One of the first Christian fiction books I ever read was Bill Myer’s Blood of Heaven. I loved it!
Over the years I’ve read many more of Bill’s books and got my son totally hooked on his Wally McDoogle series for young readers. No matter how old you are, if you’ve never read a Wally McDoogle book, you’ve got to. They are so very funny!
When I first heard Bill Myers speak at the Oregon Christian Writers Summer Coaching Conference in 2010, I was spellbound. Bill is a great storyteller. I could listen to him all day long. So I thought you’d all like to hear him speak in his own voice. I’ve done a few podcast interviews before as the author being interviewed, but this was the first time I tried interviewing someone else. It was a little tricky, but I figured it out.
FYI, in this interview, Bill talks about a film company that he’s working with to get some of his books made into movies. The name of this company is Amaris Media International, and if you click here, you can check out their site and keep up with what they’re working on.
So here is my interview with Bill Myers where he talks about how he became a writer, director, and producer, and about his latest ebook Supernatural Love, which is available on Kindle now.
Or click on the gray Audio MP3 Play Button under the social media icons to listen now.
A few weeks ago I wrote about how I inadvertently allow my To Do list spoil my opportunity to bless others and be blessed in return. Since then, when I’ve gone out, I’ve been making an effort to set aside my To Do list and to look for opportunities to interact with others.
William James said, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” Some simple ways I’ve tried to show appreciation to others are:
1. Smile. This is the fastest way to show others you like them.
2. Give a compliment. Saying something nice is an easy way to make someone’s day.
3. Ask a question. And don’t stop at “How are you?” Questions are a simple way to start a conversation. And people feel good when you’re interested in their life.
4. Listen. Everyone likes to be heard, and listening lets a person know you care.
5. Offer to help. If you see someone struggling, jump in and lend a hand! Get the door for a stranger. Give up your seat on the bus. Slow down and let a pedestrian pass–even if they’re jaywalking! The other day, our car died three blocks from the mechanic’s shop. Some guy helped my husband push the car the rest of the way. I didn’t even catch his name, but he was a hero to us.
Check out the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation for more ideas. Granted, some of these are premeditated, but planned kindness makes a difference too.
What about you? Leave a comment and tell us other ways we can make a difference in someone’s day.
Yesterday my husband made these little English muffin pizzas for our daughter’s Valentine’s party. Just an English muffin, some pizza sauce, some cheese, and two pepperoni, one cut in half, and rearranged to make a heart. Pretty cute, huh?
Another mom brought in these cute cheese and hotdog hearts. (Click on the picture to see how to make them. They’re from Family Fun Magazine.)
And we had a lovely wedge salad with a tomato rose with our Valentine’s Fundraiser dinner. (Click on the picture to watch how to make one on YouTube.)
How about you? See any clever Valentine’s treats yesterday? Tell me about it.
I recently discovered Michael Hauge’s story template. Michael is an author, screenwriter, and script consultant who has worked on projects for Will Smith, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lopez, Kirsten Dunst, Charlize Theron, and Morgan Freeman.
I thought some of you might find this tool helpful. Be sure to check out Michael’s website at: http://www.storymastery.com/.
TITLE is a GENRE about HERO, a ROLE, who EMPATHY/SET UP. When HERO is OPPORTUNITY, s/he decides to NEW SITUATION/PRELIMINARY GOAL. But when CHANGE OF PLANS, s/he now must OUTER MOTIVATION/PRIMARY GOAL by HERO’s PLAN as well as SECOND GOAL in spite of the fact that OUTER CONFLICT.
By Darkness Hid is an medieval fantasy story, about Achan, a stray boy, who is about to become a man, who lives under the ale casks in the cellar of the kitchens of Sitna Manor because he is owned by Lord Nathak and was raised by Poril, the cook.
When Achan is offered the opportunity to train to be a squire, even though it’s against the law for strays, he decides to train anyway, in hopes of becoming worthy of Gren, the peasant girl he loves. But when Lord Nathak discovers Achan’s training and forces Achan to squire for Prince Gidon, and the prince tries to take Gren for himself, Achan now must help Gren marry another and keep her life safe by pledging to serve the evil prince for life, as well as give up his dreams of freedom, in spite of the fact that he is now hearing voices in his head.
Now you try it:
______________ is a ________________ about __________, a ________________, who ________________________. When ____________ is ___________________, s/he decides to ____________________. But when _______________________, s/he now must ________________________________ by ______________ as well as ____________________ in spite of the fact that _______________________.
How did it work? Is this something you might find useful in the future? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.
When asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus replied, “The most important one is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12: 28-31)
I think that’s pretty cool.
But I was just thinking, what if you don’t love yourself? What if you don’t even like yourself? What if you judge yourself harshly, think you’re too thin or too fat, think you talk too little or too much, think you do everything wrong? And if you think of yourself in such a critical way, how might that reflect on how you think of your neighbor?
Perhaps, to truly love your neighbor, you need to first learn to love yourself as Christ loves you.
So just how much does Christ love you, anyway?
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
I wonder if it’s possible for me to love anyone so much that I would sacrifice my son. I don’t think so.
Anyway… that’s what I was thinking.
What do you think? Have you ever had trouble loving yourself? Leave a comment and let me know.
The strength of a plot depends on how the writer reveals information to the reader. If you have nothing going on in the middle of your book, try some of these mystery tips to see if you can add some intrigue. And if you don’t have enough characters for intrigue, maybe you need to add some minor characters.
1. Know the ending
When writing a strong plot, it’s important to have some idea of how you want the story to end. This usually results in your main character achieving his goal. In a mystery novel, that means figuring out who done it. If your mystery is a subplot, you still need to reveal the answer to that mystery. Once you know your ending, it will be easier for you to plant clues and red herrings for the reader along the way.
2. Avoid luck
Nothing is more frustrating to a reader than a story in which the main character succeeds by a string of good luck. Do not allow luck or other heroic characters to sweep in and steal the spotlight from your main character. Your hero needs to solve the mystery!
Know the backstory of all your main and minor characters. Do not put all that you know into the book! You need to know it to understand each character’s motivation for doing what they do in the story. Murder requires motive. So does every other action. Once you know each character well, it will be easier to plant clues and red herrings for the reader.
Make sure the reader gets to see that bad guy/traitor/guilty party early on in the book. It’s frustrating to be reading a story and think you know who may have done it only to discover it was a character who just entered the story in chapter 28! Give the reader a glimpse early on. JK Rowling does a great job with this. If you’ve read or seen the first Harry Potter, remember that we first saw Professor Quirrell at the Leaky Cauldron when Harry was first headed to school.
Keep in mind, the culprit shouldn’t always be the least likely person. Mix it up. Keep your reader guessing.
A clue is: anything that serves to guide or direct in the solution of a problem or mystery.
Plant clues as the story moves along. Things that may seem significant or completely ordinary. Harry Potter’s meeting a new teacher seemed like no big deal at the time.
Clues can be observations. Perhaps your character notices a tattoo on a friend. He doesn’t think much of it until later in the book when he sees a villain with the same tattoo. Then there is a connection that raises suspicion of the friend.
Clues can be relationships: relatives who hate each other, a boyfriends who was cheated on, a couple in love, a mentor…
Clues can be evidence like fingerprints, hair color, footprints, license plate numbers, etc.
Clues can be dialogue. Keri told me she loved snowboarding. Then why did she tell me she hated it?
Depending on the type of writer you are, you might plan these clues before you write the book or write the whole book then go back in and plant clues. Both ways work.
Use clues sparingly. You don’t need them for every character in every scene. You just need a few here and there.
6. Red herrings
A red herring is something intended to divert attention from the real problem or matter at hand; a misleading clue.
Plant red herrings as the story moves along. Things that may seem significant or completely ordinary. Professor Snape’s apparent hatred of Harry seemed like a very big motive for villainy, even though it wasn’t.
Red herrings can be observations, relationships, evidence, and dialogue too. Reveal them in the same manner as you do clues. You goal is to throw your reader off track.
Depending on the type of writer you are, you might plan out these red herrings before you write the book or write the whole book then go back in and plant red herrings. Both ways work.
Use red herrings sparingly too.
7. Wait as long as possible for the big reveal
If the mystery subplot is integral to the overall plot of your story, don’t reveal your culprit in the middle of the book. Wait until the last possible moment for your main character to figure it all out.
The idea is to create a trail of puzzle pieces for your character to find and put together until it’s time to be revealed. So if your story is stuck, I suggest you plant some more puzzle pieces.
Every year I look forward to making birthday cakes for my kids. It’s always a lot of work, but it’s fun too. This year my daughter wanted a kitten party. I LOVE this about my daughter. While other girls her age are having a Justin Bieber party, Kaitlyn wants kittens.
So, Kaitlyn and I went looking for kitten cakes online. And the one she wanted was really cute, but it was made with fondant icing. I’d never tried that before, and I don’t live in a place where I can run over to Michael’s and pick up a few packs of fondant. But there’s always the internet and YouTube. I found some recipes (Marshmallow Fondant Recipe and Marshmallow Fondant) and a video (How to make a ball of yarn cake) to give me some help.
Here was our goal:
Here’s how I did it:
The night before, I baked my cakes so I could freeze them overnight. I baked two half cake mixes in a pyrex bowl to get my ball cake. And I added a package of pudding to the cake mix to make it dense so that the cake wouldn’t be crumbly. Here is the link to that recipe.
The next morning, I used this recipe for Marshmallow Fondant and set out all my ingredients ahead of time.
