Too Heathen?

Has a secular writer has ever been rejected because their story was too heathen?

While I don’t want to come across as disrespectful and snarky, I do think it’s important to give some thought to the above question. Christian writers are often cautioned against being too preachy…too explicitly Christian. And, frankly, for some reason something about that concern bothers me.

In all intellectual fairness, it must be stated that there are various ways for a Christian worldview to manifest itself. A great example of this is the (Protestant) Bible. It’s a collection of sixty-six books that contain examples of multiple genres written by a host of personalities–all guided by the Holy Spirit. Some parts are explicit in their God-talk and others are less so. One book doesn’t even mention the name of God at all.

But, when it comes to Christian writers writing stories, what fuels the concern about being too preachy? By the way…[Larry slides out a different soap box and jumps aboard]…as a preacher, I take offense to the way the words “preach” and “preachy” are used. [Larry surveys the room and realized that no one else is here, so he shouts, “Amen! Preach it, brother!” Then, feeling silly, he gets off the second soapbox and returns to the first].

Are we to strike a balance between entertainment and mission?  Or do we have to choose between the two? How much is business-driven and how much is a reflection of the current state of American Christianity?

What do you think?

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Endearing Characters

REMINDER: I’d love it if you’d go “like” my Author Page at www.facebook.com/larrywtimm  or follow me on Twitter at @larrywtimm  Thanks!

Endearing Characters

The sweet, eighty-seven-year-old woman held my children’s hands and said, “You are so beautiful and so precious. Thank you for coming to see me.”

Kneeling by her wheelchair, I thought to myself, “I’m not going to cry…I’m not going to cry…” My wife did get a tad misty-eyed. I’m getting that way as I write these words. I’ll probably always get that way when I view the photos that someone took of our experience.

Then the dear lady–a national treasure in my book–shook our hands, called us all by name and wished us many blessings. She even signed some pictures for us.

It’s a day I will never forget. My family and I traveled from our home in Kansas to a small city in North Carolina. The city is Mt. Airy, but it’s probably better known as Mayberry. And the precious lady was Betty Lynn…better known as Thelma Lou. And that day at the Andy Griffith Museum was wonderful.

My children live in Kansas but have been raised in Mayberry/Mt. Airy. We intentionally don’t have cable or satellite television, but we do have several DVDs we love to watch, and the favorite is The Andy Griffith Show. The lessons discovered on that series are timeless. As are the endearing characters–like Thelma Lou.

Writers, I’m more convinced than ever that we can change people’s lives, not just by the plots we construct, but also by the characters we create. I want my readers to care for my characters to the point that they say, “I wish that character was real. I’d love to spend time with him/her!”

Recently a lady who read one of my unpublished books sent me an email in which she said, “All the characters are true to life and worth remembering. That sentence meant so much to me.

What characters have you found worth remembering? What characters have left you wishing they were real and could sit and talk with you? Writer, do you long to create characters that will last forever?

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Top 10 Reasons People might be glad I’m not going to the ACFW Conference this Year.

The American Christian Fiction Writers Conference is less than a week away. People are packing bags, picking wardrobes, pressing kilts, and preparing one sheets. But not me. Sniff…sniff. This year I will not be attending. And that got me to thinking (ouch!).

Here are 10 reasons people might be glad that they won’t see Larry W. Timm in Indy.

# 10:  No one has to watch the pathetic display where I stand in a corner and try to work up the courage to walk up and talk to one of my favorite authors.

#  9:  There will be a few less dumb questions asked in the workshops.

#  8:  None of those awkward, “I’ve got one ear lower than the other…what’s deformed about you?” conversation starters.

#  7:  Michael Ehret or Peter Leavell won’t have to introduce me with the phrase, “I’m sorry for doing this, but have you met Larry Timm?”

#  6:  No one will have to witness me get on…off…on…off…on…off the elevator until I remember which floor my room is on.

#  5:  The local pizza delivery people won’t have to “stand by for emergency delivery to the crazy guy who claims the voices in his head are hungry.”

