Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Fiction Contest

Howard Frank Mosher Short Fiction Prize

An annual contest for short fiction. A chance for your fiction to be read by Hunger Mountain editors and guest judges.

One first place winner receives $1000 and publication!
Two honorable mentions receive $100 each.
$20 entry fee
Submit one piece of fiction, not to exceed 10,000 words
The postmark deadline is June 30.

Read complete guidelines at

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Popes & Bankers, A Cultural History of Credit & Debt, From Aristotle to AIG

Amidst The Wreckage of FINANCIAL RUIN, People Are Left Puzzling About HOW IT HAPPENED. Where Did All The PROBLEMS BEGIN? For the answer, Jack Cashill, a journalist as shrewd as he is seasoned, looks past the headlines and deep into pages of history and comes back with the goods. From Plato to payday loans, from Aristotle to AIG, from Shakespeare to the Salomon Brothers, from the Medici to Bernie Madoff - in Popes and Bankers Jack Cashill unfurls a fascinating story of credit and debt, usury and "the sordid love of gain. With a dizzying cast of characters, including church officials, gutter loan sharks, and even the Knights Templar, Cashill traces the creative tension between "pious restraint" and "economic ambition" through the annals of human history and illuminates both the dark corners of our past and the dusty corners of our billfolds. (taken from the back cover)

Journalist Jack Cashill creates a highly readable and timely book about the current financial crisis. That he does so in an engaging manner is to his credit. His approach is unique and the writing insightful. He chronicles our economic woes by “tracing the history of credit and debt, and usury (as lending at interest was widely called until at least AD 1800). Usury is a word that is used frequently by the author as he explores the events that brought us to this moment....

The Review
The Bible it seems is quite clear about lending money to neighbors and loved ones: “if thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury (Exodus 22:25). Strangers however, are fair game … “Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury… (Deuteronomy 23:19-20). The Hebrew word for usury is neshek and by the 15th century Gentiles were borrowing money and paying neshek to their Jewish brothers.

While the Old Testament has a lot to say about the subject, Jesus Christ it turns out had little to say beyond the parable of the talents and the pounds. Oh, and the time Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple. But we really don’t know how Jesus, the son of small business owner felt about making an earthly profit now and again. Instead, Jesus preached about a different type of ROI for those who accepted his offer … the promise of a heavenly reward.

The practice of usury however, continued to be a hot topic prompting Pope Innocent II to define usury as “detestable and disgraceful rapacity condemned by human and divine law alike.” A mere thirty years later Pope Alexander III “expanded the definition of usury to include any sale on credit in which the accumulative price was higher than the cash price.” Later he would argue “that usurers should not only be excommunicated but also be denied a Christian burial.”

Enter the knights … The Knights Templar “a unique monastic order” a.k.a. “warrior monks” who were created by church and secular leaders when 300 cheerful Christians were killed by a swarm of Saracens. The monks lived by the Rule, (“silent meals, coarse clothing, daily prayers, and perpetual celibacy”) while serving the church. They would also “create the first great international banking enterprise.”

These “fighting monks” had the “equivalent of branch offices stretching from one end of the Mediterranean to the other. They also had major complexes in Paris and London, cities in which decisions about war and peace were often made. Even more usefully, the Templars interacted with kings and popes, and they did so precisely when those leaders needed money, namely, on the way to the battlefield.” The Knights Templar, whose reputation preceded them, “did not need to hire security to protect their money transfers” which was also useful.

In their spare time, the Knights “raised taxes for the king, paid bills, minted money, collected tariffs, chased down deadbeats, provisioned the army, supported diplomatic missions, and advanced loans to the kings’ friends and relatives – even Grandma, literally.” They also charged interest. Apparently, a practice now sanctioned by the church. Their demise forty years later had nothing to do with usury, but everything to do with scandal, power, timing, money and debt.

Today, despite the best efforts of government, church and man the need to finance the good life has nearly brought America to its knees once again. Standing in front of the 1933 inaugural crowd FRD railed against the “self-seekers” who proposed “the lending of more money” as a solution to their and the nation’s problems. “To drive the point home about the evils of such wanton usury, he continued with an analogy that America’s biblically literate population surely understood, “The money changers have fled their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths.”

