A Violent Pen

By Laura J. Marshall

The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force.

A violent heaven.

I feel the target as it hangs at my back and see the arrows as they take aim.

Does it matter?  Why persist?  Why resist?

Do I fear the enemy over the Lord?

The words linger and fight their way onto the page.

A violent pen.

I run to my Father and take His hand.

I tuck-in, trusting in His gaze as it sweeps over me and loosens the target.

It flutters to the ground, just paper on the breeze.

I run and grasp it, fodder for God’s purposes.

And equip myself for battle.

Faith, my shield.

Truth, my buckle.

The Word of God, my sword.

A violent heaven.

A violent pen.

laura Laura J. Marshall is a writer and mother of five boys.  Her first nonfiction book is called A Mom’s Battle Cry for Rest: Battle Cry Devotional Series.  You can find out more about Laura and her books at www.LauraJMarshall.com

laura's book

Her book on Amazon:  http://amzn.com/B00BI2HMDM

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Me and Timothy Cooper

By Suzanne D. Williams

I submerged myself into the life of a historical fiction family for an entire year. I wrote four of a six book series, expanding the tale of the father, the mother, their friends, and one of their children. After writing the last book, a story with a particularly difficult moral storyline, I was burnt.

I write every day. Every single day, rain or shine. So I wasn’t burnt from writing. My exhaustion came from carrying around inside a subject so deep and tough to deal with that frankly, I needed something lighter, something that reminded me of the fun, happy side of life. I also needed something contemporary.

 I love writing historical fiction. I can see a historic object and it sets my mind to thinking about who handled it, what they were doing at the time, and where they might have been going. But it has its challenges, the biggest of which is not putting modern objects into a historic scene. Well, after a year of doing that, the very idea of including cell phones, computers, and cars was liberating.

 Therefore, I decided to write a contemporary young adult story and began with the simple concept of a girl with a crush on a boy. I didn’t plan it out more than that. I am primarily a pantser, taking the story as it comes to me. I only plot the next chapter or next couple scenes, so as I wrote this story – Me & Timothy  Cooper – I didn’t really know what would happen at the end.

 That, in so many ways, makes the end very rewarding. Because when I got there to the pivotal scene, it all fit in place. There is no reason for that except God guided my words. When I decided what assignment their English teacher, Mrs. Walker, would give them in Chapter 1, I had no idea how it would affect the main storyline or the life of Timothy Cooper come Chapter 12.

 In short, I love this story. I am proud of all of my work. But this story in particular speaks to the deepest part of me. It is how I love to write; it is what I love to write about, and it came together literally within a week’s time.

 My best friend-author, after reading it, told me, “I love this book!” She also said, “Okay let me stop here and say I think Tim should be about 40-something and married to me.” Those are to me some pretty great endorsements. They are also evidence that young adult stories are not just for young adults. There is something about the innocence of teenagers just figuring themselves out that appeals to all ages.

 Pick yourself up a copy and spread the link around to your friends and their children. And look for more of my young adult short stories in the future.

 Read an excerpt on my blog:  http://suzanne-williams-photography.blogspot.com/2013/01/story-saturdays-me-timothy-cooper.html

 99cents from now until Valentine’s Day!

 Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Me-Timothy-Cooper-ebook/dp/B00AYYJGXO/

Smashwords Link: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/272950

  Seventeen-year-old Taylor Lawton has a crush on Timothy Cooper, a boy at her school, and as crushes go, things are normal. He ignores her. She doesn’t speak to him. Until their English teacher, Mrs. Walker puts them on a project together. A turn of fate then throws them both for a loop. For an entire week, they will stay beneath the same roof. Will this be too much togetherness? What will Taylor do with Timothy’s painful secret?

 

A light novella with a touching storyline, this tale is enjoyable for both young adults and grown-ups alike.

Suzanne-900Suzanne D. Williams is a native Floridian, wife, mother, photographer, and writer. She is author of both nonfiction and fiction books. She writes a monthly column for Steves-Digicams.com on the subject of digital photography, as well as devotionals and instructional articles for various blogs. She also does graphic design for self-publishing authors.

