I know I talk like a Texan, but really … does my tongue have to increase the sound of naivete by stumbling around inside my mouth? Yeah, I’ve got specifics: Continue reading
I know I talk like a Texan, but really … does my tongue have to increase the sound of naivete by stumbling around inside my mouth? Yeah, I’ve got specifics: Continue reading →
by Marji Laine
I’m going to be posting updates and experiences from the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference on my Facebook page. Please like the page if you visit – helps me out so much! The link is HERE!
Hope you will enjoy reading about my various adventures, but I warn you now, I can get carried away! Continue reading →
I’m so pleased to welcome Kellie Coates Gilbert to Faith~Driven Fiction. She’s an inspiring author, and a dear critique buddy. I’ve been so excited about this book! I hope you enjoy meeting Kellie!
When did you decide to become a writer? Continue reading →
I have to tell you, I feel like I’ve learned a decade’s worth of information in the last year about publishing, social media, marketing, and all that goes with them. Enough to know that I have a LOT more to learn.
Trite – I know – but way too true for my comfort level. See, I grew up with the Saturday morning mantra that “Knowledge is Power.” (Anyone remember that intro to Schoolhouse Rock?) I figure if I can understand something or at least know about it, I can handle it/fix it.
But that isn’t reality for so many pieces of my life.
And those are just the things I’ve thought about in the last 5 minutes! God never promised me that I would know or understand what I’m going through – in fact, just the opposite.
Who then can understand the thunder of his power? Job 26:14b
So here’s where I’m at on the path to traditional publishing. I have contracted with an amazing agent who I’m growing to adore! I’m meeting (through a Yahoo group) all of his clients, my new agency-mates, and learning so much from them as they interact with each other. I’m reading much in my genre and focusing on books that are similar to Cat’s Eyes (my Christian Romance-Suspense) for reference.
But that’s not all. I’m nothing if not determined and waiting around for publishing just doesn’t fit into my worldview. So I’m working on business cards, one-sheets, and pitches for the conference that I’m attending next month. I know I’ll have at least one interview with an editor, possibly two. I want to put my best foot forward in every situation. That means I need to be practiced and researched about who’s who and what books they have published and how those stories compare to Cat’s Eyes. I’m also looking forward to meeting other publishing professionals, agents and established authors, so I want to educated myself about what they write or represent and what agency or publishing company they are with. I’m really exited about meeting other newbies like myself and a few authors whom I’ve enjoyed chatting with online.
Aside from my prep for the conference, I’m working on other projects. Though I hesitate to do novel work, so I won’t get confused when I have to talk about Cat’s Eyes, I’m writing many short stories and articles for a variety of submissions, to keep warmed-up and as extra financial opportunities.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m still totally giddy about having an agent! Squee! I’m just not willing to sit around watching the ink dry, thinking I’m done achieving my goals. Publishing my first book is my current goal and I’ve received a huge blessing – a giant step in the right direction, but I’m nowhere near the end of my path. Just keep stepping.
Your turn: What is your current goal? What steps are you taking to achieve it?
Twitter is a great tool for writers and a great place to connect with people who share like interests. I’ve chatted about how it needs to be more social than billboard-ish. I’ve even mentioned how hashtags can be used to promote your tweets.
But I’m going to share about them again. Mostly because I keep seeing them misused. I did plenty of misusing myself when I first started, so the message remains needed. Lately, I’ve seen some very clever twitter buds who would use the hashtags as the punchline of what they were saying.
Clever yes; useful no. Unless you think #mycatthrewuponme has a good following. I read a blog the other day about marketing and one of the quotes has a direct correlation to the use of hashtags on Twitter. (I SO wish I could remember where I got this note. Please leave me a comment if you know who said it so I can properly quote and credit the saying.) Find out where your audience is, then go stand in front of them.
That’s what hashtags are all about. #mycattrewuponme is a lousy use of space because no one will be watching that grouping of words. No one uses the hashtag, so why would anyone watch for the words to come across? Spelling it out: no audience. On the other hand, #Catjokes works! Hot hashtags include #avengers, #castle, #psych; all have quite a following of people who watch for the posts with those words and comment/share what they see.
Let’s say you aren’t a writer. How about you’re a camera nut and you want to see what other photographers are saying or thinking, or you want to find some informative blogs about becoming a professional. #photo #photographer #photography. You can do a search on Twitter and find all the recent tweets that people have made using the hashtags. Watching them and interacting with the tweeters places you within a loosely defined group of people who like photography. (BTW, #cameranut is a strikeout.)
