Many of my Northern friends have commented on my Texas accent. I don’t think I have one, at least not much of one, but they disagree. I think the difference often comes down more to the word choices we make rather than the sound of our voices.
For example, in the South we use the word “y’all.” It’s a contraction of “you all.” But rather than that harsh New Jersey sound (picture Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny), it has a nice Southern drawl to it.
We also call all soft drinks “coke,” as in, “I’m gonna get a coke. You want one? OK, what kind, Dr. Pepper or root beer?”
This little guy? He’s a doodle bug.
We use the word “tump,” as in, “Don’t swing so high on the swing set. You’re gonna make it tump over.”
And we won’t get into the argument of how to pronounce pecan.
Most of the time, my non-Texan friends and I communicate well, despite our differences. We may hide a grin behind our hands from time to time, but we understand each other. However, in the past few weeks, three words I consider commonplace have stumped my critique partners.
That makes me curious. One partner lives in Illinois and the other in the United Kingdom in the Forest of Dean (but was originally from Australia). Do they not know the words I use simply because of geography?
So I’m doing a survey. Without looking these words up (’cause that’d be cheating), post your answers in the comment section below and tell me what you think they mean. Then tell me where your parents raised you. (Technically, that should say where you were reared, but nobody actually says that word and it sounds weird.) Ready?
I can hear my grandmother’s voice on that last one, and it makes me smile. I’m eager to hear your definitions. If you have a word you think we won’t know down here, throw it in, too.
P.S. For those of you who have read and enjoyed Protected and A Father’s Gift, I have an update. I mailed the manuscript for book three, Accepted, to my publisher on Saturday. I hope the new book will be out by late summer/early fall. Squee!
I send short stories to a magazine on a regular basis. The editor-in-chief asked me to write a story about sports drinks. I don’t like the flavor, and they make me too jittery, so I’ve never been a fan. But I’d like to hear from others about drinks like Celsius, Monster, Red Bull, etc.
If you have consumed sports drinks, what was your experience like? Physical reactions? Addictiveness? Did you enjoy the flavor?
If you stopped drinking them, why?
I don’t want to influence your answer, so I’m not telling you who the magazine is or what slant I’m taking. I want to hear what you think and why.
They like the stories to come from a personal point of view, true stories, not fiction. I may quote you in the article. If you’d rather I didn’t, please let me know.
Ok, partners! Let’s do this. Hit me up with your answers and stories. Enquiring minds want to know.
Most of us skip right past the copyright page. (It actually has a name, which I didn’t know until today–it’s called a verso, and it should always be on the back side of your title page.) But writers needs to know about these little details, and this article, written by Dave Chesson from Kindlepreneur, does an excellent job of explaining it all.
Two cool things I learned: One, you can get a Library of Congress control number for free. This is necessary if you want your book shelved at a library. There is a link in the article above.
You can also add a CIP data block. A cataloging in publication data block is not necessary, but it can make your book look more professional. However, if you self publish, you’ll have to pay to get this assigned to your book. It’s really unneccesary unless you plan to market your book to libraries. So, since you’ll have to fork over anywhere from $60-$100, you may decide to let this one go. If you decide you just have to have this, you can apply for it at CIPblock.com.
In the writing word, cliches are frowned upon. They are a fallback for the lazy writer who cannot come up with something original to say.
And yet, one particular cliche has been on my mind since Tuesday night—don’t take life for granted.
Last Wednesday, October 19, my friend Stacy Simmons went in for a surgery to remove a growth from her abdomen. She had originally been told the surgery would take place in November, but somehow an opening had appeared in the schedule. Stacy posted how excited she was that Jesus had answered her prayers to do the surgery as soon as possible. The doctors didn’t think the growth was cancerous, but I can imagine Stacy wanted it out of her body. It probably felt like a ticking time bomb.
The surgery went well, and the doctor removed a 27-lb growth. Whew! What a relief that must have been. That’s like carrying triplets.
Tuesday morning, I texted Stacy to let her know I was thinking of her and had said prayers for quick healing and good results from the doctor on testing the growth.
Tuesday evening, I received this text in reply.
“This is her daughter. She passed away today from complications.”
I couldn’t process it. Had my phone been hacked? Hers? Surely this wasn’t real. Somehow, this was a horrible prank.
I scrolled back through my previous texts. I had definitely messaged Stacy’s phone. My text history was chock full of her typical encouragements.
