Friday, November 30, 2012

Awesome Young Adult Book Blogs

These YA book bloggers deserve more attention. I am thankful for bloggers and reviewers like these gals.
Stephanie at  Reviewing What I'm Reading
Maria at Fantasy's Ink
Yvette at Me, My Shelf and I
Jodie at Uniquely Moi Books
Pragya at Reviewing Shelf
Elizabeth on Izzy's Book Blog
Ashley at Wholly Books
Michelle at Michelle Shouts Random
Sarah at Bookish Sarah
Ashley at Fire Star Books
Sophia at YA Between the Lines
Tiffany at Book Cover Justice (she posted an honest review of Sheltered this past week)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pictured Short Stories, #2

Svetlana’s secret was out: she had been a lazy sunbather, skipping afternoon practices not to study, as she had claimed, but to join the Americans at the hotel pool. Her mother sat behind her at the trials, stopwatch in hand, both well aware of the nasty fight ahead. If Svetty didn’t place at least third she’d have to go back to the little town of Rudinska where a diet of blinis, caviar, and borscht would stretch those tan lines to their limit.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pictured Short Stories, #1

Pepe’s patience had reached the bursting point. Master Jim had promised, yes he had, not one but two nose watering steaks as a reward. Hadn’t Pepe been a good boy? Hadn’t he suffered three interminably long days and nights in this bug-infested camp ground? Ay, Chihuahua, he wasn’t even allowed near the best spots: the fish-cleaning shack and the scent-heavy latrine.
Sí, sí, Pepe was going to get his reward. Swimming in that cold lake, enduring the maulings of several child campers, and now, waiting here sweater-less, shivering . . . he almost wet himself . . . but it would be worth it.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Not the Usual Thanksgiving Psalm

Psalm 113 is the first of six psalms (113-118) called “the Egyptian Hallel” (Hallel means praise).The Jews sang the first two psalms before the Passover meal and the other four afterwards. I’m going to go out on that limb and say that Jesus and his disciples probably sang these psalms in the upper room on the night of the Last Supper.

Here it is:
1 Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, you his servants;
praise the name of the Lord.
2 Let the name of the Lord be praised,
both now and forevermore.
3 From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the Lord is to be praised.
4 The Lord is exalted over all the nations,
his glory above the heavens.
5 Who is like the Lord our God,
the One who sits enthroned on high,
6 who stoops down to look
on the heavens and the earth?
7 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
8 he seats them with princes,
with the princes of his people.
9 He settles the childless woman in her home
as a happy mother of children.
Praise the Lord.

The psalm falls into two main sections: the call to praise the Lord (1-3) and the causes for praising the Lord (4-9).

Vs. 1 – 3 Hallelujah = Praise the LORD. The phrase “praise his name” is in these verses three times. Why three? Praise to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  Who should praise Him? His servants. When? Always. Where? Everywhere.

Vs. 4 – 5 God is great – examine verses “Praise God because He is great!” But if God were only great, we would cringe in fear and hesitate to approach Him. So the psalmist also affirms - Praise God because He is gracious – see vs. 6.

Vs. 6 – 9 God is gracious How? Look at verbs: raises, lifts, seats, settles. Look at people: poor, needy, princes, barren woman. Notice how the psalm goes from the needy (many people) to the single barren woman.
This would be a good Psalm to read on Thankgiving Day. Let us praise the Lord.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Today is Brought to You by the Hebrew letter VAV

Vav means nail or hook and by itself it appears 13 times in Exodus to describe the hooks holding each curtain to its pillar in the Tabernacle. Grammatically it serves to hook words together and link them in a sentence as a conjunction meaning “and”, “so” or “but”.

In the alphabetic verses in Psalms 119: 41 -48, every verse, of course, starts with the letter vav working as a connector, but some translations have lost some or all of the meaning. Let’s read Young’s Literal Translation of these verses to detect all of the ands:

41 And meet me doth Thy kindness, O Jehovah, Thy salvation according to Thy saying.
42 And I answer him who is reproaching me a word, For I have trusted in Thy word.
43 And Thou takest not utterly away From my mouth the word of truth, Because for Thy judgment I have hoped.
44 And I keep Thy law continually, To the age and for ever.
45 And I walk habitually in a broad place, For Thy precepts I have sought.
46 And I speak of Thy testimonies before kings, And I am not ashamed.
47 And I delight myself in Thy commands, That I have loved,
48 And I lift up my hands unto Thy commands, That I have loved, And I do meditate on Thy statutes!

Another interesting thing is that there are only 10 words that start with vav. Its primary use therefore is as a hook, a connector.
For a startling look at how this letter is used in God’s Holy name check out this post.

Friday, November 16, 2012

My Top 9 Writing Tips

There are hundreds of blogs with tips for authors. I've been copying and pasting their words of wisdom into a word document which I review periodically. I also reread my highlighted sections of Dwight V. Swain's book on writing before I start writing a new novel.
My 9 favorite writing tips (condensed) are as follows.

