Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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Writers: Have You Annoyed Anyone Lately?

A writer’s characters cannot all be perfect, because if they were it would be quite annoying.

We need to create conflict to keep our stories and our characters real and interesting. Conflict doesn’t happen when everyone is nice to each other all the time. Boredom happens. Conflict creates drama and tension. Boredom creates naps. And then you get nightmares starring Mike Lindell from My Pillow.

When I first began to look more closely at my stories, I saw that many of my main characters were nice, maybe a little too nice. Perhaps, because I find a lot of annoying people in my real life, I subconsciously didn’t want them to show up in my books. Powerless to change them in real life, maybe “editing” their  personalities made me feel powerful in fiction.

Upon further study of my work, I realized I did indeed have one very annoying person in my novels. It was the protagonist. This discovery excited me. I felt vindicated.

Annoying FloHowever, I noticed something else. Since my novels are written from a first person point-of-view, often my protagonists are a lot, well, like me.

Ergo, I am annoying. Often, I want to slap my protagonist (ergo, me) for being so stubborn, so angry, so impatient,  so prideful, so petty, so slow to get it (ergo, me).

Like right now. How annoying is it to use the word “ergo” three times in one paragraph?  Sheesh.

I’m asking my readers, “What do you find annoying in an author or a story?” Let me know . . . please . . . so I will stop doing it.

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The Not So Glamorous Writer’s Life

Please welcome my guest blogger, Jennifer Slattery, a  writer and speaker who has addressed church and women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers’ groups  across the nation. Jennifer admits to living a not so glamorous writer’s life …

Remember when you went to your first formal? Finding the perfect dress–the one with lots of sparkles and a waistband that nearly cut you in two. Then there was the zipper–as long as you exhaled while sucking in your gut, it fit perfectly. And besides, it was on sale.

But try sitting down in the thing.

And the shoes. For me, that first formal dance was the first time I wore heels, and it showed. Walking across the parking lot, with all its potholes, bumps, and depressions was interesting to say the least. Of course, it didn’t help that the shoes were half a size too small, or two wide, or whatever, and either strangled all circulation from your toes or fell off your feet every time you took a step.

Then you get older, wiser, and invest in a comfy yet stylish pair of flats. At least, that’s been my MO. Except sometime this summer, I threw away my favorite black pair, fully intending to replace. But then August hit, and with it conferences I needed to prepare for, and I forgot all about my shopping plans.

Some of you understand this completely. Others of you, the shoppers among us, consider me insane. For the latter of you, you’ll be shaking your head momentarily, thinking, “I told you so. Well, I would’ve told you so had you asked.”

Mid-August rolls around, and I begin packing for what I knew would be a whirlwind trip–a conference where I’d be speaking and teaching three classes, followed by a book signing, with a day and a half home before heading to an author event followed by another conference.

Whew! I’m tired just remembering it!

So there I was, planning what to wear and … no black flats, and no time for shopping. Luckily (ha!) our daughter owns a really cute pair of pumps, so I tossed them in my suitcase, closed it up, and was good to go.

Eh …

Saturday rolled around, the last day of the conference and the day of my book signing. By this point, I was also down to one outfit–the one needing those black pumps. So on they went.

And I quickly remembered how long it’d been since I’d worn heels. And that my daughter’s feet are wider then mine. So here I am, trying to look all professional while wobbling around, about ready to topple over, in my daughter’s much too high heels. To make things worse, every third step one of my shoes actually slipped off, nearly sending me flat on my face.

All the while I was trying to act all bookishly professional–and everyone I encounter, including the bookstore owner hosting me, is doing their best not to laugh out loud.

Grown woman, acting like a teenager in her first pair of heels. Oy.

I wish I could say wardrobe malfunctions during book signings are rare events, but …

I was on another trip, this time in Des Moines. Once again, it was a whirlwind weekend with back-to-back speaking engagements followed by a signing. By my last event, I was down to my last outfit–the one I was wearing. The others were not so neatly packed in my suitcase in the trunk. Add to this the fact that it was freezing out–not sure capris and strappy sandals were a great idea.

With goosebumps exploding across my arms and my lips turning a deep shade of blue despite heavily applied lipgloss, I decided to buy some coffee.

Did I mention I was wearing white capris? You know where this is going, don’t you? I experienced a momentary rush of warmth, followed by a rush of panic.

A writer’s life. Isn’t it glamorous?

