Turkey, Cheese, and The Need for Editors

turkey with knife and fork thanksgiving day clipartThanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday ever. Turkey isn’t the reason—after all, we can have turkey anytime of the year. But I don’t eat it very often, because I like to save it for Thanksgiving, much as I don’t make fruitcake except at Christmastime. It might be good any time, but it’s not special if it becomes routine.

The only reason I mention that is because some people don’t like turkey—or they’re vegetarians and so don’t eat it, regardless of whether or not they like it. I know someone who says his ideal Thanksgiving dinner is steak. Seriously? No way. Gimme turkey. And stuffing. And an ocean of gravy. And rutabaga! Squash! Sweet potatoes!

And then more of the same all over again for a week straight, while enjoying the memory of Thanksgiving Day with family and friends and new acquaintances, and being thankful each day for God’s abundant blessings, both physical and spiritual. Yeah. All that’s wrapped up in the taste of the turkey leftovers I’ve been eating since Thursday. Turkey makes me smile.

tn_cheesea
I don’t associate cheese with Thanksgiving, though it’s compatible with it. Here’s why I mention it:

Some months ago, I was contacted by a fellow-writer, PD Richmond, asking if I’d be willing to be interviewed on his blog. He does an interview once a week, a feature he said he calls Featured Friday, and he apologized for the cheesy name.

I told him: “I’d be happy to do an interview with you on your Featured Friday page, cheesily named or otherwise. At least you don’t call it Feta Friday. Or Immental Interviews (except I guess the cheese is spelled Emmental). Or Tilsit Talks. Sorry…
Anyway, feel free to send me your questions at your convenience. I promise to answer them without mentioning cheese.”

(I must have been overtired when I composed that email.)

His reply: “I’m a sucker for a dodgy pun! I’m now going to be very disappointed if you don’t manage to slip at least one cheese reference into your answers. (I just hope it’s a gouda one!)”

And so the cheese fest began. I answered his interview questions as requested, sent it on its way, and he scheduled it in his lineup. As it happened, it went live the day after Thanksgiving, while I was still picking turkey out of my teeth. (Only to put more into them later in the day, of course.) You can find it here.

editing-clipart-1Before sending the interview on its way, I read it carefully, and re-read it, and felt good about it. But when I saw it in its published form this week, I found several errors! Missing words and things like that. I don’t blame the good Paneer Danby (you’ll understand if you read the interview); I have no doubt he published it just the way I sent it. But I cringe when I find errors in my published work.

Meanwhile, this underscores the need for a self-published author to hire a professional editor, no matter how competent the writer. We all need fresh, unbiased eyes to look over our stuff, not only to spot typos and missing words, but structure problems, errors in word use, improbabilities in the story, and other writerly things.

Even with the top-notch critique partners that I’m blessed with, I intend to have my current WIP professionally edited before I publish it.

If I had an editor helping me with this blog post, it wouldn’t have as many errors in it as I’m sure it has. (I don’t believe I’ve ever published a post without going back and making corrections afterward. Ever.)

And if I had an editor helping me with this blog post, he or she would encourage me to wrap it up a with a bit more style than merely ending it abruptly like this.

UPDATE: Since writing this, PD Richmond has allowed me to revise my post on his site. (How very un-cheesy of him!) Now you won’t see the errors, but there were three of them; two missing words and a misplaced apostrophe. Shameful. Thank you, Pete, for making the corrections.

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Not a Snack, But a Meal

file4561296767054One of the fun things about writing in this electronic age is the opportunity it affords to meet all kinds of people from all over the world. In the writing realm, misery loves company — or maybe it’s a matter of like minds tending to gravitate toward one another.

However it works, shortly after the publication of my first novel, I met (virtually) a writer in Nova Scotia. She had been working on a novel of her own for some time and, while diligently honing her craft and improving the story, she was making contacts in the writing world in preparation for when she had books of her own to promote. She was one of the first to blog about my first book, The Story in the Stars, and I loved her immediately — because she loved the book, of course, thus proving herself to be a woman of impeccable taste. Later, I interviewed her here, and then after that, she wrapped up her review of Words in the Wind with one of my favorite quotes: “When I reached the end I kept wanting to turn pages but there were no more!”

So when Janet’s debut novel, Heaven’s Prey, was released last year, I rejoiced for her. And I bought it — and read it — and was impressed! I went into it expecting to like it (because I like Janet, of course), but otherwise, it wasn’t what I expected. Though the writing style is clear and uncomplicated, the story and theme are heavy-duty. Definitely not a quick snack, but rather a meal that requires a bit of chewing.

If you were to pick up the book and read the back-cover blurb, this is what it would say:Heaven's Prey

A grieving woman is abducted by a serial killer—and it may be the answer to her prayers.

Despite her husband’s objections, 40-something Ruth Warner finds healing through prayer for Harry Silver, the serial killer who brutally raped and murdered her niece. When a kidnapping-gone-wrong pegs her as his next victim, Harry claims that by destroying the one person who’d pray for him, he proves God can’t—or won’t—look after His own. Can Ruth’s faith sustain her to the end—whatever the cost?

But, as is usually the case, the blurb doesn’t convey the depth and the power of the story. I can’t say I loved it and wanted to read more, because it’s a disturbing tale. But it’s skillfully written, and I definitely appreciate the nutritious food it provides for thought.

So, in part because I thought it’s a book worth bringing to my blogfellows’ attention, but also to return the favors Janet has given me, I invited her come by to talk about her story. I told her I was curious about a number of things concerning Heaven’s Prey and asked if she’d mind answering a few questions. She graciously agreed. So let’s give a warm welcome to Janet Sketchley.

Janet Sketchley headshot 350x350•    What was the inspiration for this story?

Sometimes I pray for people I see in the news, either victims or villains. One day this question hit me: it’s one thing to pray for an offender locked away in jail, but what would you do if you met the person face to face?

•    You labored over this for years, as I understand it, reworking and revising it over and over. Did you ever think of setting it aside and writing something else instead? Or were you always determined to present this specific story to the world?

Years and years, Yvonne! Although I didn’t work at it full-time. This was my first serious attempt at novel-writing, and I had a lot to learn. Since I ignored the advice to write short material first, re-writing to correct my mistakes took a lot of time. I did set the story aside a few times, once to write a second novel manuscript, but something kept pulling me back to it.

I felt an obligation to give my characters the best shot I could at being published, but because of the subject matter, this was a story I decided I wouldn’t self-publish. If God wanted it out there, He would make a way. Because I loved the characters, I couldn’t trust myself to be impartial about a decision to self-publish and I was afraid if I did that, I might have been insisting on my own way when it wasn’t God’s choice.

•    What sort of research did it involve? Were you a NASCAR fan before writing it? Do you have a background in criminal psychology?

Most of the racing details came from what I learned watching Formula One. I wanted to keep Harry in North America, so I needed to research karting, NASCAR and IndyCar. That part was all fun. I didn’t do a lot of research into violent criminals, largely because I didn’t want to traumatize myself, but I did connect with a police officer and a former correctional services worker to learn those aspects of the story.

•    How has it been received? Have you had readers contact you to thank you for writing it? Have you caught flak from some?

I’ve been surprised and pleased at how well the story has been received. I was afraid it would be too frightening, or that people would be angry that I dared suggest someone so evil could find redemption. Some of my reviewers have praised the forgiveness/redemption theme, and I did have one reader contact me to say parts of it paralleled her life experience and showed her the Lord wanted to do more healing in her.

•    How has writing this book changed your view of the world, if at all?

You know, I think the biggest change has been in how I look at others. Writing fiction makes us delve to find why our characters act and speak as they do, instead of just accepting them at face value. I’m more inclined now to wonder about people’s motives and to give them the benefit of the doubt, instead of assuming bad behaviour springs from bad intentions.

•    How have you been promoting it? Have you found something that works particularly well? What, in your experience, is overrated as far as book promotion goes?

Most of my promotion has been online. We did a Facebook launch party and a Goodreads giveaway, and I’ve visited as many blogs (like this one!) as I can. I’ve used up nearly all of the print copies my publisher set aside for giveaways, and I’m searching for more reviewers. Currently I’m building relationships in a few Goodreads groups. The focus there isn’t on hard-sell, but I hope some of my fellow readers will want to check out Heaven’s Prey. I really believe in this story, for readers who like the genre, but they can’t enjoy it if they don’t hear about it.

Personal relationships and word of mouth have been my best forms of promotion, and they can’t be rushed. One thing we did that surprised me with its lack of effect was a book blast. Essentially it was a freebie-pack of bonus features for people who emailed proof of purchase to my publisher within the first few weeks. We had background information, articles on some of the hot-button topics addressed in the novel, photos, a recipe… lots of cool stuff. As a reader I’d love this sort of thing. We did have some initial speed bumps with online sales, and that likely contributed to the low response, but in general readers just didn’t seem interested. I still love freebies, so with my next novel, those will go to my newsletter subscribers instead.

One bit of promotion I’d like to share with you and your readers is a print giveaway for Heaven’s Prey that’s going on right now (March 15-March 31). If there’s enough response, I’ll consider choosing a second winner too. Details are on my blog (click here to enter).

•    Where do we go from here? Do you have another project in the works?

I’m revising book 2 in the Redemption’s Edge series, Secrets and Lies, with a projected release date of November 2014. It takes place in the period of time between the end and epilogue of Heaven’s Prey. It’s the story of the villain’s sister, Carol Silver Daniels, who finds herself in danger from her brother’s enemies.

Thanks so much for having me here, Yvonne, and all the best in your writing. I’m looking forward to reading more of your Gannah series.

And thank you, Janet, for visiting today, and for providing such thought-provoking reading. I look forward to dining on the next book in the series.

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Backstory and Characterization

file000114053890Everybody has a history.

Our genetic background, our childhood, our lifetime experiences all work together to make us who we are.

Fiction writers know this (or at least, the good ones do). A fictional character’s history is called his backstory. If he’s going to come across as a realistic, multi-dimensional person rather than a cartoon character, that backstory has to be in place. But how do we handle the writing of it? Too much backstory (especially if it’s too soon) makes a plot so unwieldy it can’t stand up. Too little, and the characters aren’t believable. Finding the right balance is important.

Not long ago I read a book that was loaded with backstory — but it was all unseen. You knew things had happened that led up to this point, but they were only hinted at, and it left me curious. So curious, in fact, that I contacted the author to find out more. We’d previously “met” virtually through Twitter and The Independent Author Network, and he interviewed me on his blog last year. So I thought it would be fun to return the favor.

Instead of an interview, he’s graciously agreed to answer my questions in the form of a short article on the subject. So please welcome author A. R. Silverberry in a long over-due visit with Y’s Words.

 

Deepening Characters Through BackstoryAuthor Photo 2 198x300

Readers are often curious about a writer’s process. What inspired the story? How long does it take to write one? How are theme, plot, and character worked out? While writing Wyndano’s Cloak, I learned that the more I know about the characters—their needs, hopes, fears, secrets, and the past that gave rise to these things, the more real the characters are to me. Luckily, the knowing was easy, as was mapping out the plot, because, prior to starting, I had written an entire novel and lived with the characters for five years.

I’m talking, of course, about a prequel. It sits unpublished in my dresser, and for very good reason: it was my first attempt, the place where I hammered away, experimenting, learning the craft, and developing my style and voice. All good reasons to let that two-and-a-half-inch pile of pulp sleep, with apologies to the trees. Older and hopefully wiser as a writer, I’m still not certain whether I will ever be able to revise it, or even should. So many other stories demand to be written that it ends up incubating beside my socks. But it did its job. As soon as it was finished, I knew what my heroine, Jenren would face. An image flashed in my mind of the story’s climax. After that, the outline and first draft flowed quickly.

I heard the characters’ voices when they talked—Jenren, the lean and tough athlete; Petunia, the snarky countess; the count, her puffed up father; Bit, the shy betrothed of the prince of Aerdem. The world they walked in was already full and vibrant. The novel’s antagonist, Naryfel, was only mentioned in that prequel, but based on that, I knew her motives and she sprang into my mind fully formed.

The hard part was the theme. After the first draft, I seemed to have four of them. Although they were related, it was clear that I needed to select one, or the novel wouldn’t be sufficiently unified. I agonized over the decision for six months until I was certain I understood what the story was trying to tell me. It may be that my work as a psychologist was filtering into my unconscious. During the post-911 era when the story was written, I witnessed increasing pessimism about the future in the children I worked with. They saw a world with diminishing job prospects, economic meltdown, war, and terrorism. What I could say to them? What did they have to believe in?

These questions seeped into my writing. Didn’t Jenren and Bit face an uncertain future? Didn’t their beautiful, innocent world seem to be crumbling? What did they have to get them through it all? What did they have to believe in? When everything was stripped away from them, all they had was themselves and the gifts they carried inside, Jen the athlete; Bit the artist.

So there you have it. Knowing I might never revise the prequel, Wyndano’s Cloak was written as a standalone. The backstory enriched the characters and setting and fueled the plot. Unlike the prequel, everything is wrapped up. If I write a sequel, I’ll have to cook up something new. Meanwhile, those other stories clamor to be written.

Wyndano’s Cloak Synopsis:

WC Cover SmallJen has settled into a peaceful life when a terrifying event awakens old fears—of being homeless and alone, of a danger horrible enough to destroy her family and shatter her world forever.

She is certain that Naryfel, a shadowy figure from her past, has returned and is concentrating the full force of her hate on Jen’s family. But how will she strike? A knife in the dark? An attack from her legions? Or with the dark arts and twisted creatures she commands with sinister cunning.

Wyndano’s Cloak may be Jen’s only hope. If she’s got what it takes to use it . . .

Purchase on Amazon
Purchase on Barnes and Noble
Purchase on iTunes
Purchase limited edition hardback from A. R. Silverberry

About the Author:

A. R. Silverberry has won a dozen awards, including Gold Medal Winner in the 2011 Benjamin Franklin Awards for Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction; Gold Medal Winner in the 2010 Readers Favorite Awards for Preteen Fiction; and Silver Medal Winner 2011 in the Bill Fisher Award for Best First Book, Children’s/Young Adult. He lives in California, where the majestic coastline, trees, and mountains inspire his writing. Wyndano’s Cloak is his first novel. Follow him at the links below!

A. R. Silverberry’s Website
Facebook
Twitter

DISCOVER THE MAGIC OF WYNDANO’S CLOAK!

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Play it Again, Tracy

High School teacher Tracy Krauss is also an author, artist, playwright and director. She and her husband reside in Tumbler Ridge, BC where she continues to pursue all of her creative interests. Her first two books, And the Beat Goes On and My Mother the Man-Eater, were both nominated for the ‘Indie Excellence Book Awards’ for religious fiction in 2011. Tracy also has one stage play in print.

Today, on the eve of the launch of her third novel, Play It Again, the much-anticipated prequel to her first book, she shares her wise words with YsWords.

Q. I see from your website that this is not your first novel. How long have you been writing?

A. I’ve been writing for more than 25 years, but I didn’t break into the published market until 2009. I guess it goes to show that patience and tenacity pay off in the end. To clarify a bit, I didn’t start submitting anything until about 2005 or so. Before that I was a ‘closet’ writer – happy to bang away at my computer completely lost in my own head.

Q. You describe your fiction as “edgy.” What do you mean by that?

A. I’m not sure who first coined the term ‘edgy’, but in my mind it means fiction that is willing to stray from what has been typically acceptable in the Christian marketplace. This could be anything from language to sexual content to violence. In my case, I feel as if my writing is fairly tame – perhaps a PG13 rating.  I do not write graphic or gratuitous scenes and although my characters do sometimes use what I would consider mild profanity, I don’t use the Lord’s name or the ‘F bomb’. Essentially, I try to write in an authentic and realistic way. My characters are not perfect – even if they are Christians – and this is the way I try to portray them – in a believable and realistic fashion. I’ve long been a fan of Christian writers who are willing to take risks in this regard. Francine Rivers, Frank Peretti, and Ted Dekker come to mind. ‘Edgy’ isn’t really new, but I think it is gaining acceptance as a viable way to get the gospel across to another segment of the population.

Q. Play It Again is a sequel to a previous release (and a sequel could hardly have a better title!).  Or I guess it’s a prequel. In either case, why did you choose to continue this line? Were you in love with the characters? Did your readers ask for it? Was it indigestion?

A. Your question made me smile. I actually wrote PLAY IT AGAIN first, before its sequel AND THE BEAT GOES ON. However, my publisher wanted to publish the second one first, so the decision was basically out of my hands. Maybe it’s a strange marketing ploy … In any case, I do love the characters in both books, but then again I usually love all my characters. (Even the nasty ones.)

Q. You describe your work as “inspirational” rather than Christian. Do you feel uncomfortable with the designation “Christian fiction,” or do your stories truly not fit that mold?

A. Labeling is such a tricky issue. My work is unabashedly written from a Christian worldview and all three of my published novels are redemptive in nature. However, perhaps because of some of the so called ‘edginess’, my work doesn’t fit neatly into the normal CBA marketplace. The ‘Christian’ label can be a bit of a misnomer for those expecting a squeaky clean bonnet style romance, and similarly, non-Christians tend to avoid anything that they think will be preachy.

Q. What do you hope readers will take away from this story? That is, since it’s inspirational, how do you hope to inspire them?

A. The crux of this story is that God doesn’t expect people to have it all together before they come to Him. He loves the world’s ‘screw ups’, so to speak, just as much as the righteous and religious. He accepts anybody.

Q. Who’s your favorite character in this book, and why? Is it acceptable for authors to pick favorites, or does that pit your characters against one another and cause friction within the family?

A. My favorite is probably Jack Burton, the female protag’s aging father who is also a crusty and well seasoned jazz musician. He actually does not even come to Christ in this book, but he is still a loveable and somewhat comic character. (We find out he gets saved in book two, though, so it’s okay …J )

Q. What does your story’s protagonist most fear? Does this reflect your own fears?

A. The male protag fears failure. He’s a control freak with tons of baggage. The female protag fears rejection, since she’s been hurt before. Naturally, they both have to come face to face with their fears. I’m probably more afraid of rejection than failure, but I’m pretty laid back, though.

Q. How has your protagonist grown by the story’s end? Or would that be a spoiler? If you don’t want to tell us, make up another question. Go ahead, ask yourself anything, we can take it.

A.Let’s just say they both learn to let go as they surrender to God’s plan for their lives.

Q. What are your thoughts on the subject of self-publishing vs. the traditional route? Try to limit your answer to 50,000 words.

A. I think there is room for everyone. Things are changing so fast in the publishing industry that I think anyone would be foolish to take hard and fast sides. There is some quality writing out there that probably never would have made it past an agent’s desk.  Lots of agents and publishing houses are even beginning to recognize this and ‘self publishing’ doesn’t have quite the same stigma it once did. (Although I would say it still has a stigma to some degree in certain circles …) However, the thing that is most problematic about self-publishing, from a reader’s perspective anyway, is that there is also a lot of really poorly written stuff out there, too, and it’s hard to weed through it.  That’s one thing that the ‘old’ system had going for it. At least there was some form of quality control.

Q. What have you found to be the most effective way to spend your marketing/publicity hour /dollar? Have you tried anything that seemed to be a waste?

A. Oh dear. I’m still working through all the options, that’s for sure. I would say anything that sounds too good probably is.  (Especially if it costs money. J) While I spend a lot of time on the internet blogging and going to various social media sites, good old direct sales still seem to be an effective way to sell books. I’m talking about book signings, library visits, readings, going directly to book stores etc.

Q. If someone you’d just met said, “You’re a writer? That’s so cool! I’ve always wanted to write a book. Is it hard?” what would you tell her?

A. Believe it or not, I have had more than one person say this to me. I usually just smile and say something simple like, “Oh, it’s a lot to work,” and then move on. People like that really have no clue as to what’s involved. Those that are really serious about writing already know how much work it is because they are probably writing already. Most writer’s that I know are compelled to write, they don’t just decide to do it one day. Writing is something that is inside of you. A passion. A drive. It’s something that you can’t NOT do. At least that is my experience. If this is the case then I’m usually happy to engage in a real conversation about it.

Q. What question were you hoping I’d ask but I didn’t? If I’d asked it, what would be the answer?

A. You covered it all. This was a fun interview and you asked some different questions from the standard fare, which was refreshing. Thanks. 

And thank you, Tracy. Best wishes on your book launch!

For more information about Tracy and her books, check out her blog, Expression Express, where you can find book excerpts, original art, and more.

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In a Dead Poet’s Society

Television networks do a lot of re-runs this time of year, so I’ll do the same.

Two years ago, I had so much fun with my December post on the Novel Journey blog (now known as Novel Rocket), I’ve decided to share it with you all here.

Before we started doing the annual contest on that blog, most of my posts dealt with writing awards. But every once in awhile I’d “interview” classic authors, like John Bunyan or Charles Dickens. Other columnists did interviews of living authors, so why couldn’t I interview a dead one? Besides, it was a more interesting format than simply writing a report.

One year, for my Christmas post, I decided to interview Clement C. Moore, known as the author of the most famous — and parodied — Christmas poem of all time. The result, first published in the Novel Journey blog on December 14, 2009, is as follows…

 

Remembering the fun I had interviewing Charles Dickens last December, I thought I’d have a chat with Clement C. Moore, famous for giving us the beloved Christmas poem, “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (aka The Night Before Christmas).

It was a tough interview. I found Mr. Moore unresponsive and hard to pin down. He answered questions in as few words as possible and offered nothing I didn’t ask directly. I tried to draw him out, but it was like talking to a dill pickle. (If you’ve ever tried this, you’ll know what I mean.)

I wasn’t happy with the post I wrote, but it was due in the morning, the hour was late, I was tired, and I didn’t want to start over with a new topic.

Yawning, I clicked “Publish Post,” comforting myself with the thought that no one reads this stuff anyway, and went to bed.

What happened next was rather surprising. I’ll let a guest blogger, the late Henry Livingston, Jr., tell the story in his own, distinctive style. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did when I found it on my computer, put there by means unknown.

 

A Visit From the Author of ‘A Visit From St. Nicholas’

‘Twas twelve nights before Christmas, and all through the blog,
Not a reader was stirring; each slept like a log.
I’d crafted tomorrow’s entry with care,
Set it to post, then retired to my lair.

Then out of the darkness I heard a strange sound,
Flung open my eyes and in bed I turned ‘round
To find my computer in sleep mode no longer.
Its screen was aglow. My unease grew stronger.

