Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Guest Post Allison Reker

I'd like to thank Allison Reker  
I found her post very useful and I play online games with my husband and
family I can't wait to try out some of her advice.
All images are from the great photographers at Pixaby

How Video Games Can  Transform Your Writing 
No, I haven’t lost my mind, and I’m not a video game addict either—I am totally serious. I’ve been passionate about writing my whole life; participated in writing groups, gone to conferences, taken more classes on writing than I can remember, and even majored in writing in college. But it was through a video game that I learned to really be a story teller and develop characters that breathed a life of their own.

Roleplay  Find a game where you can role-play with others. I’m not talking about your standard shoot-em-up, follow the canned story line from point A to point Z until you defeat the big boss kind of game though. I’m talking about the open-ended kind. The games that give you an interactive world full of other players, and opportunities to challenge yourself by building skills and going on quests, either of the game’s making or your own.

  The games where you can engage with other storytellers and actually roleplay. As writers, we sometimes enjoy good reviews or fan mail, but we don’t typically get to experience the immediate reactions of those reading our stories. Getting to not only experience those reactions, but have readers respond back in a way that influences what you write next, teaches you a lot about what it takes to make an engaging character or story.

Build your own narrative within the game, and connect your stories. My own book series has its distant origins in one such game, called Ultima Online. As far as I know, its servers are still running, though I no longer play. What started out as something entertaining to do in the evenings after work, became an incredible creative outlet.   It resulted in a massive collection of interconnected stories and vignettes that I and a small group of other players built upon for years.

The interplay between world, history, and character became a wellspring for the imagination—a boundless source of ideas just waiting to be explored. Even though the game world had its own official history and storyline, following it wasn’t necessary. We made up our own history for that world, our own mythology, and tied it into our individual storylines. Everything we did in game continued to feed into the larger story, so it just kept growing.

Become your character(s) when you’re in a game. Roleplaying taught me more about character development than all of my previous writing coursework combined. Why? My characters were no longer theoretical. There was no omniscient narrator between me and their deepest thoughts and feelings. With no set plotline, and no need to balance the actions - thoughts of other characters at the same time, all I needed to focus on was being my chosen character at that moment in time.

When I stepped into the role of Morganne, for instance, I really pulled on her boots and peered out at the world through her eyes rather than my own. I spoke, thought, felt, and reasoned like she did. Unlike in a story or novel where I maintained control over what would happen next, I never knew what Morganne might encounter from day to day. Different situations would arise based on the actions of other players, and I would have to react, not as myself, but as Morganne. And I didn’t have days or weeks to mull the implications of those reactions, either. I had to quickly base them on what I knew of her as a person and stay true to her integrity as a character. Whatever I did, whatever I said, could not be taken back or re-written later.

With real-time roleplaying there could always be unanticipated consequences, of course. After all, I was dealing with the varied personalities of other players’ characters and their background stories. I might make new friends who would come to my defense in times of need. Or I might make new enemies, who would from then on make a point of coming after me. But every decision, every interaction became a part of who Morganne was, and got woven into her larger narrative, until thread by thread, a rich and complex character came into being.

Take the characters you love beyond the game. The game gradually changed; friends came and went, and my own life circumstances left me little time to play. The day I shut down my account, it literally felt like a part of me had died. It’s a strange thing to grieve over people that aren’t real, yet they had become real to me. What would become of those characters I had invested so many years, and so much of my inner self, into developing? Instead of shelving all of those old stories, and resigning my beloved characters to oblivion, I preserved them in the form of my first novel, and then my second, with still more to come.

Not just my characters either, but the memories of so many others that I had met and been influenced by along the way. Fifteen years later I’m still drawing from that infinite wellspring I discovered in, yes, a video game. I’ll probably still be drawing from it fifteen years from now, because I truly love my characters and the new world and storylines I’ve made for them.

Other ways video games can help your writing
 I still play other video games on occasion, though I’m careful not to let them suck too much of my writing time away. Here are some other simple ways they can help.
• If you’re in a game where roleplaying is possible, this can be a great time to experiment with unusual characters or story lines—particularly those that take you out of your comfort zone. Try them in the game before making them part of your current work in progress. Let the other people you play with serve as a sounding board to bounce ideas off of. See how they react to your experimental character/storyline, and ask for feedback that will help you decide if it works or not.

