5 Keys to Finding Your Focus

by Elizabeth Ludwig

My prayer when I first started out on this writing journey was simple—Lord, please help me to get published, and let my words touch someone’s heart.
Oh, how that prayer has changed over time! After my first book contract, I quickly discovered how unpredictable the publishing industry can be (an article for another time). The joy of holding my first published book disintegrated when I learned that the subsequent two books in the series would not be published as had been promised, and I added this line to my prayer—Lord, please help me to get published, and let my words touch someone’s heart, and let there be another contract.
Proving His love and faithfulness, God did provide another contract. I remember celebrating with thanksgiving the upcoming Christmas novella that would allow me to tell the story of my walk into adulthood. But then the book cover came, and I realized that readers would need a microscope to read the teeny-tiny letters of my name beneath the big, bold letters of the lead author, and I added this line to my prayer—Lord, please help me to get published, and let my words touch someone’s heart, and let there be another contract, and someday, Lord, let my name be the prominent one on the cover.
Since then, I’ve added many lines to that first simple prayer. Weights like good sales numberspositive reviews, and contest awards now encumber what was once a sincere desire. God reminded me of this during a dark period of wrestling with Him over the path I was to follow. I knew I would have to refocus, and that meant developing five keys:
Key #1: Practice loving God. Everything else will follow
 I always thought there should be an eleventh commandment, and it would read something like this—Thou shalt live thy life with thanksgiving and remember the good that God has done. Later, I realized that this was a commandment and it was connected to the first and greatest—Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (NIV)
Key #2: Do like Facebook and “share”
Hello, my name is Elizabeth Ludwig, and I love facebook. There, I’ve said it. Unfortunately, things like social media, while intended to bring us closer, end up making us rivals. How can we help but be competitive when we’re doing nothing but reading about the successes of others? Still God instructs us to rejoice with those who rejoice, and follows it with a command to mourn with those who mourn. This means taking our eyes off ourselves and focusing on where our friends are.
Key #3: Take up a memorial stone
My writing journey has been filled will all sorts of highs and lows—good reviews followed by bad reviews, new contract followed by poor sales numbers, encouragement followed by discouragement. I realized it was very easy to lose my focus when the only thing I was concentrating on was the lows, but in the back of my mind was a story from the Old Testament. Remember Joshua and his instruction to the Israelites to “take up a stone”? This was to serve as a reminder to the people about God’s intervention in helping them cross the River Jordan, and it can serve as reminder today—about where He has led us and where we have yet to go.
Key #4: Remember God’s plan and cling to it
Writing a book requires quite a bit of time and a whole lot of dedication. On top of the initial commitment, writing something readers will love means pouring a good bit of myself into the work—my pain, the things I’ve learned and lived, even a smidgeon of honesty as I reveal my own personal struggles and vices. When at last the time comes to write “The End”, the finished product can feel very personal—almost like an extension of myself—which is why having a book be unsuccessful can be so excruciatingly painful. Yet God’s word says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (NKJV)
Key #5: Follow God…even if He leads you away from the one thing you thought you couldn’t live without 
Remember this saying? If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it. It’s from a poem by an unknown author, and it was brought to mind recently when I was struggling to remember why I even began this writing journey in the first place. Along with all the typical highs and lows, I was facing deadlines, trying to meet promotional and marketing demands, and juggling commitments at home and work. I’m ashamed to admit, this led to an extended period of self-pity, typified by the one question repeated over and over in every situation—why? Well, God had an answer for Job when he asked that question, and He had an answer for me—you didn’t get where you are by yourself. I brought you here, I will lead you on. Follow Me.
TWEETABLES

5 Keys to Finding Your Focus by Elizabeth Ludwig (Click to Tweet)

Practice loving God. Everything else will follow~ Elizabeth Ludwig (Click to Tweet)


Remember God’s plan and cling to it~ Elizabeth Ludwig (Click to Tweet)

Elizabeth Ludwig is the award-winning author of No Safe Harbor and Dark Road Home, Books One and Two in the popular Edge of Freedom series from Bethany House Publishers. Her literary blog, The Borrowed Book, enjoys a wide readership. Elizabeth is an accomplished speaker and teacher, often attending conferences and seminars where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. Along with her husband and children, she makes her home in the great state of Texas. To learn more, visit ElizabethLudwig.com.