“Wishing you all the best tonight. You’re gonna be awesome!!”
“Thank the Lord!! I’m so happy for y’all!!!”
“Holy smokes!!! That’s so amazing!!! I’ll be happy to tag team it with you.”
Her vibrancy and infectious enthusiasm shouted from my iPhone screen.
Had someone found her phone? Answered me this way to be terribly mean?
I called a mutual friend and asked her if she’d heard anything. Her tear-choked gasp told me my answer.
I looked at Stacy’s Facebook page.
There it was. A message from her family, confirming the news. “Due to complications from the surgery…”
How was this possible?
Whether your religion teaches you the dead in Christ wake up sitting at his feet, or sleep until he returns, the dead person is immediately at peace. Stacy is fine. She’s either with or waiting for the Lord she loves.
But, oh. The rest of us.
This shock is too sudden. Too cruel.
I’m so glad I followed the prompting that urged me to send her that message. I’m grateful her family knew people loved Stacy and were concerned for her. How they wake up each morning and take their next breath with this sudden hole rent in the fabric of their lives, I cannot fathom.
So, back to the cliché … don’t take life for granted. Tell the people in your life you love them. Make the extra effort to spend time with your friends and family, even if it’s not particularly convenient for you. Tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us.
And Stacy, please save us a seat. We’ll see you again one day.
What is normal for me may not be normal for you. When we chase the normal, we lose sight of the natural.
2) What you think is weird is really your superpower.
Your shyness, for example, might make you a better listener. Your awkward laugh might make you endearing. Our quirks, when we master them, contain great power.
3) What makes you weird makes you memorable.
Your true self, by its very nature, is captivating. People won’t remember the thing you did that everybody could do, but they will remember the thing you did that only you can do.
4) The world needs more authenticity.
We are all afraid to be the first one. When you start living as your true self, weirdness and all, you give permission to those around you to do the same. We might not say it out loud, but everyone wants to see your honest self.
5) All great art was made by weird people.
Embracing your weirdness gives you a new perspective, and the world needs a new perspective. Innovation happens when outsiders challenge the status quo with weird ideas.
6) Resisting your weirdness makes you dark.
Hiding our unique characteristics and resisting our natural self makes us feel less good and makes our personalities darker. Just like a black hole results from the absence of a star, so also the resistance to our unique qualities, however weird, results in a dark and inverted projection of self.
7) Standing out is how you find your tribe.
Standing out will not make you lonely—far from it. By living honestly, you will discover others who align with your weirdness. This is your tribe.
After spending nineteen years in a classroom, I’ve grown to appreciate weird. Today, I especially appreciate Weird Al Yankovic.
Really? you might ask.
Really. Let me set the stage.
In 2013, Robin Thicke wrote a song titled “Blurred Lines.” It won the MTV Video Music award for Best Song of the Summer.
I loved it. It’s catchy, upbeat. Makes me want to dance.
And I hated it.
The lyrics are horrible. Demeaning. Sexist. Misogynistic. The video combines live action with all that, and it makes me sick.
Obviously, I couldn’t listen to that song. Couldn’t enjoy it.
But, thanks to Weird Al, now I can.
Now, instead of women dancing—no, writhing is a better term—we see punctuation bebopping.
The lyrics are no longer sexist. They’re funny. They’re a notch above. They’re intelligent.
Watch this video, then I’ll explain why the writer/editor in me particularly appreciates what Weird Al has done.
Less versus fewer
A very common mistake among authors. Less refers to things that are not easily counted, but instead are measured, as in “less time” or “less effort.” Fewer is used to describe things you can count, as in “fewer choices” or “fewer problems.”
I could care less.
People say this when they mean they don’t care. But if you could care less, then you must care a little, or there’d be nowhere less to go.
Your versus you’re
If you’re unclear about when to use your versus you’re, just find an argument on Twitter. Someone, somewhere, will use it incorrectly and the next nineteen tweets will be all about how wrong they are and will explain, with derision dripping from every letter, exactly how to use them both.
Its versus it’s
It’s a quirk of the English language. Apostrophes are used to show possession (Sophie’s choice, A Bug’s Life). But they’re also used to make contractions. Its is the anomaly. Its job is to show possession, but without the apostrophe.
