I Love to Write Day & Jury Duty

Today is I Love to Write Day. It was founded 10 years ago by John Riddle to encourage people of all levels and interests to do a little bit of writing. So what does yet another “Day” have to do with Jury Duty. Everything! Today we are posting an article from a first timer, Margaret Richards. Of course, it’s not the first time she has written anything. She’s a home school mom, ministry leader in her church, and story teller extraordinaire. There’s just a tad bit of writing that goes along with those titles. But she has not shared anything online…until now.You may recognize Margaret’s name. She provides original photos for the A,B,Cs of Loving One Another Series. Her photography and that of her professional photographer husband, Lonnie, can be viewed here.

We are so honored to share her first online article with you today.

I Am Alternate Juror Number Six By Margaret Richards

I am waiting… and waiting… and waiting.

I arrive in plenty of time. I set off the metal detector twice–once for my belt (I guess it does have metal holes all the way around it!) and once for my necklace (It’s from the Dollar Store. The beads are plastic. Wasn’t expecting that one!) I sign in and receive my $10. I take a seat in one of the back rows in the courtroom with other fine upstanding citizens of Medina County. Bailiff Bill arranges us in our computer-generated random order. Eight people are placed in the seats of the jury box. We watch the video that explains the legal system. And now, here I am in the front row of the audience, alternate juror number six, awaiting voir dire. In French that’s “to see, to talk.” It’s where the lawyers decide whether or not I will benefit their client as  a Caucasian, brunette, green-eyed, tee-totaling female who attends a Baptist church three times a week, has been married for thirty-five years to the same man, and is the mother of six children. So, I am waiting… and waiting… and waiting.

It’s interesting the thoughts that go through my head while I sit with twenty-three strangers; waiting… and waiting.

“Why is the light in that section of recessed ceiling is yellow? The other fifteen are white.”

“The long horizontal planks along the front of the courtroom contrast interestingly with the brick on the walls.”

“Where is the witness stand?”

I contemplate the video and  think about jury duty. I mean jury service!

With most of us, what’s our first thought when that envelope comes in the mail from the Court System? “Oh, no!” And we try to find a way to get out of serving. But I think about the privilege that we have to be judged by a jury of our peers instead of an evil dictator. “Off with their heads!” I’d like to think that if I were on trial, those peers wouldn’t be just the ones who didn’t want to be there but couldn’t get out of it.

After much waiting, we find out that of the three possible cases for the day, only one was coming to court. And the judge, attorney, and defendant worked out a plea ahead of time to save the man the time and expense of a jury trial. So that’s why were waiting. We do finally get to see the actual plea. Bailiff Bill, calls, “All rise!” and we stand as Judge Chase comes into the courtroom. They discuss the situation and the possible pleas and get it all straightened out.

My time as alternate juror number six is over. I am never questioned by the lawyer. I am never sworn in. I never sit in a jury seat. But I get to see a bit of the American legal system at work. It’s the best in the world…except for that of the God of the Universe.

With perfect understanding of every situation, He judges rightly. I’m thankful that though His justice demands payment for my every sin, His love provides a sacrifice to take the punishment for that sin… Jesus.

All in all, it is a good day.

photo credit: vaXzine via photopin cc

Turn Write Series with Guest: Author Janalyn Voigt

Janalyn Voigt’s unique blend of adventure, romance, suspense, and fantasy creates worlds of beauty and danger for readers. Beginning with DawnSinger, her epic fantasy series, Tales of Faeraven, carries the reader into a land only imagined in dreams.

Janalyn also writes western romance novels, and will publish in that genre under Janalyn Irene Voigt. She is represented by Barbara Scott of Wordserve Literary. She serves as a literary judge for several national contests and is an active book reviewer. Her memberships include ACFW and NCWA.

When she’s not writing, Janalyn loves to find adventures in the great outdoors.

We welcome Janalyn to the Turn Write Series. Be sure to leave her a comment at the conclusion of this post and be entered to win a free copy of her just released novel, DawnSinger.

Capture a Wide Audience Walt Disney’s Storytelling Techniques

“I can never stand still. I must explore and experiment. I am never satisfied with my work. I resent the limitations of my own imagination” ~ Walt Disney.

Each morning during my visit to Disneyland when the rope dropped to allow guests into the park a spontaneous cheer rose from the waiting crowd. Why? What brought people from all over the world and united them with happy expectation? And how can I allow this happy magic to inform my own writing?

