Friday, April 29, 2011

The Scoop on the Dreaded Fifteen Minute Appointment

I've had several people ask me what to expect when they having a fifteen minute appointment with an industry professional. Many even wonder if they should take advantage of an appointment. My answer? ABSOLUTELY. Even if you don’t have something to pitch, an editor, agent or even well known author can give you valuable insights to help you focus your career goals.

Let me give you some idea of why professionals agree to be part of the faculty.

They want to help you. By and large, those on the faculty at writers conferences are there because they have a heart for helping new writers. They know what it’s like to sit on your side of the table. Others have helped them achieve their goals and now they want to give back by helping someone else.

They’re looking for new writers. The market is constantly changing and there is always room for new writers. Recently I had someone ask me why a publisher is looking for new writers if the book market is shrinking.
  • First, it’s not shrinking—it’s changing.
  • Second, writers come and go.
  • Third, every choir needs more than one voice for each section. It’s the blend that makes the music beautiful.

Now, onto who you should speak with at a conference.
Editor (for books or magazines)—these professionals are a good choice for two reasons.
  • One—you have a project that fits their line and want to pitch it.
  • Two—they know the market and can give you an idea of their opinion about where it’s headed.
  • Three—they can give you input on an idea you have.
  • Four—they can give you career advice.

Agent—these are good for the same reasons above.
  • One—you have a project that fits who they rep.
  • Two—they know the market and can give you an idea of their opinion about where it’s headed.
  • Three—they can also give you input on an idea you have.
  • Four—they can give you career advice.

Published Writer—these professionals can do a lot of the same things. They can also:
  • Commiserate about challenges you’re facing as a writer.
  • Give you advice on where a particular project might fit or who in the industry might be looking for something similar.
  • Give you encouragement.

You’ll sometimes find other industry folks at a conference, such as marketing professionals, speakers, publicists, etc.

I encourage you to make your appointments and try not to be nervous. They are there to help, not tear you down. And a lot of good things can come from those appointments—way beyond career stuff. I’ve made friends, gotten validation that I’m not really crazy and had the opportunity to be prayed for and to pray for others.

Now it’s your turn. Do you have any questions or, if you’ve been to a writers conference, any advice?

And . . . don’t forget to join the conversation!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Get Organized for a Writers Conference

For those who’ve known me for any length of time are aware that organization isn’t my strong suit—at least not in the conventional meaning. My desk is covered in stacks of paper and the walls of my office are papered with rainbow hued sticky notes. It’s a system that works for me—but I quickly discovered it didn’t translate when I went on the road.

So I found another way to keep myself on track when I’m away from the office and my conference notebook was born.

It’s really pretty funny. The moment people see my notebook they immediately assume I’m this ultra-organized whiz. Actually, the opposite is true and my notebook is just a last ditch effort at self-preservation. Another thing I’ve noticed is that this notebook works well no matter what your natural bent toward organization.

The primary idea for this notebook is that it contains everything I need at a writers conference so I don’t have to dig through bags or be constantly returning to my room for something I’ve forgotten.

So let’s get to it!

First, I choose a one and a half inch three ring binder. Mine is green because green is my favorite color. I make sure there’s a sleeve on the front cover to slide a cover into because it hold my contact information if I should lay it down and leave it somewhere.

Next, in the front I have a small zippered pouch with a couple of pens and some paper clips. I can also slide in a small lipstick, some band-aids and tissues.

After that, I have a neat insert that holds several different size and colors of sticky notes.

Then, I add 4 pages of clear business card holders. I use the kind that are the size of a full page, so I have plenty of room to add business cards. I keep the first three empty and use them to store business cards I get from others. The last page is full of my personal business cards, so I always have plenty to hand out. (Don’t know what to include on a business card? I posted a blog on that here.)

The next part is divided into sections with tabs. Each project I’m pitching has a section. Here’s what would go into a section.
  • A clear plastic sleeve containing my one sheet for that project. (Don’t know what a one sheet is? Click here for a post on one sheets).
  • An outline for the project—if it’s non-fiction.
  • A synopsis for the project—if it’s fiction.
  • A sample of my writing for the project. This can either be a couple of sample devotions (for a devotional book) or the first couple of chapters in a book (fiction or non-fiction).

I have several copies of my one sheet, outline, synopsis and sample—just in case the person I’m showing it to wants to keep it or mark it up with suggestions.

Finally, after the section for projects I stock the back of the notebook with notebook paper and extra clear plastic sleeves and tabs.

