Sunday, April 29, 2012

Weekend Worship—The Uncomfortable Calling


 I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry, Moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, Why do you bother with us?Why take a second look our way? Psalm 8:4 (The Message)
We writers are an insecure lot. I’ve had the privilege to spend this week with some of the most talented writers I know, and we hadn’t been together for an hour before this truth was apparent. It was almost like the combined weight of our fears collapsed a dam and all our recent failures and set-backs came rushing out. 
That first evening was partially spent catching up. But the majority of the time seemed to revolve around reassuring each other that, no matter what the world said, we hadn’t mistaken God’s call on our lives to write. We shared the heartaches of recent contests with poor scores, vicious critiques and missed opportunities, all with self deprecating laughs and tear-filled eyes. 
We bound up each other’s wounds, hurts and injuries. Many had been inflicted without ill intent, but left their marks none-the-less. It’s all part of the process, the journey of becoming. But what joy and relief it was to come together with others who understood. And that was the crux, feeling heard and validated. 
As I considered this the following morning, it hit me that there is One who always understands, who feels our pain, empathizing without pity. We can turn to Him, in any instance, at any time, and find ourselves safe. I want to share my prayer for each of us.
Dearest Lord, I pray for my fellow writers today, that each of us, even as we’re reminded of our own inadequacies, would view our blessings in light of your sovereignty, goodness and mrcy; resting in the unfathomable fact that you have ordained this. It’s not that we’re good or worthy—or even here by mistake—but that you have a purpose for each of us. Please remove our focus on ourselves and replace it with a whole-hearted devotion and renewal to serve you...however uncomfortable the calling.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

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:

I also 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
  • @susanstilwell - Susan Stilwell
  • @kikoloni – Kristi Hines
  • @writersdigest – Writers Digest Magazine
  • @Alton Gansky - Director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference
  • @novelistjack – Jack Cavanaugh
  • @thebudgetmaven - Allison Martin
  • @copyblogger – Brian Clark
  • @ticewrites - Carol Tice from Make a Living Writing
  • @jrvogt – Josh Vogt
  • @stacysjenson - Stacy Jenson
  • @rachelhauck - Rachel Hauck
  • @michellelim24 - Michelle Lim
  • @bethvogt – Beth Vogt
  • @elizabethscraig – Elizabeth S Craig
  • @susanmaywarren – Susan May Warren
  • @novelrocket - Gina Holmes from Novel Rocket
  • @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
  • @juliatomiak - Julia Tomiak
  • @donmaass - Donald Maass
  • @debbiemaxallen - Debbie Maxwell Allen

Online groups to join/visit:

I know this isn't an exhaustive list, far from it. But it's a start. Now I'd like to hear from you. What are some of your go-to sites on the Internet?

And don't forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,
Edie



Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Use Headlines to Compose Facebook and Twitter Updates—How to Utilize Copywriting Techniques in Social Media


I’ve done a good bit of copywriting during my career and I’ve stumbled across a really good application for it with my use of Social Media. So bear with me as I give you a little background on copywriting.
First, for those who aren’t sure, the dictionary defines a copywriters as one who “writes copy for advertising.” The field of copywriting has gone on to include many aspects of business writing.
And the primary goal for ALL copywriters when they compose a headline is not, as you might assume, to sell something.
It’s to get the first sentence read.
And that’s where the similarity with social networking begins.
So their choice of Headline, Graphics Font, Format, etc. should lead directly to this goal. And what is their goal with the first sentence? To get the next sentence read. 
This step-by-step copywriting road is also the yellow brick road for everyone who wants to succeed with Social Media.
You see, with a compelling headline a browser becomes a reader. Without a compelling headline, the rest of your words might as well not be written. The same could be said of your Facebook post or Twitter update.
So what makes a compelling headline/social media update?
  1. It must provide the reader with the tools to evaluate the content.
  2. It needs to resonate with a reader’s urgency.
  3. It’s important to show the reader why this offer/product/person is unique.

