Friday, July 31, 2009

Article Query Accepted!

Recently, I've been submitting articles and queries to Christian magazines like Christianity Today, Guideposts, and Today's Christian Woman. The topic of my interest is in online attractions. Last Friday, I sent in a query to TCW. That public slushpile was filtered to the assistant editor by Tuesday. (I thought this was fast). Today, that editor wrote me saying she was interested in my "intriguing query letter." (I thought this was really fast!)

So I'm putting a halt to my WIP work to hammer out this article. I was so excited about it and I wanted to share with my supportive blogging community! A byline is a byline, and I'll take one (if possible) in a national magazine! :)

Wish me luck when I send in my manuscript (editor's term, not mine...I still call them an article from my journalism days) this weekend!

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

T3 - Lowered Expectations

Been a victim of high expectations? What's the solution? Check it out at The Character Therapist!

Oh, and from now on, Thursday Therapeutic Thoughts are going to be called T3 (TTT). I'm tired of writing it out each time!

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Book Hits Home with This Therapist

I just finished a book that is all about where romance meets therapy. I finished Denise Hunter's The Convenient Groom in about 6 hours total today. This book was an absolute must-buy simply based on its premise (that, and I'm a complete sucker for the heroine-and-hero-have-to-get-married type books).

Here's a blurb from the author's website:

Dr. Kate has it all-a radio talk show, a nationally-syndicated column, and a publisher who is paying for a lavish wedding to coincide with the release of her first book, Finding Mr. Right-For-You. But when her fiance jilts her the morning of the wedding, her life begins to crash around her. Who, after all, would want a relationship book by a counselor who can't even hold her own engagement together?

When Lucas Wright realizes what has happened, he offers to marry Kate and save her public image. Kate's heart-and her pride-have been deeply wounded. Are Lucas's handsome smile and utter devotion enough to convince her that her marriage is more than she had ever expected?

I was all over this in the store. She's a high-profile therapist--you have to be if you are called Dr. First-Name--and her specialty is relationships. She gets jilted, a PR nightmare for someone like her. Enter selfless (or is he?) stand-in. Awesome reading.

One of my favorite parts was the beginning of each chapter starting with an excerpt from Dr. Kate's book, Finding Mr.-Right-for-You. Each quote was very therapy-sounding, and many were even along the lines of what I've told clients! Of course, the quote always played into the chapter content, so after reading the quote, I would push on through the chapter, dying to know how it would play out.

I also loved the character arc for the therapist. Being one, I can easily see how we might tend to lean toward the misconception that we know everything there is to know. :) I also can totally identify with the idea that we can't let our own human weaknesses show on the outside. (I mean, what would my clients think if they knew their therapist had also suffered from depression?) Therapists are kind of like pastors. We go through the same stuff everyone else does, but for some reason, everyone thinks we don't. (I know I've thought my pastors were just one under the Trinity in holiness and perfection....but they have all put their underwear on one foot at a time like we all do.) So therapists have learning curves, too...perhaps harder than average, as we're working against all our book knowledge of human behavior instead of just hanging it all out there blindly. Make sense?

Denise is an excellent writer...I had never read any of her work before. But you can bet I'll be grabbing up her first Nantucket Love Story when I have a chance.

Thanks for reading my review...pick this book up!

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Treatment Tuesday - Compulsive Shopping Disorder?

Is there really such a thing? Get in on the debate over at The Character Therapist.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Winner of Menu for Romance Is...

Marybeth Smith!

Thanks everyone for playing!

Marybeth, send me your snail mail addy to charactertherapist (at) hotmail (dot) com.

Have a great weekend!

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Blog Award!

My blogging buddy and fellow author, Jill Kemerer, awarded me the Superior Scribbler Award yesterday! Big thanks to you, Jill.

Now for the blog award rules:

1. Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.

2. Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.

3. Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.

4. Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!

5. Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

The 5 people I'm passing this award on to are:

1. Lady Glamis from The Innocent Flower.

2. Katie Anderson and Sarah Frances hardy over at Plot This.

3. Marybeth Smith from Desperately Searching for My Inner Mary Poppins

4. Eric over at Working My Muse.

5. Lynnette Labelle from Chatterbox Chit Chat.

On another note, I'll be posting the winner of Kaye Dacus' book, Menu for Romance, on my blog tomorrow! So stay tuned!

