Monday, April 22, 2013

WRITING: a Potentially Problematic Passion by J.A. Marx

When I was a child, I didn’t write stories, I acted them out. Living in the heart of the Rockies, my playground was made up of rock outcroppings and climbing trees. Today’s term for this type of acting is LARP – live action role-play. I larped with my friends all the way through my first year of college. Active.

Once I had children, my larping included storytelling, and the kids became the protagonists along with a flying dragon named Murgatroyd. My teen daughter now carries on the larping tradition.

Between those years, fitness became a serious hobby. I taught aerobics for twelve years and studied nutrition on the side. Today, I work out six days a week and understand the importance of exercise and nutrition. Now that I write fulltime, I find myself in a catch-22.

A few hours at the gym does not
make up for sitting the rest of the day. (Mayo)

According to medical studies, the longer we sit the more health problems we create for ourselves. The Mayo clinic states these problems, “Obesity and metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels.” (Link read their article)

So what’s a writer to do?

I’ve also read stories of how some authors are either too busy writing to eat or they just grab whatever is “handy” in the kitchen. Speaking from experience, handy isn’t usually healthy.
The more important matter for a Christian author, however, is TEMPLE MANAGEMENT. We are the temple of God. What we “ingest” through our eyes and ears matters to our soul, but:

What enters my mouth fuels the temple God gave me.

Who would pour dirt into his Ferrari gas tank?
I will be held accountable for what God has given me to steward.
My frustration has led me to discipline myself in order to honor my Editor in Chief. I’ll share solutions that help me with temple management.

-Plan out healthy meals for the entire week.
-Prepare lunch and snacks the night before. (It’ll be ready when you are.)
-Do food prep for the family meal the night before. (When the dinner bell tolls, just throw the food in the skillet/oven.)

-Basics: if you’re not already exercising daily, start with a brisk, 30-minute walk (I listen to sermons and praise music. It’s an awesome time of worship for me.)

Active writing (Mayo ideas):
-Stand rather than sit whenever you have the chance
-Stand while talking on the phone or eating lunch
-Try a standing desk (improvise with a high table/counter)
-Walk laps with your colleagues rather than gathering at Starbucks for meetings
-Position your work surface above a treadmill (Use a specialized treadmill-ready vertical desk and be in motion throughout the day.)

Increased health = less sickness = increased effectiveness.
Live better, write better. We can do it!

J.A. Marx loves illustrating spiritual warfare through speculative suspense. Her debut novel, “Destiny Defied” releases April 17th 2013. She has published several articles and edits for a healthcare e-zine.
Her hobbies are fitness, nutrition, and dancing the Argentine tango. She and her husband live in Texas. Meet J.A. at 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Paperdolls By Lynne Gentry

What is a well-drawn character and how do you draw one? While these questions are tackled at every writer’s conference, it’s easier to bag the wind than nail down the one thing that makes a character real in a reader’s mind.


Because characterization requires layers…lots of them. That one elusive device or trick that makes a flat character three-dimensional doesn’t exist. It takes many tools to fashion a person the reader will care about. I’d like to share a simple tool I’ve added to my writing craft box, one I picked up from twenty years of helping novice actors excel on the stage.

According to Albert Mehrabin, a noted expert on nonverbal communication, only 7% of what we communicate is communicated with words. The other 93% is communicated with 55% body language and 38% vocal intonation. Where do these alarming numbers leave wordsmiths like us? Up a creek…unless we learn to manipulate our words in order to give our characters movement and sound.

One quick and easy way to make progress toward accomplishing this feat is with costuming.

Far too often we dress our characters in jeans and a shirt and send them forth in our WIP without further consideration. But taking a moment to select costume pieces that either restrict or increase a character’s fluidity of movement can create mental body language specific for that character. Simply by adding body language, we’ve increased the believability of a character’s dialogue by 55%.  

How does costuming work? For the stage, I can take a stay-at-home mom who’s comfortable in her sweats and costume her in a suit and heels and suddenly she moves like the CEO of a major corporation. Can this happen on the page? Absolutely.

