Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ideas For Composition: Negative Space


This is the 3rd article in this series. To read the other articles: (1) Framing, (2) Diagonals (4) Backgrounds (5) Multiples.

Negative space is any area in a photograph where there is NOT an object. You can have a lot of negative space, or very little. Both effects can be useful and harmful. In a photograph where there is too much negative space, the main point of focus can seem lost. In reverse, a photograph with too little negative space appears to be crowded.

The placement of negative space is also an important decision. A photographer must decide if the negative space is better to the left or right of an object, or above or below it. With moving objects, you generally want the greater negative space to fall before it, in the direction the object is moving. This gives the appearance that there is somewhere for that object to go.

Crescent Moon

My Little Beach Umbrella

Dendrobium Orchids


Sunset, American Coots

Negative space needn't always be empty space. It can be large areas that are out of focus, or a large expanse of something, such as water or sky. It is also an effective way to isolate your subject, thereby drawing the viewer's eye to a single object.

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Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The End of the World

Reviewed by Phee Paradise

The Mayan Apocalypse
By Mark Hitchcock and Alton Gansky

Did you know the world is going to end on December 21, 2012? Apparently the Mayan calendar predicts it. In The Mayan Apocalypse, a Mayan descendent warns the world of its pending demise and promises a way to survive it – to those who can afford to pay. Andrew Morgan believes him. Lisa Campbell doesn’t.

The two main characters of the book couldn’t be more different. Morgan is an oil executive who blames God for the deaths of his wife and son. Lisa is a reporter for a Christian news magazine. They meet while she is covering the story of the Mayan predictions and develop a friendship of sorts. While he is drawn into the inner Circle of people who will be saved, she tries to gather information about it. And they both try to reconcile their attraction for each other with their different beliefs.

The premise and basic plot of the book were unique and kept my interest, and I really liked Morgan. He was a gentleman and had great integrity, in the midst of a privileged life filled with grief. Lisa was a little harder for me to relate to. At first she fit a stereotype of a persistent, insensitive reporter, but she also showed compassion and remorse for her pushiness. As the story progressed she grew on me.

Hitchcock and Gansky did several things with the plot that had me shaking my head. The first half of the book takes place a year and a half before the doomsday. The plot develops slowly and naturally. And then the story jumps to just before the big day. We learn in retrospect that Morgan and Lisa have become close friends and that Morgan has committed himself to the plans for survival.

There is also a subplot woven through the book that didn’t go anywhere. In retrospect, I wasn’t sure why it was included at all. But the book has a realistic ending that doesn’t tie up all the loose ends neatly. If it were a TV show I’d be looking for part two. It was a good end for the book, though.

Pros: Interesting take on the end of the world theme, with excellent explanations of the Mayan calendar system and a very natural explanation of the gospel. The characters are interesting and the plot has some surprises.

Cons: The plotting was unusual and left out a part of the story.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Mayan Apocalypse
Harvest House Publishers(September 1, 2010)

Mark Hitchcock & Alton Gansky


Mark Hitchcock is the author of more than 17 books related to end-time Bible prophecy, including the bestselling 2012, the Bible, and the End of the World. He earned a ThM and PhD from Dallas Theological Seminary and is the senior pastor of Faith Bible Church in Edmond, Oklahoma. He has worked as an adjunct professor at DTS and has served as a contributing editor for the Left Behind Prophecy Club for five years.

Alton Gansky is the author of 30 books—24 of them novels, including the Angel Award winner Terminal Justice and Christie Award finalist A Ship Possessed. A frequent speaker at writing conferences, he holds BA and MA degrees in biblical studies. Alton and his wife reside in Southern California.


On the heels of Mark Hitchcock’s prophecy bestseller 2012, the Bible, and the End of the World comes a suspenseful novel (coauthored with bestselling novelist Alton Gansky) about the supposed expiration date of planet earth—December 21, 2012.

Andrew Morgan is a wealthy oil executive in search of the meaning of life. In his quest for answers he encounters the ancient Mayan predictions that the world will end in 2012. That the claims seem supported by math and astronomy drives him to check on them. Then he meets Lisa Campbell, an attractive Christian journalist also researching the Mayan calendar. When he learns that she is a Christian, he quickly dismisses what she has to say.

As the time draws closer to December 21, 2012, a meteorite impact in Arizona, a volcanic eruption, and the threat of an asteroid on a collision-course with earth escalate fears. Are these indicators of a global apocalypse? Will anyone survive? Does Lisa’s Christian faith have the answers after all? Or has fate destined everyone to a holocaust from which there is no escape?

Watch the book trailer:

To read the first chapter of The Mayan Apocalypse, click HERE.

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Creating a Work Space at Home

Making a Comfortable Work Space at Home by Debbie Roome
Many people put off writing as they say they don’t have a desk or enough room. With a bit of creativity, it is possible to make a work space, even if it needs to be set up every day.

