Friday, May 31, 2013

Where's Steven Spielberg When You Need Him?

Writers create stories, but writers also have to create videos to post on publisher's websites. Come and visit the set of my upcoming author video...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Free Reads

Looking for some great summertime reading but you're too lazy to haul yourself over to the library? No, I'm not going to come over and pick up your list and toodle over there for you, but thanks for asking. I will, however, make things easy on you and let you in on a great site you should check out.

Books Should Be Free is a site with a bajillion free public domain audiobooks and eBooks. Okay, so maybe not quite that many, but lots. The layout of the site is easy to use and gives a great summary of each book. The best part of all is that it's free, which will increase your lemonade fund.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Writer's Digest 82nd Annual Writing Competition

Got a spit-shined manuscript laying around the house anywhere? Now's the time to send it in to Writer's Digest. You might just be the lucky winner! Don't procrastinate, though. The deadline is June 3.

The Prizes

Grand Prize: $3,000, one-on-one attention from four editors or agents, a paid trip to the Writer's Digest Conference in New York City, 1 year subscription to Writer's Digest eBooks, a 30 minute platform strategy consultation with Chuck Sambuchino

1st Place: $1,000 and $100 off any purchase from the Writer's Digest Shop

2nd Place: $500 and $100 off any purchase from the Writer's Digest Shop

3rd Place: $250 and $100 off any purchase from the Writer's Digest Shop

The Categories
Magazine Feature Article
Genre Short Story (mystery, romance, etc.)
Mainstream/Literary Short Story
Rhyming Poetry
Non-rhyming Poetry
Stage Play
TV/Movie Script
Children's/Young Adult Fiction

So give it a whirl. Click HERE to enter. The cost is $32, which is well worth it if you win. Speaking of winning, winners will be announced in the December 2013 issue of Writer's Digest Magazine.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Belly Laugh A Day Keeps The Doctor Away

While it's not "Official" official, most people count Memorial Day as the kick off to summer. Translation: time for fun! Here's a fun game I learned this weekend while I was gallivanting across the wilds of Wisconsin...

The Question Game

Partner up with a buddy, then alternate asking questions. The thing is that you may not ask the same question twice. You may not ask a question relating to a previous question. And most of all, you may NOT answer a question. Breaking any of those rules disqualifies you and you're out. Need a sample? Here goes:

What's your favorite color?
Don't you just love a British accent?
How heavy is an overweight whale?
Is that a rabbit over there?
Why is my cell phone dead?
Can woodchucks really chuck wood?

Get the idea? I sounds like kind of a lame game, but believe me, when you have to think on the spot, the questions get more hilarious as the game plays on. And you might be surprised just how hard it is to think of nonrelated questions.

Give it a whirl. It really is a ton of fun...and no doctors involved.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Joy of Books

Can you guess I'm out of town for the holiday weekend? So while I'm not here to write my usual pithy post, enjoy this short & fun video instead...

Friday, May 24, 2013

Announcing the new aBook

And you thought the eBook was so great? Sheesh. Get a load of this sweet baby...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Kings Do As They Please

A Heart Deceived comes out June 20th, and I'll be sharing that month with none other than Stephen King. That's when his latest release, Joyland, hits the stands. Literally. He won't be releasing an eBook version, only a hands-on, page turning, real-deal physical copy.

I don't admit to being a raving King fan (though his writing is fantastic), but I bring this up because I think it's interesting that during this season of eBook frenzy, he's choosing to go hard copy only. Why? What does it mean?

Besides being a playful slap in the face to eBook venues, it will be a huge boost to brick and mortar stores. His choice is curious, though, because his last story release was eBook only and not in  paperback format.

Perhaps King likes variety. Perhaps his favorite first cousin once removed runs a bookstore down the block. Perhaps he's waxing nostalgic. Who knows?

The fact remains that he's a big enough name to do whatever he wants, and I suspect bookstores are ecstatic.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Back Cover Copy

Just like authors don't get to 'choose' their book cover art (they can offer suggestions and give opinions, but ultimately the decision is up to the publisher), neither does an author get the final say on the back cover copy. Here's how it works...

An author submits what they'd like printed on the back cover. It needs to be an attention grabbing summary of the story. Then the publisher plays around with it, sometimes making little tweaks, other times scrapping the whole thing and writing something new. And yes, it's the same for titles.