In her stunning debut novel, The Russian Concubine, Kate Furnivall gives an example of costuming’s influence upon a character’s fluidity of movement. When Alfred, an uppity Englishman, makes his stage entrance in the middle of a filthy Chinese market, he is dressed in a cream linen suit. Immediately, the reader sees a man desperate to keep himself pristine. Ever tried to keep a toddler’s sticky hands off of your white blouse? Then you have a mental visual of how Alfred would move to protect his clothes in this uncomfortable environment. And it is in our mental movements of Alfred that he suddenly becomes…more real.

Want to know more about creating characters that leap from the page? Visit my StageWrite blog and follow along as we investigate ways to use costuming to create well-drawn characters and then use costume changes to create that illusive character arc. Or if you are the impatient type and would rather not have this information piecemealed out, order the Paper Doll CD from me and hear the whole spiel.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Don’t Imitate Others – Follow God’s Directions by Lena Nelson Dooley

In 2005, so many people were starting blogs. I had no idea what a blog was, and I didn’t know if I was supposed to do one. I asked some other writers I was connected with what they blogged about. Someone told me to blog about my journey to publication. That was something I could do, so I started a blog.

Once a month for three months, I wrote a blog post detailing some part of my journey. And the three or four people who cared about my journey came by my blog. No. One. Else.

I had several contracts at that time, so I didn’t think I had time to keep up the blog like that for only a few people. So I did what I should have done in the first place. I prayed about whether I should blog or not.

God gave me the plan for mine. I was the first person to give away books on a blog. What God told me was for me to lift up and promote other authors, and He would lift up and promote me. Since that time a number of people have borrowed various aspects of my blog, but many of them do not have the results God has provided for mine.

Because I was following His directions, my blog has grown until it has over 8,750 hits per month, plus the feeds. And the blog draws a large audience of readers. That’s my target audience.

So when you’re planning the way to promote yourself and your work, the first place you should go is to your knees. We serve the God of all creativity, and He has a unique plan for each of us. He has recently given me new ideas of how to “enlarge my tent” in this economy.

We live near a Mongolian Grill owned by a Tony Chan. We eat there occasionally, and we’ve become acquainted with Tony. When he found out I write novels, he asked me to put him in one of my books, and I told him I would. The Tony Chan developed into a strong secondary character.

Today we ate there again. I asked him if he’d like me to do a booksigning in his restaurant when the book comes out. He was enthusiastic about us doing that. That’s a direction I wouldn’t have ever thought of moving, but I believe God’s hand directed me.

So get out of your box. Go where you can find new readers, no matter how strange it seems.

The first Tony Chan book is Mary’s Blessing, book two in the McKenna’s Daughter’s series, which released in May 2012. Book three Catherine’s Pursuit, which released in February this year, also has the Tony Chan character in it.
--Lena Nelson Dooley, multi-published, award-winning author

Monday, March 4, 2013

"Mommy, I'm scared!" by Janice Olson

John 14:27 (NLT) “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

*        *        *

When my children were little, sometimes at night they would be afraid. I would hear them yell, Mommy, I’m scared. Like any good parent, I would do my best to diminish their fears and make them feel safe again and hopefully go off to sleep.

I’d check in the closet and under the bed to prove no one was there. But sometimes their little minds wouldn’t settle down. The only way they would be comforted was for me to lie down beside them, pull them up close, and softly sing songs like “Yes, Jesus Loves Me” or old hymns of the faith until they fell asleep.

Just as my children would get frightened, there are times that I get scared and worried too. Even when I do my best to keep the uncertainties at bay, they often return with a vengeance. Only when I turn to my heavenly Father and tell Him how truly scared I am, that’s when He pulls me up close and gives me comfort.

