Sunday, December 28, 2008


Foxfire Book
Edited by Eliot Wigginton
And His Students



Several years ago, my father-in-law presented me with a copy of The Foxfire Book because he knew I loved history and stories of how people used to do things. There are several subsequent books in the series.

Eliot Wigginton was a teacher in a small Appalachian Mountain community in North Georgia in 1966. Things were not going well for the Cornell University graduate and his mountain high school English students. In desperation, he suggested the class put together an issue of a magazine. The students’ choice for the magazine title was “Foxfire” named after an organism that is found in the mountains and glows in the dark.

Students interviewed their parents, grandparents, and neighbors to gather mountain folklore for inclusion in their magazine. Subscriptions funded the cost. One issue grew to more and eventually resulted in an anthology. Many students pursued college degrees as a result of their experience with the project and scholarships from interested supporters around the country.

The books are excellent resources for writers who want to write about early American experiences. The Table of Contents lists topics such as Building a Log Cabin, Chimney Building, Soap making, Churning Your Own Butter, and Home Remedies. Pictures and illustrations help with the instructions.

On a recent trip through North Georgia, my husband and I went to the study site for the Foxfire project. Each summer workshops provide Georgia teachers and other interested parties hands on experiences at the site. A well-equipped bookstore offers more books and local handicrafts.

Do you want to know how your heroine cooked a mountain recipe in the fireplace? Pages 159-165 will have information about the fireplace, and 167-174 will provide some mountain recipes.

Does your hero need to read weather signs before setting out to rescue the heroine? Check out 208-211.

The website for the museum, www.foxfire.org/thefoxfirebooks.aspx, states there are a total of twelve books representing forty years of magazines written by the students. Past issues of recent magazines as well as subscriptions for two magazines a year are also available. I want to order the magazine that tells about “sock suppers”. Amazon also listed some books as available.

If you love history, write historicals, or want to know how your ancestors provided for themselves in our young country, I suggest you may want to sample one of The Foxfire Books.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Train-of-Thought Writing Method


Recently, I was privileged to read a book written by Kathi Macias, who I "met" online in a writing group to which we both participate. Her experience as a writer for twenty-five years qualifies her to help writers not as far down the road in learning the craft of writing. As she explains in her introduction, "The Train-of-Thought Writing Method presents the most effective plan for putting your ideas and thoughts into the form of a finished work whether that be a short story, article, or book. Ms. Macias excels in all.


Aimed toward beginning writers with ideas flowing through their heads, but no clue how to put them in publishable form, the book contains easy to understand plans. I found the simplicity refreshing even though I've written all my life and studied the craft seriously for three years. One bit of knowledge I've learned in that time is to write a good beginning hook. Only one problem exists with knowing that. How does one write a good hook? I pondered and edited. I changed and sent it off to another agent only to be told the beginning didn't "grab" her.


Along comes Kathi Macias' "cow catcher." For all you who have yet to read the book, that's the first sentence. Ms. Macias gives examples from other author's works and also many from her own. Then, she offers samples with opportunities for the reader to write a first sentence and compare with the author's version. I found it to be a perfect learning tool all the way to, you guessed it, the "caboose."


This book precipitated me going to the beginning of my work in progress and writing a new "cow catcher." As Ms. Macias suggests, I will also bring it full circle when I finish my "boxcars" and "couplers." The short, concise instructions can be followed or used by experienced as well as beginning writers.


I highly recommend this book. You can find out more about it and other books written by this author at www.kathimacias.com.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Writer’s Digest Flip Dictionary
By Barbara Amm Kipfer, Ph.D.

I once had a friend once accuse me of “cheating” with my writing. She presumed that a writer wouldn’t need a thesaurus or other helps to write a novel or a script. My friend thought that all our fabulous words merely pour out of the writer’s mind and onto the page. (If only . . .) Seeing my well-worn thesaurus she exclaimed, “I could do that.” She meant writing with the use of a thesaurus. I believe she’d still find writing a challenge even with the wonderful tools I use to keep me sane.

All the same, I love to write and I love my readers. I want my writing to be exciting, arousing the emotions of our readers, maybe even heal emotional and spiritual wounds along the way. Words are the only medium I have to communicate what is in my heart. I don’t know about you, but I need all the help I can get.

Writers paint images in the mind and we find the colors for our pallets in dictionaries, thesauruses, and other prayer answering resources. I have a “tool box” at finger’s reach from my desktop computer. Among my favorite tools is my Hitchcock’s Topical Bible that I reviewed last time. I also have various types of dictionaries.

The classic Merriam Webster isn’t the only show in town. There are all sorts of dictionaries that help us find the words we want to use to set a particular emotional stage. One of my favorites is the Flip Dictionary by Barbara Ann Kipher, Ph. D., a publication of Writer’s Digest. This dictionary is designed to help the writer find the perfect word to fit the context.

We all know how frustrating it is to have a word “on the tip of our tongues” and not be able to spit it out or, worse yet, write it down. Maybe you want to need a word to describe a specific action or thing. You might need a specialized technical term. The Flip Dictionary will help you find exactly the right word you’ve been looking for.

The Flip Dictionary uses clue words under broad headings—such as Furniture Terms, Combat Sports and Martial Arts, or Types of Boats and Ships with thousands of entries in between. The Flip Dictionary will save hours of frustration; Googling and praying to come across the correct verbage. The word you seek will always be right at the finger tips.

The Flip Dictionary is formatted by subject in alphabetical order and is very easy to use and also doubles as a thesaurus, giving the writer and even broader choice of words to use. No writer should be without this valuable tool.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Fantastic Historical Research Book!


The Women: The Old West Series, by Time Life Books is an invaluable book to own when researching women's lives of the 19th Century.


I first found this book at the library among the entire collection, The Old West Series, which included The Gambler, The Trailblazer, The Railroad Men, The Lawmen, The Gunslinger, and many others. I had read about half of The Women when I knew I must own this book.

The first five pages of the book are black and white photos of women performing their daily tasks. These are not the only images. Throughout the book there are other photos which are in full color. There are pictures of women riding, cooking, teaching, farming, and best of all my favorite...items from the past. Such as a box mill, china, quilts, a fluting iron which pressed pleats into cotton fabric, a "choke" used to catch mice and snakes, a candle mold, and a butter mold with a pretty picture.

There are pictures of dresses plains women wore. One dress, the owner boasted she had wore all the way to Oregon without repair. This woman was so creative. When she fashioned the dress, she took her pattern pieces and sewed the cotton fabric to canvas material (the material used for tents and wagon covers). Then she pieced the dress together to sew. No wonder it made it across the country without repair! The woman knew practicality and fortitude would be needed for the journey. Another picture was of a slat bonnet. Ever heard of it? Me, neither. Apparently, for a long, arduous journey west, plain bonnets didn't protect the eastern women's faces well enough. So, the clever seamstress would sew little wooden slats into her bonnet to strengthen the bonnet against wind. Other pictures include furniture (even ones from brothels), dishes, cookingware, and documents.

The second thing I love about this book, is the multitude of journal entries. I read of a wagon train heading west. Three women, all newly weds, wrote about their journey. Each woman had a different prospective of the same trip. I felt so sorry for this one woman. All she wanted to do was please her husband. If she tried to carry on a conversation with him, he would say she talked too much. If she tried to limit her conversation with him, he would say she had ill spirits. If she tried to talk in a group setting, he would reprimand her in front of everyone. In her journal, she believed the trouble with her marriage was all her fault, well mostly her fault, one couldn't discount her husband's roaming eye. She was convinced her husband was more pleased with their neighbor's wife.

The third thing I love about this book, is its many topics. We begin the book reading of the wagon trains heading west. Then we read about the hardships of life and the reality of marriage of convenience. What I really love is how the book reveals occupations of women during the 19th century, which all seem to end in prostitution. If the woman was a laundress, she made extra money on the side. If the woman was a cook, she supplemented her income. (I can just hear the local, upright women saying, "She doesn't have no man. You know she just said she's a laundress. Why there's no telling what she does a night!") And even if the woman willingly became a prostitute, there was still money to be made by becoming an owner-operator. Madam's would make an agreement with seamstress' to allow her girls to charge to her account. Then the madam would hold the debt over the girls head, so they couldn't leave.

Whether a prostitute, an adventuress, or a woman with a cause, this book seems to to have it all. This book opened up the old west for me in ways other books could not. The only drawback to owning this book is that it was written in 1974 and is out of print. I bought it at http://www.amazon.com/ from a used book seller for $2. The shipping and handling cost more than the book.

So, this is my favorite research book. Tell me yours.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Grit for the Oyster by Debora M. Coty


In October, my husband and I went to North Georgia for a Gathering of classmates from several years of graduates of his small town high school. After the reunion, we all drove up to his friend's home in the mountains.

A neighbor came over to borrow some dry wood. My friend's wife introduced me to her and mentioned she was a writer. I told her I was an aspiring writer. We all talked about books and writing before she went back to her house to bring all three of us a book.

I chose Grit for the Oyster; 250 pearls of wisdom for aspiring writers written by her, Debora N. Coty, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Faith Tibbets McDonald, and Joanna Bloss.

I thought it was an unexpected surprise to meet her on top of a mountain deep in the North Carolina woods.

Grit for the Oyster is a collection of thoughts on writing by Terri Blackstock, Martha Bolton, James Scott Bell, Liz Curtis Higgs, Dr. Gary Chapman, and David Kopp as well as the authors and many other writers I recognized.

Each section begins with a scripture verse followed by advice on the writer's life. A prayer is followed by a section called "Reflection" which offers things to think about and put into practice. Quotes from authors conclude each section.

I recommend Grit for the Oyster as a helpful book to keep near your writing area. Reading a selection before beginning your daily writing sessions could be the inspiration you need to start your day.

Meeting and chatting with Debora M. Coty was a delightful surprise. Reading her book is a definite bonus. I had no idea what blessing was waiting for me in North Carolina this past October.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Courage to Change

Okay, okay. On this blog, I'm supposed to write about the craft of writing, whereas "Courage to Change" explains the craft of living. Last night, I vacillated between two writing books which have helped me to heighten conflict and suspense in my manuscripts. With what is going on in my life at the present time, God kept leading me back to "Courage to Change."
"Lord, do you want me write on this book?" "Duh....," I thought I heard Him whisper this morning. So here goes, perhaps someone else needs this book. "Courage to Change" includes a compilation of several writings by Dr. Samuel Moor Shoemaker who lived, preached and wrote 1921-1939. His wisdom rings true today as it did when Alcoholics Anonymous first began, and its Christian roots came through him.
I discovered this book fifteen years ago when God healed me emotionally and helped me lose ninety pounds. With every new challenge in life, I seek first God's Holy Bible, and next "Courage to Change."
Whether I write or speak or God uses me in other ways, pride creeps into my accomlishments causing me to fall on my face again. Am I the only one? I think not. I read on page 66, "Genuine humility cannot be attained by avoiding pride: it can only be attained by discovering gratitude."
When I'm having trouble in life, I read page 65 "But I believe that God uses that trouble, turns it to good account, works it into the whole fabic of our lives, and gives meaning to it....You cannot seek the meaning of a sorrow while you hug it to yourself, and will not give it to God to shed His light upon."
As I seek for God's will, I read page 37 "He asks us to begin with Him at the known and follow Him into the unknown.... Begin where you can."
How do I help people to find Christ? On page 183, Rev. Sam says "Religion today is largely the imitation of an example, when it ought to be the hearing of a Voice."
Much wisdom, wonderful insights. This book delves into our mindsets and questions everything we thought we knew. As I said, it's been around awhile so might only be on Amazon or through Hazelden Publications. The book was compiled and edited by Bill Pittman and Dick B in 1994.
There you have it, Lord. I told them about this book. Thanks for leading me to it again. Point the way for those who read this blog today.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Hitchcock's Topical Bible with Cruden's Concordance

by Roswell D. Hitchcock, © 1962, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids 6 , Michigan.

To a writer, books are not only the products, but the tools, as well. Within arms reach of my desk top computer are two well appointed book shelves with dictionaries, thesauruses, formatting guides, and even some of the titles reviewed on this web site. One tool I always keep in handy reach is my Hitchcock’s Topical Bible with Cruden’s Concordance.

Along with Christian fiction, I write biblical scripts for a drama ministry. The plays I write are instructional, written to minister to the Body of Messiah rather than to evangelize. I take a face value event like the story of Esther, for instance, and I guide my audience to a deeper level of understanding.

In Esther’s case, I highlighted the less apparent Messianic foreshadowing woven between the lines of the biblical account. I also connected historic animosities between Mordechai and Haman through their genealogies, using the Bible as my source.

Besides scripts, I also write articles about the revelations I have and post them on the ministry website. Because the Bible warns that teachers shall incur a stricter judgment,[i] I get my facts straight before placing a production on stage or posting an article on line. There are a great many extra-biblical tools that I can and do use to corroborate my accounts, but I especially like the Hitchcock Topical Bible with Cruden’s Concordance.

The Hitchcock text opens with an Alphabetical Index of Subjects found in the Topical Bible. These include:
Scripture
God
Works of God
Miracles
Mediums and Methods of Revelation
Duties to God
Angels, Good and Evil
Jesus Christ
The Hebrews
War
Man Redeemed, and so on.

The topics are outlined in seven-hundred pages under numerous headings and sub-headings. Every possible scripture verse related to that sub-heading is listed in KJV. Because the topics are so broad and inclusive, I almost always find what I’m looking for, with immediate scriptural substantiation to support my conclusions.

Man, such as he is, is well documented in the Hitchcock’s Topical Bible with the Cruden’s Concordance. The text works as well for the fiction writer who wants to develop their characters in line with biblical principles. For historical fiction, topics such as Industrial, Employments, and Products and Civil and Social Life will help the writer cultivate credible characters consistent to the customs and conventions of biblical times.

Hitchcock’s Topical Bible with Cruden’s Concordance is a well used tool in my collection and one that I depend on for accurate and well researched writing.

[i] James 3:1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment. NAS

Monday, November 3, 2008

WRITING THE CHRISTIAN ROMANCE by Gail Gaymer Martin


Writing the Christian Romance by Gail Gaymer Martin is one book I wished I had owned four years ago when I first started on my journey to publication. Allow me to explain.


My first hurdle back then was to learn the difference between Single Title & Category romances. In chapter one, Ms. Martin elaborates on their differences and how Christian romance differs from secular romances.


As I look over the next few chapters, concerning creating believable characters, get know your hero/heroine, emotions, sexuality, and spirituality, I look back with a good feeling, thinking I had a good understanding of these concepts.


However, POV was the hardest thing for me learn. I understood 1st person, 3rd person and such but learning how to handle third person limited pov was the hardest idea for me to conquer. Ms. Martin tackles this subject with the all the finese of a true professional. She eases into the concept with explaining 1st, 3rd, omniscient, and how to interweave the pov's. If you struggle with pov, then I recommend this book for you.


The last hurdle and most recent one I've had to learn is plotting. Chapter 10 is entitled Plotting the Christian Romance. Ms. Martin identifies many popular plotting techniques. I think I've tried them all except the 3-Act Structure which I'm trying now.


The last chapter in the book is How to Sell a Christian Romance Novel and in this chapter Ms. Martin instructs and gives examples of preparing a manuscript to sell, she enlightens her reader on editor/agent relationships, and she lists popular conferences.


Gail Gaymer Martin offers a well-balanced teaching on how-to write Christian fiction.

If you haven't read this book, yet...don't wait any longer.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Polishing the Pugs by Kathy Ide

I purchased Polishing the “Pugs” at the American Christian Fiction Writers
at the Dallas Conference. Kathy Ide is a professional freelance author, editor, and writers conference speaker. “Pugs” stands for punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling.


She also covers Rules for Book Manuscripts based on The Chicago Manual of Style and Rules for Article Manuscripts based on The Associated Press Stylebook.

My copy is full of the sticky tabs to note the sections I think are important.
I keep the copy on my bookshelf next to the computer for quick reference. It is also handy to review why waiting for the printer to finish printing.


I convinced two of my writer friends and some bystanders to buy one at the second Dallas Convention. My friends were glad they did.

Kathy’s website is www.KathyIde.com and www.TheChristianPEN.com. Treat yourself to a copy. You’ll be glad you did.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cross & Quill

Okay, Cross & Quill is not a book, but it is a great resource and inspiration for writers. This newsletter for The Christian Writer's Fellowship International gives new markets, new directions and tools for writing, good craft lessons, and introduces one of our successful writers. Since joining this group a year ago, I've eagerly anticipated each copy every month. Also, the publication itself offers a market to those who write articles or devotions.
For those of us writing fiction or non-fiction, for books or periodicals, Cross & Quill offers something of interest. Recent favorite articles of mine include "Ways to Win an Editor's Heart" by the editor Sandy Brooks, "Seeing Your Audience with Your Heart" by Janet Perez Eckles and "I Love to Write Day, 2008" by John Riddle. There's always an article about young adult writing, writer's groups and market changes or new markets. Each copy highlights upcoming Christian writing conferences or workshops.
Christian Writer's Fellowship not only sends out the monthly newsletter, but has an online loop along with annually sending extra writing tips and market info.
For a Christian writer this group and especially this newsletter is an invaluable tool on our journey to publication and beyond.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread: A novel by Don Robertson.

Every writer is a reader. We LOVE words. We love to discover new words or new ways to use old words. Many of us had a mentor who introduced us to the bliss of reading.

My sister taught me that if I had a book to read, I would never be alone. She was eleven years older and out on her own by the time I was eight years old. I used to love spending time at her apartment in a nearby town. She would take me to the library or read with me at home. We took turns reading chapters aloud.

One of the books we shared ended up being one of my favorites of all time. The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread by Don Robertson. The author takes his main character, nine-year-old Morris Bird III through the streets of Cleveland in 1944. Our young hero embarks on a fateful journey in search of his best friend whose family had moved to the other side of town. Unfortunately, Morris’s mother catches him before he gets too far, reminding him that he’s supposed to take care of his little sister. Grudgingly, Morris takes her, along with a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter.

During the course of their adventure, the reader is introduced to a number of other characters and subplots who will eventually be thrown together when a gas tank explosion rocks Cleveland.

The beauty of this novel is that the action doesn’t happen until the final chapters, but the author keeps the reader engrossed in the story as he develops his various characters. Of course, the book isn’t about the disaster, as much as it is about young Morris and his courage as he rises to the occasion of being a hero—dubbed The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread by one of the people he resues.

The Greatest Think Since Sliced Bread is a terrific first adult novel for the very young adult, twelve years old or so. The graphic descriptions of the explosion and the burn victims might be disturbing for younger readers, however, and parental discretion is advised. Stephen King says that he has this wonderful novel on the shelf next to The Outsiders and Catcher in the Rye. I believe it’s more than worthy to stand beside such great titles.

The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread was first released in the early sixties, which is when I first read it with my sister. I must have been around ten years old at the time. It had been out of print for many years. When Robertson passed away in 1999, his estate re-released GTSSB to another generation. Robertson wrote two sequels featuring Morris Bird II: The Sum and Total of Now and The Greatest Thing That Almost Happened, which became a movie.

Monday, October 6, 2008

FORMATTING & SUBMITTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT by Cynthia Laufenberg and the Editors of Writer's Digest Books


Are you at the point in your writing career where you are ready to submit your work? Or perhaps you want to submit a non-fiction piece? Do you know how to properly format articles for newspapers or magazines?

Recently, I found myself in a conundrum. I felt ready to submit an article for consideration. However, I had no clue how to properly format sidebars? To be honest, I didn't even know what sidebars where.

My dilemma didn't last too long. I turned to my bookshelf to find my FORMATTING & SUBMITTING Your Manuscript book. But it wasn't there. A friend had borrowed it. This book is a favorite book, which I lend to my writing friends.

The first thing I noticed about the book, which I liked best is the example letters. This book doesn't just give one or two, but page after page shows query letters, cover letters, proposals, outlines, and synopses. Also, there are plenty of examples of electronic submissions and the difference between them and traditional submissions.

The second thing I liked is the various genres it covers. This book shows how to write letters to submit in genres such as novels, personal essays, magazine articles, book proposals poetry, screenplays & scripts, short stories, children's books, and greeting cards.

Last, I like how the narrative is chunked into small information pieces. Reading long passages of scholarly text, bores me. However, this author uses bullets and short paragraphs to convey her thoughts. I can't say enough how much I appreciate chunked information. I learn best in this manner.

This book is a must have for any writer ready for the submission process. It will be the best $20 investment you can make in to your writing career.

Monday, September 29, 2008

"Shut Up!" He Explained by William Noble

“Shut Up!” He Explained A Writer’s Guide to the Uses and Misuses of Dialogue by William Noble. Mr. Noble begins his book on dialogue by telling us he had been asked by
a friend to look over a manuscript for the man’s friend.
Mr. Noble said the characters were okay and the plot a good one, but he quickly lost interest because the dialogue was poorly written.



The book is divided into three sections.

  • Section one is “The Master Keys to Dialogue”.
  • Section two is “The Details of Dialogue”.
  • Section three is “Misuse and Abuse of Dialogue”.


Each chapter deals with an aspect of dialogue, which makes it easy to look up any area the writer might have questions about.


Dialogue is essential to a good story. Dialogue is
different than conversation. It moves the story along.
Any dialogue that doesn’t add to the story should be cut.
He noted that dialogue and conversation are two different things. Many new writers use conversation in the story, which makes it boring.


He provides an illustration for each point he makes in the book. For example: I learned that dialogue develops characters and creates tension between characters. The writer has to know the character so the dialogue will be authentic.


His chapters on dialect and transitions helped me critique the writing of a member of our writers’ group. I was surprised to learn how dialogue can be the basis of a lawsuit. His last chapter addressed the precautions a writer should take. He gives actual lawsuits and the judges’ decisions on those cases. That was an eye opener to me, and a situation I will definitely consider in the future.


I’ve owned this book for quite awhile but never read it. I’m glad I did. Dialogue could be the problem with my book. I’m going to go back through my own story and check to see how I can use dialogue to strengthen my story. I also plan to study dialogue in the recent best seller I finished this week.


I recommend this book as a good one to add to your library for reference whenever you find yourself unhappy with your story.