Do you have any wardrobe fails to share? It would make me feel better. Seriously. 😉

More About Jennifer Slattery: Jennifer is the author of six contemporary novels and maintains a devotional blog found at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, (http://whollyloved.com) she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband. Connect with her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte) or Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/).

Jennifer’s Latest Release: Dancing in the Rain

On the verge of college graduation, Loni Parker seeks employment as a music teacher, but no one will hire her since she’s blind. Or so she thinks. To take her mind off her troubles, her roommate invites her to spring retreat at Camp Hope in the gorgeous North Carolina mountains.

Unbeknownst to Loni, Michael Ackerman, the director, is an ex-con responsible for the accident that caused her blindness. When Loni warms up to camp and wants to return as a summer counselor, Michael opposes the idea, which only makes Loni want to prove herself all the more. Still, her need for independence and dream of teaching win out, taking her far away from her beloved Camp Hope … and a certain director.

Camp director Michael Ackerman recognizes Lonie instantly and wants to avoid her at all costs. Yet, despite the guilt pushing him from her, a growing attraction draws him to the determined woman. She sees more with her heart than the average person does with his eyes. But her presence also dredges up a long-buried anger toward his alcoholic father that he’d just as soon keep hidden. When circumstances spin out of control, Michael is forced to face a past that may destroy his present.

Buy it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CSH8F97

 


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Without Small Beginnings, There Would Be No Big Ends

Like most writers, whether pre-published, newly published, or multi-published, we often wish we were further along our career path —no matter how far down that path we are. “After all, growth is natural,” we say.

Let’s admit it. We don’t really want growth to be natural; we wanted it to be rapid and explosive.

We begin a story and can’t wait to type “The End.” When the end arrives, we agonize over our book proposal and one-sheet. (Whether anyone actually reads them, we don’t know.)

We can’t be happy until we find an agent. When we do, we can’t be happy until we find a publisher. Then, “Hooray! We have a publisher!” We sign a two-book contract then spend weeks, sometimes months, editing our manuscript according to our publisher’s preferences, all the while scrambling for a new storyline for the second book.

When our debut novel arrives, we enter contests, hoping to add “award-winning” and “best selling” in front of our names. Then we’re off to book signings, conferences, and speaking events to sell, sell, sell! And I haven’t even touched on social media. [Sigh.]

While I’m not saying any of this is bad, I am wondering if the “one day at a time” axiom has morphed into “I can’t wait until tomorrow?” In our mad race to cross an imaginary finish line, do we appreciate the strides we’ve made to date? Have we forgotten to enjoy the present? Do we have any guarantees the future will be better?

In Zechariah 4:10, we are encouraged: “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line [pen?] in Zerubbabel’s hand.” (NLT)

Without small beginnings, there would be no big ends. Small beginnings are more personal; they usually involve working closely with others. During these formative years, we hone our craft and develop good habits. We also have more time to read, learning much from those who’ve gone on before us.

I remember when angst grabbed hold of me as soon as I decided I wanted to write for publication. I fretted over query letters, elevator statements, and pitches to agents and editors—as if I were in charge of the outcome.

I thought back on the small beginnings I had so enjoyed: 1) Creating and presenting humorous “roasts” for my friends and family. 2) Writing and editing a monthly church newsletter. 3) Creating website copy for my employers. In all these cases, the feedback was immediate and more intimate, and the experiences encouraged me to keep writing.

What are your small beginnings? Are you rejoicing with the Lord over them?

Do you finally have the time to write after raising your children? Has an article you wrote been accepted for publication? Does someone other than your mother love your writing? Have you employed the plot twist that came to you in the middle of a sleepless night? Have you created an outline for your non-fiction book? Have you figured out how to apply the three-act structure to the first draft of your novel? (If so, write to me privately and tell me how.)

God’s word says, “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I [Jesus] say to you, he shall not lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42 NASB). So, whenever I find myself absorbed in self and steeped in my projects alone, I break the pattern by focusing on someone else. Encouraging other writers excites me, humbles me, and brings me joy.

Getting rid of negative internal dialogue helps, too:  I wish I was as prolific as he is … If only I had a different agent … What if my publishing house closes? … I wish I had her sales … If only I had his platform …What if I get a bad review?

Listen up, Clarice! Whining is selfish, comparison is ungrateful, and fear is doubt.  

