Thursday, September 29, 2011

Why Read a Specific Book

Thursday Thoughts on Reading and Writing

Why do you decide to read a specific book? Is it because of the characters, the plot (story), the settings’ descriptions, the title, the back cover information, and/or the cover?

If you select characters it’s probably because you want to identify with them and their situations. The characters may be attractive, mean, good, old, young, etc. But as strong as you feel that you read a book because of the characters, how important would the characters be if there were no plot/story?

Conversely, if you choose plot or story how can there be a story without characters?

If you choose the settings’ descriptions how could they be important if there were no characters moving around in those settings?

Would you choose to read a book because of the title and/or the cover? Again, without characters moving around in the settings with a storyline, what good would a pretty cover and catching title be to you?

And if you read a book because of the back cover information, you might be disappointed when you get inside the book and there are no characters you can cheer for or against, there is no storyline you like, or the settings’ descriptions are dull.

Deciding to read a book can be looked at through all the above lenses. But the best reason for reading a book is because someone whose judgment you trust told you, “You gotta read this book, it’s great.” That’s called word-of-mouth and it’s the most effective advertising and promotion a writer can hope for. Rob Eagar calls this “WildFire Marketing” because news can spread from person to person like wildfire.

How do authors get positive news about their book to spread like wildfire? They start the news with a number of people they know, their contacts. The author is certain these folks have enjoyed her earlier books or her blog or newsletter or website. When these contacts read the book and like it they will readily pass the word to others; and those will pass the word to still others. Like a spreading wildfire.

When writing their books, authors must, of course, pay attention to the characters they create, their plot/storyline, settings’ descriptions, cover, title, and back cover information. They must do effective advertising to get the word out about the book. They must write the best book they can and when you read and like the book, please help the author with “wildfire marketing.”

What was the last book you read that you recommended to someone? Why?


Till next time ... keep on smiling.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

COTT Staff Clash Winner

Congratulations to Delia Latham for taking the crown in last week's Staff Clash. Two anonymous COTT staffers went into the ring and readers had another hard choice to make. Some said:
  • "This was a cruel choice!! LOL! They were both excellent."
  •  (About Delia's excerpt): "Beautiful words expressing emotion and making the reader want more."
  •  "Intense emotions on both excerpts! Great job!"
  •  "Terrific excerpts!"
  • (About Katie's excerpt): "I need to know Wulf better! I have a feeling he's dreamy."
  • "Awesome clash with two well-written, emotion-packed scenes! Great job, authors!"
Of course, nobody knew at the time that those authors were Delia Latham and Katie McCurdy.
Both are recent additions to the staff. Delia has come on board as a Blog Alliance Correspondent, and Katie is the official Talent Scout. (Looks like COTT scouted some talent when they found these two gems.)
This fun excursion was a great interjection into the usual good times shared at Clash of the Titles. This week sees another fierce challenge with nameless authors nominated by COTT staff. Be sure to head over there and vote now!

And in just 2 weeks, the party begins! Mark your calendars for October 10th and be ready to play for extra prizes all month long as COTT celebrates it's first anniversary. Your vote will determine which of the year's winning authors will receive the ultimate honor: the Laurel Award.

* by Assistant Editor of COTT, MichelleMassaro 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Don't Worry, Be Happy



Monday Musings on This ‘N That

How was your weekend? I love the weather this time of year. Like the story of The Three Bears, days are not too hot, not too cold, but just right for indoor or outdoor activities. Activities like going to a ball game, going on a road trip, or entertaining out-of-town relatives.

Another activity you can do all year round, but which is especially enjoyable this time of year: sitting outside, marveling at God’s creation. Maybe you lie in a hammock, sit on the steps of a small porch, or sit in a rocking chair on the porch and watch the world go by.

In decades past families would all sit on the porch, some  in rocking chairs, some in the porch swing. As other families would pass by on the sidewalk they would speak or throw up their hand in a greeting. Those on the porch would reciprocate. I wonder if those folks even knew the word “stress” as we know it today.

I’m not sure our younger generations could be content sitting on the porch, enjoying one another’s company. They really have no knowledge of such a pastime; at times it seems they have no leisure interest. They’re always moving, going to and fro. They seem never to stop and “smell the roses.”

Nowadays all generations—young and old alike—become involved in so much that steals their time.  Of course, we have stress; what’s more important is how we handle stress. Basically I don’t worry. Before you scream no way, I do have healthy concern at times but I don’t worry. Worry will not change anything! Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is out of our control; today we have the opportunity to reflect, be concerned if we must, and enjoy the blessing of another day.

