What Love Requires, Y’all

By Michael Ehret

(Scene: Country radio studio where the host, Jimmy Guffey, is about to talk with New Yorker Patricia Talbot, sweetheart of bullriding star Talon Carlson, the hometown boy. Guffey has heard that Talbot has talked Carlson into giving up bullriding and, as a longtime fan, he wants to know why. See the contest offered after the post!)

Jimmy: This is Jimmy Guffey on KPLR, Praise the Lord for the Rodeo Radio, 104.3, on your FM dial. Today, on “Bustin’ Broncs for the Kingdom,” we’re talkin’ to Patricia Talbert, a New York hoity-toity social coordinator who’s fallen hard for our #1 rodeo hero, Talon Carlson, from right here in Stephenville, Texas.

Jimmy says this is a photo of Talon as a
young cowboy.
There’s no proof of that claim.

Talon, as y’all know, loves nothing more than bullridin’ and the rodeo, save perhaps The Man Upstairs, so when this longtime fan of his heard he was givin’ up bullridin’, well, I just knew there had to be more to this story and, as one of Talon’s biggest fans, I’m itchin’ to find out the truth.

So, Patty, what’s the scoop? Fill us in, if you can. I understand a gal name of Linda Yezak—she ain’t country, now, is she? Not with a name like Yezak. Anyway, I understand this Linda has told your and Talon’s story. So tell us what you told her. How’d you convince our Talon to leave the circuit?

Patricia: Well now Jimmy, Linda may not have been raised in the country, but she’s always been country at heart. Her husband, on the other hand, was raised on a farm in central Texas. You want country? His family didn’t have electricity until he was six. Now that’s country!

You really want to know how I made Talon promise not to ride? Well, I decided to show him what it’s like to watch someone he loved get thrown. I rode Mostro—the wildest steer on the Circle Bar Ranch.

Talon taught me how to ride bulls. Even though they were fairly tame, he made me ride them without a flank strap, which, as you know Jimmy, tends to make the ride more dangerous. I wanted the strap when I rode Mostro, but I didn’t know what I was in for. It made him so mean and wild, he threw me into the next pen.

After watching me get tossed, Talon didn’t think twice about making the promise. Of course, it helped that he was recovering from a concussion and a broken arm he’d received when Burnt Biscuit threw him into the ER not days before. Linda told about that event in Give the Lady a Ride.

Jimmy, there’s a Bible verse comes to mind. It’s 1 Corinthians 13:7 about all the things love does—and not all of them are easy! In fact, they can all be difficult when you think about it. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” I’ve been reading up on that lately, and when I think about it in connection to Talon and me, it gives me pause.

Jimmy: I’m glad you brought that up. As I understand it, you’re learning to put boots on that verse and walk it around the ranch, so to speak. Tell us about that. For instance, “Love bears all things.” What kinds of things are you willing to bear for love?

Patricia: I know what I can’t bear—to see Talon hurt again. But it seems Aunt Adele is pushing him to get back on a bull, just so she can see him ride. She’s my aunt and I love her, but Talon and I both have to bear with her attempts to take me back to Manhattan.

The verse says, “Love bears all things.” Love isn’t restricted to any particular type. It can be the kind of love Talon and I share, or the kind I feel for the ranch, my friends, and my family—even Aunt Adele. Right now, bearing with her is stretching my patience!

Jimmy: The next part of that there verse says that “love believes all things.” I dare say that could cause some problems. Let’s just say Talon has been known to stretch a truth a time or two—he ain’t perfect. So Patty, er, Patricia, beg yer pardon, why do you think you can believe him when he says he’s never going to ride another bull?

Patricia: Ha! You know him well. His practical jokes and tall tales are legendary. I still remember the one he pulled on me when we checked for estrus cows. Almost had me convinced that the only way to know they were in heat was to approach them with a thermometer . . . well, that’s another story.

