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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    • Celebrating the Church Year
      by guest author, Jessica SnellThe Lord is always with us. We are never out of His presence, never hidden from His eyes.But it’s hard for us to remember that.Where He is omniscient, and never sleeps, never slumbers, we are distracted and busy and fallible. Though He is always mindful of us, it is hard for us to keep our thoughts constantly turned towards Him. […]
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    • Featuring Critical Condition by Richard L. Mabry (Doc)
      Back Cover Blurb:It was supposed to be a quiet dinner party with her colleagues. Not the scene of a murder.But the murder of a stranger on her front lawn is only the first in a string of events that have Dr. Shannon Frasier’s life teetering on the edge of chaos: She’s unable to make the deeper commitment her boyfriend deserves. Her sister shows up at Shannon […]
    • An Interview With Texas Author Richard L. Mabry
      Welcome Doc Mabry, we are so thrilled to have you here with us today. I hope you don't mind that I used a photo of your book signing with a different book. I felt our readers need to know you have published many books.And now we want to know more about your novel Critical Condition. What can you tell us about the story behind this book? Most of my books […]
    • Interviewing Christian Author V.B. Tenery
      Welcome to the Barn Door Book Loft, Virginia. We are glad to have you here with us today.Question: Is there a story behind your book Works of Darkness?I wanted this story to show the consequences of not taking responsibility for ones actions, and the consequence of failing to do so. Question: What started you on your writing journey? I’ve always been an avid […]
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    • Permanent Resident at the Purse Table, a COTT Feature
      “Keisha’s debut novel is a sweet reminder of the redeeming power of love, along with a dose of drama between good friends! Her characters are so relatable because they’re imperfect people who’ve made some serious mistakes—just like the rest of us!”-Michelle Stimpson,nNational Bestselling AuthorAbout the book:If you’re size six, you dance. If you’re Ava Alexa […]
    • Escape to Ireland in "Londonderry Dreaming"
       "If you need one of those “Ahh…” moments, consider taking a trip with Keith and Naomi and read Londonderry Dreaming"--Sandy Ardoin, Romance Author and BloggerAbout Londonderry Dreaming:Acclaimed New York artist, Naomi Boyd, and music therapist, Keith Wilson, loved one another five years ago, until her grandfather with his influence over Naomi sepa […]
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      All the best things in life are worth striving for,such as Christmas, babies, and winning at Clash of the Titles! Our latest winner is a YA novel that, according to one of our voters, is the "perfect high school drama." The readers have spoken!Hats off to you, Laura, for your smashing win!To celebrate Worth the Wait's win, the e-book will be o […]
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    • Spring's Tease
      April is here. It's supposed to be spring. Well, it was supposed to be spring in March but not much has been in evidence. We've endured a tough COLD winter. Now the weather is supposed to warm. Crocus, tulips, daffodils and such are to be poking their heads out of the ground. For every one springlike day we have been getting four to five cold winte […]
    • Seeing The Life - Chapters 1-2
      I'm working fast and furious on my next book, Seeing The Life. My goal is to have it finished by the 15th and the release date is June 7. I truly feel God's hand in this work more than any other. The life of Jesus is well known and studied by, hopefully, all Christians. It places a huge burden on me to make sure things are correct not only in his l […]
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    • Fun new cozy by Susan Bernhardt
      The Ginseng ConspiracyBy Susan BernhardtEbook 5.95MuseItUp PublishingJanuary 2014  Amazon Barnes and Noble MuseItUp About the Book:On her way to attend a Halloween Ball, Kay Driscoll, a newcomer to town, witnesses the murder of a local professor. When the official coroner's report rules the cause of death to be accidental and the community accepts the j […]
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      Thursday, April 17, 2014, time 1-4 PM CT location www.BibleStudyExpo.comHere's a taste of what you can expect:1 PM CT - Lisa Bevere starts off our Expo with the story behind her book Girls with Swords: How to Carry Your Cross Like a Hero  1:15 CT - Dr. Jackie Roese will share the story behind Inhabit: A Study on the Holy Spirit. 1:30 CT - Kathy Howard w […]
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      10 Days of Giveaways - Gardening Tips – Recipes - and more!Plus a GRAND PRIZE* you’ll be digging to win!What will be given away? Everything from books to swag, promotional products and more! The grand prize is a Kindle or Nook (a $200 value) and a $25 gift card worth of ebooks!!! (Winner’s choice which ereader and ebook retailer gift card.) A second prize of […]
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    • BOOK REVIEW: GOING ONCE BY SHARON SALA
      Nola Landry barely survives a flood in her small Louisiana town by clinging to a tree on higher ground. While hidden in its branches, she witnesses the brutal killing of three neighbors who are shot by a man in uniform in a boat. After being rescued, and losing her home, she is rescued by three FBI agents who have come to town to track a serial killer nickna […]
    • Book Release and Author Spotlight: Paula Mowrey, Legacy & Love
      Today I am featuring author Paula Mowery who has just released her first solo fiction book, Legacy and Love.Paula  is a published author, acquisitions editor, and speaker. Her first two published works were The Blessing Seer and Be The Blessing from Pelican Book Group. Both are women’s fiction, and their themes have been the topics of speaking engagements. I […]
    • Book Review: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
      Every now and then a book comes along that will stick with you for the rest of your life. For me Unbrokenis one of them. The story is based on a true story about the life of Louis Zamperini.  Zamperini, the son poor Italian immigrants, grew up in California and was a wild child on the path to serious delinquency when his older brother Pete finally managed to […]
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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 ‘novel’

