Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Balancing Everything

Over the last few weeks I've been focusing more and more on the need for balance. We live in a place of extremes. Even the Ohio weather is extreme. -25 degrees F in January and 100 degrees in August.

We are in an economy of extremes. People were earning great wages but wanted more so they took out an extreme amount of debt.

On the other hand some people are scared to death over the current state of the economy so they're taking Extreme measures: Stocking up on food, water, pulling cash out of the banks.

We, of course, have extreme sports. No need to explain that.

In the midst of all of this I was prompted a few weeks ago to start "The Balanced Life" website. I wanted it to be a safe place for people to go and learn about common sense money management.

I've also worked to balance the amount of work I do each day. I need to recognize that there are so many possibilities I need discernment to know which I should pursue-and what to pass by.

As a writer right now it can be very difficult to know what to do. There are so many unknowns. Do you keep working on a book when the industry seems closed to new authors, or do you work on platform? If you work on platform how can you best develop your market?

I would have to say again that in every area of your life, God is calling us to a place of balance and rest "Come all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest."

Are you striving right now or are you living in the peace and balance that only Jesus can give?

Would each of you please take the time to visit my new website www.TheBalancedLife.com and encourage 7 of your friends to do the same? Everything on the site is free including the article "A Saver Married to a Spender."

Tiffany Colter is a writer, speaker and writing career coach who works with beginner to published writers. She can be reached through her website at www.WritingCareerCoach.com
Learn more about Tiffany's Marketing techniques on her main blog.
Common-sense money management is free at The Balanced Life website.
Read Tiffany's award winning manuscript "A Face in the Shadow" on her fiction blog.
She writes a blog for the Christian writer Tuesdays at Writer's Rest.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Top 10 Ways to A Peaceful Mind

Have you had those days when you are rushing so fast and go to bed with your mind still racing? All those thoughts of what didn't get done. It's never about the things you did get done, is it?

Some things that help the overly busy thinker to get some rest:

Is your mind still racing? Maybe you have unfinished business you are afraid will not get done.
1. Write down notes on what needs to be finished.
2. Keep a notepad and pen by your bed to unload your brain when you can't sleep.
3. Journal emotions that haven't settled.
4. Jot a bullet point list of the things running in your brain.
5. Double check your daytimer for any appointments that worry you.
6. Load your cell phone with appointments you are afraid to miss.
7. Set out your things for morning the night before so that you feel much more in control.
8. Read something you really enjoy.
9. Put on relaxing music.
10. Give yourself 15 minutes to think out loud about anything that is bothersome. Take it one step further and speak out loud to God asking for His help in handling the issue.

An hour before bedtime . . .
1. Shut off the TV, radio and computer.
2. Turn off the cell phone.
3. Turn down all the bright lighting.
4. Take a warm bath.
5. Drink some cocoa or warm decalf tea.
6. Pet your dog or cat while cuddled up comfortably.
7. Don't work in your bedroom.
8. Follow a ritual for getting ready for bed.
9. Thank God for all the things that were accomplished today by naming them.
10. Stop cleaning house, doing chores, or talking business.

Oh yes, I'll be taking my own advice tonight :-)

Come visit me over at God Uses Broken Vessels

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Writing Through Pain

by Audra Silva

Sometimes life blindsides you. Last year, our family went through some intense battles, and the experience cut me deep. I haven’t written since. The thought of writing brought a wounded feeling with it, and I shut down any attempts.

A friend of mine asked me how I was doing recently, and everything came pouring out. I realized through that bit of processing I hadn’t dealt with the pain, the sense of loss. I’d shoved it way down, thrown a lid on it, and ‘forgotten’ about it.

Writing for me means vulnerability. It pulls from those hidden places to bring passion to the words. My angst, my sorrow, my joy, my essence infuses every part of it. Both happiness and heartache add life to my writing. I work through my emotions whether I’m penning a poem or creating a character in my novel.

I never realized the strong bond between writing and the person deep inside me. Not until I faced a crisis, but ignored the gaping wound. Not until I couldn’t write for fear it would hurt too much. Not until a friend asked, and it all came tumbling out.

God gave me the gift of writing for two reasons. One is for me. He uses this gift to help me sort through painful experiences. I have a way to let it all out, and not hide from it. It’s just God and me, and the words tumbling out. He brings healing as the words and emotions flow.

However, I need to remember there is a second reason. There are others who may not be able to express their pain. They may feel alone in what they are going through. That’s when God moves on the heart of a writer. His words, His truths flow through a willing writer’s heart, and touch a reader right in the middle of their circumstance. Again, God’s healing comes through words.

If you are facing a similar ‘block’ with your writing, I encourage you to look inside, and see what might be going on. Let God pull you close, and help you through what you’re dealing with right now. Then let that jumbled mess spill out on the page in whatever form it chooses. God is faithful to meet you there.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sharlene MacLaren, author of Hannah Grace

By Molly Noble Bull

Today I am interviewing Sharlene MacLaren—a fellow author and a good friend. Sharlene has written several successful novels, and I was privileged to endorse two of them. Tell us the titles and a little about each of your published novels. Also, tell us about your upcoming novels and include your web address.

