Monday, September 26, 2016

New Christian Literary Journal

Got this in my inbox recently and thought I'd share:

Hi, Linda. I got your contact information off the WOTS blog. If you're not the right person to contact, please accept my apologies. 
First of all, bless you and your chapter for fostering what is sometimes an overlooked art form. As an editor and a Christian I'm sometimes dismayed at how little encouragement writers of faith get from the faith community. Like the visual and performing arts, writing can and should be a great ministry for the glory of God. 
That's why we recently started a new literary journal called Greater Sum. Greater Sum is a journal of prose and faith meant to help cultivate and encourage the (growing) community of Christian writers with specific emphasis on fiction and creative & narrative nonfiction. While there are outlets for Christian creative writing—especially poetry—there simply aren't many active journals publishing Christian fiction & nonfiction. We want to fix that. Writers are a tremendous asset to the church, and story is one of the great art and teaching forms. 
I'm a decade into a career as an editor, but most of my work has been direct with authors or for organizations. I get tremendous joy out of helping writers one-on-one and through the classes I teach at libraries, conferences, seminars, etc. But it's time to do more with my experience in publishing and editing, and I'm excited to help foster contemporary Christian prose writers. 
I hope you'll pass on our information to your writing group if there are writers actively seeking publication, and I will happily answer any questions you or writers have. Our website is Thank you very much for your time. 
Marcus Corder
Greater Sum: A Journal of Prose and Faith

This is the journal's debut year, so they aren't at a point where they can pay yet, but having a story published through them counts as a writing cred. Hope you consider submitting!

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Poetry Basics

Donn Taylor

   While we're talking about writing, we might well talk about writing poetry. However, much of what is said here is not restricted to poetry, but can be applied to prose.
   Ideally, poetry is more compact, more intense than prose. As the late Lawrence Perrine put it, poetry speaks in "higher voltage." William Baer says further that poetry emphasizes the line, the sound of words, and compression of meaning. All of these things are true, but accomplishing them is achieved by attention to even the smallest elements. Oscar Wilde famously said he'd worked all day on a poem, putting in a comma in the morning and taking it out in the afternoon. A manuscript by Dylan Thomas includes his marginal note, "forty-two prepositions." So to achieve that "higher voltage," we have to begin with words, the building blocks of poetry. For most of us, that means taking a new look at things we already know.
   We know from other writing instruction that verbs are more powerful than nouns, nouns more powerful than adjectives, adjectives than adverbs. Other parts of speech are weaker. Though they are often necessary, using many of them makes weak writing. We also know that state-of-being verbs are weaker than action verbs, and that action verbs also vary in strength. To make the strongest sentence, we should express the main idea in the strongest action verb.

        My ambition is to be a poet. (Clear but weak: main idea in nouns.)

        I aspire to be a poet. (Stronger: main idea in an action verb.)

        I yearn to be a poet. (Stronger yet: main idea in a stronger verb.)

   As action verbs vary greatly in vividness or dramatic quality, so do nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. In general, monosyllables are stronger than polysyllables, and words derived from Old English (yearn) are stronger than Latin-derived words (aspire). The poet's task is to use these degrees of strength appropriately, as Shakespeare does in Hamlet's dying request to his friend Horatio:

        If ever thou didst hold me in thy heart,
        Absent thee from felicity a while
        And in this harsh world draw they breath in pain
        To tell my story.

   The soft, Latinate words of the second line give way to the hard-hitting monosyllables of the third, most of which are derived from Old English.
   The placement of words is also important. The final word of a poetic line holds the most emphatic position, while the first word holds the next most emphatic. (In the previous quotation, the strongest word--pain--occurs at the end of a line.) From this we can form the basic rule: put the mos emphatic word at the end of the poetic line.
   For variety, however, we can deliberately weaken that position to rush the reader through to a strong word at the beginning of the next line (the next most emphatic position):

        Waking before the sunrise, she and I
        Walk the woodland trails, beginning when darkness
        Flows, flood-tide, and sends its somber currents
        Billowing over the scarred and sullied earth . . . .
                                               --Donn Taylor, c. 2005

   The soft endings of darkness and currents weaken the line ending and pass the reader through to the strong words flows and billowing. Flows receives further emphasis by being set off with a comma.
   Words that are already strong can be given greater emphasis by preceding them with weak words, a Tennyson does in the final line of "Ulysses":

        To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

   Words or phrases can also be emphasized by putting them in a separate line, as in this satire of mine (c. 1978): an experienced bureaucrat shouting "Eureka!"
        as after awkward arduous hours he invents
                    an octagonal wheel.

