Monthly Archives: May 2013

“The Ballad of Shakespeare & The Floating Body Parts”

Welcome to a moving ballad that is sure to add depth and inspiration to your writing journey. And it will undoubtedly leave you asking the emotional question: Floating Body Parts–To be or not to be?

I stood toe to toe with Willie Shakespeare

and he tried to make me lend him my ears,

so I put my foot down and held out my chin,

and my eyebrows flew up and then down again.

I threw up my arms and then dropped my face,

and then rolled my eyes all over the place.

I tossed back my head and held out a hand,

and my fingers went flying all over the land.

He got so mad he hurled his fist,

I kicked up a leg and threw out my hip.

I curled my toes and my skin started to crawl,

and my feet took off running right down the hall!

I twisted my neck, my hair flapped in the breeze,

My heart climbed in my throat, I started pumping my knees,

then wild Willie stopped, his mouth screamed, “Et tu, Brute?

And my mind started asking, “What did he say?”

His gums rambled on about the smell of a rose,

till my cheeks flushed red and I turned up my nose;

I shrugged my shoulders and nodded my head,

Why was I running from a dude who was dead?

I awoke from the dream and gritted my teeth,

it wasn’t real…oh, what a relief!

The lesson, my friend, is quite plain to see:

Shakespeare and floating body parts just aren’t for me!

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“Plot or Characters?”

Do not fear the road of imagination…walk it boldly…take in the sights, the sounds, the tastes, the smells…the textures. Imagine your characters reaching from the pages of your story, and inviting your readers to take their hand and walk with them. Take your reader somewhere unique and believable. Make them hate to see the journey end, and leave them filled with regret that they have to bid the characters farewell.

I am the least qualified to answer the questions as to whether captivating characters or provocative plots drive a story from The words “Chapter One” to the words “The End.” People more capable than me have plucked the strings of that debate for decades, and the dueling banjos will be heard long after I am gone. But I know that plots without characters are like a musical score without an orchestra , and characters without plots are like an orchestra without any musical score.

Characters move me. Plots move them.

I have several characters packed in my imagination. Some are harmless. Some are funny and fun-loving. Some are broken. A few are well-intentioned but flawed. Some are capable of incredible good, while others sink to revolting depths of evil. Some are born out of the happy times in my life, and others are represent my deepest pains and my most unrelenting sorrows. And others…well, I’m not sure where they came from. But I’m sure we’ve met before.

And I also have stories blooming in my head. I can think of six story ideas that are demanding my attention right now. Two are sequels to books I’ve already written. One is a story idea that was plopped in my lap at a recent writers conference (thanks J. K.). Another is probably going to be the beginning of a series. And two are story ideas that started as contest entries and are begging to be fleshed out.

So, as a writer or a reader, what’s most important to you…plot or characters? Who are some of your favorite characters from books or movies? What are the most intriguing plots you’ve been caught up in?

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Have They Seen His Story?

On my trek from North Carolina back to Kansas, I passed near Joplin, MO and saw a billboard for the Precious Moments Chapel near by. A few precious moments characters were pictured on the billboard, along with the words “Have You Seen His Story?” Cute little characters were waiting to illustrate the news of God’s love, if I only had time to take the proper exit and drop by. But I didn’t.

But that wasn’t the end of it. My writer’s brain grabbed me with strong hands of conviction and stared deep into my soul. And that still, small voice said, “When someone reads one of your books, will they been given the opportunity to see His Story?”

Writers, we are simply ambassadors for Christ on the printed page. So may we agree with the hymn writer and find great joy in telling His Story to our readers. It will be our theme in glory…let’s become accustomed to it here.

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“Top 10 Things I’ve learned at Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference”

I can’t wait to tell you all the serious, soul-stretching lessons I’ve learned while tucked away on the beautiful campus of the Ridgeway Conference Center in North Carolina. But that will have to wait…instead I bring you:

Top 10 Things I’ve Learned at BRMCWC

# 10:  I shouldn’t go listen to the super-hilarious Torry Martin speak if I have a full bladder…(don’t worry, I’m sure they removed the chair I was sitting in)…seriously, he is one of the funniest people I’ve ever heard.

