A Conference Gem

Pegg Thomas is my guest today as I continue to post about the benefits of attending conferences.   I can so relate to her experience. Welcome Pegg.

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There’s nothing like a writers’ conference to open the new writer’s eyes. Wide open. In danger of plopping from their sockets. At least, that’s what happened to me.

 

Maranatha Christian Writers’ Conference in Muskegon, Michigan, is where I got my start. Small numbers and an emphasis on getting published—that it’s in my home state was a plus—were what drew me to Maranatha. The first year, I waded through the week-long conference in an overwhelmed daze as all my preconceived notions of writing were ruthlessly torn apart. It took me the entire following year to digest everything I’d learned.

 

Convinced I was on the road to writing the next Great American Novel, I signed up for my second year at Maranatha. To my delight, Jerry Jenkins was Maranatha’s keynote speaker that year. Attendees were invited to send in the first page of their novels for a “Thick-Skinned Critique” session. Whoa! I couldn’t get my submission emailed off fast enough. How exciting to have Mr. Jenkins critique my first page.  This was the chance to strut my stuff and put my year-long learning to good use.

 

(I heard that sniggering.)

 

At some point, perhaps when I slowed down and read the fine print, I became aware that the “Thick-Skinned Critique” was to take place during the conference’s general session. In front of the whole conference body. Everyone. Every last one.

 

Confidence is a fickle companion.

 

By the time the conference arrived, I’d gone from strutting to, at best, a slouching shuffle into the conference room for the general session. The usual opening of worship music put a little stiff back into my spine. But once Mr. Jenkins pulled out the overhead projector. The one that lit up the huge screen swallowing the front of the room. The one upon which he laid an overlay with carefully typed words now emblazoned across the screen. My words.

 

The only saving grace was that my name did not appear anywhere on the overlay. The organizers, in their gentle wisdom, had deemed it best to expunge the writers’ names. Bless them.

 

Mr. Jenkins took a sadistically long time explaining how he did his “Thick-Skinned Critiques” while my words hung in front of every person there. Each moment corresponded with a half-inch glacier-like creep of my body toward the floor in front of my seat. What I mostly remember about this interminable wait was that if I concentrated on the tops of my shoes, the urge to relieve my stomach of its contents remained manageable. Barely.

 

And then he said these words, “I love this opening sentence.”

 

The glacier-like movement stopped. The rebellion of my breakfast stopped. My backbone coalesced to its solid form once again. All was right with my world. Better than right! It was write-right.

 

Mr. Jenkins withdrew another overlay which he placed on top of my carefully typed words. This overlay had red marks on it. That is to say, it may have been a graphic depiction of the blood patterns taken from a slasher murder scene.  That many red marks.

 

But I didn’t care. Jerry Jenkins had told me that he loved my opening sentence.  My confidence was back. I could do this thing called writing. I could.

And I did.

Bio:

Pegg Thomas lives on a hobby farm in Northern Michigan with Michael, her husband of *mumble* years. A life-long history geek, she writes “History with a Touch of Humor.” An avid reader and writer, she enjoys fiction stories threaded through historical events and around historical figures. Civil War and Colonial are her favorite eras. Pegg is a regular blogger at both QuidProQuills.com and ColonialQuills.com. When not working on her latest novel, Pegg can be found in her garden, in her kitchen, at her spinning wheel, tending her sheep, or on her trusty old horse, Trooper. See more at PeggThomas.com.

The Pony Express Romance Collection

Join the race from Missouri, across the plains and mountains to California and back again as brave Pony Express riders and their supporters along the route work to get mail across country in just ten days. It is an outstanding task in the years 1860 to 1861, and only a few are up to the job. Faced with challenges of terrain, weather, hostile natives, sickness, and more, can these adventurous pioneers hold fast, and can they also find lasting love in the midst of daily trials?

There are nine stories in this collection.

Embattled Hearts by Pegg Thomas
Alannah Fagan escaped from a battle she wouldn’t survive. Stewart McCann left behind a battle he couldn’t face. Thrown together at Horseshoe Station, can they find something worth fighting for?

PonyExpressBookCover

Click to order this novella collection of delightful stories.

Have you ever been in a critique group at a conference? What did you learn?

 

 

 

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How God Answered This Writer’s Fleece

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My fleece before the Lord involved finances not sheepskin.

In 2006 while on a mission trip in the Philippines I heard the Lord stirring in my heart to get serious about writing again. I’d put it aside as my life got busier and my discouragement heightened regarding getting paid for publication. I was alone on my writing journey and tired of the whole thing. But the prompting wouldn’t go away. When I arrived home, I challenged the Lord as Gideon had. I placed a fleece before God. “If you really want me to write again, I want to take this online writing course presented through the Christian Writer’s Guild. It’s pretty pricey and I don’t have the funds. If you want me to do this, provide the tuition.”

I’m sure God laughed at my resistance and at the same time said. “Cindy, watch how I answer this challenge.”

Shortly after I shared my fleece challenge with my husband, I got a letter in the mail. Months earlier I had received a letter from the same law firm regarding a class action suit against a car dealership. Apparently, they had run credit checks on mass numbers of people before sending out ads for their sale. This is illegal and the company was being sued. I was on the list of defendants. I thought at the time, “Why not.” I figured I would get a few dollars.

