And the Award Goes To…

What better way to end our month-long pursuit of modern literature, than to talk about one of the greatest among the band of Christian writers. In a few days, Francine Rivers will receive ACFW’s Lifetime Achievement Award. You can read Rivers’ comments on the upcoming award here.

RL 20th_1Rivers first gained my attention (along with most everyone’s) with Redeeming Love. That book took my breath away. I’d never been so annoyed with a character, or loved a character so well. And by the end of the book, I wanted to repent all over again. So I read the book a second time. It’s one of those you might as well buy and store on your shelf, because you’ll want to read it more than once. And I know it’s not always about the numbers, but she’s sold over a million copies of that book.

Throughout August, we’ve talked about several categories of modern literature–poetry, mystery, fiction, dystopian, Indy-published, small publishers, and mega hits. We’ve tried to put our finger on the pulse of the future of modern literature. Who will survive the tsunami of novels, books, and stories being published? Thousands per day! Who will rise to the top? Will those who’ve held on so long keep their place? Agatha Christie, Dickens, Austen, Bronte? Tolkien, Lewis, Carroll, Baum?

Or how about Dumas, who penned one of my favorite lines–

“Often we pass beside happiness without seeing it, without looking at it, or even if we have seen and looked at it, without recognizing it.”
Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

And so, we leave the month of August and the subject of Modern Literature–some gladly–others with remorse. Though this month contained a full thirty-one days, it was not enough to scratch the surface of the subject. What else can we do but move on…to football.

31aRWoij1WL._BO1,204,203,200_Yes, September is prime football season. I hope you’ll join us throughout the month. It’s okay if you’re not a football fan–we’ll also share some yummy recipes for Superbowl parties or tailgating. And maybe inspire you or tickle your funny bone. I’ll leave you with this quote from probably the only football movie I ever really liked–

“And so it went in football. The game attracted the very people most likely to get in trouble outside”
Michael Lewis, The Blind Side (Movie Tie-in Edition)

Writing Prompt – complete the prompt in the comments section below for a double entry in our quarterly drawings.

I live on a small houseboat anchored along the shore of a tiny island in the Puget Sound. I chose this spot in order to watch the incredible sunrises and sunsets. And in the dark of night, with a blanket of stars overhead…

 

It’s All About Control, Freaks

20140428_144615by Cari Schaeffer

I find it necessary to briefly tell you a little about myself. I am a US Air Force veteran, have my Bachelor’s of Science degree in Nursing and worked as a Critical Care RN for almost a decade, became a Chef and owned my own Personal Chef and Catering Company for six years, and am now an Indie author. In the midst of all that, I have been married for twenty-five years and have three beautiful children and two Chihuahua guard dogs – Stanley McBarker and Snoopy. With that in mind, read on…

Control of My Worlds   It is my belief that a number of writers have control freak tendencies. I am one of those. Fortunately at this point, I have come to realize the only real control I have in life is self-control. I cannot control the people in my life or the events that transpire. I can only control my reactions to them. Sure, the choices I make can influence some events in my life, but even that isn’t guaranteed. Often, making the right choice brings pain, sorrow, and challenges into our lives. It is still the right choice, however.

Fiction writing is different. When we write, we control everything that goes on in the world we create. Every single person exists because we created them. They say or don’t say whatever we want them to, do everything we make them do, and go through everything we put them through. If you write fantasy or anything “out of the ordinary”, you have even more control – if you don’t want gravity to exist, POOF it’s gone! It’s a perfect outlet for anyone with control issues.

As an Indie Author, I write when I want, what I want, how I want, and for as long as I want. The flip side and challenge is that this path requires a good measure of self-discipline. If you’ve chosen the path of being a traditionally published author, you have externally-imposed deadlines to meet. Either that’s liberating for you because you operate best with a “boss”, or it chafes you because you don’t.

I have no externally-imposed rules related to genre. My first novel is Inspirational Fiction, but it doesn’t follow some of the rules imposed by the traditional gatekeepers of that genre. There is no foul language or explicit material, but the characters of my book experience a wide variety of emotions that sometimes spill over. The married main characters of my book have sex, too. Nothing is overt, just implied. The reviews I’ve received for that novel are all positive. My readers are my gatekeepers. I am not limited to a single genre, either. My most recent novel is clean fiction without an overt Christian message. I have several more novels in a queue, waiting for their turn. One of them is a YA fantasy. I read one novel in the last year by a traditionally published author who broke one of the rules that every other book I have ever read (regardless of publishing method) follows. She didn’t use one single set of quotation marks around any of the dialogue in her book. I found it very distracting and hard to follow. I have no idea why she made that choice, or why her publisher allowed it, but there it is.

Control of My Career  I have complete career control. For better or for worse, that’s the truth of it. Indies decide what book formats to publish – e-book exclusively, paperback exclusively (rare), or a combination of both, which channels to publish through, and how much to charge for the books.

It also means I have to market all by myself, too. Although for traditionally published authors, they are typically on their own, too. The Big Six publishers (Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House, and Simon and Schuster) aren’t spending a lot of money to market their authors. Unless you’re a publicly recognized name, they just don’t have the money for it. Smaller publishers don’t have the money, either. One requirement for an author to be considered by either a publisher (most of which accept only agent submitted manuscripts) or a literary agency is to have an already existing, robust marketing plan and social media platform.

Speaking for my own Indie Author journey, I have had hits and misses. Along the way, I have had so many other Indie and Hybrid authors come alongside me, mentor me, and show me the ropes and the way. Not everything I have been told has panned out or proven true (for me), but I count everything as a lesson learned and therefore inherently valuable. I find this group of people to be very peer-like in attitude and more than willing to share knowledge without boundaries.

The beauty of my Indie journey has been the ability to instantly tweak anything and everything, often with just a few key strokes. Remember, I have control freak tendencies, so this works for me! If something isn’t working in my marketing deck of cards, I shuffle it and put something else out there after researching and discussing it with other authors.

I am currently learning about new marketing techniques and tools. One successful tool I want to share with you is that of growing your email list. The example I will use is Facebook. It is fabulous for relating to people all over the globe, but you don’t have control over who sees your posts and who doesn’t. Facebook controls that. When you collect email addresses, you are the one in the driver’s seat. You control the flow of information and interaction. I want to stress that the collection of these email addresses works best for those who have intentionally and voluntarily signed up to receive updates from you via your website.

When I owned my business, I never had a single business card printed with my email address on it. Why? Because at networking events, the attendees walk around collecting large stacks of business cards from each other. When the attendees collect that stack of business cards, they go home, sit in front of their computer and enter email addresses from said business cards or other materials to receive newsletters, etc. from them before throwing them away. It is still a common business practice. Personally, I find that to be unethical. I certainly never appreciate it when someone adds my email address to their newsletter without my explicit permission. It does not increase the likelihood that I’ll frequent that business, service, or product. In fact, it has the opposite effect. I treat my readers the way I would like to be treated – with respect. I don’t write newsletters and don’t plan to. As an author, I am not entirely sure what the purpose of a newsletter would be.

My email subscribers only hear from me when I have something to share. It is not tied to an externally-imposed schedule (sort of like me…) such as weekly, bi-monthly, monthly, etc. There are plenty who would disagree with me, I’m sure. That’s all right. We all find what works for us individually. The promise I make to my subscribers is that I will not fill up their in-box just because the calendar says it’s time to send something. Instead, I let them know about book signings, new releases, and anything else that pertains to the reason they signed up in the first place – to read my books because they like them. That’s all.

Cari Schaeffer can be found at www.carischaeffer.com  She has two novels currently available – Faith, Hope, Love, and Chocolate and Hello and Goodbye: Volume One: The Yellow Ribbon Chronicles. Both are available as e-books and paperbacks at most on-line retailers.

3D-EBook-FaithHopeLoveandChocolate small3D-EBook Hello and Goodbye small

Writer’s Prompt: You are walking along a gravel path, alone and lost in thought. Suddenly, you come upon this structure. Why is it there? What stories does it have to tell?

Pergola

3 Questions Wednesday with Lillian Duncan

lillianToday’s 3 Questions Wednesday guest is Lillian Duncan.

Welcome to the Writing Prompts blog, Lillian. Here’s our first question:

Which author would you never get tired of, and why?

Lillian: Terri Blackstock without a doubt! Her books touch the heart, but the suspense keeps me reading way past my bedtime!

Excellent choice.

Who is your favorite fictional villain?

Lillian: No contest–Hanibal Lector! Smart, sophisticated and deadly!

I agree. Evil. Now about yourself…

What project are you currently working on?

Lillian: The second in my Deadly Communications series, DEADLY INTENT, was just released. Deadly Communications features Maven Morris, a crime-fighting speech pathologist! I also recently finished the edits for the third in the series, Deadly Silence.

Now that’s a different twist for a crime-fighter. Thanks so much, Lillian, for dropping by!