# 9:  Eddie Melson loves Social Media as much as I love Dr. Pepper! (Maybe next year I can teach a class on “The importance of Dr. Pepper in a Writer’s life”)

# 8:  As the week goes on, I’m hearing my voices in my head, and they’re all shouting, “Get more coffee! NOW!” (And allllllllllll God’s children said…..”

# 7:  If Karl Bacon, Joe Courtmanche, and I were actually identical triplets separated at birth, society is probably better for it. (I mean those two are nuttier than a bag of almonds)

# 6:  It’s important to read the labels on the bottles you find in the bathroom, because hand/body lotion is not the same as conditioner. But I do now have the most smooth and supple scalp at the conference.

# 5:  Each day ten more steps appear that were NOT there the day before. They! Were! Not! There!

# 4:  The more exhausted I get, the greater the likelihood that I will weep tears of joy at the sight of a pan filled with bacon.

#3:  The reason I wear a name tag is because when I’m trying to pitch my story to an agent or editor I get so nervous I have no idea who I am, so I giggle, thump my name tag holder, and start talking like Yoda…”Ahhhh, me this is…” (Any wonder why I’m still unpublished?)

# 2:  In these here parts, Al Gansky is affectionately referred to as “The Right Reverend, Doctor, You-Got-Music-But-I-Still-Have-N0-Rythym, Father, Hey-I’m-Talking-Here, Conference Director Allllllton Gansky.”

and the # 1 thing I’ve learned so far during my stay at BRMCWC……

# 1:  When I’m out walking around the conference center at night, I scream exactly the same if it’s a man-eating black bear or just the wind rustling a bush!

 

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Invest & Invite

When you invest in your dream, you invite success to come your way.

This is why I’m spending money to drive 1000 miles and attend the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. It’s why I’m willing to separated from my family for a short period of time. It’s why I allowed myself and my writing to be vulnerable by entering a couple of contests. It’s why I’m going to risk making a fool out of myself and pitch my work to agents and editors. It’s why I’m going to cram my days with workshops, classes, and face-to-face time with other writers who are skilled in the craft and business of writing.

Are any of these things guarantees that I will find an agent or a publishing contract this week? No. But by investing in my dream of being a published novelist, I am giving myself opportunities to succeed. The fact is, these writers, agents, and editors aren’t going to show up on my doorstep. I have to invest in my work before I can expect them to do the same.

And as I pack my van, load up the cooler with snacks and Dr. Pepper, stuff my luggage with sample chapters and one-sheets, and plug-in the borrowed GPS, I realize how blessed I am to have a wife and children who support my dream. They cheer me on as I chase this calling–this stewardship of story–and whatever success comes my way, I know it is theirs as much as it is mine.

Writer, invest in your dream, and invite success to come your way also.

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“These things I have written so that…”

When the New Testament writers spoke of writing (“grapho”), they chose words that highlighted several things about the act of writing:

  • Its power of DECLARATION. When someone penned a letter or epistle, they were making something known.
  • Its power of PRESERVATION. Whether they knew it or not, writers operated off the same principle that was expressed by an old Chinese proverb: “Weak ink is stronger than a good memory.” Things captured on the page lasted longer–and with less room for error or embellishment–than mere verbal stories.
  • Its power of TRANSFORMATION. The object upon which words were penned or etched was forever altered. Whether it be a wax tablet, cured animal skin, piece of stone, or a roll of parchment paper, the writing left an impression.

The constraints of this post do not allow a deep treatment of any of these wonderful elements, however, we as writers should approach our writing with the same sense of respect. Our writing also has the power of declaration. We have something to say, and it is important. And, my friend, no one can say it like you can, even if they are writing the same type of story. So write on, dear writer, and declare the glories of the Lord!

We also are privileged to have the power of preservation in our writing. Our stories can be published–one way or another–and the truth we’ve declared can survive for generations. There is a permanence in writing that is unique and important. Truth is never outdated.