The same can be said of any number of hobbies: #scrapbook #NASCAR #Olympics #Labradors #homeschool are a few of mine. Those are the places where I find folks to connect with who are interested in things that I’m interested in. In fact, I love being on Twitter during a NASCAR race because everyone comments on what they’re seeing. Even some of the things the drivers are saying to their crews get tweeted by their teams. What a fun idea!
Find some groups who will respond to the book you’re writing. Is it historical? Try a hashtag for the era like #Civalwar, #Regency, or #Medeival. Does it interest a special group of people like #Trekkies or #military? Try to find some hook, some common category that people who will like your book might congregate near. I have a problem with this because mine’s contemporary romance/suspense. The hashtags of romance and suspense are used a LOT, along with Christian and fiction. I’m still working on it though and hope to come up with some ideas.
#faithdrivenfiction is a great tagline, but on twitter, it’s where the crickets convene. And it goes back to my point about not using a hashtag as a punchline. #slickerthansnot might be the perfect ending for your tweet, but it won’t get you any extra views. If you want to be seen, usually the point of twitter, then use hashtags that people look at.
And if you’re wanting to connect with other writers, (I use these hashtags when I’m posting about anything to do with the life of a writer) you could use #amwriting #writetip #pubtip #writer. You could also use special group hashtags, like #mywana or #ACFW, but only if you’re a member of the groups.
You will get fussed at for using #hashtags incorrectly. Yes, I’ve been there!
Having seen the label #wordmongering, I assumed it was another general writing group and used the hashtag on a blog article that I wrote about writing. Sure, they want to read it, right? … Um … notsomuch. See, #wordmongering is a challenge group of writers who use the hashtag to encourage each other to keep writing through half-hour sprints. I received a very nice note from the gal who created the hashtag and an invitation to do some word mongering, which I’ve enjoyed immensely. But I don’t post my blog ads there!
Oh and I must share a great article – short and sweet – about gaining followers on Twitter. http://aheartforgod.blogspot.com/2012/01/10-ways-to-get-more-followers-on.html I swear the image looks like a magazine cover and I was totally inspired! So cool!
Your turn! What are some hashtags you’ve used or some that you watch?
Well, I got an email.
Funny how God knows just what I need when I need it, because had I been on the phone when I squealed I might have burst the eardrum of my new agent. Not such a great way to start, you know!
This truly showed God’s moving. I asked several close friends to be prayer partners for me and sent out queries. I wrote to my prayer team and shared that the wait could be substantial, but this was patience training time. Less than 18 hours later I had a request for a full manuscript. Funny thing was, I’d just printed it out and sent it off with a proofreader. I asked if I could send it in early the next week, after the scrubbing.
Then, after submitting the newly washed manuscript, I again wrote my prayer team. This truly would be patience training as I had heard that manuscript-reading could take up to six months. I settled in for a long wait and thought about my next project … for a few hours.
Opening my email as my daughter fixed a snack on the counter next to me, she heard me gasp.
“Mom, is everything all right?”
“I have an email.” I stared up at her and she understood immediately.
“Do you want me to read it for you?”
I didn’t even let her get the words out before I digitally tore into the note. I read the words “recommendation” and “represent.” That was it. I started hollering and giggling and dancing a jig. Both twins joined me and my Labrador just knew it was all on account of him. He jumped and danced and barked along with us.
Then I had to stop and fully read the email … uh … but my computer had been busted in our reverie. No doubt by the huge hound.
Couldn’t get to my redhead’s computer fast enough. Not only to actually read (and reread and reread) the email, but to respond, hopefully in a professional manner that didn’t reflect the unsophisticated, uninhibited joy and revelry we’d experienced.
I’m still giddy!
Though I hardly ever watch television, I’ve been glued to it for the past few days enjoying the Olympics. I end up with a plethora of emotions while I watch. But high on that list is the total wonder at how the athletes pour everything they have into their task. They train, practice, and participate in competitions in order to build their strength and hone their talent.
Not unlike a writer’s journey.
Training is as essential to writing as to sports. The women that I’m watching weren’t born in a backbend … probably. They learned the skills they needed to accomplish the given tasks and it started with simple somersaults. Writing, likewise, takes education – basics.
My training consists of books, online classes, and critique groups. I’ve devoured texts about plotting, characterizations, word-painting, even social media and website designing. I flag pages and make highlights. I pull out my WIPs and practice what the books suggest. I do the homework for the online classes and observe the homework of others so I can learn from their successes and mistakes. And I’ve learned tons from the critique groups that I participate in. Full of both published and pre-published writers, these groups have taught me not only how to write, but also how to read what I’ve written with a reader’s eye. Priceless.
Writing practice doesn’t require drills per se, but it does require writing. My work will only get better if I do the drafting and then follow through with the rewriting and revisions. The president of our Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers, Janice Olson, explains it this way at our meetings:
We are writers; that means we write.
That simple. So I too make this a second full-time job. (Home-schooling my three girls is the first.) I spend every spare minute at my computer, limiting my social time, though that’s part of my career, and just writing. Head back, eyes closed, typing away.
That’s where writing differs. In my opinion, the writing (practice) is key. And I think a lot of would-be published writers would agree with me. See our participation means sending out query letters and proposals and hoping for manuscript requests. I know I shied away from that part of the process, except for one shy email, for a solid year. My story wasn’t ready, I kept telling myself and everyone around me.
But how can I know my writing is ready if I don’t get it up on that diving board and give it a little push? Sending the stories, articles, proposals out to agents or editors provides writers with the feedback, like a cheering crowd, that lets them know that they can do this.
So I’ve started pushing my latest novel off the diving board. (I highly recommend taking the plunge!) So far with pretty favorable results, and who can say what may come? At the very least, I will certainly learn another step to this wonderful career I have.
With the right training, tons of practice, and a little courage a writer can win gold. Click here to tweet this.
Your turn: What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned so far in your writing journey?
*guest post by Michelle Massaro
At Clash of the Titles, we’re interested in the Christian Fiction that’s making a splash, flying onto the scene in a burst of attention-grabbing technicolor and gripping our imaginations. Every month we’re seeing batches of new stories hit the shelves and here’s one that has also hit our hearts.
Dineen Miller’s The Soul Saver recently competed on our website and garnered a lot of attention there. We just had to know more about this book and its author. Here’s what we discovered…
Dineen Miller readily admits that one of the greatest lessons she’s learning about life is that there’s purpose in our trials. It’s all about trusting God and putting our hope in Him. Her favorite stories are of the miracles God has wrought in the lives of her family.
Through this lens she also believes her years as a youth counselor, a Stephen Minister, a women’s ministry leader, and a small group leader fuel her desire to ignite the souls of others through words of truth.
In addition to writing for Spiritually Unequal Marriage, Dineen has won several prestigious awards for her fiction, and her devotional writing has been featured in Our Journey and Christian Women Online Magazine. She’s also a C.L.A.S.S. Communicator and has been featured on the Moody Radio Network, Family Life and Focus on the Family Radio.
Married for 24 years to a guy who keeps her young, she lives in the Bay Area with her husband and two adult daughters, who surprise her daily with their own creativity.
She is the co-author of Winning Him Without Words: 10 Keys to Thriving in Your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage and the author of The Soul Saver.
GoodReads author page:
The Soul Saver Booktrailer:
1. What inspired the story for The Soul Saver?
My own life. I wanted to write a fictionalized account of how God can work in amazing ways in our lives when we trust Him. The Soul Saver is that story—of how Lexie Baltimore desires to love her unbelieving husband in the way God is calling her to and the battles she faces with the enemy because she’s on the front lines praying for the salvation of her
husband. I wrote this book for all the Lexies out there, to encourage and remind them that we’re not alone. God is there working in ways we can’t even imagine!
2. A suspense novel in the Christian industry can often be difficult to write. What helped you overcome those obstacles?
Staying true to the message I felt God calling me to write. I attended the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference in 2008 and by the end of the week, I left with a clear understanding that God wanted me to write this book. I stayed faithful to that calling and trusted God to find a place for it. Some in the industry either had reservations with the issue of being spiritually mismatched or with Tobias, a demon, who is simply a tool I used to show the spiritual warfare that is common in spiritually mismatched marriages. At one point I wondered if I would have to take him out, but my amazing agent, Rachelle Gardner, encouraged me to hold true to my story and she was right. The right timing and publisher did come along. I will be forever grateful to Barbour Books for giving The Soul Saver a chance.
3. What made you want to write in this specific genre?
I love intricate stories and characters. Suspense wrapped with the supernatural is something I’ve always loved to read. The amazing thing is, we live in a world full of suspense and the supernatural every day. My favorite stories have and always will be of the miraculous, of how God has provided, made His presence known, saved a lost soul because that is what’s really happening around us if we just take the time to notice it. God loves to wow us. I hope I can do a little of that to my readers too. They deserve it.
