Writing Prompts and Giveaway

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Have you ever been to a writer’s class where the teacher starts it out with a writing prompt? You get a few minutes to write something based on a sentence opener. A few brave students share their words. I hate it. Don’t misunderstand, I love writing prompts they get my mind engaged and the creative juices flowing.  I don’t want to share that initial mess with anyone. I always write poo my first attempt. There are moments I’m inspired immediately and the cleaver words flow onto the page. But that is rare.

The writing prompt isn’t designed to embarrass or prove what pathetic creatures we writers are. It’s a chance to loosen words from your brain. Like fruit trees the ripe ones fall to the ground first where they get bruise and rot in a short time. Later we get a ladder and pluck the ripe fruit by hand carefully placing it in baskets. The bruise fruit can still nourish as part of a pie or sliced so only the good parts show. But if they’d never fallen to the ground, we’d not have realized how ripe the fruit was getting. How ready we were to write those particular words. Creating something delicious for the reader.

Completing a sentence not of our own creation can open our mind to so many possibilities. A storyline forms, a call to action from deep in our heart takes shape or a long overdue belly laugh sets us in the right mood to open those neglected word documents.

Below is a list of prompts. Pick one.  No timer—just write. When you’re done reread it. How’d it turn out?  Did the exercise inspire? Are you ready to conquer those other projects?

Here they are:

Why is it Mildred always___________

 

“Harald, this is the last time______________

 

Willy raced ahead, his legs pumping hard on the pedals of his ten-speed. “Why ___________

 

“Pling, pling, pling water droplets beat against the pans covering the floor____________

 

Blood smears trailed along the kitchen floor to the back door where a large _______

 

Let’s make it more interesting

You can start with the prompt or put it anywhere within the paragraph or two or three or pages of words your imagination pours out for you. Have fun.

Anyone who is brave enough to share their creation (or a part of it if it goes beyond a few paragraphs) in the comments please do. If you prefer to tell me how doing this exercise help their creativity. Wonderful. All commenters will be entered into a giveaway.  I’ll send an autographed copy of Secrets & Charades to one winner.

If you’ve read Secrets & Charades I’ll send a copy of Writing in Obedience: A primer from Christian Fiction writers by Terry Burns and Linda W Yezak as an alternative.  So, enjoy the prompts. Write away and comment. The drawing will take place next Tuesday the 25th.

Don’t forget if you’re not following this blog but would like to please subscribe so you don’t miss a posting.

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Three Favorite Reads for February

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Writers should be readers.

We often hear, “Writers should be readers.”  And I love knowing it’s okay to do so. It helps stimulate my brain when I take a break from writing my own novels. In the last month, I’ve read three books. One was a collection of seven historical romances, a contemporary romance, and a humorous romance.  They were all page-turners that kept me engaged. Maybe you’d like to check them out as well.

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Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

The historical novella collection, Seven Brides for Seven Texans has all seven Hart brothers scrambling to find brides before years’ end. Their father has a heart condition he is keeping from his sons. All seven are content to be bachelors but Pa wants to see grandkids before he dies. If these handsome Texans aren’t married before December they forfeit their inheritance.

Each story is clever and the couples involved are very different. The only common denominator is the inheritance. I loved the premise and the creative of all seven authors: Amanda Barrett,Susan Page Davis, Keli Gwyn, Vicki McDonough, Gabrielle Meyer, Loma Seilstad and Erica Vetsch. Their scenarios are so believable scenario while blending characters from the other books into the story line. As each brother finds his bride the womenfolk population grows on the ranch. By the time, Bowie the lone holdout marries life as the bachelors knew it is drastically changed.

At times, I laughed out loud and other times my eyes misted with tears. You’ll love the Hart boys and their feisty brides.

51ogzyn6ixl-_sy346_Dance Over Me

The next novel Dance Over Me  by Candee Fick has a wonderful premise. A musical theater major finally finds a job performing in Dinner Theater. We often forget Christians pursue many different career paths.

Dani is a product of foster care and was adopted at 10 by her dance instructor. Her one main goal in life is finding her baby brother who was adopted shortly after her parent were killed in an auto accident. Her childhood promise to look after him still haunts her. Now she Is pursuing her dream of being and entertainer while calling every Wilson in the Fort Collins Colorado white pages in hopes of finding Jake.

