Monday, December 22, 2008

Tracy's Favorite Books 2008

I started compiling my list a few weeks ago for my favorite books of the year. I'm still not sure I got them all - and I cheated - I couldn't stop at just 10!

My choices may seem a bit odd or eclectic - but that's me. Books making it on my list may or may not be the "very best" according to the publishing industry or by literary standards, but they ARE my favorites - because most of all they entertained me (my most important criteria for fiction) or educated me, stuck with me, and perhaps even changed me or stirred me to want to change. I'm sure I've forgotten one - but right now I can't figure out which one!

Tracy's Favorite Books 2008

(read in 2008, not necessarily published in 2008; listed in no particular order)

FICTION:

Embrace Me by Lisa Samson
Wind River by Tom Morrisey
Trouble the Water by Nicole Seitz
Healing Stones by Nancy Rue and Stephen Arterburn
Stuck in the Middle by Virginia Smith
A Taste of Murder by Virginia Smith
Adam by Ted Dekker
The Husband by Dean Koontz
Angel by Alton Gansky
That’s Not Exactly Amore by Tracey Bateman
A Beautiful Fall by Chris Coppernoll
Calico Canyon by Mary Connealy
One Perfect Day by Lauraine Snelling
Rain Song by Alice J. Wisler
Try Darkness by James Scott Bell
Sisterchicks Go Brit by Robin Jones Gunn
Love Starts with Elle by Rachel Hauck
My Soul to Keep by Melanie Wells
The Last Juror by John Grisham

NON-FICTION

Entire collection by Beth Moore
This set includes seven books – I read the entire set this year as part of my Bible study. Books in the set include: Believing God, A Heart Like His, Beloved Disciple, Breaking Free, To Live is Christ, Jesus the One and Only, When Godly People do Ungodly Things.

The God Who Pursues by Cecil Murphey

Now for a little housekeeping note:

Pix-N-Pens will be taking a few days off to enjoy this special season with family and friends. If this is your first time here, feel free to look around and read some of the awesome information already on site - it will keep you busy for hours!

Merry Christmas my friends. May the Lord be very present in all your celebrations, and may He pour out His spirit and power upon His people.

Be sure to tell everyone you know:

JESUS is the ONLY reason for this season!


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Saturday, December 20, 2008

We Have a Winner!

I used a Random Number Generator today to choose the winner for this week's contest, numbering the comments consecutively as they were posted.

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:9
Timestamp: 2008-12-21 04:05:04 UTC

Congratulations, Susan! You are the winner of our $30 Amazon Gift Certificate!

Thanks to everyone for participating - there were several on all the lists I haven't read yet, but I'll be tackling them soon!

Monday, I'll post my own list so check back then to see if your favorites made the list!

Merry Christmas!



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Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Road Less Traveled

By Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

A Spectacular Drive
Richard B. Russell Scenic Byway, Georgia

A Spectacular Drive, Richard B. Ruseel Scenic Byway, Georgia

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

Quiet Morning Road, Murphy, North Carolina

Quiet Morning Road, Murphy, NC

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

S Curve
Die Bend Road, Murphy, North Carolina


S Curve, Die Bend Road, Murphy, North Carolina

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Appalachian Trail
Newfound Gap, Tennessee

Appalachian Trail, Newfound Gap, Tennessee


This poem has long been one of my favorites, and I know that it has been interpreted many ways by many people. I think, however, for me it speaks of the past and the future. I am generally not one to over-analyze writings. In fact, in high school I can distinctly remember doing just that always removed some of the interest stories held for me. But this year has been one of looking back at the past and moving into the future for me, so perhaps I am a bit more sentimental than usual.

It is the past that shapes who we are. I am who I have become because of the people and events that happened in my life. Each seemingly small thing creates another facet in my life. As I get older each year, I can begin to understand more and more why the aged spend so much time living in their past.

The past too becomes rosier and rosier in our view with the more time that goes by. But I think that is also how it should be. I once read of a woman who for unknown medical reasons could not forget her past. She remembered every event, every date it happened, just like it was yesterday. I cannot imagine living with that.

It is time that heals all wounds, "they" say, whoever "they" is - and for the most part this is true. But I know that it is also hope for the future that helps us to move on. I found this out for myself the hard way in 2007 when forced to overcome some severe difficulties. Finding hope when you can't see any is hard, and I would not have been able to overcome anything at all without faith, family, and friends to help me along.

Lastly, I would like to say that I am very grateful to Tracy Ruckman for the opportunity she has given me this year, to share my thoughts and opinions,and to sharpen my writing skills. Thank you, Tracy! I only hope something I have shared has effected positively someone's life as much as writing it has affected my own.

Merry Christmas and best, happiest wishes to all in 2009!


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Suzanne Williams Photography
http://web.tampabay.rr.com/swilli41/www
Florida, USA

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Learning to Write Anywhere, Anytime

Capturing Inspired Thoughts


The ability to absorb a scene and translate it into words is what brings writing to life. This is true with fiction and non-fiction. True stories play out before our eyes, and fiction, in our imagination. Sometimes it is hard work to create an article and other times a complete story can drop into our minds. The secret to capturing an inspired moment is to be prepared.

Write it Down Immediately
Many writers have discovered that a flash of inspiration can strike at any time. Words come pouring into their minds, begging to be captured on paper. For this reason, I carry a notebook wherever I go. I also keep one next to my bed as I have woken up at odd hours with a perfect description or closing sentence in my mind. I have learnt the hard way that if I don’t write it down immediately, the words evaporate, never to be found again.