Summary: 1. When possible, put the main idea in a strong verb.
              2. Fine strong words and put them in emphatic positions in the poetic line.
              3. Emphasize important words or phrases by putting them in a separate line.
              4. Use a few weak words as possible. Use the necessary weak words to make strong words stronger by contrast.
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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

6 Ways to be a Prepared Speaker

Teacher, Prepare Thyself
by Lisa Lickel 

I will be participating in several teaching opportunities this fall in various capacities. Putting yourself forward as a professional, an expert if you will, is one method of promotion. Selling what you know, or experience, can be as valuable as selling your work. Whether you are seeking for places to teach or have been invited, here are six ways to prepare. I invite you to share others as well that have worked or not worked for you.

Know Your Audience
Speaking or teaching? At a conference or a convention? Is the audience there to be mostly entertained, to learn, or to be updated in their field? Do you have an idea of how many will be in the room, in your course or workshop? At the end of a long day? In the middle of lunch? Each of these scenarios asks for slightly difference methods of dissemination. In smaller groups you can often be more familiar and hands-on. If you’re the keynote speaker in front of two hundred people who’ve just had dinner, you’ll need some way to remain credible and engaged while keeping them awake. Be friendly. Greet people. Make eye contact. Smile.

Know Your Subject
Make sure your given or chosen topic is specific. If the coordinator gives you an open time and subject, try to ask what the group has been focusing on lately, or the theme of their last two speakers or classes, if any. Let the coordinator know your topic as needed. Find the most update or appropriate sources of primary and secondary information to share. Never plagiarize but gather information, cite origins, ask any necessary permissions. Rework material or write original discovery to share.

Prepare Materials
Practice, practice. Some of the best advice I’ve had and share: read or practice your material out loud over and over. You’ll get a great idea of how much material may fit into the time you’re given. It’s usually better to have more material than you think you’ll need but know when to stop at the best point. If you have a handout, have copies ready.

Don’t try to pack your time with too many different types of information. Focus on one point or a series of related points. People remember less than we think, and using one or more other forms of interaction helps drive your point home. Using music, or some audio sensory information, visuals such as props, taking notes, or providing some type of mnemonic device such as 5 E’s… or 6 Methods… or illustration is best and specific.

Have a Backup Plan
If you are using a program such as Power Point, have a flash drive copy. Be prepared in case you can’t use the computer at all. If someone else in front of you gives a similar talk or workshop, have a secondary outline of talking points just in case. E-mail your workshop or handouts to another person who’s attending the conference or the coordinator if such arrangements can be made.

Be Flexible
I was the keynote speaker at a luncheon during which one person shared information for the group of historical societies there. Unfortunately, it was as if he’d taken my speech and read it out loud. There wasn’t much I could salvage since the topic given to me was vague to begin with: What We Need to Know. The lessons I learned were to have a backup chat or even a discussion point question and answer conversation prepared, and to get a more specific topic to start with.

And finally, Enjoy – your audience will respond better to someone who’s confident and relaxed more than someone who’s uptight, nervous, and defensive.
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Friday, September 9, 2016


Available on Kindle

Book Blurb

New York editor Jen Gibbs knew when she bought Evan Hall's next blockbuster book, it would change her career. She didn't know it would change her life. But after being sent along on the European book tour, at Evan's request, she has made a promise she's not sure she can keep--she's crossed professional lines and accepted Evan's surprising engagement proposal. Now she's scared to death. In Jen's family, marriage represents the death of every dream a woman holds for herself.

Can the revelation of her mother's long-held secret open the doors to Jen's future and change her beliefs about life and love?

My Review:

I confess when I downloaded this book I didn't know it was only available on Kindle or that it was a novella. I thought it was an awfully good price for a Lisa Wingate book. As always, I'm drawn in by Lisa's poetic sense of place. She weaves compelling bits os history throughout her story about Jen and fiancee Evan. He wants to marry right away, but because of Jen's being raised in a religious cult, the Brethren Saints, she is reluctant to lose herself again to a union that to her had always meant domination. She is especially protective of her little sister, Lily Clarette, whom she helped get into college far away from the Saints. In fear of losing her sister, she risks losing Evan. 

For me, it was a page turner. My main thought when I realized I had read the last page was, no, no, no! I wanted to read on. But I hear the story will be continued in another book. Thank goodness. I'm so invested in the characters I want to know what happens next.

