Saturday, October 30, 2010

This Gal Knows How to Find that Spark Others are Looking for! Come See How.

We're about to talk to another one of those ladies with a spark. Join me in welcoming Darlene Franklin.

Award-winning author and speaker Darlene Franklin recently returned to cowboy country—Oklahoma. The move was prompted by her desire to be close to her son’s family; her daughter Jolene has preceded her into glory. Darlene loves music, needlework, reading and reality tv. Talia, a Lynx point Siamese cat, proudly claims Darlene as her person. Darlene is the author of fourteen contracted books and novellas, as well as several hundred short pieces. Two of her books have finaled in ACFW’s Book of the Year (now the Carol award) contest: her novella, Dressed in Scarlet, and her cozy mystery, A String of Murders. Visit Darlene’s blog at  for information on book giveaways and upcoming titles. She is also a contributor to .

SDC: Welcome Darlene.You are fast becoming both a well-known and talented writer, Darlene. And this book about Christmas comes to us in plenty of time before that special time. Before you tell us about your newest release please fill us in on what inspired you with the book(s) you’ve written up until now.

Darlene: I’m blushing, Shirley. I could get superspiritual and say “the Lord did.” I was just saying to my son that I’m a creative person. I lack plenty of other qualities, but I am very creative and God made me that way. I’m grateful for that, and for the doors He’s opened for ministry.

But specific ideas? They come from everywhere. From historical events, folk tales, another book, a town name, a natural disaster, a paragraph in a newspaper, an object I see on the side of the street ... I’ve also grown in my understanding of the market, how to find that spark that sets off a story idea that excites me, what settings sell and what stories haven’t been done to death.

I had toyed with the idea of an artist searching for someone to model Mary, and when our novella group for A Woodland Christmas hit upon the idea of an itinerant woodcarver, I knew this was the place to do it. (Our group had formed with the general understanding that we were doing a “Christmas novella collection set in historical Texas.” It grew from there.) My hero paints the figures that the woodcarver fashions, and he discovers Mary’s model right under his nose.

SDC: Tell us about your publisher and the experience your experiences in working with the one you are with. And also a little more about your story.

Darlene: Barbour Publishing has been very good to me. I started with Tracy Peterson, but when she left Barbour and years passed without another contract, I began to wonder if they would ever buy anything else from me! But then Susan Downs bought my mystery series, and since then I have worked with Becky Germany on novellas, JoAnne Simmons on Heartsongs, and Paul Muckley on non-fiction (short pieces, not books). They’ve all been great.

A Woodland Christmas is my third Christmas anthology. An itinerant woodcarver moves from town to town in the woodlands, delivering “sawdust sermons” that hold even more value than the furniture he crafts. Will the advice he dispenses help four couples find their way to the miracle of love at Christmas? In my novella, The Face of Mary, Mary “Polly” Jessup holds onto a promise of marriage made five years ago, but when Joseph “Joey” Carpenter returns from law school with a new outlook and new girlfriend, her future hopes are dashed.

SDC: What is your theme mainly as you write and what kind of response to you receive from readers who have been influenced greatly by your writing?

Darlene: My tag line is “writing at the crossroads of love and grace.” Most of the time, my characters face some traumatic event, and they discover God’s love never fails and His grace is enough—whatever happens. In A Face of Mary, my heroine’s father is suffering from memory loss, with tragic consequences for the family.

I often hear how realistic my characters are, how I don’t create Christian comic book figures who spout the correct answer all the time.

SDC: I appreciate reading about realistic characters. The others just don't ring true for me. I also love, love, love to ask this question. The answers are so varied. How do you make faith, love, and hope work together in your stories, Darlene?

Darlene: Sometimes there is an overt “faith” element—such as in Face of Mary, Joey is looking for a woman with a character like Mary. Other times it simply comes as the characters’ response to their circumstances. That is more the case in my next Heartsong, Bridge to Love, where my farmer hero is battling New England’s Year of No Summer (snow at some point every month), 1816.

I once attended a workshop that talked about the love triangle in Christian romance, between God, the hero and the heroine. If those are the three points of the triangle, perhaps faith, hope and love are the lines connecting them. The human couple cannot truly love each other unless they are rightly related to God.

SDC: How long did you have to wait before getting published the first time?

Darlene: My first published piece—a devotional—came out when I had been writing for two years. After that, publications were few and far between. My first book came out in 2005 (after fourteen years), and since then, things have snowballed until now I am writing full time.

SDC: What’s your favorite Bible verse or verses that sustain you while you write and why?

Darlene: My life verse. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) God has proved that in the crucible of my life, which in recent years has included my daughter’s suicide and my mother’s death. That is the truth I aim to bring to life in my stories. It’s only because of God’s love that I can write of love and hope!

SDC: Where is your favorite place to go and why? Does it often play any part in your story writing?

Darlene: I suppose it’s to go over to my son’s house and spend time with my grandkids! He lives about 15 minutes away, and I love those babies. So far, they haven’t appeared in too many books (a few devotionals, though.)

As far as book settings, I lived in Colorado for almost two decades. I find it hilarious that I now I live in Oklahoma, I am selling stories set in Colorado. (My three mysteries were set in Oklahoma.)

SDC: How does your family respond to your time away from them to write and do research for writing?

Darlene: Since I now live alone, it’s not a big problem. I occasionally have to tell my son “no” and that always makes me sad. But more often I say “yes.” He’s also extremely proud of me. Whenever we go some place together, he introduces me as “my mom. She writes books” and points to a book if it’s for sale at that store.

SDC: He sounds like a great promoter! Home grown. What question would you like one of our viewers to answer to help me select the winner?

Darlene: What facet of Mary’s (the mother of our Lord) character would you like to develop in your own life?

