Reflections In Hindsight

Grace in the Rearview Mirror…it's closer than it appears

  • Ephesians 4:29

    Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (NIV)

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    Thank you for your encouragement and support for the past three years. We've had fun connecting with you and hope you've found useful material here on Reflections. And here's the but... Reflections In Hindsight is closing on December 21, 2012. Elaine and Sophie and I can be found over at http://authorculture.blogspot.com; April can be found at Clash of the Titles, http://www.clashofthetitles, http://www.aprilgardner.com and watch for news for more novels from her!; Janet is ever-present on the Internet with her very special words of wisdom and grace at http://www.janetperezeckles.com, and Luther--who knows where he'll show up next, but I'd watch my back if I were you... Book Reviews are always important, so I, Lisa, will continue to offer them through my blog, as well as those promotions for your new books or book launches, or your news.
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Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

ACFW Recap and Splickety Magazine

Posted by Ben Erlichman on September 29, 2011

I have returned from the 2011 ACFW Conference a new man.

You’re probably wondering what I’m talking about. In a previous post I mentioned three goals that I was hoping to accomplish at this year’s conference:

Goal #1: With three novels written and one in-process, I want to convince a particular publisher (I’ll tell you who in a later post) to take the next step(s) in publishing me, thus making my path to publication a question of” when,” not “if.”

Goal #2: I want to network heavily with other authors to obtain submissions for the short fiction magazine I’m editing (previously described here) for Written World Communications. I’ll give an update on that in two weeks.

Goal #3: I want to soak in as much marketing strategy information as possible as it pertains to my writing so I can better promote and plan for my future success as an author.

The results of those goals are as follows:

Goal #1: Success. My 1st choice publisher has decided to take my first novel, The Dreamer, down the traditional publishing path to see if she can convince her team to take it on as a new project. We also have a fallback plan if that fails.

Goal #2: Success. I networked my bum off. Of the 500 cards I brought with me tot he conference, I’m pretty sure I passed out over 200 cards, perhaps even 250. I’ve also revamped the guidelines for the magazine and its name, both of which I will touch on later in this post.

Goal #3: Success–mostly. While I could have been more diligent about attending some of the sessions I’d signed up for, I have to say that the time I spent talking with my (hopefully) soon-to-be publisher about some marketing ideas and the time I spent talking with Jim Rubart about charting out my career path during our mentoring appointment really helped me ascertain how I want to start out my publishing career, which is by publishing The Dreamer first. We also discussed branding, and he said that my “new look” was much improved from last year’s.

For example, last year:

ACFW 2010

As opposed to this year:

ACFW 2011

Yes, that’s me in costume for the awards banquet. It was sort of a tribute to Rambo, the Terminator, Mad Max, and a combination of other miscellaneous action icons. Oh, and I’m standing next to former ACFW President Cynthia Ruchti, who graciously agreed not only to have her pic taken with me but also to hold my outlandish gun.

Granted, I didn’t dress like that the whole conference, but you get the idea. As an action/adventure author, I necessarily had to present myself in a way that reflected that. Overall, the conference was a success. :)

Anyway, I had mentioned that I was going to post a bit about my new project, Splickety Magazine. Instead of doing that, I’m posting a link to my personal blog where you can access submission guidelines and read about the actual magazine and what it will contain.

You can find it here.

Since ACFW the submissions have been trickling in, but I feel the waters straining against the floodgates with more submissions on their way. It’s not too late for you, though. You can still submit, and I will need submissions for all of my subsequent issues as well. The magazine will launch on November 1st (or possibly Oct. 31st) and will come out every 3 months (February, May, August, November, repeat). Keep sending me stuff, just follow the guidelines.

Thanks for reading.

-Ben

P.S. Our very own April Gardener wins the free ebook from Lynn Rush since she was the only commenter aside from Lynn herself. Yay April! I hope you enjoy it.

Posted in Authors, Encouragment, Friendship, Happiness, Life Experiences, Living Our Faith Out Loud, Working from home, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Lynn Rush is Back with Big News

Posted by Ben Erlichman on September 22, 2011

Ben Erlichman (BE): Our very special guest today is a good friend of mine, writer/author Lynn Rush. In case you missed our last interview with Lynn, you can find it here. Since October, Lynn has made some significant progress in her career as an author. Lynn, would you tell us what’s going on?

Lynn Rush (LR): Wasteland officially released September 6th, so I’ve been on a whirlwind blog tour ever since. It’s great fun, though.

BE: So when you got the email from the publisher about Wasteland being published, how did you react?

LR: I read the email—three times—then ran to my sweet hubby and showed him. Later that night we went out and celebrated at our favorite restaurant! The toughest part was waiting until everything was signed so we could announce it!

BE: What is Wasteland about?

LR: A tormented four-hundred year-old half-demon J. The official blurb is:

Bound by the blood contract his human mother signed four centuries ago, half-demon, David Sadler, must obey his demonic Master’s order to capture fifteen-year-old Jessica Hanks. But as he learns more about her, he realizes she may be the key to freedom from his demonic enslavement.

The only obstacle—Jessica’s distractingly beautiful Guardian, Rebeka Abbott. He must not give in to their steamy chemistry, or he will lose his humanity. But fresh off a quarter millennia of sensory deprivation as punishment for not retrieving his last target, he may not be able to resist temptation long enough to save what’s left of his human soul.

I have a little YouTube trailer made, too, if you want to see that: http://youtu.be/k-KRE1yMiNk
And an excerpt on my publisher’s site: http://www.crescentmoonpress.com/books/Wasteland.html

BE: What kind of initial response have you had regarding Wasteland?

LR: So far so good. The reviews up on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads have been relatively positive.

BE: Have you had any bad reviews? How do you react to those as an author?

LR: Not yet, but I’m sure they’re coming! Can’t please everyone’s tastes, and it’s okay. I haven’t liked every book I’ve picked up, either, but doesn’t mean it was terrible or the author didn’t write well, just wasn’t my cup of tea.

BE: Who is the target audience for Wasteland?

LR: It’s technically called a New Adult novel. That’s mostly for those out of high school yet not quite ready for the steamy adult romance novels out there. I’ve loosely called it a twenty-something novel. But really, I’ve had teenagers all the way up to sixty-year olds read it and tell me they enjoyed it. So, I’m learning it has a fairly wide audience.

BE: What are you doing to market Wasteland to those readers?

LR: I’m having my book signing at a coffee shop near a Harkins Movie Theatre. That fits the target audience pretty well in my opinion. I’ve had some younger people read and review the book on their websites, too. We’re also having contests that include giving away a Kindle, having fun photo contests, things like that.

BE: Where can we get a copy?

LR: Barnes and Noble—online mostly, but you can go into your Barnes and Noble store and have them bring it into the store for you as well. The Nook version should be out shortly. Amazon.com has both the kindle and paperback versions. All Romance Ebook (ARe) has just the electronic version of the book. It’s a neat community where you can earn points for each book you buy and apply them toward future books. Really neat concept over at ARe.

BE: What can we expect from you next?

LR: Well, I have a few things in the works. Crescent Moon Press has purchased my Violet Night Trilogy, and my first round edits on book one have been turned in, so I hope to get an estimated release date soon. Wasteland II (I’m calling it Awaited) is done and in the critique process. Once that’s cleaned up I’ll present it to Crescent Moon Press to see if they’re interested. So, at a minimum, I have three more books coming out in 2012. Lots to keep me busy, huh? LOL

BE: Thanks so much for stopping by, Lynn. I’m so happy for you and I have nothing but the highest hopes for Wasteland and the rest of your writing career.

LR: Thanks, Ben. I’m glad to be here. I love talking writing, and I’m having a blast on this journey. Thanks for walking along side me!

BE: Lynn has graciously agreed to give away a free e-copy of Wasteland to one of our readers, but in order to win, you have to comment on this post. Comments will be accepted throughout the following week so lots of people have time to comment. The deadline for comments is 11:59pm on Wednesday September 28th, 2011.

***YOU MUST provide us with an email address or some other way to contact you in order to be eligible to win–in other words, anonymous posts aren’t eligible to win unless you identify yourself.***

We will announce the winner on Thursday the 29th in my next post, where I will reveal the new name and submission details for my short fiction magazine through Written World Communications, formerly known as Quicktales Quarterly. Tune in then to see if you won!

————————————————————————

Here’s a bit more about Lynn:

Short Bio:

Lynn Rush began her writing career in 2008. She has both an undergraduate and graduate degree in the mental health field and has enjoyed applying that unique knowledge to developing unique characters.

A former inline speed skater and mountain biker, Lynn has been known to test the limits of her athletic endurance. So, when she’s not writing, she spends time enjoying the Arizona sunshine by road biking nearly 100 miles per week with her husband of fifteen years and going on jogs with her loveable Shetland Sheep dogs.

Catch the Rush: www.lynnrush.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/LynnRushWrites

Twitter: www.twitter.com/LynnRush

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/k6NAZa

Amazon:  http://amzn.to/pavzwE

Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/pbigOg

All Romance Ebooks: http://bit.ly/nujjjp

YouTube Trailer:  http://youtu.be/k-KRE1yMiNk

Posted in Author Spotlight, Authors, Book Giveaway, Encouragment, Happiness, Life Experiences, Living Our Faith Out Loud, Till death do we part, Uncategorized, Working from home, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

ACFW is Here Again

Posted by Ben Erlichman on September 15, 2011

It’s that time again, kids. Next week is the annual American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Conference, from Thursday the 22nd through Sunday the 25th, this time in St. Louis, Missouri.

I’ve been blessed to attend the conference for the past two years, and after each one my writing and my writing career have measurably improved. When I first attended the ACFW Conference in 2009, I had the privilege of meeting big name authors like Jim Rubart, Brandilyn Collins, Tosca Lee, Randy Ingermanson, John B. Olson and others. What’s more, Robert Liparulo and Ted Dekker showed up too, and I literally got to sit shoulder to shoulder with Ted at a bar/restaurant in Denver, Co, where the conference was held that year.

Yeah, meeting famous authors can be neat, but I also made what I think are going to be lifelong friends there as well. My good buddy Lynn Rush (who I’m interviewing for next week’s post about her new book) just got published. Her first book, Wasteland, is out now. I had interviewed her in the past about her track to publication, and now she got published, so I get to interview her again.

I also met my pal Avily Jerome (her pseudonym), who is incredibly talented and creative. I’m forever indebted to her for introducing me to the Firefly series while she let me stay at her house in Arizona for a church conference in Phoenix this past spring. What’s more, we’ve become each other’s FUD Buds, or “Finish-Upon-Death” Buddies. A FUD Bud is a person to whom you can entrust the completion of anything you’re currently working on should you die mid-project. Basically, if I die while writing a book, she’ll finish it for me and will pursue publication with both of our names on the manuscript, and vice versa.

Then there’s Frank Redman, who appears to be on the fast track to success with his writing because of his uncanny ability to make amazing connections (some of which I can’t tell you about because he’s asked me not to). I really believe it’s only a matter of time until Frank gets pubbed and hits it big, which is nifty because we’re buddies and I’m excited to see where his career goes (including the possibility of collaboration between us down the road).

For my last post on leading up to the last ACFW Conference, I provided a list of three goals for the 2010 conference. I’m going to do that again here.

Goal #1: With three novels written and one in-process, I want to convince a particular publisher (I’ll tell you who in a later post) to take the next step(s) in publishing me, thus making my path to publication a question of” when,” not “if.”

Goal #2: I want to network heavily with other authors to obtain submissions for the short fiction magazine I’m editing (previously described here) for Written World Communications. I’ll give an update on that in two weeks.

Goal #3: I want to soak in as much marketing strategy information as possible as it pertains to my writing so I can better promote and plan for my future success as an author.

I’m not entered into the ACFW Genesis Contest like I was last year, so I don’t need to comment on that. I also want to enhance my relationships with some of the authors I’m becoming more acquainted with since 2009, and I’d like to become more integrated in the ACFW Community via networking and meeting people.

I also want to swordfight Jeff Gerke, but that may have to wait until another time.

Posted in Authors, Encouragment, Happiness, Life Experiences, Living Our Faith Out Loud, Working from home, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Writers, Quit Your Day Job!

Posted by Ben Erlichman on August 25, 2011

But not yet.

Your day job is probably the only reason you’re able to pay the rent/mortgage, to buy food, to put clothes on your kids’ backs (if applicable), to put gas in the car, etc. Right?

Right. So don’t quit just yet. If you’re one of a blessed few writers who can afford to live off of either the money you’re making from your writing career or through the generous support of an understanding spouse or have loads of money from a rich distant relative who left you a chunk of change, then good for you. As for the rest of us, well, we aren’t there yet.

But we will be someday, right? Right.

I have a day job. I work for a tyrant of a boss (my father) who demands that I slave away at my computer and on the telephone making sales calls to prospective clients for his company’s telecom auditing services. Actually, he’s a great boss and doesn’t harass me. On occasion he’ll kick my butt so I snap back in line with the company’s mission, but in general, he’s happy as long as I show up on time and make some sales (which I do every month).

Fixing your bills pays our bills

The best part about my job is that I can work at work and then go home and write. In other words, I don’t often have to take work home with me, which means I have more time to write. I also write at work while on my lunch break, typically. What I’m getting at is this: my day job doesn’t get in the way of my writing unless I’m at work, working.

That said, I wish I could write 8 hours a day instead, and that’s a goal I’m working toward. I’d like to be there by age 30 (I’ll be 26 in January), but we’ll see if that happens. In the meantime, my day job helps to pay the bills, and it often serves to fund my writing career, as it cannot survive on its own at this point.

I made a conscious choice not very long ago that I was okay with my writing career not funding itself for awhile. For me, at least as of now, I’m not interested in writing articles or short stories or poems (though I’ve had some of those published) to help fund my bigger projects (novels). I don’t want to land a copywriting job or a ghostwriting job or a journalism job or any other writing jobs, even if they’ll pay for my true passion, which is writing novels.

Why? It’s because I want to put 100% of my writing efforts into my books. I feel like if I were to ghostwrite a novel for or with someone, that would be a huge waste of my time. It would be someone else’s story, something I could only become passionate about to a certain extent (and nowhere near as much as my own stories). I don’t care how good the money might be, I just can’t commit to something like that.

The only exception I might entertain would be a job as an acquisitions editor for a publisher. Maybe. But that’s only because I enjoy meeting people and hearing their stories.

Maybe.

Am I making sense to you? You could say I’m “saving myself for the big one.” Not the “great American novel” necessarily–I don’t even really know what that means–but for my stories, the commercial fiction I want to write and share with my readers.

So my day job is telecom, for now. Some day that will change, and my dad will have to find a new salesman to replace me, but in the meantime, I’m going to kick some butt while I’m selling telecom reviews and write my own butt off in every spare moment I can conjure up.

What about you? What does your writing life look like in relation to your day job, or your home life? Being a stay-at-home parent is totally a job, by the way.

Give me some feedback, will ya?

-Ben

Posted in Authors, Encouragment, Happiness, Life Experiences, Uncategorized, Working from home, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

The Ragged Edge Conference – A Review (and Extras)

Posted by Ben Erlichman on August 18, 2011

I recently returned from Ted Dekker’s Ragged Edge Conference, which I described a bit in my post last week here on Reflections. What follows is a review of my experiences there.

For the most part, I really, really enjoyed the conference. The only thing I wasn’t too keen on was the fact that I had to pay $649 plus airfare, a rental car and gas to get there. I found out later that the pricing for the conference was intentional: Ted and his team specifically wanted to weed out those people who weren’t totally serious about writing so that their message would reach only the most committed, most dedicated people. I guess I can’t be too upset about that.

The other thing I didn’t like was that for whatever reason, I didn’t receive any of the preliminary emails once I registered for the conference. I actually had to email one of the organizers to get an itinerary, and then I found out once I got to the conference I learned that I had missed out on a second, subsequent email that the other attendees received. What’s more, when I tried to check the itinerary via a link in the email when I arrived in Nashville the page had been removed from Ted’s website. These were little things, but they got on my nerves enough to mention them.

All of that aside, the conference was not only helpful but also very entertaining. Despite what he said about being introverted and how he enjoys isolation sometimes, Ted Dekker is truly an entertainer. He loves his audience, and he loves to be the center of attention. When it’s your conference, though, I suppose that makes sense and isn’t a bad thing.

I should add that all of the authors were clever, witty, and fun to be around. They were also very knowledgeable in regard to the craft and the struggles of writing. I enjoyed their approach overall–they focused more on what it really takes to be a writer, what it really takes to succeed, and what that looks like real-life situations. They didn’t focus on the craft of writing for very long because, as they correctly stated, we can learn about the craft of writing at any writers conference or from books on craft which are much cheaper.

The first day consisted of the authors putting into words a lot of what I already knew with regard to the lifestyle and sacrifices of a writer: lots of isolation, even loneliness, fewer friends, and having to claw your way through the muck and mire of publishing a book. The second day focused on a bit of craft in the morning and then ended with a long discussion about marketing and talking with agents/editors (or seducing them, as Ted put it).

What I really benefitted from the most was meeting and re-meeting the authors who were presenting. I met best-selling authors Eric Wilson and Steven James for the first time, and I now have signed copies of one book from each of them so I can start reading their work too. Robert Liparulo and I reconnected in person for the first time since 2009, which is also where I met Ted and Tosca for the first time as well. I strengthened ties with all of them, which certainly can’t hurt when it comes time to publish.

When I re-met Ted, I was in line to have him sign one of the free books we were given. He saw me and then did a double-take as if he recognized me. I explained that I had met him in 2009 at the ACFW Conference and that I was literally sitting shoulder to shoulder with him at a bar/restaurant in Denver for the better part of the night because we all went out in a big group.

He remembered, and he asked me how I was progressing in my writing, and when I told him I had completed three novels and had a meeting on Monday (the 15th) with a local big-name publisher, he was a bit surprised but happy for me as well. The next day as the conference was wrapping up, he passed me as he was cruising through the crowd and he did another double-take. Then he said to me, “I think you’re one of the ones who is going to make it.”

Wow. That’s huge, coming from Ted Dekker.

Then I asked him to endorse my first book and he said he probably wouldn’t. (HAHA) I’m going to try anyway. ;)

Overall, the conference was definitely worth my time and the money, even though it was pricy. Then again, I already talked about how persistence and money are exactly what it takes to get published, so I know the investment was sound.

How about you folks? Did any of you go to the conference? What were some of your experiences?

-Ben

Posted in Authors, Encouragment, Happiness, Life Experiences, Uncategorized, Working from home, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

An Interview with Arpit Mehta

Posted by Ben Erlichman on July 21, 2011

Arpit Mehta

Ben Erlichman (BE): Our very special guest today is a good friend of mine, graphic designer/writer/photographer Arpit Mehta. I’ve asked Arpit to stop by to share with us about his self-published book of poetry, his graphic design initiatives, and about himself in general. Thanks for stopping by Reflections, Arpit.

Arpit Mehta (AM): Thanks for the opportunity, Ben.

BE: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Give us a snapshot of what your life is like and who you are in 50 words or less.

AM: Well, I consider myself an artist with an inclination toward problem-solving. I like to look at what needs to be done, and find an apt solution for it, whether it be in photography, graphic design, or, my newest endeavor, writing.

BE: So you wrote a book of poetry. Can you tell us about it?

AM:  I started writing a handful of years ago as a means to gather my thoughts. Surprisingly, it took the form of poetry, something I wasn’t quite familiar with. I would post occasionally on Myspace, and some of my friends were very supportive. One of them, my friend Christine, really pushed me to become a better poet by suggesting poets like Pablo Neruda, and shortly thereafter convinced me to try publishing a few poems. It’s my first time doing something like this, so it’s both exciting and nerve-wrecking. But I’m glad to have friends that continue to support me, and want to support my work. As for the book itself, it’s a set of  poems that span three to four years of my life trying to grasp at the concept of love. At various points during that time, I’ve thought that I had it figured out, that I’d attained this sense of enlightenment, but every time I found myself disappointed. I started seeing a cyclical pattern to it all, and that’s the form my book takes. From the notions of love to the start of a relationship, from everything being just right to heartbreak and depression, and from there, coming to a sense of restoration and starting it all over. We all live in similar cycles, but we don’t often realize it, and so this book was an attempt at just that.

Here’s a sample poem for your readers:

Serendipity 

Ah, ’tis such folly

To dream of finding

Love serendipitously

Whereby the stars align

And the universe

Sings paeans of

Love and romance

It’s but a chance,

An infinitesimal one,

Yet I shall take it

For I am a fool

Unto love eternal.

BE: That was one of my favorite poems from your book. I really enjoyed reading your poems. Where can our readers get an e-copy? (Disclaimer: two of the poems have a swear word in them.)

AM: Through Lulu, at: http://www.lulu.com/product/file-download/arriving-at-love/16168570. They’ll be on sale for one week at 10% off for Reflections readers.

BE: Thanks for giving us a deal. :) So Arpit, when we spoke on the phone a couple of weeks ago, you mentioned that you were looking to do even more writing in the future. Are you hoping to break into the Christian/inspirational genre or do you want to reach into the secular realm of publishing, or both?

AM: There is some amazing stuff being done in the Christian genre, and I would love to be a part of it at some point, but right now, I’m focusing on writing based on political and social commentary, something that doesn’t mesh altogether well in the Christian realm because of the diverse amount of beliefs. However, it is something I’ve thought about, and might very well explore in the future.

BE: If you do decide to do more writing, what type of stories or genre of writing do you see yourself creating?

AM: Like I mentioned, I’m passionate about doing political and social commentary, so that’s where I’ll start, but I do have various ideas for different forms of writing: short stories, novels, and even graphic novels. Here’s a fun anecdote: when I read through Ted Dekker’s ‘Circle Trilogy’, I sent him an email suggesting that his books would make fantastic graphic novels. Two years later, I got a response to the email with a link to them. Whether or not I had a hand in it, I can’t say, but I like to think that great minds think alike!

BE: I bet your email played some sort of role in it. Do you blog? Where can we read some of your thoughts?

AM: I used to blog quite a bit, but haven’t been so active in them lately. I blame Facebook for this. It’s so easy to post right on there with a granted viewership of a few hundred people right away, instead of doing it elsewhere. I do have a blog where I used to post my poetry (www.ibreakmyheart.com), and just got a Tumblr page last year (arpitmehta.tumblr.com), but most of what I post on Tumblr is quotes I find fascinating. However, my hope is to get back into blogging sooner than later, and start posting varied content more frequently.

BE: You’ve got a website for your graphic design work and another one for your photography. Can you tell us about them and what we can expect to find there?

AM: Absolutely. I got into doing graphic design for my church back in college, and as I did more, I found open doors to working for more churches, some non-profits, and of course, private clients. I am currently attempting to try my hand at user interface design, but I’d say print marketing is where my strength lies, and you’ll find plenty of work from that on my website. As for photography, I’m still trying to find my niche in that area. What I love more than anything else is to explore how light works, and how it can be used to create amazing photographs. This is why fashion photography draws my attention, and I would like to pursue that more and see what comes of it. I will say that I didn’t expect myself to enjoy wedding photography all that much initially, but it’s something that I’ve been given more opportunities to partake in, and I’m appreciating more and more as an art form. There is nothing quite as exciting as seeing two people committing to each other in front of God and their family and friends.

BE: A photograph Arpit took of Switchfoot at a concert in Irvine, CA:

BE: What are some of your goals in life?

AM: To be honest, my greatest goal in life is to continue learning and growing as an individual. I love taking things apart and understanding how they work (mostly conceptually, but sometimes physically as well). This is how I’ve grown in my understanding of the things I do, as well as the systems at work around me. Now, this is my central goal in everything I do, but I do have some specific goals as well. I would love to have traveled the world as a photographer (especially to Antarctica), I want to have a successful design and marketing business around print and apps, and I would like to hopefully become a published writer (outside of self-publishing).

BE: Could you briefly describe your conceptualization/writing process for us?

AM: I find myself inspired by relational interactions. Whether they’re in life, in movies, on TV, or what have you, there are certain telling signs of emotions that are not easily expressed, but universally understood. That’s what inspired me to first start writing, and that’s what sparks my imagination and process these days. I love going to bars to people watch – observe human interactions, and try to put those down in words. From there, I start thinking about, and seeing the bigger picture: the story, the development, etc. Of course, there are exceptions to this, but as I write more, I find myself concerned more about the form of the character before I get any further. After all, we all have this innate desire to connect with a character in any story. Without that connection, the story doesn’t matter all that much.

BE: How does your faith inform your writing, photography, and graphic design?

AM: You know, before I got saved, I had creative tendencies, but minimally. That changed shortly thereafter. I found myself pursuing more and more creative and artistic endeavors, and I see this as walking in the gifts that God has entrusted me with. Recognizing this, everything creative I do, I see as my own form of worship to the ultimate Creator. I believe all inspiration comes from Him, and so make it a habit to turn to Him when I create. It becomes, then, a tool for not only serving God, but serving others as well. If I can use my talents to help someone, I make my best attempt to.

BE: Some of Arpit’s design work:

BE: Thanks so much for stopping by. Any last words for those reading this blog?

AM: Thank you for having me on! I can’t think of anything else – I appreciate and thank everyone that is taking the time to check out my work. God bless!

BE: Once again, you can get Arpit’s book of poetry, Arriving at Love, here:  http://www.lulu.com/product/file-download/arriving-at-love/16168570. If you act within the next week or so, you’ll get it at 10% off as well! It’s a special Reflections in Hindsight discount! You can also talk to him about logo creation, graphics work, and photography. Look him up on Facebook too.

Thanks for tuning in.

Posted in Authors, Book Reviews, Encouragment, Happiness, Life Experiences, Living Our Faith Out Loud, Music, Working from home, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Nostalgia: My Childhood Returns to Haunt Me

Posted by Ben Erlichman on July 14, 2011

This post isn’t about ghosts or goblins or freaky things chasing me through my dreams (which happens with decent regularity, usually dinosaurs from Jurassic Park). No, this is about society’s decision to reboot everything about my childhood and bring it to the forefront once again, specifically on the big screen.

When I was growing up, I latched on to four legendary heroes that appeared every Saturday morning on my favorite cartoon: Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo, and Raphael. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Turtle Power.

These lean, mean, green, fighting machines were true heroes: infallible, incredible, undefeatable. Their epics sprawled all over the world, into other dimensions, and even across time itself.

To pay homage to their awesomeness, Hollywood saw fit to attempt several reboots of the concept, including the 2007 edition that, in my opinion, made them look like a bunch of frogs hopping from building to building in the previews. To be fair, I haven’t seen the movie, but I didn’t go out of my way to try to see it either. It doesn’t look too impressive.

I consider myself a TMNT-America* purist: I loved the original series, played most of the video games, and collected dozens of action figures. (*The turtles originated in some comics form Japan which I’ve never seen or read, and thus I’m a fan of the totally Americanized version). I enjoyed the first two TMNT movies (featuring live-action puppets and dudes in turtle suits), and the third one… well, they made a third one. I even have a green arm band with Raphael’s face and red bandana on it that I wear when working out or doing athletic things because, hey, Turtle Power.

But now, TMNT is getting ANOTHER reboot. According to imdb.com, we can expect a 2012 TMNT television series featuring Sean Astin as the voice of the angstiest turtle, Raphael.

Huh?

Really? Samwise Gamgee is going to voice the turtle with the baddest attitude around? I think I died a little bit inside when I found that out. What’s more, there are murmurings, “whispers in the dark” if you will, that there will be another TMNT movie in 2014. I guess we’ll see how all of this plays out, huh?

Unlike the turtles’ legacy, which as of now seems to have lost a bit of its original luster due to recent installments, there is hope for our favorite team of five (six?) interstellar heroes whose powers were originally derived from ancient animals that somehow got turned into gigantic robots in primary colors (plus pink and black): The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.

They also had some INSANE intro music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pQYtmb-f0w

I devoured every episode of that show. I collected the action figures again (though fewer of them) and now, I have two AWESOME Power Rangers T-shirts from Hot Topic, courtesy of my mother, who loves me very much.

If you recall, the Rangers started as five high school-aged friends whose names I still remember without having to look them up online: Jason (Red), Billy (Blue), Zach (Black–yes, he was the black guy, and also the Black Ranger, but hey, it was the nineties), Kimberly (Pink), and Trini (Yellow–another racial stereotype, perhaps? The Asian girl is the Yellow Ranger?) Those were the original five Rangers. Then along came Tommy, who played the evil (but conflicted) Green Ranger. He eventually joined the Rangers once they broke their arch-nemesis Rita Repulsa’s spell over him.

Then, somehow, the Green Ranger’s powers ran out (I think it had something to do with a green candle that ran out of wax?) and Tommy was temporarily off the show until Zordon made him the new White Ranger (who instead of riding a giant dragon around rode a giant saber-toothed cat, which was cool, but not as cool.)

Note how their outfits coordinate with the color of their Ranger costumes.

After the first movie, though, stuff started getting too weird for me, and I watched the show clear up to Power Rangers in space, which is when they started traveling the galaxy picking fights with aliens, sort of like Star Trek, but with murderous intentions.

"To seek out new life and civilizations...and then destroy them completely."

All told, the Rangers, it seems, have come full circle. Haim Saban, the guy who owned Power Rangers initially when it came to America (again from Japan), has bought it back from Disney (which explains how it got so goofy) for $100 million and will air 20 new episodes with competitor Nickelodeon. When Saban owned Power Rangers initially, it was awesome. It was the stuff dreams were made of. Then it fell by the wayside. I haven’t seen the reboot, but hopefully it does justice to the original series? Who knows?

I don’t have time or space to go into the dozens of other remakes and reinterpretations of cartoons (like GI Joe, Spiderman, X-Men, etc.), but suffice it to say that only one series of reboots has consistently exceeded my expectations thus far: Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies. But that’s a whole other topic for a different post. :)

There are no words to describe this.

What are some of your favorite old TV shows that have gotten remade in the last 10-20 years? Were the remakes good, bad, ugly, or otherwise? Do share, please.

Tune in next week for an interview with Arpit Mehta, who self-published a book of his own poetry.

-Ben

Posted in Encouragment, Happiness, Life Experiences, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Over the Edge by Brandilyn Collins

Posted by Ben Erlichman on June 9, 2011

Hi all. I’m very excited because next week on Thursday the Milwaukee area will host a very special guest: Brandilyn Collins, best-selling author of multiple suspense novels and her new novel Over the Edge. Today I’ll give you a short book review without spoiling any of it for you, I hope.

Brandilyn Collins

I’m a newbie to Brandilyn’s work. Before reading Over the Edge, I hadn’t really read much of anything by her, with the exception of a YA book she co-wrote with her daughter. I consider Over the Edge my first real plunge into her literature.

I knew the book was about Lyme’s disease, a sickness that Brandilyn herself has struggled with a few times in her life. Truth be told, I wasn’t too thrilled at the idea of reading a book about Lyme’s disease. Even though Brandilyn has a reputation for gripping suspense novels, I couldn’t imagine how Lyme’s disease would make for a good suspense novel. I thought I’d be bored out of my mind.

Well, I was wrong. Over the Edge is a well-written, hard-hitting story that clearly stems from the author’s personal experience with Lyme’s disease.

When the main character Janessa is infected with the disease by the bad guy (a disgruntled man whose wife died from Lyme’s disease because she was misdiagnosed), she rapidly deteriorates. Brandilyn’s descriptions of the disease’s effects on the main character are not only poignant but also precise. Many times when I was reading I could almost literally feel the perpetual haze Janessa in which seemed to be stuck.

I had no idea how debilitating Lyme’s disease actually could be until I read this book. Brandilyn describes the symptoms in such a way that I hope I never get it. Janessa grew weak, could barely walk most of the time, and had near constant discomfort. She was miserable, and Brandilyn captured the progression of her decline with clarity.

Bu Brandilyn is very mean to her characters. She, like many other suspense authors, is somewhat know for killing people in her books and doing other horrible things to them. I can’t blame her, though. As an action/adventure writer, I kill lots of characters too. In Over the Edge, however, Brandilyn’s murderous tendencies aren’t focused on people so much as they are on relationships, namely Janessa’s marriage.

Without spoiling anything for you, I can say that almost immediately after she contracts Lyme’s disease, Janessa’s marriage (to a Lyme’s disease doctor, one of the leading experts in the study of tick-borne illnesses) begins to fall apart. Her Lyme’s disease compounds the issue because her husband doesn’t believe she has Lyme’s disease and is just trying to pretend to have Lyme’s disease as leverage against him.

The book, as I said, is well-written. As a writer, I know a bit about plotting, and from reading Over the Edge, I can tell Brandilyn does too. The situation grows worse and worse for Janessa throughout the course of the book. Her health deteriorates, he marriage falters more and more (even as she tries to save it), and she faces the danger of losing her daughter indefinitely. Everything, of course, comes to a riveting climax that you just can’t miss.

In short, I would definitely recommend this book. It’s a good read. I devoured it in one sitting, in one evening, and I’m not really a fast reader, either. Brandilyn’s expert writing

kept my fingers turning the pages, and I suspect it will be the same for you.

-Ben

Posted in Authors, Book Reviews, Life Experiences, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Violence in Christian Fiction

Posted by Ben Erlichman on May 19, 2011

How much is too much? Obviously some of that depends on your genre, right? For example: if you’re writing a cozy romance or Amish fiction, there’s probably not much room for violence in the story because it will likely not fit with either the genre or the premise. Also, readers of such genres won’t expect much violence in the books they read, so too much (maybe ANY) might turn them off to your writing.

What about mysteries, suspense, or even romantic suspense? I think violence is a bit more commonplace in such genres  as the threat of violence against characters is often used to build suspense and raise the stakes for characters.

Then you’ve got thrillers and action/adventure novels, both of which incorporate more violence as part of their genre. Violence can be a key factor in these types of stories: it can both create and solve problems, and thus it can create plot twists like cliffhangers.

While this is hardly an all-inclusive list of genres, I do have to at least throw in speculative fiction as well. Violence levels range from the extremities in spec fic’s wonderful sub-genres: sword-fighting in fantasy, shooting lasers in sci-fi, bonking someone on the head with a clock in steampunk, etc.

All this to say that violence is definitely in the fiction we write and read with varying degrees. Granted, I’m making generalizations here; a protagonist in Amish fiction may very well slap the man she’s interested in if he crosses a line, whereas archenemies in a thriller may decide to “hug-it-out” instead of dueling to the death. But in general, my analysis is pretty accurate.

So how do we grapple with violence in Christian fiction–or rather, the stories we write from our Christian worldview? I’ve been blessed to have been published by Harpstring Magazine, an imprint of Written World Communications, three times now: two short stories (leaning more toward contemporary romance than any other genre) and one poem (which is also more on the romantic side of my writing). My fourth published work, which I’m told will come out in their next issue, is a stark diversion from that kind of literature. It’s a short story that features a violent climax.

Truth be told, it’s not really “Christian Fiction” at all, but it is written from a Christian worldview. That’s a whole other conversation, but suffice it to say that the violence is considerable compared to what I’ve had published so far. Even so, I don’t think the violence is so extreme as to shock most people.

What I find interesting about Christian publishing houses these days is that some editors say they don’t want “on-stage violence,” “extreme violence,” or “stories of menace.” The irony is that the pub house that is saying this also publishes some books that are pretty violent for a Christian publisher. Let me put it to you this way: I write action adventure, and I literally cringed at some of the things I read in one of their books, like a part where the bad guy beats up (and kills) an old man with a baseball bat. Yet they aren’t looking for “on-stage violence?”

Okay, I’m done ranting about that. It’s possible that they don’t need any because they have an author who already provides that for them, but maybe not.

I don’t know if I can draw a solid line in my writing for what’s just enough and what’s too much, but I know excess when I see it. I like to compare my books to movies (as far as violence goes): if my book is Die Hard violent, that’s about the ceiling for me. I don’t like to get more violent than that because it gets too messy. There’s usually no bottom to the amount of violence; it isn’t necessary in all my stories, but I throw it in when appropriate to make things more interesting.

I like The Princess Bride to Die Hard range of violence. I think RoboCop, Scarface, and some of these newer, “gory-for-the-sake-of-being-gory” movies take the violence too far for me. I can’t handle that much blood and gore most times, so I usually don’t include that level of menace in my writing.

So what are your limits for violence in Christian fiction? Or what do you think the limits should be? Chime in your responses in the comments section for a chance to win my respect. ;)

-Ben

Posted in Encouragment, Happiness, Life Experiences, Living Our Faith Out Loud, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

On Sabbatical

Posted by Ben Erlichman on April 28, 2011

I live a life of luxury. By that, I mean that I’m so poor that even the smallest treat seems life-changing sometimes.

Remember Charlie from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the 1971 version, the one with Gene Wilder)? Remember that scene where he finds a silver coin in the sewer drain in the street? He rips it out of there and immediately runs into the neighborhood candy store for a treat. He buys a bunch of chocolate, something he and his poor family rarely get a taste of since they live in such dire straits.

We all dreamed of this moment as youngsters.

Of course we all know what happens next – he buys a Wonka Bar, the one that has the last remaining Golden Ticket inside, and then he gets to visit Wonka’s chocolate factory, etc.

Sometimes I feel like Charlie. Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit. Actually, I’m exaggerating a lot. I’ve been blessed in my life. I’ve never missed a payment on a bill, I’ve never gone hungry (except as a kid when I refused to eat my veggies), and I’ve never been so strapped for cash that I seriously feared I wouldn’t make it. I’m not that poor.

I could take this post in a number of directions, but we’ve all heard about how even some of the poorest Americans are still wealthy compared to the rest of the world’s people, but that’s not my point. The point I want to make is actually about my life as an aspiring writer, and it has very little to do with money.

I took a sabbatical from serious writing for the past month. Why? Because I promised myself I would. It’s not that I felt overwhelmed or that I desperately needed a break. I feel fine. Still do. No, I took my sabbatical because I accomplished a big goal. Actually two big goals, but they were on the same project: I finished the first draft of my second full-length novel, a historical western action/adventure titled Unlucky, and then I edited the entire piece to a point where I think it’s ready for a publisher’s consideration, so I sent it off to my agent, Les Stobbe, for his thoughts.

He’s still got it, but I’m confident this book is at least as strong (if not even stronger) than the book I wrote that caught his attention in the first place, my first novel (The Dreamer). Well, we’ll see what he thinks. I hear westerns are a hard sell these days…

The point is that I finished it, so I’m taking a break. I did the same thing after I participated in NaNoWriMo this past November for the first time. Why? Because writing 50,000 words in one month is a huge undertaking, at least for someone who’s never attempted it before, like me.

Well, I have good news: from February 24th through March 28th I replicated that result. I wrote over 65,000 words in just over a month’s time and finished Unlucky, then edited all 90,000+ words in just 10 days after that. If that doesn’t deserve a break, I don’t know what does!

So I took a month off. It will actually be a bit longer than a month because I’m at a church conference next week in Arizona, but I expect I’ll do some writing there anyway. It’s hard to keep away, isn’t it?

This is generally what I look like when I'm loafing. Believe it or not, sometimes it's much, much worse.

I’m happy, though. I’ve spent a lot of time doing exactly what I promised myself I’d do: playing video games, reading, and being lazy. Well, even amid all of my slovenliness, I still managed to get myself into some trouble. If you read my post last week, you know what I mean: I somehow landed a gig as the executive editor for a new magazine that I get to create, market, edit, and distribute for Written World Communications(WWC). Silly me.

When not loafing around, I found time to read and critique the proposal and first chapter of a novel submission for another of WWC’s imprints that also does books, Harpstring. (That’s a link to their latest magazine.)

As I’m writing this, I wonder if that will become my pattern: write and edit a book in two months’ time, then take a month off because I can. At that rate, I’d finish four books a year, and since I’m getting better at editing and crafting good stories, they might actually be good quality too. That’d be nice.

But if I get a contract, I don’t know if that pattern can hold up or not. I know a lot of authors agonize over deadlines and end up having to cram at the end. Do they get time off from writing afterward? Or do they have to jump right in to the next book? I wonder what it will be like when I finally reach that point in my writing career.

Until then, I’m glad to have the freedom to take a sabbatical. I’ll enjoy it while it lasts, I guess.

By the way, if you write short fiction and want to get pubbed, read my post from last week for submission guidelines to QuickTales Quarterly, the new magazine I’ll be working on. So far I’ve only received one submission and each magazine has spots for 10-16 stories. I’m also looking for awesome photographs, art, and graphic design work. Check it out, okay?

-Ben

Posted in Authors, Encouragment, Happiness, Life Experiences, Living Our Faith Out Loud, Uncategorized, Working from home, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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