A Story that Needs to be Told

A Stand for TruthHave you ever found yourself in the middle of a situation that you would never have believed if you hadn’t experienced it firsthand? My husband, John, found himself in just such a situation many years ago when he was a young man and we had only been married a few years. Through a sequence of events, he learned that he had been elected to the Board of Trustees of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This was many years before Dr. Al Mohler became President. John was only twenty-eight years old at the time.

The seminary had undergone a severe liberal drift over the decades before John came on Board. The entire Southern Baptist denomination was in turmoil because of a conflict between liberals and conservatives. These terms refer primarily to their views on Scripture, with conservatives believing the Bible was God’s Word, without error, while the liberals believed the Bible contained God’s Word but it also contained some errors so people had to try and decide which part of scripture was God’s Word and which was to be ignored because it wasn’t God’s Word. John stood solidly on the conservative side of the issues and became one of the first conservatives put on the Board during these years of controversy.

He didn’t go looking for trouble and was actually naïve about the issues at first. But he’s a quick learner and soon joined the fray. The story is riveting, recounting the drama of John’s ten years on the Board, and the changes that he helped bring about. His story reads like a whistle-blower novel with all the twists and turns any well-written fiction would have…but it’s not fiction. The things recorded in this book actually happened!

We embarked on writing this book over ten years ago. Finally, as the book neared completion, we sought a publisher. Talk about a run-around! First, we approached B&H (Lifeway’s publishing arm.). They refused it, though, in my opinion, this story was theirs to publish. We think they found it a bit too hot to handle, in that the story is a tell-all that steps on the toes of some well-known people.

Next, through an agent friend, we got in the door at P&R (Presbyterian & Reformed). They took our proposal to committee and kept it for months and months. They sent signals that gave us great hope, but in the end, they declined it. Then a boutique publisher, “Founders Press”, picked it up and offered us a contract, but it was not a contract we could agree to, mostly because of the question of who would own the rights to the story. So after more than a year of seeking publishers we were no closer than when we started.

I suggested we approach Gregg Bridgeman with Olivia Kimbrell Press, a small press/self-publishing company. Gregg had published my novel, The Whisper of the Palms and I had been very happy with the process and the end product. We sent him the manuscript to read. To our great joy, he agreed to publish it. John was not treated well at many times in his pursuit of doctrinal truth on behalf of the institution. Gregg Bridgman is a soldier, having served time in Afghanistan. I think it took a soldier to be willing to take this project on that others ran from. When we asked Gregg why he agreed when other companies had not, he responded, “It’s a story that needs to be told.”

Yes, it is! And it’s a story that needs to be read too, by anyone. It appeals to all. If placed in a different setting, the plot would have made a good intrigue novel—international business, for instance, instead of a religious institution.

So, after ten years of experiencing it, more than ten years of writing it, and more than three years trying to get it published, our book baby was finally born on Jan 15, 2020!

Look … wonder, be astounded. For I am doing a work in your time that you would not believe if told. Habakkuk 1:5 (ESV)

The book comes in e-book, paperback, and hardcover. To purchase, click Here.

Click-to-Tweet: “This story reads like a whistle-blower novel with all the twists and turns any well-written fiction would have, but it’s not fiction. The things recorded in this book actually happened!” — Harriet Michael via @InspiredPrompt

Lorna Doone

Lorna Doone, by Richard Doddridge Blackmore, was published in 1869 and is set in the 17th century. Many readers today have never even heard of it, much less read it, so why is it my favorite romance and what makes it work?

How I Learned About It

I grew up in Nigeria as the child of missionaries. In our first through fourth grades, we were taught at home via a correspondence course. In the fourth grade, our curriculum included a child’s version of Lorna Doone. It set my heart on fire and made my mind take flight even at such a young age when I didn’t fully understand romance. Oh, I had a little boyfriend, so I understood puppy love but not true romance. Adventure, good guys vs. bad guys, plot twists, and even an element of surprise make this book a grand adventure and a wonderful romance!

child reading

I read it again as an adult and absolutely loved it! However, I must warn any potential readers, Blackmore wrote in 17th century European English, which varies pretty significantly from modern American English. It took some getting used to and there was a bit of a learning curve to it. Even after I grew accustomed to the words, there was a small section told by a maid that I had to skip over because it proved too difficult to read. That did not affect the story. I loved it as much as I had as a child. (There are versions available in more modern English that would be easier to read.)

What Makes the Romance in it work?

Some years ago, I wrote my only novel, The Whisper of the Palms. It is women’s fiction that contains romance. At the time, I researched romance writing. It must have a happy ending. A love story, on the other hand, can end sadly. Romeo and Juliet is a love story, not a romance.

Also, in romances, the male and female protagonists should be introduced early on and never be more than a few pages apart. So, if they get separated for some reason, the writer needs to not go too long without mentioning the other. (This can be accomplished through letters, dreams, daydreams, etc.)

