Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Christine Lindsay: You Cannot Write Unless You've Suffered

In my opinion, the best novels are written by people who suffered. Maybe not a lot of anguish and woe, maybe just a pinch of misery while experiencing the loneliness of looking for a loving spouse. But, not that that’s a small issue to sneeze at. As a Christian author there has to come that balance of not sticking with the pain, but redeeming it for God’s purposes.

Art Needs the Delicate Interplay Between Dark and Light

Before I started writing I used to paint. Balancing shadow and light made the difference between a mediocre piece and a work that stole your breath.

Same with literature. I occasionally like to read short humorous books, but after a while—if the stakes aren’t raised, if there’s not a chance the hero or heroine will have their hearts broken—I’m bored. Stories that keep me rapidly turning the pages are those filled with anguish.

Reach Down Deep into Your Gut and Remember the Hurt

Granted we don’t all need to know what it feels like to be attacked, or God-forbid—raped, or live through a war or a kidnapping to write about such themes, but we must tap into feelings that are similar.

I remember the day my middle son disappeared. All the neighbors were out looking for Kyle, people were praying. Two hours later, my six-year-old boy sallied home, smiling to beat the band, clutching a posy of dandelions in his
grubby little hand for me. Thank God I do not know what it feels like to have my child kidnapped, but I can tap into those feelings of the “Day of the Dandelions” as it is now known in our family for all perpetuity.

It’s clear that no one on this earth is exempt from suffering. It’s not a prerequisite for creativity, but suffering is a necessary ingredient for both life and art.

But let’s not forget, light is the other essential element. Fear for my little boy made our reunion that much brighter.

What Is A Painting Without Light?

At a writers’ conference I once heard Donald Maass talk about a writer who emailed her agent about her latest book.

“It’s the best thing I ever wrote,” she gushed. “It’s so honest.”

The book was honest all right, but it was so full of angst it was a total drag. Why do we authors get trapped into thinking the darker or grittier our book the greater the literary quality?

Unless there is a hint of hope on each page then I’m unwilling to remain in that literary dungeon. I want to feel emotion in each scene, but as a reader I must experience building despair, balanced by hope, leading to a climax of joy.

Tap Into Your Lousy Childhood If You Were Lucky Enough to Have One

I wouldn’t wish a lousy childhood on anyone, but dark memories can be changed into something bright and beautiful. It wasn’t until I became a fiction writer that I could thank God for my somewhat unhappy childhood. Before that I suffered the same battles with bitterness as the next person, as the grown child of an alcoholic, and later after relinquishing my first child to adoption. Despair is a great place to start as a writer, but…

Unless You’ve Received Healing You Have Nothing to Offer Your Readers

I promise my readers a happy ending in all my books because I’ve seen happy endings in my own life through my faith in Christ.

But it was my memories of my alcoholic father that inspired my multi-award-winning historical series Twilight of the British Raj. Only because I received healing from that emotional pain, and the pain of losing my first child to adoption, I believe I have something to offer my readers.

Through that delicate interplay of light and shadow, I try to offer my readers a rip-roaring ride on a roller-coaster of emotions, the depths of raw anguish, the grittiness of despair, the tsunamis’ of global conflict that our world inflicts upon us, as well as what I like to call Big Love Stories when the love of God conquers all.

My entire series Twilight of the British Raj shows the healing of a family tainted by a father’s alcoholism. In book 1 Shadowed in Silk, my heroine Abby Fraser stands up to her abusive husband. In book 2 Captured by Moonlight my Indian heroine Eshana stands up to her fanatical Hindu uncle who won’t allow her to live as a Christian. In the finale Veiled at Midnight my character Cam (who was a boy in book 1) is now a man and faces his inner demons that he’s inherited his father’s addiction. All this set against a background of racial bias, political and religious conflict, in an intoxicatingly exotic landscape.

Yes, there are parts of my books that are gritty and heart-rending. But in triumph I write not just about the struggle from alcoholism to sobriety, about surviving through war, about standing up to bigotry, and refusing to be invisible in the face of abandonment and abuse…

I Write in Triumph About That Tingling Feeling—When God Makes Everything New.


Christine Lindsay was born in Ireland, and is proud of the fact that she was once patted on the head by Prince Philip when she was a baby. Her great grandfather, and her grandfather—yes father and son—were both riveters on the building of the Titanic. Tongue in cheek, Christine states that as a family they accept no responsibility for the sinking of that infamous ship.

Stories of Christine’s ancestors who served in the British Cavalry in Colonial India inspired her multi-award-winning, historical series Twilight of the British Raj, Book 1 Shadowed in Silk, Book 2 Captured by Moonlight, and newly released Veiled at Midnight.

Londonderry Dreaming is Christine’s first contemporary romance set in N. Ireland, published by Pelican Book Group, and she is looking forward to the release in 2015 of Sofi’s Bridge.

Christine makes her home on the west coast of Canada with her husband and their grown up family. Her cat Scottie is chief editor on all Christine’s books.

Please drop by Christine’s website http://www.christinelindsay.com/ or follow her on Twitter and be her friend on Pinterest , “Like her Facebook page, and  Goodreads

PURCHASE LINKS FOR Veiled at Midnight and all of Christine’s novels.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Gail Sattler: When To Write Incomplete Sentences, and When Not To

Often writers use incomplete sentences in dialogue without really thinking of how it reads, simply thinking that if they write how people talk, if it’s realistic, then it’s right.

But that’s not necessarily so.

The reader is not listening to the story. The reader is READING. Our brains process things slightly differently through the eyes than through the ears.
Record a normal conversation and type it word for word, or maybe watch a movie that is closed captioned where every word an utterance is typed. Then read it without seeing the action. With all the ums, wells, pauses, and broken English it often feels like someone has mental problems.

We can't write dialogue like people really talk because often it would just sound... stupid.

Good dialogue in a book is condensed and modified so it reads quickly and smoothly, because it's how the reader thinks, not what they hear. Our brains fill in the missing words when we are listening but reading is more literal and not as filtered. 

If you listen to someone talking who uses a lot of incomplete sentences, general opinion is usually that the person is less intelligent or less educated than normal, because an average at-least-high-school-educated person speaks well.

Think about all the noise our brains naturally filter out when we are listening. White noise from the light fixtures. Sirens. Background chatter. Dogs barking. Computer hums and beeps. But when we are reading, our brains do not as easily filter IN the missing words. Instead we are left with a mental impression that it didn’t flow easily. Often the reader is left with the impression that the character is less educated, or a lower class.

In some cases, that may be true. Go ahead and use incomplete sentences when the gang-level drug dealer is speaking. But do not use incomplete sentences when the Fortune-500 billionaire is addressing his board of directors.

Use incomplete sentences when your speaker is a hillbilly. Do not use incomplete sentences when your speaker is a senator.

The only time a major character should use incomplete sentences is in a panic situation, just like if it were in real life, you needed to save time and getting the words out fast would make a difference. That is realistic, and chances are, if you've written it well, the reader is also reading faster, too.

No one will ever complain about reading an author if they always use good grammar and complete sentences, because that makes it easy to read.
But when something isn’t easy to read, most readers who are not writers can't explain why. They just know that even though the story was good, it wasn’t as pleasurable to read as the last book they read.  

Make your book easy to read. And remember, the easier a book is to read, the harder it was to write.

Gail Sattler lives in Vancouver BC, where you don’t have to shovel rain, with her husband, three sons, two dogs, and a lizard that is quite cuddly for a reptile. When she’s not writing, Gail plays acoustic bass for a string orchestra, and electric bass for a local jazz band. When she’s not writing or making music, Gail likes to sit back with a hot coffee and read a book written by someone else.

Visit Gail Sattler’s website at www.gailsattler.com

Check out Gail Sattler’s next book, Dating the Best Man

Could Cory Bellanger Be More Than a Friend?

The tall, dark and handsome forest ranger has a way of making Daphne Carruthers feel safe. Her brother’s buddy is also awakening feelings deeper than friendship. Daphne wants to believe in the future Cory’s offering, but first she must come to terms with her painful past.

Helping Daphne recover from a difficult relationship, Cory knows he has to be careful where her heart is concerned. And Cory is hiding a secret of his own that could destroy the fragile trust they’re starting to build. Can he stop their pasts from sabotaging their future together—and convince Daphne he’s the best man for her?

Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Writing Sisters: Four Surprising Tips to Tighten Your Writing

Betsy Duffy and Laurie Myers

Find and replace.  We all have it on our writing programs but don’t often use it in the editing process. Using search features allows us to quickly find and replace words that aren’t necessary.
Here are four tips for using Find and Replace in rewriting, with some examples from our book The Shepherd’s Song.
1. Find every use of the word “thought”. Is it necessary?
FIRST DRAFT:  A brief memory of her car plowing into another vehicle flashed across her mind. ‘A car accident,’ she thought. ‘I’ve been in a car accident.’
Evaluate each use of the word. Often you can eliminate it. Extra words take the reader out of the character’s head. There’s no need to tell the reader that the character is thinking. Just say it.
FINAL DRAFT:  A brief memory came – her car sliding on the slick road, the sound of breaking glass and crunching metal. A car accident.
2. Find every place you use the word “said”. Can you take it out?
FIRST DRAFT:  He picked up the receiver and said, “This is John McConnell.”
The tag (he said), slows down the action and reminds the reader that it is a written story.
FINAL DRAFT:  He fumbled for a moment with the receiver, then got it to his mouth with shaking hands. “This is John McConnell.”
3. Look for the word “felt” when used to describe a character’s feelings.  Remember: show don’t tell.
FIRST DRAFT: She felt confused and out of control.  
This is okay for a first draft but needs rewriting.
FINAL DRAFT: “What’s your name?”
She tried to focus. Her name?
“Kate . . . McConnell.” She gasped out each word.
“Your birthday?”
She tried to come up with the answer, but it was too confusing. Tears welled up.
“It’s all right. Just stay with me.”
“What hap…?” She wanted to finish the sentence but could not.
4. Look out for the word “saw.” Show us what the character is seeing instead.
FIRST DRAFT: He slipped the phone out of his pocket and saw the text message from his dad.
We don’t need to explain that the character saw something.  Show it from the character’s POV.
FINAL DRAFT:  Matt slipped the phone out of his pocket.
‘Emergency. Call me.’
A text from his dad. That was unusual.
These simple tips help us with our writing. Do you have others to share?