Eventually, I learned to listen more closely for God when I wrote, mainly because I had no idea what to write. When my novel Double Header debuted in 2015, a reader told me, “I feel like you wrote that story just to help me and my family.” When Party of One came out last year, others wrote basically the same thing. Just this past week, someone said, “I love your blogs. They’re so funny and uplifting.” I knew God was using me. Whether my books minister to one or thousands is in his hands. He is the ultimate marketing genius.

Zechariah 4:6 (NASB) declares, “Not by might, not by power, but by my spirit.” God has a personal and perfect plan for each of us. If you’re using your writing gift to the best of your ability for God’s glory, he’ll get you where you’re supposed to be on time. You can’t rush the Holy Spirit.

Let’s all enjoy the moment we have right now. It’s all good ’cause it’s all God.


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My Sources of Good Material

Not resting–people watching.

Collecting good material is all part of the writing process. Here are a few of the ways I gather mine.

First, I’m always on the lookout for new words (new to me, that is) to use in my writing someday. Yesterday I added “flumped” and “clots” to my list just because they made me smile.

I also collect phrases–mostly from listening to my quick-witted husband. I keep a small spiral pad with me at all times. When he speaks, I take notes. (It’s not really stealing if it’s common property; we are ONE after all.)

Unfortunately, he does not provide this service on demand. He  says, “I have no idea when something useful will float to the surface of the muck and mire. You have to take what you get.”  Watching his mind work is pure genius . . .  and a little bit scary.

I also eavesdrop on conversations–in restaurants, at church, while shopping, at meetings. Some might accuse me of being nosy; without hesitation, I admit I’m guilty.

People-watching is kin to eavesdropping, but you can do that from afar.  My husband calls it “rubbernecking;” I call it research. Many of my characters have been dressed in the get-ups I’ve seen while walking through a public place.

Then there are my co-workers, friends and family. In my latest book, Party of One,  some of my friends and family may recognize a few of their own quirks and characteristics. (I do hope they will forgive me.)

And I’m certain they will recognize mine.


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Janet Grunst! Winner of the 2017 Selah Award for Historical Romance

I’m honored to call this Selah Award Winner my friend. 

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

Janet is a great encourager! We met at the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference in Dallas in 2012–before we were both published–and we’ve kept in touch ever since. What a blessing to share and celebrate our publishing journeys together!

I hope you enjoy our mutual interviews both here and on Janet’s website.  And, if you comment on this post, you’ll have a chance to win either a print or Kindle copy of Janet’s award-winning novel, A Heart Set Free.

CGJ:  When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

JSG:  I was in my mid thirties and a stay-at-home mom.

CGJ:  Who first supported you in this dream?

JSG:  My former husband, Bob, who never read anything in this genre. He would read each chapter as I finished it and ask for the next one.

CGJ:  Who is your biggest cheerleader now?

JSG:  My husband, Ken, who encouraged me to get back into writing after I’d put it aside for decades. He encouraged me to try again to get this first story published. I provide him with red pens, and he loves to comment and edit.

CGJ:  What did you do before you became a writer?

JSG:  I was in the banking and mortgage lending industry before I had children. When I returned to work in the 90’s I worked for Community Bible Study (CBS), an international and interdenominational Bible study program with many classes throughout the United States and world. I have continued to serve in CBS Leadership before, during, and since retiring from employment in the ministry.

CGJ:  What genre do you prefer to write?

JSG:  Historical Romance and Historical

CGJ:  Which authors have influenced your writing and how?

JSG:  Secular authors: Jane Austen for most of her work; Margaret Mitchell for Gone With The Wind; Nevil Shute for A Town Like Alice; Charlotte Brontë for Jane Eyre; and Elizabeth Gaskell for North and South and Cranford. Inspirational authors: Too many to list but my all time favorite is General Lew Wallace for Ben Hur. All of these stories are ones that stay in your mind.

CGJ:  What do you want readers to experience while reading your books?

JSG:  While the stories may be in an historical setting, they communicate feelings and experiences that are timeless and the truths of the Christian faith, as well as entertain and bring inspiration, healing, and hope to the reader.

CGJ:  Tell us a little bit about your book, the title and one or two sentences.

JSG:  A Heart Set Free  tells the story of a woman who flees Scotland in 1770 as an indentured servant to escape disgrace. In Virginia she finds forgiveness, faith, and a future she could never have anticipated.

CGJ:  How have your readers responded?

JSG:  I was so pleased with these reviews:

“I loved this tender and wonderful story. Amidst all the hurt and misunderstanding, we find forgiveness and grace. And along the way, we see love, slowly evolving, making its way into hearts that have been closed off due to hurt and loss. I found myself slowing down my reading as I approached the end because I just didn’t want the story to end.”