Alex the hero, trumpet player and band leader in=s content in the family business. His parents own the Wardrobe Dinner Theater. The first musical performed is 42nd Street. The plot of the novel loosely follows the storyline of the musical. It’s fun and faith-building. Dani comes to realized various truths about her relationship with God and people. I loved the title Danced Over Me based on a scripture verse declaring God dances over us with joy. What a wonderful reminder.

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Every Bride Needs A Groom

The last of the three was Every Bride Needs a Groom by Janice Thompson. So funny. Told in first person through the eyes of small town girl Katie Sue. She loves her hometown Fairfield Texas. She never wants to leave. Her entire life is one big rut of sameness. Not until she enters a contest to win a free designer wedding gown from Cosmopolitan Bride does she begin to discover the rut she’s in. Her longtime boyfriend never proposes and leaves her with the embarrassing dilemma of truth vs lies. While spending time in Dallas trying to sort the no groom mess out she meets Brady James, a pro basketball player on medical leave working alongside his mother at Cosmopolitan Bride. Katie’s zany family and close-knit small town upbringing colors the basic plot with lots of funny twists. Including three brothers, an aunt and a crazy cousin who can’t stay out of her business.  Everything works out in a deliciously entertaining way by the last page.

Read for inspiration

All three of these books a total of 9 stories in all inspired me. The words are honed to perfection and I found myself experiencing Texas in the past and present and Colorado’s musical theater lifestyle. I love the you-are-there feeling in novels.

Writers must make time to read. Maybe you don’t read as many books a month as I do. But even one in two months can make a difference in your writing.  I read in my genre and out of it. It keeps my creative juices challenged. And there is a certain amount of writing technique we learn through the osmosis of reading others people’s works.

Check out these books by clicking on the covers.

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What have you been reading this month?

 

 

 

An Interview with Jake Marcum Hero of Secrets and Charades

s-c-jakes-quoteSecrets and Charades has a very interesting hero. Jake Marcum, rancher, Civil War veteran and doting uncle. I corralled him long enough to do this interview.

Thank you so much for stopping by.

Well, ma’am, Evangeline insisted it was my turn. Not so sure how interesting I’ll be but go ahead and ask your questions.

Tell us a bit about your childhood.

I had two brothers and a sister. Our family headed west when my Pa got gold fever in ‘49. Our wagon broke down near Ben Mitchell’s place. He talked sense into Pa and taught him all he knew about ranching. Our small spread adjoined Ben’s property.

What happened to your family?

My sister run off with some no count drummer. That’s a traveling salesman. Then Clevis went back to Kentucky to attend college. He wanted to be a lawyer. I’d rather ranch. When the conflict broke out Clevis planned to join the Confederate Army. Pa sent me to Kentucky to bring him home. My older brother persuaded me to join the cause instead. He died six months later. My little brother Robert died from an injury falling off his horse. My Ma had died before I went to get Clevis and Pa died while I was away.

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photo by morguefile.com

What was it like when you returned from the war?

Tougher than the battlefield. There was this gal, Nora. I thought we had an understanding. While I was gone, she’d married my brother and expecting their child.   Well, I ain’t proud of my action at the time. Nightmares from the war made me unfit to be around. Ben Mitchell invited me to join his outfit. He helped me dry out and introduced me to the Lord. He’d lost both his sons in the war so he kinda adopted me. I inherited his ranch when he passed. A year later Nora died in childbirth. They buried her newborn son with her. My brother and I were working out our differences when he died. My niece, Juliet come to live with me. She was six. Having her in my life helped heal the rift between Robert and me.

After your conversion, did you still have nightmares?

Sure. God changed me and helped me be a better man. But when the responsibilities of running this spread make me lose sleep—the nightmares come. And worrying about Evangeline coming gave me a few doozies. I still have them. Not as often. I reckon it’s a cross I must bear.

What challenges did you encounter taking over a ranch the size of the Double M?

Yeah. The neighbors looked at me as a gold-digger. But  I think you mention it in your book. Anyway,  Ben was a real Duke or something back in England. He called the ranch the Royal M. I think his surname was something different before he came to America. Anyway, the Double M stands for Mitchell and Marcum.  Several of Ben’s crew have stayed on with me over the years. Cookie Slade was Ben’s old foreman before he got gored by a steer. He stays on helping where he can. Don’t know what I’d do without him. He’s the one who encouraged me to take in Juliet and get me a mail-order bride.Brides71

What were you looking for in a bride?

Let just say, I think God was laughing when I made my request. He knew the kind of wife I needed even if I didn’t.

