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Guest Blog Post

Christian Speculative Fiction: Why do we need it and why you should read it

April 22, 2014
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Our guest blogger is Guy Stanton author of A Warrior’s Redemption (4.3 stars on 25 reviews).

Christian Speculative Fiction: Why do we need it and why you should read it

All fiction has power to it. Words both spoken and non-spoken are powerful things. Words among their many uses have the power to enthrall, teach, entertain, and change a person’s viewpoint. Now perhaps we can all agree that the prototypical romance novel plot line or say an Old Western era novel aren’t going to change anyone’s viewpoint on anything. You either love them or hate them for their genre setting. In other words you know what you’re reading before you even start reading. It may come in different flavors, but nothing typically that lies outside your expectations of the genre. This is not so for Speculative Fiction. Speculative Fiction doesn’t prescribe itself to a stereotypical image other than to say that it’s imaginative and you’re never quite sure what direction it will take, which is why it’s both fun to write and to read.

Christian Speculative Fiction is an even rarer bird. Most Christian fiction falls into a very precise stereotype, which I often refer to as “nicey nice”. When you pick up a Christian novel you have a range of expectations of what typically you do not expect to find within the pages of the book. Christian Speculative Fiction is the exact opposite of this perceived stereotype, because while Christian ideals should be maintained, the door is open however for a full host of opportunities and experiences to be perceived Read more »

Wax on, Wax off: 5 tips to make your blog shine

March 28, 2014
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Our guest blogger is Vicki Lesage author of Confessions of a Paris Party Girl.

Wax on, Wax off: 5 tips to make your blog shine

You’ve got a great blog full of wonderful content. You promote it and see decent traffic. Or not. Regardless, it can only help to polish up your site with these 5 easy tips to make your blog shine.

1. social media icons

If you have a blog, you should have a presence on at least some social media outlets. Make it easy for your subscribers to like/follow/friend you by having a nice set of social media icons in the upper right hand corner of your blog. Search Google Images for “social media icons” and find a set that matches your style. There are plenty of free ones you can download as well as some paid ones or even some you can have custom-designed to match your blog.

Tip: even if you’re not active on many social media sites now, try to find a set with a robust selection of icons. If you join a social media site down the road, it’s going to be super annoying when you realize your set doesn’t include their icon.

And be sure one of these icons links to your good old-fashioned email address. Many people (like me!) still prefer to contact people via email and it’s beyond frustrating to see stuff like “I love to hear from my readers!” or “Contact me Read more »

Change your world 10 minutes at a time

March 25, 2014
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change your world 10 minutes at timeOur guest blogger is Hugh Culver author of Give Me a Break (4.8 stars, 36 reviews).

Change your world 10 minutes at a time

When I lead planning sessions for my corporate clients the focus is on the big boulders, like client acquisition (aka marketing and sales), staff change your world 10 minutes at timetraining, and budgets. Same for my work with entrepreneurs – they want to map out marketing, product creation, list building, and the like. All good stuff, but that’s not how things get done.

Nobody comes to work and by 11:00AM is crossing “sales for 2014” off their list. That’s not how you eat a big target. You do it one little bite at a time.

I was giving an example of this the other day in a leadership workshop I was leading. It went like this:

YOU GO TO THE GYM…

Imagine your get all inspired one day, stamp your foot down and are determined to get in shape. You are tired of feeling all flabby and watching Dexter reruns and now you want to do something about it. You are going to the gym.

In fact, you are so committed you buy a gym membership. Yup, goddamit, this time will be different – you are going to become a fitness god/goddess.

So, you pack up the old Adidas, a pair of shorts and a towel and off you go. Stair master, stationary bike, free weights – you really work up a sweat. Yes sir, you think, I am transforming my body!

After an hour, or so, you grab your stuff, head into the change rooms and stand in front of the mirror. What!?! Read more »

Thank You – the Sentiment behind the Oscars

March 18, 2014
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Our guest blogger is Christina Carson author of several books including Dying to Know (4.9 stars, 11 reviews).

Thank You – the Sentiment behind the Oscars

I was listening the other day to the acceptance speech of Jared Leto who had been awarded best supporting actor for his role in Dallas Buyers Club, an extraordinary movie which took 20 years of sustained effort to surface in mainstream theaters. The movie could support a blog of its own with its tribute to the kindness and inventiveness of the human spirit when asked to rise above the petty. But where my mind gave pause was in another part of the speech. It marveled at the affective power which resides in the words: thank you, for Hollywood actors are full of such on Oscar Night.

