Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Vickie McDonough and that Western Flair

Vickie McDonough is an award-winning inspirational romance author. She has had 16 novels and novellas published. Her Heartsong books, The Bounty Hunter and the Bride and Wild At Heart both placed third in the Top Ten Favorite Historical Romance category in Heartsong Present’s annual readers’ contests. Her stories frequently place in national contests, such as the ACFW Book of the Year contest and the Inspirational Readers Choice Contest. The first book in her first long fiction series, Texas Boardinghouse Brides, will release next year.

Vickie has also written books reviews for over eight years. She is a wife of thirty-four years, mother of four grown sons, and grandma to a feisty three-year-old girl. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, gardening, watching movies, and traveling. To learn more about Vickie’s books, visit her website:

SDC: Glad to get to know you Vickie. What book or project would you like to tell us about today?

VM: Wild West Christmas is an anthology collection. It contains four novellas by four authors(Lena Nelson Dooley, Kathleen Y’Barbo, Darlene Franklin & me), and they all focus on the Ames sisters, who live on a ranch in the Texas Hill Country. Each sister has a special talent such as roping or tracking, and since there are no boys in the family, the sisters help run their father’s ranch.

My story is titled A Breed Apart, and my heroine is named Sarah. Her passion is training horses, and she’s an expert at it. Her father wants her to be more like her oldest sister and learn to tend the home, but Sarah hates being inside doing womanly things. When her pa hires half-breed Carson Romero to replace her, Sarah almost loses her identity. When cattle go missing soon after Carson’s arrival, she suspects him to be an outlaw. But as she watches Carson, she realizes he has a gift for working with horses and a unique style. Intrigued, she wants to know more. Is it possible for a man so talented to also be an outlaw?

SDC: Sounds interesting! What inspired you to come up writing this genre?

VM When I was growing up, cowboy shows were big on TV, and I loved them. I also had a passion for horses, and even though I grew up in the city, I talked my parents into buying several different horses during my teen years. When I got older and had kids, I discovered Christian fiction and have been devouring it ever since. So when I started writing, it just felt natural to write historicals. I do have two contemporary stories published—one book and one novella—but my passion is historical Christian romance.

SDC: Are you in any Groups that help you in your writing? If so, tell us about them and the books you use for helps.

VM Yes, I’ve been a member of ACFW(American Christian Fiction Writers) since 2001, which is the year I first started writing. I credit this group for my being published. I learned how to write from their online classes and being in critique groups with other ACFW members. I’m also a member of several local writing groups, one which is an ACFW chapter called WIN (Writers of Inspirational Novels).

I learn better from hearing speakers teach about writing than I do from reading books, but two books that have helped me are Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon and also Heroes and Heroines, 16 Master Archetypes. Can’t remember the authors to that one—there are three of them.

SDC: There's so much we can learn from others, isn't there! What advice do you have for other new authors coming into the field of writing?

VM: Don’t get too anxious to see your first book published. It takes time and lots of practice to become a good writer. Think how much education is required to become a lawyer or doctor. Writers tend to think they can just pump out a story and someone will beg to buy it. A book has to be marketable. The story has to have an audience. Study all you can about writing, attend conferences, take classes at your local community college, read writing books, study your favorite writers to see what they’re doing in their books, and study publisher guidelines before sending in a manuscript.

SDC: that is so true and excellent advice. What do you think it takes to write a good book? Do you have any secrets, Vickie?

VM For one, it takes a lot of hard work and time. It’s important to learn the rules of writing, such as the correct pov to use, how to show instead of telling, writing active vs. passive. Do I have secrets? Hmm…just keep writing. Practice. Finish a book, and then start another one. Get involved with other writers, whether online or locally. Just keep at it even if you get a rejection. All published authors get rejections. It’s part of the business.

SDC: It sure is. Do you read other books besides inspirational? If so, how do they help you in your craft? If not, why not?

VM: I read mainly Christian novels, but there are a couple of historical authors I read who aren’t inspirational writers: Jodi Thomas and Linda Lael Miller mainly. They write such excellent historicals with a western flare and reading them helps me keep in the time-period I’m writing, and they give me a cowboy fix. They both are masters at writing creative methors.

SDC: I, too, have read Linda Lael Miller and enjoy her take on the western historicals. If you were to ask a reader what they were looking for in a book. Would you take her or his advice to come up with a premise?

VM It would depend on what that premise was. I can’t write about everything and don’t want to. I know little about doctors or hospitals, or lawyers and court. Have you heard: “Write what you know?” That’s what I did, especially at first. However, I have started moving out of my initial comfort zone and written about some locales that I know little about, like North Dakota. I did a lot of studying for my proposal for a three-book series, and when it sold, my husband and I took a trip up there. We just got back from another research trip to South Carolina, where I’ll be setting a series that will debut next year. So, I guess my answer to your question would be that it depends on what the reader wanted.

SDC: Where can your books be found?

VM: The easiest place to get my books is online at or If anyone would like an autographed copy, they can email me at for information. Sometimes you can find my books in Christian bookstores and occasionally at Wal-Mart.

SDC: What other question would you ask of a reader that might help you in the writing of a book? Why don’t you ask it now? (Since you are offering to give out a book as a donation to one of our guests, we’ll use it as a thought for them to reflect upon. Okay?)

VM: I’d love to know what readers expect when they read a Christian historical romance. Do you expect lots of action or a more laid back story? Do you like some sensuality in a Christian romance or prefer to keep the romance very light? Do you have a favorite setting for historicals?

SDC: Great Questions! Did you get that guys?

VM: One more thing, I’ve mentioned my book Wild West Christmas, but I’d also like readers to know that I have another Christmas book out called A Blue and Gray Christmas. It’s also four novellas by four authors (Carrie Turansky, Tamela Hancock Murray, Lauralee Bliss, & me) and the stories are set during and shortly after the Civil War.

