Tag Archives: Vonda Skelton

Parting Words From The WORD . . . Lord, I Need You

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

 

Illness . . . violence . . . death . . . demands . . . Sometimes it seems more than we can bear. And, without Him, it very well could be. But we don’t have to face these hardships alone.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

 

Yes, He cares for all of us, but we can only access His peace and strength when we know Him as Lord and Savior. He is available to us, but are we allowing Him to work through our trials and weaknesses?

As we continue this difficult road with my mother, I’ve found Christian music to be the best way for me to prepare for worship and searching His heart through His Word. This song ministered to me this morning. I hope it ministers to you as well as you listen to the words, take them into your heart, and sing them to Jesus.

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Oh, how I need Him!

Grace and Peace be yours in abundance.

Vonda

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Writer’s Headlines: Writing Opportunities, Contests & Conferences

newspapersIt’s the 3rd Tuesday and time for Writing Opportunities, Contests, and Conferences. Let’s start with a database full of writing opportunities!

It’s been a crazy few weeks, so today, I’m sending you to the Freelance Writing Writer’s Guidelines Database, where you’ll find writing guidelines from A to Z!

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And for writing contests…

Here’s a link to 27 Free Writing Contests: Legitimate Competitions With Cash Prizes, published on The Write Life blog.

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As I always say, If you’re serious about writing, you’ll be serious about writing conferences.

1.  Maranatha Christian Writers Conference: September 29-October 1, 2016, Norton Shores, MI

2.  Breathe Christian Writers Conference: October 7-8, 2016, Grand Rapids, MIworkshop sign Pixabay

3.  Blue Ridge Christian Novelist RetreatOctober 16-20, 2016, Ridgecrest, NC

4.  Heart of American Christian Writers Network Conference: October 20-22, 2016, Kansas City

5.  Classeminars Writers Contreat: November 10-12, 2016, Albuquerque, NM

6.  Asheville Christian Writers Conference (AKA Writers Advance Boot Camp): February 17-19, 2017, The Cove, Asheville, NC (I’ll see you there!)

7.  Florida Christian Writers Conference: February 22-26, 2017, Leesburg, FL

8. Carolina Christian Writers Conference: March 10-11, 2017, Spartanburg, SC

9.  Mid-South Christian Writers Conference: March 18, 2017, Collierville, TN

10. Blue Lake Christian Writers Conference: March 22-25, 2017, Andalusia, AL

11. Write2Ignite Conference for Writers of Children’s Literature: March 24-25, 2017, Tigerville, SC

Image courtesy of www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Sattva

Image courtesy of www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Sattva

12. Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference: April 7-11, 2017, Mount Hermon, CA

13. Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference: May 21-15, 2017, Ridgecrest, NC (I’ll be there as a conferee this time, and I can’t wait to take a bunch of classes!)

14. St. David’s Christian Writers’ Conference: June 21-25, 2017, Grove City, PA

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I hope each of you find lots of good stuff here. Be sure to let me know when you land something great. We want to celebrate your successes with you!

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD . . . Set-Backs or Set-Ups?

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Our senior pastor at Renovation Church, Jeremy Havlin, said something in a sermon several months ago that has stayed with me. (Actually a lot of things he says stays with me, but this one is always close to my heart.) He said, “Sometimes set-backs are set-ups for greatness.” In other words, sometimes set-backs are set-ups for the next step to something greater than we could possibly imagine.

He went on the say that in living the Christian life, we don’t need to know what’s ahead, we only need to know the next step He wants us to take. Amen.

Now that Gary and I have had the experience of many birthdays, we’re on the other side of life. And even though some people look at that fact with sadness or with a determination to remain young, we both can see the joys associated with living for and trusting in Him over the long haul, in good times and in bad.

Gary’s diagnosis of cancer about 3 months after our wedding; a difficult period in our marriage in which we came close to losing our way; Gary being downsized from his long-term career job just a few years before his planned retirement; a land purchase that fell through after we had already sold our house; rejections of my early writings . . . these were all instances of going through difficulty in order to receive an incredible blessing. In each case, God poured out more blessing than we could have ever imagined!

Please know I’m not supporting a name-it-and-claim-it religion–quite the contrary! After all, John the Baptist was beheaded, many of the disciples were killed, and the martyrs . . . well, they were martyred. Yes, bad things really do happen to good people.

Instead, I’m supporting a believe-in-Him-and-His-Word-regardless-of-what-happens confidence that Our God is in control. Sometimes we don’t live to see the good that comes through our bad circumstances, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t good that eventually came from it. We may not even know the good until we reach eternity.

All that to say that we can become so used to His Word that we become underwhelmed by its truth.

For instance, consider Romans 8:28.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28 (NLT)

We’ve probably heard or read that verse hundreds of times. Perhaps we’ve read it so much that we’ve lost enthusiasm for its powerful message: God uses all things. Everything. Good and bad. All things work together, and He uses it for our good.

The unpaid bill. The shocking illness. The divorce. The death. All can and will work together for good in some way.

So what set-backs are you facing today? Could they simply be set-ups for something good in the future? Could they be part of the next step He wants you to take?

One thing we can know for sure. Regardless of what happens, it’ll be good in some way.

Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Vonda

 

 

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I Hate Outlines! And Kudos & MoGo7000 Successes

Image courtesy of StuartMiles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of StuartMiles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Welcome to the 2nd Tuesday at the Christian Writer’s Den! Today we’re celebrating our friends’ successes, but first, let me tell you that I hate outlines!

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I Hate Outlines!

I do. I hate them with a passion. The dislike (And yes, I would click the thumb down button here if there was one!) begins with the very premise of an outline.

You want me to put things in order? Line them up correctly? Stick to a pattern? FOLLOW THE RULES?

What about creativity? What about the muse?

Arrgghhhhh! (Did I tell you I don’t like outlines?)

When I sat down to write my first novel, I tried to make an outline. I really did. After all, that’s what writers do, right? I gathered all my writerly stuff, including a dictionary, a thesaurus, and my college English textbook (this was before the development of online resources), put a sheet of paper into my electric typewriter, and pecked out a few words. Then I stared. A long time. Apparently it wasn’t a good outline.

I ripped out that paper, threw it in the trash and tried again with a fresh, clean sheet. I wrote a few words . . . and stared. A long time. Ripped out the paper and started again. Over and over the process repeated. Paper. Trash. Paper. Trash.

Finally I admitted defeat. Outlining just didn’t work for me. I must be a seat-of-the-pants writer, reasoned. I just needed freedom!

I rolled a new piece of paper into the typewriter and wrote a brilliant first line—14 times. I’d heard that getting published was really hard work, so I knew that first line had to be perfect. And after 14 tries, it was!

I hit the return, twice. (Remember this was before word processing.) After all, I had read an issue of Writer’s Digest Magazine from cover to cover. I knew the manuscript was supposed to be double-spaced. I stared at the brilliant first line, and then down to the blank one. And stared. A long time.

Three days later, I had one just-about-as-perfect-as-you-can-get-it double-spaced page of setting, dialogue, and plot.

But hard as I tried, I couldn’t move ahead. I had no idea what was happening next—and on top of that, it had to be perfect!

This was never going to work! Enter: the narrative outline. But not just any kind of narrative outline—the Vonda Skelton style of narrative outline.

I simply started writing plot points, stuff I knew about the characters, and what happened next—all single spaced with no dialogue, no setting, no paragraphs, no spell check, no grammar correction. On and on it went, page after page after page.  I realized that for me, the key was to trick myself into thinking I wasn’t writing a book at this point. I had to give myself permission to make it sloppy and ugly, and in order to do that, I had to single space, leave out dialogue, and forget any rules. Here’s a sample from the Bitsy and the Mystery at Hilton Head Island narrative outline:

Bitsy goes to Hilton Head Island w/her baseball team (she’s the only girl). I’m not sure why they’re going, maybe they’re in a baseball tournament. I’m not sure what kind of league they’re in, but it can’t be an official league because the rules won’t work. Since she’s the only girl, she can only go because the coach’s wife and daughter are going. But while they’re traveling something happens—car trouble? Sickness? Lost? but the mom and daughter have to go back home and B has to stay with another team at their house since there won’t be a woman with her team. She begs coach to let her stay with them but he won’t. their team is poor—no matching uniforms/in dilapidated van, but the team she has to stay with is rich. Her team is staying in an old dirty beach house but the team B’s with stays in a fancy house. Somewhere along the way—I don’t know what’ll happen to make it happen, but she’s gonna start telling lies in order to try to fit in and act like she’s rich. The Paris Mountain lie. Daddy in oilebusiness. She’s a good baseball player and they need her. There are 5 good players and 5 bad ones. The team has to be outside late at night—I don’t know what they’ll do, but they have to be out late at night so they can find a dead loggerhead turtle. Maybe she blames Ian or maybe somebody else does, but somebody thinks he did it.