  • World building can be challenging. If you’re having trouble visualizing your own world, how can you make it a real place for your readers? Maybe you are trying to figure out a castle’s layout, how a certain village would look, or describe some other important location in your book. Build it in Minecraft. It’s not a roleplaying game, but in it you can build just about anything you can imagine, block by block. I’ve terraformed landscapes, made castles, medieval villages, seaside mansions, and all sorts of other things. Sometimes through the building process you realize that the vision in your head isn’t actually possible or practical, or takes up way more, or way less space than you thought.

• Sometimes when I’m struggling with ideas or something I’m working on isn’t quite right, video games provide a much needed mental break. Ideas can still be percolating in the back of my mind while I get myself refocused, or re-energized. So the next time you’re looking for a video game diversion, don’t feel guilty about it—make it count. Pick a game that can actually help you hone your writing skills while you play. You might get more out of it than you ever thought possible.

Allison D. Reid was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her love for medieval fantasy was sparked by the Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis, which fed both her imagination and her spiritual development. When at the age of thirteen her family moved to Germany, her passion for medieval history and legend only increased, and she found herself captivated by the ancient towns and castles of Europe. Allison returned to the United States to study art and writing at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. She earned her B.A. under the tutelage of the well-renowned and prolific writer Andrew Salkey, a student of her other great inspiration, and the father of fantasy, J. R. R. Tolkien. After graduating from Hampshire College, Allison moved to Connecticut. There she got the opportunity to attend seminary and further explore her faith before returning to her home state of Ohio. Allison now lives in the Miami Valley area with her husband and children. She continues to work on her first published series while taking care of her family, editing for other independent writers, and managing a home business.
Learn more about Allison by visiting her website,
www.AllisonDReid.com or check out her blog.
Tune into her live interview on By the Fireplace, February 10th at 11:00 p.m. EST or catch it later on demand.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Clean and Christian Movies: Lucas Miles Interview

Clean and Christian Movies: Interview with Lucas Miles

Hello CIAN Readers:

Today, we have the pleasure of speaking with actor, author, pastor and film producer, Lucas Miles. First, we'd like to thank you, Mr. Miles, for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us.  And, to our readers, we do hope that you will take time out to watch his new movie, Rodeo Girl. It looks to be a great family movie and, now that it's on Netflix, DVD and Amazon Prime, those of you who don't get out much can still enjoy this great family feature.

CIAN:  Mr. Miles, we would like to begin with a question about your new book, Good God, that is due out in March, 2016. I have read the material and excerpts available on-line for the book. I am a Christian who believes that God is indeed a good God. What can your book offer me as someone seeking a closer walk with God?

https://lucasmiles.wordpress.com/Miles:  Like many people, I grew up in a church expression that spoke about God's goodness but struggled making sense of the dichotomy that often exists in our understanding the harmony between the God of the Old Testament and the person of Jesus.  In Good God, I attempt to tackle what I refer to as the "problem passages" that regularly create confusion and call God's character into question.  I think that anyone can pick up the book and fall more in love with the God of the Bible.

CIAN:  Thank you and I do plan to read the book. I see you have a book signing coming up at noon on March 12th at Barnes & Noble in Mishawaka, Indiana. I hope our readers in that area can get out to see you. Now, continuing in the same vein of thought, how long have you been a Christian and, when did you feel the calling to be a pastor?

Miles:  I actually felt a call to the ministry at about 15 years old.  I was at a youth conference and the speaker told us to ask the Lord for the name of someone back home who needed to hear about Him.  A girl's name popped into my head and when I got home I called her and timidly told her what happened and that I wanted to know if she needed prayer for anything.  She immediately started weeping.  Once she regained composure, she informed me that the exact hour that her name was laid on my heart, she and her family had received word that one of her brothers had died.  It was a powerful moment that I'll never forget.  Through that experience, I felt the Lord calling me to ministry.

CIAN:  That was an amazing sign of things to come. Thanks for sharing that very touching story. Continuing on, Mr. Miles, when looking at your future, with faith and grace as your foundation and as you continue to follow Christ’s leading, what does your five to ten year life plan include?

http://oasnet.org/Miles:  I really believe that Grace gives us the ability to do more through God than we could ever do on our own.  In many ways, I feel like I'm just starting.  I am currently working on my second book, writing a couple screenplays, and making plans to produce a film this fall called The Penitent Thief.  In 10 years, I hope I've been able to release more books, films, and continue to grow my nonprofit, The Oasis Network For Churches (http://oasnet.org/).