Despite the charming fireside chats, “the New Deal did not deliver.” Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr. told a Congressional hearing … “We are spending more money than we have ever spent before and it does not work. … I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get jobs. We have never made good on our promises. I say after eight years of the administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started and an enormous debt to boot.”

The answer to this mess is not blame but accepting personal responsibility for debt and living within (or below our means), saving and investing. Living debt free.

Popes & Bankers is a striking book full of amazing characters and history and will surely capture the mind and attention of those interested in our economic past and present. This book is for readers who agree with philosopher George Santayana’s prediction, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Note to writers: Who was it that said there are no dull stories, only dull writers.

This book was provided by Thomas Nelson for review.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Writer's Book Shelf-Plot and Structure

Book Review: James Scott Bell's Plot and Structure

By: Christina Adams

As you might guess from the title, this is a book for the writer who wants to dive deeper into technical aspects of writing a story or novel. Unlike many writers' book, that only have a chapter to devote to plotting, this book goes into detail on what a plot is, how to tell if it is not working and what to do to spruce it up. It also covers the structure of character archs, complex plots and the twist endings.

Even though this book has the word 'structure' in its title, it isn't only for people who love outlines and structuring. Bell covers both sides of the writing brain and points out the benefits of right-brained creativity and left-brained logic, as well as ways to make both sides stronger.

Reading this book has helped me to be aware of what I am trying to do with the characters and plots in my story. I have been able to create tighter plots and been able to recognize and avoid the mistakes I used to make. I would recommend this book for all fiction writers.

Book quote: "No matter what kind of novelist you are, there's one thing you will have when you've completed your manuscript--a plot.... The only question at that point will be, "Does it work?" By "work" I mean connect with readers. That's the function of plot after all. The reading experience is supposed to transport people, move them through the power of story. Plot is the grid that makes it happen."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Author Hillary Duff

Hillary Duff has just signed a multiple-book deal for a YA series and a nonfiction book on children of divorce.

The Writers Book Shelf - My Favorite Books on Writing - Tricia Goyer

Tricia Goyer is the author of 20+ books and has published over 300 articles for national publications such as Guideposts for Kids, Focus on the Family, Christian Parenting Today, Today’s Christian Woman and HomeLife Magazine. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from American Christian Fiction Writers, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion Book Award in 2005.

Check out her website especially On Writing.

Here are some of the books on writing that Tricia recommends...

. Sally Stuart's Christian Writers Market Guide:

. Writers Market Guide:

. Sandra Glahn's amazing tutorial about great writing:

. Sandra Glahn's information about magazine writing:

. Sandra Glahn's How to Break Into Publishing:

. On Writing by Stephen King. A bit raw, but one of the BEST books on
fiction writing I've ever read.

. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Again, a bit raw, but very, very good
advice. Anne writes crazily (if there is such a thing) but it works. She's
got a terrific voice.

. Randy Ingermanson's Advanced Fiction Writing Ezine:

Also, Donald Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Writing Tips You Can Use - Advice From Best-Selling Author Marilyn Meredith

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a F.M. Meredith is the author of the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series and the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, as well as many other novels. She recently wrote a blog post "Mistakes I've Seen Lately in Books I've Read" and graciously shares her thoughts here:

Saturday, February 20, 2010
Mistakes I've Seen Lately in Books I've Read

When reading a book someone wants me to review, I'm always sad when I see mistakes that the writer could have learned about at a good writing conference or in a writing class.

One problem I've seen recently is the overuse of exclamation points. Usually if the dialogue (and that's the only place an exclamation point should ever appear)is exclamatory enough, the point is not needed. I can't remember what author said it, but something to the effect that there should only be one exclamation point per book.

The use of too many dialogue tags like, he gasped, she chortled, he explained. Said or question is enough--and better still, have the character do something so that the action can be the dialogue tag.

Far too many pages of description, whether it be of a house, or a historical event.

Yes, I know Margaret Mitchell had all those pages about the Civil War in Gone With the Wind. I read Gone With the Wind about eight times, but after the first round, I skipped the description of the War. Readers are interested in what happens to the characters. If they are involved in a war or an historical happening, let the reader see what is going on through the eyes of the point-of-view character.

