Friday, August 30, 2013

The Blessing Basket

The past two months have been difficult for me as I continue to deal with the grief of my husband's death. Losing our loved ones is the most difficult thing most of us will face. Even Jesus wept at death.

I have received many small books and pamphlets which talk about dealing with grief and loss. One of the suggestions was to start a blessing jar by adding a penny for every received blessing. You can see the blessings accumulate.

Decided to try this with a modification. I started a blessing basket. This way I write down the blessings I receive and can read them later when I need a lift.

I believe this is something anyone can do at any time. What a nice way to realize that no matter what hardships we encounter in our lives, we also have reassurance of God's blessings.

My basket is pretty plain, but I am thinking about adding butterflies and flowers to adorn it. If you decide to do a blessing basket, let me know and send me a picture! I'd like to add it to my website where I'm creating a new "blessing basket" page.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Writing Interrupted

Karla Akins- Pastor's wife, Writer, Biker
My life is not a quiet one. That doesn’t mean I don’t yearn for the solace of a nunnery. I do. But God has not allowed that to be my reality yet. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever lead what one would call a quiet life.

My life is out loud, extra-cow-bells-all-the-time, out-of-control chaos. It’s not because I’m irresponsible. I just happen to live with twins with autism, a son with bipolar, a mother-in-law with Alzheimer’s and I’m a pastor’s wife and full-time college student. My husband himself has ADD--Attention Deficit Disorder—so that means I have to help him remember details of his schedule as well as mine.

How do I write in all of this?

I just do.

Writing doesn’t happen because I suddenly get the muse. As a Christian, I don’t have a muse. I have the Creator of all things Who inspires me. Here are some things I incorporate into my writing life to enabled me to keep the dream alive.

1.     I write when everyone else is asleep. I’ve learned how to take 20-minute naps during the day to make up for any sleep I lose either early in the morning or late at night. 20-minute naps are more restoring to me than hours of sleep as long as I take one about every 4 hours or so. I can sleep sitting up!

2.     I wear ear phones and listen to either music on Pandora, or Rainy Mood, or Coffitivity.

3.     I go to my office and shut the door. This doesn’t always work because I’m often needed, but if I’m on a deadline I shoot them all some stink eye and they’ve learned when I’m serious about being left alone.

4.     If I’m on a super-serious deadline and absolutely can’t be interrupted I leave the house and go to the library or church office, depending on my mood and how comfy I want to be.

5.     In between tasks I stop and switch laundry, make a meal, or perform some other chore. Chores still have to be done even though I’m supposedly writing “full-time.”

6.     I use my iPhone’s timer to keep track of how long I’m doing a task. I time myself a lot for chores and race against the clock. Seems silly, but it motivates me to get things done instead of procrastinating.

7.     I use FlyLady to help me keep my house organized. I’ve used her from the very beginning of her mailing list—at least 14 years!

8.     If my day doesn’t start with Bible reading and prayer, I waste time. For some reason if I start my days with time with the Lord, He stretches the time and makes things happen so much easier!

9.     I’ve had to learn to write interrupted. I write in 15 minute increments if I have to. Every little bit of writing counts and adds up. I don’t have the luxury of hours and hours of pondering and dreaming, so I take what I can get. Did you know that Agatha Christie wrote that way? She wrote on her breaks while she worked as a nurse.

10.  When I’m in waiting rooms, in the car, anywhere, I write in a notebook. I have learned to use every spare minute I can to keep the dream moving forward. You’ll be surprised how many extra minutes you can find when you really look for them.

  Biography:

Karla Akins is a pastor's wife, mother of five, and grandma to five beautiful little girls. Her debut novel, ThePastor’s Wife Wears Biker Boots was released on August 9.  She also writes narrative biographies for middle grades such as Sacagawea and JacquesCartier.

Q4U: How do you write in the midst of your busy life? I’d love to know your secrets!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Four Powerful Words

Ah-ah-choo!!!

It's allergy time for me and any who suffer from hay fever. This season is affecting me worse than any in the past few years. My nose is stuffy. I sneeze a lot and my head feels foggy.

There is no way to avoid those tiny little spores floating in the air. They are carried into the house by attaching themselves to clothes. They are inhaled when I breathe.

I have medication which helps, but there is no cure. Allergy shots? Yep. Been that route. This helped, but hasn't cured me.