CIAN:  Thanks. The Penitent Thief, that sounds interesting. I think we have a question about that later on. Please tell us, how does Miles Media fit into your future plans? Do you plan to continue to "produce" movies or do you plan, at some point, to also "direct"? (Or, is there a difference? An honest question; I don't know.)

Miles:  Miles Media is just getting started. We have some big things in store for the future and some really exciting projects in development. As for me personally, I direct segments of about everything we do. This past year, we worked on music videos, sitcoms, feature films, and even some commercial videos. As an executive producer, my job is to assemble the team, finance the project, and oversee it from start to finish.  I enjoy directing, too, which is more singularly focused on telling the story, but I always suspect my attention will lean more toward producing, at least for now.

CIAN:  Wow! That sounds like a lot for just getting started. Before actually delving into a few questions about the film producing aspect of your life, you are also a life coach and advisor for film stars and athletes. In this capacity, are you able to share your witness for Christ? Has being a Christian ever created any barriers or hindrances when selecting a client?

Miles:  As a life coach or advisor, I've been blessed to really be able to decide who I work with.  Most of my clients are high performers with a passion to leave their mark on the world - for the better. I love working with entertainers especially. Although not all of them are Christians, they usually know who I am and where my advice stems from before we start working together. I've had to work through some pretty sensitive scenarios with clients in the past. Entertainment can be a really morally complicated field, especially for actors, but I always love a challenge. Most of all, I find it really rewarding to help people get in touch with Christ in their heart and hear from Him regarding the steps of their life.
CIAN: Thanks for sharing. This is all so fascinating. I pray that God sends you some actors who are open to doing Christian movies and might also need good seed sown into their lives. Now, just a question of curiosity, how did you meet Kevin Sorbo and Dean Cain?

Miles:  I only met Dean briefly on the set of Small Town Santa. I was working with one of the cast and got to enjoy some time connecting with Dean.  He's a great guy! 

Kevin, on the other hand, starred in my most recently released film, Rodeo Girl, which I co-produced alongside Joel Reisig.  Kevin and I have stayed in touch some since and I was really blessed to include him as an endorser on my new book, Good God: The One We Want To Believe In But Are Afraid To Embrace.

CIAN:  Thanks. I'm a fan of both Dean and Kevin. I pray they are able to cross paths with you again; they are both great actors. As we continue into the film producing aspect of the interview, what do you look for in a script that makes you choose a project to produce?

Miles:  Some things are a given; it has to be a great story and work well on screen. It also has to be able to be produced at our budget level. Every project we do has been bigger than the last, but since we aren't funded by major studios, we have to look for projects that seem reasonable and that we can shoot creatively and still have them work on screen.  Most people would be shocked by the budget of Rodeo Girl, but I think it turned out really well and works.

CIAN:  I hope to see it soon. From viewing the trailer, it looks like a great film. What was the deciding factor(s) in the decision to produce The Penitent Thief? Do you know what prompted the writing of the book?

Miles:  The story. I read the book in one day and was really moved by it. Don Willis, the author, has become a great friend and his writing really inspired me to see the depth in some of the characters in the Bible that is easily overlooked.

CIAN:  Had you ever produced or acted in a movie before you became the principal and founder of Miles Media?

Miles:  I had produced quite a few music videos and even a couple short commercial and documentary type pieces over the years. As a coach, I was always involved in telling stories on screen, even if I wasn't actually directing them myself. I often times would be the idea guy and then hire someone to produce my vision. When I was a kid I made a trilogy called, The Particle Transporter. I always say I'm going to release it on YouTube one of these days, but just have never gotten around to it. For being made and edited completely on a single 1980's camcorder, it's pretty impressive.

CIAN:  It sounds like you've always been moving towards being a producer. According to your bio, you have other varied accomplishments (martial arts, basketball, boxing, golf, plays harmonica, drums and guitar, even ballroom dancing and the waltz!).  In your busy life, do you have any “down time”?

Miles:  Travel is a big part of our life. My wife, Krissy, and I are definitely busy, but we try to get away any chance we can. Working out is always a big source of relaxation for me, though it's easy to get out of habit with all that's on our plates. I don't play music as much as I used to, and I've had to hit pause on my black belt training, but I hope to pick that back up in the near future.  I've trained in Kalsadapo Karate.

CIAN:  Are any of the above listed activities considered recreation? If not, what do you do for fun and recreation?

