Telling the Story

Super-excited to have as guest blogger, Chris Pepple! She writes just about any form you can name–poetry, podcasts, novels, and more. Today she explains how she determines the most appropriate genre for telling the story. Welcome, Chris!

When I speak to writing groups, I am often asked why I choose to write both nonfiction and fiction books. Writing for me is a way to start conversations with others. My writings also open doors for my readers to join in discussion on various topics that they may have never addressed before reading one of my books. Both my nonfiction and fiction pieces give me the opportunity to introduce readers to the stories of people that I have met in my community and in my travels.

I write poems, novels, short stories, blog posts, podcast episodes, and devotionals. Through all of these genres, I invite readers into my conversations on healing, on change, on hope, on courage, on determination, on love, and on self-discovery. Sometimes fiction provides a way to share a story of one person or group of people in a more expansive format than a biography, allowing me to generalize some parts of the story so a broader audience can relate and come to understand more about the journey of people in their communities. There are times, however, when a specific person or organization needs to be highlighted in a nonfiction piece so people can put a specific face to a particular cause.

Both nonfiction and fiction can be used to capture moments in life that are touching and honest. For example, my fictional ‘slice of life’ short stories, my poetry, my blog posts, and my nonfiction podcast transcripts give my readers a glimpse into lives of ordinary people who walk through life with an extraordinary determination. The people in each story, poem, or podcast may seem familiar, but they will also surprise us with something that had been kept hidden or had gone unnoticed.

Writers can stay true to our voice across multiple genres. Each story that needs to be told dictates which genre best helps the reader identify with the life being portrayed or the thought being conveyed. A well-written short story or a poem can carry as powerful a message as a biography or a devotional. Give readers and book clubs a list of questions to ponder, and all genres can be used to start conversations.

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Need help with your writing? Or looking for a guest speaker? Click here to learn about the services Chris offers.

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Chris Pepple is an award-winning author with six published books. She is also a freelance writer, manuscript consultant, and editor. Her articles have appeared in many local and national publications. She is a guest speaker for nonprofit groups and writing groups, leading seminars and retreats throughout the nation. You can follow Chris on her website www.chrispepple.com, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Nonfiction That Complements the Novel

Cindy Thomson returns to my site today, and just in time for St. Patrick’s Day! Cindy has written three novels set in Ireland during the Dark Ages as well as nonfiction that complements those novels. Click here to read her previous guest blog. Glad to have you back, Cindy!

Before I published a novel, I dreamed of not being called an author, but a novelist. I’d written some magazine articles and was in the process of having a baseball biography, Three Finger: the Mordecai Brown Story, I co-wrote published so I could rightly be referred to as an author, but novelist was my ultimate goal. Then after my first novel, Brigid of Ireland, was published, I realized that I had done a lot of research on the history of ancient Ireland that I thought readers might be interested in. And so I returned to nonfiction with a book titled Celtic Wisdom, published by an imprint of the same publisher. That book went out of print and having the rights returned to me, I re-published it under the title The Roots of Irish Wisdom, Learning From Ancient Voices. As I continued to write novels in that ancient time period, I followed Roots up with a book titled Celtic Song, From the Traditions of Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales.

You might wonder if I was enjoying nonfiction after professing my love for fiction or if it had been a simple business decision. There was a time when I told the agent I was with back then that I was afraid I might be better at nonfiction than fiction. That was a reluctant confession because as I said, fiction was my dream. Readers are the final judge, but that no longer concerns me. I enjoy writing both and can foresee doing so in the future especially when the nonfiction has a connection to the fiction.

I write historicals. As a reader, I’m interested in the background history of a novel. Had an English king actually relinquished his crown to marry a divorcee? Were American-Italians actually sent to internment camps along with the Japanese during WWII? A really good story will often send me off to look up more information. Many of the readers of my books tell me they are the same way so this is an instance where nonfiction and fiction can marry happily. But I also write some baseball pieces. A biography on a little-known player that I wrote about will soon appear in a book on the Federal League. I haven’t written any genealogy articles lately, but I hope to return to that one day. These are nonfiction projects that I enjoy and I’ve done these types of articles and essays for many years, long before my fiction was published. I think it’s okay to have many interests as an author. But the idea that nonfiction can pair with fiction only came to me after my first novel came out. And it took me awhile to write the second book, but I would like to continue if I can. I’m curious about things so my readers will likely see me put that curiosity into research that will eventually come out in a book somewhere.

What about you? Do you follow up novels with some nonfiction reading?

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I thoroughly enjoyed Celtic Song. So much interesting information. In Celtic Song, I learned that my favorite hymn “Be Thou My Vision” might have originated in the eighth century, and it is written in the poetic form called a lorica. I’d never heard of that kind of poetry before I read Cindy’s book.

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Known for the inspirational Celtic theme employed in most of her books, Cindy Thomson is the author of six novels and four nonfiction books, including her newest, Finding Your Irish Roots. A genealogy enthusiast, she writes from her home in Ohio where she lives with her husband Tom near their three grown sons and their families. Visit her online at CindysWriting.com, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest: @cindyswriting and Book Bub: @cindyswriting.

Guest Blogger Maryruth Dilling

My guest blogger Maryruth Dilling, is new to JPC Allen Writes. She kindly volunteered to do this post when I was looking for guest bloggers who write both nonfiction and fiction. Welcome, Maryruth!

This past November during NaNoWriMo 2019, I took a giant leap at a writing project I had been percolating in my head for over a year. I’m a nonfiction writer who creates educational programs to help people move from barely surviving to abundantly thriving. For my first real attempt at NaNoWriMo, I wanted to try something different in the fiction realm, using the novel as a vehicle to educate. 

I didn’t meet my word goal, but I learned a great deal about the difference in writing a novel and writing a nonfiction, educational piece. 

When I develop a class, I may jot down ‘session’ divisions (similar to chapters), but it is mainly with the purpose of making sure I do not leave anything important out. If I find I have too much information for one class, I will develop a second class (similar to a second book in a fiction series). 

With my classes, I write from decades of knowledge. Organizing sections happens almost as easy as breathing to me. With the move toward the fiction genre, I had to learn some new skills. 

The first thing I realized was that I needed to flesh out my characters. This took time, but they soon took on a life of their own. I also needed some type of outline. Normally, a ‘pantser’ when I write, I learned that even though parts of the story could be done as such,  some type of loose outline was needed. 

Personally, I did not write a full outline. Since it is a dystopia book, I jotted down some scenes which were important to build suspense and lead the reader to where I wanted him to go, giving him a reason to want to learn what I wanted to teach. 

Other differences, outside of character development and outlining, I had to brush up on dialogue skills. With my usual nonfiction, I had no need of dialogue. The dialogue itself was not difficult. Remembering the bits and pieces of punctuation with dialogue required review. The challenge was that when I began writing, I wanted the main character to be the aunt who is the knowledgeable one teaching about herbals. Instead, after the first chapter, an original secondary character stole the main spot in the story. This led me to rewriting a few sections. I do believe with the new main character, the story will be stronger, leading to more lessens for both the characters and the reader to learn. 

Another new lesson for me to brush up on with fiction is writing the scenery. With program development, no scenery is required. Scenery development has been the biggest struggle to learn. Show, don’t tell, is a mantra writers often hear. Learning to combine enough detail to put the reader in the same time/place as the character, yet not become bogged down by details is a skill I’m still working on. 

With the scenery, I decided to write enough detail to remind me of where I want the characters to be in the rough draft and fine tune the scenery when I go back for my edits. In the meantime, I continue to learn about improving my craft as I move from only writing educational nonfiction to using the vehicle of fiction as a teaching tool. 

I hope my experience has motivated you to step out of the comfort zone of your current genre and step into a new world. 

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Maryruth Dilling, author/speaker/coach, describes her job as CEO/Founder of Kindling Dreams as one who educates, challenges, and encourages as she helps people through personal coaching and educational programs to achieve their potential. For more information on available services or products, contact Maryruth at kindlingdreamsllc@gmail.com or visit her website at kindlingdreams.com. You can also visit her on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, M. Liz Boyle

Today my new author is M. Liz Boyle, whom I also met online. Last year, Liz published her first novel, a YA adventure. Welcome, Liz!

What do you consider your first story?

When I was about 7 or 8, I made up a cartoon about a ladybug and a worm named Sarah and Crawler, but the plot was pretty bland! Growing up, I worked on several stories after my Sarah and Crawler days, usually about horse-crazy teenage girls. The bonafide, full-fledged story that I consider my first is a Christian YA novel entitled Avalanche. The plot is much more developed than my earlier stories!

What do you think is the main difference between a writer and an author?

A writer’s work is more for personal use than for sharing, and an author intends to share his/her work with the public. When I hear the word writer, I picture someone lounging in the grass using a pen and paper. I think authors start that way. When they become published authors who write to share ideas with others, hopefully they can keep writing for the love of it, while managing to get their work into readers’ hands. 

It would be miserable to become an author and lose the love of writing.

Why did you decide to become an author?

When I first had the idea to write Avalanche, I saw a great opportunity to share an adventure and an example of strong morals with a teenage audience. I love how stories leave us with memorable lessons that we can apply in our own lives, and I’d love to have a positive impact on readers looking for clean adventures. 

What was the most difficult thing to learn about being a new author? 

I’ve had a hard time with patience, whether it’s trying to be patient while waiting to hear back from editors, reviewers, etc., or waiting for a chance to write down my ideas in the midst of my busy schedule. Sometimes I have a brilliant brainstorm and want to develop it right away, so I get really frustrated if it’s a busy day or week and I need to wait to work on it. 

What was the biggest surprise?

I have been pleasantly surprised by the kindness and generosity of so many authors. Before becoming an author, I had the misconception that in general, authors would have an ‘every man for himself’ mindset. I’ve found quite the opposite to be true! Fellow authors are happy and quick to offer advice and support. It’s a great group of people. 

That’s been my experience too. What advice would you give to writers who are considering becoming author?

I would advise aspiring authors to read books and articles about publishing and find some credible AuthorTubers on YouTube to learn as much as possible, to network with other authors in a similar genre, and to brace yourself for rejection. It can be discouraging, but keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep your eyes on the prize. Listen to constructive criticism, and ignore outright negativity. Also, and I know this sounds cliche, but identify your audience so you can best share your work with them. 

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AVALANCHE COVER 3When fifteen-year-old Marlee Stanley joins her two sisters and the sons of their family friends on a secretive hike in the middle of the night, she is thrilled and nervous. Battling her conscience, she prays that the hike will go flawlessly and that they will return to the safety of their campsite before their parents wake. The start of the hike is beautiful and wonderfully memorable.

In a white flash so fast that Marlee can barely comprehend what has happened, an avalanche crashes into their path. Buried in packed snow, Marlee is forced to remember survival tips learned from her dad and her own research.

This group of friends, ages eleven through seventeen, is about to endure bigger challenges than many adults have experienced. Digging out of the packed snow is only the first of many challenges. Injuries, cold, hunger, fatigue, aggressive wildlife and tensions in the group make this a much bigger adventure than they ever imagined. As the kids strive to exhibit Christian values throughout the trials, they learn numerous life lessons. But they are nearly out of food, and their energy is waning quickly. How will they ever reach help?

BUY LINKS: Amazon

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Liz is an author, the wife of a professional tree climber and the mom of three energetic and laundry-producing children. She received her Associate’s of Arts at the University of Sioux Falls, where she received the LAR Writing Award for her essay entitled, “My Real Life Mufasa.” Liz once spent a summer in Colorado teaching rock climbing, which she believes was a fantastic way to make money and memories. She resides with her family in Wisconsin, where they enjoy hiking and rock climbing. Liz and her husband have also backpacked in Colorado and the Grand Canyon, which have provided inspiration for her writing. She likes making adventurous stories to encourage others to find adventures and expand their comfort zones (though admittedly, she still needs lots of practice expanding her own comfort zone). She has thoroughly enjoyed working on her first novel, Avalanche.

Follow her on her website, Facebook, and Instagram.

Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, Jenny Knipfer

Author Jenny Knipfer is visiting for the first time. I met her through Instagram and did a guest blog for her in November. I’m happy to return the favor. Welcome, Jenny!

What do you think is the main difference between a writer and an author?

When you do the work of writing, you’re a writer. When you write for others to read, you’re an author.

Why did you decide to become an author?

Years ago I started blogging when blogging wasn’t the huge world it is today. I kept up a blog entitled “Crochet Life” about my craft inspiration, projects, and the day-to-day joys of life. I had another blog called “Scrapbook of a Closet Poet.” There I shared my poems and original songs. On those platforms I was an author but not the author of a novel, which I had always dreamt of being.

My life got busy during those ten years, and I decided to delete my blogs to focus on spending quality time with my sons before they graduated from high school. I kept writing daily in my journals.

Fast forward a few years–My health took a dive, and I had to retire from work in 2018 due to continued disability from MS. The day after my last day at work I sat at home wondering what would fill my time up. A light bulb went off in my head, and I thought of the novel I had started eighteen years prior. I decided to finish it, and well, here I am with two published novels and two more in the works to be released this year.

What was the most difficult thing to learn about being a new author?

Criticism is always hard to handle. I had to objectively examine my work and be willing to rethink and rewrite until I had a solid story.

It’s so hard to be objective with stories we care so much about. What was the biggest surprise?

On the down-side: marketing an independently published novel challenges me. On the up-side: meeting wonderful writer and readers with whom I have shared great conversations and been blessed with opportunities to learn from their experience.

I agree with both of those. What advice would you give to writers who are considering becoming authors?

Define your point of view. I had trouble with it in the beginning. It is the bone structure on which your story is built.

Find some beta readers and honestly consider their comments.

Do the hard work to make your manuscript or article the best it can be.

Be ready to work hard to promote and market your work.

Listen to your writing voice and believe in your craft.

Thank you so much for taking the time for an interview. And best wished on your 2020 release!

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A tale of greif, guilt, and redemtion (1)Ruby Moon embodies a tale of grief, guilt, and romance set on the shores of Lake Superior in Ontario during the mid 1890’s. Jenay, a young woman of mixed French and Ojibwe descent, must survive the trauma of causing a horrific accident. Her maturity accelerates as the challenges of grief, and romance enter the scene.Amidst this drama, Jenay is caught in a web spun by Renault, a rich, charming man who once threatened ruination of her father’s shipping company but now seeks something even more valuable–Jenay. Renault, her past enemy, suddenly becomes her friend then something more . . . Will she leave the man she loves for this new found affection?Jenay must find where her strength lies in order to face the challenges life brings her or be washed away like driftwood on the tumultuous shores of Lake Superior. Life’s richest dramas are played out under the banner of two ruby colored moons and become the hidden gems which forge her into a mature strong woman. Jenay realizes God is by her side, using even the harsh events of life to create something precious in her.

BUY LINKS: Amazon, Goodreads, and Bookbub

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Jenny lives in Wisconsin with her husband, Ken and their pet Yorkie, Ruby. She is also a mom and loves being a grandma. She enjoys many creative pursuits, but she finds writing the most fulfilling.

Jenny’s education background stems from psychology, music, and cultural missions. She spent many years as a librarian in a local public library but recently switched to using her skills as a floral designer in a retail flower shop. She is now retired from work due to disability.

She authored and performed a self-published musical CD entitled, Scrapbook of a Closet Poet. Jenny finds joy in the journey as an author and holds membership in the: Midwest Independent Booksellers Association, Historical Novel Society, Christian Indie Publishing Association, and Wisconsin Writers Association. Her favorite place to relax is by the shores of Lake Superior, where her novel series, By the Light of the Moon, is set.

Ruby Moon and Blue Moon, Jenny’s first two books in the series, earned five star reviews from Readers’ Favorite– “Ruby Moon is entertaining, fast-paced, and features characters that are real. Over all Blue Moon continues a well-written and highly engaging saga of family ties, betrayals, and heartaches.”

Follow Jenny on her website, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook. Or listen to her podcast.

 

Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, Anne Clare

Following my theme of beginnings, I’ve asked a few new authors I’ve met online to relate their experiences. First up is Anne Clare. She recently published as an independent author a WWII novel that is both equal parts romance and suspense. So glad you could stop by, Anne!

What do you consider your first story?

My first “real” stories that I recall were written scrap paper from Dad’s office, sometimes with thin sheets of cardboard for covers. I didn’t write them myself, being small and not having mastered the art of spelling (still working on that, actually.) My cousin was a few years older, and she and I hid out in her room to create! I dictated stories that she recorded in her nice, big-kid handwriting—wild adventures of magical horses, talking dogs, and princesses. I did the illustrations, and then we’d share them with our parents. I still get a chuckle out of reading through the few that my mom saved.

What do you think is the main difference between a writer and an author?

This is an interesting question, and one I hadn’t really thought about before. I’ll confess, in trying to come up with an answer I popped onto the internet to see if there was a set differentiation that others used. I found about half a dozen!

The first word that came to my mind when considering the difference between “writer” and “author” was intent. In other words, what’s the end goal of the writing?

I wrote for years—just for myself—in journals, in notebooks, on sticky notes and scraps of paper. I wrote to release feelings, to recall events, to record amusing ideas that might turn into something later. However, I had no real intent for these bits and pieces of writing. They had no focus, and no reason for one as I didn’t intend to share them with anyone in any formal way.

That changed when I got about half-way through my novel, on the day I thought, “This…this might be something I’d want to publish.” When my writing became something intended for other eyes—whether as a blog post, short fiction, or novel—I shifted from calling myself a writer to calling myself an author.

Why did you decide to become an author?

It wasn’t so much a choice as something I fell into. While I’d authored some pieces to share in the classroom or for church functions, I had no plans to pursue authorship. I certainly hadn’t considered becoming a blogger or historical fiction author.

Then, I had a vivid dream, set in London at the end of the Second World War.

As our house was going through major repairs and the kids and I were more or less trapped at home for several months, I started writing a story that incorporated the scene from the dream. As I said above, about halfway through the first draft I began to think that maybe this story wouldn’t just be for me. I dove into research on history and writing craft, and after lots of drafting, editing, and starting a blog, I moved on to eventual publication!

What was the most difficult thing to learn about being a new author?

There’s so much more to taking on the mantle of “author” than coming up with stories. There’s the actual writing process, then the editing process, then deciding whether to publish independently or through a traditional publisher. Once I decided to go indie, there was formatting, cover design and source citing to figure out, not to mention figuring out just how I was going to deal with the book’s income (if any) on my tax forms…

Still, the greatest struggle for me wasn’t dealing with all of the details—I’m an elementary school teaching mom. Juggling lots of complicated details is part of life. No, the real struggle was embracing the fact that I was embarking on a completely new journey, one that was going to have unexpected twists and turns. I had to learn to slow down, to get organized, and (hardest of all) to ask for help when I didn’t know what to do next.

What was the biggest surprise?

I was shocked to find out that using the “tab” key to indent paragraphs would mess up all of my book’s formatting. Learning how to format paragraphs properly and getting all those tabs out of my manuscript took a surprisingly long time!

What advice would you give to writers who are considering becoming authors?

Don’t go it alone. Whether you’re still in your writing process, getting ready to publish, or trying to figure out the mysteries of marketing, there are authors out there with treasure troves of information and experience, and many of them are willing to share! I could not have published my novel last year without the help and support of other authors who aided me with beta readings, edits, formatting and cover design, marketing help… so many things!

Of course, we don’t all have a ready supply of author friends on hand—that’s where the internet can become an invaluable resource. There are strong writing communities online—it’s just a matter of finding one that fits your needs and tapping in to it!

If you’ll allow me one more piece of advice, it’s to be kind to yourself. Writing and publishing are challenging, involved processes, and we’re all at different stages of life. You can read advice on what the process “should” look like all day, but in the end, whether it’s fast or slow, easy or rocky, it’s your journey.

I wish you all the best on it!

Being kind to yourself. That’s something we all need to remember. Thanks so much for your great advice.

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Whom Shall I fear mini ad 41943

All that Sergeant James Milburn wants is to heal. Sent to finish his convalescence in a lonely village in the north of England, the friends he’s lost haunt his dreams. If he can only be declared fit for active service again, perhaps he can rejoin his surviving mates in the fight across Sicily and either protect them or die alongside them.

All that Evie Worther wants is purpose. War has reduced her family to an elderly matriarch and Charles, her controlling cousin, both determined to keep her safely tucked away in their family home. If she can somehow balance her sense of obligation to family with her desperate need to be of use, perhaps she can discover how she fits into her tumultuous world.

All that Charles Heatherington wants is his due. Since his brother’s death, he is positioned to be the family’s heir with only one step left to make his future secure. If only he can keep the family matriarch happy, he can finally start living the easy life he is certain he deserves.

However, when James’s, Evie’s and Charles’s paths collide, a dark secret of the past is forced into the light, and everything that they have hoped and striven for is thrown into doubt. Weaving in historical detail from World War II in Britain, Italy and Egypt, WHOM SHALL I FEAR? follows their individual struggles with guilt and faith, love and family, and forces them to ask if the greatest threat they face is really from the enemy abroad.

BUY AT AMAZON.

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Anne Clare is a native of Minnesota’s cornfields and dairy country. She graduated with a BS in Education in 2005 and set out to teach in the gorgeous green Pacific Northwest, where she and her husband still live. She also serves as a church musician, singing in and occasionally directing choirs, playing piano, organ, and coronet (the last only occasionally, when she forgets how bad she is at it.) After the birth of her second child, she became a stay-at-home mom, and after the birth of the third she became reconciled to the fact that her house would never be clean again, which allowed her to find time to pursue her passion for history and writing while the little people napped. Although she’s back to teaching part-time, she continues to write historical fiction and to blog about WWII history, writing, and other odds and ends at thenaptimeauthor.wordpress.com.

You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @anneclarewriter.

 

Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, Ronnell Kay Gibson

GIBSONTo wrap up the month, I have author Ronnell Kay Gibson visiting for the first time. Although she has published many devotionals and short stories, “Those Who Stay” is her first story to appear in an anthology. Glad to have you here, Ronnell!

What inspired you to write “Those Who Stayed”, a drama set during a hostage crisis in a store?

“Those Who Stayed” was based on a dream I about just that, a gunman who walked into my local Christian bookstore and posed the same ultimatum, deny Jesus and you can live, but those who stay will be shot. In the dream, I was the 17-year-old boy frozen in place watching the events unfold. All the other details and characters were created as I wrote the story.

 Why did you choose a teenage boy as your main character?

I write a lot of young adult fiction and as I was writing, it just felt the most natural.

 Did you find any special challenges when you wrote your story?

The biggest challenge was trying to keep it real and not preachy. What would a person do if this were a real situation? Would a mother really let her young son stay behind? Most moms wouldn’t, so why does this one? I didn’t want to have trite or pat answers.

 What excited you the most about this story?

Each of the character’s unique voices came easily, and that almost never happens when I’m writing.

Since we’re in a holiday mood, what’s your favorite Christmas tradition? And/Or what’s your favorite Christmas story?

One of my favorite Christmas stories is the children’s book, Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect. Just a sweet story about compassion and selfless giving.

My favorite Christmas tradition is our “Tree Trimming Night.” A night where our family gets together to put up and decorate our tree. Afterward we have pizza and everyone gets to open one present (wrapped in wrapping paper with Christmas trees on it, of course). As my kids have gotten older, we haven’t always been able to have our special night, but this year I’m hoping to bribe my daughter and her friends to come help.

I love trimming our tree, too, with my kids. Thanks for stopping by!

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From Christmas fiction off the beaten path:

“Those Who Stayed” by Ronnell Kay Gibson. Years ago, a gunman and a store full of hostages learned some important lessons about faith and pain and what really matters in life — and the echoes from that day continue to the present. 

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, 24Symbols, Kobo

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Ronnell surrounds herself with words and teenagers. She specializes in young adult contemporary with a sprinkling of the mysterious. She also writes youth and adult devotions and is one of the editors for HAVOK Publishing. Self-proclaimed coffee snob and Marvel movie addict, Ronnell has also titled herself a macaroon padawan and a cupcake Jedi. High on her bucket list is to attend San Diego Comic Con. Ronnell lives in central Wisconsin, with her husband, two teenagers, and two Pomeranian puppies. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and on her website, ronnellkeygibson.com.

 

 

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