Shadows and Sunshine cover

Cover Reveal – Shadows and Sunshine: SFWP Volume 6

Shadows and Sunshine coverI’m excited to announce my next novella will be released early in July. Here’s a sneak preview:

 

Heather and her crew are determined to pull off the wedding of the year for their high profile client. The stakes have never been higher—this single event could make or break the business. The venue is set, decorations are ordered, and the menu is one-of-a kind. Two days before the event, one thing after another goes wrong. Mario knew he should have made back-up plans, but he didn’t. Bryan thought his past was behind him, but it reappears at the worst possible moment. Heather is forced to deal with personal issues while responding to the challenges of running a business. Does the wedding planner team have the resources and creativity to bounce back and pull off the perfect event?

This is the last volume in Series I. The other five volumes are currently available on Amazon.

Stay tuned for the official release!


Guest Post – Jen Cudmore with Tips for Balancing Rhythm and Pace

Jen CudmoreToday I’m privileged to host Jen Cudmore, one of my fellow authors for the San Francisco Wedding Planner Series. Here’s what she has to say about rhythm and pace in writing:

How does a writer keep a crime novel exciting and full of suspense? How are sweet stories told in a way that inspires the reader?

It’s not just the words the author chooses; it’s the positioning of each one in a place that best portrays the attitude of that particular scene.

When it comes to writing a novel, rhythm and pace are a big factor in creating a compelling story. Rhythm and pace are controlled by the length of each word, sentence, paragraph, and chapter. There are a few techniques which help the story move faster or slower, depending on your intent.

Here’s a simple formula to follow:

Short sentences, paragraphs and chapters = faster pace.

If you’re writing a scene with a lot of action or energy, use shorter sentences and paragraphs. When your character is being chased by the bad guy, you want the reader to feel the sense of urgency. One or two word sentences raise intensity, as does a paragraph with only one or two sentences. But be careful; too much can annoy the reader. I once read a book by a famous author with multiple one sentence paragraphs on each page, and it made the story harder to read.

Long sentences, paragraphs, and chapters = slower pace.

Readers sometimes find long paragraphs and chapters daunting. Long blocks of wording give a feeling that extra effort is required to read that particular section. However, there are times when the author needs to insert these fuller sections to calm the pace of the story after a high energy section.

The trick is balance.

Too much action and the reader will become exhausted. Not enough action and the reader will get bored. Keep it varied. You don’t want the reader to pause because they got lost, or to skip a section because it was too tedious. Each sentence, paragraph, and chapter must flow smoothly into the next.

You don’t want every page to look the same. On my first manuscript I worked hard to keep the chapters all the same length. Then I realized it was not only okay to vary the length, it’s actually beneficial. So give your manuscript a quick skim and see how you did at varying your structure.

Jen’s Bio: I grew up on the Columbia River Gorge in a tiny cabin built by my father. My family attended a little Baptist church where my mother played piano and my father led the music program. I left the Gorge area to attend Northwest University, where I graduated with the first group of students to earn a Bachelor’s of Psychology. Newly married with a baby on the way, I decided to put off graduate school to devote my time to learning how to be a better wife and mother. After my husband received a job offer, we relocated to Alaska, where we currently reside with our two children (as well as two boxers and two cats).

During the day I work for a large orthopedic clinic. I serve in both the AWANA program and bus ministry at my church. I’m a member of the Christian Writers Guild as well as the local Alaska Writers Guild, where I’m currently serving a fifth year on the conference committee.

Willow Ridge-website-summary


Expectations and Cecile’s Christmas Miracle

Book Cover for Cecile's Christmas Miracle by Kathi MaciasWe all have expectations, whether we realize it or not. Here in North America we expect, even demand, comfort, food and water whenever we want them, freedom to choose where we go and what we do, money to spend on our whims, and the list goes on. In many other countries, people do not have the same expectations. In fact, in some countries people expect to die, expect to do what others tell them to do, and expect very little in the way of human comforts.

With access to information on the internet, we understand more about what life is like in other countries. We hear about airplanes going missing and not being found. We advocate for girls kidnapped from school in places like Nigeria. However, the adage that we don’t really understand someone until we’ve walked a mile in their shoes, is still true.

My main character, Cecile, from my novella, Cecile’s Christmas Miracle, has expectations too. She, like many of us, doesn’t realize what some of her expectations are until they aren’t met. She knows she volunteered to serve people in a third world country, but she doesn’t expect the ignorance of basic hygiene. She knows she’ll be away from her parents and other family members, but she doesn’t expect the overwhelming feelings of loneliness, especially when she’s surrounded by many people. She knows the culture and language will be different, but she doesn’t grasp how different it will be spending her first Christmas in the heat and dust of the Kalahari Desert. One of the reasons I wrote this story was to show people in North America how different life is overseas and to remind all of us to think of others while we are celebrating Christmas with our lavish feasts and expensive gifts.

