Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Faith: Why It Is the Thrust to My Writing

This was originally published on Homeschool Authors.

Faith.

    You see the word everywhere. A Christmas card. A wall d├ęcor at Hobby Lobby, proudly proclaiming the lovefaith, and hope. Faith is practically tantamount to believe – just another word that symbolizes sappy cheer and warmth.

    Unless you specify what faith you are talking about. What your faith is. And who it is in.

    You see, faith is nothing…unless it is in the Lord Jesus Christ.

    When you have faith in Him and His sacrifice for us on the cross, it makes everything different. Life is different. It’s about loving and serving Him, about telling others the good news of His grace. When you get a hold of how good God is and how wonderful His love is, it really gets you excited. It gives you purpose. It gives you meaning to life.
   
That is what I want my writing to portray: Real, hard, honest-to-goodness, day-to-day faith.

    I think it would be impossible for me to go a single day without talking to God. The words to the hymn I Need Thee Every Hour are very true for me. I need to constantly talk to the Lord and to hear Him speak to me. He is my best friend…and He should be every Christian’s best friend.

    So why do so many Christian novels make faith in the Lord Jesus an add-on, a quick supplement to the story? Is it for the sake of making the novel fit under the category of “Christian”? Is it because that is how many Christians really live their lives, as part-time Jesus-followers? I really don’t know.

    All I know is that I can’t be a part-time Christian when my Jesus isn’t a part-time Savior. I can’t push Him aside in my writing (though the masses cry for less and less Jesus in Christian books.) I want Him to be there, to be the heart of my books. He’s my life. 

    And He has to be the life of my writing.

    Granted, that hasn’t always been true. God is teaching and bringing me along as I go. I’m still learning, still finding that balance of creating an exciting Christian story without being preachy. But, you want to know to know what changed me in the first place? It was coming to the understanding that Satan isn’t against good morals. He is against Jesus Christ. That is what changed my heart.

    I’ve resolved to have no more good morals without recognizing the One who gave them to us in the first place. No more faith without specifying Who it is in. Why? Because there is power in the name of Jesus. We need that power in our books, especially ones that are categorized as Christian.

    So, for those who ask me why it is that faith is such a thrust to my titles, it’s because we all need that faith. We need that power. God gave me the stories I have written and He gave me the ability to write in the first place. The least I can do is make sure I don’t betray that by leaving Him out of my work.

    Join me?

Alicia A. Willis is a home-school graduate, published author, and avid historian. She is a firm believer in the principle that one can accomplish anything by substantial amounts of prayer and coffee. Visit her at her blog or Facebook to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Do You Know What Your Characters Look Like?

Do you picture your characters and settings when you write?

It may sound like a silly question, but I’m honestly curious. When I write, I don’t spend much time painting settings and describing characters. I try to include as much visual imagery as is necessary, but not much more than that.

You see, when I write, I hear my characters. I know what they sound like, how their voices modulate, whether anger makes their speech speed up or drawl, etc. But I often don’t know what my characters look like. Sometimes I focus on one physical feature (for example, the soldier called “Bristle Hair” in Secret of the Lost Settlement), and I have a sense of weight, height, etc., but not a crystal-clear picture.

Perhaps that’s because I can’t draw. Seriously, I can’t even draw good stick figures.

Is there anyone else who doesn’t spend much time actually looking at their characters in their minds’ eye? And if you do know what your characters look like, do you keep it inside or do you sketch them?

John J. Horn is a Christian author from San Antonio, Texas. Learn more about John and his Men of Grit series and sign up for his newsletter at johnjhornbooks.com.

Monday, August 18, 2014

What about Accents?


Hello and Happy Monday to you! My family and I have just spent ten days camping in the New Forest and tomorrow we are flitting off to southern France, so my post today will be somewhat shorter than usual.

For such a small set of isles, the United Kingdom amazes me in its huge array of native accents. (I'm sure this is true for the U.S. and other parts of the world too.) Irish, Scottish, and Welsh are just the tip of the iceberg when you consider the variation within England itself. From Manchester to Cornwall, “English” speech differs a lot.
Now, accents are very fun to imitate—but another matter to write out in a story. If you're like Dorothy Sayers and can whip out Glaswegian and Cockney with ease, your story could sparkle with amusing detail. But if your attempts aren't accurate or stuck in the 1920s, they'll only disappoint a reader (cringe). For example, even if your Scots brogue is great, I doubt that, “Och, aye, bonny lass,” is common parlance anymore.





