors)

Short Contemporary Suspense:
Double Identity by Diane Burke (Love Inspired Suspense – Sarah McDaniel-Dyer, Editor)
Nightwatch by Valerie Hansen (Love Inspired Suspense – Melissa Endlich, Editor)
A Deadly Game by Virginia Smith (Love Inspired Suspense – Tina James, Editor)

Short Historical (four finalists due to a tie):
Promise of Time by S. Dionne Moore (Heartsong Presents – JoAnne Simmons, Editor)
Revealing Fire by Connie Stevens (Heartsong Presents – Rebecca Germany, Editor)
Light to My Path by Erica Vetsch (Heartsong Presents – JoAnne Simmons, Editor)
The Deepest Waters by Dan Walsh (Revell – Andrea Doering, Editor)

Speculative Fiction:
The Story in the Stars by Yvonne Anderson (Risen Books – Reagan Reed, Editor)
The Chair by James L. Rubart (B & H Fiction – Julee Schwarzburg, Editor)
Broken Sight by Steve Rzasa (Marcher Lord Press – Jeff Gerke, Editor)

Over the Edge by Brandilyn Collins (B & H Fiction – Karen Ball, Editor)
Fallen Angel by Major Jeff Struecker/Alton Gansky (B & H Fiction – Julie Gwinn, Editor)
Freedom's Stand by Jeanette (J.M.) Windle (Tyndale – Jan Stob, Editor)

Women’s Fiction:
A Sound Among the Trees by Susan Meissner (WaterBrook Press – Shannon Marchese, Editor)
When Sparrows Fall by Meg Moseley (Multnomah Publishers – Jessica Barnes/Shannon Marchese, Editors)
Dandelion Summer by Lisa Wingate (Penguin Praise/Berkley – Ellen Edwards, Editor)

Young Adult:
Wreath by Judy Christie (Barbour Publishing – Rebecca Germany/Jamie Chavez, Editors)
The Merchant's Daughter by Melanie Dickerson (Zondervan – Jacque Alberta, Editor)
There You'll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones (Thomas Nelson – Natalie Hanemann/Becky Monds/Jamie Chavez, Editors)

Monday, July 16, 2012


I started reading a new craft book, and this one promises to be chock-full of encouragement and insight. I hadn't even finished the introduction before I found a great tidbit to share with you. Here it is:

"Be at peace with being lousy for a while.
Chesterton once said that anything worth doing was worth doing badly. He was right. Only an insufferable egoist expects to be brilliant first time out. Some writers--those who live charmed lives--have been brilliant first time out, but this happens so rarely that we shouldn't care who they are." (pg.11)

WORDSMITHY by Douglas Wilson is definitely a craft book worthy of your time.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Super Cool Website

Ever wonder what in the world last name you should give a character? Need a common one? Uncommon? How about connecting the meaning of the name with the personality of your character?

Check out Behind the Name. It's a website of the etymology and history of surnames.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


I want what every hot-blooded writer wants:
- an agent extraordinaire
- a signed contract in-hand...for a trilogy
- sales that raise a publisher's eyebrows
- so much traffic to my website I need to hire a cop
- marketing events that fall into my lap

Of the 5 I've listed, I've got 1. The agent extraordinaire. Waiting for the other 4 takes the patience of a saint, and believe me, in my natural state, I'm not one.

So how does a writer live beneath the dark cloud of unmet desires?

Just like anyone else. Every career has golden rings to reach for that not everyone will reach. So whether you're a writer or not, here's something to ponder, taken from Psalms 46:10.

"Be still
and know that I am God."

Those 8 words can change your life, not the words actually, but the God behind them. When you get your focus on God, you just might find a whole new set of desires replacing the old.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Top 10 Most Read Books of the Last 50 Years

Know what the #1 most read book of the past 50 years is? Yep. You got it. It's the Bible. But what are the other 9 in the top 10? Can you guess what they are? Have you read all of them? Any of them?

Here's a list of the top 10 books read in the last 50 years (based according to sales)...

#1. The Bible
#2. Quotations From Chairman Mao-Tse Tung
#3. Harry Potter
#4. The Lord of the Rings
#5. The Alchemist
#6. The Da Vinci Code
#7. The Twilight Saga
#8. Gone With The Wind
#9. Think and Grow Rich
#10. The Diary of Anne Frank

(and if you'd like to know exactly how many millions of copies were sold, check out this website: Flavorwire)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Freaks On Wheels

During a long car trip this weekend, my husband and I had a fantastic conversation planning a kidnapping. He’s great with the details of fitting together the elements of surprise. My kids unplugged from their music to listen for a while, added in an idea or two, then calmly plugged back in. As we passed cars on the interstate, I wondered how many other families were discussing the finer aspects of a criminal offense.

Yeah. It’s great to be a writer.
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