Tuesday, July 23, 2013

WIPpet Wednesday: "Pretty Mousey"

     I've been really naughty this week. I've been stalking my amazon stats page like a psychotic ex-girlfriend. But, I guess all that obsession paid off, because tonight, I got a snapshot of this:

     Yup, that's The Beloved Daughter sitting pretty at number five in Christian suspense. (It also somehow got listed as a mystery; don't ask me why). It's place in the spotlight only lasted for about twenty minutes, so now you see how important it was for me to compulsively refresh my amazon page thirteen times an hour. Anywho... I am so thankful for our little band of WIPpeters and wish we could all have a big reunion somewhere together. (Actually, since most of us have never met each other, we couldn't even call it a reunion, could we? Shucks.)

     Anyway, back to the important stuff. Yup, it's Wednesday. Happy WIPpeteering day, everyone! Here's seven sentences (in honor of the seventh month) from The Beloved Daughter: Bonus Features. This comes in my character studies section, where I dissect my favorite (and not-so-favorite) characters and tell you all the stories behind their fictionalizations. If you've read The Beloved Daughter, you might remember Mee-Kyong, the protagonist's resourceful and effervescent best friend from labor camp.


     Why do I love Mee-Kyong? Because she's so much the opposite of me. I'm pretty mousey, if you really want to know. I don't rock the boat. If I were a hobbit, I'd be the kind that didn't like adventures. Mee-Kyong's dramatic flair and zest for life - even life behind barbed wires - is such a striking contest to my own timid, rationalistic existence that I can't help but love her. Maybe even envy her.


     So that's what I had to say about Mee-Kyong in the Bonus Materials for The Beloved Daughter. Short, isn't it? But that's ok, because I liked writing Mee-Kyong's character so much that she's about to get her own novel. Consider this the last WIPpet from the Bonus Materials since I am now in editing phase for Not Alone, which will star none other than the dramatic, vivacious Mee-Kyong. Tune in next week for more!

Random Fact: My favorite literary character is Vera Aleksandrovna from the Russian play A Month in the Country. She's a mousey little ward of a rich noblewoman, but she gets this great scene where she tells her manipulative, overbearing benefactress off. Gives me chills! Vive le mice!

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Five People You Meet in Prayer Groups

What's up with this photo?
This post appears in the Gentle Humor column of Christian Home Magazine and the MMM linkup from Regi McClain.


     Do you like lists? I don't. But I'm about to give you one anyway. It's my list of the five people you meet in prayer groups. I'm betting if you've been hanging around a church for much time you'll recognize a few of these types.

The Preacher: We all know this one. He's the one who can't open his mouth to pray without letting a three-point sermon come out. Thank you, Lord, that your word says [insert point A]. We praise you, Almighty Father, because you have said that [insert point B]... I think you get the idea. Pastors are notorious for using this subtle little technique. In fact, sometimes I wonder why people bother paying attention to sermons at all. Why not just wait for the ending prayer for the cliff's notes version?

The Plagarist: Less annoying than the Preacher (on account of the shorter, non-bulleted prayer), the Plagarist is adpet at "agreeing" (in the Biblical sense) with everything that's already been prayed. The Plagarist often waits until just about all the prayer requests have been prayed over, and then he says something short and profoud like, "I just want to agree with everything that's already been said here." For the sake of propriety, the Plagarist usually adds a sentence or two of his own, but for the most part he just gets to listen to other people come up with their prayers and then just second what they said.

The Gossip: There's no better way than to keep up with local gossip than to attend your church's prayer meeting. Usually, there are sereral pray-ers who fall under the Gossip category who are more than happy to share the latest and juciest news with everybody in the form of a prayer. Sometimes it takes a little practice to interepret these prayers, however. For example, Please help Trish's daughter come back to you is code for "Did you know that Trish's daughter is sleeping around?" In the same way, Please bless Mr. and Mrs. Donaldson's marriage during this time is code for, "The Donaldsons are getting a divorce."

The Good Old Wishy-Washy Prayer Partner: Here's the man who just can't make up his mind and decide what he wants to pray for. So he offers up a lot of if it's your will and if you want's and ends up not asking for anything at all.