But it is the last blessing, the power of transformation, that has captured my attention today. Not only are we the writers, but we are the paper upon which the greatest writer pens His truth. Feast on the following verses:

“…you are a letter of Christ…written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (II Corinthians 3:3)

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Hebrews 8:10)

My life has been changed because God’s Spirit has transformed my heart from useless “blankness” to a tablet upon which He makes Himself known to me. I write because I’m a changed man. And when my life is over, more than anything else, I want it to be clear why I worked hard to write Christian fiction. I want my stories to declare the truth, be preserved for future generations, and be used by God to transform lives. So if someone comes up to me at the end of my life, points to a stack of my novels, and asks, “Why did you do all of that writing?”, I want to humbly borrow the written words from the Apostle John as the purpose statement for my stewardship of story:

“…these things have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31).

How about you?

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“Top 10 Signs A Writer Has Passed Their Breaking Point”

Okay, so most writers are willing to admit that we’re a few steps (or miles) closer to insanity than people who are not writers…you know, the “normals.” And writers will readily confess that the writing profession provides ample opportunities for a wordsmith to earn a ride to the loony bin. Here are the Top 10 Signs A Writer Has Passed Their Breaking Point” so that those who love them can prepare for an intervention.

#10:  They send out a ransom note, claiming they’re holding themselves hostage until they get a contract.

#  9:  They start pushing their thesaurus around in a baby carriage.

# 8:  They call their Senator and demand to begin receiving unemployment benefits because “Writer’s Block is the disease that no one wants to talk about…but it’s out there,” and they have it.

# 7:  They try to marry their laptop.

# 6:  They haven’t moved from their desk chair in two days. All they do is slobber and say, “Syn…opsis…synop…sis…SIN…opsis…”

# 5:  They’re arrested for showering in the sink at the public library.

# 4:  When you ask them is they’re okay, they giggle and say, “I’m crazy…no…insane, mad, demented, deranged, maniacal, daft, berserk, unbalanced, unhinged…or maybe I’m cracked, nuts, nutty, out of my head, mad as a March hare…but you must think I’m bizarre, or perhaps weird, odd, unusual, peculiar, strange, uncommon, silly, absurd or…what was the question?”

# 3:  They’re dressed in burlap and standing in the middle of a bust intersection, throwing their books at passing cars while screaming, “Thus saith the Lord, ‘You shalt read these books, you illiterate generation!'”

# 2:  They go up to complete strangers and say, “Do you have any idea how many people I’ve killed this week?”

# 1:  Stunned patrons watch in horror as the writer publicly goes through every stage of grief when they notice that someone is seated in their usual spot at Starbucks:  1: Denial–They shack their head furiously and shout, “No, no, NO! This is NOT happening!” 2: Anger–expressed by flinging their scone at the shocked man and growling. 3: Bargaining–“If you’ll move from MY spot I won’t kill you in my next book.” 4: Depression–They start weeping and singing, “You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille.” 5: Acceptance–They hug their coffee cup, and walk out the door, muttering, “It’s okay…We’ll find a new happy place.”

Help them…help them if you can.

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“The Divine on Display”

A kindergarten teacher observed her class while they were drawing pictures during art time. She would occasionally stroll around the room to see their work, offering compliments as she moved from desk to desk. She noticed that one little girl was working ferociously, her tongue sticking out of the corner of her mouth and her tiny hand moving the colored marker with firm strokes.

The curious teacher halted beside her desk. “You are really concentrating, dear. What are you drawing?”

Without taking her eyes off her paper, the little girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.”

It took a few seconds for the teacher to catch her breath and her thoughts. “But, sweetheart, no one knows what God looks like.”

“Well, they will in a minute!”

As writers, are we just as convinced that we can put the Divine on display in our stories? If not, why not?

No, we can’t produce a drawing of deity or a take a supernatural snapshot. But we can reveal His heart. In Christian fiction, it isn’t just our privilege but our duty to do so. Whether between the lines or in the words, we should work hard to help people see God, to find hope in despair, and light in darkness. Writing is one way we live out our discipleship in this world, and, as disciples, we are commanded to be salt and light.

Is there potential for your readers to step closer to God because they read one of your stories? Ever heard back from a reader who told you just such a thing happened?

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“The Danger of Making a Long Story Short”

Word usage is of key importance in writing. We’re told to use active words instead of passive words, evocative terms rather than lifeless ones, and we even characterize our manuscripts by “word count” instead of number of pages. All of us have heard the critical advice to cut out “weasel” words, and, thereby, unclutter our WIPs. All of this is wise. But sometimes saying something in the least amount of words actually makes thing worse.