Get Used to Working in Different Surroundings
Very few writers have the privilege of perfect office space or extended periods of time to work. It is possible to train yourself to write anywhere, anytime. I have reached the place where I can bang out an article while my family watch television in the same room. The same goes for public transport, busy airports and coffee shops. I find non-fiction easier than fiction when there is a lot of noise but some of my best stories have been written in less than perfect conditions. The secret is to focus on what you’re thinking and writing.

Use Every Opportunity
It is surprising how much can be accomplished in the space of a few minutes. Use the time waiting for a doctor’s appointment to jot down some thoughts or write a brief outline while waiting outside the children’s school. If you have a piece you’re busy with, it’s not difficult to add a few sentences or ideas during the course of the day.

To illustrate the above points, I’m going to share a true story with you. I have a Jack Russell by the name of Nelson who loves to go wandering. In late 2007, he pulled off an escape of note and reduced me to a nervous wreck! You can read about Nelson’s adventure here.

I wrote this piece a month after it happened. The complete story dropped into my mind as we drove past the supermarket where I’d rescued him from animal control. Unfortunately, I was with my husband at the time, on the way to meet friends at the movies. I pulled out my notebook and told my longsuffering man I had a story idea and had to write it down NOW. I scribbled all the way to the cinema, then spent ten minutes socializing, my fingers itching to write some more. Once seated, I pulled my notebook out again. I wrote in semi-darkness through the trailers and you won’t believe it – wrote the outline for the end of the story while the main feature was showing. It was pitch-black and my handwriting was shocking, but I captured my thoughts. I typed it out the next morning and sold it to the local paper for $250!

On that merry note, I would like to wish you all an awesome, Christ-filled Christmas and a wonderful New Year. Thank you for reading my column each week and I look forward to sharing some more thoughts and ideas with you in 2009.

Debbie Roome works as a freelance writer from her home in New Zealand. Read some of her work at Suite 101 and Faithwriters.


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Blog Tour: Where Do I Go?


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Where Do I Go?

Thomas Nelson (December 9, 2008)

by

Neta Jackson


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

As a husband/wife writing team, Dave and Neta Jackson are enthusiastic about books, kids, walking with God, gospel music, and each other! Together they are the authors or coauthors of over 100 books. In addition to writing several books about Christian community, the Jacksons have coauthored numerous books with expert resource people on a variety of topics from racial reconciliation to medical ethics to ministry to kids in gangs.

Dave and Neta live in Evanston, Illinois, where for twenty-seven years they were part of Reba Place Church, a Christian church community. They are now members of a multi-racial congregation in the Chicago area.

They're trying something new! Not just new for them, but something completely new in Christian fiction: “Parallel novels,” two stories taking place in the same time frame, same neighborhood, involving some of the same characters living through their own dramas and crises but interacting with and affecting one another … just the way it happens in real life.

It’s something that only a husband and wife writing team could pull off. While Neta has Where Do I Go?, her husband Dave has written Harry Bentley's Second Chance.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

A story of seeking-and finding-God's will in unlikely places.

Gabrielle Fairbanks has nearly lost touch with the carefree, spirited young woman she was when she married her husband fifteen years ago. But when the couple moves to Chicago to accommodate Philip's business ambitions, Gabby finds the chance to make herself useful. It's there she meets the women of Manna House Women's Shelter; they need a Program Director-and she has a degree in social work. She's in her element, feeling God's call on her life at last, even though Philip doesn't like the changes he sees in her. But things get rough when Philip gives Gabby an ultimatum: quit her job at the shelter or risk divorce and losing custody of their sons. Gabby must take refuge, as in the song they sing at Sunday night worship: "Where do I go when there's no one else to turn to? . . . I go to the Rock I know that's able, I go to the Rock."

Romantic Times Book Reviews says, “Exquisite characters coupled with God's mercy and love emanate from each page.”

Publisher's Weekly adds, “Jackson's Yada Yada series has sold half a million copies, and this new offshoot series ... promises the same.... The book's dramatic ending ... leav[es] readers eager for the next installment in the series.”

To read the prologue and first chapter of Where Do I Go?, click HERE.





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Monday, December 15, 2008

2008 Best Books Roundup - What Are Your Picks?

UPDATE: I'm bumping this post back to the top this week since we're continuing the contest - hope you'll post your list soon!

We're entering the "most wonderful time of the year" so we're doing something a little different the next couple of weeks here at Pix-N-Pens.

I'm compiling a list of my favorite books for the year, and will post them after Christmas. For now, I want to hear from readers. Because this is Pix-N-Pens, your comments will earn you a chance to win a $30 Amazon Gift Card that we'll give away on Saturday, December 20th. So tell all your friends, and start making your lists.

In the comments section of this post, list YOUR top 10 picks for favorite books this year. Please include the title and the author. Any book you read this year can be included on this list, although we prefer to see new releases since it is a 2008 roundup. (I know of at least one book that will be on my own list that wasn't published this year, so I'm giving a little leeway here!) Your choices may include fiction or non-fiction.

You can give us more than one top 10 list, but each must be in a separate comment. If you want to divide your lists by genre, feel free to do that, too!

Each comment that includes a list of your top 10 book picks for the year with title and author, and a way to contact you, will be entered into a random drawing for the gift card.

The deadline to submit your list is Friday, December 19th, midnight (Central time.)

List away!



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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Congratulations to Our Own Debbie Roome!

I received notice this morning that our very own Debbie Roome won 1st Place in a writing contest at Women of Passions. Debbie's story, Mary's Prayer, is a beautiful Christmas story you don't want to miss!

Congratulations, Debbie!!! We are so proud of you!!



