Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Prayer, Lies, and Writing with Brandilyn Collins

I’m thrilled to death to have Brandilyn Collins here today. She’s a master storyteller, whose books bring Christian suspense to shuddering level. Her latest book, Web of Lies, is the culmination of her Hidden Faces Series and ties into her books Eyes of Elisha and Dread Champion.

DM: Brandilyn, you have a strong focus on prayer in this series of books. It’s obviously an important area to you. Do you have people praying for you and your writing on a regular basis?

BC: Yes. My own family (husband, mom and sisters) pray for my work. And certain readers pray for me too. Also, I meet with two women every week for prayer. They are my mentors and the ones who hold me accountable. We pray for each other, and they’ve prayed me through every book. These wonderful women have prayed with me since my dark prepublication days. When I start whining about some problem now, they’ll remind me of the times I couldn’t find an agent or sell a novel to save my life. That straightens me up in a hurry.

DM: Personally, God’s been showing me lately that I need to focus more on Him so that I can focus more on writing. Do you find this to be true for you as well?

BC: Well, I can manage to focus on Him daily through devotions, etc., and still waste time when I should be writing. God’s recently shown me how I needed to change my daily schedule to make sure the writing gets done first. Not rocket science, but it’s a major change in mindset from what I’ve been doing for years. (Jogging my five miles early in the morning, then doing devotions as soon as I hit the office.) This is working for me—helping me discipline myself to write instead of procrastinating each day.

DM: Web of Lies explores the issue of listening to lies that aren’t true about ourselves. Have you dealt with this personally? If so, how did you deal with it?

BC: Oh, we all deal with this. I don’t think Satan lets anyone off the hook. Our job as Christians is to stay walking closely with God. Satan’s job is to knock us off that path. One of his methods is by trying to fill our heads with lies—I’m not good enough, everybody’s against me, I’m not really forgiven, and on and on. For the story behind why I chose this particular theme for Web of Lies, please see my blog posts about writing the book, starting Friday, May 27, ’05 and ending Monday, May 30. It’s a story that also shows the answer to these lies. Those answers lie in praying and walking in God’s truth.

DM: You’ve shared your road to publication (in fiction) on your blog , but what would you say is the most memorable part of that journey for you?

BC: Oh, sheesh. All of it. Well, maybe getting the first contract for a novel. Yes, I suppose it’s that. But there were so many other things. What did I take to tell that journey story anyway—something like 4-5 months? Let’s just say a lot happened.

DM: What’s your most favorite and least favorite parts of the writing process?

BC: Most favorite: being a writer. Least favorite: writing.

Close your jaw, Dineen.

DM: ROTFL!!! Okay… You’ve written in both first and third POV in your books, and you used both in Web of Lies. Do you have a preference?

BC: No, not really. The POV is dictated by the story. I’d intended to write the Hidden Faces series in third person, but it didn’t feel right. Ten thousand or so words into its debut book (Brink of Death), I switched to first. When my agent was shopping around my first novel (Cast a Road Before Me), one editor wanted it—if I’d change it from first to third person. Well, I wanted to be published in fiction, but not badly enough to ruin my story. I told my agent nothin’ doin’.

DM: How do you come up with your storylines? What influences that process?

BC: I have a real strong influence. It’s called a deadline.

So I stomp around and mutter and moan, whining about how hard it is for me to think through plots. (Doesn’t help that mine are so convoluted and needed a million details worked through.) And I pray a lot. And God answers—in bits and pieces as He sees fit. And somehow I get a story.

DM: Do you build your characters before you begin writing, as you write, or both?

BC: Both. Character drives plot drives character drives plot . . . You can enter anywhere on that circle and just keep going ’round.

DM: I’ve been listening to your awesome track “Kicking It Up a Notch” from the 2005 ACFW Conference, which was held in Nashville. I loved the part about character emotion. Could you share a little about how you weave in a character’s emotions without actually naming the emotion specifically?

BC: Okay. Um, remind me what I said. (ACFW still needs to send me that CD.) Well, it has to do with actions and thoughts and dialogue. And the often unexpected layers of emotion. No emotion is ever just one thing. It’s mixed with other emotions, one often leading to the next. Some emotions are primary, but some are secondary. (Okay, now I’m on a roll, and you’ll not shut me up.) For example, anger is a secondary emotion. It always springs from something else. Fear, relief, a sense of injustice, surprise, indignance, guilt, blame, self-denial—all of these and plenty more can lead to anger. If you want to portray anger to its fullest, don’t focus on the anger itself, for that will tend to lead to mere stereotypical thoughts/actions. Focus first on the emotion that gives rise to that anger. Explore it fully, completely, and the reader will be pulled into the anger along with the character.

