Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Confidences and Lies by Angela Arndt

Yes, you caught me: I'm longing for the beach. No, even though the weather in the Carolinas has been in the 70's and 80's, there's nothing like hearing the waves hitting the sand. Over and over. Calm and relaxing. Not like the repetition I hear when I'm questioning a decision I've made. No, that sounds more like, "what if I'd, what if I'd."
For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
my confidence since my youth.
Psalm 71:

Have you ever doubted decisions you've made? "Should I have done this?" "What would've happened if I'd done that?" "Lord, could I please have a do-over?"

It can even paralyze you again if you ever find yourself in the same situation. Those questions come back and you're stuck in the shifting sand, afraid to make a decision. You watch as the tide pulls out, leaving you behind.

Why does that happen? As a writer, I often use Susan May Warren's character-building device, "the lie he or she believes" to decide how my protagonist will act in certain situations. For example, if a character was abandoned as a child, she wouldn't trust the ex-fiance who broke up with her and has just moved back into town. No, no, no. Her lie adds layers to her actions and makes her reactions more realistic. 

Like our characters, we deal with lies in our lives, too.

"He left me because I'm ugly."

"I didn't get the job because I'm worthless."

"I'm not worthy of <insert your dream here>."

I remember how confident I was when I graduated college. I was ready to take on the world, right all wrongs and make the world a better place to live. (Just a bit of an idealist.) But then life happened.

My ideal life slipped away, overcome by disillusionment, rejection, and betrayal. My dreams got smaller, then smaller still until they were gone. Every day I went to work at a job that I tolerated, then came home to do housework. The closest thing I had to a dream was to hope I'd have enough money to pay bills.

But then God gave me a story about a small town. A little mystery
, full of vibrant characters, that wouldn't leave me alone. So I began to research, then spent every spare moment writing. When I finally finished it, I saw an ad in a magazine for the Writers Guild. There I found a whole new world of people: not only writers who spoke a wonderful new language but authors, too. I ate with actual, published authors, squirming in my seat because I recognized their names. Then I went to more conferences, learned more about the craft of writing, got feedback and made corrections. With the help of new friends and a terrific mentor, I found my confidence again.

Like many first novels, that mystery novel will never see the light of day, but I did see the light of Christ in everyone there. I realized that my "what if' I'd..." was my lie, not His truth. 

No, God doesn't engrave a flaw in our lives as we do to our poor characters. ("No trouble = no story" in the writer's world.) But He already knows the end of our story. Those doubts are not from him. God has a plan and it's never changed. He's always been in charge of our "what if's."

When you're worried and hearing those doubts and lies over and over, cover them with this instead,

He is my confidence and my hope. No lie exists before Him. Click to Tweet

Then pray with me:
You know who is hungry to find worth in their lives, those whose dreams have been shattered, whose lives are torn apart by the lie they believe. I pray that they will find this confidence: you have a plan for them that will never change. Thank you so much for this Truth: you love them with a perfect love that can never die.  
About the Author
Angela Arndt
Angela Arndt writes women’s fiction with a thread of romance. She loves to tell stories of strong, independent women in difficult situations, set in small Southern towns. Her biggest hope is that she will encourage others to overcome their “back roads” and find their own joy in the Lord.

She and her husband, Charles, live on a bee farm in the middle of a big wood with their three furbabies: Beau, Harley, and Buddy the Wonder Dog (because we wonder where he came from).

Read more thoughts from Angie at her blog, Joy on the Back Roads. Connect with Angela at her website, on Twitter, and Facebook.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Creative Process by Annette M. Irby

pen and notebook*

I’ve heard this phrase most of my life. I’m sure you have too. “Creative process” is usually used in reference to artists and how they go about either creating, or being refreshed during a creative season, or being inspired to get creative. I never really applied that phrase to myself, until recently. 

We’re creatures of habit, aren’t we? Since I edit and/or write most of the workday, I liked to spend time away from reading during the early evening. But as a fiction writer/editor, I adore story. This means, I relax and refresh by watching movies or TV dramas or comedies. I consider myself a student of story in several of its forms. What I didn’t expect was the exhaustion that happened when I had to change that routine. I hadn’t realized that activity was part of my creative process. Without that downtime/recharging/story-immersion, I was coming up empty during the creative time. I had a void in my creative life. 

