Ten Great Gifts for Writers

by Pamela S. Meyers, @pamelameyers

It’s on week until December 25th, and if you have a favorite writer on your Christmas list or I’m here to help. I posted this list several years ago and this year I revised it a little.

I’ll start with a list of wonderful gifts for any writer of fiction.

  1. Flip Dictionary–The description on this resource’s Amazon page says, “You know what you want to say but can’t think of the word. You can describe what you’re thinking but you don’t know the name for it. Flip Dictionary solves this common problem!”
  2. Subscription to Writers Digest Magazine–Issue after issue is full of great articles that can help the newbie author, as well as the seasoned veteran. Of course, the magazine covers more than just fiction writing.
  3. Emotion Thesaurus – This is one of my favorite resources. If you want your character to feel anxious, go to the word in this handy little book and it lists all the body language, internal reactions and mental responses associated with anxiety. There are a lot of tips for writers interspersed throughout the book as well. The authors have also come out with several more companion books, the most recent one about emotional wounds.
  4. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers – The subtitle of this book is “How to Edit Yourself into Print. – Shortly after I began seriously writing fiction this book was recommended to me. It’s been revised and is still a best seller for writers.The book has been around a while, and it’s still a keeper.
  5. Revision and Self Editing by James Scott Bell – An author in his own right, James Scott Bell not only writes fiction he teaches how to write it.

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  1. Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell – Another great writing book by Bell, especially good for plotters, but also for pansters to help them be more of an outliner. A great companion to the self-editing book at #5.Actually any book on writing by this author is helpful for writers.
  2. Scrivener: http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php  Many writers swear by this software which enables a writer to organize all his material for a project in one place. All your research is right there and you even write your manuscript in the program then convert it to Microsoft Word for submitting to publishers and agents. The developers are continually tweaking the software and making it better and better.
  3. Registration to a Writers Conference – The American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference is the premiere conference for fiction writers because its main focus is fiction, but there are other writers conferences that cover other disciplines. (2018’s ACFW conference is meeting in Nashville in September).
  4. Membership to a writing organizations – If you can’t afford gifting a whole conference, why not pay for a year’s membership in a writing organization. Membership in an organization such as ACFW, the one I’m most familiar with, provides a host of different benefits to beginning writers as well as multi-published authors.
  5. New laptop – Hey why not go big and ask for a new laptop. I’m a Mac user and would love to get a Mac Air someday. I’m always carting my laptop somewhere and my shoulder would appreciate a lighter weight computer. There are a myriad of different styles of laptops in either a Mac platform or a PC.

The list is not exhaustive. Please chime in and offer your suggestions for special gifts for writers. Maybe share a special gift someone has given you!

Merry Christmas everyone!


Second Chance Love

Chicago lawyer Sydney Knight and Texas bull rider Jace McGowan have nothing in common but everything to lose when they are thrust together during a weekend rodeo in rural Illinois. Sydney is determined she’ll get Jace out of his contract and return to Chicago with her heart intact, but Jace is just as determined to help her see they are meant to be together. Can a city girl with roots deep in Chicago and a bull-riding rancher with roots deep in Texas give themselves a second-chance love?

Pamela S. Meyers lives in northern Illinois with her two rescue cats. Her novels include Thyme for Love, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Second Chance Love, and Surprised by Love in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (a reissue of Love Finds You in Lake Geneva). Her novellas include: What Lies Ahead, in The Bucket List Dare collection, and If These Walls Could Talk, in Coming Home: A Tiny House Collection. When she isn’t at her laptop writing her latest novel, she can often be found nosing around Midwestern spots for new story ideas.

Did Someone Say Christmas?

by Marcia Lee Laycock, @MarciaLaycock

Did Someone say Christmas?

Yes, I’m looking forward to it. I love all that Christmas is, and symbolizes. I love the tree with its tinsel and baubles; I love the presents tucked under it; I love the lights that decorate it, and I love the food – turkey, mashed potatoes and dressing and of course, home made pumpkin pie. I most especially love the fact that my family will gather to enjoy all these things with me.

All of these things are wonderful, yet they can be a distraction from the real message of Christmas and I wondered how I could connect them in my mind with the truths of the season.

