Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Reasonable Life

Author Kimberli McKay offers an alternative view on encouraging writers.

We are a culture of encouragers. Artists who advise the young to go ahead, chase that dream.

But should we?

I’m not suggesting we crush aspirations beneath the boot heel of our experience. I’m saying encouraging others to chuck it all to reach their writing goals may not be the wisest advice we who have trudged the road to publication can give. A conclusion I reached after a lifetime of longing to write and fourteen years of concentrated effort toward that goal. When my husband began attending seminary, I had the time and means to finally pursue my dream of getting published. I worked during the day and wrote in the evening. And when my husband was called to a church in eastern North Carolina, instead of finding a job on the economy, I became a self-employed writer.

Over the years, I won a few awards, published a few articles while working on novels, attended writers’ conferences, and met some wonderful people. When the criteria for Christian fiction changed to widen the audience and boost sales, I published independently.

But at what cost? When I looked at my life and the lives of my comrades in arms, battered and bruised by constant rejection and concern as to whether a (or another) contract would come, and drained financially by the costs our business incurs, I wondered if the path we had taken was the best way to go. By comparison, people around me who had maintained steady jobs, whether their collar be blue or white, were the ones building up savings, purchasing new cars, and taking cruises, while my job kept chipping away at our bank account.

It isn’t about the money, some may counter. It’s about the craft.

That’s fine, but we can still be practical, earning a living while honing that craft and our stories. Just recently, a teenager told me she wanted to be a writer. I expressed my pleasure and then proceeded to suggest she go to college, get a solid education and then a career she'll enjoy. One that will pay the bills. She could still write and be brilliant at it, but with over eleven million books available on Amazon (210,017 of which were released in the last thirty days as of this writing) she’ll need a steady income to sustain her.

I could sense the girl’s disappointment (and her mother’s relief) but traditional publishers only publish so many titles each year. Switching to indie to get that book "out there" includes hiring an editor, a cover artist, a formatter if an author is unfamiliar with the formatting process, and paying for numerous, often expensive ads. It's costly enough for one book, but to bring in a somewhat consistent income, authors need to publish new books often and then continually market those releases. And that takes money.

We can dream all we want, but instead of encouraging young people to chase those dreams, we should tell them while the world will always need good books, it also needs nurses, respiratory therapists, park rangers, engineers, and more. And to live a reasonable life as an author, a writer needs a job that will help them support themselves, their families, and their writing career.

Kimberli is the author of Dash of Pepper, part of the Coming Home: A Tiny House Collection and more. In addition to writing, her hobbies include genealogy, knitting, and the study of Carolina history. She resides in eastern North Carolina where her husband has served as senior pastor for nearly ten years.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Miracle in a Dry Season: A Book Review

Sarah Loudin Thomas was unknown to me before I read Miracle in a Dry Season. Now Ms. Thomas has another fan for life.

The small town of Wise, West Virginia, is much like other towns in 1954--conservative, quiet, gossipy. When Perla Long comes to stay with her aunt and uncle with her little girl, Sadie, she's seeking anonymity and peace. But the rumors follow her like an unwanted dog that tags along and makes messes along the way. Perla has a secret, and the townspeople of Wise are more than willing to not only seek out the truth, or their version of it, but also shame Perla as best they can.

Casewell Phillips is a bachelor who never found a compelling reason to marry and have a family. He wants it, but just never found a woman with whom he was willing to share the rest of his life. When he sees Perla and her little girl, he's drawn to both of them, but senses something in Perla's past that keeps him at his distance.

Perla has an uncanny skill in the kitchen. Not only can she prepare mouth-watering meals with just about any ingredients on hand, she always seems to have more than enough food no matter how many people she's serving. She longs to hide that ability, but a severe drought that summer brings her, her daughter, and her strange ability to the forefront of the town's collective consciousness. Midst the anxiety caused by failing crops, dried-up wells, and dying livestock, the residents divide into two camps: those who appreciate Perla's ability and are grateful for her generous nature and those who think she's a witch. Among them is the town's hellfire and brimstone preacher, Pastor Longbourne, who insists Perla's gift with food can only be from the devil, and her past makes her a harlot.

Not everyone lines up against Perla. Casewell sees her for the gentle soul she is, and finds himself falling in love with both Perla and her precious little girl. Others--the town drunk with a strange past that links him to the spinster twin sisters in town, along with Perla's devoted aunt and uncle are among those who know there's no evil in the young woman. As for Perla herself, she knows she's falling for Casewell Phillips, but also knows she's not good enough for him--at least in her eyes.