Here are some examples of what I mean. These are, reportedly, actual statements found on insurance forms where drivers attempted to summarize the details of an accident in the fewest words possible.

  • Coming home, I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree I don’t have.
  • I collided with a stationary truck coming the other way.
  • The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.
  • I was on my way to the doctor with rear end trouble when my universal joint gave way, causing me to have an accident.
  • The indirect cause of the accident was a little guy with a big mouth.
  • I was thrown from my car as it left the road. I was later found in a ditch by some stray cows.
  • The telephone pole was approaching. I was attempting to swerve out of its way when it struck the front end.
  • I’d been driving for forty years, when I fell asleep causing the accident.
  • As I approached the intersection, a signal appeared in a place where no stop sign had ever appeared before. I was unable to stop in time to avoid the accident.
  • My car was legally parked as it backed into the other vehicle.
  • An invisible car came out of nowhere and struck my car and vanished.
  • I told the police that I was not injured, but on removing my hat, found that I had a fractured skull.
  • I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law, and headed over the embankment.

It isn’t the amount of words, but the right amount of words that matters. Yes, often things can be said using fewer words. I’m all for efficiency. But there are also times that we edit ourselves into trouble, being more concerned about counting words than using words that count. Sometimes we get in trouble when we try to “make a long story short.”

What do you think?

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“Am I Really An Author?”

I had a pretty cool experience a few weeks ago. I still smile when I think about it. I was talking with a new friend when his wife walked up. He said, “Honey, do you know Larry Timm?”

She looked at me and smiled. “Oh, you’re an author, aren’t you?”

I was floored, and momentarily speechless (which is surprising to some people). An Author! A split second later, grinning like a gassy infant, I managed to say, “Well…um…I…I…that is…yeah, I’m a writer. I haven’t been published yet, though.” Then I giggled.

What a dork.

I’ll bet she walked away absolutely impressed with my command of the English language. But I still think about that moment with fondness (except for the grin and giggle). I’d never been called an author before. In public even! She seemed very positive about the entire idea. Like it was a compliment or something.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the whole thing is pretty cool. I liked hearing someone say the word. But can I claim to be an author before I’m actually published? I’m a writer, and I’m working hard to become a published author, but I haven’t experienced that honor yet.

What would have happened if I’d said, “Yes. I. Am. An. Author.”? Out loud. In public.

Many scenarios run through my over-active imagination: Like the police pulling me over later and saying, “Mr. Timm, you’re under arrest for impersonating an author.” And then they taser me just for the fun of it. Then I imagine being shaken awake and looking up into the eyes of my perturbed mother. She kicks dirty laundry into the only uncluttered corner of my boyhood room and says, “Wake up, son. You must have been having a wild dream. You were giggling like a nut, and mumbling author…author…author…shhhhh, they’ll hear you.” Then she hands me a paper towel. “Wipe that drool off your cheek, for Pete’s sake. By the way, I put the zit cream on your dresser. Get up and get dressed for school. And what’s that smell?” Or I see myself stretched out on a couch. Next to the couch, a stuffy looking lady with glasses is sitting in a padded office chair and looking down her upturned nose at me. There’s a diploma on her wall that says, “Dr. Ugotta B. Kiddinme, Doctor of Mental Stuff.” She slides her glasses off and taps her pen on the thick file perched on her lap. “Now, Laurence, we’ve been through this before–many sessions ago–you’re not really an author. Do we need to increase your meds?” Or I picture sitting rigid at a table, wires taped to my hand, chest, and head. A guy leans over a machine and stares at the lines being drawn on a paper. “Yes or No…are you an author?” I’m sweating under the overly large light bulb dangling above my head. “Yes or No, Mr. Timm? And, by the way, we’ll know if you’re lying…and man are you going to be sorry if you are.”

Soooooo, I’m needing some guidance here. I’d appreciate your comments.

Is there a difference between a WRITER and an AUTHOR?

What do you think about that question? I know that all authors are writers, but are all writers authors? And how did it feel the first time YOU were called an author?

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