Create a Pleasant Working Space
Many writers don’t have the privilege of a private office and use a kitchen table or a corner of a sitting room. This can be personalised by adding a pretty cloth, a vase of flowers, a photo or a certificate. It is worth setting these items up each day as it signals the brain that it’s time to write.

Create Routine where Possible
Making time to write is a necessity or it will never happen. Make a decision to set up your corner each morning and discipline yourself to sit down and write. Working at the same time each day creates regularity and with perseverance, the discipline will become a habit.

Think about Writing in your Space
Think about your current project as you go through the day and write notes and reminders to yourself. Doing this can create expectation for sitting down the next day and making progress on your current project.

Most writers go through periods of frustration but pleasant surroundings, creativity and preparation can keep the words flowing. Make a decision today to set up your own personal work space – and if you already have one, plan what you can do to improve it and make it more conducive to creativity ... and have loads of fun while you're at it!

Debbie Roome works as a freelance writer from her home in New Zealand. Visit her at Debbie Roome or read some of her work at Suite 101, Associated Content and Faithwriters.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Oh the Despicable Press

Reviewed by Phee Paradise

Judgment Day
By Wanda L. Dyson

Most of the people in Judgment Day are pretty despicable, including Suzanne Kidwell, one of the main characters. She is the host of an investigative television show and is willing to take shortcuts to get sensational stories. When two teenage girls disappear, a young police officer tells her the high school principal is a person of interest. After she erroneously announces that he’s been arrested, he loses his job. Even when she is framed as a murder suspect, she doesn’t stop being pushy, thoughtless and self-centered.

I didn’t see anyone I liked in the story until I met the two detectives that she hires to prove her innocence. They are Christians and, although they are tough, they have integrity. Suzanne knows more about her situation than she lets on, but Marcus and Alex are good. They not only solve the case, but take care of Suzanne, in spite of her self-absorbed attitude.

The plot of the book is complicated and there are a lot of hints that there’s more to the crime than it seems. But the author also lets the reader in on some of it by switching to the point of view of several of the bad guys. If you’ve been reading my reviews, you’ll know this is one of my pet peeves. If you don’t mind the point of view changes, this won’t bother you.

Judgment Day is a fast moving crime drama, with developing characters and a nasty and complex crime. If you’re a mystery fan, you’ll enjoy it.

Pros: Classic crime drama with enough twists to keep you guessing.

Cons: Few of the characters are likeable, and there are a lot of point of view shifts.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Judgment Day
WaterBrook Press (September 21, 2010)

Wanda Dyson


Wanda Dyson – "a shining example of what Christian fiction is becoming..." (Christian Fiction Review). She's been called a "natural" and a "master of pacing," but her fans know that whether it's police thrillers, suspense, or bringing a true story to life, Wanda knows how to take her readers on a journey they'll never forget.

Wanda is a multipublished suspense author, currently writing for Random House/Waterbrook. Her one attempt at a nonfiction book was picked for an exclusive release on Oprah. In addition to writing full time, she is also the appointment coordinator for the CCWC, Great Philadelphia Christian Writers, and ACFW conferences.

Wanda lives in Western Maryland on a 125 acre farm with a menagerie of animals and when she's not writing critically acclaimed suspense, or away at conferences, you can find her zipping across the fields on a 4-wheeler with Maya, her German Shepherd, or plodding along at a more leisurely pace on her horse, Nanza.

With the release of her newest hit, Judgment Day, Wanda is heading back to the keyboard to start on her next high-octane thriller, The Vigilante.


Sensational journalism has never been so deadly.

The weekly cable news show Judgment Day with Suzanne Kidwell promises to expose businessmen, religious leaders, and politicians for the lies they tell. Suzanne positions herself as a champion of ethics and morality with a backbone of steel—until a revelation of her shoddy investigation tactics and creative fact embellishing put her in hot water with her employers, putting her credibility in question and threatening her professional ambitions.

Bitter and angry, Suzanne returns home one day to find an entrepreneur she is investigating, John Edward Sterling, unconscious on her living room floor. Before the night is over, Sterling is dead, she has his blood on her hands, and the police are arresting her for murder. She needs help to prove her innocence, but her only hope, private investigator Marcus Crisp, is also her ex-fiancĂ©–the man she betrayed in college.

Marcus and his partner Alexandria Fisher-Hawthorne reluctantly agree to take the case, but they won’t cut Suzanne any slack. Exposing her lack of ethics and the lives she’s destroyed in her fight for ratings does little to make them think Suzanne is innocent. But as Marcus digs into the mire of secrets surrounding her enemies, he unveils an alliance well-worth killing for. Now all he has to do is keep Suzanne and Alex alive long enough to prove it.