I could go on, but I suggest readers do like you did and buy the CDs. The whole class is mucho cheap, and ACFW, a worthy organization, gets the proceeds.

DM: What would you say is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in your writing career?

BC: I have to rely on God every minute. This is why it’s a good thing that writing is so hard for me. (As much as I hate that.) Because I know when I finish a book that God helped me through it. I never would have made it without Him. With that kind of constant reminder, I just can’t get a big head over my work, because I’m continually overwhelmed by His mercy and grace. I’m nothing without His help.

DM: Any words of wisdom you’d like to pass on?

BC: Seek God first. Put your writing firmly into His capable hands—and leave it there. Walk His path, and see what He will do—in your writing and all aspects of your life. And when Satan whispers a lie in your ear (“I’ll never finish this book! I’m a lousy writer!)—tell him exactly where he can go. (He’s acquainted with the place.)

And if God wants you to write fiction—study the craft hard. Know it’ll take years to learn it well. And even then you’ve only just begun.

DM: Brandilyn, thank you so much for doing this interview. It’s such a pleasure to have you here.

BC: It was a real pleasure to stop by. Thank you so very much, Dineen.

Be sure to check out Brandilyn’s website for more details about her fabulous books.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Good News is Killing Me!

Ever get the news you've been wanting, craving, waiting to hear? And then it comes and bowls you over? That was me Friday. Robin called to tell me Saving Wicklow got a request for more informations from the publisher. I could hear Ronie squealing on the line (oh, the beauty of a conference call, and...bless her heart, LOL!) and poor Ron was no where to be found.

Me? I got quiet. Couldn't digest it all. I never thought I would react that way. I thought I would be squealing like Ronie. LOL! Guess I got knocked over.

That's okay though. I think I kinda like it...

Friday, January 27, 2006

Showdown by Ted Dekker

I just recently finished Showdown by Ted Dekker and have to say the guy amazes me with the ideas he come up with. He's a very talented writer who thinks outside the box all the time. That impresses me, I have to say. I like the originality of his books and themes.

Showdown definitely moves Dekker into a new realm. This book has its dark side, but in true Dekker fashion, it's used to propel the message of the book.

Good verses evil in a whole new way and form in Showdown. A stranger enters a quiet little town and turns the place on its head. What seemed wrong before is suddenly right or acceptable. This is the slide of the human nature in a worst case scenario.

I enjoy reading Dekker's books very much and will continue reading them. However, I feel like he's writing the same message over and over again. The Circle books, The Martyr's Song and Showdown have the same message, but maybe that's because it's a message that needs to be heard over and over again until everyone hears it. A message of sacrificial love--one dying to save all. Sound familiar?

Yeah, I thought it might. Dekker definitely has a calling and it is definitely like nothing you've ever seen before.

Just like his books.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

More Than Life

I heard a song the other day on the radio. Can't remember who sang it, but the group sings it from Christ's persective. Now I've heard this song dozens of times, and it came on the radio on a day no more special than any other day. But this time, one of the lines socked me in face.

"You mean more to me than life."

My first reaction was to reject it. It's a lie. How can anything be more important than Christ himself? Christ's life is invaluable, precious, to be revered. How can anything be more important than his life?

I listened, then pondered. The line played again. The words filtered into a dark place in my soul. A light snapped on in my head and shot a piercing beam right into my heart.

It was true. Totally and completely true. I suddenly got it. How could I have missed it? The truth of it is so simple, so obvious. My brain ran a rampant trail of revelation.

He gave up his life for us.

I do mean more to him than life.

We meant more to Jesus than his very own life.

I don't think I will ever forget that moment. I will forever remember sitting in my car, holding the steering wheel just so, passing down a street I've driven down so many times. The image is burned in my mind and the truth has seered my heart.

The stark reality of this truth is still seeping in, I think. Frankly, I hope the nature of it never ceases to shock me. I don't want to forget. I want to live my life branded by it. I want to be a slave to Christ. Sold out, fallen nature and all, for Jesus. I have so far to go...

In the meantime, remember this. You mean more to Him than life.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Chatting with Victoria Lynn Schmidt, Part 2

Welcome back! Now for part two...

DM: In your book you state you were told in film school that a script about a female hero wouldn’t sell. This set you on a path that lead to the development of the feminine and masculine journeys you detail in the second half of your book. What was your greatest challenge in this process and your greatest lesson?