1.Through Every Storm – A tender love story about a young couple struggling through the loss of a child and a failing marriage, ultimately finding hope, healing, and new beginnings. (Contemporary Romance)
2. Little Hickman Creek Series: – (Kentucky - 1895-96)
Loving Liza Jane – A schoolteacher finds love and an instant family.
Sarah, My Beloved – A mail-order bride arrives in Kentucky only to discover her betrothed has wed another. And then someone else steps in to offer his hand.
Courting Emma – A tough-as-nails boardinghouse proprietress houses an array of beefy characters—and then along comes the handsome preacher.
3. Long Journey Home – An embittered, recently widowed pastor and a divorced woman find unexpected love and happiness.
4. The Daughters of Jacob Kane Series: – (Sandy Shores, Michigan – 1904-06)
Hannah Grace – Feisty, independent Hannah has her life all neatly planned—until the new sheriff comes to town!
Maggie Rose – Mission-minded Maggie takes a job at an orphanage in NYC, never expecting to fall in love with a hardnosed newspaper reporter. (*Coming July 2009)
Abbie Ann – The witty, carefree, and lively Abbie gets a dose of “real life” when her best friend contracts a deadly disease and requests that Abbie marry her husband and take on the task of raising her infant daughter. (*2010)

Great. Now tell us who Sharlene MacLaren is when she isn’t writing and promoting books. What are your hobbies? Likes? Dislikes? And tells us as much about your family as you feel comfortable telling.

After 31 years of teaching second and fourth grades, I decided to say, "Bye-bye, Students!" and "Hello, Writing World!" and it's been an interesting, exciting, challenging, heart wrenching, and inspiring adventure to say the least. One thing I know for certain—God dropped a seed of passion for writing in my heart back in the summer of 2000, and He's been growing it ever since. I have been married to the love of my life for 33 years and have two wonderful married daughters and three precious grandchildren. I enjoy music, reading, Bible study, spending time with family and friends, and traveling. We share our West Michigan home with our loveable collie named Dakota and a big ol’ fat cat named Mocha.

How do your religious beliefs affect your writing?

I write romantic fiction with Christian themes. All of my stories are stories of hope, healing, and forgiveness—minus the ‘preachiness’. My ultimate aim in writing is to point my readers to Christ and His plans and purposes. If only ONE person drops me a line to say he/she felt challenged in his faith or made a first-time commitment to follow Christ, then - wow! - that is all the encouragement I need to continue on this writing journey.

Will your future books be historical novels? If not, what other kinds of books can we expect from you?

I enjoy writing in both historical and contemporary genres. You can expect to see another contemporary stand-alone book releasing later in 2009 (title to be determined) and the continuation of my historical series, The Daughters of Jacob Kane.

Thanks for sharing with us this month, Sharlene. Come back soon.
I would love for all of to read my short story "Time for Love" in the February issue of Christian Fiction Online.
See you next time.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Healing Rest

I think God does have a funny sense of humor. I keep learning things about rest because I need it. He used a little bug I didn't even see to capture my wandering attention.

Does that kind of thing happen to you?

I forget to allow my body to rest so I think God reminds me through little things that force me to take the time out of a day's rush and rest.

A couple of days ago, I received a bug bite. Not a big deal. I didn't even see what bit me on the neck and swelled up the muscle.

The next day, it had gone down and I thought I was easily on the mend.


There was a message waiting. My lymph nodes hadn't decided quite what to do with all the poison. While we were out to a fun double date on Valentine's day, my throat started to swell on that one side. By 11 p.m. I was so sick that I knew I couldn't go to church the next morning. I went to bed planning to sleep it off. And I did.

This morning, I woke up feeling great except for the sore throat had gone to mild and all the way across both sides and a bit of muscle soreness on the side of my neck and into my jaw.

I purposefully laid in bed, read a book for a little while and then got up to eat.

Oh my goodness. I felt really good other than that stupid scratchy throat. So I took some cold medicine and went to work on our plans for the day. We have one kiddo moving home for a few months to pay off a car and get ready to move out permanently. So we needed to shuttle rooms around again.

I worked all afternoon. Then I sat down to sort out some books-and it hit. I was burning eye tired. I needed, um, rest.

So here I sit on the sofa regrouping from a couple of hours of steady cleaning and rearranging furniture between three bedrooms. And I realize it was too much.

It wasn't hard to recognize I was tired. I couldn't hardly climb the stairs again. The fatigue signal wasn't just whispering, it was shouting at me. I think it's a very important to recognize your body signals whether it's from fatigue, illness or hunger signals. But we all get too busy and then ignore them, don't we?

What's the body signal you've been igoring lately?

Do you think it could be shouting at you?

It took a silly little bug to catch my attention. What will it take to get your attention?

Come visit over at God Uses Broken Vessels for thoughtful tidbits, book reviews and even some posts about Montana!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Contests--Are they worth the effort and cost?