Sometimes, just like my kids, it takes Him a little longer to convince me no one can harm me, He’s in control. But once I lie back in His comforting embrace and know that He is there to stave off the evil one, all my cares and concerns begin to fade away. And though life’s uncertainties are still raging around me, my troubled heart finds peace and rest in Him.

It is wonderful to know the ol’ boogeyman can’t harm me in my Father’s arms.

How awesome is our Father’s peace—this peace I give to you is a gift the world cannot give. And I’m so glad the world can’t take it away.

Janice Olson is the author of fast-pace, character-driven suspense with an interlaced thread of faith. Her novels are praised as clean, wholesome reads with twists and turns, conspiracies and intrigues that provide hours of breathtaking entertainment.

She is the president of DFW Ready Writers and the leader of a weekly writers’ critique. Serenity’s Deception and Lethal Intent are two of her book now available online at Barnes & and

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Where's My Pizza? by Dr. Richard Mabry

"Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush aflame with God.  But only those who see take off their shoes.  The rest sit around and pluck blackberries."
            ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

                                                                        *          *          *

Recently, we decided to throw caution to the winds and order a pizza. Since virtually everything nowadays is electronic, I chose to place the order online. I was proud of the way I navigated through the ordering process, only having to clear the order and revise it twice, which for me is pretty good. I remembered one thing from the old-fashioned days of phoning in the order. The pizza would be here in thirty minutes or less, piping hot. Good husband that I am, I set up the TV trays (don't tell the kids that we eat in front of the TV sometimes), put out plates and napkins, and waited. And waited. And waited.

After forty minutes, I phoned the pizza place and was told, "It's been dispatched," making me think my pizza was coming code three in a police cruiser or something. Dispatched or not, it was another ten minutes before the pizza was delivered by a teen-aged boy with a big smile. The pizza wasn't piping hot, but it was sort of warm. And I chose not to make a big thing of the delay. It didn't matter who was at fault. We got our pizza, he got his tip, and things proceeded from there.

When I began writing, I looked forward to the day when I’d be able to look at the books above my desk and see my name on the spine. I struggled to learn the craft, I wrote and submitted, I suffered through rejection after rejection, and wondered how long it would take for God to fill my order. After four years, four unpublished novels, and forty rejections, I’m now looking at the shelf above my desk, at copies of four published novels with my name on the cover. And you know what? They came right on schedule—the one God decreed.

Sometimes we look at God like a pizza delivery boy. We put in our order--that is, we pray earnestly for something--and expect it delivered to our door, piping hot, in thirty minutes or less. We get antsy if there's no action, because we hate to wait. But God works on a different time schedule than we do. When He answers our prayers, and I believe He always does although the answer may not be what we want, He does it in his own time. And He doesn't always give us what we asked for, although I truly believe that in the long run we usually get what we need.

                                                                  *        *        *

Dr. Richard Mabry is a retired physician, a member of DFW Ready Writers, past Vice-President of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and the author of four published novels of medical suspense. His books have been finalists in competitions including ACFW’s Carol Award and Romantic Times’ Inspirational Book of the Year, while his novel, Lethal Remedy, won a 2012 Selah Award from the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. His next medical thriller, Stress Test (Thomas Nelson), will be released in April of this year, to be followed by Heart Failure in October.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Christmas Tale

Board members from DFW Ready Writers had a great time putting together this Christmas Story, where one would write a portion, then the next one had to build upon it.  Enjoy!