That being said, I've been very fortunate with my latest release. My title remains what I submitted, A HEART DECEIVED, though admittedly on my working story I'd called it Fallacy. And my back cover copy is pretty much word for word as I'd written. Ready for a sneak peek? Drum roll please...


Miri Brayden teeters on a razor’s edge between placating and enraging her brother, whom she depends upon for support. Because if his anger is unleashed, so is his madness. Miri must keep his descent into lunacy a secret, or he’ll be committed to an asylum— and she’ll be sent to the poorhouse.

Ethan Goodwin has been on the run all of his life—from family, from the law ... from God. After a heart-changing encounter with the gritty Reverend John Newton, Ethan would like nothing more than to become a man of integrity—an impossible feat for an opium addict charged with murder.

When Ethan shows up on Miri’s doorstep, her balancing act falls to pieces. Both Ethan and Miri are caught in a web of lies and deceit— fallacies that land Ethan in prison and Miri in the asylum with her brother. Only the truth will set them free.

MICHELLE GRIEP has been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She resides in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, where she teaches history and writing classes for a local high school co-op.

There you have it...or at least you will on June 20th, when there will really be a par-tay here at Writer Off the Leash!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Causes of CWS (Cranky Writer Syndrome)
Want to know what makes a writer crabby? Not having enough time to write. Oh, I hear you... "If you love something, you'll find time to do it." True, but sometimes love is tough, and so is finding the time to write, especially when there are 3 big roadblocks that are sometimes in the way:

Roadblock #1: Illness
Thankfully, God has blessed me so that I haven't had much personal experience with this one. I do, however, have a friend who's a writer that deals with a debilitating illness every day. Each word physically costs her. The desire to write is there, but the ability to get that story out is excruciating. All the ingredients are there for a very cranky writer, but she's not. Why?

God's grace.

Roadblock #2: Family
Young children. Elderly parents. Ailing spouses. Hear that giant sucking noise? Yep. These family members take a lot of time. I have yet to meet a writer who doesn't have family commitments, some more than others. Want to know who the crankiest writers of them all are? The ones who put their writing ahead of their family. But how to write and meet family needs?

God's grace.

Roadblock #3: Fear
Every writer gets caught up in busy seasons, when writing must be set aside for a time. It's getting back into it that throws this roadblock in the way. Getting back into the writing saddle is scary. What if you fall off? What if you don't move at all? I suspect you've picked up my pattern by now. The only way to overcome this hurdle is God's grace.

The bottom line is that if you don't plead for God's grace to rain down fresh every day, you will be cranky, writer or not. They key to avoiding CWS is to stay connected to the Author of Creativity.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Dive In...The Water's Great

If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
~ Albert Einstein

And if you judge your writing compared to other great writers, you just might feel like that fish. Yes, there is much to be said for studying great writing and striving for that kind of achievement with your own prose... But there's a huge difference between that and sinking into the mire of I-suck-and-I'm-an-idiot-to-think-I-can-write depression.

There's only one you, and no one can write like you. God made you exactly the way you are for a purpose. You write the way you do because it's the way God wants you to write. Believing your writing is stupid is akin to looking God in the face and saying, "Hey, you made me wrong."

Do you really want to say that to the living God?

I didn't think so. So whip out that pen and let the words flow. Swim, little fishy. Swim.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Technical Difficulties in Vlogland

So here's the deal. I'm in the middle of Wisconsin and my internet is spotty at best. To view my vlog today, you'll have to click on this link:

Sorry for the inconvenience, buddies!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Hig Pig

Looking for a writerly diversion that won't make you feel guilty for playing a game? Hig Pig will stretch your brain and vocabulary at the same time.

To play, all you do is solve a riddle with two 1-syllable words that rhyme. My first riddle was:
a robber of published compositions

Know what it is? I didn't at first. Too early in the morning and I hadn't had any coffee yet. So I clicked on the Hint button which said: try "ook" rhymes. That did it. Book Crook.

Give it a whirl next time you're a little cross-eyed from too much plotting.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Poe Mystery

Once upon a midnight dreary,
while I pondered, weak and weary,
over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
while I nodded, nearly napping, 
suddenly there came a tapping,
as of someone gently rapping,
rapping at my chamber door. 