Miracle in a Dry Season is a well-written, gentle story of a small town in crisis. I look forward to reading more work from Sarah Loudin Thomas and can heartily recommend this book to all readers.
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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Tales Of Denial

An Ode to Rejection

When I was a fresh/brash/new/eager young Author

With “How to” manuals in hand
I mimed another fame-hunting writer
Who sought a hundred rejections a year

A hundred misses means offering your self/words/blood/Rear
On the block of publication land
Where said buyer must be hungry for your wares
No backsies, no buts, no artificial sweeteners allowed

Humorous essays on fighting bugs/papering the ceiling/lost in a Crowd
Net me “loved it, just bought one like it
“No thanks, “why are you writing a query
“Just send it, “not my taste, “too early, “too late, “lost in the mail”

Agent queries result in okays/nays/maybes; all a Travail
Rarely a bite, never a shield, little cheer
“No passion, “can’t get behind it, “send a different one
“Do this, fix that, format like so, put this scene here,” no word

Publisher wish lists call for new age/space operas/tropes/AngryBirds
I pitch an old series, they ask for the full first,
Reluctantly I agree, say it’s dated, needs work which I’ll do
They say “no blood, needs more sex, I like it, but…it’s dated

Masochism keeps us humble while self-publishing is Debated
Sometimes it’s not me, it’s the process/timing/mood/publisher call
As long as we Authors seek approval from Strangers
We accept feeling like Sticking an Icepick in our Eyes

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Friday, May 12, 2017

RISE, How a House Built a Family by Cara Brookins

by Cara Brookins
St. Martin's Press
January 24, 2017

Book Information: 
After escaping an abusive marriage, Cara Brookins had four children to provide for and no one to turn to but herself. In desperate need of a home but without the means to buy one, she did something incredible. 

Equipped with only YouTube instructional videos, a small bank loan, and a mile-wide stubborn streak, Cara built her own house from the foundation up with a work crew made up of her four children. 

It would be the hardest thing she had ever done. With no experience nailing together anything bigger than a bookshelf, she and her kids poured concrete, framed the walls, and laid bricks for their two story, five bedroom house. She had convinced herself that if they could build a house, they could rebuild their broken family. 

This must-read memoir traces one family's rise from battered victims to stronger, better versions of themselves, all through one extraordinary do-it-yourself project. 

My Comments:
I've known Cara a long time and knew her during this time of her life. She is not only stubborn, she is brave. Today she inspires others to build bigger lives. I highly recommend this book!

Cara Brookins is a computer analyst and social media marketing expert based in Little Rock. She is the author of seven middle grade and young adult novels as well as one adult novel. You can read more about her at

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Uncluttering Your Writing Style, guest post by Sci-Fi author, Yvonne Anderson

Though I’ve been at this writing thing for a few years, I’m continually reminded I have much more to learn.

And re-learn. 

It seems we never have anything down pat.

When we’re babies, once we get up off the floor and walk—or talk—or throw food—we never forget how.  Once humans learn the skills, they perform them ever after without thought. As writers, however (as opposed to humans), even after we mature in our skill, we must always be careful to not slip back into our old childish ways.

My husband and I recently moved from a house to an apartment. As you might imagine, this required some painful soul-searching in regard to what we need to bring with us. In 2013, we downsized from a large house to a small one, and thought we’d gotten rid of all the nonessentials. But, no. We had only begun to rid out the stuff.

The “stuff” of writing, of course, is words. And just as we have to avoid cluttering our homes, we must be aware of the problem of word-clutter in our writing. We become attached to our wordiness; we find it painful to toss our favorite phrases in the recycle bin. But seriously, it’s amazing how much cleaner our prose can without all the precious ornamentation under which we tend to bury it.

In his book, On Writing Well, William Zinsser states that, "fighting clutter is like fighting weeds—the writer is always slightly behind." Having been a gardener before becoming an apartment dweller, I understand the analogy well. Keeping our writing neat and trim requires constant vigilance.

Like weeds, writing clutter can take a number of forms, including but not limited to:

  • redundancies (using two descriptors, as in, “a tiny little insect”); 
  • familiar clichés we tend not to think about (“I have never been so frightened in my entire life”); 
  • unwieldy phrases that are ingrained in our daily speech (“Tell me in your own words”);
  • over-explaining in description (no example necessary; you know what I mean);
  • telling the reader why a character does something (example: He hid behind a tree so she wouldn’t see him.”)
  • reiterating the events of the story, lest the reader forget what’s going on.

These are like streaks on a window. The more you wipe, the more you see.

Moving from a house to an apartment wasn’t the first eye-opening experience I’ve had recently. Several months before, I moved from working on a multi-book series to writing a 20,000-word novella.

Writing a novella is a little like apartment living. (Or worse yet, like living in a tiny house.) You need all the essentials, but only the essentials; and those basics should be small and compact. You need to lay it out cleverly. And the story, like a building’s frame, must be solid and strong enough to stand on its own without relying on frippery (don’t you love that word?) or false fronts. 

Writing a novella is an exercise in uncluttering one’s writing style. Ordinarily when drafting, I tend to disgorge a pile of indecorous stuff on the page, then go back with a bucket of bleach water and clean up after myself. When drafting the novella, however, I had to keep it clean from the start. It would be too much work otherwise! Though that was an unfamiliar concept for me, I found the minimalist experience oddly satisfying.

I hope you will, too, when I share the result of the exercise. My first published piece of contemporary fiction, "First Love," is one of seven novellas in the soon-to-be-released Coming Home: A Tiny House Collection scheduled to be released right quick by a group of my writer friends. Seven authors wrote seven stories with the connecting theme of tiny houses.  I hope you’ll check it out. The book’s not tiny, but it’s packed with a houseful of fun.