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Therapeutic Thought - The Downlow on Phobias

Join me over at The Character Therapist as I discuss the ins and outs of phobias. Thanks to my crit partner, Katie, for this suggestion!

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Book Review and Giveaway: Kaye Dacus' Menu for Romance

Kaye Dacus' second book in the Brides of Bonneterre series was such an enjoyable read! She writes "inspirational romance with a sense of humor," and I'd say that is spot on. Picking up where The Stand-In Groom left off, Menu for Romance focuses on thirty-something event planner and an execituve chef, and of course everything that stands in the way of them getting together!

What I liked about this book is how Kaye focused on internal feelings we've all had and can relate to. For example, Meredith, the party event planner works for her parents. As a result, she feels that she's not respected, that her authority and title are just for show as her parents still try to run things. I love how Kaye shows Meredith's progression from indignance to doing something about it!

Meredith also comes from a big family. Not everyone comes from this type background, but likely we know someone who does! Her family can be nosy, in-your-face, embarassing...all the things that families can be (even if yours isn't big) and its interesting to read how Meredith chooses to deal with them. There is a happy balance when you have proper boundaries. (Hmm...might have to write a Therapeutic Thought on that.)

The chef, Major O'Hara, has a totally different set of issues to work through....the kind of set that involves mental illness, so I was happily clapping my hands. Having a mother with schizophrenia makes life difficult for Major. He's afraid to share the burden with anyone else, which is really SO realistic it's sad. Kaye even writes a schizophrenic break in one of the scenes....very compelling stuff, people.

So, that's my review. I liked Stand-In Groom b/c the premise was just wonderful. I liked Menu for Romance because the writing (as well as her premise, name it) was just plain good. :)

Enter a comment to be entered in the drawing. My little girl had WAY too much fun with the scraps of paper with your names on them for me to deprive her of it again. I might take a photo and post it next time with the winner (if I get industrious).

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Treatment Tuesday - What Makes a Womanizer Tick?

This week's assessment is on womanizing (and don't all us women want to know more about that!). So click on over to The Character Therapist to read all about it.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

And the Winner IS....

Eileen! My daughter drew your name this morning (we were WAY too tired after driving straight for 2 days!) So I will have that in the mail to you early next week!

Thanks to everyone for playing! Come back next week when I'm giving away Kaye Dacus' Menu for Romance!

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

New York: Here I Come

Alida Thorpe © 2005

I'm headed to see the in-laws in New York for over a week. And no....not New York City....upstate New York (thus the beautiful picture!) I'll have access to the internet to post, so no worries. And once I get there, at five o'clock central time, I'll stop the contest from Wednesday for Mary Connealy's Montana Rose. My daughter will then draw the winner from my husband's Leland Flyfishing orange baseball cap tomorrow night and I'll hopefully send off the book Saturday (or at the latest Monday) from New York. (all this to explain why the postage will read NY instead of MS!)

Not sure how much editing I'll get done. The in-laws haven't seen our little girl since she was 2 months old (she's 17 months now). So I'm sure there will be lots of visiting going on! I'm planning on finishing her baby book...I'm so behind (left off at 10 months, I believe). Anyway...I'll look forward to Where Romance Meets Therapy's first contest drawing!

Stay tuned for the winner!

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Thursday Therapeutic Thought - When Physical Pain Isn't So Physical

Again, join me on Tuesdays and Thursdays over at my new blog, The Character Therapist. Click on Thursday Therapeutic Thought to be taken to my post, "When Physical Pain Isn't Physical."

Thanks for the suggestion, Eileen!

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Enter to Win Mary Connealy's Montana Rose!

Leave a comment in the comment section (along with your email addy) to win Montana Rose! I'll draw and post the winner's name on Friday.

From Mary's website:

Left pregnant and widowed in the unforgiving west, Cassie is forced into an unwanted marriage to rancher Red Dawson.

No decent man could turn away from Cassie and leave her to the rough men in Divide, Montana. Red Dawson can't turn his back on the spoiled, snooty, beautiful woman. Now he's got himself a wife he's sure God never intended. And when he informs her there'll be no more silk dresses and she has to do some work around the ranch he's surprised she immediately tries to help with everything. Too bad she's a walking disaster. His ranch may not survive her efforts to pitch in.

Now, instead of a spoiled wife he's got himself an overly obedient and badly incompetent one, and poor Red is so charmed by her he can't bear to scold. He's not much for bossing people around, anyway.

While Red tries to survive Cassie's help and Cassie tries to use her own mind instead of meekly obeying for the first time in her life, an obsessed man plots to make Cassie his own, something he can't do as long as Red lives.

What a page-turning western/cowboy/romantic suspense/comedy/coming of age story Montana Rose was!

Mary's got such a gift for gripping premises, a knack for throwing the hero and heroine permanently together FAST (and by fast, I mean by p. 29, even though you get lots of interaction before then). And who wouldn't like her hook? Widowed One Day--Wedded the Next. What? You HAVE to pick it up to see why this would happen. And you're not disappointed, as Mary's historical accurateness leaves no room for disbelieving her characters' motivation.

The love story is sweet, filled with plenty of awkward moments as they get to know each other and come to love one another fiercely. There's an entire chapter of hilarity that will have you laughing aloud as one mishap after another happens right after the wedding....just calamity at every turn.

She works in a sub-plot very well to set up her next book in the series...I mean, any woman who has a Husband Tree is worth being written and read about, right? Admit're dying to know what the Husband Tree is! :-)

Okay...donning my therapist cap for a second...

My favorite character in this book was actually her villain. (I know, I've got problems.) But Mary does such an excellent job of giving her villain (as well as her MCs) a great GMC, both internal and external. And he has ISSUES. He's very delusional, and tries to live out these delusions in a frightening way. (Lemme put it this way: if you were to encounter this person today, he'd most definitely be an inpatient in a mental hospital.) He's fixated on the heroine, which of course adds all manner of built-in conflict.

But Mary makes him someone I think anyone could sympathize. His family history background--especially with his father--speaks far louder than any other marginally positive influence (like his mother) on his life he might have had. You pity him rather than wrinkle your nose in distaste. You want better for him. (Or at least I did!) I'd love to sit down with him and ask him a few questions...cause he needs therapy in a big way.

Bravo, Mary, on an excellent read!

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Treatment Tuesday - Dissociative Identity Disorder

I will be posting my Treatment Tuesdays assessments and Thursday Therapeutic Thoughts from now on my other other blog, The Character Therapist. I'll always include a link from this blog on those days (just click on Treatment Tuesday above) for you to click and read the assessment or Thought, or you can be a peach and "follow" the other blog, too.

This week's assessment focuses on a person with a cult-like past that results in Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly Multiple Personality Disorder). Join me on The Character Therapist!

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Julie Lessman's Daughters of Boston Series Review

I have had the honor and privilege to read Books 1, 2 & 3 of Julie Lessman's Daughters of Boston series. To quote the Romantic Times, "This isn't your mother's inspirational fiction!"

And boy howdy is it not! As a romantic, I fell in love with the O'Connor women. Julie wrote about historical scenarios each and every one of us can relate to. We've all struggled with how much is "too much" when your dating. I have a friend who experienced Faith's story of loving a man who didn't love her and wasn't a Christian, either. I myself experienced Lizzie's story of falling in love with a "big brother" type who couldn't see past his nose. Charity's story of redemption is easily recognizable by women who have troubled backgrounds or less-than-savory reputations.

Julie deals with HARD issues in her books, putting them in the "edge inspirational fiction" category. And as a therapist, I loved them all! Familial betrayal and backstabbing. Rape. Incest. Alcoholism. War. Assault and battery. Sibling death. Domestic violence. Lying. Cheating. Deception. Suicide. Caught between two loves. All of these and more are touched in in these three books, some more than others. Some are mentioned through backstory development. Some take front and center stage. Characters in each of her books could have really benefitted from some joke. One actually gets some minisiterial counseling, which was nice to read. I might have to do some character therapy for these guys and gals down the road...if I ever run out of people writing in, I just might. :-)

Of course, she also dealt with passion - between married couples and dating couples. I believe Julie has hit upon a huge market of women in the Christian fiction world who hunger and thirst for their toes to curl and their own hearts to beat fast at the anticipation of yet another romantic scene. I confess, I often flipped through pages just to see how long I had to read until I got to another kissing scene. :-) Women love to get caught up in a good love story. And I do mean LOVE story. Why do you think I read all my mom's old Harlequins under the sink in the guest bathroom when she wasn't looking? Now, I get all the emotional rush of reading one of those more classically defined "smut" novels incorporated into a book that has Jesus (or the very real need for Jesus) on every page.