The Writing Sisters, Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers were born into a writing family, and began critiquing manuscripts at an early age for their mother, Newbery winner Betsy Byars.  They went on to become authors of more than thirty-five children’s novels. Their first book for adults, The Shepherd’s Song,  is being released in paperback  April 2015.
You can connect with Laurie and Betsy on their monthly newsletter where they send out updates and their popular free devotional books. Contact them at WritingSisters.com  and find them on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

Back Copy:

Follow the incredible journey of one piece of paper—a copy of Psalm 23—as it travels around the world, linking lives and hearts with its simple but beautiful message.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures…

Shortly before a tragic car accident, Kate McConnell wrote down the powerful words of Psalm 23 on a piece of paper for her wayward son. Just before she loses consciousness, Kate wonders if she’s done enough with her life and prays, “Please, let my life count.”

Unbeknownst to Kate, her handwritten copy of Psalm 23 soon begins a remarkable journey around the world. From a lonely dry cleaning employee to a soldier wounded in Iraq, to a young Kurdish girl fleeing her country, to a Kenyan runner in the Rome Invitational marathon, this humble message forever changes the lives of twelve very different people. Eventually, Kate’s paper makes it back to its starting place, and she discovers the unexpected ways that God changes lives, even through the smallest gestures.

With beautiful prose evocative of master storyteller Andy Andrews’s The Butterfly Effect, this story will touch your heart and remind you of the ways God works through us to reach beyond what we can imagine.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Max Elliot Anderson: Tips to Help You Avoid Writer’s Block

Methods for writing are as varied as the writers who use them. Two of the primary camps, as it relates to fiction writing, are those who outline and those who don’t. My action-adventures and mysteries are written for middle grade readers. I never outline. How I go about the writing process probably comes from my several decades of dramatic film, video, and television commercial productions.

The first thing that usually happens is a title will pop into my head. That title immediately suggests the main character’s strengths and weaknesses, the setting for the story, and a primary plot thread. This is also how hundreds of stories used to appear as I told them to my children when they were small.

I grab a recorder and tell myself the story, much like I would make them up for my kids in the past. This part of the process gives me the beginning, middle, and end, although I don’t know any other details at the time. Then, while writing, all sorts of characters and situations appear as I go along. These notes are typed, placed in a file, and not consulted again until the first draft is finished. For me, writing the first draft of any story is like watching a feature film playing out right in front of my eyes because I never know what’s going to happen next, or who might show up.

I never begin a chapter that I don’t finish in that writing session. And at the end of each writing session, I scribble a note with the word “next” at the top. Then I write a few lines about what would happen next in the story, if I were to continue on writing the next chapter.

Other elements that go into my writing process may also be helpful. I have a separate writing room where I can go, shut the door, and escape into a world of my own making. I like to have props around that help me to visualize the scene. While writing a book that will be published soon, Forest of Fear, I filled a small cage with redwood chips, went outside, and caught a chipmunk. This isn’t very hard where I live because they run into the drainpipes when someone walks outside. I kept him on my desk for the day, but wasn’t finished with the sequence. Rather than keep him overnight, I let the little guy go. Then, the next morning, I went out and caught another one. Except I think it was the same one because this one acted just like the first. Having him helped me think about the woods.

Also, while writing, I light a candle and keep it burning next to my computer screen. This helps me to focus on the task of writing for some reason I can’t explain. And, because of my film work, I play mood appropriate music in the background. This can only be instrumental because any lyrics totally distract me.

I like to write mostly in the evenings, on weekends, and some holidays. That’s because there are few, if any distractions during those times. I never stop to read what’s already been written, and work until the first draft is finished. Then that is put away for several days before I take it up again and read it. In this way, it feels like reading something for the first time. I have a finished manuscript waiting on my writing desk now. It’s been sitting there for over a week, and I can hardly wait to start reading it, just to find out what’s in there.

About Max Elliot Anderson:

Max Elliot Anderson grew up as a struggling reader. After surveying the market, he sensed the need for action-adventures and mysteries for readers 8 – 13, especially boys.

Using his extensive experience in the production of dramatic motion pictures, videos, and television commercials, Mr. Anderson brings that same visual excitement and heart-pounding action to his stories. Each book has different characters, setting, and plot.

Ten books are published, sixteen more are under contract, with several additional manuscripts completed. Young readers have reported that reading one of his books is like actually being in an exciting movie.

Books for Boys Blog

Amazon Author’s page

Book Trailer - Imagine:

Book Trailer - The Accidental Adventures: