Friday, January 29, 2010

Editing Tip # 19: Book Manuscript Format

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.

~ BOOK MANUSCRIPT FORMAT ~

TITLE PAGE

If you’re sending a proposal, type “A Book Proposal” at the top of the first page. One third of the way down the page, type the title of your book in ALL CAPS. If you have a subtitle, type that in Initial Caps on the next line. Two lines down from that, type “By” followed by your name (or your pen name, if you wish to use one). This should all be centered.

At the bottom of the page, type your real name (not your pen name). On the next line, type your mailing address; on the third line, your city, state, and zip code. On the fourth line, type your phone number (with area code). On the fifth line, you may type your e-mail address and/or Web site URL.

Do not use the copyright symbol and year. Your work is protected by law from plagiarism regardless of whether you officially copyright it, and professional writers know this. So putting the symbol on your work brands you as an amateur. Reputable publishers wouldn’t dream of ripping off an author’s work, so it’s a bit insulting to suggest that you fear this.


HEADER

Using the automatic header feature, on every page except the Title Page, flush left, type your last name, a slash, and your title (abbreviated if it’s long). In the upper right corner, type the running page number.

TEXT

Follow these standard guidelines:

Use 1- to 1-1/2-inch margins.

Double-space all text. Indent new paragraphs using 1/2-inch tab. Do not leave extra space between paragraphs.

Times New Roman, 12-point font. Do not use ALL CAPS, bold, or underlines for emphasis. If you must emphasize something, italicize it. But use italics for emphasis sparingly.

Use one space between sentences, not two.

Never bind your pages in any way.

Use spell check, but also proofread your manuscript very carefully for correct spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, etc.

Use left alignment, not full or centered. (Leave right margin “ragged.”) Block-indent (add an additional half inch to the left margin) quotations more than four lines long.


NEW CHAPTERS

Start each chapter on a new page. About one third of the way down the page, type Chapter One (Two, Three, etc.), then chapter title (if applicable), both centered. Two double-spaced lines down and start text (indented and left aligned).


**********

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@KathyIde.com.

**********

AUTHOR BIO:
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 full 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 (www.TheChristianPEN.com) and the Christian Editor Network (www.ChristianEditor.com). To find out more, please visit www.KathyIde.com.


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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Capturing Personality

BY SUZANNE WILLIAMS

Personality: the visible aspect of one's character as it impresses others...a collection of qualities...the essential character...the atmosphere of a place or thing *
Personality, where photography is concerned, is that invisible quality that sets your photograph out from all the rest. It moves it out from being just a snapshot. It draws the viewers eye into the image, gives it atmosphere, and leaves an impression.

Lots of subjects have personality. It is not limited to just people and pets, but can be found in houses, buildings, even cities. Natural landscapes have personality, as do gardens and wildlife or flowers. I would phrase it this way. Personality is when I can photograph a single flower yet make someone feel like they've seen the entire garden.

Grace and Beauty

1. Physics


The interaction between your subject, the camera lens, and the surrounding environment is the biggest factor in conveying its personality. This means the feel of the light, the expression of the subject, and its motion (or lack thereof). It is all of these things together that create the magnetism unique to that object.

2. Patience and Persistence


You will most likely never walk out the door and snap one perfect photograph. No, it takes both patience, taking photographs over and over again, and lots of time. For instance, I have photographed my dog for many hours. Yet, her personality in its entirety cannot be seen in just one photograph. Instead, it is all of them put together.

Ginger

Ginger

3. Point of View

As I previously said, personality will not be found in just one photograph. It will take many points of view. Always put yourself at your subject's "eye" level. For shorter subjects (pets, children, flowers), kneel down. For taller ones (architecture or landscapes), stand up and back. Don't forget to go in for close ups as well as taking wider angle views. The life of an object is seen in the details as well as generality.

PIckerel

Pickerel Weed

4. Passion

Never discount the power of the emotions - those of both the subject and the viewer. In photographing people, pets, or wildlife there are a wide variety of possible emotions - happiness, sadness, and anger. But with inanimate objects or scenic images it is perhaps a bit more difficult. Frustration and sadness can be conveyed through a view of a dirty street or an unkempt room. Soft light filtering through a window or the blur of gently running water communicates peace and harmony.

Photos by Joel Combee
DSC_5506a

PAS_6187

Photographs are powerful things, evoking the past to those in the future. A certain picture of my grandmother's table set with leftover lunch dishes never fails to take me back to her house. Viewing the happy faces of pets long gone brings them back into my heart like they were here yesterday. Yet, it is not just the faces or the scenes that call up these feelings. It is that the photographer caught the essence of that moment in time, its personality.

The Old Girl, Melody, Pekingnese

*Dictionary.com

If you'd like to see more of my photographs, visit my Webshots. If you'd like to read more of what I have to say, visit my personal blog.

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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, January 27, 2010

25 Dates on a Bet

Reviewed by Phee Paradise
Becca by the Book
By Laura Jensen Walker

I’m not very familiar with the genre, but Becca by the Book seems like the ultimate chick lit book. Written in first person, Becca tells her story in a sassy voice. She’s young, independent and just wants to have fun. Her friends claim she has a problem with commitment. So she accepts a bet to go on 25 dates with the next man who asks her out. Ironically, he turns out to be a Christian and she doesn’t like Christians – which is odd because that’s what all her friends are.

The bet is a great premise for a book, and I looked forward to reading it. But I disliked Becca by the second page. She is sarcastic, judgmental and speaks in disdainful slang. She narrates her story as if she were a standup comic in a nightclub full of Christian haters. The Christians she knows are not perfect, and she is quick to see their faults. Of course, she doesn’t realize that they’re aware of them too, and are humbly and unconditionally loving her.

Reading Becca’s criticisms of her friends, the church and the Christian lifestyle, irritated me. I don’t know if Walker intended to criticize the church, parody it, or just write a book from a non-Christian’s perspective, but I wouldn’t have made it to the third chapter if not for this review. However, the book does have some strengths. It’s a good story and fairly well written, except for occasional shifts from past tense to present tense. The two unlikely people who have the biggest impact on Becca are a missionary grandmother and a saved, ex-drug addict. Their genuine love for God shines out so even Becca sees it. Because of them, she tones down her attitude and eventually finds something she can commit to.

Even though this is not my kind of book, don’t dismiss it right away. If you like chick lit, or want to watch love overcome the prejudices of an anti-Christian, you’ll want to read it.

Pros: Unique premise that doesn’t work out the way the reader would expect. It’s a fast moving story with loving characters. The book also provides an insight into how Christianese appears to an outsider.

Cons: A sassy voice that made me argue with everything the narrator said. The book is by a Christian, about Christianity, but portrays it negatively in a lot of ways.



This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Becca By The Book


Zondervan (January 1, 2010)


by


Laura Jensen Walker


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Laura Jensen Walker is an award-winning writer, popular speaker, and breast-cancer survivor who loves to touch readers and audiences with the healing power of laughter.

Born in Racine, Wisconsin (home of Western Printing and Johnson’s Wax—maker of your favorite floor care products) Laura moved to Phoenix, Arizona when she was in high school. But not being a fan of blazing heat and knowing that Uncle Sam was looking for a few good women, she enlisted in the United States Air Force shortly after graduation and spent the next five years flying a typewriter through Europe.

Her lifelong dream of writing fiction came true in Spring 2005 with the release of her first chick lit novel, Dreaming in Black & White which won the Contemporary Fiction Book of the Year from American Christian Fiction Writers. Her sophomore novel, Dreaming in Technicolor was published in Fall 2005.

Laura’s third novel, Reconstructing Natalie, chosen as the Women of Faith Novel of the Year for 2006, is the funny and poignant story of a young, single woman who gets breast cancer and how her life is reconstructed as a result. This book was born out of Laura’s cancer speaking engagements where she started meeting younger and younger women stricken with this disease—some whose husbands had left them, and others who wondered what breast cancer would do to their dating life. She wanted to write a novel that would give voice to those women. Something real. And honest. And funny.

Because although cancer isn’t funny, humor is healing.

To learn more about Laura’s latest novels, please check out her Books page.

A popular speaker and teacher at writing conferences, Laura has also been a guest on hundreds of radio and TV shows around the country including the ABC Weekend News, The 700 Club, and The Jay Thomas Morning Show.

She lives in Northern California with her Renaissance-man husband Michael, and Gracie, their piano playing dog.


ABOUT THE BOOK


Sales clerk, barista, telemarketer, sign waver...

At twenty-five, free-spirited Becca Daniels is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. What Becca doesn’t want to be is bored. She craves the rush of a new experience, whether it’s an extreme sport, a shocking hair color, or a new guy. That’s why she quit her bookstore job, used her last bit of credit to go skydiving, and broke her leg.

