Monday, May 2, 2011

Tornadoes...and a few GOOD Things

First things first.

I am beyond grateful to God for watching over our family during the recent rash of destructive tornadoes. Oklahoma was hit, but not in our community and not in our son’s. Texas was hit, but our daughter’s family wasn’t affected. I have a dear friend in Alabama, and she and her family were unharmed, as was their home, although they were right in the middle of the storm.

On the other hand, so many lives were lost or devastated by these disasters. Let’s not forget to pray for the survivors who are struggling to put their lives together, as well as the families of the victims. And since faith without works is dead, let’s also do whatever else each of us is capable of doing to help.

Next up…another reason to rejoice. At least, it is for me, and I hope it will be for you too.
  • Kylie’s Kiss released April 29!This is Book Two in my Solomon’s Gate series, which started with Destiny’s Dream. It is available for purchase through my publisher and most online booksellers. You may also order through your local book store—just give them my name (Delia Latham) and the title of the book (Kylie’s Kiss). If they ask for the publisher, it is White Rose Publishing. (Here’s a little sneak peek.)
  • For those of you who live in or around Bakersfield, California: Russo's Books (9000 Ming Ave., in the Marketplace) will host me at a book signing on Saturday, June 11, from 12:30 - 2:30 p.m. Do come by and say hello!
And now, on to this edition of the Bookshelf.
  • Spotlight author: Michelle Griep. Michelle is fun to chat with, and I know you’ll enjoy her comments.
  • Devotional: Jennifer Slattery. Jennifer always does an excellent job, and I appreciate her contribution this month. We all can relate to the frustration of detours, can’t we?
  • Writing tips: Eddie Snipes. Which writer hasn’t occasionally battled dealing with critiques of his or her work? I know I certainly have! Eddie’s tips on dealing with those sometimes pesky essentials of the writing life are right on target.
  • My book review: I always try to share a review from at least one of the books I read during the months between Bookshelf editions. This month, I’m posting my review of Marianne Evans’ A Face in the Clouds. It’s one of White Rose Publishing’s DOLLAR DOWNLOADS, but the value in this little story (it’s only 37 pages) is so much more than that! I was incredibly blessed by it. You will be, too—give it a try!
  • Contest: As always, I’ll be drawing a winner from subscribers to this newsletter. See the contest post for the current prize—it’s a two-fer! The winner of the last contest is also announced. Be sure to check it out…it could be you!
Happy Mother’s Day in advance to all of my readers who are moms—whether by giving birth, adoption, or simply in heart. Mothers are the best!
If the whole world were put into one scale, and my mother in the other, the whole world would kick the beam.—Henry Bickersteth

Author of Note: Michelle Griep




It’s a delight to have you as a guest on My Book Bag! I’m eager to get acquainted with Michelle Griep, author extraordinaire. :) But before we get started with that, my readers and I would like to know about you. Who is Michelle Griep, the gal next door?

I’m your neighbor who will bring over some warm chocolate chip cookies when I’ve baked a batch. When I have some spare time that is. Mostly I’m busy with teaching writing and history at a local homeschool co-op. Otherwise you can find me cleaning muddy paw prints off the carpet from my boxer, picking up the trail of destruction left behind by two teenagers and a 20-something, or walking one of the area lakes with my husband.

If you’re still finding or making time to walk with your husband, you’re doing something right! I’m fascinated by the storyline in your new release, Undercurrent. Tell us about it.

People go missing every day. Many meet with foul play, some leave the social grid by choice, but others are never accounted for. Such is the fate of successful linguistics professor Cassie Larson. She leads a life her undergrad students hope to attain, until she tumbles into the North Sea and is sucked into a swirling vortex…and a different century.

Alarik, son of a Viking chieftain, is blamed for a murder he didn’t commit—or did he? He can’t remember. On the run, saving a half-drowned foreign woman wasn’t in his plans.

Ragnar is a converted pagan shunned by many but determined to prove his Cousin Alarik’s innocence. He didn’t count on falling in love with Cassie or the deadly presence of evil that threatens his village in Alarik’s absence.

Well, you’ve got my attention! What was your inspiration for this book? Is there a message you hope your readers will glean from the storyline?

Who doesn’t struggle with forgiveness? Hopefully I’m not the only one. Undercurrent deals with the very real conflict of the sacrifice involved in the act of forgiving. After all that Jesus has forgiven us, can we—should we—do any less?

Beautifully said. Please share your favorite scene from Undercurrent.

The setting is a dark forest late into the small hours of the night. Hero Ragnar is leading Cassie, who freaks out about a wolf howling. Ragnar takes her hand, meets her gaze and says,
“I am well armed, Cassie. Think you I would lead you into danger? Even so, I pledge my protection.”

Once those words left my pen, it was like Jesus whispered the same to me. What a picture of His strong guidance and assurance. On days when I’m walking through scary darkness, how comforting it is to remember that He’s the One holding my hand.

I love that! What can we expect from you next?

I’d love to do a Viking sequel, if there’s enough outcry from readers. Otherwise, I’ve just finished a straight historical (no time travel involved). It’s a Regency era story involving an opium addict and a man who’s slowly going insane.

As a reader, do you have a favorite author? What three books are next in your TBR queue?

Wow. That’s a toughie. Contemporary picks are a tie between Tim Downs and Lisa Mangum. Classic is hands-down Charlotte Bronte.

Next three in my TBR are…

 Gravestone: A Novel (Solitary Tales Series book 2) by Travis Thrasher
 The Road to Vengeance (The Strongbow Saga, Book 3) by Judson Roberts
 Nick of Time by Tim Downs

Who (what human being) has been the greatest influence on your life, and why?

My kids. Talk about a refining fire. What kind of selfish monster would I be today without having laid down my life on the altar of motherhood?

As a mother, I can only say, “Amen!” Do you have a favorite verse of scripture? If so, what makes it special?

Psalm 121 (love the Living Bible translation best on this passage)
During a dark season in my life when everything slammed into me at once, pulverizing me to ground shards of glass, this chapter was my light and air.

What would readers be surprised to know about you?

I’m an introvert. If left to my own devices, I would live alone in a cave on the coast of England with reams of paper and boxes of G2 pens.

I can so relate—except I’d definitely want someone air-dropping food in to me once in awhile…I’m not much of a hunter or a fisherwoman.  What one piece of writing advice has most benefited you in your career?

Buy the book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. Best writing book I own.

Where can readers find your books? Do you have a website, blog, etc.?

Visit my site at
http://www.mmgriep.com/. You can always purchase my books on Amazon, but my publishers carry them as well… Risen Books at http://www.risenfiction.com/ or Black Lyon at http://www.blacklyonpublishing.com/ .


BIO:

Michelle’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She seeks to glorify God in all that she writes…except for that graffiti phase she went through as a teenager. Find out more at
http://www.mmgriep.com/.

Notes of Devotion: Jennifer Slattery


Life’s Detours

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Have you ever felt like you are on a perpetual detour? You know where you want to go, maybe you even feel like God is leading you there, yet somehow you’ve ventured on the “scenic route” loaded with one detour after the next. Are you lost? Has God forgotten about you altogether? Maybe you’ve begun to question whether or not you will arrive at your destination at all.

That was exactly how I felt a few months ago when God taught me a very expensive, and frustrating lesson. And even though I know I often learn best through failures, I couldn’t help but question my circumstances. Couldn’t God have taught me the same lesson in an easier and less expensive way? Sure, He took me from point A to point B, but did He really have to take me to Q, S, W and Z first?

But then I read Exodus 13:17 - When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.

The Israelites couldn’t see what lay ahead, but God could. More importantly, God saw their heart—He knew their breaking point and what it was going to take to turn their emerging faith into victorious confidence. Each day, as they traveled through the desert, they learned who God was. When the cloud raised in the morning, signaling it was time to depart, they learned to rely on and trust in God’s guidance. When Manna rained down from the sky, they learned God would provide. When they crossed the Jordan River, they learned no obstacle was too great when God stood beside them.