Extras, you can include in your notebook might be a bio sheet, a list of topics if you're a speaker or even a list of articles you might want to pitch. The nice thing about this kind of notebook is you can personalize it to fit your needs.

With this notebook, no matter where I run into an editor or agent, I’m always prepared. I literally have everything at my fingertips. During a conference I NEVER go anywhere without my notebook.

So what have you found to help keep you on track while at a conference? We’d love to learn from your experiences too.

Just don’t forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,
Edie

Monday, April 25, 2011

Clash of The Titles conquerors!

Naomi Musch and the opening paragraphs from her historical novel, The Green Veil.
CONGRATULATIONS, NAOMI!
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 AllianceTell us whose blog sent you here to give them an extra entry too!
Have fun!

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

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Weekend Worship—Beneath the Cross

Last Easter I found myself huddled beneath the cross where Jesus hung dying.

Now, for those of you that know me, that’s not as strange as it seems. I love the theater; I even majored in costume design for a time in college. But now, my favorite theater is found in the church. I love being involved in church dramas. For me, the Bible comes alive when it’s being portrayed on the stage.

I do have to confess that I don’t like being one of those onstage – hence the major in costume design. I absolutely hate being in front of a large group of people. I’ve found my place, though. I love being part of the stage crew and that’s what I was doing last Easter.

So, last Easter I huddled beneath the cross while Jesus hung suffering. I was dressed all in black, trying to make myself as small as possible so I wouldn’t detract from the actor portraying Christ. But as I crouched there, I heard his groans and watched him writhe in agony. I heard the cry of the crowds and felt my heart chilled by their impassive faces as they observed the drama.

Was this the way it had been 2000 years ago? The question in my mind transported me to ancient Jerusalem as my heart flooded with parallels. It was no longer just a drama on stage, Jesus’ agony and sacrifice became real in a way I could never have imagined.

The black I wore represented my sin and my invisibility to God in my wretchedness.

My silence, while necessary and expected during the performance, stung me with the resemblance of real life. The world expects me to be silent about the cross, or at least tasteful. And so often I comply, remaining quiet instead of speaking out.

Finally my attempt to remain hidden reminded me that while the world might not see me as I really am, Jesus had a perfect view of me while he hung suffering.

Yes, last Easter I found myself huddled at the base of the cross where Jesus hung dying.

And I will never be the same.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What to Wear at a Writers Conference

Today I’m going to continue my series on getting ready for a writers conference. One of the most asked questions I get is about appropriate attire. Below is my opinion—you’ll find others who disagree—but it’s always worked well for me.

First let me say this, you’ll see a little bit of everything when comes to what people wear at writing conferences. But, and this is important, just because you see someone wearing it doesn’t mean it’s appropriate.

I always treat a writing conference like a job interview—and really that’s what it is. You are meeting people who are deciding on whether or not to invest in you and your work. It may be a small investment—like an article; or a large investment—like a book contract.

Here are the guidelines I use when I plan my conference wardrobe.
  • Business casual always works. For women, slacks, casual skirts, nicer jeans or capris. For men, slacks, nice jeans, polo’s, even some t-shirts if not sloppy. Suits are definitely NOT required. I like my style to look effortless and timeless.
  • Keep it comfortable, for shoes at least. I don’t know about you, but I can’t concentrate when my feet hurt. I try to avoid athletic shoes because of their ultra casual nature, but I would choose them if they were the only ones I could be comfortable in.
  • Dress in layers. No matter what the temperature outside—inside is always a roll of the dice. Some rooms will be hot, some cold. So I always try to top an outfit with a light sweater or jacket, and usually a scarf.
  • Leave the perfume (men, this means cologne) at home. I know lots of folks who get headaches from or are allergic to different strong scents—and their definition of strong isn't always the same as mine. Some conferences, like ACFW, bill themselves as perfume free. 

And although this isn’t actually a piece of clothing, you’ll need to choose something to carry. Men and women need something to tote their laptops, notebooks, handouts, business cards, etc. Pick something with a wide strap, because it can get heavy by the end of the day and don’t forget to pack extra pens, tissues and breath mints!

Now it’s your turn—how do you plan your wardrobe for a conference? Also, my next post will be about how to organize all your paper paraphernalia in one conference notebook.

Don't forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,
Edie

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hook, Line, or Stinker!

by April Gardner

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.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Weekend Worship—A Weight Loss Journey

I've been on a journey of sorts for the past few years—a quest to change my lifestyle. It’s involved the usual—eating better, losing weight and exercising. It’s been an incredibly slow process and I think if I’d known exactly how slow, I might not have attempted it. But it has been marked with steady progress. And I’m well on my way to being half the woman I used to be!