4. Do you have any future projects going on?
I have a novella coming out in August, A Love Meant to Be, that’s part of a collection titled Rendezvous in Central Park. I have the distinct privilege and honor of writing with Ronie Kendig, MaryLu Tyndall, and Kim Vogel Sawyer, three seasoned and very talented authors. I love this story because it’s a tribute to my father, a Vietnam vet who passed away in 2010. These stories span from the Civil War to WWII to Vietnam to present day conflict in Afghanistan.
When Trusting God Is the Only Way Out
On an average day, God started her missions in her sculpting studio, revealing the face of the person she would meet at the grocery store, bank, or playground. The goal was always the same. Reach the lost, bring someone back to God, restore hope. But then came the tough missions—the ones that sent Lexie Baltimore into real battle. And she had a few battle scars to show for it.
Tormented that she can’t reach the one person she loves the most—staunch atheist and husband Hugh—Lexie finds her own hope waning when the battle comes to her doorstep in the shape of a pastor who represents everything she wants and everything her husband is not—a godly man.
Then false accusations and rumors spin her husband and family into a precarious position, and the only way out is to trust God. But how can she convince her husband when she’s struggling to trust God herself?
This time Lexie is the mission.
What others are saying:
“Deep, compelling, a beautifully written story of faith, hope, and the saving power of love. Dineen Miller hits home with this debut novel. The Soul Saver will stay with you for days after reading the last page.”
— Tosca Lee, NY Times bestselling author of Havah: The Story of Eve
“When you combine stellar writing, intriguing characters, and a fascinating plot the result is a story like The Soul Saver. It’s the kind of novel I wish I had written.”
— James L. Rubart, bestselling author of ROOMS, Book of Days, and The Chair
Links to purchase The Soul Saver:
The Soul Saver Booktrailer:
*Michelle Massaro is a 2012 Genesis Finalist and Assistant Editor with COTT. She loves to connect, so stop and see her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/MichelleMassaroBooks
by Marji Laine
I just finished Nipped in the Bud a cozy mystery by Susan Sleeman. The first of a series. I love a new series. They keep me coming back and I will definitely pick up Susan’s second book, Read Between the Tines.
This cozy didn’t come close to a “can’t-put-down” book, but it proved a lovely distraction. In analyzing this story, I found 3 main reasons that I enjoyed it.
Lightheartedness – This story does not take itself seriously. I mean the main character, whose mom was a librarian, is named Paige Turner. (And if you don’t like puns, don’t bother!) Each chapter begins with a clip from Paige’s “Through the Garden Gate” radio show. Now I’m betting that one or two of those clips found inspiration in real callers to some program, but most of them became variations on a theme. I also enjoyed the way Paige Turner compares everyone to different types of plants. Insightful to the reader and the cleverness of the auther is downright inspiring to the writer in me!
Twists and Turns – Ms. Sleeman wove together a compelling mystery with several redirections, red-herrings included. Paige determines to fight all obstacles to learn who killed a “pillar” of her small community. Especially when she’s blamed for the murder. The fact that I suspected the murderer at the beginning annoyed me, but didn’t remove the delight of uncovering the fun paths that Paige’s journey took me on.
Quirks – Paige desires total control over every aspect of her life. No wonder she’s still single in her mid-thirties. She’s funny, honest, and flirtatious. In fact, Ms. Sleeman wrote Paige so carefully, that I could easily perceive her personality. But I didn’t like her very much. Headstrong and unwise, at times she behaved like an old woman. At others, like a child. She had school-girl reactions to a handsome stranger and made choices and decisions that weren’t just poor, they bordered on ridiculous. And I would hate to learn what type of plant she’d compare me to!
As to the comparison, though enlightening, for many of the characters it proved the only hint to their personality. Not even the hero was developed into a living person. Maybe the first-person point of view of the story hindered character development, but everyone seemed terribly shallow.
Also lacking depth was the spiritual aspect of the story. The author set up a great opportunity with Paige’s controlling personality, but all mentions of God and faith floated along the surface.
I think I’ve mentioned before how easily I cry, especially with a sincere moment of brokeness before God, whether in worship or reading a story. I longed for that moment in this book and it never came. Almost as though the spiritual aspect of the story was an after-thought.
♥♥♥1/2♥ All in all, I truly enjoyed Nipped in the Bud and look forward to the next segment of Paige’s life in Reading Between the Tines. And looking at Susan Sleeman’s website, I see several others that I’m going to read as well!
Your turn: Do you read mysteries or suspense? What elements must they have to capture your favor?
By the way, I have a whole page of books I’ve reviewed over the last year. Please stop by as you’ll likely find a gem!
I’m so pleased to welcome guest blogger Amy McGuire to Faith~Driven Fiction, sharing her inspiration about what it means to be happy.
Recently my Ladies Bible Study group decided to do a small devotional on happiness. We were to each bring something that made us happy or could be of encouragement to the other women in the group. Well, anyone who knows me know I don’t go for small, so I made it into my own personal ‘Happiness Project’.
I started to think, when am I happiest and how does this translate into a little devotional for the group? The one thing that stuck out strongest in my mind as the Holy Spirit spoke to me, was peace. I am happiest when I’m at peace. I suppose a lot of us could say that to be peaceful is to be happy.
Peace in this world is not an easy thing to come by sometimes. Often we have to carve out time to be by ourselves, spend time in the Word and just be still. One of my favourite Psalms makes me feel peaceful whenever I read it.
Psalm 23 says, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness, for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me, in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Talk about a peaceful, comforting, happy passage! It seems a little less-so when you read ‘the shadow of death’ but considering that we won’t be afraid and we’re going to live forever with the Lord, that’s pretty happy. The sound of the wind and water make me feel especially peaceful.
In my ‘multi-media presentation’ as my friends jokingly called it, I included a few pictures of the waves crashing on the beach on my last vacation in Florida, as well as one picture of the waves almost completely calm. I included a short video of the waves rolling in and out of the beach, the sun sparkling on them and was reminded that as they don’t change from season to season, neither does God.
As I was researching for my project I was reminded of how, when I’m really stressed, saying to myself, ‘be still my soul’ helps me calm down. The Holy Spirit led me to the old hymn, Be Still My Soul which I read out to the group and want to include here as well.
Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side; Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; Leave to thy God to order and provide; In every change He faithful will remain. Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end. Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake. To guide the future as He has the past. Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake; All now mysterious shall be bright at last. Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know. His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below. Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart. And all is darkened in the vale of tears; Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears. Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay. From His own fullness all He takes away. Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on. When we shall be forever with the Lord, When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone, Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored. Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past, All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.”
So basically, no matter what’s going on in our lives, we can be at peace because God’s in control. I need to remind myself of that whenever I feel like life is just getting too overwhelming. When I feel like a bad mother, wife and daughter. When I have a deadline for something and I just can’t motivated to get on it. When my daughter is lying on a hospital bed in the ER with her third febrile seizure in less than a year and it’s Christmas Day. When the bills are high and the funds coming in are low. When my book isn’t doing as well as I’d hoped I would. When the world seems to have it in for me and it just feels like a bad day to get out of bed. The list goes on and on. But through all of this, I can have peace knowing God’s in control.
In my new quest for lasting happiness, not the kind that comes only when things are good, I’ve started reading Joy Every Morning by Muriel Larson. It’s a small book, in something like 4×4 format with only 124 pages but it’s becoming a big element of my morning devotions.
Today was on getting up in the morning, telling God you love Him and then thanking Him for everything you can think of. I tried it this morning and definitely felt more happy and peaceful. Being grateful for what I’ve been given instead of begrudging what I don’t have or wishing my life was a little less stressful is already starting to change my outlook.
I love how the author started out this book. She says, “I am convinced from God’s Word that it is His will for every Christian to be joyful.” Whoa. That single sentence packs a punch and reminds me that I need to find my happiness in Him. He has given me the opportunities to be peaceful and rest in Him and I just need to take advantage of those.
Happiness and peace are definitely interconnected in my life. Gratitude helps kick start the whole thing but God is the author of happiness. I’m so very, very glad He chose me to be His child. Maybe I can help others finding that lasting happiness that I’m just now starting to really get a hold of. After writing this, I’m feeling so peaceful, I think I’ll go take a nap.
Amy lives in Toronto with her husband, their daughter and two cats. The child of missionary parents in East Africa, she grew up with a rich knowledge of the diverse and interesting world around her. She developed a love of English Literature at a young age and considers William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice two of the most romantic books ever written. Since the moment she could pick up a pencil, she has been writing stories for her own enjoyment. It wasn’t until 2009 when she was working on books one through three of The Hope Valley Saga that she considered putting her works out there for people to read and enjoy. Her favourite way to spend a sunny afternoon is on a lounge chair with a good novel, some chocolate and soft tunes off her rather eclectic collection of Cds. The Heart’s Discovery is her first published novel and A Tiny Drop of Sunlight is her first published poetry compilation.
You can check out my blog at: http://shesanauthor.com/apps/blog