A Just Man by Helen Daniel

I received a free copy of A Just Man by Helen Daniel in eBook form to write an honest review for BookLook Blogger.

A Just Man follows several generations of the Matthews family through farming, shipbuilding, the Civil War and other circumstances.  I enjoyed the characters, though I think they could have been a bit more developed, as stories with well developed characters who face sad issues never fail to make me cry, and the sad issues in this story tugged at my heart but brought no tears.

I liked the story and the characters.  I found the book very simply written and easy to read. The story was sweet and enjoyable, although I found it a bit unrealistic.

A Just Man is also very clearly written in third person with a narrator.  The story is mostly told by the narrator rather than shown by the characters’ thoughts, dialogues, and actions.  After reading for a while, however, this became less noticeable to me, as I enjoyed the story.

It was mentioned either on the back cover or in a Preface that Helen Daniel had written stories to illustrate Sunday School lessons, and that is exactly what the chapters of this story reminded me of.  They are sweet stories of generations of one family and their struggles, as well as their faith.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for something about faith in God that is easy to understand.  I would recommend this to parents who want a good, faith building, encouraging  story to read and discuss with their elementary age children.  I would also recommend this story to anyone who enjoys a good, family friendly, easy-to-read book.

The Beginning of What Comes After Writing

Hey Everyone, I finished my book Monday night.  Yesterday, I read over the entire thing and made edits and tweaked it.  I am happy with it and I sent it to my writing friends earlier today (you know, the ones I get together with weekly).

Now I’ll wait for their feedback, then I’ll do more editing.  Then I’ll be looking for some good Beta Readers.

Just an FYI, I didn’t write this entire book in one month for NaNoWriMo.  I have still not participated in NaNoWriMo, but hope to next year.  I’ve been working on my story since April.

The genre is Contemporary Christian Romance, so if you read A LOT of that genre or if you write that genre and have time to read my 40,000 word manuscript, you may get the opportunity to do so soon.

In my next couple of posts, I’ll do my best to whet your appetite with a little bit of information on my main characters and a tad bit about the storyline.

If you’ve been a Beta Reader before of have used some good ones you think would be interested, please leave a comment giving me the details.  Thanks!

Progress!

I am sorry for missing so much the past couple of weeks.  Life around here has been crazy!  We finished our school year and now need to prepare for our annual homeschool evaluation.  This weekend three of the five of us will attend the annual CHAP Homeschool Convention.

In addition, my husband is recovering from hip replacement surgery and was not allowed to drive until today, but, no, he did not drive today.  Therefore I have been the ONLY transportation for all five of us!

We also celebrated our oldest son’s birthday this past Saturday and mine the Sunday before that, and the Friday right before my birthday, our oldest son and I visited the college he wants to attend because he was to be interviewed for their honors program, AND he was accepted into their honors program!  Therefore, next Saturday, I will again be spending the day with him at the college for him to sign up for classes and a few other things.

I have a couple of things I am excited to share with all of you, but first and foremost, I have received notification of acceptance for one of my devotionals!  Yes, that means a devotional that I wrote and submitted will be published in a devotional book in the near future!  This is the first publishing news I’ve had in a little over a year, and it was the third item to come to me as an affirmation from the Lord that I am, indeed, supposed to be writing.

You see, I have been struggling with whether or not I am really supposed to be a writer or if my timing is wrong because as hard as I try and as much as I desire to spend more time writing, it is still a huge struggle for me.  Most writers say, “It’s a job so make the time!”  I get that and I desire that, but, at the same time, which of my other jobs — Mom, Homeschool Teacher, Wife, Daughter and Friend do I neglect or push aside to make time to write?  You see, all of my jobs are important, and right now, until my husband is back on his feet and back at his job, as much as it frustrates me, my writing job will have to wait.

Now, I hope you will excuse me, as I am extremely tired, so I am headed to bed.  I will try to post at least one more time this week, and it may not be on my usual days, like today.  Bear with me, I hope to get back on track with my blog starting next week, but don’t hold your breath.

How about you?  Do you have too many jobs to know which ones should be priorities?