Watch the book trailer:

To read the Prologue and first chapter of Judgment Day, click HERE.
You can purchase the book directly from Random House.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Editing Tip #46: Point of View

Kathy Ide’s Editing Tips
© Kathy Ide, 2010

In this column, freelance author, editor, and speaker Kathy Ide shares tips on self-editing your manuscript.


Point of view is one of those fiction-writing techniques that readers rarely notice, but publishers and professional authors are keenly aware of. If not done properly, readers may sense that something doesn’t feel right, though they may not know what. Errors in point of view (POV) will brand a writer as an “amateur” to a publisher, and no matter how good the story may be, it will probably never see the light of publication.

“Point of View” means the perspective (or perspectives) from which the reader watches the story unfold. The point-of-view character is the “consciousness” of the story. The reader sees, hears, smells, tastes, and experiences everything that happens through that character’s perceptions.

Since your POV character would not know what anyone else is thinking or feeling, you must focus on that character’s own thoughts and emotions. While you are in one character’s point of view, be sure to identify what he or she is thinking, what he or she observes and senses, and how he or she feels. (But don’t just tell the reader what emotion the character is experiencing. Show it through actions.)

A POV character may be able to guess what those around him or her are thinking or feeling based on what they do, how they look, etc. Describe the other characters through the eyes of the point-of-view character.

Be careful not to describe attributes of the POV character that he or she would not be able to observe. (For example, “Debra’s cheeks reddened.” If Debra is the POV character, she can’t see the color of her own cheeks—unless she’s standing in front of a mirror. She could, however, feel her cheeks grow warm.)

The point-of-view character should be identified in the first sentence of a chapter or section by describing what that character is doing, observing, and/or saying. Early on, a description is inserted of the character’s surroundings—where he or she is, who else is around, why they are there, how the POV character feels about being there, etc. The rest of the chapter unfolds as this character sees and perceives what happens around him/her.

The first point-of-view character mentioned in the book’s first chapter should be the main character, the number-one protagonist, the character through whom most of the story will be lived. You may have more than one POV character, but don’t use more than three or four, or your reader may get confused. Also, make sure to introduce each of your main characters within the first few chapters, and don’t let too many chapters go by before the reader is back in each character’s perspective.

When you change from one character’s point of view to another, insert either a chapter break or a blank space with a single centered pound sign (#) or one to three asterisks (***). The beginning of each section or chapter should identify immediately whose point of view the reader will be in throughout that section.


NOTE: It is an infringement of copyright law to reproduce this publication, in part or in whole, without the express permission of the author. To request permission, please e-mail


Kathy Ide has written books, articles, play and movie scripts, short stories, devotionals, and curriculum. Her books include Polishing the PUGS and Fiction and Truth. Kathy is a full-time freelance editor, offering a wide range of editorial services for authors and publishers. 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

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ideas For Composition: Diagonals


This is the 2nd article in this series. To read the remaining articles: (1) Framing, (3) Negative Space, (4) Backgrounds (5) Multiples

Lines are a standard compositional element. The shape and length of lines draw the viewer's eye in a particular direction. The lines themselves do not have to be perfectly straight. Often they are more subtle, coming in the form of objects with irregular shapes. Lines also do not have to always be physical objects. There are visual lines created through the angle of light, as in shadows or sun rays.

Also, lines go in more directions than horizontal and vertical. I am particularly fond of diagonal lines. Diagonals give a photograph both distance and depth. Like vertical lines, they make objects look taller. Like horizontal lines, they also make objects look broader in scope and deeper in distance.

A Delicate Balance

Wild Plum

Morning in the Country

Rainwater, Bird of Paradise

Downtown Disney, Orlando, Florida

Glory Streaming

The best way to create diagonal lines is by shifting your physical position. Instead of facing the scene "head on" turn yourself slightly to the side. At the same time, always pay attention to how the lines "move" in the photograph. Their direction should always enhance the scene and not detract from it. Also, avoid lines that seem to stick out awkwardly from your main objects (the old 'telephone pole through the head' image). This can ruin a photograph.

In the end, lines are a great compositional tool. Take a photo trip somewhere and concentrate on creating lines. You'll find it makes the trip more interesting and you'll see some amazing results!

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Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Writing Prayers for those in Need

When a Written Prayer Makes all the Difference by Debbie Roome
If you read my column two weeks ago, you would know I had just lived through a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Christchurch. While the damage to our property was minimal – a broken wall on the veranda and two sections of roof on the garage – the emotional impact was far greater than I would have expected.

No Man is an Island
The damage in Christchurch has been estimated at NZ$4 billion. Buildings lie in ruins, businesses are no more and homes are uninhabitable. The devastation can be seen right across the city. Aftershocks continue to shake us although they have dwindled to a few every day. It has been a hard month and people have turned to each other for support. Suddenly neighbours are much more concerned and shop assistants more chatty. Churches have pulled together and there is an attitude of hope.

The Emotional Impact of a Natural Disaster
I am used to being the giver – to sending money to third world countries and sponsoring children; to supporting charitable causes and helping the poor. Now my city is the one in need. It is humbling to sit back and receive. I also underestimated the impact the earthquake would have on me emotionally. I have been nervous and jumpy and find it hard to concentrate and almost impossible to sleep through the night. In the midst of this, a friend sent me something she had written just for me.

Writing a Prayer for a Friend
This something was a prayer; a prayer written especially for me in my circumstances. I have hung onto that over the last couple of weeks and still read it most days. It has brought immense comfort and hope and I have decided to follow her example. The next time a friend has a need, I will write a prayer for him or her and will pray it fervently as well as giving it to them in written form.

People often say they will pray when a friend is going through a hard time – and many of them do. However, I have learnt that a prayer that is written down and passed on can do so much more. It can give hope, build confidence and is a true expression of friendship. I hope my story will inspire you to write a prayer for someone you know.

Debbie Roome works as a freelance writer from her home in New Zealand. Visit her at Debbie Roome or read some of her work at Suite 101, Associated Content and Faithwriters.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Amish and English Romance

Reviewed by Phee Paradise

Autumn’s Promise
By Shelley Shepard Gray

I’ve never lived in Pennsylvania or Ohio, so I have no experience of the Amish. But I always thought they lived pretty separate from the people they call the English. In Autumn’s Promise, that isn’t the case. It’s set in a small town in Ohio where the English live next door to the Amish and both work for the Mennonites. It’s a pretty eclectic community and the story is about both the Amish and the English.

Autumn’s Promise is half a romance and half a coming of age story. The two plots run parallel and coincide from time to time. Lilly Allen is an unmarried nineteen year old English girl who is recovering from a miscarriage. Her next door neighbor, Caleb, is a sixteen year old Amish boy who is considering leaving the order. While their stories are told in a parallel fashion, the two are moving in opposite directions. Lilly falls in love with an Amish man and knows that if their relationship will go anywhere, she must consider becoming Amish. Caleb, on the other hand is exploring the English world.

While Lilly does what she can to help Caleb find his answer, she has to find hers within herself. She is apparently a Christian, but her faith is not discussed. But she knows that marrying Robert would mean coining his church, learning his language and changing the way she lives. In the end, they both find the right answer for them, but they struggle to get there.

The book is the third in a series and past events are mentioned throughout the book. It’s done in a way that informs the reader without making you feel that you’re missing something important. But I would recommend that you look for the others in the series before you read this one.

Pros: The main character faces an interesting dilemma that seems to have no solution. The resolution is satisfying, but not completely predictable.

Cons: The story is simple and would have been more gripping with a more complex plot.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Autumn's Promise
Avon Inspire (August 3, 2010)


Shelley Shepard Gray


Since 2000, Shelley Sabga has sold twenty-six novels to numerous publishers. She has written a seven book contemporary series for Avalon books. She also published The Love Letter, a western for Avalon. Five Star Expressions published Suddenly, You in February of 2007. This novel is a historical western set in the mountains of Colorado.

Shelley has written nine novels for Harlequin American Romance. Cinderella Christmas, her first novel with them, reached number six on the Waldenbooks Bestseller list. Her second book with them, Simple Gifts won RT Magazine’s Reviewer’s Choice award for best Harlequin American Romance of 2006. The Mommy Bride, was chosen by Romantic Times Magazine as one of their TOP PICKS for May, 2008.

Under the name Shelley Shepard Gray, Shelley writes Amish romances for Harper Collins’ inspirational line, Avon Inspire. HIDDEN and WANTED the first two novels of her ‘Sisters of the Heart’ series, were chosen to be Alternate Selections for the Doubleday/ Literary Guild Book Club. FORGIVEN, book 3, has received glowing reviews. Avon Inspire is releasing four novels by Shelley this year.

Before writing romances, Shelley lived in Texas and Colorado, where she taught school and earned both her bachelors and masters degrees in education. She now lives in southern Ohio and writes full time. Shelley is married, the mother of two teenagers, and is an active member of her church.


Some promises are meant to be broken...

Until Robert Miller met Lilly Allen, his world had been dark. A widower after only two years of marriage, he'd been living in a haze, feeling that, at twenty-four, his life was already over.

But thanks to his friendship with Lilly, he now has new reasons to wake up each day. He knows his connection to her doesn't make sense. She's only nineteen, with a past the whole town talks about. Even more, she's not Amish, like Robert. A marriage between the two of them could never happen.

Lilly's heart is drawn to Robert, not to his faith. No matter how much she admires his quiet strength and dependability, she doesn't think she could ever give up her independence and reliance on the modern world. Is their love doomed before it even begins?