To learn more about what she’s doing visit http://suzanne-williams-photography.blogspot.com/ or link with her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/suzannedwilliamsauthor.

 

 

 

 

The Write Faith

At the end of November I was face to face with a big question. Do I have enough faith to spend my time writing books that logic says won’t sell? As you may come face to face with this same question in your life as a writer, I thought I’d share my story with you.

Can I be totally frank with you?

I don’t write literary fiction. My books aren’t deep, there isn’t a lot of internal monologue, and…here’s the part I hesitate to mention…they tend to average about 3rd-4th grade reading level. For comparison, the NIV Bible is translated into 6th grade English.

My books are full of fun action and snappy dialogue. And they have an ease of read factor that some readers really like.

Nonetheless, many grown up readers find them juvenile, and my reviews at Amazon reflect that. My writing income has been tracking upward since I began in this business a couple of years ago, so I figured my work ain’t perfect, but it’s workin’.

However, several friends have asked if I would consider writing middle grade books, as it seemed like it would suit my natural style.

My two middle grade reading daughters asked me if I would please write kids books for them..

And this spring, I ended up at the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators conference for a day. It felt like the mothership had called me home….And yet I went home and plotted another murder mystery.

You see, I just didn’t want to write “chapter books.”

So far, “chapter books” just don’t sell well at Amazon, and Amazon sales have always been my bread and butter. Why would I step away from something successful to enter into something that looks, for all purposes, like it could only fail?

Put another way: Did I have enough faith to invest my talents, or was I going to keep them buried under the convenient midlist mysteries I have been writing?

At my November critique group our fearless leader said, “Listen, you just need to write to your strengths. Don’t try to do what doesn’t come naturally.” I left that meeting still torn. Was it fair to my family for me to spend my time writing books that might not sell? I posed the question to a publisher friend of mind. I didn’t mention the issue being about children’s books though; I just voiced my concerns over struggling with my writing style in general. She said the same thing. Don’t torture your style to make it match the wrong genre.

They were both right, these mentors of mine. But what if I failed?

And then, I went to a toy store.

It’s a fabulous local place that keeps Girl Scout uniforms in stock. I had to go two days in a row, one to get the vest I needed, and the next to get the stuff to go on the vest. That second day the store owner remembered me. We got to chatting and my books came up. The store owner took one of my cards and asked if my books could be ordered from Ingrams. (The wholesale distributor.)

Do you see what just happened there? A local toy store that stocks books for kids asked if I had anything they could order. And I didn’t but someday I could!

God didn’t hit me over the head with a log and tell me to write children’s books. But I think after the week I’ve had it would be almost disobedient not to try!

Despite middle grade novels being new territory for me, despite them also being new territory for e-readers, I am finally ready to take the plunge. I will step out in faith—with TONS of prayer—into uncharted waters.

And you should too.

I don’t mean that you should write kids books. But you should listen carefully at your critique groups. How do your peers define your strengths? When you write, what part of your book gives you the most satisfaction? In your non-writing life, what gets your heart pumping? Is there a place where these all intersect? Is there an uncharted territory God could be using you in, if you only had the faith to step out?

Obviously, I don’t have a contract in hand right now, or any other BIG sign to close this post with. I just have the faith to try. And that, at least from this side of the monitor, seems like a very big thing, to me.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, I recently finished the first of a three book mystery series that I plan to complete. Funnily enough, when I read the completed story I thought it sounded an awful lot like a Young Adult novel.)

Traci Tyne Hilton is an award winning playwright from Portland, Oregon, the author of the Mitzy Neuhaus Mystery Series, and one of the authors in the The Tangle Saga series of science fiction novellas.

Traci earned a degree in History from PortlandStateUniversity and still lives in the rainiest part of the Pacific Northwest with her husband the mandolin playing funeral director, their two daughters, and their dog, Dr. Watson.