And, most important of all it must NOT give away the ending!
Not sure what that means? 
Let say I’d written a blog post about how Hootsuite can help you organize your Twitter life.
Here’s the Tweet/Facebook update I’d send out:
Does the confusion of Twitter make you crazy? Visit my blog today for 5 tips to organize your Tweet Life. 
Here’s a Tweet/Facebook update I’d NEVER send out:
Does the confusion of Twitter make you crazy? Use Hootsuite to organize your Tweet LIfe.
With the second one I’ve given away the ending and there’s no reason for anyone to visit my blog.
Now, before we get too much deeper I want to give you a list of all the different headlines you can create.
Direct Headlines go straight to the heart of the matter, without any attempt at cleverness. A direct blog post title might read Free SEO E-book.
An Indirect Headline takes a more subtle approach. It uses curiosity to raise a question in the reader’s mind, which the body copy answers. Often a double meaning is utilized, which is useful online. A blog post I once saw was 7 Reasons NOT to Blog.
News Headline is pretty self-explanatory, as long as the news itself is actually, well… news. A product announcement, an improved version, or even a content scoop can be the basis of a compelling news headline. Think Introducing the New Google+.
The How to Headline is popular everywhere, online and off, for one reason only—it works. An example would be, umm… oh yes… the title of this post.
Question Headline must do more than simply ask a question, it must be a question that resonates with the reader. One used far too often in the writing industry, Do You Want to Get Published Now?
The Command Headline emphatically tells the reader what to do. The first word should be a strong verb demanding action, such as Subscribe to The Write Conversation Today!
Another effective technique is called the Reason Why Headline. Your body text consists of a numbered list of product features or tips, which you then incorporate into the headline, such as 8 Ways to Build a Platform.
Finally, we have the Testimonial Headline, which is highly effective because it presents outside proof that you offer great value. This entails taking what someone else has said about you, your product or service, and using their actual words in your headline. Quotation marks let the reader know that they are reading a testimonial, which will continue in the body copy
With this many types of headlines to choose from you should never run short of ideas on what to post about your or anyone’s blog again.
But remember, it's important to make sure you vary the type of headline post you use. In other words, don’t always use a question or a reason why headline. Shake it up a little.
Now let's have some fun. Can you give examples of possible headlines for today's post?

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

Monday, April 23, 2012

Clash of the Titles

***
I love those private moments when He cuddles me to His heart and reassures me that I am His, and that I'm special to Him.
~ Delia Latham
Welcome, Delia! It's a pleasure starting off our day off visiting with you. What did you have for breakfast this morning? Do I have to go directly to jail if I confess to rarely eating breakfast?  I've never been a fan of breakfast foods. To make it even worse, I usually get out of bed and feel my way to the refrigerator (instead of the coffee pot) for my wake-me-up Dr. Pepper. Oh, no! I think I just heard the clang of a slamming jail cell...

 Uh-oh, lol. I'll give you a place to hide when you go on the lam. So after that can of morning law-breaking, you must then head for the closet to get dressed. Would you consider yourself a skirt, jeans, or sweats kinda gal? Sweats when I'm home with no company expected and no errands to run. Jeans otherwise. And, although you didn't ask, bare feet.


I'm addicted to socks personally. Preferably fuzzy ones. But besides our feet, we probably look a lot alike in the outfit department. Nice to know I can dress casual if I ever visit your house. Which makes me wonder... If you were having me over for dinner, what would you be serving? Hmmm...good question, since I'm not the cook in my family. My husband does that, and loves it. (Am I blessed? Oh, yes, I am!) Off the top of my head, I'd say you might be dining on his famous chili verde burritos. They're mmm-mmm good! Dessert would be chocolate Heavenly Hash, which is a scrumptious concoction made of chocolate pudding, cool whip, and...I'm not even sure what else is in there, but you're going to love it! And, since it's you, it would all be served on a silver platter - my contribution to the meal. LOL

Oh Yum! I think I'll bring the whole fam. They might get bored of our book talk though. Can you tell me, of the books you've had published, which is nearest and dearest to your heart? Come now, darling...surely you wouldn't ask a mother which is her favorite child?  But, for the sake of cooperation, I'll just say that the new baby always gets the most attention. Of my older "children," however, I think Goldeneyes is probably the most "like" me. A vintage romance (set in 1936 and 1959), it is set partially in Weedpatch, the tiny, California farming community where I grew up. How could it not have a little of my own heart and soul written into its pages?

That sounds amazing! Can't wait to read it. =) COTT is lucky to have such a talented writer on staff. How long have you been on staff at Clash of the Titles and what do you envision for its future? I don't think it's been quite a year yet. Seems like I started about the beginning of August 2011. As for its future, I see COTT becoming a very important cog in the wheel for helping authors get noticed. It's already becoming known within the writing field, and has enjoyed participation by some widely recognized authors. I can't help believing COTT will become one of the places on which authors look forward to claiming a spot, and the Laurel Award could easily become one of the sought-after crowns (ummm...laurels?) of achievement within the industry. I honestly believe we have the potential for that kind of success, because everyone on staff truly cares about our authors and their success. I'm so proud to play a small part behind the scenes!

Sounds like a bright future for COTT and we love you being a part of our family of staff. We love your sweet spirit and the way Jesus shines through you. When do you feel closest to God? When I'm alone with Him...shut in with God, in a "secret place," as the old hymn goes. Just me and the Lover of my soul. I love those private moments when He cuddles me to His heart and reassures me that I am His, and that I'm special to Him. Even though I know He gives that same assurance to many others, it's absolutely true for each of us. He loves us all the most.

Ah, that is so beautiful. Love it. Thank you, Delia, that was so wonderfully well-put. You have such a way with words. And on that note, tell us about the last book you had the pleasure of seeing reach reader's hands. That would be Gypsy's Game - Book Three in the Solomon's Gate series...and it reached reader's hands only last Friday, March 16! I'm very excited about Gypsy's story, and can't wait to start hearing what readers think. Here's what it's about:
Gypsy Lovell stands to inherit an enormous amount of money from a father who never gave her anything but a ridiculous name. Even now, he doesn’t make it easy. A stipulation in the man’s will demands that Gypsy be married in order to claim what is hers. Desperate for the monetary windfall that could save her ailing mother’s life, Gypsy visits a Christian dating agency, hoping to find a temporary husband. Someone easy to handle for the required six months, and easy to get rid of when she no longer needs him. Jal Garridan is neither of those things, but he's willing to take on the challenge presented by the beautiful stranger—on his own terms. What Gypsy doesn’t know is that Solomon’s Gate is a dating agency with a Divine connection. What she finds there may save more than her mother’s life. It may save Gypsy’s soul.
I must  admit, there's a certain melancholy that goes along with knowing this book will most likely be the last time I'll swing open the giant portals of Solomon's Gate. But then...only God knows the future...perhaps He hasn't thrown away the key.

The first in that series was one of our summer book club selections and it was a great read! I'm looking forward to continuing the series, and I hope our readers will head over to Amazon to check it out too. They won't be disappointed! 
Thank you so much for chatting with us this morning. Go grab another Dr. Pepper and have a wonderfully productive day. And readers, be sure to visit www.clashofthetitles.com for the latest Clash and giveaway.  Have a blessed day!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Weekend Worship - Once Upon a Time . . .


Once Upon a Time
by Edie Melson

Dust & ashes
Filthy rags
Hateful masters
Ugly hags

Aching heart
Wishes made
Things changed
Rules obeyed



Pretty clothes
Delightful gathering
Striking clock
Hope unraveling

Life abandoned
Party fled
Dream denied
Future dead

Broken heart
Determined prince
Kingdom searched
Message sent





Trail followed
Captive sought
Desolate found
Freedom bought

Lifted up
Life redeemed
Carried away
Fulfilled dream

Fairy tale
Cosmic joke
Cruel lie
No hope

Jesus Christ
Heard my call
Paid the price
Prince of all

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thursday Review—Deep in the Heart, by Staci Stallings


Today, I'm drifting a little away from our regular Thursday Review format to introduce you to a friend of mine, Staci Stallings. She's a Contemporary Christian author and the founder of Grace & Faith Author Connection. She has a special surprise for us. 
Today only, 