The Bard: This King James enthusiast doesn't realize that Shakespearian English is four centuries out of date. His prayers are complicated with so many Thee's and Thou's you need footnotes just to get through it all.

      Thankfully, the Bible doesn't give us one right way to pray. And some of the people who made it into the list aren't really doing it "wrong." You want to praise God in sonnet form? Go right ahead. I guess I'm just glad that God knows what's going on in our hearts and in our spirits, no matter how the words come out.


Random Fact: Right now I am taking care of a total of seven children, but I still haven't gotten my Super Woman suit in the mail.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Literary Things: Interview with Emerald Barnes

Piercing Through the Darkness
      I'm here today talking with my friend Emerald Barnes about characterization. If you're like me, when you read a book by someone you're close to, you find yourself wondering about the psychological inspiration behind their characters. If you write a novel about a girl growing up under the thumb of a manipulative, oppressive mother, I'm going to wonder if you're giving us a glimpse into your own past. If all of your books have a man who cheats or walks out on his wife, I might suspect you've gone through something similar.

     That's part of what makes writing fiction such a vulnerable process. A lot of the time, we authors put ourselves into our characters without even noticing it until someone brings it up.

     When I read Piercing Through the Darkness by my writing colleague, Emerald Barnes, I was intrigued to find out how much of herself she put in the story. The novella stars a young college co-ed who starts having flashbacks about a horrific accident she had repressed in her memory. At the same time, a bereaved husband remembers exactly who Kandi is and is bent on revenge, and a best friend/love interest Jimmy is doing everything he can to protect Kandi's emotions - and her life.

1) Which character in Piercing Through the Darkness is the most like you?

Despite being a female, I'll have to say Jimmy. I would do anything to protect my family and the people that I love the most. I can relate to him the most because he has such a kind nature. Although, I have a bit of a temper like Jonathan.

2) Did you give any characters quirks based off of yourself or people you know?

If I did, it was unintentional. I was drawing on emotions that I thought I might feel given the situation, but their quirks were fully their own.

3) Do you remember how you came up with the storyline for Piercing Through the Darkness?

I do actually. I had originally written a short story called Piercing Through the Darkness that is one of the scenes of the novella now. It all began with someone being chased at a football game and not knowing why. But the killer knew why and blamed her for something she wasn't even sure she did. But, when I got to the end of that short story, I had Kandi's memories forgotten, simply because I thought it would make a fun story. But I also drew from discussions that I had in my psychology class about hypnosis and repressed memories to write the entire story.

4) Are there any parts of Piercing Through the Darkness' plot that are based on your own personal experiences?

Well, I drew on my Biology class in community college for the classroom scenes, but aside from setting, nothing.

5) As an author, do you find it easier to write any specific kind of character?

Not really. I like to write complex characters because I feel like they're more realistic. Humans are complex people, and we range vastly in how we deal with certain problems. I try to keep that as realistic as possible or how I would react in a situation. 

 See below for more information about Emerald Barnes' suspenseful novella.

It’s on the edge of her memory like a word on the tip of her tongue, but Kandi can’t remember what it is to save her life. Despite being a cop, Jimmy can’t protect Kandi from the one thing that haunts her. She’s in danger and doesn’t even know it. After it happened, her brain repressed her memories of the accident, and now, she’s taking a Biology class under a man who wants to see her dead. The memories have started coming back, and it feels like she’s miles away from him. How can he protect her when she doesn’t even know she needs protecting?

Can these characters pierce their way through the darkness?

"Piercing Through the Darkness" by Emerald Barnes on Ganxy

Enter to win Emerald's Summer Prize pack with copies of her two recent books and some summer fun.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

