Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Tuesday Tip: Creating Conflict

Tuesday Tip

Regardless of the type of plot a story contains, there must be a conflict. These are some basic types of conflict:

  • Man against Self: Struggles resulting from incompatible or opposing desires, needs, drives, wishes
  • Man against Man: Competitive or opposing actions of incompatible people
  • Man against World/Nature: Opposition of forces instead of other people or self

In order to have an engaging story, be certain your story contains at least one of these conflicts. Your plot should follow a basic pattern:

  • Your character should have a dream or goal.
  • Somewhere along the way, the world is pulled out from under the character (or a roadblock placed in front of them), making them feel that they will be unable to reach their dreams/goal.
  • At the last minute, the conflict is resolved (in a good or bad way).
  • Conflict should be most intense near the end of the story.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The HCSB Notetaking Bible: Great for journaling!

The HCSB Notetaking Bible contains the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation, and it is designed to help the reader create a deeper connection to the Word. The Bible is written in a single-column format, with ruled margins on each page.  A concordance, eight pages of maps, a one-year Bible reading plan, and an introduction to this translation of the Bible are included.

I found the HCSB translation accurate and easy to understand, though some people may be unfamiliar with it. Two-inch margins are perfect for notes, drawings, prayers, reflections, etc. The cream-colored pages are a similar thickness to other Bibles I own. Ghosting is possible, depending on the medium used. The cover is bonded leather with a moleskin appearance, and the Bible lays flat quite nicely, making it easy to use. Some readers may find the 8-point text size to be a bit small, but it allows the Bible to be a manageable size. It would be nice for this to be offered in a larger font, as well. People with large handwriting may find the lines to be a bit too close.

A unique feature to HCSB Bibles is the "Bullet Notes." These notes explain frequently used words or terms. The words/phrases are only marked with a bullet the first time they occur in a chapter. This list helps add greater understanding to what is being read.

I do a daily reading plan each year, and I really enjoy having a reading plan included at the back of the Bible.

I'd recommend this Bible to anyone looking for a way to enhance their spiritual walk.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy from the publisher as part of the B&H Blogger Program in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, June 24, 2016

"The Sender: A Story About When Right Words Make All The Difference" by Kevin Elko and Bill Beausay

There is no self-pity with cancer…
     Charlie winced, rolled over and looked out the window. It was gray and gloomy.
     Or is it "There is no self-pity in football"? he wondered, trying to get his mind off the pain. He'd read that somewhere and couldn't remember. He squinted into the fog outside his window, trying to recall. His head was just as hazy as it was outside —  the drugs did that to him. His arm ached from the needles. The docs had suggested installing a port-a-cath, but he'd resisted. It sounded terminal to him. It was time for it, though. His throat was raw. The hospital bedsheets caught, then tugged and twisted his bad leg. His body twitched back hard.
     "God, that hurt!" He cursed, gritting and wincing again. 
     Everything hurt during chemo: bone pain, nausea, and a constant headache. This was way worse than he had feared. His spirit grew dark. The only thing he felt like doing was crying. But that was not allowed. Then, the unthinkable words drifted through his brain fog — "God, please let me die." Ache upon ache.

Link to review...
(I rated it 4.5/5 - TOP PICK!)

Amazon link for purchase...

About the authors...

Kevin Elko consults with and speaks regularly to Fortune 500 companies and NFL and BCS sports teams. His powerful combination of inspiration and insight have proven vital to the success of his top clients including ING, The Hartford, and the New York Giants, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Alabama Crimson Tide. He is the author of four books, ,Nerves of Steel, The Pep Talk, True Greatness, and Touchdown. Kevin lives in Presto, Pennsylvania. 

Bill Beausay is an accomplished author and speaker on personal growth and professional success. He is the author of over ten books, including three national bestsellers. Dr. Beausay served as the Director of Research and Development at the Academy of Sports Psychology before becoming a full-time speaker and writer. He lives in Denver, Colorado.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Writing Prompt Wednesday

If you're feeling stuck in your WIP (work in progress) or just want to shake things up a bit, here's something different to try today:

And you thought dragons didn't exist...

Happy writing!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Monday Motivation

Some motivation to begin your week:

"Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning."
              — Maya Angelou

Have a wonderful week!

Friday, June 17, 2016

"The Alliance" by Jolina Petersheim ... and a GIVEAWAY!

In celebration of her latest release, Jolina has graciously offered to give away a copy of the book (US Only). To enter, see the Rafflecopter box at the bottom of this post. (Contest ends June 24, 2016.) If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you and pass on your information. Good luck!

A Word from Jolina...

I guess you could say I had a slightly different childhood. When I was six and my brother ten, our family stood in a field on the camp where my parents were caretakers, and my parents told us that this was where we would meet if we were separated when the world "blew up." From this field, our family would travel by foot to our friends' elaborate, fairy-tale home and live in the blue room hidden behind their bookshelves.

My parents in no way meant to instill fear in us. Now that I'm a parent, I see that they were trying to assuage their own fears by coming up with a disaster-recovery plan. But I was born with an overactive imagination, and therefore this plan planted in me the seed of fear--and subsequently, a driving need to control my environment.

I wish I could say I uprooted this fear once I became an adult, but after I had my firstborn daughter, my fear grew worse, for not only did I have to control my environment, I also had to control hers.

When my eldest was six months old, an unnerving exchange with a logger caused my fear to deepen its roots and forced me to ask myself whether I would ever use lethal force to protect myself and my family. I believed I would, even though, growing up, I sensed that my father would adhere to his pacifist heritage if placed in such a situation.

The final puzzle piece for my book, The Alliance, slid into place when my father told us that we needed heirloom seeds to last us until the next harvest season. I remember standing in my darkened kitchen, repeating that phrase to myself--the harvest season.

Initially, I believed this would be the title of the book, but over time, I knew a community having enough food to last until the next harvest season was only a small element of the story. The larger element came from the protagonist, Leora Ebersole, and her driving need to control her environment, even after society crumbles around her, because if she controls her environment, she believes she will be able to keep her orphaned family safe.

With every one of my books, God's been faithful to allow me to experience some portion of whatever topic I'm addressing. The Alliance has been no exception.

My family and I moved from Tennessee to Wisconsin shortly before I finished the rough draft. Eight weeks later, my husband went in for a CAT scan, which revealed a tumor near his brain stem. He had surgery the next morning, and all through that night next to his hospital bed, I feared for my family.

I feared for our two young daughters--our firstborn was two and a half and our second was four months old at the time. I feared that I would be a widow, living on a grid-tie solar-powered farm six hundred miles away from our immediate families. In a matter of hours, one of my worst fears had come true, and I didn't know how to handle it.

However, all through my Garden of Gethsemane night, during the hours my husband was in surgery, and the critical weeks that followed the craniotomy, I felt God's presence as if he was sitting beside me.

I then understood that God had allowed me to face one of my greatest fears so that I would learn that inner peace can never be acquired through my futile attempts to control my environment--and therefore keep my family safe. Moreover, I can only achieve inner peace if I continually surrender my life and the lives of my family to the One who called us into being.

So I pray, dear reader, that you will discover the author of the peace that passes all understanding and daily surrender your life--and the lives of your family--to Him.

Q & A with Jolina...

Q:  What would you be doing if you were not an author?
A:  Be a midwife or non-profit doula to endangered teens

Q:  How did you start writing?
A:  I fell in love with the written word in 2nd grade when a teacher refused to let me give up on reading, though it was difficult for me to learn. Soon, I was reading everything I could possibly get my hands on (My mom had to screen some of my library titles.) and, from this, I fell in love with writing as well.

Q:  What are your thoughts on the publishing industry in general? In relation to self-publishing?
A;  I think it’s an exciting time to be an author! During the release of my debut, The Outcast, in 2013, it seemed like print books were on the decline, but now eBooks are starting to taper off. Nothing is ever the same, and I like that! Also, it’s wonderful that writers have the ability to self-publish their books and, therefore, fulfill their dreams.