“This is a wonderful story! It has just the right amount of intrigue, romance, and adventure to keep the reader turning the pages – one of those books I didn’t want to finish too quickly, but didn’t want to stop reading. Please, where can I find the sequel?”

CGJ:  What lessons have you learned from this [publishing] journey?

JSG:  To always hold my writing with an open hand. I’m to do my part, and if it is God’s will, He’ll see it through to publication.

CGJ:  What writing projects are you currently working on? Is this book part of a series?

JSG:  A Heart Set Free  is the first story in a trilogy. Its theme is forgiveness. The second story is complete and in search of a publisher. Its theme is faithfulness. The final story is underway. Its theme is forbearance. They are each stand alone stories.

AUTHOR BIO: Janet is a wife, mother of two sons, and grandmother of eight. She lives in the historic triangle of Virginia (Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown) with her husband and West Highland White Terrier. A lifelong student of history, her love of writing fiction grew out of a desire to share stories that can communicate the truths of the Christian faith, as well as entertain, and bring inspiration, healing, and hope to the reader. Janet is represented By Linda S. Glaz, Hartline Literary Agency

Janet’s Website

Colonial Quill’s Blog 

Janet’s Facebook

A Heart Set Free ~ Winner of the 2017 Selah Award for Historical Romance.


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Twisted Word Puzzle #9

Here’s a twist on my word quizzes. I’ve listed 12 groups with five words each. Your job is to choose the category  in which the words belong.

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature,that was its name.  So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. ~ Genesis 2:19-20 (NIV)

  1. bine, drupe, glume, rhizome, and spidix – a) parts of a plant; b) types of poisons; c) plastic components; d) related to the belly of an aircraft
  2. durmast, garry, banksian, bull, and mugho – a) ancient pavilions; b) architectural moldings; c) parts of a sailing vessel; d) Canadian oaks and pines
  3. abra, bonnet, cowrie, horn, lion’s paw, and turret – a) farming tools; b) seashell collection; c) jeweler designs; d) Middle East hieroglyphs
  4. danbo, esrom, mysost, sprinz, and tilsit – a) types of cheese; b) unflattering Welsh terms for the under educated; c) types of grass popular in cattle ranges; d) middle age salves and potions
  5. axminster, beck, denier, kuster, and velva – a) foreign nicknames for buttocks; b) types of beer; c) carpet terminology; d) English royalty titles
  6. cameo, daisy, doric, spiral, and royal lace – a) types of depression glass; b) notable snowflake shapes; d) stitches used in weaving; d) terms used in jewelry-making
  7. John Astin, Art Carney, Ethel Merman, Cliff Robertson,  and Shelley Winters – a) actors in the first Titanic movie ; b) actors all related to at least one US president;  c) actors who appeared on TV’s Batman; d) actors who appeared on Sesame Street
  8. Brazos, Maumee, Neches, Owyhee, and Yadkin – a) US rivers; b) towns in Oklahoma; c) villages in Argentina; d) names of African tribes
  9. calf’s head, honeycomb, lozenge, rondelle, and scissors – a) types of caves; b) street names for illegal drugs; c) a variety of high wire circus acts; d) types of gem stone cuts
  10. Aquila, Cepheus, Dorado, Fornax, and Indus – a) Big Band record labels; b) types of constellations; c) names of theaters in Athens, Greece; d) brands of Mediterranean cigarettes
  11. curlew, drongo, grandala, hoopoe, and yuhina – a) Native American hand tools; b) birds found in Chinac) Brazilian dances;  d) Asian children’s games
  12. alforja, canniken, growler, kylix, and toby – a) types of fish found in the Southern Ocean; b) types of containers; c) Cockney words that describe a layabout; d) parts of the Hubble telescope

thinking capHave you chosen the correct category? If so, how many of the 5 words had you heard before? Scroll down to see how you did.

People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring. ~ James 3:7-12 (NLT)

Here are the correct answers.