I believe my first three, listed above, are my first priorities, and those are the ones requiring most of my time right now.  I also believe that there is a season for everything, and I am resting in the peace of the affirmations that God has sent me to let me know that I am supposed to write, and I trust that He will help me make the time when the time is right according to His purposes for my life and the life of my family.

Profanity — Acceptable or Unacceptable

Okay, so I have heard differing views on this in the Christian writing realm, and was surprised when I attended a workshop recently where the speaker spoke about the importance of including “absolute truth” in our writing, be it fiction or nonfiction. This speaker also stressed that “absolute truth” only comes from the Bible, which I completely agree with.

The speaker also spoke about the difficulties of getting published with a Christian publisher because they have very strict rules, and the speaker mentioned that if we, as writers, want to reach non-believers, we won’t be able to do that if we publish with a Christian publisher, which I tend to agree with.

However, the speaker also said that it was okay to use profanity; that it makes it more realistic.  (This is something I have heard many times before).  I have been thinking about the contradiction in that workshop — “absolute truth” from God’s word, which clearly says, in Ephesians 4 and 5, where Paul is preaching about believers living as children of the Light:

“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.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.  

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.  Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.  For of this you can be sure:  No immoral, impure or greedy person — such a man is an idolater — has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.  Therefore do not be partners with them.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.”   (Ephesians 4:29 – 5:10)

I know that I could have simply shared Ephesians 4:29, but many people make accusations about taking scripture out of context, so I wanted it to be clear that the context is clear.  There is no question that we are not to participate in such behaviors, according to the “absolute truth” of God’s word, the Bible.

Therefore, if we are not to participate in those behaviors with our mouths, isn’t also our responsibility to not participate in those behaviors with our pen or keyboard?

As for the thing about using profanity making it more realistic, I have to say that I live a real life and do not use profanity, and in my real life it has been my experience that when others know that I do not use profanity, even if it is a normal part of their speech, they try not to use it around me and if they slip and use it, they immediately apologize.  My husband has told me the same thing happens to him.

Finally, I have to say that I know many people who use profanity daily, and yet I have never heard them complain about a book that they have read or even a movie or T.V. show that they have watched stating, “That was unrealistic.  There wasn’t enough profanity in that.”  Nor have I heard any of them base their like or dislike on a book, movie or T.V. show on how much profanity, or lack thereof, was included.

Therefore, I will continue to stand on my convictions and write profanity-free.

What do you think?  Profanity — Acceptable or Unacceptable?

One-Day Super Saturday Writers’ Conference

A writers’ conference is a great place to learn more about writing techniques and marketing and publishing opportunities and possibilities.  It is also a great place to meet other writers and make connections and form bonds, which is a wonderful thing since writing is a lonely business.  You can make lifelong friends who can help and encourage you and you can do the same for them as you walk your writing journey.  I attended this event last year, and cannot wait to attend this Saturday.  If you are anywhere near Lancaster County, I invite you to come and see what this one-day conference has to offer, and if you like, I can meet you face-to-face if you let me know you are coming so we can connect.

LANCASTER CHRISTIAN WRITERS HOSTS ONE-DAY CONFERENCE ON APRIL 11, 2015, AT LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE

For a bargain of excellence and price, no writer, whether beginning or advanced, within driving radius will want to miss Lancaster Christian Writers’ Super Saturday 2015!! to be held April 11th, 2015, from 8:30am.-4:30pm at Lancaster Bible College, 901 Eden Road, Lancaster, PA 17601.

This one-day writers conference offers a full slate of workshops taught by top industry professionals in both fiction and non-fiction fields. An early registration price of $50 is due by Wednesday, April 8, and includes soup/sandwich buffet lunch (think Panini!) and LCW membership. Registrations after April 9 and walk-ins day of the conference are $60.

A fiction track will be taught by award-winning novelists Dina Sleiman and Kelly Long along with children’s author Brenda Hendricks. Non-fiction faculty include TV/radio speaker, marketing expert, award-winning author of 19 books Karen Whiting, professional memoir and ghostwriter Shawn Smucker, journalist/social media experts Lisa Bartelt and Alison McLennan.