Discovering our writing processes, which of course may change over time, will help us embrace them. Instead of feeling “lazy” for recharging (in whatever way, like a soak in the hot tub), we can remember that this activity is simply part of our creative process. 

I wanted to share some of my creative process, and I’d love if you shared yours. Here are some areas of my creative process:

Music—while writing I listen to instrumental music, mostly David Lanz and Jim Brickman. Over the years, I’ve discovered several pianists whose music inspires me. I tend to avoid minor-key music, as that’s not my preference. I recently heard from a fellow writer who was excited that her favorite band had just come out with a new project that she could use as a soundtrack to her current WIP. Something completely opposite (it seemed) to what I’d prefer, or what would work for me. But that’s the thing—we're individual writers, creating original works, so it makes sense that our processes would be individual as well.

Art—I have certain paintings on my office wall. I tend to appreciate landscapes over cityscapes and nature over things that are human made. I also surround myself in themed items. Like the anchor clock on my office wall. I’m writing maritime stories, so it fits. Researching the setting of my current series (beach-front/island stories) provides visual vacations that inspire me.

Exercise—long walks in nature inspire me, and relax me. Prayer walks are the best! Sometimes getting away from the computer is the wisest part of the creative writing process. Our minds will problem solve and/or offer a new insight. Last summer, during the hospitable time of the year for outdoor swimming, I found myself inspired while floating in a pool. 

Movies/TV—I’ve touched on this above. As a writer of Christian romance, I find watching wholesome romantic movies/shows is helpful for inspiration. But I also watch sci-fi and historical shows. I love documentaries. (*gasp—non-fiction) Either way, story (history or fiction) inspires me. 

Devotional time—this is part of my lifestyle, and some solely part of my creative process, but I can see where the kisses from God that happen in my devotional time with Him influence my writing. 

So, how about you? What is your creative process? Perhaps you take a pen and notebook to the nearest park, or coffee shop, or Panera. (*yum) Perhaps you like silence when you work, or do you prefer noise and chaos? How about deadlines? Do they influence your productivity? Panic is a strong motivator when that deadline is drawing near. Has your creative process surprised you, like it has me? Share your thoughts, friends!


Annette M. Irby

Annette M. Irby is a freelance editor and Christian fiction author who dabbles in gardening and photography. She has completely fallen in love with her grandson. She enjoys spending time with her family and husband of over twenty-five years. You can learn more about Annette by visiting her website or her page here on Seriously Write. 

*photo credit: the awesome folks at Pixabay

Friday, January 27, 2017

Words that “Transcendicate” Culture by C. Kevin Thompson

C. Kevin Thompson

My wife and I were watching our favorite movie over the holidays,  A Christmas Carol, starring George C. Scott. As I munched on popcorn, I was struck in a new, unique way by the phrase, “Bah! Humbug!” I know. It’s an old phrase. Been around since…well, 1843, right? When Charles Dickens wrote the story?

Actually, yes and no. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word humbug originated circa 1750 to mean a “trick, jest, hoax, imposition, deception.” Merriam-Webster seems to be in agreement. When it was used, it meant something negative. For Scrooge, Christmas was a humbug. A deception. An imposition. A holiday devoutly to be ignored.

What grabbed me this year was how its usage and meaning has transformed an entire holiday season. The crusty curmudgeon who uses it is not a character, per se, who could be called totally original. “Odious, stingy, hard, unfeeling” characters like Scrooge can be found throughout literature. However, it was his turn of a phrase (“Bah! Humbug!”) that made him so memorable. He took a word that was not all that common, added an exclamation of frustration, and used it to express his feelings and beliefs. The result? It transformed society to this day, pitting utter selfishness against the reclamation of God in one of the clearest pictures in literature.

Or how about Roald Dahl? Names like Willy Wonka jump off the page, don’t they? His words do, too. Can you imagine anything so frightsome as this writing life? Do you have any food you find scrumdiddlyumptious? Ever had a day that was splendiferous? Ever wish you could be that Dahlesque in your writing?