More of Traci’s work can be found at http://www.tracihilton.com

On Writing the Angsty Teenager

For writers, it’s much more difficult to write (well, at least) something he or she knows very little to nothing about than it is to write something he or she knows very well. If, say, a writer has never owned a cat, the collection of original humorous stories he writes about the funny things cats do will probably fall flat with avid cat lovers. The only way to make it work would be go out and do the leg work to actually get real-life anecdotes from those crazy cat people.

Writing believable characters is essential to telling a good story. Even if your character is a two-headed pig-frog hybrid creature from the planet Ultron, it still needs to be believable in the context and environment it lives in. We’ve all had those moments watching a television show when we said to ourselves, “That newborn baby is NOT a newborn baby!” or “Who are they kidding!? Those are NOT teenagers!”

When you throw teenage characters into the mix things become even more complicated. Anyone who has spent any time with teens–either their own or someone else’s–knows that attitudes, even personalities, seem to change on a daily basis. And that is exactly what is happening, too. The teen years, according to psychologists, is a time when humans subconsciously “try on” different personalities to see the types of reactions they’ll receive. Of course, very few teens themselves know this is happening. All they know is that they are different people at home, school, with friends, and with other adults. This makes writing a truly believable teen difficult, but there are ways to help you get the best teen character.

Of course, if you are a teen (or just out of your teenage years), write what you know; write your teen characters as you think/thought and feel/felt. This is the easiest way to write believable teens.

If, however, you’re like most of humanity, you are not a teenager. While that’s a fairly high hurdle to overcome, there are still ways to get around your adult-type thinking. Simply going to where youth hang out and listening in on conversations will not get you the point of view you’re seeking, especially if you’re writing form a first person or omniscient point of view and want to include realistic inner dialogue. Even with their friends, few teens open up and share their innermost thoughts. Simply going to where there are a lot of teenagers and listening in will not give you the inner dialogue you want.

The best way to write a teenage character–even if it may take months to even years–is to get to know a teenager enough that he or she trusts you enough to let you in and really talk to you. Because of the teen’s inner struggle, opening up and showing “the real me” is difficult for them. They will not easily trust someone if they suspect that trust will be violated. To show yourself worthy of their trust, you must get to know them. You need to be willing to listen to the inane prattle and the surfacey fluff and not pass judgment before they will open up and show you how they really think (within reason, of course–you shouldn’t, by your lack of judgment, be seen as encouraging dangerous, destructive, or illegal behavior).

By R.M Strong

Volunteering in a youth program is one of the best ways you can accomplish this. If you are religious, ask your house of worship’s youth director if they need help (as one myself, I can tell you with absolute certainty: they will always need someone to help, especially with middle schoolers). If you are non-religious, there are still plenty of places to go to begin relationships with youth. You could be a Big Brother or Big Sister. Police departments in cities usually have teen outreach programs. Volunteer at a school or the YMCA. If you already have a book published, ask school librarians if they would like you to come in and do a reading. Build relationships with the kids. Take them (with parental permission of course) out to a game, or for a coffee, or just out with you running errands. Any time spent with them one-on-one or one-on-two will be good for not only you, but for them as well.

Speaking from personal experience, once the relationship is built, you will be able to pick their brains, and they can even help you with your story. Young Adult Fiction authors have some of the best resources (and story editors) available in the angsty teenager. Few, however, take the time to mine this resource, and many times, characters simply come out sounding like adults.

To get to know the quirkiness of R. M. (Rikki) Strong, one only has to look to her namesake: The “Rikki” of 1972’s Steely Dan’s Song: “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.” Now a Pastor’s Kid four times over, she hasn’t forgotten the fun-loving nature her parents, and the rest of her family and in-laws, instilled in her. After 13 years of public school and 3 years of Bible College, she was ready to take the world by storm… Um, yeah, sure… we’ll go with that.

Her favorite genre to write is Young Adult, partially because she absolutely refuses to admit she’s “getting on in years” and partially because, ever since graduating high school, she has been mentoring middle and high school students through various churches. There is always some story (or series) in the works, and she’s always looking to branch out into new things.

She lives in Idaho with her husband, son, dog, cats, hamster, fish, and chickens

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