I put all my marshmallows in a big microwavable bowl and zapped them for about a minute. Then I stirred them up till they were gooey.
I added my vanilla, stirred that in, then added my water and stirred until creamy.
Then I started adding the sugar a little at a time. The mix got really gooey.
When I had all the sugar mixed in but the last cup, I butter up my hands and started kneading it in. I thought it was still way too sticky, so I ended up adding more sugar than the recipe called for. Don’t know if I should have done this or not… But in the end, I got it to a bread dough consistency.
Then I divided the fondant into three parts. I set aside a little bit of white for the cat’s eyes and mouth, some to make orange for the cat’s body, since Kaitlyn wanted an orange cat, and the rest to dye pink. I covered each bit of fondant in cling wrap so that it wouldn’t get hard when left out to the air. Then I added a few drops of food coloring and kneaded it in, trying not to actually touch the food coloring until it was mixed well. Didn’t always work…
Once I had my colors, I set the orange aside (wrapped in cling wrap to keep it soft) and I rolled the pink out on the table. Now, the really cool guy on the YouTube video made strings with his cookie press. I tried this and it did not work! (I was very depressed.) Perhaps it was due to the fact that I added so much extra sugar, because my fondant was too thick to come out the holes of the cookie press. *sigh* So I had to cheat. Thankfully, this was not Ace of Cakes, and my daughter did not notice anything different about my cake and the picture we started with. So I rolled it out on the table with big plans to cheat.
I rolled it into as flat of circle as I could and covered the ball of cake. It was a little lumpy and I had WAY TOO MUCH fondant, so I rolled out another layer and covered the whole cake again.
Now it was time to cheat. Using a butter knife, I drew yarn lines onto the cake. This did not make me happy. I like things to turn out perfectly. But I didn’t have a choice. So I carved my ball of yarn, then used the orange and white fondant to make a kitten. It was like playing with playdough. I used the white to make a bit of green for my cat eyes, and melted a chocolate chip to get pupils. Then I used my hands to roll out a bunch of yarn to tangle around my kitten. I also spelled out Kaitlyn’s name in yarn, though it was hard to see on the wrapping paper board.
Kaitlyn didn’t care. She loved it. And it tasted pretty good too, though the fondant wasn’t very good the second day. Not surprisingly, everyone wanted a piece of that poor kitten’s head. You can see what the cake looked like after the party.
How about you? Ever made a fancy birthday cake? Ever tried fondant? Leave a comment and let me know. Thanks!
Red herring is smoked herring. They turn red when cured. White herring is fresh herring. Red herring was supposedly used by fugitives to put bloodhounds off their scent, which is where the term “red herring” came to be used as a mystery term for something used to divert attention from the truth: false clues.
Today I’m talking with Nicole O’Dell and her daughters Natalie and Emily. This mother-daughters trio writes an online advice column for teen girls called Girl Talk and have a brand new Girl Talk book that has come out of this experience. Talk about finding a way to turn life into an adventure! Check out this trailer for the book.
Welcome to my blog, ladies! I can’t wait to learn more about your journey. Congrats on the new book. Nicole, when did the Girl Talk Advice Column first start? Did Natalie and Emily help you answer questions from the beginning or did they come in to the project later on?
The column started in December 2009, and the girls were a part of it right from the start. The whole idea was to provide a format for teens to ask other peers about the issues in their lives, but also to have adult guidance as well.
It was a wonderful, important idea! You guys have answered so many questions. Where did the idea for the Girl Talk book come from, Nicole?
I got one of those magical emails from my publisher: “Hey, Nicole! We were thinking about making your Girl Talk column into a book. What do you think?”
Ahhh! Music to an author’s ears!
Ha ha. I’ll bet it was! Natalie and Emily, what went through your head when your mom told you there was going to be a Girl Talk book? Have either of you ever wanted to write a book?
Natalie: I thought it was a really cool idea, and a lot of fun. I thought it would be a cool accomplishment for me, and that it would help other girls, too. Writing a book isn’t really my thing… I mean, I didn’t really think that I wanted to be an author anything. I’m more interested in the part of the project that means I get to help people out. The fact that it involves writing right now is just the way God decided to use me. That’s cool with me.
Emily: I was like “Oh my goodness, I can’t believe I’m going to become a published author like my mom.” Writing is something I totally love to do. I don’t know if I want to do it full time, like my mom, but I do want to write more stuff.
When I was in fourth grade, I wrote and illustrated a book called The Girl on the Runaway Pogo Stick for a district-wide contest. I won! That was it for me; I wanted to write from that moment on. You know how it is with dreams though, sometimes we just think they’re too big and move on to something more “reasonable.”
Speaking of big dreams, Jill is going to be writing a monthly column on the Choose NOW Ministries website called “Jill Williamson: On Dreaming Big”. You’ll have to check it out!
Thanks, Nicole! I’m so excited to be a part of all the cool things going on over at Choose Now Ministries. There are going to be several new columns, so be sure to check the website for more information. Nicole, when did you decide to try writing books full time?
Even though I always wanted to write, I shelved those dreams for decades while I did the kind of work I thought was necessary. I also had kids, served in my church, studied the Bible, etc etc and didn’t spend a lot of time writing. But a few years back, 2007, I decided it was time. The passion had never gone away, and I wasn’t getting any younger. . .
Was it hard work, Nicole?
Yes and no. No in that things really fell into place easily for me. At the time, I had no idea how much that was true. Once I started joining groups and hearing other writers’ stories, I was humbled by the way things had come together for me. I knew it was a God thing!
What was your biggest obstacle as you learned to become a writer?
I’ve been very hungry to learn, and I know I’ve gotten better with each book. I’m grateful for the people who have poured time and energy into mentoring me along the way. Those early books of mine. . .well, they may very well be my biggest obstacles!
Natalie, in your bio, I read that you might be interested in a career in culinary arts. What is your favorite thing to cook?
Right now, I’m kind of into baking. I like the cake decorating shows and the different artistic ways you can make baked goods and candies. I’ve probably moved away from that goal though. Call me a fickle teenager! Lol I think I’m leaning more toward a career in graphic design.
I totally want to teach fourth or fifth grade! Kids that age are old enough to do cool stuff, but not so old they’re mouthy. My favorite subject is reading, writing, and English. My favorite teacher—Mrs. Tammen—is retiring this year and will always be my inspiration as a teacher.
You all give a lot of good advice in Girl Talk. I loved the book and highly recommend it to teen girls. (Click here to read my book review.) What advice would you give my readers who have big dreams and aspirations for their future?
Natalie: Go for it! Don’t worry about trying something and changing your mind—that’s okay to do. Also, don’t worry about failing. Everything you succeed at, and everything you really love, has the potential of failure. What if you never try anything? Just go for it!
Emily: The way I see it, every famous person, rock star, celebrity, sports guy, whatever—they all were a normal teenager just like us. Why can’t it be you? Or me? Just follow your heart and let God take care of the rest.
Nicole: I completely agree with the girls. Also, though, remember that God’s best for you is extreme living—whatever it is. Make that your goal.
Very wise words from all of you! Any real-life adventures planned for the near future? If not, what is one dream that you’ve yet to live?
Natalie: I’m going on my class trip to Washington DC this May. I’m exited to get out on my own a little bit.
Emily: Adventures? I want to be a dancer and have been taking classes. My big adventure for this summer will be my three-day recital and trying to stick some moves I haven’t gotten yet.
Nicole: I want to go white-water rafting on the Colorado River, zip line in Alaska, and hike the Appalachian trail. Plans? Nope. Someday, though!
Thank you all for taking the time to talk with me! And thanks for being willing to help others and let God direct your paths. I appreciate the work you do, and I know there are lots of girls who do too.
Thanks for having us here, Jill! Had a blast!!!
Nicole, Natalie, and Emily are giving away a copy of Girl Talk to one lucky commenter! So, if you want to get your hands on this beautiful, glossy book filled with godly advice, leave a comment and tell me why! Be sure and leave your email address as well, so that I can contact you if you win. You can also enter again by liking Nicole O’Dell’s Facebook Page and/or my Facebook Page. This is my first Rafflecopter contest, so bear with me as I see how it works through to the end.
__ Have you fallen into a “Q&A” pattern anywhere? Where one character is doing nothing but asking questions and the other character is doing nothing but answering them.
__ Do your characters use different words for the same thing, or are their phrasings too similar? (Grocery store can also be the market, purses can also be handbags)
__ Are you letting character/story information come out naturally, or are you trying to explain too much with your dialogue? (“Gee, Bob, I’m so glad it’s our anniversary today and that we’ve been married for 7 years and have 2 beautiful children!”)
__ Does every character behave and interact as though they believe they are the main character?
__ Are you using contractions?
__ Is your dialogue age-appropriate? Or are your toddlers elegant and your grannies saying words like “peeps.” (*Shudder.* Don’t know why, but I hate that phrase.)
__ Do you have too many “group” conversations? (Conversations with 4 or more.)
__ Is “small talk” bogging down your story? (Hi, how are you? Good, how are you? Good. Nice day we’re having. Sure is. And so on.)
__ Do you have a good balance of internal thoughts and dialogue? Does the reader get a sense of not only what the point-of-view character is saying, but why they are saying it and what they feel about the conversation in general?
__ Have you considered conversations from the perspective of all the characters involved, not just the point-of-view character?
Anyone notice something that should be on the list? Leave a comment below, and I’ll get it to Stephanie.