Paperback cover for Kathi Macias' 12 Days of Christmas which includes Cecile's Christmas Miracle by Ruth L. Snyder

Cecile’s Christmas Miracle has been available in e-book format since early December 2013. (You can purchase the e-book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.) This month my novella is being released in paperback, along with 11 other Christmas stories in the Kathi Macias 12 Days of Christmas. (You may purchase your copy on Amazon or by contacting me at sun dot beam3 at Yahoo dot com.)

To celebrate the release, several of us who have stories in the 12 Days of Christmas collection are participating in a blog tour. At the end of the tour there will be a draw for some free copies of the paperback collection. I’ll be posting details of the tour and the draw later this week. Stay tuned!


Coming Soon: Kathi Macias’ 12 Days of Christmas in paperback!

Paperback cover for Kathi Macias' 12 Days of Christmas which includes Cecile's Christmas Miracle by Ruth L. SnyderOfficial release date: Thursday, May 29th

Includes: Cecile’s Christmas Miracle by Ruth L. Snyder

Individual Christmas stories that cover a 12-day period – to be celebrated all year long! That’s the heart of this unique Christmas collection, compiled by best-selling author Kathi Macias and including historical, contemporary, romantic, mysterious, and even Amish tales that will warm your heart, whether sipping hot cocoa while sitting in front of the fireplace in winter or under the shade tree in the summer, nursing a frosty glass of iced tea or lemonade. Beginning with a scene set 12 days before Christmas, these stories move readers, one day at a time, toward that spiritual hush of Christmas Eve, where anything is possible. Authors from various geographical locations and walks of life have spun tales that will enchant readers, even as they are drawn closer to the greatest Gift ever given. And each story, though vastly different from the others, makes the same offer: will you make room in your heart for the Christ-child as He shows up in  your life and beckons you to join Him?

Available from Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble or your favorite retail outlet. You make also purchase copies from me. (Send an e-mail to sun dot beam3 at yahoo dot com).

NOTE: This book is available for Kindle and Nook as well.

 


Plot: What makes readers turn the page?

Flower Pens
Centerpiece at His Imprint Conference created by Jenna’s steapin’ Party

This past weekend I had the opportunity to be involved in the His Imprint Conference in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. One of the sessions I attended was about plot. Tammy Wiens did a great job of helping us think about what makes readers turn the page. Here are some of the thoughts that were shared:

  1. Conflict – There has to be conflict, or there’s no story. Conflict hooks the reader; they want to know how the conflict is resolved. Tammy reminded us that over 300,000 books were released last year. She challenged us to know our competition, be better, stand out, and be unique from the very first word.
  2. Characters – Your characters dictate your plot. Stories need well-developed characters, so make sure you do a thorough character sketch before you start. Tammy shared about a “scary guy” who lived in the town she grew up in. He was the person all the kids told each other to stay away from, but at the same time dared each other to knock on his door. One day Tammy’s mother took her to meet the “scary guy” and she discovered that he was a talented gardener who had grafted different fruit trees together. She challenged us to make sure our characters are well-rounded.
  3. Dialogue – Use dialogue tags to break up the monotony of “he said, she said”. For instance: “Stop!” Jack reached across the table. Remember that every speaker requires a new paragraph. Be careful to keep your point of view consistent and make sure the dialogue matches the character.
  4. Setting – Starting a novel with a long setting description is a waste of everyone’s time. Setting should be woven into the story.
  5. Ebb and Flow – Having ebb and flow in your plot is what makes your story keep moving. There will be “rapids” in the stream as well as quiet, gently flowing water. Our plots should be the same way. The reader needs to rest every once in a while, so balance tension with release.
  6. Editing – Tammy encouraged us to find someone from a different walk of life than ourselves to edit our books. She shared an example of her story which appears in A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider. Tammy used the words “grid road”, which are well understood in Saskatchewan. However, the editor was from Ontario and had no idea what that meant. A whole paragraph describing the gravel grid roads was added to help readers who weren’t from Saskatchewan understand what Tammy was talking about.

Are there other points about plot that you’ve found helpful? Please share in the comments below.


What does it mean to be a Christian writer?

Yellow Question mark and red exclamation mark

During a recent interview I was asked: “Comment on what it means to be a ‘Christian writer’”

How would you answer this question?

Here’s my response:
A Christian writer is a person who communicates from a worldview centred on God as He is presented in the Bible. The key components of being a Christian writer, from my perspective, are excellence, integrity, and compassion.

  • No matter what topic or genre I write about, my writing should be of the highest quality. I should do my best to ensure my writing is accurate, well-researched, and free of errors (grammar and spelling).
  • As a Christian writer, my personal life should reflect what I communicate in print. I should consistently spend time reading the Bible, asking the Holy Spirit to highlight areas in my life that are not pleasing to God. Yes, I’m human and I will fail. However, I need to confess my sins, ask for forgiveness and continue to grow in my walk with God.
  • Christian writers should also “speak the truth in love.” Jesus said that people would know we are His disciples by our love.

