Friday, March 30, 2012

Jack Cavanaugh: Novelist and Teacher


            I want to welcome Jack Cavanaugh to my blog. Jack is a full-time novelist and speaker. His 26 books include the American Family Portraits series, Songs in the Night series, The Book of Books series, The Great Awakenings series with Bill Bright, Kingdom Wars series, Postmarked Heaven, Death Watch with Jerry Kulper, and Dear Enemy. His latest novel is the e-book Behold. His books have garnered a Silver Medallion award from the Christian Booksellers Association, two Christy Awards for excellence in Christian fiction, and a Silver Angel Award from Excellence in Media. He will be the plenary speaker at the Write-to-Publish Conference, May 30-June 2.  

            Please leave a comment, and your email, to be entered in a drawing to win not ONE book, but THREE. Jack is giving away his TRILOGY, SONGS IN THE NIGHT: While Mortals Sleep; His Watchful Eye; and Above All Earthly Powers. The last day to leave a comment is midnight, Thursday, April 5.

Jack, according to your website, you write hero fiction. Please define that for us?

·        a family swept up in the vast panorama of American history (American Family Portrait series);

·        ordinary believers who dared to read outlawed English versions of the Bible (Glimpses of Truth; Beyond the Sacred Page);

·        a German pastor and his wife who never bowed a knee to Hitler, rescuing disabled orphans from the gas chambers (Songs in the Night series);

·        an American nurse captured by a German soldier in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge (Dear Enemy).

The goal of hero fiction is that after reading it, readers will be inspired to live nobly in whatever situation they find themselves.

Tell us about your trilogy, Songs in the Night, which you are giving away this week to one of my readers. 
Did you know that the first people sent to labor camps by the Nazis were Christian pastors who dared preach against Hitler? Did you know that the first victims of the gas chambers were German children with birth defects? The Songs in the Night trilogy depicts the faith journey of a pastor and his wife who are forced into the underground as they attempt to rescue their church youth from the brainwashing of the Hitler Youth movement and a houseful of disabled orphans from certain death. Theirs was an amazing generation. In one lifetime, these Christian Germans saw the rise of Hitler, the ultimate defeat of the Third Reich in World War II, and life among Communists behind the Berlin Wall.

You will be the plenary speaker this year at the Write-to-Publish Conference. Can you give us a preview of what you will be sharing in these sessions, as we end our day? 

During the day you will taught how to write and how to get published. In the evenings, it will be my task to give you spiritual strength for the journey. The path to getting published is daunting. Frustrating. It can be a long journey, often much longer than you think it will be, and you’re going to want to give up. I know. I’ve been there. From the time I began writing for publication to the time I landed my first book contract was thirteen years. I’ll be sharing the lessons I learned along the way.

You once served as a pastor and a teacher and are now a full-time novelist. What advice do you have for those wanting to become full-time writers?

One Christmas my brother stood in a long line at a bookstore to get a signed copy of Dean Koontz’s latest, Intensity. As he reached the front of the line, my brother told Mr. Koontz that he was buying the book for me and that I was also a novelist just starting out. Dean Koontz wrote the following inscription:

“Perseverance counts.”

And now I pass the same advice on to you, writer-to-writer-to-writer.

How can a Christian writer best prepare to be a writer who represents the Lord?

Two thoughts come to mind —

“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” — Psalm 37:4.  

“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” — Proverbs 3:6.

Tell us how one of your blogs ended up in a San Diego newspaper.

Good question. Not by accident. When I first began writing I believed that people would marvel at the wisdom of my words and eagerly seek to publish them. Reality is a harsh tutor. It doesn’t work that way. The blog you mention is a good example of this. To get published, you have to submit your work aggressively. After reading the blog, a friend suggested it would make a good entry for the Amy Awards, funded by an organization that promotes Christian articles appearing in secular magazines. In order for the blog to qualify for entry, it had to be published in a secular publication. So I sent the blog to the San Diego Union newspaper for their op-ed page and they published it on January 1, 2012. The cut-off date for the Amy Awards for 2011 was December 31, so I’ll submit it as a 2012 entry later this year.

What do you like to do in sunny California to relax, when you’re not writing?

Much of the year I sit in the backyard in the early evening and read or listen to music. In high school and college I tried my hand at oil painting. I’ve taken that up again recently, painting on the weekends. Landscapes, mostly. But I’m determined to do portraits. Early attempts are not encouraging.

Tell us about your next project.

Two, actually. Having just released a supernatural suspense novel, Behold, the story of a young man who has seizures so violent they throw his spirit back in time, for a change of pace I’m returning to historical fiction. I have a World War II novel outlined and I’m researching a medieval-style story that may turn into a series.
Thank you, Jack, for sharing today.

Please leave a comment, along with your email, to be entered in a drawing for Jack's trilogy, Songs in the Night, through midnight, Thursday, April 5.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Are You a Competitive Writer?

            Are you competitive? I’m from Indiana, (and yes, we do know more about basketball than those from other states!) so, when the NCAA Basketball Tournament comes around, I like to make my predictions. I have been in what they call “pools,” even though I don’t believe in gambling and I only participate for very, very, low stakes or no stakes at all; I just enjoy winning. I study the scenarios and choose my teams. I do have a strategy and I do pretty good I must admit, even though I haven’t followed college basketball closely for almost fifteen years. But, when some of the teams I choose begin to lose or even look like they are losing, well, I find my blood boiling and I walk away from the television fuming. And then I remember why I stopped watching basketball – I am too competitive and I struggle with being a good loser.  

            So, speaking of competition, are you competitive as a writer? How do you initially feel when you see an article or book published by a writing colleague or when they get a speaking gig you would have liked? Are these your responses: “How did they get that assignment?” or:  “How did they get to speak there?”

Ouch! Unfortunately, sometimes those phrases sound familiar. We have to remind ourselves that we, especially as Christians, learn from each other, and are on the same team. Even though that may be true, we are still human and those feelings of competition or jealousy do occur. But, we have to stop and think and realize we all have our separate path and have to ask God for guidance to open the doors that are right for us.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Rod Blagojevich and Freedom

            Yesterday, our former governor, Rod Blagojevich, began serving a fourteen-year prison sentence for corruption. I’m not here to talk about his innocence or guilt nor if he should be going to prison or for how long. But, he has been on my mind, this week, his last week of freedom. 
Peter Gustafson/

I have imagined what it would be like to be told what time to get up, when to eat, when to work and when to go to bed. Also, to live in cramped quarters with someone you do not know, and only see your family on a limited basis, and when you do see them, it is in a room surrounded by strangers. I have imagined being in a cell at night with the lights off, feeling so afraid and lonely, and then you might hear someone crying in the distant darkness for their family.
After I have visualized that scene for a while, I shake myself, look around and realize I am home, so humble as it may be, I am home. I still have my dreams to write and live my life as I best see fit. I think about the cell and feel a little more thankful, that God kept me from being in the wrong situation, making poor choices or growing up in a neighborhood where my life may have turned out differently.
            Maybe I think about this because I have met a few former inmates, as my Grandfather served as a volunteer chaplain at a federal penitentiary for over thirty-five years. He visited prisoners every week and shared the Gospel and prayed with them. Many of those became Christians and lived a better life after leaving prison. The ones I met seemed like regular folks, who had made wrong choices, got with the wrong crowd, etc. But, they never forgot those days of incarceration. Blagojevich has an inmate number, and those former convicts I know, say you never forget that number.
            Maybe because of the former prisoners I have met and my Grandfather’s ministry, I do find myself praying for those who are incarcerated. Yes, they broke the law, and they do need to face the consequences, but they also deserve compassion.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Eva Marie Everson: Writer, Editor, Teacher and A Fine Southern Lady



I am very pleased to have Eva Marie Everson as my guest. An award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction, her books include Chasing Sunsets (Book One of the Cedar Key Novels), This Fine Life, Things Left Unspoken, The Potlock Club and The Potluck Catering Club series (written with Linda Evans Shepherd) and Reflections of God’s Holy Land: A Personal Journey Through Israel written with Miriam Feinberg Vamoosh. She will be teaching, The Foundations of Fiction Through Film, at the Write-to-Publish Conference, May 30 – June 2. She will also be the keynoter and banquet speaker.

Eva, when did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

About the same time I understood if you hold a crayon and put that crayon on a piece of paper, something magical transferred. I don't remember a time in my life when stories didn't dance around in my head. The property I grew up on had a lot of pine trees, which of course means a lot of pine straw during certain times of the year. I would rake the pine straw into the shape of houses and stores. I had my own town in the backyard. Then I would act out the stories in my head. Eventually those stories made their way to paper. 

     I wrote my first "book" when I was in the eighth grade. The premise was so ridiculous, but all my friends read it and loved it (of course). Today, those same friends (now Facebook friends!) say, "I remember your first book!" and I just want to die. LOL  

I didn't follow my dream of writing though. I went into nursing. Then, in 1992 I became very sick and had to stop working. It was during that time God replanted the dream. I wrote for a children's ministry from 1996 to 1997. It was at this time I heard about a group of writers forming and decided to join it, which led to other doors opening for me. I went to ICRS (then called CBA) in July 1999 with an idea and more nerve than I would have ever thought I possessed. Nine days later, I was offered a contract. The rest is... well ... history, as they say.

Describe how you are going to use movies to teach the fiction class at the Write-to-Publish Conference?  

This is how I taught myself to write novels, by watching movies. By dissecting them. By studying the characters, the scenes, the motives of the characters that drive the scenes, etc. After a time I came to realize the way I'd taught myself was also a way to teach. I began to use it at writer’s conferences and it was a huge hit. Then, in 2011, I served as an adjunct professor at Taylor University for four months. I used the same method there and, again, it was a hit. If you write fiction or you want to write fiction, and you take this class, you'll certainly never watch a movie the same again. But, I also think you'll never write the same again.

How important is it in the life of a writer to attend a writer’s conferences?

Very important. Not only is the teaching invaluable, but also the networking. Ours can be a very solitary business. We sit in front of our computers in our home offices or at the kitchen table or sometimes at Starbucks. But really, even if we are around coffee-drinking patrons or a family of five, kids running around and the TV blaring, it's still solitary. We need to be with others who understand the words running around in our brains. And, of course, if we want to meet editors and agents, etc., this is the place to do it. I think the years of sending in a manuscript and being "discovered" from the slush pile is pretty much over. I could be wrong, but I don't think so.

Tell us about your latest book, Chasing Sunsets, and how did you discover Cedar Key, the setting of the book?

I went to Cedar Key (not part of the Florida Keys) after the 2004 Florida Hurricane season looking for a new place to get away and write. It. Is. Amazing. It's like this little piece of heaven time forgot. There's nothing pretentious about it. The life there is down home. It's about the sun rising and the sun setting. It's about working hard all day and then sitting out by the water at night with friends in the afterglow of sunset. During one of my trips there, I sat on the balcony of my condo, flipped through a magazine and came across an ad for Liz Claiborne "whites." The ad sparked an idea ... and a three book contract was born. Chasing Sunsets is the first of those books. It deals with a number of issues such as divorce and remarriage, child custody issues, losing a parent, finding an old love, alcoholism ... I had no idea so many stories were within the one until I started getting emails from readers, telling me how "this" element of the book or "that" element of the book affected them. I was really blown away by that.

For anyone who has read Book I, you can go to “Eva Marie Everson’s Cedar Key Novels” on Facebook and see some of my photographs, videos, and learn more about the local flavor of Cedar Key, Florida.

Tell us about your critique group, Word Weavers, and how it became a part of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild.