New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by Ben Erlichman on January 5, 2012

Well, it’s that time of the year again–the beginning. By this time a lot of people have already made and forsaken their New Year’s Resolutions. As for me? I’m just getting started.

I learned this nifty trick from Randy Ingermanson, a titan of fiction writing and teaching, and an all-around nice guy, too. It’s not so much a trick as it is a strategy to make sure you’re on task with your New Year’s Resolutions, especially if you’re a writer: create a writing business plan.

Randy talked about this in one of his past e-zines and I decided it would be a helpful tool for me. You can visit his website (just click on his name above) to search for the actual article yourself if you want all the details he included, or you can just read my summarized version in this post.

My business plan includes some key elements that you may want to put into yours. What follows is a list of what those are and a short description for each one.

Introduction: I used this section to articulate my major career goals as a writer. I listed five of them, the last of which is “To fully financially sustain myself and my family through writing-related revenues.”

Section 1 — Significant Achievements of 2010: This one is self-explanatory. I have yet to update it to 2011, but you get the idea. In this section I detailed the novels I wrote, connections I made with agents,  publishers, and other authors, achievements for my writing (in 2010 I was an ACFW Genesis contest finalist), the conferences I attended, blogging, short story-writing, stuff I did to work on my brand, and other stuff too.

I also took the time to list out every book I plan to write in a table by title. I included details like genre, production status (where I was in the process of writing these books), and whether or not it’s part of an intended series.

Here's a list of everything I'm working on right now...some more than others, of course.

Section 2 — Business Details: I didn’t write much in this section as most of my business isn’t happening since there’s not a lot of money coming in or going out at this point. I anticipate that it will grow as time passes, as will the amount of money I bring in. In 2010, I made a few bucks from selling my first ever short story, and then I made a few more in 2011 from selling a couple more short stories.

You can also put the amount of money you spent on your writing career in this section, and perhaps some spending you anticipate for the upcoming year. It’s important to remember that the money you spend is an investment in your writing career (it should be helping you make progress in your writing–if it’s not, then don’t spend the money on it next year).

Section 3 — Major Projects to Complete: This is for the upcoming year, of course. These are practical, achievable steps you can take towards fulfilling the goals you might list in the introduction. For me, I said that by the end of 2011 I wanted to have three publishable novels ready to present to publishers (meaning they were written and edited). To date, I have three novels and one novella (it would have been four, but one of them ended up kind of short).