Do you have stress? How do you handle your stress? Please don’t let it overtake your days.

"The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time." --Abraham Lincoln

Put a smile on my face … leave me a comment. Till next time … keep on smiling.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Looking at a Blank Screen?

Thursday Thoughts on Reading and Writing

You’re planning to write…a magazine article, a short story, poem, novella, or novel. But as you stare at the blank computer screen you’re unable to come up with any ideas. Sound familiar? Let’s discuss potential ideas that are just lying at your fingertips or brain-tips.

Have you ever been poor (dirt poor as we say in the South)? If so, remember how you coped; did you have only two dresses for the week of school; no money for a trip to the drug store with those you’d like to befriend? Did you ever have family or friends who were poor? How did they adapt to their necessary lifestyle?

Have you ever been rich—old money or new money? Did you have family or friends who were rich? Did they shun you and look the other way as they saw you? It seems the rich sometimes feel they must act rich, and that usually means turning up their noses at those not in their social circle.

Have you ever been seasick whether from a paddle-propelled wooden fishing boat or a streamlined ski boat or a cruise ship? After paying your hard-earned money for the vacation of your lifetime then getting seasick, how did you feel—physically and mentally?

As a child were you certain that monsters resided under your bed and roamed your room after the lights were turned off? You’d excitedly listened to ghost stories with a group, but now alone in your bed the fear settled over you. How did you work yourself out of that monster mindset?

Did you, a family member, or a friend ever suffer extensively from a debilitating disease? If so, did you see pity in others’ eyes as they offered to help? As you felt the enormity of the disease, how did you get out of bed every morning? Or did you?

Okay, the above are just some scenarios you can draw from to jumpstart your writing. These ideas can be real, which you can fictionalize in your writing. Or they could never have been on your experiences list. When you have an idea, as farfetched as it may seem, write it down; keep a folder for ideas and drop you notes into it. You may never use some of them but they are there in case you need to percolate your writing.

Watch and listen to people in the mall, coffee shop, or grocery store. Stories are all around us almost everywhere we are. If you’re a writer, you can run with these ideas and get inspiration to write your short story or maybe even a novel. It’s worth a try. What can it hurt? If you want to be a writer, brainstorm for ideas and then write.

Just don't give up trying to do what you really want to do.  Where there is love and inspiration, I don't think you can go wrong.” –Ella Fitzgerald


Till next time … keep on smiling.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How, Then, Shall We Live?


Guest blogger today is Karen Ball. Karen is an award-winner editor, author, and speaker who loves honoring God through the wonder of words. Thank you, Karen, for allowing me to re-post your blog here. You can visit with Karen at her website and also on her blog.



How, Then, Shall We Live?
by Karen Ball

The answer for me, at least lately, has been:

In anger.


Resentment.

Frustration.
Rage.

So many things have gone wrong in the last few weeks. Things that left me feeling God had stepped out and forgot to step back in. And so I raged. And whined. And kicked and screamed. And bit by bit, the anger simmered, then boiled over. My spirit turned black as tar and weighed me down until all I wanted to do was hide out, under the covers, not even peering at each new day that dawned. Because [I] knew...

New day meant new struggles.

Even this morning, I crawled out of bed, fighting the weight of dread that clung to me like quicksand. What would come today? What new, horrid thing would slam into me, shattering my heart and hope, fueling the roiling, scorching anger within?

What came?












Words from friends, fellow travelers on this rocky, rugged path. Not platitutdes, but gut-level truth. Truth that rocked me, turned my angry, stiff-necked stance into wobbling rubber until my knees at last folded and I went down. Not to defeat...

But to surrender.

God hasn't stepped out. He's here. In the midst of every, ugly moment. In the face of every assault and strike the enemy makes to undermine, engrage, and debilitate. All of which he'd done oh-so-well in the last few weeks. Because instead of turning my eyes to the ONE, I focused on the one: me. On all I was losing. On the cost to me. And in so doing, I lost sight of what really mattered.


And so I start again. Today. This moment.


And God, who has never left me, not for a beat of hummingbird wings, opens His arms and wraps me in them, whispering forgiveness and peace.




My prayer today is this: May we find Truth in the trials. May we turn our eyes from outrage, anger, and fear and focus instead on Christ. Broken, bleeding, giving all for us. Dying, forgiving with last breath. Risen, restored, returned to the glory that is His--and ours, through Him.