Yvonne Anderson writes fiction that takes you out of this world.

Usually, that means out of this world and into outer space, or to another planet, as in her acclaimed Gateway to Gannah series. (Book 1, The Story in the Stars, was an ACFW Carol Award finalist in 2012.)

Also this year, she’s launching a new multi-phase adventure, The Four Lives of Jemma Freeman. As with the Gannah series, the story is set on a fictional planet, but the characters are human. Very human. You probably know some of them. 

Look for the first part of Book 1, Stillwaters, coming soon on ebook.

Find Yvonne at these sites:


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Friday, May 5, 2017

The Scarlet Cord by Carlene Havel


The Scarlet Cord
By Carlene Havel and Sharon Faucheux
Prism Book Group, September 2014
Biblical Fiction

ISBN 978-1940099699
Print $13.99
Ebook $3.99

About the Book:
Rahab, a resourceful beauty, struggles to survive in the pagan culture of ancient Jericho. As years of harsh labor begin to lift her and her family from poverty, a foreign army threatens the well-fortified city. Rahab is forced to make an immediate decision. Will she put her faith in the fabled walls of Jericho or the powerful God of the Hebrews? Either choice may cost her life.

My review:
Wonderfully researched, beautifully written, lovingly shared…this version of the story of one of the more elusive biblical characters is a treat for those who love fiction based on short facts known about documented people.

Rahab, called by several discourteous terms in the account of Joshua’s capture of the city of Jericho. She is a sympathetic person, and perhaps her family and descendants embody acceptance and forgiveness, mercy and love in a way the pen strokes of God’s law do not.

Canaanites occupying the Promised Land were wary of the mysterious Hebrew tribes, escaped former slaves from Egypt, marching across the land, conquering mighty kingdoms in their way, worshiping an unseen and powerful force. Rumors were rampant, and when their path led through the mighty city of Jericho, only one family was destined for salvation.
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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

New Christian Releases for May!

May 2017 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

Amish Brides by Jennifer Beckstrand, Molly Jebber, Amy Lillard -- Under bright blue skies, wedding bells ring--fulfilling sweet dreams, impossible wishes, and joyous new beginnings among these three new stories. (Contemporary Romance from Kensington Publishers)

Sprouts of Love by Valerie Comer -- An overzealous community garden manager delivers more than the food bank manager can handle. Can love sprout amid the tsunami of vegetables? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Summer Dreams by Delia Latham -- God's love...reflected in the waters of the Pacific, and in the eyes of a young couple who walk its moonstone shores. (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

Right Where We Belong by Deborah Raney, Melissa Tagg, Courtney Walsh -- Three sweet stories of small-town romance by three tried-and-true authors. Whether in a quaint home bakery in Langhorne, Missouri, a cozy boho coffee shop in Maple Valley, Iowa, or a charming lakeside cottage in Sweethaven, Michigan, love grows best in small towns just like this! (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

A Spring of Weddings by Toni Shiloh and Melissa Wardwell -- Two Spring wedding novellas, "A Proxy Wedding," and "Hope Beyond Savannah." (Contemporary Romance from Celebrate Lit Publishing)

True to You by Becky Wade -- Former Navy SEAL John Lawson hires genealogist Nora Bradford to help him to uncover the identity of his birth mother. As they work side-by-side, this pair of opposites begins to suspect that they just might be a perfect match. (Contemporary Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)

Cozy Mystery:

What the Bishop Saw by Vannetta Chapman -- A fire blazes out of control in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, leaving an elderly, Amish bachelor dead. Bishop Henry Lapp rushes to the scene, and he learns the fire was no accident. When the police point the finger at a suspect Henry knows is innocent, the bishop must decide whether or not to use his mysterious, God-given gift—one he's tried desperately to ignore all these years—to try and set the record straight. (Contemporary Romance from Harvest House Publishers)

General Contemporary:

A Season to Dance by Patricia Beal -- The heart wrenching love story of a small town professional ballerina who dreams of dancing at the Met in New York, of the two men who love her and of the forbidden kiss that changed everything. (General Contemporary from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Looking Glass Lies by Varina Denman -- A poignant and relatable novel, Looking Glass Lies captures the war women wage against themselves, and the struggle to see beauty reflected in a mirror not distorted by society’s unrelenting expectations. (General Contemporary from Waterfall Press)


Blind Ambition by Carol Ashby -- What began as a bored man's decision to try a different road turns into an emotional and spiritual quest that changes the direction of his entire life. (Historical from Cerrillo Press)

Wings of the Wind by Connilyn Cossette -- A broken and bitter Canaanite woman dresses as a man to fight against the invading Hebrews, never expecting that she would live to be captured and married to one of her enemies, and certainly not to find love and healing among the very people who killed her family. (Biblical/Historical from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)

Historical Romance:

The Secret Admirer Romance Collection by Amanda Barratt, Lorraine Beatty, Molly Noble Bull, Anita Mae Draper, CJ Dunham, Jennifer Uhlarik, Becca Whitham, Kathleen Y'Barbo, Penny Zeller -- Shy expressions of love lead to nine historical romances. Declaring one’s love can be hard--even risky--especially when faced with some of life's greatest challenges. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Noble Servant by Melanie Dickerson -- She lost everything to an evil conspiracy . . . but that loss may just give her all she ever wanted. (Historical Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho: Rebecca's Plight by Susanne Dietze -- It’s a mail-order disorder when newlyweds realize they've married the wrong partners with similar names. An annulment seems in order--and fast. But when the legalities take longer than expected, Rebecca Rice wonders if Tad Fordham wasn’t the right husband for her all along. . . . (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

A Love So True by Melissa Jagears -- They begin with the best of intentions, but soon the complications pile up and Evelyn and David's dreams look more unattainable every day. When the revelation of a long-held secret creates a seemingly insurmountable rift between them, can they trust God still has a good plan for them despite all that is stacked against them? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)

Road to Harmony by Sherry Kyle -- When Jonas returns to Harmony, Elena's heart is torn between her secret love, and the storeowner her parents hope she marries. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Hills of Nevermore by Janalyn Voigt -- Can a young widow hide her secret shame from the Irish preacher bent on helping her survive? (Historical Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

Romantic Suspense:

Fatal Mistake by Susan Sleeman -- Each day could be her last...but not if he can help it. An FBI agent must protect the woman who can identify a terrorist bomber in bestselling author Susan Sleeman's riveting romantic suspense novel. (Romantic Suspense from Faith Words [Hachette])
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Monday, May 1, 2017

Signs of a Great Story

After months of planning, re-planning, worrying, scurrying, saving, spending, searching, packing, cleaning, and worrying some more, we're finally in Alaska--Eagle River, Alaska, to be precise, about ten miles north of Anchorage. My daughter found a wonderful job in a veterinary clinic in Anchorage, and since we loved Alaska the first time we were here when her husband was stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base, we decided to return.
If you look closely, you'll see me waving at the very top of this
mountain after fifteen hours of climbing in freezing temps and
blizzard conditions. Wait, that's not me. That's a tree. And no,
I didn't climb it. I lied.

There is simply NO quick way to reach Alaska. You either drive for eight or ten days, twelve hours at a stretch, or fly. We flew. Thirteen hours, two layovers, and thousands of miles later, we reached our destination. Fortunately, Delta had individual televisions at each seat (something I've never experienced before when flying to and from Alaska because I always flew CCC Airlines--Cheap, Chintzy, and Crowded). Over the course of the day I was able to watch two movies, one of which, Signs, is an all-time favorite of mine. Although I know every word of dialogue and have seen it at least fifteen times, something struck me this time that I'd never noticed before. 

Signs is the perfect movie to watch if you're looking for great examples of backstory, foreshadowing, and plot development. Maybe it hit me 35,000 feet in the air precisely because I know it forward and backward and was free to appreciate it from the creative point of view. Maybe it was just the altitude. In any event, I realized what a skillful production it was on so many levels: acting, directing, and writing. I could watch Mel Gibson brush his teeth and be entertained. He and Joaquin Phoenix were brilliant together, and Cherry Jones as the police officer lent just the perfect touch of seriousness. The kids, played by Abigail Breslin and Rory Culkin, were adorable. Douglas Aibel was responsible for casting the movie, and he did a superb job if it. M. Knight Shyamalan was great as Ray Reddy, the veterinarian who has a mysterious tie to the Hess family, and also wrote and directed the movie.

I wanted to give credit to those who, for me, at least, were paramount in bringing such an excellent example of what great writing (and subsequently, acting) can do for the viewer. The same, though, can be said of authors of books that grab our attention, the ones we want to read over and over to savor something a bit different each time. The foreshadowing in Signs, which was also used as backstory, was brilliant. Even though the arrival of aliens and how the Hess family handled the invasion was the focal point of the story, the backstory was intertwined beautifully and skillfully and turned out to be every bit as important as any other part of the movie.

My goal as a writer is the same as every writer's--to make our stories as memorable and adeptly crafted as possible. The careful use of backstory, without bogging down the reader, as well as skillful foreshadowing can make our stories unforgettable. Many times these opportunities occur during the editing period when we know our story inside and out and realize something important is missing. I know I'll be extra careful from now on to make sure my own work reflects the artfully crafted story it can be if I employ these clever elements.

How do you handle backstory and foreshadowing? 

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Murder in Sun City---a review

Liz operates a London-style, double-decker bookmobile, which allows her to meet people---and get herself in trouble. When one of her customers in the retirement community of Sun City doesn't come to the bus for the books she ordered, Liz goes looking for her, and finds her dead in a home full of unpacked boxes and clutter.

James lives in the woods behind the community, or in the locker room of the gym, or in the attic of the victim's home. Who knows where he's going to be? The war vet has PTSD and often doesn't know from one day to the next what he's done or where he is. But there are times when he knows exactly what he's doing.