The above review was written by Sue Watson.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Chrisian Fiction

I have one thing to say about Ron Benrey's book "Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Christian Fiction," and that is, "I wish I'd found it three years ago." When I first decided to devote my work time to studying the craft of writing longer fiction, my knowledge could fit safely in a demitasse. I spent my first few months in a secular writing group learning enough to fill a soup bowl. That is also where I met Margaret Daley who explained the world of Christian fiction writing. Since then I've attended two national ACFW conferences, a FHL mini-conference and three local secular conferences. I've met editors, agents and a score of wonderful writers. My knowledge begins now to overflow my nightime popcorn bowl. (I guarantee that's huge).
Now, I come across this wonderful book. Though I wish I'd found it sooner, and much of the information therein I have learned by hook and crook the last three years, nevertheless Mr. Benrey's words go far beyond what I've learned. Good common sense helps are invaluable such as a list of Christian markets, how to cope with the problem of many gatekeepers along the trail to publishing and why do we need them, what's expected of you once you receive "the call." One section I found interesting is the subject of self-publishing with a list of pros and cons, and why this could be advantageous. (I thought it would be an awful thing.)
One advantage to this "how to" book is the obvious Christian viewpoint. Not that writing isn't writing and helps from those who write other fiction aren't good to read, but Mr. Benrey outlines some problems which only Christian writers tackle. Once chapter is "Dealing with Distinctively Christian Writing Issues." "Have you been "called" to write? What words are no-nos in the CBA markets?
Though maybe three years too late, this book was right on time to help me reach the next rung of the ladder to publication. I highly recommend it if you, like me, have yet to publish a long Christian manuscript even if you've walked years down the road and learned enough to fill a sink.

Monday, September 15, 2008

God’s Key to Health and Happiness by Elmer A. Josephson, © 1962, 1976 Bible Light Publications.

I’ve been recently diagnosed with a grave illness. During this season of my life, I’ve received many books as gifts of encouragement, generously given by caring friends. Included were inspirational stories and other types of self-help books. Perhaps because of the provocative title or the bright cover art, God’s Key to Health and Happiness stood out from the others.

Written decades before The Maker’s Diet, by Jordan Rubin, God’s Key to Health and Happiness was literally years ahead of it’s time. (Note the copyright year) Elmer Jospheson, an ordained Baptist minister and a graduate of Bethel Institute in St. Paul, Minnesota felt compelled to write his book after his own poor health prompted him to seek a cure within God’s Word. When he applied what he’d learned in his studies and added sixty years to his life and ministry.

I believe we can all agree that the Bible is an instruction book—an owner’s manual, if you will, for the care and upkeep of these “jars of clay” as Paul describes our physical nature. In his book, Mr. Josephson reiterates biblical truth, and that adherence to God’s simple principles is the KEY to our physical health and happiness. The soundness of our bodies depends on how many worldy indulgences we’d be willing to exchange for tried and true promises of God. Even the depression and fear that we live with day to day can be blamed on our poor nutritional choices and stubborn unwillingness to surrender into God’s will.
Dr. Josephson clearly upholds that our spiritual condition is established only through salvation in the name of Jesus Christ. However, our health and happiness in this life depends largely on what we eat and we how consume our food. The near epidemic prevalence of heart disease and cancer can be attributed to our bad choices. Science would seem to support Josephsons’ conjectures.
I have radically altered my eating habits based on Dr. Josephson’s book and have witnessed remarkable results in my own recovery.

Josephson also studied at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and lived in Israel for a number of years. He was also the founder and director of Bible Light, Incorporated and organization dedicated to advance understanding among the peoples of the world.

This book is currently out of print, and Amazon.com is the only place that I know of where this title can still be had for as little as $.02 used. I would encourage anyone to invest the two cents for this life-changing book.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Marriage of Convenience



I have started another works-in-progress. I've decided to use the hook device, marriage of convenience. To layer-in the conflict, I am consulting the non-fiction, self-help book, Marriage on the Rock, by Jimmy Evans.



I love this book!


Early on in my marriage, my husband listen to the author of this book at a conference. When he came home, our relationship changed...for the better! This book contains many of the elements my husband heard. (If you know a newly-wed or a marriage in trouble, this is the book to recommend)


For my intent and purpose, I'm using different chapters to help me establish problems between the hero and heroine. For starters, as human beings there are certain deep needs, which only God can meet. Here they are:


Four Basic Needs

  • Acceptance

  • Identity

  • Security

  • Purpose

You can set up your Hero/Heroine to want their Hero/Heroine to meet one of these basic needs. This will create instant conflict because as humans we will never meet these deep needs from another human. These needs can only be met by God.


To increase the conflict between Hero/Heroine there are certain needs, which women need men to meet and vice versa. As you read the following needs, imagine in your own life when this need was not met. Remember how it felt and then draw from that experience in developing your characters.


Women's Needs

  • Security (Finances, Relationship)

  • Non-Sexual Affection

  • Open Communication

  • Leadership


Men's Needs

  • Honor

  • Sex

  • Kindred Fellowship

  • Domestic Support


So for example, let's say your Heroine is a sassy, smart-mouth woman who meets the Hero and she needs him to lead her to safety. However, he's made some mistakes in mapping out their survival. The heroine can't stand the fact he's messing up. She dishonors him by insulting him with caddy comments and then she takes over the leadership role. Of course, as time progresses they become friends, meeting his need for kindred fellowship. As the bond continues, she eases up on her sassy mouth and during their discussion her need for open communication is met. She then relinquishes control, he leads them to safety, and they live happily-ever-after.


You use what they need most from the opposite sex and create conflict by withholding it from them. As the relationship continues, add what they need from each other to the mix. Of course, the crux is when they realize one of the four basic needs they are desperately seeking comes only from God.


As the book states, Marriage on the Rock (is the blueprint for) God's design for your dream marriage.














Sunday, August 24, 2008

No Wonder They Call Him the Savior by Max Lucado

I am enrolled in the Christian Writers’ Guild writing course. For the lesson I just completed, I was given a list of short story books. My assignment was to select one of those books and read some of the short stories. Then I was to analyze the techniques the author used to make it interesting using various methods listed in that particular lesson.

I was delighted to see a book by Max Lucado listed, which would save me a trip to the bookstore if I had that particular title in our collection. Luckily, I had picked up this particular book at the Friends of the Library book sale in the spring.

I fixed a glass of hot Earl Grey tea and sat down in my favorite chair to read. Needless to say I ended up reading all the selections from No Wonder They Call Him the Savior.

I paper clipped several stories that I particularly liked as I read through the book. When I completed the book, I had to select a passage I wanted to comment on. It was a hard decision, but I ended up selecting “Puppies, Butterflies, and a Savior”. This was my favorite because it talked about puppies that won’t come when called by the master because they are distracted by something else. My mixed lab is like that.

What I learned from this assignment is how an author can take an ordinary life experience and use it to teach a spiritual truth. In this case, how we are like our puppies because we get distracted by the things of life and ignore our Master’s call.

Max Lucado is a master of the English language. He mentions in the foreword how Jesus used stories to make a point.

When I read the short chapters in the book, which was subtitled “Chronicles of the Cross”, I felt as if Max Lucado and I were sharing an afternoon visit. His vivid style of telling a story reminded me of my childhood and listening to my Aunt Pearl tell of her childhood adventures.

If you want to read a master story teller and study examples of outstanding story telling techniques, then treat yourself to No Wonder They Call Him the Savior by Max Lucado or any other of his many published works.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Time-Out for the Spirit

The book I'd like to recommend today isn't a writing book. It's a book of devotions, a Guidepost publication. This book has inspired me and provoked thoughts on ways of dealing with everyday life which, writer or not, happens to us all. The sub-title is Two Minute Quiet Times for Times That Aren't Quiet. Many talented writers contributed to its content.

When my husband and I took a nine day vacation last fall, we read a page of this book to kick off each day. Each evening since then, I have read a page before going to bed starting my night off with good thoughts and dreams that inspire. Out of 293 devotions, it's easy to go to the index and pick out one to correspond with what you're going through at the time.

Here are some of favorites:
Page 3 - When a door closes.
Page 120 - When you're angry
Page 235 - When you're trying to diet
Page 284 - When your creative juices seem to have dried up

The one I've read the most is page 188 "When you're having a conflict with your children" written by Marion Bond West. I love my children unconditionally, but God used this devotion to speak to me. Though my child walked a wrong path, I blocked an answer to prayer by unforgiveness in my heart for her actions. God used that verse and devotion to show me I was wrong. I turn to it for a reminder again and again.