And on and on it goes to the end. That’s my personal version of the Narrative Outline, and that outline has worked for me through all three of my published novels and my women’s non-fiction.

The key for is that I have to trick myself into seeing it as a long, fragmented note, NOT a book or an outline. That’s the only way I can be creative and I can turn off the internal editor at the same time!

So, are you having trouble moving ahead with your outline or your first draft? Then maybe you’ll want to consider a Skelton Narrative Outline for your book!

And the best part is, it’s FREE!

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Let’s Celebrate Kudos With Our Christian Writer’s Den Friends!

What a joy to see writers working hard and being successful. Here’s the good news for this month:

1.  Marilyn Nutter (SC): My article, “Rock Collecting,” was published on A Widow’s Might/A New Season on August 27, 2016.

2.  Amanda Everett (VA): I was able to have a blog post, What I Wish I Knew in College published on The Rising!

3.  Tracy Crump (MS): 1)Chicken Soup for the Soul chose two of my stories to publish in their Joy of Christmas book that comes out in October. 2)My story, “Holey Memories,” was a finalist in Southern Writers Magazine’s Short Story Contest and published in their Best Short Stories 2016 issue. 3)And I have a new writer’s website! (No more pitiful homemade site.)

4.  Sandy Kirby Quandt (TX): My entry, Not All Heroes Come Back, was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Children’s/Young Adult Fiction category of the 85th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. (Vonda here: For those who aren’t familiar with Writer’s Digest Competitions, they receive thousands of entries for every competition they hold. Honorable Mention is highly honorable!)

Aren’t these inspiring reports? And I have a feeling that if you asked each of these writers how long it took to begin seeing results, they’ll tell you it was a long, hard journey that required lots of perseverance. So don’t give up. Success or failure isn’t measured by acceptances and rejections. I received 63 rejections before I ever had anything published! I often wonder how different my life would be if I had never submitted that 64th query.

As the late Gary Provost personally told me, “The only way to fail is to not write.” In other words,

The only way to fail is to quit.

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Who MoGo’d in August and Earned Another Chance for $100?

These writers wrote at least 7000 new words on a book project in August:

#17:  Susan Baganz – 33,356 words
#18:  KathryneAnn – 13,357 words

Congratulations, Susan and KathryneAnn! So proud of your hard work and many words! I’m looking forward to Na-No-Wri-Mo in November. Hope to see lots of CWD writers there!

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Well, that does it for another 2nd Tuesday. Didn’t see your name in the list of successes? Don’t worry! Just be sure to return next week when I’ll be posting a list of writing opportunities, contests, and conferences just for you!

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

Image courtesy of StuartMiles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Parting Words From The Word . . . I’m in Over My Head

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

As some of you know, my mother had a horrible fall 19 days ago that resulted in days in ICU, then on the trauma floor, then surgery, and eventually discharged to a rehab center to begin her long road to recovery. As is always the case with difficult situations, satan sees this as an opportunity to confuse and confound God’s people. And for a while, he was able to confuse and confound me. But not any more.

Most mornings, I listen to three or four worship songs on Pandora to prepare me for worship before I open His word, listen for His voice, and spend time in prayer. I had already listened to four songs and was ready to turn off the music when I saw the title of the next song, “In Over My Head.”

That was exactly how I felt at that moment: In over my head. I decided I’d listen to one more song. I’m glad I did.

The version I listened to was an 8-minute worship set and I listened to it for almost an hour, drawing closer to the Father with each repeat, claiming the words as my own.

What about you? Have you felt lately like you’re in over your head? Deadlines or debt got you down? Rejections and responsibilities weighing heavy on your heart? Or perhaps you’re like me and watching your parents or children struggle in life. It’s almost more than you can bear.

Would you join me and prayerfully listen to the words of the 5-minute version of this song by Jenn Johnson, offering them as a gift to Jesus, the Healer of all broken hearts?

YouTube Preview Image

After worshiping for quite a while–playing it over and over again–I felt the warmth and healing begin deep inside and work its way to my heart, mind, and spirit.

I realized that the evil one wanted me to dwell on the broken heart and the shock of all that had happened, but Jesus wants me to dwell only on Him, regardless of the circumstances. I gave it all to Him that morning. And every time that snake started replaying the what-ifs, I replayed the song for him . . . and praised God that He alone is in control.

I had to decide I was going to believe our Father who seeks and saves the lost rather than believe the father of lies who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy our lives. Powerful revelation!

Then the Lord took me to Isaiah 43:1b-3a.

“. . . Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
 When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior . . . .” Isaiah 43:1b-3a (NLT)

Powerful, powerful passage! The “a” and “b” are because He’s speaking to Israel, but since I’m adopted into the family, He’s speaking it to me–and you–when we fully trust Him, let go of the pain, and give it wholly to Him. I could not allow the evil one to win or confuse my heart and my mind any longer.

It’s a beautiful thing to be in over our heads, to lose control. That’s where, no matter whether we sink or swim, it makes no difference. Either way, when we allow Jesus to take over, we’re finally free.

Grace and peace be yours in abundance,

Vonda

 

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7 Steps to a Quality Speaker Website & Call-Outs for Kudos and MoGo7000

www key PixabayIt’s the first Tuesday of September, so that means it’s time to learn and to ask for your kudos and MoGo7000 results. Let’s start with learning 7 Steps to a Quality Speaker Website…

One of the most important tools for any speaker is the internet home. It can be a blog, a website, or a combination of both, but you must have some sort of presence on the World Wide Web. It’s the minimum event planners expect. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be a huge, expensive site, but it does need to be a good representation of you.

Here are 7 steps to a website that will serve you well without breaking your budget.

1. A welcome on the front page. With millions of websites now on the internet, we can’t take a single visit for granted. For that reason, we should be sure to welcome each visitor on the homepage.
2.  An About page. Visitors want to know a little about you, your experience, your life, and your family.
3.  A list of speaking topics and printable one-sheet. Be sure to check out my earlier post at Christian Communicators, The Speaker One-Sheet is NOT Dead. But don’t stop with a one-sheet. Your topics should also be listed with a short blurb giving the reader a glimpse of what they will learn.
4.  A Contact page. Make it easy for your visitor to get in touch with you. Small Contact Buttons at the top or bottom of the pages require too much effort to locate.
5.  Photos throughout. As with many other digital tools in today’s world, websites need a variety of casual and professional photos scattered throughout.
6.  Easy to follow tabs and links. Make it as easy as possible for visitors to move from one page to another without having to go back, if possible. I know my website (www.VondaSkelton.com) isn’t perfect by any means, but I do think it’s a good example of locating info with ease on a speaker website. Of course, it does NOT have to be that big, I’m primarily talking about the ease of the visitors finding the information they need. Note the cross-referencing between pages with direct links. That helps a lot!
7.  Include good video, if possible. Here’s a post on my funny YouTube video, but it could apply to any video that promotes your ministry: You Oughta Be in Pictures. But please realize that no video is better than bad video.

Of course, there will always be many more options you can utilize for a more encompassing website, but these 7 steps will help you create a budget-minded website that will introduce you and your ministry to the world.

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Calling All Kudos!

Free photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Free photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Okay, friends, it’s time for us to celebrate YOU and celebrate EACH OTHER! After all, that’s the goal of The Christian Writer’s Den–-to encourage and instruct writers.

In order to do that, I need to hear from you. It doesn’t matter how small it may seem to you or how recently it’s been, every step forward is a step that leads to the next one.

So I want to know what you’ve been up to. Have you had something exciting happen recently in your writing or speaking life? Maybe you’ve had an article published, signed a book contract, released a new book, got an agent, or started a new blog. If so, we want to hear from you. Everybody’s welcome to share.

It’s really simple, but I do ask that you contact me with the info in this format and order ONLY:

**Your name
**Your state in two-letter abbreviation
**Link to your website or blog
**Your good news
**Link to your good news, if online (online bookstore, online article, etc)

I can’t wait for us to celebrate with you!

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mogoWho Worked on Their MoGo7000 in August?

If you wrote at least 7000 new words on a book project in August, you can receive an entry in the drawing for the 2016 MoGo7000 $100 cash prize! It’s open to everyone who qualifies.

