Follow my journey toward publication. Laugh, cry, point and stare-- it's all good. I'll leave a trail so that you, my fellow author, may have a straighter path to finding your own elusive publishing contract. Adventure awaits. Let's travel together...

Friday, April 29, 2011

Winner Of Our Free Book Drawing! plus Story Improv

Thank you everyone who stopped by and visited with me and my friend Becki Reiser! This week's winner is...


Congratulations Elaine, you will receive a free copy of Shared Hope.

For the rest of you, be sure to come meet my friend Lizzie for my next Social Media Monday.

And now, by popular demand, I leave you with this week's Story Improv prompt. (To keep things managable, let's limit each post to 1-3 sentences. But feel free to contribute as many times as you like throughout the day and into tomorrow--and invite your friends to play! Have fun!)

"What the heck is this?"


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Evangelizing Through Fiction


"I thought Christian Fiction just provided some clean fun and entertainment.
Can you really evangelize with novels?"

Yes, you most certainly can.  And should. Whether you are an author or a fan, delivering a good Christian story into the hands of an unbeliever can bring them one step closer to the Lord.

It's often easier to get through someone's armor with fiction. Many people feel that nobody understands what they are going through; they don't see how God can possibly be in the midst of their situation. Many are too ashamed to even admit the feelings and questions they struggle with deep inside.  They may not seek out spiritual counsel, but will be willing to read a good Christian story. A book is a benign, non-threatening way to get someone to hear to the Truth. 

My favorite thing to hear from a reader is that they were moved to tears while reading my book.  I know that if I can reach their heart with emotion, it may be soft enough for the Lord to plant a seed.  For that to happen, readers must be able to identify or empathize with the characters.  By creating characters who experience the same life issues that our readers struggle with, and showing how the Lord carries them through and teaches them, we are evangelizing.  It doesn't matter if the story is a fantasy, historical, or a contemporary piece.  The human heart has always been in a state of separation from God and the pain of sin is a universal theme.  If a reader forms an emotional connection to a character, she will follow their journey.  If she can see herself reflected in that character's sin and regret, fears and doubts, she will also catch a glimpse of herself being loved by the Almighty.  When a character encounters Christ, the reader has a brush with Him as well.

The Bible instructs us to comfort one another with the comfort with which we ourselves have been comforted.  We tap into our own experiences when crafting characters and plots, infusing every story with a bit of ourselves.  We may not have gone through what our characters have, but the emotions themselves usually come from deep within- from past hurts and regrets or triumphs and joys.  The hard knocks we've taken and learned from, His tender mercies we've received, are to be shared.  And Christian fiction provides a perfect vehicle to express and communicate our own spiritual lessons and experiences to the most people. 

As Christians, we've made Jesus the King over our lives.  We strive to bring honor to Him in everything we do, and that includes using our writing talents for His glory.  Now the Lord did say that He came to give us life, and that more abundantly, so we are free to have fun and to be entertained by our books.  But the desire to leave a legacy, to reach the lost, and to comfort each other in Christ will leave an imprint on the page.  When God has a hold on you, the fragrance of Christ will permeate every bit of your life, including your writing, and He will use it for His good purpose.  And His greatest purpose, His utmost desire, is that all may come to know Him. There is no doubt in my mind that Christian fiction can be used to accomplish just that.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Newest COTT Victory: The Green Veil!

Naomi Musch and the opening paragraphs from her historical novel, The Green Veil.


Naomi takes the title in her clash against the very worthy runner-up, Karen Baney, author of A Dream Unfolding.

A snippet from Naomi's winning passage:
Pain seared Colette's temples, neck, and shoulders. Behind her eyelids, everything blazed like a powder keg of dynamite going off inside her. Explosions roared and blasts glared - red, and now and then a streak of hot white. She stirred on the bed, and her satin dress rustled.

Naomi says her best ideas come from overlooked portions of history she stumbles upon and in The Green Veil those include lumberjacks, land barons, and mill owners racing to control the pine lands in 1840s Wisconsin Territory. To read more about the book and find out what her favorite reads of the last year were, check out her interview ith COTT's Senior Editor April Gardner here.

What did readers have to say? A few comments from our voters:

"Excerpt A grabbed my heart. I found myself hurting for Colette, wishing there was something I could do to save her from her plight. Beautiful work."

"I wished I could pick both. I chose A simply because of the references to the book of Esther, one of my favorite accounts in the Bible."

"Wow, I really enjoyed that pine book."

Naomi responded to her win:

Oh WOW! Thank you to everyone at COTT for allowing me to be part of this month's clash, and for all those who stopped by and voted for either mine or Karen's book. What a way to start the Easter weekend! 

There are two more Opening Hooks to vote on this week, so head over to Clash of the Titles and let your voice be heard! A free copy of each competing book will be given away to two lucky readers--you can increase your odds by voting, commenting, sharing our link, or joining our Blog Alliance

Don't forget, the drawing for Shared Hope is still open here at Adventures in Writing.  Leave a comment here to be entered. Tweet or facebook this link to be entered again.  I love hearing from you!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Social Media Monday: Becki Reiser

Good morning and welcome to another edition of Social Media Monday!

Today I get to introduce you to Becki Resier. Becki and I met at the WFTS conference in February. Actually, we met AFTER the conference while we were both hanging out in the hotel lobby waiting for our late-flight shuttles to arrive. We spent that time visiting, getting to know each other, then sharing a shuttle van, going through airport security, grabbing a burger, and forming a friendship.

Weeks later Becki gifted me with a copy of a devotional book--Machiatto Moments--which she was a contributor for, and she invited me to write a devotional for the community website Our Circle of Friends. We keep in touch through facebook, though mostly I recall our conversations over airport Micky-D's when I think of Becki. She has offered a free copy of the devotional book Shared Hope to one lucky reader so check out the details at the end of the interview.

Please welcome her:

Hi I am Becki Reiser. A 51-year-old currently unemployed, empty nester. I live with my husband, Jeff, in a small town in Ohio. We live on the outskirts of the largest Amish community in the nation. I live on a farm, but I am not a farmer. I was a “city girl” most of my life. We moved to this farm eight years ago and I have fallen in love with living in the country!

Hi Becki! (everybody, wave to Becki!) Tell us what you write.

I am a true believer in you write what you know! I am writing a book called “Through My Tears” it is the story of the abduction and murder of our 17-year-old daughter, Liz, in May of 2000. I also have gone to the polar opposite of the sad story of our daughter, and am writing a book called “Hot Flashes With a Side of Garlic Bread” Yes, I do write from experience! I write devotionals too, and I am one of the featured authors in the give-away offered here!

For which we are very grateful!  Thank you! I know your personal story really touches my heart. It's such an appalling idea to entertain it's hard to wrap my mind around it, but to see you and get to know you reveals so much of the grace of our God. So which project are you working on right now?

Currently I am on the fifteenth re-write (and hopefully the last) of TMT, and hoping to get it published within the next year.

I hope so too, Becki! I always open up these relational interviews to anything fun my friends want to share. Any interesting stories or anecdotes about the two of us?

Yes, you bet! I met Michelle and instantly we bonded. We have writing in common and of course motherhood. (I could easily be her mother) We had the opportunity to spend several hours together while riding from the conference to the airport and waiting for our flights. I did have a very embarrassing experience while we were together. Before the shuttle arrived I checked with the front desk to be sure they would take either checks or credit and they assured me they did! Whew! Glad for that. I was safe. The shuttle arrived and we climbed in and talked non-stop all the way to the airport. After arriving, the driver unloaded our bags and I went to pay him. He looked at me as though I had three heads when I tried to pay him with a credit card. Uh-oh. Someone had his or her facts wrong! Not only did they NOT accept credit, they also didn’t take checks. I dug around in my wallet and came up $10.00 short of what it cost. I was mortified. So, my new friend came to the rescue and gave me the money. I was so very upset and said I would pay her back ASAP. She refused to let me pay her and said I would be stealing her blessing if I tried. OK, it’s hard to steal something like that.

Becki, now I'm laughing because that is so something that would happen to me! I was happy to help, no biggie. =) What's the most exciting thing that has happened this year, relating to your writing?

I had many publishers/editors/agents interested! I was so encouraged. I am hoping to get the “word” from one of them very soon that they are interested in partnering with me in publishing our story!

Oooh--keep me posted! OK, time for "the" question. How has social media affected your writing relationships and/or marketing strategy?

I have had some awesome opportunities to meet very special people (Michelle is one of them) [Aww, so sweet!] that have encouraged me and even helped me along this journey! Many suggestions from those folks have helped to make my writing better. I have only begun learning the rules and ins and outs of marketing. Having a platform is the biggest issue to deal with. It is not as difficult as I expected to get connected. Make lots of friends and don’t be afraid to comment or ask questions. It gets your name out there and opens doors of opportunity!

What advice would you give to other aspiring authors?

Never, never give up!

Strong advice that bears oft repeating! Why don't you share a snippet from your latest project before we go.
The funeral started without waiting for my official word. It gained a life of its own. It was as if a conductor of a grand orchestra seized the attention of all in attendance. Standing in front of the musicians of life, with arms at his side, suddenly, the audience grew peaceful. Eerily quiet it became. And without notice, the conductor raised his arms, baton in hand, and for an eternal moment, called all in attendance to see and to hear. Not yet a sound, but simply a call to attend. No tears, no weeping, just the anticipation of \a full house sensing something different was happening. This was not to be a normal funeral impregnated with despair, it was to become a celebration of life.
I can now see the instruments being held, and feel my anticipation for the awaited signal of the maestro to begin; a concert of heavenly glory.

Awesome, thank you for that peek, Becki. Readers, you can connect with Becki at these links:
Becki, I can't wait to see you at another conference, but social media works in the meantime. I pray God blesses your writing and your ministry!

Ladies (and gentlemen), leave a comment below to be entered in our drawing for Shared Hope.  Tweet or Facebook this link to be entered again. The winner will be announced on Thursday night.  Tell a friend!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Story Improv: Jordyn and Daniel--FINAL

Jordyn Esquire perched on the edge of her seat, soaking in the words of Mr. Daniel T. Jacobs like a thirsty sponge. Okay, so he was her law professor and maybe she shouldn't feel the heat rush into her cheeks with every defined syllable he crooned, but she was a woman. And what a man he was! He was tall -- tall like a utility pole, straight and unwavering. In fact, his skin was rough, also pole-like. And he mumbled, and Jordyn thought, that if poles could talk, they would ramble on, like Professor Jacobs did. Rambled.

She sighed. She was sorry this class was only three hours long.

His preaching had captivated her heart months ago, but now, as he passionately expounded on the scriptures in the book of Ruth, she couldn't help but feel that somehow she was being swept into the arid fields where Ruth was gleaning, and hearing the rich laugh of Boaz as he invited, not Ruth, but her, to come and rest herself a while, and enjoy his pleasant company. She blushed, embarrassed at her lack of focus. A question had tiptoed its way into her distracted thoughts: could Mr. Daniel T. Jacobs be the Boaz she had so longed for?

A sudden wave of conflicting emotions crashed over her conscience, until the reverberating tones of a male voice dragged her from the dreamy gleaning fields into the coolness of the lecture hall...

"Jordyn, are you all right? You look quite ill..."

"Um.....uh.....yes......YES! I'm fine," she lied. She asked if she could be excused for a moment and without waiting for an answer, she snatched her things from the well worn desk and rushed out the door. Jordyn didn't notice that Mr. Jacobs had followed her out.

"Good goin, Jordyn," she whispered to herself as her heels clacked down the hall of the Christian college. She doubted Ruth felt so fuzzy-headed laying at Boaz's feet as she herself did sitting under Daniel's teaching. And he'd noticed her distraction! Ugh, how embarrassing!

"Wait a second, hold up!"

Jordyn Esquire and Daniel T

 Our Story Improv has really taken off! It'll be open all day today so please add-a-line. Have fun!
Jordyn Esquire perched on the edge of her seat, soaking in the words of Mr. Daniel T. Jacobs like a thirsty sponge. Okay, so he was her law professor and maybe she shouldn't feel the heat rush into her cheeks with every defined syllable he crooned, but she was a woman. And what a man he was! He was tall -- tall like a utility pole, straight and unwavering. In fact, his skin was rough, also pole-like. And he mumbled, and Jordyn thought, that if poles could talk, they would ramble on, like Professor Jacobs did.

Rambled. She sighed. She was sorry this class was only three hours long.

His preaching had captivated her heart months ago, but now, as he passionately expounded on the scriptures in the book of Ruth, she couldn't help but feel that somehow she was being swept into the arid fields where Ruth was gleaning, and hearing the rich laugh of Boaz as he invited, not Ruth, but her, to come and rest herself a while, and enjoy his pleasant company. She blushed, embarrassed at her lack of focus. A question had tiptoed its way into her distracted thoughts: could Mr. Daniel T. Jacobs be the Boaz she had so longed for?

A sudden wave of conflicting emotions crashed over her conscience, until the reverberating tones of a male voice dragged her from the dreamy gleaning fields into the coolness of the lecture hall...

"Jordyn, are you all right? You look quite ill..."

"Um.....uh.....yes......YES! I'm fine," she lied. She asked if she could be excused for a moment and without waiting for an answer, she snatched her things from the well worn desk and rushed out the door. Jordyn didn't notice that Mr. Jacobs had followed her out.

"Good goin, Jordyn," she whispered to herself as her heels clacked down the hall of the Christian college. She doubted Ruth felt so fuzzy-headed laying at Boaz's feet as she herself did sitting under Daniel's teaching. And he'd noticed her distraction! Ugh, how embarrassing!

"Wait a second, hold up!"

Jordyn heard Daniel call her from down the hall. She stopped and turned, waiting on him.
He walked toward her. Not too close, she hoped. It was far easier to look him in the eye when he was ten feet away. That's the trouble with tall people.

"Have you selected your topic for your research paper?" He peered over his glasses. But then he squinted. Then he pushed his glasses back on his nose. "That's better. Your paper. Have you selected the topic yet?"

Jordyn was taken aback. The paper wasn't due for weeks. Why would he need to know now? Why is he so concerned? Did he chase other women out of his class to answer that question? Jordyn was nervous, nervous like she might say the wrong thing, like she do the wrong thing, like she might babble incoherently.

"I picked agricultural practices."

"That's a little broad, don't you think?" His glasses slipped down his face, but that couldn't be helped. He had to look down to talk to her.

She swallowed. "Specifically gleaning and how it builds togetherness."


"I mean, community." She swallowed again. He would read every word she wrote. "The gleaning was the central activity of the village. It's where people came together."

"Together." He smiled. "Look forward to reading it. See you Wednesday."

Then he turned and went back into the lecture hall.

Jordyn felt her legs go wobbly. Jordyn watched Mr. Jacobs walk back into his classroom without even a glance back in her direction.

"Why does he distract me so?" she wondered to herself. "I really need to get refocused here. I need to spend some time alone with Jesus.

Jordyn turned around and walked briskly to her car. She threw her books and things onto the seat next to her and just sat there. Jordyn's eyes closed as she prayed silently. She sat there for a long time and must have fallen asleep because she woke with a start to the sound of someone knocking on her window.

It was Rhonda.

Jordyn did not need her RA in her face again. Rhonda's face was scrunched up like a wad of paper.

Jordyn rolled down her car window. "Hi."

"You can't do that."

"I can't sit in my car?"

"You can't date instructors. You know this. You signed the honor code."
Rhonda's furrowed brow and little black widow's peak made her look evil. But Jordyn shouldn't think that. Rhonda was made in the image of God, even though she looked like she needed a slap.

"I'm not dating anybody, certainly not an instructor."

"Oh really?" Rhonda tilted her head in such a way that Jordyn wanted to pull her hair. That wasn't as bad as a slap, was it?

"Really! I have bigger and better things to for God than that!" Jordyn turned on the car's ignition and pulled out of the parking space. She cranked up Michael W. Smith and gunned her Escort as much as she thought was acceptable at their conservative little Bible College.

After five blocks and countless "cleansing breaths", Jordyn calmed down enough to realize she had carpooled to campus with her roommate Lilly . . . and had just left her stranded. As she headed back she found her Escort not threading through traffic, but sheaves. And a manly voice was saying "Glean in my field only, Daughter."

Wait, no. It was saying "Get a move on, Ditz!" She'd stopped at the green and held up a line of cars.

"Glean in my field only, Daughter."

If there was ever a confirmation for Jordyn that she should lay down her life for the unreached peoples of the world, this was it. The harvest was ready and the workers were few, right? She was going to go, right after graduation, right after she finished her language studies and missionary training. She was on her way, out of this little college town, out from under the watchful eyes of legalistic do-gooders like Rhonda, away from distracting Old Testament professors whose eyes were so distracting. Once she was in the mission field, doing big things for God, she wouldn't have any of this and God could use her to change lives.

Lilly was standing at the corner of Calvin and Knox Streets. Her arms were crossed and Jordyn could tell from a block away that she was angry.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Fiction Friday: 411

Story Improv and Journey Updates:

I'm still waiting for my Genesis score sheets, and if you've entered before perhaps you can understand. (Image: take your pick)

I was sorely disappointed not to make the first cut but I'm eager to find out why and learn how I can improve. Patience my dear, patience.

In other news I had an article posted on Romantic Times last week and am thrilled that I can now add that to my bio.  Woo Hoo--go me!  It's a reminder that even the slightest forward motion will get me places eventually. 

My schedule is still overflowing, leaving me scarcely room to breathe let alone write, and sometimes I fear I'll never finish this redraft let alone write another novel. But then I remember that I am spreading my reach like roots through the soil of cyberspace--through COTT and the Blog Alliance, ACFW, and guest posts on The Write Conversation, Circle of Friends, and now RT--and I praise God that He's got my course laid out for me already.  The edits may be coming in 10-minute bursts but the relationship-building is laying a foundation for a writing career that I will most certainly need to stand upon when my time of publication finally comes.

That is why I was inspired to start the Social Media Mondays, by the way, and next week we'll be getting to know Becki Reiser.  Like Donna, I met her at the conference and now keep in touch with her mostly through facebook.  I hope you'll make a point to drop by and say "hello" on Monday.

With my personal news and updates out of the way, I thought everyone might be up for another Story Improv this week! This time I will leave it open longer.  The plan is to post the complete story tomorrow evening by about 7pm PST. 

Here's your opening line:

Jordyn Esquire perched on the edge of her seat, soaking in the words of Mr. Daniel T. Jacobs like a thirsty sponge.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hook, Line, or Stinker?

Authors and readers agree, those first words of a book are of vital importance. Some allow several chapters to convince them, others—no more than a few paragraphs.

Authors feel the weight of this responsibility as they sit down to pen those first lines. At least they should!

The older I get, the pickier I become about which novels I finish. I realized this last month, when I started a book and was struck by the lack of white space—those gaps between paragraphs. More white space = more dialogue. I flipped through the first chapter, then the book, and when I found massive paragraphs dominating the pages, I tossed it in my “donate to library” pile. Apparently, I like dialogue--so much, that a lack of it made me close the book before finishing the first page.

I used to feel compunction over setting aside a book that didn’t hold my attention.  Now, my free time is more scarce and thus, more valuable. When I only have an hour a day to enjoy a book, I want it to be a good one. I want to be swept away to a foreign land or time. I want to be kept there until The End forces me home.

The more I read, the more I define which styles of writing I enjoy and which I don’t.  This process is shorter and shorter every year, which means books have less time to grab my attention.

I’m curious. How much weight do you, dear reader, put into the first pages of a book? Do you feel obligated to finish it once you’ve started?

Below, you’ll find a survey that will remain open for at least the next week. Let’s have some fun! And be sure to visit Clash of the Titles throughout the week to read our author interviews!

Article by April Gardner: A military spouse, April has performed the art of homemaking all over the world. Currently, she lives in Georgia with her children, while her husband serves a tour in the Middle East. In her free time, April enjoys reading, gardening, and DIY. In no particular order, she dreams of owning a horse, visiting all the national parks, and speaking Italian.

She is the best-selling author of Wounded Spirits.
Contact April: aprilgardnerwrites (at) gmail (dot) com
April's blog. Find April on Facebook.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Social Media Monday: Donna Pyle

Please welcome my friend Donna Pyle! Donna was recently signed by agent Rachelle Gardner in a whirlwind of interest created at the WFTS conference.  I was with her at the conference and it was invigorating to watch her take in all the attention and positive feedback on her book pitches and appointments.  Fun stuff!

Please introduce yourself!
Hi, y’all! My name is Donna and I’m a speaker, author, Bible teacher and worship leader with a passion for studying and teaching God’s Word. I have a clear, down-to-earth style that encourages women of all ages to passionately love, serve and live for Jesus Christ. I have authored 17 Bible studies to date and am currently writing my first book. I’m also preparing to tape my first DVD-based Bible study series before a live studio audience. I attend Salem Lutheran Church in Tomball, TX and serve in the worship ministry. When not doing all of the above, I enjoy traveling, reading, singing, and driving my cats crazy with feather toys.

How did you and I meet?
We met in February at the Writing for the Soul Christian Writers’ conference in Denver. Woo Hooo!! I discovered that you have four children, even though you look 20! We both love coffee and Jesus. Need I say more? :)

lol, I think that about covers it! ;) What do you write and what are you currently working on?
I write Bible studies and Christian-based non fiction. I deeply admire fiction writers because developing vibrant characters is truly a gift. Personally, I believe I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to understand the Bible, so my writing is birthed out of my quest to understand and relate it to everyday life.
I’m so excited to be working on my first book, “Living Water for a Parched Soul.” It provides a roadmap on how to journey from spiritual dehydration toward a life fully hydrated by Christ.

Donna, I just want you to know I am amazed at how drenched in the Spirit your life has become and how much you soak those around you! What's the most exciting thing that has happened this year, relating to your writing?
I’m very excited to be writing the study guide that will accompany the upcoming 8-lesson, DVD-based Bible study series on the armor of God. It’s an exciting adventure into Ephesians 6:10-18 as we unpack each piece of armor and the protection they provide to us. If you’re in the Tomball, Texas area on May 6-7, 2011, join us at Salem Lutheran Church for the live taping. I would SO love to see you there, ladies!

I'll be praying for you those days for sure! OK, since this series focuses on using the internet, how has social media affected your writing relationships and/or marketing strategy?
As a newer author, I have come to appreciate how vital social media is to connect with other authors, learn from their experience, and let them know about me and what I’m writing. Social media is here to stay, so to ignore it would be cataclysmic to any writer’s career.

I couldn't agree more.  I love that I get to see what you are up to each day on facebook and twitter. What advice would you give to other aspiring authors?
Embrace the fact that you’re an author. That was the hardest step for me. But I realized if I never embraced it, no one else would. Just keep writing! I’ve had magazine articles and Bible studies published, and I’ve learned that if I wait to “find” time to write, it just doesn’t happen. I’ve got to “make” time to write!

That is so true.  I still sometimes struggle with identifying myself as a writer but the fact is if you have a story to tell, and a measure of talent to tell it, you are an author. Can you share a snippet from your latest project?
“Living Water for a Parched Soul” is close to my heart. Since I didn’t grow up in the church or have a relationship with Christ, I know what it feels like to be spiritually parched. I was drowning in the world’s well until someone introduced me to Christ at age 23. Now 20 years later, I am blessed beyond measure to live a life fully hydrated and tethered to Him. Even through heartbreaking, unexpected divorce, God’s wellspring of life fostered true forgiveness and restoration in my life. I don’t pretend to have all the answers. But I believe that the lessons learned along my journey will provide hope and draw readers to the only One who can satiate us: Jesus.

Your testimony has already touched many people, including me.  I know God is going to use you and your book to speak His truth into people's lives.  Before we go, tell us  how we can stay connected with you online!
Facebook: Donna Pyle
Twitter: @DonnaPyleTX
Blog: www.donnapyle.blogspot.com
Website: www.artestianministries.org

Donna, Thank you so much for visiting with me today.  You are so sweet and encouraging.  Nibble nibble!

Readers, do you have a question or word of encouragement for Donna?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mr. Peabody?

AWESOME! This was so much fun! OK, here's the final version:

Chester Peabody was rolling over in his grave. Literally. It had taken Rogue Thompson all night to find the right grave. It had been a damp night where the chill soaked deep into the bones, yet Rogue continued to weave his way through the gravestones, intent on finding one name.

"Found It!" he whispered to himself while clutching his dying, dimming flashlight. "Now what?" he asked aloud. He hadn't actually expected to find what he was after.

"Well obviously, we have to dig him up," his companion scoffed.

"I didn't really bring my 'digging up dead body tools' with me," Rogue shot back.

"What did you plan to do--sit around and wait for Mrs. Peabody to show up and do your job? There's only one way to find out who's really in there and you know it."

Rogue dug through his pockets before pulling out a utensil.  "A spork will take too long. Go find the backhoe and hot wire it."


written by:
Michelle Massaro
Jessica Patch
Jerri Harrington
Claudia Rizzi
Brooke Busse
Carol Moncado

Thanks for playing!

Fiction Friday

I'm trying something new today! I think this will be a lot of fun if you all participate.  Otherwise I'll look totally lame. So please play along! 

I'm going to leave ONE LINE to begin a story.  The first person to stop by will write the next sentence in the comments.  The next commenter's line must logically follow that one, and so on.  (You've played this improv game at sleepovers before, right?) For flexibility I will say we can allow two sentences per comment if needed.

At 5 PM PST I will close comments and post the final passage!  So hopefully if you are reading this and it is nearing closing time, you will try to come up with a sentence that ties things up--but if not, that's OK!  Remember, keep it clean.

Chester Peabody was rolling over in his grave.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

3 Ways to Balance Writing and the Fam

Today for Whatevah Wednesday I thought I'd share a few ways I am seeking balance.  I don't want my first ministry--my husband and kids--to suffer for the sake of my ministry of writing. 

Our whole lives are the sum of our days, right? So my goal at the end of each day is to hear God say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." How can we stay focused on His will for our role in our family while being a writer? Here are 3 practical things I am trying to be better at (I'd love to hear yours):

1) When the kids and/or hubby is home, tend to important emails quickly and then turn off the monitor.  That way you aren't tempted to keep checking all your social media sites every time you walk by the computer.

2) Even if it seems counter-productive, if you are awake before the rest of your family, use that time to pray and read your Bible.  Trying to get a jump on your day by attending to emails, blog posts, or editing that extra page never works to leave you more family time later in the day.  Inevitably, any extra time created will get sucked into the vortex of the web. But spending time with the Top Family Member, your Heavenly Father, will always benefit your efforts to keep your priorities in line and focus your heart where it needs to be.

3) Choose to give up TV time to write, rather than sacrifice time with your spouse and/or kids.  Are you often asking your kids to wait to talk to you until you are done writing that chapter/page/etc? Too much waiting and you'll find they are grown and your time having them in your lap is ending.  Likewise your spouse may have grown accustomed to playing second-fiddle and a chasm will have developed between you. Instead, give them their time and write when you'd normally watch Biggest Loser.  Catch the highlights or just watch the weigh-in on Tivo. ;-)

Of course there will be times when you do need to ask for support from your family and they will have to give you time and freedom to write, but by keeping things in perspective, limiting distractions, and giving them the best of you, those times will be of a more reasonable frequency.  You won't have guilt about the way you have structured your life, your family will be closer-knit, and you will be honoring God.

What practical ways do you keep family your sacred priority above your writing?  Let the rest of us hear your thoughts and experiences!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

COTT: Clash Conqueror

Attention! Ann Gaylia O'Barr has been crowned CHAMPION at
Clash of the Titles!

For her excerpt from Singing in Babylon, Ann Gaylia O'Barr garnered favor in a Clash against fellow contender Dee Smith for Best Antagonist. Both excerpts showcased sinister adversaries.

As one reader put it:
Both antagonists were well described, and both gave me a chill up my spine.

Another assures us:
Both are VERY creepy!