What was your biggest challenge before Evangeline came into your life?

There were two. Too few cowboys to run the ranch.  My wealthy neighbor kept stealing my men by offering them huge wages. The loyal ones stay. Sides they don’t like that Farley character much. He thinks he’s King of the county.

The second, I had to juggle teaching Juliet to read and cipher around chores. So, her education was sketchy. I felt like I’d betrayed my sister-in-law when I saw how much of a tomboy Juliet was becoming. Nora wanted her daughter to be the bell of the ball, not a ranch hand. So, finding an educated wife to teach my niece was my number priority.

Thanks so much for spending time with my readers.

My pleasure, ma’am.

If you missed my interview with Evangeline, the heroine of Secrets and Charades click here.

Jake and Evangeline’s story Secrets and Charades is available for preorder on Amazon.

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Ten Tips for a Fresh Writing Start the New Year

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I’m posting a checklist for the new year. We all know we never get right back on the writing horse on January 2nd. It takes a bit of recovery time before we are ready to saddle up again.  I have ten points to consider. Things I may or may not get done but claim as my ideal goals for getting ready to write in 2017.  They are in no particular order so arrange them how you like.

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Prepare to climb back in the writing saddle.   photo from morguefile.com

1) Clean out old files and emails. I shared about email in a previous post. So, I’ll say no more. But we all have several copies of WIP at various stages. Delete all the old ones so all that remains is your present Work in Progress. If you must, create a new file for all those scenes you must delete but can’t bear to part with and trash the rest. (Side note: Rename your most current manuscript. Add Vol 4 or whatever so you don’t accidently delete the wrong one or for that matter email the wrong manuscript to a publisher.) If you still can’t bring yourself to delete old versions store them on a hard drive or stick and delete from your PC. After a while, you won’t miss them.  Now you can find your most current project in moments. (Be sure to back up often on an external drive or stick in case your computer crashes in 2017.)

2) Clean out all paper files in your office. Throw away any saved papers you know you will never use. If you haven’t read them this year you probably won’t. Reorganize books. Give away those you’ve read to others to enjoy. Share craft books with newbies and donate some to the library. Any magazines you received for query research purposes and never queried get rid of. Request a more recent copy if you still intend to query so you have the latest trending articles. Once you get started you will probably discover stuff you didn’t know you saved. Clean to your comfort level so your desk is cleared.

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Declutter

3) This is the time to create spreadsheets, databases or notebooks to record the sales, queries, proposals, submissions and upcoming blog post activities. Record keeping can be a bane or a blessing to a writer’s existence depending on how good we are at maintaining it.

4) Purchase or create calendars for daily, weekly and monthly goals. I once used a calendar that recorded hourly activity when I had a home business. For some writers, committing themselves to accomplishing a certain task in a specific time frame helps keep them on track. For me, I need a list and some monthly and weekly direction. I found a 5X7 planner that will work well for me.

appointments to write

Buy a calendar that works for you.

5) Post inspiration around your workspace. Whether that’s sticky notes or posters. Words and pictures that remind us we can do this writing gig help so much. Upbeat music can help with focus as well.

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6) List realistic daily goals. I tend to write long lists that I will never finish in a day. I write down a marketing goal, an editing goal, a reading goal, and a writing goal that’s manageable. If I happen to get more done, that’s awesome. If I get less done, there are fewer items to add to the next day’s list.

7) Seek inspiration every day. Time in The Word and prayer. Moments to sit in silence and listen.

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8) Pencil in Me time. Time to do anything but write. Be sure to take care of your health. Keep doctor appointments. Go out to lunch with friends. Binge watch your favorite shows. Give your mind some downtown so when you return to your words, the creative juices are flowing.

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Take time for yourself.

9) Evaluate subscriptions. Which craft magazines and blogs do you read consistently and gain value from. Unsubscribe and don’t renew those not meeting that criterion. You won’t miss them.

10) Work smart with social media. Find ways to do more in less time to promote and interact with your readers. There are apps like Hootsuite that post in all your social media simultaneously. I want to learn more about using twitter and Pinterest this year.

Make a difference in 2017

These are my top objectives to restart my writing career in the new year. I hope these actions will make me more motivated and organized. The cleaning ones are always the hardest for me. Accomplishing even half of these goals will make a difference in how well I start off 2017.

What do you need to do before you climb back into the writing saddle? I love to ehar from  my readers.

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