Posted by Eileen Astels

Notice how I put "effort" before "cost" in the title?

The cost of entering writers' contests is definitely the lesser of the two requirements, that is if you plan to utilize the contest to the max.

To achieve the most from entering a contest you really do need to expend some massive effort. After you've rewritten and rewritten, perhaps even sought out professional editing, then you really must, must, must, follow the submission guidelines exactly as defined in each contest listing your submitting to.

Though there are often many similarities throughout the various contests, some require specific layouts, headers, etc. Be cautious. Study the specific guidelines for each contest you choose to enter and follow them exactly.

Another helpful thing to do is check out the scoring sheets. Most contests provide a sample score sheet that the judges follow. Be aware of where the weight of the scores lie. What specifically are the contest coordinators looking for--having the judges rate? Spend a little more time addressing these areas in your submission for optimal feedback.

Remember, everything in writing is subjective, so take the feedback and scores you receive as a "TOOL" to progress in your writing endeavors. Don't take them as the be all and end all. Even those who have won prestigious writing contests haven't sold their manuscript. And those who have scored low, have gone on to sell.

Contest are a way to learn and grow in this industry. They can, and should, provide a means to toughen a writer's skin, preparing them for the critical world of reviewers.

If you're interested in getting a little extra help with your submission before you enter the ACFW's Genesis Contest or any other contest, you might want to check out an offer that Kaye Dacus has going right now. A great opportunity, in my opinion!

Blessings, and good luck to all you entrants. May we all receive valuable feedback.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Should We Treat Character Description like Backstory?

Posted by Eileen Astels

If we believe that backstory should be minimalized, released in the smallest doses possible, presented in an interactive way with the present action of the story, and only when absolutely necessary, should we treat character description in the same way?

My answer is: Not exactly, but applying some of the very same principles would definitely be wise.

What was the last character description dump you read? Did it move the story forward? Did it seem like the author pressed the pause button to offer an aside--oh, by the way reader, this guy looks like...? Did it totally contradict the picture of the character that you'd already formed in your head a few pages back? Hate it when that happens.

Think about those questions as you decide HOW TO creatively present your characters visual descriptions in a fresh, interactive, keeping the story moving forward way. Think about HOW MANY DETAILS are really needed to help put a body to your characters.

If we believe our job as a writer includes the challenge of tapping into our reader's imagination, then surely we can trust our readers to take a few carefully selected physical descriptors and create their own perfect picture of the characters guiding our stories.

But, wait. Is it only from those carefully chosen physical descriptive words that we include in our story that the reader forms a visual of our characters? Hopefully not. Dialogue, action/reaction, character quirks/mannerisms, career choice, etc. all play a role in creating a unique visual of your character. And that picture formed will be different for each reader, depending on their personal storehouse of experiences.

So, next time you're tempted to offer a character description dump, stop yourself. Pick out the key visuals that you want every reader to have of this character (note: you should have a reason for wanting this, too) and find a way to reveal it in the action of the story.

Make your character's description a part of the story, not an aside.



Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Confident Expectation of Good

Tuesdays with Tiffany
by Tiffany Colter

Yesterday I was scanning the web and I ran across an article summarizing the civil unrest around the world. When I read articles like this one my heart hurts inside. I realize that so many people have relied on other PEOPLE for their security that now they don't know where else to turn.

I know what it is to face sudden income loss. When my husband was diagnosed with cancer 3 1/2 years ago we were faced with the "what if" and the "how will we". I know how frustrating it was to realize that my tax dollars did not make me eligible for state benefits when our sole income was no longer there.

I had to face a moment where it was us and God.

The difference in our circumstance and what others around the world are facing is the subject of this blog: hope. Hope is a confident expectation of good.

And now, as I'm on the cusp of publication it seems the industry is imploding. This past Saturday I had three different projects rejected. It hurt, but it wasn't the end.

See, I serve a God who knew it was coming. He knows the perfect timing and I need to keep pushing forward with the same gusto I had before my triple strike out. I'm still working on book 6. I have to. I'm a writer. I'm also a child of the King who is called to write. I have to keep pushing forward.

I'm regrouping those rejections [none of which were based on craft...it was all market] and coming at it another way. I listened to the advice of my agent and trusted his insight. I keep plugging forward. Keep building platform and, in light of this 'set back', I'm spending even MORE time reading the foundational lessons of my writing business: Writing, Marketing, Speaking.

Each of us has a decision each morning. Will I write? Won't I write? What will I allow to block me from writing? How big can I dream? How much will I limit myself?

Will I press on? Will I give up?

Will I be a writer or a quiter?

Today, I'm choosing to be a writer?

What have you chosen?

Tiffany Colter is a writer, speaker and writing career coach who works with beginner to published writers. She can be reached through her website at www.WritingCareerCoach.com
Learn more about Tiffany's Marketing techniques on her main blog.
Read Tiffany's award winning manuscript "A Face in the Shadow" on her fiction blog.
She writes a blog for the Christian writer Tuesdays at Writer's Rest.