So what do you do about characters with accents? Do you describe nuances of speech, or do you write them out phonetically? What do you prefer reading?

...And would you buy the accent mouth-spray if it worked? :)

  
Caitlin R. Hedgcock is a Christian author who aspires to use storytelling for God’s glory. She lives with her family in England's picturesque county of Hertfordshire. Visit her blog or Facebook page to find out more.


*Images from Google and River Island

Friday, August 15, 2014

How Do You Stay Organized?

I pity the woman or man who is tasked with piecing together my plans for whatever writing project I am in the middle of when I die. The task would drive the greatest detective to distraction.

For each project, I keep a dump file, usually a Word document on my computer, which contains the plans (usually outdated), ideas (most unused), and deleted bits (discarded scenes or lines I still wish to keep).
The clues to where I planned on my story going would be scattered about in the various conversations I have had with friends via the internet or woven into the already written chapters themselves. The only remaining hints would be from the current stack of research books I have purchased or dug out and stacked next to my bed. Oh, and my Google search history. That would definitely help a detective. Though my current research for my son’s second grade history reading list would completely confuse the most intrepid sleuth. United States American history picture books don’t usually mix with medieval painting and art techniques, clothing, and horse care.

Plot points, details, and everything else that has not been captured in the prose already is stuck in my head.

I happen to know that very few of you are as slap dash as I am in your research, plotting, and record keeping. Since I hope to improve in my methods, I am doing a bit more research into methods of keeping organized. Most of them look like more work than help.

I would love to hear about what works for you. 

How do you keep track of what is happening in your novel during the writing and editing process?


Rachel Rossano balances her time between the chaos of raising and homeschooling her three children and the world of drama and high adventure in her head. With her faithful husband and chief consulting editor by her side, she dreams of many more adventures to come. 


She also designs book covers. For examples of her work, visit her design page at RossanoDesigns.weebly.com or Facebook page at www.facebook.com/RossanoDesigns.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Peculiar Paragraph

The paragraph.

The words have an almost ominous ring, don't they? I can see it now - the evil sentences form a band, plotting, joining together against a reader's mind.

Because that is what paragraphs can do.

I am a speed reader. My brain was just built that way. And, if a paragraph is too long, my mind wanders. I pick out key words and phrases, but I never quite get every word.

I read a lot of the classics as a teenager. Dickens, Henty, Haggard, and Kingsley... They all wrote page-long paragraphs. And their run-on sentences were crazy.

Training myself not to write like them was a chore. 

In fact, I might never have trained myself to shorten my paragraphs except for a lovely piece of advice I received right around the time I first became a published author.

You ready?

If it's too long, it's wrong.

It's that simple. An overly-long paragraph means that somewhere, somehow, a topic change lurks among your words. And it's up to you to find it.

So go practice. Spot those long paragraphs and see how you can split it up. (Heartrending, I know, but it must be done.) You can do it. Ready...set...go!


Alicia A. Willis is a home-school graduate, published author, and avid historian. She is a firm believer in the principle that one can accomplish anything by substantial amounts of prayer and coffee. Visit her at her blog or Facebook to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Different Kind of Courage

As some of you may know, I have been working for a long time on a book titled a Different Kind of Courage. Well, I am very excited to say it is now available on Kindle! The paperback version will be coming soon.

A Different Kind of Courage

“Why did my life have to be full of secrets?”

After three years in England, William Landor returns to Boston in 1774, little knowing the events that are about to unfold.

England has issued an ultimatum: pay for the tea that was destroyed in the Boston Tea Party, or the Port of Boston will be closed. William knows that this will have a devastating effect on his hometown, which is so dependent on the sea. However, he finds himself in the middle of the political struggle he wanted to avoid.

William’s father is a merchant and loyal to the king and is furious at what the rebels of Boston have cost him. He would like nothing more than to rid the city of their poisonous influence. Meanwhile, William’s best friend, Dr. Joseph Warren, is one of the leaders of rebels, or Whigs as they call themselves.

As if his life was not complicated enough, he meets a fiery indentured servant who tugs at his heart as well as his loyalty. When he is confronted by the consequences of his many secrets, he has to make a choice weather or not to tell the truth. Does he have the kind of courage it will take?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Oxford Comma

Sorry, I forgot to post yesterday! We're in the midst of VBS at my church and life is hectic!