At the end of 2012 or the beginning of 2013 you can look back at these projects and assess  your progress on them and whether or not it’s a huge failure on your part that you didn’t accomplish or finish them. It’s also important to note that things like brand development and marketing projects can fall under this section too.

Section 4 — Continuing Education: In this spot I detailed the books on writing that I wanted to read and the ones that I read the previous year. I also mentioned critique groups/partners that I had and conferences I planned to attend in 2011. Then, of course, there were fiction books I wanted to read as well, so I started keeping track of those.

Section 5 — Conclusion: I wrapped the document up by making a statement of what I will look like by the end of 2011–it’s kind of another goal, if you think about it. I said I would be much closer to realizing my overall goal of becoming a published novelist in the action/adventure genre. I also promised to revisit it in 2012 and create an updated version.

I encourage all of my author friends to create something like this if they’re trying to make a career out of writing. It has really helped to focus my attention on what parts of my life and career I should be developing, and it provides a guide to follow for the course of the year. It provides self-accountability, which is huge when you’re a writer since it can be such a solitary endeavor. Will you be writing a business plan for your writing this year?

-Ben

Posted in Anxiety, Author Marketing, Authors, Encouragment, Friendship, Happiness, Inspiration, Life Experiences, Living Our Faith Out Loud, Music, Publishing, Uncategorized, Working from home, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Distraction in Action

Posted by Ben Erlichman on October 27, 2011

You’re sitting in that ideal setting that we mentioned last week. You’ve got your elixir, your nepenthe, your ambrosia in a steaming mug next to you (or in a chilled glass). The sounds of nature, or silence, or rock and roll surround you as your fingers tap the keyboard or write longhand. The computer screen is alive with color, but mostly just white and black text. You type word after glorious word, and the story unfolds before your very eyes like a flower blossoming in the springtime (or, if you write action/adventure, like a swelling explosion from a rocket-propelled grenade).

Everything is perfect, just the way you like it.

Then the phone rings. The dog next door starts barking. Your kids charge into the room and shout at the top of their lungs. The over beeps because your frozen pizza is cooked. Your next-door neighbor shoots his dog because it was barking too much. A meteor strikes the Earth in Africa and knocks your juice/coffee/soda/water all over your keyboard.

All is lost.

What happened? You got distracted.

“But–that’s not what happened! It wasn’t my fault!” you cry, furious that I would hazard to suggest that the African meteor was somehow your fault. “I couldn’t help being distracted.”

Sometimes, that’s exactly how it is. You don’t really have much of a choice–stuff will happen and it will distract you.

Sorry for the pause. I had to go get a frozen pizza out of the oven. Seriously, I actually got up and did that while I was typing this post. But it’s 11:47 at night and I’ve only eaten once today, so I have to take care of that. For me, that was an example of a necessary distraction.

As I was saying, there are some things you just can’t help. The neighbor’s dog barking, for example. Unless that neighbor really does find some way to shut Fido up (or if you’re cavalier enough to do it for him), you’re stuck with it. That doesn’t mean, of course, that you have to let it distract you. Put on some headphones, or put in some earplugs, or both, and get back to writing.

It’s not always so simple. You have kids. They neeeeeeed you every second of every day. Can’t get rid of them, can you? Sure, if they’re older, you can ship them off to school for eight hours, but if they’re babies (like the one I’m expecting in March), what do you do then? Since I don’t have kids that age (yet), I really don’t have a good answer except to say what I would TRY to do.

James Scott Bell has a dandy book called The Art of War for Writers (which I highly recommend). In it, he explains that he often “snatches time” when he writes. He explains that he makes sure he is still productive in spite of distractions by snatching time to write whenever he can. He mentions that he writes in some weird places at some weird times, primarily on a portable typing thingy–not hi-tech like an iPad, but something simpler called an AlphaSmart Neo, which he says runs on two AA batteries. He stresses that no matter how you do it, make sure that you ARE doing it.