To read the first chapter of Autumn's Promise, click HERE.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Mystery With a Heart

Reviewed by Phee Paradise

The Black Madonna

By Davis Bunn

Strong female characters are common these days, so Storm Syrrell in The Black Madonna is no surprise. But what I liked about the book was that she and her closest friend solved a difficult problem while their capable male friends were sidelined.

Two wealthy art collectors are bidding against each other on an eclectic list of items. They range from an early twentieth century Russian painting to a mythical clock. Money is no object, but both buyers are hiding behind someone else. Storm has been hired by one of them without meeting her employer.

This job is not only odd, but turns out to be dangerous. Storm and her friend who works for Homeland Security try to find a connection between the objects. A bombing in the West Bank and several abductions are also somehow connected to the art collecting.

The answer is found where extreme wealth, international politics and simple faith meet. Storm uncovers the conspiracy and finds an elegant solution. The setting requires some knowledge of art, politics and even mountain climbing. Bunn integrates this information into the story so well, that readers won’t even know they have been educated. But the plot is so complex, I had to put the book down to think about the problem and Storm’s solution, to understand it.

Yet, Storm is a rather humble character and because of her the plot is accessible. She has integrity and cares about how global issues impact individuals. This quality in her raises the book above a simple spy novel and gives it a heart.

I recommend it, even if this is not a genre you usually read.

Pros: Mystery, romance and some unpredictable twists, with strong female characters and an unexpected ending. The story also has a heart.

Cons: It is the second book in a series and although the author offers some back story, there is some sense of starting part way through.

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Editing Tip #45: Polishing Tips

Kathy Ide’s Editing Tips
© Kathy Ide, 2010

In this column, freelance author, editor, and speaker Kathy Ide shares tips on self-editing your manuscript.


Here are a few random tips for polishing your manuscript.

Style Guides. Most American book publishers use The Chicago Manual of Style. If you don’t have one, I strongly encourage you to purchase the latest edition, which is the 16th. (The Associated Press Stylebook is used for newspapers and journalistic magazines. They publish a new version every year.) If you’re writing for the Christian market, get The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style by Robert Hudson (2004 edition).

Dictionaries. Book publishers use Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition). For articles, use Webster’s New World College Dictionary.

Sentence Spacing. Put one space between each sentence, not two. If you’re used to two, it can be a tough habit to break. There’s an easy fix, though. Just use “find and replace” to find two spaces and replace with one space. Click “replace all” until the count gets down to zero.

Paragraph Indent. Always indent each paragraph with one tap of the Tab key to 1/2 inch. Do not use the spacebar. Don’t add blank lines between paragraphs. And take out any automatic paragraph spacing your word-processing program may add.

Italics or Underscore. Underlining of text that is to be italicized when the book goes to print used to be the standard. But typesetting has become computerized to the point where most publishers now want italicized text to be italicized in the author’s manuscript.

Scene Breaks for Fiction. Insert a blank line to signal a change in time, location, or point of view. Skip an extra line between scenes and place a pound sign (#) or one to three asterisks, centered on the skipped line.

Dashes. An em dash is formed using two consecutive hyphens without spaces before or after. Most word processing programs can automatically change this to an “em dash”—which is perfectly acceptable and preferred by some publishers. For book manuscripts, an en dash should be used between consecutive numbers, such as in Scripture references or dates. Just be sure your entire manuscript is consistent one way or the other. Either use hyphens throughout or use em and en dashes throughout.

Ellipsis. The ellipsis (. . .) consists of three dots with spaces before, after, and in
between each period. If the ellipsis occurs at the beginning or end of a quotation, there’s no space between the first or final dot and the quotation mark.


NOTE: It is an infringement of copyright law to reproduce this
publication, in part or in whole, without the express permission of the
author. To request permission, please e-mail


Kathy Ide has written books, articles, play and movie scripts, short stories, devotionals, and curriculum. Her books include Polishing the PUGS and Fiction and Truth. Kathy is a full-time freelance editor, offering a wide range of editorial services for authors and publishers. 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

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ideas For Composition: Framing


For the next few weeks, I'd like to share images all geared towards sparking in you more ideas toward eye-pleasing composition. This week I have chosen framing.

Framing is using a surrounding secondary element to draw the viewer's eye to the main point of focus. It can be created with actual physical props or through creative use of depth of field. Even the reflections in a pond can be framed.

Maternal Scene, Cattle Egret

Picture Framed, Fontana Lake, North Carolina

Spring Reflections


Dew Covered Spiderweb

Framing is a great way to create more eye-pleasing photographs. Think of it as elements to include in the photograph instead of exclude. Exclusion removes everything but the point of focus, but inclusion finds a way to make the objects in the scene all work together.