And that’s why, grounded and grumpy, Becca bristles when teased by friends for being commitment-phobic. In response, Becca issues an outrageous wager—that she can sustain a three-month or twenty-five date relationship with the next guy who asks her out. When the guy turns out to be “churchy” Ben—definitely not Becca’s type—she gamely embarks on a hilarious series of dates that plunge her purple-haired, free-speaking, commitment-phobic self into the alien world of church potlucks and prayer meetings.

This irrepressible Getaway Girl will have you cheering her on as she “suffers” through her dates, gains perspective on her life’s purpose, and ultimately begins her greatest adventure of all.

To read the first chapter of Becca By The Book, click HERE




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Writing and Everyday Activities Series

Writing Stories and Baking a Cake

My mother has always been a great baker ... and my younger daughter seems to have inherited her skills. The cooking genes may have skipped my generation but I’ve learned enough to know that baking a great cake is similar to writing a great story.

Using a Recipe
Following a recipe is the best way to make a cake. It normally lists the ingredients and tells you how to combine them and what temperature to bake them at. Writing a story follows similar principles.

The Ingredients of a Good Story
Most cakes have the same basic ingredients and these can be compared to the content of a good story:
Butter/oil – these hold the mixture together and make it easy to swallow – good grammar and spelling
Flour – the bulk of the mixture – the words that make up the story
Baking soda – the ingredient that makes the cake rise – the inspirational element that uplifts the reader
Sugar – sweetens the cake – the tender emotional parts of a story
Eggs and milk – the protein in a cake – the meat and message in a story

Combining the Ingredients
It’s no good throwing everything in a bowl and hoping it will turn out right. There are basic principles that need to be followed and it’s the same with writing. A story needs a beginning, a middle and an end. Sentences need to follow a logical order and there should be a message that the reader can understand. Just as good baking takes practice, so does good writing.

Baking the Cake
Most cakes need heat to make the ingredients bond and the mixture rise. In a similar fashion, the best stories are often born from painful personal experience. Even when writing fiction, life-lessons and truths learned can be woven into stories.

The Icing on the Cake
This signifies the printed form of the story. A book cover, magazine page or website can enhance the beauty of a well-written piece of work.

Producing a good cake is a skill that takes time and practice; writing a good story requires a similar commitment. The best thing to remember is that God is the Master Baker, the Master Writer and the One who longs to help us in everything we do. Whether baking or writing this week, do it with all your heart and enjoy the results!

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 , Take Root and Write and Faithwriters.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Just Too Cold

BY SUZANNE WILLIAMS

If you have been reading my columns long enough, then you will by now know I live in Central Florida. I live here because I was born and raised here, but I also live here because it is sunny and warm. My idea of winter is a low of about 40 degrees (F) and a high of 72 (F). So when a cold front swept through last week and plunged our temperatures down to 16 (F), that was just too cold!

It was worse than that, however. It was more than just dipping down for one night, as is usual, and warming back up. It was a sustained cold. Even during the daytime, the temperatures never went above the mid-30s.

A Frosty Covering, Flatwoods Plum
A Frosty Covering, Flatwoods Plum Tree

The affect of this weather has been catastrophic to our farming industries. The citrus tree crops froze. The strawberries froze (or became too water logged from day after day of heavy sprinklers). The tropical fish farmers lost most of their fish. The fishing seasons for snook, tarpon, and bonefish have had to be canceled because of the enormous fish kills.

The strawberry farmers used up so much of the water trying to save their plants that a series of sinkholes formed, swallowing up houses, roads, and even threatening major highways. So much water was used, in fact, that the underground aquifer, upon which Floridians depend, was drained to unheard of levels and entire neighborhoods found their wells dry.

On the home front, my flower garden is in shambles. Despite using every linen I could get my hands on, the plants that could not be moved into the shed are now brown and shriveled. Ah, what a far cry it is from last spring with its abundance of colorful flowers and busy insects!

American Lady Butterfly
American Lady Butterfly

Yet underneath the soil, I know life remains. Deep in the recesses of the earth where the roots stretch and tangle, the seeds of next spring exist. Germinating beneath a flood of warm sunshine, those seeds will stir and sprout, and soon I'll see tiny signs of life. New leaves will push themselves up out of the bare empty stems.

