Welcome to my little bit of cyber-space. It is my prayer that all who enter here may be richly blessed by the God of all grace. All praise to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Monday Musings on Winter, again

Since much of our country is still experiencing winter, and since last week's musing with an acrostic of January got several responses, I decided to continue this week's musing by writing an acrostic about winter. Please play along with me again and post your own!

When the weather outside is frightful
Instead of complaining about what you can
Not do, think of all the things you can enjoy in winter, and
Try some of them, like scrapbooking,
Entertaining with a pot of chili or soup, and, of course,
Reading a good book or two or three!

Happy winter, everyone!

Friday, January 28, 2011

"Fridays with Friends" guest blog by April Gardner

I'm sure you will enjoy this article by April, and if you are like me, it will make you want to go immediately to COTT to read more of this great writing!

Good versus Unforgettable!

What makes a good story? Well-developed characters, an unpredictable plot, and a unique setting.
What makes an unforgettable story? An unforgettable story reaches the gut—that place deep down where basic emotions such as fear, anger, and sadness live and breathe. It’s here they are at their most sensitive and vulnerable. If you want to create an unforgettable story, it's gut-level where, you as the author, need to reach.
But it’s more than just accessing this hard-to-reach spot. Once there, the writer must feed whatever emotion is being “played on” and feed it well. We’re not talking about tossing chum into the water, but about carefully dropping the choicest portions of meat in specified locations, baiting the reader to follow a pre-designated path.
The path can lead any number of places, depending on the plot of your story. Where it ends isn’t as important as what happens while on the path. The path is a long one—the exact length of your book, as a matter of fact. It travels over hills and across plains (not too vast, please). It climbs mountains and plunges into valleys. An unforgettable story has a good balance of all these landscapes but the ones a reader will come away remembering will invariably be the mountains and valleys.
As a historical romance writer, I think of the mountains as the romance and the valleys as the danger my characters are thrown into. In my mind, the more danger, the better. The stickier the situation, the more hopeless the circumstances, the closer I’ll come to reaching my readers’ seat of emotions—their gut.
Clash of the Titles www.clashofthetitles.com contestant Tina Pinson http://www.tinapinson.com/ uses this tried and true technique in her excerpt from COTT’s Gut-wrenching Clash. (taken from Pinson’s novel “In the Manor of the Ghost” http://www.amazon.com/Manor-Ghost-Tina-Pinson/dp/0595195911/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1296069835&sr=1-1 )

"Kaitlin slipped past the barricades and pushed through the crowds. Heavy smoke made it hard to catch her breath. Nothing could stop her scream when she saw her apartment building engulfed in flames.

She scanned the lines of blackened faces. Her family wasn't there. Her gaze was drawn to the building, to the raging mingling of fire and life. Kaitlin prayed her family would come out. No one exited -- the agony of her thoughts cut her like a well-sharpened saber. Looking up, her thoughts became flesh.

Jean Marc stood in the upstairs window holding a bundle. Kaitlin knew, with another slice to her soul, the bundle was Simone. Jean Marc, so quiet, protective, so uneasily riled, yelled. Tormented wails for help rose along with tears of anguish and fear as angry flames licked out behind him.

The knife in Kaitlin's gut pushed through and slit her spine, filleting with cold precision."

Shivers just ran down my own spine. I’d say she reached my gut and gave it a good yank. Tina puts her readers into the minds of her characters then places those characters into every person’s worst nightmare—watching your loved ones die a cruel death right before your eyes.
Another example from COTT’s Gut-wrenching Clash is author DeAnna Dodson http://www.deannajuliedodson.com/ and her book “In Honor Bound.” http://www.amazon.com/Honor-Bound-DeAnna-Julie-Dodson/dp/0891079092/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1296069706&sr=8-1-catcorr
"No!" He struggled with the bars on the window. "Do not do this! Kate! Kate!" He was drowned out by the jeering crowd.

"Burn, witch!" they taunted. "Die, and be under God's curse!"…
… He did not know if she actually heard him over the din, but she looked up just then and their eyes met.

"Kate!" he cried again, and he stretched his hand down towards her. Her mouth formed his name, but he could not hear her, then a stone caught her in the face and she flinched and turned away. A moment later the cart passed out of his sight and he saw her no more."
Notice how in just these few lines, we get an accurate feel for what’s going on. A man is in prison watching a woman he cares for being sent to execution by fire. Talk about horrifying!
Both excerpts examples are the perfect wrench to any reader’s gut.
Without a variety of treacherous valleys such as these, a story will only ever be just a good story. And what author wants a good story when she can have “unforgettable?”

April W Gardner www.aprilgardner.com is the founder and senior editor of Clash of the Titles and author of the best-selling novel, Wounded Spirits. http://www.amazon.com/Wounded-Spirits-April-W-Gardner/dp/0981989616/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1296069951&sr=1-1

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Book Review--Making Waves by Lorna Seilstad

I just finished this delightful book a few days ago. Although I do not know Ms. Seilstad personally, she is a member of ACFW, a writing organization I am a member of, and this book was sent to me from her and her publisher, Revell, for review purposes.

Her biography says she is a history buff and a former high school English teacher, and you can tell both of those soon after you start reading Making Waves. The engaging story is well-grounded in the setting and history of Lake Manawa, Iowa. Although I had never heard of the place before, I now feel like I have visited there long ago in the 1890s. And it certainly sounds like a fun place to visit!

Plus, the author is a great writer, taking things that already look bad, to worse, and then the worst! Here is a blurb from the back cover to whet your whistle!

"When spunky Marguerite Westing discovers that her family will spend the summer of 1895 at Lake Manawa, Iowa, she couldn't be more thrilled. It's the perfect way to escape her agonizingly boring suitor, Roger Gordon. It's also where she stumbles upon two new loves: sailing and sailing instructor Trip Andrews.

But this summer of fun turns to turmoil as her father's secrets threaten to ruin the family forever. Will free-spirited Marguerite marry Roger to save her father's name and fortune? Or will she follow her heart--even if it means hurting the family she loves?

Full of sharp wit and blossoming romance, Making Waves will whisk you away to a breezy lakeside summer holiday."

Ready to read this delightful story? You'll be glad you did.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A January Acrostic and another contest

In honor of all the snow and cold we have experienced in January, I decided to write a January acrostic. And all those who will share their own acrostic about January this month will be entered in a drawing on February 1st for some packages of hot chocolate and microwave popcorn to enjoy the next time it snows!

Jump on a sled
And down the hill you go then
Now the only thing to do is climb back
Up the hill again!
And away you go until your nose and cheeks are
Red, then go to your house and eat popcorn with hot chocolate and then
You snuggle in your warm bed!

I thought half of this up while taking a bath on Sunday evening, so please share what you can do! And don't forget to leave an email addy so I can send your January care package off to you soon!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Another Great "Friday with Friends" Post by Jennifer Slattery

Crafting Spiritually Rich Novels

Guest Post by Clash of the Titles' Marketing Representative, Jennifer Slattery

January is all about new beginnings which is why I love Clash of the Titles’ previous theme, Best Conversion Scenes. I’m touched by the heart-felt emotions Senior Editor, April Gardner, shared in her opening article on January fifth. While reading George Bryan Polivka’s The Legend of Firefish, she “became” hero Packer Throme. His struggles became her struggles; his fears, her fears and his comfort, her comfort, pointing her back to the all-powerful, all-loving Creator God.

“With my tears of repentance came the Spirit’s comfort. In that moment, God’s presence was as palpable to me as the book in my trembling hands. Like a heated blanket draped gently over my shoulders, God encompassed me and instilled in me a calm assurance of love and provision I cannot begin to describe. “

That is the experience we want to give our readers. Last week, Assistant Editor Michelle Massaro shared our passion for Christian fiction with you. Today I’ll talk about ways to create authentic, rich, soul-impacting novels.

Many Christian novels I’ve read are nothing more than “clean entertainment.” If Christianity is mentioned, it’s in passing. Perhaps the heroine will go to a church picnic, or will offer a quick prayer before dinner. Not that that’s bad. Clean, fun entertainment is always good, but why not take good to better by diving deeper into your characters’ lives.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are numerous novels where Christianity is forced by dropping a long sermon in the center of a rather plastic scene. Neither version has the capacity to touch the heart. To truly impact the reader, the character’s spiritual journey must be core to who they are. (Which is true to life, because whether we’ll admit it or not, every thought and action flows from our heart, and our heart is affected by our relationship, or lack thereof, with Christ.)

Clash competitor Tracy Kraus did a wonderful job of pulling the reader in on an emotional level, creating the angst necessary for conversion, followed by the freeing moment of surrender. They tapped into the humanity we all share, then zeroed in on a single promise.

Let me give you a brief example. Here is a paragraph pulled from Tracy Kruas’ My Mother the Man Eater, a story about a forty something cougar searching for fulfillment.

He grinned, realizing his own zealousness was showing. “Okay, fine. I am. Because it’s the biggest decision of your life. Look at the changes in your own daughters. Do you want to be on the outside looking in?”

This paragraph reveals a universal need: the need for authentic community. It also points at the promise provided in Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.”

This in turn speaks to the mature Christian as well as the believer, reminding us of our need to be fragrant aromas of Christ so that those who see our good works and genuine love for others will be drawn to Him. Although you’d need to read the entire book to fully appreciate this paragraph, it provides a great example none the less. In one concise, heart-warming paragraph, the author has touched on profound theology, like a patient gardener scattering tiny seeds. Not too many, not too few. Just enough to draw the reader to the next page, then the next book, and the next, until one day, the seedlings blossom all together into a thriving faith. Like a meadow filled with flowers filled with innumerable seeds, each book is but one part of the readers overall faith journey. We don’t have to bring them to final transformation. All we need to do is love on them, through our characters, and help them take that next step.

Because if you dump a bunch of seeds on your reader all at once, all they’ll get is a headache. Each seed must be intentionally placed, in the context of a story, watered through emotionally engaging conflict and action, until the reader is brought to a soul-fulfilling resolution.

A couple weeks ago, Jeff Gerke, author of Plot Versus Character, gave excellent advice on how to weave authentic spiritual elements seamlessly into your stories. (You can read his entire series on the Barn Door Book Loft. ) When crafting your characters, don’t stop with personality traits and back story. Take time to develop their spiritual gifts and passions. Then, determine your character arc and wrap the external plot around that.

“When it comes to preparing a character to take the starring role in a novel,” Gerke says, “we have to come up with a wonderful inner journey for her. This transformational character arc is the "plot" of the character, and it forms the basis for the plot we create for the story.”

Next, use the deepest parts of your character to create the plot.

Jeff explains, “In Plot Versus Character, I wrap the external plot around the main character's inner journey.“

This prevents forced or choppy spirituality by making the character’s spiritual journey central to the entire novel while ensuring a page-turning, relevant plot.

Buy Jeff’s book, start crafting authentic and dynamic characters, then come back next week when Clash of the Titles’ Senior Editor, April Gardner, shares how to craft a great story!

Jennifer Slattery is a novelist, columnist and freelance writer living in the Midwest with her husband of fifteen years and their thirteen year old daughter. She functions as the marketing representative for Clash of the Titles. Find out more about her and her writing at Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Musings on Winter

Although it barely got up above freezing here today for the first time in weeks, winter certainly has its hold on Kentucky and much of the country, so I decided to share some thoughts with you and hope you will share some thoughts with me on winter.

Winter is...

Cold--temperatures, snow, ice, fingers and toes
Hot--sitting in front of a fireplace, sipping hot chocolate, hot tea
Warm--snuggling under blankets, wearing footed-pj's or extra socks
Fun--playing pond hockey with friends, sliding down a snow-covered hill on a sled or tube or
even a carhood, building a snowman
Beautiful--diamonds on bushes, icicles decorating the front porch, cardinal or bluejay against the snow

What else can you add?

Friday, January 14, 2011

For our next "Fridays with Friends" event, I want to welcome Michelle Massaro, another cyber-friend who has written an article I know I needed to read, so I hope all writers will read it and be blessed. And also check out Michelle's site as well as the Clash of the Titles site listed below.

Evangelizing Through Fiction by Michelle Massaro

I'm very passionate about today's topic because for me it's what makes writing worthwhile. But not everybody gets it. It's important for authors to see the value and worth of what they do, in the light of eternity, because it's very likely they will hear comments questioning their ministry through fiction at some point in time. I've also seen a great many stories never reach their full potential, because the authors themselves didn't seem to understand the impact their writing could have for the Kingdom, or hadn't chosen to use their platform in that way. But look at this:

"I've never been more inspired to let the Holy Spirit love through me."

"Thanks for lifting up my spirits today."

"Having lost a daughter of my own, I thank Karen (Kingsbury) heartily for using the pain in her story to minister to me and so many others in my shoes."

"I was often convicted of my own self-centeredness while reading."

"I have tears in my eyes and goose bumps on my skin."

These are just a few of the comments that have appeared on Clash of the Titles this past week as we've featured Conversion Scenes. They show that God can and does use fiction to touch His people. Amazing, isn't it?

As authors, we want readers to appreciate our stories as much as we do. Let's face it, we thrive on accolades. Don't deny it. We long to leave our mark, to write stories that won't be forgotten. But until we fully understand the power of the pen placed in God's hand, we will only be scratching the surface when it comes to leaving a legacy. When we shift our perspective to come into line with Christ's, we become more interested in the mark that HE leaves on the reader than our own.

And what an effective tool our stories can be! What a gentle way to reach out, what a smooth-paved bridge to build. Non-threatening and entertaining, many people will let their guard down enough to read a novel. And as they identify with the characters' sin and pain, they will also journey with them to forgiveness and healing, and perhaps even see themselves being transformed by our loving Savior.

As believers, God owns us- we were bought with a price. The Bible says He has equipped us for every good work. As authors we've been equipped with writing talent. We are to enjoy what we do, but ultimately that gift should be turned back over to Him. When it is, we can be sure He will do amazing things. He will reach people in ways we never could on our own. His stories flowing through our pens can write not simply on paper but on hearts. And that is the greatest legacy we can hope to leave.


Michelle Massaro, Assistant Editor for Clash of the Titles, is an aspiring novelist as well as a wife and mother of four. She sings on the worship team and teaches origins science to the Jr. Highers at her church in sunny So Cal. Above all, she is a follower of Christ Jesus, unashamed to stand upon the Word of God from beginning to end. You can get to know her better at her blog, Adventures in Writing, and of course at COTT.

Clash of the Titles: http://www.clashofthetitles.com
and Michelle's site: Adventures in Writing (http://www.michellemassaro.blogspot.com/)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday Musings on January

January is a new beginning...a time to take stock of where you have been and where you want to go...a time to look back on the past so you don't make the same mistakes in the future...a time to pray and plan and do...a time to make new friends and re-connect with long-ago friends...a time to play in the snow then cuddle up with popcorn and hot chocolate and a good book...a time to dream of warm weather and summer vacation...

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1

Dear Readers, I hope you will share some things you like to or plan to do this month.

Friday, January 07, 2011

New Blog Feature--Fridays with Friends

To get more input on my blog, I am starting a new feature this year that I am calling "Fridays with Friends." Each Friday of the year I will be scheduling a blog by a friend of mine (some I've met in person, some cyber-friends!), and I hope this will encourage other friends to post to these new friends, so we all make more friends. It's like the Girl Scout song--"Make new friends, but keep the old..." And, if you would like to do a guest blog, please let me know and I will add you to the schedule.

Our first Friday Friend Blog is by Jennifer Slattery with info on COTT--Clash Of The Titles! I was very interested as a writer and as a reader in this new site, so hope you will be, too. And hope you will visit that site and her others listed at the end of the email, and if you leave a post for her or me either one and you will be entered in my monthly book drawing.

Clash of the Titles by Jennifer Slattery
About a month ago, I met a local author while Christmas shopping. He and another writer had set up a booth in the middle of a sporting goods store. I always love to connect with other authors, so I stopped to chat and to tell them a bit about Clash of the Titles. It didn’t take long for the man to share his frustrations with the writing industry. Like many new authors, he’d dreamt his first book would hit it big, earning high royalties. It hadn’t, and he blamed his publishing company, saying they’d promoted it for a while, then dropped it flat.