The tree, for instance. Not all Christmas trees have needles. One of the most beautiful Christmas trees I’ve ever seen was a spindly birch decorated with tiny white lights. That tree often reminds me that Christmas is not the same for all people – many have different traditions and ways of celebrating the birth of the Saviour, but the Christ came for all, no matter their nationality, language or ethnicity.

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As I thought about the lights of Christmas, I remembered that Jesus called himself the Light of the world in John 8:12. Isaiah 60:1 tells us to “Arise, shine, for your light has come.” John calls Jesus the true light that gives light and Ephesians 5:8 tells us we ourselves are “now light in the Lord.”

And the Lord himself is our food, our nourishment. He said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry…” (John 6:35). “For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33).

And what about the presents? We know Jesus was God’s gift to us, a gift that ‘keeps on giving’ because once we have sought his forgiveness and accepted the sacrifice he made for us, He lives in us.If you have not accepted Jesus as your brother, your friend, your saviour, you have left a priceless gift unopened. That gift is offered to us all at no cost. All you have to do is say yes. Christmas gives us all a new opportunity to celebrate the gift of God’s Son, the gift of the forgiveness He has offered to us.

The tree, the lights, the food, the presents. As I began to connect all the trappings of Christmas to the truths of Christmas, I realized that it’s just a matter of seeing what is really right in front of us at any given time, and connecting it to the mercy and love of Christ.

As writers “in Christ,” Christmas is an opportunity to help our readers see, understand, and perhaps for first time, truly believe in the Christ. As we tell His glorious story through our words, the power and majesty of that story comes alive again and again.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given … And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).


One Smooth Stone

Desperate to escape his past, the police, and especially, God, Alex Donnelly picks a good place to hide – the Yukon wilderness – but he finds even there he is pursued. What will it take for him to discover that no matter how far you run, God will find you, and no matter what you have done, God will forgive you?

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor’s wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was shortlisted in The Word Awards. Marcia also has four devotional books in print and has contributed to several anthologies. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan.

 

Holiday Non-Writing Tips

by Susan May Warren

Let’s be honest—you’re not writing during the Christmas season. Neither am I. With all the glitter, the Christmas-sing-alongs, the baking and the general melee of the season, congealing your thoughts into a coherent, let-alone tension-filled scene is like trying to choose just one cookie to choose from the Christmas buffet table.
Give it up.
Instead, how about using the next two weeks to prep for an amazing 2017 writing year?

Here are a few ideas to keep your brain simmering on story while you enjoy that spiced cider.

1. Give yourself a break! I’m not talking about simplifying (although, that is good—only one kind of cookie on the tray means less agonizing choices!), but rather—actually going to your room, shutting the door and having a moment of quiet. Listen, I know—if you have little children—quiet isn’t easy. I used to require an hour of reading every day during Christmas breaks (and summer, too!). The kids (if they were little) got to choose books from our special “book basket” to read on their bed. Or I might turn on an audio book and give them a few toys to play with. I might even spread out a blanket on the floor (each child gets their own) and declare it “their zone”—to play/read in.
And then go get a book, something lavish that you are reading just for the pure enjoyment of it (I can recommend a few—Rachel Haucks, A Royal Christmas Wedding, Melissa Tagg’s Christmas novella, One Enchanted Eve, Ronie Kendig’s, Conspiracy of Silence) and indulge yourself in a chapter. I read a book for fun nearly every weekend of the year—but I read “biz” books—novels for endorsement, or research, or just to challenge my writing—during the week. But for two weeks during Christmas, I allow myself to indulge in decadent fiction—books I might not normally have time for.
And, in quieting my brain, allowing myself this lavish luxury, inevitably, great ideas for my own writing will surface.
Quiet Time Reading—a little gift you give yourself.
2. Gather around the fire! Bring back the old “Christmas read-aloud” tradition. In our family, we do a Christmas puzzle every season. Often, we listen to Christmas music. But occasionally, we have a family read aloud—I read, while people puzzle. When the kids were younger, each child got to choose one book, one per night, leading up to Christmas. Reading aloud is like yoga for the writing brain. We hear delightful dialogue, savor story world, and become the characters we’re reading. And, when we enjoy a story together, we are reminded not only what makes a great story . . . but why we write.
Some of our family favorites: David Barry’s The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog
Back To Christmas, by my author friend Dennis Canfield

