Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Fresh Look at An Ancient Tradition

I did not grow up in a church tradition which celebrates Advent each year. In the last fifteen years of my life, I've belonged to churches which do celebrate Advent. Recently I learned about a new book from Paul-Gordon Chandler who formerly was the CEO of the International Bible Society. Now Chandler is the Rector of the Church of St. John the Baptist/Maadi in Cairo, Egypt, within the Episcopal Diocese of Egypt & North Africa.

Songs in Waiting provides fresh insight about the significance of the season. In the opening pages of tSongsInWaitingBookhe book, Paul-Gordon writes, "Advent was seen as a time to look both backward and forward: backward, in celebration of the birth of Christ, and forward, with the expectation of God's coming to us anew. Thus Advent is a time to celebrate the past and anticipate the future; "living in Advent" is about being in a state of readiness for the continual coming of God into our lives." (Page 3)

Paul-Gordon Chandler has lived in the Middle East for many years and mixes his stories and experiences with well-written teaching about the historical significance of Advent. Four brief chapters are focused on four ancient Advent songs and combined with beautiful artwork from Daniel Bonnell.

Here's a beautiful book which you could read aloud to the family or read yourself each year and find new depth and insight with each reading. As he writes, "As we look at these four ancient Middle Eastern Advent songs, we are reminded that God loves to surprise us when we are most in need of divine help, and that in so doing, provides surprises that are so much more wonderful than we could ever have imagined." (page 15) I highly recommend Songs in Waiting. AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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Monday, December 14, 2009

21 FREE Audience-Building Ideas

Many times over the last several years, I have encouraged writers to start a regular newsletter as an audience building tool. If you don't have a newsletter, then start one. I've pointed out this free 150-page resource to help you start a newsletter.

Today I want to introduce another free resource to build your audience--an e-course from Jimmy D. Brown. This Internet expert is known for his no nonsense, straight-forward approach to creating and selling products online.

If you go to 21 Email Success Tips and scroll down to the bottom of the page, you can sign up for this free E-course. In a series of 21 emails you will see how Jimmy is using his list for additional income and also to continually expand his audience.

As a writer, why do you want to continually expand your audience? Publishers and literary agents are looking for writers not only who can write--but who have audiences to sell books. The larger your audience, the more attractive your pitch will be to a prospective publisher. Through this free resource, you can get proven ideas to expand your reach as a writer. Get started today--one email at a time for the next 21 days.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Climb Out of the Routine

Are you a routine person? In many ways my writing life falls into a regular rhythm. I suspect that my preference for the routine isn't too unusual.

Every now and then it's good to climb out of your rut and break your routine. Try something different. Several weeks ago, my long-time publishing friend Judith Couchman asked me to read and write some words about her new book, The Mystery of the Cross, Bringing Ancient Christian Images to Life. I wasn't sure what I would learn but I agreed to read the book. It is out of the realm of the normal sort of nonfiction and fiction that I would choose but I found the book fascinating.

Throughout the ages the Cross has been symbolized in many different fashions and Couchman takes the reader on a remarkable journey. Until I read through this well-done book, I had no idea the various symbols used to represent the Cross. In fact, Couchman captures 40 different representations in this book which includes seven different parts:

* The Cross in Pre-Christian Times

* The Cross and the Suffering Savior

* The Cross and the First Believers

* The Cross and Early Religious Freedom

* The Cross in Ancient Everyday Life

* The Cross in Early Church Life

* The Cross and Its Eternal Power

This book can be used as a devotional learning experience about the Cross or you can read it straight through like any nonfiction book. I found it a bit unusual to release a book about the Cross around Christmas because typically the Church is tuned into the Cross around Easter instead of Christmas. Yet toward the end of the book on page 195, I found the Christmas connection within this book: "Christmas Day 800 marked one of the turning points to European history. Charles, King of the Franks, attended the third Nativity mass at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. He prostrated himself for prayers at the Tomb of the Apostle, in front of the congregation. when Charles rose from his petitions, Pope Leo III stepped forward and crowned him emperor of the Romans. The assemblage cried out, "Long life and victory to Charles, the most pious Augustus, the great, peace-loving emperor, crowned by God." Then everyone in attendance, including the pope, bowed to the new emperor, also known as Charlemagne." And to think that such a celebration happened on Christmas Day.

Pick up a copy of The Mystery of The Cross. It will shake you out of your routine thinking about this ancient symbol.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Get Skilled in The Art of War for Writers

When writers put words on paper, they are going to war--especially war with the voices in their head that tell them not to put words on the paper. In a little book loaded with wisdom and insight, James Scott Bell has written a powerful prescription for every writer--whether they are fiction writers or nonfiction writers in his new book, The Art of War for Writers.

Following the pattern of Sun Tzu and his classic, THE ART OF WAR, Bell divides his book into three parts: reconnaissance or the mental game of writing, tactics or the writing craft and finally strategy or advice about the publishing business. The first and the last section are universal principles for any writer (fiction or nonfiction) while the tactics section is mostly specific to fiction writers.

One of the most fascinating illustrations in the book--and a dose of reality for writers is the stages of a writer's life on page 51:

I find that many writers want to jump to the top of the pyramid without going through the various stages that Bell points out. It's a valuable lesson.

You can pick up a 25-page sample of The Art of War for Writers

A skilled communicator, Bell mixes examples from other writers, his own personal stories and profound wisdom. I suggest you read this book at least twice. Once with your highlighter to mark many pages, then a second time in daily little chunks to inspire you to write the words only you can write.

The final pages of this title turn to five words from Sun Tzu, "The commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage, and strictness." With clarity and simple words, Bell challenges the writer in all five areas and these words are crafted from his years of experience in the publishing world. I loved this sentence in the courage section on page 258, "You have it inside you to fight this fight. Write, think about what you write, then write some more."

I highly recommend this book for writers of every persuasion.

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