For my writer friends with deadlines and obligations in writing as well as in your family, job and other ministries, finding a quick source of inspiration can be invaluable. I highly recommend keeping "Time-Out for the Spirit" near by.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Winning with People, A book by John Maxwell published by Thomas Nelson, 2004, 272 pages, Nonfiction, Interpersonal Relationships and Communication, Religious Aspects, Christianity.

Writing is only one of the skills a writer must work to develop and hone. I know that I’ve had to learn how to research, and yes, it is a skill. While I miss the good old days at the library, I thank God for the Internet. Still, to keep up with modern technology, I was forced to upgrade my researching skills to access the unlimited information on the Web. If we are blessed enough to get a novel published, overnight we have to become experts in marketing. The list goes on.
Writing may seem like the loneliest job in town, next to the Maytag repair man, but in fact we deal with many people. Working with other human beings is another ability we need to cultivate. We need to learn to network effectively, to pitch an idea to an editor or an agent, to encourage other writers in our local critique groups, and so on.

One of the finest books I’ve read on the subject of relationships is Winning with People by John C. Maxwell. Mr. Maxwell is a Pastor and a renowned expert on leadership who personally teaches thousands of people in seminars each year. He has founded several organizations committed to helping people reach their leadership potentials and he has written more than thirty books.

Winning with People crosses the barrier from Fortune 500 executive to the average Joe (or Jane, as the case may be), helping the reader improve existing relationships while building exciting new ones. Mr. Maxwell blends facts, humor, and personal experience to teach twenty-five People Principles for true success in life by winning with people rather than competing against them.

The life principles are broken down into five relationship levels and include: The Pain Principle: Hurting People Hurt People and Are Easily Hurt by Them, The Hammer Principle: Never Use a Hammer to Swat a Fly off Someone’s Head, The Big Picture Principle: The Entire Population of the World—with One Minor Exception—Is Composed of Others, The Exchange Principle: Instead of Putting Others in Their Place, We Must Put Ourselves in Their Place, The Bob Principle: When Bob Has a Problem with Everyone, Bob is Usually the Problem, The Foxhole Principle: When Preparing for Battle, Dig a Foxhole Big Enough for a Friend, The 101 Percent Principle: Find the One Percent We Agree On and Give it One Hundred Percent, and The High Road Principle: We Go to a Higher Level When We Treat Others Better Than They Treat Us.

There are many more and each one ends with thought and discussion provoking questions.
Mr. Maxwell is an excellent writer and a gifted people person. I discovered a great deal about myself (often painful truth) while learning the art of dealing with others. I highly recommend this book to anyone who cares about the people they love, work, and play with.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Complete Writer's Guide to HEROES & HEROINES Sixteen Master Archetypes



I am at the beginning stages of writing another novel. This is such a fun stage. Goals, motivations, conflicts, layering the character with flaws and favorable traits, flavor the new work.

One of the things, I like to do, is after I decide who my hero and heroine are, I then pull out my autographed, reference book, Heroes & Heroines by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever, and Sue Viders. I then match my characters with the archetypes listed in the book. (I find it so much more easier to match up characters with archetypes when I know for a fact what are my characters motivations.)

Here are some of the archetypes listed:

Heroes:

The CHIEF - a dynamic leader, he has time for nothing but work

The BAD BOY - dangerous to know, he walks on the wild side

The BEST FRIEND - sweet and safe, he never lets anyone down

The LOST SOUL - a tormented being, he lives in solitude

The CHARMER - a smooth talker, he creates fantasies

The PROFESSOR - coolly analytical, he knows every answer

The SWASHBUCKLER - Mr. Excitement, he's an adventurer

The WARRIOR - a noble champion, he acts with honor

Heroine:

The BOSS - a real go-getter, she climbs the ladder of success

The SEDUCTRESS - an enchantress, she charms to get her way

The SPUNKY KID - gutsy and true, she is loyal to the end

The FREE SPIRIT - an eternal optimist, she dances to unheard tunes

The LIBRARIAN - controlled and clever, she holds back

The WAIF - a distressed damsel, she bends, but does not break

The CRUSADER - a dedicated fighter, she meets commitments

The NURTURER - serene and capable, she nourishes the spirit

Now once you find your archetype for your character, these authors then give you loads of layers to add to your character. The book explains the archetypes qualities, virtues, flaws, background, styles, and possible occupations for each archetypes.

The best part of this book, which I love, is how the book shows what happens when you pair each hero archetype with one of the heroine archetypes. For example, for my hero, he is the PROFESSOR, my heroine is the CRUSADER. Now the book shows the possible quirks, which can happen during the interaction of these two characters. I see how they clash, how they mesh, and how they can change.

When I read a book, I am so relieved when I see sidebars. I love streamlining information. This book has sidebars on each page, giving the reader movie examples and bullets of additional information.

Heroes & Heroines is an invaluable resource tool for all writers of all genres.

Check out these links:

http://www.tamicowden.com/

http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Writers-Guide-Heroes-Heroines/dp/1580650244/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1217877774&sr=8-1

Monday, July 28, 2008

Writer's Little Book of Wisdom reviewed by Moonine Sue Watson

Writer’s Little Book of Wisdom by John Long is written by a best-selling author who shares three hundred and two thoughts about writing. The book is full of pearls of wisdom he’s gathered from other authors and various sources.

I think I won this book as a door prize at a writers’ workshop. I found it when I was looking through a stack of books. I was curious and pulled it out to take with me to my doctor’s appointment, where experience has taught me to always bring something to read while I wait my turn.

The title page has a sentence beneath the title stating:
A treasury of tips and warnings for every writer and aspiring writer-the traps to avoid and gold mines to explore.

His introduction hit me between the eyes. He mentions how some people spend so much time learning techniques and studying how to write that they never get around to actually writing. I’m guilty as charged. Right away, I decided it was no accident that I’d stumbled across this little book tucked in among my many stacks of “to read” books.

Item number one was “Art without practice is nothing.”
Number two was “Sit down every day and write.”

I figured with the introduction and the first two items being exactly the encouragement I needed, the rest of the book would be filled with further good advice.

I was not disappointed. I’m going to keep this little book next to my computer for a nugget of truth each day as I “Sit down every day and write.”

Monday, July 21, 2008

I've Got Clutter!


It seems no matter how hard I try to organize my writing time, I eventually fail. I've tried to use time management techniques, schedules, and my PDA alarm, reminding me to get busy. I keep praying God will help me realize where I go wrong. He answered my prayer.

Clean-up the clutter!

from clutter to clarity, simplifying life from the inside out, by Nancy Twigg has helped me get real with my problem.

Mrs. Twigg defines clutter as: anything that complicates your life and prevents you from living in peace as you live out your purpose.

Now I know one of my purposes in life is to write. I'll be the first to admit that the reason I don't write more often is because writing makes me feel guilty when my house is messy. So, I spend my time cleaning and doing laundry and then try to make time for a couple of days during the week to write.

How's that working?

Not so great.

Why?

Because I've Got Clutter!

One thing, which Mrs. Twigg describes in her book is that clutter is a symptom of an emotional problem. Discontent is a reality in our world and in our lives. Clutter then becomes a symptom of our discontent. So, how do we go about finding contentment in our discontent world?

Once we adjust our attitude the next thing we work on is our schedule. In our busy society, we cram every moment of the day with activities. So, now not only is our attitude cluttered, but our lives are too! We have to learn how to say and mean a very powerful word, "NO".

Those of us who have problems with our attitudes being cluttered, our lives being cluttered, we also have problems with our finances being cluttered. Learning to live in freedom is the last section where we can at last find contentment in our budgets.

Now that I'm transforming into a creature who is content to possess just what she needs, I'm finding more time to write. Perhaps, from clutter to clarity, isn't a book written on the craft of writing, however it will help you to find the time to write.