#  4:  No murmured questions about the misuse of plaid.

#  3:  There’s much less of a chance of hearing, “Hey, look what I can do with this pudding!”

#  2:  No one has to see my Salute-to-Spandex outfit at the costume dinner.

And the #1 reason people might be glad I’m not going to the ACFW Conference:

#  1: More BACON for everyone!

Hey, have fun everybody. I hope you have a great time.

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So why am I so nervous?

I’m about to enter one of my two finished books into a contest. And I’m nervous. Why, do you suppose, would I feel nervous about entering a contest? If you’ve been-there-done-that you know why: the sense of vulnerability, the balancing of high hopes on one hand & the anticipation of blunt criticism on the other, and the fear that one or more of the judges will find the entry as enjoyable as a scorching case of full-body boils.

Then there’s the fact that many will enter but only one can win. Dumb pesky odds.

Maybe I’m afraid that people will know that I didn’t win and will want to talk about it…out loud…in public. Maybe even in front of other writers. And then they’ll say, “Hey, you’re name starts with an L, just like the word LOSER!” Ouch.

So maybe I’m afraid that, in order to avoid the topic all together, I’m going to have to take charge of the conversations by getting their attention on something slightly less embarrassing, like the curly perm I had back in the early 80’s…or the time I was on a date and when I went to take a drink of my Dr. Pepper I forgot there was a straw in the cup until it went in my nostril…or I might have to discuss the purple parachute pants purchase and related singing/dancing activities…or the time my friend and me started his backyard on fire trying to destroy our toothpick houses we’d made in school…and, unfortunately, the list goes on and on. Yep, I’m a Dork with a capital D. But at least it doesn’t start with L.

But there’s another word that starts with LLEARN.

I enter contests because win or lose I can learn more about writing. About the strengths and weaknesses of MY writing. Maybe someday I’ll stop being nervous every time I enter a contest. But I doubt it.  But if I ever stop learning from entering contests, then–maybe then–it’s time to stop entering.

Do you get nervous about contests? Why?

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Interview with Bob Ravener

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What does a boy from a heart-breaking childhood, a military veteran, and a very successful corporate executive have in common? A lot, especially when…they’re the same person.

It’s my privilege to share with you an interview with Mr. Bob Ravener, the man whose personal history involves all the things mentioned above. And more. I’m sure you’ll be blessed by this candid interview, in which Bob offers straightforward answers from his heart. His story is told in a wonderful book called UP! After this interview I will give my review of his book, and remind you how you can contact Bob and where you can find UP.

Bob Ravener can be contacted at BobRavener.com and you can do yourself a favor and get a copy of his book UP at

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=bob+ravener

Note:  The answers expressed below are solely Mr. Ravener’s and do not necessarily express the views or opinions of his employer.

1.  How painful was it for you to relive your childhood as you wrote this book?

BOB:  In many ways it was therapeutic. In the book I discuss never mentioning any of the family strife to anyone until I met my wife, so it was bottled up for a long time. Writing it all down brought back some very painful memories but was also cleansing at the same time. Once I began to realize that I could help others with my words and experiences, the agony transformed into a purpose, which ultimately eased my pain. My siblings initially had mixed feelings as it also brought back some painful memories for them but I believe the process has begun to heal these emotions and is bringing us closer. I know I am doing more now than ever to re-kindle our relationships and become closer with them. In fact, my brother Tom, his family, and mine even vacationed together this year, something that had not happened in the past. So in that respect, this book has even helped me.

 

2.  What did writing  UP do for you personally?

BOB:  There are really three reasons I wrote the book:

  1. Since my family lost most of our possessions, including toys, bicycles, furniture, photos and other memorabilia, I wanted to have some kind of family history to pass along to my kids.
  2. Once I started to write down the stories, I began to realize that I have experienced many events that put me and many other family members in very dire straits, ending with both tragic and positive outcomes. I felt like these life stories carried a message that could help others and give people hope.
  3. I am a big believer in giving back to others. Since I have received so much help and guidance from many other people along the way, I felt like I owed it to them to “pay it forward” for others.

I think it gave me a sense of accomplishment but more importantly, some closure to open and deep wounds. Through the process I found myself forgiving both my father and mother as I had held on to much bitterness because of the family circumstances. What I found most interesting was it wasn’t until I started putting it all on paper that I began to realize that my life had been a long, windy, and dusty road filled with lots of rocks but also one filled with many blessings along the way. I feel very fortunate and blessed to have been able to be associated with so many good people along my journey. It is in this context that I have realized that there are so many wonderful people out there, willing to help you if you open your heart and mind to letting them inside the tough outer defenses.

 

3.  You mention that there were various times in your childhood when you faced the painful/humiliating realization that your family wasn’t like most other families. Why do you suppose such realizations will limit some people but launch others (like yourself)?

BOB:  A lot of the outcome is how people approach those circumstances. I became a fighter, not a victim. I was determined to break out of the cycle and not get caught in the web of despair. People make so many choices throughout life. I am far from perfect but have made a lot of good choices because I had the benefit of a lot of caring people who took me under their wings. But I also had the wherewithal to take their guidance and advice. Others make a lot of bad choices and find themselves in challenging situations from which they can’t always unwind. I have also found a lot of calm and compassion from faith. At the end of the day, some people start building from wherever they are on their life journey and make something of themselves. Others feel like it’s too late and spiral downward. I say, it’s never too late to start over.

For me, I knew that I did not want to be stuck in the misery of my existence all my life. I saw what it did to people. The issue for me, and for others in similar circumstances, is finding a way out. I had the good fortune to have a godfather who knew my parents at a different time in their lives, a time when life was much better and more innocent for all of them. This may have very well been one of the plans God had for me and for my godfather, Dick Orefice. He was the peek into the ‘possible’ as he showed me a glimpse of what a different kind of life could be like. Along with his son Mat, he took me to the U.S. Open in tennis when it was still being played at Forest Hills in New York. He brought me to see a major league baseball game in Philadelphia along with a tour of the city. He paid and accompanied me to visit the Naval Academy, the first time I had ever been on a plane. I may have never attended the Academy or been given the great training the Navy provided unless that trip had taken place. Dick Orefice was instrumental in who I became because he invested in me as did so many other people. He gave me hope…

 

4.  After reading UP, it is obvious to me that your family is a top priority in your life. In the midst of your busy life, how do you protect and preserve that priority? What steps do you take?

BOB:  I have come to believe that our worlds are blended together more than ever. I don’t separate my work and family time as sometimes I have to do work related activities at home and personal things at work. I work a lot of hours but I plan and organize to keep these things straight, which enables me to juggle them as well as anyone can. I also stay in the front of deadlines to avoid eleventh hour stress and communicate with my boss to keep him informed of what I have to get done on the personal side. My experience is that communication is the key as it helps everyone stay informed and manages expectations. I have always found the organizations where I have worked support the balance I needed in my life. If an organization does not support work/life balance, then it’s time to find another place with which to utilize your skills.

Balance for me with my family was ensuring I could be there to coach my three kids in youth sports and attend the important events in their lives. I lost count at more than fifty teams I coached but it was worth every minute and helped me balance the challenges that life threw my way. Along the way, I gained a great deal of additional experience in working with teams, dealing with defeat and learning how to graciously win. Volunteering is a gift in itself but always a growth experience as well.

 

5.  How important is God in your past, present, and future?

BOB:  God has always had a presence in my life. Whether it was praying to God on those cold, distressed nights as a young boy, seeking a way to rise above my circumstances, walking to church as an eight year old, or asking for His help and forgiveness too many times for me to remember, God has always been there. I have always been a believer that God has a plan for us all and believe the trials He’s laid before me throughout my life have helped me become who I am today. I faced a critical juncture in my life early in my adulthood and career as I became much more self-centered and selfish. Once I regained my God-centered focus, I not only became less stressed, I found a great deal of peace in my life. I didn’t start reading the Bible until the mid-1990’s, but once I did, the words helped steer me in a better direction. I am far from perfect and make mistakes like everyone. What helps me and will continue to guide me in the future is that I believe God recognized our imperfections and forgives us for those shortcomings.

 

6.  How do you define success?

BOB:  Success for me is to ensure that my family is taken care of; my kids are given the opportunity to realize their potential; the world can become a better place than when I got here. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than to help others succeed and realize their dreams. If I can help others, then their good can be multiplied to many others around them. My goal is to lift others up around me.

 

7.  In UP you mention that learning how to respond to circumstances in your life has been the greatest lesson of all. Do you think everyone is capable of learning this lesson? And what would you say to someone who doesn’t think they can learn this lesson?

BOB:  I use a quote in the book attributed to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who said: “Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” Tomorrow and next year will come whether we want it to or not. Life will happen. The question is what are you going to do about it? As I see it there are two choices: Give in or fight on. I have always chosen to fight on and so can anyone else. Part of it is a choice. Another part is a strong will and in my case, a trust in God that He would bring me through the trials of life and help me become better for it. I think the potential exists in every person.

 

Thanks, Bob, for spending time with my readers today.

Bob can be reached at BobRavener.com

And I encourage everyone to go to Amazon and get his book UP.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=bob+ravener

Briefly, let me add that I highly recommend UP to you. I found this book to be well-written, extremely revealing, and powerfully inspirational. Bob’s story is one of triumph over turmoil. UP left me filled with hope. And, as far as I am concerned, that’s a gift each of can use again and again. Do yourself a favor and go get this book.

 

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Multiple Choice Test: Are YOU ready for conference?

Are you going to conference in a few weeks? Are you nervous, wondering if you’re really ready to face what awaits you? Well, fear not, my fellow writer…I’m here to help 🙂 . Below is a multiple choice test to see if you really are ready to sit down in front of an agent or editor and–with a straight face–say, “Yes. I’m a writer.” They just may ask to see your score from this test…or maybe not. But take it any way.

1.  ACFW stands for:

A. Always Crafty Fickle Wordsmiths

B.  Antsy Creative Friendly Weirdos

C. American Christian Fiction Writers

 

2.   If facing a sagging middle, a writer should:

A.  Slip into a girdle.

B.  Think about someone fatter.

C.  Revise, Cut, Polish

 

3.  What’s the best way to view a prospective agent?

A.  With binoculars

B.  From under the partition in the bathroom stall.

C.  As a respected professional.

 

4.  When told you have a POV problem, be sure to:

A. Cover your entire body in antibiotic cream and ask someone to scratch the places you can’t reach.

B.  Cover your face and yell, “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever someone approaches.

C.  Seek help from a critique partner or an editor.

 

5.  What is Writer’s Block?

A.  A neighborhood where only Authors live.

B.  The place writers go to get their taxes done.

C.  A frustrating time of little or no progress.

 

6.  What is genre?

A. A brother to Barbra. (Sound it out and think about it)

B.  A snooty Frenchman.

C.  A category of literature characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter.

 

7.  What is a metaphor?

A.  For cows to graze in.

B.  Half of a meta-eight.

C.  A figure of speech containing an implied comparison.

 

8.  When addressing an editor, you should begin by saying:

A.  “What’s shakin’, Oh mighty Gatekeeper?”

B.  “I hope you brought your stretchy pants, ’cause you’re gonna feast on my manuscript tonight!”

C.  “Thank you for your time.”

 

9.  Self-publishing is:

A.  The photocopies you made of your hand, face, and whatever else before you were thrown out of Kinkos.

B.  The short story your wrote on your belly with a permanent marker.

C.  A growing trend in Fiction.

 

10. The most exciting thing about this year’s conference is:

A. That creepy Larry W. Timm won’t be there.

B.  The opportunity to see if you can break your indoor dessert eating record at the banquet.

C.  Seeing old friends and making new ones.

 

If you answered all the questions with “C”, you are ready. If, however, you chose anything else, you are sick and should wait a year before going to conference. Okay, that’s harsh, but don’t come crying to me if someone asks you one of these important questions and you get it wrong. I tried to prepare you. 🙂

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When Jesus prayed for me & my readers

It happened one evening in an upper room in the city of Jerusalem…more than 2000 years ago. The disciples gathered with Jesus, and what transpired is known by theologians as “the upper room discourse.” The Apostle John used five chapters to cover a few hours of time. In chapter 17, we are allowed the soul-stirring honor of listening as Jesus prayed. He prayed for Himself, for the men gathered with Him, and then–in one of the most amazing moments in all the scriptures–Jesus prayed for us!

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone [the disciples in the room with Him], but for those also who believe in Me through their word;” (John 17:20)

Jesus prayed for believers who would become part of “the Church” that didn’t even yet exist! He prayed for those who would accept the word of the apostles. That word would be both spoken–via preaching and teaching–and written–by being recorded and thus preserved in the New Testament.

That’s you and me, folks! Jesus prayed for us. He prayed for those of us who would choose to believe in Him because of the timeless message of the apostles. They spoke the word about the Word. And centuries later, you and I–if we are in Christ–are beneficiaries of that message.

We have believed because of their word.

As a writer of Christian fiction, I certainly don’t live under the illusion that my words are inspired scripture. That would be heresy. But I do try to find creative ways to deliver the message that was handed down in the scripture: that Jesus Christ came into the world to seek and save sinners. And I pray for those who will read the words I write, and hope that they will find hope in Jesus Christ.

Because Jesus has already prayed for them too.

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Poem of a really bad pitch

Somewhere a writer is preparing to pitch to an editor. They want to stand out from the crowd, but aren’t sure how to make themselves different. The following poem is an example of how NOT to pitch. It is part poem, part song, and all one big mistake. 🙂

I stared back at the editor

and flashed a nervous grin,

and thought about her question

and how I should begin.

“What’s the book about? you ask?”

She nodded so polite.

“It’s about 400 pages,” I said,

“I counted them just last night.”

“There’s lots of words and pictures

and so the story you will know…”

I opened up my leather case

and pulled out my banjo.

“I wanted to be different,” I said.

“And, my pitch, it won’t take long.

You’ll find all of your answers

in the words to this here song….

[I played the theme to The Beverly Hillbillies and sang…]

Come and listen to the story of my bestseller

about a lady teacher and a wine-maker,

who met one day while walking on the vineyard path;

and this is a story I call The Grapes Of Math.

Love it was, purple love, bubbly love.

The next thing ya know the trouble did begin,

her kinfolk said, “Ellie, why did you pick him?”

Angrily she answered, “I don’t care what you say.

I derned proud to be Ellie Chardonnay!”

A grape that is, smushed by feet, for the juice.

Well now it’s time to say good-by to Ellie and Merlot

(that’s the winemaker’s name, I guess you ought to know);

they had a son, as the story will tell…..

and after a toast, the named him Zinfendel.

A boy he was, with big feet, for stompin’ grapes.

Just Book One in a series…ya hear?

[I put my banjo down, then winked at the editor]

She shook her head, her forehead creased;

she swallowed hard, then blinked.

“You might be sick or just insane.

I don’t know what to think!”

I handed her my one sheet,

grabbed my banjo and my straw hat

and said, “You will be sorry

that you rejected The Grapes Of Math!”

I came to a conclusion

as I stood and walked away:

Literature just isn’t ready

for Merlot Chardonnay!

 

I hope your pitching goes better. Could it get any worse?

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Please observe the rules…guidelines…suggestions

Sometime ago, during my years as a funeral director, I was at a church preparing for a funeral. I was passing through their fellowship hall and a sign on the wall caught my attention. It read, “Please observe Parish Hall rules: NO tape on walls!”

I’ll give you one guess how the sign was attached to the wall. Yep…tape.

I have a great respect for the craft of writing, and especially for those who have earned the right to make observations about what works and what doesn’t. I am learning–weekly it seems–that there is so much I don’t know and need to learn. Since I’m an expert at nothing, I am trying to be open-minded and devoted to doing what is necessary to improve my writing skills and my story-telling ability. So I seek advice, search out critiques of my work, and try to get to know those who are recognized as accomplished writers. I work hard and long to see what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong.

And I try to follow the rules…if I can figure them out. But isn’t okay to just admit that there aren’t really that many hard-and-fast rules in traditional-style publishing anymore? Sometimes, what is a rule for one writer just doesn’t apply to another. These custom-fit guidelines are important, to be sure, but sometimes new writers are confused because they are told not to do something that others are doing. They’re told, “it won’t work” or “so-and-so won’t publish it like this.” Then you find out, however, that another publisher will.

What’s a new writer to do?

First, understand that there’s a difference between a rule and a commandment. A rule is a solid guideline that describes the way something is expected to be done at the current time. A commandment is forever (God has never amended or revised His Ten Commandments.) Rules are sometimes proactive and sometimes reactive. They are useful for structure. Rules change when it’s demonstrated that “it can be done another way.”

Humility and respect are the keys, in my opinion. The simple fact is, as an unpublished and unknown writer, I haven’t earned the right to toss the “rules” aside. I don’t have the same unspoken permission the bend/break the rules because I haven’t sold any books yet…I don’t have a track record of making anyone any money. I can pout, whine, complain, and get all snarky, but what good does that do? Or I could just say, “Well, if I can’t do it the way I want to, I’ll just quit writing.” Yeah, that’ll show them. NOT!

So I try to learn what is expected, while also attempting to develop my own unique writer’s voice.

How do YOU handle this wrestling match with your own unique personality & style and the rules that are parts of the writing craft?

NOTE:  I invite you to “Like” my Author Page at www.facebook.com/larrywtimm  If you already have, please know that I appreciate it very much.

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A Kingdom View

I’m an undeserving man who, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, has been shown grace and mercy by a Holy God. I am a Christian. And when I became a Christian, I was instantaneously rescued from the domain of darkness and transferred to the Kingdom of His beloved Son (Col. 1:13). Though not yet realized in the fullest sense, I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God. I know the King personally.

And I’m a Christian who writes from a Kingdom perspective. I want what my King wants: for hope to be announced, redemption to be realized, and darkness to be scattered by light. My citizenship is personal…but not private. I honor the King by approaching life–which includes my writing stewardship–with a Kingdom view:  everything belongs to Christ. Everything. My writing is not the source of my Kingdom citizenship, but it is a responsibility that has been given to me as a part of the Kingdom. Because His Majesty wants others in His Kingdom too. And we are to use our gifts to extend the offer of citizenship…that’s a commission that has been given to every Christian. How you carry out that commission is where the different “callings” come in to the discussion. There are many tasks in the Kingdom, mine just happens to be as a teacher/preacher/writer; yours may be something different. Each is just a sacred when used for the King. But regardless of what you “do,” you are responsible to live out the implications of your citizenship and tell others about our King.

The Kingdom of God is not something that can be toyed with, yet one must be like a child to enter. It can’t be bought at any price, yet we must to willing to sacrifice all to get it. It can not be defeated, yet we are to daily surrender to God. It is open to all, yet few there will be who will find it. It is eternal, yet new everyday. It is the rule of God in the hearts of mankind. Its King is Almighty. Its life is unending. Its rule is love. Its goal is peace. Its citizens are forgiven.

As citizens, we long for our home, work for our rest, fight for our peace, pray for our enemies. We die to live, give to get, lose to win, learn to love, and love to learn. We are freed to serve. We fear no one but God, hate nothing but sin, hold nothing more important that Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And we refuse to quit no matter what.

And while we are serving the King with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we are waiting. Anticipating. Longing. We are homesick.

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; Who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with he body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” (Philippians 3:20-21)

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