Here are the principles I currently use as I write:

  1. Christians are the body of Christ. We each have unique gifts, functions, and callings (I Corinthians 12).  I need to know what God has called me to and be faithful to that calling.
  2. My goal should always be to write with excellence (using correct grammar, captivating descriptions, etc.) for God’s glory (Colossians 3:23). I am called to be God’s representative in how I live and write (2 Corinthians 5:19-21).
  3. I must give an answer to God for all that I do and say, including what I write (Matthew 12:35-37; Colossians 3:23). I need to be obedient to God. It is not my responsibility to judge others (Matthew 7:1).

Christian writers are called to write for varied audiences in diverse genres. We live in a broken world and are involved in a spiritual battle which is mostly unseen, but very real. Some stories may simply be for enjoyment, but we may also be asked to write about difficult, messy subjects like child abuse, demon possession, corrupt leaders, and the sex trade. No matter what we write, our aim should always be to bring honour and glory to God.

It has come to my attention that some writers who are Christians do not associate themselves with the term “Christian writer”. There are several reasons for this.

  • Some writers (who are Christians) write stories or articles that are only printed in the mainstream. Some say that these written works would not be accepted in the mainstream if people knew the authors were Christians.
  • The question has been raised: Do you call yourself a Christian mechanic or Christian plumber or Christian librarian? If we don’t tag the word Christian onto other vocational choices, why do we tag it onto our writing?
  • Some writers (who are Christians) have faced severe criticism from other Christians because of the topics or genre they choose. These writers find it less divisive to just call themselves writers.

Did I miss anything? I look forward to your comments!


My Current Works in Progress

Blog Hop for Writers

This is the sixth and final week in the blog hop I’m hosting for writers. Our topic this week is current work(s) in progress. If you’d like to share your current WIP with us, write a post and then come back and link in by clicking on the graphic above. If you’re a reader, click on the graphic and check out what authors are working on. We hope you’ll follow our blogs so that when our books are published, you’ll be among the first to know 🙂

My last post was about the San Francisco Wedding Planner Series I’m working on along with five other authors. You can find more information here: San Francisco Wedding Planner.

In this blog hop, I’ve written about Anna, (Olga’s mother) one of my favorite characters from Olga’s Discovery, which is a full-length historical fiction novel I’m in the middle of writing.  Here’s the synopsis:

Twenty-two-year-old Olga Tymchuk, a newly graduated teacher, eagerly anticipates marrying her fiancee, Viktor, in July 1959. However, before they marry, Olga is committed to teaching for a year in Glendale, Alberta as a requirement for the bursary she received in university. Viktor and Olga are separated when Viktor accepts a challenging job as a scientific researcher for the National Research Council in Ontario.

Olga is enjoying a challenging first year of teaching when Viktor is injured in a chemical accident. He seems to be recovering well, but then Olga receives a telegram that will change her life forever. Olga is drawn into a search for the truth, which forces her to deal with uncooperative hospital officials, death threats, and a sudden disappearance.

I’m also putting together a Twitter manual for writers. There are many different ways to share information now and I’m researching several options to share this information and make it practical.

Cover for Cecile's Christmas MiracleMy other project will be a fiction series about Cecile and Colin, characters from my novella, Cecile’s Christmas Miracle. Cecile has decided spending Christmas in the desert doesn’t have to be depressing and Colin is on his way to join Cecile. However, they haven’t seen each other for over a year. Will the attraction between them endure? There is also the threat of the clinic being closed, and the village being resettled. What part should expatriates play in solving political issues?

If you have questions about any of my works in progress, please ask me in the comments below. Thanks 🙂


Update on the San Francisco Wedding Planner Series

Cover for Wedding Planner Series

The San Francisco Wedding Planner series, a light romance published by Helping Hands Press, is one of my current works in progress. There are six of us participating in this project. Volume one introduced the series with each of the participating authors writing one of the chapters in the volume. Can you guess which chapter I wrote?

The San Francisco Wedding Planner cover for volume two: A Change in TimeJen Cudmore wrote volume two: A Change in Time. When Heather goes out on her first date with orthopedic surgeon Bryan Tate, her hopes of a nice evening are quickly dashed. Raul’s makeover is a little over-the-top, her flashy mother’s jealousy makes Bryan uncomfortable, Mario’s flirtatious interference only adds pressure, and Skye’s family problems require extra help. With Bryan recovering from a broken engagement and Heather’s busy work schedule, she’s certain there just isn’t a chance for romance between them. But life is always changing. Do they have enough in common to at least be friends?

Wedding Planner 3This week Patti J. Smith released volume three: An Affair to Remember. Donovan’s Wedding Service takes on the impossible. Failure to meet the outlandish demands could result in dire consequences. Drama is the name of the game as Heather faces her biggest challenge while her relationship with Bryan reaches new heights and a close friendship verges on collapse.

I am working on a prequel to the series which will tell the back story of Heather Donovan. (Other authors will be writing about other characters.) I will also be writing volume 7 of the series.

You can purchase your copy of volume 1 from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Volumes 2 and 3 are currently available on Amazon.