Dangling participle or modifier
This one is in my top five favorites. It’s so easy to do, and not so easy to catch. The phrase at the beginning of the sentence (the modifier or participle) must describe the subject of the rest of the sentence. In this example, “After finishing a drink” must describe what comes next. But what comes next is the bartender. We left the modifier dangling in the wind.
Another subject sure to stir up an hours-long Twitter argument is the Oxford comma. I, personally, am on Team Oxford. Not everyone agrees.
Homophones are words that sound the same but are spelled differently. I’ve recently seen both of these in work I edited (one was my own!)
He leaned over the railing, wretching miserably. (should be retching)
The sound of morning doves filled the air. (should be mourning)
These are particularly pernicious because your spell check won’t catch them.
Who vs whom
“Who” is used when it’s the subject of the sentence. “Who was at the door?”
We use “whom” when it is the object, which we’re used to seeing in a prepositional phrase. “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
An easy test is to replace the word with he or him. If it makes sense when you say “he,” use “who.” If “him” works best, use “whom.” Try it. He was at the door. Never send to know for him the bell tolls. (Okay, not as obvious with whom, but using “he” always works.)
And we’re all going to pretend we didn’t notice the two (maybe three–my mind may be in the gutter on that third one) sexual innuendos.
Thanks, Weird Al, for making it okay for me to enjoy this song.
Hi, friends! Some of you may have seen the news already, but wanted to let you all know Book Two in the San Antonio series–A Father’s Gift–is now published by Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.
A Father’s Gift continues the story of Abby and Manny. Abby struggles with a difficult pregnancy. Looming fatherhood uncovers Manny’s deeply buried feelings stemming from the loss of his own father. His desire to understand what truly happened so many years ago threatens to drive a wedge between him and Abby as Christmas nears.
When Gabe, a mysterious stranger, appears, Manny enlists his help. Secrets swirl, drawing an ever-tightening net around the three. Some mysteries, he discovers, are better left alone. Clawing back the curtain places Abby and their unborn child in danger.
Will Manny be able to put his restless curiosity to bed? A Father’s Gift tells a story of a father’s endless love, whether human or heavenly.
This tender love story makes a perfect Christmas gift. You can find it on Amazon. Or join me this Saturday at the Burleson Half Price Books and get your copy signed.
Do you ever see Christians on TV praying eloquent prayers and think, “They’re perfect”? They serve the poor, dish soup in a shelter, collect shoes for the homeless. I try doing those things, but life gets in the way. Best-laid plans and all that.
Those perfect people sometimes make me feel defensive, and I resent instead of admiring them. God, in the Old Testament, and Jesus in the New, repeatedly used flawed people to carry out their work. Perfection is not required. A willing heart is.
Characters in my stories sometimes make wrong decisions. They’re selfish. They don’t turn to God right away when things go wrong. But they try. They call out to God eventually and learn through life experiences they can trust him.
I experienced this a while back. I sell my books in Kroger grocery stores. Passing shoppers stop at the table I set up and chat with me. This day, a youngish man walked directly to me (which was odd… most wander by with a cautious eye, unwilling to commit until they’re sure why I’m there). Nothing about my display makes it obvious I write Christian fiction, so I’m unsure what drove him to my table. Straight on he came, though.
During our conversation, I learned he was visiting Texas from his home state of Florida. He’d been here only three days and had been to four different churches. I asked if he came to speak at those churches, but he didn’t. Just attending. I was confused about his purpose, but he was so enthusiastic, I gave up making sense of it.
He asked if he could pray for me.
He put one hand on my shoulder and gripped my hand in his other. He asked if I had any pain.
This threw me. I was unprepared. Surprised, I tossed out the first thing I thought of. “My hip flexor sometimes hurts.”
He began praying. Loudly. Using all the “Christian-ese” words like “hedge of protection” and “healed by Your stripes.” I flinched inside.
You’re drawing attention to us.
People are probably staring.
Then I heard a whisper in my heart.
Listen to his words. Claim the promises he is calling down for you.
I listened. To the holy nudge and to the young man. A smile crossed my face as my new friend claimed healing for my body. He was so sure. Why couldn’t I be the same way? I was just like my characters. Stubborn. Unwilling. Unsure.
He finished his prayer, and I hugged him. Whew. Quite an experience. I wished for that faith.
Ten minutes later, a sparkling feeling—imagine what Tinkerbell’s wand might feel like if it touched you— fluttered through my hip joint. I kid you not.