To celebrate the release of Deadly Intent, Lillian is having a giveaway on her blog, Tiaras & Tennis Shoes at www.lillian-duncan.com. Grand prize is a $25 Amazon gift cards but that’s not all! Five more winners will get a $5 Amazon gift card. How’s that for a celebration?

All you have to do is hop over to www.lillian-duncan.com and leave a comment on the Deadly Intent announcement. The contest ends September 26.

PS. When you leave a comment, be sure to tell Lillian that you read about the giveaway on The Writing Prompts Blog. Then check back to see if you’re a winner!

Deadly Intentdeadly intent

Doing the right thing isn’t always easy. In this case, it could be lethal!

Everyone belongs somewhere. The key to happiness is recognizing that place when you get there.

Maven Morris can’t seem to find that place. A childless widow, she has no immediate family. Forced into a medical leave, she has no career. At loose ends, she hasn’t a clue what’s next for her.

Her neighbor, Paul Jordan knows what he wants—to move their friendship to a new level. Maven may not know what’s next, but she does know she has no interest in romance with anyone— not even her handsome neighbor.

When a young boy is abandoned in the city park, he touches her heart. In spite of his obvious special needs, she agrees to provide a temporary foster home for him. She has no idea the impact he will have on her life—or the danger he brings to her doorstep.

Lillian Duncan: stories of faith mingled with murder & mayhem!

Lillian is a multi-published writer with several Amazon bestsellers, including The Christmas Stalking and Betrayed. She writes the types of books she loves to read—fast-paced suspense with a touch or two of romance that demonstrates God’s love for all of us

Whether as an educator, a writer, or a speech pathologist, she believes in the power of words to transform lives, especially God’s Word.

To learn more about Lillian and her books, visit: www.lillianduncan.net. Tiaras & Tennis Shoes is her personal blog at www.lillian-duncan.com.

Dystopian Literature

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By Karen Jurgens

Dystopia. Utopia’s evil twin. A genre in modern literature popular with readers and writers alike. But how do we Christian writers navigate through it?

As I witness its growing popularity, I am drawn to one of its outstanding authors—Ray Bradbury. I have many favorites that I’ve taught from his collection, especially The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury cleverly crafts memorable scenes, partly by comical satire in his sci-fi worlds, and partly by unexpected twists that sneak up from behind—all blended together into permanent fixtures that are unforgettable. Here are a couple of examples.

Martian Chronicles

In The Martian Chronicles, one of the last men alive resides in a Martian ghost town. Like Adam in his utopian Garden of Eden, Walter Gripp is lonely and craves the companionship of a woman—but that’s where the similarity ends. The only woman he can find in the phone book is located at the biggest beauty parlor in New Texas City. After driving like a madman to meet Genevieve Selsor, he is disgusted by her pasty legs and fat body, covered with sticky, gooey chocolate. When she forces him to watch annoying movies and shows him a wedding dress she has bought, he flees to a small town, permanently living alone and never answering the phone. We are left with an image of Genevieve forever calling each name in the phone book, searching the planet for her potential husband. Too funny.

Montag

In Fahrenheit 451, however, Bradbury uses character and paradox to communicate the breakdown of society. Guy Montag, the protagonist, is a fireman who meets his teenaged neighbor, Clarisse. Bradbury uses her to contrast what we consider as normal to this current dystopia. Intelligent conversations, taking walks, and reading books are outlawed as abnormal in this world, but Clarisse is the catalyst used to awaken Montag’s soul, as dead and charred as the books he burns.

Mildred Montag by mptv

He sees his wife, Mildred, paradoxically—simultaneously alive and dead—after she tries to commit suicide by overdosing on pills. The snake that pumps her stomach and replaces her blood is as paradoxical as the firemen’s hound—a metal robot with eight legs and a needle in its muzzle that administers a lethal dose of anesthetic to enemies—which later tries to kill Montag.

Bradbury creates an emotionless, thoughtless, world of robot-like humans where Mildred listens to the radio through her ears’ “seashells” and where she wants to spend all her time with her made-up television family projected on three walls, including an interactive script for her to read. Technology is god, eventually discovering and destroying anyone who rebels against it—like Clarisse, who is mowed down by a vehicle as she “illegally” walks down the street. Although Montag secretly reads books he has stolen from burning houses, which he stashes at home in his attic, he cannot persuade Mildred, who is terrified of breaking the law and wants nothing to do with reading books. Her character truly represents the lost human race, brainwashed through fear by a controlling society.

F 451

But we are not left in despair. Like Snow White, Montag slowly wakes up from a deep sleep of brainwashing. Mentored by an old English professor, he later escapes to a commune outside the city (before it is destroyed by an ongoing world war) where the people memorize books, preserving their content. Their world may be disintegrating, but the genius of human thought and God’s Word will live on through a handful of enlightened “saviors.”