Miles:  If I could only do one thing recreationally, it would involve the water - boats, swimming, etc. Though I'm a pretty poor swimmer and didn't learn till later in life, I still love the water; it's so energizing.

CIAN:  And, to bring our interview to a close and end on a more personal note, were you raised in a Christian home?  Do you have any siblings?

Miles:  I have a very successful older brother, Josh, who is one of the principals for a major Indianapolis branding firm called, MilesHerndon.com. My younger sister is super talented as well, and is an interior designer, photographer, and military wife. My parents raised us knowing God though I think that all our understanding of what this means has enlarged as we have come to know His grace.

CIAN:  Thank you, Mr. Miles. We so appreciate being able to spend this time with you. We look forward to the possibilities of speaking with you again when you produce your next family friendly movie! 

Miles:  My pleasure!

See pictures of Lucas Miles, Dean Cain, Kevin Sorbo and more here

Lucas Miles Blog 
Lucas Miles Twitter
Rodeo Girl Facebook 
Rodeo Girl Movie Trailer
Miles Media Twitter
Miles Media Website 
Crowning Jules Twitter
Crowning Jules Facebook

Share this post on Facebook

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

How to Write a Good Book Review

How to Write an Excellent Book Review by Pastor George McVey

For those of us who are self published or small press published authors, there are two main things that are our best marketing tools. The first is word of mouth. If you like a book, recommend it to people. Don’t give them your copy but tell them how to get their own. This blog post is about the second, and probably the best marketing tool, and that is the written review. 

In the past, I had not worried too much about my reviews. I am more concerned now that a new App named Fakespot is available. Fakespot claims to be able to tell if a review is authentic. Fakespot runs its’ reviews through various technologies and algorithms to tell how many of the reviews appear to be fake or paid reviews. I tested this on myself as well as several authors I know and trust, and at least 40% of our reviews were flagged as fake.  

Needless to say, I was concerned because every review I had gotten was legitimate. They were from people who had read my book and reviewed it because they wanted to. Being told that over 40% of those reviews appeared (to this App) to be fake, concerned me. After checking to see what indicators were being used, this is what I found. Fakespot determined that any review which was poorly written was considered fake. This discovery led me to realize that most people really don’t know what makes up a good review.

Let me say this, by good review, I don’t mean favorable. I have some negative as well as positive reviews. Good reviews, in terms of this blog post, are well written reviews where the reviewer’s opinion of the book is articulated clearly and concisely. So, let’s look at some do’s and don’ts for writing a review.

1. Do be honest. If the book was good, then say so. If it was bad, say that. People are more articulate when they believe what they are saying. Every author I know would rather have your honest review than for you to just say, “It was great.” We don’t need you to pump us up if we don’t deserve it. We want to write the best stories or information books we can. If you tell us the book was perfect, but tell everyone else what was wrong with it - that does not help us.

2. Don’t leave a five word or less review. This is one of the things Fakespot considers bogus. For instance, a review that says, “It was great”, without saying why, is not a review. By this App, that review will be considered less than honest. Let me tell you what I think is happening. Amazon has a link at the end of every Kindle book where you can leave a review right from your E-Reader but most people don’t like typing on those tiny keyboards. Because of that, people leave a single word or a few words review. The purpose of leaving a review is to help other readers decide if they want to read the book. We have been taught an informed customer is a smart customer so we do our research before making a purchase. We have only so much time to read in this hectic world of ours so we use reviews to help us make up our minds. “It was good”, “Awesome”, or “Loved It” doesn’t help a person decide. What made it a good book? Describe the awesomeness; tell why you loved it. The same is true if you must leave a negative review. Tell what about the book did not meet your expectations. Were the characters not developed? Did the plot move too slowly? You get the picture; use your own words. 

3. Do share your review once you've written it. Post a link to it on your Facebook, Pin it, Tweet it. Heck, even blog about it if you want! Those reviews don't help us sell more books unless people see them.

4. Don’t review things that aren’t about the book.  I know a number of authors who have received poor reviews because the reader had a problem with the book purchase. We, as authors, have no control over the device from which the book is downloaded.  We do not control the font size of the book; the reader does (there is a place on your E-Reader to adjust font size). We didn’t charge you twice; the bookseller did. Reviews are about the story and book cover - not about the process of purchasing the book. 

5. Do check your spelling and grammar. Books are made up of words and thoughts. Nothing makes a review look more like a fake than poor spelling or bad grammar. I’m not saying you have to be perfect but if you can’t tell the difference between think and thank, people may wonder about the strength of your review. Seriously, it happens. 

