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, September 26, 2013

A Time to Laugh

Wait a minute.  A time to laugh? That’s not in the Bible is it? Doesn't the Bible have only serious topics like heaven and hell?  

True enough, there’s plenty about those topics in the Bible, but it does say there’s a time to laugh. (See Ecclesiastes 3:4.)

It makes sense that the God who created us with the ability to laugh would let us know there’s a time for it. And whoever said that God doesn’t have a sense of humor never considered the platypus. Seriously. What an animal!

Not everyone laughs at the same type of joke. One of my sons likes what I consider to be corny jokes. Something like this:

What do you get if you divide the circumference of a pumpkin by its diameter? (Pumpkin Pi)

Why is there no gambling in Africa? (Too many cheetahs)

What do you call a pig who does karate? (A pork chop)

I always liked the old joke about the enlightened man who told the boy that there were no real miracles. The boy said, “What about the time God opened up the waves of the Red Sea and let the whole nation of Israel right through the middle?” The man said that could be easily explained because many scholars said the Red Sea was only 10 inches deep.”  The boy exclaimed, “Wow! That is an even bigger miracle! God drowned the whole Egyptian army in 10 inches of water!”

Here’s some more web sites that have Christian based humor.

This one’s not Christian-based humor, but rather some conservative chicks using humor to make political points. http://www.chicksontheright.com

What about you? What kind of humor tickles your funny bone? Have you ever used humor to make a serious point? What place does it have in your life? Or please, please tell me your favorite joke!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Secret to Writing...Period

Writing is hard and anyone who tells you differently… well, you get the rest.

I worked on the same novel for ten years. That’s right, ten. And do you want to know why?

Because I believed that if I gave myself to prayer, worship, Bible study etc. God would somehow endue me with magical writing power.

It never happened and after ten years, I knew it wasn't going to.

Don’t get me wrong, I still do all those things. In fact, I don’t tend to start a writing session without prayer, worship, Bible study and even quiet time before the Lord. The truth is those
things not only make me a better writer, but keep me connected with Christ so that I can understand His will for the story as well as my own life... 

Okay, enough with the preaching.

Here’s the point: No matter how deep your walk is with the Lord, no matter how wise you are or how beautifully you can write, you will never get published or finish anything until you sit your buns in that chair and do the grunt work of putting words to page.

Someone once said, “Writing is REWRITING.” Get that? Rewriting and rewriting and rewriting and so on.

Your novel is never going to get done if you wait for the right words to come. Or, it may take you years like it did me.

Here is something to keep in mind:

If you write the words, the right words will follow.

So what's the big secret to writing?

Sit down and write.

So here's your assignment: Turn off all the distractions and just sit down and put words--any words onto paper or the computer screen. I bet if you do, you'll have 500 words by dinner tonight.

At 500 words a day, you'll have a novel written in 200 days. That's not even a year.

Come on. You can do this.

 Please share with us your writing ups and downs by leaving a comment in the box below. It will encourage so many. 

Thank you.

 Ginger R. Takamiya

Thursday, September 19, 2013

My Time in Indy at ACFW

by Patricia Bradley

I've had several people ask me what I liked best about the ACFW Conference in Indianapolis this past weekend, and I've discovered it's hard to pinpoint one thing. I mean, how often do you get the chance to tell the author of the very first Christian book you ever read (besides the Bible) thank you?

That's what I did Sunday night after Frank Peretti accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award at the banquet. I didn't get a photo of him because people had taken about nine gazillion by the time I reached him. But he was ever so kind and humble and wonderful as I gushed about reading This Present Darkness.

And then there was the all day session with James Scott Bell. The man is a genius.

And I went to my very first book signing...even though I didn't have a book to sell. But I got to hang out with some very cool writers like Vannetta Chapman, Ruth Reid, Amy Clipston, Shelley Shepard Gray, Amanda Flower, Lorie Langdon, and I probably left someone out. I also got to hang out with the great Mary Sue Seymour.

It was my very first conference where I didn't pitch. Talk about taking the pressure off! I did get to talk with my editor, Lonnie Hull DuPont, a great lady with a terrific sense of humor. 

I did not hear you say she's gonna need it with me. 

And I certainly don't want to forget my friends who rode with me to Indy: Sandy Stevener and Jessica Patch (who I kept calling Robin). Sandy kept us entertained with stories, and one in particular was about a man who'd had a horrible day. He came in from work and told his wife he couldn't take one more piece of bad news. She looked at him and said, "Okay, your son didn't break his leg." 

But if I someone was holding a gun on me and said, "Quick, what was the best thing about the conference?" I'd have to say it was the writers. Everywhere I looked, writers were encouraging and praying for their friends and even strangers. The sense of camaraderie and love was everywhere. Months later when I look back at the conference, that's what I will remember. 