Not long ago, while several of us were having lunch, a close friend showed me just how much progress I’d made. The question came up during lunch about how much weight I’d lost.

“I’ve lost 86 pounds so far, but I’ve still got 31 pounds to go to get to my goal.”
“Wow.”
Then came the inevitable follow up questions.
“How long has it taken you?”
“Do you have any before pictures?”

There was a time I wouldn’t have shared any pictures of myself—especially when I was at my heaviest. But now, those pictures are proof of the changes that have occurred in my life. I feel so much better physically—after all I was carrying what equaled an average 13 year old on my back. And, everyone could clearly see I wasn’t the person I used to be.

As I passed around the pictures I couldn’t help but think about Pilgrim’s Progress, the classic by Paul Bunyan. I love that allegory—especially the part where Christian is carrying the burden of sin. It’s such a visible picture of who we are in Christ, as opposed to who we were before.

I began to wonder how I’m doing in that area. Sure, I’ve shed excess physical pounds, but God is much more interested in my heart. Am I walking in freedom or am I weighed down with pounds of unconfessed and unconfronted sin? Can people see evidence of Christ in my life—or does my sin obscure His presence?

I’ve decided that as Easter approaches I’ll spend as much energy getting into shape spiritually as I have physically. Then, hopefully the changes you see will be even more pronounced!


There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your indignation; There is no health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities are gone over my head; As a heavy burden they weigh too much for me. Psalm 38:3-4

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thursday Review—Blogs and Online Resources for Writers

In this era we tend to be bombarded by all the information online. Today I’d like to give you a list of some of my favorite places to visit on the web. These are sites that I read regularly—places and people who have good content—delivered in a way that doesn’t use up my valuable time.



Blogs:
http://www.trafficgenerationcafe.com/ - this is a new find for me and I really like what Ana’s doing here.
http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/ - Rachelle Gardner is a literary agent and her blog was just picked as one of the ten best by Writers Digest. I’m glad they finally caught on—I’ve been following her for years!
http://www.mybooktherapy.com – Susan May Warren is a best-selling writer and extraordinary writing instructor. Her entire site is must read for anyone interested in writing fiction, but more on that later!
http://cecmurpheyswritertowriter.blogspot.com – Cecil Murphey is an incredible writer and instructor. His blog is always a great source of information
http://michaelhyatt.com/ - Michael Hyatt is the CEO of Thomas Nelson and his insights on the publishing industry are invaluable.
http://www.brncwc.com – this site is the official site of several writers conferences, but it’s so much more. Author and conference director Alton Gansky shares his wisdom about writing through posts, videos and screen casts.
http://www.jackcavanaugh.com/ - Jack Cavanaugh is an amazing writer and shares some really great excerpts from his personal library.
http://jodyhedlund.com/ - this is a blog I’ve just started following and I’m really enjoying it.
http://noveljourney.blogspot.com/ - started by author Gina Holmes, this site is also listed as one of Writers Digest’s best sites for writers.
http://bethkvogt.blogspot.com/ - Beth is a good friend of mine and fellow editor. I’ve learned so much from her insight into writing.
http://vondaskelton.com/Blog.htm - Vonda Skelton is my critique partner and writing BFF. I definitely wouldn’t be the writer I am today without her!
http://www.mbtponderers.blogspot.com/ - this is a group blog and one of my favorites.
http://sethgodin.typepad.com/ - Seth Godin is considered one of the icons of online marketing. Anyone with a blog can learn from his pithy posts.
http://www.makealivingwriting.com/ - I learn so much from Carol Tice, author of this site. Her posts have had a huge part in my freelance success.
http://www.problogger.net/ - both of these are great blogging sites.

I follow a lot of folks on Twitter and a good way to find new people to follow is to go to someone’s Twitter page and follow the folks they follow. But to save you the trip, here’s a short list my favorites. Sincere apologies to anyone I’ve left off my favorites list!