Prequel to The Remnant, by Author Monte Wolverton

The Remnant by Monte Wolverton

By Monte Wolverton

On a sweltering noon in late September of 2062, Bob Day was walking south along the narrow 2nd St. NW in Washington D.C. He was on a lunch break from his job at a small Capitol Hill publisher. He had skipped breakfast that morning and he was ravenous—seriously drooling for a California Chicken Club at Hamilton’s Bar and Grill. Bob rationalized that the avocado would certainly cancel out the bacon. Not that there had been any California avocados for the last 40 years. Now they all came from Mexico or Central America—the world’s breadbasket.

Bob was well aware of the big international standoff that had been going on for a week—something about a Russian-backed coup in Mexico City, and the Pope (who was staying there in the Western Vatican) being under house arrest. The U.S. wanted the Russians out. Other nations had taken sides. Powerful warcraft with armed particle beam weapons were cruising around the skies. It all sounded nuts to Bob, and the D.C. culture made even the most earnest person jaded about such crises. And anyway, skilled diplomats and politicians were surely negotiating some kind of truce—possibly within a few blocks.

Bob pushed open the old oak door of Hamilton’s, stepped into the cool air and claimed a table. He ordered a sandwich and a Widmer Hefeweizen (still made in Oregon, but from Mexican hops, wheat and barley). While he waited, he got involved in a holovideo of an ongoing soccer game floating in the center of the room. Coup notwithstanding, Ciudad Juárez was pummeling Atlanta.

His food and drink finally came. Darn—he had let time get away from him, and he still had 50 pages to edit this afternoon. He wolfed down the Chicken Club and quaffed the beer, scanned his ID tat for the 52 dollar tab and walked out the door. This time he decided to walk south around the block and take 1st St. back to his office.

As usual, a view of the brilliant Capitol dome in the midday sun gave Bob a twinge of pride. Funny thing was, when he looked skyward, he saw what seemed to be two suns. One was the normal sun, high in the southern sky. The other was a pinpoint of rapidly intensifying light directly overhead. Then the air began to shimmer. Cars careened off the street. Pedestrians fell limp in their tracks, and with a wave of searing heat that seemed to catch the very air on fire, the capitol dome began to vaporize.

Bob’ mouth opened but no sound came out. He barely had a chance to experience horror, sadness and pain as everything, including Bob, turned to powder. Next thing he knew, he was in some kind of different place.

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Prequel to The Remnant, by Author Monte Wolverton (Click to Tweet)

New Book Sneak Peek by Monte Wolverton (Click to Tweet)

Author Monte Wolverton

Monte Wolverton is an author, illustrator and syndicated editorial cartoonist. His 2014 novel, Chasing 120, won an Illumination book award. He serves on the boards of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists and Plain Truth Ministries, where he is also as associate editor and contributing writer. His work has appeared frequently in MAD magazine and more recently in Washington (DC) Monthly magazine. He participated in the 2014 St.-Just-le-Martel Editorial Cartoon Festival in France, and in 2015 was invited to serve as a judge for the prestigious Xaimen International Animation Festival in China. He is an ordained minister and holds an MA from Goddard College in Vermont. Wolverton resides in his native southwest Washington State with his wife Kaye.

Backing Away From the Cliffs of Insanity

By Beth K. Vogt

Any Princess Bride aficionados reading this today? If so, when I drop the phrase, “The Cliffs of Insanity,” you’ll instantly envision the harrowing cliffs scaled by Vizzini, Inigo Montoya, and Princess Buttercup – with thanks to Fezzik – and then later climbed by The Dread Pirate Roberts.

If you’re not familiar with The Princess Bride – Gasp! – you may have read “The Cliffs of Insanity” and thought, “Oh yeah. I’m a writer. I’ve spent some time perched on the edge of those cliffs.”

I get it. Being a writer is crazy-making.