But only one can claim victory, and that honor falls to O'Barr this time around. How did she do it? Ann believes a good antagonist elicits a measure of sympathy from the reader so that we are both drawn to and repulsed by his character. It must be true because it secured her the win.

In her interview with COTT staff member Amanda Flower, Ann shares how she spent years country-hopping for her work as U.S. Foreign Service officer and collected plenty of raw material for her antagonists by her immersion in Muslim-dominated culture. Wow!

Want to know who her favorite fictional bad guy is? Read her interview to find out.

Ann says: I've thoroughly enjoyed the contest. Answering the interview questions sharpened my ability to explain the novel. Writing is a continuous learning expreience, and I love it!

About her book:

Singing in Babylon:

Recent grad Kate McCormack, saddled with college debt, has limited options…until she accepts an offer to teach English in Saudi Arabia. Plunged into a foreign world, she’s homesick and lonely, stuck in a gilded prison where women aren’t even allowed to walk around the block by themselves. The future stretches before her like a leaden sky.

Journalist Philip Tangvald, on the trail of a story about illegal immigration routes through the Middle East and North Africa, is intrigued by the feisty Kate, but wonders if he deserves to find love again. Too much loss and betrayal has burdened his life. First, his father, when he was eleven. And, a year ago, his wife. Now he’s free of everything—except the guilt from his past—and wants to stay that way.

Two worlds, two hearts in exile, are about to collide. And when they do, might they find a new song to sing … in Babylon?

Read more about Ann and her body of work at her website

COTT's current Clash is on Best Opening Hook. Visit today to read the two selections, vote for your favorite, and enter to win one of the competing titles! (Mentioning my name gives me an extra entry, so if you don't mind I'd appreciate it!)

bio: Michelle Massaro is a homeschooling mom and aspiring novelist, as well as Assistant Editor for the literary website Clash of the Titles . Connect with her on twitter @MLMassaro, facebook, and her blog Adventures in Writing

Monday, April 11, 2011

Social Media Monday: Jessica Patch

Today we are spending time getting to know my virtual bff Jessica Patch. Jessica is one of my primary crit partners, my IM buddy throughout the day, and my familiar face at the WFTS conference in February.

Jessica, tell everyone a little bit about you.
When I’m not crashing into police cruisers, getting stuck on my fridge, or sneaking off to movies with my hubby, I’m curled up in a chair or at my writing desk, spending time with the voices inside my head.

I live in the midsouth, where BBQ and the Blues are a way of life not something you eat or listen to, but I grew up in Southern Illinois then attended Central Bible College as a Missions major.

I love my church where I’ve served as a Biblical Studies teacher, Women’s Ministry leader, and volunteer co-pastor with my husband of the Young Adult Ministry.

I also enjoy embarrassing my tween by wearing my PJ’s and conveniently forgetting to brush my hair, when taking her to school and play-sword fighting with my six year old son. Take no prisoners!

I wear PJ's to drop off the kids too! So, what do you write?
I write romantic suspense and some contemporary romance with suspenseful elements! Yes, there is a difference!

What are you working on right now?
Right now I am working on the second draft of Reconcilable Differences, about a woman who dreads going back home for fear buried secrets might surface if she has to confront her old flame, and in a small town, there’s no hiding.

Can't wait to see what happens in that one. Tell everyone how we met.
Michelle and I met online, when I was browsing the phrase--“Beauty for Ashes.” I checked out her blog and saw that we had entered the same contest, so I facebooked her. We’ve been online buddies since and crit partners! We had the chance to meet and hang out for a few days at the Writing for the Soul Conference!

Any interesting stories or anecdotes about the two of us?
On Sunday morning of the conference, I get a text at 6 am from Michelle. It says: “Are you ready?” I’ve been up anyway so no biggie, but I laugh because I realize this is the second time she’s misread her schedule. I text her back: “For what?” She says, “For devotions.” I crack up, “We don’t have to be anywhere until 8 am today.” A few minutes later she texts back, “I could have slept another hour!” It was hilarious. That’s just one story! We had a ball!

LOL, I just had to ask! As you can see from my eyes in the photo, I was tired! Yes, we did  have a ball.  I hope we get to do it again at the next conference. So, what's the most exciting thing that has happened this year, relating to your writing?
I was a finalist at the Clash of the Titles. It was a great experience and it was nice knowing that readers enjoyed and voted for my excerpt. I also had an opportunity to go to the WFTC and develop new relationships because of my writing.

It was fun having you on COTT! How has social media affected your writing relationships and/or marketing strategy?
If it wasn’t for social media, I would have never met some of the incredible writers that I have. Michelle for one! The friends I’ve made have helped me grow as a writer, encouraged me when I needed it, and given me great feedback. Before I began blogging or reading blogs, I knew no one personally who wrote. I wouldn’t be this far without them.

I don’t have a marketing strategy, but I will say that the relationships I’ve built have opened doors in the industry that weren’t there before. I’ve been given great advice by a client of an agent I wanted to query. She looked over my material when she was already busy and stretched thin but we’ve become friends through social media. I’m grateful for that. I’m one of the finalist judges for the Grace awards in the romance/historical romance category. If it hadn’t been for a relationship I’ve built with an author, I might never have heard about it. Next month, I’ll be interviewed on a Romance Writers on the Journey, which I’m very excited about. All because of relationships I’ve cultivated with other writers and authors. God has blessed me with the friendships and opportunities.

What advice would you give to other aspiring authors?
Be patient. This isn’t a fast industry to break out in. Trust Him to get you where you need to be when it’s His time. Put Him first always. Spend time with Him before you settle in to write. No matter what, He’s your greatest reward—not a publishing contract or a movie deal. Keep that in perspective and He’ll carry you where you need to be and bless you!