Nothing that comes to us is a surprise to Him. Nothing is beyond His power and control. Nothing is greater than He, wider than His love, deeper than His will. We are His.

And that is enough. No, more than that...

It's amazing.

So how, then, shall we live? In wonder. In grace and peace. In the spirit of Charles Gabriel, when he penned these words:

I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus, the Nazarene. And wonder how He could love me, a sinner condemned unclean.

How marvelous! How wonderful! And my song shall ever be: "How marvelous! How wonderful is my Savior's love for me!"

For me, it was, in the garden He prayed, "Not my will, but Thine." He had no tears for His own griefs, but sweat drops of blood for mine. In pity the angels beheld Him, and came from the world of light to comfort Him in the sorrows He bore for my soul that night.

How marvelous! How wonderful! And my song shall ever be: "How marvelous! How wonderful is my Savior's love for me!"

He took my sins and my sorrows, He made them His very own. He bore the burden to Calvary and suffered and died alone. When with the ransomed in glory His face I at last shall see, 'twill be my joy through the ages to sing of His love for me!

How marvelous! How wonderful! And my song shall ever be: "How marvelous! How wonderful is my Savior's love for me!"

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Happy Anniversary, Clash of the Titles

Tourney Banner 2
Happy Anniversary, Clash of the Titles!
It's been almost a year since COTT opened its voting-booth doors and invited everyone in. Over the past twelve months, readers have chosen 25 Clash winners and received 48 free books. And along the way, a family formed. That family consists of the voters, authors, staff, and the 25+ blogs who have banded together in mutual support with COTT.

This is cause for major celebration! So COTT is doing it up to the nines.

Clash of the Titles' first annual Tournament of Champions begins next month! Over the course of four weeks, past winners from the previous year will compete in a series of clashes for the ultimate prize: the Laurel Award. The Laurel, COTT's most prestigious honor, is awarded by public vote to a single author among the year's champions.

Voters are expected to turn out in droves to support their favorites and participate in games just for readers. Each week, COTT sponsors—consisting of various authors and staff—will issue fun challenges to readers along with the chance to win gift cards, critique services, a business card design, and more. A dozen sponsors are lined up for the event so far. That's a lot of prizes!

Throughout the month, details and updates on the Tournament of Champions will be shared on the COTT website and featured within the Blog Alliance. To help spread the word, please grab the special Tournament Button (below) to display on your site. Then send a link to your page to: contactcott at gmail dot com to enter the special COTT Shout-About drawing. The drawing will take place during the first week of the Tournament and the winner will receive a Clash of the Titles mug.

Please also consider Tweeting or sharing this article on your Facebook wall.
(it only takes a second--just click the share button.)

Mark your calendars and spread the word. This BYOV (Bring Your Own Vote) party begins on October 10th!



* Michelle Massaro is the Assistant Editor of COTT and a writer of contemporary Christian fiction. Find her on Twitter @MLMassaro or Facebook.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Multitasking, Anyone?



Monday Musings on This 'N That

Multitasking is a relatively new word for what many of us have been doing all our lives. Merriam-Webster online dictionary says the term “multitasking” had its first know use in 1966. Wow! Some of us weren’t even alive then.

Again, from Merriam-Webster online the definition of multitasking: “the performance of multiple tasks at one time.” Well, there you have it. Keeping that definition in mind, do you think one can multitask and do all the tasks well?

Let’s see…as you read this do you have any other tasks going on? Are you using your printer; are you drying clothes in the dryer; or washing clothes in the washer; loving on your pet; looking at the dust around you and declaring the dust bunnies will be done by nightfall; sorting things in your desk drawers???

Or after you’ve read this and left your computer, do you help your child with homework while cooking dinner; while you’re doing anything are you thinking of other things you must do; are you holding the telephone between your ear and shoulder while you do things with your hands; are you texting on your mobile phone and staying in a live conversation with those around you; do you read and watch TV at the same time???

So, how do you multitask all you do and do each thing well? My mind is never blank unless I’m sleeping. I have to put each thing in its separate place and accomplish it in its own time.

I went for years without a Day Planner lying beside my computer. I finally got to the place where I really needed one. I make my lists for each day and stick to them. Some (well, several) days I don’t get to check off everything on my list. When that happens I circle the undone and draw a line from the circle into the next day’s block. Yes, some days I have several of those lines! But with my Day Planner lists I don’t have to look at the blank computer screen and try to remember what I’m supposed to do that day. My Day Planner helps to rid me of some doubts and anxieties.