And that is the beginning of one of the greatest poems of all time. Can you name it? Do you know who wrote it?

The Raven was written by Edgar Allan Poe. Love his writing or hate it, either way his stories leave an imprint on the reader. He was a master of mystery with his pen...and with his death.

No one knows what exactly happened to him. On October 3, 1849, Poe was found in a Baltimore street. He was semi-conscious, but not enough to explain how he'd got there, and get this...He was dressed in clothes that weren't his.

That got me to thinking, what if a character showed up in clothes that weren't his own? What if that character were the hero? A bad boy hero who shows up in the clothes of an upstanding vicar? Ah yes, you got it, another shameless plug for A HEART DECEIVED, for indeed that is one of the scenes and you'll have to read it to find out what happens.

Now then, back to Poe. He was rushed to a hospital where he remained in a delirious state for four days before dying on October 7, 1849. He was only 40 years old. What happened?

No one knows. There are a few theories. He was known to be an alcoholic. Perhaps he simply drank himself to death. But that doesn't account for the odd clothes.

Which leads to the next theory...that he'd been the victim of "cooping". This is a kind of election fraud where gangs would drug a victim, dress them in different clothes, then haul them from polling site to polling site to vote for the candidate of their choice.

No one really knows for sure, though. Poe's death remains a mystery - just like his writing.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Don't Worry...Be Happy

There's been a lot of buzz lately about the closing of B&H's traditional fiction line. They'll be releasing contracted titles through April 2014, but then that's it...except for putting out a few novels that tie in with either movie releases or are specifically ministry related. You can read all the gory details at Publishers Weekly.

This means that the publishing pond just got smaller, leaving a few B&H authorly fish flapping around on the shore. Those authors will have to flip themselves back into the pond or die, and I doubt anyone will willingly suffocate in the sand.

Translation: competition for contracts is going to be fiercer.

It was hard enough to get published before, but now it will be tougher, which creates a whole lot of angst out there in writer land. You'll be a nervous wreck if your eyeballs are on the state of the publishing industry and/or our economy.

But here's the deal...God is still on the throne. Keep writing. Keep honing your craft. And most importantly, keep your focus on the One who ultimately awards contracts.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Summer Reading or Writing?

The last of the snow piles finally melted last week. Sheesh. I always knew global warming was a farce. And now bam! It's supposed to be 93 tomorrow. Summer is apparently here. How long it will last is anybody's guess, so let's make the most of it, eh?

So, besides lounging in a hammock with a lemonade in hand, what are your summer goals? If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. It doesn't have to be elaborate. This is the lazy season, after all. And if you're already in slacker mode, here are a few ideas you can simply copy...

Choose 1 classic and 1 current novel to plow through. Sure, you can do a lot more if you like, but at the very least, accomplish this. Need some suggestions?

Wow. Where to begin? There are so many! A few of my favorites are:
BLEAK HOUSE by Charles Dickens
THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
JANE EYRE by Charlotte Bronte
THE CRUCIBLE by Arthur Miller

CAPTIVES by Jill Williamson
HOME RUN by Travis Thrasher
WINGS OF GLASS by Gina Holmes
A HEART DECEIVED by Michelle Griep (sorry, couldn't resist)

My Goal: I'm tackling Ayn Rand's ATLAS SHRUGGED for my classic. It's a whopper so it will take me all summer. As for contemporary, I've got a few to review on my stack. A TOUCH OF SCARLET by Eve Marie Mont and MADELINE'S PROTECTOR by Vanessa Riley.

If your goal is to pound out an entire novel this summer, more power to you. Sounds a little overwhelming to me, though, so here are some other options:

- One chapter a week
- Complete an entire proposal with the first 3 chapters finished
- Post consistently on your blog and/or create a blog
- Design or freshen up your web site
- Finish that one manuscript that's been languishing on your computer

My Goal: Yikes. This is harder than I thought. I will go for writing a proposal with the first 3 chapters to be able to pitch at the ACFW Conference next fall and then I'll go back to working on a languishing manuscript.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Question Jar Take #52

When life goes nutty-nuts, thankfully there's always the question jar. As usual, feel free to leave me more questions for future jar vlogs (don't be afraid--you can ask me anything).


