Thursday, November 19, 2009

Have You Met Mona Yet?

Welcome to A Pen for Your Thoughts, Mona. Let's introduce you now.

Mona Hodgson is the author of Two Brides Too Many and nearly thirty children’s books. Her writing credits also include hundreds of articles, poems, and short stories in newspapers and magazines. She speaks regularly at women’s retreats, schools, and conferences through the United States and Canada. Mona lives in Arizona with her husband, Bob.

SKC: What inspired you to come up writing for your particular sub-genre? Tell us about the circumstances, Mona.

Mona: While my dad and I walked a dirt road in Arizona’s White Mountains about twenty years ago, we discovered a deserted cabin. My imagination immediately sprouted ideas from which the premise for a contemporary novel grew. I immersed myself in the craft of writing fiction, and later began tapping out a historical novel set in an 1890’s copper mining camp in central Arizona. In the meantime, I’ve written for magazines and I’ve been writing children’s books. While my novel proposals had received much editorial interest, they hadn’t garnered any contracts.

On March 31, 2009, a fiction editor from WaterBrook Multnomah contacted my agent with the opportunity for me to write a series set in an 1890’s gold mining camp. I jumped for joy then began researching Cripple Creek, Colorado and writing Two Brides Too Many because I only had two months to my deadline. Since April, I’ve written the first two stories in the Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series. Believe me, this is nothing short of an amazing act of God.

SKC: How intriguing! How long had you been writing before you got your first contract? I'm curious. And tell us how you dealt with your patience.

Mona: Book contract? Ten years. I spent my first ten years as an official writer, writing for periodicals. I wrote a weekly newspaper column for two years as well as hundreds of articles, devotionals, poems, and short stories for 50 different periodicals. It took me twenty years before I received a contract for my first novel for adults.

How did I deal with my impatience while waiting twenty years to see my first novel published? I kept writing and learning about the publishing industry. I attended writers’ conferences where I could learn the craft of writing and hone my writing skills while I built relationships with other writers, editors, and agents. I recited Proverbs 3:5&6 to myself on a regular basis and reminded myself that God’s plans and timing was best.

SKC: I love those versess in Proverbs! And a great reminder for us all when we are writing.
All authors have advice for other new authors coming into the field of writing. What is yours?

Mona: Recognize and remember that writing for publication is a process and a journey that requires careful and intentional steps. Expect detours. Enjoy the adventure!

SKC: Good advice to give. Sometimes inspirational writers have a hard time being accepted in the “real” world (Outside of CBA). What are your thoughts about inspirational writers writing Crossover Stories?

Mona: Write the stories you’re passionate about and let your characters show you where they belong.

SKC: We each know where we belong, don't we. Questions many authors are often asked are how they deal with writer's block. How do you overcome it, Mona?

Mona: A walk, a bubble bath, or a set of Wii tennis and a deliberate talk with my characters.

SKC: Hmmm. A bubble bath! Okay, then, what about the magic of the first five pages… Tell us what gets you started on those first five pages of a brand new story.

Mona: So far my experience with my first five pages tells me they won’t be the first five pages in my novel. That frees me to let them pour out, knowing they’re the launch pad for the true and vital beginning of my character’s story.

SKC: Many authors cringe when it comes to the moment they have to come up with their synopsis. What would be your best advice to them?

  • Who is your main character and where is he or she?
  • What does she want to achieve or need to overcome?
  • Why?
  • What is the story question that arises out of your main character’s goal?
  • Who or what will stand in her way?
  • How will she overcome the obstacles?
  • What will she learn and how will she grow in the process?
Write the answers to those questions in a compelling, one or two page, single-spaced format and you’ll have a tight story synopsis and a road map for your journey.

SKC: I made bullet points for your answers. Well thought out and can be utilized by many of us. What do you do during the waiting period when editors are looking over your manuscripts?

Mona: I assume you mean editors who are considering my proposal or manuscript for publication. (YES)
If that’s the case, I write the next article, story, book. Or two or three…while I wait. I might update my website. Brainstorm promotions ideas. Organize my desk. Take a break from writing, if I need to.