This book can be found at Amazon.com. Here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/Clutter-Clarity-Simplifying-Life-Inside/dp/0784721106

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Writer's Idea Book by Jack Heffron

Stumped for a new idea?
Too blocked-in from junk to think creatively?
The Writer's Idea Book stimulates the creative juices and gets you rolling again. I've owned this book for six years and use it to jump-start stories. Heffron gives several prompts within each chapter as food for thought.
A for-instance on page 59 says "Show the change in a character by showing how a once-loved hobby or object or activity now holds no interest to that character."
Heffron doesn't only tell his readers to write about our longing, but he tells us to compare our longings to a place. Describing hope is impossible without comparison. He suggests thinking of a time of suffering and how we weathered the storm. What feelings went through our mind?
He asks us to write a short description of something and then "go long" by expanding it to twice the original length.
Each short chapter with unusual titles such as "Minding Other People's Business" and "Vast is the Power of Cities" begins with an inspirational and thought-provoking quote. He tantillizes our imagination, then gives his prompts.
I have several pages dog-eared (I know, not nice), but I use it whenever my mind quits thinking as it does when I've been away from my writing too long. It's my creative accelerator.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Hinds Feet on High Places

Hannah Hurnard (1905-1990)
1955 Christian Literature Crusade

My oldest sister was an avid reader throughout her short life. Once she established a relationship with a book, she couldn’t part with it. The walls of her home were literally lined with shelves of books that she read and re-read many times.

While I share my sister’s passion for reading, (inherited from our father), I recycle most of my books. I do have a couple shelves of books that I have a “relationship” with. However, I can’t seem to keep one of my favorite titles in stock. The lesson of this particular story is so powerful that I have given several copies away—mostly to women—with prayers that the message would impact the next person as much as it had me.

The book is Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. Hannah published this best seller when she was fifty, which encourages this writer immensely. Hannah was raised as a Quaker and spent much of her life in missionary pursuits, witnessing to Jews in Palestine from 1932 until Israel became a nation in 1948. This experience inspired another book, Watchmen on the Walls.

Hinds Feet on High Places was written while Hannah still had a true heart for the Lord; long before she accepted the doctrine of universal salvation and even went on to dabble in the New Age. Sadly, she would later be scorned in evangelical circles.

Hannah took her title from Habakkuk 3:19; “The Lord GOD is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds' feet, and makes me walk on my high places. (NAS) It’s an allegory pertaining to the challenges and triumphs of the devoted Christian’s walk with Christ, in the time honored fashion of the John Bunyon classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress. Hannah’s theme, however, is taken from the biblical book of Song of Songs or Song of Solomon.

From her home in the Valley of Humiliation, our long suffering heroine, Much Afraid can see the High Places where the King lives. Much Afraid has crippled feet that makes her work difficult and tedious, and she longs to be free of the drudgery. Like everyone else in the valley, Much Afraid works for Chief Shepherd, who makes his way between the valley and the high places with miraculous speed and agility.

Much Afraid belongs to the Fearing Clan, and it is decided that she will marry her cousin, Craven Fear. When she appeals to the Shepherd for help, he places a Seed of Love in Much Afraid’s heart and offers to lead her out of the Valley of Humilation to the High Places, with the help of Sorrow and Suffering. Of course, she recoils at the notion of taking the hands of such travel mates. The seeds must blossom, because no one can enter the High Places lest love blossoms in the heart. Although the Shepherd cannot make the perilous journey with her, he promises Much Afraid that he will be near and all she need do is to call out his name.

When the path becomes steep, Much Afraid stumbles along the way because of her crippled feet. Interestingly, a “hind” refers to a female red deer, compared to a male deer called a “hart.” A hind is described as being very sure footed in the mountains, lending much significance to Hannah’s prophetic title. Choosing titles is a particular challenge for this writer. A title like this—woven so deeply in the fabric of the plot—makes me almost covet a gift for titling like Hannah’s.

Predictably, Much Afraid will face hazards along the way, such as the Shores of Loneliness, Precipice of Injury, the Forest of Danger and Tribulation, and the Valley of Loss. She eventually takes the hand of Pride, and the Shepherd must be called upon to drive this demon away. I won’t spoil the rest of the story for you.

Hind’s Feet in High Places inspires me as a writer to present scriptural principle in fiction with appealing plots, out of the ordinary characters, and a powerful message crafted so subtly that my reader will congratulate themselves for arriving at their own profound conclusions.

Hind’s Feet in High Places is a love story. Our relationship with the Shepherd and our Christian walk should be passionate love stories, like the Song of Solomon. How sad that many preachers and teachers avoid these ardent passages of Scripture. Christ’s love for us shouldn’t make us blush but rather sing out our devotion from the steeple.

I encourage anyone with a romantic heart and a passionate spirit for the Lord to purchase a few copies of this book—you’ll want a few to give away.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Write His Answer by Marlene Bagnull



And the Lord said to me, "Write my answer on a billboard, large and clear, so that anyone can read it at a glance and rush to tell the others." Habakkuk 2:2


This scripture begins the devotional for writers, Write His Answer. Ms. Bagnull voice is gentle and encouraging. And for this writer, it is what I needed after years of harsh criticism. Knowing someone else had been in the trenches and knew exactly how low I felt was the balm for my soul.


The book breaks devotions into small daily inspirational truths. The author uses personal experience to shine light on her message of hope.


One of my favorite lines from one of her devotions, she says, "We are literature missionaries." Wow! Could something I say or show in my character's emotion actually lead people closer to the Lord? I know that it is God's purpose for my life to write Christian fiction, but could His will include something as great as becoming a literature missionary?


If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and he will gladly tell you. James 1:5.


For a time I struggled with what genre God wanted me to write. I knew in my heart that writing hot & steamy was not becoming of a Christian nor was it right to lead readers into lustful thoughts, causing them to sin. But what about secular fiction? Clean fiction?


I finally surrendered my will to Him. Finding His will for my life brought me peace. However, I felt self-conscience and inadequate proclaiming His truth. Ms. Bagnull summed up exactly what I felt.


"Why don't you just give up?" the Evil One Hissed, "you don't have what it takes. You're only setting yourself up for heartache. What makes you think God can use you anyway?"


Several years and about thirty rejection slips later, the book I had tried so hard to sell at that conference was finally accepted for publication. What enabled me to persevere? I knew that I knew God had called me to write. I clung to the promise that I would be "rooted deeply in the soil and bear fruit for God" (2 Kings 19:30). And God faithfully honored His promise.


Now I know it is God's will for me to write Christian fiction, so then I can relax and live in peace that He will fulfill a good work in me even to the point of publication.


Every time I read this daily devotional I remember my calling through Ms. Bagnull's encouraging words. One day will come when the Lord will use my voice to write His answer on the billboards of bookshelves.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Beginnings, Middles, and Ends by Nancy Kress reviewed by Moonine Sue Watson

The book I am currently reading is called Beginnings, Middles and Ends by Nancy Kress. The book is part of The Elements of Fiction Writing series from Writer's Digest Books.

According to the "About the Author Section" of the book "Nancy Kress is an author of five novels and two collections of short stories. She is a two-time winner of the Nebula Award given by the Science Fiction Writers of America for the best series of the year. She is fiction columnist for Writer's Digest magagzine and frequently teaches writing at various universities."

Ms. Kress divided her book into three sections titled "Beginnings", "Middles", and "Ends".


For the "Beginning" section, she stresses how important the first three paragraphs of any story are to the writer seeking publication. Editors are busy people and have developed the ability to tell in that short amount of writing whether it is worthwhile to continue reading. Ms. Kress encourages the writer to polish and work on that section until it is as well-crafted as the writer can make it. She provides examples and suggestions on how to improve those paragraphs. She then gives examples of how to move to the next scene. At the end of each chapter she provides exercises for the writer to complete.