About Emerald Barnes: Emerald Barnes graduated with a B.A. in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing at Mississippi University for Women. She resides in a small town in Mississippi and has the accent to prove it. She mainly writes suspense/thrillers in the YA genre, but she dabbles in other genres and her books are enjoyed by all ages! She's constantly working on new novels and has more ideas than she knows what to do with. She blogs at emeraldbarnes.blogspot.com and ebarnes23.wordpress.com which takes up more of her time than she anticipates but loves it so very much! She's also a volunteer at the World Literary Cafe which is so amazing! She's an auntie to two beautiful nieces and two handsome nephews (and another unknown gender coming by the end of 2013) who take up the other half of her time, but she couldn't imagine spending her time in any other way! She's a Whovian, a little bit of a nerd, a reader, a writer, and a family-oriented person. God is number one in her life, and she thanks Him continuously for His love and favor. Stay up to date with her at her Website, Twitter, and Facebook. You can also find her on Goodreads , Google+, and stay up to date with her releases on her Amazon Author Page. For more stops on the tour visit: http://www.emeraldbarnes.us/on-tour.html

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Finish the Sentence: The Cult

 This post is part of the Finish the Sentence Friday blog hop. Today's prompt was, "In church/place of worship, I learned to..." Thanks to our hosts: Kate of Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine…, Janine of Janine’s Confessions of a Mommyaholic, Stephanie of Mommy, for Real and Dawn of Dawn's Disaster!


     I went to a cult in college. Well, it wasn't really a cult. But it was. If this were Facebook, I'd just have to click the it's complicated status button.

     My church was great in a lot of ways. Great music. Inspiring stories. Lots of college students. But then in a lot of ways it was just plain creepy. Don't go to any church but ours. Don't date people from any church but ours. Don't go on mission trips with people from any church but ours. Don't even share prayer requests with people from any church but ours.

     The teaching was great, except for the fact that most of the sermons were about how we weren't supposed to rebel against God's authority (ie the pastor). If you wanted to be a super elite Christian, you had to get a discipler and basically do whatever they said. I knew a discipler who told my friend not to shop at thrift stores because the clothes might have satanic power. I know of disciplers who told the kids they mentored whom they could or couldn't date.

     Eventually, I realized that the things going on in my so-called church weren't healthy and probably weren't even from God at all. I was so entrenched in that community, I ended up leaving in the middle of the night and basically fleeing to another state to get away from it all.

     Yikes, you're probably thinking. My word exactly. But there's a lesson in all of this. I learned that no matter how wise we think we are, we always need to be careful about being suckered into a lie, especially when it comes to matters of faith. People hungry for control can take any number of Bible verses, twist them, and lord their power over their congregations. I'm glad I got out of that place when I did, even though I felt like a fugitive at the time (which, I guess, you could say I was). I have friends who continued on there. We've since fallen out of touch, but I think about them every now and then and wonder what's become of them.

     The Bible is a powerful book. And while I genuinely believe that every word written in it is inspired by God, that doesn't mean it can't be corrupted by sinful human agents. So what did I learn from going to a cult? I learned not to trust every man or woman who can handle the Bible impressively. They just might be handling it the wrong way.


Check This Out: My Christian suspense novel, The Beloved Daughter, is set in North Korea and has won awards from Women of Faith and the Book Club Network. It's on sale for 99 cents this week only. Take a peek (and if you're a blogger interested in a giveaway opportunity, let me know)!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Inspiration: Mutual Street Team

The Thursday's Children blog hop is a chance for authors to write about what inspires them. Thanks again to Rhiann Wynn-Nolet and Kristina Perez for hosting.

     Imagine a dozen indie authors who all write the same genre and target (for the most part) the same style of readers. But instead of seeing themselves as competing forces in a dog-eat-dog marketplace, they decide to work together to efficiently and effectively promote each others' work.

     I truly did stumble upon my friends from Mutual Street Team, a closed Facebook group of a very small number of Christian indie authors. Way back when I was getting ready to publish The Beloved Daughter, I sent out a random tweet asking for copy editor referrals. A Christian author recommended another Christian author who also does proof reading. A little later, after the edits were complete, both of these authors agreed to review my book for me on their blogs. A month or so after that, they invited me into their community of mutually-supportive Christian writers who call themselves Mutual Street Team.

     As a member of Mutual Street Team, I've beta read and I've reviewed. My friends have done the same for me. I've run dozens of plot and stylistic questions past other writers I trust and admire. We've prayed for each other, sometimes right there as part of a Facebook conversation. We've managed to keep one Facebook thread going for over 105 posts, and sometimes we just pop in randomly to see how everyone else is doing.