6. Don’t tell the plot of the book. No-one, and I mean NO-ONE, likes spoilers. A good review talks about why you liked the book. It doesn’t give the plot and specific details of the book. Nothing is worse for an author than a review that tells everything about the book. If you “tell all” in your review, what reason does a potential reader have to read the book? Imagine you are looking for a good mystery to read. The cover and blurb of a particular book sounds interesting but you want to see what those who have read the book had to say. There are several reviews. The first one you read gives the book five stars then proceeds to tell you who did it, why they did it and how they did it. No mystery left for you! This is not a quality review; it is a spoiler without a warning. 

7. Do make sure you are reviewing the right book. I’ve had this problem myself. I received a one star review. The reviewer told why he didn’t like my book yet nothing he wrote about was in my book. I’ve talked with other authors who have had similar experiences. If you are going to review a book, make sure it’s the right book. Read the book blurb; look at the cover and look up the title and author of the book. Some people don’t know this, but more than one book can have the same title. I have a book titled Redeeming Love, and so do another dozen authors including Francine Rivers. Can you imagine if a review of her book, which is a historical romance but not a Western, was posted to my book which is a Western with some romance in it? Or, if a review of my book, Redeeming Love, was posted to her book reviews? The potential reader would not get the correct book. 

8. Do contact the Author if you find spelling, grammar or formatting errors. We know they shouldn’t happen, but they do. A personal example, I paid over $300.00 for the editing of my book, Redeeming Grace. It was money well spent. However, when I uploaded the content to Amazon, I made a mistake. I used the unedited file. A reader contacted me and said, “The quality of this book is so much lower than your books are normally. What happened?”  I checked on Amazon and very quickly noticed that I had uploaded the wrong file. After uploading the correct file, I informed Amazon. Readers who had purchased the book were informed by Amazon so they could download the corrected version.  If you should have this experience, give the author the benefit of the doubt and contact them. Give them specific examples of what you are referring to. Indie authors want to put out the best product they can. Most will correct the problems and respond to the reader with a “Thank You”. Your Kindle or E-Reader should let you know when a corrected version is up. If you don’t get a notice after a month or so, contact Amazon. They will put a hold on the book until it is corrected.

As you can see, it isn’t hard to leave a well written review if you just follow these eight simple things. In the end, the author will love you for it. Other readers will love you for it and maybe, just maybe, Fakespot won’t think your review is a fake review.


George McVey always wanted to be a Superhero but sadly no radioactive storms or animals have been a part of his life. Instead, he figured he could help people by becoming a Pastor and sharing his faith journey with others.

With twenty years of ministry experience, Pastor George has taught and preached on a lot of subjects. People would often request copies of his notes or, even on occasion, suggest he put his rambling sermon series into book form. He never took them seriously.

One day while spinning a tall tale for his family, some suggested once again that with all his experiences in ministry, and his imagination, he should be writing books. This time it was like lightning struck and he decided, “Why not?”

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Valentines Day Cover Sale

What's going on?
A cover sale that will benefit a new local animal shelter in my neighborhood. They do great work and are just starting out.They do not have their 501C yet but hope to get one soon. I have seen their work and all of the ladies work without pay.  I hope you will join in.

How does this work?
We will have several covers to pick from during our Sale, the prices will range from $10. and up. We'll be running this sale from the 14th to the 21st. We hope to have a different special every day so drop by and see what's going on.

Where will my money go?
Your money will go to pay for adoption fees and vet bills. These ladies started out just helping the county and when the county saw what a great job they were doing, they put them in charge of helping to find the animals a home. They do their best to be a no kill shelter, and they foster out pets and find them homes.

Here is some ideas of what goes on at the Stray Hearts. 
Feb 2016 Rescue so far

Happy Tails from Jan 2016  

The Shelter

Where are they now
Click here to see some more happy tails




More Happy Tails 

September 11, 2015 ·
Pets adopted/sent to rescue from shelter and foster care since Jan. 2015
Not all adoptions are shown-over 400 in 2015. All cats and dogs were abandoned, strays, or pets thrown out in Martin County. Where some see trash, others see treasure.  If you look at any of these images you will see why I love supporting these girls and what they do. I have seen first hand the love they have for animals, and they twice have come to my home to pick up a poor dog that someone threw out like trash.

They do good work so please buy a cover and support taking care of some great animals.