Travel into these dark, hopeless dystopias are currently popular in books and movies, reflecting our own distressing times. But, as Christian writers, mustn’t we also offer redemption in the end? As Revelation explains, God will change our present world back into a perfect utopia after the Tribulation, where Jesus will forever rule and reign.

Let’s remember that hope and that truth as we write in this genre.

Complete the prompt below for an extra entry in our quarterly drawings! Submit your completed writing prompt via Comments.

Writing Prompt: Do you have a favorite dystopian author? Write a paragraph summarizing an unforgettable scene.


 

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Karen Jurgens, a native Cincinnatian, has been a Texan transplant for thirty years and counting. Her contemporary romance novella, A Mosaic Christmas, will be published during Christmas, 2015, and is part of a multi-author anthology, Warm Mulled Kisses.

Since retiring from teaching, she has begun a new career as a blogger and speaker within the context of Christian ministry. Follow her blog about scriptural answers to life’s trials at Touched by Him Ministries at www.karenjurgens.com.

photos courtesy of mptvimages.com

Tech Talk with Ron Estrada

During the month of August, we’ll be posting interviews during our popular Saturday segment, Tech Talk. We’ll speak with editors, photographers, and other people who help writers become the best they can be in their chosen field. 

This is our last segment and we’re ending on a high-tech note. Author Ron Estrada shares with us how he uses Periscope to make his video blogs. Watch as he gives us a writing update using Periscope.

Ron Estrada is the author of Young Adult novels NOW I KNEW YOU and ANGEL ‘N ME, the first two books in his Cherry Hill series. He is also co-host of the Teen Writers Publish! podcast, teaching teens, young and old, how to write, publish, and market their novels. He’s a regular contributor to the Novel Rocket and My Book Therapy websites, as well as a regular columnist for Women2Women Michigan, a print magazine for which he is the only male columnist.

3 Questions Wednesday with Tiffany Amber Stockton

Tiff_headshot_lowresToday we welcome author Tiffany Amber Stockton, to 3 Questions Wednesday!

Hi, Tiffany! So glad you stopped by. First question.

Which author would you never get tired of, and why?

Tiffany: Tracie Peterson, Francine Rivers, or Tamera Alexander. I’m sorry. I couldn’t narrow it down to just one. :) These three ladies do a phenomenal job of crafting engaging characters blended with a compelling storyline, and they weave in the growth along with historical details in such a way that has you learning history as well as the Bible without it being shoved it in your face. It’s a smooth integration leaving you with an enjoyable, uplifting, and informative story every time.

Great historical authors, for sure. They also write a good villain.

Who is your favorite fictional villain?

Tiffany: Are you asking about a villain I’ve created, or one in a book I’ve read? If it’s a villain in one of my books, that would have to be Aaron Cavanaugh in my Wyoming Paintbrush series. My agent is shopping the series with several publishers, and we should hear news of a contract before the end of this year. Aaron isn’t exactly a villain in terms of an intention to harm solely for his own gain. I would probably consider him more of an antagonist present in all three books of the series, one who interferes with the key characters in the stories but also one who finds his own redemption in the end.

Now, a villain in a book I’ve read? That would be a lot harder. It isn’t often I read stories with a true villain as opposed to an antagonist, but the “nod” would have to go to Somerled MacDonald of Grace in Thine Eyes by Liz Curtis Higgs. Although I absolutely hated the ending and what happened to him, that’s a sign of a well-crafted villain. When a reader doesn’t want harm to come to the villain, that character is both compelling and multi-dimensional. Liz definitely achieves both in this book.

Many people enjoy a “redeemed” villain. :) Last question.

What project are you currently working on?

Tiffany: As mentioned above, I have the Wyoming Paintbrush series, but I also have a historical series based on Chincoteague Island in Virginia, home to the famous Chincoteague ponies brought to fictional life by Marguerite Henry with Misty of Chincoteague. That series is my focus right now, as I have an editor interested in publishing it. Guess I’d better finish up with these blog appearances and promotions and get back to work on my writing. *grins*

Thank you so much, Jennifer, for allowing me to visit here on your blog. For those reading this, if you answer either one of the following two questions, you’ll be entered into a drawing for the chance at a free autographed copy of one of my books.
1. Have you ever experienced a painful event from your past that has prevented you from moving forward until you offered forgiveness? What were you able to do after you forgave that you weren’t able to do before?
2. Do you have a friend who is the complete opposite of you yet for some reason the friendship you have works in spite of you both being so different? Why do you think this is?