I was afraid to move. Movement would be a test to see if my hip really had been healed, revealing my doubt. And, if I doubted, would it cancel out the healing?
I so totally identify with the Roman soldier who told Jesus, “I believe.” Then, in the same breath, begged, “Help my unbelief.”
I believe Mark shared this story to tell us it’s okay if we sometimes waver. We see with this story we can ask Jesus for help.
Help me believe, Jesus. I want to believe.
And when we pray in his will, he answers that prayer.
Don’t worry if you’re not perfect. God doesn’t demand perfection. He asks for an open heart. That we can do.
My latest book, A Father’s Gift, is now available on Amazon. Book two in the San Antonio series, it continues the story of Abby and Manny who you first met in Protected. Originally published in the Christmas anthology, Christmas Love Through the Ages, it is now a stand-alone book published by Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.
If you missed book one, (Protected), for a limited time, you may download the eBook version for only $0.99. Check them out.
I’ve read several tweets this past week about Amazon’s policy allowing readers to return eBooks after they’ve read them. When that happens, Amazon charges the FULL PRICE of the book to the author. Problem with that is authors don’t receive the full price when the book sells. We get 60%. When people take advantage of this policy, authors lose money.
This practice has the same unethical vibe as returning an expensive dress to Nieman’s AFTER you’ve worn it to your high school reunion.
Unless you’re Stephen King or Janet Evanovich, you’re not making enough money to pay your bills. I wonder if people realize the effect of their choice to return books.
As long as Amazon’s policy remains in place, authors have no say in the situation. However, there is something our devoted fans can do to help us out.
It’s easy to do. Click on the link next to the stars at the top of the page. It takes you to the screen which houses all posted reviews for the book. Simply click the button that says, “Write a customer review.”
Not sure what to say?
Start with a hook, a sentence that grabs the potential reader’s attention. Something like, “OMG, if you want to stay up all hours of the night reading until you turn the last page, this is the book for you!”
List your praise and your critiques. No book is perfect. It’s probably a more realistic review if you share things you didn’t love. But be as lavish as you want with what you really liked.
You can talk about the characters. When I decide about a new book to buy, I want to know if the people in the story are authentic and real-life, not too perfect to be true. Discuss whether the dialogue sounded real to you or gave the story a good regional flavor. Maybe you liked the descriptions of the setting, little details that made the time period pop to life.
Give your recommendation. Who do you think would enjoy reading the book?
Your review doesn’t have to be long. A few sentences will suffice. And it may be just the thing to swing a reader into the decision to buy.
Here is an easy fill-in-the blank sample you can copy.
_______ (hook). I really liked this book because ______. I got a little sidetracked when_______ happened, but not enough to take away from the story. My favorite character was ______. I loved how she always _____. And the dialogue between _____ and _____ made me laugh out loud in places. The author must have done her research because I felt like I was right there in _____ with all the details about the setting she included. If you like books in the _______ genre, you’re going to love this one. And it’s safe for teen readers as well. Buy this book. You won’t be disappointed.
Of course, you could make your review say whatever you want, but I’ve had so many readers tell me they just don’t have the time to write their own. They’ve even told me if I’ll write it for them, they’ll post it! I’ve resisted the urge so far.
Personally, I’d rather hear what you have to say. Just know, you taking the time and effort to add a review (to Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble – wherever you like to check out books) will mean the world to the authors you enjoy. We can’t do this alone and we appreciate every single one of you.
The Faith and Fellowship Book Festival is coming up November 2-4. This online event will be hosted on Zoom. I will participate on one of the author panels, representing my new book, Protected.
So, what is the Faith and Fellowship Book Festival? First, it is not a writer’s conference. And, a book festival differs from a book fair. Book fairs are typically massive bookshops, a place to purchase books. You may purchase books at the festival (and we hope you do!) but a festival goes farther. A festival is interactive. You can ask questions of the authors and learn more about the books from those who created them. This allows readers to make informed choices about the books they’ll buy.
The FFBF is a place to meet new authors and hear about the inspiration behind their books. A place to hear the most-well read Christian authors in the market today talk about their writing journey and what inspires them. A place where you can ask questions and meet new book lovers. A place where you can purchase books for yourself and for gifts in a manner that supports the authors.
And, author friends, there are still slots available on the platform if you want to join.