So I guess instead of multitasking I compartmentalize my tasks. According to Merriam-Webster online compartmentalize means “to separate into isolated compartments or categories.” They say the word has been around since 1925. So people compartmentalized before they ever knew the work multitask. Mmmmm.

Let’s just make it simple: it all comes down to priorities. Prioritize things you have to do. That’s how my Day Planner helps me. I can see what comes first, second, etc. The definition of prioritize from Merriam-Webster online: “to list or rate (as projects or goals) in order of priority." The word “priority” was used first in 1961. Of course, some days you have to change up your list when something unexpected comes up. You have to be prepared for inevitable change and emergencies.


“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.  Let us move forward with strong and active faith."
--Franklin Delano Roosevelt



So, what tips can you share about how you multitask and how good you are at it?


Till next time … keep on smiling.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hold on to Patience and Hope

Thursday Thoughts on Reading and Writing

Today I’m going to talk a bit about a writer trying to get published these days. This is in no way a plea for sympathy and I’m not having a “pity party.” Just looking at one of the dynamics within the publishing world.

As you may know I’ve finished my first novel, a historical romance titled That Summer. My agent, Lavonne J. Stevens, is sending info to publishers about my book. Two publishers have said “No because they want a previously established author with a history in mainstream inspirational fiction.”

I fully understand the publisher’s position here.  I’m published in mainstream inspirational nonfiction. Therein lies the culprit: this is my first try at being published in mainstream inspirational fiction. And I’m not an established author of fiction. I have no record to prove to a publisher that my book will sell because my previous books have sold.

My position here with my first novel is the same as a kid trying to get his first job. Nobody will hire him because he has no experience. But if someone won’t hire him how is he going to get any experience? If you’ve been there or near a young person in this situation then you can relate to his woes. That’s about where I am: I can’t get my first novel published—yet—because I’m not established. But how can I get established if no publisher decides to publish my first novel?

So, what would you do in my shoes? What I am doing is using every patience muscle in my body to stay calm and wait this out. I’m certain there’s a publisher out there who, when they read my manuscript, will feel the emotions of my characters and will be eager to give me my first “job” on  the way to becoming an established author with a history in mainstream inspirational fiction.

I have faith and trust in my agent and know that she is looking out for me and That Summer and that all this troublesome time will turn out okay. In the meantime I'm strengthening my hope by writing my next novel. Why work on a second novel when the first one hasn’t sold? Because when that certain publisher says Yes, I’ll be able to tell them that of course I can get a second book to them in a very short time!


"God is the only one who can make the valley of trouble a door of hope."
--Catherine Marshall 


Till next time ... keep on smiling.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Snappy Dialogue Winner


Guest writer today is Jennifer Slattery*
Marketing Manager of Clash of the Titles (COTT)

The other day my daughter orally lamented a previous conversation. “I always think of my best come-backs too late.” I know how she feels, although I’m probably on the other end of the spectrum—I often wish I hadn’t said X or Y once the conversation is done. At least in writing we can carefully craft our words, which should make it easier, right? Not necessarily. Writing effective, authentic, snappy dialogue is a skill that must be honed. And yet, when done well, it plunges the reader deep into the story and provides vivid characterization.

Last week two authors threw their “chatty-keyboards” into the Clash of the Titles' ring and although both excerpts were phenomenal, Sarah Sundin, author of A Memory Between Us, wowed readers with her printed banter.
Here’s a snippet of her COTT competing excerpt:
Jack made out Ruth’s shapely figure coming down Northgate Street. She couldn’t afford the new olive drab uniforms some of the nurses wore, but she sure looked smart in the dark blue jacket and medium blue skirt.

Jack stepped back around the corner. He unzipped his lightweight leather flight jacket, made sure his shirt collar was open, and stuffed his hands into the pockets of his olive drab trousers. Had to look casual.
He let Ruth pass, then fell in behind her. “‘One misty moisty morning.’”

Ruth looked over her shoulder and smiled.

“‘When cloudy was the weather, I chanced to meet an old man clothed all in leather. He began to compliment and I began to grin. How do you do? And how do you do? And how do you do again?’”

Amusement crinkled her eyes. “It’s afternoon.”

“Yeah, but it’s misty and moisty. Life in England has taught me what that means.”

