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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Week Thirty-Seven: Rhonda Eudaly


Understanding



“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)




I’m a genre fiction writer, mostly galaxies far, far away or future times. It’s fun most of the time, getting to make up planets, people, and civilizations as I go along. There’s also a draw back, the wise old principle, “Write What You Know.” No one has been to those galaxies or really knows what the future holds. No one has yet to prove anyone can even get to those galaxies far, far away, and only God has created a planet, people, or civilization. However, everyone does seem to have an opinion on how best to go about it.


When I was faced with the dilemma of coming up with a method of both “Faster-Than-Light” and time travel. I didn’t lean on my own understanding of Physics. I couldn’t. I never took Physics in school. So I only had a very rudimentary understanding of the general principles physics when what I needed was something much more advanced.


Now, theoretically I could’ve made it all up as I went along, but there would always be someone out there to complain about it. Besides, I had friends who were engineers and access to used bookstores. So I made use of other people’s understanding, and guess what? My path of confusion straightened out. Well, after a while.


The process wasn’t immediate. The math portions still make my head hurt and eyes cross. But some of the theories are actually a lot of fun. Also, those engineering friends? They were tickled pink to be asked to help out. In fact one of them took my question back to his highly classified, Lockheed think tank and during lunches and breaks, and they came up with ideas for me. They were even quite plausible ideas, not possible yet, but plausible. My defense dollars at work.


Therein lies the loophole to the “Write What You Know” rule. Now I have a whole cadre of experts in my address book to lean on when I need understanding.






Rhonda Eudaly is the author of over a dozen short stories and articles. She lives in Arlington, TX with her husband. More details of her work can be found at  http://www.rhondaeudaly.com/.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Week Thirty-Six: Cathy Messecar

Don't Fret, Just Wait


"Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.” Psalm 37:7 (NIV)




"New York City!" a bunch of Texas cowboys retort in a TV ad when another cowpoke reveals he bought his salsa in the eastern state.


         New York editors might not make or even eat Texas salsa, but when one confirmed attendance at a Texas writer’s conference, a collective burst of excitement rippled through the eager writers. Crème de la crème. Top dog. Top banana. The butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker. Texas writers hoped to rope an interview slot when the honored guest would arrive at the conference. Even with a few editor/agent interviews under my belt buckle, never had I met one from New York, New York.


         Months later, I found that my fiction submission made the finals round in the general conference hosting the famed editor. On conference day, I would receive a coveted timeslot for an interview. While I fretted over the upcoming consultation, God reminded me that David penned, "Do not fret – it leads only to evil" (37:8).


         The king wrote this psalm later in life after he’d lived through kicks and kindnesses: bloody battles, traitors in his household, and tragedies, but also adoring subjects, feasting, and good promises from God. His faith and his experiences accredit his words and he had learned that fretting leads to evil.
      
        The wise writer David identified a common problem among writers today—fretfulness. Excellent communicator that he was, he didn't only lecture against fretting. Instead, he identified a problem and gave solutions, too. “Delight yourself in the LORD . . . commit your way to the LORD . .. . Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him” (4-7).


         David's "be still" meant to keep silent, cease striving, let your arms hang limp. However, he’s not describing a do-nothing life. Rather, he describes a mindset. Don’t wrestle, wrangle, or wring your hands or mind. Tell God about your desire to write for him, and then wait and trust him to lead to writing opportunities. 


         I'm an experienced "waiter." I’ve paid my dues—rejection slips, critique groups with red pens, and many rewrites. Trusting God's timing for works in progress remains challenging, but very doable if we remember that God looks over our shoulders, holds our hands, and walks ahead of us. He remains our constant companion.


         My interview with the New York editor went well. No, I didn't receive a contract, but to God's credit, calm filled my spirit. When the editor and I first shook hands, my focus shifted to her possible needs. Although young and fit, she seemed a bit travel weary after her flight to Texas. I asked the first few questions—about her trip, accommodations—and I offered to bring her a bottle of water. Jesus never doted on self, and on that day, he led me to imitate his approach to others. God allowed me to step away from self and into his plan for treating an esteemed New York editor to some Jesus-plus-Texas hospitality. 


         In Psalm 37, David affirmed that God gives words to those who esteem him, "The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just" (30).