Those are just a couple of things I've noticed. The books I read were good, but would have been far better with the help of an editor.

Believe me, I make plenty of mistakes. Every chapter I write is heard and seen by my critique group. After I think the book is done, I make sure it is seen by someone who knows how to edit.

Still mistakes make it through, but not as many as would if I didn't have those other eyes checking for me.

If you are new to writing, take the time to read some good books on writing or attend a writers' conference or two.

I can't tell you how many writers' conferences I've been to over the years and even now, I learn at least one new thing at each one I attend.


Note: Marilyn's newest book An Axe To Grind is now available. Check out Marilyn's Musings here .

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Manuscript Critique Group

If you are too busy to be apart of a writers group, or you haven't been able to find one you like, we have a solution for you. Here on "Dialogue" we are hoping to start an online manuscript critique group. We would form small circles, so no one would be overwhelmed by the amount of reading/critiquing, and send off a chapter or short section to each person in the group.

For you budding writers who are starting out and haven't been able to show your work to anyone outside of family and friends, a group like this can really help, not only to boost your own confidence in your work, but to learn from the mistakes others have made. Often I would hear writing professionals comment on amateur writing or certain rough techniques that glare from the page, but I wasn't sure what they meant until I joined a writers group and began to see my writing through other eyes. Things I was sure were clear to understand, sometimes weren't.

Even if you are a seasoned writer, it's good to have a place where you can bounce off new ideas and experiment with different writing styles. For myself, I am always inspired by my contact with other writers. There is an energy from meeting people who love the same things you do.

If you would like to be apart of our online manuscript critique group you can comment to this post or e-mail Patricia at the address in About Me. We would also love to hear any experience you may have had with writers groups before. Was is a good or bad experience? What do you look for in a writers group?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Indies Choice Award Finalists
The ABA announced the nominees for their annual book awards. Member booksellers can vote during most of the month of March, with the winners to be named in April.

Adult Fiction
Border Songs, by Jim Lynch (Knopf)
Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin (Scribner)
The Children's Book, by A.S. Byatt (Knopf)
Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese (Knopf)
Generosity: An Enhancement, by Richard Powers (FSG)
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel (Holt)

Adult Nonfiction
Animals Make Us Human, by Temple Grandin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Lit: A Memoir, by Mary Karr (HarperCollins)
The Lost City of Z, by David Grann (Doubleday)
Stitches: A Memoir, by David Small (W.W. Norton)
Strength in What Remains, by Tracy Kidder (Random House)
When Everything Changed, by Gail Collins (Little, Brown)

Adult Debut
The Earth Hums in B Flat, by Mari Strachan (Canongate)
The Help, by Kathryn Stockett (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam)
The Piano Teacher, by Y.K. Lee (Viking)
The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, by Reif Larson (Penguin Press)
Still Alice, by Lisa Genova (Pocket)
Tinkers, by Paul Harding (Bellevue Literary Press)

Young Adult
Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)
Going Bovine, by Libba Bray (Delacorte Books for Young Readers)
If I Stay, by Gayle Forman (Dutton Juvenile)
Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld, Keith Thompson (illus.) (Simon Pulse)
Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic)
Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson (Viking Juvenile)

Middle Reader
Al Capone Shines My Shoes, by Gennifer Choldenko (Dial)
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly (Holt)
Odd and the Frost Giants, by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins)
A Season of Gifts, by Richard Peck (Dial)
When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb Books)
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin (Little, Brown)

Picture Book
All the World, by Liz Garton Scanlon, Maria Frazee (illus.) (Beach Lane Books)
The Curious Garden, by Peter Brown (Little, Brown)
The Lion and the Mouse, by Jerry Pinkney (Little, Brown)
Listen to the Wind, by Greg Mortenson, Susan Roth (illus.) (Dial)
Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11, by Brian Floca (Richard Jackson Books)
Otis, by Loren Long (Philomel)

How many have you read?

Saint Patrick, Myth vs. Fact (Book Review)

My review of Saint Patrick by Jonathan Rogers PhD is available at our sister blog Inspiring Words here's the link: