Tag Archives: writing

Writers Conference

As a writer, writers conferences are part of the package. While it does matter where you go and what type of event you attend, there seem to be a few things that are always the same.

Writers in every stage of the journey

At a typical conference, you will meet people that vary from those trying to write those first words, still struggling to identify what type of story they will pen, and those writers who have twelve books finished, three published, and two publishers vying for their hand for the next book (I completely made those numbers up. Point is, there will be someone whose success you will be jealous of). Why is the successful author at a conference if they’re not a speaker? The same reason you’re attending – they are there to learn.

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New information

Regardless of the topics discussed in the conference, you will learn things you didn’t know before. Certain things that the speakers say will inspire you. Bring pen and paper. You will be taking notes. Lots of notes.

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Old information

At some point, someone (a new friend, vendor, speaker, etc.) will recite information that you already know. It will seem pointless for you to hear this information. But others in the crowd need to hear it.

Books for sale!

Bring spending money to the conference – everyone will be selling books and other writing essentials! You may not plan to spend a dime. But you likely will. Either a speaker will be engaging, and they offer a book with more information, or you get caught up in the story they’re sharing, and you find yourself wanting to know what happens next.

 

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Publishers!

Yes, publishers of all shapes and sizes frequent these conferences. While traditional, reputable publishers make time to talk to authors, vanity presses and self-publishing companies frequent these things, too. Don’t be afraid to research and ask questions.

With that warning in mind, though, you can walk into a writers conference knowing you will be speaking to a publisher. Have material ready to give them, but don’t be surprised if they don’t read it. They may want to hear more at a later time, and that’s okay, too.

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Business Cards

I didn’t realize until the day before my own writers conference began that I needed to have business cards ready to hand to people. I went to Office Depot and bought some printable cards. I spent about half an hour designing a basic one. If you’re in a pinch, do that.

If you have time, go to Vistaprint and spend $10 for your own card. You won’t be disappointed, and you’ll look very professional

Conflicting Information

It’s easy to suffer from information overload if you attend several classes a day. And with several classes come several teachers, who all have their own opinion about writing. The only hard and fast rule of writing seems to be there are no rules. Some teachers will present their opinion in order to get you to a desired goal. Another teacher, talking about the same thing, will tell you to do the exact opposite – since that worked for them.

Again, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You will receive information you won’t always agree with. That doesn’t mean the teacher is a moron. It means that you’re a different type of writer. But also trust that the teacher knows more than you about whatever it is they’re teaching. Chances are, they’re right.

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Food!

Yes, all writers conferences seem to have food of some kind – even if it’s just snacks. Bring your appetite!

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The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

We’ve all had those weird but memorable dreams. A pizza slice may be chasing you down the street, you show up unprepared to something important, or a long, vivid dream involving the teacher you’re scared of and a giant red pen. It’s odd, but it makes sense in the moment. And then you wake up, most likely relieved that it was just a dream.

Why am I talking about dreams today? Because sometimes, dreams have some awesome story potential. The Test of True Love began as a powerful dream that wouldn’t leave me alone. I tried my best to document what I could before I forgot the amazing details (that later changed to fit the story).

When you wake up in the morning, try to see if you remember your dreams (beyond the terrifying ones, of course). Sure, they may be odd. But every now and then, you might end up with a dream that has just the right mix for you – a great source of inspiration for the writer.

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I do not keep a notebook by my bed, but I’ve heard it suggested for writers so they can jot down dreams. Supposedly, most details will fade when you leave bed. I’ve found that the cool ones stay with you, but it does help to repeat certain things. My last NaNo story began as a dream. And I just had yet another cool dream that may end up as a future NaNo project.

Pay attention to your dreams, fellow writers. They may end up being important one day.

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Something Different

Over time, writers develop instincts about what they have written. They can tell you whether or not the story is going anywhere. Sometimes, they know as they write the scene that it’s wrong, but they aren’t sure how to fix it. Sometimes, they write a scene just for fun, and will take it out later. Every now and then, a writer starts a story that they know isn’t going to be anything more than research.

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If you have reached this point and you feel the scene, the story, or the whole concept is not worth your time, just keep writing. Trust your instincts and bring whatever it is to a close. Don’t judge it now. You might be writing something just to get the creative juices flowing. You might be exploring a concept that will be dealt with in a different story. You might have a better idea about how to do that scene later on. Don’t delete it unless you know for certain that it is not needed within your story.

I was convinced as I was penning my first story that it was a future bestseller. Of course, I was 18 at the time, and I’m sure that had something to do with it. As time went on and I revisited that first book, I was appalled by how much was wrong with it – both technically and plot-wise. It’s been quite a long time since I finished the story, and I’m still working out all the kinks. I was stumped on how I was going to publish it if it still wasn’t presentable to the public.

Then I started penning Jasmine’s story. It took a few chapters for me to realize that this was my first book, not the one I’d been fixing. I knew as I wrote it that there was something different about the book. It carried the same messages as my other stories, but there was something else as well, something that I still haven’t quite put my finger on. There was a depth in this plot that wasn’t present in my previous attempts. There were possibilities with the story, and a potential for sequels – something I didn’t know when I was writing it.

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Perhaps it was God urging me in the proper direction. Maybe it was my writer’s instinct. Perhaps it was both of those things. Regardless, Jasmine’s first story became my debut novel. I’m glad I listened to that little nudge to pursue this line of stories.

Don’t be afraid to listen to your writer’s instinct. Take the story where it wants to go. Trust that you will know how to get your character out of whatever pickle they find themselves in. As writers, we have excellent instincts about our stories. Trust that feeling as you write and polish. A lot of times, you find out that you were right.

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The Conundrum of Happily Ever After

Happily ever after – the classic fairy tale ending. While it’s not terribly realistic, we as a society crave them. It’s as if we all want reassurance that things can turn out fine.

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I’ve read many books over the years, and I’ve been disappointed more than once by the ending. When things don’t get better, I get upset. My mother still tells me about the book she read, waiting for it to get better. The main character died on the next to last page!

I’ve made a point in my stories to have happy endings. I let my characters sweat, but in the end, it’s worth it. There is a reason for the struggle. That’s what God does with our trials – they are there for an ultimate purpose.

Why am I talking about “happily ever after” endings today? Because I’ve reached a crossroads with the next chapter of my stories, and I feel like the answer may change my identity as a writer. I may be forced to cut the next book in half just due to the sheer volume of events and pages – well over 100 chapters. If I decide upon breaking up the story, I will be forced to end one book before things get better. Yes, cliffhangers are good. But my characters won’t be in very good places at the end. How can I be okay with that as an author, since I’m not okay with it as a reader?

Even if the next book is released within quick succession, part of me feels as if it is unfair to the reader to string them along and then end without a real resolution. I can offer hope of a happy ending at my current stopping point, but that’s about it.

Readers, authors – anyone – feel free to offer feedback. What do you think I should do?

**PS, searching for beta readers for my next book. If you’ve enjoyed the first few stories and can offer honest feedback, let me know if you’re interested! Send me an email! *points to right hand sidebar for email address.***

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The Day I Met Algebra

I work with children. Helping out with homework is part of the job description. I’m fine with most of it…until I hit math. Something about 4th and 5th grade math makes me uneasy. I’m constantly unsure of myself. We’re supposed to check behind the children and make sure the problems are done correctly.

It’s not the kids’ fault that I’m uneasy in math. It’s algebra’s fault.

Once upon a time, I was great in math. I was home schooled for the majority of my grade school years. I went to a private school for part of second and third grade, then returned to North Carolina and went back to our previous curriculum. We discovered that I was a grade ahead in math, since our curriculum took an entire grade to teach the times tables. This lasted me until I reached long division, and that slowed me back down to my actual grade. But I eventually understood the concept, and I was good with math.

Then I met algebra. 9th grade math began with introducing me to the letter X and its evil little cousins, Y and Z. Though the curriculum didn’t change, they just presented the information in a way that I DID NOT get. As we did with everything we did not understand, I turned to my teacher to help me through the difficult part – my dad. Daddy did his best. But he’s a guy, and did not really get how to teach me as a girl to understand what was not clicking. He tried. But it didn’t work. Over and over and over again, we went through the lessons. Over and over and over again, I tried my best. Over and over and over again, it did not click.

Had I been in public schools, I would have failed. The class would have moved ahead, grasping the general concepts and learning to do more complicated problems. Having missed a few of the most basic principles, I would have been hopelessly, utterly, lost.

But I was not in public schools. I was home schooled, and working on the ACE curriculum. Though I have issues with how they present certain things to their students, the way their lessons are set up are literally the only way that I ever learned how to do algebra. In the ACE world, any grade below an 80 is a failing grade. Any checkup (mini-test) or test that does not get this score means you have to take it over until you pass.

I was 16 before I learned that 80 was actually a decent grade. I did a lot of slacking off when I realized that.

But without that 80% threshold, I would have never understood algebra. I was forced to redo several checkups, but, thankfully, never had to retake an entire PACE again (a unit).