This Month’s News
Patricia Raybon is an award-winning Colorado author, essayist, and novelist who writes top-rated books at the daring intersection of faith and race. Her series’ first book, All That Is Secret,is set to release from Tyndale House. Patricia is a regular contributor to Our Daily Bread and (In)courage for DaySpring. Patricia will speak on Nov. 2 at our Faith and Fellowship Book Festival.
Tim Bowers is an American illustrator of children’s books, known for his humorous and whimsical characters. Three of his children’s book titles have appeared on the New York Times Best Seller list. Bowers has created hundreds of greeting card illustrations, including many top-selling cards. Tim is also an award-winning Fine Artist, creating finely detailed Miniature Paintings. Tim will speak on November 3 at the festival.
Susan Meissner is a USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction with over three-quarters of a million books in print in eighteen languages. She is an author, speaker, and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Susan will speak on November 4 at the Festival. Find out more about Susan and her many amazing books at https://susanmeissnerauthor.com.
FFBF has many other authors who are coming and presenting at the conference. They can’t wait to connect with you.
June 30 Deadline for award fees & books to arrive in PO Box
Sept. 1 Early bird fee for author applications ends
Oct. 1 Author applications close
Nov. 2-4 6-8:30 p.m. ET, 2022 Faith & Fellowship Book Festival
FFBF Committee Spotlight
Everyone in Richmond has secrets. Especially the spies.
Sandra Merville Hart hasn’t been idle—she announces her third book release in 2022! Byway to Danger, Book 3 in Sandra’s “Spies of the Civil War” series, published by Wild Heart Books, releases on July 19th. Its main settings are two Virginia locations in 1862, Richmond and Fort Monroe.
Meg Brooks, widow, didn’t stop spying for the Union when her job at the Pinkerton National Detective Agency ended, especially now that she lives in the Confederate capital. Her job at the Yancey bakery provides many opportunities to discover vital information about the Confederacy to pass on to her Union contact. She prefers to work alone, yet the strong, silent baker earns her respect and tugs at her heart.
Cade Yancey knows the beautiful widow is a spy when he hires her only because his fellow Unionist spies know of her activities. Meg sure didn’t tell him. He’s glad she knows how to keep her mouth shut, for he has hidden his dangerous activities from even his closest friends. The more his feelings for the courageous woman grow, the greater his determination to protect her by guarding his secrets. Her own investigations place her in enough peril.
As danger escalates, Meg realizes her choice to work alone isn’t a wise one. Can she trust Cade with details from her past not even her family knows?
Have you ever felt like a message was trying to break through the noise and clutter? Something you saw, heard about, read? And it appears, over and over?
Maybe the first two times, I can dismiss the signal as a coincidence. But when it keeps pinging, just keeps showing up, or, as Jim Rubart says, makes it past the Broca filter in my brain, I pay attention.
As writers, we know how hard it can be some days to sit down, get focused, and churn out words. Distractions pull us away far too easily. The latest-and-greatest shiny thing grabs all our attention. Meanwhile, our work in progress languishes.
So, how do we ignore the interruptions? Resist the diversions? Stay focused?
Two things (and yes, I get the irony) have recently popped onto my radar for the fourth and fifth times, respectively. When I get the same message, over and over, I pay attention. Both are books, and both deal with retraining our habits into productive lifestyles.
So, what are the two things, you ask? One is the book Atomic Habits, by James Clear. And one is Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, by T. Harv Eker. I’m not so concerned about becoming a millionaire. But to become one, I assume, a person has to do some things right. I am interested in learning how a successful person thinks.
Both of these books have shown up on my radar repeatedly, so I plan to listen to the message.
I’m starting with Atomic Habits. The idea of creating good habits appeals to me. I want to learn how to control my mind and focus. The book is on its way to my home. However, I know myself, and I’m easily distracted, so I need accountability to keep me on track. Is anyone interested in joining me, like a book club, to read through each chapter and then meet (virtually) to discuss? I’m envisioning reading three chapters a week. The book has twenty chapters, so that would be almost two months.
Want to join me? You don’t have to be an author to benefit from this. Envision having a daily routine that works smoothly and productively. See yourself setting goals and then meeting them. Luxuriate in the idea of completing a project. And then another.
Subscribe to my blog, and you’ll receive the updates when we get ready to start. Just let me know in the comment field that you’re interested in the book club. Let’s do this!