For all his pranks, though, I believe in him. He’s not at all like the men I knew in New York—or DC either, for that matter. We’ve been together about a year now, and everything I see of him smacks of integrity. He’s the preacher at our Cowboy Church, and he’s highly respected around here. Not to mention how patient he has been with Aunt Adele. That alone just amazes me. I can’t imagine him breaking a promise to me or anyone else.

Besides, he had to do all his ranch work one-handed while he waited for his arm to heal. I’m certain he wouldn’t want to risk that again.

Jimmy: Hope is what keeps many a cowboy in the game, as you know. Hope that next time he’ll make the eight or win that buckle. “Love hopes all things.” What does that mean to your life?

Patricia: My hopes are centered around making a life here at the ranch. It’s totally different from New York, but I believe God wants me here. Aunt Adele thinks she can lure me back, but I love it here too much, love the people too much. I love Talon, and he belongs here, which means I do too.

I have hope that God will convince Adele—and my mother, who no doubt put her up to making my life crazy—that I am where I belong and with whom I belong.

But I also hope that the scars from my past will heal, and that this time, with this man, things will be different.

With God, all things are possible, and He is the source of my hope now.

Jimmy: Now I know you don’t want to give away too much, Patricia, and ruin things for Linda and her readers, but endurance—that there’s another great cowboy trait. I’ve seen Talon endure some pretty tough times, on the bull and off. But what does that mean to you? What are you willing to endure for your own sake? For Talon’s sake? For the Lord’s sake?

Patricia: That’s a great question, Jimmy. Honestly, at this moment, I don’t know for certain what God has in store for me here. So far, all I’ve had to endure is the insufferable Texas heat—and Consuela’s cooking lessons and a lot of ribbing from the men for being such a greenhorn.

But since I returned to my Savior last year, I’ve spent every day studying His word, learning who He is, and lamenting what I’ve missed all these years separated from Him. Whatever He sends my way, whatever I’ll have to endure in the future, I know it will be much easier than what I’ve endured in the past. Because this time, I’ll have Him to guide me through it.

Jimmy: Well, that’s about it for us folks here KPLR, Praise the Lord for the Rodeo Radio. Today we’ve been talking with Ms. Patricia Talbert about love and what it does—and what it requires. Look for the complete story of Patricia and Talon in the books by Miz Yezak, Give The Lady a Ride and the just released The Final Ride, available now in fine stories everywhere and online.

Y’all enter this contest!

Before you go folks, I am feeling led to announce a contest! That’s right, a chance for y’all to win both of these fine books by that Yezak filly.

No, I ain’t gonna make it easy on ya’—what’s the fun of that? But just answer this question below and you’re entered!  

Question: When have you had to put 1 Corinthians 13:7 into action in your life? Creativity and giggles count, so give it your best shot.

Here’s the skinny on that Yezak woman:

More than 25 years ago, after a decade of life as a “single-again,” author Linda W. Yezak rediscovered God’s love and forgiveness when He allowed her a second chance at marital happiness. She is now living her greatest romance with her husband in a forest in East Texas. After such an amazing blessing, she chooses to trumpet God’s gift of second chances in the books she writes. Linda’s novels are heart-warming hallmarks of love, forgiveness, and new beginnings.

Connect with her at: Facebook Fan Page, Pinterest, Amazon Page, Goodreads, Newsletter, at 777 Peppermint Place, and on Twitter at @LindaYezak. 

____________________________________


Michael Ehret has accepted God’s invitation and is a freelance editor at WritingOnTheFineLine.com. In addition, he’s worked as editor-in-chief of the ACFW Journal at American Christian
Fiction Writers. He pays the bills as a
marketing communications writer and sharpened his writing and editing skills as a reporter for
The Indianapolis
News and The Indianapolis Star.

Are Your Characters Practical Atheists?

By Michael Ehret

We’re entering fully into summer and I’m thinking about Christmas. Christmas cookies, specifically. I love making sugar cookies with cookie cutters. It’s fun to slather colored powdered-sugar frosting for that extra layer of sweetness over those recognizable holiday shapes.

Even though frosted differently, those cookies all look the same. There’s not a lot of difference between my cookies and the ones my kids create. And they taste exactly the same—sweet perfection.

One of the challenges writers face is creating characters who don’t look like all the others. Characters who aren’t stamped out of the same dough everyone else is using.

God changes lives—just not mine

A sermon I once heard reminded of this. The pastor, Eric Carpenter, had just begun a series called “Practical Atheist,” focusing on Christians who believe in God, but live as if He doesn’t exist. (Based on Craig Groeschel’s book, Christian Atheist.)

At the beginning of the sermon Carpenter said, “It’s like when we say we believe in a God who forgives, but refuse to accept His forgiveness personally or refuse to forgive others. We believe in a God who changes lives, but don’t believe we can change in meaningful, deep, abiding ways.”

That’s when I thought of the characters in my current manuscript. Are they cookie-cutter Christians, cruising through life with a few bumps and scratches that are easily covered by a new layer of “holiness” frosting? Or are they authentic Christians even while living real, flawed lives?

And if they aren’t, what would my book be like if they were?

Creating misery

My characters—and yours—need to suffer, and not just a little. I need to find each one’s core weakness and exploit it. Then exploit it again and again and again.

We need to find the point in each character where they’re a practical atheist—where they don’t fully trust God even if they outwardly claim otherwise. And then we need to make them miserable in that exact area.

When we do that, we can help the character—and the reader—find their way back to God or more fully turn their weakness over to His strength.

And that’s when our characters step out of the cookie cutter and start to live and breathe. That’s when the story we’re telling becomes transformational—for the author and for the reader.

____________________________________


Michael Ehret has accepted God’s invitation and is a freelance editor at WritingOnTheFineLine.com. In addition, he’s worked as editor-in-chief of the ACFW Journal at American Christian
Fiction Writers. He pays the bills as a
marketing communications writer and sharpened his writing and editing skills as a reporter for
The Indianapolis
News and The Indianapolis Star.

Does this word count make my book look big?

By Michael Ehret

(This post first appeared in 2012. It has been edited for wordiness. But even more could be slashed, I suspect.)

 Your manuscript is big-boned. Over the years, it has picked up a few extra words here and there. But that shouldn’t be a problem. Publishers should just accept your manuscript as it is, right? All of those skinny manuscripts are airbrushed anyway. No more manuscript-shaming!

Time to get serious, for the health of your book and your career.

Your book is likely overweight and if it doesn’t lower its word count it won’t be able to compete. Sign up for Word Watchers and get trim. Because, like Weight Watchers, Word Watchers works!

Word Watchers has developed four key principles that can help you self-edit that extra verbiage. These are borrowed from Weight Watchers directly, but adapted for writers.

Principle 1: Healthy word loss

Q. What’s healthy when it comes to word loss?

A. As trim as possible without sacrificing artistry or voice.

I think of it this way: If a word can be deleted, it gets deleted. Scour your writing for:

  • Redundancies:
    1. “Josh estimated that they’d arrive in Minneapolis by roughly 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon.” (14 words)
    2. “Josh estimated they’d arrive in Minneapolis by 4:00 p.m.” (9 words)
  • Wordiness:
    1. “Sarah knew that at her place of employment Jason was knee-deep in advance planning for the next year’s fundraising campaign.” (20 words)
    2. “Sarah knew her co-worker Jason was knee-deep in planning next year’s fundraiser.” (12 words)

Principle 2: Fits into your life

Any Word Watchers approach must be realistic, practical, and livable. You are not likely to become Ernest Hemingway straight out of the gate.

But set goals that will help. Here are two simple tricks:

  • That/Very: In almost every case, these words can be eliminated.
  • Adverbs: Scorn them. “Adverbs are the tool of the lazy writer.” — Mark Twain For more on this.

Principle 3: Informed choices

At Word Watchers, writers learn not only what to do, but why. If you know why, you gain the confidence to make the right choices for your writing. Here are two websites I often visit for input:

  1. Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips
  2. Purdue University Online Writing Lab

I highly recommend American Christian Fiction Writers as a place to get grounded not only in the craft of writing, but in the career of writing as well.