I went out early one morning on what proved to be our coldest day, and snapped a series of photos of the frost. I made myself stay out there until my toes were numb and my fingers no longer would bend. I wanted a reminder so that when spring finally comes, when I am once again surrounded with the effluence of life that is my garden, I can look back and shiver and then turn my head, look forward, and smile.

Frosty, Crepe Myrtle Seed Pods
Frosty, Crepe Myrtle Seed Pods

If you'd like to view this series of "Frost" photos, please visit my Webshots. If you'd like to read more of my words, visit my personal blog.

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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, January 20, 2010

Lighthearted Murder Mystery

Reviewed by Phee Paradise
The Case of the Mystified M.D.
By A. K. Arenz

I have to admit The Case of the Mystified M.D. didn’t grab my attention at first. The cover looks like it should be on a children’s book and although the main character is a 50 something woman, her voice and actions are somewhat childish. The book introduces too many characters at once, and I had a hard time keeping them straight. But as I read more, I began to enjoy the lighthearted story and Glory Harper began to sound childlike, rather than childish.

Glory narrates the world as she sees it, giving people nicknames that characterize their role in her life. She is honest about her own faults, but is quick to see the foibles of her friends and neighbors. She stubbornly tries to discover which of them has murdered the one man in town nobody liked. Even “Blue Eyes,” the police detective she is crazy about, can’t stop her obsession with the murder. She uncovers some strange events, and even stranger secrets some of her friends are hiding.

The story moves quickly. Within a few days, Glory discovers the victim’s hand, encounters multiple suspects and gets herself into quite a bit of trouble. As it unfolded, I had so much fun following the crazy events, that I forgot there was a murder to solve. Even though some unpleasant things happened, the story was delightful and the voice turned out to be appropriate after all.

This amusing book reads like adolescent lit for grownups. Read it when you’re in the mood for something light.

Pros: Playful mystery full of odd characters and unexpected situations.

Cons: It’s sometimes hard to believe the characters’ actions. Their motivations aren’t always sufficiently clear.

About the book:
When Glory’s puppy finds a severed hand on a walking trail, she’s positive she recognizes the signet ring as belonging to a missing college professor who’s been causing trouble around town. Her insatiable desire to solve the mystery of his murder finds her in over her head with a community filled with secrets, blackmail, and arson.

With her sister Jane overwhelmed by the arson fire of her home and trouble with her finance, Glory latches onto an unlikely partner, and soon, feels as though she’s stepped into a whacked out version of the Twilight Zone – where nothing is as it appears, and danger lurks around every corner…

Including from her boyfriend Detective Rick Spencer.


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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Christmas Contest Winners Announced

A computer crash, internet connectivity issues, a blown furnace motor, a lengthy cold spell with record-setting temperatures (before said furnace motor could be repaired), and a faulty memory (mine, not yet the computer's) all clashed these past two weeks into one huge headache, which caused me to forget yesterday. Please accept my sincerest apologies for making our contestants wait an extra day.

Before Christmas, we announced a contest and invited readers to enter their original Christmas stories. We then chose stories to post here on Pix-N-Pens during the month of December. Each story received a score.

Then we posted the finalists the first week of January, and asked for readers to vote on their favorites for the Reader's Choice award. The votes and the scores were combined to get the total score for each entry.

Congratulations to our winners:

Reader's Choice Favorite:
Fuzzy Marbles by Anita Howard
Anita will receive a huge box of books as her prize.


The winners of the 2009 Pixel-Perfect Christmas story contest are:

1st Place: Fuzzy Marbles by Anita Howard
Winner of $100 and a copy of A Pixel-Perfect Christmas 2009
2nd Place: Diana's Dinner Dilemma by Seema Bagai
Winner of $50 and a copy of A Pixel-Perfect Christmas 2009
3rd Place: The Birthday Tree by Seema Bagai
Winner of $25 and a copy of A Pixel-Perfect Christmas 2009


Congratulations!!

Thanks to all the writers who submitted entries - we loved reading your stories.

Readers - we've made all the stories available in a special book called A Pixel-Perfect Christmas 2009. You can purchase it on Amazon (see the link at the left) or check with any of the authors included in the book to see if they have copies available for sale:

Anita Howard
Seema Bagai
Jo Huddleston
Keith Brown
Kristine Lowder
Kathy Ide
Debbie Roome
Suzanne Williams
Phee Paradise


Plans for next year's contest will be announced this summer, so stay tuned.






