Visual Inspiration

This is “Mom Week”, so I’m not here, but if you were here Monday, you know what’s going on: I’m scheduled pictures from my Photo Shopping spree. As I said Monday, I’m toying with the idea of holding a short story contest for my readers. What do you think? Let me know if any of the photos I post this week inspire you and if you’d be interested in writing a 3500-word short story. If enough folks are interested, we may just have ourselves a little competition.

Here’s group two (click on any picture to enlarge it):

Anything strike you yet? Anything making you want to start writing?

More on Friday!

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Photo Shopping

After I finished my short story, “Slider,” I went on a deliberate hunt for more pictures that would spark my imagination for another. Since I’m going to be gone this week, I thought I’d post my findings here. I toyed with the idea of holding a short story contest for my readers. What do you think? Let me know if any of the photos I post this week inspire you and if you’d be interested in writing a 3500-word short story. If enough folks are interested, we may just have ourselves a little competition.

Here’s group one (click on any picture to enlarge it):


Depression Relief


More to come on Wednesday.

Be sure to leave a comment!


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Tidbits of the Week

What a week. One bird and two frogs used my car to commit suicide–all on the same day. My eye doc recommended trifocals. My skin doc cut something off of me and sent it for evaluation. My husband ate the last of the homemade tamales. We bought twelve. I got three. I made sure he understood not to make this mistake twice.

On the “good” side of the tally page, I joined a local critique group. Talk about a huge plus! Writers read from their current WIPs and received the wisdom of those who listened. And the responses were valuable, not restricted to “change this word” or “put a comma there,” but serious, helpful criticism.

the sackOne of the members, who will soon be leaving our area, took the time to read from the sequel to her MG chap-book, The Sack. Miss Gwen’s work is beautiful and symbolic, but not over the heads of the kids she writes for. It was an honor to meet her and hear her read from her draft.

Speaking of MG and YA books, I met an 8th grade English teacher at the dermatologist’s office. Since the doctor was running behind, we had a wonderful talk about whether kids read, what they read, how well they comprehend what they read. It was an eye opener for me. One of the things I learned is that kids love books centered in the world of sports. Anyone writing about a kid or a young team overcoming odds to become victorious is in good shape.

Earlier this week, I learned a tidbit from a woman I grew up with. So thankful we reconnected! Anyway she told me how she used to know every author who’d impressed her and became a fan of certain ones, buying whatever bore their names. But with her Kindle, she no longer knows who she’s reading. She rarely sees the cover again after she has purchased the book, and without a header on the page, isn’t reminded of the writer’s name. That’s an interesting–and sad–downside of having your library loaded into a device whose cover is the only one you see regularly. I’m new enough to e-publishing that I wouldn’t have a clue how to keep my name in the reader’s mind with every reading session. Maybe someone has ideas?

I arrived at my optometrist’s office a full forty-five minutes early, which took me by surprise. But that’s okay, I said, because I brought my book (well, I brought my Kindle). The receptionist asked me what I was reading and next thing you know, we were talking about me being an author–and I sold another book. Love when that happens!

The best news of the week, though, involves this picture. Remember him? I’d written that I wanted to do a literary piece based on this picture. Well, meet Clancy Gallagher, baseball star of 1908. The piece is a short story set in 1937-38. Some day I’ll post it here, or at least tell you how you can get it. A friend is urging me to sell it, but I wanted to enter it into a contest or two. Just need to cut some words out of it. If I wanted to enter it into the Writers Digest short story contest, I’d have to cut it in half, and I don’t think I can do that. But the Lorian Hemingway competition may be the ticket for 2015. We’ll see . . .

Next week is Mom time again. If I get a burst of ideas and energy today or tomorrow, I’ll write my posts for the week. Otherwise, you may find a rerun or two. I’m allowed.

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Mom and Dad in Deep Third POV 3

family picMonday, I wrote the second part of a post I’d initially begun on my other blog, AuthorCulture.  Apparently I hit a nerve–and to a certain extent, I think the nerve tingled because some of the readers didn’t understand what I was trying to say. But before I clarify Monday’s post, I want to say this: I’m an author and an editor, but I’m not a rule maker. I don’t know who makes the rules, but I do know there are many I disagree with. My observations and opinions aren’t rules. They’re my observations and opinions–things I’m fond of expressing here on my own blog.

To let you understand where I was coming from Monday, let me explain how I view the deep third person POV:

When an author is writing in deep third, he is giving his readers a special camera–one that can show thoughts, see what the character sees, feel what the character feels. This camera can climb into the character’s very being. But it can also show the character’s backstory and movement. We zoom the camera lens into the character’s deepest thoughts, but we also draw it back to show things a character wouldn’t consciously be thinking. This camera allows a bit of telling–it has to, otherwise the reader wouldn’t be able to visualize a thing.

In other words, we can–and must–vary the depth in which we are writing our deep third POV.

I’m not sure where the readers got the idea I thought calling our POV characters by their names was wrong. We call them by their names in our writing because otherwise, it would be fairly impossible for the reader to understand who’s doing what sometimes.  That wasn’t what I was talking about when I posted about “Mom” and “Dad” Monday.

So let me use the same examples and show what I meant Monday, using as an illustration how I would’ve written these sentences had they been mine.

1. Mom called for dinner. Melissa stayed by the bedroom window.

Melissa is the POV character. Using “Mom” indicates we’re in the character’s head, but the author has pulled the camera away slightly to show what the characters were doing. In neither sentence are we in the POV character’s head. The author is setting the scene, describing the action. When I first read these lines, they hit me like the author, not the character, was calling the mother “Mom.”

I would’ve used, “Her mom called for dinner. Melissa stayed by the bedroom window,” or “Melissa’s mom called for dinner. Melissa stayed by the bedroom window.” And, though I may get dinged for this, I would’ve even written “Edith called for dinner . . . ” because, as I said, the camera has been pulled back slightly to illustrate the action and set the scene. It is not in the character’s head.

2. He’d even tried to explain his passion for teaching to Dad once.

As I indicated in Monday’s post, this is a line of backstory, cued by the use of past perfect, meaning the author has stepped in to help the reader understand something about the character, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. We’ve simply pulled our magic camera back a little to help the reader. However, again, it seems the author himself is calling the father “Dad,” and that struck me as odd. This is another place where I’d opt for “his dad,” or “his father,” or using the father’s first name–or even “him,” since the scene had already established that the main character was thinking of his father.

3. Then she went to the side table, and placed two framed photos on it–one of Dad with Mom just before she died, the other of Dad with Tommy on his shoulders.

In this last example, Tommy is the POV character. This line is the deepest of all the examples. The author is allowing us to see what the character sees through the character’s eyes. In this one, using “Dad” wasn’t what brought me up short; using “Tommy” was. In this case, it has been established that we’re in Tommy’s head, and using “…the other of Dad with him on his shoulders” would’ve worked perfectly.

This last example addresses the problem of clarity when using pronouns. In the first example, “Mom called for dinner. Melissa stayed by the bedroom window,” “Melissa” couldn’t be replaced with “she,” because the author is describing actions–one of the necessary times when the author must draw the camera back a little. It would’ve been unclear which character remained by the window. In this last example, however, the author has the camera inside the character’s head, showing the reader what the character sees. Therefore, using the pronouns shouldn’t be confusing.

If I’d written it, though, the sentence would’ve been: “one of his parents just before his mother died, the other of his father with him on his shoulders.” This is not “more correct,” this is just my preference.

The book from which I drew these examples was Women’s Fiction–intended for adults. YA is a different genre altogether. Using “Mom” and “Dad” in YA is common and totally acceptable. When I wrote the post Monday, I wasn’t thinking of other genres outside the ones I most often read and write; so when one reader dinged me for what I’d written, I realized I had to backtrack.

My writing posts are primarily to help authors think about what they’re putting on the page, help them polish it. But like I said, I’m not a rule maker. I don’t know who the rule makers are. Yes, I’d love for people to understand what I’m saying and agree with me to the point they follow my advice, but I don’t expect that to happen. Believe me, I don’t have that kind of influence.




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Mom and Dad in Deep Third POV 2

family pic

I’ve written about the idea of calling parents “Mom” and “Dad” in deep third person before on my collaborative blog, AuthorCultureIt has always bothered me, though I never understood why until the day when I was editing a manuscript written in third person during the day and reading a book written in first person in the evenings. Basically, what I realized is that saying “I called Mom” sounded more natural than “Pete called Mom.” The point of deep third person is to get inside the POV character’s head as far as possible, but the problem is, the POV character would never call himself by his first name.

Once, when I made that remark, someone commented that he did his best not to identify his main character all the time, using pronouns instead, or taking him out of the picture entirely–which is great. That’s one way to deepen your POV. Problem is that there are times when identifying your character as the one speaking or doing the action is inescapable.

I’m reading a book that I deeply love and would recommend to everybody, but the author uses the technique of having the characters call their parents “Mom” and “Dad.” It bothers me, but not seriously. Kinda like a bug splatted on an otherwise pristine windshield. Every now and then it catches my eye and distracts me from my driving, but it in no way discourages me from taking the journey through the story.

Let’s look at some examples from the book (I changed the character names):

1. Mom called for dinner. Melissa stayed by the bedroom window.

Melissa is the POV character in this. Because the author is telling us she stayed by the window, we’re already slightly out of a deep POV–which is okay. There is no way to be totally immersed when we’re in third person. But if we were in her head, we wouldn’t be calling her by her name. Does that make sense? I would never say, “Mom called for dinner. Linda stayed by the bedroom window.” So we’re already out of POV. It’s awkward, to me anyway, to call her mother Mom and then the character by her first name in such close proximity.

2. He’d even tried to express his passion for teaching to Dad once.

In this line, the POV character has already been identified, and since he’s the only one in the scene, the author is properly using pronouns instead of calling him by his name all the time. If she’d written “He tried to express his passion to Dad,” the line would still bother me, but not quite so badly. But this one had me wishing for strong enough windshield wipers to sweep the bug off the glass.

In this line, the author is stepping in to tell a little backstory. This is a definite pulling away of the camera to show a wider scenario. Again, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the fact she did this. The author presented backstory expertly throughout the novel. But the very fact that this line is written in past perfect cues the reader that we’re learning a little of the character’s history from the author, not from the character. So calling the father “Dad” in this instance got to me.

3. Then she went to the side table, and placed two framed photos on it–one of Dad with Mom just before she died, the other of Dad with Tommy on his shoulders.

This one made me want to stop the car and scrape the bug off with my bare hands. Tommy is the POV character. Tommy watched the woman’s activities, recognized the pictures she was moving around, and called himself “Tommy” and his dad “Dad.”

We are in deep POV. Nowhere in the paragraph did the author say “Tommy looked at her” or “Tommy watched her.” Words like this in deep POV are pointless. Write what the person saw, not that he was engaged in the action of seeing. This, the author did splendidly all through the book.

But when she had to differentiate between the two males listed in the sentence, it seemed immensely awkward. Had this been in first person, it would’ve been just fine: “the other of Dad with me on his shoulders.” See how natural that is? It is not possible to achieve that kind of depth in third person. The closest you could do is to write “the other of Dad with him on his shoulders.” In fact, I wish she’d written it that way. She’d written the paragraph in such a way, and the sentence in such a way, that there would’ve been no doubt who the “him” applied to.

I wish I could go on a crusade and explain to authors why they shouldn’t do this–and I just might.

Things like this don’t bother readers, however. At least I don’t think so. I noticed with my own novel, The Cat Lady’s Secret, reviewers who are also authors ding me for having the Millie character in first person, present tense when the rest of the novel is in third person past. We’ve been taught not to do this because it’ll “confuse the readers,” something I’ve discovered is confusing itself. Our readers are smart. Things like this don’t confuse them–and things like the MC calling his parents “Dad” and “Mom” probably don’t distract them.

But I’d really like to change the accepted norm about this and influence authors not to do it.

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Set the Dove Free


Most, if not all, of my readers are aware of the times, as am I. We recognize what’s going on, because we were warned to watch. We may not know the day or the hour, but we recognize the season, and we’re bracing ourselves, amping up our prayers for our loved ones, including in those prayers people we don’t even know. We’re putting oil in our lamps in expectation of our bridegroom.

Most, if not all, of my readers are writers, just as I am. We are in various stages of perfection in our craft, but we’re striving, always striving for improvement, to hone our skills, and produce the best product possible in honor of the One who called us to this adventure.

My Wednesday morning Bible class just finished Beth Moore’s nine-week study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians. Because I’d been gone and missed a few sessions, I fell behind, so though everyone else has finished, I’m still catching up. Today’s post is based on the lesson I studied this morning, particularly this part:

Each day the sun comes up closer to the dawn of Christ’s coming. If the Word of the Lord needed to speed ahead in Paul’s generation, how expeditious should it be in ours? These are days for deliberate acceleration. We have wheels. We have wings. We have ways. We have means. At least for now, many of us also have freedom of speech (page 196).

And should that freedom be withdrawn, Beth says, we have the assurance of 2 Timothy 2:9 “the word of God is not chained.”

I got to thinking about our call to get the gospel out and how urgent the need is. Are we heading for Armageddon? No. That’s not for a while yet. But the trumpets are about to blast, and things are going to be tense on the earth, to put it mildly.

And, I got to thinking of myself and my role as writer, who I write to, and whether I should shift from backsliders to nonbelievers. Getting the Word out seems so vital now, and those who are called to address the nonbelievers have such a pressing duty that I wondered whether I was supposed to join their ranks.

My answer came: No.

In the perilous times to come, all of us are needed. Writers whose works are intended for believers are crucial. These precious authors inspire, encourage, uplift Christians who already understand the parable of the fig tree. They already know their salvation is nigh.

Authors who address their works to the backsliders are vital, too. These are the ones who bring the lambs back into the fold. The ones who proclaim God’s forgiveness for whatever sin or rift that caused them to separate themselves, and call them to come home.

Don’t get me wrong: none of us escape the responsibility of the great commission. We are to called to spread God’s message. This duty falls upon the shoulders of every person declaring him- or herself to be a Christian. But our calling as individual authors may be different. Perhaps we were indeed called to address the unbeliever or answer the seekers, or perhaps we were called to bring our own back into God’s arms, or maybe we were called to encourage and guide those already in the faith. Whatever our individual calling, that calling is still critical, even as the seals snap open and the angels prepare their horns.

So, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJ).

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Co-authoring Secrets

480 x 720I know I’ve been saying that the release date is August 15, but guess what! Our conspiracy thriller is already up on Amazon. So if you’ve been waiting for it–it’s here!

Brad and I have been sorting through the maze on different sites, trying to get us both recognized as the book’s authors. I tried to set up a giveaway on Goodreads, and failed because Goodreads doesn’t know my name’s on the cover. And it took a bit to be able to list the novel among my books on my Amazon page, although it’s there now. It was even tricky for me to order books to sell at an up-coming conference. Slowly but surely, though, all the bugs are getting exterminated.

This is something we hadn’t even considered when we wrote this together–all the tricks of the trade for presenting a co-authored book to the cyberpublic. If you’re with a traditional publisher, this won’t be a problem. If you’re a couple of newbies at it, you’re likely to have to wander the maze too. Right now, Brad is working the magic required to have the book set up for me on Goodreads. I am so glad I don’t have to do it. I stink at figuring these things out.

We got other parts of the co-authoring business right. We did remember to do a contract, presenting terms and royalty distribution, so we both know what to expect. We discussed–and didn’t necessarily agree on–marketing campaigns and promotions. We discussed (again, without entirely agreeing) our goals for the book. Our definition of success differs, but both are definite measures of success.

What was/is great about working with Brad is that he respects my abilities and listens to my suggestions, as I do his. If you’re planning to write with someone, bringing mutual respect into the mix is vital. This is a long-term engagement. Even after you’ve released the final product, you’re still going to be connected through sales, through promotional opportunities. And if you decide to expand your product line (large print, audio, etc.), you’re going to have to stay in contact. So you’re going to have to get along.

We barely knew each other when we started. I saw Brad’s ad for a critique partner on the ACFW website and loved the ideas he had. He likes to take on Christian issues and present them in hard-hitting fiction. His writing abilities are . . . interesting, but he’s great at outlining what he wants. Y’all know me: Outlining is optional. But for this particular book, it was mandatory, and I knew that. My novels are fine written by the seat of my pants, but something as intricate as a thriller needs to be outlined. My weaknesses are his strengths, and vice-versa, so we make a good team.

We’re friends now, after several years since meeting in cyberspace, but I wonder how often people who start as friends end their friendship by taking on such an enterprise. Decker and Lee, Bunn and Oke, and so many others apparently have successful working relationships. I think the key is to do what Katie Weiland often says–slip your ego in your pocket. Successful partnership writing doesn’t allow for divas. I like the way it turned out between Brad and me. I’m the strong writer; he’s the strong idea-man. We have a symbiotic relationship that doesn’t put either as “over” the other.

I’d be interested to know how other teams do it, but I’d be willing to bet the secret to their success is mutual respect.


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Val Gordon, Man of Precision


Val Gordon recreates bones in a laboratory at Hadley Scientific, an enterprise that, among other things, supplies the world’s need for fossilized skeletons. There’s nothing unusual about this; museum demand far exceeds supply in this field. Using precision instruments, Val does his part to meet demand.

Uncle Sam paid for his college degree, in exchange for his service as a US Marine. His service in Afghanistan, and in the Marines, ended over a decade ago, but the discipline remains with him. He works ridiculous hours–5 a.m. to 7 p.m.–and is deeply devoted to his employer and to science.

He’s also devoted to his family. Two daughters and a wife who have brought a softness to his life that he missed during his years of active duty. His life today is a far cry from the savagery of military service. A good job, a loving family. With them to come home to every night, he finds his old world fading deeper into memory.

Until his two worlds collide.

Semper Fi.


The Simulacrum, coming August 15.

480 x 720

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Gunnar Schofield, Detective for Hire

Gunnar Schofield

Gunnar Schofield–locked in the past, disdainful of most modern conveniences, tough guy. Widower.

Gunnar and Becky were a crime-solving team for years until her father, Daniel Henderson, fell ill with Parkinson’s Disease. Then, she went to take care of him, and Gunnar continued his work alone.

Under his t-shirt, a cross dangles from a heavy chain, a gift from Becky that he can’t convince himself to remove. Not that he believes in God, but she did. Her belief was an integral part of her, and the only sore spot between them. She died without the assurance she’d see him again in God’s kingdom. Gunnar doesn’t blame God for her death–how can you blame something that doesn’t exist? Instead, he blames himself and lives with the nightmares.

By the time he meets Mary Dillard, he has a home he avoids, a Murphy bed in his DC office, and an unflappable secretary.

He’s ready for a break. He has vacation plans in Florida, his first get-away in years. But in walks Mary. She gives him incentive to forfeit his dreams of bikini-clad beach beauties and hard liquor on the rocks in favor of racing halfway across the nation to solve a murder Virginia detectives think is already solved.

Being used for target practice convinces him they’re wrong.

The Simulacrum, coming August 15.

480 x 720


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Meet Our Heroine: Mary Dillard

Mary Dillard

As the interim Director of Development of the National Academy of Sciences, Mary Dillard is an up-and-comer in Washington, DC. She’s chic, cosmopolitan, intelligent–and occasionally unsure of herself. Her parents died when she was young, and her teen years were spent with her only remaining relatives, Uncle Wayne and Aunt Clarice Oakford in Vienna, Virginia. Her substantial inheritance got her through college with a BA in English, and the money helps with her expenses in DC. But if she can nail her interim position permanently, she’ll never have to touch her inheritance again.

Mary drives a hybrid Beamer, shops at Whole Foods, listens to NPR, and believes in God, though not that the Bible is His inspired word. Her uncle, a renowned paleontologist, devoted his life to Science, and under his influence, she learned that science and theology don’t mix.

But Wayne came back from his Smithsonian-funded dig near the Paluxy River in Texas with an entirely different theory in mind and a firm belief that the theory of evolution was erroneous. Mary harped on him about ruining his standing in the scientific community, but he didn’t listen.

And now her entire life and core beliefs are about to come crumbling down.

The Simulacrum, coming August 15.

480 x 720

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