Leave your answers in the comments below, and feel free to also comment on any part of the interview above. Appreciate you stopping by!

Thanks, Tiffany, for being our guest. Good, thought-provoking questions for our readers also.

A Grand Design

A Grand Design_frontcoverWhen Alyssa Denham, a single career woman, wins a romantic getaway for two on Mackinac Island, she gives her carefree best friend a call. Together, they take a vacation and answer a request from Alyssa’s grandmother to help her piece together a heirloom quilt with blocks created by longtime friends. Their quest gains them entrance into the homes of many longtime residents of the island. As the quilt’s story takes shape, Alyssa gains amazing insight into her grandmother’s life while being romanced by Scott Whitman, an island resident in charge of hotel transportation. But  memories of her past keep Alyssa from letting go. The quest takes a surprising turn when a man from Alyssa Denham’s past–the reason she hadn’t returned to the island in fifteen years–interrupts the relaxing getaway for her and her best friend, Libby. In the end, the quilt will bring healing to more than just a fractured quilting group. It will bring restoration to the hearts of Alyssa and her grandmother too.

Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood. Today, she is an award-winning, best-selling author & speaker who has partnered with Nerium International in the whole-body anti-aging industry. She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, in Colorado. They have a daughter and a son, a retriever mix named Roxie and a cattle dog named Timber. She has sold 19 books so far and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. Three of her novels have won annual reader’s choice awards, and in 2009, she was voted #1 favorite new author for Barbour’s Heartsong Presents book club. Read more about her at her website: www.amberstockton.com.

Modern Literature and the Christian Writer

Sandra Ardoin_HeadshotBy Sandra Ardoin

Literature took a turn in the early twentieth century. Frankly, whether it was for the better or for the worse depends on your outlook toward each author and work.]

Some of the most notable authors of the beginning decades used their imaginations to influence culture and shine a light on injustice. In many cases, fiction went from the engaging story written by nineteenth-century writers like Mark Twain and Jules Verne to barely disguised podiums for social change.

Don’t get me wrong. All writers employ themes, even Mark Twain, and Jules Verne. Every writer slips a message of some type into the story. As Christian authors, we like to preach, too (in a good and publishable way, of course).

But getting back to the more modern literature of the last century …Literature

People like John Steinbeck took up the cause of migrant workers in his novel The Grapes of Wrath, pointing out the ills of a greedy society determined to squash the little guy. Harper Lee dealt with racism as witnessed through the eyes of a child in To Kill a Mockingbird. Ayn Rand wrote of the struggle between those with unique ideas and those who think alike in The Fountainhead. George Orwell’s 1984 warned against totalitarian power, propaganda, and “big brother” becoming too intrusive into our lives.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. The only one of the above I’ve read is To Kill a Mockingbird, which I loved, by the way. But I didn’t love it for the lesson it taught about racism. I loved it for the characters and their interactions. I loved it for Scout and Jem and poor Boo Radley. My guess is that most people have read those classics for the story and not a lesson on society’s ills, but the theme is part of what tugs at the heart.

Today, some readers insist on “edgier” Christian fiction that speaks to deeper issues. The question is how do we treat that edgier subject? As the world might treat it, with dysfunctional or immoral characters, dark settings, and gloomy endings, or as the Bible treats it?

BibleGod’s Word is filled “edgy” stories that involve murder, adultery, war, death, greed, oppression, illness, envy—anything we’d find inside the covers of today’s bestsellers. But underlying each book in the Bible is the theme of hope.

In this century’s modern literature, what do you want to include in your works of fiction and poetry? Do you want to provoke anger, protest injustice, inspire thought, change the culture? How do you want to deliver the message, in a way that jars the spirit or uplifts it? Do you want to leave the reader realizing that life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, but it’s not completely gloom, doom, and ultimate destruction? (Okay, even the Bible talks of ultimate destruction, but even then there’s hope for those who grasp it.)

The answers to those questions rest with you, the writer. Whether or not you succeed rests with those who may be reading your work into the next “modern era.”

 

Sandra Ardoin writes inspirational historical romance such as her Christmas novella The Yuletide Angel and her January 2016 release A Reluctant Melody, both set in the 1890s. A wife and mom, she’s also a reader, football fan, NASCAR watcher, garden planter, country music listener, and antique store prowler.

Visit her at www.sandraardoin.com and on the Seriously Write blog. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest. Sign up for her newsletter to receive quarterly updates and specials.