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Friday, December 12, 2008

PUGS Pointers #6: Help Readers Take You Seriously

PUGS* Pointers
(*Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling)
by Kathy Ide


In this column, freelance author, editor, and speaker Kathy Ide shares tips on Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling (“PUGS”). She also explains why it’s important for writers to polish their PUGS.

Each article in this column will address one item in each area. For more PUGS Pointers, or to purchase a copy of the PUGS Pointers book, see Kathy Ide’s Web site.

PUGS Pointers are based on the current industry-standard references in the United States.

For books:
The Chicago Manual of Style (15th edition, © 2003)
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition, © 2003)

For articles:
The Associated Press Stylebook (© 2004)
Webster’s New World College Dictionary (© 2002)

Many publishing houses have their own in-house style guides that may differ in some aspects from the standard references. However, unless you’re writing exclusively for one particular publisher, it’s best to follow the standard references and let the in-house proofreaders adjust to house style.


WHY POLISH YOUR PUGS?

PUGS errors may cause readers to take you, and your message, less seriously.

On November 15, 2004, Ireland On-Line ran an article on their Web site with this title: “Crowe Turns Hero to Help Snake Bite Boy.” The story was about actor Russell Crowe helping a boy who’d been bitten by a snake. But by spelling snakebite as two words, this sentence implies that Mr. Crowe helped a snake bite a boy! Now, I got a good laugh out of that. But I sure don’t want those kinds of mistakes showing up in my own writing.

And take a look at this statement made in a major newspaper: “Officers found two rifles, a large bag of marijuana packaged for sale, a small scale, a bullet-proof vest and dozens of bullets in a sock.” If readers are giggling about the image of all these items being found in one enormous sock, they won’t be paying as much attention to the point of the article.


PUNCTUATION TIP:

Terms of Respect
Honorific titles are capitalized. But general terms of respect are not.
Examples:
His/Her/Your Majesty
His/Her/Your Excellency
Your Honor
my lord/my lady
sir/ma’am

(See The Chicago Manual of Style 15th edition, #8.35.)


USAGE TIP:

farther/further
farther refers to a measurable distance or space.
“The ball traveled ten yards farther.”

further indicates “greater in quantity, time, and degree” or “moreover.”
“Stanley wanted to discuss the problem further.”


GRAMMAR TIP:

try and vs. try to
Try and should only be used when the subject is trying and doing something else.
“Three times Harry tried and failed to get his manuscript published.”

Always use try to when referring to something the subject tried to accomplish.
“Elizabeth is going to try to write her first draft in a week.”

The only time you could get away with “Elizabeth is going to try and write her first draft in a week” is if you’re writing this in dialogue and the character who’s speaking isn’t concerned with proper grammar.


SPELLING TIP:

by-product (with a hyphen)



AUTHOR BIO:

Kathy Ide has been writing for publication since 1988. She has written books, articles, play and movie scripts, short stories, devotionals, and curriculum. She is a full-time freelance editor, offering a full range of editorial services for aspiring writers, established authors, commercial book publishers, subsidy publishers, and magazines. Her services include proofreading, copyediting, substantive/content editing, coauthoring, ghostwriting, and mentoring/coaching. She also speaks at writers conferences across the country. She is the founder and coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network and the Christian Editor Network. To find out more, please visit Kathy's Web site.





Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lights On

There is something about photographing holiday decorations that appeals to me. First of all, I think it's because they don't move. People move. Pets move. Secondly, I have total control over what's in the photograph. I don't have to make it smile or "not wear that". Lastly, no one is offended because I "took their bad side".

What makes a great Christmas photo is the subject. And what makes a great album of Christmas photos is the variety of subjects. Christmas lights are always a photographer's first choice. There is one thing you will need in order to photograph lights well - a solid surface. Use a tripod; find a fence post or a table top. Shaky lights look like shaky lights. Experiment with shutter speeds and apertures. Smaller apertures will give you more star effects. Shorter shutter speeds will give you more light detail and less "little round white circles".

Christmas Light

Christmas Light

However, don't limit yourself to just lights. There are a myriad of good subjects. I like to make macros and have photographed everything from jingle bells to candy canes to gold sparkles. Adjust your camera angle. Don't shoot everything from above, but lower or turn yourself.

Candy Canes

Candy Cane

Stage a photograph. Make a collection of similar objects and move them around. Put something in the foreground. Drape a cloth in the background. Staging photographs can be great fun! But be sure to pay attention to your exposure. Lighting is often key to a good staged photograph and greater detail (without distracting elements) is usually needed to make it work.

A Christmas Glass

A Christmas Glass

Try something abstract. Everything doesn't have to be concrete. Lower your depth of field and let things go out of focus. I am always surprised by what photos work. Sometimes it is just the sparkle that I wanted to capture, not the object itself.

Christmas Colors in Abstract

Christmas Colors in Abstract

When you've got it all done, try making a slide show. There are dozens of places and types of software you can use to put one together. Take all your new Christmas shots, insert some family photos, add a Christmasy tune, and play it at the family gathering. I find people love to remember Christmases past.


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Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Writing for the Season

Seasonal Topics

In the world of publishing, the year is marked and divided by seasons and important holidays. Many magazines work months ahead on these events and a Christmas article submitted in late November will be far too late. Newspapers and internet markets, generally work to shorter deadlines but still start preparing a month or two in advance.

Looking Ahead
Train yourself to work several months ahead. Retail stores do this. Each year, mince pies, Christmas trees, hot cross buns, chocolate rabbits and Easter eggs flood the shelves for weeks before the actual event. Writers need to work along similar lines.

Planning
With the new year looming, now is the perfect time to plan for 2009. Do this by using a calendar and diary and making a note of the change of seasons and local holidays. Then, depending on what publication you are aiming your work at, make a note in your diary of a date to start working on an Easter story or an article for Independence Day. Some magazines put out guidelines with cut-off dates for submissions for each issue. Enter these in your diary as well.