So, when the kids are screaming, attend to them, and then sneak back to snatch a few words here and there until you find time to dedicate to writing. That’s my theory, anyway.

It will also help if you rid yourself of the distractions you can control. How much time, would you say, you spend online? On Facebook? Checking emails? Playing games? Playing video games? Watching TV? The list could go on forever, I’m sure, but my point is simple: make writing a priority, and you’ll find that many of those other things won’t matter quite as much in relation to your writing. Find a way to box them out, to isolate your writing time as your writing time.

This is all easier said than done, but you can do it. It takes time, practice, and discipline, all dirty words in our modern age of instantaneous gratification.

I’m going to leave you with a few different action steps today. Use the ones you can, ignore the others.

1. Identify things that distract you on a regular basis. This could be anything from jumping on Facebook every seven seconds, reading articles online, that incessant beeping from your cell phone because you haven’t opened your last text message yet–anything that you know will distract you.

2. Rid yourself of these things if you can. Turn off/unplug your internet connection, and switch off your cell phone’s sound. Put those earplugs in and block out Fido’s incessant barking, etc.

3. Create a plan of action for dealing with unforeseen distraction (like public rhyming). This should include dealing with said distraction, but more importantly carving a path to getting back into your writing groove.

4. Snatch that time. Get an AlphaSmart Neo, or a notebook and paper, and write. Or, get an iPad, and write on that thing. How you do it isn’t so important–actually doing it is what’s important.

5. Celebrate your victories. Before you know it, you’ll have a thousand more words on the page than you had ever dared hope for. That calls for a bit of celebration, right? Treat yourself to a movie, a TV show, or a snack/beverage that you wouldn’t normally enjoy, and enjoy a period of rest.

I hope this helps.

-Ben

Posted in Anxiety, Authors, Encouragment, Friendship, Happiness, Homemaking, Hospitality, Life Experiences, Living Our Faith Out Loud, Music, Parenting, Till death do we part, Uncategorized, Working from home, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 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

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 »

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Your Kid

Posted by Ben Erlichman on October 28, 2010

Not Even Mickey is Immune to the Allure of Magic

While perusing the Young Adult (YA) section of my local Border’s the other night I came to a stunning realization: a large percentage of the YA books were clearly rooted in themes associated with witchcraft and sorcery.

I’m talking beyond Harry Potter, Twilight, and Percy Jackson here. I saw books with “Necromancy” and “Demonology” in their titles.

WHAT???

That was my immediate reaction. What impressionable young adult needs to delve into either of those things??? Necromancy, according to Webster’s Online Dictionary, is “conjuration of the spirits of the dead for purposes of magically revealing the future or influencing the course of events.”

I researched. On a Satanist website I visited (so you wouldn’t have to) they said of necromancy, “only the profoundly initiated, brave and single-minded magician has any chance of success in such a venture, always considered to be extremely dangerous, for not only is a pact with the Devil necessary, but it is thought that the ‘astral corpse’ has an intense desire to live again and could, by absorbing life-energy from living creatures, prolong its life indefinitely, thus, unless he has taken adequate precautions, the magician might be in great danger.”

WHAT???

It goes on: “To evoke the dead the magician needs to obtain the help of powerful spirits, both for his own protection and to compel the corpse or ghost to submit to his will.”

WHAT???

This is the subject of a YA book for sale at your local bookstore.

It gets worse. Demonology is defined by Webster as “the study of demons or evil spirits.” This one is touted online as a field of professional (sometimes even scientific) study, right along with all the other -ologys. Want your kids studying demons?

If so, you can find resources in the YA section at your local bookstore.

Okay, let’s refocus. I’m not writing this to crusade against these books, or even against witchcraft. I know full well that God is in control. He doesn’t need my help to handle this stuff.

Having said that, I want to pose a question to all of my fellow authors, artists, parents, and Christians in general: what are we going to do about it?

Again, I don’t want a crusade. They don’t work unless you happen to live in the Old Testament. However, I am advocating a much larger mission.