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Monday, January 18, 2010

Sisters Reunited

Reviewed by Phee Paradise
Thicker than Blood
By C.J. Darlington

Two sisters couldn’t be more different than Christy and May. One is a bookworm and has lived a hard life. The other is a rancher and loves the Lord. They haven’t seen each other in fifteen years and they don’t get together until a third of the way into the book. At first, Thicker than Blood is two parallel stories, tied together only by each sister thinking of the other. But eventually they meet and the real story begins.

Although Darlington has created compelling characters, the first part of the book is really back story, and I found myself asking, “So what?” But when they finally did meet, it didn’t happen the way I expected and I plunged happily into their evolving relationship. Each sister has a big problem that needs solving, and although the solution was obvious to me, they were real enough characters to not see it. Darlington also provided quite a few surprises, including a twist in the solution I expected.

The book has friendships, action and a nasty villain. The friendships reflected God’s love to Christy and the action made me stay with the book to see how it would end. I even suspected a not-so-good turnout for one of them. One weakness in the story was the villain. Although Darlington foreshadows his actions, he was never quite believable as a villain. I could believe he was self-centered and mean, but his evil actions seemed out of character.

If you can enjoy the two stories at the beginning of the book while you wait for them to come together, you will enjoy it. I definitely think it’s a book worth reading.

Pros: Strong characters with real dilemmas and difficult relationships. Both protagonists are very likeable, in spite of human faults. The story also has some unexpected twists.

Cons: The story has numerous point of view shifts. The author sometimes uses a minor character’s point of view to give the reader vital information. The book would have been strengthened if she had found another way to tell us.



TitleTrakk.com Blog Tours Presents:

Thicker than Blood
by C.J. Darlington
Published by Tyndale House


Winner of the
2008 Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel Contest!


Christy Williams finally has her life on track. She’s putting her past behind her and working hard to build a career as an antiquarian book buyer. But things begin to unravel when a stolen Hemingway first edition is found in her possession, framing her for a crime she didn’t commit. With no one to turn to, she yearns for her estranged younger sister, May, whom she abandoned after their parents’ untimely deaths. Soon, Christy’s fleeing from her shattered dreams, her ex-boyfriend, and God. Could May’s Triple Cross Ranch be the safe haven she’s searching for? Will the sisters realize that each possesses what the other desperately needs before it’s too late?


Watch the book trailer:




About the Author:
C. J. began writing the story that would become Thicker than Blood (her first novel) when she was a fifteen-year-old homeschool student. She has been in the antiquarian bookselling business for over a decade, scouting for stores similar to the one described in the novel before cofounding her own online bookstore. Thicker than Blood was the winner of the 2008 Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel.

C. J. co-founded the Christian entertainment Web site TitleTrakk.com with her sister, Tracy, and has been actively promoting Christian fiction through book reviews and author interviews. She makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs and cats. Visit her website www.cjdarlington.com for more info.

QUICK LINKS:


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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Three Editing Tips

BY SUZANNE WILLIAMS

I have a simple rule about photo editing - when I have done it well, the viewer cannot tell I made any corrections. By following this rule, I avoid over-editing mistakes, and I take my time to achieve higher quality results.

With that said, here are three of my most common editing actions.

1. Cropping

Now, I am in general against cropping. I do not like it when someone takes a rectangular photograph and crops it into some odd shape. Cropping does have its place, however. Its best use being to straighten crooked horizons.

In Photoshop, I most commonly use "Filter / Distort / Lens Correction". I then select the "straighten tool" and with my cursor follow the horizon line from left to right as it appears in the image. Another option I might use to level the horizon is "Image / Rotate Canvas / Arbitrary". This tool will allow me to tilt the photo left (CCW) or right (CW) in digital increments (ie: .5 or 1.5). It does require more "eyeballling" to get the right results. Anytime I am in doubt about either method, I will drag down a horizontal guide, as guides are always straight.

Now that the horizon is level, I need to crop it. Any time I am cropping, I will use the photo ratio that matches my particular camera. For example, if your camera takes 3:2 images than use "Fixed Aspect Ratio" and set the "Width" and "Height" to 3 and 2 respectively. This way if I choose to resize the image, I will still have common pixel sizes. This is especially important if you are going to print the image or use it as computer wallpaper.

Before Cropping
640-P1125002-nocrop

After Cropping
Frosted, Slash Pine Tree

2. Unsharp Mask for Contrast

I picked up this tip on the web, and it has become my favorite way of adding contrast to an image. I use the unsharp mask settings of "Amount" 20%, "Radius" 50 pixels, and "Threshold" 1 pixel. I will often make small adjustments to each of these numbers (based on the image and the results I am wanting) but I use those as my starting point.