That's the same group that formed in 1997 ... there were only five of us, initially. But we grew. I became the first president, a role I held and cherished for about six or seven years. During that time, it became obvious we were doing something right; our writers were getting published quite successfully. When asked, "How can I start a Word Weavers?" I would give the basics and say, "Good luck to you!"

After I turned the role of president over to Larry J. Leech, II and when he was asked that same question, he would give the basics but then form chapters of Word Weavers. He asked me to help with the leadership of the now seven chapters and I accepted.

After two years and according to our new bylaws, he turned the presidency over to someone else, but he, Cheri Cowell, and I remained in the overall leadership.

I've been working for Jerry B. Jenkins' Christian Writers Guild as a mentor for years. Jerry was coming to the Orlando area in 2010 and asked if I could help organize an "Afternoon with Jerry B. Jenkins" in which he would speak to the locals about writing, publishing, and the Guild. I said, "I know the group that can!" Jerry saw what Word Weavers was all about firsthand. He spoke to Larry (who then spoke to Cheri and me) about the Guild acquiring Word Weavers and bringing our concept to groups or potential groups across the country. We made a plan and, in one year, we went from seven chapters within the nation to thirty within the USA and Canada. We’re still growing.

You also took a trip to Israel that changed your life and you co-authored a nonfiction book about that experience. Tell us a little about the trip and the book.

I'm going to talk about that in one of my keynotes, so ...

Tell us about your next project.

I'm working on a few things right now. The second novel in the Cedar Key series is ready for press. I'm nearly done with Book 3. I'm also working on the novelization for a movie to be released in October of this year. "Unconditional" is an amazing movie, based on the true story of Papa Joe Bradford. You can read/see more about it at:

What do you like to do to relax when you are not writing? 

My husband and I live in a lakefront house. We like boating. We like hanging out by the water with the kids and the grandkids. Cooking out with family and friends. Fishing. I love to read, of course. Knitting. Hiking. Love hiking. Shopping and finding great bargains and I love coffee, but I’m picky about it, too.

One of my favorite things to nurse is my photography habit. I'm so grateful for digital photography I could just dance. (Oh yeah ... I like to dance...)

Thanks, Eva.

Don’t forget to leave a comment to be eligible to win a copy of Chasing Sunsets. The contest will end at midnight, Thursday, March 15

Friday, March 2, 2012

Approach Social Media At Your Own Pace

Do you feel "left in the dust" when it comes to social media? Does a new way to interact in cyberspace pop up, when you haven’t signed up to use the current one? Even though we feel bombarded with new ways to spend our time, I believe we have to enter every aspect of social media at our own pace.

Marilyn Barbone/Dreamstime

I think I was one of the last holdouts in my writing community to take the plunge and start a blog. I would set a deadline to begin blogging before a certain conference or by the end of the year or after the first of the next year, etc., etc.
But, I also told myself that when I started blogging, I would blog, consistently. I would not blog for a few months and then stop for a while and then start again. I knew from visiting many blogs, that those who did not post consistently, I did not revisit. I thought when I started I could post two to three times a week. But, I soon realized that wasn’t realistic and I settled on once a week and, so far, I have posted every week for the past nine months.

I was feeling very good about having my blog, when someone commented to me after I had been posting for a few months: “I couldn’t find you on twitter. You are on twitter, aren’t you?” This statement was made in a way to me that it didn’t matter that I only had a blog, but I needed to do more. I was discouraged and felt I would never catch up, but then I remembered my blogging promise to myself, and reminded myself that I will be there when I get there. I am not on twitter, as of this post, but I have set a deadline to begin and when I do, I will TWEET on a regular basis.

So, my advice:  Jump into the areas of social media when YOU ARE READY and WILLING TO LEARN AND DO THE JOB. Listen to advice, but don’t be discouraged. Move at your own pace, feel comfortable with where you are, and pray for guidance.
What about you? What was or is your plan for jumping into social media? What is holding you back from exploring more areas?