Focus on the Topic
A few months before, research ideas and possible subjects so your work will be focused and accurate. In early November, I got a book out of the library on Christmas customs around the world. Using this, I compiled an article for Suite101 called Christmas Customs and Celebrations. Over the last week it has jumped to second highest on my list of article reads. Analyze your markets and try and supply what they will be looking for, at the appropriate time.

Fresh Ideas
Publications are always looking for a fresh approach to old subjects and welcome articles that will catch the reader’s interest. Try choosing an item or theme and brainstorm some ideas around it. As we are in the Christmas season, here are some examples of what could be written about Christmas decorations:

  • Interview with a local decoration manufacturer (Find them at craft shops/fairs)
  • Technical explanation of how glass baubles are made
  • History of decorations and their early origins
  • Stats on how many decorations are sold worldwide/in your city/in your local store
  • Interview with city authorities about who maintains and hangs the street decorations etc
  • The cost of power used to run Christmas lights


With Christmas almost upon us, now is the time to look ahead to upcoming holidays and events such as Valentine’s Day and Easter. Many areas also have local celebrations that provide opportunities for writers. There is plenty of work available – get your diary out and make a plan of how to capture your share next year.

Debbie Roome works as a freelance writer from her home in New Zealand. Read some of her work at Suite 101 and Faithwriters.

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Christmas Pick from one of my Favorite Authors!

A Christmas book from one of my favorite authors! This one makes a perfect stocking stuffer, or last minute gift idea. It's also perfect for your decorated coffee table! Just be sure to get yourself a copy too, if you plan to give one away - it's a keeper!





This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Engaging Father Christmas

FaithWords (October 30, 2008)

by

Robin Jones Gunn



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Robin grew up in Orange County, California and has lived in all kinds of interesting places, including Reno and Hawai’i.

She and her husband currently live near Portland, Oregon and have been married for 30 years. They spent their first 22 years of marriage working together in youth ministry, and enjoying life with their son and daughter who are now both grown.

As a frequent speaker at local and international events, one of Robin’s favorite topics is how God is the Relentless Lover and we are His first love. She delights in telling stories of how God uses fiction to change lives.

Robin is the recipient of the Christy Award, the Mt. Hermon Pacesetter Award, the Sherwood E. Wirt Award and is a Gold Medallion Finalist. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Media Associates International and the Board of Directors for Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writers’ Guild.


ABOUT THE BOOK:

Miranda Carson can't wait to return to England for Christmas and to be with her boyfriend, Ian. She has spent a lifetime yearning for a place to call home, and she's sure Carlton Heath will be it, especially when a hinted-at engagement ring slips into the conversation.

But Miranda's high hopes for a jolly Christmas with the small circle of people she has come to love are toppled when Ian's father is hospitalized and the matriarch of the Whitcombe family withholds her blessing from Miranda. Questions run rampant in Miranda's mind about whether she really belongs in this cheery corner of the world. Then, when her true identity threatens all her relationships in unanticipated ways, Miranda is certain all is lost.

And yet...maybe Father Christmas has special gifts in store for her after all.

To read the first chapter of Engaging Father Christmas, click HERE.




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Sunday, December 7, 2008

We Have a Winner!

Thanks for all the great comments on the Christmas Firsts post this past week. I enlisted my husband to draw numbers from a hat, and he pulled out #2, so congratulations go to:

Kathy Fuller!

You are the winner of A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts.

Special thanks to Brenda Nixon for being our guest this week! We appreciate getting acquainted with you!

Pixels - this season is always a busy one. Remember to take time with your loved ones to create new and precious memories - of Christmas firsts and of Christmas pasts. The secret isn't in the going and the doing and the buying and the shopping and the cooking. It's in the BEING - in the time spent BEING with each other, enjoying each other, cherishing each other. May the Lord grant each of you a special season filled with love and precious moments.

Don't forget to remind people that Jesus is THE reason for the season! You might even remind them with your actions, rather than your words.


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Saturday, December 6, 2008

PUGS Pointers #5: PUGS Can Be Embarrassing

PUGS* Pointers
(*Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling)
by Kathy Ide


In this column, freelance author, editor, and speaker Kathy Ide shares tips on Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling (“PUGS”). She also explains why it’s important for writers to polish their PUGS.

Each article in this column will address one item in each area. For more PUGS Pointers or to purchase her Polishing the PUGS book, see Kathy Ide’s Web site.

PUGS Pointers are based on the current industry-standard references in the United States.

For books:
The Chicago Manual of Style (15th edition, © 2003)
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition, © 2003)

For articles:
The Associated Press Stylebook (© 2004)
Webster’s New World College Dictionary (© 2002)

Many publishing houses have their own in-house style guides that may differ in some aspects from the standard references. However, unless you’re writing exclusively for one particular publisher, it’s best to follow the standard references and let the in-house proofreaders adjust to house style.


WHY POLISH YOUR PUGS?

PUGS errors can be embarrassing.

A friend of mine once picked up a book at a bookstore and noticed a PUGS error on the back cover. When she reported it to our critique group, she didn’t say she’d found a mistake on a book published by “XYZ Publishers.” She said she found the mistake on a “Jane Doe” novel. She didn’t connect the error to the publishing house, but to the author.

Many readers, especially avid ones, are familiar with the rules of punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling. If your reader knows the rules, and you don’t, that’s going to make you look bad.


PUNCTUATION TIP:

Terms of Endearment
Terms of affection (honey, dear, sweetheart) are lowercased.

(See The Chicago Manual of Style 15th edition, #8.39 and The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style page 112.)