Great advice! Can you share a snippet from your latest project?
Claudia Bennett’s has good reasons not to go back home to West Creek after thirteen years but when her mother becomes ill, she has no choice.

Drew Jamison is determined to find out the truth behind Claudia’s quiet exit from their hometown, and him, but when he thinks he might get answers, a body surfaces in a remote field and his investigative reporter begins sniffing out Claudia as the prime suspect and uncovering deadly secrets.

OOOH, creepy! I'm glad I get to read it early as your crit partner! =) Thank you so much for visiting my blog today, Jess. 

Readers, you can connect with Jessica on twitter @Jessicarpatch and on facebook
And follow her really great blog! http://www.jessicarpatch.blogspot.com/

Friday, April 8, 2011


The winner of our free book drawing is....

Suzanna E. Nelson



You have been emailed and will receive a copy of The Road To Deer Run!

Thank you to everybody who participated--and to Elaine for visiting my blog, offering a free book, and being a sweet friend.

5 Writing Lessons Learned From Coffee

How can a good book be like a cup 'o joe, you ask? The answer is in your mug, young grasshopper...

1) Rich
Details add color to your story-world and make it rich. Don't settle for flat secondary characters or nondescript settings. Even place-holding personalities can be witty and engaging. And giving realistic background to your plot will leave your reader feeling like they've really been there and wanting to return long after they finish the read.

2) Relaxing
Don't make your readers work to make sense of your novel. Learn grammar and punctuation rules, don't give your characters similar-sounding names, don't head-hop, to name a just a few things that can confuse and overwhelm your audience.

3) Dark
A good book will have moments of darkness. The darker the low points of your character, the brighter and higher the emotional payoff will be when they triumph. Don't be afraid to torture your characters. The reader's relief when the suffering finally breaks will be all the sweeter for it.

4) Energizing
I'm awake!
Don't let your readers fall asleep. Your book should wake up their emotions and keep them up late into the night. Nail your openings: First line, first paragraph, first chapter. Make sure every chapter begins with a new hook and ends with tension. And of course, make sure your plot is riveting, your dialogue sparkling.

5) Good to the last drop
Keep your readers turning pages and make them mourn the words The End. Flesh out your characters till they become real, throw them into conflict the reader is dying to see them through, and find that perfect ending that satisfies yet leaves them craving more.

And that is how you can apply the principals of your java to your novel.
Happy brewing!

**Drawing winner will be chosen later this afternoon.  And on Monday you'll be meeting my crazy friend Jessica Patch.  Hope to see you soon!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Whatevah Wednesday: Mugs

Yep, mugs.

My coffee cup collection is very dear to my heart.  I didn't set out to "collect" mugs.  It just sort of happened.  They each are special for different reasons and make me feel a certain way when I use them.

I drink at least one cup of coffee every day. There's something about wrapping your hands around a warm cup and swallowing down a hot drink that makes me go "ahhh!"  Actually, I think I enjoy the idea of coffee even more than coffee itself, if I'm honest. The feeling of having a moment to myself to relax is embodied by a cup of java.

So here is a photo of some of my favorite mugs.  I have more favorites but they wouldn't fit in the shot.

On the top row is my COTT mug.  I love this mug because not only do I really like Clash of the Titles, I love the group of women I work with.  We each have a mug like this with our name and title and I think of them, and of how blessed I am to be part of this group, every time I use mine. I always wonder if one of them might be drinking from hers at the same moment. (Are you?)

The next one is my cocker puppy mug.  We have two cocker spaniels--Chloe and Reese--and I grew up with a cocker (Sammy), so this cup just makes me smile.  Isn't it cute?

That photo mug was made in December of 2009 and I adore it! Every member of my family smiles at me from that cup whenever I drink from it, and I always smile back.  Everyone is changing so quickly and I enjoy holding onto "the way we were" in the form of a coffee cup.  I look at it much more often than an album.

The penguin mug was a gift from my daughter Amy, and she was so excited to give it to me.  It's adorable, but more importantly, she is adorable and I love her to pieces.

Next up: Paris!  I haven't been to Paris personally but my husband brought this back for me.  I always pretend I am sitting in a cafe, looking out at the Tower, when sipping from this mug.  It inspires me.

The Colosseum.  Ahhh, Rome.  Now Rome I DID get to visit. Trip of a lifetime!  This one also inspires me, a great mug to use while writing.  The emotions invoked when standing in the colosseum, reflecting on the Christians who gave their lives there, are readily recalled when I hold this cup in my hands.  Everything about that amazing trip is now attached to this mug--the Trevi fountain, the Cat Park (ask me sometime), the guy playing the fiddle on the sidewalk, the cafe we frequented during our visit. 

And last on today's list is the coffee cup I painted a year and a half ago featuring Trevor's footprints. He was 3 months old and it was our wedding anniversary.  Mike painted an AMAZING plate of Michaelangelo's The Creation Of Adam.  I may not have his lofty skills but I love love love my mug.  Inside, the bottom says "Good Morning".  So I get a friendly greeting (lol), a memory of painting with my husband, and a memory of Trevor's little baby toes.

These all make me smile and when I write, they help me start from a good place.  Of course, sometimes my coffee goes cold when my fingers get to flying, but it's the thought that counts. Speaking of "thoughts", look for my post Friday about 5 things writers can learn from coffee!

What about you?  Do you like coffee mugs or some other smiley collection?