I’m not a romance writer, so I’m not trying to give lessons on romance writing, just passing on what I found through research. At one point I found this line, “All romance essentially has the same plot: boy meets girl, boy wins girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back.” I cannot remember where I found that advice, but it stuck with me. In my opinion, this is why Lorna Doone is one of the greatest romances ever written.

The plotline is repeated a couple of times in Lorna Doone, and the causes of John Ridd (sometimes called Jan), the male protagonist, meeting and winning Lorna Doone, the female protagonist, then losing her, winning her again, then losing her and winning her all over again are imaginative and full of action! They just don’t write books like that anymore.

Possible spoiler alert: John meets Lorna as a child when he ventures off his family’s land and stumbles upon her playing. It turns out she is a member of the feared and hated Doone clan. She is much younger and smaller than he. Just as they are getting to know each other, she hears a male family member coming. She leads John through a small opening completely obscured by thick greenery. He likes her immediately and makes return trips to her hiding place to play with her.

 

In time, their romance grows but other things happen too. His father was killed by a Doone making him responsible for his mother and sister even as a young man. This happened before he met Lorna, but he forged a friendship with her anyway. She was so different from the other Doones. She was sweet, gentle, and lovely. Lorna gets promised to marry one of the meanest of the Doones against her will. John has to rescue her, which he does in dramatic form.

See the pattern? Boy meets girl (they met as kids and played together.) Boy wins girl. (He wins her child’s heart and becomes her favorite playmate.) Boy loses girl. (So many things either caused or potentially caused him to lose her. Her family killing his father made it dangerous and taboo to see her in the first place, then when she is promised to another man and the day of that union grows ever closer, it seems all is lost.) Boy wins girl back (he did this in his gallant rescue).

But it didn’t stop there … although I will. I don’t want to spoil everything for those who might want to read it. Suffice it to say he loses her again and has to try and win her all over again. The reasons are fascinating and well worth the read!

There is an ongoing debate among writers as to which is most important in fiction writing—plot or character development. The answer is that both are important. If you have a great plot, it doesn’t matter how well developed or poorly developed the characters are, people will keep reading to see what happens. Likewise, if you have well-developed characters, people will not care if the plot is weak. They like the characters and will keep reading just to see what happens to these characters they have grown to love.

Well, this book has it all—great characters and a fascinating plot with twists and turns that take these cherished characters on the ride of their lives carrying the readers along with them!

Blog Tours

by Harriet Michael

Sounds exciting, right? But what exactly are blog tours and how are they helpful to a writer?

What is a blog tour?

A blog tour is a collection of blogs that agree to write a post about you or information (often about your new book.) This usually happens in a set amount of time, like a week or two with each blog appearance scheduled for a different day. Ideally, you or your new book will be the focus of a blog post every day or every few days for 10-14 days. Often, bloggers willing to participate in blog tours agree to read your book and also post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, or some other site.

How is a blog tour beneficial?

The main benefit of a blog tour is online exposure, though a secondary benefit is attaining those much desired, hard to come by reviews of your book. The effect of blog tours on book sales is minimal but to me, the reviews are worth their weight in gold. Blog tours are often utilized as part of a book launch when an author has a new book, but older books can also benefit from tours.

Arranging a Blog Tour

So, this all sounds interesting, how do you get your book into a tour? There are many options available. If you do an internet search you may find organized tours that you can participate in. Or you might want to arrange a tour of your own by asking blogger friends if they would be willing to spotlight your book. Organized tours usually cost to participate in and I strongly suggest if you arrange your own blog tour that you offer some gift of gratitude to your blogger friends who agree to spotlight you—at the very least a free e-book copy to the blogger. This makes it easier for her to also review your book.

My Experience

I have participated in blog tours through Celebrate Lit. They are an organized tour where bloggers agree to participate. Fellow Inspired Prompt contributor, Shirley Crowder is a participating blogger with Celebrate Lit. I enjoyed my blog tour experience. The exposure was nice and the Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes and Noble reviews priceless! It did have a cost, though. My publisher was able to get a discounted price and I was able to split the cost because my book had a co-writer. Given all of that, I felt it was well worth it but if I’d had to bear the whole cost myself, I probably would have tried to arrange my own blog tour rather than go the organized route.

Writing Prompt: Write a brief (1-2 paragraph) summary of a book you would like to have spotlighted on a blog tour.

Click-to-Tweet: The main benefit of a blog tour is online exposure, though a secondary benefit is attaining those much desired, hard to come by reviews of your book.

Easy Peasy Cooking

I have a friend who never does anything the easy way when it comes to cooking. She even took a French cooking class and makes some of the most delicious food I’ve ever sunk my teeth into. She would never just open a can of this or a packet of that when preparing her meals.