Sadly, that’s reality. Publishers have to make money, and new books sell. Old titles, not so much. And even new books have to share the lime light with dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of other newly released titles. Which means, to be successful, authors need to learn how to generate their own sales.

Clash of the Titles, a literary website designed to connect readers with new, and often, emerging, authors, is here to help. Every month, we highlight four competing writers through fun, reader-led contests. This provides two week’s worth of continual exposure for our competitors and allows readers to nibble on a wide variety of books and genres.

Here’s how it works. On the first Monday of a new clash, two anonymous excerpts are posted on our site. Then, readers are given an opportunity to vote for their favorite. Once voting closes, the authors are revealed and winners are announced. The rest of the clash is spent chatting with the authors as we get to know more about them and their books. At the end of the two weeks, two readers are randomly selected to receive a free book. It has been a lot of fun to see readers and authors connect through fun competitions and interactive interviews. Our authors have been greatly encouraged by reader comments.

I have to admit, our success has far exceeded our expectations. Numerous authors have commented on the tremendous amount of publicity Clash of the Titles participation has generated. Obviously this publicity is partially due to the cyber-exposure, but I believe the uniqueness of our site plays a huge role. We are unlike any other contest authors might participate in because winners are selected not based on sales (which is largely due to shelf placement and an effective publicity team) or technical writing rules, but instead, on reader opinion. And it’s more than the results of an impersonal survey. It’s a close, interactive time of literary celebration. One of our authors said she felt COTT was like a family. Increased reader-author closeness is exactly what we aim for! We connect readers and authors on a deeper level than many other author-highlighting sites because we encourage two-way dialogue. Readers ask authors questions and provide comments, and authors ask readers questions. It’s really a lot of fun!

And yet, it’s so much more! Entertainment is great, but eternally impacting entertainment is even better. Each Clash of the Titles staff member is very passionate about Christian fiction and we do all we can to help expand the Christian fiction market. To us, it’s a ministry and a mission. Because Christian fiction points readers to the Divine Author, we believe our efforts have an eternal impact.

Next Friday Assistant Editor, Michelle Massaro will talk more about this when she shares her passion for Christian fiction with you. In the meantime, come visit us at http://www.clashofthetitles.com. There’s still time to vote, and win a free book!

My bio: Jennifer Slattery is a novelist, columnist and freelance writer living in Kansas City, MO with her husband of 15 years and their 13 year old daughter. Visit http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com to read great devotions that inspire, challenge and equip and follow her weekly column, Heart and Home, at http://reflectionsinhindsight.wordpress.com

Monday, January 03, 2011

Monday Musings--New Year's Day is...

New beginnings...new resolutions...new friends...new books to read...new song...new toys...new day...new month...new year...new birth...new life...new heavens...new earth...

"Behold! I make all things new!" Revelation 21:5

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year to all, especially to Diane F. who is starting off the new year with a new book...And to you, dear reader, who could win an autographed copy of Mirrored Image by Alice K. Arenz, reviewed below.

Diane is the winner of my monthly book drawing for a copy of Highland Blessings by Jennifer Hudson Taylor. I have contacted her, but if I don't hear back by next Saturday evening, I will have my hubby draw another name.

Mirrored Image by Alice K. Arenz is a must read. I just finished this book last night, and it is a well plotted out mystery with enough red herrings to stock a fish store!

I have read and enjoyed the author's first two books, which were cozy mysteries, but this mystery fits more in the suspense category as you find yourself trying to figure out which of the characters could be the murderer.

I don't want to give any plot points away, so will just second one of the back of the book blurbs by Patti Shene, editor of Starsongs Magazine: "...a roller coaster ride that leaves you breathless. Arenz grips the reader with a fierce intensity that starts with the first sentence and keeps you up all night until the last page is turned."

I know Alice personally, and don't know how such a sweet person can write some of these diabolical characters, but she succeeds at making them very believable.

I hope you will leave a message with your email addy this month to be entered in the drawing which will be held on Feb. 1st for this copy. And if you can't wait, I suggest you check out this and her other two books which I have also reviewed on this blog last year and order one or all of them. Alice's website is www.akawriter.com