A man’s voice began speaking, and then his face, too,
Wavering and pulsing, came into view
Like a Halloween video or fun house display.
The sight and the sound made me gasp in dismay.

“How dare you!” he cried, his face angry and blue.
“You’ve failed to give credit where credit is due!
I’m quite fed up. Sick of it! Had it, d’y’ hear?
I shall not sit by while my good name you smear!”

I sat up and yawned, trying to wake from the dream,
But the flickering image continued to scream.
“I’ll be silent no more! I must have my say!
Amend your post, woman, or you’ll rue the day!”

“Who are you?” I queried, wishfully thinking
It must be unreal. With blurry eyes blinking
I turned on the light by my bedside. But no,
The monitor still continued to glow.

The face glared most fiercely. I said, “You are rude
To be shouting at me in such a foul mood.
I demand to know, mister, what gives you the right
To take over my computer and give me a fright.”

“Your post to the masses,” he howled, agog,
“It’s in error. Untruthful. You can’t write a blog
Without checking the facts to make sure they are true.
Don’t propagate myth, like the liberals do.”

“Who are you?” Again I queried the spectre,
Who looked just a bit like Hannibal Lector.
He answered, “My name was once that of a popular poet,
Henry Livingston, Jr., though few now know it.

“I created that poem about which you’ve just written,
And with which the world’s been entirely smitten
Since first it was published with another man’s name —
Who made no objections, more is the shame.”

The fog in my brain drifted slowly away.
“Oh, I get it. You’re the guy who, some people say,
Wrote the poem that is largely responsible for framing modern society’s conception of Santa Claus, including his physical appearance, the night of his visit, his mode of transportation, the number and names of his reindeer, and the tradition that he brings toys to children.”

“Quite artlessly put,” said he, “but yes,
That does rather sum it all up, I guess.
It was I who wrote it, not Clement C. Moore,
Though this has been seldom acknowledged before.”

“As I hear it,” I said, “there is evidence
That should be sufficient to build your defense.”
For the first time, he smiled. “Exactly what I
Would like you to say to your readers, and cry
Out for justice. I have been wronged.
For such an announcement I have sore longed.”

Now his eyes – how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

To speak any more he would not be persuaded,
But, dimming away as the monitor faded,
I heard him exclaim in words friendly, not terse:
Happy Christmas to all, and to all, fun verse!

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Meet Paul Baines

In the last installment of the Lost Genre Guild guest blog series, today we meet self-described nomad Paul Baines.

Q. Welcome, Paul. How long have you been writing?

A. I used to mess around with short fiction at school, but I only started writing seriously about fourteen years ago.

Q. When did you feel called to write?

A. Fourteen years ago. I asked God for something that I could do for Him and the desire to write hit me within a matter of weeks.

Q.  Where do you get your ideas for your stories?

A. I usually start with thinking about an interesting situation or scene. Occasionally, one will stick and I then start thinking about events surrounding the scene. If end up with enough material to work with, it may end up on my list of potential stories. At this point, I write the opening chapter. This is usually enough to tell me whether or not it can work as a novel.

Q. What are your thoughts on critique groups?

I was invited to one a couple of years back, but I have never actually taken part in one. The problem is a lack of time. I simply don’t have enough sand in my hourglass to do everything I want to do. If they could find a way of adding another eight hours to the standard day, I would be a very happy scribbler.

Q. Was it hard to develop a writing style?

A. For me, yes. It took most of the past fourteen years for me to find my voice. My first attempt at a novel was described as “solid but not slick enough.” Since then I have worked diligently to find my own voice. I’m not sure how “slick” my writing is now, but at least it is mine.

Q. Who is your favorite author?

A. Stephen King.

Q. Have you dealt with writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it?

A. I get a mild version of writer’s block fairly regularly. Sometimes the words just flow. Other times I can spend days in a staring contest with my monitor. I get over these blocks by reading. I find that the act of reading will often be enough to jump-start my own creativity.

Q. Do you find a part of your personality sneaking into any of your characters?

A. I once read that you should write what you know. I am pretty certain that, in the act of creating a character, we all draw on our own experiences. So, yes, definitely.

Q. Were there any scenes you found difficult to write? Made you angry or made you cry?

A. The hardest scene for me to write was a church scene. I was desperate to avoid being preachy, yet the scene was essential for the story. I think I managed to avoided making it preachy in the end (at least I hope I did). As for making myself cry, I did manage to make myself choke up one time. I was reading a chapter that seemed to make everyone who read it a bit teary. I wanted to see if I could identify exactly what it was that triggered the emotion. While reading it, I choked up. And, yes, I did identify the trigger.