So, if you went to the conference, what did you like best? And if you didn't go this time, when you do go, what do you expect to find?

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

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Where and When in Life and Fiction

Delores E. Topliff

Where and when events are sometimes so major they transfix time. For the rest of our lives we recall where and when we were, which street we crossed, what recipe bubbled on the stove, which room we folded laundry in. When news came President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, I had just moved to Toronto as a young American university student. Many Canadians shared anti-American sentiment, what they called “Little Brother Syndrome” at being overshadowed by their Big Brother to the south. But that day classmates I barely knew, who’d heard I was a Yank or caught my accent, gave sympathy and comfort. Many Canadian homes displayed American flags in windows or flew them out front, though I don’t know where they got them on short notice. So many kindnesses spoke a message. “We’re in this together. We’re family. We’ll get through this.” I made lifelong friends.

Who doesn’t know where they were and what they were doing when 9/11 happened? One of 5500 employees in a Minneapolis hospital, I’d entered the staff elevator to hear others say an airplane had struck a New York Trade Center tower in a terrible accident. Back on the 4th floor, I told my news-savvy Christian boss who fixed sad wise eyes on me and said, “Two planes intentionally struck two towers. We’re under attack.” Numb, we migrated to a crowded staff room where T.V. blared the full story. Prayers were said. Churches filled. Our nation moved closer in unity. We’ll never forget, even if intensity wanes.

Next time I need a major event in a novel, I’ll remember real-life dates and draw from them for descriptions, sounds, gut reactions. I’ll apply them to my story while letting characters act and react to create solutions, taking missteps in the process, while generating strong emotions. That’s probably what Reba meant by journaling emotions.

Songs marry major events to become national favorites. George M. Cohan’s Over There for World War I, or Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition for World War II. Penned in 1984, Proud to be an American gained support during the Gulf War, but became our post 9/11 theme song. More songs need to be written.

Acts of kindness, snatches of conversations or poignant songs make handsome frames to highlight memorable portraits.

Do you have strong associations to a major event? How do you utilize them in writing? I finally get it, and can’t wait to do a better job myself.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

All Creatures Great and Small-and what it has to do with writing

By Jennie Atkins

I recently had the opportunity to check off one of the items on my bucket list—not that I’m planning on kicking it any time soon. But ever since I can remember my husband and I have wanted to travel to Alaska.    

This month we were finally able to achieve our dream.

Although it rained every day we were there and Denali lay hidden in a shroud of clouds, we still saw a great deal of what makes Alaska great.  Mostly the animals that live in our most remote state.  We got to watch a Bull Moose dash across a four-lane highway in front of us in no more than three strides. We saw a mountain goat perched on a rocky ledge high above our heads and Sea Otters float by our boat (shown above).

We watched birds of all kinds grace the skies from the great Bald Eagle to the Tufted Puffin. And we stood in awe as pod of Orca whales (killer whales) breached into the air.

There in the place individuals once referred to as Seward’s folly or Seward’s Icebox, it was evident that God had not taken his creation lightly. I was amazed at the beauty around me.  It left me humbled at God’s infinite love and wisdom.

It also left me with the question: If God spent so much time and creativity on each of the animals I saw in that distant land, how much more had he spent on we, his children? He knew all of us, before we were born.  He created each of us with talents, with a special personality, and all in his image.

And now as a struggle to plot out my next book, wishing I could write like other authors I admire (the list is too long to mention for fear I would miss someone), I realize God made me different.  As unique as the Harbor Seal is to the throng of Sea Lions my husband and I watched lazily sleeping away the day on a rock jutting out from the water, so am I.

God made me different.  God made me unique.  He made my story unique as well.  I will never write like other well-known authors, but it doesn’t mean my story is less important or written with lesser quality.  It’s just mine.  I tell it in my way, in a manner that God has planted deep in my soul.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Packing My Bags!

Every September since The Ponderers began blogging together, I’ve had mixed feelings about the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference. The last time I had the privilege of attending an ACFW conference was in Denver in 2009…before I met any of The Ponderers and before any of us were published. I say “mixed feelings” because while I was so excited for my friends who got to go—especially those whose conference experiences led them to agents and publication—but I can admit I was jealous. For the past three years, as many of my writing friends gathered in Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Dallas, I was stuck at home, writing blog posts on how to cope with being stuck at home while alternately crying, sulking, and baking.

