Tuesday, August 20, 2019

What We're Reading (Katie)

What We're Reading (Katie)

OK, so I have a confession to make. I haven't read any fantasy or sci-fi this month. I HAVE been reading though. Lots and lots of historical suspense and romance. Does that count? Anyone want to hear about those books? I have a theory as to why I love historical so much, when fantasy and Sci-Fi are my "thing." Want to hear about it?

Historical fiction is so far removed from our way of life today that it might as well be fantasy or sci-fi. 

That's the long and short of it. Hee hee! Seriously, though, I like being transported to a place I can't see or visit in "real life," and historical fiction does the job. I do love great historical fiction, and for whatever reason it is exactly what held me captive all month. Here are a few of the books I read!

The Baron's Blunder by Susan Baganz
The Virtuous Viscount by Susan Baganz

Now, these were historical romance but they were clean. There was also some suspense in there, though it wasn't a huge part of the plot. These were part of a longer series (see the series here on Goodreads!), and they're considered Regency Era, which is the early 1800's in England.

I also read:
Rebellious Heart by Jody Hedlund
The Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund
Together Forever by Jody Hedlund
The Doctor's Lady by Jody Hedlund

Some of these were romantic suspense while others were more like straight up historical romance, and they are considered clean (things do get a little steamier than I'd prefer, but still clean). Also, I liked some of them better than others. Rebellious Heart and The Noble Groom had more suspense, and I liked them better. The others were still OK, though. They were set in all different historical time periods, and all in America.

So, that's it for me. What have you been reading? Do you like historical fiction? Tell me all about it!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Realm Makers Conference 2019 (Lizzie)

If you're a writer and you get the chance to go to Realm Makers Conference, go. It's a wonderful experience with lots of friendly, fun, kind people and great teachers. (If you're unfamiliar with Realm Makers, it is an association for Christian writers of speculative fiction.) This was my first time to attend the Realm Makers Conference, and I really hope I can go next year.

Today, for this Writers Life Post, I'm going to share some of my notes. (This is one the few times in my life I actually went home and typed up the notes from a lecture or conference!) To give you some reference, these notes comes from the classes I attended and Brent Weeks's (amazing) opening and closing key note addresses.

[Side note: This post is more focused on encouragement and wisdom in the writing life with some practical tips. If you want a dose of practical writing tips as well, check out my recent guest post on NobleBright about making villains your readers will want redeemed.]

Opening Key Note with Brent Weeks

Brent Weeks on his conversion to Christianity: “It only took a huge miracle and literature.”

Horace: The purpose of writing is first to delight, then teach.

1) Trust what God tells you. Put up your Ebeneezers (reminders of what God has done)
2) Sometimes what the world thinks is dumb is what God wants.
3) God uses our screw-ups. He shines a revealing light to show what is blinding us.

It took a long time and a lot of hard work and rejection and odd jobs and sacrifice (including not taking a normal, steady job and having a house, etc.) for Brent Weeks to start making it as a writer.

How to succeed in Hollywood (without losing your soul) by Dr. Ted Baehr

You’ve got to care about every scene.
A story starts with a promise that the story will lead somewhere.

Family friendly movies sell better than "Restricted" movies. Hollywood wants more family friendly movies.

A great script has a strong premise. It’s not obtuse. It must have a clear premise and direction.

No excuses. If you're not serious, get out.

A lot of people in the Christian community feel sorry for themselves. Don’t know why they do. We are more than conquerors in Christ.

From Michael Howell (Dr. Baehr’s assistant) on using bad language: Sergeant York didn’t have cussing, but you believed the character. You don’t have to compromise on language.

Don’t Preach: Organic Writing and the Christian Worldview by Morgan Busse

The God you know is the God you bring to your story. Know your God better, and it will come out in your story. What drives your character? Use this to bring your characters closer to God.

Have a heart for the people you are trying to reach.

Tips and Tricks to Capture Your Reading Audience by Ronie Kendig

Every story has been written, but not the way you write it.

If you’re questioning something, fix it.

Closing Key Note with Brent Weeks

He told story of Admiral Stockdale, a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. It was a terrible story of torture and hardship, but Admiral Stockdale persevered. He created a system of communication with his men (they were in solitary confinement) using sweeps of the broom as Morse code. He gave them a code of conduct and told them what torture to expect that day because he went first. When he found he was going to be used for propaganda purposes, he hurt himself to prevent it—cut of his own scalp, beat himself unrecognizable with a chair because he knew they wouldn't showcase a disfigured POW. Eventually, the captors became lighter on him and his men because they couldn't break him. Later, when interviewed, he said it wasn’t the optimists who made it. They would say “we’ll get out at this next holiday.” They died after the holiday passed. The realistic ones made it.

You must confront harsh reality. Ask, what is stopping you from completing your books?
What is stopping you from achieving your dream?

He also spoke of locking himself away for a long time to try to finish a book by the contract deadline and the damage that did to his health and family and creative ability. His wife and kids needed his presence. He believed they needed his money. He saw his contract and fans as his top promise. 

We have a duty to love those around us.
We can’t defraud and abandon our friends and family for art and expect God to say “well done.”

Don’t abuse yourself for art. Your body is the rugged temple of the Lord. It needs real exercise, food, relationships. 
He mentioned Proverbs 6, where it speaks about begging to have your name erased—meaning, try to get out of bad contracts. He asked for extension on the book contract.

Recognize the lie that you don't have time for exercise. The truth is that you’re much more focused and creative if you take time to exercise.

We aren’t literature vending machines. We’re human beings.

If God made you a confronting Jeremiah, don’t try to be a comforting Isaiah.

He writes for kids he doesn't even know and may never know.

Put your light on a lamp stand for her dark night.

We don’t write off the world because it hates us, but we write for the world because it needs us.

Ask God for wisdom. What is he calling you to do at this point in your life?

Exodus 31:6 “Also I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you.” To all who have aptitude for craft… He has given us skill. He’ll be with you. Be bold.

I'd like to close with this quote from Michael Howell and a reminder to keep writing. If that's your passion, stick with it!

Stay true to the gift God has given you… bring him glory and the rest will fall into place.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Top 3 Ways to DeStress (Julie)

Life changes. Sometimes there are many changes at one time and sometimes just one or two. For me, I'm in the stage of OH MY GOODNESS there are a lot of things going on. But that's okay because they are very exciting things!

I just moved to a new island to start a new teaching job, but also because it's where my fiance is. And we're getting married in 3 months!! So yea, much to do.

With all this staring me in the face, it would be so easy to stress out and go hide in a corner. I won't lie that sometimes I look around for that corner. But instead of putting myself in the corner, I tend to steer toward any or all of the following as ways to get my focus back:

1) Stay in the Word/prayer. Staying rooted in God's Word helps me refocus on what is important.

2) Read. Immerse yourself in a good book. Personally, I prefer to get lost in a fantasy as I want to get away from the real world for a bit.

3) Get outside. Vitamin D and fresh air work wonders from clearing the overworked brain.
How do you de-stress? Do you do any of the above or is there something else you do that works wonders? 

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The Electrical Menagerie by Mollie E. Reeder (Laurie)

Remember back in May when I shared my Top 3 Man-Made Characters, with Dominic from The Electrical Menagerie at the top of my list? Here's the full review I promised!

The Electrical Menagerie by Mollie E. Reeder centers around the circus-like show of Sylvester Carthage, filled with technology, illusions, and personality. But despite the show's charm, Huxley, Carthage's business manager, announces they're running out of funds to continue their tour. An opportunity to audition to perform at the Celestial Palace seems like the perfect opportunity to get more attention for the Electrical Menagerie and raise the money they need to keep the show going. But when they arrive for the auditions, the competition is tougher than they could've imagined. Worse, someone seems out to sabotage the top performers, putting them all in danger from an unknown source. As they progress in the competition, Carthage and Huxley must not only expand their creativity and showmanship to take their spectacle to new heights, they must find the courage to put a stop to the violence before it can reach the Celestial Isles' royal family.

This book was a delightful combination of fun, humor, life lessons, and all the feels. I loved the vivid descriptions of the Electrical Menagerie and other acts, which felt a bit reminiscent of The Night Circus. Carthage and Huxley were such interesting characters to get to know as more and more was revealed about their pasts and family dynamics. And as a pair, they had so many humorous interactions due to their opposing personalities and touching moments of increased understanding. The puzzle of the mysterious "accidental" deaths surrounding the competition really kept me intrigued, and I couldn't get enough of the cool world-building, especially the electricals (yay Dominic!) and the awesome trains that ran on invisible rails between floating islands.

I was fortunate enough to receive a complimentary copy of the new audiobook version of The Electrical Menagerie, and it was fabulous! The narrator absolutely brings the story to life with tons of personality and distinctive voices for each character. I think Carthage's accent was my favorite :) His engaging portrayal kept me on the edge of my seat - sometimes nervous, sometimes laughing, occasionally tearing up... For you audiobook fans out there, this one should definitely go on your list!

I would highly recommend The Electrical Menagerie for anyone who would enjoy a fun, big top-centered adventure with dynamic characters and a new world to explore. And the best news? Mollie is releasing the second book in her Celestial Isles series soon!

Have you read any books involving a circus or other show? What cool world-building have you seen lately?

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Top 3 Benefits of Being in the Bookish Community (Katie)

Top 3 Benefits of Being Part of the Bookish Community (Katie)

Being a writer is fun, but being a part of the #bookish community is so much more than being a writer. Today I thought it’d be fun to talk about the Top 3 Benefits of Hanging Out in the Bookish Community!

 Reading books before they release!

There are lots of ways to read ARC’s, or Advance Reader Copies. These are copies of books provided to readers BEFORE the book is put out for the general public. One easy way to do this is to sign up for NetGalley. This is a platform that allows you to read books for free before (or sometimes after) they’re released, in exchange for a review. No one checks up on you to make sure you review, but if you don’t log back in to review the books you receive, you may be denied future requests for new books.

Another way to get your hands on ARC’s is to join authors’ street teams. These can be found through social media platforms, generally, and also through email lists from time to time. Street teams go by many names including marketing teams or support groups.

