Easter Torture

As a drama director I confess I can fixate on clothes. I love to spend months combing fabric stores, thrift boutiques, and prop closets to assemble costumes that immediately communicate the role I’ve cast each actor to play.

Recently, my grown son reminded me that I had a tendency to take my costuming passion a bit too far, applying that same obsession to his Easter duds. He submitted this photo as proof along with this recent quote from Gordon Keith:


When I was 6, my mother decided to hand-make my Easter outfit. The idea was that she would parade her brown-eyed boy into church on Easter Sunday draped in the irreplaceable finery of maternal love. I would look shiny, new and cherished. But reality answered, and I crossed the threshold of my Sunday school room dressed as an itchy Dust Bowl survivor who enjoyed pastels.”

Please tell me that I’m not the only one who allowed good intentions to permanently scar their children.

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Body Language for Your Characters

One of my readers from OnLine Universities contacted me because she thought my audience might be interested in these body language tips for creating characters. I’m excited to pass this information on to you. Thanks, Allison Morris.

Whether you’re about to embark on a long-awaited college interview, a
nerve-wracking first date, or perhaps a highly-desired job interview,
making a good first impression goes farther than you may realize. The
amount of information that you perceive visually far outweighs what is
perceived by what you hear, and because of this, body language plays a
huge role in how people view you.  In fact, the little things you
do—with your hands, with your arms, your face, and even your feet—have
the power to present you as confident and engaged, or make you seem
nervous and uninterested. In order to properly express your level of
engagement in a conversation, from showing a date you’re into them, to
showing an interviewer you’d like the job, body language can make or
break how you’re perceived.  The following infographic offers you a
handy guide to some of the best tips and tricks in positive body
language.  Whether you’re prepping for a big event, or you’re simply
wondering what your current body language says about you, you’ll find a
helpful look into the complex world of how others perceive you, as well
as what their posture could be saying to you.

Be sure and click on this really cool graphic for a visual picture:

Attribution from OnLineUniversities.com

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The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing blog hop is a giant game of tag to help readers discover authors who are new to them. For this hop, authors are answering 10 questions about what we’re working on now. This week, I’m it thanks to my dear, the talented friend Kellie Coates Gilbert. You can read my friend’s interview here, and I hope you’ll consider buying her brilliant new novel, Mother of Pearl.

Here is my Next Big Thing!

1: What is the working title of your book?

I’ve been offered a three-book deal from a major publisher, but until the ink is dry I’m not at liberty to announce the exciting details…and the waiting is killing me.

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?

I’m an avid observer of life, always hungry for an unusual or exotic adventure. Story fragments come to me from the strangest places. An article in the newspaper. A documentary on the History Channel. Eavesdropping on the conversations of strangers. For this story, I took a story idea from a 2008 Dallas Morning News article and an unrelated historical fact my kids were discussing and twisted them together into an epic adventure tale.

3: What genre does your book come under?

I think the poor editors are still wrestling with that question, but probably the closest would be historical.

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I love this question. As a professional acting coach, casting is one of my favorite parts of writing. Before I write a word on a new story, I create extensive character profiles, complete with photos of the characters that I see running around in my head. For my current manuscript, the beautiful Zooey Deschanel won the lead role. A handsome unnamed male model is my hero (I loved his smile…really, his smile is what did it for me).

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

I can’t disclose details yet.

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

I’m represented by MacGregor Literary and my agent sold this series to a big publishing house.

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I love research. Unfortunately, extensive research can eat up writing time. The first book in this series was nearly done and then it underwent a complete rewrite. The rewrite took six months.

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Readers who love stories packed with high stakes, exotic adventure, and wild romance will love my books.

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My husband says that if it weren’t for guilt trips I wouldn’t go anywhere. But I love to travel and look forward to the day when I can do more. Visiting the ancient world has become an obsession, but reaching this destination will require a journey of the mind … a skill at which I excel.

Below you will find the authors who will be joining the blog hop next Wednesday. Do be sure to bookmark them and add them to your calendars for updates on WIPs and New Releases! Happy Writing and Reading!

Carla Stewart

Leanna Ellis

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What do you look for in a story?

In keeping with our family tradition, we went to the movies Christmas night. All of us were dying to see Les Miserables … okay maybe not ALL of us were looking forward to a musical … but it was my year to choose. After we bought the popcorn, I worried 160 minutes of actors bursting into song might send my family over the edge. But I didn’t need to fret for long. The power of Victor Hugo’s epic tale of an underdog’s journey to redemption captured our attention from the gritty chain-gang overature. By the victorious finale, all of us were swiping tears. Days later I’m still contemplating the extraordinary mettle of the hero Jean Valjean.

Has a story ever moved you so much you couldn’t forget it?

Here are FIVE story elements that move me:

1.  Big themes like love, mercy, justice, freedom, redemption.

2. Reluctant heroes struggling with their moral compass or a problem bigger than themselves.

3. Adventure that sweeps me into worlds I will only get to visit in my mind.

4. Humor.

5. And finally, romance. Who doesn’t long to love?

When I’m launching modern characters into ancient adventures, I work to incorporate these elements into my stories.

What do you look for in a good story? Escape? Adventure? Mindless fluff? I’d love to hear from you, dear readers.

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Some of My Best Work

You might think that most of my acting students are extroverts, comfortable on stage and eager to garner the attention of the masses. Truth is, most of the kids I work with are shy, extremely self-conscious, and would rather clean their room than risk vulnerability … and I can spot the terrified the minute I open my studio door.

How? From their body language.

They give me a quick smile then drop their eyes. Their shoulders slump and their arms criss-cross in front of their torso. When I extend my hand in greeting, the color drains from their face.

If you’re not naturally comfortable on stage and your publisher is asking you to build a public speaking platform, don’t despair. Not only can you can learn to communicate confidence, I believe you might even learn to enjoy it. How? With practice and a few stage tricks.

My son was a shy child. Whenever an adult spoke to him, he’d duck his head and hide behind my legs. Where we lived my son’s unwillingness to respond was considered disrespectful behavior. I remember gently lifting his chin, encouraging him to make brief eye contact. With an abundance of praise and practice, he managed a few seconds more each time and sometimes even a smile. Today he preaches for a crowd of about a 1,000. He sent me this video and I thought … this is one confident guy.

I hope seeing this introvert’s comfort on stage encourages you.

Invest in some acting lessons. Sign up and follow SIX MINUTES. Regularly make eye contact with someone you trust. As your comfort level increases, try your new skill out on the grocery checker or the waiter at your table.

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Most Impossible Story Premise Ever

The stories I write launch modern characters into ancient adventures. Impossible premises captured my attention years ago when I heard the Christmas story for the first time.

When I was two years old, my mother cast me as the angel who announced Christ’s birth in her annual children’s Christmas show.

“Do not be afraid,” I shouted from my perch above the nativity scene. “I bring you good news of great joy. For unto you this day, a Savior is born who is Christ the Lord.”

As I looked down at the teenager wearing a bath robe and holding my baby brother, I wondered how tossing a modern girl into so much trouble would fix an ancient problem. The story didn’t make sense. How did Christ’s arrival in the first century bridge the spiritual divide that took place back in the Garden of Eden?

The same way Jesus’ death on a cross 2,000 years ago covers my sins today.

Living our lives on a linear timeline makes it’s hard to wrap our minds around the concept of a divine being who was, who is, and who is yet to come.

If we can accept the premise of a boy stranded in a boat with a tiger, or that a red-nosed reindeer saved Christmas, isn’t it possible that 2,000 years ago God asked a modern girl to confront the past to change our future?

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See You at the Top Zig Ziglar

When I learned that Zig Ziglar passed away, it felt like I’d lost one my heroes. I actually never met the cookware salesman turned national motivational speaker. But I did have the privilege of hearing him speak in person.

Several years ago we took our teenage son to a banquet where Zig was the keynoter. Even though Zig was nearly 80 at the time, he spoke without notes and kept us engaged, entertained, and on the edge of our seats. That experience alone was worth the price of the ticket. What I didn’t expect was the added benefit of encouragement his gift of communication gave my son. That evening Zig Ziglar planted seeds of desire into my boy’s heart, a desire to communicate as effectively as possible. After my son finished college and grad school he went on to become one of the finest young pulpit preachers around. I can’t wait to see what God does with my boy’s gifts.

Zig, you were right. We are all designed for accomplishment, engineered for success, and endowed with seeds of greatness. May we find the courage to live these words.

Proud parents and the next Zig Ziglar.

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Speaking Tips for the Terrified Writer

When a good writer is great at public speaking sales can often increase. But when a terrified writer bombs on the stage, sales can actually decrease. Audiences expect more than confidence, passion, and knowledge from the person behind a microphone. The speaker must also entertain.

Before you cancel all of your speaking engagements, consider these tips to help you make a better public impression.

In my last speaking post, I talked about what to wear to help you feel more confident. This time let’s talk what to wear to appear more professional.

Prepare for battery pack. If you’re given the choice of a wireless microphone or a stationary mike, take the wireless. Moving around on stage will make you appear more confident and entertaining. But keep in mind that you’ll have to clip the battery pack somewhere. Just by adding a belt to your outfit, you will eliminate those worries. Wear a shirt or blouse that can untuck enough to thread the cord. Hiding the mic cord will keep it from falling over your shoulder and creating a distraction while you speak.

Legs aren’t my best asset so I add sexy shoes.

Nothing revealing. Redirecting the focus from your message to your assets is asking to have said assets judged. Consider what body parts will be exposed because if you’re boring considering your exposed body parts is exactly what your audience is doing. Remember if you’re elevated above your audience, your legs will show – are they killer? If not, don’t parade them. Wear pants or a longer skirt.

Great for a night out, but earrings and bare shoulder would only work if I was giving a brief acceptance speech for winning some wonderful writer award.

Avoid distracting garments or jewelry pieces. If your jacket bugs you, it bugs your audience. Either button a button to hold your jacket closed or take it off if you can’t leave it alone. Jewelry shouldn’t make noise when you move. Some earrings interfere with an over-the-ear mic and cause a rustling sound or that shrill feedback. Large, flat gold or silver pieces on necklaces can catch the light and send a blinding glare back to your audience.

Next time we’ll talk about how even a beginner can add a satisfying element of entertainment to their speech.

Loved hearing about all of the wardrobe malfunctions last time. Tell me what public speakers do that can irritate you.

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Developing Characters for a Middle Reader Book

We’ll go back to our public speaking questions in a couple of weeks. Today, I want to introduce you to YA author Cheryl Martin and her ability to craft strong characters.

As I said before, flat characters leap from the page when they are infused with bits and pieces of the writer’s past experiences. But how does a writer do that? Whether you’re writing for adults or children, you’re characters will take on a deeper dimension if you apply Cheryl’s tips.

Thanks for stopping by, Cheryl. Tell us how you developed a whole cast of memorable characters in your new release PINEAPPLES IN PERIL.

Author Cheryl Martin

Do you recall what it was like to be 10-16 years old? What kinds of things made you excited, angry, challenged or confused? How did you relate to siblings and parents? 

These are the questions I consider when developing characters for The Hawaiian Island Detective Club. It’s sometimes hard to think back to those days (oh so long ago!) but there are always memories that stand out. I use them to deepen my characters’ personalities. 

When I can’t come up with just the right attribute, I take a look at my own kids—they never fail to give me ideas. Although grown, they’re still siblings with all the normal frivolity, angst and annoying behaviors. Recollections from their younger years? Oh my! 

Cheryl’s kids and her inspiration.

As a kid, what kind of trouble did you get into, and how did you worm your way out? What were your thoughts and reactions, and did you blame someone else for your misdeeds? Ahh, yes, the memories flood your mind. 

Now it’s time to give voice to the characters. Choosing words can be challenging, as they’re not adults, yet not little kids either. Does my ten-year-old sound six-years-old, or the young teen too mature? 

Combine the personalities with intriguing scenarios and interesting settings, and—VOILA!—a unique and entertaining Middle Reader book.

Check out the adorable characters in Cheryl’s newly released book PINEAPPLES IN PERIL or visit her website cherlylinnmartin.com

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Dress for Speaking Success

The other day I was asked to join a couple of author friends at a speaking gig in East Texas. My first concern should have been what to say? But I worried more about what to wear? Call me shallow, but the reality is: Fifty-five percent of communication is accomplished by our appearance. I knew speaking at an afternoon tea was an opportunity to promote my books and the various workshops I offer. Winning the trust of these ladies was my goal. To captivate my audience, I needed more than quality verbal content. I needed pleasing non-verbal visuals. Here are the things I took into consideration when choosing my wardrobe:

Speakers get thrown onto all kinds of stages. Stacked chairs were a first for me.

Audience Assessment – Who was I talking to? I knew I would be speaking to older, conservative women who love any excuse to break out the fine china. Most likely their once-a-month meeting was a chance for them to “gussie up” a bit. I wanted my audience to know that I respected them enough to dress up for them. I wore heels … and my feet still haven’t forgiven me.

Comfort – Which brings us to comfort. Shoes should be comfortable. More than likely I would be standing for the presentation. I needed shoes that could take me to the stage without noise, allow me to shift my weight, and facilitate moving about the stage without tripping. A couple of years ago, I wore a pair of new heels on a highly waxed wooden floor and nearly landed on my backside. Memorable, but not my most graceful entry. I do like to wear a bit of a heel because the elevation straightens my spine and makes me feel taller and more confident. Feeling confident allows me to forget about me and authentically concentrate on the message.

Color affects my mood and a dynamic color sets an energetic and positive tone for the audience. Rich greens or vibrant blues pop against almost any backdrop and help your body stand out. I  don’t have to be a flashing neon sign, but I don’t want to revert to black because it makes me look thinner. If the stage is dark, I run the risk of my body disappearing. You may think that is a good thing. But if your body goes away, this leaves only your face to transmit non-verbal clues. From a distance, the audience would miss 55% of my communication. As an aside, blue is always a good choice for the harsh lighting of a TV studio.

Smile – Finally, the most important thing to wear is a confident smile on my face.
We’ll talk more about what to wear and what not to wear. I’d be interested in hearing about your public speaking wardrobe malfunctions.

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