Q:  What advice do you have for new authors?
A:  I read a quote recently that said, “Plan in decades. Think in years. Work in months. Live in days.” ~Nic Harambulous. It can become so easy, during the hustle and bustle of launch season (or rough-draft season, editing season, etc.) to get caught up in the finished product, inadvertently losing sight of the beauty of the everyday. I believe it’s impossible to truly create art without tapping into our world. Don’t shut it out in an effort to reach a deadline. Let life feed your art. Your story will thrive because of it.

Q:  Great advice! What is your favorite writing-related book? 
A:  On Writing by Stephen King. This is a wonderfully practical book and well-written to boot. I haven’t read much by Stephen King, but this really made me want to meet him.

Q:  What can you tell me about your next project? 
A:  The Divide, the sequel to The Alliance, is releasing Spring 2017.

Q:  What's a book you wish you'd written? 
A:  I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. Eccentric characters, great setting (a crumbling castle surrounded by a mote), a coming-of-age story in 1920s England. It just warms my heart and makes me want to weep at the same time.

Q:  Who are some of your favorite authors? 
A:  Marilynne Robinson, Donna Tartt, Kate Atkinson, Jane Eyre, Barbara Kingsolver, Lois Lowry

Q:  What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing? 
A:  Reading, hiking, cooking, swimming (or doggy paddling), digging in the dirt, and, of course, being with my precious family

Q:  What is something readers would be surprised to learn about you?
A:  I was on a clogging team in high school (like Appalachian river dance) and still sometimes break out a jig whenever I’m excited. J

Very cool! I was in a dance club in elementary school and we did some clogging. Clogging is certainly challenging!  Thanks for taking the time to visit my blog. I'm sure my readers will enjoy getting to know you a bit better!

Link to my review...
(I rated it 4 out of 5 stars.)

Amazon link for purchase...

About Jolina...

Jolina Petersheim is the bestselling author of The Alliance, The Midwife, and The Outcast, which Library Journal called "outstanding . . . fresh and inspirational" in a starred review and named one of the best books of 2013. Her writing has been featured in venues as varied as radio programs, nonfiction books, and numerous online and print publications such as Reader's Digest, Writer's Digest, and Today's Christian Woman. Jolina and her husband share the same unique Amish and Mennonite heritage that originated in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, but now live on a solar-powered farm in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin with their young daughters. Follow Jolina and her blog at jolinapetersheim.com.

Where readers can find Jolina online...
Twitter: Jolina_Joy
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/JolinaPetershei/
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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tuesday Tip: Sagging Middle Syndrome

Tuesday Tip

Have you ever come across a story which has a strong beginning, exciting tension, and believable conflict, but, once you get to the middle of this book, you have to force yourself to keep going? You suddenly lose interest, and you can't figure out what has happened to this story that started out with a bang.

Some authors have a hard time keeping the momentum going all the way through the book. They may have a terrific ending planned, but they have "sagging middle syndrome."

How can you tell if there is a sagging middle? It does not necessarily have to come right in the middle of the book. What is important is that the reader has lost interest in the story.

When writing, don't just be satisfied with a strong beginning and fantastic ending. Trying to "fill in the middle"can leave the book sagging in parts. In order to prevent this from happening, one of your main characters needs to have something unexpected happen. Conflict is generally the cure for what is ailing in a book. Be sure the conflict is tied in to the goals and motivation of your characters, and you will create a story that will have the reader hanging on for the entire ride.

Friday, June 10, 2016

"The Ringmaster's Wife" by Kristy Cambron ... and a GIVEAWAY!

In celebration of her latest release, Kristy has graciously offered to give away a copy of the book (US Only). To enter, see the Rafflecopter box at the bottom of this post. (Contest ends June 17, 2016.) If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you and pass on your information. Good luck!

My Review...

