Tag Archives: American Christian Fiction Writers

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.

13 Comments

Filed under books, Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Top 10 List, Top Ten list, Writing

Terri Blackstock Interview

It is my great pleasure to bring you an interview I did with one of my favorite authors: Terri Blackstock. Terri is a best-selling, multiple award-winning, Christian fiction writer who has over six million books in print. Her latest release is called Truth Stained Lies, and is the first book in The Moonlighters Series. Truth Stained Lies releases on March 12, but can be preordered now at amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Indie Bound, or Christianbook.com. You can learn more about this book–and all her great books–by going to her website at http://www.terriblackstock.com. With over 25 years of experience, Terri knows how to write books that will keep you up all night.

And now….my interview with Terri Blackstock.

*Terri, having already enjoyed great success as a best-selling writer (with over 6 million books in print), what keeps you passionate about writing Christian fiction?

Thank you for saying that. I think my ideas are what keep me passionate. God has always gifted me with ideas that I can’t wait to write. So even as I’m getting to the end of a book or series, I have new ideas that keep me going on to the next thing. And sometimes God is working in my life in a way that I think will help my readers, and because I believe that everything happens for a purpose, I try to fulfill that purpose by passing those lessons on to my readers.

*Where do your story ideas come from? Do you develop them from the perspective of a seat-of-the-pants writer or from the mind of one who carefully plots out the entire story before launching into it?

I’m a careful plotter. Usually an idea comes like a light flicking on in my mind, and I have to flesh it out and develop a plot that I hope will be a page-turner. I tend to do a loose plot for the whole book, then I very meticulously plot the first fourth of the book, write that, then plot the next fourth, etc. I use a storyboard to plot each scene so I know where I need to take the story each day.

*Emotionally speaking, which book or series has been the most difficult to write? The most rewarding?

Definitely the Intervention Series (Intervention, Vicious Cycle, and Downfall). The series was inspired by my experiences with my daughter who had severe drug addictions. The whole series was very personal to me, and the mother, Barbara, felt and thought things that I had felt and thought. But I’m really glad I wrote the series, because it brought healing to so many families. I hear from family members of addicts, and the addicts themselves, telling me that they felt they were alone until they read these books. They finally knew that someone got what they were going through. The books give them hope, because they remind them that God is the parent of prodigal children, and He understands the pain and suffering.

*Do you enjoy or endure the editing process?

I actually enjoy the editorial process. The worst part for me is the first draft, but the second draft, all the way through editorial, are kind of fun for me. With each pass I’m able to make the story better. I’ve worked with the same editor for over fifteen years, and he usually gives me a long critique of the story. Then I’m eager to dive back in and take it to the next level.

*One of my greatest highlights from the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in St. Louis (2011) was the privilege of getting to meet you personally. How do you balance your time so that you can meet the demands of writing at such a high level with the need to maintain a certain amount of personal contact with your readers?

I’ve had to clear my calendar so that I can focus more on writing than other things. For that reason, I don’t speak or teach much, and I keep traveling to a minimum. But I do try to stay connected with my readers through Facebook, Twitter, and email. But I realize that there’s always more for me to learn about my craft, so I do try to make time to attend writer’s conferences when I can. I always enjoy meeting my readers and getting to know other writers. I love the wit and kindred spirit of fiction writers.

*The Restoration Series was a bit of a departure from the type of suspense you normally write. What drew you to that series?

Sometimes I get an idea that doesn’t fit perfectly within my genre, but no one can talk me out of it! That’s kind of what happened with that series. My publisher was concerned I was off-brand with it, but I was determined to write it, and I’m glad I did.

I got the idea for the series after Y2K, when everyone expected technology to stop when the calendar turned. When nothing happened, my imagination kept taking that story in a different direction. What if something actually happened that knocked out all our technology? I researched what could make that happen, and found that EMPs (electromagnetic pulses) are an actual threat. In the first book, Last Light, my middle class family finds themselves without electricity, transportation, communication, etc. I thought it would be interesting to see what a family like mine would do when all of our modern conveniences are taken away. How would they survive? Would they hoard what they had, or would they share at the risk of starving? And I realized that I could bring in the suspense element through the looters killing for food and provisions. In times of crisis, darkness is darker than ever, and light is lighter than ever.

I called it the Restoration Series because I wanted the crisis to be a time of restoration for this family. And at the end of the series, when the power returns, I wanted the family to be different. They have a choice to go back to the way they were before, or to embrace the changes in their family and live in light of what they’ve learned.

