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

Friday, September 28, 2012

Time Thieves and Other Creatures



by ginger r. takamiya

My phone starts ringing about 10:00am every morning because I don’t have a “real” job.

People in my life contact me often because “All the other mothers work” for a living.

I don’t blame them. I trained them to treat me like that. 
No, they aren't trying to belittle me. 
They just don’t understand what I “Do with all that time at home,” you see.

This summer was my wake-up call. I think my family and I got to spend 3 weekends together without helping someone else complete a task they deemed important. On top of all that, I had my mother’s 70th birthday bash to plan and two writers’ conferences that I wasn’t ready for.

Why?

Because I had forgotten that doing all those “good” things were not necessarily what God wanted me spending my time on

Oh, I needed to help Miss Jean go to the doctor and maybe take my daughter on a 4 hour trip to get new pointe shoes, but I also needed to do something just as important.

I needed to write.

I often ponder the day of my judgment and hearing the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” 

But, there is a second part to that verse. It goes like this:


“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

You have been faithful with a few things.

Had I?


No. I had tried so hard to be faithful with all the tasks that had come my way that I had neglected the one task God had given me to do…Write.



That doesn't mean that I never say, "Yes". There will always be urgencies that we’ll need to set our writing aside for, but you need to reconsider which requests are true urgencies and which are time thieves.

I once told my dearest prayer partner, “If I don’t treat my writing like it’s important, no one else will either.”

Are you going to let the Time Thief steal from you today? Will you let him tell you that God didn't really mean for you to work this hard at it? That every creature called "Good deed" is worth more than your writing?

Prioritize. I'm not telling you to never say "Yes," I'm telling you that writing is your currency--your talent. Will you invest it? Or bury it under a million other things until the Master comes?
It’s up to you.

Let's pray about it.

Father, help us to see the importance of what you've called us to. Help us to balance our writing so that it takes neither first place nor last place in our lives. Give us wisdom to know when to say, "No". Help us to understand its worth. In Jesus name.

Now go write!

ginger r. takamiya

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

When God Acts: From Here to Eternity



Photo by Patricia Hunter
By Delores Topliff

I’m currently living one of the most surprising events of my life. 

Without giving full details, years ago my former husband stepped aside from that commitment -- breaking most contact. I spent years doing what I could to fill all gaps resulting from his absence -- learning to lean on God a lot. Abandonment hurt. Yes, I was upset, but did not keep an emotional diary, though perhaps I should have. (I did write poems). 

Mid-way through those years, God gave me a dream showing me that more than being unwilling, my husband had been unable to do more. This truth changed my heart, enabling me to forgive. My lack of animosity on the few occasions we were in touch demonstrated I held no malice. But for at least the last five or six years, we’ve had no direct contact at all.

Recently my phone rang. Now aging and unwell, my former husband believes his time is short. He wanted to make things right. He apologized, expressing appreciation for the role I’ve played in raising our sons, and insisting on giving a gift I had no idea he could provide. And to my amazement, he actually did. There have been further phone calls. I’ve encouraged him to stay in touch.

More than the bank deposit, the gift I appreciate more is well wishes and kindness and peace flowing both directions in renewed friendship. I’m convinced this could not have happened if  God had not extended His redeeming love for us all, making us rich enough, forgiven enough, to extend friendship and fully forgive others. Only God could have set this recent major event in motion.

My closing words on the last phone call were, “God bless you." But that didn’t seem enough. I heard myself say, “I bless you,” which expressed my heart.

God gives us the wonderful ability to bless. I am grateful this resolution and healing is taking place here and now, visible in this life, though also bearing God’s stamp of eternity. 

How have you seen God moving in your life today, now, that will last into eternity?
 

Monday, September 24, 2012

What Missing ACFW and Washing Great Grandma's China Dishes have in Common


 Confession: This past week, I had a pity party for myself. ACFW is the Superbowl of Christian Fiction. Everyone is there. Everyone is getting requests for manuscripts, winning awards, and landing agents. And I missed it. Again. I’m tired of being benched.

Instead, Hubby, Haley and I went to visit my Great Aunt Nancy. I love my great aunt, and any other weekend, I would have been delighted to visit her. She lives a couple hours away, so we don’t see her often, and she hadn’t yet met Haley. But during the drive, all I could think about was the fun y’all were having in Texas.

Walking into her townhouse is like stepping into a museum full of family history. Pride in our Norwegian heritage is everywhere, and stories of the past pour of Aunt Nancy like dear friends. Although Aunt Nancy had hip surgery in May, she still embodied the graciousness of her generation, serving the equivalent of a Christmas dinner, complete with party favors, on my Great Grandma Rose’s finest china.

After dinner I helped put away the abundance of leftovers and started loading the dishwasher. “Oh no,” Aunt Nancy said, “the china must be hand washed.”

I groaned (inwardly, I hope). Why would a person serve a meal on dishes that needed to be hand washed? Especially if you’re going to use salad plates and serve twelve side dishes. This was going to take all afternoon to clean up.

Aunt Nancy neatly stacked the plates beside the sink and looked at me. “I’ll do them later.” I knew the way the conversation was going to go. I would argue. No, no, I’ll help. She’d relent, and we’d end up washing the china. As any polite guest would.

She gazed at me and I tried to shutter my thoughts from her discerning eye. “Amy, do you know why your great grandma served her guests on her finest china?”

Easy. “Because she wanted them to feel special.”

"Your Great Grandma Rose always said after the guests had gone home, washing the china gave her time to reflect on their conversations and treasure the memories.”

Later, heading home, the conversation with Aunt Nancy echoed in my head. I realized that missing ACFW is like washing the china. Instead of being upset I missed the 2012 conference, I could choose to reflect and treasure the memories of past years.

And so I did.

Now that my pity party is over, I’d like to hear all about your conference experience. What was the best part of ACFW for you? How did you see God working in your life?  I know we’ve got some Ponderer stories about God moving in their lives at the 2012 conference…share with us so we can celebrate with you!

Haley and Great, Great Aunt Nancy





Friday, September 21, 2012

My Collection


Teri here:  My mother collects figurines. I counted 12 from the chair I’m sitting in as I write. But not me. I don’t collect recipe books, postage stamps, old coins, or antiques. 
Even though it’s a bit odd, I collect word-painting tips.  I glean them from books, the Internet, My Book Therapy Retreats, American Christian Fiction Writers conferences, and even a Jerry Jenkin’s writing conference. I apologize that I cannot remember exactly where each tip came from, but I present to you my collection of word-painting tips.

·      Use one sense to
 describe something usually characterized by another sense.  For instance, a bunny’s fur could be whisper-like soft.  This combines the sound of a whisper and the feel of fur.
  Or consider a backyard barbeque-smoked summer day. 

   Attach an emotion/attitude to adjective
--timid pink cheeks
--cheery red lips
--sassy dimple in her chin
--arrogant cheekbones

·      Use an hyphenated adjective to make a short-cut metaphor
--pirate-green eyes
--playboy-blue eyes

·      Use a noun as an adjective
--a California commute
--a hubby breakfast
--helicopter hair
--a frog wart
--cardboard courage

·      Use one of the senses to remind the character of an emotion in the past
--the aroma of a pumpkin pie evokes the feeling of family get-togethers
--cheep perfume reminds him of his high school girlfriend’s betrayal

·      Use all five senses: too often we limit ourselves to what is seen and heard, but smells, tastes, and tactile surfaces can add a spark of reality that draws the read in.

·      Use the senses to create the mood of the scene


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My Imaginary Friends


By Jennie Atkins
Okay, maybe I’m weird.  Those of you that know me personally are probably shaking your heads in agreement right now.

I say that while I reflect on the manuscripts I have completed. When I write those infamous words…The End…I have a moment of elation followed by a period of sadness.  Why you ask?  I can only relate it to when my husband and I left Ohio and moved to Nevada. We were excited about the move, yet we were sad because we had to leave our friends and family behind.

We all have friends…new acquaintances and the forever kind. You have friends at work, at church, and next door. Friends are people you want to spend time with. You will probably spend money on them and you pray for them. You share their dark times and their joys.

I have friends that are in my imagination. They are the characters in my books. The people I mentally “commune” with on a daily basis. I get to know them, talk to them about their fears, and their expectations. I spend lots of time with them, and if you consider the conferences and retreats I go to, I spend money on them too. (The pictures to the right are proof of that!) I pray that I can understand them enough to put their image down on paper. I want the reader to empathize with their pain, laugh when they laugh, and make the characters seem so real the reader wants to hold their hand during the character’s blackest moment.