People to Follow on Twitter:
@adgansky – Aaron Gansky
@kikoloni – Kristi Hines
@queenbeedm – Debbie Marrie
@evamarieeverson – Eva Marie Everson
@writersdigest – Writers Digest Magazine
@BRMCWC – Alton Gansky
@novilistjack – Jack Cavanaugh
@copyblogger – Brian Clark
@jrvogt – Josh Vogt
@terrywhalen – Terry Whalen
@bethvogt – Beth Vogt
@elizabethscraig – Elizabeth S Craig
@susanmaywarren – Susan May Warren
@anemulligan – Ane Mulligan
@michaelhyatt – Michael Hyatt
@marydemuth – Mary DeMuth
@rachelhauck – Rachel Hauck
@rachellegardiner – Rachelle Gardiner
@jamesscottbell – James Scott Bell
@grammargirl – Mignon Fogerty
@eddiesnipes – Eddie Snipes
@altongansky – Alton Gansky
@andybryant – Andy Bryant

Online groups to join:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TheWritersView/ - this is for more advanced writers, but they have another group for beginners
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TWV2/ - this is a great resource for writers.
http://www.thechristianpen.com/ - this is a site for editors and those who are interested in editing.
http://www.acfw.com/ - American Christian Fiction Writers. This site also has a great e-zine, Afictionado.
http://www.scbwi.org/ - Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators
http://www.mybooktherapy.com/ - My Book Therapy. They also have a great writers e-zine, Voices.
http://voices.mybooktherapy.com/ - The My Book Therapy e-zine.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BRMCWC - the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference Yahoo group.

Now it's your turn, what are some of your favorite sites?
Don't forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,
Edie

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

You as the Main Character—Every Writer Needs a Bio

We've been discussing how to get prepared for a writers conference
here and
and today I want to talk about your personal bio. 

Every writer and speaker needs a bio, whether or not you're attending a conference.

Actually, you need three.
  • A small one, 25-50 words
  • A medium length one, approximately two paragraphs
  • A full page one, in depth
Many times this written bio is the first introduction someone in this business (think editor or event coordinator) or a consumer (reader or attendee) will have of you. This, with your message, can mean the difference between making the sale or not.

Your bio should reflect, through words, exactly who you are. It should boil down the essence of your personality. It should always be written in third person, as if you were talking about someone else.

A bio must be
  • Relevant
It must give you
  • Personality
  • Credibility
Below are some (not all) of the instances where a bio will be necessary.
·         Cover letter (to an editor, agent or event coordinator)
·         Book Proposal
·         Query Letter
·         Your website
·          Inside your book or on the jacket
·         Publicity for a personal appearance 
·         In a publication (web or print) after an article

It’s important that you have control over your bio. Which means planning now. It will, in effect, be a part of your personal brand. It gives you credibility, whether you are speaking or writing. As such it should contain only things pertaining to your credibility and identity. For example, if you’re not speaking on sales, it isn’t important to mention your job 15 years ago as an outside sales person. Think relevant when you’re composing your bio.

So now it's your turn - do you have a bio? What are some tips and questions you have to writing one?
Don't forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,
Edie

Monday, April 11, 2011

Clash of the Titles Conquerors!

Special Note: Beginning this week, I'm changing the posting schedule on The Write Conversation. From now on you'll read about the Clash of the Titles conquerors on Monday, to make it possible for you to participate in the clash. Aren't familiar with Clash of the Titles? It's the ultimate literary challenge - where authors battle and readers judge!
My writing instruction post will now come on Tuesday. 
Don't forget to join the conversation! 
Blessings, 
Edie



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!)


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

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Appearance of a Radical Life

When our boys were small we moved to a neighborhood with a community pool and we spent many happy summers there. But one summer I remember meeting a new neighbor. This neighbor was a young father with twin boys. I’ll never forget the first time I saw him in the pool—complete with large tattoos and body piercing. I had the urge to draw my boys close and protect them from this scary stranger. I’m glad I didn’t act on this first impression. As I watched him play with his boys and saw the love he lavished on them it was obvious he was a good dad.

I’d conveniently forgotten the entire episode until this past summer, when our oldest son and his wife came to live for a few months. Our son had just received his honorable discharge from the Marine Corps and I was so excited he’d be able to spend some time there, introducing his wife to the neighborhood where he’d grown up and getting used to being a civilian again.

His first day at the pool I got there first. I settled into a deck chair, chatting with several neighbors and catching up on the winter’s happenings. As I was visiting, I noticed several people stop and stare. I glanced at the entrance and was excited to see it was my son, soon others in the neighborhood would be able to welcome him home.

As I watched thought, the reception wasn’t what I expected. You see, while my son was in the military he’d acquired some body art. His tattoos aren’t objectionable—several are Christian in their messages—but they are tattoos. I was immediately transported back to my reaction so many years ago—but this time the scary man was my son. I immediately rushed to his side and re-introduced him to neighbors who didn’t recognize him. The atmosphere changed and he was welcomed back with all the joy I could have hoped.

