Mar 12 2014

Don’t Put the Cart Before the Horse!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn easy error for us to overlook in writing fiction is a simple concept that Dwight Swain first coined “motivation-reaction units” (MRUs for short).

Basically, everything that happens in a story is 1 of 2 things:

1. cause (motivation)

2. effect (reaction)

This rudimentary rule has many levels to explore, but the one we’re focusing on this week is don’t put the cart before the horse!

Or rather, you can’t show a reaction on the page until there is a cause. Let’s take a look at the following sentence:

I jumped when she walked into the room.

Simple. Innoucous. And out of order. I can’t jump before she walks into the room; however, that’s what I show here. I show the reaction before the motivation, the effect before the cause.

When she walked into the room, I jumped.

Not the effect you were going for? You wanted the reader to almost jump with the character?

A floorboard creaked behind me, and I jumped out of my skin. I turned around. There she stood.

Now, this is an easy example, but writers do this a lot–especially when we’re trying to surprise the reader. We want to put the reaction first, to create tension, and drag the reader to the next sentence/page/etc. However, we actually distance the reader when we write like this. Instead of experiencing the action with the character, we are waving a red flag saying, “Be ready, something is about to happen.” And that’s less likely to create tension in the reader’s mind.

Be wary of words like “when” and “before,” they are key words with this issue. This is not a search-and-destroy warning for these innocent words. This is merely a case of checking to make sure that we didn’t put the cart before the horse.

Mar 10 2014

Ralene Around the Web

Round Globe flowersThis past week has just flown by. I’ve hardly had time to think as I worked on editing projects, homeschooled the kids, cleaned the house (my mom will be here sometime today), and had a few out-of-the-ordinary interruptions to our routine. I didn’t even have time to prepare my Called to Be . . . post for today.

Instead, I thought I’d show you where you can find me:

I’m over at NAF today, asking authors about their creative marketing ideas.

Yesterday, I was over on Managing Your Blessings with an encouraging post for those “rainy days.”

While you won’t see me over there, per se, I’ve accepted a position as Operations Assistant over at Splickety magazine. I’ll be helping the Operations Manager with the day-to-day stuff for Splickety, and their imprints, Havok and Splickety Love.

Be sure to visit the Faith & Fantasy blog today to find out who won the Realm Makers Blog Voyage grand prize!

This next week is going to be pretty insane, as well, with my mom being here and our homeschool co-op kicking off its spring semester, but I’m going to try my best to pick up with the Called to Be . . . series next Monday. It has been such a blessing to me as I write each post, I hope it is a blessing to you as well.

What are you up to this week?

Mar 08 2014

Realm Makers’ Blob Voyage Ending!

RM Blog Voyage banner (1)Remember the Blog Voyage post I put up a couple of weeks ago? Well, the Realm Makers’ Blog Voyage ends on Sunday! If you haven’t taken the time to visit all the blogs, there’s still time. There are so rather interesting posts, and not just about Realm Makers, but about speculative fiction in general too!

Keynote speaker Tosca Lee even posted yesterday. You can visit the Faith & Fantasy blog to catch up!

In other news, the Clive Staples Award voting begins on Monday! Here is a list of the nominees, and the CSA crew has been posting information about each in separate blog posts.

Also, Realm Makers is trying to get this year’s Parable Award off the ground (best cover design). You can find out more about it on F&F.

Not that I’ve got Realm Makers stuff on my mind this weekend or anything. :)

Mar 05 2014

Define Your Audience

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI would say one of the top 10 questions an author of any type should be asking themselves is this: Who is your audience?

In order to reach a people, no matter who they are or where they are, an author has to know WHO their audience. And I don’t just mean being able to say that your YA novel is geared toward female teens, age 13-17, or that your Christian leader non-fiction book is for male leaders, age 21-30. It’s easy to define who we’re writing for.

But who are they?

What are their hopes and dreams?

What do they struggle with?

What is their greatest fear?

Like a fiction novelist getting to know their main character, authors of all types need to discover their audience.

Where do they hang out?

What are they researching?

What movies and books catch their attention?

Who are their friends?

What kinds of jobs do they have?

What do they do for fun?

In order to meet a need, you have to recognize the need. In order to provide solutions, you have to understand the problem. In order to call them to step out in faith, you have to prove that you understand.

How do you do this?


Don’t be afraid to send out e-mails, post polls, recruit confidants.


Google is a lovely invention. You type in what you’re looking for, and it will bring up thousands of websites meeting at least part of your research.


Become one with your audience, grasshopper. Get out there and do what they’re doing, go where they are going. Be authentic. Be resourceful. Go. Be. Do. (*sings go-be-do-be-do*)

When you know your audience, inside and out, you can more effectively serve them. And by meeting their needs, you gain their loyalty. They will keep coming back, regardless of your product is.


Mar 03 2014

Called to be a Mom

1121I was terrified.

I sat alone in the county health clinic, waiting.

My husband was deployed, and he had returned to Iraq after his 2-week R&R over a month ago. Everyone else I knew was either at work or in class.

So, I sat alone and terrified. Who did God think I was? I wasn’t ready.

A knock came from the other side of the door. The knob turned. The pretty nurse with the curly brown hair came in with a smile. “Well, it’s positive. You’re pregnant.”

I’m pretty sure all the blood drained from my face. I must have looked faint because the nurse’s smile turned to a frown, and she furrowed her brow. “Are you okay?”

I nodded.

“Did you plan for this?”

I shook my head.

“Do you want to be pregnant?”

It struck me as an odd question. Did I want to be pregnant? Of course, I did! That’s when I pushed aside the fear and opened my heart to the overwhelming joy. My head and heart were swimming all the way back to the bank where I worked. I stepped inside and froze. Everyone gave me a strange look. I had planned on waiting until I could talk to my husband, but I couldn’t wait. It was bursting out.

“I’m pregnant!” Tears ensued among the many congratulations and hugs.

I can honestly say there is nothing more terrifying, more overwhelming, more joyful, more satisfying than being a mother–at least in my life.

One thing you have to understand is that from the time I was about 16, I thought I couldn’t have kids. When I was born, I had surgery to remove a tumor. The docs told my parents that the medicines would most likely ruin my reproductive system. I probably wouldn’t be able to have kids.

When I found out, I was devastated. This is what women were supposed to do when they grew and got married, right?

So, all THREE of my children are double blessings, in my opinion.

This is what I’ve learned as a mother:

1. Children are a REWARD and a BLESSING from the Lord. (Ps. 127, Duet. 7:14)

2. God chooses the parents for the child. (Ps. 139:13-16)

3. Children are a gift! (James 1:17, Eph. 2:10)

Being a mother is serious business. It requires strength, sacrifice, and consistency. I have had to learn a lot, and grow up a lot, since becoming a mom. I’ve had to let go of my selfishness to allow the Lord to turn me into a mother.

My children have to be a priority.

We’ve all seen what happens to many kids without strong parental figures. They get lost in a world that overwhelms them, they know only survival. They know little of true love and compassion, of sacrifice, of grace and forgiveness. Who is to teach these to the children?

As a mom, I am charged with bringing up my children, teaching them about God and what He’s done for us. It’s my job to raise them to be decent, caring people who love people more than things, who want to go deeper and be stronger–who want to be more than I am.

What a huge, overwhelming responsibility. I could screw these children up with my hypocrisy and weaknesses. What if I’m responsible for the damage instead?

What if I think entirely too much of my ability to screw them up, and way too little on God’s ability to influence their hearts?

God is with me. I may make mistakes–correction, I will (and have) make mistakes–but God knew that I would. He knew I would have to learn, but He also knew that I would love and cherish these children like no other woman could. He picked the perfect mom for just these kids.

And He also made it so that this mother’s heart refuses to rest. I have been blessed with 3 bundles of joy, but that is not enough. There are thousands, if not millions, of children around the world in desperate need of homes, of parents who will teach and guide them, of families who will show them what love and compassion in. And that is why my husband and I are pursuing adoption this year.

I wasn’t called to be perfect. I was called to be a mother. To love and cherish the little ones as Jesus commanded. To be that light in a child’s life that reflects the love God has for all His children.

Feb 28 2014

Fab 5 Friday: Recovery Edition

file7111234184791There’s nothing like 10 days of being ill to knock you off your schedule and put you totally behind. Thus begins the vicious cycle: sick, stress, tired, sick, stress, tired, sick . . . Where does it stop? But, still, we most power through! I will not let illness hold me down. I am more than a conqueror! Can I get a witness up in here? Oops . . . Now “Stomp” is going to be stuck in my head all day. “Lately I’ve been going through some things that really got me . . . down. Put your hands together, put your hands together . . . ”

I should probably move on to the Fab 5.

BOOKS: This week I’ve been reading Prophet by RJ Larson–very engaging book. I just love the main character, Ela. I can relate to her so well as she finds out what it means to be a prophet for God. I’m also getting into Kristen Lamb’s Rise of the Machines. It’s taken a little bit to get into it, but I’m liking her metaphors and imagery. Just waiting for her to explain the “new” marketing concepts. I’m only on Chapter 3, though.

WEBSITE: Novel Rocket is an amazing website for writers. It is full of so much advice, tips, experiences. You should definitely check it out. What’s more they have a Launch Pad Contest, which is a great opportunity for new writers.

BUSINESS: I found someone to design a logo for my editing business and help me redo my website. They have some incredible ideas, and I look forward to seeing what they come up with. I’ll give you more information about them later. In the meantime, being sick has put me behind schedule. I’m not going to let it get me down, though. This year, I am going to be proactive and get stuff done!

PERSONAL: I’m very excited that all the Realm Makers stuff is coming together. Registration opens tomorrow, and there’s still a week left in the Blog Voyage. I finally decided what I’m going to dress as for the costume awards banquet: a woodland elf. The part I’m still deciding on is whether to go traditional or steampunk. Steampunk is so “in” right now. Hmmm . . . I’ll probably go with traditional.

QUOTE: “To remember who you are, you need to forget who they told you to be.” No idea who said this (first), I tried to look it up. But when I read this quote, I realized this is what I’ve been fighting the past few years. Finally, finally, finally, God broke through my stubborn shell. I am a child of God, a light in the darkness. I am who HE called me to be. It doesn’t matter what others have said, what they’ve said I could or couldn’t do, whether they believe in me or not. I answer to the One who created the universe.


Have a fabulous weekend!

Feb 26 2014

Moderation: The Only Hard and Fast Rule in Writing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe’ve all heard the “experts” quipping about these finite rules that will get us sent to the watery abyss if we break them. Show, don’t tell. Resist the urge to explain. No adverbs! Avoid passive voice.

Well, how’s a writer supposed to show any creative uniqueness if we’re all supposed to be writing the exact same way?

Now, don’t get me wrong. These guidelines are there with good reason, and writers should know what they mean and why the advice is important. We’ve all heard the saying, “You need to know the rules before you can break them.” Yeah. Get to know the rules—I mean—guidelines.

On the other hand, though, let me introduce a little word to you.



I firmly believe (as do most publishing houses/editors if you look at the books they put out) that all things are okay in moderation—at least when it comes to writing books. There is no reason for us to do a search and destroy for adverbs. Yes, if there’s a stronger verb (ran quickly vs. raced/dashed/etc.), we should definitely use it. Sometimes, however, the adverb is really the best way.

If you’re reading through your manuscript, and you see adverb upon adverb—you should consider eliminating a few and using stronger verbs.

Moderation, people.

Feb 24 2014

Called to be a Wife

1124Who can find a virtuous wife? / For her worth is far above rubies. (Prov. 31:10 NKJV)

Thirteen years ago, I met a handsome young man, who was destined to become my husband. He was (and still is) smart, funny, and passionate. Three years later, we were married. Last June, we celebrated our ten-year anniversary.

I was called to be a wife, a biblical wife. It may look a little strange to the rest of the world, but I’m okay with that. My husband comes second, just under God and Jesus. Yes, he even comes before my kids. Because that’s the way God ordained marriage.

As I’ve studied what being a godly wife means over the years, God has shown me some very interesting guidelines in the Bible. Some which rebel against the ways of modern society.

Wives submit to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church. (Eph. 5:22)

How often do we see these words and cringe? Many women are brought up today being spoon-fed the independent woman drivel. Now, don’t get me wrong, in certain ways, I do believe women should be strong and sure-footed, even with their husbands. Ultimately, though, I know that my husband has the final say in everything. It’s taken me years, but I’ve learned to respect, and even cherish, his counsel. Regardless of whether our husbands are believers or not, God will bless us for our obedience (1 Peter 3:1-2).

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for her. (Eph. 5:25)

Of course, if we have a husband like in this verse, why would we care about submitting? If you read all of Eph. 5:22-23, doesn’t it sound so romantic? Of course, romance is never perfect.

Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. (1 Peter 3:3-4)

As important as my outside actions are as a wife, it’s not as important as my heart. I have to admit, I have not always been a biblical wife. And even as I’ve made the choice to accept and adhere to biblical standards, I still find that my heart can be deceitful. Sometimes it’s hard to submit to my husband’s wisdom. Sometimes it’s hard not to fight to get my way. Sometimes—a lot of times—I still have to ask for forgiveness.

Of course, we can’t forget the Proverbs 31 woman. The superwoman that Solomon’s mother wanted for him to marry. Who else found this woman intimidating on first glance? Anyone? Me! I’ve had to realize that this is meant to be a guideline and not a set of rules that condemn me as a wife.

Filling out the Proverbs 31 wife (in relation to my husband):


  • Her husband trusts her: I think this is something sorely lacking in marriages these days, even among Christians. I try to keep nothing from my husband, and I try to show him the love and respect that God commands, so that my husband will trust me.
  • She does him good: I don’t trash talk my husband and find it appalling when other women trash theirs. I try to go out of my way to make sure he knows that I respect him and cherish the things he does for me and our family.
  • Works willingly with her hands to provide for her husband: This is probably one of my weaker areas (especially when you throw in the “willingly”). One of my goals for 2014 is to work on providing for my husband with a joyful spirit as often as I can.
  • She is business-minded: Now, this doesn’t mean that I have to work. What I think it means is that you can work or also that your able to manage your home much like a business: budgets, schedules, staying busy, etc.
  • She is strong mentally and physically: Being a wife ain’t easy. It takes a lot of willpower to do the things that need to be done every day, regardless of how you feel. I have to learn to take care of my health, because the better I take care of myself, the better I can be the wife my husband needs (and the mom my children need).
  • She is wise and kind: Wise? I find it hard to consider myself wise. However, I tend to think of this as being able to sit and listen to my husband and discern what it is that he needs to hear in that moment. Or, knowing when he needs to be left alone.
  • She fears the Lord: Marriage is hard work. And it is that much harder if God is not at the center of it. I pray for my husband, I pray for our marriage, and I will do so until the day death does us part, and probably even then.


My second role in life, just after serving God, is to be my husband’s helper (Genesis). There are times when I have to tell my kids no, when I have to say no to Bible study meetings or girl’s night out—and that’s okay. I’m being obedient to God by respecting my husbands and submitting to him.

If you’re married, how hard do you find it to follow the guidelines for marriage that God lays out in the Bible?

Feb 21 2014

Fab 5 Friday: iBloom Edition

So, this Fab 5 Friday is going to be heavily skewed. This week has been crazy–crazy full of ideas, crazy full of education. And it’s all due to one ogranization: iBloom. Read on below . . .


WEBSITE: From their website. “iBloom is on a mission to inspire women all over the world to live lives they love. We help women design their life around their priorities where they choose daily to love God, love others, and love themselves while enjoying their personal definition of success in both life and business.” Let me tell you, this site is FULL of information and inspiration. If I could follow Kelly around 24/7 without being a stalker, I so would. She and her team have such a heart for their mission.

BOOK: iBloom for Business by Kelly Thorne Gore. Well, how about that, more iBloom. :) This book was a fantastic, easy-to-read book about the basics of business and marketing. Kelly takes you through step-by-step how to develop your business strategy and how to plan your marketing. Each short section has questions to work through at the end. Plan as you go! Next on my list is Rise of the Machines by Kristin Lamb.

BUSINESS: If you’re visiting my website while reading this, you may have noticed some changes. Unless it’s your first time, then, nothing’s changed, really. I made a silly error earlier this week and accidentally stripped my site of all its customization, and I can’t get it back! Now, that’s not all together an awful thing because I had planned on revamping my website in the next month or so anyway. God just let me make it a priority! I found a new designer already, so be on the lookout for some more (permanent) changes.

PERSONAL: This week turned into a “break” for us. Hubby was off on Monday, and I’ve been sick ever since. No school this week. Not much work getting done either. Of course, now I’m trying to catch up. However, I had a lot of good stuff happen this week too. I won’t bored you with the details, but I will tell you that God is good and He is blessing my socks off!

PICTURE OF THE WEEK: Look what the little one found in his room (and then let his sisters put on his nose)


Feb 19 2014

Realm Makers Blog Voyage-Day 3

RM Blog Voyage banner (1)The minute I stepped out of the car at Realm Makers 2013 in St. Louis, the very first person I saw was someone I knew (who it was exactly escapes me). At that moment, I knew what I had predicted all along–this conference was going to rock.

I was glad that Michelle (the lady I carpooled with) and I had arrived early. I think half the fun of the entire conference was the people I got to hang out with and talk to that afternoon and evening. We had a blast setting up the bookstore, trying to find a place to eat dinner, and just hanging out in the lobby of the dorm room.

The next 2 days were a blur of fun, information, and new people. Probably one of my favorite things of the whole experience was finally getting to meet people in person. I’ve been blogging with NAF for over 2 years, and this was the first time I’d met most of them in person!

I shared a room with 3 amazing ladies–2 that I had not met before. Still, the last night, when we stayed up, sitting in the hallway just chatting for a couple of hours. Those ladies were phenomenal women who I am thrilled to continue friendships with, even though we are from different parts of the country. (Waves to Morgan, Jill, and Lindsay)


I opted not to pitch anything at RM because I wasn’t quite ready, but that didn’t mean the option wasn’t there. There
were appointments with editors and mentors–some people signed up ahead of time, others signed up at the registration table.

Perhaps one of the most memorable experiences was the costume awards banquet. What fun! I went all medieval in my blue dress (which turned out to be a popular choice). But whoa! What imaginations! I loved Grace Bridges’ TARDIS dress, and my roomates’ steampunk outfits. Oh, but Dawn Ford took the cake with her amazing steampunk. MC Ben Wolf had his infamous mechanical arm. Now I’m obsessing over what to wear this year!

Overall, here’s what I got from the conference:


  • Learned a lot in workshops from LB Graham, Kristen Stieffel, Ben Wolf/Andrew Winch, panels, and more.
  • Loved it all so much, Becky let me be the Social Media Maven for RM, which has been amazing fun!
  • Got a new critique partner (whom I adore)
  • A job as an associate editor and social media maven for Castle Gate press
  • Face time with publishing professionals like Jeff Gerke, Randy Streu, and Grace Bridges (to pick their brains and get to know them, not to pitch). I even got to meet Kathy Tyres and talk with her a bit.
  • Friendships with people that amaze and inspire me has probably be the greatest takeaway


I strongly feel this conference is a must for speculative fiction writers who are Christian. Being among so many like-minded individuals is such a high. God really moved mountains to bring this group together to spread His glory.

Realm Makers is hosting a fabulous giveaway. Be sure to use the Rafflecopter widget below to earn entries for the fabulous prizes. Who would want a Writer’s TARDIS Basket–it’s bigger on the inside!



a Rafflecopter giveaway

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