Don't forget! Elaine is giving away a copy of A Road to Deer Run to one of you and the drawing is still open! Ways to enter:

1) Leave a comment here or here
2) Refer friends (must mention you)
3) Tweet or facebook a link to this giveaway
4) Follow my blog
Please tell me in the comments what entries you qualify for. And don't forget to leave your email address.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Social Media Monday: Elaine Cooper

Last week I told you I'd be introducing you to some of my online friends.  People I have met by networking through social media. Today we are spending time with the beautiful Elaine Marie Cooper, author of The Road to Deer Run.  Elaine has the most infectiously sweet spirit and is someone you definitely want to know. I encourage you to take this opportunity to introduce yourself. =) She is offering a free copy of her book to one of my awesome readers so be sure to check the deets at the end of the post. 

Everybody, meet Elaine:

Hi Elaine! I'm so excited to be interviewing you for my blog. Since being your hostess on COTT, I've known you'd be someone I wanted to keep in touch with. Thanks for taking the time for this!

Tell us a little about yourself. 
I’m a Christian, wife, mother of two grown sons, Grammie to triplets, author, magazine freelance writer, and blog writer for www.thebarndoor.net and ReflectionsinHindsight.wordpress.com. I am a retired registered nurse who loves to learn about history. I also enjoy singing Praise & Worship and listening to Revolutionary War era music. Crocheting and cross stitch beckon at my fingers and hot, caffeinated tea beckons my palate. My favorite Bible verse is Proverbs 31:8-9. And no, it’s not about the Proverbs woman! =)

We met through Clash of the Titles. Can you share with my readers how that came about?
Last fall I became familiar with Clash of the Titles through Facebook. They were looking for sponsors to advertise on COTT and I was looking for ways to promote my book. Through COTT I became Facebook friends with some of the staff and connected with other blogs as well. It was a domino effect of connecting! I did not know you, Michelle, until you chose my (anonymous) excerpt for competition. Not only did it lead to winning a COTT championship, but it led to getting to know you better! A win-win! And thank you for this interview, by the way.

You are always welcome. =) I know you were very excited to find out you'd been chosen for a Clash, and your enthusiasm made me excited too! What was your reaction to my first email?
I think I was MORE than excited! My husband couldn’t figure out what was “wrong” with me as I opened the e-mail saying my excerpt was chosen! Lol. My reaction was sheer joy and excitement. Being chosen was affirmation to me that there was worth in my writing.

There sure is--your book went on to win your Clash and also was recently honored at an event in LA. What was that like?
The two honors were received within one week’s time, and I was in a dream world of disbelief. My award from the Los Angeles Book Festival was an Honorable Mention in the Romance category and I was able to fly to LA to receive it, accompanied by my son and daughter-in-law who live in Southern California. I truly felt honored and humbled as I dedicated the award to my daughter Bethany, who passed away 7 years ago from cancer. Had she lived, she might have been the one receiving awards for her inspiring and dynamic prose. But no one was more surprised and excited by winning these back-to-back awards than me.

Sounds like a successful debut to me! What part has social media played in your journey?
Although I reluctantly started using Facebook “kicking and screaming,” social media has honestly been the key to successfully marketing my novel. It has connected me to authors, readers, bloggers, bookstores, organizations, contests, and numerous other connections to promote my book. I honestly am not sure how successful my marketing strategy would have been without using Facebook.

You should know what you're talking about, with almost 1700 Facebook friends! So tell us about this award-winning novel.
The core of The Road to Deer Run is a love story set during the American Revolution. It involves the unexpected discovery of a wounded and dying British soldier on the farm owned by a family of Patriots. The oldest daughter from the farm, Mary Thomsen, discovers him barely hanging onto life. Despite her hatred for the British—the enemy responsible for her brother’s death in the War—Mary’s heart of compassion is stirred and she decides that her Christian responsibility is to provide him comfort in his illness. This of course causes havoc in the household as the family becomes a party to providing comfort to the enemy. Despite the tension between their political beliefs, barriers are slowly broken down between the soldier (Daniel) and Mary as affection begins to bloom. Decisions need to be made as tensions grow and forces that oppose their relationship loom on the horizon, threatening to disrupt everyone’s happiness.

Elaine, I can't thank you enough for visiting my blog today. You are one of my dear friends and I'm blessed to know you. =)
Readers, Elaine has offered a free copy of A Road to Deer Run to one fortunate follower!  Ways to enter:

1) Leave a comment
2) Refer friends (must mention you)
3) Tweet or facebook a link to this giveaway
4) Follow my blog

Please tell me in the comments what entries you qualify for. And don't forget to leave your email address. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Why Do We Love Bad Guys?

by Amanda Flower

Every story needs a good bad guy or well-crafted antagonist. Both of our Clashers this week have created great ones. However, my question for you, dear readers, is “Why do we love bad guys?” What is it about them that makes us keep turning the page?

I’ll tell you why I love them.

1. They demonstrate the ongoing battle between good and evil, between justice and injustice. Hopefully good/justice prevails in the end.

2. They give you someone to dislike. I love disliking characters in books. These characters don’t have to be truly awful people either. It could be a character as simple as a snippy next door neighbor or a rude co-worker.

3. They are flawed. In some cases, horribly flawed. However, they reminded us all that we are flawed as well.

4. They keep the story more interesting. Of course, we want our protagonist to triumph in the end, but antagonists cause conflict and conflict creates a plot that gives us a story to read.

5. Sometimes, they transform and leave their antagonistic ways. They can be forgiven and demonstrate God’s power to forgive even the worst of humanity.

Those are my reasons. Now, share yours.

Get to know this week's authors all week at http://www.clashofthetitles.com and be entered to win a free book.

bio: Amanda Flower  is an academic librarian for a small college in Ohio. Her first novel, Maid of Murder, was released in 2010. When she is not at the library or writing her next mystery, she is an avid traveler, aspiring to visit as much of the globe as she can
She is the author of Maid of Murder

Don't forget to come back on Monday to meet my cyber-friend Elaine Cooper.  We'll be giving away her award-winning book.  Tell a friend!