A nosy neighbor, a missing daughter, and a whole lot of stolen church artifacts add to the twists and turns in this novel, where Liz meets James and nothing is as it seems.

I enjoyed Murder in Sun City, although there were a few things that pulled me out of the novel. Early in the book, the author frequently referenced Liz's joy of hugging, a character trait that's endearing, but mentioned far too often. Later in the story, a set of yawns seemed a bit too contrived for my taste. But all in all, this was a great tale that kept me guessing all the way through.

I recommend it!

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017


I'm sooo excited for May 4th! The Oklahoma Writers Federation will hold their annual conference! I look forward to this and other conferences every year. Why? Well, I have four main reasons:

I Always Learn something - I hope none of us ever feel that we have "arrived" as writers. We can always learn something. We can add an interesting skill to our toolbox, polish our prose, and be inspired by new, fresh, ideas. And we can learn from beginning writers as well as veteran writers. 

Networking - This is true for small conferences as well as huge conferences. One of my favorite fall conferences is the Ozark Creative Writers Conference in Eureka Springs, AR. A few years ago David Morrell was the keynote. A friend of mine, Cara Brookins, had written a novel based on her experience as a victim of spousal abuse and how she and her four children escaped and built a house where they would feel safe again. One evening Cara told David about her novel and he suggested she send it to his agent. The agent liked the novel but asked that Cara write it as a memoir instead. Although Cara was reluctant, after awhile she decided to rewrite her story as the agent suggested. When she sent it back to the agent, she was immediately signed. The agent pitched Cara's book to the big houses in NYC. Three, THREE, of them wanted it and the book went to auction. All offered six-figure advances! Today Cara is busy doing interviews and speaking all over the country about her book, RISE. In fact, she will be speaking at the OWFI conference this year.

Now I know this is a rare happening, but all the same, it did happen! Therefore, it can and probably will happen again. Maybe it will happen for you?

Opportunities - At conferences we meet people who belong to writing groups. When I began speaking almost all of my engagements came from people I spoke with at a conference. Speaking is a fantastic way to build your platform and get the word out about your writing. You may be asked to be a guest on someone's blog or asked to write articles for magazines. There are many writing & speaking opportunities all under one roof!

Friends - I love being with several hundred people who "get" me. Some of my closest friendships were forged through writing. We can talk "writerly speak" all we want without people rolling their eyes and checking their watches. At conferences we all have the same passion, the same drive. In fact, most attendees stay up into the wee hours of the morning. Personally, at home I begin to nod off at 9. But at conferences, heck, I may stay up until 11:30!

So, start saving your money and invest in yourself this year by going to a conference. If you can make it to OWFI, I'd love to meet you!

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Newest News in Grammarland

Grammar Updates
('ll be fun)

 Product Details
Although the Associated Press, or AP style of writing reserved for journalists and other types of news writing such as court reporting and captioning, adapts/adopts new rules at least yearly based on current trends and pop culture, literary style of writing changes more slowly.

How many of you understood rules are different? If you read the news much—used to be paper, by the way/BTW—you see things like numerical references, fewer punctuation marks, even the single quote titles, sometimes even with italics, oh, the horror. (Case in point: the article title referenced below.)

I see people getting the two formats mixed up quite often. Literary style tends to spell more words, almost all numbers and even to the quarter time references. We do not use single quotations for anything, almost always, but for quotes within quotes, and we use the Oxford comma with reverence and respect. We have the space, we don’t have to cram our stories, front loaded with objectivity and precision, into ten inches of column space.

IF YOU ARE A JOURNALIST is a good place to find the latest news, take pop quizzes, join twitterworld, partake of quizzes, converse with other nerds or the clueless, even read blogs.

The newest edition of the AP Stylebook will be released on July 11, 2017 (Grammar Girl say May 31 which may refer to the online version, I'm not sure). It’s available for pre-order on Amazon. Certain people, like the American Society of Copy Editors, got to see the previews and announced some of the changes on March 24. Along with a running header on the AP website, the following awesome sites highlighted the main changes for this year.

Although I mentioned in an earlier column that the American Dialect Society had made “their/them/they” singular in 2015, it was not formally adopted. Well it is now in certain situations—mostly because of the need for more gender neutral terminology, which is also clarified.

As you may guess, the electronic universe has caused some ripples regarding how much of it to use that won’t shorten our lifespan in reference. I don’t know how many of you recall listening painfully to broadcasters say “world wide web,” then, “www-dot” in front of urls. Now we hardly even bother with the www. Anyway, email is officially hyphen-less, as is esports. That one is rather confusing, but I assume those involved get it. It's not a misspelling of exports. You still use the hyphen for everything else e-whatever. I mention this specifically—email—because this spelling and one other have officially been accepted by the Chicago Manual of Style, the Bible for LITERARY WRITERS. Yup—if it’s a book, it’s LITERATURE, not a piece of JOURNALISM. Anyway, lower case “internet” is acceptable too in literary writing.

For those who belong to Scribd, you can access the 2016 AP Style guide here.