1)       Know your characters (and give each one a dominant first impression and a flaw)

2)      Have conflict on every page (excitement, danger, passion)

3)      Keep dialogue natural

4)      Edit, edit, edit (and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite)

5)      Show, don’t tell

6)      Study point of view theory and use it wisely

7)      Give every opening scene a hook and every closing paragraph a cliff hanger

8)      Weave your themes and motifs throughout your novel

9)      Forget all the rules – just write.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Author Talk, part 3

Random questions I’ve been asked and my answers. Part 3:

What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in fewer than 20 words what would you say?

SHELTERED: Five troubled teens confront demonic forces and deal with their problems in different ways; paranormal meets psycho meets budding love.

How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?

I’ve written most of my books in three months time, but then it takes many more months to edit, work on the dialogue, shape the plot, flesh out the characters, etc.

Do you have a favorite character from your books? and why are they your favorite?

My favorite character in SHELTERED is Megan because she has made a life-changing mistake but is strong enough to reverse the consequences.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Author Talk, part 2

Random questions I’ve been asked and my answers. Part 2:

Did it take a long time to get your first book published?

Yes, almost ten years. EDGE OF ESCAPE went from concept to novel to contest to total rewrite to self-published to discovered. Whew! Then it was bought, translated into German, retitled and was a debut success on another continent this past spring. I retain the rights to the English version for now.

Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books?

Every book should have a message if not a moral. SHELTERED has a number of messages since it hits on the subjects of teen suicide, self-mutilation, depression, homelessness, and the occult. There’s definitely a moral to the story, but different readers will interpret it in opposing ways based on their own beliefs. That won’t make everyone happy, but it will make everyone think about some pretty deep stuff.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Author Talk, part 1

Random questions I’ve been asked and my answers. Part 1
Do you basic plot/plan for your book, before you actually begin writing it out? Or do you let the writing flow and see where it takes the story?

For SHELTERED I started with a desire to write a paranormal novel about demon-possession and concentrate on the manifestations of demons as portrayed by historians of two thousand years ago. What the ancients saw as demon possession then science and medicine today would call epilepsy, schizophrenia, mental disorders, and so on. But what if that’s not true? What if demons exist (and I believe they do) and what if they mimic those problems? Next I wrote out my characters’ names, relationships, habits, appearances, quirks, and individual problems and then put them in an unsupervised living condition. I wrote scene one and then let the characters take it from there. As they interacted with one another, stuff happened (and stuff I planned didn’t happen) and the plot took off. I chased behind waving my notes and clicking on the keyboard from time to time. It was fun.
Have you ever based characters on people you know or based events on things that have happened to you?

Absolutely. Every character has a little bit of me to start with – I just can’t help it. As I write out little character sketches I often add a note that this person will have an attitude like [name of former student] or looks like [a certain relative], or has the same habits as [that jerk down the street]. I even use first and last names of people I know or former students, but mix them up.

Monday, November 5, 2012

What is the Most Important Commandment?

When asked by a scribe which was the greatest or most important commandment, Jesus answered with quotes from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Love your neighbor as yourself.” He condensed all the hundreds of laws and the ten commandments down into a simple truth that, if practiced, would keep a person from sinning against God and man.

Let’s examine how we should love God. First, we should love Him with all our heart. With all our heart means that we should love Him without pretense, deception, affectation, or fraud. Our love needs to be genuine, sincere, and complete. You can’t just say you love Him and then not show it with your words and actions. Many of us say we love God and then act as if He doesn’t exist. We are, every one of us, hypocrites.
We should love God with all our soul. We really need to get intimate, up close, and personal with our Creator.  Let your emotions rule. There is joy and happiness and pleasure and delight when you love with your soul.
Now love Him with all your mind. Use your brain, see what He has done for you. Learn who He is. Study His word. Make a conscious decision to pray, meditate, and discover all you can about God.
Now that we’ve used our heart and soul and mind what’s left? Our strength. Love the Lord with all your strength. This is physical. This love shows forth in our actions. What have we done for Him?
Loving God is the greatest commandment and the second one is to love your neighbor as yourself. These two commandments, if obeyed, would eliminate the need for the hundreds of other laws. What do you think?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Dreaded One-Star Review

I was shocked to see that J. K. Rowling’s latest book has more “1 star” reviews than “5 star” reviews. Yet it sits sky high in the rankings and is selling like crazy. Curiosity made me read a few of those reviews. They reveal much about the reviewer and nothing about the book. Here are a few:

1) I would love to buy this book but it is too expensive!
2) I have no official review for this book as I have yet to read it. However, I just downloaded it to my kindle and the font is tiny.
3) Have not read and will not read

Boy, I’d like to ban these people from reviewing since they do not know what a review is. In fact, I’d like to suggest that if you don’t like a book, didn’t finish it, it wasn’t a genre you appreciate, you skimmed it, or you didn’t read it in your native language, then DO NOT REVIEW IT.

I have asked dozens of people to review my books and I really appreciate the honest ones who say “No, thanks, it’s not in a genre I like” or “Sorry, I started reading it but it wasn’t to my taste so I won’t be reviewing it.” Obviously their moms taught them that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

On the flip side, some books receive false “5 star” reviews written by friends and family of the author. These well-wishers usually do not know how to analyze the writing, plot, characters, etc., of a novel and are not doing the author any favors by writing inflated praise.

What do you think? How influenced are you by reviews?