Keynoting the opening session will be linguist, missionary, and author Grace Fabian. Workshops cover such topics as: 

Market Yourself Now! Learn Tools to Develop Press Kit, Bio, Website, and Other PR Products.

Writing Blockbuster Scenes: How To Keep Readers Flipping Pages and Asking For More.

 Transformed Manuscripts: Repackaging Your Ideas (Sold or Rejected) to Expand Marketability.

 The Unfortunate Truth in Fiction: Addressing Hard Issues Without Pulling Down Your Story.

 A Story To Tell: Surefire Do’s and Don’ts to Write a Gripping True Life Story or Memoir.

 Myers-Briggs for Your Protagonist: Applying Personality Types to Create Characters with Distinctive Qualities, Motivations, and Voices.

 Let’s Ride the Seesaw: Recruiting Your Inner Child to Communicate with Young Readers.

 100% Guaranteed (Oh, Yeah?) Secret to Blogging Success Beyond Your Wildest Dreams!

A conference bookstore will offer a wide variety of writer resources and faculty titles. Conference attendees can get personal consultations with faculty on a first-come, first-serve basis. Lancaster Christian Writers welcomes writers of all churches and denominations, all levels and genres. Monthly meetings offer opportunities for manuscript critique, networking with other writers, workshops and guest authors.

Taking Care of Me and Learning that Writing Requires Patience

This year I am trying to commit to doing things that I think are important for my own personal well-being.  Being a mother of two busy boys and one adult son who is preparing for college, and homeschooling makes life very busy.  Being a mother who has always put everyone’s needs before her own, it is difficult to consider my needs important enough to allow time to take care of me on a daily basis.

Last September, I had a wake up call that caused me to make, not only and effort, but a commitment to take care of me.  Last September, I had to wake my husband and have him take me to the emergency room because of severe pain in the middle of my chest that shot straight through to the center of my back and into my right shoulder.  I was frightened, worried that I might be having a heart attack.  After spending about eight hours in the E.R., I was relieved and thankful to find out it wasn’t my heart, but I was diagnosed with gall stones, and in order to avoid repeating this awful pain, I needed to change my eating habits.  (Also after a follow up appointment with a specialist, they made an appointment for me to see a surgeon to have my gall bladder removed.)  That never happened.  I found a naturopathic doctor instead, and what a blessing!  She has me on several whole food supplements and gave me a plan for eating healthy that would not aggravate my gall bladder, and it was the first healthy eating plan that I have found easy to follow and stick to, and I have been doing well since then.  So, pain motivated me to commit to taking care of myself physically, and now that the weather is getting warmer, my plan is to commit to walking my dog at least three times a week as well.

What about my other needs?  My need to feed my brain and my need to write.  My need to feed my brain is filled by having time to read, so I have committed to reading every night before bed.  This has been a blessing in three ways:  1) it feeds my brain with knowledge and entertainment; 2) it allows me to examine other writers’ works to see what is selling; 3) it relaxes me and helps me to sleep.  Finally, my need to write, and for me it is a need.  I find if I do not write, I get frustrated and short-tempered and feel like I could burst because I have story ideas and characters in my head that really need to get out.  I have been blessed by a supportive family in this endeavor, as well as the others listed above, in that they encourage me to write.  I have been a member of a local writers’ group for a little over a year now that meets monthly, and I rarely miss a meeting.  They also have a one-day writers’ conference in the Spring and I attended last year and am already registered for this year.  Any other one-day writers’ conferences or workshops that I find happening withing a reasonable driving distance, my family encourages me to attend, and I do.  I also committed to writing this blog, not quite a year ago, and this year I am doing my best to commit to posting three times a week, though I don’t always succeed.  I have recently committed to writing for two hours every evening and I have been blessed to be able to be faithful much more than not in this endeavor.  I am also committed to connecting with other writers/authors, both published and unpublished because it is an encouragement and inspiration to me to get to know them and to learn from them.

Finally, this morning, I made another commitment that I should have made a very long time ago, and that is I committed to starting each day, Monday through Saturday, in devotion with the Lord.  Sundays I won’t have time to do this as we will I will be busy helping everyone get ready to get out the door for Sunday school and church where I will meet with the Lord on His holy sabbath each week.  This is huge because this fills my most important need; my eternal need; my spiritual need.  The first devotion/Bible study book I have decided to go through in my morning times with the Lord is Write His Answer by Marlene Bagnull because not only will this provide nourishment for my spiritual need, but will help me and encourage me in my writing, something I believe God has given me to do.