To report your August results, please leave a comment below with your total new words written on a book project in August. (Please do not send your totals by email or through the Contact page. Totals must be left as a comment here by next Sunday). 

If you missed out on last year’s money-winning writing challenge, don’t worry, the 2016 Challenge continues! Here are the MoGo7000 Challenge rules. All you have to do is write at least 7000 NEW words on a book project in any month and you’ll receive an entry into the end-of-the-year drawing for $100.

Each month that you qualify with 7000 new words, your name goes in the “hat” for the drawing. Reach the goal one month and you’ll have one entry. Just starting out? Don’t worry! Meet it the next 4 months and you’ll have 4 entries!

So what are you waiting for? Get started now and you could have and extra $100 next year. And it doesn’t cost you a cent. :-)

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Well, that does it for another first Tuesday at the Christian Writer’s Den. I hope you learned something or were encouraged by something today. That is certainly my goal for you and me!

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

 

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Parting Words From The WORD . . . Writing Books is Endless

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Today’s scripture is one of those that has stayed with me as a writer. It’s from the last chapter of Ecclesiastes. Solomon says:

But, my child, let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out. That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. Ecclesiastes 12:12-13

As I read that passage, I was struck by the words, “Be careful, for writing books is endless . . . ”

Uh, can I get an AMEN on that one?

It seems our work is never done, doesn’t it? There’s always another book to write, another article to submit, another devotion to share. Let’s face it, we never finish. As a matter of fact, I told someone today that unless I have something specifically planned, if I’m awake, I’m working . . . because writing books and articles and blog posts and devotions is endless.

Is he saying we’re not supposed to write?

Of course not. Further study helped me see that Solomon was most likely saying something like, “Don’t add to this book. Somebody’s always got another idea. Don’t study a bunch of other people’s opinions. Books are a dime a dozen and everybody thinks he’s got the answer. Instead of wasting your time chasing after every new concept, remember that everything comes back to this: Fear God and obey His commands.”

So even though we often know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has given us something to say, we must always remember that the truth is still the truth. The whole story is this:

            Jesus is God’s Son.

            We are sinners.

            We can’t be good enough to get to heaven on our own.

            We need a Savior.

            That Savior is Jesus.

            He is the sacrifice for our sin.

            He took the punishment we deserve.

Studying and chasing after anything beyond His truth will only wear us out.

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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A Writer’s Health Dilemma by Tim Suddeth and Who Won Susan Baganz’s Book?

Tim Suddeth headshotA Writer’s Health Dilemma

By Tim Suddeth

I am learning, as I start this journey of a writer, that I have to careful to keep my life in balance. This became real to me earlier this year when I began to see higher numbers on the scale. Being in my fifties, I didn’t want my weight to keep increasing and I had to do something to get it back under control.

But here’s the problem for a writer. What’s the most important thing we can do for our health? Exercise, get up and get moving.

And as a writer, what are the two things I’m suppose to do the most?

  • Reading, otherwise known as cute hiney in recliner, and
  • Writing, or butt in chair.

Neither one’s conducive to good health.

And don’t tell me to try to do them standing. My brain doesn’t work like that.

So to help me make some lifestyle adjustments, I bought Jenna Wolfe’s Thinner In 30: Small Changes That Add Up To Big Weight Loss In Just 30 Days. I wasn’t concerned about the 30 days as much as I wanted her tips to change my habits.

A few of the tips from the book that I’m doing:

  • Walk 10,000 steps a day. I bought a Fitbit for this and it’s going well. It really pushes me. A lot of evenings I’m walking in place to hit my number. It’s fun to go to bed knowing I achieved my goal.
  • Two to three days of exercise a week. This is in addition to the walking.
  • 20 sips of water when you wake up. I have to admit, I’m getting slack on this.
  • Start a food diary. It makes you question that extra snack when you have to write it down.
  • Rethink what you drink. I have coffee in the morning and water the rest of the time. No sodas except for special occasions.

For me, it’s a struggle to find time to get in my ten thousand steps. Here are my tips if you have a similar goal:

  • Get a good portion of your steps in the morning. I try to have four thousand by noon.
  • Take a break in your reading or writing or get up from your desk job every so often. I try to get up for ten minutes each hour and move around. You can make an exception if you’re in a flow. But don’t let this become an excuse to procrastinate or surf the net.
  • Walk your dog. It really adds to your numbers. Besides, can you possibly be a writer without a dog? Dog walking is great for plotting and working out your characters. And there’s nothing like watching for poo to help you iron out a scene.
  • And your cat. Well, don’t walk it. But enjoy it purring on your chest and feel your heart rate go down.
  • And sometimes, just chill. This is for you, you’re in charge. No competition unless you want it. You’re doing the walking for your heart, don’t get stressed about it.

So where am I now? I’m down ten pounds and staying steady. We’ll see what happens when Halloween comes. But then, I’ll adjust as necessary. After all, your health isn’t a thirty day sprint, it’s a marathon. With a divine celebration at the end.

Bio: Tim Suddeth attended Clemson University and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He’s working on his third manuscript and looks forward to seeing his name on a cover. He’s been married over twenty years and has a happy 18-year-old son with autism. You can reach him at timingreenville@gmail.com or www.TimInGreenville.com.

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FetaandFreewaysCover copy-1And who won Susan Baganz’s book, Feta & Freeways?

The winner is . . .

Glenda Mills!

Congratulations, Glenda! Simply contact me with your mailing address and Susan will send the book soon after it releases September 16.

And for those who didn’t win, here’s your direct Amazon link to Feta & Freeways.

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Susan Baganz & Please Pray For My Mom

Baganz 0524 Edited colorSweet friends, first of all, I need to ask for your prayers. My 83yo mother took a nasty fall on Sunday and is still in ICU. Praise God, nothing is life-threatening right now, but she had a deep gash to her forehead, which was repaired Sunday in the ER. But the bad part is she has broken multiple bones, including her arm, shoulder, multiple ribs, and her kneecap. She’s in a lot of pain and has surgery scheduled (again–this is the 4th date we’ve been given!) for Wednesday. Christian Communicators Conference begins tomorrow and I’m not going to be able to be there, at least not now. I’m praying I’ll be able to get up there later in the week.

Please pray for relief of pain, successful surgery, and that she’ll be able to get into a good rehab facility. She’s expected to be in rehab 3 months. Praise God, none of this has taken our Lord by surprise and He’s still in control! Now let’s get to this exciting interview with author and editor Susan Baganz!

Friends, if you’ve ever wondered how anyone can write a gazillion words a month and create multiple books a year, well, here’s your chance to find out. Prolific writer, Susan Baganz, is with us today to share her story about writing stories!

And if you’d like a chance to win a copy of Susan’s latest book, Feta & Freeways, simply leave a comment for Susan here and you’ll be in the drawing!

Let’s get started! Welcome to the Christian Writer’s Den, Susan. We’ve all seen you post significant word counts over the past few years on this blog for the MoGo7000 Challenge. So inquiring minds want to know, how much and how often do you really write?

I’m an author but I’m also an Acquisitions Editor with Prism Book Group so I juggle my writing with my editing for others. I can’t write every day but when I do, I do it quickly and obsessively. I’m a panster. I start with a concept and inciting incident and my characters take me on a journey. On a rare day I can pen 5,000-10,000 words (the next might be 161!). I write every year in November for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.org), and “won” seven years in a row.  I’ve written two to three novels/novellas a year for some time now, completing 16 manuscripts in six years. As of this date five have been published and eight more are contracted.

That’s unbelievable! Don’t you ever get writer’s block?

I don’t call it writer’s block. I call it a wall of fear. With every novel I hit a point in the story where I think the story is crap and I’ve written myself into a corner. I pray. I go to bed. The next morning, I force myself to write. I cannot remember where that spot was in any of my stories. Fear is a writer’s biggest enemy.

I totally agree! What’s been your biggest surprise in writing?

I love my stories and characters but when revisions come I’m always amazed at the mistakes I made. Editing is a humbling process. I write romances but what surprised me most is that men love my stories. I’m grateful for the unexpected audience.

You’ve written a series of contemporary romance novels of which Feta & Freeways is the third book. What ties these novels together?

I wrote the first book, Pesto & Potholes, to show not only the story but the importance of being involved in a church. The opportunity to worship, be taught, engage in fellowship with other believers along with encouragement and accountability—is a key part of our faith in Christ.

All stories are set against the backdrop of a fictional church, Orchard Hill.FetaandFreewaysCover copy-1 Renata and Tony were the subject of Pesto & Potholes and Stephanie was Renata’s roommate and became the subject of Salsa & Speed Bumps. At the end of that novel we meet Tia who becomes a friend of Stephanie’s. Tia appears in book 3, Feta & Freeways. Niko and Tia feature there along with Niko’s cousin Johnny who then becomes the feature of book 4, Root Beer & Road Blocks. There are several more fun titles and great characters in the series to come!

Those are fun titles, how did you come up with them?

I originally wanted to show, in Pesto & Potholes, the concept of potholes. The difficulty of overcoming challenges through perseverance. That even with faith, emotional growth is often a rocky trajectory. Pesto had Antonio, a single Italian chef, and it’s a favorite sauce in our family. A funny combo of food with a road-related theme became a fun way to set the stories apart.

When someone dared me to write book two and title it Salsa & Speed Bumps the challenge was on to continue to use road themes to illustrate growth through emotional challenges but in the context of a body of believers.

When I got my Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School I never dreamed I would be using my education and training to illustrate God’s love and the power evidenced in the Body of Christ, through fiction. The reality is that our faith is dynamic and thrives in community. We cannot grow spiritually without also growing emotionally. Personally I can’t imagine facing the trials of this life without God and the support of a community of believers. My characters live those truths.

Yes, I can attest to the fact that characters can help us and others face lies and live truth. What an honor to create evidence of the Lord and His Light! 

Thank you for being here with us today, Susan. And CWD friends, thank you for stopping by. If you’d like to have a chance to win a free copy of Feta & Freeways, simply leave a comment for Susan and you’ll be in the drawing. Be sure to return next week to see if you’re the winner!

BIO: Susan M. Baganz chases after three Hobbits, and is a native of Wisconsin. She is an Acquisitions Editor with Prism Book Group, specializing in bringing great romance novels and novellas to publication. Susan writes adventurous historical and contemporary romances with a biblical world-view.

Susan speaks, teaches, and encourages others to follow God in being all He has created them to be. With her seminary degree in counseling psychology, a background in the field of mental health, and years serving in church ministry, she understands the complexities and pain of life as well as its craziness. She serves behind-the-scenes in various capacities at her church and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and serves on the board of the southeast chapter. Her favorite pastimes are lazy…snuggling with her dog while reading a good book, or sitting with a friend chatting over a cup of spiced chai latte.

You can learn more by following her blog www.susanbaganz.com, her Twitter feed @susanbaganz or her fan page, www.facebook.com/susanmbaganz. Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/silygoos

 

 

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Parting Words From The WORD . . . Music to Work By

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

As you may know, we’re in the homestretch of preparations for the 2016 Christian Communicators Conference, which begins next Wednesday, August 24 and goes through Sunday, August 28 at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. And even though it’s a week of little sleep and lots of heart work, it truly is the highlight of my year. It’s the week I look forward to more than anything . . . once I get there.

I must say, I don’t look forward to the weeks leading up to the conference. They’re hard, long, and involve multiple, endless To-Do lists. Needless to say, some things that aren’t related to CCC just don’t get done. You may have noticed that the past couple of weeks.  :-(

These are the weeks I’m reminded how thankful I am that God created music and gave me ears to hear it. (Well, actually He gave me a solitary ear to hear it with, but He did allow that one ear to hear it very well!) Throughout the day, whether I’m working on emails or appointment schedules or novels or teaching plans, beautiful music, His music helps me stay focused, calms my spirit, and keeps the fiery darts away.

But it can’t be just any Christian music.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t listen to music with words when I’m creating. It doesn’t matter if it’s an email, an appointment schedule, a novel, or a teaching plan, my creativity is stifled by words in music. It’s as though I can’t create words when I’m listening to words others have created.

Which bring me to the topic of today’s post: Music to work by.

Perhaps you’re like me. Perhaps you like to have beautiful music–without words–playing in the background while you work. But perhaps you’ve had trouble finding it. Here are my two favorite sources for tender, soothing, music to work by. I hope their music blesses you as much as it does me.

Soaking.net

(Scroll down to Streaming Music Players)

and

 

Bethel Music – Without Words: Synesthesia 2015

 

My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul. Psalm 108:1 NIV

Now go. Create.

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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