Friday, September 30, 2011

Weekend Peek In #8

Eight weeks down, eleven weeks to go until someone wins my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway.

This week's reader's question leaves me thankful for good girlfriends.

Which character did you have the most fun creating and why?


Like Gretta, a few of my gifted girlfriends can inject heavy moments with perfect doses of humor at ideal times.

No matter how serious the circumstances may be, I can count on them to transform tears of sorrow into tears of joy.

Some of my girlfriends can pull the zaniest stunts or speak the frankest truths and somehow emerge more endearing to others than ever before.

Spending time with friends like these is cheap therapy, lightening my heart and lifting my spirits--rejuvenating my soul.

Creating a character with similar traits had the same effect on me. To be honest, Gretta represents ingredients God skimped on when He created me. At the very least, He gave me a dash while those like Gretta received double fists full. Ingredients like the talent to be silly when the moment is tense, the willingness to damage self pride in order to help others smile. Instead, I often find myself paralyzed by the fear of what others might think if I toss my inhibitions aside.

Some may view people like Gretta as attention seekers, since all eyes end up on them. But I view shenanigans like Gretta's as displays of selflessness--willingness to risk personal embarrassment in order to help broken hearts heal.

When we are able to get ourselves out of the way like Gretta does in Delivery, we allow God more room to work. He certainly works through Gretta, even though her sister Livi would hesitate to admit it. Yet Livi may benefit most from Gretta's wacky ways.

How has the selfless act of a friend delivered joy into your life? How has a friend's humor rejuvenated your soul? Please share your experience in the comment section below because I'd love to hear about it!

Have you thanked that friend lately? How cool would it be to thank them with a Kindle 3G if you win my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway? A Kindle for you, a Kindle for them to brighten their day for brightening your life. See details on the "Contest" menu item above. Enter daily for more chances to win.

Step out of your comfort zone to be a little zany today in order to make someone smile, Gretta-style! And if you feel brave enough, stop back by to tell us about it. Share the gift!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Weekend Peek In #7

Welcome to Week 7 of my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway.

Ever dream of becoming an author? This week's reader's question might help you find the tools you need to make that dream come true!

What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?

Read, read, read.

Study how successful writers do it. If you want to write fiction, examine how novelists craft plots, grow characters, and hook readers. How do they orchestrate character goals, motivation, and conflicts? Pay attention to how they structure sentences, paragraphs, scenes, chapters. Scrutinize their command of language. Do they limit the use of adverbs? Are their verbs powerful? Do they show, not tell? See how the pros handle it, and apply that to your own story in your own voice.

Learn, learn, learn.

Dozens of excellent books on writing are available at online or brick and mortar book stores. Those I've read include Getting into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn from Actors by Brandilyn Collins, Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, and Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell.

You can also learn a heap of valuable information from the many blogs designed for writers. A few of my favorites are posted by author Camy Tang, leadership expert Michael Hyatt, Books & Such Literary Agency, and literary agent Rachelle Gardner.

One of the best ways to learn about writing is to join a writers organization and attend conferences. I belong to two: Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and American Christian Fiction Writers. At the CWG Writing for the Soul conference, I learned from experts like Brandilyn Collins, author of Seatbelt Suspense novels, and Jerry B. Jenkins, New York Times bestselling author of over 175 books, including the Left Behind series which has sold over 70 million copies.

I also gained inspiration from keynote speakers like Liz Curtis Higgs and Karen Kingsbury.

As this blog posts, I am joining about 700 writing professionals at the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference, held this year in St. Louis. (Photo courtesy of John Craig.)

There, I'm learning from experts like Stanley Williams, international award-winning video producer, filmmaker, show creator, and author of The Moral Premise, and Randy Ingermanson, award-winning novelist/theoretical physicist who teaches his Snowflake Method of novel writing.

Writers conferences are packed with opportunities to hone your writing skills; to network with authors, agents, editors, and publishers; and to be inspired by keynote speakers and veteran authors.

Write, write, write.

The novel writing process can take months or years of planting yourself in a chair day after day, week after week, to plan, research, write, revise, edit, revise, rewrite, revise. Writing takes as much patience and perseverance as it does inspiration and talent. You must be willing to do the work.

Pray, pray, pray.

If you knew your novel would never become a bestseller, would you choose to write it anyway? If your answer is yes, the writing life might be for you. Praying and listening for God's direction will help you know for sure.

The path to publishing can be a long one. Once you complete your manuscript, you are only part way there. The traditional route to publishing includes querying agents, writing book proposals, and facing a host of other challenges that experts like Michael Hyatt and Rachelle Gardner can teach you how to conquer. No matter how hard you might work, it is important to remember that for every story of author success, there are dozens of stories of author disappointments. Author Kathryn Stockett's experience shows how difficult the journey to publishing can be. Stockett received sixty rejections before her novel The Help found a publishing home. Now, it is a wildly popular bestseller with a movie to match, but most published books never attain that status.

A recap of my advice? Read. Learn. Write. Pray. And not necessarily in that order. Mix and match and repeat as often as necessary until you are successful . . . and never, ever, EVER give up.

Whether you want to write or not, what goals have you worked hard to attain? What goals are you still striving for? How has prayer played a role in that? Please tell us about your journey in the comment section below because I'd love to know!