The thank you that we hear all the time is not what I’m talking about, however. That thank you we’re taught to say in gratitude, softens the edges of a rather rough world, but in truth we don’t owe to anyone or anything, not when we understand our true nature. Rather the power of thank you as I see it lies elsewhere. The only gift that is truly ours to give is the one that says in deed, and sometimes word: at the heart of things you and I are one and the same. Jared realized he’d received such a gift and thanked his mother, the pregnant high school drop-out of years past, not for his physical life but for the gift of truth she’d given him. His gift took this form:
“Thank you for teaching me to dream.”

That took me back in my own life, to a mother, the next to last born in a family of 14 kids whose own mother ran off and left the last two children to grow up thinking of themselves as somehow responsible for their mother’s traumatizing choice. But mum took the opportunities that came her way and to her female child, growing up in the ‘50s no less, she said, “Christina, you can be anything you want to be.” That was not premeditated, nor planned, and it was definitely NOT something commonly heard by young girls in the 1950s. Betty Crocker owned the day, and girls wore skirts or dresses, and on Sundays, gloves and veiled hats. But I heard a woman say that to me when she Read more »

A Few Things I Learned at Coroners’ Conferences

March 16, 2014
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Our guest blogger is Colleen Collins author of several books including The Ungrateful Dead: Prequel to The Zen Man and The Zen Man.

A Few Things I Learned at Coroners’ Conferences

People Usually Weigh 50 Pounds More…
Than the number they put on their drivers’ licenses. That was one of the first things I learned.

A deputy coroner told me that, and you know what? Based on my driver’s license at the time, she was right. I didn’t admit it, of course, and nobody had ever gotten a good look at that fictitious weight whenever I’d flashed my license to prove my identity at a store. Or they had and were too kind to mention it.

But that factoid inspired me to go on a diet. Now I’m only, oh, 20 pounds off from the number on my license. Some coroner-type will know the correct number someday in the future. Hopefully, years and years from now.

I learned other things at coroners’ conferences, too. Some facts were far more depressing, while others were more enlightening, than the driver’s-license-weight thing. But let me digress for a moment — this hanging out with coroners all started when my husband and I received…

An Invitation to Be Keynote Speakers
My husband and I have been presenters at two of our state coroners’ conferences, once as the banquet keynote Read more »

ROBERT EDSEL and THE MONUMENTS MEN

March 14, 2014
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A scholarly paper about Robert Edsel and The Monuments Men by children’s author Joan Marsh.

What, you may ask, does character education for kids (Emily Breaks Free Bullying Children’s Picture Book) have to do with The Monuments Men?

The answers are here…

ROBERT EDSEL and THE MONUMENTS MEN

To begin, we have Robert M. Edsel.  He is the modern man who has single handedly put the Monuments Men back on the map, so to speak.  He is the author of several books about the work of the Monuments Men,

such as RESCUING DA VINCI: Hitler and the Nazis Stole Europe’s Great Art – America and her Allies Recovered It, published in 2006.  (show book).

And THE MONUMENTS MEN: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, published in 2010.

And SAVING ITALY: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis, published in early 2013.  In fact he was here in Kansas City just last spring as a guest of Rainy Day Books promoting this book.

And most recently ROSE VALLAND: Resistance at the Museum, published in October 2013.  Remember Rose’s name…she is really Cate Blanchett.

Mr. Edsel’s movie THE MONUMENTS MEN is based on the 2010 book mentioned above.  It was released on February 7, 2014.

The cast includes George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin (of  The Artist fame) Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville (of  Downton Abbey fame) and last but not least, Cate Blanchett in the role of Rose Read more »

Current-Day Nick and Nora’s: Married Private-Eye Teams

March 11, 2014
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Shaun Kaufman and Colleen Collins August 2011

Our guest blogger is Colleen Collins author of several books including The Ungrateful Dead: Prequel to The Zen Man and The Zen Man.

Married Private-Eye Teams

What is it like being a married private-eye team? In the ten years experience my husband and I owned a private detective agency, we found it to be, for the most part, fun. We had our tense moments, but we enjoy each other’s company and love to make each other laugh, so when we look back on our P.I. days together, we have many fond memories.

These days, my husband is focused on his law practice, and I on my writing (but I still take a P.I. case from time to time), and although we enjoy our current careers, we sometimes miss those days when we’d be trying to nail a process service, rolling on surveillance or digging through trash.  Ah, the romance of it all.

Our Strengths and Weaknesses as a P.I. Team

Over ten years, we grew to understand each other’s work styles.  He’s a big-picture person, I see the details.  Those strengths can work fantastically together — and those personalities can also drive each other more than a little crazy.

Here’s one example of how our different traits meshed well.  Whenever we had a surveillance, I knew I could count on my husband calmly tackling any major issue, from losing a subject in traffic to a flat tire.  And I knew he counted Read more »

Gothic Horror or Victorian Women’s Reality?

March 8, 2014
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Our guest blogger is Stephanie Carroll author of A White Room (4.3 stars, 32 reviews, on sale for $0.99 for Women’s History Month from 3/1-3/12).

Gothic Horror or Victorian Women’s Reality?

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s story “The Yellow Wallpaper” was published in a magazine in the early 1890s. At first glance, many readers, both past and present, see a scary story of either a haunted house or a situation of pure insanity, both of which are elements of Gothic fiction. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is considered a part of the Victorian Gothic and horror genre, but it is much more than that.
The story was inspired by Gilman’s own experiences after seeking help for her “nervousness” and “melancholia” from the famous neurologist S. Weir Mitchell, who was known for his “rest cure”
Historians now look to Gilman’s short story as one of the most revealing inside looks at the experience of a woman diagnosed and treated as a hysteric during the late nineteenth century. Since Gilman was also a feminist with very public ideas regarding her views, this work is also seen as a look into how feminism may have developed during a time when hysteria was being diagnosed on epidemic levels.

What was Hysteria to the Victorians?

Hysteria evolved out of Ancient Greece with theories regarding a woman’s uterus having the ability to wonder the Read more »

What Exactly is The Gothic Novel?

March 4, 2014
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Our guest blogger is Stephanie Carroll author of A White Room (4.3 stars, 32 reviews, on sale for $0.99 for Women’s History Month from 3/1-3/12).

What Exactly is The Gothic Novel?

Reviewers have compared my debut novel A White Room to the classic gothic novels The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (thank you Oh, For the Hook of a Book!). I was so delighted when this happened because I wrote my novel in a way I felt was reminiscent of gothic fiction, but when I looked at other gothic novels, mine didn’t seem very gothic in comparison. That led me to wonder, what exactly is a gothic novel?

Note:  I’m not an expert on the gothic novel, so I am including my sources for where I got my information, and for you, in case you’d like to do further research.

The Origin of Gothic

The term gothic actually derives from the Visigoths and Ostrogoths (the barbarians) who conquered Rome in the 5th Century A.D. After the collapse of Rome, the world fell into a dark age and the Goths were ultimately forgotten until artists and architects rediscovered Greco-Roman culture during the Renaissance. They began to refer to certain (barbaric) architecture built during the middle ages as gothic even though it wasn’t necessarily built by the Goths. Read more »

The Color of your Eyes

March 2, 2014
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Our guest blogger is Jane Lark author of several books including I Found You.

The Color of your Eyes

Okay so this blog post may be just me…. and you will all think I am a little crazy. We’ll see. So here’s the thing, I think that the eyes are the most important part in a fictional character. I always describe a character’s eyes fairly early on. Why?

When I talk to people I always look them in the eyes. I had a religious upbringing, which you will probably notice from all the biblical quotes that end up in my books, I love using biblical analogy, although I am not that religious anymore, but I did a course a few years back that taught all the reading between the lines stuff about understanding what words and phrases meant years ago when they were written, so I love using that sort of knowledge… :D But anyway.  The Bible says, ‘the eyes are a window to the soul’ that I do believe. I do judge people by looking in their eyes.

My husband and daughter have fabulous brown eyes, so I am usually thinking of their eyes when I write characters with brown eyes. They also have naturally black really long eyelashes, and dark eyebrows. When they look at you it is quite mesmerizing, and my daughter is also always really smiley and happy, so that usually hovers as a light that shines in the texture of the deep browns, like light through brandy, or sunshine through amber, or newly opened horse-chestnuts.

See what I mean, if you are a visual thinking person, you are now quite likely to be engaging with her personality Read more »

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