  • You bet your life on maybes, dependent on the kindness of others. Agents, editors, publishers, reviewers. And, really, their decisions determining your success have nothing to do with kindness. Publishing is business, bay-bee.
  • You balance your hopes on the seesaw of contradictions. Write your passion vs. write what the market wants. Traditional publishing vs. indie. Which do you choose?
  • You hear – and listen to – voices. There’s no ignoring the imaginary characters in your head that tell you what they’re going to do. Meanwhile, there are ever-present voices real world voices. Your boss. Your spouse. Your kids. Your friends. All demand you focus on the here and now. 
  • You face unending professional challenges. The changing world of publishing. Waiting and waiting for the longed-for yes. Accepting rejections. The mixture of joy and jealousy when a friend earns “the call.” 

The craziest part? You chose this life. You’re committed to this insanity, a.k.a. “the dream.” Here are a few suggestions for managing the madness:

  • Pick your mentors wisely. Writers like Poe and Hemingway battled the writing craziness by indulging in mind-altering escapes. Look elsewhere for your role models. I admire my mentors for their faith and life choices, not just their writing skills. And if you’re farther along the writing road than other writers – and you always are! – mentor to someone else.
  • Don’t let all your dreams be based on maybes. I have limited control over my success as a writer. There is more to my life than writing. I’m pursuing other dreams with both short and long-term goals.
  • Choose between your passion and writing for the market. Or not. Maybe you’ll be the lucky author who hits the market when your passions collide with what “they” want. (Romantic-Amish-Vampire-Time-Travel-Steampunk-with-a-moral, anyone?)
  • Jump off the seesaw. The whole “balancing the writing world with the real world” challenge? I may never master that. Sometimes my mind seems to be inhabited by shrieking eels, all screaming, “If only my husband, my kids, my friends would leave me alone, I could accomplish the more important goals!” That’s when I know it’s time to shut down my computer, walk away from what I’m writing, and reconnect with family.
  • Acknowledge how you’re feeling – the good and the bad. If a wide range of emotions is good for our fictional characters, why are they bad for us? Sometimes we’re conflicted: over-the-moon-happy for our friend who landed a contract and also disappointed we’re not the one signing on the dotted line. That’s reality. I’ve found the best way to battle jealousy is to purposely celebrate someone else’s success. Write them a note or post a “So happy for you” message on Facebook.
How do you back away from the Cliffs of Insanity? (And do you know what cliffs were featured in The Princess Bride?)

TWEETABLES
Backing Away From the Cliffs of Insanity by Beth K. Vogt (Click to Tweet)

Managing the writing madness~ Beth K. Vogt (Click to Tweet)

Being a writer is crazy-making~ Beth K. Vogt (Click to Tweet)

Beth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author and editor who said she’d never write fiction. She’s the wife of an Air Force family physician (now in solo practice) who said she’d never marry a doctor—or anyone in the military. She’s a mom of four who said she’d never have kids. Now Beth believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” As a contemporary romance novelist, Beth is a 2016 Christy Award winner and 2016 Carol Award winner for her novel Crazy Little Thing Called Love.  She was also a 2015 RITA® Finalist for her novel Somebody Like You, which was one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2014. In 2015, Beth introduced her destination wedding series with both an e-novella, Can’t Buy Me Love, and a novel, Crazy Little Thing Called Love. She continued the series in 2016 with the e-novella You Can’t Hurry Love (May) and the novel Almost Like Being in Love (June). Her novella A November Bride was part of the Year of Wedding Series by Zondervan. Beth enjoys writing contemporary romance because she believes there’s more to happily-ever-after than the fairy tales tell us. Find out more about her books at bethvogt.com. An established magazine writer and former editor of Connections, the leadership magazine for MOPS International, Beth is also part of the leadership team for My Book Therapy, the writing community founded by best-selling author Susan May Warren. She lives in Colorado with her husband Rob, who has adjusted to discussing the lives of imaginary people, and their youngest daughter, Christa, who loves to play volleyball and enjoys writing her own stories.

Worry and the Journey to Publication

By
Lindsay Harrel

Last
week I was cleaning out my home office—which had slowly become the junk room in
our house. I’ve been putting it off for awhile now, but with the upcoming
arrival of a new baby, it had to be done. When sorting through items I’d long
forgotten about, I came upon a journal from five years ago.
As I
read, I discovered entries from the very beginning of my writing journey. There
were some entries where I was excited to finally be pursuing this dream, one
I’d held in my heart since childhood. Other entries expounded upon all the
knowledge I’d been gaining through craft books, conferences, and other sources.
But then
there were the entries filled with something I’ve struggled with most of my
life: worry. Pages and pages full of questions and doubts. Would I ever be able
to make this a reality? Would I give up after a year of trying? Would I find
out I really didn’t have what it takes to be a published author?
There
was one journal entry dated about six months into my journey that really stood
out to me. In it, I went back and forth on whether to submit my first novel to
an editor who had requested it. I agonized over that decision, fearing that if
it wasn’t ready (which it wasn’t!!), I’d ruin any future chances I had in the
industry—but also worrying that if I didn’t take that chance, I’d always regret
it.
You
guys—if I’ve learned anything, it’s that one single action can’t destroy someone’s
chances at publication forever (of course, I’m not talking about something that
burns bridges or is egregious, rude, or ill-mannered). Either you believe God
is in this or you don’t. He has the perfect timing, the perfect path for YOU.
I saw a meme
going around the Internet this month that said, “If it doesn’t open, it’s not
your door.” Over the last five years, I’ve stood at many doors and knocked
incessantly, begging them to open—to no avail. Then I worried about why they
didn’t open. Was I not worthy? Had God forgotten about me? Did I unknowingly
upset someone important?
Now I
look back and I shake my head. The worry did me absolutely no good. The doubt
didn’t help me blossom into a better writer. It only weighed me down and choked
the life and energy out of me. It wasn’t until I was able to “let go and let
God” have control that I was at peace in my writing journey. I put my head down
and kept writing. One book. Another. Another. And another.
And
then, seemingly out of the blue (though it wasn’t out of the blue for God), I
received my first contract in March of this year. My debut novel, One More Song to Sing, is set to release
later this week, on December 1.
I was
talking about this with a friend of mine recently. She grinned and said, “Remember
all that worrying you did? Guess it wasn’t necessary after all.” She was
totally right. Let me tell you, I didn’t add a single moment to my life by
worrying (Matthew 6:27).
Learn
from my mistakes. Don’t let worry take over your journey. Fight back. Replace
those ugly lies Satan is feeding you with healthy doses of the Truth.
God has
the right door for you. It may not look the way you thought it would. It may
take a lot longer to reach it than you wanted. But every step along this
journey is one that leads you closer to your goal.
Keep
fighting—and keep writing.
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Bio:
Lindsay Harrel is a lifelong book nerd who
lives in Arizona with her young family, and two golden retrievers in serious
need of training. Besides writing, singing, and hanging out with family and
friends, Lindsay enjoys making a fool of herself at Zumba, curling up with
anything by Jane Austen, and savoring sour candy one piece at a time. Her debut
novel, One More Song to Sing,
releases December 2016. Connect with her at www.LindsayHarrel.com.




Book Blurb:

More than two decades ago, Olivia Lovett left
her old life behind in the red dirt of Oklahoma and forged a career in
Nashville as a country music star. Now her voice is failing, forcing her to
find a new dream just as the secrets of her past come knocking at the door.
Long-time friend Andrew Grant agrees to partner in a new business venture—but
would he stick around if he knew her whole story?

After the tragic loss of her father,
twenty-one-year-old Ellie Evans headed to Nashville seeking more than just
fame. For two years, she’s waitressed, strummed, and sung her way to what may
finally be her big break when Olivia offers to sign her to the budding record
label. More than anything, Ellie just wants to be seen: by her future fans, by
Nick Perry—a fellow musician with a killer smile and kind eyes—and above all
else, by the mother who abandoned her. If the spotlight never shines on her,
will Ellie ever feel whole?

One More
Song to Sing
is a romantic drama
about the power of forgiveness, second chances, and a God who never fails to
see us.