         Through his words, the wizened David speaks to me about interviews with top-notch New York agents, writing a weekly newspaper column, or a note to a mourning friend. From David’s lead, I wrote a Cathy-version of Psalm 37:4-7. See if it fits you, too: "Don't drop your pen, just drop your arms. Stop flailing, twisting your hands. Don't fuss. Plant your writing desires in God’s heart and wait—silent and serene before him.” And when God responds and gives you wisdom—write words to prompt others to better believing and better living.


         I love that God said his disciples would testify before kings, and sometimes God arranges for our Christian fiction or non-fiction to land on the desk of a New York editor.    


 
She lives with her husband, David, in Montgomery, TX. Her family includes a son and daughter, their spouses and five grandchildren. She enjoys Saturday night dates with her husband, poking around at antique fairs, serving hot tea, and of course, writing and speaking.
Check out her author page at Amazon.
 
 



Sunday, June 15, 2014

Week thirty-Five: Marilyn Hilton

Pass It On


“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” 1 Corinthians 13:1, (NIV)


The new year was still new, and I was determined to keep my resolution to make time to write every day. But, as resolutions go, this was easier said than done. Busyness and doubt had already elbowed into my schedule and clouded my optimism.


While cruising the web, I found the perfect article to bolster my resolve. As if the author knew my need, she listed several ways for writers to keep their New Year’s resolutions. Her words encouraged and motivated me to keep going, so much that I wanted to tell her she’d made a difference in my life. I’d never done anything like that before, however, and I wrestled with the idea until I decided to toss aside my normal reserve and send her an email.

She replied within hours, saying my email had encouraged her because she’d been wondering if her monthly columns were making any difference to readers. She then suggested I join an online writers’ group and attend writers’ conferences, among other ideas. This busy stranger, who had reached a level in her career that I strived for, had taken the time to turn around and offer me a hand up. It made me pause.


I took a long look at what I was trying to achieve. Fame? Fortune? Admiration? Acceptance? I admitted that—mingled with noble reasons such as shining God’s light in darkness—I harbored
desire for these less attractive aspects of writing and publishing. In contrast to an encouraging word, they appeared empty and ugly. This author demonstrated what a Christian writer should be: Christlike first. I resolved then to generously lift up other writers, and in doing so, my heart and actions would be more in line with Christ’s example.


That was several years ago. A few years later, I wrote an article about ways in which writers can keep creativity alive when life’s circumstances get in the way. Soon after it was published, I received an email from someone I didn't know.


She’d read the article, and it had encouraged and motivated her. Feeling blessed by this unexpected email from someone who’d gathered the courage to write to me, I wrote back to thank her. And I suggested other ways to keep her writing on track and keep her connected with fellow Christian writers, including joining an online writers’ group and attending a writers’ conference. They were by now familiar words, given with love and prayer.


A footnote: a year after I’d read that New Year article, I met the author at a conference. She was then preparing to launch her online magazine for Christian writers, the very one in which my
article had appeared.


Marilyn Hilton is the author of the middle-grade novel Found Things, two nonfiction books for girls, and numerous short stories, poems, columns, and articles for women and writers. She loves speaking at retreats, conferences, and schools. Please visit her at marilynhilton.com.




Happy Father's Day!

I hope everyone has a safe and pleasant day.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Week Thirty-four: Loree Lough

News Flash




God is faithful, and He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand.”  1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT)


Winston Churchill once said, “Writing a book is an adventure. It begins as an amusement, then becomes a mistress, then a master, and finally, a tyrant.” When students and readers ask what advice I’d offer unpublished and/or established authors, I think of that phrase, and remember this quote from G.K. Chesterton: “A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.”


Newsflash: There’s a bit of truth in both writers’ opinions. Trouble is, neither provide any real advice. Maybe that’s because the answer is so multi-faceted:


Do I recommend how-to books? Sure. But don’t invest a fortune purchasing them at the bookstore. Borrow a few first, from the library or friends. Then, if one offers solid tips, make an investment.


What about writing classes? Take some, definitely. But don’t just sign up for any old class. Do your homework before the first class. Call the organization and/or school and ask about the instructor’s credentials...and check them out. The old adage “Those who can, do...those who can’t, teach” might be true of other industries, but in the wacky world of writing, the opposite is true: You can’t teach what you can’t do. I know too many could- be authors whose careers foundered because of the misleading lessons of wannabe teachers.


How do I feel about writers’ conferences? They’re terrific. Not only do most provide numerous helpful how-to workshops, but conferences are a great place to meet editors, agents, and people just like you who want their work published.