Q. Do you use outlines or let the story develop on its own?

I like to have a very broad outline. I liken it to remembering an old film I’ve seen years before, in which I can remember the mood of the film, and the general plot, but not the details. That way, I can let the story grow, but without getting lost on the way.

Q. What do you want your readers to take from your book(s)?

A. A sense that God is in control and loves us more than we can ever imagine.

Q. Can you share any upcoming projects with us?

A. Hmm. Well I have two finished stories with my publisher at the moment. Plus a long humorous poem for kids, written in the style of Dr Seuss. At the moment I’m busy writing a sequel to my debut novel Alpha Redemption. And I have another story waiting to be written, plus an old story that I want to rewrite and another that I am thinking about.

Q. How do you respond when someone comments that certain elements (magic, vampires, zombies, etc.) in your story does not fit in what they consider to be Christian?

A. Jesus was a story teller. He used stories to help explain difficult concepts. On ten occasions Jesus started a parable  with the words: “The kingdom of heaven is like. . .”. He could have just “told” them about heaven, but he knew it would be more effective to “show” them through a story. If someone ever suggested that certain elements of my story were un-Christian, I would probably direct them to go and read through their Bible again and underline anything that they would consider to contain “un-Christian” elements if they encountered it in a modern novel. I think most of Revelation would qualify, as would much of the account of Moses’ time in Egypt.

Q.  Tell us a little about yourself. What do you like to do when you are not writing? What is your temperament, etc.?

A. I love to watch a good film, or listen to some music. When I’m not relaxing I am usually exercising, or watching sport. I used to be a fitness instructor so cannot imagine not being fit. I’m not a fitness fanatic, but I do like to train.

Q. With a full schedule, how do you find time to write?

I commute six miles to work and back on my bicycle every day, which means I have about an hour-and-a-half with nothing to do other than watch the world roll by. What I started doing a few years ago was to write my novel on the way to work. I would run through plots and narrative and dialogue in my head, and then write them down as soon as I got to a computer. It is quite effective.

Q.  When creating a character, where do you begin? Do you give them a background even if it may never be mentioned in the storyline?

A. I tend to concentrate on the main characters. I don’t do an outline, but I imagine what they are like, and how they fit into the story. Then I let them grow organically with the story, adjusting and tweaking as I go. Sometimes this means rewriting a part of the novel, but that is just a part of writing so I don’t mind.

Q. Can you share one or two nuggets of wisdom to those wanting to travel down the writing road?

A. Be prepared for rejection, criticism, and a lot of hard work. Forget those fortunate few who beat the odds and became instant bestsellers. Focus instead on becoming a better writer. God may not want you to sell a million copies, but then again He might. Focus on the pleasure of writing. Be prepared to market yourself and your book, even if you cringe at the very idea.

Q. Where can readers find your books and contact information?

My personal site: www.pabaines.com
My publisher: www.splashdownbooks.com
Amazon: http://amzn.to/pFKFca

Q. Do you spend time in prayer before you write or begin a project?

A. Yes, enormous amounts, especially for any work that I consider a part of my ministry. I feel that, as a Christian writer, I should do nothing without God’s blessings. My prayer used to be: please let my book be published. Now it is: please don’t let my book be published, unless you want it to be.

Q. What is your writing routine? Do you need peace and quiet, soft music, or does it matter?

A. I actually do most of my writing during my lunch break at work. My office can get quite noisy, so I usually listen to music through my headphones. I like Rachmaninoff, or a movie soundtrack if I need some inspiration.

Thanks, Paul, for stopping by.

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A Visit With Kimberli Campbell

My fellow-Lost Genre Guild member Kimberli Renee Campbell lives with her husband and two sons in Nebraska, where she writes speculative fiction for young adults.

Q. Hi, Kimberly. Can you tell us how long you’ve been writing?

A. I have been writing for over 10 years. However, I still have a lot to learn.

Q. When did you feel called to write?

A. I can’t say I remember a specific time when the Lord put the desire in my heart. All I know now is I have a deep need to write the stories he gives me.

Q. Where do you get your ideas for your stories?

A. Boy, the ideas come from everywhere. The series I’m writing now came from a dream. I have a romance/suspense story from watching an old blue pickup truck stopped in front of me at a stoplight. It’s fun watching people in hopes the images will produce a story.

Q. What are your thoughts on critique groups?

A. I think they are extremely important if there is a mixture of experience levels. Unfortunately, as people get busy with life, it’s difficult to stay consistent with critiques. You also need to be able to receive constructive criticism. It’s painful, but needed.