One piece of advice I appreciated was how important it is to move on with a story rather than revising the first three chapters over and over. Failing to move on means never completing a book. I liked the suggestion of rewriting a scene from five different directions to find the one that tells the story best.

I am eager to continue learning more about how to improve my writing as I read the rest of the book.

For an unpublished writer like myself, I plan to read the whole book and do the exercises to find out how to improve what I've written.

For the new writer, this is a wonderful way to start out writing, with suggestions that will start her/him down the road to developing an effective writing craft.

For the writer closer to publication or even the published writer, this book would help identify areas of weaknesses and offer remedies for the problems. Another strategy would be to read the chapters for the area that seems to be the most difficult for the author.

I plan to keep this book within easy reach in order to refer to it often.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Getting Into Character

Summer is busy. This week I'm keeping grandsons aged 5 & 10 & they keep Grandma hopping. Thought I'd take a minute to tell of a book I purchased last Septemeber at the ACFW conference in Dallas. "Getting Into Character" by Brandilyn Collins. If you've read one of her fiction mysteries, you know Brandilyn knows her characterization techniques. In fact, my suggestion would be read this book, then go to one of her fiction books and see how she utilizes her own techniques. No better way to reinforce what you learn.
Her subtitle is "Seven Secrets a Novelist can Learn from Actors." These seven aren't secrets exactly, but Brandilyn explains them, giving examples that work, to make your computer/brain activate where you understand. My personal favorite is "personalizing" and I've used that one several times already. I remember the assignment when Diann Mills at her workshop asked us to write about the lowest time in our lives. Personalizing creates emotion, and yes, I have trouble building emotion so that little key is priceless.
Well, that's all for today. I hear two small voices yelling "Mimi, let's go swimming again. Mimi, where are you?"
Happy writing all and make us fall in love with your characters.
Janet K. Brown

Monday, June 9, 2008

Divine Inspiration

Peace to all your households,

I suppose we each turn more than one cog in the great spiritual machine. I find myself called on to serve in various ways, in and outside of the traditional church organization, but my most predominant role is that of a teacher. I’m most inspired to write when God reveals truth—either through a life experience, a mountain top encounter, or through His eternal Word. This time, I’d like to blog about the Bible as being the one book that has inspired me to write—more so than any other.

Rod Hembree of Quick Study, a daily broadcast that takes viewers through the Bible in one year, once lamented that the Bible is the best selling but least read book of all times. As a writer, I pray that I would refer regularly to the Scriptures to make sure that my themes, plots, characters, and dialogues line up with sound biblical principle. At the same time, God’s word inspires me to encourage, edify, and comfort my readers by sharing sound and grounded truth.

Once in an interview, Stephen King derided authors with an agenda—who tend to preach or teach through their characters. I respectfully disagree with his opinion. The whole point of writing even a single sentence is to get across a complete thought—an idea—a message. Being humans and writers, we tend to elucidate by adding more sentences and paragraphs. While I don’t want to weigh my readers down with self-righteous preaching, I want them to feel that they’ve gained something in exchange for the hours invested in reading my work.

Certain stories of the Bible jump out at me—almost as if I were a bystander on the streets of Jerusalem. This happened to me the first time I read the story of the adulteress (John 8:1). I felt the heat and the tension in the crowd. I smelled the sweat and the dust. I saw Jesus stooping to etch the mysterious message in the sand, but my attention was on the adulteress—with her tunic torn and soiled, her legs and feet scraped and bloodied, tears wearing trails through the smudges on her cheeks. Caught in the very act of sin, without excuse, the adulteress was not only delivered from certain death, she found forgiveness at the hand of her Savior.

The adulteress’s close encounter of a Messianic kind was over in just eleven verses, but I wanted to immortalize this woman whose story had such a healing spiritual effect on my life. An artist may have sculpted or painted this woman, a composer might have written a song, but being a dramatist, I wrote a play. In what Jewish rabbis refer to as a “midrash”, I created a story to fill in the gaps. It’s a part of a play called Ladies Man, a collection of vignettes featuring seven women and their close encounters with Jesus Christ. I was similarly moved by the woman with the issue of blood, the woman at the well, the Syrophoenician woman, Mary and Martha, and of course, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and included their stories as well.

If you’re interested to see how the Bible inspired my writing, you can find this and other scripts at www.dramadrash.org. I pray you’ll stop by and visit!

May God richly bless your walk and your writing!

Peace and Blessing!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass








No one can list 'how to write' books without mentioning Donald Maass' book, Writing the Breakout Novel.



This book's target audience are published authors who are mid-list authors. He describes these authors as someone selling books that are not best-sellers nor are they the lowest author. He wrote this book to help these authors breakout of the mid-list. However, any writer from any skill level can benefit from the knowledge of this skilled literary agent's expertise.



I like Mr. Maass' checklist style to writing. Personally, I like to chunk information for easier reading. I can quickly scan the material and not have to wade through long passages of prose.



This book is wonderful for writers who have already mastered the ABC's of writing and are ready to move on to the next level.



The author leads the reader through setting, characterization, plot, themes, multiple viewpoints, pacing, and so much more. He encourages the reader to challenge their writing skills by pushing the boundaries in their manuscripts. For instance, what is the worst thing that could happen to your character?



I promise you will learn something from this book. Go a step further and purchase the workbook with it. You know how I feel about writing exercises, so I won't bore you again on the importance of exercising your writing muscles.



My only drawback to this book is the countless references to other published works. I tend to skip over these examples when I feel their too long or excessive. I also would've liked it better if there were less references to thrillers.



Overall, this is a most awesome resource tool. I encourage you to buy it today.












Monday, May 26, 2008

Ten Vietnamese and Sunrise Over Fallujah

I am learning more from reading books by other authors right now.. I checked out a book written in the 60's by Susan Sheehan called Ten Vietnamese. She interviewed a variety of ordinary citizens for her book. I was impressed with how she let each person tell his or her story without author intrusion or judgment on her part. I felt as if I were sitting there listening to each person tell their story.

I tried to imagine what questions she had told her interpreter to ask the person being interviewed. The identity of the individuals and their locations were not revealed for all their safety. I think she must have asked about what changes had taken place in their lifetime? What had they experienced in the war so far? What decisions had they made? Which side did they support and why?

The second book I read was Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers, a fictional account of Robin "Birdy" Perry. "Birdy" tells his story of the Civilian Affairs unit in Iraq. Mr. Myers used first person POV to tell the story from "Birdy's" eyes. The story was so well told I felt as if I were a member of the unit. I suspect Mr. Myers did a lot of research and interviews before he wrote his story. This book was on the display table near the library entrance. The cover and title caught my eye. I selected the book on that basis and wasn't disappointed.


What I learned from reading these two books was the author needs to step back and let the characters tell their stories whether the books are fiction or non-fiction. I think interviewing my characters as well as real people would give me insight enabling me to let them speak for themselves.

Monday, May 19, 2008

First Draft in 30 Days

For years I spun short stories along with one long manuscript which I filed away feeling it wasn't good enough, but two years ago I determined to learn the craft of writing fiction books. With my bookkeeper mentality, I needed a formula for finishing a long manuscript while keeping everything in order. I discovered the book "First Draft in 30 Days" by Karen S. Wiesner. Invaluable ideas by Ms. Wiesner outlined helps I've used with each of the three manuscripts I've written and my current work in progress.

Ms. Wiesner breaks the process into steps from brainstorming to first draft, giving approximate number of days to finish (assuming, of course, you're working on it every day of the thirty days). One simple suggestion has saved me countless going back and forth, losing time and concentration. While writing, you come across something you need more information about, you add it to your research list with page number of your manuscript where you need to add what you learn. By doing this, you continue writing while it's flowing. Then you can spend time researching all the things you need to add and go back editing from your list. This really does save time. Her ideas about character sketches and time lines add depth and detail to a new story.