I want to take back the entertainment industry for Christ.

Not long ago, the church led the entertainment industry. We commissioned famous artists like Rembrandt to paint Bible stories. We hired legendary composers to write glorious music to honor God and share the Bible through pieces like Mendelssohn’s Elijah and Handel’s Messiah. Even a good chunk of the literature produced used to directly correlate with the Bible. Shakespeare himself used and referenced scriptures so much so that one scholar (Thomas Carter) said “no writer has assimilated the thoughts and reproduced the words of Holy Scripture more copiously than Shakespeare.”

So what happened? In my opinion, over the last 100 years the world changed and the church tried to be like God: the same yesterday, today, and forever. (On a side note, I think God stays the same because He knows we’ll keep changing until we die and He wants us to have some stability.) But since the world changed so much so quickly, we’re still trying to catch up. If we’re trying to catch up, how can we ever hope to lead?

So again, I pose my question to you: what are we going to do about it?

I ask that you prayerfully consider this question and share your feedback with me via comments on this blog. Once you’ve heard from God about what you’re personally supposed to do, I ask that you go and do it.

-Ben

 

Check us out tomorrow for Jen’s post on “Re-igniting a smoldering flame!”

Posted in Authors, Book Reviews, Encouragment, Living Our Faith Out Loud, Parenting, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

An Interview with Best-Selling Author Robert Liparulo

Posted by Ben Erlichman on August 19, 2010

Ben Erlichman (BE): Our very special guest today is best-selling, award-winning author Robert Liparulo. Thanks for taking time to give us some insight into your life as an author.
Robert Liparulo (RL): Thanks for having me.

Robert Liparulo

BE: So Bob, how did you get into writing (in general)?

RL: I knew I wanted to write—something, anything—since I was eight or nine.  In fifth grade, I wrote an article about the Concorde’s first flight. It stopped in the Azores Islands, where I lived, and I wrote a piece that my teacher sent in to an Air Force publication. They published it, without knowing my age. I got a check and was hooked on writing. I knew then I wanted to make my living writing. I’ve been writing ever since.

BE: You were a journalist for quite awhile. How did your switch to fiction come about?

RL: I read I Am Legend by Richard Matheson when I was 12. I realized then that I wanted to write fiction. For years, I wrote short stories, but then the fiction market dried up for writers whose names weren’t Ray Bradbury and John Updike. To keep writing and make ends meet, I switched to journalism, primarily magazine articles. I thought then that I’d someday get back to fiction. For a number of years, I wrote celebrity profiles and interviews. In doing that, I became friends with some big authors. A few of them started calling me on a regular basis to prod me to write a novel. One day, I decided they were right, and I started getting up at three in the morning to write a novel for five or six hours. That manuscript became Comes a Horseman, which was my first novel.

BE: Has your desire shifted from journalism to fiction or do you still write both consistently?

RL: I was very blessed in my novel writing had enough interest from publishers that I ended up with a decent deal that allowed me to focus all my time on novel-writing. So now, the only non-fiction I write is an occasional piece like the essay on Thomas Perry’s The Butcher’s Boy that appears in the new book Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads.

BE: You’re now the author of ten books, four adult and six young adult novels, all of which are amazing (in my opinion). Which one(s) are your favorites? Which ones were the most fun to write?

RL: Thank you. It’s really hard to pick a favorite, or even to identify which were the most fun to write. I totally immerse myself in my stories when I write, so each one is engrossing and fun to write. I also have the freedom to write whatever story is on my heart at the time, which helps in loving each one. I have to say, though, that the Dreamhouse Kings books were particularly fun, mostly because they were written in the perspective of young people—mostly two brothers, ages 15 and 12. So I got to relive my youth, and that was a blast. I also liked exploring different times in history and putting these boys in danger  so they had to find the places inside them where courage and doing the right thing reside. But then again, that’s something the protagonists in my adult thrillers usually have to do as well. Courage and standing up for the right thing are recurring themes in my stories. Couple them with my love of high-tech gadgets, especially weaponry, and I end up in worlds I really like spending time in.

BE: Tell our readers a bit about your best-selling Dreamhouse Kings (DHK) series.

RL: In the Dreamhouse Kings series, a family moves to a small town in northern California, so Dad could take a job as principal of the local middle and high school. They move into a run-down Victorian home, where they find a hidden hallway of doors. Each door leads to a portal to a different time in history. But not only can they go from the house to the past, people from the past can come through into their house. Someone does—and kidnaps Mom, taking her into some unknown place in the past. The family—primarily brothers David and Xander—begin a quest for Mom, which takes them to all sorts of dangerous and fascinating places throughout time. We slowly learn that the Kings are in the house for a very specific purpose, and they must do much more than “simply” find their mother.

BE: Are you planning subsequent DHK books?

RL: The next YA series is not about the Dreamhouse. It’s called Hunter, and will tell the story of two teens, a boy and a girl, who are trying to survive in a world in which most of mankind has been wiped out by a virus. They have to find the cure before it mutates and kills everyone else, and before a band of bad guys finds it. Of course, it’ll have a lot of adventure and suspense, a la the Dreamhouse story. Each Hunter book will include a Dreamhouse Kings short story, and then, after Hunter, I’m planning on writing another Dreamhouse series. The premise for the story is really never-ending, and the family is really hard to say goodbye to.

BE: Are going to write any more adult books in the near future/what are you working on now?

RL: I’m working on The 13th Tribe, which is the first of my adult thrillers into which I’m introducing a bit of the supernatural. We’re still about eight months from its publication, and since it’s a slight departure from the kinds of stories readers are used to from me, I don’t want to give away too much yet; I’d like it to be a surprise. I can say it takes a close look at vigilantes and how they do what a lot of us would condone or even do ourselves if we had the guts. They go after the child abusers, murderers and thieves who somehow escaped justice, whether through their own deviousness or loopholes in the law. I didn’t want to mimic what’s already been done so well with this topic—in books like Death Wish and even Batman, so I decided to explore two aspects of vigilantism that I felt have been underserved in literature: the cultural, societal and spiritual conditions that could allow vigilantism to flourish—and have in specific times in history; and the feelings vigilantism stirs in people who aren’t the vigilante or the criminal, but average bystanders. How do they sort through the moral implications, especially if they become the victims of unpunished crime?

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

RL: Briefly, once I have the idea, I research for a couple of months. Then I start working on understanding the characters. By the time the research and characters are in place, I usually have some ideas about the story’s high points, its set pieces. Then I start writing. I try not to outline very much, because I want the characters to tell me what they want to do. I try to guide them, somewhat, toward the points in the story I know they should reach, but I want them to tell me how to get there.

I write by immersing myself in the story. That means spending about 16 hours a day writing. I try to do that straight through to the end. The I go back to tighten and tweak.

BE: You’ve got some very memorable characters in your books. What do you do to make your characters come alive for your readers?

RL: I don’t write bios or bibles for my characters. I prefer to “know” them, to have walked in their shoes. Once I’ve decided a few basics—their gender, their occupation, for instance—I try to live their lives for a while. It’s sort of like the method approach to acting: I listen to the music they would listen to and figure out why they like it. I think their thoughts, even when they’re opinions are contrary to my own. I speak the way they would. I go to businesses where they would work and learn their trade as much as time allows. I order what they would at restaurants. Once I start writing, I usually don’t refer to character cheat sheets because I know them so well—where they went to college, what their favorite book is, as well as I know my own tastes and background.

BE: Since you were a journalist for so long, you must’ve built up a substantial platform before getting published. What advice would you give to unpublished, newly published, or even seasoned authors who want to build their own platforms?