Principle 4: Take a holistic view

Finally, the Word Watchers approach must be comprehensive. One of the best ways to practice tight writing is in a writer’s critique group that will, kindly and in love, kick your writing butt until you’re in shape. They’ll remind you of what you’ve learned (and of how often you’ve had to learn it). They will hold you down and sit on you until you’ve eliminated every extra word—and will expect you to do the same to them. With chocolate. 

Respond:

What’s your favorite trick for trimming a bloated manuscript?

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Michael Ehret has accepted God’s invitation and is a freelance editor at WritingOnTheFineLine.com. In addition, he’s worked as editor-in-chief of the ACFW Journal at American Christian
Fiction Writers. He pays the bills as a
marketing communications writer and sharpened his writing and editing skills as a reporter for
The Indianapolis
News and The Indianapolis Star.

Create. Create. Just Create.

By Michael Ehret

I haven’t learned a lot, comparatively, in my walk with God. Sometimes it seems like I’ve learned more, sometimes less. But there are a few things I’ve learned (and these aren’t all of them) over the years:

How do you create?

1. God loves me the way I am and wants me to allow Him to show me how I can become more like Him. (Sort of like how I loved my infant son when he was born but, man, am I glad I’m not still changing that almost 32-year-old’s diaper.)

2. The more I learn the less I seem to know about God and how He works. (This is OK, because it fuels my hunger for Him. By the time I die, I have high hopes of being a complete idiot about God.)

Then there’s this:

3. God won’t show you a truth in your life until you’re ready to see it. (Because, if you won’t see it, why show you?)

Recently a blog post by Esther de Charon de Saint Germain made its way around Facebook. The post, “Why Art Is Important for Highly Sensitive Persons,” opened a previously shut door into my personality for me.

In it, Esther wrote:

We (highly sensitive people) are the ones who remain seated in the movie theatre. Long after the move has ended. Because we need to compose ourselves before re-entering the world.

We are the ones unable to speak after that gloriously beautiful concert. It’s not because we don’t like you. Give us some time. We’re processing. There are no words yet. … We still are the music. We’re still living in the world of feelings, emotions.

Wait, hang on. I’m still in the moment.

She goes on to talk in detail about how being highly sensitive might look in real life—how it looks for her—how it might look if you are also one. Through it all, I’m nodding, nodding, nodding. Agreeing, experiencing the post.

Then, while reading, I see:

BUT

And that’s when I get that feeling in my gut I’ve come to identify as a nudge from the Holy Spirit: “Hey, if you pay attention here, you might learn something.”

Esther writes:

But … creating our own art is scary. We sensitive peeps have set some pretty high standards for (ourselves). We fear we are not good enough at it.

How can we get the multitude of ideas in our head on a sheet of paper? All we can see is how flawed it will be…

If you are a highly sensitive person—and not all writers are, by far—can I suggest that you try harder to silence the self-talk Esther writes about that is convincing you, even more than any negative outside voices you might encounter, that you’re just not good enough? Don’t work so hard to convince yourself you’re not good enough, creative enough, talented enough.

Create to live. Live to create.

She writes:

Because if that’s the kind of chatter that goes on in your head, it means you Most Definitely need to make art. Find a course, get those pencils out of the drawer. Use your trait.

If you’re an HSP, like me, sometimes you just need to create. You need to write without your internal editor. You need to garden giving no thought to practicality. You need to color outside the lines of your adult coloring book because that’s your creativity—your art.

Write your prayers. Sing them. Dance them. Read your daily devotional out loud in your best Donald Duck voice—do what your muse (or your whim) tells you to do. Open your mind to the possibilities. Just create.

Just create.

Question: Other than write in your latest WIP, what do you do to be creative? How do you feed your creativity?

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Michael Ehret has accepted God’s invitation and is a freelance editor at WritingOnTheFineLine.com. In addition, he’s worked as editor-in-chief of the ACFW Journal at American Christian
Fiction Writers. He pays the bills as a
marketing communications writer and sharpened his writing and editing skills as a reporter for
The Indianapolis
News and The Indianapolis Star.