  1. bine, drupe, glume, rhizome, and spidix – a) parts of a plant
  2. durmast, garry, banksian, bull, and mugho – d) Canadian oaks and pines
  3. abra, bonnet, cowrie, horn, lion’s paw, and turret – b) seashell collection
  4. danbo, esrom, mysost, sprinz, and tilsit – a) types of cheese
  5. axminster, beck, denier, kuster, and velva – c) carpet terminology
  6. cameo, daisy, doric, spiral, and royal lace – a) types of depression glass
  7. John Astin, Art Carney, Ethel Merman, Cliff Robertson,  and Shelley Winters – c) actors who appeared on TV’s Batman
  8. Brazos, Maumee, Neches, Owyhee, and Yadkin – a) US rivers
  9. calf’s head, honeycomb, lozenge, rondelle, and scissors – d) types of gem stone cuts
  10. Aquila, Cepheus, Dorado, Fornax, and Indus – b) types of constellations
  11. curlew, drongo, grandala, hoopoe, and yuhina – b) birds found in China
  12. alforja, canniken, growler, kylix, and toby – b) types of containers

 

How did you do?

10-12  May I call you in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep?

07-09 When you speak, do blank faces stare back at you?

04-06 My kind of person!

00-03  I don’t think you’re trying very hard.


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Twelve Words for a Word Searcher’s Vocabulary #8

Gracious speech is like clover honey—good taste to the soul, quick energy for the body. ~ Proverbs 16:24 (MSG)
When I can’t sleep at night, I get up and read a couple of chapters of whatever book I’m enjoying. After that, I try to bore myself to sleep by doing a few word search puzzles. 

This usually does the trick–until I come across words I don’t know. Here’s a list of them. Do you know their meaning? 

  1. bismutha) gray and overcast; b) brittle, grayish-white metallic element; c) standing ovation; d) grandiose
  2. coeval – a) equally old; b) architectural detail; c) hut built over a mine shaft; d) wide and shallow
  3. drupe – a) ancient alphabet; b) to doubt; c) to hang on or over; d) any fruit with an outer skin, pulpy middle, and hard inner shell
  4. fipple – a) indecisive; b) block that forms a flue in wind instruments; c) type of dwarf tree; d) public disturbance
  5. jaggery – a) sharp protrusion; b) sugar made from the sap of a date palm; c) unrestrained indulgence; d) latest Rolling Stones album title
  6. muntin – a) aged; b) flesh of a mature sheep used for food;) playfully mean or cruel; d) strip separating panes of glass in a sash
  7. nitid – a) idiot-like; b) handmade; c) bright and lustrous; d) infected by the egg of a louse or other parasitic insect
  8. piggina) small wooden pail; b) newborn pigs; c) type of fastener; d) type of English pudding
  9. rondellea) type of French cheese; b) vegan casserole; c) circular jewel; d) type of saw
  10. scow – a) look of disapproval; b) jurisdiction over a territory or over people; c) large flat-bottomed boat with broad square ends; d) fist fight
  11. twite – a) beyond a shadow of a doubt; b) small finch; c) stomach of a ruminant; d) to flutter about
  12. valgus – a) essential amino acid; b) earthly or mortal; c) not easily discerned; d) knock-kneed or bowlegged

thinking capHave you chosen the correct definition? Can you use the words in a sentence? Scroll down to see how you did.

People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring. ~ James 3:7-12 (NLT)

Here are the correct answers.

  1. b) Bismutha brittle, grayish-white, red-tinged, metallic element used in the manufacture of fusible alloys and in medicine
  2. a) Coevalof the same age, date, or duration; equally old
  3. d) Drupeany fruit, as a peach, cherry, plum, etc., consisting of an outer skin, usually a pulpy and succulent middle layer, and a hard and woody inner shell, usually enclosing a single seed
  4. b) Fipple: a wooden block that forms a flue at the mouth end of certain musical instruments
  5. b) Jaggerya coarse, dark sugar, especially that made from the sap of East Indian (date) palm trees
  6. d) Muntin: a strip separating panes of glass in a sash
  7. c) Nitid: bright and lustrous
  8.  a) Piggin: a small wooden pail with one stave extended upward as a handle
  9. c) Rondelle: a circular object; especially a circular jewel or jeweled ring
  10. c) Scow: a large flat-bottomed boat with broad square ends used chiefly for transporting bulk material (as ore, sand, or refuse)
  11. b) Twite: a small finch, Carduelis flavirostris, of northern Europe, having streaked brown plumage and, in the male, a pink breast
  12. d) Valgus: an abnormally turned position of a part of the bone structure of human being, especially of the leg. Bowlegged, knock-kneed, or the like

Jumping for joy over your score?

10-12  May I call you in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep?

07-09 When you speak, do blank faces stare back at you?

04-06 My kind of person!

00-03  I don’t think you’re trying very hard.