The answers take us straight into the heart of Disneyland — to Walt Disney himself. He’s present in every corner of the park, beside you as you fly with Peter Pan, fight with the Force, adventure Indiana-Jones-style or ride a runaway train in the Old West. Walt Disney’s appeal goes beyond his fine understanding of story, evidenced by the following quote:

“If I can’t find a theme, I can’t make a film anyone else will feel. I can’t laugh at intellectual humor. I’m just corny enough to like to have a story hit me over the heart…” ~ Walt Disney. 

From this quote, a writer can draw the following inferences:

  • A story needs a theme.
  • Be real to reach readers.
  • To touch others, engage your own emotions as you write.

Walt Disney detailed the elements present in his stories:

“My entertainment credo has not changed a whit. Strong combat and soft satire are in our story cores. Virtue triumphs over wickedness in our fables. Tyrannical bullies are routed or conquered by our good little people, human or animal. Basic morality is always deeply implicit in our screen legends. But they are never sappy or namby-pamby. And they never prate or preach. All are pitched toward the happy and satisfactory ending. There is no cynicism in me and there is none allowed in our work.” ~ Walt Disney. 

To emulate Disney’s formula:

  • Build your story around strong conflict and soft satire.
  • Allow good to win over evil through your character’s virtues.
  • Allow morality to inform your story world.
  • Never manipulate with sappiness (excessive emotion without cause).
  • Don’t let your storytelling become wishy-washy or run-of-the-mill. Know what you want to express and do so in a unique way.
  • Don’t lecture the reader.
  • Don’t preach at the reader.
  • Develop your story toward a satisfying conclusion. As Walt Disney put it: “A good ending is vital to a picture, the single most important element, because it is what the audience takes with them out of the theater.”
  • Don’t allow cynicism to enter your writing.

Walt Disney’s insights into storytelling were matched by his equally keen understanding of his audience:

“You don’t build it for youself. You know what the people want and you build it for them.”  

Disney’s opinion flies in the face of the popular notion that writers should write to please themselves. Contrary to today’s pursuit of niche markets, Disney successfully defined a wide audience for his work:

“To captivate our varied and worldwide audience of all ages, the nature and treatment of the fairy tale, the legend, the myth have to be elementary, simple. Good and evil, the antagonists of all great drama in some guise, must be believably personalized. The moral ideals common to all humanity must be upheld. The victories must not be too easy. Strife to test valor is still and will always be the basic ingredient of the animated tale, as of all screen entertainments”

–Walt Disney. 

Let’s review how to capture a wide audience:

  • Maintain a simple focus in your storyline.
  • Believably personalize good and evil (no cardboard characters)
  • Uphold universally-held moral ideals.
  • Keep tension high with conflict to
  • Don’t give away the ending with a too-easy resolution. Make your characters work for victory.

If Disney’s formula for success seems calculated for profit, think again. I’ll let Walt Disney explain for himself:

“I knew if this business was ever to get anywhere, if this business was to ever grow, it could never do it by having to answer to someone unsympathetic to its possibilities, by having to answer to someone with only one thought or interest, namely profits. For my idea of how to make profits has differed greatly from those who generally control businesses such as ours. I have blind faith in the policy that quality, tempered with good judgment and showmanship, will win against all odds”

–Walt Disney.

I don’t know about you, but I’m all for winning against the odds.

Janalyn Voigt’s DawnSinger

The High Queen is dying… At the royal summons, Shae mounts a wingabeast and soars through the air to the high hold of Faeraven, where all is not as it seems. Visions warn her of danger, and a dark soul touches hers in the night. When she encounters an attractive but disturbing musician, her wayward heart awakens. But then there is Kai, a guardian of Faeraven and of Shae. Secrets bind him to her, and her safety lies at the center of every decision he makes. On a desperate journey fraught with peril and the unknown, they battle warlike garns, waevens, ferocious raptors, and the wraiths of their own regrets. Yet, they must endure the campaign long enough to release the DawnKing—and the salvation he offers—into a divided land. To prevail, each must learn that sometimes victory comes only through surrender.

Book Trailer  Purchase DawnSinger from Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Connect with Janalyn: http://janalynvoigt.com or http://janalynvoigt.com/blog

Don’t forget to leave a comment below and be entered to win a free copy of DawnSinger

Turn Write Series-An Interview with Kathy Tyers

Today I have the privilege of sharing an interview graciously given by Speculative Fiction author Kathy Tyers. I first met Kathy through the Speculative Fiction email Loop of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers.)  At the time I had no idea the extent of her author experience or wealth of knowledge she would humbly impart to this fledgling author. I would learn these truths when I participated in a Webinar taught by Kathy through the Christian Writers Guild.

