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

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Creating Your Own One-Sheets

Are you ready for the ACFW Conference? Can you ever be ready enough? Do you have your clothes ready? Your business cards? Your One-Sheets?


By now most conferees know if they are pitching to an editor or an agent, they need a One-Sheet that describes their project. Some writers pay to have them created, and the ones I’ve seen are gorgeous.  But if you’re like me and money is tight, what do you do?

You go to Publisher or Word and create your own. It’s not that hard. I chose to use Publisher because I’m familiar with it. For my One-Sheets I chose the Floating Oval template and tweaked it. 

I changed the Oval Heading to a rectangle and put my title in. Below that, in one column, is my photo and professional information. On the right is a log line for the book, a picture that indicates what the book is about, then a brief synopsis. 

Usually when I went in for my appointment with an editor or agent, after I introduced myself I handed them my One-Sheet. It always piqued their interest, then we chatted about the story. 

Any questions about creating a One-Sheet? Leave them in the comment section and I'll try to answer them.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ten Miles of Gravel

by Reba J. Hoffman

I am currently in the middle of a solo cross country bicycle tour to help women who have been the victims of violent assault. Day by day, God has divinely led me to minister to hurting women.

Last week, I was riding from Henderson, Kentucky to McKleansboro, Illinois. I was so excited to be riding through three different states in the same day.

It was 92 degrees outside in the middle of the day, but I barely felt it. I was in my element. I passed mile after mile of corn and soybean fields and went for hours without passing a house.

Suddenly, the road turned to gravel. Not just gravel, but mounds of soft gravel road. That is about the worst challenge a cyclist can face fully loaded with fifty pounds of gear.

I tried to ride it but knew I’d risk a bad fall. So, for the most part, I pushed my bike up hills, down hills. It demanded all my strength and concentration. I’d already begun rationing my water.

As I pushed up one hill, a mailbox appeared at the side of the road.

A house!

I pushed my bike up the gravel hill in their driveway, leaned my bike against a tree and knocked on the front door. Turns out, the lady of the house was the victim of domestic violence and had just gotten a restraining order against her husband.

She’d heard of me from a friend and had been following my blog. She began to cry and said, “I can’t believe God sent the bicycle lady to minister to me today.”

We held hands and prayed right there on her front porch. She gave me directions to the town I was headed to and within a quarter mile, the pavement was back.

Some people feel Google maps made a mistake and sent me down ten miles of gravel but Kayleedean and I know better. There was a purpose in my pushing my bike down that road.

You may feel like you’re pushing a heavy burden through ten miles of soft gravel. You may think there was a mistake somewhere along the way and that landed you in the middle of the wilderness.

If you’re feeling that way, you have to know that there is a purpose behind the problem. There is a reason you can’t figure out that plot. God has a purpose for you.

You don’t have to see the entire staircase in order to take the next step. Relax. Let God move and you will be astounded by His work in your life. He will guide you and order your steps.

With God, there are no wrong steps… no matter what it seems like sometimes. Even when you feel you’re walking a heavy load through ten miles of gravel. Trust me on this. It’s all good!

Do you feel like you’re walking ten miles through gravel? Share it here!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Greatest of These ...

By Teri Dawn Smith

Wow, exciting things have been happening with the Ponderers. Books published, manuscripts requested, cycling trips around the country, and another ACFW conference on the horizon.

My life caring for my elderly parents seems a bit dull by comparison…until I remembered that wonderful verse in I Corinthians 13. Listed right there beside removing mountains and knowing all mysteries, are the precious words, “but the greatest of these is love.”

  • The love my parents show me daily with their sweet spirits and kind words
  • The love my brothers display in their concern about my welfare and making sure I get some time off
  • The daily texts from my children, making sure their mom is okay
  • The special times my daughter often plans for me
  • The love of a life-long friend where we do not have to pretend that our lives or families are perfect, but rather how we love with all the imperfections.