VLS: Creating a model that would be accepted by all. I was a little afraid the term ‘goddess’, or talking about the myth of Inanna, might turn some people off. The lesson I learned was to go with your gut and hope for the best. People really seem to love it, as the book has done very well.

DM: On pages 11 through 12, you give a list of questions that really help flesh out your characters. I wound up with pages of notes for each of my characters and a deeper understanding of them. Was it experience that helped you develop this list or was it a reaction to a need you saw?

VLS: A lot of it came from my studies in self-help and psychology. I also find that the more specific you are about your characters the more they come to life for you. Answering these questions can inspire a wonderful backstory and help you to ‘see’ your character.

DM: I’ve not had the pleasure of reading your book Story Structure Architect yet. The description on your website sounds fantastic, and when I read the part about you giving George Polti’s work a 21st century spin, I was hooked. Could you tell us about this book and what drew you to write it?

VLS: What a labor of love! I learned so much myself as I wrote it. Through my experience in writing 45 Master Characters, I learned to look at literature, film and creativity from a feminine as well as a masculine perspective. I saw the yin to every yang in the world of writing.

Polti’s 36 situations were very masculine and somewhat violent in nature and very plot driven, this isn’t bad or good just an observation. So I put on my ‘feminine glasses’ and took another look at these situations and found a non-violent more character driven side to each situation that hadn’t been explored. For example: Madness (killing something) could very easily become Genius (creating something).

I also outline the 11 main plot structures because I couldn’t find it anywhere else and I needed that information to write my own stories. (Structure and plot are two different things.)

DM: What do believe is the biggest mistake most new writers make and what advice would you give?

VLS: Writing for market is a big mistake. Figure out who you are as a writer (what are you passionate about? What subjects interest you? What are your strengths?....) and hold true to that. If you never finish projects you may be way out of touch with your true subject matter and genre.

DM: What’s your spin on marketing? Do you handle your own, for the most part? If so, what do you see working in this industry?

VLS: You have to market yourself. It’s a great idea to learn a bit about marketing. There are many inexpensive online classes. Just be careful not to spend tons of money on something unless you’re willing to follow through with it. I know writers who have spent thousands of dollars on coffee mugs and bookmarks to promote their book only to find they didn’t want to go out there and do book signings to give these items away as promotional gifts.

DM: Any parting words?

VLS: As the website states (and my next book The Holistic Writing Method will show), I like to find inspiring techniques to help writers Plan, Plot and Create so here’s a great inspiring quote “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost – Martha Graham”

So you see, you have a responsibility to use your talent.

DM: Victoria, it’s been great having you here. I can’t thank you enough for sharing your knowledge and expertise through your books. I know they’ve helped me immensely and will others, too. Thank you!

VLS: Thank you for having me – best of luck to you all!

Feel free to leave comments and questions. Also, be sure to check out Victoria’s Blog and her website for writers, Characters Journey.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Chatting with Victoria Lynn Schmidt

If you recall, I did a review of the book 45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt a few blogs ago. It’s my great honor and privilege to have her here to talk about her road to publication and her books. First a little information about Victoria.

Victoria is the author of the popular book 45 Master Characters – Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters where she created and defined the Feminine and Masculine heroic journeys and character archetypes.
She is an active literary and non-fiction writer, and teacher. Her next book on writing Story Structure Architect: A Writer's Guide to Building Dramatic Situations and Compelling Characters was released July 2005.

Victoria began her career as a screenwriter for film and television. She is a graduate from the prestigious film program at UCLA, holds a master's degree in writing from Loyola Marymount University and holds a PhD in traditional psychology. She will also be receiving a Doctorate in Holistic Life Coaching in 2006.

Victoria has studied Creativity, Psychology, Yoga, Reiki, Physics, Martial Arts and Goddess mythology and has a huge library covering a wide variety of subjects.

She firmly believes in self directed learning - "All of the famous authors I have met have told me of the importance of research to keep their muse well fed. A great writer is also an avid reader."

Victoria is currently putting the finishing touches on her new writing system titled The Holistic Writing Method™, a very unique system that promises not to disappoint.

Now to the interview:

DM:Victoria, how long have you been writing?

VLS: I’ve been writing professionally for about 9 years but really I’ve been writing all my life. I can remember writing Charlie’s Angels scripts as a kid!

DM: Can you tell us a little about your road to publication?

VLS: Well it happened out of angry passion. :-) I was so upset when my fellow students and I were told not to write female leads that I wrote my first non-fiction book (45 master characters) in response to that. I was fueled by that experience and didn’t think at all about writing for a specific market. Passion is such an important element. I sent the proposal out without an agent and got a deal fairly quickly. I was very determined and I was coming from a place of wanting to make a difference, however small.