I think what I loved the most about her books was the true depth of feeling she brought to the emotions her characters experienced. I got emotional several times (of course, I'm a huge sucker for a long-awaited wedding) and I believe it was in large part to how Julie depicted the scenes. Her description is wonderful. Plain and simple. She draws the reader in with incredibly original metaphors, action-packed verbs and an enviable deep POV.

I highly recommend these books (duh!) and suggest you start with your moms after you've read them. Were my grandmother living, I might give them to her to read. She just might not be as scandalized as I thought she would be. Real women aren't prudish, so the books we read shouldn't have to be. Praise the Lord!

Thanks, Julie, for sharing your God-given talent. I can't wait to be an influencer for you!

I hope you want to pick up these wonderful books and support Julie. I'm afraid my own copies are on my keeper shelf. :-) Be sure to come back Wednesday...I'm giving away Mary Connealy's new release, Montana Rose!

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Talking to Your Characters

Have you ever had a conversation with your characters? Like, I mean, they pop up while you're driving and you carry on a conversation about how you might could kill them off, or give them one more kissing scene...something like that?

Now, if you answer yes, I *happen* to know a good therapist. Ha!

I am more likely to try to discuss my characters with other people rather than themselves. I just tried this last night with my husband (again...I really should think twice about doing this. He just doesn't "get" it) and it was completely fruitless.

Gerard Butler (a.k.a. Alex Rover) and & Jodie Foster (a.k.a. Alexandra Rover)

So I'm thinking of just asking my character. It's better than way anyway, right? Their motivations are more intrinsic...coming from their own life story than my own. The picture above is from Nim's Island. Jodie Foster, playing reclusive, agoraphobic author Alex Rover (actually, Alexandra Rover). Gerard Butler plays her main character by the same name, Alex Rover. As she types, researches, etc., Alex Rover shows up in her house and talks to her! I just laughed...thinking how AWESOME that would be! In the above picture, Alex is talking (or self-talking, depending on how you look at it) to Alexandra about how she should try to be more adventurous (i.e., more like HIM, her alter ego in many ways).

So I'm going to try to have a conversation with Rick. Rick needs to tell me why he's showing back up in my novel. If Rick doesn't give a good enough reason, then we'll talk about me cutting him. :)

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thursday Therapeutic Thought - Function of Behavior

Since I just completed a second interview for a behavioral specialist position in a school, I thought I'd write about some of the things I brushed up on for the interview.

One of the things we need to think about when we're writing out our character's behaviors is what the FUNCTION of that behavior is. The easiest way to figure this out is to use an ABC chart. There are many versions of this chart and what the letters stand for, but the behavioral chart is as follows:

A = Antecedent
B = Behavior
C = Consequence

Once you fill in what precedes and follows the behavior, you can start to get an idea what "function" that behavior is serving at that particular time for that particular person. (This is very helpful when children are acting out, as you might can imagine!) The object of therapy would be to meet the need through some alternative way, and use motivation to change the undesired behavior at the same time.

Here's an example. And because my specialty is children, let's say you wrote in a child in your story...Haley. Haley comes from a recently divorced family. The mother has custody and often finds herself crying and battling depression over the outcome of her "perfect" family falling apart. Every time she has a crying bout, Haley ransacks her bedroom, and the mother, at her wits end, spanks Haley every time, screaming at her how she's making a bad situation worse.

Whoa. Time out. Let's look at this!

What happens immediately preceding the ransacking? Mother is crying.
What happens immediately following the ransacking? Mother screams at and spanks Haley.

So what function could Haley's behavior have? You'll know when you're writing (hopefully) what the function is...because this will likely be part of the character arc...for Haley to have the need met through some other, healthier manner. For instance, Haley might feel the divorce was her fault (as children often do) and feel overwhelming guilt every time her mother cried. So she ransacks her room in anger at herself. Wouldn't that knowledge change the mother's response to Haley? Instead of heaping even more guilt on Haley's shoulders (about making a bad situation worse), the mother would likely respond with love and affection, soothing the child instead of escalating things.

So think about how you want your characters to act and WHY. Internal and external motivations are the "why," but you can get as creative as you like with the "how." How would a 10-year old manifest inner feelings of guilt? How would a go-getter attorney manifest disappointment in himself? Find out what function the behavior will have, and then "heal" your poor characters by replacing it with something healthier.

Q4U: Have you thought about the reason BEHIND the behaviors you give your characters?

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Treatment Tuesday - Intermittant Explosive Disorder

Today's assesment comes courtesy once again from Chas. He's written in before about Evelyn, an angel turned human. From the same story premise comes Gretchen*, a human. Here's her character sketch.

* Names have been changed to protect the fictional.

Gretchen has always been the obedient older sister growing up. She was shy and geeky and boys teased and shunned her. She coped with this in high school by playing basketball. Once in college though, she rebelled and slept around because she could. The one significant relationship she had in school was a heartbreaker and she's struggled with men ever since. When she met her husband, she still hadn't resolved using flirtationto seek attention. As her relationship progressed with her husband (before and after her marriage at 27), anger resurfaces from those formidable years growing up, resulting in outbursts she can't control. In once such outburst directed at her husband, Gretchen partakes in an affair.

The first thing to consider is just how angry you want to make her. On the continuum of anger, you can range widely from mild irritation to full out assault or someone else or your self. Gretchen's anger seems outwardly to be directed at others (due to how she was treated), but I would assert it is an anger directed mainly at herself. Maybe she feels insecure because she didn't measure up to others (in her estimation). Maybe each and every time she had sex with a different guy, she was filled with self-loathing. Depending on her relationship with her father and whether or not she felt protected and supported, it's quite easy for her to translate her feelings about him to her husband. These are all questions I would find out the answers to in an initial therapy session with a client coming in for anger management.

Anyone coming in for anger issues will likely expect some sort of miracle fix for their symptoms. Almost 100% do NOT expect the therapist to delve into the reason BEHIND the anger. (I'm not may think this would be a given, but it's not. Especially with court-appointed clients. In and out is what they want.)

So, Chas, have your angelic therapist ascertain the bulk reason behind the anger. As I mentioned, Gretchen might be able to identify it was her treatment by others that still makes her mad today, but WHY is getting to the therapy behind it. Hope this makes sense. Counseling really isn't that hard...very instinctual.

But you will want to address her symptoms as well as the underlying reasons. The easiest way to do this would be with systematic desensitization. This is the same technique used with clients who have a fear or paranoia. It's easier than it sounds. In a nutshell, you have Gretchen come up with a hierarchy of, say, ten things that she gets the angriest over. Have her list them out. Then out teach her progressive relaxation skills (where you go through areas of the body from toe to head clenching and relaxing muscle groups) and then have her visualize the least angering event on her list and monitor her reactions (pulse, breathing). If she is able to remain calm through the visualization, you move onto number 9. Stop immediately when her anger can no longer be controlled in session when she thinks about these things. Treatment is considered complete when she can successfully visualize the number one thing on her list and remain calm.

Some therapists are even more directive then this and want to create the situation that angers or produces fear. If the client is ever asked to recreate an argument with their spouse or something like that (like making a person scared of the subway take a ride), then the technique is called in vivo desensitization.

As to a diagnosis that could fit, Intermittent Explosive Disorder could work, especially if her anger results in aggressive impulses that cause harm to someone else or destroy property (throwing a vase at someone's head would cover both). The key to this disorder is that the aggressiveness is grossly out of proportion to the precipitating psychosocial stressors. This is what we call "flying off at the handle for no reason."

Since Gretchen is at least 27, none of the disorders usually diagnosed is childhood and infancy would fit (like Conduct Disorder) unless she did these things before she was 18. The therapist would need to check her drug history and medical background to make sure nothing could have triggered such outbursts. During this assessment, a psychosocial history would also be gathered, including a developmental timeline. Then the red flags should be abundant. I don't feel she remotely meets the characteristics of Borderline or Antisocial Personality Disorders, but those would have to be ruled out, as would adult ADHD.

Now I haven't forgotten about the affair, just had to cover a lot before then while it was on my mind. The key to how the therapist should approach the affair is in what order it falls in the line of importance with the client. What brought Gretchen in in the first place? If it was the affair and she and her husband want marital counseling to get through the breach of trust, then the anger issues for her might be better explored in individual counseling with her, to keep the focus of the session on the couple instead of singling her out with her issues. I'm assuming that she feels horrible about the affair because she is a Christian, but what led the the breakdown in the marriage in the first place? Most affairs have already occurred long before the actual act of intercourse. The emotional attachment begins with someone else for several reasons, chief among them being the other partner being unavailable emotionally. As takes two to make or break a marriage. It often gets pinned on just the one who committee the overt sin. But it is also a sin to deny your partner yourself except by way of mutual agreement. So what I'm really trying to do here is make sure the husband owns up to his responsibility. Sure, no one forces Gretchen to sleep with someone else, but therapist should never take sides.

I guess this is as good as I can do from an iPhone! So no pictures or links...I might add those later when I get back from the sticks. I hope there isn't any typos, as I'm not at all sure how to go back! As always, more specific questions are welcome in the comment section, Chas. Thanks for writing in!

This service is for fictional characters only, so any resemblance to real life examples is entirely coincidental. Any other fictional assessment questions can be directed to

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Visiting Grandparents

I will be visiting the grandparents Monday-Wednesday of this week...and they live in the sticks with NO internet. (Can you even believe in this type of existence?) Seriously. But I maybe be able to go into town and bootleg some free internet somewhere and post...MAYBE.

I'll be taking my computer (it's like another child) and will be writing/editing away...hopefully I will be able to share with you Treatment Tuesday from my location. It not, it will come on Thursday!

Hope you have a blessed week!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Why I Chose the ACFW Conference: A Newbie's Perspective

Hello to all you ACFW Conference Blog Tour folks! Thanks for joining me here at Where Romance Meets Therapy.

I only joined the American Christian Fiction Writers in January. Since then, I've had a countdown on my blog for the ACFW Conference in Denver (September 17-20). Which means I have less than 10 weeks before I'll board a plane and head to Colorado!

There are several reasons why I chose this conference instead of one of the other stellar national contests (and there are several). I'll attempt to list them all below.

1) Donald Maass - This highly acclaimed agent and author will be presenting the Early Bird Session centered on his popular book, Writing the Breakout Novel. Even as a newbie, I've heard of Maass and this book!

2) Debbie Macomber - This New York Times #1 Best Seller will be the keynote speaker. Debbie writes books for American Booksellers Association, but her books show her deep faith and commitment to Christ. I hardly know of someone who hasn't read one of her books, so I'm very interested in hearing her speak to be inspired and encouraged in this industry.

3) Networking - Almost 30 agents and editors are listed by the ACFW website as being in attendance. Now, I'm under no delusion that I'll meet every one, but just knowing this conference brought in that many publishing professionals was impressive. This doesn't count the multitudes of published authors that will be there, many of whom I have now personally corresponded with via the ACFW email loop, blogs, Facebook or Twitter. The conference does allow the opportunity to sign up for agent and editor appointments, which is a big plus. Though I'm sure I'll have a bout of nerves before my appointment, I've heard from word-of-mouth that the agent and editor I've picked are gracious to first timers.

4) ACFW Genesis contest feedback - This contest for unpublished authors sponsored by the ACFW has already come and gone this year. I entered and received some of the best feedback about my novel I've ever gotten (and I entered other contests). The judges took the time to really give me and many other contestants the feedback we need to take our writing up to the next level. The fact that judges were willing to do this persuaded me to believe the content of the conference was bound to be helpful and insightful.

5) Support/Encouragement - As mentioned before, I have personally corresponded with many of the published and not-yet published authors who are members of ACFW. I've received uplifting emails from authors saying they were praying for my daughter when she got bit by a dog. Funny emails that made me laugh (you know who you are). Helpful information in a timely fashion when I needed advice on a writing matter. Books in the mail from authors who could have waited for me to buy their book (which I would have), but instead sent it anyway to be encouraging and to brighten my day (MANY THANKS!). All this from people I HAVE NEVER MET FACE-TO-FACE. Goes to show you what a close-knit community ACFW already is, patiently fielding newbie questions, taking us under their wings, and sharing their very busy lives with us.

6) My Crit Partner will be there - DO NOT underestimate what a big draw this is! Katie and I developed our friendship online through the ACFW email loop and God just took it from there. We'll probably find out that we're somehow related when we meet each other at the conference for the first time. She's like a sister and we have so much in common! We'll also be meeting two other wonderful women who will split the cost of our room.