And what about contests? Personally, I prefer to judge contests rather than enter them. I know many authors whose contest wins provided a springboard to publication. Again, my advice is do your homework. Make sure your story is right for the contest. Get your money’s worth by entering only contests whose judges are published authors and/or working agents and editors. Otherwise, you’re in the same boat as the people who “learn” erroneous stuff from “teachers.” Judges with no publishing credits can do far more harm than good when critiquing a submission.


Should you become a member of local and/or national writing organizations? Yes. But, again, join a group that can forward your career. The Internet can lead you to associations that specialize in your favorite genre, or to generic groups that cater to fiction and non-fiction writers.


Critique groups? Another resounding yes! But put your energies into a group that has every member’s best interests at heart. Opinions can’t help you create works that are salable, but constructive criticism can...accent on constructive.


Will people steal your ideas? Not likely. Writers are, for the most part, generous and honest. Talented, creative types don’t need to borrow the work of others, for their imaginations grow stories the way Old MacDonald grew animals on his farm. Excellence is never an accident, so if you run into one of these unsavory, spineless, talentless thieves, consider it an honor: They thought highly enough of your work to steal it and try to pass it off as their own. Don’t waste time and energy worrying about the iota they took. Move forward, immediately, with work on your next exciting story. To put a spin on another old adage? “The best revenge is writing, and publishing, well.”


Dream big. Shoot for the stars. Plant your keester in a chair and type. Think you don’t have time? Bah! At the end of a year, one page a day will produce a 365 page novel. Don’t have time
for a page a day? MAKE time.


I’ll pray He makes YOUR way easy to see.




         Bestselling author Loree Lough once sang for her supper, performing across the U.S. and Canada. Now and then, she blows the dust from her 6-string to croon a tune or two, but mostly, she writes novels that have earned hundreds of industry and "Readers' Choice" awards, 4- and 5-star reviews, and 5 book-to-movie options. Her 100th book, Saving Alyssa, #3 in “A Child to Love” series for Harlequin Heartwarming, released in March of 2014. Next up, the “Secrets on Sterling Street historical series from Whitaker House, and “Those Marshall Boys” contemporary series from Harlequin Heartwarming. Both series will release during 2014 and 2015.

         Loree enjoys sharing learned-the-hard-way lessons about the craft and the industry. Her comedic approach makes her a favorite at writers' organizations, book clubs, private and government institutions, and college and high school writing programs in the U.S. and abroad.

         A writer who believes in giving back, Loree dedicates a generous portion of her income to favorite charities. (See "Giving Back" @ http://www.loree lough.com to see the list.) She loves hearing from her readers, and answers every letter, personally.



Sunday, June 01, 2014

Week Thirty-Three: Rose McCauley

Polishing Words
“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11(NIV)


I’ve always loved this verse for the advice it gives and for the beautiful word picture the simile evokes, but I had never thought of it in terms of my writing until I read it in The Message version:
“The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry.”


As a writer, I’ve spent much time studying plot, characterization, goal, motivation, conflict, etc. But no matter how exciting my plot is in my mind or how real my characters are to me, they are useless unless I choose the right words to convey them to the reader.


How can we find not just a good word, but the best word to use? Some helps are a thesaurus and books or classes on writing similes, metaphors and word pictures. And, of course, lots of practice.


I think of this practice as polishing my golden apples (words) in my silver bowls (stories). Silver turns dark if it is not kept clean and polished. To keep our stories from being tarnished we need to work on cleaning up our words (yes, even delete some of them) and polish those words that remain until they shine like golden apples.


Let’s go back to the simile The Message used: “like a custom made piece of jewelry.” I’m one of the rare women who does not particularly like or wear much jewelry. But, those pieces closest to my heart (and skin) are those “custom-made” pieces, my plain gold wedding band with the words ‘I Love You’ that my husband had engraved inside forty six years ago and the grandmother's necklace with the grandkids' name engraved on it. These pieces have much more meaning than is noted by the single words "necklace" or “ring.” So, let’s keep polishing our writing, looking for that custom-made word that conveys the exact meaning we desire and which shines like “apples of gold in settings of silver.”


Rose McCauley has been happily married to her farmer husband for over forty-six years, and they have three children and five grandchildren. After teaching school for over twenty-five years, Rose retired to pursue her dream of writing. She is published in several nonfiction anthologies and has finished several novels and novellas. Her first published fiction novella was Christmas Belles of Georgia in 2011.