Maybe you are in a valley right now, or wandering through a desert waste land and it’s hard to see God’s hand amidst the frustration. Certainly some of God’s detours are meant to strengthen and challenge us, but others are a direct result of His mercy and compassion.

With the Israelites, God knew what lay ahead, and even more importantly, how much the Israelites could handle, and He knew that they were in no condition, spiritually or emotionally, to face fierce opposition from the Philistines. And so, in His infinite mercy, He led them in a gentler, albeit longer, direction.

How many times has God done this for me? Perhaps there was some hidden danger in that job I so desperately wanted. Perhaps that house I longed to buy had structural damage that would inevitably drain my finances. Perhaps that ministry opportunity that appeared so perfect yet continually evaded my grasp would have led to spiritual weakness or distraction. Who knows? I don’t, but God does. And really, that is all that matters. In my limited, human understanding, I will always be stuck in the here and now, but I serve a God who can see yesterday, today and tomorrow all at once and who is constantly at work behind the scenes to lead me towards that good, narrow path. My job is not to figure it all out, because I never will side of heaven, but instead, to trust in the person and nature of Jesus Christ, knowing that He will indeed perfect the plans He has for me.

About Jennifer:

Jennifer Slattery is a novelist, columnist and freelance writer living in midwest with her husband of fifteen years and their thirteen year old daughter. Find out more about her and her writing at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com.

Notes in Review: A Face in the Clouds

(Note: This book is a one of White Rose Publishing's DOLLAR DOWNLOADS. It's a novelette - so an easy read that packs an amazing punch in just a few pages.)

Paul Hutchins does not want the assignment. He’s never been able to grasp the whole religion thing. Still, he agrees to cover “An Artist’s View of Salvation and Grace” at Woodland Church. Executive Producer Sandy Pierson’s faith is all-important to her, and Paul wants to give this lovely woman, at the very least, a nod of respect for that unapologetic, unwavering dedication.


He covers the artist missionary story, in short, because he loves Sandy. He’s aware that his lack of faith threatens their evolving relationship, because Sandy won’t share her life with a man who doesn’t love God. Paul’s heart is at risk, but the last thing he’s willing to do is pretend to “get it”—not even for Sandy.

At that special Easter service, Paul watches a gifted missionary chalk her heart and soul onto canvas. Within the lines of her stirring depiction of Calvary, something amazing, powerful, and life-changing unfolds….

A Face in the Clouds is a beautiful, stirring, unforgettable love story—the love between a man and a woman, and the unequaled love of the Savior. The artist in this story uses her God-given talent to depict scenes that stir hearts and speak to souls. Marianne Evans does that too—without a paintbrush or a piece of chalk. This author’s words are clearly derived from a solid foundation of prayer, dedication and a whole-hearted desire to touch readers with God’s love. Every word in this short story is delivered with powerful impact. Do yourself a favor and do not miss A Face in the Clouds.

Notes on Writing: Eddie Snipes



Getting the Most Out of Critiques

Peer critiques are a valuable tool in polishing up your writing, but it has to be done correctly to be effective. Writing is a lonely business, but publishing is a social world. You cannot go at it alone. Even the best writer can’t critique his/her way to perfection.

You may know what you meant to say, but the reader doesn’t. If you have to explain yourself to a critique group, you need to rewrite. A reader can’t ask questions. As you read your work, your mind fills in the gaps and gives you blind spots. Polishing your work requires help.

Don’t lose your voice

This is a challenge for everyone-but especially for new writers. Often crit groups point out differences in opinion and style. You must evaluate critiques and weed out the preference issues from the problems. Or perhaps the preference is a valid one. If more than one person points out a similar issue, that should be a red flag. However, you will get a lot of bad advice with the good. This is especially true if critiquers are aspiring writers.

As a new writer, I partnered with a group of other newbies. Bad advice abounded. For example, I had a scene where a character gagged from the smell of exhaust. A critter suggested, “She gagged like a dog stuck in a log with a skunk.”

Not quite the best advice. New writers mistake exaggeration as description. You must trust your gut and find your own style.

Prepare for the critique

A crit group isn’t there to find your spelling and punctuation errors. Before submitting a critique, proofread your work to the best of your ability. No work should be critiqued until you feel it’s perfect. It isn’t, of course. You’ll discover this when people pull out the red markers. If critiquers start fixing poor spelling, they won’t be looking for the problems you need to find. You will have wasted a good opportunity.

Be Cordial

Never argue with a critique. Never, never, never. You want people to help you. Don’t make people tiptoe around your feelings. No work improves under a rubber stamp. It has to be refined, tried, and refined again. In fact, your work will never be perfect. There is always something you will find. I think the letters move around when writers aren’t looking. If you don’t believe this, let your work sit for six months and check it. You’ll find something. Many things.

If you are critiquing, also be cordial. In a group I attended, a woman looked at someone’s work and said, “You know what I think of when I read this? I think, this looks like something an amateur would write.”

Don’t do this. Don’t insult the person or the work. Stay focused on the specific problem being addressed. You should be asking yourself, “How can I help this person improve as a writer?” Sprinkle criticism with praise. The writing may be awful, but keep in mind that everyone’s work is awful at first.

Philip Gulley was such a bad writer that his college professor passed him with a D if he promised to never write again. Years later his interest in writing was rekindled when he started writing short essays for his church bulletin. Today he has eight published books and is a popular humorist.

Bad writing is the gravel road we must pass over to reach good writing. Keep this in mind. The person you critique needs to be encouraged to persevere as you point out ways to improve. Think of critiquing as a ministry to others. Your goal is not to evaluate their worth as a writer, but to mentor them into better writing.

Find a crit partner

Short critique sessions has a pitfall. Even if your group is small, most sessions only permit 3-10 pages. By the time you reach page 200, you have no memory of the beginning of their book. For this reason, crit groups rarely catch plot holes, contradictions, and other ‘big picture’ mistakes.

Develop a writing relationship with someone on your skill level or higher. It should be someone who is willing to read your manuscript from beginning to end in a short amount of time. This is necessary in order to identify plot problems, redundancies, and other things your eyes cannot see. Critiquing in small blocks helps to line edit and clarify language, but a crit-partner can take you to the next level.


Now you’re ready for an editor. :)


About Eddie:

Eddie Snipes is president of the Christian Authors Guild and founder of Exchanged Life Discipleship, a teaching and discipleship ministry. He has served as a pastor and interim pastor. Eddie also contributes to several online resources including OnePlace.com. He’s also a member of ACFW and the Atlanta Writers Club.


Over the last two years, Eddie has won five writing contests and in April, his first novel, I Called Him Dancer was released. I Called Him Dancer is a story about how one woman's enduring faith and unconditional love drives her to reach out to a homeless man who has given up on life. He has two other books in the process of being published. Watch for an upcoming release called Simple Faith.

Contest Notes

The drawing for this edition of The Bookshelf will be held on the last day of June. Winner will be announced in the July/August edition of The Bookshelf. I will also contact the winner via e-mail. If I do not receive a response, and a mailing address, by the time I post the next edition of The Bookshelf, the winner will have forfeited their prize.

The March/April winner of Valeria’s Cross and a $10 gift certificate to White Rose Publishing is:

Debbie Fuller Thomas

Congratulations, Debbie!

The May/June winner will receive the first two books in Vickie McDonough's series: The Anonymous Bride Second-Chance Bride. Click on the cover art below to read my reviews of these books.


Note: You don’t need to “do” anything to enter the newsletter drawing each month. If you are subscribed to The Bookshelf, you will be automatically entered. Subscribe here. This will put you on my e-mailing list. You will then receive an e-mail link every other month when the newsletter posts, as well as occasional updates or announcements between posts.

Note: The books given away in these drawings are in excellent condition, but most have been read once for review purposes. Some may be Advance Reader Copies, sent to me for review before their final edit, so you might come across typos or formatting errors, and the covers may be different than those shown. They are handled carefully and you will receive them in great condition.