This year I again have mixed feelings about the conference, but this time it’s because I get to join many of my Ponderers (most of whom I’ve not seen face-to-face since May of 2010!!) in Indianapolis, one week from today! I’m so incredibly excited, but I’m also a little anxious. Yesterday I took a break from working (on the novel I will be *gulp* pitching next week!) to shop for a couple new conference outfits. That got me thinking about packing. So, last night, I hit Pinterest to see how Pinners everywhere go about packing.

I decided to celebrate my first “I-get-to-go-to-the-conference!” blog post by sharing a few of the tips and ideas I found.

1.)  There are no less than 30 printable packing lists on Pinterest! My favorite is this free printable list (broken down by daily outfits) but I also like the interactive, customizable list that allows you add and subtract items on the webpage before printing your list.

2.)  Most packers subscribe to the “rolling” method (rolling each article of clothing or groups of like clothing into a burrito) although there is a faction who believes whole-heartedly in “sandwiching” clothing in flat, ziplocked packages.

3.)  Many pinners agree you can save a lot of space if you choose one color scheme (e.g. black or brown) and then use accessories to add pops of color.  Many claim that you can pack everything you need for a three-week trip in a single carry-on bag!! (For the record, I’m packing a suitcase and checking it. I do NOT want to fight for overhead bin space!!)

4.)  When it comes to accessories, one pinner suggested using Press ‘n Seal to keep everything from becoming a jumbled mess. A few others demonstrated how to use drinking straws to protect delicate chain necklaces. All agreed that shoes should be bagged and placed along the sides of the bag with socks and undies stuffed inside.

5.)  Most agreed that it is best to mix and layer pieces in thin, light fabrics to avoid packing an overweight suitcase, but also for comfort. And comfortable shoes are a must!

There were a lot of great ideas for packing your personal carry-on bag and getting through airport security as well.

1.)  Tweezers and small scissors are allowed, but guns, knives, and hockey sticks (?!) are still a no-no.

2.)  If you are checking the majority of your luggage, it’s wise to pack a toothbrush, some deodorant, and a change of clothes (as well as  most of your undergarments) in your carry-on, just in case the airline loses your bags. 

3.)  Dress comfortably for the trip and layer to account for temperature variations within the airplane. Wear flip-flops or flats to save time in the “please-remove-your-shoes” portion of the security check.

4.)  Bring an empty water bottle (and packets of Crystal Light or Koolaid if you like) to fill once you’ve passed through the security checkpoint to avoid paying $10 for water or soda.

5.)  Most airlines offer hot water for tea on their flights, but generally only provide regular black tea. So pack a couple of your favorite tea bags in your carryon and enjoy.

6.)  Don’t forget chargers for your phone and/or tablet!!

I know that not all of our readers are attending the ACFW Conference, but I think these are great packing tips no matter who you are or where you’re going. Over the past month, I’ve packed my family of four for three camps (family camp, high school camp, and kids’ camp) and a week-long family vacation; looking back, I’m wishing I’d consulted Pinterest on this matter back at the beginning of July!

~Heidi Larson Geis

Your turn: Do you prefer the “rolling” method or the “sandwich” method of packing? What is your “must-have” item in your carry-on bag? Do you have a no-fail tip for packing?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Writers Need Hobbies!

by Lisa Jordan

If you walked in my attic, you'd probably freak out a little and want to submit it for an episode of Hoarders. 

I don't have a problem, unless you count lack of time to clean and organize the boxes and totes. It's a disaster up there with totes of crafting supplies. I've done almost all of it--sewing, counted cross-stitch, crocheting, scrapbooking & stamping, crocheting and knitting.

In my spare time, I love to stamp and make cards. Papers and stamps and inks...oh my!

Every writer needs a hobby other than writing. I no longer consider writing a hobby. Now it's a career. Since I am a stay-at-home-work-at-home mother already, I'm juggling two careers with family, friends, church, and life obligations.

So when in the world do we have time for a hobby?? 

Well, I schedule time to craft with friends on a regular basis. I need the downtime to recharge my batteries. 

Sometimes, I'll put in a movie, then make a stack of cards while being entertained at the same time. Stamping relaxes me. It allows me to focus on something other than my growing to-do list. I've even used that time to brainstorm plot points in my novels. 

Whether you work at home or outside the home, you need a hobby. Hobbies aren't limited to things like knitting or scrapbooking. Hobbies can be physical too--running, hiking, bird watching, miming in the park--whatever makes your heart happy...but keep it legal.

Hobbies allow you to express yourself in creative ways to be in touch with both sides of your brain. Hobbies allow you to de-stress in a positive, tangible way. Hobbies allow you to have time for yourself when others demand so much from you.

If you don't have a hobby, think about what you enjoy, and then consider trying that. You're never too old to learn!

Your turn: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?