To read the remaining articles:
(2) Diagonals, (3) Negative Space (4) Backgrounds (5) Multiples

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Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Art of Writing a Thank-you Note

Small Expressions of Appreciation by Debbie Roome
When I was a child, I was always made to write thank-you letters for birthday and Christmas gifts. In those days, my notes were handwritten on pretty stationery with lines underneath to keep me straight. I used to find it tedious, but looking back, I am thankful my mother trained me to be appreciative.

Have we Lost the Art of Writing our Thanks
While anyone can write a thank-you letter, some people have the ability to write something extra special. These type of notes are normally personal and meaningful to the recipient. As writers this is something we should make an effort to do as the results can be far greater than we might expect.

Thank-you Notes are of Value to the Recipient
I have a box full of thank-you notes and emails I’ve received over the years. Every so often I have look through them and they always inspire and uplift. It takes effort to sit down and compose a letter or write out a card but it is worth it for giver and recipient.

Results of a Recent Thank-you I Wrote
In June I had the embarrassing experience of passing out just before my flight took off for Wellington. The sad tale is on my blog if you’d like to know the gory details. Anyway, the cabin crew member who initially looked after me was wonderful. I wrote to Air New Zealand that night and asked them to pass on my thanks to her. I mentioned her compassion and caring as she sat next to me on the aircraft, giving me oxygen and taking my pulse.

A few weeks later I was on a flight to Auckland and this flight attendant was on duty. She recognised me and called me by name as I entered the aircraft. We couldn’t talk then but when refreshments were being handed out, she came and took over from the person serving me. While she poured my coffee she said she was so pleased to see me again. The airline had passed on my message and it had counted towards her performance review which had been in the week following the incident. She said it really made a difference and she asked how I’d been keeping.

It was an extremely positive experience for both of us and I was pleased to be able to thank her properly face to face. The last time I saw her I was in a wheelchair, wrapped in blankets, dizzy and half conscious.

Writing thank-you notes doesn’t have to be reserved for big events. A quick email to say you enjoyed a coffee date or a card to say thanks for a birthday present can mean so much to the other person. My challenge to you this week is to write a thank you to at least one person. Then if you’d like to, come back and leave a comment and share the experience with us.

Debbie Roome works as a freelance writer from her home in New Zealand. Visit her at Debbie Roome or read some of her work at Suite 101, Associated Content and Faithwriters.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Marketing Your Writing - Starts Wednesday!

The next WIES Workshop starts Wednesday - Marketing Your Freelance Writing.

Writing is an art. Publishing is a business. Do you think like a business manager as you market your writing to publishers? The marketing mix model, used by businesses everywhere, will give you a new way to look at your marketing efforts. The marketing mix has four components: Product, Promotion, Place, and Price. The Christian business marketing mix contains a Fifth P, Prayer. Learn to manage the P's to create your own personal marketing plan for your writing career.

Topics covered will include:

· Overview of the marketing mix concept
· Defining your product
· Promotion methods and message
· Networking, being in the right place and the right time

· Pricing your work
· The role of prayer in planning

Instructor: Emily Akin
Course Dates: September 15, 2010 - October 8, 2010 (4 weeks)
Cost: $100

Register today!


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Friday, September 10, 2010

Editing Tip #44: Plotting

Kathy Ide’s Editing Tips
© Kathy Ide, 2010

In this column, freelance author, editor, and speaker Kathy Ide shares tips on self-editing your manuscript.


The plot is what fictional characters do during the course of the story. Some novels are action oriented (plot driven), while others are relationship oriented (character driven). But even in relationship-oriented novels, the characters must DO something.

As you begin plotting, consider the best way to get the hero and heroine and villain together quickly. Create a way to keep the hero in the heroine’s and villain’s lives, a reason to stick around. Within this activity, reveal the goals the main character will try to reach during the novel. This is the first section of your book—the beginning. It is the most crucial part. If you don’t start out with an exciting “hook,” your reader won’t get any further.

Next, think of situations that will change the characters, for better or worse. Create scenes in which pivotal information about the characters’ pasts and their internal conflicts comes out naturally—but make sure they are doing something to bring out these revelations. This constitutes the middle. Make sure there is plenty of conflict in every scene, goals that are thwarted, obstacles that seem insurmountable.

Every chapter, scene, and line of dialogue must advance the plot. If it doesn’t, chop it out! Don’t let a character spend an entire page reminiscing about the past, either in thought or dialogue, for no apparent reason (other than that you, the author, want the reader to know about this). Something must bring those memories to mind. And don’t interrupt an action scene with lengthy internal musings. If someone is pointing a gun at the hero’s temple and saying, “Give me your wallet,” a brief thought may flit through his mind, but he won’t stand there for several paragraphs thinking about something that happened years ago. He’s going to react! Later, when he has collapsed on the concrete and is leaning against the building shaking from head to toe, he could have a slightly longer flashback. But even that should be interrupted by another action. Background information must be woven and filtered into the action. Like salt, it should be sprinkled, not dumped.