I convinced Staci to answer a few questions for us, to give some insight into the life of an author.
Edie: Let’s jump right in. Is there something your readers might be surprised to find out about you?
Staci: How disorganized and scattered I am. Maybe it's just me and the fact that I have so much going on (a husband, three kids, a house, two schools, teaching Sunday School, directing VBS plays, serving on retreat teams, writing, publishing, marketing, my group Grace & Faith authors, doing all of the finances for my company, my husband's company, and our family, two large extended families, three blogs, etc. etc. etc.)... but I often feel like I get nothing done in a day.  
Others think I'm some kind of Wonder Woman, but I look around and see how much still needs to be done! That's why I feel scattered and disorganized because part of me thinks if I could just get organized, then I wouldn't feel so behind all the time. However, it's probably not that I'm disorganized, just that I have too much to ever conceivably get done. :)
Edie: That makes me tired just thinking about it all. What is your favorite way to relax?
Staci: Movies or writing my stories. On that same four-day vacation from all of life, I spent the first 2 1/2 days watching movies—romantic comedies mostly. I don't mind watching the same ones over and over either. I think I watched "Prom" like five times that weekend. Then, all of sudden, the floodgates of my mind and heart opened. I spent the next day and a half writing on a new story—80 pages! Unfortunately life hasn't let me write another word on a story since. 
Edie: Let’s talk about your story. In this book, what character do you most admire and why?
Staci: I love Deep in the Heart. It's one I could read over and over again. The two main characters are just so real. Maggie is trying so hard to make life work. Oh, she relies on God, no doubt, but it seems she can't ever catch a real break. I feel for her because I know what it's like to feel like life is conspiring against you, and just like her, I have to cling to my faith in God just to make it through some days. So I really relate to her and her struggles.
But I also love Keith. He is so much like I was growing up—looking like he had everything together on the outside but being so lost on the inside. It’s inspiring to me to watch as Maggie shares her faith with him and to watch him open his heart to God's love and to begin to understand that the temporary things of this world are nothing in comparison with the things that are eternal.
Edie: So tell me, how does God fit into your books?
Staci: If someone told me I had to take God out of my books, I wouldn't have a book left. A reviewer once complained that my characters prayed too much, that God had to work very hard in the book because the characters seemed not to be able to deal with life on their own. To which I said, "Duh! That's what being a Christian is about!" I was actually very proud of that 1-star review because it showed that although the reviewer may not like the message that Christians are to rely on God for every step, they certainly didn't miss the message in the book.
Edie: Tell me, who inspires you?
Staci: The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is just COOL. He is creativity and hope and love and joy all rolled into one. He lets me be who I am and helps me to become who I was meant to be. He whispers my stories to me and guides every step of every day. He makes sense out of things I could never comprehend and leads me to make connections I never saw coming. Life is way more exciting and fun because He's in it.
Thanks so much for having me, Edie. I hope you and your readers have a blessed day!


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

26 Social Networking Tips to Expand Your Reach—It’s as Easy as ABC


Social Media doesn't have to be hard

Social Media doesn’t have to be difficult. These tips can take you farther, faster if you implement them into your social networking strategy.
A is for Answer. Think about the questions your target audience has and use social media to give them the answers. For instance, my followers want to learn how to use social networking efficiently, so I Tweet short-cuts, tips and easy solutions that take up very little time.
B is for Basics. Whatever you’re doing, make it excellent. That means take time to check for typos and readability, in your Tweets, Facebook posts and in your blog. Also be sure you’re using giving accurate links. There’s nothing more frustrating than clicking on a link that takes you nowhere.
C is for Conversation. Remember social networking is all about interaction between people. It’s NOT talking at them...it’s talking with them.
Stay focused on the direction you want to go
D is for Direction. Think about what you’re trying to accomplish and be deliberate.
E is for Effort. Social Networking feels like it should be easy. But learning anew language is never done without expending effort. 
F is for Friends and Followers. These are the basis of your social interaction online. Don’t neglect them and only chase new connections. Be true to this foundation and it will sustain you over the long haul.
G is for Google Alerts. Google alerts are one of your best social networking friends. You can set up alerts to let you know when someone has mentioned you or a subject you’re interested in. And best of all, it’s a free service. Just click Google Alerts  and follow the instructions.  
H is for Hashtags. These are the gems in the fields of Twitter. Learn to follow Hashtags and use them correctly to increase your cyber-reach. Here’s an article I wrote about How to find Relevant Hashtags
I is for Include. Include others more often than yourself when you send out Tweets, Posts and Updates. The litany of Me, Me, Me gets old fast in social networking.
J is for Journey. Social networking is all about the journey and the joy of discovery. It’s NOT about arriving at a static destination.
Keep it simple
K is for KISS. KISS is an old-fashioned acronym for Keep It Simple Stupid. When you try to use too many different social networking tools you can get overwhelmed. Stick to three or four that work and leave the dabbling to others who aren’t working to become writers.
L is for Links. Used correctly, links or (hyperlinks)can increase your visibility and make your content much more valuable to those who follow you. Not sure how? Here’s another post I wrote on the basics of links
M is for Mobile. In the social networking world, more and more people view your blogs, tweets and Facebook through a mobile device (phone, tablet, even e-reader). Make certain you’re mobile friendly and all your sites are optimized for mobile viewing.
N is for Nice. Nice is the basic etiquette for social networking. My grandmother would have loved social media because the rules are simple—treat others the way you want to be treated.
O is for Original. Remember that original is who you are. There isn’t another person like you anywhere. That is the essence of your value, the way you see things, share things and interact is filtered through you. Don’t be a copycat, be yourself.
P is for Permission. Just because you see it online doesn’t mean it’s yours to borrow. Remember to respect the rights of others and take time to learn a little about copyrights. To get you started, here’s a copyright quiz that can test your knowledge. 
Q is for Quit. That’s right, quit. Set a time limit for social networking and then quit when it’s reached. You’re trying to be a writer, not a full-time marketing manager.
R is for Reach. Always look for new places to reach new people. Comment on a new blog or follow  a friend of a friend. 
Get started already
S is for Start. Many people put off social networking because they think it’s hard or unpleasant. You’ll never know till you try (sorry, that’s my grandmother again).
T is for Tease. When you compose a Blog Title, Tweet or Facebook post, don’t sum up your message. Use copywriting techniques to write effective Headlines. Tease your audience with something compelling that will encourage them to look further or interact with you and each other. In other words, become a social networking flirt!
U is for Understand. Take time to understand the social networking world. Learn the etiquette involved before you run headlong into embarrassment. Here’s an article on Twitter FAQs to help you get started. 
V is for Value. This is ALWAYS the basis of your message, no matter your social networking medium. Bring value to your followers and they’ll be friends for life.
W is for Wait. There are lots of people out there who are trying to sell you a shortcut to friends and followers. The problem is that audience is fickle. Take time to build your network through value and personal relationships and your numbers will mean something—to you and to potential publishers.
Strong bones are essential
X is for X-ray. Make certain the bones of your social networking strategy are strong. Take time to build a solid framework and you’ll spend less time and get more results.
Y is for YouTube. Videos are popular on Twitter, Facebook and in Blogs. Learn to leverage the use of videos to add value and fun to your relationships.
Z is for Zoo. Yes the whole social media thing is a bit of a zoo. I tell people truthfully, if you don’t feel like you’re behind in learning everything then you’re doing something right. It doesn’t matter who you are, NO ONE can know everything about social media, the field is just expanding too quickly. 

Now it's your turn, what have you found most helpful with managing your social networking connections?

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

Monday, April 16, 2012

Clash of the Titles

Clash of the Titles Congratulates Keven Newsome, author of Winter  and winner of the Comparable Cover/ Book Blurb Clash!One of the commenters at Clash of the Titles said, “Just finished Winter, loved it.”


About Winter: We're all freaks. It's just a matter of perspective. Winter Maessen didn’t ask for the gift of prophecy. She’s happy being a freak – but now everyone thinks she’s crazy. Or evil. Goths aren’t all the same, you know. Some are Christians… Christians to whom God sends visions. Students at her university are being attacked, and Winter knows there’s more than flesh and blood at work. Her gift means she’s the only one who can stop it – but at what price?

Keven talks about Winter.Winter is a four book series. As the series progresses, Winter’s ability as a prophetess grows to rival Elijah. She does not just have a gift of prophecy, but is an Old Testament style prophet. I worked very hard to make sure everything she does is theologically and Biblically accurate. Everything she does has a corresponding Biblical example. The story is not necessarily about Winter being a prophetess or her battle with a Satanic priest. It is more about her fall and redemption through Christ. That’s why the story is told in two parts. The flashback story shows how she fell to become unlovable and unwanted. The modern day story shows how God can take the most unlovable and unwanted person and transform them into something amazing.  I want this story to inspire all readers that even though they don’t think they’re good enough for God, God thinks otherwise.

About Keven:Keven Newsome is a graduate student at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he is pursuing a Master of Arts in Theology specializing in Supernatural Theology. He writes stories that portray the supernatural and paranormal with a Biblical perspective. He's also the found and administrator of The New Author's Fellowship and produces music and videos through Newsome Creative. When asked about himself, he says, "I am a child of God, husband, father, and friend, in that order. I am a musician, novelist, and sometimes artist. I know the difference between Star Wars, Star Trek, and Firefly, but I prefer Lord of the Rings. My mp3 player contains a mix of Christian rock and movie soundtracks. I am more of a nerd at heart, but I am equally comfortable sleeping under the stars with a log for a pillow, playing Halo with a bunch of guys with cold pizza on standby, or playing intra-mural sports such as tennis or flag-football. In short...I am strange." He currently lives in Louisiana with his wife and their two children. Visit Keven's Web site here

 Submitted by Clash Hostess: Gail Pallotta Bio: Gail has published several hundred freelance articles and two books. While some of her articles are included in anthologies, two of her historical pieces ended up in museums. In 2004, the year she published her first book, Now Is the Time, the American Christian Writers Association named her a regional writer of the year. Gail’s first Christian romance, Love Turns the Tide, was published by Awe-struck E- books in their inspirational category. Learn more about Gail here Visit her blog here Author LOVE TURNS THE TIDE available from Awe-Struck E-Books www.awe-struck.net Web site: http://www.gailpallotta.com Blog:www.gailpallotta.blogspot.com Splickety magazine, issue 1.1 https://magcloud.com/account/downloads