Genesis – Back to the Beginning

By Tammy Trail

Our family was never big on going to church. We did attend a local Lutheran church down the street  for an occasional Sunday School class, or Vacation Bible School during the summer breaks. I learned about Jesus through this sporadic exposure to the Bible.

In 1994, when I worked as a paraprofessional at a local grade school, I was invited by a small group of teachers to join their Bible study group. Just like all things that are meant to happen for a reason, it changed my life and set me on my path of true healing.

Our first study was a survey of the Old Testament. My love of history and genealogy made the book of Genesis my favorite Old Testament book. Granted there are parts of this narrative that have always made me scratch my head, but what great stories of  God’s promises to his  people.

Examples of incredible faith are found in the pages of this book. Of course, Creation is the main story everyone remembers from the book of Genesis, but you’ll also find plenty of heroes and heroines. This is the beginning history of God’s chosen people, the Hebrew nation.

The story of Abraham and Sarah is a great testament of faith, and obedience. What an adventure God sent them on, and all the while he blessed them with wealth, knowledge, protection, and wisdom. Noah is a favorite of my grandsons now. I asked my four-year-old grandson, Kayden why he thought it was good to remember Noah. He didn’t know, so I told him that Noah listened to God and did what God told him. That is why we remember Noah. Kayden told me he wants to listen to God too. Yep, I’m starting them young!

Who could forget the story of Jacob? His story reminds me of the soap operas on daytime television not so long ago, the exception being that God was involved with Jacob’s life. Jacob’s youngest son, Joseph, had an equally amazing story to tell. God’s fingerprints were all over this young man from the very beginning. He had set a plan in motion from the time Joseph was born. I especially like Josephs’ story.

Everyone usually associates Joseph with his coat of many colors gifted to him by his father, Jacob. Like Joseph, my life growing up was not all roses and sunshine, and having excuses to hold grudges or unforgiveness was understandable. God had other plans for me, just like he did for Joseph. Forgiveness can be a learned experience, and blessings may come out of following God’s plan for it.

 I have continued to learn from studying my Bible. I confess I don’t do it as much as I should these days, but I will always be grateful for the invitation to attend that first small group Bible study. It set me on a good path.

Click to tweet: A small group Bible study changed my life and set me on my path of true healing. #Bible #smallgroups

Writing Prompt: Fanny Mae wanted to stay home on this rainy, chilly day. Her only reason to go out was she didn’t want to get behind in the Bible study of …………

The Layering Psalmist

By Gail Johnson

This month’s theme was a hard one! I really had to work to pin it down to just one. After a long process of elimination, I realized Psalms is my favorite. I believe it has to do with the musician and the writer in me. From the first to the last chapter you find characterization, plot, setting, description, conflict, goal, and motivation. Sounds like a writing series! Let’s take a quick look at David’s writing.

Characterization

I love characterization! It is one of my favorite things about writing. Like any relationship, characterization takes work. We learn a person by becoming familiar with them. The more we know about a person, the more we like or dislike them. And we definitely want our readers to like or dislike our characters. Right? When we offer a description of our character’s emotions, the reader is more likely to empathize with him.

desert-279862_1280In Psalm 63, David declares. “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.”

Can you feel David’s anguish? I can.

But what if he’d said, “I’m thirsty.” Or what if he’d declared, “I long for you, Lord.”

Not much to see, is there? That’s the difference between showing and telling.

Now imagine your character is on the lam, thirsty, and unable to find water. How are you going to describe the scene to make me want to help him find a stream of clear running water? Think about that for a moment while we talk about the next technique.

Setting

Another way we get to know our characters is through their surroundings. The setting is just as important as characterization. Setting anchors the reader. Nothing jolts a reader from a story faster than trying to figure out where the characters are.

nature-2396309_1280In Psalm 23, David compares himself to a sheep and the Lord to a Shepherd. “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”

One word can make all the difference in the world! The word green thrusts me into a meadow. I can visualize the green fields with rolling hills and a beautiful lake. How about you?

Again, David could’ve said, “He makes me lie down?” Or “He makes me rest.”

The first thought that comes to mind is where. Lie down where? Rest where? As a reader, I’ve no place to put the sheep. It could be in a field, in the middle of a road, a pen, or even a barn. That poor sheep needs a place to rest!