I’ll still marvel at biking trips, book contracts, and all the great things God is doing with my Ponderer friends. But I’ll also bask in the sunshine of the love that God has placed in my life.

How has God blessed you recently?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What Qualities Should a Hero Possess?

By Jennie Atkins

For Father’s Day I purchased a complete set of the TV series M.A.S.H. for my husband. Every night we watch one or two episodes. As a result, I’ve gotten to know all the characters fairly well—and we are only on season six of eleven.

Enter Benjamin Franklin Pierce aka “Hawkeye”. Although his secular character drinks heavily, parties frequently, and has women in and out of his tent on a regular basis, (none of these characteristics I recommend), I have been fascinated by the hero buried underneath his playful personality.

So what makes a good hero? A man can be obnoxious, unpleasant, a practical jokester, and even a person that makes the heroine extremely angry. But his redeeming qualities are what differentiate him from a man who is non-hero material.

Here is where Hawkeye comes in. Despite his bad tendencies, he has a set of values that balance him.

A sense of humor – Hawkeye can be a prankster, but he can also laugh at his own mistakes, make other people laugh, and doesn’t let the appalling conditions he is working in affect him. This is not to be confused with someone who doesn’t care, but someone who doesn’t let the circumstances drag him into the pit of despair.

Dedication – Hawkeye can jump into a jeep and put himself into harm’s way all to save a patient. He is openly concerned about each soldier he has operated on. His dedication to his job isn’t just about his position. It’s one of his core values.

A good friend – Just under his dedication to his profession is his willingness to help his friends. He is a confidant, provides solid advice, and is always willing to help his fellow comrades.
Cares for others – Hawkeye deeply cares for others. He can transform from a jokester to a concerned individual in a heartbeat. He’s not so self-centered that he doesn’t see when others are having a bad day. He’ll stop everything to be at their side, listen to their problems, or see them through their darkest hour.

Fights for the underdog – Hawkeye has his boxing gloves ready to go. He’ll stand by almost anyone if they need defending. Except of course Major Burns!

These are only a few of the qualities that I believe sets a hero apart. Others would be God fearing, loyal to his family, and a good listener.

Now it’s your turn—what qualities do you want to see in a hero?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Calming the Storm...or Calming the Child*

He who forms the mountains, 
who creates the wind, 
and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth—the Lord God Almighty is his name. 
Amos 4:13 NIV

Lisa Jordan: Early this morning, I awoke to flashes of lightning, rolling thunder and driving rain. 

I hate storms, particularly anything involving wind or lightning. When I was a child, a tree had fallen on our house. Even though I had spent the night with my grandparents, who lived down the road, that accident created a domino effect of events that changed my life forever. 

As the rains pelted my windows and kept me from drifting back to sleep, I prayed and asked God to calm the storm. And if He wouldn't do that, then would He please calm this child. 

For the next two hours, my mind drifted to my current WIP, which is due to my editor tomorrow, the previous day's activities and the week ahead. For the most part, I didn't focus on the rain again until lightning slashed the sky and lit up my bedroom, then I repeated my prayer. 

Last night's storm was gentle compared to storms others have endured such as hurricanes, tornados and typhoons, but they caused anxiety and sleeplessness in me. For me, for that moment, the rain was troubling. God heard the whispers because the storm died down at times, and I managed not to dwell on it. 

Rain is vital to our everyday living. It can be cooling, refreshing on a hot summer's day. Or it can be devastating and wreck havoc. Even the strongest tree can crack if the winds and rains are strong enough. 

The same goes with life--we may endure a gentle summer-like rain of challenges, or at times, it feels like a hurricane has blown through and ripped our hearts apart. No matter how severe the storm, though, God is in the midst.

God stays constant, never bending or breaking. And no matter how small or heavy are the wind gusts in our lives, He hears every prayer, every cry of our heart. Sometimes we may think He can't hear us, but not only has He heard, but He's at work calming the storm...or the child. 

Your Turn: Do you find comfort in rain storms? How to you handle adversity in the storms of life?

*Originally published at www.lisajordanbooks.com, but modified for this post.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Arresting Time Thieves

Heidi, here. When I got up today, I knew I needed to write my blog and work on my manuscript for the impending ACFW Conference. I made myself some toast, poured myself some chocolate milk, and sat down at my desk to get to work.
Twelve hours later, I’m finally writing.

What happened? Well, first of all I checked my email. I perused the Living Social and Groupon deals, checked on my ACFW Conference registration and hotel reservations, and spent a few minutes drooling over some delicious looking recipes. Then, one email announced that someone had tagged me on Facebook, so of course I had to check in to see who tagged me, and why.

The next thing I knew, it was lunchtime.

After lunch, I had the beginnings of a migraine headache, so I stretched out on my and took a quick nap. When I returned to my desk an hour later, I opened up my home page (Yahoo) and immediately saw a news story I could not resist. That led to several more links to intriguing articles I was compelled to read. Then I rechecked my email, and this time I found an announcement that someone had “repinned” one of my “pins” and my curiosity got the best of me.

Big Mistake.

Don’t get me wrong—I love Pinterest. Probably a little too much. But it is a black hole that tends to suck me into its light-less vacuum where time ceases to exist. Although I only meant to check out a couple of “quick pins,” suddenly it was time to pull myself together and get to our midweek evening church service. 

And that is how I ended up here, writing my blog at almost midnight.

Let's face it: Email, Facebook, and Pinterest are thieves. They steal an amazing amount of time, and we don’t even realize it. If I added up the time I spent at my computer today, then multiplied it by seven days a week, I think I might cry at the number of minutes I will never get back. 

But how do I fix it? Well, I f I had a shred of self-control, I would simply limit my time online; however, I am quite obviously lacking that shred. Unfortunately, I often feel like Dug, the dog on Up who is easily—“squirrel!!”—

Distracted. I cannot resist the gorgeous vacation destinations, juicy gossip, delicious looking desserts, and clever ideas that fill the Internet and steal my time. It is possible I may need to take more drastic measures.
A quick (yes, I promise it was quick) Google search turned up some great options for avoiding the distractions of the Internet. I think they all sound pretty cool, but in an effort to finish this blog post before sunrise, I skimmed the info BRIEFLY. 

The first is an article from Publisher’s Weekly subtitled, “How Authors Stay Offline” and includes the musings of 27 authors on avoiding the siren call of the Internet. 

A blogpost at Fiction Matters lists several options for removing all distractions that would leave me with a simple black screen on which to type. It actually kind of reminds me of my first computer, a 1984 Apple IIc. I wrote my very first "novel"—a mystery—on that beast!

Finally, if those don’t work and it turns out I need more serious consequences for straying from my writing goals, Write or Die offers maximum motivation. Their tagline is “Putting the PROD in productivity.” 

Or, I can just listen to my 17-year-old son, who just said, “Mom, it’s called ‘disabling your WiFi.’ I can totally do that for you.”

Your turn: Do you struggle to avoid the pitfalls of Internet distractions? Do you have an awesome way to keep on track? 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Writing, Life, and White-water kayaking