Well, the most recent letter confirmed I was receiving a settlement. I followed all the directions in the letter. Even confirming the law firm and lawsuit were legitimate before giving them my social security number. When the check arrived it was exactly what I needed to pay for the course. God couldn’t have made it any clearer. I enrolled in the two-year course, completing it in a year. When provides such clear direction you don’t mess around.

Next, I asked God for provision to attend the Writing for the Soul conference in Colorado, put on by Jerry Jenkins founder of the Christian Writer’s Guild. He reminded me I had enough credit card points to provide my airfare. I had never before redeemed any points and didn’t realize tickets were an

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Jerry Jenkins and I

option.

On the plane I sat with an author who told me how to write an elevator pitch. (I didn’t even know what that was.) At the conference, Susan King, editor of the Upper Room gave me tips on how to approach editors and publishers during appointments. I meet lots of writes at various stages of their careers and made new friends. I signed up for the journeymen course through CWG for fiction writing.

I was walking the path God had laid out for me and there was no turning back. I had to develop thick-skin and quell jealousy when it appeared someone’s path to publication was easier than mine. I struggled with prioritizing and allowing myself the pleasure of the writer’s moniker. (I still do.)

In the past ten years I have attended a writer’s conference every year. Although it is usually Write to Publish which is in my own backyard in Wheaton, Illinois. Looking back over these years I’ve seen how much one fleece has given me boldness to ask God for more direction. He continues to bring people and opportunities into my life that reinforce God’s calling to write.

The path gets rocky and hairpin curves abound but I know this is the journey he has set me on. It is up to me whether I will continue following his direction or, as in the past, sideline myself. I think this time I will reach my goal of multiple books published. God had provided support through other writers, their blogs, writing books and conferences. He has placed me in a community of wordsmiths whose goal I have embraced. We help one another get published and fulfill God’s calling on our lives. If not for that fleece and His clear answer I know I won’t be continuing on this less that glamorous undertaking.

 

What are your writing goals? What is happening in your life to guide you to your goals? Do you sense God’s leading? Please share with me in the comments; I’d love to hear about it.

If you’d like to continue following my journey each week, please subscribe in the right column.

 

 

My Favorite Magazine for Serious Writers

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Often I am asked what I would recommend for writers to help them with their craft. I have a book list I give out. Today, however, I am going to share with you a magazine I love. When it arrives, I devour it cover to cover. Christian Communicator is my magazine of choice for those who are serious about writing. It is a monthly publication produced by American Christian Writers (ACW). The cover isn’t glossy but the content glows.

I contacted Lin Johnson, managing editor to tell me why writers should subscribe. Her answer was very insightful.

“Subscribing to Christian Communicator is like having a writers conference come to your mailbox each month. It helps you improve your writing craft and speaking ability, provides practical information about the business/publishing/freelance side of writing, keeps you informed about markets, and encourages you in your ministries.”

I love receiving advice and tips from well-established professionals. There are monthly columns by industry leaders. Dr. Dennis Hensley shares the many aspects of professional writing. Jerry B Jenkins keeps readers up-to-date on publishers’, agents’ and editors’ needs. He also informs readers of changes in the Christian Marketing Guide including the page numbers where the corrections can be added. There is a Q & A column by Sally Stuart. You’ll find book reviews, author interviews with a little poetry and humor in the mix. Lots and lots of helpful information in every issue.

Lin Johnson is always looking for content and you don’t have to be a best-selling, award-winning author to appear in Christian Communicator. She is open to consider well-written pieces on writerly subjects that meet the current need of Christian Communicator. Check out the guidelines here.

Ordering info, including a form to download and send and paypal link, is at acwriters.com. Follow this link and subscribe today.

Do you have a favorite writing magazine or resource you would recommend? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment.

 

If you enjoyed reading this blog I’d love to have you subscribe.  🙂 Click the link on the right.

 

My Personal Pick of Books For Holiday Gift Giving

I love to read. What books have you read this year?

I love to read. What books have you read this year?

Over the last few years I have written almost 80 reviews. My goal is to reach 100 in 2015. Because I love to read and people often ask me for book recommendations I thought I’d share a list of some of the goodies I’ve read in past year.

Add some to your to-read-list or buy them for your favorite book worms.

I’ll divide them by genre and encourage you to check out my reviews on Amazon or Goodreads.

Some on this list are debut novels of exceptional quality. All of the authors have a wonderful grasp on the craft of writing and draw readers into their stories. This list reflects my love of reading and willingness to review books outside my own genre of historical.