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Six P's of Inspiration (not the vegetable kind)

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." 
~ Jack London 

Sometimes you need to actively seek your sources of inspiration. But what if you’re not even inspired enough to come up with some ideas for inspiration? Don’t worry. That’s what I’m here for. Here’s a few ideas…

People Watching
Go to a mall. Sit outside at a bistro. Hang out at the library. If there’s a flock of people, go find ‘em and observe…but not in a creepy stalker kind of way.

Booming kettledrums. The sorrowful wail of a cello. Music has a way of crawling deep inside and taking up residence. Pop on over to Pandora and discover a new piece of music that gets your creative juices flowing.

Pick up a Best Seller
Reading a book written by a master can kick up your own writing a notch…or at least give you a different perspective or method that maybe you haven’t tried before. Some of my favorite authors that never fail to inspire me are: John Steinbeck, Ray Bradbury, Travis Thrasher, Charles Dickens, Lisa Mangum.

Popcorn and Mike & Ikes
Head to the movies. Sometimes watching a flick, seeing all that emotion and action larger than life on a big screen, will have you chomping at the bit to run home and start pounding away on your keyboard.

‘Nuff said.

Honestly, though, the best source of inspiration is the Creator Himself. When you’re stuck, set your WIP aside and spend some time with God instead. Not kidding. He is the best source available.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

How Authors Celebrate -- And Wowzer Am I Glad They Do!

You know those lottery winners who say they never win anything? Yeah. I'm one of them--except I don't play the lottery. Waste of money. But guess what...I won a color Nook! I'm finally going to be a member of the snooty-tooty readers' club that whips out their electronic device to partake of a novel. That's akin to sipping a mint julep at the Kentucky Derby if you ask me.

Which you didn't. You want to know how I won, eh? Well, some authors create an opportunity to spread the word about their new release via the medium of a contest. That's what Vanessa Riley did for her debut novel Madeline's Protector. Here's a short blurb:

If all the young men of England leapt off a cliff, Madeline St. James wouldn't care. Then she'd have peace. Her nightmares of courtship would end, and she'd cozy up with a Psalm in her aunt's quiet sculpture garden. Yet, a chance meeting and a bullet wound change everything, and Madeline must trust the Good Shepherd has led her to the altar to marry a dashing stranger, Lord Devonshire. Death and pain are no strangers to Justain Delveaux, Lord Devonshire, and he vows his dutiful bride will be kept safe and in her place. Though this compromised marriage is in-name-only, his wife and her unwavering faith both intrigue and allure him. Perchance when he thwarts his brother's killer, Justain will tempt the unpredictable Madeline with the comfort of his arms. But can Madeline and the stubborn earl forge a true bond before the next disaster strikes?

The week of her release, she posted a question each day related somehow to her book. I happened to stop by on the day she was talking about Regency male suitors. Here's the question I had to answer:

Today’s Question: If you were a Regency Mama, which suitor would you pick for your marriageable daughter and why: The son of a family friend, a titled reformed rake, a wealthy gentleman looking for a 2nd wife?

How would you have answered? I chose the son of a family friend because I'd know the content of their character...and ended up being the grand prize winner.

A contest is just one way to celebrate and get the word out about a new release. There's also the traditional book signing at bookstores. Other authors have parties, inviting readers in their area. I've seen social media blitzes as well.

A HEART DECEIVED comes out on June 20th. I was thinking an all expense paid trip to England would be a fantastic publicity stunt, but when I open my purse, moths fly out. Wonder how I could tie in moths to a giveaway. Hmm. Might need to noodle this one for awhile.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Hemingway Says

Dare I admit I've never actually read Hemingway? I have, however, read his advice to writers and it's worth repeating. So, here we go...

1. Always stop for the day when you still know what will happen next. Don't completely empty your well of imagination.

2. Never think about the story when you're not working. That way your subconscious will keep working on it all the time.

3. When it's time to work again, always start by reading what you've written so far. It helps to maintain continuity.

4. To get started, write one true sentence. Nothing fancy. You don't have to impress anyone, just be true.

5. Don't describe an emotion--make it. With words. Pull the reader into the emotion so that they feel it as well.

6. Use a pencil. Hemingway says:
"If you write with a pencil you get three different sights at it to see if the reader is getting what you want him to. First when you read it over; then when it is typed you get another chance to improve it, and again in the proof. Writing it first in pencil gives you one-third more chance to improve it."
7. Be brief. It was no accident the Gettysburg Address was so short.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Writing Advice From a Tree

1. Go out on a limb with your writing. Take risks every now and then. Some will work, some won't, but you'll never know unless you try.