And of course, you can always check the Chicago Manual of Style website to ask questions in a forum and access abbreviated information from the manual. There is also a list of new Questions and Answers, like we don’t have to use a comma after etc., anymore (except in this case when it’s the closing word of a parenthetical phrase) here.
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Monday, April 17, 2017

Keep At It

The mere habit of writing, of constantly keeping at it, of never giving up, ultimately teaches you how to write. — Gabriel Fielding
That’s one of my favorite quotes about writing. Pretty straightforward. Write.
I find that I spend a great deal of time trying to get the hang of social network/marketing, reading how-to articles and books, and then trying to apply it all to my work in progress.
My dream of becoming a published author has come true, and continues to come true. But sometimes it feels like I’m all about the next hopefully to be published project – the stress of that first sentence, the turn-ability of that first page. Will the publisher deem it worthy?
I remember when it was just about the joy of writing, practicing, rolling words around in my mouth and then translating to the page. I used to journal without the inner editor, wrote reams of letters, played around with how to use a newly learned word.
The more I write, the more these two things meld together – writing to publish and writing for my soul. The more time I spend writing just for practice, the more what I’ve learned leaks over into my submissions.
Just write.
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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Fast Track to Publication (A Modern-Day Myth)

All writers, particularly those who are published, are asked how they did it. "How'd you find the time?" "Do you have an agent?" "Who's your agent?" "Who's your publishing house?" "Is it a real book?" "Are you rich?" (That one always cracks me up.) Those are the easy ones. Inevitably, we also hear the dreaded, "Can you put in a good word for me with your publisher/agent/ editor?"

Now most times this is a simple, though naive, request by well-meaning writers who don't know where next to turn in their writing journey. I've been there. Believe me, I've been there. But there are others who mean, "Can you put me at the head of the line based on all the hard work you did to get to a place where you can help me skip all that pesky studying, learning, conferencing, actually writing, submitting, receiving rejections and then submitting again, looking for an agent, and taking advice? Please?"

The reason I dread that question is not because I resent the implication that it's a simple matter to get published. It's because there is no simple (or easy) answer, and no matter what I tell them, they won't be happy. But the truth is you can't get from the beginning of the publishing journey to the finish line (and there's never a true finish line) without working at it. Working hard. Working constantly. That's accompanied by learning, reading, studying, but most of all, writing. A lot. A whole lot. And that's not counting the "nots." Not watching television, not going to the movies, not hanging out with friends, nor sleeping, fishing, or whatever else you like to do in your spare time. That's not to say you can never again enjoy your favorite activities. But if you want to be a published writer, and unless you live under a rock with no job or other responsibilities to gobble up your time, you're going to have to make some serious adjustments to your life to accommodate your dream.

This is me being rejected time and time again, and realizing
I'd have to actually work at learning how to write. Wait, that's
not me. That's my granddaughter having a "I don't want to do
something or other" tantrum. Okay, okay. Same thing. 
In other words, there is no magic wand anyone can wave in our direction to assure we achieve success without doing what 99.99% of the rest of us have to do. Yes, there's that .01% of published writers who hit the jackpot the first time out. But for every one of those, there are hundreds, no, thousands upon thousands of others who have to do it the hard way. There's just no fast lane to publication. If there were, it would be an impossibly crowded, road rage-ridden bunch of desperate writers, I can tell you that.

Believe me, I know all this from firsthand experience. When I first started to write seriously, I too thought I could skip a few steps and cut into line. After a few months of absolutely no progress with that method, I realized I'd have to hunker down and do the work. So I did. I read every book I could find on the art of writing. Some were good, some weren't. But I learned to glean every bit of helpful information from even the worst of them and apply it to my journey. I signed up for the writing courses offered by the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild--first, the Apprentice, then the Journeyman, and finally the Craftsman class. It wasn't cheap and it wasn't easy. It took me four years to complete them all, but I did it, and I'll be everlastingly grateful to Jerry Jenkins and my mentors for introducing me to the real world of writing.

I wrote until I was blue in the face. Then I wrote some more. I picked my work apart, edited, rewrote, and edited again. I attended conferences, joined a writing group, wrote on my lunch hour, after the kids went to bed, and on weekends. When I felt it was good enough I submitted it, and more often than not, got a rejection letter in return. (In those days, it was done through the mail--and I don't mean email--and it took days or weeks and, in most cases, months before I heard back.) I was one with the mailbox during those years. The mailman fluctuated between being my best friend and my worst enemy. Once in a while, though, I'd receive an acceptance letter, and all the waiting and agonizing and praying paid off.

But there's a bright side to my discouraging answer to that question. Working hard simply works. Yes, it's slower than anyone wants it to be, but it gets the job done. It's harder than anyone expects it to be, but it's doable. Believe me, you won't miss that extra hour of sleep or that television episode, even that occasional evening spent hanging out with your friends when you take stock of your skills and realize your plan is working. I know I didn't. You're doing the hard work, and in return you're reaping the rewards. You will be published.