But the experience stays with me.

I asked God what He wanted me to take away from this and these are the thoughts I’ve had.
  • Tattoos: What difference could I make if I was so marked by the love of God that people stopped and stared?
  • Piercing: How would my life change if my heart was truly pierced for Him?
  • Long Hair: What would happen if people could visibly see that I’m covered by God’s grace?
  • Chains: How I wish the world could see the chains that no longer bind me.

Kind of makes you think—at least it did me.

Don't forget to join the conversation,
Blessings,
Edie

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Thursday Review—Pen on Fire

Pen on Fire

A Book Review by Lynn Blackburn 


I don’t know about you, but for me a perfect writing day looks something like this . . .

I sleep late and wake refreshed.
I turn on my favorite writing music (movie scores), put on my favorite writing clothes (lounge pants—elastic waist a must), brew a cup of tea (Earl Grey anyone?) and settle in.
For at least an hour.
Preferably two.
Or three.

There’s no need to go any further with this description because this ideal day . . . has NEVER happened.

Now, I’m willing to write in less than ideal conditions, but the one thing I have the most trouble with is the issue of time. If I don’t have an hour of quiet, I tend to think I don’t have time to write.

And this is a problem. I have three children. One of whom is six weeks old.

I never have an hour of quiet. Well, unless I want to write at 3AM. And given that I’m entering my sixth week of sleep deprivation, my ability to string together two coherent sentences at 3PM is questionable. At 3AM, absolutely impossible.

So what’s a writer to do? Give up? Write once a week, or once a month, when that elusive “quiet time” becomes available?

Not according to Pen on Fire. Apparently I’m not the only one with the misconception that I need at least an hour to write anything substantial. Or that if I don’t have an hour there’s no need to even start.

Pen on Fire shoots down this notion and provides concrete examples and advice for ways to make time for your writing—every day. Even if it’s in fifteen minute windows of opportunity.

The book is broken down into sections including how to start finding those fifteen minute windows, tools of the trade and overcoming the obstacles (gulp—the internet can be an obstacle) to your writing life.

Has reading this book cured me of my desire for hours of uninterrupted writing bliss? Hardly. But it has given me hope that maybe I will be able to find time to write . . . sometime before 3AM.

What about you? Where do you carve out time to write?
Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Lynn Huggins Blackburn has been telling herself stories since she was five and finally started writing them down. On her blog Out of the Boat she writes about faith and family while her blog Perpetual Motion documents the joys and challenges of loving and rearing a child with special needs. A graduate of Clemson University, Lynn lives in South Carolina where she writes, reads, knits, takes care of three amazing children, one fabulous man and one spoiled rotten Boston Terrier.

Monday, April 4, 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.

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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

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Stink of Death


But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. II Corinthians 3:15 

Travel back in time with me as we watch Joseph and Nicodemus take the body of Jesus from the cross that fateful Friday and prepare it for burial. It must have taken valuable time to convince Pilate to let them have Him, but they managed. Nicodemus carried seventy five pounds of myrrh and spices to prepare the body. It was an offering worthy of a king—a dead king. 

Imagine the tears they shed as they silently and gently lowered his broken body to the ground. See the abuse He suffered at the hands of his accusers. The beatings rendered Him almost unrecognizable as the blood and filth poured from His body. Still they loved Him so much.

Time was running out before the Sabbath began. They didn’t have time to prepare His body like they wanted, like He deserved. But at least there was an unused tomb in the garden close by. They took Him there and lovingly prepared His body. They tried to cover the stench of death with herbs and linen, but can you imagine the odor inside that dark, cramped tomb. The sickly sweet smell of myrrh combining with the overwhelming smell of blood and torture. As they worked, the smell must have seeped into their noses, hair and clothing, and when they left they took with them the odor of despair as they gathered with the others to celebrate an empty Sabbath.

Move ahead to Sunday morning, that very first Easter. Mary Magdalene has returned with the news that someone has stolen Jesus’ body. As the disciples race to the tomb a part of them must dread what they’ll find. But as John enters that resting place of the dead something besides Jesus’ body is missing.


In a place once redolent with the stink of death, there lies only the empty grave clothes and spices. Imagine the odor now—this place of death now carries the aroma of life.

Jesus led the way—He replaced the odor of death with the aroma of life. Now it’s up to us to let Him lead others down the same path through us. The question is, does our life carry the stink of death or the fragrance of life everlasting?