So, these are some of my reasons for picking the ACFW Conference. If you're interested, there's still time to sign up. Click the link here for more information. Hope to see you there!

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

God Bless the U.S.A.

After having a husband who has served 10 years in the military, this song means even more to me now. Thank you to all those who have fought for our freedom. Your sacrifices are not forgotten.

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Friday, July 3, 2009

Blast from the Past

I was reading over on Jody Hedlund's blog about when our little "babies" are ready to fly off into the publishing world. I commented in her comment section about a partial book my mother unearthed while cleaning out a closet somewhere. She sent the 25 typed pages (on a dot matrix printer that looked exactly like the one below...if that gives you any idea how old this was) to me and I promptly read them.

Photo by blakespot

After I cleaned up the snot and picked myself up off the floor, I sat down to see what I could learn from this early writing attempt in NINTH GRADE. Bear in mind, these are just my own opinions...but here's my top ten list:

1) I head-hopped by the third paragraph.
2) I assumed the reader was completely stupid.
3) I had a sense of humor that still made me laugh. (a high schooler called the principal, Dr. Maxwell, by the nickname Maxie Pad in the middle of a school assembly...I'm still laughing, actually)
4) I had conflict right off the bat...but not much motivation or goal
5) I used passive voice and lots of adverbs ending in -ly (almost one in each paragraph)
6) I'm a romantic. Absolutely, tee-totally a romantic. There was all sorts of sexual tension in this thing (as much as I knew what it was back then!)
7) I had quite the imagination (inventing scenarios and backstory)
8) Speaking of backstory, I had WAY too much in the first chapter. In fact, it was almsot ALL backstory except for the conflict
9) I had a thing at a young age for men with accents
10) My characters had a hard time remembering each others names, and as such, always repeated the others' names in dialogue to help them remember

So, in honor of the holiday, I gave myself a break from serious writing (for about an hour) and read this little partial story. Great laughs. Good times. Thanks, Jody, for bringing this to mind.

Happy Fourth of July to everyone!

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Thursday Therapeutic Thought - Anger = Secondary Emotion

In therapeutic circles, anger is said to be a secondary emotion (this later came into pop psychology, so likely you've heard this before, but might not know specifics on what it actually means). Hopefully I can shed some light.

Poster courtesy of The Creative Therapy Store.

There is a great quote by Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, who wrote Man's Search for Meaning. It goes:

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.

Sounds great...and is very accurate. So what's the problem? The problem lies with identifying the response. Anger is actually an immature response. Animals are programmed to act with anger (fight) when they feel any sort of threat. It could also be called a primitive response (because a different section of the brain is actually being used...the lower brain). The emotional need (which would be found on the perimeter of the poster) goes unmet when all you (or your character) can say is, "I feel angry."

The above picture is available as a poster and a magnet for therapists to use in session. And trust me...I've put a lot of miles on my magnet, using it with children and adults alike. I watch their face as they hold the magnet. Brows are furrowed and the cogs are turning as they figure out what prompted their angry outburst at school or what caused them to lay into their spouse after dinner. And WITHOUT FAIL they ALL can pinpoint WHY. They can indicate what emotional need went unmet and led to the angry response.

So our goal should be to increase the "space" between the stimulus and response. (To be less technical...the "space" would also roughly fit that same time period when you might "count to 10.") By doing this, we give ourselves more time to figure out what the primary emotion is (Hurt, Anxiety, Shame, Sadness, Fear, Frustration, Guilt, Disappointment, Worry, Jealousy,Embarrassment, etc.). Any character can show this kind of emotional growth and development simply by the author adding in some action beats during the "space" to show how the character is "counting to 10," so to speak. [And be CREATIVE. Don't just have them count to ten, people.]

Anger is a powerful tool of survival as well as a source of energy. We've all known people who get mad and then clean like a madwoman or run like a racehorse. There are productive ways to channel anger. But to repress our anger or hold onto it for prolonged lengths of time can be very damaging to our emotional well-being (and that of our characters!). But, alas, we do have to have some sort of ticking time bombs, right? *sigh* No doubt about it, this makes a good one. Stuffing and stuffing our emotions (whatever they are) will lead to an explosion (external) or implosion (internal) eventually.

As always, specific questions about your characters are welcomed.

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