Or take the Star Wars franchise. Who would have thunk shortening a 300-year old word like androides, and making it into a somewhat proper noun, would have created such a stir? Now, even Lenovo, who owns Motorola (and Google, who created an entire cellular system to compete with Apple and its iPhone) has to pay Lucas films for the rights to use the word for their cell phones.

So, right now, as you read this, I’ll bet you are brainstorming which word you can truncate, cannibalize, or impregnate with another word for the purpose of funding your retirement, aren’t you?

However, I have a better idea. How about we insert words into sentences for the purpose of transforming society? Use not-so-everyday phrases in such a way so that they take on a whole new persona? Piece together letters into memorable clich├ęs loved for generations to come?

God did it. For God so loved the world…

Dickens did it. Dahl did it. Even George Lucas.

Why can’t you?

A Clandestine Mission.
A Cryptic Message.
A Chaste Promise.

Blake Meyer dreamed of a peaceful end to a dutiful career with the FBI. Married now, his life was taking him in a new direction—a desk job. He would be an analyst. Ride it out until retirement. Be safe so he could enjoy his grandchildren some day.

But when a notable member of the IRA is murdered in a London flat, Blake’s secretive past propels him into the middle of a vindictive, international scheme so hellish and horrific, it will take everything Blake possesses—all of it—to save the United States from the most diabolical terrorist attack to date.

C. KEVIN THOMPSON is an ordained minister with a B.A. In Bible (Houghton College, Houghton, NY), an M.A. in Christian Studies (Wesley Biblical Seminary, Jackson, MS), and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership (National-Louis University, Wheeling, IL). He presently works as an assistant principal in a middle school. He also has several years of experience as an administrator at the high school level.

A former Language Arts teacher, Kevin decided to put his money where his mouth was and write, fiction mostly. Now, years later, Kevin is a member of the Christian Authors Network (CAN), American Christian Fictions Writers (ACFW), and Word Weavers International. He is the Chapter President of Word Weavers-Lake County (FL), and his published works include two award-winning novels. The Serpent’s Grasp (Winner of the 2013 Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference Selah Award for First Fiction) is scheduled for reprint with Hallway Publishing, Spring 2017. Kevin’s second book, 30 Days Hath Revenge - A Blake Meyer Thriller: Book 1, is also scheduled for a second edition Oct. 2016, with Book 2 coming soon. Kevin also has had articles appear in The Wesleyan Advocate, The Preacher, Vista, The Des Moines Register and The Ocala Star-Banner.

Kevin is a huge fan of the TV series 24, The Blacklist, Blue Bloods, and Criminal Minds, loves anything to do with Star Trek, and is a Sherlock Holmes fanatic, too.

Kevin’s Writer’s Blog: www.ckevinthompson.blogspot.com
Facebook: C. Kevin Thompson – Author Fan Page
Twitter: @CKevinThompson
Goodreads: C. Kevin Thompson

Thursday, January 26, 2017

When God Gives You a Story Nobody Wants by Robin Patchen

As an author and freelance editor, I’ve had the privilege of knowing and working with a lot of writers, and I’ve discovered most have one at least one thing in common: a sense of urgency to publish.

Since the majority of my writer friends are Christians, I’m not sure if the rush is unique to Christian authors or universal among all, but I do suspect that believers may feel a bit more hurried, what with the need to get the message out there and share the truth with the world.

Would that we were all so eager to witness to our neighbors, but I digress.

Whether you’re published or not, you may feel a sense of urgency about your writing projects. Maybe you worry that somebody else will come along with the same idea and beat you to it. Maybe you worry that by the time your book reaches your audience, the perfect opportunity for your message will have passed. Or maybe the worry is more personal than that. After all, none of us is getting any younger.

With the explosion of indie publishing, impatient writers don’t have to wait any longer. All it takes is a few clicks of the mouse, and you can load that book on retail sites, making it available to your adoring public.

You can indie publish, but should you?

I’m not knocking the process. I’m indie published myself, so I consider this a valid option. The question I want to tackle isn’t whether or not you should take this route. The question is when. Even if the Lord handed you the story, the image for the book cover, and the title, that’s not proof He wants you to rush out and throw it on Amazon. Not sure I’m right? There’s plenty of biblical justification for waiting:
  • Abraham was told he’d have a son and then waited 19 years before little Isaac was born.
  • Biblical scholars estimate David waited 10-15 years after he was anointed king before he finally ascended to the throne. 
  • The apostle Paul didn’t begin preaching until more than a decade after his conversion.
I’m sure there were times when Abraham, David, and Paul felt the waiting was unnecessary and wished God would hurry it along. Abraham and Sarah did hurry their promise along. We know how that turned out. David not only waited but, for much of that interim, had to battle just to stay alive. The time wasn’t wasted, though. Lessons are learned in the waiting. Patience, perseverance, and faith, of course. But I suspect some of those lessons were more basic than that. For instance, David learned how to be a leader others were willing to die for. If he’d been crowned sooner, he may not have become the greatest earthly king in Israel’s history.  After all, he began as a shepherd, lowly and obscure.

Maybe you have a book you believe needs to be published. Maybe it’s a book you think the Lord gave you, and maybe it even came with a promise. If so, be patient. The anxiety fluttering in your stomach when you think about this project—that isn’t from God. When you pray and trust, you’ll be filled with peace, not worry. But if you force your way through doors He hasn’t opened, the anxiety will likely grow. And the book will not have the impact it could have if you’d remained in His will.
I’ve seen too many books brought to the light through indie publishing that weren’t mature enough, weren’t seasoned enough, weren’t ready to be there. Instead of jumping ahead, trust that when God wants you to publish your words, He’ll make it clear. He’ll open the right doors and lead you to exactly the right the people who can help make it happen.
In the meantime, move on to other projects. Build your newsletter list, learn new marketing strategies, make connections with other authors. Mostly, keep learning, keep growing, and keep improving your craft.  It may be that if you come back to that project in a year or two, you’ll realize you can make it shine. 

I speak from experience. The Lord gave me a book almost four years ago. It’s the only time I’ve ever felt one of my stories came from God, and, still, it was the hardest book I ever wrote. I believe that with the help of a great editor, it can be my best book. But that story has been pitched and pitched, and nobody’s interested. I write and publish other books and help other authors do the same while that book languishes silently on my laptop. When I pray about it, I don't have a clear direction. I don’t feel free to indie publish it, and no acquisitions editor has shown any interest. So I wait. The last thing I want to do is treat His gift with haste and carelessness. I trust that God has a purpose in the waiting and a plan for the story He gave me.

The Lord may make you a promise, give you a vision, or impart to you a message, and then ask you to wait. He’s been doing it for thousands of years, and He’ll keep doing it today. You could choose to be like Abraham and Sarah and rush ahead, or you could trust God’s timing, which is always perfect.

Twisted Lies: Book 2 in the Hidden Truth Series
She thought they’d never find her.  And then her daughter vanished.

Marisa Vega’s life as an adoptive mom in a tiny Mexican village isn’t what she’d dreamed while growing up in New York, but as the target of a man who’s convinced she stole millions of dollars from his financial firm, Marisa believes hiding is her only way to stay alive. When her daughter is snatched and held for ransom, Marisa must discover who really stole the money in order to rescue her. 

Months after being kidnapped, tortured, and left with PTSD, Nate Boyle is ready to live a quiet life in rural New Hampshire. When the source of his breakout newspaper article—and the woman who haunts his dreams—begs for help, he gets pulled into a riddle that’s proved unsolvable for nearly a decade. 

Can Nate and Marisa unravel the years-old mystery and bring her daughter home?

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2kotGFL
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/twisted-lies-4
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/twisted-lies/id1198420662?ls=1&mt=11

Robin Patchen is an award winning multi-published author, but only because she can't pursue her other dream.

If time and money were no object, Robin would spend her life traveling. Her goal is to visit every place in the entire world--twice. She longs to meet everybody and see everything and spread the good news of Christ. Alas, time is short and money is scarce, and her husband and three teenagers don't want to traipse all around the world with her, so Robin does the next best thing: she writes. In the tales she creates, she can illustrate the unending grace of God through the power and magic of story.

Visit me at robinpatchen.com.