USAGE TIP:

every day/everyday
every day is a combination of an adjective and a noun, synonymous with “each day.”
“Daisy wrote 2000 words every day.”

everyday is an adjective, which means it describes a noun.
“For Debbie, writing was an everyday activity.”


GRAMMAR TIP:

that vs. who
That refers to animals and things.
“The dog that bit me chased the Frisbee that I threw.”

Who refers to people.
“The man who bought Yvonne flowers was handsome.”


SPELLING TIP:

grown-up (with a hyphen, both noun and adjective)


AUTHOR BIO:

Kathy Ide has been writing for publication since 1988. She has written books, articles, play and movie scripts, short stories, devotionals, and curriculum. She is a full-time freelance editor, offering a full range of editorial services for aspiring writers, established authors, commercial book publishers, subsidy publishers, and magazines. Her services include proofreading, copyediting, substantive/content editing, coauthoring, ghostwriting, and mentoring/coaching. She also speaks at writers conferences across the country. She is the founder and coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network and the Christian Editor Network. To find out more, please visit Kathy's Web site.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

I Am Who I Am

I read a blog recently that made me think, but in an opposite way from it was intended. The author was trying to inspire photographers who found themselves disappointed or frustrated by harsh criticism, either by themselves or others.

I suppose he had a good point when he pointed out we all make mistakes. This is not a perfect world and there will always be shots you should have done better. I have certainly taken trips where I missed that right moment and came home with pictures that were "all wrong". That is a part of the road of life. It is having the ability to learn from your mistakes that makes you a better photographer and person.

Along that same line, I have also always been one to encourage others to learn. It is only by admitting that you don't know everything, that you will grow as a person. In my opinion, some of the "worst" photographers are those who seem to have an answer to everything. There is nothing worse than a "photo snob". You know the type. They have the best camera and know exactly what lens to use at all times. They can crop it, adjust it, frame it, and sell it before you blink.

My philosophy about photography has little changed since my beginning shots were taken, and the first and foremost thing I always emphasize is YOU SHOULD ENJOY IT. Over the years I have found certain things about photography cause me to lose enjoyment of it. Competitions are one such thing. I stopped entering them years ago because I found I focused more on what would win, than what I really in my heart wanted to photograph. Photograph what you like! If you love the patterns and textures of big buildings, then go for it. If photographing bugs bores you to tears, then don't!

Preying Mantis

Preying Mantis

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE THE BEST PHOTOGRAPHER TO ENJOY PHOTOGRAPHY! You don't have to have the best equipment or the most expensive software. I have never owned a DSLR and by choice will never own one. I like the lighter feel of a point-and-shoot camera. I like that I can take macros, or wide angle shots, or zoomed shots without changing lenses. I like it even more when people are surprised what I "took that shot" with. Be the best at what you have.

Sunrise, November 24, 2008
Aperture Priority F8.0, Graduated Neutral Density Filter

Sunrise, November 24, 2008

FIND PEOPLE WHO LOVE WHAT YOU LOVE. I have joined groups where I had little in common with the people there. Often we do not agree on politics or religion or philosophy. Perhaps they were not even photographers, but we shared a love of a common thing - a love for natural sound, knowledge about wildflowers. I have learned so much from people with more time to study than I have. I have found that it always affects me through my photographs.

Asters

Asters

IT'S OKAY TO HAVE A DRY TIME. If you find yourself with little time to photograph, the weather is just terrible, or you just can find that one thing to inspire you again. That's okay. We've all been there. Stop and take the time to look around without a lens. Sometimes when you're not looking for it is when inspiration comes the best.

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Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What are Book Trailers?

Interview with Misty Taggart


We have a guest with us this week. Misty Taggart of Trailer To The Stars shares how she got involved with the fascinating business of creating book trailers. I browsed through some of her work when preparing the interview and I must say she is incredibly skilled at what she does...and I now have a list of books I want to read! Take some time to watch a couple of her trailers and if you have a book due for release, drop her a line.


1) Are book trailers a new concept?


They are not exactly new, however they have really taken off in the past year. Everyone is busy and it's great to have a Video Trailer to truly draw your audience into your book. They have done it forever for movies...now, we're doing it for books.

2) Can you explain to us what a book trailer is?


A book trailer is about 60 - 90 minutes in length. It's the most wonderful way to bring your book to life for your readers. Using video clips, still photography, professional Voice Over Talent and music ... your trailer tells the story of your book, whether fiction or non-fiction. It entices the reader to purchase the book. Especially in this time of watching our dollars, it's really important that authors and speakers bring their work alive to their audience. After watching the trailer, we want them to say, "I just have to read that book!"

3) How did you become involved in producing them?


I spend over 20 years in Hollywood as a screenwriter. Since retiring, I have so missed that creative outlet. After being asked by an author friend of mine to make a trailer for her, I found that I love it. It's great fun and a really challenging outlet for my talents. It's amazing how God works. I was praying about feeling so frustrated with my career ... and God sent Andrea Boeshaar. And, here I am today, producing video trailers for some bestselling authors and top speakers. It's wonderful.

4) How do you select the images and text for a book trailer?


I become familiar with the subject and talk with the author and/or speaker. What are they wanting to say? Who is their audience? Then I spend hours searching out just the right photos or video, auditioning the VO talent and choosing the music. Then, it all begins to come together. It's really exciting.

5) Do you create book trailers for fiction, non-fiction or both?


Yes, my trailers are effective marketing tools for both fiction and non-fiction, as well as for promoting speakers. The end result is MORE SALES! MORE BOOKINGS! Publishers also use these trailers to excite their sales force about an author or book. Remember, they are the conduit from author to bookstore to reader.

6) What sort of success rate have authors had with book trailers?


I don't have exact numbers, however, publishers and authors have shared with me that they have seen a jump in sales when the trailers are available. I do a great deal of extra marketing for my clients. I upload their video to all the top sites YouTube, GodTube, ShoutLife, FaceBook, Christianbooks.com, Amazon ... and email the video to over 4,000 Christian Women on my personal Email list. Yes, they work! And they work really well.

7) What is the most satisfying thing about this line of work?


It always amazes me how exciting it is to hold the book in my hands and then turn that into a living, breathing video. The way my clients feel about their work and the success they see is totally satisfying. It's the reason I do it.

8) Is there a demand for Christian fiction and are Christians viewing book trailers?

Yes! And, Yes! The problem for so many authors is that their books do not get the needed marketing to make them truly visible in today's marketplace. Video Trailers do that for them. It gives them that extra 'buzzzzz' that reaches out the reader. It's really wonderful that my trailers are put up on Christianbook.com right on their book page. The video and the BUY BUTTON are right there together. It makes that sale!

9) How do prospective readers access book trailers?

The videos are available on YouTube.com, GodTube.com, Shoutlife.com to name a few places. Just do a search for Christian book trailer or Christian book video - it will bring up many and you can view the ones that interest you. Also, many authors are finding the videos to be very helpful with book sales when they are doing a signing - many bookstores will run the video for their customers. And don't forget BLOGS! This is a tremendous place to view videos. Many blogs now do Author Interviews. If an author has a video available they will post it on their blog. What a way to enjoy the perks of the Internet. But, first you have to have a professional video trailer! Then hit the web!

10) How can writers contact you if they want to know more about your services?


If an author has a book coming out in 2009 - NOW is the time to book production time at TRAILER TO THE STARS! They do not need to have their book cover. I'm booking now for March 2009 and forward. That's why it's important to talk with me today. You can book your production for anytime in 2009. If they wait until the last moment, they cannot get their trailer when the book is released. So, that is why so many clients book production time in advance.

You can view my video productions at: Trailer to the Stars and also at: God Tube

For more information email Misty.

I will be happy to answer all their questions. Take a look at the many Client Testimonials here: Testimonials

Debbie Roome works as a freelance writer from her home in New Zealand. Read some of her work at Suite 101 and Faithwriters.




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Blog Tour: Dark Pursuit

I'm thoroughly enjoying this book at the moment - Brandilyn's books always provide a great escape that keeps you on the edge of your seat, turning pages. Check them out!




This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Dark Pursuit

Zondervan (December 1, 2008)

by

Brandilyn Collins



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Brandilyn Collins is known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. She is currently working on her 20th book. For chances to win free copies of her work, join her Fan Club on Facebook. Here’s what Brandilyn has to say about why she wrote Dark Pursuit:

In John Milton’s Paradise Lost Satan’s followers, kicked out of heaven, boast about storming the gates and reclaiming their territory. Beelzebub scoffs at their boasting as merely “hatching vain empires” and suggests a different revengeful scheme: seduce mankind away from God. So Satan visits the Garden of Eden to teach humans the very thing he and his cohorts have learned to be futile—the dark pursuit of hatching their own vain empires instead of following God. He presented man with this “gift” of death, disguised as life. And man fell for it.

Upon this theme of man’s fall and spiritual blindness, I created the characters and events in Dark Pursuit. The story clips along at a fast pace, with much symbolism running underneath.


ABOUT THE BOOK:


Dark Pursuit—A twisting story of murder, betrayal, and eternal choices

Novelist Darell Brooke lived for his title as King of Suspense—until an auto accident left him unable to concentrate. Two years later, reclusive and bitter, he wants one thing: to plot a new novel and regain his reputation.

Kaitlan Sering, his twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, once lived for drugs. After she stole from Darell, he cut her off. Now she’s rebuilding her life. But in Kaitlan’s town two women have been murdered, and she’s about to discover a third. She’s even more shocked to realize the culprit—her boyfriend, Craig, the police chief’s son.

Desperate, Kaitlan flees to her estranged grandfather. For over forty years, Darell Brooke has lived suspense. Surely he’ll devise a plan to trap the cunning Craig.

But can Darell’s muddled mind do it? And—if he tries—with what motivation? For Kaitlan’s plight may be the stunning answer to the elusive plot he seeks...

Read the first chapter of Dark Pursuit, HERE.




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Monday, December 1, 2008

New Contest: Christmas Firsts

This week, we're celebrating the release of A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, written and compiled by six authors. One of them, Brenda Nixon, joins us today, answering a few questions about the book, but first, the contest information. Be sure to read the directions thoroughly - I'm request entries a bit differently this week.

CONTEST: Share with us - in the comments section only (no e-mails this time) - some memory of a Christmas "first." Do you remember your own first Christmas? Or perhaps the first Christmas with your spouse? Or with a child? Or maybe a first Christmas without a parent? Or a first white Christmas? Or ... ?

Submit your comment by Friday, December 5th, midnight (Central time) for your chance to win a copy of A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts. Winners will be chosen by random drawing from anyone leaving a Christmas First memory.

About the Book:

Is your Christmas cluttered? Does it leave you fretting instead of singing "Joy to the World"? In A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, discover how to bring harmony to this busy season. As you turn the pages of this practical book, you'll find tips for family traditions, children, gift giving, how to grow myrrh and much more. Try the scrumptious "Cookie Canister" recipes, read heart-warming stories about families who experienced Christmas firsts and enjoy the feelings of nostalgia and home. This is a book to help you uncomplicate Christmas, rediscover the real source of joy and usher in the celebration of faith, family and a Savior. The eye-catching scrapbooking designs used throughout the colorful book make this an ideal gift as well as coffee table book.

The first time something happens in your life is usually a significant moment and often a transforming event. Who doesn't remember their first kiss? Christmas is a time of year when events become even more significant because of the importance we place on the holiday. The First Christmas truly changed lives--and this compilation of "Christmas Firsts" show families enriched by the holiday, the beginning of new traditions, and a fond remembrance of why we continue to celebrate that First Christmas.

A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts invites you to enjoy the true meaning of Christmas. Laugh with the light quotes and quips, learn about the origins of many Christmas traditions, and enjoy holiday tips to make your celebrations complete.

About the Authors:

These women have never all been together at one time, they haven't even all met each other in person! If you are looking for a great interview...schedule them all for an informative interview that's sure to be sprinkled with a family reunion feel.

You can find out more about each of the contributing authors at their blog or at their personal websites:

A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts Blog

Brenda Nixon

Cathy Messacar

Karen Robbins

Leslie Wilson

Terra Hangen

Trish Berg


Now an interview with Brenda Nixon:

What is A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts? How is it like a scrapbook?

If you like quick quotes, inspirational short reads - some tear-jerkers, tasty recipes, historical fun facts, and tips to simplify and savor the holidays then you've just described A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts.
The scrapbook concept came about because six of us authors each contributed so it's a collective feel, and the layout of the book is similar to an old-fashioned scrapbook with those black corners, coffee stains, and a threadbare look to some pages.

How did this book come about? Share a bit about the writing process and procedure since all six authors live in six different areas.

Yes, I think we're an enigma because we're in this six-author business relationship and have yet to be together in one place. Three of the authors I've never met face-to-face.

Karen Robbins, Trish Berg and I are all Buckeyes - that's Ohio. Cathy Messecar and Leslie Wilson are in Texas while Terra Hangen, our gardening guru, is in the Pacific Northwest. A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts is Cathy's brainchild. We were (and still are) in a Barnabas group where we support, encourage and hold one another accountable in our professional lives. Terra and I birthed the group and invited the others to join us. At the time we first "met," our common thread was that we were all writing columns for mainstream publications.

After a year, Cathy mentioned her book proposal on unusual stories and events that took place for the first time around Christmas. Being the supportive bunch we were, everyone offered to help either with editing or contributing a story. Well, those offers morphed into all of us equally having a share, but we consider Cathy the head-writer (sounds like the Dick Van Dyke Show). Two members of the group asked their agent to help us sell the ms to Leafwood Publishers. But Cathy had a previous and positive relationship with Leafwood so it was an easy sell.

What great Christmas idea or tip did you learn from your co-authors while writing the book?

Good question, Tracy. Hmm, I've learned a lot from having a six-person business relationship. But, from writing the book, I learned that each has something of value to contribute. Just as God gives different gifts to His Body, so each team member has different strengths to add to this project. Everyone chipped in and it came together into a beautifully packaged holiday read that rivals anything Hallmark can produce (geesh, do I sound partial?).

When I received my advance author copy, I sat down immediately and read the book cover-to-cover. I learned about growing Myrrh and re-blooming poinsettias, vowed to try the baklava recipe, sniffled at some of the stories and learned about my co-authors' favorite memories.

Tell us about your own personal writing journey - how long you've been writing, how long it took to be published, etc.

Well, I began writing when I was five years old. With a bobby pin I etched my name into the side of my parents' oak desk. They weren't pleased. Professional writing began for me in 1998 when I was the parenting columnist for a monthly publication. I also wrote for compilations; the first was Life's Little Rule Book (Starburst) and then I moved into the Chicken Soup series. I joined the Kansas City Christian Writer's Association (at the time we lived in KC), which is now the Heart of American Christian Writers Association (HACWA) and they offer fabulous annual writers conferences. (There's a plug for you Mark & Jeanette Littleton.)

In 2000, I participated in a CLASS speaker training. But their enthusiasm for my writing became the push I needed to publish.

In 2001, my book, Parenting Power in the Early Years, self-published through WinePress, released. From 2001 - 2007, I wrote articles, columns for Children's Ministry magazine, and promoted Parenting Power. Writers conferences began asking me to teach workshops, so now I also "give back" to the industry by serving as writer conference faculty.In 2007, my agent sold the Parenting Power ms to Revell and it will release this January as The Birth to Five Book.To date, I'm a contributing author to 23 books and A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, is my first co-authored work.

Since empowering parenting in their enormous task is my mission and passion, I write parenting articles for numerous family publications, have been quoted in Woman's Day, Child, Working Mother, and Parents Magazines, on WebMD and USA Today Weekend, and serve as a parenting guest expert in the media. For those interested in enriching their parenting knowledge and skills, see the free articles on my site. Is that 'nuff about me?


You are offering a wonderful service to your readers, Tracy. If any have questions for me, they're welcome to leave them in the comment box and I'll check in to see if I can adequately answer.


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One Perfect Day - A Page-Turner

The cover on this week's featured book - One Perfect Day by Lauraine Snelling - drew me in immediately, for personal reasons. An old friend painted a picture many years ago that was so eerily similar to this cover, I had to examine it to make sure the cover was a photo and not my friend's artwork!

Then, the back cover blurb - it left me with many questions. Most times, I avoid reading the back cover because it tells me exactly what's going to happen in the book (or provides enough information that I can figure out how it will end) and leaves no surprises. But for some reason, this time I read it, and all it did was arouse my curiosity even more.

The book itself hooked me from the opening pages. The characters were real, interactions with each other very realistic and 'normal.' The storyline could have been too painful to read at times, but the author blended two stories together in such a way that with each "dose" of pain and sorrow and tears, we got a "dose" of hope and joy and laughter.

Overall - a very beautiful book that I read in one sitting. Just be sure to keep a hanky (or two) nearby.



This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

One Perfect Day

FaithWords (October 22, 2008)

by

Lauraine Snelling


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Today, Lauraine Snelling is a member of the more than Two Million Books In Print club, but when she first began, she was a mother of three teenagers with a simple dream to write “horse books for kids.”

All told, she has over 50 books published. She thinks. She’s not sure. She’d rather write them than count them. Lauraine’s work has been translated into Norwegian, Danish and German as well as produced as books on tape.

Awards have followed her dedication to “telling a good story”: the Silver Angel Award for An Untamed Land and a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart for Song of Laughter.

Helping others reach their writing dream is the reason Lauraine teaches at writer’s conferences across the country. She mentors others through book doctoring and with her humorous and playful Writing Great Fiction tape set. Lauraine also produces material on query letters and other aspects of the writing process.


Her readers clamor for more books more often and Lauraine would like to comply, if only her ever-growing flower gardens didn’t call quite so loudly over the soothing rush of the water fountains in her back yard and if the hummingbirds weren’t quite so entertaining. Lauraine and husband Wayne have two grown sons and a cockatiel named Bidley, who loves to tease their Basset Hound named Chewy.


ABOUT THE BOOK:

Two mothers end up more closely connected that they could dream...and yet they are strangers to one another. The first has two children--twins, a boy and girl, who are seniors in high school. She wants their last Christmas as a family living in the same home to be perfect, but her husband is delayed returning from a business trip abroad. And then there's an accident--a fatal one involving a drunk driver.

Meanwhile, the other mother has a daughter who needs a new heart, and so the loss of one woman becomes the miracle the other has desperately prayed for. While one mother grieves, and pulls away from her family, the other finds that even miracles aren't always easy to receive.


To read the first chapter of One Perfect Day, click HERE.



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We Have a Winner - Photo Contest!

Greetings, Pixels. I pray your holidays were filled with fun, frivolity, and plenty of delectable delights!

I wish I had enough books to give away to each of our contestants this week - each set of photos was unique and featured our theme beautifully. But I must choose only one.

The winner is:

Entry # 3 Submitted by B.J. Hamrick!

Congratulations, B.J.!

And thanks to all the contestants for participating - I look forward to seeing more of your photos in future contests!


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Friday, November 28, 2008

PUGS Pointers #4: Be a Professional

PUGS* Pointers
(*Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling)
by Kathy Ide




In this column, freelance author, editor, and speaker Kathy Ide shares tips on Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling (“PUGS”). She also explains why it’s important for writers to polish their PUGS.

Each article in this column will address one item in each area. For more PUGS Pointers or to purchase Polishing the PUGS book, see Kathy Ide’s Web site.


PUGS Pointers are based on the current industry-standard references in the United States.

For books:

The Chicago Manual of Style (15th edition, © 2003)
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition, © 2003)

For articles:

The Associated Press Stylebook (© 2004)
Webster’s New World College Dictionary (© 2002)

Many publishing houses have their own in-house style guides that may differ in some aspects from the standard references. However, unless you’re writing exclusively for one particular publisher, it’s best to follow the standard references and let the in-house proofreaders adjust to house style.


WHY POLISH YOUR PUGS?

PUGS errors give an unprofessional appearance to publishers.

You don't want an acquisitions editor or someone on a publishing committee looking at your manuscript and thinking, "You know, this author has some good things to say, but she sure doesn't know a comma from a semicolon."


PUNCTUATION TIP:

Plurals

Do not use an apostrophe when pluralizing. Here are some words people tend to incorrectly insert apostrophes into:

dos and don'ts
no ifs, ands, or buts
the 1980s
the Joneses
"I had to go to three DMVs to get my license renewed."

Exception: To avoid confusion, pluralize lowercase letters and abbreviations with two or more periods (or that have both capital and lowercase letters) with an apostrophe-s.

x's and y's
a's and b's
M.A.'s and Ph.D.'s

*See The Chicago Manual of Style (15th edition) Rule #7.6–7.16 and The Christian Writer's Manual of Style (2004 edition) page 51.


USAGE TIP:

ensure/insure
ensure (verb) means "to assure," "to secure," "to make something certain or sure."
"Molly wanted to ensure that her manuscript was received by the publisher."

insure (verb) means to guard, protect, safeguard, or shield.
"Allstate insured the property against theft and vandalism, but not terrorism."

GRAMMAR TIP:

among vs. between

Things are divided between two people or things, but among more than two. Thus, "The royalties will be divided equally between Megan, Becky and Connie" implies that the money is to be split into two equal portions. Megan gets half; Becky and Connie split the other half. (The missing comma between Becky and Connie also supports the claim that Megan gets half while Becky and Connie split the other half.)

SPELLING TIP:

all right


Most dictionaries list alright as a legitimate word, but most book publishers do not consider it acceptable. Unless you are writing for a specific publisher, and you’re certain that publisher is all right with alright, spell it as two words: all right.


AUTHOR BIO:

Kathy Ide has been writing for publication since 1988. She has written books, articles, play and movie scripts, short stories, devotionals, and curriculum. She is a full-time freelance editor, offering a full range of editorial services for aspiring writers, established authors, commercial book publishers, subsidy publishers, and magazines. Her services include proofreading, copyediting, substantive/content editing, coauthoring, ghostwriting, and mentoring/coaching. She also speaks at writers conferences across the country. She is the founder and coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network and the Christian Editor Network. To find out more, please visit her Web site.