Lisa Wingate is a former journalist, inspirational speaker, and the author of over twenty mainstream fiction novels, including the national bestseller, Tending Roses, now in its nineteenth printing. She is a seven-time ACFW Carol award nominee, a Christy Award nominee, an Oklahoma Book Award finalist, and a two-time Carol Award winner. Her novels are known for taking on gritty subjects while offering redemptive and uplifting themes. Recently, the group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Lisa along with Bill Ford, Camille Cosby, and six others, as recipients of the National Civies Award, which celebrates public figures who work to promote greater kindness and civility in American life. More information about Lisa's novels can be found at or on Facebook.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Lifting Them Up

As I try to write about writing today, my mind and heart keep wandering to a writer friend who unexpectantly lost a daughter last week. Such a tragedy. Another author friend I know has a wife battling cancer, and yet another is grieving the loss of his wife. There are so many in the writing community with various heartaches and struggles.

I am touched, challenged and inspired by the faith and hope I've seen demonstrated in these friends.  I'm just leaving this here in hopes that whoever reads it will take the time to pray for those we know are suffering.

Leave a name or request in the comments if you wish. My post today is this: Let's just lift up writers everywhere who are in pain, suffering, struggling.
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Friday, September 2, 2016

Contemporary Irish fiction with Rex Owens

 (Note: These books aren't Christian fiction and use occasional profanity and violence.)
Murphy’s Troubles
Rex Owens

ISBN: 978-0615895048
eBook: $2.99
Print: $14.99
Buy on Amazon

Ian Padraic Murphy harbors a scandalous secret. To avenge the death of his best friend in a Belfast raid, Ian joins the Provisional IRA which he conceals for 30 years. He meets investigative reporter Eileen Donohue and friendship blossoms into a love affair. Eileen inadvertently discovers the man she thought was a reclusive novelist is actually the brain trust for the IRA. Eileen betrays her lover by disclosing his secret in Ireland's leading newspaper. Driven by guilt and remorse, Ian atones for his years in the IRA by working with Sinn Fein to negotiate the 1998 Peace Accord which ended The Troubles in Ireland. After deserting the IRA Ian's own troubles are far from over when they order his assassination. The assignment is given to his friend, IRA Commander, Kieran Fitzpatrick. Will Ian pay the supreme price for disloyalty to the IRA?

My review:
Owens has a passionate voice for the historical extremist movement in contemporary Ireland. Told mostly through alternating viewpoints, the reader is carried along with Ian Murphy, who as a young university student, is recruited and serves the next thirty years in the Irish Republican Army.

With loving exacted scenery and dialect, the author transports his readers to the Ireland of the sixties, to the underlying despair of prejudice, anger, and inequality due not to outward characteristics, but to devotion and heritage according to faith. Allegiance to a culture of religion causes sides to be taken and lines to be drawn. Owens’ fictional account of the inner workings of what it might have been like for principal players in the movement, unable to trust anyone, not even the people you grew up with, called brother, or confessed to or shared a bed with, provides a rich and satisfying read.

25904502Out of Darkness, book 2
Rex Owens

ISBN: 978-0983298489

Buy on Amazon

Author Ian Murphy battles lifelong alcoholism and chronic depression. Desperate to cleanse his soul, Ian dedicates himself to finding redemption. To confront his demons, he spends a summer hiking on Dingle Peninsula. He meets Mairin McCarthy, and finds unconditional love but still succumbs to the shadows within.

In the fall of 1998 the British government is determined to build walls in Belfast to separate Catholics and Protestants. The only peace citizens of the city can have requires walls. Murphy dedicates himself to stopping more walls from being built. He's convinced the challenge is his path to redemption.

While living in Belfast Ian learns that distrust and hatred divide the city's residents as much as the walls do. Both Catholics and Protestants accept the walls as the price of peace. The walls will be built. How will Ian Murphy find redemption and crawl out of the darkness?

My review:
Owens slips into first person for this second book of his trilogy about contemporary Ireland and the violence of religious extremism. We left Ian Murphy at the end of book one still alive after his friend is ordered to execute him. Realizing his entire life was one of self-imposed seclusion and layers of lies, Murphy tries to reach out and grasp a spark of life before he has nothing left but darkness. In the first book, Murphy wants to end it all; in this book, he’s coming out to meet the life he’s missed.

Told in on-the-spot scenery and dialog, Owens transports readers into a vicarious visit in Ireland of today, with all the nuances, smells, and sights that hide the brewing troubles. The authors has a fine voice with a message of hope that any reader in any era can grasp.

About the Author:
Rex OwensIn 1997 novelist Rex Owens attended the first of many UW Madison Writers Institutes. The featured speaker was author was Robert Moss who talked about conscious dreaming as a way to explore the writing life. The die was cast to be a writer. In 1999 he joined a critique group led by Dr. Laurel Yourke where he learned craft the old fashioned way – by writing. 

His son brought him newspapers from Ireland. He read a story of children injured in the Peace Zone in Belfast in 1998 which became the inspiration for MURPHY’S TROUBLES. By 2003 Dr. Yourke suggested he had enough material to consider writing a novel. 