This method works especially great when you need more contrast between your blacks and whites. Unlike the "Brightness/Contrast" setting, it seems to avoid "blowing out" either end of your histogram.

Before
640-P1125011-nounsharpmask

After
Frosted Fence

3. Adding more sky color

I use this tip to add more color to white skies. After opening my image, I create a new empty layer. I then set my foreground color to the shade I want to add to the sky (ie: blue or in sunset images, reds and oranges). For the photograph example below, I used pink because it was an early morning sunrise. Be sure to choose your color carefully, because as I stated at the beginning of this article, you want the photo to look natural and not over-done.

Selecting the Gradient Tool, I "Edit Gradient" so that my sample shows the color I have chosen fading to transparent. In my new empty layer, I then hold down the "Shift" key and drag my gradient line from top to bottom and release. Here's an important tip - do not be afraid to "Undo" the action and make a second try! Often, I am unsure how far down I want the gradient to extend. (This greatly depends on the amount of sky in the image and the angle of the light in the image). In the photograph below, I did a very shallow gradient because otherwise the pink color filled up too much of the sky.

For the last step, I change the blending mode of the layer from "Normal" to "Darken". This causes the color to fade behind whatever objects are on the horizon.

Before
640-P1125014-noskycolor

After
640-P1125014

The best way to learn to do editing is to practice at it! For this reason, I am not a fan of batch editing. I believe that each photograph is different and deserves my time to show its best results. And always know that editing is not there to save bad photographs! Instead, its purpose is to enhance what is already there because you paid attention to what you were doing when you took the image in the first place.

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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, January 13, 2010

Are you a Bonsai Writer



Overcoming Limitations in Writing
Have you ever seen a Bonsai tree? They look just like the real thing except much smaller. They grow in shallow trays and their size is stunted by stem and root pruning and controlled nutrition. If they are a fruit tree, they usually produce a few miniature fruit.

Bonsai trees look cute but I see such loss of potential. They are restricted and forced to stay small and unproductive when they should be offering shade and bucket-loads of fruit in their natural environment.

This got me thinking about writing and life in general. How many of us go through life like a Bonsai – small and stunted, yet with so much potential, hope and ability locked inside us?

What is our Pot

Bonsai trees grow in shallow trays or small pots. These restrict root growth and prevent the tree from getting bigger. Our pot may be a job, negative friends or lack of belief in ourself. The important thing to remember is pots can be broken – all of them – no matter how strong they may seem.

What is our Root System

The roots are the first thing to develop from a seed and without them the tree cannot draw nourishment into its system. If the roots are strong and well developed, they can support a massive tree. We need to root ourselves firmly in God's word and allow Him to bring growth that will break us out of our shallow trays and pots.

How Healthy is our Foliage

The condition of the stems, branches and leaves is connected intimately to the root system. If the tree is drawing water and good minerals from the soil, the foliage will be robust and healthy. In a similar fashion, what are we feeding our minds? Are we actively working on our writing skills and improving our abilities on a daily basis? Do we watch R18 movies or think on God's word and those things that are pure and holy?

How can we Encourage Growth

God has gifted us to write - yet how often we doubt our abilities and confine ourselves to smallness. My goal this year is to break out of self doubt and move in a greater measure into what God has called me to do. I need to break some pots and throw the pieces away lest I'm tempted to glue them back together. How about you?

In closing, I heard a story a few years ago about a woman who bought a house that came with several Bonsai trees on the veranda. She smashed the pots, planted the trees in the garden … and they began to grow. It's never too late with God.

Father, help us break out of small-mindedness this year. Transplant our hearts into good places where we can grow and flourish for Your Kingdom and let us shine as You created us to do. Amen.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Nancy Drew meets the Babysitters Club

Reviewed by Phee Paradise
Camp Club Girls & the Mystery at Discovery Lake by Renae Brumbaugh

I want to recommend The Mystery at Discovery Lake to every pre-teen girl you know, but I have a few reservations. The book has a lot of action and the story moves quickly, which will attract a young reader. Six girls at a Christian summer camp find a puppy and stumble on a mystery. The girls develop a wholesome and loyal friendship and they try to be nice to the obligatory mean girl in camp.

But they hide the puppy in their cabin and spend their free time poking into things that are none of their business. While doing so, they break a few rules and come close to invading someone’s privacy. Eventually they realize not everything they are doing is right, but in the end they solve the mystery and are rewarded for it. Their deception and rule breaking are ignored by the adults at the camp.

Aside from this confusing message about right and wrong, the book has a Christian viewpoint and at least one girl has a strong relationship with God. She competes in a Bible memory contest and spends some time thinking about the scriptures she is learning. She wants to please God and her attitude influences the other girls.

At first, I found it difficult to tell the six main characters apart. Point of view changes added to the confusion, although by the end of the book, three of the characters stood out from the others. I also couldn’t quite accept the girls’ age differences. I don’t know any 14 year old who would become best friends with a 9 year old.

Overall, it’s a good book and, if you discuss the morality of deception with your young reader, I think you can let her enjoy it.

Pros: Fun story about friendship and loyalty. Any little girl would want a group of friends like the Camp Club Girls. It’s action packed with some pauses for messages from scripture.

Cons: The dialogue is a bit stilted; the girls use big words and clich├ęs. The biggest problem is the deception that goes unrecognized.

About the book

What happens when six girls end up in the same cabin at summer camp and are quickly embroiled in intrigue? They form a super sleuth ring and call themselves the Camp Club Girls. Each girl uses her special skills—analyzing, spiritual insight, gadgetry, physical strength, research—to help the whole team stump adversaries and master the mysteries they encounter. Join the Camp Club Girls as they find hidden jewels, destroy terrorist plots, uncover intrigue, rescue their friends, and so much more. It’s adventure with a capital A!

About the author

Renae Brumbaugh lives in Texas with her pastor/husband, two noisy children, and two dogs. She’s authored four books in Barbour’s Camp Club Girls’ series.



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Two Ways to Improve Your Writing

There's no better time to improve your writing than the first of the new year. Online writing courses are a great way to achieve that goal.

Registration is now open for our next two WIES Workshops. Both courses start this Monday, January 18th, so reserve your spot now.

The incredible Ramona Richards will be teaching how to write romantic suspense. If you've been wanting to try your hand at this genre, now's the time to delve in. She's a master, and will teach from her experiences as an editor and as a writer.

Jeanette Hanscome will be teaching the course on writing devotionals. Jeanette publishes regularly in a wide variety of markets - you could probably pick up any Christian magazine and spot her somewhere inside, so she knows the business, and she knows how to help you tap into this market. In her last class, one student had been too intimidated to submit her work, but Jeanette worked with her to craft a query, and before the class ended, the student had received a request for her manuscript!

For more information or to register, just visit:

Writing Romantic Suspense

Writing Devotionals


For a list of the entire WIES Workshop schedule, visit www.WIESworkshops. com.

You can read Student Testimonials.

Please feel free to pass this information to any of your friends or family who might be interested.




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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Taking Macro Photographs

BY SUZANNE WILLIAMS

I got my start taking macro (close-up) photographs. I am just fascinated by the new world that opens up through a camera's lens. By applying these few facts any photographer can make interesting macro photographs.

1. Know your camera's macro distance.

Believe it or not, I see this one a lot. Someone posts a photograph of a flower or an insect and simply put, they held their camera closer to the object than the recommended lens distance. If your manual says up to 6", then you cannot hold it closer than that because the photograph will be blurry, and blurry is bad in most any photograph. Making great macro photographs is not dependent on owning fancy equipment, as much as it is from doing what your particular camera will allow you to do.

2. The closer the photograph the less depth of field.

Depth of field is the distance within a photograph in which objects are in focus. This means with less depth of field there will be more of a need to pick your focal point. In photographs including animals, insects, or people, the eyes must always be in focus. However, for other subjects, it can be really fun to experiment. Ask yourself what you are trying to achieve. What about that scene do you most want the viewer to see?

Spider Underneath
Spider Underneath

3. Take into consideration the size of the subject and frame accordingly.

The smaller the object generally speaking, the closer in you will need to be. A tiny insect is usually swallowed up given too many surroundings. If you really want to highlight the uniqueness of a small object, be sure it fills the frame.

Book Bug
Book Bug

4. Watch for distracting elements.

I have a friend who jokingly refers to this problem as ESPs - Evil Stick People. There are also Evil Grass People and Evil Leaf People, but I think you get the idea. Pay attention to anything natural or manmade that might take away from the importance of your subject. I have pinched the grass shorter many times to keep it out of the subject's way.

5. Don't forget the rules.

The rules of composition still apply. There seem to be a lot of articles nowadays about "breaking the rules", but I would suggest you learn to follow them first before you allow yourself to break them.

Seeds of Promise
Seeds of Promise, Acorns

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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, January 6, 2010

Adapting to Change in 2010

Are we open to Improving Ourselves and our Writing


In the last week of 2009, three things happened that got me thinking about change and how we naturally resist it. In each situation I had to adapt and accept that life is unpredictable, strange and sometimes downright funny.

In a similar manner, we need to be flexible with our writing. How often do we cringe when an editor or friend with more experience suggests or demands changes … especially when it's our favorite sentence or paragraph? We have two choices: dig our heels in and refuse to listen or evaluate what they're saying, and if necessary, work with them to improve our writing.



As 2010 stretches ahead, I see it as a blank sheet of paper, full of possibilities and hope. While God has a perfect plan for each of our lives, we need to seek it out and follow Him with our whole being. I see Him leaning over our shoulders expectant, waiting to see what we will write upon the clean page 2010. Will we listen to the whisper of His Spirit or will we stubbornly follow our own selfish desires.


I pray that God give you courage wisdom and discernment as you plot your path this year. Don't limit yourself but ask Him to use you in ways you never thought possible. I'm looking forward to hearing great reports of what's happening in each of your lives.



And by the way, if you're wondering what happened to me over Christmas and New Year it was a combination of an ultraviolet glow-stick, printing the wrong story and an impromptu nine hour trip on New Year's Eve. You can read about it on my blog if you'd like to have a good laugh!



Monday, January 4, 2010

Delicious Romance

Reviewed by Phee Paradise
The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen

If you haven’t read a book yet in this new year, make The Silent Governess your first one. It is simply delightful. It’s set in 19th century England, with all its class issues, but the Christian worldview questions them, and all the characters, from the maids to the earl, are important to the story and well developed. Class is only one theme in the book; you will also find redemption, forgiveness, reconciliation and, of course, love.

Olivia and Edward, the main characters, each have a secret which forces them together, but also keeps them apart. The secrets give the reader two mysteries to ponder. Klassen doles out clues in little pieces that keep you guessing. I felt like I could solve the mystery if only I had one more clue. But each time I almost had it, something new happened that deepened the mystery.

One of the things I liked best about the book is that Olivia and Edward are brought together by their mutual love for the children she cares for. Instead of being props to advance the story, the children are an integral part of it and the characters of the protagonists are revealed through their relationships with them. Through the children they develop a friendship that gradually and naturally turns into love. The book has no mushy love scenes, but the love story is very satisfying.

Even if your preferred genre is not romance, mystery or history, you will enjoy this book. Get a copy as soon as it is available. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Pros: Well written story with likeable characters, intriguing mystery and a feel good ending.

Cons: It’s a historical romance. Not everyone likes this genre.



This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Silent Governess

Bethany House; Original edition (January 1, 2010)

by

Julie Klassen

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Julie says: My background is in advertising and marketing, but I am blessed with a dream job—working as an editor of Christian fiction. I have been writing since childhood, but Lady of Milkweed Manor was my first novel. It was a finalist for a Christy Award and won second place in the Inspirational Reader's Choice Awards. My second novel, The Apothecary's Daughter, was a finalist in the ACFW Book of the Year awards. I am currently writing one novel a year.

I graduated from the University of Illinois and enjoy travel, research, BBC period dramas, long hikes, short naps, and coffee with friends.

My husband and I have two sons and live near St. Paul, Minnesota.


ABOUT THE BOOK


Olivia Keene is fleeing her own secret. She never intended to overhear his.

But now that she has, what is Lord Bradley to do with her? He cannot let her go, for were the truth to get out, he would lose everything--his reputation, his inheritance, his very home.

He gives Miss Keene little choice but to accept a post at Brightwell Court, where he can make certain she does not spread what she heard. Keeping an eye on the young woman as she cares for the children, he finds himself drawn to her, even as he struggles against the growing attraction. The clever Miss Keene is definitely hiding something.

Moving, mysterious, and romantic, The Silent Governess takes readers inside the intriguing life of a nineteenth-century governess in an English manor house where all is not as it appears.

To read the prologue and first chapter of The Silent Governess, click HERE. You can also sign up as a Follower when you get to that page, and get announcements of the first chapters for all the great books we tour!



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