“No misty moisty mornings in California?”

“In January, not August.” Jack proceeded down the flagstone sidewalk. “And look, you chanced to meet an old man clothed all in leather.”

***
Gotta love that phrase, “Misty, moisty morning,” an example of great dialogue and fun alliteration!
The story it came from is about a determined soldier on a mission to win a woman’s heart:

Major Jack Novak has never failed to meet a challenge--until he meets army nurse Lieutenant Ruth Doherty. When Jack lands in the army hospital after a plane crash, he makes winning Ruth's heart a top-priority mission. But he has his work cut out for him. Not only is Ruth focused on her work in order to support her orphaned siblings back home, she also is determined not to give her heart to any man.

As the danger and tension of World War II rise to a fever pitch, Jack and Ruth will need each other more than ever. Can Jack break down her defenses? Or are they destined to go their separate ways?
From the English countryside to the perilous skies over France, A Memory Between Us takes you on a journey through love, forgiveness, and sacrifice.

Sarah Sundin is the author of A Distant Melody. Her great-uncle flew with the US Eighth Air Force in England during WWII. Sarah lives in California with her husband and three children.

Romance, tough, rugged men, and rich history make this novel a must read!

Want to nibble on a few more COTT winning excerpts and win great prizes in the process? Make sure to join us for the ultimate literary challenge where COTT winners go head to head in our Tournament of Champions on October 10th to November 4th! What better way to launch the Holiday season than with a stash of great books won in our tournament give-away?


*Jennifer Slattery writes for Christ to the World Ministries, Samie Sisters, Afictionado, the Christian Pulse, and is the marketing manager of the literary website, Clash of the Titles. She also co-hosts (with five other authors) the Facebook faith community, Living by Grace, a modern-day “meet at the well” experience where believers around the globe can unite, fellowship, and be refreshed. Visit her devotional blog, Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud to find out more about her, her writing, and the ministries she writes for.


And make sure to hop on over to Clash of the Titles to help determine our next literary champion!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Do You Use a Smartphone?

Monday Musings on This ‘N That

I struggle with all things technical. Okay, my cell phone has been turning itself off on its own. It would go out when I was having a call, when I was setting my clock for a time to remind me of something, and when I would open it to make a call it would have turned itself off while in my pocket.

I needed a new cell phone. I’ve been qualified for an upgrade for some time and as my outages with my current phone became more and more frequent I gave in. I’d go to AT&T’s phone place and get a new cell phone.

I didn’t want a smartphone. I’m not smart enough to do what all they can do. And I don’t want to learn. I only wanted a cell phone that I could use to make calls and photos. Period. My granddaughter wanted me to get a phone so that we could text. No, thank you.

I knew what brand I wanted because my first cell phone was trustworthy and I’d decided to get that brand again. I told the young man I wanted an LG cell phone. As I followed him, I noticed he passed walls and walls of phones. Finally we reached the smallest wall display in the store and he pointed to one phone and said here’s an LG. The phone didn’t appear to be a flip phone, which is what I was used to. I told him I wanted a flip phone.

Guess what? He said they’re not really making many flip phone styles anymore. He had two flip phones in the store and neither was my preferred brand. He had only one LG phone in the store and it came in one color—black. ONE. All the phones in this area appeared to be ones where part of the phone would slide to uncover the number pads.

So, they didn’t have a flip phone in my brand and had only one in my brand to choose from. That’s like a shoe store having your size in only one style, one color. Choosing from several styles and colors is the fun of shopping isn’t it, ladies?

I told the young man I would take the LG. As he was going toward the stock room to see if they had one, I called after him, telling him if they had one in red to please bring it to me. He didn’t reply. He didn’t even chuckle or smile. So now I have a black LG "slide" cell phone, which is probably the last one of its kind; by the next time I upgrade there probably won’t be a cell phone simple enough for me to use.


Christie Brinkley once said she didn’t have an answering machine and didn’t want one. She said if they get me, they get me; if they don't, they don't. Yay, Christie!


Till next time … keep on smiling.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Writers Write, Readers Read

Thursday Thoughts on Reading and Writing

Readers: When you read a novel do you ever think about the person who wrote the book? Do you ever have these thoughts: where did this author come up with this story; where did the author find these characters; are the characters like real people in the author’s life; is this really fiction, etc.?

Writers: When you write your novels do you ever think about your readers? Do you ever have these thoughts: what kind of person will read my book; will both women and men read my book; will readers like my book; will readers like my story and my characters, etc.?