Historical:

World War II settings:

With Music in Their Hearts by Carole Brown

Under the Silk Hibiscus by Alice J Wisler

Lightning on a Quiet Night by Donn Taylor

Revolutionary War setting:

Fields of the Fatherless (YA book) by Elaine Cooper

1800s setting:

Kincaid Brides Trilogy by Mary McConeally

Trouble In Texas Series by Mary McConeally

Mystery:

The Cat Lady’s Secret (cozy) by Linda Yazak

Chapel Springs Revival (humorous) by Ane Mulligan

Murder on Edisto by C Hope Clark

The Simulacrum by Brad Seggie and Linda Yezak

Firewall (FBI Houston #1) by DiAnn Mills

Contemporary Fiction:

Breathing On Her Own by Rebecca Waters

Reservations For Two by Ann Patrick

Traveler’s Rest by Ann Tatlock

All My Belongings by Cynthia Ruchti

Almost Amish by Kathryn Cushman

Lake Surrender by Carol Grace Stratton

Give The Lady A Ride by Linda Yezak

Fantasy:

Blood For Blood (Vampires, 1800s setting) by Ben Wolf

Innocent Blood; Equinox of Reckoning (Halloween setting with Celtic lore) by John Turney

Crossing Into The Mystic (The Crossing Trilogy #1) (Ghosts) by D L Koontz

Whiskey Sunrise (Crime Drama involving the supernatural) by John Turney

Devotionals:

Dare U To Open This (8-12 yrs. olds boys) by Carol McAdams Moore

Just Sayin’ (8-12 yrs. old girls) by Carol McAdams Moore

God, Me and Sweet Tea (women) By Rose Chandler Johnson

Hungry For God, Starving For Time (women) by Lori Hatcher

These are only a portion of the ones I read this year. Some authors I would recommend that may or may not have made this short list whose overall body of work are wonderful reads are C Hope Clark, DiAnn Mills, Brandilyn Collins, Virginia Smith, Gilbert Morris, Jerry B Jenkins, Carole Brown, Elaine Cooper, Mary Conneally, Cynthia Ruchti, and James Scott Bell.

What books have you read this year? Which ones would you recommend?

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Avengers New Ironman Movie Like A Classic Book Series

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My hubby and I went to see Iron Man Three today. Being fans of the series, we look forward to each new installment in the Avengers franchise. The character of Tony Stark evolves more in each movie into a man of integrity and valor.  Now we look forward to the new Thor movie in November.

The Avengers is so popular because it has your basic plot of good conquering evil. Not just conquering it but smashing it into oblivion.  They are well-written, well-acted and the special effects are amazing.

Series are very popular when it come s to our favorite heroes in books. Jerry B, Jenkins’ Left Behind Series,  Jeanette Oke’s Love Come Softly Saga, Louis Lamour Sackett Trilogy, Anne of Green Gables books  and so many others have stood the test of time. Readers want to know more about the characters. They feel a part of their lives and long to spend time with them.

Does your WIP have sequel possibilities? Are there minor heroes that can take center stage in future works.  Listen to your character, and see which ones want to tell more of their story.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Ke1Y3P9D0Bc

 

What is your favorite book series? What sets it apart for you?

The Magic of Belle Isle Inspires Writers

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Often when I watch a movie I find some excellent take-way value. After watching Magic of Belle Isle I found a treasure. The main character, Monte Wildhorn, an author whose passion for writing died with his wife is taken to Belle Isle by his nephew(under protest) in hopes of rekindling it.  Monte has no intention of ever writing again. Alcohol and the dog that came with the home areh is only companions. That changes when he meets his neighbors, the O’Neals. A single mother with three girls who disturb his grumpy existence. Ten-year old Finn (short for Finnegan) O’Neal offers to pay Monte to teach her to imagine. Charlotte O’Neal’s piano playing lifts his soul and Fin’s determination to understand how to write a story inspires him. He finds his muse again.

The scene that captured my writer’s heart and reminded me why I write took place between Finn and Wildhorn. He points down the road and asks her what she sees.

“Nothing.”

“Try harder –tell me what you don’t see.”

The quizzical look on her face is priceless.

Later Finn understands as she looks out the window toward the beach. Monte again asks her what she doesn’t see. This time she weaves a tale about a girl being pursued by a man.  Her imagination is ignited as she adds to the tale. The girl tricks the villain into going into the cellar where she slams the cellar door and secures it with a broom until the police arrive. Finn explains that she and a neighbor boy like to hide in the cellar.

Monte commends her imagination and using what she knows.

These two points are priceless. Writing about what you don’t see and writing what you know.

Writing what you know

Recently I have been reading Eva Marie Everson’s Cedar Keys Series. Eva has vacationed in Cedar Keys on several occasions. The setting is so familiar to her that the character movements feel natural.

Brandilyn Collins experienced Lyme disease and from that wrote the suspense thriller Over the Edge drawing from her own experience battling the disease.

Jerry Jenkins grew up around law enforcement. His father was chief of police. This experience makes his Precinct 11 series so believable.

Use your imagination to write what you don’t see

Seeing the unseen comes naturally to those with vivid imaginations. A painter captures the light on canvas, the sculpture sees a figure in flawed marble.  A writer sees a stranger lurking in the shadows of a pleasant tree-lined street.

Like Monte I wasn’t feeling in a writing mood.  I found my muse again as I watched Monte rekindle his through his association with the O’Neal family.  As my mind pondered the insights I was gaining from Magic of Belle Isle I was inspired to write this blog post.

What inspires you?