I have to say that the series has had renewed interest in the last couple of years, probably due to the economy’s downturn and TV series such as Revolution. My publisher is repackaging the series and will re-release it in the fall, hoping to give it a second life. The subject matter is pretty timely right now. Just for the record, my series began coming out in 2005, before all these similar programs/movies/books were written.

*Even though it was published under a different title and you used a pen-name, Shadow in Serenity represented a transition in your life as a writer. What was it like for Terri Blackstock the Christian writer to revise something by Terri Blackstock the secular writer?

It was kind of difficult because it’s not the kind of book I write now. But I liked the characters and the story–kind of a modern day Music Man–so when I got the rights back, I decided to rewrite it. I have done that with five other books. My Second Chances series was made up of four books that had been rewritten from my early days, and Emerald Windows was also “redeemed.” Revising those books wasn’t quite as hard as writing something from scratch, so it was a nice way to clean my palate between books.

*I’m very much looking forward to the release of Book 1 in the Moonlighter’s Series, which is about three sisters who try to prove that their brother is not guilty of his ex-wife’s murder. In addition to Truth Stained Lies, what can we expect to see in this intriguing series?

I got the idea for the first book during the Casey Anthony trial. I was very interested in that trial, and I followed some blogs written by people with legal backgrounds, who were digging for behind-the-scenes information, some of which wasn’t being allowed into court. It occurred to me that these bloggers probably made some people angry, and I began to do my usual What-If routine. What if someone set up the crime to turn the tables on the blogger? What if that crime put the blogger in the position of being judged? So I created Cathy Cramer, a former prosecutor who started her blog after her fiance was murdered. She’s determined to make guilty people pay–so she investigates and speculates, and posts her findings.

When a reader warns her that she’s about to get a taste of her own judgmental medicine, she shrugs the warning off. But then her sister-in-law is found murdered, and her brother is set up as the killer. The killer has orchestrated events so that her brother’s true story sounds completely unbelievable. Despite Cathy’s efforts to defend her brother, she knows that no one is going to believe the truth.

Cathy is one of three sisters–a blogger, a stay-at-home mom, and a ne’er-do-well taxi driver–who moonlight as private investigators to help solve these crimes related to their family. Michael Hogan, the brother of Cathy’s dead fiance, is a PI who eventually hires the unlikely trio to help him solve crimes. (And he’s Cathy’s love interest.) The personality differences among the sisters creates some humor and conflict as they learn how to work as PIs without getting themselves killed. Each book will feature one of the sisters, and I’m having fun exploring these characters and the relationships in this family.

*How do you handle the ups and downs of being a writer?

I’ve been doing this for a long time, so over the years I’ve learned patience. It used to be so hard to wait…to hear back from a publisher if they were going to buy my book or reject it, to actually get the contract, to get paid, to have a book come out a year later, to see if anyone bought it, to see my royalty statements. I was always waiting, and my emotions were like a roller coaster. One minute I’d be dancing because I’d sold a book, and the next I’d be devastated because someone wrote a nasty review. But I have to say that I don’t let those things bother me much anymore. Deadlines keep me pretty focused, I avoid reading most of my reader reviews, and I try to remember that God doesn’t judge me the way the world does. As long as I’m staying true to Him, I’m succeeding. That keeps me steady.

Thanks to Terri Blackstock for being a part of this interview! You can learn more about Terri and her books in the following places:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/tblackstock

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/terriblackstock

Website: http://www.terriblackstock.com

 

 

10 Comments

Filed under Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, editing, family, Larry W. Timm, reading, Writing

And the Winner is…”

On a great episode of The Andy Griffith Show (Season 2), a poor fella named Henry Bennett had been tagged with the reputation of being a jinx. Henry decided the only way to get on with his life was to leave Mayberry. In an attempt prove Henry wasn’t the cause of bad luck, Sheriff Andy Taylor decided to have a fixed raffle which was “guaranteed” to have only one outcome: the fella known as the Jinx would win the television set. It would prove his luck was changing.

Everyone would pull a number out of a hat–and all the slips of paper would have the same number–and when the “winning” number was called no one would answer, giving the Jinx the only opportunity to be the winner. But when the winning number was announced the Jinx didn’t respond. When asked if he had the winning number, he said, “No.” And he didn’t. His number was something like 4 7/8…he’d pulled out the tag that had the hat size!

Ever entered a writing contest and ended up feeling like you were left holding the tag with the hat size? It may leave you asking, “Why did I enter in the first place?” or “What’s the point of contests anyway?”

Good questions.