I have come to deeply respect Kathy, not just for her great books, but more for her heart for the craft of writing and for those who strive to master it. If you like science fiction and fantasy or just love a good read from quality authors, I know you will enjoy Kathy’s books and her message.

You can visit Kathy at: http://kathytyers.com/ or on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/kathytyers

And you can find her most recent projects, including the Annotated Firebird Trilogy, at Marcher Lord Press.

Please Welcome, Kathy Tyers


Kathy Tyers has published ten novels in the Christian and general markets, including two authorized novels for the Star Wars expanded universe. If she isn’t writing, she might be teaching a flute lesson, mentoring a hopeful author via the Christian Writers Guild, or battling quackgrass in her vegetable garden. Kathy lives in Montana, has one son and a wonderful daughter-in-law.

  1. How long have you been writing Speculative Fiction? Have you ever written in any other genre? Non-fiction?

I’ve written speculative fiction since 1983. That summer, I found myself inspired by the third Star Wars film, “Return of the Jedi;” the U.S. Air Force Thunderbird’s air show in my home town; and my infant son’s two-hour naps. Yes, I’ve also written a bit in other genres. Several years ago, one of my friends produced a series of coffee-table books and asked me for a text for Exploring the Northern Rockies. I also assisted my friend, guitarist Christopher Parkening, with his memoir Grace Like a River.

2. Why do you like writing Speculative Fiction and what got you started?

It’s a genre I have enjoyed reading since I was about eleven. A friend gave me a copy of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, and I liked it so much I went looking for more at the public library. I started writing Firebird that summer of 1983, then joined a local writers group and learned to self-edit. That group changed my life. I’d never dreamed there was so much more to storytelling than simply putting ideas on paper.

3. Those of us writing Speculative Fiction in the 21st Century have the groundwork and inspiration laid by you and others to help us in our writing and publication. Who laid the foundation for you? Why were they inspirational to you?

I’m sure that my junior-high and high-school trips through Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings laid the groundwork for a love of a well-crafted imaginary world. I love the writing styles of Dorothy L. Sayers and Lois McMaster Bujold, among others. I’ve also enjoyed C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams, although some of their novels seemed too dense to enjoy until I grew up a bit! My favorite end-times novel is the little-known Father Elijah by Michael O’Brien, since it approaches the apocalypse from an unexpected direction. No spoilers here!

4. The Annotated Firebird Trilogy is available from Marcher Lord Press. I remember last year I was the reporter for Jeff Gerke’s session for the 2011 ACFW Conference and he was so excited to announce its release. Tell us about the process and experience of doing this annotation and working with MLP.

It was fun to read all three novels after a long time away, reminiscing with a book and a legal pad, making notes whenever a plot event (or prop, or character’s name, or anything else) stirred a memory. Jeff was gracious enough to let me come up with as many annotations as I liked, without setting an upper limit. We knew the book was going to be mighty thick, even without annotations.

5. Why do you think some fans of Christian Fiction struggle with the concept of coupling a Christian worldview with Speculative Fiction writing?  Give an argument or two for why this skeptic reader should read Daystar, Firebird or other quality Science Fiction and Fantasy.

A tragically high number of Christians in our culture seem to think that science fiction, fantasy, etc. is harmful or even Satanic. But I disagree. I’ve read many speculative novels (not all of them written for the Christian market!) that wake the sense of the numinous and illustrate truths about God and His kingdom. Readers today have been raised in an entertainment-rich but joy-impoverished culture. They’re starved for stories that affirm something they know deep in their hearts — that God is real, truth is deep, and there is joy beyond all sorrows — and they’ve almost forgotten how to believe in the unseen. Something wonderful really is out there! By writing speculative fiction, we can help those joy-starved readers realize that deep down, they still have a spark of God-given faith. They yearn for the Holy Spirit. They want to find God. We can link that longing with spiritual reality.

6. Can you divulge what is up ahead for you as an author and Christ Follower?

I’m listening for God’s voice and watching for his leadings, and meanwhile I’m doing more mentoring and freelance editing than original writing. That, however, is subject to change at a moment’s notice.

Kathy, thank you for sharing with us today. We deeply appreciate your generous gift of time and expertise.