I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Writing Tips From Unexpected Places

I like to take life tips or quotes from famous folks who weren’t talking about writing and twist them a bit to come up with some great writing tips.

For instance, Abraham Lincoln once said, “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend six hours sharpening my ax.” This might send you to study the elements of our language as well as writing advice from the professionals.

Lincoln also said, “Things may come to those who wait...but only the things left by those who hustle.” So make both your protagonist and antagonist hustle after the things they want. (Or apply it to yourself and keep writing!)

Sir Issac Newton once said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” How can we apply this to writing? Give your character someone who looks up to him or someone he looks up to—then let that very fact lead the character into trouble. 

Newton also said, “I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people.” So what unexpected mad reactions could your character have? Instead of the normal reactions of being incensed by something, let him embrace it--to his doom, of course.

Or take one of Newton's most famous quotes, “To every action there is always an opposed and equal reaction.” Let your characters react to one another with opposition. None of them, protagonist or antagonist, should be without strong reactions.

Or you could take this piece of advice from Benjamin Disraeli: “Nurture your minds with great thought. To believe in the heroic makes heroes." So give your heroine a great goal with a noble purpose and send her on her way to obtain it, but don't forget to make it extremely difficult!

Here's a tip from Blaise Pascal, "All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone." Now that's a great way to torture your hero!

Even the basketball great, Michael Jordan can help. He said, "I never looked at the consequences of missing a big shot…when you think about the consequences you always think of a negative result." Perhaps your heroine is like this…to her destruction.

Have you ever applied advice from someone great outside the writing field to your writing? Let's us in on the secret!

--Teri Smith

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Kintsukuroi - More beautiful for having been broken

Delores E. Topliff

Thank you, Pinterest, for this image and definition with a beauty that resonates.

Biblical Jacob knew this experience after wrestling with God and being broken, limping, to receive a new name as Israel, a prince having power with Godfar more effective.

Thirty years ago I was a capable, committed professional mom determined to work hard enough to make things happen for my children and me, until a genetic heart problem dropped my pulse to 16 and I had to have help--a dual-chamber pacemaker, invented only three years before and available only in first-world countries. Grateful? Yes. And I learned it’s okay not to be fully independent, instead to be more readily able to accept relational help, and network. Broken? Yes, but better.

What about you? Whether you’ve experienced physical, emotional, or mental testing enough to briefly make us psychoceramics, (cracked pots), we learn and benefit from lasting lessons. Most are important enough to pass along, or feature in our writings.

God is a master artist who redeems every circumstance. What shattering or breaking experience resulting in repair with gold or silver will you share that has made life far more beautiful and effective than before?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

You Might Be a Reader if...

I always like reading things like You might be a redneck if…And that got me to thinking. I came up with this one:

You might be a reader if…

  • You let the biscuits burn because you have to read one more page…
  • You stay up until 2 am to read and see who did it…
  • You spend more for books than you do clothes…
  • Your house goes undusted while you read one more chapter…
  • You tell your child yes, you can have the chocolate cookies so he will leave you alone and let you finish the book…
  • You only have five friends and their names are Scarlett, Rhett, Melanie, Katniss, or Harry.
  • If your parents punished you when you were a child by taking your books away.
  • You go to the grocery store for milk and come home with another book.
  • The library or local bookstore (or both) are on speed dial.
  • Your TBR stack is taller than your son or daughter.
  • You name your children after your favorite hero or heroine.

Now it's your turn. What are some ways you know you are a reader?

Patricia Bradley

Shadows of the Past from Revell February 2014 
Available at CBD: http://ow.ly/qIx2k and Amazon: http://ow.ly/qIx90 and B&N: http://ow.ly/qKdSL

I asked God to teach me patience and He gave me a book to write

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Hurdling the Fences in our Way

While I was wondering what to blog about, I was perusing through several videos online, when I stumbled onto this one.  It’s a story of one Elk in a herd of a couple of hundred.  All the others had jumped the fence following the alpha Male across the road and beyond. Here’s the link, if you are interested: http://www.grindtv.com/outdoor/nature/post/elk-attempts-to-jump-fence-follow-massive-herd-but-fails-miserably/
The small elk pushed and shoved at the fence, determined to get back with the herd. That is until a car drives by and scares him away from the edge of the fence.  Only then did he see the fence for what it was, just another hurdle to jump over.
How many times have we, stumbled, gotten back up, then stumbled again? We’re determined to plow through our problems, push over the obstacle in our way?  Maybe this one time, we need to step back and examine the problem for what it really is.  We need to look at it through a different lens, if you will.  Then instead of trying to fix it ourselves, turn it over to our God, the One who can solve all our problems.