2. Write to the best of your ability then stand tall and proud, knowing you've given it everything you've matter what others have to say about it.

3. Be content with your writerly beauty. You don't write like Steinbeck or Grisham or Fitzgerald because you are you, exactly the way God made you.

4. Enjoy the view, wherever you are on your writing journey. Live in the moment.

5. Drink plenty of water. This is always a good idea.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Unveiling A New Book Cover

Sharing the new book cover excitement for A HEART DECEIVED...

Publishing Tidbit: Did you know that while an author gets to voice their opinion, it's really up to the publisher to decide what goes on a cover, front and back?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Quirky Word Sites
Though it's not Fun Friday yet, we can still have fun with words. Here's a few obscure sites you can tuck in your back pocket and pull out whenever the need arises.

Flip Text
Ever hankering to flip your words upside down and backwards? Well, you're in good company. Leonard DaVinci did it all the time, but he had to do it with pen and ink. You can simply go to this site and type in the words you want flipped, then copy and paste it wherever you'd like. Need an example?
˙ʇnoqɐ ƃuıʞlɐʇ ɯ,ı ʇɐɥʍ s,ǝɹǝɥ

Weird and Unusual Words
You never know when you'll need an off the wall word or phrase to perk things up. This site has a bajillion, not even kidding. One of my favorites?
Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

Ever wonder why we don't put pants in the pantry? This site takes words and contorts them into ways you've never thought of. Some are thought provoking. Others are groaners, like this one:
If a race is neck and neck, would that mean it's a necktie?

It's K. Want to know why? This site goes into the humor aspect of words and tells you how to ramp up your funny level. Words with K in them are a good choice. But there are other tips here besides just letters. Go ahead and take a peek.

No fuss. No muss. This is the place to get your pun of the day.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

5 Ways to Evoke Emotion in Your Writing

"No matter what you write,
some people will adore it
and some will want to burn it with fire,
which is hard,
but both are better than "meh"."

~ Victoria Schwab

I'm not going to lie ~ I love getting 5 star reviews. Know which ones I don't like? I'm guessing you probably just shouted out 1 star, but cue the annoying buzzer sound because you're wrong. It's the 3 star reviews that really get under my skin.

I write to evoke emotion. Some love it. Others hate it. It's the lukewarm readers that bug me. Not personally, mind you, but their lack of passion one way or another makes me wonder where and how I failed at my task.

So, how exactly does a writer avoid the Meh Factor? Here are a few ideas...

5 Ways to Evoke Emotion in Your Writing

Experiences & Memories
When actors are required to act passionately, they are advised to relate to their own experience and dredge up a memory of a particular event that provoked passionate feelings in them. Guess what writers? You can do the same. Relive a particularly emotional memory and capture those feelings in words.

Setting & Details
Use details to enhance the emotion. Weather is a good one for this. If you're writing a death scene, make it a bleak, gray day outside. Or if it's a creepy scene intended to invoke fear, how about adding in a flashlight and having the batteries go dead? I hate it when that happens.

Voice & Tone
It always gets to me when a hero's voice cracks as he says the heroine's name. Wow. He's got to be super in love with the girl if he gets choked up like that, which in turn makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Metaphors & Symbols
Associations or comparisons are a great way to pull a reader into the heat of the moment. Here's an example from the memoir Safekeeping by Abigail Thomas when she's reflecting on the days of yesteryear:
"She wouldn't return to those days. But she can cry over them. As if youth were a limb that had tormented her, and its phantom remains, and she can still feel it aching, and she misses it because it was her own."

Expressions & Gestures
When a character runs his fingers through his hair, I feel his frustration. Slumped shoulders show me defeat. Those are gestures that I do myself so I can totally relate. Facial expressions--tear bright eyes, a deeply-lined grimace--are giveaways of emotion that you can use to really tug at a reader's heart.

Give one or two or all five of these effects a whirl next time you sit down to write. There's enough Meh in the world. Do your part to stamp it out.
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