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Most Repeated Advice for Authors

I just returned from one of the largest events in my industry: the American Christian Fiction Writers conference, held in Nashville this year. For three days, around six hundred people attended workshops, lectures, continuing ed courses taught by the giants in our field.

This year I concentrated on things that would guide me through this maze of hybrid publishing--being both independent and traditional--but with special attention to those courses about indie publishing. Guess what the #1 piece of advice was? I doubt it will be a big surprise.

Hire an editor.

Just before being indie became vogue--what? Four years ago? Five?--stodgy traditionalists sneered at the idea that anyone who went the "vanity publishing" route could be considered a serious author. They hadn't jumped the hoops, paid the dues. Their works were destined to be inferior. They'd never rise above the stigma. I know the attitude, because I was a stodgy traditionalist.

Things are far different now. Those of us who once snubbed indie--and fed on crow for quite a while afterward--are now among the number of those who learned how wonderful it is to have complete control without having to share profits. Eventually, the pros in the publishing industry began advising and guiding those who once were learning as they went along.  And, as I said before, advice #1 is--say it all together, kids--"get an editor."

Judging by the whoppin' increase in my freelance editing business, indies are listening.

Having your manuscripts edited professionally is the most expensive thing you, as an indie, can do for your career. The sticker shock is apparently wearing off as authors realize they can earn their investment back. Wise authors understand that they have to invest in their products and build their readers' trust.

But why is the edit the most expensive part of the process?

Think about it: No one else in the entire process has to know your manuscript as well as you do in order to do their jobs. No one. A cover designer needs only the story basics; a formatter needs to know what you want italicized, how you want your title page to look, what design you want for your chapter headings and scene breaks.

But an editor can't do her job unless she delves into your book. She doesn't know whether you have an effective story arc until she's read the story. Can't help you with your weak spots until she knows what they are. Can't know that what you wrote on page 12 is repeated almost verbatim on page 51 unless she's deeply involved.

That not only takes time, it takes expertise.

So, how do you get the most bang for your buck?

Know what you're doing. Know what you want.

Different editors have different terms for the same type of edit sometimes and it's frustrating as the dickens. What some call a "content" edit, others call a "developmental" edit. What some call a "copy" edit, others call a "line" edit. One thing that is the same across the board: Proofread. A proofread shouldn't be confused with an edit; it's necessary, but different. If you think you're hiring a copy editor, and the manuscript comes back with only spelling and punctuation corrected, you didn't get your money's worth.

Here are some tips to help:

  1. Do as much as you can to correct your own mistakes. What you can catch yourself saves your editor from doing it, and if he charges by the hour, that savings can add up. Do you already know you have pet words and phrases? Hunt them down. Check your punctuation by skimming the page for it rather than reading so you're actually focusing on the punctuation. Print the document and read it aloud. The different format, and the fact you're hearing it out loud, will help you catch things that you wouldn't ordinarily catch.
  2. When you're done, have a critique partner catch as much as possible. Make corrections based upon those recommendations--then proofread your corrections.
  3. Know what kind of edit you want. A content or developmental edit covers everything about the craft of writing: characterization, story arc, setting, plot, dialogue, narrative, literary devices, etc. A copy or line edit covers everything pertaining to the mechanics of writing: progression of thought as presented through sentences and paragraphs, sentence structure, word choice, etc.
  4. Make certain you and your editor are on the same page about what you expect in an edit. Find an editor who will provide a sample edit. Most will, because it lets the editor know your expertise while helping to determine a cost estimate. If you're primarily getting corrected spelling and punctuation when you want to know whether your POV is deep enough, then you need to keep looking.
  5. Understand that it takes roughly 30 days to do a good edit, and that some--if not most--editors demand partial payment up front. Like other editors, I require full payment. The funds go into an account until I finish the job.
  6. Understand that whether or not you agree with the editor's work, the editor did the work. Unless you expressed a content edit and received a proofread, the work has been done, and the editor is to be paid for her time. Plumbers are paid for the time it takes them to repair a sink. Doctors are paid for treatment time. Editors are paid for editing time.
  7. Know that the piece is yours and you ultimately have the final decision. If you disagree with something the editor suggested, don't do it. It's your work, your decision.
Ideally, you'd start with a content edit, then the copy edit (which is pointless to do if the content is is flawed), and finally a proofread (which is pointless to do unless the craft and mechanics of writing are corrected).

Give yourself and your editor time. While this manuscript is being edited, prepare its marketing schedule, design ads, start arranging for guest posts. There's always something you can be doing. Ultimately, you can earn back what you spend on your final product. 

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