Meeting Amazing Authors in Person!

Guys, meeting the authors of books you’ve read and loved is so cool. Like, here is this amazing world you’ve immersed yourself in—and then you get to talk to the person who made all that up! I’ve met authors at writing conferences, book signing events, and even out in the general public. It’s always fun, and it’s a special perk of being part of the bookish community.

Taking Awesome Journeys into the Imagination!

The best part of being part of the bookish community is being able to become immersed in the world of imagination, even if it’s only for a little while. I go through ups and downs where I read lots of books then very few books—but books are always there for me. I love learning new things in books. I love going on quests in books. I love solving mysteries in books.

Is it any surprise that books themselves are my top benefit of being part of the bookish community?

*What about you? What are your favorite things about being a reader?*

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

What to do with Your Story Idea: Editing (Lauricia | Writer's Life)

Greetings and welcome back to my Writer's Life series on what to do with the story idea you have. Today’s blog is the fifth in a series of ten. If you’re just now joining in, you can find the complete answer in brief (with links to the detailed versions) at the end of today’s post.

So … editing.

At its most basic, editing is the practice of modifying a written work for the purpose of making it better. This involves a variety of techniques, such as adding and cutting material, tightening sentence and plot structures, and strengthening sensory details and imagery, just for starters.

Some writers enjoy this part of the process because they find it easier to improve upon something that already exists than to create something from nothing. Other writers find this step to be about as pleasant as a root canal, never mind the fact that it’s a necessary step in the creation of a manuscript.

As with all parts of writing, editing is a process. Rather than an exercise that’s only completed once, editing your story requires multiple passes through your manuscript, with planned breaks in between each pass. You determine ahead of time how long you will go without working on the project after each edit. This down-time is crucial for helping you come to each edit with fresh perspective, and the pre-determined amount of time away helps avoid procrastination.

There are many different ways to go about the business of editing; as many as there are writers. The best thing to do is to build your own method by trying what works for others and gleaning the bits that work for you. Two of the resources in my library that offer insight into building your own process are:
  •  The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray (Weekend 52, 1994 ed.)

  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Brown and Dave King

A caveat before I end: If you are traditionally published, you can expect the publishing house to have approximately three different editors take a look at your work: a content editor, a copy editor, and a proofreader. If you are independently published, you can hire these professional editors yourself. However, it is important that you do the best you can to edit as much as you can of your own work before you submit it to an editor. This will help insure that the people being paid to look at your manuscript do not waste their time and money on sifting through mistakes that could have easily been corrected by you. Additionally, if you hope to be traditionally published, you should know that, in most cases, no publishing house will even consider a manuscript that is not edited as well as it can be before submission. This means, in every circumstance, it is important that you the author take the time to self-edit your work until it is as good as you can possibly make it.

 With that in mind, I’d love to know if you enjoy or hate editing, and why. What resources have you found that help you make the most of the time you spend editing?


As promised above, here's the complete list of what to do with your story idea:

1. Write down everything you know about the story idea. Keep writing until you can’t think of anything to add. (Read more here.)

2. When you’re not writing, work on your social media platform.  Develop your on-line presence authentically, in a way that is genuine. (Read more here.)

3. Go back to your idea. Organize everything you wrote in step one into something with structure and shape. Turn that collection of ideas into a plan and begin your first draft. (Read more here.)

4. Start a website. A blog is good because it gives readers a taste of your writing, but if you feel that you can’t commit to a blog, then you need to have a website at the very least. (Read more here.)

5. Edit your first draft. Complete this step as often as necessary.

6. Start an e-mail list.

7. Enlist alpha readers who will give you story feedback.

8. Once your book is as polished as you can get it, enlist someone else to edit it.

9. Decide how you want to publish (indie or traditional) and study the process. Learning the necessary details will save you a lot of time and, potentially, a lot of money in the long run.

10. Start the next story!

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Top 3 Books with Maps and New Book Map Reveal (Lizzie)

Maps are fun. I still look at them when going on road trips and look for them at the beginning of books. I've seen books with treasure maps, maps of houses, maps of villages, and maps of a large part of the story world.

I can't talk about books with maps and not talk about Tolkien's The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, or Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, but I want to mention other books as well, so I'll just say these are the top books with maps after the classics.

Books with Maps

1) The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy

 2) The Dreamhouse Kings series by Robert Liparulo

This is a fun map because it is of a house instead of a continent, but if you know the story (which I review here) you'll understand how important a map of this particular house is. I also got to meet Robert Liparulo recently at the Realm Makers conference in St. Louis!


3) The Sword of Lyric series by Sharon Hinck

There are a lot of other great books with maps, but these are three that came to mind. Do you have a favorite map or favorite book with a map? 

I am a part of author Patrick Carr's street team and just saw the map to go with his upcoming release The End of the Magi and am excited to share it! I never thought much about the magi beyond Christmas songs until seeing a magus return to look for Jesus in the story of Ben Hur. I'm curious as to what Patrick Carr, a fantastic world builder and character writer, will do with the story of the magi. You can check out the book (available for pre-order) here.