The Night Before Christmas


Lee Carver, Barbara Harrison, Lena Dooley, and Janice Olson

Lee Carver:
Celine slid a less-known Bible commentary through the library’s automated check-out scanner ready to take her aching shoulders home. Volunteering for all the extra hours at the seminary library during Christmas week beat sitting home grieving like last year, but she was tired to the core.
The last patron shifted his cashmere overcoat. “Two weeks?” He caught her attention with his question. Nice looking, about her own age.
She responded to his warm expression with a smile of her own. “Right. Two weeks, but renewable.”
Within fifteen minutes, she had extinguished all but the security lights and set the alarm. Before locking the last door behind her, she scanned the parking lot where her ten-year-old car waited. Not a sound but the cold Texas wind. Not a sight but the barren concrete and brick.
Celine thought in words and expressions, “barren” being one of her least favorite.
Halfway home, on the county road south of Fort Worth, the grinding sound somewhere in the car’s innards returned. Then a loud clunk, and it rolled to a stop on the side of the highway. So much smoke or steam curled from beneath the hood that she grabbed her purse and coat, released the catch, and then scooted out. Again she wished she had made a deposit on a new car when the insurance money came through.
She reached for her cell phone and found the battery was dead. Not a house in sight. The frigid night chilled her bones. No one knew she was here. No one waited for her at home. No one would miss her or come looking.
She did the only thing possible. She propped on the roof, bent onto her upraised arms, and sobbed a prayer to God. “Why have you left me? What am I to do?”
Car lights approached from the rear. Fear charged through her veins. She should get back inside and lock the door.
No, she would face this person and assume the best. Straightening, she swiped off the tears already freezing on her cheeks.

Barbara Harrison:
A classic green mustang came to a stop behind her crippled car. The last patron at the seminary library climbed out of the car. “Do you need some help?” He walked toward her, surveying the smoking hood.
“You must be a guardian angel. I do need help. Smoke started pouring from the hood and my car died.” She blushed. “And my cell is as dead as my car.”
“Well, I can’t say I’m a guardian angel, but I did come along just in time. I kinda wondered …” He shook his head and walked to the front of her car.
Both of them watched the steam escaping. That couldn’t be good. Was she going to spend Christmas Eve out on the back roads of the county in a deep freeze? Of course, what was waiting for her back home? Her cat and her large fern that she hung Christmas balls on.
“Well, the water pump has gone out on your car, ma’am. You’ll need it towed.”
“Towed? Where am I going to get a tow truck on Christmas Eve?”
“Well, my brother-in-law owns a garage in our town about five miles up the road. Let me call him.” The man pulled out his phone and made a call. “James, this is Michael. I’m out here on CR224 and there’s a lady with a blown fuel pump. She’s going to need a tow.”
The man nodded and said, “It’s a little job, blue, and it will be the only car on the road by the mile 15 marker. Okay, I’m going to take her with me. It’s too cold for her to wait out here. Yes, I’ll see you later at church.”
“It’s going to be a while before anyone can get here, so why don’t you come with me to the church. We’re having a Christmas Eve service.”
 Celine hesitated.
He stuck out his hand. “I’m Michael Murphy.”
She took his hand and introduced herself.
“Well, Celine, I hope you’re in the mood to share a Christmas Eve service, because I’m due at church in less than fifteen minutes and I can’t miss. I’m Joseph in the Nativity scene in the Christmas program, and Mary needs me.”
She wasn’t planning to go to church, but it didn’t look like she had a choice now.