Now that you’ve had time to think, where did your character find his sip of water? Where will he stay the night? Abandoned farmhouse? A ritzy hotel? Or a cave in the side of a mountain? Each setting will tell a different story.

How does he know that?

Have you ever asked that question while reading a story? I have.

David was a shepherd, a warrior, and a king. He drew from that well of experience when penning his psalms. One of the ways our characters come to life is through their understanding. Who are they? What is their profession? When does their story take place? Where do they live? How are they connected to those around them?

nature-1626479_1280These are simple questions that must be answered if our characters are to be believable. David’s knowledge of sheep and shepherds, warriors and battlefields, and kings and castles, give him credibility with his reader.

As a writer, David’s writing helps me to see the different ways I can layer a story to make my characters come to life.

Now it’s your turn.

Click to tweet: Characterization takes work but, for a writer, is necessary. #Psalms #amwriting

Writing Prompt

Imagine your character is a little boy trying to convince his mother of his thirst. What could he say to convince his mom to buy a coke?

 

 

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Ease on Down the Romans Road

By Carlton Hughes

On a warm Sunday morning nineteen years ago, I knelt to pray to receive Christ as my Savior. When the service ended I left the church as if floating on a cloud. What a feeling! I knew my life was changed forever, and I figured the rest of that life would be filled with sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows.

Boy, was I wrong.

Mind you, choosing to serve Christ was the best decision I have ever made and is the only way to live, but even Jesus said we would have trouble in this world. My transition into the Christian life was not easy—it took a while for me to figure it out. I’m actually still figuring it out, and one thing that has helped me is reading the book of Romans.
As I stumbled through those first few months of my new life, I didn’t know where to begin in reading the Bible. Someone suggested I read Romans, and I dug in. I found it’s a powerful book on how to live the Christian life.

The richest chapter that I latched onto was Romans 8. The first verse I ever memorized was verse 2—For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from sin and death—but there are so many more that provide insight and direction.

Further in Romans 8, I found that the sufferings of our present life cannot even be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us (verse 18). Just think, our current troubles will pale in comparison to what lies ahead. What a promise! On and on there are rich nuggets of wisdom, reminding me God is for me and not against me and nothing can separate me from His love.

I could go on and on, and I toyed with the idea of copying and pasting the whole book into this blog post. But then the administrators would complain the post was too long and not tweetable. Suffice to say, if you need some encouragement and direction, get yourself over to Romans.

Click to tweet: Salvation on the Romans road. #faith #Bible

WRITING PROMPT: Think back to your salvation experience. What struggles did you have? Find a verse in the book of Romans and relate it to your life.

Indie Publishing: Here to Stay

By Jennifer Hallmark

Wow. We’ve had so many good posts this month concerning Indie publishing that I dislike seeing it come to an end.  In case you missed any, here’s a quick review…

Betty Thomason Owens started our month on July 3rd by discussing her own road to Indie publication with her fantasy novels: A Month of Indie Publishing.

On July 7th and July 11th, Susan Neal shared not only how she Indie published her book but how she took it to a number one Amazon ranking: Make Your Dream Come True and Self Publish Your Book, and How to Obtain an Amazon Best-Selling Ranking.

July 10th rolled around and Gail Johnson pointed us to some good ideas while Trekking the Indie Route.

On July 14th, Tammy trail asked an important question, “Is There Room for Indie Publishing?

Harriet Michael “Declared Her Independence” on July 17th with her Indie publishing journey.

On July 21st, I interviewed Hallee Bridgeman, an “Indie Author Extraordinaire”, who shared how she sold over half a million books.

Sherrie Giddens wrote a guest post titled “Take the Steps to Self-Publish Your Books” on July 24th of how she Indie published her books.

And Betty Boyd ended our month with an interview with blogger, author, and life coach Nancy Colasurdo and her Indie published memoir.

As you read each of these articles, I believe you’ll understand why Indie publishing is here to stay. The reasons behind the decision may vary but each person seemed happy with the results.

Next month, we’re taking a totally different road and discussing favorite books of the Bible. Don’t miss it!