3. Turn OFF and let your brain turn ON. About 6 months ago, I decided to go device-free on the weekends. Yes, I post our Saturday football game crew on Facebook, but then I turn my social media off until Monday. I find it de-clutters my brain and allows me to just enjoy my people, the game, and the space of life. One of my favorite things to do is take a walk on a Sunday afternoon, let my thoughts air out and get some perspective.
When I do this, I find room for other thoughts—deeper ones that can influence the themes of my stories, the depth of my writing.
So . . . let’s get crazy this holiday and walk away from social media from the 24th through the 26th. Really. And then, maybe get outside, take a walk. Give your brain a rest. It’ll come back online, restored and ready to go after the holidays.
I’ll miss you, but I’ll see you then.
Have a great Christmas holiday!
TWEETABLES
Susan May Warren is owner of Novel Rocket and the founder of Novel.Academy. A Christy and RITA award-winning author of over fifty novels with Tyndale,BarbourSteeple HillSummerside Press and Revell publishers, she’s an eight-time Christy award finalist, a three-time RITA Finalist, and a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award and the ACFW Carol. A popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation, she’s also the author of the popular writing method, The Story Equation. A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at: www.susanmaywarren.com. Contact her at: susan@mybooktherapy.com.

Origins of Christmas

by Peter Leavell

When I was a youth, I read an article written by a Christian fiction writer I admired. Don’t have a Christmas tree in your home, she said. They are pagan.

When taking a present from under the tree, you’re bowing to the tree. Worshiping it. Adoring it. Christ is all we should bow to.

The thought stayed with me. And yes, I used the argument to belittle others and try to make myself look spiritual. I only did the reverse.

Now that I have a Liberal Arts degree from a University that has a great football team, and read enough theology and philosophy, I think I understand things better.

Christmas is an enigma.

Giving gifts? Absurd.

And awesome.

Flashing lights. Slippery sidewalks. Red noses. Laughing families. Hot cider. Reflection and peace. Stories we watched just one more time.

Ahhh. Christmas.

Where did Christmas come from?

Pagans.

Painful, I know. But Jesus didn’t set dates for holidays like God did with the Passover.

Christians didn’t want any association with riotous paganism. Increase Mather, a Puritan preacher, knew the origins of Christmas and banned the holiday between 1659 to 1681.

But Jesus’s birth should be celebrated. And what better way to celebrate than to supplant a raucous festival with one centered around love and selflessness?

Rome. (I’m fresh off writing a manuscript of Rome.) Saturnalia. A weeklong festival celebrated between December 17-25. This week, the Roman laws were no longer enforced. None. Here’s why—drunken people walked naked, sang, and raped people (per Greek observers). Every community picked a foreigner to enjoy every pleasure imaginal, and at the week’s end—they killed him.

Glad the holiday was replaced yet?

Constantine and Church elders believed the foundations of Christianity should displace such horrible practices, and after Constantine died, a Nativity feast was celebrated in 354 AD. But many of the traditions stayed, such as marching through the streets drunk, naked, and singing. Not too terribly Christian.

For the next thousand years, not much was written about the holiday, except that the more pagan practices fell away during the celebrations. That was, until Pope Paul II in 1466 reinstated the pagan rituals, which were enacted on the Jews. Jews were stripped naked and run through the streets, while Rome’s onlookers laughed. As late at the 1800’s, Jews in Rome were dressed in costumes and marched through the streets and pelted with snowballs and ice.

Not everyone reveled in the bad parts of Christmas. In fact, most simply partied. Christmas was a time of revelry, wild fun. But as time wore on and home grew more comfortable, the party was brought indoors with quiet traditions like the tree, mistletoe, presents, and Santa Claus.

Today, rededication to the reason for Christmas has added solemnity and focus to the holiday.

Christmas is so much more than remembering a child’s birth. Yes, Christmas has pagan roots. Yet, didn’t we? Wild then controlled. Selfish revelry then holy sacrifice? Solitary hedonism then communal worship. In total, Christmas is the birth of so much more, the meaning will take far more than twelve days to discover the holiday’s nuances.

Perhaps discovery should take a lifetime.

Do I have a Christmas tree? You betcha. Never went without one. Of course, I scoot on my back, reach over my head, and grab a present. 


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Origins of Christmas by Peter Leavell (Click To Tweet)

The discovery of Christmas should take a lifetime~ Peter Leavell (Click To Tweet)

Do I have a Christmas tree?~ Peter Leavell (Click To Tweet)

Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com.