This morning I learned that “Writing requires patience”:  patience in doing the writing, patience in editing the writing, patience in receiving feedback on the writing, patience in waiting to hear back from the magazine or publisher or whomever I submit my work to, and patience to keep trying when my writing is rejected over and over and over again, all the while trusting in the Lord.  The two verses that the Lord impressed upon me this morning are:

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”  (Proverbs 16:9)

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.”

(Philippians 1:6)

These verses tell me that I need to seek God’s plan for my writing and set specific and measurable goals and to give myself and my writing time to develop.

How about you?  Are you taking care of yourself?  Have you learned to seek God’s plan for your writing and have you learned to be patient — to give yourself and your writing time to develop?

My Writing Process

1) & 2)  What am I working on and how do I write what I write?

I currently have two works in progress (WIP).  I have been working on an outline and character questionnaires for a story and am still working on that.  However, that doesn’t seem to quench my need to be creative.  I guess I am just too used to writing “by the seat of my pants” (pantser), which is how I have written stories ever since I started writing way back when I was in junior high school, (what many places now call “middle school”).  I do not want to give up on the one that I am working on with an outline and character questionnaires, though, because I want to see what really does work better for me — “pantsing” or “planning”, or maybe I’ll be able to find something in between.  Any suggestions for something in between?

You may be wondering, “doesn’t pantsing require extra editing”?  All I can say is “not for me”.  You see, the way that I write, I simply sit down and begin writing and let the characters introduce themselves to me, and I let the characters tell the story.  I just type.  The next time I sit down to write, (which should be everyday, but, sadly, is not), I reread all that I have typed; and, yes, I do this each and every time I sit down to work on the story I am pantsing.  Isn’t that time consuming, you may ask.  Yes, it is.  However, it serves three wonderful purposes to me.  It refreshes my mind about the story, I change things and make edits on what I’ve written each and every time I sit down and reread, and it gets ideas flowing and awakens the characters, and they continue telling me the story.  That way, if I write a scene that I feel is lame or that doesn’t fit or advance the story, I can get rid of it the next day.  I just wrote such a scene last night, and the more I thought about it after walking away from my writing, the more I decided it does nothing to advance the plot.  Therefore, when I sit down to write again, be it today or tomorrow, I will get rid of that scene.  So, yes, I also spend time thinking about my stories and characters while I am not writing, which also helps my writing process for the next time I sit down to write.

3)  How does my book differ from others in its genre?

The only answer I have for this, is that it is written by me, in my voice, with characters I created in their own circumstances.  I hope that their circumstances and the plot is something fresh and new to the genre.  I hope that my characters are characters that you come to care about quickly and that you come to love and will not want to say goodbye to at the end of the story.  I hope there is an underlying Christian theme/message that will inspire you and touch your heart.

4)  Why do I write what I write?

Because I have to.  I have a need to get these stories on paper (or computer) because they will not let me rest if I do not.  I also write the kinds of stories that I love to read, and I may be writing more than one genre eventually because I have a story idea burning inside me that was born of helping my son with one of his writing assignments for his homeschool writers’ club.  It introduced me to a new genre that I never tried writing before and didn’t think I’d want to write, but I had so much fun helping him, that I just might give it a shot when I finish the two WsIP I am currently spending my time on.

5)  How does my writing process work?

I described my writing process near the top of this post, and when I did, I alluded to the answer to this question.  I haven’t reached a definite decision which writing process works best for me yet, but I do still enjoy writing as a pantser much more than as a planner.  However, because I haven’t yet had a story published, I can’t really say that my writing process definitely works, but I do believe that whatever writing process I (or you) are most comfortable with will be the one that will work in the end because if I am (or you are) using a process that I am (or you are) comfortable with, I believe I (or you) will be more productive and produce good, if not great, work.

What is your writing process?  Is it working well for you?  Leave a comment and let me and my readers know.