I’m in the process of setting up an email mailing list so that I can send out a quarterly newsletter and announce new releases. If you’d like to be on my email list, please send me a note at with your email address.

Thank you for joining us at A Pen for Your Thoughts!

Thank you so much for allowing me to be a guest.


Okay, readers. Be sure to add your thoughts to Vickie's excellent questions. We are looking forward to hearing from you in hopes you'll be the one selected to get a book.
Congratulations to Brenda Lott aka Maggie Brendan from Marietta Georgia! You have won Vickie's book! Be watching for it soon!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Wow! We are so fortunate. Guess who is here now for a visit!

Have you had a chance to meet Winnie?

Winnie Griggs is a small town girl born and raised in Southeast Louisiana’s Cajun Country who grew up to marry a country boy from the piney hills of Northwest Louisiana. Though her Prince Charming (who often wears the guise of a cattle rancher) is more comfortable riding a tractor than a white steed, the two of them have been living out their own happily-ever-after for 30+ years. (Congratulations Winnie!)
During that time they raised four proud-to-call-them-mine children and a too-numerous-to-count assortment of dogs, cats, fish, hamsters, turtles and 4-H sheep.

Winnie has a BS degree in mathematics and has held a job in the electric utility industry for more years than she cares to contemplate.

Her favorite activities, outside of writing and reading, are cooking, exploring flea markets and pretending the growing army of dust bunnies who have invaded her home will disappear if she just ignores them long enough.

SKC: So you are from the South, huh? One of those places I'd always like to live, if the Good Lord wills it for us.

Before you tell us more about your work, Winnie, how would you say your upbringing relates to your writing?

WG: Well, as far as being from the South, there’s no place else I’d rather live, but I can’t say how that shaped me as a writer other than to say everything you experience in your life has an impact of one sort or another on who you are and what your worldview is. In fact, I do a writing workshop on dealing with character backstory, and that’s one of the points I try to drive home - all backstory is important to some extent, because for fully realized characters, everything that came before, shaped them into who they are today.

SKC: I so agree with you! But I don't often hear that from people. I do, however, like to read the whyfores and wherefores when I get into a story. That's why I sometimes add prologues to my own.

Okay, Winnie, So how does a person who uses one side of her brain for things that deal with logistics and facts get their brain into the creative mode?

WG: Hmm, another how question . Well, I am a ‘logistics and facts’ kind of person – my college major was in Mathematics and I worked for a goodly number of years as a computer programmer. But logic and creativity are not mutually exclusive – in fact I think they feed off of each other. A number of my writer friends have backgrounds in science, or engineering or mathematics or had military careers. I believe everyone has a creative side – a part of themselves that needs to be let loose to ‘play’, to imagine, to create.

SKC: Great answer! What inspires you to keep going?

WG: If you mean keep going in my writing, I just have so many stories in me that are clamoring to be told that I can’t NOT write. If you mean in my life in general, when I need rep
lenishing or reenergizing, I draw deep from the well that is my God and my family and close friends and always find support there.

SKC: So a little of both. Okay. What about when you knew writing books would become the passion of your heart and what message do you filter in your stories, if any?

WG: I’ve always enjoyed writing., but I suppose I first got the bug to try my hand at a full length novel during my college days. Of course it was nearly 25 years later before I actually completed one!

SKC: You are a late author bloomer like me, then which explains why you are still a fairly new a
uthor like me. What do you believe is the KEY to writing a good book so far?

WG: Having a real passion for whatever it is you are writing. The story has to first move YOU before it can move your readers.

SKC: How do you schedule your daily writing time so that it does not interfere with your God time and quality time with family?

WG: That has always been a tough balancing act for me. I don’t really have a set schedule for my writing, though I’d probably be more productive if I did. My day job used to require me to travel quite a bit and I would do some of my best writing in hotel rooms and airports. Since I’m not traveling as much any more I am struggling a bit to find a new routine that really works for me.

SKC: Why do you think so many authors have a difficult time coming up with their proposals? What is it like for you?

WG: Proposals require you to really think through your story and understand the entire arc. That’s a difficult thing for me – though I have a general idea of what t
he story and character arcs will be, I discover a lot of the real ‘meat’ of the story as I’m writing it. I found it a lot easier when I finished the book before I sold, rather than selling on proposal as I do now

SKC: I admit, myself, no proposal is easy for me, especially when it comes to the dreaded synopsis. After you finish your present projects, Winnie, what plans do you have?

WG: I just turned in my first contemporary work, The Heart’s Song, which will come out next June. Next up I plan to write two books set in the same town and period as my current book, The Christmas Journey. These will feature first the hero’s sister and then the heroine’s sister in a book of their own.

SKC: You have plenty to keep you busy then.

Our readers here at A Pen for Your Thoughts usually get excited about the reflection question an author has to ask, in part, because there is always a chance their name might get selected for a book from our guest. What would you like to ask our readers and writers in the next few days and what book will you be offering?

WG: One of my favorite story premises is that of the marriage of convenience, and this seems to be popular with readers as well. Why do you think this is and do you personally enjoy them?

SDC: Good question, Winnie. Thanks. I can’t thank y
ou enough for coming by to visit! Be sure to write down where people can find you and your upcoming books should they be interested.

WG: Thanks for inviting me – it was fun sharing. Readers can email me at and please visit my website, to be entered in my monthly drawing. My October book, The Christmas Journey, can be found at most bookstores and online at or on the site.

I’d like to give away a copy of my March book, The Hand-Me-Down Family (which does employ that marriage of convenience premise) and is no longer available for order.

Our congratulations to Deborah Malone of Georgia. You are the fortunate winner of Winnie's book. Be watching for it soon!