The conclusion, or end, is separated into four distinct parts: crisis, black period, awakening, climax, resolution. The crisis is where everything blows apart for the hero and heroine. They have been facing steadily growing challenges and obstacles throughout the book, and they seem to have completely failed. There’s no way they’ll reach their deeply desired goals. This leads to the black period, where the hero and heroine are separated—if not physically, at least emotionally and spiritually. Then comes the awakening, where one or both characters realize that a fear needs to be faced and conquered, a goal needs to be changed or forgotten, the love relationship can work if he/she does whatever suits your plot. This leads to the climax, where the lead character puts everything on the line one last time. He goes for broke, holding nothing back. And it works! Resolution: Goal achieved (either the original one or a revised one). Characters have changed in positive ways. They learned something along the way that made them a better person.


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Kathy Ide has written books, articles, play and movie scripts, short stories, devotionals, and curriculum. Her books include Polishing the PUGS and Fiction and Truth. Kathy is a full-time freelance editor, offering a wide range of editorial services for authors and publishers. 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

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Are Mormons so Different?

Reviewed by Phee Paradise

For Time and Eternity
By Allison Pittman

For Time and Eternity belongs to the new genre I call “intriguing alternate Christianity.” This one is about Mormonism in its early years. It’s the second I’ve read about polygamy and it treats this strange lifestyle very well. It’s the story of a young girl who marries a Mormon man without understanding how that will change her life. She tells her story in first person and it’s full of her love for her husband and children, as well as her growing faith. Her doubts about Mormonism, her faith in the God of traditional Christianity and her husband’s decision to marry a second wife all mesh together to create a fascinating story.

Seen through Camilla’s eyes, Nathan Fox is charming, upright and a wonderful father and husband. But he has one need she can’t meet. He embraces the Mormon faith and wants to be accepted into the inner circle of leaders of the religion. This means he eventually has to have more than one wife. He assures her he will always love her, but she doesn’t see how he can love someone else as well. Camilla faces this as the end of her marriage, but doesn’t see how she can leave him. As events move forward without her control, she turns to the Bible and the faith she learned as a child. God sustains her and helps her in surprising ways.

Camilla, Nathan and the other characters in the book could be my neighbors and friends. Pittman brings them to life through Camilla’s honest and sympathetic voice. The story is gripping and I had a hard time putting it down. I ached for her, but didn’t see any way out of her dilemma. The solution surprised me, but was appropriate to her place and time – and left me anxiously waiting for the next book in the series.

Pros: A moving love story with strong characters who find themselves with a seemingly impossible problem. God’s love is a strong, but subtle theme.

Cons: The ending is a cliff hanger that might frustrate you.

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Book Review: Identifying and Feeding Birds


Identifying and Feeding Birds
By Bill Thompson III

About the Author:

Bill Thompson III is longtime editor of Bird Watcher's Digest. and a previous author of other Peterson Field Guides. This book being underneath the "Peterson Field Guide" name gives it considerable weight in the bird world as being reliable information.

Book Content:

The book is broken into two halves. The first half covers a wide range of topics about birding in your backyard. The second half is a listing of common backyard birds.

This is a handy book for the home birder to have. Bill Thompson III talks about everything from birds habits and needs, to types of feeders, to some of the bird myths he's come across over the years. Each topic is presented in a broader sense, so that anyone in the U.S. will be able to use the information in the book.

Backyard birders are encouraged to include in their bird feeding habits natural habitat, through the planting of native plants. The author describes the types of plants and gives suggestions of those which will attract birds and more specifically what species of birds. He then talks about the different styles of bird feeders, as well as the multitude of seed choices. Much attention is given to how the choice of seed and the style of feeder affects what birds you will attract. This information was particularly well thought out.

As well as feeding habits, the author also discusses the choices a home birder has to include water in the garden. He talks about the many types of bird baths and especially stresses the need for cleanliness. This is followed by a chapter on bird housing. Here information is given on the many choices of housing and what birds will use each.

I was most interested in the chapter of the book dealing with bird myths. Drawing from his considerable knowledge, Bill Thompson III answers a series of common questions he has heard over many years of birding. He effectively expels some of the rumors many birders have heard.

Most helpful in this book are the charts. There is a chart for birds' individual choice of seeds, for bird-friendly plants, for cavity-nesting birds and their proper housing, and also on what plants will attract hummingbirds. Each chart is laid out cleanly and is easy to read.

The second half of the book is a listing of common backyard birds, both those that feed in the yard and those you might see there. The author first takes the time to discuss the proper technique for identifying a bird without going too much into more specific terms. Each listing gives the common and Latin names of the bird, it's size (in inches), field marks (comparing some birds that look similar), a description of any sounds the bird makes, what its natural habitat would be, and lastly how you'd see it in your backyard. There is also a color-coded map of the United States showing the summer, winter, and annual range of each bird. This section of the book is very helpful to a backyard birder. It avoids giving too much detail, which would confuse those with less knowledge. Because it lists only birds typically seen in a back yard, it is very helpful as a quick reference to identification.


This book is a great choice for a home birder, who just wants to draw in more birds, care for them properly, and know what they are looking at. It is presented in a general sense and is applicable to most anywhere in the United States.

The photography in the book is fantastic. Underneath each photograph is yet more tips and helpful information. The photographs come from a range of well-known birding enthusiasts, many of whom I have met on the web. The book is almost worth buying just for this reason alone.


What is a pro for some might become a con for another. The book IS a general bird knowledge book. Someone who is deep into birding might become bored with its lack of specifics on individual species of birds. However, I would point out that this book is not meant as a field guide, so much as one for the beginning or intermediate user and is geared towards the home birder.

The book also does not give detailed information for each area of the country. That would have made the book unwieldy in my opinion. The home birder will have to find more resources to enable them to know what is most common to their area and what plants and habitat will best grow in their yard.

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Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

HDR Photography and Editing


This will not be an article about "how to do" HDR (High Dynamic Range) Photography. I will leave that to the pros. Instead, it is on proper editing technique, and this ultimately affects the outcome of HDR photography.

I have said time and again that I despise HDR photography. In fact, I said it until my mind was completely closed to the topic. If I happened to accidentally click on someone's gallery and then discovered it was full of badly done HDR photographs, I left without even viewing a single photograph. At least, this was until I viewed a series of photographs by National Geographic Magazine. Wow! Amazing! They are HDR done right, and I now see the value behind the technique. They are that spectacular.

This is an obvious example of editing. The original image was in color and I used Photoshop to turn it into a black and white.

Bok Tower in Sepia, Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales, Florida

Yet ultimately, at the core of creating those images is the very factor of proper editing that I have pushed all along. A photograph which is properly edited should not look like it was edited at all. This applies to any feature of editing - cropping, sharpening, cloning, or dodge and burn. Editing's strictest purpose is to bring a photograph back to how it would have been seen if you were actually standing there viewing it in person. Proper HDR images have a 3D quality that looks natural yet surreal, but avoid that overly-darkened, vignetted appearance that I so despise.

Bad editing is the bane of a photographers existence (and my biggest pet peeve). You can take the most amazing images, travel miles, spend every dime you have in savings, and then edit your photos to death. There are therefore two qualities to editing that I say everyone must obey - minimalism and honesty.

With this image, I used a combination of filters to increase the color saturation and give it a softer effect.

Leaving Me Breathless, Lakeland, Florida


Simply put, do as little editing as possible to any image you take. If your horizon is crooked, then by all means straighten it; if some strange tree limb pokes into the bottom corner, then crop the photo and disclude it, but in both cases, do as little as possible.

Crop to the normal ratio of your camera, whether that is 3:2 or 2:1.5 (those are most common). I have used square formats before, but only very rarely. Whenever viewing someone's work and noticing that every image is in some strange shape, it becomes very apparent to me that he or she is relying on cropping to fix everything. The easiest prevention is to pay attention to what is in the foreground and background of your image before you take it. If you are in the habit of randomly snapping without looking at the scene closely, then there lies the essence of your problem. Also, cropping does NOT substitute for the lack of enough zoom and was not meant to be used for that.

But cropping is just one example. Limit your sharpening, any dodging and burning, any other post-editing to only what enhances the photograph, making it look natural. When you do too much (and in my opinion, too much includes over framing an image) you move from photography into digital art. There is a big different in the minds of many photographers, and this brings me to my next quality.

These three pears were photographed on my kitchen counter with black cardboard as a backdrop. I used the "burning" brush in Photoshop to darken certain areas and make them look more suspended in the air.

Trois Poires


Never, never, never (Did I say never?) put your photographs out there and attempt to hide your editing. This is THE most frowned on activity and a good sign of an immature, non-professional photographer. There are many websites, including a lot of photo contests, that have strict guidelines as to what is allowed. And I HAVE seen people lose their award, by being dishonest.

I look at it this way, if I have to edit it to death to save it, it then becomes a documentary shot. I post it as such, and I include the fact I had to edit it considerably. I then move on and hope to some day do that photograph one better and get the picture I really wanted in the first place. Mistakes do happen, after all!

The most common reasons for editing are cropping, sharpening, and white balance correction. Especially in photographs where the main subject is white, minimal white balancing is often needed to remove strange color casts.


So in conclusion, what is the purpose of even minor dabbling into HDR photography? It is, as the name suggests, to extend the very limited range of light and color into areas where the camera by itself is just not capable of going. You have to remember that what the human eye can see is so much more than any mechanical device. Done correctly (and please, please view the National Geographic Society's gallery of HDR images) it is an amazing tool that can achieve some fantastic results.

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Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.