Click to tweet: Indie publishing is here to stay. #IndiePub #amwriting

Writing Prompt: Bob stood facing Lil, hands on his hips. “Why would anyone want to read your memoir? And who’ll publish it?”

Lil snorted. “Haven’t you ever heard the word Indie?”

 

 

An Interview with Nancy Colasurdo

By Betty Boyd

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Nancy Colasurdo is a blogger, author, and life coach. Her journalism career spans 30 years and her work has been featured in or on Fox Business, CNBC, Fortune and Ladies Home Journal. Her recently published memoir is called Alive in the Sunshine.

  1. Why did you decide to self-publish your own book?

As a journalist for over 25 years, I had a preconceived idea about how the publishing process should go – write the book, get an agent, land a book deal, celebrate. Well, I’ve learned how old school that is. It took me over a year to get an agent, which is not uncommon. Then I signed a two-year contract with her. While we had interest from publishers based on the merits of the book, ultimately they didn’t sign me because I didn’t have enough of a “platform.” I am not one to buy fake followers on social media; it’s not my style.

In the process, I had had the book professionally edited. I’d thought about self-publishing, but was stopped by the idea that I’d never be able to create a book that met my own high standards – how it would look, how it would feel in my hands. I’ve seen a number of self-published books that are of inferior quality and I was nervous about that.

However, because I am a trained life coach, I asked myself what I would advise a client to do. The answer is this: try. Do your research, pick a route, and give it a whirl. I asked a local artist whose work I love to design my cover. Then I created an e-book and it felt great. So empowering. Because I was emboldened by that triumph, I decided to try creating a paperback myself as well. I was more than pleased with the result – a memoir called Alive in the Sunshine.

  1. What was most difficult in self-publishing your book?

The most difficult part about it was teaching myself to navigate the process – the cover template, how to create page breaks, etc. I had this manuscript that I needed to birth and I had to continually remind myself to be patient when I became perplexed. I almost gave up a few times.

  1. What was the most enjoyable? The least enjoyable?

The most enjoyable part of self-publishing was getting the very first proof in the mail. When I held the paperback in my hands, felt the quality of the cover and the pages, saw how beautifully the colors translated from template to proof, and realized how many little decisions I had made to create this book, I was in awe. So proud.

The least enjoyable part was correcting little mistakes along the way, then uploading the manuscript. Correcting more, then uploading again. Getting it just right required I do this dozens of times before getting it to where I wanted it to be. It was ultimately very satisfying, but definitely the least enjoyable part.

  1. What tips can you give writers who want to pursue self-publishing?

Do it! If you decide to create a physical book in addition to an e-book, do some research. Not just on the self-publishing process or which outlet to use, but on what appeals to you in other books. Pluck books off your shelf and see what you feel strongly about.

Maybe you love or hate glossy covers. Perhaps white pages are a bit too bright or off-white ones are too dull. Do you like page numbers on the top or bottom? Centered or flush right? These are all decisions you’ll have to make in creating your book.

I’m not going to lie. It can get tedious. But the rewards and satisfaction far outweigh the moments of doubt.

  1. What other advice would you like to give?

Engage a few trusted friends in your process. In my case, I had a friend who sensed I needed an extra dose of encouragement and he would dash off an email asking about my book progress a few times a week. When I got hung up on one particular aspect of doing it, he came over and sat with me while I figured it out.

Another friend with a great eye helped me choose the color I used for my spine and back cover. I’d narrowed it down to three and she came by and gave her opinion. We liked the same one, so that was quite validating.

Yet another friend assisted me in getting the cover image to line up perfectly.

I highly recommend tapping into your support system. It’s invaluable. I would caution, though, not to enlist too many people in the process. Be judicious.

About Nancy’s Book:

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Nancy Colasurdo’s memoir, covering a decade of self-reflection and change, begins with the staggering effects of 9/11 and her subsequent layoff as a television producer. Her well-ordered life falls apart completely as she struggles to find her way, continually questioning and seeking a life beyond that of the conventional Italian-American Jersey girl she was raised to be. She finds a new profession in life coaching, divorces the Catholic Church in the wake of the priest scandal, and seeks love, often with devastating results. Eventually she attracts a man who shows her capacity for love, opening her up even further.

 

Writing Prompt: What would make you want to indie publish your book?