Delores E. Topliff

           Sometimes deadlines or life events overtake us with challenges like navigating dizzying Arctic whitewater in a kayak. Freezing water rushes by. We open our eyes fighting strong pressure but can’t make sense of what we see. Is it sky? Or racing current?  Are we right side up? Or wrong side down? Should we breathe? Or not breathe? Icy streams and abrasive bubbles race by, invading and scrubbing us mercilessly, like a spinster aunt using a stiff brush--until we’re finally released, skin tingling.
Although we barely held on, the kayak corrects itself. We’re right side up, further down the current, enjoying new scenery.
Eskimo hunters developed kayaks for their harsh lifestyle conditions. These narrow buoyant boats covered with walrus skins have a single cockpit holding one paddler. Even the cockpit’s covered to keep waves from entering if even skilled kayakers roll their boats. Yes, sometimes boats capsize, and to right again, can't fill with water. Or boat and paddler will be lost.
Kayak invention was brilliant resourceful problem-solving. But I shudder imagining various steps between concept and successful prototype. How many “almost” kayaks were developed, meaning brave inventors came close, but didn’t succeed? They succumbed to brain-chilling cold and sank beneath foaming ice-clogged waters.
Sometimes writing, and life are as harsh as Arctic conditions and we need instant white-water kayaking skills. Maybe you have your desired agent, but the publisher you wanted folded. Or you got the contract, celebrated, did the happy dance with both feet and pounding heart. But time-crunching edits scream for everything else in life to stop--except simultaneous life events don’t cooperate. (Waving at several friends here).
Maybe you had a life season planned to accomplish all you’ve dreamed of when nasty ice bergs arrived and punched holes in your kayak. The test was on--upside down? Right side up? Lunging, trying to paddle , but often grabbing air.
That’s how it’s felt for me recently needing to coordinate sale of my town home, clean and repair my son’s larger home to move into, maintain essentials on my small farm, and most importantly, locate and then make rushed errands of mercy to my former husband, my sons’ dad, who lacked care and is dying of cancer. Wringing emotions accompanied each step, especially when they stacked on top of each other. My faith got tested, greatly stretched, and drenched in whitewater. After praying hard and simply holding on, I found I’d left that particular stretch of racing current and found one quieter. The only thing I know after is, “But God…”
Conclusion? Let God be our Kayak. Between us and storm. Between us and choking blur. In every sense, He is Savior and Redeemer for all situations.



Thursday, August 1, 2013

Traveling with Reba Hoffman Across America

Me: You are doing WHAT?

Reba: I’m riding my bicycle across America.

Me: Are you crazy?

Okay, I didn’t exactly say those last words out loud. I did ask why, and here is Reba's answer in her own words:
There are untold numbers of women—victims of violent assault—who live in a prison. They lock themselves up in their homes in fear. Life has all but stopped for these women. They breathe, sometimes eat and rarely sleep. They suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
I’m riding for them. I want them to see there is life beyond the fear and there is hope for them. I know all too well about PTSD. I survived a violent assault myself. The broken bones healed well enough but the fear paralyzed me.

I still didn't quite understand, but I prayed for her as I followed her blog about her travels. If you haven’t been keeping up, here’s the link to the first one.  I kept reminding her where I live—Corinth, Mississippi. But she wasn’t coming this way…or so she thought.

After a series of events (that I prefer to think was God's way of bringing her to my house and you can read about them on her blogs), I received a text from Reba. 

Is there an alternate route to Corinth?

She was almost to the Mississippi State Line. At this point she'd traveled 528 miles and had run out of shoulder on the road. She recognized it was too dangerous to ride on the highway itself.

From where Reba started to Corinth, MS
I told her to stay put and I’d be there in 30 minutes to pick her up. And that began the Mississippi adventures that you can read about on her blog. 

What has touched me so deeply are not only the stories of women she’s met but the goodness of the people. And I began to understand...

You see, I had become quite cynical, but because of Reba stories of kindness from total strangers, I have started seeing the 99% of people who are good. 

And it’s not just one story, but many, like the Korean Vet who had nothing to offer; he didn’t have electricity or running water or money, yet he gave her the one thing she needed that night—a safe place to pitch her tent.  

Each Sunday, my teacher asks if we’ve seen God at work this week. Sunday, I can say yes. I’ve seen Him in Reba and in her faith that He is leading her way.

One last thing I’ve learned this week: when you are in the center of God’s will, you are in the safest place on earth.

Have you seen God at work this week? Leave a comment and tell us how you've seen Him.

Pat Trainum writing as Patricia Bradley
Shadows of the Past from Revell February 2014
I asked God to teach me patience and He gave me a book to write