SKC: After you finish your present project, what plans do you have?

Mona: I had just finished the draft for Too Rich for a Bride, my second historical novel in the Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series. Next, I’ll do a read-through and rewrites before I hit send and take a vacation to see family and friends who will celebrate the completion with me. Then while I wait to receive copy edit comments from my editor, I’ll get to know my main characters for Book 3 in the series and start plotting their story.

SKC: You are keeping busy, aren't you! Mona, I understand you have a book you would like to give to one of our readers. I always ask the authors to write in a reflection question for our readers to ponder and then comment about. What would you like to ask this week about either writing or having that love to read?

Mona: Yes, I am giving away a copy of Two Brides Too Many, the first story in the Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series.

Reflection question: What makes a great historical novel great?

SKC: Great question! I'm looking forward to seeing what people will reply.
Thanks so much for coming by, Mona. Please let us know where we can find your books.

Mona: You’re welcome. I appreciate the opportunity to chat with you. Readers of historical fiction can find my debut novel, Two Brides Too Many, exclusively available in Walmart Stores across the country. You can find my children’s books at my website: and in your favorite bookstore.

Feel free to connect with me at and
Congratulations to our winner of Mona's book: Susanne Dietze of Bakersfield CA 93312
Merry Christmas and great blessings to you, Susanne.
Thank you for following A Pen for Your Thoughts!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thanksgiving and Saying thank you to our Military and Military Families

How can we adequately say thank you to all those in the military who are diligently serving our country over in Iraq and Afghanistan for our safety every day? How can we say thank you as well to the families who try to wait patiently back home to see their loved ones again?

Since this is the month of Thanksgiving, and my new devotional "I See God in the Thorns~n~Thistles is soon to be released, I would like to show my appreciation by donating an author-signed copy to one of the family members of a service man or woman out there in the trenches now.

It's a small way of showing my thanks. And as I receive your short stories of family members let's also remember to keep not only the service men and women but their family members in our prayers in the days ahead. Some have been waiting a very long time.

I look forward to hearing from you. I will draw a name right after the holiday.

Congratulations to Mary Basker of California! I'm thrilled to be able to share with you a signed copy of my new boo, I See God in the Thorns~n~Thistles. Be watching for it soon.
In Him, Shirley

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

New Words from Missy Tippens

Missy Tippens is a pastor’s wife and mom of three. She has a story included in Blessings of Mossy Creek, published by BelleBooks. After ten years of pursuing her dream, she made her first sale of a full-length novel to Steeple Hill Love Inspired. She still pinches herself to see if it really happened! Her debut novel, Her Unlikely Family, was a 2009 American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year contest finalist and is now available in large print from Thorndike. His Forever Love was a June 2009 release from Love Inspired, and A Forever Christmas is on the shelves now!

You can find Missy at And she blogs all over the place:,,, and  She’s also on Facebook, MySpace and Shoutlife, so be sure to give her a holler!

SDC: Missy, we were privileged to have you with us before, but I see you now have a book about Christmas coming out. Please tell us about it?

Missy: I’d love to! Here’s a back cover blurb:

Sarah Radcliffe’s quiet Christmas back in her hometown will be lost if she agrees to direct the church’s Christmas pageant. But when she meets two little boys determined to gain their father’s attention, Sarah agrees to help. Then she discovers that the dad in question is Gregory Jones, the man she loved and lost.

The single dad is working himself to the bone to give his boys the Christmas of their dreams, when all they want is some family time. Time that includes a new mommy. If Sarah can learn to open her heart, she may receive the most wonderful

present of all—a family of her own.

SDC:  The last few years must have flown for you now that contracts are being picked up. How do you work and stay active in groups and keep your family together and focused during those times many of us recognize as DEADLINES?

Missy: I’ve learned not to take on too much outside of my family and writing and involvement in the church choir and Bible study. I’m learning that I can’t always say “yes” when I’d like to. When I have a deadline, I look at how many writing days I have available and take my word count and divide by that number of days. It gives me a daily count that I have to meet—and I write until I do. And if  I don’t quite meet it, I make it up the next day. Honestly, this balancing act is something I’m still learning to do! And I have to guard against neglecting my family around book release times. Of course, my children will get in my face and remind me when they need my attention! :)

SDC:  What do you stumble over the most when you are writing? 

Missy: I have the hardest time with maintaining conflict in my stories. I just want everyone to be happy! :) So it’s something I’m still learning about, and I’m trying different plotting methods to come up with something that works well for me.

SDC: Have you changed this in any way, and if not, please remind us, how you make faith, love, and hope work together in your stories.

Missy: Well, I write inspirational romance, so there’s always love and a thread of faith in my stories. :) I also tend to usually include a theme that involves hope in some way. I guess as long as I’m writing about God’s love, then there’s always going to be a message of hope.

SDC: Tell us about your office, and what makes it special just to you.

Missy: I don’t really have an office. My old office is in the basement, and I always felt like I was in a dungeon! So for several years, I’ve worked on a laptop in the family room right in the middle of everything. I’m good at blocking all the activity out, though. And I like to work with background noise (music or TV), so it works well for me.  I have files in a drawer, office supplies in a Rubbermaid container, and a printer right behind the couch. I keep stacks of reference books at the end of the couch, and my reference workbooks or notebooks that I’m currently using pile up beside me on the sectional sofa. My husband and kids fuss about this on occasion, so I have to tidy up. It’s about that time, now! :)

SDC: Do you use scripture verses in your stories? How do you keep your books from being too preachy for the pubs?  

Missy: I do use a Bible verse with each story. I sometimes know it at the beginning, other times I learn what it is as the story develops. I think the main way to keep from being too preachy is not to go in with an agenda. Don’t go in wanting to get a point across about an issue or to bonk someone over the head with a principle you feel strongly about. I usually have one character (sometimes both) who is dealing with something with God and has a lesson to learn through the story. In Her Unlikely Family, the hero, Michael, attended and gave money to the church but didn’t really feel like he had a purpose in life. He had to learn to quit worrying so much about family expectations and to figure out God’s  calling for his life. In His Forever Love, my heroine, Lindsay, needed to quit trying to do and be everything for everyone and to learn to slow down and live the life God intended for her. And the hero, Bill, thought God didn’t care about him at the beginning of the story, but grew to see that God does want to give him hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). In my current book, A Forever Christmas, the heroine, Sarah, can’t forgive the hero for their past, and she has to learn that with God’s help, she can do anything. And the hero, Gregory, feels unworthy of forgiveness, but has a moment near Christmas where it hits him that the baby Jesus was born for him personally.

All of these are very different scenarios. And  except for maybe Gregory’s moment that happens suddenly, they all occur as gradual growth through the story. The beauty of having a problem for the characters to be dealing with is that it lends itself to writing emotional scenes that are there for a purpose. One piece of writing advice I got from friend and fellow author, Camy Tang, is to find the character’s spiritual flaw and then make him face that in the story. There’s instant conflict for you!

SDC:  What question in regards to both Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the joy of reading or writing would you like one of our viewers to answer to help me select the winner?

Missy: Great idea! Okay, here’s your question. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which is your favorite holiday and why?

SDC: It’s been a real pleasure having you here at A Pen for Your Thoughts, Missy. Where can the readers go to find your book?

A Forever Christmas, from Steeple Hill Love Inspired, is on shelves now wherever you find other Harlequin/Steeple Hill books! If you don’t see it, ask your local bookseller to order it for you. Or you can find links to purchase it online if you visit my website, Also, while you’re there, please sign up for my quarterly email newsletter!

Shirley, thank you so much for having me!

READERS: Be sure to answer Missy’s question above to try to win a copy of her book!Congratulations to Michelle Tuller of Salidas, California! You have just won Missy's book! Be watching for it and do join us again. Thank you for being a follower of A Pen for Your Thoughts.