Lena Nelson Dooley:
Twenty-five minutes later, they pulled up at the church building glowing with lights streaming through every window. There weren’t that many cars in the parking lot. Celine hoped her rescuer wasn’t too late.
“Michael, finally!” A red-headed woman hurried up the aisle toward them. “We were worried something had happened to you, too.”
Her escort shook his head. “No. Who else isn’t here?” He glanced around.
Celine dropped onto the back pew and looked at all the decorations. She wondered if God would be upset with her presence in His house. Although she had always been involved in church, she hadn’t been back since … No, she refused to think about that awful time that changed her life forever. Why did she agree to come here with him? She could have asked to borrow his cell phone and called her neighbor, or even a taxi.
“Sharon is sick and won’t be here.” The redhead used her hands to emphasize every other word. “We’re frantic. I’ve called three other women and none of them can take her part.” She placed her fisted hands on her waist. “What are we going to do?”
“We have to have a Mary.” Michael’s firm declaration sent chills through Celine when he turned his attention toward her.
Oh, no you don’t. She would not play Mary in his program. So what if she owed him, but that was way beyond the scope of what she could handle right now … or ever.
She studied the carpet as his firm footsteps led him to the end of her pew. After he dropped down beside her, she still wouldn’t look at him.
“I know this is a lot to ask, but could you stand in for Mary? You wouldn’t have to say anything, and I’d be beside you the whole time. And her costume will fit you.” His voice was gentle, not demanding.
She glanced up at him and shook her head. “I can’t.”
“You do know the story of the first Christmas, don’t you?” His apologetic expression and tender brown eyes tugged at her heart. He had helped her when she needed it. How could she decline? She could sit beside a manger with a doll resting in the hay.
She slowly nodded while her heart cried for her to run out the doors.
After a quick rehearsal where they went through the nativity tableau while the choir sang music describing the event, she was taken to the women’s restroom to dress. God, please help me. The first prayer she’d uttered since she was in high school, if you didn’t count the prayer beside the road.
A strange peace surrounded her.
 As the program progressed, she waited beside Michael, taking strength from his presence. When the nativity music started, she looked at the assistant director.
“We forgot to bring the doll from the manger.” Celine wondered how the woman would retrieve it without the audience knowing.
The woman motioned to another young woman Celine hadn’t noticed before. She held the doll swaddled in a white blanket.
“We’re not using a doll. This is Mark. He’s two weeks old.” The assistant held out the baby toward Celine.
I. Can. Not. Do. This. Yes, you can.
She hadn’t heard that whisper in her spirit since that fateful day when she made the worst mistake of her life. Letting her boyfriend convince her to have an abortion stripped everything else from her heart and life.
Instinctively, she held out her arms ready to receive the baby. Michael took her arm and walked toward the stable. In the darkness, no one could see the tears streaming down her face as she cradled the sweet-smelling infant against her beating heart.

Janice Olson:
Unworthy, unworthy rang in her head. She didn’t think she could walk another step yet Michael led her on. Would the shame be seen in her face?
The baby mewed, nestling closer against her breast, the little one’s warmth seeping deep inside Celine, reaching the cold, frozen places of her soul. Her baby would have been how old now, if …
The closer she got to the front, the more the guilt pounded in her chest. These good people would have never asked her to be the Virgin Mary if they had known. Celine sat in all her shame while the story unfolded of Jesus’ birth and a mother’s love.
Her breath caught in her throat. A vise tightened around her heart until she thought it would explode. Yet the small gathering sat enraptured while Celine’s guilt increased.
As the storyteller spoke of God’s grace and a love that transcends all else, a love that could reach into the blackest of hearts and make them clean again, the filthy rags of Celine’s stained existence began to peel away. When the angel proclaimed that Jesus would save his people from their sins, Celine cried silently for mercy. The flood gates of grace opened, washing away the guilt of her past.
Again, the baby squirmed. She gazed down into his beautiful face, tears streaming down her cheeks. Though the old wound of her decision was still there, she knew God had forgiven her and with time she prayed the pain would heal.
The play over, Celine waited at the back of the little church. People filed by and thanked her for the part she played and invited her to come back on Sunday. The mother of baby Mark spoke with her briefly and was leaving when Michael stepped up.
“If you’re ready, I’ll take you home now.” Michael opened the door leading her to the car. “I appreciate you stepping in tonight. We couldn’t have done the program without you. And I don’t know if you felt it or not, but something special took place tonight, something real.”
Smiling, yet not knowing how to answer, Celine nodded. Her gaze drifted to the countryside that earlier appeared desolate and barren. A beautiful blanket of pure white covered everything. She knew God was saying your sins are forgiven.
In front of her apartment, Michael turned, giving her a nervous smile. “Since your car is in the garage, I could pick you up in the morning for church, if you would like.”
“I’d like that very much. What time?”
“Nine-thirty.” He wrinkled his brow as though trying to work out a problem. “You seem different, more at peace.”
“I am.” She opened the door allowing the chilly blast of air to fill the car. For the first time in years, she felt alive.