From the time I wrote the first sentence, I spent about six years reading, learning, writing, and praying before Tyndale published Delivery as part of the Digital First Initiative. To celebrate, I'm offering my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway. See details by clicking the "Contest" menu item above. Several motivated people are taking advantage of entering daily to earn more chances to win. Are you?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Weekend Peek In #6

Welcome to Week 6 of my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway. This week's reader's question is one I used to wonder about as I read my favorite fiction.

To what extent do you base your characters on real people? Did you feel you had to be careful about that?

Some of America’s most famous authors have based fictional characters on real people.

Mark Twain created Huckleberry Finn in the image of his childhood friend, Tom Blankenship. In Twain's autobiography, he explains, “. . . I have drawn Tom Blankenship exactly as he was. He was ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as any boy had.” I’m not sure how careful Twain felt he had to be in making that statement, but my guess is Tom Blankenship would have been flattered.

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Harper Lee based To Kill a Mockingbird's Dill Harris on her childhood friend Truman Capote. And in Capote’s 1984 obituary, The New York Times states Capote used Harper Lee as the prototype for one of his characters in his first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms.

Authors create believable fiction by first experiencing life. I created the character Mom Robinson by first experiencing the generosity of my hometown’s beloved Granny Lowry, as my August 12, 2011, blog post reveals. Granny Lowry is no longer with us, but her family members seemed pleased that I worked her example into Delivery.

So which other characters in Delivery are based on real people? Local readers have been trying to figure that out. Livi, Gretta, and Miss Ellie in particular embody fragments of personalities I know and love. Rather than attempting to replicate those people, I incorporated some of their remarkable traits into characters of my own invention. Eccentricity. Humor. Determination. Loyalty. Vulnerability. Faith. The stuff that life is made of. The stuff we love to read about.

What traits do your favorite people exhibit? I'd love to know (traits, NOT names!), so please share in the comment section below. Who knows? Your input might help me create characters for my next novel.

Speaking of your favorite people, wouldn't one of them love to have a Kindle 3G? You could surprise someone at Christmas and lend each other ebooks if you win my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway. That's right! Two Kindle 3Gs--one for you and one for a person of your choice. Enter daily to increase your chances.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Weekend Peek In #5

Are you ready for Week 5 of Share the Gift? Here is this week's reader's question:

When you sit down to write, do you have a little ritual you perform or have something like a troll doll for inspiration?

I'll admit, when I attended the Christian Writers Guild Writing for the Soul conference in Denver last February, I brought along a few good luck charms. My novel Delivery was one of five finalists in the Operation First Novel contest, and as I sat at the opening session waiting to hear which finalist would win, my sweaty hands gripped a silk red carnation (compliments of my daughter Abby Bannister), an heirloom hankie (from my dear friend and flower shop co-worker Kaye Schmidt), a four-leaf clover keychain (from my BFF Linda Weatherly), and two buckeyes (one that belonged to my grandma and one that is my mother's).

Delivery came in second place that night. Although I have never really believed in good luck charms, clutching special items from loved ones calmed my jitters. I know my comfort came not from the inanimate objects, but from the love and support they represented.

So when I sit down to write, I don't look to any physical item for inspiration. Instead, I seek the ultimate support. I pray. If words don't flow, I often head outside with my camera to take a closer look at God's creation. And I pray some more. Since my writing goal is to share stories that connect with readers' lives, that touch their hearts, that stick with them long after they finish the final page, I go straight to the top for inspiration--to the Master of touching lives.

With Delivery's recent release, He's blessed me far more than any good luck charm could, and I want to share my blessings with you! That's why I'm hosting my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway. Please check out details on the "Contest" menu item above. One fortunate reader will win a Kindle 3G to keep and a Kindle 3G for a recipient of choice--just in time for Christmas. Enter daily because the winner could be YOU!

Now it's YOUR turn. What ritual do you perform before you begin an important task? Where do you look for inspiration? I look forward to reading your answers in the comment section below.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Weekend Peek In #4

Week 4 of my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway has arrived, which means I've drawn one more reader's question from a growing pool of entries. As you read this post, please think about how you would answer this question:

Are your favorite books to read fiction or non-fiction?

I read both. A few of my favorite non-fiction books include Crazy Love by Francis Chan, Radical by David Platt, and Heaven by Randy Alcorn. These are must reads for every Christian!

Fiction, however, is by far my favorite. The first novel I fell in love with is the only novel Harper Lee ever wrote: To Kill a Mockingbird.

Two of the most recent novels to join my favorites list are Gina Holmes’ Crossing Oceans

and Patti Lacy’s The Rhythm of Secrets.

Why do I prefer fiction? I love language and examining how fiction writers use it to evoke readers' emotions. I also love traveling across time and distance without having to leave my comfy chair. Most of all, I love plunging into the lives and minds of characters, mourning their defeat, celebrating their triumph, and growing to love them as dear friends. My favorite novels help me better understand human nature and enrich my appreciation for life.

I love fiction so much that I’ve wanted to write novels since childhood. I am blessed beyond belief that Tyndale House Publishers released my debut novel Delivery this summer.

Because I want to share my excitement with you, I'm giving away TWO Kindle 3G e-readers--one to the winner and one to a person of the winner's choice. Click the "Contest" menu item above for details. Enter daily to win.

So, which do YOU prefer: non-fiction or fiction? Please share your answer in the comment section below.