It did, eventually, click. I did learn to at least like algebra more than geometry. But I still don’t like algebra.

Sometimes you have to repeat things over and over until you get it. Don’t give up, since writing is constantly a struggle to get it right. The more you do with the concept, the closer you come to at least understanding it. Try not to develop a hatred over whatever it is you’re stumbling over. It will be there to greet you in the next story. Don’t let there be an algebra moment in your writing. Trust me, you’ll never forget it.

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A Tale of Two Kitties

So, our household now has two cats, Shadow and Mario. My husband had agreed that after we had been married a few months, we could get a cat. We ended up with sweet little Shadow.

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Two weeks into our journey as new kitty parents, we both woke up to a plaintive meow nearby. I was startled, thinking Shadow was caught somewhere and hurt. I relaxed when I realized Shadow was sound asleep on my shoulder. I was about to go back to sleep when my husband woke up, asking me about Shadow. With both of us wide awake, we quickly decided the meow was coming from outside. We got up and investigated. We soon found Mario, sitting underneath our bedroom window, frightened and starving.

Though we did search for his family, none of our neighbors claimed him. We believe he was abandoned, since we live beside a road. We eventually took him in, too. We called him Mercy until we found out he was a boy. We changed the name to Mario.

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Shadow is a sweet kitty who generally comes when you call, will sit on you and purr, and generally naps any place up high. When you call her, she will first go to the other human in the room, then on to you. To acknowledge both of us, I guess. She runs around the house with Mario, but gets bored before he does. When they were younger, they used to tackle each other. Shadow was bigger than Mario, and enjoyed the game tremendously. Then Mario grew bigger than her and could start pinning her. Shadow seemed to realize the folly of teaching him that game. Shadow is also fond of the kitchen counter, a place that she is expressly forbidden to climb. We’re still working on breaking her of that habit.

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Mario is full of boundless energy, and only sleeps when he is exhausted. He climbs into anything, and keeps trying to squeeze himself into the top of the closed closet door, because he wants to. Because he just doesn’t get it. Though Shadow likes to nap up high, Mario is the one who generally perches higher than her. He regularly jumps on top of our medicine cabinet and above our kitchen cabinets. Mario has also jumped behind the fridge twice (thankfully, he’s seemed to have outgrown that). He also wants to hop into our dresser drawers and has tried more than once to jump into the shower while it’s in use. Mario, as you can tell, isn’t always very bright.

Try to do anything productive in this house, and you will soon find yourself lovingly being joined by one or both of our kitties. It’s like they sense when we’re about to do something.

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Both cats are wonderful, and we enjoy having them in our house (most of the time). However, when you are intent on working, they can be annoying.

The cats reminded me today of the two sides of writing – boundless energy, infinite curiosity, with a penchant for winding up in places you don’t belong. Then there’s the quiet demure side that generally does what you’re supposed to, but stays longer in the places where you are not supposed to go.

Do you need both sides to writing? Absolutely! You can’t go on an adventure without energy, curiosity, and a bit of fearlessness. But you also need the quiet side of yourself to balance out the wild energy with no though of your destination. You need both kitties to make your writing work.

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Though Shadow hasn’t quite figured out I can’t work like this…

So, when you get annoyed with one side of your writing self, just take a break and hope that either the other side comes soon, or that your wild side will back down. And pray you don’t get stuck behind a fridge – those things are hard to move!

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Prayer at the Waterfall

I was recently asked to share some of my writing. As a result, I have decided to share one of my favorite chapters from No Greater Love.

At this point in the story, Jasmine is a captive of Marsden. Her clergyman husband, Trevor, is waiting back in Wynster for her return.

Trevor watched as seven-year-old Evelyn, six-year-old Teresa, five-year old Mary and four-year-old Simon, Elliot’s children, splashed in the river happily. Tabitha, Thomas, Heather, and Mattie, Vincent’s oldest children, played in the sand. Will, Jemma, Jared, and Jeran took turns running through the waterfall. John and Jessie soon joined them. Their laughter helped raise his spirits. Few things did these days.

Mindful of possible danger, King Caleb had sent soldiers to protect them on their trip to Peyton’s Tears. The circle of guards around the landmark would prevent against attack.

Mother Isabel sat on the boulder beside him. Her hair had grayed considerably since the invasion. “I am glad we came here. Thank you for suggesting it.”

Trevor nodded. “I have missed this place.” He stared at the rainbows that formed around the base of the waterfall as he watched the children frolic. “She said it is a symbol of hope.”