DM: As a writer, what is your greatest challenge?

VLS: Discernment. As your career takes off, you will find a lot of projects and ideas from others coming your way. You need to know who you are as a writer and then only accept projects that are in line with that vision. Likewise, in the beginning stages you need to stay focused so you can get projects finished and polished. Writers tend to attract ideas like magnets.

DM:What do you like/love about being a writer?

VLS: Sharing ideas with others.

DM:What do you dislike/hate?

VLS: I love and hate the solitude.

DM: I noticed on your website you also write fiction. Do you enjoy both non-fiction and fiction equally, or do you have a preference?

VLS: I love to read non-fiction. I tend to put a lot of factual information and interesting ideas into my fiction work, sort of adding a bit of non-fiction into it.

DM: Let’s talk about your writing books. In 45 Master Characters, you use the seven Jungian archetypes. What made you choose these specific archetypes? And how did you develop the eighth one, The Messiah?

VLS: These archetypes really were the only ones to choose from. The Messiah archetype just came to me. Probably from watching the films I list in that chapter, especially The Matrix, and from my spiritual (non-religious) studies.

(Come back tomorrow for part two of Victoria's inteview as she tells us how she was told a script about a female hero wouldn't sell.)

Sunday, January 08, 2006


Hi there. The response to my last post has been great. It's a pleasure to see us working together, praying for one another, and meeting needs.

Kjerten has left a very tangible need.
"I have a partial $ need. I have Lyme disease but have been watching God do amazing things in my friends & family through it. God has been so faithful in this whole scary thing. My expensive meds are covered through the patient asst programs, but my supplements (of course) are not. I can only afford some of them. At $18 & $20 a pop it's really adding up. So getting all the supplements my doc's prescribed every month has been challenging to say the least."
Join me in praying for her need, and be in tune to what God may put on your heart.

Pat Gonzales has left an update to her prayer request concerning her daughter and the situation with the car rental agency.
Hi Dineen and all. Spoke with my lawyer this AM. Sounds like he's going to handle everything. Thanks so much for the prayers!
Thanks for the update, Pat. God is good!

I'd like to encourage you to take this to your churches and small groups. The smallest needs can often be met right within our congregations. Large needs too. It's important we care for our family in Christ so that we may go into the world to share God's amazing love and forgiveness. The stories I could tell you...one even included a pair of shoes and a wreath hanger. All in one day. Maybe I'll tell it to you.

In the meantime, the fun has begun at Story Board. The first installment of The Unpublished has been posted by Ron Estrada, and I have a feeling the second is soon to be unveiled. What wakes a sleepy town out of it's reverie? Go and find out...

Thursday, January 05, 2006


So many wonderful comments have been left. I would like to post the prayers for what's been left so far. I also would like to encourage you to keep leaving requests as needed. Physical needs are welcome, too. You never know. Something someone needs may be the very thing you have and don't need, or you may be the tool God wants to use to fulfill His purpose in another person's life.

Here we go...

Robin, we both know the enemy hits us here. Ronie, too. Like you said, at least we see it. I'm praying for protection for all of us.

Ronie, I know God is working in this for you and will resolve it and restore peace. I pray this relationship be blessed and bless you both in the days and years to come.

Cara, thanks for stopping by. What your sister and BIL are doing will be such a blessing to the community. I'm praying for that. God will provide, because they have stepped out in faith. He will reward their faith. This community is about to be richly blessed. I pray for your bother Joel's future ministry to be a blessing to many and that he remain in God's hand for guidance. I also pray for wisdom for him and this young woman so that they may be properly guided to a relationship that glorifies God.

Staci, I pray this blanket ministry will bring healing and renewal in the lives these blankets touch. I pray for the prayers and the hands doing the work, that God would sustain them and this ministry. I pray that your brother will entrust his life to God, release the burden of his need to be in control, and allow the Holy Spirit to empower him. I pray for your precious daughter to be strengthened and held closely in God's hand, for you as her mother to persevere through such frustration, and that you both would be stronger individually and together for the future. I pray that the bond between you be blessed and stengthened also.

MaryLu, I pray Josh and Crystal would see the light of Christ in yours and your husband's eyes. That their hearts and minds be prepared by God to receive Him and acknowledge them as their Lord. And may God give you the prayers and strength you need to minister to your children in the interim.

Eileen, I pray for your Phil and Becky to see they need Christ more than anything in their lives. That God would put the right people in their lives to show this to them and to be there to help them along the way. I pray that God's mighty hand of provision would provide whatever this great need is in their lives. This will be a turning point for them. I pray also that you would be provided for, Eileen, that God would sustain you new writing projects and guidance in your endeavors.