But the sad part is, when my book is done—they’re gone! Poof! And I miss them. Why? Because I’ve dug deep enough into their lives that I really know them. Just like my real friends.

This week I am headed off to the 2012 ACFW Conference in Dallas, Texas where I’ll get to be with my real friends, introducing them to my imaginary friends, sharing plots, and dreaming of publication. If you’ve never been to a conference, I encourage you to try one sometime.  The energy I received from one conference has fueled my creativity for years afterwards.

As far as my imaginary friends?  They’re the voices in my head that won’t stop.  They’ll come and they’ll go. And I’ll get to know each one intimately.

So how about you?  Do you get close enough to your characters that you miss them when they’re gone? Or am I the only crazy person out there?


Monday, September 17, 2012

Standing In Faith


"Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net"

It’s Alena!

No surprise I’m frantically trying to get everything ready before ACFW.

When you’re under duress, that’s the time faith kicks in (you hope). 

I wasn’t raised in church so I spent a lot of time later in life memorizing scriptures.

I had to learn how to hold them up, or many a time, let them hold me up, when life’s circumstances seemed to have trod me under. 

Ever been there? When all you know to do is stand on The Word of God?

That’s what I did today and will continue to do so during this crazy jam-packed week. 

Here are some of the scriptures I use. 

I pray they will bless you as much as they bless me.  The emphases are mine.

Need help seeing the finishing line of your To Do List?

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:13 NIV

Or

For God is able to exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or imagine. Ephesians 3:20

Or maybe this one,

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.

6 In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6 Amplified)

Need wisdom on your story plot or wisdom on which agent to approach?

3 Roll your works upon the Lord [commit and trust them wholly to Him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and] so shall your plans be established and succeed. (Proverbs 16:3 Amplified version)

For those of you who are pitching this week, try this one.  

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7 Amplified version)

What scriptures do you use when you feel a Tsunami coming your way?

Blessings !

Alena T. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Battling Conference Discouragement

Photo Source
Lisa Jordan: I have a confession to make...it's 8:55 PM on Thursday evening, and I just realized it was my turn to blog. My mind has been in other places, namely Dallas, TX, where the 2012 ACFW conference will take place.

700 writers in the same hotel. Being surrounded by others who "get" the voices in your head--paradise! Not to mention I will get to hug and hang out with some of my most favorite people.

This year will mark my 7th ACFW conference. So I'm definitely not a newbie, but I have made my fair share of mistakes, namely putting unnecessary pressure on myself. Too many times writers arrive at a conference with their baggage and expectations and leave with dirty laundry and discouragement.

If you're planning to attend ACFW next week, keep reading for some tips to help you battle that discouragement. If you're not attending, but may attend in the future, still read anyway.


  • You are not alone. You. Are. Not. Alone. Whether it's your first conference or seventh, it's easy to feel alone in a sea of people, especially if you hear buzz words like contract, representation, finalist. If you're feeling like those are foreign words in your career, come to the My Book Therapy table. We will encourage you, hug you, pray with you--whatever it takes to help you embrace this portion of your writing journey with a smile.
  • Editors and Agents are Human. Yes, it's true. They may appear to be superhuman, but they need to eat and sleep like you and me. They become exhausted from listening to pitches, having to be "on" and participating in workshops. But, you know what? They enjoy meeting writers, especially hearing writers' stories. So when you sit down to pitch, take a deep breath and remember, they are human just like you. Dazzle them with your great pitch and let God do the rest. 
  • Harness Your Expectations. It's great to attend a conference with goals, but ensure they're reasonable goals. Arrive at the conference with no expectations, so you're surprised and blessed when God reveals himself in mighty ways. Having unrealistic expectations leads to disappointment. You will not sell your book at the conference. You will not sign with an agent at the conference. If you don't get the appointment you wanted, there are other reasonable ways of meeting a favored editor or agent. Also, be open to God's leading and unexpected open doors. Maybe there's a reason you didn't get scheduled with that editor or agent.
  • Be a Blessing. I'm guest blogging at Michelle Lim's Thoughts on Plot blog today, and I'm talking about how to Be a Blessing. No matter if this is your first conference or not, you can be a blessing to someone else. Think of others before yourself. Be Jesus in the skin. Model His grace. Let His light shine through you. Be quick to smile. Offer to pray with someone who may need to hear a kind word. Honor God with your words and actions. 
Be sure to check out My Book Therapy's The Truth About Conferences. You will find wonderful tips to help you to have a successful writers conference. Written by the MBT Staff, this book covers everything to budgeting for a conference to what to do after the conference. 

