The True Meaning of Love

Least of These Bird Meme copyReposted from February 14, 2014:

You may have noticed that I’m not pushing a lot of mushy-gushy romantic love on my website– There’s a reason for that! Not everyone enjoys that emphasis to Valentines Day, especially when they don’t have that someone special to share those romantic feelings with!

While I’m not into the mushy-gushy side of Valentines, I have plenty of people I do love in my life: children, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, close friends…

Near to the broken hearted copyEach of them is special to me, but there are so many of them, because I come from a large family, and have a lot of friends (especially online), that if I tried to go all-out on Valentines Day or any holiday by buying them lots of stuff, I would rapidly be in debt up to my eyebrows!

It sure wouldn’t take long at all–oh no.

So instead of pulverizing the piggy bank, I thought that maybe I would share some of my favorite memes instead that talk about hearts and love, and relationships.

What can be sweeter or gentler than a baby bird, unless it’s one cradled in the hands of a child?

Be A Friend copyAnd what is a greater demonstration of love than that we go out of our way to be kind to others and help them in Jesus’ name, as the verse on the meme calls to mind!

Broken hearts can also be a theme of Valentines Day. We’ve all seen the posts by friends who hate Valentines Day because it reminds them of everything they’ve lost or have never had, and they feel left out. God’s love for us runs larger and deeper than any loss or hurt, and He is able to comfort the brokenhearted.

And then there is forgiveness! We can’t earn forgiveness; we can only accept it. Forgiving is the ultimate act of love, because it allows us to restore our relationships after we’ve hurt each other. To be human is to stumble and fail, but to forgive is divine…

And lastly, to have a friend, you must be a friend. Friendship requires time and effort to grow. Our best friends are those we’ve laughed and cried, and maybe even quarreled with; those we’ve spent the most time with no matter what their circumstances of life. Those people we don’t just like; we love them for who they are, and feel warmed and comforted by the reciprocation of that love.

I hope you have such gifts in your life this Valentines Day: the sweetest, most innocent of love, kindness, giving, and generosity; God’s love that is so much bigger than anything another flawed human being can offer; forgiveness and relationship, and best of all, some really great friends.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Cream Hearts & Red Be Mine Header

How To Schedule Posts in Hootsuite

Scheduling panel

Click Here to open Hootsuite Scheduling Tutorial with Illustrations

A Few Notes:

I have been using Hootsuite for quite some time now. After discovering that many of my friends feel intimidated by Hootsuite, even though they’d like to use it as a scheduling platform to enhance their book sales, I offered to put together a Hootsuite Tutorial.

This tutorial doesn’t try to explain how to do everything in Hootsuite; this is just for the scheduling pane.

The options covered are available as part of the free service as well as the monthly paid service.

There are some great advantages to using the paid service, which offers more options for posting across social media and better calendar access and options, and the option of saving up to one hundred posts in a file and uploading the file to Hootsuite.

However, for the purposes of this tutorial, the free service works well, because it’s less complicated.

This tutorial is a PDF file, which can be accessed, downloaded, and saved by clicking on the image at top.

Ribbon with crown and birds

If you like this tutorial, and would like me to make more of them, please support my efforts by buying my books. Thanks!

Support Your Favorite Authors – At The Library

Click through to buy on Amazon

Davis Bunn is one of my favorite Christian authors–in fact, he’s one of my favorite authors of all time! This is saying something because usually I have difficulty reading mainstream published Christian authors with any kind of enthusiasm.

I have favorite Indie authors who are Christians and write Christian novels, but–there is something so MEH about so much of what the traditional Christian publishing houses are putting out today.

(confession here) I tend to gravitate toward ABA authors who write clean fiction, especially if they’re writing sci/fi, fantasy, or mystery novels. I prefer action/adventure over literary introspection.

AND… I’m a fairly typical American reader in one big area: start preaching at me in your book, I don’t care if it’s about global warming or the Second Coming, and I am going to cringe and go find something else to read!

So, after reading David Bergland’s post about these books by Thomas Locke (pen name for Davis Bunn), I found these books up at the library today. I was thrilled!

You may wonder why I, as an author, visit the library instead of buying everyone’s books (or offering to review them in exchange for a copy)?

It’s the same problem everyone else is having: very limited income and very limited space!

HOWEVER, when libraries buy authors books–did you know how many thousands of public libraries there are–this creates great exposure for authors, and royalties from library dollars feel just as great in a bank account as any other kind of dollars! And there are THOUSANDS of public libraries, so–if every one of those public libraries buys just one copy of an authors’ book, that translates into thousands of book sales! Sometimes, oh happy day, they buy multiple copies! (oh, I wish it was my book they were doing that with, don’t you?)

So–it’s okay to check out your favorite authors’ books at the library! Besides, you’ll be doing them a favor by helping to keep their books in circulation.

Patricia McKillip: amazing stories, incredible artwork!

Last month, I encountered a librarian taking many of Patricia McKillip’s books off the shelf in the Sci/Fi and Fantasy section. I was horrified.

Patricia McKillip is one of the most original authors of fantasy I’ve encountered over a life-time of reading.

Her stories are incredible, full of rich detail and unforgettable characters. The artist who did most of her book jackets is fantastic! I love the artwork…

No one else writes like Patricia McKillip. She is unique! And–holding one of those covers in my hands makes me smile, because the artwork is so gorgeous. No one makes covers like that any more!

Every one of her books is an amazing experience.

But–since practically no one (except possibly me?) ever checks out and reads her books, they’re disappearing from our local library. How sad.

So here’s my thought for the day: if it isn’t being checked and read, a book has a very good chance of being removed from public library shelves to make way for someone else’s books.

It’s unfortunate, but true, that even libraries are limited on space.

Click through to buy on Amazon

And if people aren’t reading those books at the library and finding out about their OTHER published works, then they’re even less likely to buy them at the bookstore or anywhere else, which is even sadder.

Hey! Did you know you can recommend your favorite authors’ books for inclusion in your local public libraries? You can! Ask your librarian how to go about it.

I would love it if you recommended mine!

You Can Create A Painless Synopsis

Painless SynopsisReposted from June 28, 2014:

Many writers appear to experience great emotional pain and deep, conflicted feelings when told they have to write a synopsis. It is the chore that every writer dreads, and few feel that they are truly good at completing, but it doesn’t have to be that way!

Here’s my rule of thumb for writing a (relatively) painless synopsis:

  1. Summarize each chapter in 1-3 sentences. Wherever possible, use only one sentence.
  2. Take your elevator pitch (if you have one for this story already; if not, write one), and keeping that elevator pitch handy,
  3. pare those sentences down to an accurate 1-2 page description of your story that gets rid of:
    1. all mention of secondary characters.
    2. all mention of lesser story arcs and plot points
    3. all unnecessary nouns, verbiage, adverbs, adjectives, and other descriptive phrases (with a few exceptions)

You should have left:

  1. Major character(s)
  2. went here
  3. did this
  4. experienced conflict
  5. while feeling this
  6. and found resolution
  7. with this end result
  8. written as interestingly as possible to hook your potential audience.

Not every chapter will be mentioned in the end result, but if you’ve done a good job, your synopsis will accurately reflect your book’s contents (including the ending) while not telling all.

Here’s part of my synopsis for A Shadow On The Land as an example:

Bjorn Horsa is Eiathan’s Heir, the promised king who must put his own life on the line to save the kingdom of Astarkand from the implacable, ageless foe the Kandians call Woden. King Olaf of Astarkand should abdicate in Bjorn’s favor, but Bjorn didn’t arrive in time to rescue Olaf’s half-brother from beheading by Woden’s priest. Olaf hates Bjorn for coming too late and wants revenge. He secretly builds a fleet to ravage the rich southern lands Bjorn left to reach Astarkand.

Bjorn navigates royal politics and intrigue, and waits on God’s timing.

Challenged to a duel by Weinolf, the king’s spoiled heir, Bjorn wins the fight but loses any hope of the king’s favor. Instead, the king grants ne’er-do-well Kresic a farm in exchange for a map he steals from Bjorn.

When Olaf’s navy mutinies and sails too early, the king unfairly sentences Bjorn to death. Bjorn and his men dig out from their cellar-prison and flee north. Nicar, Bjorn’s second cousin falls behind, taking refuge on Kresic’s abandoned farm.

The king discovers Bjorn’s escape. Weinolf’s life is put in danger when the tunnel collapses…

Do you see the level of detail here?

It’s also important to note that the fewer names you have to include in a synopsis, the better. Any time a new name is introduced, it’s important to explain who the new character is, and why they’re vital to the story line. If you can get away with describing a secondary character by their role in the story, i.e., the guard or the priest, then it’s better not to name them.

URGENT: Our Friends Who Want to Scam Us

Joe Scammer

Update: This is the kind of Valentine I think we’d all rather avoid…

Reposted from June 9, 2014:

I’ve hesitated to write about this issue because I haven’t wanted to tread on any toes. I’ve decided that it needs to be discussed though, although I’m going to be very careful what I say to avoid offending anyone specifically.

People who are duped by scams end up utterly embarrassed. That is a fact of life. Often, by the time the scam has run its course and they’re left financially ruined and at odds with family and friends who tried to stop them from investing themselves emotionally and financially in the scammer’s view of paradise, their life is in shambles. This is reality.

We all hate that reality! We all think we’re wise to that! We all think, surely OUR loved ones, OUR friends are wiser than to give in to that! Surely WE know better, too. But everyone is capable of getting duped at one time or another.

We give out our trust in some degree to strangers daily, even if we aren’t always aware that we’re doing it.

So, occasionally we need to discuss these realities, and discuss the evolution of certain scams, and put our loved ones and our friends wise to new developments.

‘Nigerian scammers’ don’t just live in Nigeria. That’s where this scam got started, but they can live in other countries too. They can even live or visit in the U. S. and Canada. Hey, there are unscrupulous and greedy people the world over! Why? Did you think they weren’t?

Nigerian scammers can have any color of skin, speak any language, and have any accent or even no accent at all. They can! And they don’t just pick up their victims online, although that’s where the Nigerian scam got started.

Jill ScammerYou might even have a scammer walk into your place of business one day and seem like a perfectly normal person. They strike up a conversation with you, and you get to know them, and you get to thinking of them as a friend. But then they go overseas or out of state, and stuff begins to happen, and their needs become more and more desperate as their requests for financial assistance multiply.

Or you could meet them at a party or at another event, or a mutual friend (entirely unaware of their unscrupulous intent) might introduce you. Your mutual friend might also be one of their intended victims, unknown to either one of you.

They might even come to visit you (to prove they’re really who they say they are), and return home again, and keep building this relationship that involves occasional requests from them for money from you.

They’ll offer you love or business success, or wealth and riches, even a share in their great-aunt’s inheritance; whatever it is that they have deduced makes you need to stay in relationship with them; and because they’re your friend, you want to believe them and give them whatever they need! You really do!

They might even say they’re willing to marry you, although most of them still balk at actually taking the plunge and achieving this level of commitment.

The reality is that you can be scammed by a friend far easier than by a total stranger. Scammers know this. They WANT to be your best buddy, better than your family members who love you, better than your best friend you’ve had ever since childhood, better than God and Jesus!

If you’re busy telling off your friends and loved ones while defending a relationship with someone whose identity and veracity they’re questioning, maybe it’s time for you to STOP! LOOK BOTH WAYS! and THINK HARD about what you’re doing and where this relationship is really taking you! You need to question your emotional involvement and take a step back from the relationship while you ask yourself some hard questions and come up with answers that aren’t emotion-based.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself if you’re getting feedback or vibes that a person you like might be trying to scam you (preferably before you give them any money or a piece of your heart):

  • Does my family (and my friend/s) love me enough to tell me hard truths I don’t want to hear? [your answer here]
  • Should I really be shutting them out of my life just because they disagree with my decisions regarding this relationship? [your answer here]
  • Is there someone in my life of a long-standing relationship that I trust, that I can discuss this relatively newer/more recent relationship with, and rely on their advice? [your answer here]
  • Is there a person in authority (maybe a police detective), that I can run the facts of this relationship by, and ask if it sounds suspicious to them? [call your local police department, and ask]
  • Why is this person asking me for money?
  • Do I have independent* knowledge of what services are available in the country they say they are in?
  • Can I obtain independent* knowledge of the services available in said country?
  • Do I have or can I obtain independent* contacts in that country who I can ask for verification of local conditions, and who might be willing to assess this person’s need and help them as needed?
  • Is there no one else this person might appeal to for help who lives closer and would be better placed to help them?
  • Have they mentioned anyone else that they are also appealing to for help?
    How much money am I willing to lose forever if it turns out that this ‘friend’ I’m trying to help out is a scammer?

*An independent contact is someone you have found on your own without any help whatsoever from the friend in question.

Good independent contacts in many countries might be a local Catholic priest (found by networking via a local Catholic parish in your hometown), or a local missionary from one of any number of mission agencies (Google ‘mission agencies working in [fill in the city and country name]). If you have a company you do have a good working relationship with in that country, you might also contact them, and ask one of your business colleagues in that business for their advice.

A good independent contact can give you advice on whether or not a certain address is in a safe part of town for them to visit, and may be able to tell you if they’re aware of scammers working out of their city or country, and whether or not you’re being taken for a ride.

Here are some boundaries you and I should agree on for ourselves before embarking on any friendship:

1. Let’s agree NOT to send or give money to anyone overseas or anywhere else in our home country or a neighboring country without first:

  • putting in due diligence and having independent verification of a need,
  • setting a specified budget for handling the need,
  • creating a time-table for resolving the need, and
  • including an escape clause that recognizes that our own needs and our family’s needs take priority in our budget.

Even Congress and the President of the United States would benefit from abiding by this boundary!

2. Let’s agree NOT to be so desperate for love or financial gain or anything else, that we’ll offer money or a share in the sale of our house, or access to our bank accounts, or anything else financially stupid in exchange for it!

I think if we can agree to these two boundaries, and stay wise in our friendships and be careful whom we trust, that we will all be much less likely to be scammed.

One last word: If you are aware that a loved one or a friend is being scammed, and you can’t get through to them, and you’re worried about their emotional or mental state, please contact your local police department and tell them of your concerns. Ask them to investigate.