Q. Was it hard to develop a writing style?

A. If I developed a style, it probably came from the type of books I like to read. Down-to-earth and relaxed.

Q. Who is your favorite author?

A. I enjoy reading books by Donita K. Paul, Terri Blackstock, and Ted Dekker…just to name a few.

Q. Have you dealt with writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it?

A. I don’t think I’ve had to deal with writer’s block. However, I have let things keep me from writing. After a full day, instead of writing, I spend my time doing mindless things – surf the web, playing games on the iPad. Although there are times when a person does need to take some downtime, I tend to play longer than I should. When I do notice myself doing this, I force myself to get back to writing.

Q. Do you find a part of your personality sneaking into any of your characters?

A. Yes. I think it gives the characters more depth…not that I’m a complex person. 🙂

Q. Were there any scenes you found difficult to write? Made you angry or made you cry?

A. One of the issues the main character and his friends deal with is bullying. Bullying makes me angry. As for crying, in the third book of the series, there is a part where I teared up. I didn’t have to break out the tissues, but it was close.

Q. Do you use outlines or let the story develop on its own?

A. I’m an outline kind of gal. I need structure. Hats off to those that let the story develop on its own. If I wrote that way, the story would probably start with the ending.

Q. What do you want your readers to take from your book(s)?

A. I would love for the readers to come away with a spirit of victory and that they’ve been on an awesome adventure. Learning the importance of a relationship with the Lord, family, and friends is also something I’d like them to walk away with. And, let’s not forget the desire to read the next book.

Q. Can you share any upcoming projects with us?

A. I would love to share. My book, Redemption: Shayia’s Adventures – Book Two, will prayerfully be out this year.  I am currently working on book three of the series. I have no title at this time. I am not sure if the Lord has a book four, so I’ll have to see what he has next.

Q.  What makes Redemption: Shayia’s Adventures – Book Two a must read for young readers?

A. Aside from the back-to-back action and suspense, this book touches on issues like bullying, feeling alone, and sharing the Good News. It would be great to see the book used in a classroom setting to help children dealing with any of these issues.

Q. How do you respond when someone comments that certain elements (magic, vampires, zombies, etc.) in your story does not fit in what they consider to be Christian?

A. Hm…I do have sorcery in my books, but it’s clearly stated that it’s wrong. As for what they consider magic, I don’t see it as magic. Shayia’s sword glows and the Word appears on it. I believe those to be the manifestation of God’s awesome power. He used the staff of Moses, caused a donkey to speak, and so much more. I think this is a topic that people will always see differently, which is all right. I must write what I feel the Lord has asked me to write. I do so to bring him glory and to draw his children closer to him.

Q. Tell us a little about yourself. What do you like to do when you are not writing? What is your temperament, etc.?

A I’m a quiet person. However, if you were to see me acting on stage, you would disagree. I would be content sitting quietly in a room (not padded) with a book and/or my iPad. I drive the speed limit and obey the rules of the road to the point that it gets on people’s nerves. I HATE emotional mind games. In other words, if you have something to say, please say it…in love. 🙂 Going for walks in nice weather is something I enjoy when not writing. There is more, but that’s a good start.

Q. With a full schedule, how do you find time to write?

A. I’ve been blessed to be at home. Although the time may broken up into little sessions, I’m able to get writing done between regular housework and family time. When my little one goes to school full-time, I will be able to get more writing time.

Q. When creating a character, where do you begin? Do you give them a background even if it may never be mentioned in the storyline?

A. I think dreaming is a writer’s best friend. When I create characters, I like to dream about them, so I can picture how they look and act. I don’t normally write a background on the characters. I do note the memories they have in case something comes up later.

Q. Can you share one or two nuggets of wisdom to those wanting to travel down the writing road?

A. I encourage writers to get connected with other writers – critique groups, forums, etc. They are a great place to get encouragement and be challenged. Also, continue to write and sharpen your craft. No excuses. 🙂

Q. Where can readers find your books and contact information?

A. The best place is www.theswordoflight.com. The book is also available on Amazon. You can visit my blog at www.hiswriter.blogspot.com. I would love to connect with other writers and readers.

Q. Do you spend time in prayer before you write or begin a project?

A. My relationship with the Lord is most important. I don’t feel that I can really write to my fullest potential unless the Lord and I communicate. We are a team.

Q. What is your writing routine? Do you need peace and quiet, soft music, or does it matter?

A. I don’t have a writing routine….anymore. Now I write when I can. Having it nice and quiet would be my first choice, but the only quiet time we have in our house is when everyone is sleeping. I have learned to adjust to the noise.

Thank you, Kimberli, for sharing your thoughts!

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