     One of the most surprising (and rewarding) aspects of this whole scenario as that we mutually promote each other's works. I haven't read all of my friend's novels yet because I'm still fairly new to the group and most of them are far more prolific than I. But we tweet and post about each others' books. We also run mutual giveaways (I'll give away three copies of your book on my blog, you give away three copies of my book on yours). I've even been known to stalk my friend's stats just to see if she gets to #1 in her genre (which she did last night, by the way).

     As Christian authors who all hope to enjoy a lot of professional success, we might have set out from the beginning to out-compete and outshine one another, but instead we've chosen to do just the opposite. The funny thing is that our cooperation has created more sales for just about every one of us, as I can best guess.

     In the writing world, I'm sure there will always be streaks of competition. I've been refreshing my stats page all night to see if my 99 cent sale has boosted my rank on amazon. It's nice to know that in addition to the race to bestseller status is a group of supportive friends who will share in my successes and disappointments and who will keep on encouraging me along the way.


Don't forget! My international suspense novel, The Beloved Daughter, is on sale for 99 cents this week only at amazon. Check it out!


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

WIPpet Wednesday: "About the Author"

    It's WIPpet Wednesday again! Shout out to our lovely hostess, K. L. Schwengel from My Random Muse, the one writer who does simply walk into WIPpet Wednesday ... and lives to tell about it. 

     Today's WIPpet is going to be fun. Last week, I mentioned that I'm working on The Beloved Daughter: Bonus Materials to release soon as an ebook. One of the chapters is called About the Author (Unedited Edition). This is how my amazon author page would appear if I had the room for all 17 sentences (and if I didn't think it would ruin my writing career).


Alana Terry loves to write. Unfortunately, her passion for literature has sometimes caused her children physical discomfort. When her toddler asks her for something as simple as a drink, Alana has been known to make him wait for up to a full half an hour before she caters to his reasonable request.

Saving Natalie, the first manuscript Alana ever completed, was a total failure. It had type-casted characters, minimal plot, and enough POV (point of view) issues that you’d need a roadmap and two Advil just to make it through the first chapter. Thankfully, it was never published so she wasn’t exposed to public disgrace. Alana’s other failed attempts at writing include a historical fiction book set during the Alaskan gold rush, a non-fiction book for homeschool families about holidays around the world, and a collection of poems inspired by each of the Psalms.

Alana has some fun and cute photos up of herself online, but in truth she doesn’t even stand five feet tall and never got over the acne from her teenage years. She hasn’t worn makeup in about a decade, and a hairdresser would need to take a good five inches off her hair just to get rid of the shaggy ends. Alana suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome and sensitive teeth. 

Alana is not Korean (but thanks for asking). She also is not Chinese (note to the little kid in elementary school who teased her every day). She is half Japanese, which would have made her an enemy to the Koreans about a century ago. She has never been to Asia (thanks for asking). If you are a supporter of the arts with the means to send her on a fact-collecting trip, you can find her contact information on her webpage. 

Alana’s literary pet peeves include goody two-shoes protagonists and I-prayed-and-the-problem-was-gone plot mechanics. She’s not very fond of women who cry more than once in a novel and prefers heroines who puke under duress over ones who faint.


Random Fact: I weight ten pounds less than my driver's license says I do. (I gave myself some wiggle room when I first filled out my application so I wouldn't feel guilty down the road.)

Have you heard? The Beloved Daughter is only 99 cents for this week only. I'm really hoping for a boost in amazon rank. Click here to tweet it to your friends!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

If You Talked to Your Spouse Like You Talk to God

What's up with this photo?
This post appears in the humor column of Christian Home Magazine and is part of the Mmm linkup from Regi McClain.

     Prayer is talking to God. You've probably heard that definition three hundred times - or three thousand if you grew up going to church. It makes a lot of sense, right?

     The idea that prayer is "just" talking to God is supposed to take the mystery out of this important spiritual discipline. You don't sweat talking to your girlfriend or your kids. You don't have to write down a script (or at least come up with a neumonic-friendly acronym) to prompt your conversation with your spouse, do you?

     So if prayer if "just" talking to God, then why does it look so different than my conversation with my husband, for example?

     And what if my relationship with my husband looked a lot more like my relationship with the Lord? If I treated conversing with Phillip the same way I treat praying to God, what would that do to my marriage? First of all, I'd have to come up with a plan, otherwise I'd be so busy I'd never stop and talk to my husband at all. So I'd set my alarm for 5:45 every morning and wake my husband up to tell him all the things I was thankful for. Since I'd be pretty tired, I might even have that list written out for me. That way I could just read it to him.

     Then I'd move on to my "intercession" portion. I'd tell Phillip all the things I'd hope he'd do for me that day. And if I really wanted to motivate my husband to action, I'd say things like, "Thank you in advance for answering my request." Oh, and I'd be sure to use lots of loftly words so he knew how serious I was. ("Dear compassionate and powerful spouse, if it's in your will, would you please get a gallon of milk on the way home from work tonight? I know that nothing is too hard for you, and I lay this request at your majestic feet.")

     On days when I didn't have much else going on, I might even get down the box from the closet that has all of the love letters Phillip wrote to me when were a long-distance engaged couple. I'd pick a letter at random and tell Phillip sweet nothings like, "Thank you, Phillip, that you said that I am an amazing woman who takes your breath away with my love for others and my heart for Christ," or, "I praise you, Phillip, because you once told me that nothing would give you more joy than spending the rest of your life loving me and taking care of me." I'd be thinking about the day ahead by then, so I'd probably just be reading in a monotone, but at least he'd know I was still reading all those letters he wrote.

     What that section was over, I'd go on to something my husband would really love. Singing. I'd pick the top three love songs that came to mind that morning, and sing them to him one after another. But I would be a little busy by then, so I'd probably be tidying up the house or starting on the kids' breakfast while I serenaded him each morning.

     On mornings when I slept in and missed my appointment with Phillip, I'd force myself to mope for several hours and tell myself I'm an awful wife. When bad things happened to me during the day, I'd blame it on the fact that I didn't have my "quiet time" with my husband.

     I hope that your marriage doesn't look or sound anything like this. Which leads me to wonder how my own prayer life got so self-centered, scripted, and dry. A ridiculous "quiet time" with your spouse might be something to laugh at, but a ho-hum prayer life certainly isn't.

     My prayer for you - as well as for myself - is for a spirit that yearns to connect with God, a heart that turns to him throughout the day, an intimacy that supersedes formulas, and a dedication that springs from joyful love instead of dutiful discipline.


Random Fact: During the course of our 16-month long-distance courtship, Phillip and I estimate we spent the equivalent of 32 days on the phone.
Bargain Books: The Beloved Daughter is my multi award-winning Christian suspense novel set in North Korea. It is 99 cents on kindle for this week only. Check it out!

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Boy Named Silas: Sunday School Revenge

     I love Silas. That five year old is hilarious and full of zest. He is quirky, zany, and incredibly intelligent. But do you know what? He's also been in speech therapy for nearly his whole life, and if you were to meet him today and hear him talk, you'd probably know something was wrong.

     I say probably because to me, Silas is completely understandable. And my friends and his friends understand him because they know him and are used to the way he expresses himself. Not everyone is as gracious, unfortunately, or as willing to work hard to understand what my son has to say.

     Silas is an official kindergartner. Since we homeschool, I got to tell him when he made the transition from preschool to kindergarten, and it happened last spring at our homeschool group's end-of-the-year picnic. But since our Sunday school program at church runs on a more traidtional-school-year schedule, we hadn't moved Silas up to the elementary-age class quite yet.

     Since it was Fourth of July weekend and church attendance was therefore running at about 45% of normal, we were short Sunday school teachers, so I got recruited to teach the elementary Sunday school class. Since Mom was teaching, Silas decided today was the day he'd prove his kindergarten status by joining the "big kids."

     I usually teach the junior high kids during Sunday school, so I didn't know many names today. I had each student stat by telling me who they were and what they liked to do at home. When it was Silas' turn, several kids giggled. Apparently, Silas' speech patterns were quite humorous to them.

     My lesson that day was on the miracles of Jesus. So in order to introduce the topic, I asked if there were any really good spellers in the room. Several hands shot up, but nobody - not even Silas' big brother - could spell miracle correctly. Silas' hadn't even raised his hand (maybe he was shy after getting laughed at), but I called on him anyway, and he rattled off the spelling for miracle in a single breath and got ever letter down pat.

     How did I know Silas could do it? I've never asked him to spell miracle before. It's never been on a spelling list, and we don't do tests at our home. But Silas has a photographic memory. If he's seen the word in print, he'll be able to spell it. A full year ago, Silas took a 12-part diagnostic reading test that placed his spelling abilities at a fourth-grade level. Since he's had a full year of reading to improve his spelling skills, I was sure today that he could spell miracle without even taking the time to blink.

     And he did.

     What's even greater is the reaction to the rest of the class. These kids - who only minutes before were laughing at my son for his speech delays - were now gasping and whispered, "How did he do that?" I think "Whoa" was heard more than any other word for the next half a minute. And do you want to know what else? Nobody laughed at Silas for the rest of the day.


Random Fact: I made it to the school spelling bee once, but got out in round two or three when I added an extra e to the word argument.

Check it out: The Boy Named Silas ebook is now available from amazon! In fact, all my ebooks are only 99 cents for this week only. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Finish the Sentence: No Regrets?

I haven't been on the Finish the Sentence Friday blog hop in a long time. I was spending a month writing like a mad woman. But I've finally finished the first draft of my next novel, a followup to the award-winning Christian suspense novel The Beloved Daughter. Sign up on the right for my newsletter if you want to know when it's released! I look forward to getting connected again with all my Friday blogging buds!


     What would it be like to live a totally regret-free life? Have you ever stopped to think about it? When this week's Finish the Sentence Friday prompt was announced, it got me thinking. If I could go back and do something over, what would it be?

     There are so many choices. Would I have done something different when I was delivering my son Silas? Asked for a C-section? Noticed sooner that he had stopped breathing? My little miracle child isn't defined by his birth event five years ago, but his condition has certainly shaped nearly every aspect of his life, to the point where just this weekend he got giggled at during his first week in the elementary-age Sunday school class because he talks differently.

     And Silas isn't the only child I think about when it comes to regrets. When my oldest son Nate was a baby I was such a nervous wreck. I spent about two years being an uptight mother who was terrified to make a mistake. Even today, I wonder if some of my anxiety transferred over to my son. Wouldn't I love to go back and be more relaxed about the whole motherhood thing?

     What about regrets that don't have anything to do with my family? What if I hadn't wasted three years in college studying to become a doctor? I always knew I wanted to be an author. Why did I allow life to take me on that huge (expensive) detour?

     I'm a huge fan of Romans 8:28, which tells us that God works all things together for a purpose. That old adage, "Everything happens for a reason," really is true. Take my son, for example. All of our life goals changed the day Silas was born. And do you know what? I'm really happy where we are right now. If I could have spared my son so much suffering, I would have. But I don't regret that his medical history led us to where we are today.

     I remember going to a youth retreat where the theme was NO REGRETS. Live your life as a teen in such a way that you don't regret anything when you're an adult. An empowering message for today's kids, don't you think?

     Well, I failed. I made a lot of mistakes. And a lot of things happened that at the time I wished hadn't. My writing career took a three-year hiatus after I published an untimely article about some unfortunate family history. At the time, did I regret my choices? Sure did. But since I got kicked off the train of Christian journalism in my early writing days, I eventually got into novel writing - the track I wanted to ride more than anything in the first place. 

     I regret a lot of things I've done and a few things that have happened to me. But I don't regret the outcome. Which, I suppose, only goes to prove that God truly does work all things together for good. I sure am happy that the end results are in his hands.


Random Fact: I once attended a youth event where a flash flood left thousands of us kids all stranded without power in a college basketball gym for the entire night.

Check It Out: My novel, The Beloved Daughter, just won first place from The Book Club Network's Book of the Month contest. Enter the Goodreads giveaway on the right sidebar or buy the ebook today!

Blog Love: Thanks to Finish the Sentence Friday Hosts: Kate of Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine…, Janine of Janine’s Confessions of a Mommyaholic, Stephanie of Mommy, for Real and Dawn of Dawn's Disaster!