 Readers: When you’re nearing the finish of a novel do you ever try to figure out the ending beforehand? Do you ever have these thoughts: will the bad guys get caught and punished; will the good guys be happy in the end; will the ending surprise or disappointment me; will I be glad I read this book, etc.?

Writers:  When you write your novels to you try to make the story unpredictable? Do you ever have these thoughts: will my readers figure out the ending before they get there; will the ending surprise; will the ending disappointment them; will the characters’ outcome be pleasing to my reader, etc.?
 Readers: When you read a novel do you ever wonder about where the writer’s physical location is when writing the book? Do you ever have these thoughts: does this author write books at the kitchen table; does this author have a professional office; did the author begin like J.K. Rowling, writing her story on napkins in a coffee shop, etc.?

Writers:  Do you have a professional office where you do your writing? If so, is your office in your home or away from your home? Or do you use a legal pad and pen to write your stories wherever or whenever you can? In nice weather do you ever write outside?


Summary: I would guess that we—readers and writers—at some time have asked ourselves some of these questions. As a reader I think probably most readers would answer yes to their questions above. As a writer I know that I would answer a resounding yes to the writers’ questions above. I do write on a computer so guess that’s the end of any comparison between me and J.K. Rowling. 

Considering all of the above, that’s one reason why authors have book signings—hoping they will meet those who read their books. And as a reader I’m certain it’s a lot of fun to meet the writers of books I have loved.

So maybe authors and their readers have a “mutual admiration society.” Writers write and readers read and they all live happily ever after.

"I finally figured out the only reason to be alive is to enjoy it."
—Rita Mae Brown, American writer


Till next time … keep on smiling.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dialogue--Snappy Dialogue, That Is


Coming Up at Clash of the Titles, October 10-November 4, 2011
The first annual, Tournament of Champions! 
Over a FOUR week period, SIXTEEN previous COTT champs will face-off in EIGHT different mini-Clashes.
Only ONE will take home The Laurel Award.
With Clashes, games, and prizes galore, you won't want to miss this month-long celebration!
********

*Guest post by Lisa Lickel

Dialogue lets your characters be heard. It’s their voice; their conversation amongst themselves. It’s how they tell their story. Dialogue is talk. Discussion. Arguments. Jokes. Questions and answers. Foibles. Mystery. Mesmerism. It’s the muscle on the skeleton of the story.

The writer’s ability to conquer natural dialogue comes out of how well we know our characters. The reader’s ability to hear natural-sounding dialogue comes from the depth from which he is drawn into the story.
Using dialogue in a book helps readers see that characters spend time with each other for a reason, even if they’re stranded on desert islands. Tom Hanks had Wilson in the move Cast Away, after all. Dialogue is more than internal mutterings or their revelations to the reader. It needs to be heard, not just read. The words need to translate immediately to sound in the reader’s inner ear, and thus be natural, no matter the setting. 

What can we deduce from these two small pieces of the excerpts in this Clash? Are you in time, in story, in the character’s emotions? Can you cheer for them? Figure out exactly what will happen next, or are you eager to turn the page for more?

“Would you mind if I walked with you?”
“As long as we’re not together.”
“All right.” He strode into the street and spread his arms as wide as his grin. “There. We’re not together.”
“Jack!” she cried…. “Get back up here.” Ruth motioned frantically. “Don’t make me fix you up again.”
 OR 
“Perhaps you cannot wait for the wedding night?”
Her brown eyes simmered. “Why you insufferable cad!” She raised her hand to slap him.
He caught it and lifted it to his lips for a kiss, eyeing her with delight.
She studied him then released a sigh. “You tease me, sir.” Snatching her hand from his, she stepped back. “But what would I expect from you?”

In a novel, talk must have a purpose. A conversation shouldn’t be talk for the sake of filling time or space. Readers have only until the last page to spend with people in a book, so writers must not waste time. Dialogue is meant to reveal something useful, important to the story line—passion, motive, or confession.

Why Snappy? Characters must speak true to their nature. While snappy it might not describe the personality, it implies action, tension, perhaps a slip of the tongue or a revelation that might even surprise the character, but certainly should surprise the reader.

Clash of the Titles hopes you are intrigued by these little snippets of story and want to find out more about the books and authors. Stop by and you’ll get that chance! Meet the authors and leave comments to enter the drawing for a free book.


*Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin writer who lives with her husband in a hundred and fifty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. Surrounded by books and dragons, she has written dozens of feature newspaper stories, magazine articles, radio theater, and several inspirational novels to date. She is also the senior editor at Reflections in Hindsight.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Seasons

 Monday Musings on This ‘N That

Folks in the South love their collegiate football, marching band, and cheerleaders. When the college football games begin in the South you know autumn’s around the corner. All other sports in the South are secondary to football, but there are other sports; and they almost always indicate the season.

Basketball, with a small overlap of football, follows and then we know we’re closing in on winter. Then, again, with a tiny overlap in time, baseball follows and we know spring is around the corner. That’s when spring sports blossom: tennis, track, soccer.

I attended a private university near the Mason-Dickson line that didn’t have football. We only had basketball, baseball, tennis, and fencing. We didn’t need all the sports to help us know which season we were having or which one was nearing.

Our barometer for telling the seasons was the locale. Surrounded by majestic mountains, we only had to check the trees and know what part of the year we were in. The tree leaves changed colors like clockwork. When they began to change from green to varied electric hues of red, gold, and orange, that told us about autumn. And when the deep snows came, we definitely knew it was winter and always hoped classes would be suspended.

Each year in late September when I traveled to college I took woolen clothes, jackets, gloves, and scarves. Most likely I carried my winter coat because when I arrived at school the temperature change required my wearing a coat.

I love most sports and have cheered on children and grandchildren in many of them. But remembrances of my time as a college student bring pleasant thoughts of authentic winters, springs, summers, and autumns. And the best part of our winters were when classes were suspended because of deep snows.

As you probably know, I love the seashores. I’ve lived long enough in the South, I’m not sure my blood circulation could survive days upon days when the winter temperatures didn’t get above freezing. So I love my days and I love the remembrances of my yesterdays.

Besides the temperature what lets you know which season you’re in and which is about to be next?

“I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.”
--Alfred Joyce Kilmer, poet (1886-1918)

Till next time … keep on smiling.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Interview With Tiffany Colter

Today I’m talking with Tiffany Colter who is a writer, speaker, and writing career coach who works with beginner to published writers.

JO: Please tell us a little about yourself other than your career as a writing coach.

TIFFANY: I have four daughters, three dogs, two sheep, one husband, twenty chickens, about six ducks [when they come around], and ten cats all on one acre. It is a hobby farm that is growing.

I grew up in the city and now I’m proud to be a 4-H mom. I loved the fair rides and carnivals as a kid, now I go to cake and cross stitch judging and carry on lengthy conversations about the proper light for laying hens.

This is quite a contrast to fifteen years ago when I was in the Honors College at University of Toledo studying international relations with an eye to being a political analyst for the CIA. I spoke three languages fluently by the time I was sixteen and was on my way to a fourth. I have studied in Grenoble, France on scholarship. Was accepted to the American University of Paris but turned it down [for stupid 17-year-old girl reasons] and my best friend in the whole world is my husband.

I love playing board games with my kids and hanging out with my husband.

If given the opportunity I would readily spend a year simply learning things. If I weren’t a writer [or CIA political analyst], I would likely be a college professor because I’d rather watch a documentary than a comedy. So, I’m kind of boring. Laugh!!

JO: How long have you been a writing coach? Did you always want this kind of career?

TIFFANY: I've been a writing career coach for about four years full-time.  Prior to that, I've kind of mentored some writers but it was informally.  From the time I was six and I wrote my first short-story, all I ever wanted to be was a writer when I grew up.  Writing career coach grew out of my desire to learn how to create a market for my fiction writing.  I'm an award-winning fiction writer.  I won the Daphne Du Maurier Award in 2007 and I really thought my career was on the way up.  I secured an agent, who I still have.  He's a great, great agent.  I was just working on building my platform.  I had had some requested fulls (entire manuscript) and things were going great.  Then the floor fell out of publishing in 2008, right after things started looking up for me. I had five projects with my agent and I got a single email that listed five rejections.

So, I was really trying to find out new ways to market myself, and develop my platform for my fiction. I realized I loved that part of writing, so I started trying to find ways to help people and that's where becoming a writing coach was born.

JO: As a writing coach are you available to work with nonfiction or fiction writers?