Gina, thank you so much for that. I'm praying for you too. That God would open the doors to the right agent and pulisher for your work. And that he would especially continue the wonderful ministry you are doing with Novel Journey.

Pat, I pray for your daughter and your family to be freed of this situation. I pray for wisdom for this lawyer. I pray that this case would be thrown out and exposed as rediculous. I pray for the hearts of the people behind this pursuit to be changed and the unfairness of it to be exposed. I pray that God would be glorified in the process and for perseverance for you and your daughter.

Cheryl, I pray for your physical healing, that all areas of your body be touched by God. That you be restored to complete physical health. I pray that God would give you wisdom in dealing with these difficult relationships and insight into the hearts of these people so you can have understanding and direction to pray for them. I pray for your family to be protected by the mighty and omniscent hand of God, that the enemy's attempts to opress you and your family be thwarted, and that your familial bonds to your children and husband be strengthened.

All praise and glory to Christ who strengthens us, holds us close to his heart, and lavishes us with the love he died on the cross to give us. Amen.

My dear friend Camy also takes prayer requests and prays on Sundays. Thank you for sharing your needs. Please continue to do so.

A final pieces of news. I've been blessed with some fantastic crit buddies who have become treasured friends. Together we've started a new blog adventure called Story Board. We're in the process of creating characters based on the book 45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt and plan to start writing and ongoing story of sorts with these characters. Stop by and enjoy the ride.

God bless!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Let's Try That Again

I'd had hoped the concept I posted on New Years Eve would have really taken off. Maybe it was too shrouded in the holiday, maybe its time hasn't come yet, maybe I'm way off base, but I want to give it one more shot.

I got some great comments from that post, and I was blessed by those who just wanted to be a part of it. That's the amazing thing. Part of me feared there would be an abundance of needs posted and not enough givers. Guess what? I got more givers than takers.

Oh me of little faith.

Let's try it again, shall we? If you have a need, even prayer, leave a message. If you see a need you can fill posted, leave a message saying you'll take it.

Ane Mulligan emailed me, happy to be a part, and commented how it reminded her of the movie, Pay It Forward. It is a lot like that. Didn't realize it myself until after I posted. It also makes me think of how things were for the early church. They relied on one another for their needs, all for the sake of spreading Christ's message of love.

That's what I'm hoping to do here. Share Christ's love.

So jump in and spread the word.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

A New Friend and an Old Enemy

My new friend is HTML.

No, I'm not kidding. I never thought I would get into this stuff, and I know I have barely begun to scratch the surface of the HTML world, but there is something profoundly satisfying with figuring out how something works and then seeing it on the screen.

I've tinkered with the template of this blog a little and actually figured quite a bit out. That's huge for a girl who has resisted understanding the mechanics of programming despite being marriend to a computer guru.

My husbands thinks it's funny. Today I treated myself to a book—HTML for the World Wide Web. He really thought that was funny.

Now for the Old Enemy.

What could that be, you ask? Hmmm, could it be? Why yes, it's...Goals. They're actually not my enemy. Goals are good. Goals are my friends. Goals have an uncanny way of motivating one to get something done out of the fear of himiliation.

It's just that this year, the push to have them is intense. Everyone's talking about them, writing them down and posting them on their blogs. Frankly, it's driving me nuts!

But to be perfectly honest, I think the problem lies within me. You see, I'm resisting. Did you figure that one out already? Well, you could have let me in on the secret.

Alright, I give. Without further ado or delay, here are my goals for 2006. Give me a moment while I find a seat on this goal-bound bandwagon.

Writing Goals:

Goal #1: Finish current WIP by January 31st.
Are your eyes rolling? Mine rolled up into my head as I passed out at the thought of this one. This is truly a God thing. Let's see what He does with it.

Goal #2: Read more and faster.
I have a very large to-be-read stack. I want to read one fiction book per week and two craft books per month.

Goal #3: Follow a daily schedule.
Creat a daily schedule, breaking down my time into the following categories: writing, critiquing, studying and marketing.

Personal Goals:

Goal #1: Be addicted to Jesus.
Goal #2: To be revealed at the end of my current Bible study, Thin Within.
Goal #3: Read goal number two. You get the idea.
Goal #4: Study God's Word through my women's ministry at church, my own studies of the books of the Bible, and/or study guides and books.
Goal #5: Remember Goal #1.

(Big sigh)

There, I did it. Am I nuts or what? See the comment button down there? Come join the peanut gallery.