He promises that he will never leave us or forsake us, even in the darkest valleys or standing by the fences that block our path.  Sometimes the answer will not be what we want, but God has our best interest at heart—all the time.




Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Writing—a non-solitary activity

Delores E. Topliff

Have you heard of Helen Palmer, author of children’s beginner book, A Fish Out of Water? If not, it may be because she was the wife of children’s author, Dr. Seuss, who’s fame greatly outshined her. Palmer’s story is about a boy and his fish, Otto. After buying the fish, the pet store owner warns the boy: “Never feed him a lot. Never more than a spot! Or something may happen. You never know what.” (Do you see familiar influence here? Can you imagine their household conversations?)

The boy brings his fish home and decides that he knows better than the pet store owner so feeds the fish the whole box of fish food. The rest of the story illustrates what happens if little boys don’t listen. Eventually, the situation is solved, but the pet store owner again warns the boy never to feed Otto too much. This time, the boy listens.

Writing is no solitary activity. We are influenced, encouraged, and at the very least tolerated, by friends and family members. Some understand us more than others, but their input balances and calms us, sometimes even helping untangle plot or character problems as complicated as the Gordian knot. The solution may even be the sameusing an editorial sword as effective as Alexander the Great’s to slash through the dreaded knot.

In turn, our verbal and written life responses influence family and friends. After observing wrong, my older son once whipped out a pen and wrote a first quite good poem on the back of an envelope. When our friends read, they thought he had copied one of my published poems. It bore similarities, we’re cut from similar cloth, but was his original. They encouraged him to write more. As exercise and polish skill, our relatives and friends usually gain greater communication freedom, too.

John Donne wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself…” That's also true of the writing community. Our life connections influence each other, going far. In fact, going so far, we can’t see where they stop because like the proverbial pebble dropping into a pond, the resulting ripples travel outward forever.

What about you? Describe a valued life connection that has blessed your life and communication. Tell them so. Also, April 1st is always a fun day for me. Enjoy yours. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Brainstorming Tips

Whether you write short stories or the next great epic novel, certain brainstorming activities can spur creativity.  The next time you need some new ideas, try these tips.

1.     Quantity matters. Gather lots of ideas, more than you’ll use; keep an open mind to all ideas; press on to get as many as possible; this will stretch your mind and take you to places you might not go otherwise
2.     No judging during brainstorming. There are no bad ideas here, no wrong ones.
3.     Write everything down. This validates the idea and keeps you from forgetting it. After all you may use it later.
4. Build on other ideas and tweak the ones you have.
5. Use randomness. When brainstorming, try landing your finger on a random page in the dictionary or encyclopedia. This may take you in a direction you never considered before.
6. Brainstorm with a friend. The old Biblical advice of “two are better than one” applies here!
7. Swap ideas. Sometimes the first ideas are cliché. Swapping ages or traits may take you in a unique direction.

Let me show you how that last one can generate ideas.

Protagonist:               Female 40                  Nurse
Antagonist:                Male 20                     Professional singer              

Now let’s see what we come up with when we swap some of these:

Protagonist                Male 40                      Nurse
Antagonist                 Female 20                  Professional singer

Swapping a few of the traits came make a huge difference.

Here are some other traits to include in the characterization, but don’t forget to swap some!

Physical Impairments or Enhancements
Religious Beliefs
Accent, Speed of Speech
Personality Traits

What other ideas do you use for brainstorming? Please share with us!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Does a Writer's Life Change After Publication?

by Patrica Bradley

A few questions I've been asked since my debut book, Shadows of the Past, came out:

How is writing different since you have a contract?

I'm more focused and now write at least 8 hours a day--deadlines will do that for you. Before if I wrote 3 days a week, I was satisfied. The only deadlines I had were the ones I imposed on myself. And that's something I would encourage any writer to do--decide how many words you are going to write a day or a week or even a month and then meet that word count. It makes it much easier to discipline yourself for when you get that contract.

And along the same lines--Do you write every day?

If I have a deadline, I write every day, even on Sunday (after church). If I don't have a deadline looming, I still write something at least 5 days a week. Writing is not just something I love to do, it's a real job and I've found it really is important to write every day, even if it's only a paragraph.    

Are your characters based on anyone you know?

Yes and not really. Every person I meet is potentially a character in my book. Their mannerisms, the way they speak, stories they tell me--it's all fodder for a book. So be careful if you're talking to me. You might end up in a book. 

Are you famous? This one always amuses me.
No, I am not famous. Probably never will be. It's not anything I aspire to.

Is Patricia Bradley your real name?

Yes and no. Patricia Bradley is my maiden name and much easier to spell than my real name. I originally wanted to write under P. T. Bradley, but that didn't work out. As I talked with my mother about what name to use she said, "Well, I wouldn't have named you Patricia if I hadn't thought it was pretty." So that solved the question of what name I would use.

These are just a few of the questions I've been asked. If you have a question you'd like to ask, leave it in the comment box and I'll try to answer it.  

Connect with me:

Links to buy book:
Available at CBD: http://ow.ly/qIx2k 
Amazon: http://ow.ly/qIx90 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Blogs, Branding, and Backing

By Jennie Atkins

In this, the age of rapidly changing technology, the use of social media is becoming mandatory to our success. We need to make our face recognizable to the masses, including what we are trying to sell—which as authors, is NOT our book, but our name!

So in a rush to grow our platform we create a blog, dump information out there that no one will read, just to say “We did it!”  We post repeatedly, covering a multitude of subjects, on Facebook or Twitter just so our face and name appear in the long line with all the other individuals vying for reader’s attention.

But I ask you, are we accomplishing anything? Or, are we the chipmunk running as fast as we can on the proverbial spinning wheel called Cyberspace?

I don’t claim to be an expert on branding and there are others out there that can tell you a whole lot more than I can.  But, I have learned a great deal about the concept in the past month while trying to establish my own personal brand.  Branding is a unique combination of our personality and what we are passionate about. It makes us recognizable. It draws our target audience in. 

I am borderline obsessive about gardening and my friends know it—evident by the number of questions they ask me on the subject.  The fact that I am eager to share my knowledge of the subject comes from my personality.  It only seems natural that I expand on that. 

Now that I’ve recognized my niche, I need to build a target audience by using social media (blogs, Facebook, Pinterest) to promote my subject matter.  Remember, it’s all about building a relationship with your reader (or future readers).  We need to let the public see us for who we are.

Branding builds loyalty, it markets your product long before a product exists.  They get to know you on a personal level and soon learn what they can expect from you. It helps you stand out from the other authors in your genre.

So what am I going to do about it?  I am re-working my blog, my website, and what I post on social media to reflect my passion.

Your turn:  What do you blog about?  Have you figured out what your brand is?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Pointing the Way

Delores Topliff

           On February 11th, our world lost Shirley Temple Black. Her expert singing and tap dancing in 1934's movie, "Stand Up and Cheer!" first gained her wide audience. President Roosevelt said regarding her, "When the spirit of the people is lower than at any other time during this Depression, it is a splendid thing that for just 15 cents, an American can go to a movie and look at the smiling face of a baby and forget his troubles.” I don’t think a more wholesome role model came through Hollywood. As an adult, she added a loving marriage, wonderful family, and creditable career serving her country.

Name favorite characters in fiction or history that lift your head and put spring in your step to march forward?
Some of mine are Topsy from Uncle Tom’s Cabin - Irrepressible. Facing staggering opposition, she survives and just growsKatniss Everdeen, Hunger Games - Fiercely fights injustice, hazarding everything to save her nation and loved ones, and after believing she is defeated, wins. Tom Sawyer - Makes repetitive chores fun while mastering character analysis. Eric Liddell (Chariots of Fire, with a daughter still living in Canada) set a high price on what mattered most without compromise, and saw history bend when he valued “something greater than gold.”
May God help us create characters with believable flaws who struggle and fall but rise again and change, doing in the end what they could not do in the beginning.
Just as Shirley Temple encouraged America during hard times, as we pray, write, and change ourselves, may we be pens in God’s hands recording stories that lift hearts.
What about you? Name some favorites and the changes they inspire.