Monday, August 27, 2012

More Basics in the Little Things

In his post this week, Darrel hit an area that I’ve seen more and more in books I’ve read lately. He addressed it in a clear understandable way. That brings me to another area that has begun to bother me a great deal as I read.

Since I became aware of Deep POV and read Jill Nelson’s book on the subject, I’ve learned to look for those “weasel” words of shallow POV. Her book helped me develop a workshop on the subject and I presented it to the Tulsa WIN chapter of ACFW as well as at the TCWC in August. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I’ve read enough to recognize deep POV in a manuscript.

Deep POV takes away the telling and shows us the characters thoughts and actions. By stating simple facts without adding the words, “she knew”, “he wondered”, “she thought”, or “he felt” to the sentence, we stay in the character’s head without telling. If you are in one character’s POV, then everything that happens in that scene is from that character’s observations, thoughts, and actions.

Example: After all that had happened earlier in the morning, Sally knew her mother would be upset. She squeezed her mother’s hand. “We have to pray even harder now.”

Revised: After all that had happened earlier in the morning, Mom had a right to be upset. Sally squeezed her mother’s hand. “We have to pray even harder now.”

The second sentence shows us what Sally is feeling and thinking without telling us she knows something. Think about our own thoughts. Do we think, “I feel so happy” or do we think simply, “I’m so happy”?

Sometimes we often let using the five senses become telling sentences instead of showing the reader.

Example: She offered him a plate of sugar cookies, and he grabbed one from the plate. The taste of cinnamon made him remember the days his mother made him sugar cookies and served them with a glass of milk after school.

Revised:  She offered him a plate of sugar cookies, and he grabbed one from the plate. One bite of the crunchy cinnamon sugar combination returned him to childhood and after school snacks of Snickerdoodles and milk in his mother’s kitchen.

Both sentences are correct, but the second one not only gives a little more information, but it also shows the taste of the cookie in a way that the reader wants one of the cookies or may have a memory of such a cookie him or herself.

These are just little things, but they are what I’ve learned through so many workshops at conferences and on-line as well as from books. We’re never too old to learn. At age 76, I’m still learning this craft of writing. I’ll never be perfect at it, but I will keep improving until I can no longer sit at a keyboard or hold a pencil or see a monitor or until the Lord calls me home.

Yes, it’s true that a great story trumps poor writing skills, but learning the skills to go along with a great story is the icing on the cake. Learning about deep POV has become one of those little “serendipity” things, and I love writing even more after it.

What is something you learned that either has made or will make a difference in your writing?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Review the Basics Continually

I had a wake up call last week that I would like to share. And I need to thank Martha Rogers and Lori Vanden Bosch for providing it.
Because I majored in English in university and have written novels, plays, articles, and songs for over thirty years, I thought I had a fairly good feel for sentence structure. What a surprise I received when Martha kindly looked over my most recent manuscript and pointed out a grammatical error I consistently made throughout the book. Lori, my editor, confirmed the error, and I had to do some fast editing to correct it.
The error involved participial phrases (or “ing” sentences as Martha describes them). For example, Tiptoeing down the hallway, she went into the bedroom. In my mind this sentence showed a transition from one place to another. First she tiptoed down the hallway and then she went into the bedroom.
Martha accurately pointed out that the sentence is chronologically impossible. You can’t tiptoe down the hallway and, at the same time, go into the bedroom. A simple fix would be to rewrite the sentence: She tiptoed down the hallway and went into the bedroom.
Lori sent me an article entitled “Participial Phrase Abuse.” I swallowed hard when I realized just how I was abusing participial phrases. The article stated:
“Participial phrases lend themselves to a host of grammatical ills, including dangling participles and chronological impossibilities. The most common problem associated with participial phrases is the dangling participle. Swimming in the ocean, the cool water refreshed him. The sentence, as written, tells us that the water is swimming in the ocean. Let’s fix it. Swimming the ocean, he felt refreshed.
“Chronological impossibilities are also common. Consider the following sentence: Walking down the hallway, he stopped to tie his shoe. Someone cannot walk down the hallway and stop to tie his shoe simultaneously, so this sentence needs revision. A possible fix: Walking down the hallway, he noticed his shoe was untied and stopped to tie it.
“When you come across one of these phrases, ask yourself two key questions: (1) Does the action expressed in the participle link up with the main clause correctly? And (2) Can these two things happen simultaneously?”
Well, that’s the grammar lesson for today. A giant thanks to Martha and Lori. I am a schoolteacher by profession, but in this area I am clearly the student—a student who had to hit the books and brush up on basic sentence structure. What did I learn? I need to be on the watch for those tricky participial phrases continually. I need to use them with care and use them sparingly. And, most of all, I need to review the basics regularly.
Perhaps we all do.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New Trailer for "Amazing Love: The Story of Hosea"

Hey, everybody. Very busy with writing these days, and unfortunately have used up what few deep thoughts I have, so this blog will be rather short :p I just wanted to stop by and give a little update on Amazing Love: The Story of Hosea. I wrote the original script for this and am happy to say that the movie is finished. But, instead of playing at a theater near you, the producers wish to play it at a church near you. They believe this can be a great outreach tool as well as something that can strengthen any believer. If you would like to show this movie at your church, call 949-380-8550 or email your contact info at and they will set you up. I believe the movie will be out later this year on DVD for personal sales, but right now they're trying to give the opportunity for the churches to have a special movie night :)

Hosea is one of my favorite accounts in the Bible and when the producers said they wanted me to write a Bible movie, I knew I had to write Hosea's story. Dig on the trailer below and scroll down to read what others are saying about the movie. What I am most excited to see is that so many are taking a second look at a wonderful book of the Bible that they might not have paid much attention to before. Hosea's a hero, to me, so I'm especially proud to bring a dramatization of his life to the screen.

Amazing Love - Trailer 1080p from Rich Christiano on Vimeo.

“A powerful story of redemption.  This one should not be missed.”
   --The Dove Foundation (5 STARS)
“This movie was excellent, both theologically and dramatically.”
--Paul Reiner, Pastor, Salina Bible Church, Salina, PA

“Amazing Love is amazing! The film captures real life issues of today by reflecting back to yesterday and the life of Hosea. The message of God’s amazing love for us, reminds us all, to try and show that kind of love to those we come in contact with. A powerful film with an applicable message for today”.
     --Mike Drayton, President, Serving Him Ministry, Mocksville, NC

“I just finished watching Amazing Love.  Wow!  Praise God for such a beautiful presentation of God's amazing love! It was powerful and moving, brought tears to my eyes.  Great job!”
     --Mark Opseth, Hope Church, Apple Valley, MN

“From my heart I thank you for including our community in a preview of your newest release “Amazing Love”.  This was such an outstanding movie!  It was not only well done, great film quality, great acting, wonderful story, but the message of this movie was inspirational.  There was so much discussion around this movie when it concluded; expressions of awe about how God moved in Hosea’s life to help him understand God’s own heart and how much God suffers when His people turned away from Him.  That message alone was “amazing”!”
--Debra Wagamon, Movie Coordinator, Illinois City United Methodist Church
“I  absolutely loved it. What a great way to learn about the Bible. It was like having a bible study that was exciting and relevant. This movie is a great tool that all churches should use.”
     --Isaac Hernandez, EVP of Programming/The Parables Network
"The film really brings eyes of understanding to help us imagine and understand the life of Hosea, a prophet who provides a vital picture of God's phenomenal love for His often wayward people. Made us praise God for His faithful, amazing love!" 
    --Jonathan Stewart, Executive Director, All Tribes Christian Camp, Ontario, Canada
“Wow!  I am in tears. Just finished watching Amazing Love and it blew me away. The simplicity and beauty of God's love came through loud and clear. Can't wait to share this with my whole church this summer!”
     --Matt Mitchell, Potter's Hand Bible Church, Apex, NC
“My whole family including all 6 of my children watched Amazing Love last night.  It is very appropriately named and was great for the whole family.  I had only breezed over the book of Hosea before -- what a DEEP love story!!! Church families will LOVE this movie!”
    --Chris Beach, Cornerstone Assistance Network Tulsa, OK
Amazing Love brings the unconditional love of God to the Silver Screen. This movie brings the book of Hosea to life with very practical applications for this generation of how we are to love others like God loves us. Some of the prophecies of Hosea are as relevant to this generation as they were to the nation of Israel back then.
     --David Lange, Pastor, Mission Community Church, Pacific, MO  
“My wife and I along with two other couples watched this wonderful movie together. It was so good that we could not stop talking about it after the movie was over. We believe it will be inspiring to everyone who has an opportunity to see it. Amazing Love is so relevant to the time in which we live that it will become a tool for all who are wondering about the purpose of their being and give them the true meaning for their faith.”
    --Thomas Jernigan, Gospel Tabernacle, Dunn, NC
“This is a great movie. I have read the book of Hosea many times, but the telling of the story accompanied by the watching of it unfold really brought it home. I see many parallels between what was happening in Israel in Hosea’s day and the USA today.  Hosea could have been standing on any street corner in America and the message would be just as true.   I hope this movie makes it to many churches and is seen by thousands of people.”
   --John Jaye, Minister of Education & Outreach, Northside Baptist Church, Jasper, AL

Monday, August 20, 2012

Agents --- A New Post

Well, I made a mess of things. Again. We authors think that the world is just waiting to read our words; pregnant with the possibility of changing the world into something new and fresh and redeemed. When, in fact, our words can carry hurt and convey the wrong meaning.

I deleted today’s post as soon as I heard from one of my agents. Here is what I meant to say in a way that will not offend anyone.

1 -- Check out your potential agent before you sign a contract. Not all agents are above board and honest. Most are Godly men and women who want to serve the Lord by bringing you, the author, to a matching publisher. But, check out the testimonials. Talk to the clients of your prospective agent.

2 -- Check your contract carefully. There may be hidden costs involved in using an agent. You may have to pay for editing a book proposal, for instance. Or, you may have to pay for postage above a certain level although in today’s world, most book proposals are sent via email.

3 -- Communicate, communicate, communicate! The expectations of the author are usually not nearly as down to earth as the reality dictates. The agent has been around the block and knows the business well. If you have a good agent, listen to your agent. Trust your agent. But, make sure you are both on the same page!

4 -- Don’t ever write a blog entry talking about your former agents! Bad form! Even if using a pseudonym! I never want to hurt a fellow brother or sister in Christ. And, the failure of my relationship with a former agent must always be on my back. If I pay attention to those first three points, then the relationship will grow and strengthen. My failure as an author continues to be a failure if I don’t learn from it!!

What do you think? How did you find an agent? What do you recommend when searching for an agent?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

5 Reasons to NOT Attend a Writers Conference

Okay, so lots of writers have written blog posts about the virtues of writers conferences. They list all the benefits and glorify them until you’d think you were slapping down hundreds of dollars for eternal life. Well, I hate to rain on anyone’s parade but I’m about to bring in the thunderheads and set ‘em loose.

Here are 5 reasons NOT to attend a writers conference.

1. You may see someone you know. Or, forbid it all, meet someone new, maybe even someone from a foreign state like, say, Florida. You’ll have to talk to them, get to know them, and probably find out you share a lot in common. In fact, you’ll be surrounded by a bunch of weird writer-types who share your same interests. It’ll remind you of one of those bizarre conventions where everyone dresses up like writers and pretends to be fascinated with what you’re currently working on.

2. Editors and agents are there for the specific reason of talking to you and seeing your work. You may find out that they’re quite normal people, most of them even nice people, and then they’ll be knocked off that pedestel you’ve put them on. All fear will be banished

 3. People will want to read what you’ve written. You’ll feel exposed, vulnerable. Your writing will be critiqued and then you’ll feel like you need to actually improve it.

4. You’ll be encouraged to explore and understand why you feel that urge to write so much. They’ll get all emotional on you and throw around words like “calling” and “purpose.” You’ll be challenged to dig deep and search your soul. Ugh.

5. You will become a better writer and increase your chances of getting published. The worst of all . . . someone may actually take you and your passion for writing seriously. Then you’ll have to spend real time writing and reading and honing your craft.

Are you really game for all that?

Question: Have you ever attended a writers conference? Which one and was it torture or what?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Cast Down your Buckets!

My son had to write a paper for a history class he was in. He asked for my help, which I am always willing to do, especially if it’s historical. They were covering the Industrial Revolution and my son chose Booker T. Washington because the speech Washington gave caught his attention. I vaguely remembered it but never quite grasped what Washington meant by the famous phrase, Cast down your buckets where you are.

For those unfamiliar with the story it goes like this…A ship was lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. From the mast of the distressed vessel was seen as a signal, “Water, water, we die of thirst.” The answer from the friendly vessel at once came back; “Cast down your bucket where you are!” A second time the signal, “Water send us water.” went up from the distressed vessel. A third and fourth signal for water was answered, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” The captain of the distress vessel, at last heeding the order, cast down his bucket and it came up full of sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River.

Booker T. Washington’s infamous 1895 speech addressed the change in times for Southern African Americans. No longer did could they depend on the old ways of life with the Industrial R evolution taking precedence over jobs harvesting the land. Instead of fighting for civil rights, Washington took a more practical approach in developing positive relations with the Southern white man. Thus the famous phrase, Cast down your bucket where you are. A metaphor to encourage African Americans to understand their current situation and look at what opportunities they can make for themselves, both in making a living, and getting along with white men. A dual meaning could also represent the fresh water surrounding them that they weren’t even aware of, and also meaning a fresh start with new experiences.

I was inspired to write this after reading Steve Laube’s post the other day about the dry spells authors go through, authors that are multi-published, who go for years without a contract. There was also a paragraph by Randy Alcorn about entitlement, and how we take for granted what we have and don’t look around us and seek other paths when things run dry.

Back to Booker T. He gave a great allegory to their situation, not to live in strife and worry, to look around you and see what’s out there when the water’s too salty, you might find fresh water, new beginnings and adventures. I’d like to think I’ll always be writing, and published, but there are no guarantees, so I will enjoy what I have and stop asking for water when fresh water might be right in front of me, a new opportunity that might be completely different than I expected. We get in our safe place and hang on; hoping it will last, instead of turning our heads to see what other journeys are within our grasp. So let’s look at what we’ve gained on this wild, roller coaster ride in publishing, instead of what we could lose.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Whose History Is It?

The older I get, the faster time seems to go by. Maybe it’s because we have so much still to do and feel like we have little time left to do it. Whatever it is, I don’t particularly like it. Where are the lazy, hazy days of summer I enjoyed as a youth?

One reason I enjoy writing historical is that I can go back in time to a simpler place and have my characters live their lives at much less frantic pace. The problem is that now my own childhood is being considered for historical. When did that happen?

As a child during WWII, I vividly remember the newsreels and magazine pictures in Look, The Saturday Evening Post, and Newsweek. Uncles and older cousins went off to foreign countries to fight a war that seemed to go on forever. I was five when the war began and nine when it ended, but the memories are very vivid. So now, when I pick up a story set between 1941 and 1945, it doesn’t seem like history to me.

Even with a war going on across the ocean, children in America still had carefree days filled with activities that children today have no concept about. Mention Jacks, Hopscotch, Hide and Seek, Red Rover, Simon Says, Tag, Stickball, Dodge Ball, or Kick the Can to a nine or ten year old today and they look at you with a “huh” expression. They stay in their air-conditioned homes to play Wii, Play Station, Atari, games on the IPad, or texting friends on their phones. They have no idea what a double-feature is at the movies or about serials with cliff-hangers every week.

Back then, the days were endless, and we wanted to hurry and grow up so we could do adult things. We spent little time at home because we were outside playing with friends. Mother called us home for supper when the sun was headed downward in the west, and we called it a day.

Now as I look back at the nineteenth century and what they didn’t have in the way of modern conveniences, I wonder what they’re going to read and think about the twentieth century in another thirty-five years or so. What do we have today that will be obsolete? What will the historical writers of tomorrow write about the history we have lived? What will they have that we have no idea could exist. When I said I would have liked to have lived in the late nineteenth century, someone asked, “But wouldn’t you miss all the conveniences of today?” My reply, “How could I miss something I didn’t know would exist in the future?”

Writing history and getting it right is work, but it is fun. Will they get it right in the future when they write about us?