Friday, October 30, 2009

Good news!

We're going to have another little addition to our family. This morning I took a home pregnancy test--it was positive! I'm going to have a baby!

My husband and I are both very excited. Hubby especially because he is praying for a little boy. We already have two girls. I told him we could give it one more try, but that's it. lol!

According to the online due date calculator thingie, the baby is due on July 4th. Isn't that fun? Granted, my babies have been early so far, so we probably won't last that long.

Of course, none of that is quite official yet. On Monday morning, I'll go to the post clinic and get an actual test. Then they'll give me a referral to find an off post OB. Fun stuff.

In all the excitment, there's a tad bit of apprehension. This pregnancy is high risk from the start as I have diabetes and high blood pressure. It's going to mean taking extra good care of myself--watching what I eat, making sure my dosages are good, tracking everything.

But God is with me on this. He knows my body, He knows my strengths and weaknesses, and I trust that He will help me. The Lord is faithful, and His plans are to prosper me, so what right do I have to fear, right? Praise the Lord for His goodness!

Eek! I'm having a baby!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bad Queries

I am a guest blogger over at SM Blooding's blog today. We're having fun with bad queries. Check it out!

Monday, October 19, 2009

MLP Select

October 19, 2009

Marcher Lord Press Announces Marcher Lord Select

(Colorado Springs, CO)--Marcher Lord Press, the premier publisher of Christian speculative fiction, today announces the debut of a revolution in fiction acquisitions.

"Marcher Lord Select is American Idol meets book acquisitions," says publisher Jeff Gerke. "We're presenting upwards of 40 completed manuscripts and letting 'the people' decide which one should be published."

The contest will proceed in phases, Gerke explains, in each subsequent round of which the voters will receive larger glimpses of the competing manuscripts.

The first phase will consist of no more than the book's title, genre, length, a 20-word premise, and a 100-word back cover copy teaser blurb. Voters will cut the entries from 40 to 20 based on these items alone.

"We want to show authors that getting published involves more than simply writing a great novel," Gerke says. "There are marketing skills to be developed--and you've got to hook the reader with a good premise."

Following rounds will provide voters with a 1-page synopsis, the first 500 words of the book, the first 30 pages of the book, and, in the final round, the first 60 pages of the book.

The manuscript receiving the most votes in the final round will be published by Marcher Lord Press in its Spring 2010 release list.

No portion of any contestant's mss. will be posted online, as MLP works to preserve the non-publication status of all contestants and entries.

Participating entrants have been contacted personally by Marcher Lord Press and are included in Marcher Lord Select by invitation only.

"We're also running a secondary contest," Gerke says. "The 'premise contest' is for those authors who have completed a Christian speculative fiction manuscript that fits within MLP guidelines and who have submitted their proposals to me through the Marcher Lord Press acquisitions portal before October 29, 2009."

The premise contest will allow voters to select the books that sound the best based on a 20-word premise, a 100-word back cover copy teaser blurb, and (possibly) the first 500 words of the book.

The premise contest entrants receiving the top three vote totals will receive priority acquisitions reading by MLP publisher Jeff Gerke.

"It's a way for virtually everyone to play, even those folks who didn't receive an invitation to compete in the primary Marcher Lord Select contest."

The premise contest is open to anyone with a completed Christian speculative fiction manuscript that meets MLP guidelines for length, content, genre, worldview, audience, etc. To enter, authors must complete the acquisitions form found at the Marcher Lord Press site and supply all the components listed below on or before October 29, 2009.

Marcher Lord Select officially begins on November 1, 2009, and runs until completion in January or February 2010. All voting and discussions and Marcher Lord Select activities will take place at The Anomaly forums in the Marcher Lord Select subforum. Free registration is required.

"In order for this to work as we're envisioning," Gerke says, "we need lots and lots of voters. So even if you're not a fan of Christian science fiction or fantasy, I'm sure you love letting your voice be heard about what constitutes good Christian fiction. So come on out and join the fun!"


Marcher Lord Press is a Colorado Springs-based independent publisher producing Christian speculative fiction exclusively. MLP was launched in fall of 2008 and is privately owned. Contact: Jeff Gerke;

Thursday, October 15, 2009


“A writer begins by breathing life into his characters. But if you are very lucky, they breathe life into you.” Caryl Phillips
The most memorable characters in literature are those who are marked by one huge flaw. They are human. Or at least human-like. We all know that humans are influenced by life, by their environment, their experiences, etc. They have hopes, dreams, pain, and failures. They are shaped by their past and their perception of the future. Humans are a mystery to behold, and a writers greatest asset is to accurately portray that mystery.

Characters, therefore, must be more than a representation of the human form, they must display those human qualities realistically. A writer must build their characters from the inside out, show the world who they really are through the story they are telling. Right?

What makes a character realistic?

Think about some of your favorite characters. Why are they your favorites? What makes them stand out from the hundreds of stories you’ve read in your time? What makes them…realistic?

Characters should act, react, and think the way that we think. In the thousands of years since humans appeared on the earth, we have not changed all that much. Our situations have, but the essence of humanity has not. We still cry when we’re upset, we laugh when we think something is funny, we get angry when someone assaults our beliefs. So, our characters should reflect that as well.

But how do we do that in our writing?

Building character: Of course, we start at the beginning. Who is our character? We should know our characters almost, if not more, as well as we know ourselves. Everything from physical appearance to why he/she hates flying. If someone interviewed us about our character, we should be able to answer most questions. How old is your character? Where were they born? What kind of childhood did they have? What significant event helped to shape who they are today? We should know what makes them laugh, cry, angry.

Some writers keep a profile of their characters. Some write out the character’s back story (regardless of whether it goes into the novel or not). Some put their characters in certain situations, just for fun, and see how it plays out. All great ways to get to know your character.

Dialogue/Actions: The best way to introduce your character and their different quirks, personality layers, background, etc is the adage—show, don’t tell. Through dialogue and action, a reader gets to know your character. A subject for another post, another day, as my point is actually that the dialogue and actions need to be realistic. If you’re writing a story about a modern-day teen, you aren’t going to use the same tone/style you would for a medieval princess. Right? Even deeper, a male thinks/acts differently than a female. They have different outlooks, different cares, different ways of moving. If your female and male characters react the exact same way to an incident, something is wrong.

Creative storytelling: This was pointed out to me in one of my first novels. Towards the end of the book, my male protagonist and his friend, black belts in karate, take out about six men who attack them. One of my crit partners told me this was unrealistic to her because I had not given the reader any clues before that point in the story that these two men could hold their own. So, in my rewrites, I moved a couple of scenes to the karate dojo and added some dialogue to other scenes talking about teaching kids, winning tournaments, etc. So by the time the reader reached the point where these two men kick some major bad guy booty, it made sense—it wasn’t a surprise. So be sure to work in character personality traits, hobbies, etc throughout the story.

This goes for your characters that aren’t human as well. Some of us write supernatural, sci-fi, or fantasy and some of our characters come from our over-active imagination. This is great. But for the readers to relate to them, understand them, even sympathize for them, the creative characters still need to exhibit human-like qualities. We can go into that more later on.

For now, consider the characters in your WIP (or playing in your mind). Are they realistic? How can you make them more so? Are you doing a good job of showing them in your story?

“For me the obligation is to present my characters realistically. They must be credible human beings even if the circumstances they are in are ‘incredible,’ as they are in The Collector. But even the story, no matter how bizarre, no matter what symbolisms are involved, has to be possible. . . . Believability must dominate even the most outlandish situation.” John Fowles

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Meeting an Icon in Christian literature!

Excuse me while I take a small tangent from the character exploration I was about to embark on. I have some exciting news to share!

This weekend, I got to meet Jerry B. Jenkins in person!

In addition to being the author of over 150 books, Jerry B. Jenkins is the head of the Christian Writers Guild. I joined the group as an apprentice about eighteen months ago, and so far it has been a wonderful experience.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I noticed there were a lot of CWG members in the Kansas City area and thought it would be fun to get them all together. I contacted Mr. Jenkins to see if that would be acceptable (I didn’t want to step on any toes), and he immediately emailed me back saying that it was a great idea. On top of that, he suggested that if I could get the group together and meeting set up for the past weekend, he was going to be in the area and might stop by.

Needless to say, that lit a fire under my rear! I jumped into action and got a group together on Facebook, and set up the meeting. So, on Saturday, a small group of us got together and sat down for an hour or so with Mr. Jenkins.

First let me say, it’s been a long time since I met so nice a man. He smiled and listened and answered questions with such grace. We talked about CWG and the upcoming conference (in Feb., keynote speaker: Max Lucado!), as well as his writing career—including what he has in the works. One of our favorite topics was how human Mr. Jenkins is. Seriously, sometimes we look at someone as popular as Mr. Jenkins and put them on a pedestal. He shared a few stories with us about mistakes he had made, things he’d had to go back and fix, even now. What a relief! I don’t ever have to be perfect either. Lol…

It really was a wonderful experience, and I am grateful to Mr. Jenkins for taking time out of his schedule to come visit this aspiring group of writers!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Plot or Characters?

“One reason we read fiction is our hope that we will be moved by it, finding characters we can enjoy and sympathize with.” John Gardner

The formula for any great novel looks something like this:

Outstanding, Realistic Characters
+ Fantastic, Page-turning plot
Breakout Novel with Staying Value

The oldest debate among the fiction community is which is more important—characters or plot? Does the equation look more like 2+2 or 3+1 or 1+3? While characters and plot are not mutually exclusive, meaning you can’t have a novel without both, does one matter more than the other?

In my personal opinion, one does matter more than the other. Characters are the starting and jump off point for any novel. In the words of Flannery O’Connor, “In most good stories it is the character’s personality that creates the action of the story.” Plot is formed around the characters. Plot moves, changes, etc from the actions/reactions of said characters. Plot is important, but without the characters to bring it to life, it is nothing.

Take the book, Little Women, for example. Yes, I know it is not suspense, but a suspense novel would not illustrate my point as well. In the novel, we follow the story of four sisters. Throughout the novel, not much happens, and yet so much does. It spans the course of years, in fact. Although not much out of the ordinary happens to this family, we are pulled in by the characters and their strong personalities. The quiet strength of Marmie and Meg. The stubbornness and impulsiveness of Jo. The middle-child—laid back Beth. And of course the frivolous, yet kind-hearted Amy. These characters stand out to us because they are so different from each other, yet because of their connection, the plot comes about naturally. It keeps us turning the pages.

I remember being forced to read Little Women by my mom several years ago. I didn’t want to read it. Classics, by definition, usually bored me to sleep. I was not, still am not largely, fond of the classic style of writing. I am one of those people who can’t stand pages of description, exposition, etc. But, I sat down on my daybed and started reading. If I remember right, I finished the novel in three days. I was enthralled by the intricacies of each character and how they grew and changed over the course of the book.

In the same context, look at Lord of the Rings, a faster paced, more action-oriented novel series. This is a wonderful story with a rather complicated plot that covers the pages of several books. I have never read the series, being as I can’t stand Tolkien’s writing style. However, even from the movies, I can tell that it is the characters that make this story. The individuals who aren’t afraid to stand up for their own beliefs. The ones who exhibit courage beyond what we ourselves may be capable of. The ones who take on the responsibility of leadership, even if they would like to remain in the background. Those who cared. Those who stood out among their race for whatever extraordinary personality trait they possessed. Sometimes I wish I could stand Tolkien’s writing style.

So over the next several posts, I plan to explore what makes characters come alive, how to make them stand out, and most importantly, how to make them memorable. I’ll leave you with the following quote:

“The reader reads fiction more for its people than for any other element, whether plot, setting, or shock value. Readers associate characters in fiction with their own lives and with their own experience. They will even name their children after fictional characters. . . . The novel is the people that are in it.” William Sloane

Who are some of your favorite characters and why?