Prepare to go behind the curtain of the Greatest Show on Earth with Cambron’s latest. As the daughter of an earl, Rosamund Easling has lived a comfortable life. However, things are about to change when she learns that her father plans to sell her prized horse to an American entertainer, John Ringling. Looking for a little adventure before the arranged marriage which awaits her, Roseamund decides to follow the horse to help with the transition. She soon discovers new plans for her own life as well. While in America, Rosamund meets Mable Ringling, whose story is unconventional, to say the least. The women find a connection, courtesy of their unconventional life choices, and a friendship develops along the way.

Cambron's fans will find this book to be quite a departure from her first two books, The Butterfly and the Violin and A Sparrow in Terezin, which had connections to World War II. Her latest focuses on the English countryside and America in the roaring 20s. The topic is a bit nontraditional in its magical setting. It does give a wonderful portrait of the real Mabel Ringling and the influence she had on others. The story develops over the course of many years, following both Rosamund and Mabel, and there is even a bit of mystery involved as both women bravely follow their dreams to pursue God’s purpose in their lives. The reader may wish there had been a bit more depth to Rosamund and Mable at times, particularly in comparison to the lead characters in Cambron’s first two books. However, both women are strong characters who add life to this tale. Cambron is a master storyteller and the reader will enjoy their journey behind the scenes of circus life, where they are transported courtesy of the author’s attention to the most minute details. The cover is the perfect complement to this story. A helpful historical timeline, places to visit, and books to read are included.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

About Kristy...

Kristy Cambron has a background in art and design, but she fancies life as a vintage-inspired storyteller. She is the author of The Ringmaster's Wife, named to Publishers Weekly Spring 2016 Religion & Spirituality TOP 10 and set for release on June 7, 2016 from HarperCollins Christian Publishing (Thomas Nelson). Her novels have been named to Library Journal Reviews' Best Books and RT Reviewers' Choice Awards Best lists and received a 2015 INSPY Awards nomination for best debut novel.

Kristy is a Speaker and Design Manager at TheGROVEstory.com and holds a degree in Art History from Indiana University. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three sons, where she can probably be bribed with a coconut mocha latte and a good read.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

If you're feeling stuck in your WIP (work in progress) or just want to shake things up a bit, here's something different to try today:

The scariest thing that ever happened to me...

Happy writing!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Monday Motivation

Some motivation to begin your week:

"Open your mind to new experiences, particularly to the study of other people. Nothing that happens to a writer— however happy, however tragic — is ever wasted."
              — P. D. James

This week, pay attention to what happens around you. You never know what you might be able to use.
Have a wonderful week!

Friday, June 3, 2016

"The Beautiful Pretender" by Melanie Dickerson ... and a Kindle Prize Pack Giveaway (Litfuse Blog Tour)

The Beautiful Pretender Melanie Dickerson
My Review...

Reinhart Stolten, the Margrave of Thornbeck, has a problem. The king has informed him that he needs to find a bride immediately. Reinhart invites ten noble-born women to Thornbeck Castle to determine which woman would be the best choice. One of the ladies invited is Lady Dorothea of Plimmwald. She has no intentions of going, much to her father’s dismay. As Earl of Plimmwald, he has a stake in the Margrave’s marriage. In place of Dorothea, he sends his servant Avelina. Though the Margrave is intrigued with Avelina, she plans to do all she can to not be noticed or chosen. This will be challenging, especially as another potential bride seems out to get her. Will Avelina’s secret be uncovered?
Dickerson is known for her fairy tale retellings, and it’s certainly well-deserved! This is second in her “Medieval Fairy Tale Romance” series. The story is full of intrigue, courage, adventure, romance, and risk. It weaves in The Princess and the Pea and Beauty and the Beast, and takes place in 16th century Germany. It proves that fairy tales are not just for children. There will be some familiar characters to those who have read The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest. However, this book could easily be read as a standalone. Avelina is a strong character, both in spirit and faith. Reinhart is gruff but lovable. This well-written romance will have the reader rooting for a happily-ever-after ending.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy from Litfuse and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

To purchase a copy...

Litfuse blog tour landing page...