That woman is not me. She is a close friend of mine, but she is definitely not me!

I’m all in there for opening a can of this or a packet of that, pouring it over some kind of meat, and forgetting about it until dinner time. Today I will share with you two of my favorite easy-peasy dishes.

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Crock-pot Roast Beef

  • Put roast beef in the bottom of a crock-pot. (I use whatever cut of roast beef I find on sale, whether its rump roast, round roast, sirloin, or whatever else my local grocery store may have on sale.)
  • Place ½-1 stick of butter over the meat along with parts of packets of Au jus and a packet of dry ranch dressing.
  • Add vegetables: carrots, potatoes, celery, and onion
  • Sprinkle the rest of contents of the two packets over the veggies and cook according to the crockpot directions (4 hours if on high, 8 hrs if on low.)

*I got this recipe from my daughter-in-law who fixed it for my husband and me when we visited. It was so yummy, that I had to have her recipe.

Easy Barbeque Chicken

  • Put cut up chicken pieces in a casserole dish. Personally, I like chicken breasts, but any cut of chicken would work
  • Sprinkle a dry packet of beefy onion soup over the chicken.
  • Put a can of cranberry sauce over the chicken. I use the cranberry sauce with whole cranberries. This doesn’t pour. You have to spoon it out and sort of spread it over the chicken.
  • Pour about a half cup of California French dressing over this and mix together with the cranberry sauce to the extent you can.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour. Pull the dish out about midway and baste the meat with the sauce around it.
  • Serve over rice.

*This is one of my youngest son’s favorite meals.

I’m all in there for opening a can of this or a packet of that, pouring it over some kind of meat, and forgetting about it until dinner time. — You can Tweet that!

Writing Prompt: If we open the lid of the crock pot in your kitchen, what do we find?

Writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul

By Harriet Michael

Chicken Soup for the Soul publishes around a dozen books a year, each with 101 stories in it. That’s approximately 1,200 chances to have a story you wrote published per year. Sounds pretty great, right? It is and it isn’t. It is not as easy as it may seem to have your story selected for one of their titles. But if/when that happens, then yes, it’s pretty great!

This year’s Christmas themed book titled, It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, will have a story in it written by me.

Chicken Soup Christmas book

This is the fourth story I have had selected for Chicken Soup. While that’s exciting and an honor, I must share an insight that I have in their selection process. This is just my opinion and others may disagree with me, but it seems to me that it is harder to have your first story chosen by them than subsequent stories. At least that is my experience.

I am a prolific freelance writer. I have submitted many, many short pieces (articles, devotions, short stories) to many different publications since I began sending submissions in 2009. After over ten years of freelance writing, I have had a lot of acceptances but also a lot of rejections. However, my rejection percentage with Chicken Soup for the Soul was 100% for the first few years. That was definitely not the norm for me with other publications. I sent several stories a year and never received even a notice that it was being considered for one of their books. Finally, in 2014, after about four years of rejections, I got an e-mail telling me one of my stories had made it to the final round of selection. I danced with joy when I read that email!

Since then I have had four stories selected. This experience has made me conclude that it is harder to get a first story chosen but slightly easier after that. My experience may only be coincidental, but it prompts me to encourage writers to keep sending Chicken Soup stories. Keep on keeping on!

Chicken Soup publishes inspirational true stories from ordinary people. They want stories under 1200 words (with 1,000 being closer to their sweet spot) written to one of their book topics or themes. If your story is chosen, you will first get an email telling you that your story has made it to the final round. This email will include a publishing contract that will be discarded if your story is not chosen for the actual book. Most stories that reach this round make it to the book, but a few don’t. I have never had one dropped after this stage, but my sister has. Then, the fun part—you receive 10 free copies of the book about a month before its release date and a check for $200 about a month after the release date.

And because I’m a stickler about writer’s rights, I asked them when the rights would return to me. The contract states that they are buying 1st rights but does not say when the rights revert back to the author. Most of my freelance contracts contain this information. Chicken Soup replied that I owned the rights again as soon as the book releases, or one day afterward, I suppose, since 1st rights mean they have the right to be the first to publish it.

Writing for Chicken Soup is fun and rewarding. I highly recommend giving it a try and like the old saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

And make sure to join us in September as we tackle a fun topic: Cooking for Writers…


Writing prompt / Exercise: Go to https://www.chickensoup.com/ and click on “Submit your story” at the bottom of the page. That will take you to a site that has book titles/themes, guidelines, and the online submission form. Familiarize yourself with these and then, if inspired, write a story for one of their Book topics.

Click-to-Tweet: Chicken Soup for the Soul publishes around a dozen books a year, each with 101 stories in it. That’s approximately 1,200 chances to have a story you wrote published per year.–Harriet E. Michael via @inspiredprompt #amwriting #freelance