Contests should be seen as opportunities to grow as a writer. And if approached with the right mindset, they can be worth your time. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • For the most part, contest results don’t make you a writer. They aren’t meant to create writers, they’re meant to critique writing. If you take the results as an attack on you and your worth as a person, you’ve missed the point.
  • Sometimes the best way to win a contest is to have had lost it in the past. Sounds goofy, I know, but I really believe it. Many of us are more comfortable and confident entering a contest we’ve entered before. And–like the GENESIS contest sponsored by American Christian Fiction Writers–if the contest includes feedback from judges, that returned feedback can be priceless in helping you prepare for next go around. But, more importantly, you are learning as you go.
  • Contest results only have the power you decide to give them. It’s up to you to make the experience positive or negative (for you and others). How you respond to the outcome of a contest may reveal as much about you as it does about the quality of your writing. And I’m told that agents and editors notice stuff like that.
  • And lastly (mostly because I wanted to use the word “lastly” :)), contests were never meant to be ends in themselves. Our desire should be the grow as faithful–skillful–stewards of story. To the extent that participating in contests help us head in that direction, they are useful. But if all a writer ever does is become a professional contest enterer, then a great calling has been wasted.

There are other benefits, but since I’ve used the word “lastly” I’ll just ask you to share your opinions and experiences. How do you feel about contests? Have you learned to be a better writer because of a contest experience?

5 Comments

Filed under Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, editing, Larry W. Timm, Uncategorized, Writing

A Chapter of Blessing

Call it a fellowship gathering, a support group, or a monthly injection of writing adrenaline, and you’d be right on the mark. The American Christian Fiction Writers Chapter that I am blessed to be a part of is all those things and more. Quite frankly, now that I’ve been a part of the South Central Kansas ACFW Chapter that meets in Wichita, Kansas, I can’t imagine my life as a writer without this group.

Last Thursday we went around the table and each writer spoke about the writing project that they were working on. I was blown away by the passion that was expressed by my fellow writers. They spoke openly about the joys and struggles that they faced. And I understood what they meant.

And on my hour-long drive home, I praised God for the group, and for the fact that He has entrusted us with the stewardship of story. We encourage each other along the journey.

If you are part of a writers group, I’d love to hear from you. I’d be thrilled to hear what you like the most…and about how important being a part of a group is to you.

And if you are a writer of Christian Fiction, and are interested in belonging to a group, ACFW has chapters all across the country. I promise you will not regret the time you spend with other writers. It may just take your writing to a higher level. And just as importantly, it could make you–the writer–a more fulfilled person too.

Fellowship has a way of doing that.

2 Comments

Filed under Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, Writing

How “CHRISTIAN” should our stories be?

Christian story tellers write Christian fiction. I proudly belong to a national group called American Christian Fiction Writers.

What makes Christian fiction different from other types of fiction?

Is it the words we use? Is it the issues we tackle or the way we deal with them? Is it the amount of Bible references we put in our books? Or the subtle Christian themes we fold into the pages?

But what makes a book, theme, or scene Christian?

I’m convinced the answer to that question can liberating. Or dominating. Perhaps it depends on attitude and agenda. We like “black & white” answers, and that’s okay, but not everything can be so designated. For instance, here another question that stirs discussion in churches–even causes splits:  what makes a worship service a “real” worship service? Some demand the old hymns, while others want the newest praise songs. Some want a pipe organ and others get all giddy when they walk into a sanctuary and see a drum set and guitars. So which is it?

See what I mean?

When it comes to Christian Fiction, who decides what is and isn’t Christian? And what standards do they use to make such a judgment?

My opinion, formed through observation and experience, is that Christian Fiction can be defined as much by what is not a part of the story as by what is part of the story.

I believe our story should leave people thinking about “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute…(Phil 4:8a). But I also believe that we have a responsibility to keep in mind that all the things mentioned above–along with the source of our salvation–is specifically revealed in the name of Jesus. But does that mean that I have to include His name in every book? Keep in mind that there is an entire book of the Holy Bible in which God’s name never appears! Yet God included it in His collection of “books” called the Bible.

If I use Philippians 4:8 as a guide, then I’ll be careful to include story elements that honor God, AND I’ll keep from using profane things that dishonor him (such as explicit sexual content, profane language, and any other elements that celebrate “evil” instead of exposing it). But even deciding how much to hint at sexual attraction/activity, foul language, etc… isn’t always “black & white”.

I very much want to hear your comments on the questions in this post. Please take a minute to share your thoughts. Thank you.

16 Comments

Filed under Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, editing, reading, Writing

A Matter Of Interpretation

Some time ago I went to the doctor. With that experience still in my mind, let me offer the following interpretation to a few medical phrases.

  • When the nurse says, “This may sting a little” what she really means is, “This has been outlawed in three other countries.”
  • When the nurse asks, “How would you rate your pain?” what she’s really asking is “On a scale of one to ten, how big of a sissy are you?”
  • When the person weighing you says, ‘Wow!”, what they really mean is “Oh, Wow! Can you say Jenny Craig?”
  • When the nurse says, “I have to shave you in a few places,” what she really means is “The doctor has no idea I’m doing this, but I’m bored and I found a razor.”
  • When the doctor says, “Don’t worry, I’ll be gentle” what he really means is [insert evil scientist laugh here].
  • When the doctor offers to “pull that tape off for you” what she really means is “Have you ever been skinned alive?”
  • And when they say “You’re going to feel a little pressure” what they really mean is “This will hurt until you cry for your mommy.”

I offer this gift of interpretation for the betterment of humanity (plus that, I don’t often get to use the word “betterment”). But seriously…the whole “what did he/she really mean by that?” quandary often causes undue stress in many areas of our lives. We can become suspicious of another’s intent, thereby making us seek for the hidden meaning between the lines.

We can do this as writers too.

In fact, writers are one of the more susceptible groups because we seek critical feedback so often. Not to mention the editorial comments offered without invitation too. If you don’t already have thick skin, you’ll need to acquire it pronto. Otherwise your imagination can run wild, draining you of the creative energy needed to be a good steward of story. If a friend says “not bad” you can get tough enough to ask them to explain, or you can just assume that what they’re really saying is, “I barely know how to read and you didn’t have enough pictures in the book.” And when an agent says, “I don’t think I can sell this,” you can either learn more about the problems that are hindering the future of that project, or you can just decide that what the agent is saying is “I don’t have the skills or contacts necessary to get this obvious bestseller to the right people.” Or when a contest judge gets snarky and misses the brilliance of your entry, you might be tempted to think that what they’re really saying is, “You’ll never amount to anything as a writer. What were you thinking by even entering this contest?”

Friend–and fellow writer–the only way to grow as a writer is to be able to control our tendency to look for hidden messages in every comment we are given. And we have to be able to separate who we are as a person from the particular piece of writing being discussed. Most people–especially other Christians–are not trying to hurt you. They’re just assuming that when you said you wanted honest feedback, you really meant it and were prepared to handle it. They want to see you succeed. (At least I believe this to be true of the members of American Christian Fiction Writers).

As a Christian writer, I want to create the best stories I’m capable of writing. And I want to stay teachable and open, able to listen to the educated opinions of others. I’ll accept some. I’ll give a polite nod to others, but respectfully disagree with them. Because none of us knows everything.

And I’ll keep writing for the Lord. Because when Jesus said, “Be on the alert,” what He meant was, “I’ll be seeing you.”

2 Comments

Filed under Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, editing, reading, Writing

The Right Source

Have you heard about the young lady who was nervous about an upcoming knee surgery? One day during a slow time at the veterinarian clinic where she worked, she reminded her boss that she’d be off work for a few days while she recovered. The she asked him if he had any advice that might help her heal faster.

He thought for a minute. “Well…get plenty of rest, and don’t lick the incision.”

It really does matter where you go for advice.

Where should a Christian writer go for advice?

It’s hard to overstate the importance of reading good books on writing. Thankfully there are many great books available (comment and leave a suggestion or two). But as useful as books can be, nothing takes the place of spending time with other writers.

American Christian Fiction Writers offers several good opportunities…from a once-a-year national conference to local chapters that meet monthly. There is also the email loop and online courses.

There is nothing better than spending time with people who have “been there and done that.” No one understands the journey better than those who’ve walked, stumbled, crawled, walked, fell, ….you get the point.

Who’s given you the best advice as a writer?

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, Writing

Let’s Create A New Holiday

As a minister–one of those clergy type people–I’m always blessed and humbled when October rolls around and my dear congregation at Gracepoint shows an extra measure of appreciation for our ministry together. I didn’t create “Clergy Appreciation Month” and, to be honest, I’m not really sure it’s necessary, but the kind words do affirm and encourage me.

But I’m urging you to join me in calling for a new holiday: a holiday that honors those who support our journey as Christian fiction writers. And don’t say, “Well, we already have Thanksgiving.” (Insert game show buzzer here). I’m not talking about sticking this on the backside of a holiday that already exists. No siree, Bob (or whatever your name is). I think we need to give birth to a brand spankin’ new celebration–maybe even one that lasts a week or an entire month.

The point of this purposeful observance would be to honor those dear people who faithfully, optimistically, and sacrificially support us as writers. People like our spouses, children, extended family, friends, local ACFW chapter members, agents, editors, critique partners….you get the point. (Although I may not include my eleven-year-old daughter, Jayne, who just shot a nerf dart at me while I was typing this post, and scared about 36 months off of my writing career…okay, I’ll forgive her. By the way, she’s a pretty good writer herself.)

Now, as I hunker in my bunker, hoping to escape more incoming nerf projectiles, let me return to the proposal.

I propose that all members of the family known as Christian Writers begin the discussion of creating a special observance during which we honor those who support us in the stewardship of story that God has entrusted to us.

I’m serious about this. I especially call on my fellow members of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) to begin considering this proposal. Here’s how you can help:

  1. Share this post everywhere you can.
  2. Make this an agenda item at your next ACFW chapter meeting.
  3. Mention the idea–in your own words–on every social media site you have a presence on.
  4. Discuss it on the ACFW loop.
  5. Begin a contest to see what we could call this time of special observance (Thanksgiving Day is already taken).
  6. Offer suggestions on when to have this special time. Should it be a “universal time” that we all observe in the same month, or can we go State by State?

And let’s not forget to pray. I really believe that God can use this to encourage our encouragers.

I can’t wait to hear your comments! Will YOU help spread the word?

4 Comments

Filed under Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, family, Writing

What is “Success”?

As I sit here in a hotel room and type this post, there’s a realization tugging at me: I need to be clear on how I define “success”. To apply this to the writer’s conference that I’m currently attending (the American Christian Fiction Writers conference), I’m praying that I stay focused on how blessed I am to be here.

I do have several concrete goals I’d love to achieve while here, but sometimes writers can be “all or nothing” people. We come to conference with a list of goals/dreams, and the temptation is to walk away feeling discouraged because we weren’t able to check them all of our list. The tragedy in that mentality is that we’ve set ourselves up for failure since achieving all of our goals with crisp perfection is impossible. So when (not “if”) the first disappointment comes, the rest of the conference is endured and not enjoyed.

The other mistake is to have a prioritized list of goals, where the goals lower down the list are dependent on the ones at the top of the list. When this happens, we are unable or unwilling to fully embrace the lower goals with a mindset of gratitude. We don’t thank God for them because they’re not “the real” big goals–the ones that really count.

I think Christian writers have the ability–because of the Spirit that’s within us–to be able to see the whole picture. It’s simply a matter of whether or not we use that ability. Such an attitude of gratitude won’t happen accidentally. It must be intentionally nurtured every day.

The fact is:  just being here at the conference is an achievement for which to be thankful. Here are some other signs that the conference is a success:

  • You’re able to reconnect with old friends
  • New friends become a part of your life
  • You realize that we have great food and plenty of it (much of the world would love to trade places with us).
  • You were used by God to encourage another person
  • You listened when God said “no”, even though it wasn’t on your list
  • You learned something that will make you a better person, and a better writer
  • You met writers you admire

These are just a few. Notice that “getting a contract” or “getting an agent” isn’t in the above list. Do I want those things? ABSOLUTELY! But even if they don’t happen while I’m here, this conference has already been a success.

How do you define success as a writer? As a person?

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, Writing

Intimidation

Intimidation:  Writers face it all the time. Whether it’s a blinking cursor on a blank computer screen, a snarky remark in a critique, red ink from an editor, rejections…lions, and tigers, and bears…oh my!

We can be shaken by these types of things. But I’m learning that it’s not the presence of the intimidation that is key, it’s the way I choose to respond to it that matters. For the most part, I can’t do anything about the presence of intimidation. But I can control how it impacts my psyche. Criticism or critiques can be a sharpening stone that turns a dull knife blade into a sharp tool, or–if used improperly–it can nick and ruin the blade. Red ink can scream, “What makes you think you’re a writer? You can’t do this!” or it can say, “Try harder…you CAN do better. I believe in you!”

I’m in the process of getting sample chapters and a pitch ready for the American Christian Fiction Writers conference. And at meetings with agents and editors, I’ll be trying to keep from letting intimidation choke me while I tell them about my book. That’s if I even make it to the hotel at DFW. (I’ve heard that traffic and road construction are a snarled mess. I may spend the entire week circling Dallas trying to find my way into the airport complex where the hotel is located….opps, there goes intimidation again).

As a writer, what things intimidate you? How do you handle them?

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, Writing