The Oxford Comma.

YES. I use it. You want to know why?


Yes. Precisely! I go crazy when I see sentences without the Oxford Comma. Sentence flow seems so distorted without it.

Do you use it? Why or why not?

Alicia A. Willis is a home-school graduate, published author, and avid historian. She is a firm believer in the principle that one can accomplish anything by substantial amounts of prayer and coffee. Visit her at her blog or Facebook to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!

Monday, August 4, 2014

My Top Ten Most Influential Authors in my Life: Part 2

As I said last week, I am of the opinion that the writers that we admire the most influence us as writers. I talked last week about five of the authors that have inspired me. Now I will complete the list.

6. Alicia Willis: Alicia’s attention to historical detail is inspiring. Her books are never easy or fluffy reads, but they are worth every minute it takes to read them. Her heart for God comes through in her stories. She has also been a personal blessing in my life. She has challenged me in a good way, and is always available to answer questions.

7. J. Grace Pennington: There are few books I have enjoyed reading more this year as I have Pennington’s Firmament books. She is a brilliant sci-fi author who mixed some of my favorite elements from the original StarTrek series with a heavy dose of originality and faith. One of the things I love about her books is that they are mind benders. They don’t have typical messages. The stories are written for believers to get them thinking, and I love them.
You can see my reviews of her books Firmament: Radialloy and Firmament: In His Image.

8. Tracy L. Higley: When I came across a deal to get four of Higley’s books for just the shipping, I jumped at the chance. I loved historical fiction, and I had read some very positive reviews. I do not think I have ever read an author that really makes me feel like I am back in the time period she is writing about as much as does Higley. She so completely immerses her readers in the culture and history of the time, without ever sounding like a textbook, that you just have to stand back in awe. Her characters are each different and each faces unique problems. Each book, no matter when it is set, has a strong message of faith.
You can see my reviews of her books So Shines the Night, Isle if the Shadows, and Guardian of the Flame

9. Chautona Havig: Is another author that I have recently discovered and love. Her stories are about real people and real issues. Her characters have high moral standards, something that is missing from most modern fiction. Most of the characters do some form of courtship; there isn’t a kiss on every page (in fact sometimes there isn’t even one in the whole book), and homeschooling is shown in a positive light.
You can see my reviews of her books Read or Not and Noble Pursuits

10. C.S. Lewis: I do not know how C. S. Lewis did it. When I went to read the Chronicles of Narnia as a young adult I thought they were much longer. C. S. Lewis was, in my mind, the master of tight story telling. I don’t know any other author that can tell a story, set in a culture so completely different from ours, in so few pages, yet you never feel as if you are missing anything. His stories continue not only to inspire me, but draw me closer to God.


Who are some of the authors that most influence you? Make a list and send it to me. I would love to see it.

Friday, August 1, 2014

What Does Your Writing Space Look Like?

As a mother of three and with no designated writing space (my laptop usual landing spot is the dining room table with brief forays into the living room), almost everything writing related is on my computer and digital.

However, now that we are adding on to the house, some space I can claim as my own is a possibility. Amid dreams of having my own desk again, my husband is skeptical I will use it the way I say I will. Regardless, I am plotting and planning on a small spot of simplicity and quiet a bit removed from milk cups, food, and mayhem. After years of writing smack dab in the midst of the chaos of three children six years old and younger, any distance will be a blessing to my writing.

So, this is what I am dreaming of:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005OY7LWC/
With a few of these
http://www.amazon.com/Household-Essentials-Jumbo-Storage-Decorative/dp/B007TKF9S2/
to keep things semi-organized on the shelves below along with the reference books on whatever topic is currently important in my research.

I don’t need much to be happy. Just quiet, time, and a spot to work without getting a crick in my neck.


However, as I ponder the arrangement I desire, I am wondering what other writers’ work spaces look like. I would be delighted if you shared yours. A photo, drawing, or simple description would lovely. 

Please share.


Rachel Rossano balances her time between the chaos of raising and homeschooling her three children and the world of drama and high adventure in her head. With her faithful husband and chief consulting editor by her side, she dreams of many more adventures to come. 


She also designs book covers. For examples of her work, visit her design page at RossanoDesigns.weebly.com or Facebook page at www.facebook.com/RossanoDesigns.