RL: Journals don’t often build platforms. Think back to the last article you read that you really liked, that go you thinking about the topic: Who wrote it. Most people don’t know. The exception would be theologians; they do get followings, but that’s not the type of non-fiction I wrote. But that’s ok, because the most important thing authors can do is write well. If you had two hours or a day to invest in something that will eventually build your readership, you would be far better off perfecting your craft, polishing that opening chapter or making sure every page has something interesting on it than in “building a platform” (which might include communicating with your fans, thinking of witty Facebook posts, building your website). It’s not that the non-story stuff isn’t important, but it should be an after-thought. It’s what I do when I’m taking a break from writing or researching. And I’ll be the first to admit that Facebook and website-building can be addictive. When most of your life is writing a novel that won’t be finished for months and published maybe a year after that, it’s refreshing to tackle tasks that you can complete quickly. But that’s part of the discipline of writing full-time. You have to always remember that nothing is more important than the story and how you tell it. Everything else merely supports that.

BE: What did the publishing process look like for you the first time around? What does it look like now?

RL: It hasn’t changed that much. Publishers always look for good stories, well told. They have meetings in which everyone there try to knock down the project. They do nothing but throw rocks at it, trying to find reasons not to publish it. The thinking is, if it survives their assaults, it’ll survive all the reasons books might fail, like competition and disinterest from booksellers. What changes—and it changes almost daily—is what publishers are looking for: Are YA’s hot today? Vampires? Thrillers? I don’t think that’s anything a writer should concern himself with. You have to write what you love to write, love to read, what’s on your heart—regardless of what the market is looking for. If you write it well, there will be a market for it, because great storytelling and imaginative ideas will always win out over fads. If you write against a fad and do it well, that’s when you’ll have a best-seller on your hands.

BE: You incorporate your faith into your stories in a subtle, yet powerful way. Do you think such subtlety is beneficial to your books’ success? Do you think a less overt Christian message is more beneficial to non-Christian readers?

RL: I don’t think it’s less or more beneficial. I think it speaks to different readers, ones who are looking for stories that are exciting, have eternal themes, and which don’t preach. There’s room for all levels of spirituality in novels. Some readers love the Amish, more preachy (more I should say more overtly spiritual) stories; and there are readers who like action and adventure, but they also don’t want their faith assaulted in the process. That’s the sort of story I read and write.

BE: Thanks so much for stopping by. Any last words of encouragement for those reading this blog, specifically for writers, and specifically for readers?

RL: For writers: read everything you can get your hands on and finish every writing project you start. Reading exposes you to people and things outside your own little world. It helps teach you about the way other people behave and think and talk. It gives you glimmers of other places and ideas—all things you can incorporate into your own stories. On top of that, you learn what works and what doesn’t in storytelling.

“Finish things” is simple to say, but not so simple to do. Discipline is essential to all writers, but as creative people, we’re easily distracted, often by other stories we want to tell. But if we get in the habit of finishing things, then we have products to show agents, editors, and publishers when the opportunity comes up. The ability to finish is a big question people in the publishing business has for wannabe writers. They’ve seen so many people with great ideas who either can’t finish a story or can’t execute it well. Prove you can right off the bat.

For readers: Support the authors you like. If their books aren’t stocked at your favorite bookstore or library, ask for them. Post reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders…these reviews really do matter. They help buyers decided to give new writers a try (even if they’re new only to the buyer). Especially, these online buyers, who can’t pick up the book and check it out. Also, write to your favorite writers. It’s a lonely profession and we can use the encouragement. Every writer I know—from James Patterson to people you never heard of—has expressed doubt about the story he or she is currently writing: Is it good enough? Is it exciting? Will people care? Letters from fans make all the difference in the world, more so than sales. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been struggling with a scene and an email comes in from someone who just read one of my books and loved it—it totally charged me up again and the scene flows out of those positive feelings. All writers want to hear from their readers.

BE: Please check out Robert Liparulo’s work. He’s a fantastic author, one you should read. Definitely one your kids should be reading; his DHK series is great. In two weeks we’ll be talking with Jeremy Watkins, an old friend of mine who’s got some interesting ideas about life, God, ministry, and creativity. See you then.

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