TIFFANY: I work with both.  In fact, I help speakers, I help ghost write their books—taking their message and their transcripts and working with them to turn it into books.  I have worked with some really great fiction authors, like Jody Hedlund, among others, Tana Adams; and I know if I start listing a bunch of names that I'll forget people and feelings will be hurt—but I have to tell you, I've worked with some great authors.  But in non-fiction, I do a lot of marketing copy for businesses.  I've published a number of books on business and marketing and business development through my publishing house, Writing Career Coach Press.  I also go and teach courses and judge writing contests which allows me to work with a wide range of authors. Finally, I've written for a number of publications including Charisma, Today's Christian, and monthly columns for Suspense Magazine.  So, if it has to do with writing, I've done it myself and I've helped other people do it too.

JO: What advice would you give a beginning writer to jump start their writing journey?

TIFFANY: Believe in your writing, but recognize that this is a business.  Again, that's not a bad thing.  It just means that you need to be willing to understand that you are trying to communicate with your target market. You are rewarded for that with money and opportunities. You are solving a problem [the desire for entertainment and/or growth].

Publishing is changing and a lot of people are trying to figure out what that's going to look like in the next couple of years.  I've been writing full-time for eight years and just in that little bit, things have radically changed from people talking about "electronic books," to now people knowing what a Kindle is.  So, just recognize it.

I would also say don't be afraid to fail. That was the hardest thing for me in the beginning and I felt like I had to have things absolutely perfect before they go out. You want them to be great. You want the writing to be tight, but don't get so trapped in the sphere of perfection that you never submit because you are going to be rejected. Rejection is part of this business at all levels. Don’t fear it, just work hard to be the best you can and don’t internalize the rejection.

JO: What is the single most important thing you want writers to do to help them succeed?

TIFFANY: Continue to learn!

Recognize that there are three parts to your writing career (and I thank Chip MacGregor for this piece of information). You have to have a great idea with great writing and a strong platform. Work on building two of those three areas at all times.

JO: Once a writer reaches “success,” what should they do to stop celebrating and stay grounded?

TIFFANY: The number one thing is keep writing. I cannot tell you how many clients I encounter that write one book and they just keep revising this book before they write the next thing. The role of a writer is to write. You need to be constantly working on different books. You need to be writing something while you're researching something else, while you're scratching notes on a third thing, while you're revising something else. Always continue learning. Always stay connected with people who are in the area where you want to be. Always work to provide positive information to the industry. Just keep moving forward. Recognize success is not a destination; it's a journey. And that's the main thing that I've learned about success. You never arrive. The challenges just change in shape and style.

JO: Staying focused is required when writing. How do you encourage writers to stay focused when almost all of us are pushed to multitask these days?

TIFFANY: Stay focused by deciding what you're going to do each week and do that one thing. There is so much to do, but you can do little bits of each thing. Decide how you define success each day. Maybe it is a particular word count or the amount of time you spend on something. Then focus on that one thing above all else.

I get into my office between 7:00 and 7:30 in the morning. My office is actually not in my home anymore. It's about 15 minutes away in town. I get there between 7:00 and 7:30 in the morning and I sit down and from 7:00 to noon and make that my prime writing time. That is where I work on the major edits and writing and things like that. Then I start working on correspondence in the afternoon. That way I'm completely focused on what needs to be done and I get the things on my to-do list done first.

The key to staying focused is turn off your phone, don't turn on the Internet, know what you're going to do the night before and write it down so that you don't have to open your e-mail and just get that one thing done. After you've done that one thing, then you can work on the other stuff. That's the only way you can possibly be focused these days. Do not open your e-mail first thing in the morning. Do something productive first.

JO: Where can our readers find you?

TIFFANY: I love to meet people in person whenever possible. They can find me a number of places. I will be at live events in Atlanta, GA; Dayton, OH; and Zanesville, OH during September and October. Online they can find me at www.Writingcareercoach.com or my teaching site www.writingcareercoach.net/tiffany. I also can be reached at my office. I do consultations. The cost is $35 for 50 minutes and we go through and we strategize and coach and then determine what would be the best next step for the person. To schedule an appointment to do that for an initial consult, they can reach me east coast time, 517-936-5896. Tell my assistant you want to sign up for the $35 consultation.  For many years $2 was a stretch with my writing, so I offer MANY things completely free on my website. I encourage people to come and read the articles and apply the resources.

TIFFANY: You publish a newsletter and blog. Where can our readers sign up for them?
They can sign up at www.WritingCareerCoach.com

JO: Thank you for spending time with me for this interesting interview.

TIFFANY: Thank you for having me.