This morning as I sit here sneezing and blowing, I was reminded how much Satan is like the pollen in the air. He's always around...somewhere. You can't see him, but he's invading the place you live, the place you work, your mind. With every breath you take...he's there. Waiting.

We are all vulnerable. In times when we least expect it, our guard will be down and he'll attack, just like those little spores of pollen! No one is immune.

The only medicine to use against him doesn't cost a penny of earthly money. It can be summed in a short sentence of four powerful words: Pray and have faith.

Philippians 4:6-7 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."


Monday, August 5, 2013

What is a Beta Reader, and why do we need them?

(This article first appeared here:)
Your manuscript is finished!
You've edited it. Had it critiqued by writers you respect. Possibly even had it edited by a freelance editor. It’s time to shoot it off to your agent or publisher.
Right?
Not so fast!
Your grammar may be immaculate. Every i is dotted, every t is crossed, and you are sure you watched your ps and qs. But don’t forget the most important part of the writing, publishing process. The beta reader.

Dear Reader of my novel …,
What does an author expect/hope for from a beta reader? The story resides in our mind for so long that we reach a point that we need readers to tell us if we’ve said what we think we have. You are a very important part of the editing process for any author. If you feel your suggestion can make the book better, easier to read, and more understandable Please elaborate.
1.     Did the prologue and/or first chapter make you want to read more?
2.     At the end of each chapter, were there unanswered questions that made you want to flip the page and keep reading?
3.     Did you relate to any of the characters? Did you see character development in the major characters? Which character needs more work?
4.     Did you stay interested until the end? Where did your interest lag?
5.     Did you find a place where you were confused? Help me find and fix that.
6.     Did the ending give closure? Do you feel it satisfied the needs of the story?
7.     Is this a book you could recommend to your reading friends?
8.     Did you recognize a spiritual thread running through the book? Too much? Not enough? Explain.
9.      Did you find any plot holes that need to be fixed? A scene that doesn’t fit with this version of the story. (This happens in editing when we delete a subplot but don’t catch all the loose threads of the no longer needed part of the story.)
One of the problems an author has is that we need to know more of the story than we put on the page. What we know helps us know the characters and why they act as they do. But it might not belong in this story.
As a beta reader, try to look the big picture. If you see typos, feel free to note them, but don’t worry if you miss them at this stage of the game. Thank you. You are valuable and I appreciate you.
What type of person makes the best beta reader? The answer to that question is … “It depends.” Common wisdom says not relatives. Common wisdom says a reader of the genre you write. Each author will learn by trial and error.
Who was the first beta reader I asked to read my latest manuscript? My brother-in-love. A man who doesn't read fiction. 
Why did I choose him? Because he read my first book, read every word. pointed out important plot holes, and recommends my book to others.
By the way, he still doesn't read fiction. He prefers "real" books. But he offers to read mine because he has so much fun finding the plot holes.

Q4U: What is your experience with beta readers?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Never Give Up!

As a writer, I set unrealistic goals. For instance, for the month of August I established a writing goal (manuscript only) of 30,000 new words. That is 1,000 words per day!! In addition, I set a goal of editing 200 pages of an already written manuscript.

I've learned in life, we must set high goals to achieve our dreams. There have been times I set goals that were definitely achievable with ease. While there is a sense of satisfaction in the accomplishment, there is no real hardship involved.

Never give up. That's a good motto. When a baby learns to walk, they try and try again, but eventually they learn. Riding a bicycle is another childhood dream. Persistence pays off. The busy bumblebee on the coneflower doesn't even understand the meaning of giving up!

A couple days ago, I purchases a weighted exercise hula hoop. Hoops were popular when I was a kid, but I could never get the hang of it. I haven't given up. I will learn...and I'll lose weight just in reaching down to rescue the fallen hoop and starting over again! Think positive!

See, I've learned that if I commit all things to the Lord, then I will succeed. (reference Proverbs 16:3)

And Jesus said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)

The Bible is the greatest instruction book ever written. Inside you'll find an answer for everything you desire. Read it daily and listen for God to speak. He does, you know, through things we read, through the words of others, and through the Holy Spirit (that voice that whispers silently inside of us).

Go ahead! Set a goal you dream of achieving and then commit it to the Lord and pray constantly. Don't look down at the water like Peter did, but keep your eyes focused on Jesus.