Christian Fiction Online Magazine

If you're a fiction writer, Christian Fiction Online Magazine is one publication you've got to read. Writer's Digest is great, but it's pricey. This one is free.

CFOM comes out monthly. It boasts interviews with top Christian authors, and columns by top agents and authors and publishers on every angle of writing. From marketing and publicity to genre news and book reviews. They even publish two short stories each month.

And this is the exciting part: my short story, "After" is included in this month's issue! Check it out here. I'd love to know what you think. And sign up for email alerts on the magazine's home page. That way you won't miss a single issue.

Off to a Writing Conference

Due to the extravagant generosity of my wonderful family and friends, I am off today to the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Conference in New York City. I'm attending with my amazing artist friend, Lois Rosio Sprague, a talented children's book illustrator (see her incredible work here ).

Besides the fun of a week in the city (my old stomping grounds), we'll be soaking up all kinds of information critical to writers and illustrators in the current market. I'll take workshops on writing fantasy, writing for teens,  and marketing. Once I get back, I'll post my impressions of the conference.

If you happen to write for children (picture books, middle grade, or young adults), it's worth your time to check out the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators . They have two national conferences and many regional conferences throughout the world. I'm a new member, and I keep discovering more great reasons to be a part of it. Check it out.

Storyworld: Fantasy vs. Reality

One of the many things I learned while writing my first novel was that I am not the best at dreaming up a storyworld. Interesting characters, complex motivations and intriguing dialogue? Check. But visualizing a landscape, culture and architecture? It was a blur.

My current novel details the harrowing experiences of Sleeping Beauty's chambermaid. She has been raised to serve, not to survive, but that's exactly what she will have to do. The poor girl wakes up from sleeping a hundred years, to realizes her fiance missed out on the enchanted sleep, and must now be dead. Mistreated by the princess, with no future ahead, she chooses to help the fairy responsible for the sleeping spell to find the blood-tipped spindle, before it can be used to destroy the remaining fairies.

It was important to my plot, for my main character to have a name that meant "pumpkin". No problem. I found a website and began translating pumpkin into every language I found.

Big problem. How could I saddle my female lead with a name like Calabaza (Spanish), Kurbis (German), or Zucca (Italian)? And those were the pronouncable ones. Finally, I found it. In Croatian, pumpkin is "Tikva". Bingo. I could live with that, and so could she.


I decided that I may as well give some other characters Croatian names. As I looked them up, I noticed some amazing photos. There were castles in Croatia? Who knew? My ignorant image was of a war-torn bombed-out shell of a country. How had I missed this beautiful European gem? I lost track of time as I virtually explored the country--but it changed my novel for the better.

I found the perfect castle for the enchanted sleep, up on a hill, where you can just imagine brambles growing up all around it (both photos above). Fortunately, the castle is now a museum, with websites that have detailed floorplans and pictures of every room.

I needed a location for my fairies' home. The moment I laid eyes on Plitvice National Park, I knew I'd found it. The ethereal waterfalls that spill from the sixteen terraced lakes seem to shout "fairy kingdom".

The more I explored, the more I was able to fill in plot holes, and plan disasters that I never would have come up with otherwise.

The capital of my country needed to be a Camelot-like city on the sea. Again, Croatia did not disappoint. The old town of Starigrad in Dubrovnik took my breath away with it's tiled roofs and marble streets.

I've discovered that it's not entirely a bad thing that my skill at inventing a brand-new storyworld is not highly developed. My novel is far stronger for the plot points inspired by a real place.

So, if you're struggling with your storyworld, try taking a virtual trip. I've already found the perfect country for my next novel.

New Years Goals

While my most obvious goal should be to blog more often, here are my writing goals for 2010.

  1. Attend at least one writing conference (I'm heading to the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Conference in NYC at the end of the month--thanks to my wonderful family and friends--so this one is easy!)
  2. Finish my current manuscript this month by writing at least 2K per day
  3. Submit 5 articles or stories for publication (I've already taken care of one, and I have a fiction story that will be published in February)
  4. Begin querying agents (I will read for two agents on January 20th, and hope to meet a few more at the SCBWI conference)
  5. Continue to write every day.
    Beyond my writing goals, I have goals planned for other areas of my life. I found an excellent goal sheet to keep them all in one place (see photo). It's a free pdf download, and after you fold it, you have a wallet-sized booklet that you can keep handy (read: actually remember what your goals are). You can find the goal sheet here .

    Michael Hyatt wrote an excellent post on setting goals, and he recommended a book called Write It Down, Make It Happen: Knowing What You Want And Getting It . No matter what you do, get your goals in writing, and if possible, share them with others to keep you accountable. You're welcome to leave your goals in the comments, if you like.


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