I highly recommend this book. Even after finishing manuscripts using this method, I often revert back to the book and gain new suggestions I missed the first time around.

Starting a new manuscript? Check out this book and see if you can come up with a rough draft in thirty days. If you only write one day a week, you could still have a rough draft in less than eight months. Did you do that well the last few months?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Peace Like A River

Peace Like A River © 2001 by Leif Enger

Peace to all your households,

This is my first blog on this site, and I pray that it encourages and inspires.

When it comes to writing, I’m kind of like my husband. In this “some assembly required world” we live in, he never reads instructions—as least not until he gets stuck or finds one extra screw without a home. I sheepishly admit that I tend to put off the “how to” books for writers, and this out of sheer laziness. I’d rather be writing that reading about doing it. In the same breath, however, I boldly declare that as writers, we are in the business of forever honing a craft. It’s kind of like being a Christian—we can always find room for improvement, amen?

I have taken my share of writing courses and attended seminars, but I also look to successful novels for inspiration. Excluding super-sensationalistic, jump-on-the-band-wagon types, books that sell millions copies in either the CBA or ABA markets deserve a little research. For example, I learned a great deal about POV from the way Leif Enger crafted his debut novel, Peace Like A River.

I love the classics of American literature, so when I first aspired to writing, I imagined writing epic novels in the first person narrative. The trouble with those first efforts is that they were narratives, causing my early mentors to yank at their curls (EVERYONE had perms in those days), “Don’t tell me, show me!” Therein lies the paradox of effective first person narration—to show the reader the action while you’re telling them about it. At least it was until Leif Enger so poignantly demonstrated the first person narrative technique.

The story is narrated by Reuben Land, an eleven year old asthmatic. When his brother Davy is accused of murder, the family travels through Midwest searching for him; always staying a few steps ahead of Martin Andreeson, “the putrid fed” hot on Davy’s trail since he escapes from his jail cell. The novel is told from Reuben’s POV, which I find tremendously challenging about the first person narration—not to be able to slip into another POV for expository purposes, if nothing else. Reuben’s tender and innocent POV is really all we ever need.

Peace Like A River truly has is all action, romance, comedy—and don’t forget the Kleenex box either. And while you’re enjoying the book so much, remember that there is much to be learned from Mr. Enger’s writing.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King



Another staple for your writing shelf.

Back cover Blurb:

Hundreds of books have been written on the art of writing. Here at last is a book by two professional editors to teach writers the techniques of the editing trade that turn promising manuscripts into published novels and short stores.

In this completely revised and updated second edition, Renni Browne and Dave King teach you, the writer, how to apply the editing techniques they have developed to your own work. Chapters on dialogue, exposition, point of view, interior monologue, and other techniques take you through the same processes an expert editor would go through to perfect your manuscript. Each point is illustrated with examples, many drawn from the hundreds of books Browne and King have edited.

Okay, by now you know I love writing exercises. I believe they are such a great way to learn the craft of writing. This book tackles some of the most common fiction writing problems. The authors offer ample writing exercises to seal-in what you've learned with each chapter.

Still not convinced? Maybe you say, "Oh, come on, Debra! When I do those exercises I never know if I've done them correctly."

In this book, these two authors go a step further and actually include the correct answers to all the exercises listed.

The chapters in which I felt particularly drawn to were point of view, interior monologue, easy beats, and voice. I definitely can say I walked away from this book with newer insights into my craft.

On the downside, one specific aspect, in which I cringed while reading, was the constant and somewhat lengthy use of examples from other author's work. I found myself skipping over the examples to read the rest of the lesson.

In closing, I feel this book was worth every penny for it's instruction and insightful revelation into what editor's want in a manuscript.

I give this book 4 stars.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Art of Styling Sentences: 20 Patterns for Success

I am excited about The Art of Styling Sentences: 20 Patterns for Success-Third Edition by
Marie L. Waddell, Robert M. Esch, and Roberta R. Walker.

My Christian Writers' Guild assignment is to analyze sentences as one of the projects. When I was looking for a book to write about, I spotted this one on the shelf. The Table of Contents lists such topics as Compound Sentences, Sentences with series, Repetitions, Modifiers, Inversions, Sentences Grow and Figurative Language in Sentences.

I noticed there are opportunities to practice in a workbook fashion throughout the book. We are going on vacation to Florida for two weeks. Since there are 20 patterns, I'm planning on studying at least one a day. When I return, I will have reviewed what I learned in Miss Helen Kay's English classes and learned a lot more.

I believe I can recommend this book as a good learning tool as well as a great reference book for any questions a writer might have about sentences.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Today-not a book, but a workshop

Like any business, a writing career costs money before you make money. We each have outgo to learn the craft and improve our product (writing) with the risk of no income. With that said, where a writer puts the expense money is their decision. My friends on this blog have learned books make up a less costly investment in our business, so we've set out to give advice on which books help the most.

Today I'd like to focus, not on a book, but on a workshop. If you've read my individual blog, you know about my recent trip to Tulsa to take DiAnn Mill's fiction mentoring clinic. Yes, it costs more than a book and involves gas, hotel and meals, but compared to other helps I've received, the value is what's important.

DiAnn presented three packed days of instruction from determining the best title to preparing your proposal.

An example of what was studied comes on the second day. DiAnn loves to give exercises and homework. Writing from your antagonist's POV opens new visions to your story. Writing your most painful life experience made me cry while I wrote, but deepened the emotion when I transferred that to my protagonist.

Nine people discussed my first line hook and my story hook. Do you think that doesn't help? Then I learned by helping others decide their best beginning line.

In the "Plots that Dance" segment, DiAnn taught me the difference between conflict and tension. One or the other should be on each page of the manuscript.

DiAnn gave us this guideline. "No backstory on the first fifty pages." What a difference that makes in grabbing the reader. We built power into the first five pages of our manuscript while we shared together.

For those considering a little bit more outlay to invest in your business, go to DiAnn Mill's website and find out when and where her next workshop will be. I guarantee no disappointment. The cost is minimal, but the value is immense.
Happy writing,

Monday, April 14, 2008

Now Write!


This week is actually our co-contributor, Shirley Harkins week to blog, however, she has been diagnosed with cancer. Would you mind stopping right now and pray for her healing?


Today, I want to recommend to you, Now Write edited by Sherry Ellis. Here is the blurb from the back of the book:


What's the secret behind the successful and prolific careers of critically acclaimed novelists and short story writers Amy Bloom, Steve Almond, Jayne Anne Phillips, Alison Lurie, and others? Divine assistance? Otherworldly talent? An unsettlingly close relationship with the Muse? While the rest of us are staring at blank sheets of paper, struggling to come up with a first sentence, these writers are busy polishing off story after story and novel after novel. Despite producing work that may seem effortless, all of them have a simple technique for fending off writer's block: the writing exercise. In Now Write!, Sherry Ellis collects the personal writing exercises of today's best writers and lays bare the secret to their success.


I have noticed when I cold write my prose isn't half as good as when I've taken the opportunity to warm-up. What better way to get those brain juices flowing than to exercise? I know, exercise is a nasty word, however everyone truly benefits from it.


I was telling someone the other day you can read many books on the subject of point of view and learn from it, but when you apply what you've learned to paper and pencil...that's when it sinks in. Which is why I'm recommending this book.

From cover to cover, it is one exercise after another in many different subjects. For example take a look at these topics: Get Writing, Point of View, Character Development, Dialogue, Plot and Pacing, Setting and Description, Craft, and Revision. Each chapter is filled with published author's insights and an exercise to help get you motivated and warmed-up to write.


On your mark...get set...Now Write!

Writing Tip of the Day



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