It might sound discouraging to any as-yet-unpublished writers to hear that my journey (and probably the journeys of many other writers) took twenty years. Yeah, twenty. While I had success with newspaper columns, anthologies, greeting cards, online writing, etc., along the way, my first book wasn't published until I'd written and studied and agonized and submitted for nearly two decades. I don't count those years as a loss, though, as it was through the passage of time that I realized what I truly wanted to do with my writing. It took me that long to become proficient enough and wise enough and to accrue sufficient life experiences to write inspirational, humorous books for both children and adults. God molded me into what He wanted me to be all along. He put the desire to write into my heart and provided me with the raw talent and perseverance to run the course. It wasn't easy, and there were times when I questioned my sanity, but in the end it paid off.

If you're reading this and you're a not-quite-published writer, please take heart. You will be. The work is hard, but rewarding. The journey is long, but will eventually end. You and I will never be able to stop learning, as no writer, published or not, is ever as good as he or she could be, and will never outgrow his or her need to learn more. Fortunately, there are many ways to learn, and reading is one of the best. I love to read books by the masters--both from the past and in today's world--and hope that a drop or two of their talent might spill out of their books and onto my keyboard. I may never reach their status (few of us do--that's why they're the masters!), but there's joy in knowing you and I are doing what we were created to do.

So what are we waiting for? Let's go do it!
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Monday, April 10, 2017

Scene Writing: Picture It

A couple of months ago, my writers group in The Woodlands, Texas, hosted Carla Hoch, an expert in weapons and self-defense. She was fascinating to watch and listen to, and she definitely knows her stuff. Her blog,, is all about fights and fighting.
One of the things she talked about was how fight scenes are presented in novels---especially novels written by folks who've never been in a fight. She gave us some illustrations of things she'd read in others' manuscripts and asked us if we understood why what they'd written wouldn't work. Sometimes I couldn't see what was wrong until she explained; other times, the gaffs were glaringly obvious.
But with everything she said, she always came back to this: Picture in your mind what you're writing on the page.
Watch your characters act out their battle, moves and counter moves, actions and reactions. Take time through the scene to visualize everything going on. Just because something sounds cool doesn't mean it works.
This idea of visualizing what you write applies to virtually everything you put on the page, and it requires an alertness to what you've already written. If you've made it a point to tell your reader that the characters are standing ten feet apart, you can't afterward illustrate them in hand-to-hand combat or a loving embrace without first having them close the distance.
Picture what your characters are wearing and understand how the garments can limit motion. An example Carla gave was the 17th century barmaid with a knife strapped to her leg. If she has to scrounge through yards of skirt to find that knife, it's not going to be very useful to her.
Picture the setting. If you have your characters in Grand Central Station during rush hour, remember to move all the people out of the way before your characters break out in a polka.
When you're creating a scene, you have more to think about than just the characters. You also have to think about what would be in that scene if it were actually occurring in real life. Life doesn't occur in a vacuum. Remembering this can help you to add detail to a scene and enhance the sense of reality. It can also help prevent logistical problems that make your work an example editors and others use as how not to do things.
So, we have clothes, setting, others populating the scene. What else would you consider while you write? What would affect your character's actions and reactions?
Picture your scene. Watch it in action.
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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

New Christian FictionReleases!

April 2017 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:


Sandpiper Cove by Irene Hannon -- When a police chief and an ex-con join forces to keep a young man from falling into a life of crime, sparks fly. Given their backgrounds, it's not a promising match—but in Hope Harbor, anything is possible. (Contemporary Romance from Revell [Baker])


Oh Baby by Delia Latham -- Dawni Manors seeks peace in Angel Falls, Texas. What she finds is a cowboy, an abandoned infant, and emotional chaos. If the Heart's Haven angels really are there, what in the world are they thinking? (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])



A Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti -- Where does a relationship expert turn when his wife leaves him and carries a tiny heartbeat with her? (General from Abingdon Press)


Waiting for Butterflies by Karen Sargent -- When tragedy strikes, Maggie discovers a mother's love never ends--not even when her life does. Longing for her family after her sudden death, she becomes a lingering spirit and returns home where she helplessly witnesses her family's downward spiral in the aftermath of her passing. Her husband is haunted by past mistakes and struggles to redeem himself. Her teenage daughter silently drowns in her own guilt, secretly believing she caused her mother's death. Only her five-year-old, full of innocence, can sense her presence. Although limited by her family's grief and lack of faith, Maggie is determined to keep a sacred promise and save her family before her second chance runs out. (General from Walrus Publishing [Amphorae Publishing Group])


sunset-in-old-savannahSunset in Old Savannah by Mary Ellis -- When a philandering husband turns up dead, two crack detectives find more suspects than moss-draped oaks in charming old Savannah, including a scheming business partner, a resentful mistress, and a ne'er-do-well brother. (Mystery from Harvest House Publishers)


Above Rubies by Keely Brooke Keith -- In 1863, young teacher Olivia Owens establishes the first school in the remote settlement of Good Springs while finding love. (Historical, Independently Published)

Historical Romance:


A Rose So Fair by Myra Johnson -- Caleb Wieland would give anything to win farm girl Rose Linwood's heart, but Rose's stubborn independence is proving as thorny as the flower for which she's named. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Under the Same Sky by Cynthia Roemer -- In 1854 Illinois, Becky Hollister wants nothing more than to live out her days on the prairie, building a life for herself alongside her future husband. But when a tornado rips through her parents' farm, killing her mother and sister, she must leave the only home she's ever known and the man she's begun to love to accompany her injured father to St. Louis.
Catapulted into a world of unknowns, Becky finds solace in corresponding with Matthew Brody, the handsome pastor back home. But when word comes that he is all but engaged to someone else, she must call upon her faith to decipher her future. (Historical Romance from Mantle Rock Publishing)

The Pony Express Romance Collection by Barbara Tifft Blakey, Mary Davis, Darlene Franklin, Cynthia Hickey, Maureen Lang, Debby Lee, Donna Schlachter, Connie Stevens and Pegg Thomas -- Nine historical romances revive the brief era of the Pony Express. Join the race from Missouri, across the plains and mountains to California and back again as brave Pony Express riders and their supporters along the route work to get mail across country in just ten days. It is an outstanding task in the years 1860 to 1861, and only a few are up to the job. Faced with challenges of terrain, weather, hostile natives, sickness, and more, can these adventurous pioneers hold fast, and can they also find lasting love in the midst of daily trials? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Romantic Suspense:

plain-targetPlain Target by Dana R. Lynn -- Horse trainer Jess McGrath only wants to clear her disgraced brother's name, but enemies keep coming out of the woodwork and danger only gets closer. Jess soon learns that no place is safe—and no one can be trusted…except for the last white knight she'd ever expect to ride to her rescue. Paramedic Seth Travis was the boy behind her high school humiliation, but he's also the man keeping her alive. When they find sanctuary in the Amish community, can they uncover answers in time to stop a killer—and resolve their past in time to build a future together? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Dangerous Testimony by Dana Mentink -- Four weeks before she's set to testify at a gang murder trial, someone is determined to make sure that Candace Gallagher Andrews never takes the stand. When nowhere is safe for the private investigator or her little girl, Candace turns to the only person she can trust—longtime friend and former navy SEAL Marco Quidel. For Marco, protecting Candace is not just another duty. As the trial date nears and the killer stalks ever closer, Marco knows fear for the first time—the fear of losing Candace and her daughter. But while Marco begins seeing Candace as more than just a friend, her late husband's memory is never far from her mind. So he must keep Candace alive—and not get emotionally involved—long enough to put away a killer. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

deep-extractionDeep Extraction by DiAnn Mills -- Special Agent Tori Templeton is determined to find who killed her best friend's husband. Tori finds an unexpected ally in the newest member of the task force, recently reinstated Deputy US Marshal Cole Jeffers. As Tori and Cole dig deeper into Nathan's personal and business affairs, they uncover more than they bargained for. And the closer they get to finding the real killer?and to each other?the more intent someone is on silencing them for good. (Romantic Suspense from Tyndale House)


Final Verdict by Jessica R. Patch -- When Aurora Daniels becomes the target of someone seeking their own twisted justice, Sheriff Beckett Marsh is the only one who can rescue her. As a public defender, Aurora has angered plenty of people in town—and in her past. And while Beckett constantly clashes with the feisty lawyer professionally, it's his duty to protect and serve. Guarding her 24/7 is now his sole assignment. He may not have been able to save his fiancée from a dangerous felon, but he'll do whatever it takes to keep Aurora alive. Even if working with her to catch and convict this ruthless killer puts his heart in the crosshairs. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Guardian by Terri Reed -- When a fellow FBI agent is kidnapped and a protected witness vanishes, Leo Gallagher will stop at nothing to find them both. So when he discovers a link between the case and a single mother in Wyoming, Leo and his trusty K-9 partner rush to question Alicia Duncan. Could she be the key to locating the missing persons? Not if a killer has anything to say about it. Someone is determined to keep Alicia from talking, so Leo and his chocolate Lab must keep her and her little boy safe on their family ranch. With danger lurking around every corner, Leo must work overtime to not lose another person who's important to him. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Witch by Denise Weimer -- Having restored Michael Johnson's ancestors' house and apothecary shop and begun applying the lessons of family and forgiveness unearthed from the past, Jennifer Rushmore expects to complete her first preservation job with the simple relocation of a log home. But as her crew reconstructs the 1787 cabin, home to the first Dunham doctor, attacks on those involved throw suspicion on neighbors and friends alike. And while Jennifer has trusted God and Michael with the pain of her past, it appears Michael's been keeping his own secrets. Will she use a dream job offer from Savannah as an escape, or will a haunting tale from a Colonial diary convince her to rely on the faithfulness of his love? (Romantic Suspense from Canterbury House Publishing)

Speculative Romance/Fantasy:


The Fairetellings Series (Books 1 through 3) by Kristen Reed -- Discover a trio of enchanting novellas inspired by three beloved fairy tales: Cinderella, Snow White, and Beauty and the Beast. (Speculative Romance/Fantasy, Independently Published)
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