Forgive my impatience, Lord. I know they are trying. But my love is in chains.

Mother Isabel studied him. “You are a remarkable man, Trevor. My daughter has chosen well. I am sorry I did not see that at first.” She bowed her head. “I am sorry for a lot of things. There would have been no invasion if I had heeded my daughter’s objections to him last year.”

“You did not know this would happen, Mother.” Though Trevor was still adjusting to the notion of calling those in the Royal Family by their given names instead of their royal titles, he did feel comfortable calling Jasmine’s mother by the same name her children used.

“I knew that Marsden was a both a large, happy kingdom and a bloodthirsty nation. We have been at peace for many years because former Kings sent their daughters to Marsden whenever they proposed it.” She sighed. “One reason my husband decreed his daughters would choose was to prevent such a request.”

“I did not know that.

“My husband had three sisters. All were married before their fifteenth birthday. Two were sent to Marsden. One was sent further away.” She sighed. “All died before they reached the age of twenty.”

“I am sorry.”

“My husband grieved such things. His oldest sister went to Marsden. She died in childbirth. The son was stillborn. His third sister was sent to Marsden as well, since the second had married. She begged her father not to send her away. He did not listen. He feared invasion. So he ignored his daughter’s cries and married her off anyway. She died within a year. Of a broken heart, my husband believed.

“I knew we must be careful with Marsden. They had received two brides from us within recent memory and both had died without giving the King an heir. When they heard Elena had reached the proper age, they sent envoys to take her. I sent them my regrets, explaining my husband’s decree. By the time they objected to such a thing, she had married. The prince married soon after that. And I thought that was the end.

“I knew the moment that the prince stood on my doorstep as a widower to refuse him again was dangerous. I explained my husband’s decree again. I told him she was already seeing another suitor. I told him politely to go.

“He did not. He reminded me of the old treaties. He told me he wanted to win Jasmine’s hand. I asked for time to consider the request…and I made my daughter see him. To appease him. And no good has come of that decision.”

Another Bible story came to mind. He remembered Jesus’ words as he faced the mob that wanted to stone the adulteress woman. “Let he that is without sin cast the first stone.”   

Trevor knew Caleb blamed himself for signing the draft that Marsden claimed was the real treaty. But as time went on and the army drew closer, Trevor had become convinced no one was to blame. A man who would invade a country because he wanted a married woman wouldn’t have left anything to chance. He would have invaded regardless of what Wynster had done to appease him.

And now Trevor saw that Jasmine’s mother blamed herself, too.

“No one is perfect, Mother. You made a choice to appease the prince. You asked Jasmine not to send him away. Those things were not wrong.” The children kept laughing. More joined in as they ran through the waterfall. Trevor was grateful for the happy sounds to accompany such depressing topics. “You and King Caleb have done everything possible to stop him. I see that.”

She sighed. “My husband visited his third sister once before she died. He walked away convinced that no kingdom should run as Marsden does. But everyone lets them because we fear their wrath.

“Thank you for your words, Trevor. But I know I am guilty. I knew what my husband said of that place. He said the castle was no place – ” She stopped.

Trevor automatically finished the thought. The princes had been studying Marsden for weeks. He had heard things, too. “No place for women. I know. I studied some of their rituals. The bloody staff after victory. Feasts that honor pagan gods.

“My wife is in God’s hands, my lady.” At this point, he was reminding himself, too. “She has chosen to trust Him with her life. The Lord has seen what has happened here. He knows you were wronged. He knows you fight for the right reasons. And one day, I believe He will honor that commitment with victory.”

Jemma approached, bearing a smooth white stone that seemed to sparkle in the sunlight. “Look, Grandma! It’s so pretty! Can I keep it?”

“Of course, dear one.”

“Will you hold it for me?”

“Yes, I will.”

Jemma gave Trevor a quick hug. “Thanks, Uncle Trevor. I like your waterfall.”

“I’m glad you like it, Jemma. And it’s not just my waterfall, you know. It’s yours, too. You’re a princess now.”

“Do all princesses get a waterfall?” Jemma wondered.

He smiled. “Just the special ones.”

As she ran off to play, he recalled Jasmine’s words on the day after their wedding. “I have had many happy memories in this place. Most of them are with you. I remembered this place…when I needed to forget other things.”   

God, when will you honor this family? They have been wronged. Their kingdom is nearly ruined. Why haven’t You stepped up to defend them when they cannot defend themselves?   

Their trust is in what they can see and control. I have let their forces fall so they will know that I am the Lord.

As Trevor was absorbing the Lord’s response, one of the castle servants drew everyone’s attention with a few simple words. “Lunch time!”

The kids ran for the blanket where the food was set out.

Trevor and Mother Isabel took a seat nearby. The children happily munched and chattered. To them, the war was just a bad memory.

Jeran looked at Trevor. “We met you here last year. We came with Mama and Aunt Jasmine to the waterfall. You told us about Noah and the Ark.”

He nodded. “That’s right.”

Jared piped up. “Aunt Jasmine liked being here. She showed me it was safe to run through the waterfall.” He looked down at his sandwich. “I miss her.”

“I do too, Jared.” Trevor answered.

“Why did Aunt Jasmine leave?” Jemma asked. “Daddy said it was to make the bad men go away. But why did they listen when she told them to leave? They didn’t even listen to Daddy. And he’s the King now.”

She left to save your lives. Before you were murdered for being a child of the King. He chose a safer place to start. “Do you remember before Aunt Jasmine married me? There were lots of men that came to see her. They all wanted to marry her. But she didn’t like any of them.”

Will grinned. “I remember. Dad told Mom she was just being stubborn.”

Trevor smiled as well. “That might have been part of it. Anyway, that man from Marsden came. He was Marsden’s prince, and he wanted to marry Aunt Jasmine. But she told him no.

“That prince became the King of Marsden, and he told us again a while ago that he wanted to marry Aunt Jasmine. But she was already married to me.

“When those soldiers surrounded the castle…those bad men hurt a lot of people. So your Aunt Jasmine decided to talk to the Marsden King. He told us before they invaded…he wanted Aunt Jasmine to live in his castle.

“Jemma, your aunt left because she loved you. And she loved the people of Wynster. And she knew the Marsden King still wanted her to live with him. So she agreed to live in the Marsden castle…to save us…from the bad men.”

“Wasn’t she scared?” Jemma wondered. “Those men are scary.

“Your Aunt Jasmine is one of the bravest people I know. She was scared, but she was trusting God to take care of her.”

“Braver than Daddy?” Jeran interjected.

“Bravery comes in different forms, Jeran. And your father is brave in many ways.”

“Is she coming back, Uncle Trevor?” Mary asked. “I want to thank her for sending the bad men away. I can sleep in my own room now.”

“I…I don’t know, Mary. I hope so.”

Jeran stared at Trevor for a long time before voicing his question. “Uncle Trevor?”

“Yes?”

“Is the bad King…going to hurt Aunt Jasmine? Because he’s mad at her for saying no?”

I am certain he already has. “I…don’t know, Jeran. But I do know that she loves you all very much.”

Teresa cocked her head and looked at Trevor. “If Aunt Jasmine has to live in a new castle, why didn’t you go with her, Uncle Trevor?”

Lord, I thank You for their innocence. “The Marsden King wouldn’t let me.”

“Can we go to visit her sometime, Grandma Isabel?” Mary asked.

Jasmine’s mother bowed her head and wiped away her tears. “No, children. We cannot. The Marsden King…will not let any of us see her again.”

“That’s not fair!” Jared answered.

“No, it is not.” Mother Isabel hugged Mary, her closest grandchild. “But your daddies are trying…to change things, children. So they can bring your aunt back home for good.”

Done with his meal, Trevor stared at the river bank. He remembered a position of prayer that he had adopted here while Jasmine was in the dungeons. The Lord spoke to his heart. Show them you are trusting in Me.   

Trevor was hesitant, but stood anyway. The others hadn’t left their places around the blanket, and all watched him, curious. Trevor approached the base of the waterfall and knelt, placing one hand in the flowing water as it rushed down.

“Whatcha doing, Uncle Trevor?” Little Jared had followed him.

“I am praying for Aunt Jasmine to come home. I used to do this before we married.”

Evelyn joined her cousin. “Why is your hand in the water like that?”

“It helps me to remember I am not always in control. I do not make this river run…but I trust the God who does.”

“Can we pray with you, Uncle Trevor?” Evelyn asked. “I want Aunt Jasmine to come home now.”

“Of course.”

Jemma scrambled to join them at the bank when she saw the other two kneeling on the rocks, behind Trevor. “Can I do it, too?”

“Sure.”

Before Trevor realized what was happening, the entire group of royal children knelt on the rocks by the waterfall, hands thrust in the flowing water. They closed their eyes and smiled. Trevor started to pray aloud when he heard a noise. He opened his eyes, curious. Mother Isabel had joined her grandchildren at the water, kneeling in prayer for Jasmine.

No Greater Love is available in print and as an ebook. Thanks for reading!

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