Your Turn: If you've attended a conference in the past, what words of wisdom do you have to offer?

Lisa Jordan
www.lisajordanbooks.com

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sharpening My Ax

Photo credit
Lisa Jordan: While searching for quote for an article I'm writing, I came across this one from Abraham Lincoln: 

If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, 
I'd spend six hours sharpening my ax.  

When I read this, the first thing that popped into my head was a writer honing her craft.

I've dabbled in writing since I was sixteen. Life had a way of filtering into my dreams of publication. As I look back, I realize God was giving me life experience to incorporate into my novels.

I've been writing seriously for the past decade, slowly honing my craft...or sharpening my ax. Honing my craft isn't limited to writing the best possible story. It also involves learning more about the publishing industry and hearing what agents and editors want. Sharpening my ax may necessitate some expenses such as writing books, online workshops, writing conferences or retreats. 

I met with an agent at a writer's conference who told me she didn't like to hear a writer say she had been writing only a year or so before pursuing publication. That agent wanted to see writers who took the time to sharpen their axes--learn the craft, get a feel for what publishing houses wanted, understand the sting of rejection.

Sometimes people want something so badly, they rush into a situation without being prepared. There's a reason they keep getting those rejection letters. Yeah, they hurt, but editors and agents are looking for great writing, not mediocre.

Even though it can be frustrating and discouraging, take the time to sharpen your ax. You'll be rewarded when it's time to cut down your tree.

Your Turn: How long have you been writing? How long did it take you to receive your first contract? Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently when you started?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Just stay calm...even on a Monday!

Credit: freedigitalphotos.net
Happy Monday! Melissa here and today, friends, I'm going to keep it brief. Why?

Because it's Monday. And if you're anything like me, that little reality comes complete with a long list of to-dos.

So I just want to share a simple little verse. It's one I ran across a couple months ago--it stuck out to me for the first time. And I can't tell you how often I've repeated it since...

The Lord Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm. ~Exodus 14:14

Just stay calm. Folks, I can't think of three better words to start off a new week. Well, except perhaps "just sleep in." :)

But seriously, I don't know what your day or week looks like...

...maybe you're off to a day job that pays the bills but doesn't quite connect with your passion.

...or you're at home chasing a toddler or staring at heaps of laundry.

...maybe you're frantically preparing for next week's ACFW Conference.

...or you're dealing with frustration about not being able to attend the conference.

Whatever it is, whether you're tied up in knots or even just a teensy bit tangled, you can rest in the fact that you've got a God who's not only watching out for you...He's actually fighting for you. 

So let's take a collective breath this Monday morning. Let's stay calm. And walk into this coming week with joy!

What are you looking to God to fight for you in this week? 

Melissa Tagg
www.melissatagg.com

Friday, September 7, 2012

What Is Scrivener and How Do You Use It? Part One


By Pat Trainum writing as P. T. Bradley

About a year ago I tried a beta program by the name of Scrivener. It’s been around a while for Mac users, but only recently became available for PC users, first as a beta program (meaning I used it for free while the Scrivener people removed the bugs), and now as a Stable Release. This means all the known bugs have been removed, but like any product, Scrivener is constantly making their software better and it’s important to check for updates. You can use Scrivener free for 30 days of actual use.

First of all a disclaimer. I.Am.Not. an expert on Scrivener. If you want that, find Angie Hunt who uses Scrivener for all her novels, or better still, use Scrivener’s excellent tutorials. And I don’t get a commission if you buy the program. :-)

To start: Open Scrivener and under file, open a New document. The first thing you'll see under Getting Started is an Interactive Tutorial and the Scrivener User Manual. Watch the tutorial and download the manual. I didn't. I wish I had. I did go on line and view Getting Started with Scrivener. Bookmark that page. It is very helpful. And the British accent is nice.


I chose the blank document because that’s all that was available in the beta program. There is now a Fiction template, but I still use the blank one because I understand it. The Fiction template looks fantastic, by the way and I’ll probably try it someday.

This is what the Blank Template looks like:


The draft folder is your entire manuscript (when finished). The untitled folder under it will be Chapter One. To create another chapter, click on the green button with the +. 

You are now ready to begin writing.



Or not.





What I really like about Scrivener is the information on the left side of the screen. I create new folders by clicking on Project, New Folder. One of the first folders I create is one for my characters.  
In each folder are photos, a bio, description, anything I want to know about my character. It can be as big or small as you like. If you'll notice, under the Research folder, I have a folder for cut material. Have you ever cut something and not been able to remember where you put it? Problem solved!



Another neat thing I like about Scrivener is the Cork Board. TheSE note cards can be moved around (this moves the writing as well), and  it is a great visual for seeing your manuscript as a whole.



THE CORK BOARD

The only thing left for today is how to get your manuscript into Word. That's where the Compile button comes in handy. Every night I click on the compile button. It's the fourth button to the right of the green one with the +. It will compile your complete document into one and can be saved as a Word file. Then I email the Word document to myself. I also drop it into Evernote...I'm one of those people who would wear a belt with suspenders.

So, do you think you'd like Scrivener? Leave a comment and tell me what you think.

Tuesday on my blog-www.ptbradley.com/blog, I'll be talking about some of the handy-dandy tools Scrivener has, like how to save those websites where you do research, then can't find later. 

Pat Trainum writing as P. T. Bradley
www.ptbradley.com
http://mbtponderers.blogspot.com/
@PTBradley1
2012 Romantic Suspense Genesis Finalist
I asked God to teach me patience and He gave me a book to write



Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Four Tips for Packing for a Writers Conference -- and a Whole Lot of Truth!



by Beth K. Vogt 

I love going to a writers conference.
Packing for one?
Not so much.
But through the years, I've learned a few packing tricks that ease my dread of making my wardrobe expectations match my luggage realities. So, for your reading pleasure -- and your traveling reality -- here are my Top 4 Packing Tips:

  1. CHOOSE - Check bags or carry on? This boils down to "pay the fee" or "don't pay the fee."In the past, I've returned from a conference having saved money and  yet I've wrecked my back after lugging my suitcase all over multiple airports and tossing it up into the airplane's overhead compartment. Traveling for more than one or two nights? Check your bags. Who wants to visit the doctor when you get back from a conference?
  2. COORDINATE - What to wear, what to wear? First, decide if your base color will be brown or black. I used to mix and match, selecting all my favorite outfits. This meant I (over)packed all the coordinating shoes. And jewelry. Now I decide on basic outfits built on black pants and shoes or brown pants and shoes -- and coordinate from there. 
  3. MEDICATE -  Last year at ACFW, I managed to forget an  important prescription medication. I spent valuable time in a drugstore trying to get my medicine -- without coming to verbal blows with my insurance company. Now I pre-pack all my meds in small individual plastic containers purchased at REI. I then store them all in one Ziploc bag and carry them in my purse -- not my suitcase. 
  4. EXERCISE - If anything gets left behind when I go to a writers conference, it's my exercise routine. My excuse? My suitcase is filled to overflowing and there's no room for my workout clothes and tennis shoes. Here's my husband's brilliant idea: Wear your workout clothes on the plane. No -- not your ratty T-shirt and worn out sweat pants. Indulge in a new workout outfit and wear that while you're traveling. Now you have no excuse to avoid the exercise room!
Those are my tips -- and I promised you some truth too. It's the new e-book, The Truth About Conferences, written by best-selling authors Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck, along with the My Book Therapy staff. Here are some of the topics covered in the book:

  • How to choose a conference
  • Budgeting for a conference
  • How to prepare professionally with business cards and pitch sheets
  • Choosing the right workshops
  • How to handle appointments
  • Organizing your time and information
  • Standing out in a positive way
  • Conference etiquette
  • How to pack for success
  • And even how to network to after the conference is over!

The Truth About Conferences is available as an e-book (mobi, epub, PDF) for $3.99. (Print version: $8.99)


Do you have any tips for packing for a writers conference?