SDC: That will be an interesting question for the readers to answer. Thanks. It’s been a real pleasure having you here at A Pen for Your Thoughts, Darlene.
READERS: Be sure to answer Darlene’s reflection question above to try to win a copy of her book!

Congratulations to Debbie Lee of Centralia WA. I know you're going to love this book.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Uh Oh, Which Way Do We Go?

Sometimes there are things that lead us into a different direction. Shall we turn here or shall we turn there? Are we afraid to go on sometimes? What goes through our minds? How can we avoid continuing on in the direction we were headed best?
What is the best answer?
And maybe there is more than answer.

Well, let's see what Delia says in our next Writing Tip. And boy did it hit home for me!

A Dozen Ways to Put Off Writing a Novel
Writing Tip #6

by Delia Latham

Writing Tip: It does not matter whether or not you assign yourself writing time each day.

Already, I feel the outrage of veteran writers who adhere to rigid rules of time apportionment. I’ve heard it too: “You must allow yourself a certain number of hours to write – every day.”

And I agree. As a writer, you must carve out a set amount of time every day for writing. It’s also good to have a realistic word count goal, and not stop until you’ve reached it.

So now I’ve executed a complete 360, haven’t I?

No, I have not. I stick to my initial statement: It does not matter whether or not you assign yourself writing time each day … unless you write during that time.

It’s easy to allot a slice of hours and minutes for any given action. It’s harder to use that chunk of time for the purpose designated. If I give myself four hours to write every Monday through Friday, but spend three hours and ten minutes of the alloted time doing something else – even something “writing related” – I haven’t accomplished what I set out to do.

I’ve put together a list of ways to sabotage writing time. If they’re not familiar, you’re probably one of the few authors who has learned to avoid procrastination. Good for you! I’m impressed. But I’m not quite there yet, and I have a feeling I’m not alone. Thus this list.

Novel Detours

1. Check e-mail. It must be done, but not during writing time. Checking leads to answering. Answering leads to chatting. Chatting lead to lots … and lots … of lost time.

2. Visit a Social Networking Site. Facebook, Shoutlife, Twitter … to mention just a few. Networking is important, even crucial to building a platform. But writing time is exactly that: time for writing. Networking is not writing, and is incredibly time consuming. Find another time slot for it.

3. Research. It’s unavoidable if you want to make a novel accurate and true-to-life. But it is not writing. It’s easy to feel self-righteous about two hours spent finding out whether plastic tea pitchers existed in 1936. Trouble is, research gets out of hand so easily. While digging into information regarding an intended subject, tidbits of data about a gazillion other topics show up – and before you know it, you’re looking at those as well. I’ve found, through uncomfortable experience, that it’s good to specify a limited amount of time for research. “Writing Time, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., to include no more than one hour of research.” (Better yet, save yourself a headache and just make the pitcher a pitcher – must it be plastic?)

4. Write other things. Like I’m doing right now. Instead of plowing ahead on my current WIP – an inspirational novel – I’m procrastinating by writing about procrastination. Between projects, this article would be an excellent way to fill my fiercely guarded writing time. But until that novel is finished, I’ll simply find myself another hour or so closer to my deadline, while my characters remain frozen in time, right where I left them yesterday. Articles, short stories, fillers, greeting card verse … they’re all commendable projects. But none get a novel written. Unless and until the author develops an iron will and rigid self-discipline, it’s a good idea to work on the novel to the exclusion of everything else. Once you’ve mastered the ability to park yourself in your writing spot at the same time every day, for the same length of time, then who knows? You may be fine with adding other writing projects to the mix.

Or maybe not.

5. Edit what you’ve already written. I wish I could reclaim all the time I spent editing my last novel. To avoid dealing with a rock wall of writer’s block, I edited my four existing chapters over and over – and over – for nearly a year. When I finally forbade myself the right to change a single word until the book was finished, I broke through that stubborn wall and started writing. It wasn’t necessarily good writing at first. But I was putting words together and making sentences about the characters and situations in that novel. I had plenty of opportunity to cull out the awful stuff later – when the story was told.

6. Critique a friend’s work. I love working with critique partners. I’ve learned as much about my craft by critiquing and being critiqued as I have by reading books and attending classes. But critiquing is not writing. Enjoy someone else’s work on your own time. (Writing hours belong to your novel, not you.)

7. Blog. This particular form of online presence has become almost a frenzy. And there’s no doubt that it provides a good medium for staying in touch with readers … friends … family … or simply as a personal journal. (Though I have to admit, the idea of journaling in such a public forum makes me break out in hives.) But posting to a blog, whatever your reason for having one, doesn’t add a thing to your work-in-progress. Blog if you must – just keep it to its own time slot.

Note: The above applies to newsletters, as well. Whether you’re creating, writing, or posting news items, don’t steal from your writing time. If you really want to pursue these activities, schedule a time slot just for them. You might think about writing four days a week and working on your blog and/or newsletter on the fifth day. The point is, keep your writing time pure. Mixing it with other “writing related” pursuits will eventually whittle it down to far less than you started out with.

8. Write a review. It consists of more than putting words on paper … first you have to read the book. And writers should read. But believe me when I say reviewing can quickly get out of hand. Be careful how many you agree to do. It involves reading, writing, and usually posting to several different online venues. I also like to take time to e-mail the contact with a copy of the review and information on where I’ve posted or plan to post – and this costs another minute or two. Last but not least, writing a review is “writing related.” At the risk of nagging, I’ll say it again: It adds not one jot or tittle to your novel. Consider including review activities on your to-do list for “the fifth day,” right along with maintaining your blog and/or newsletter.

9. Surf the Web. I’m beyond glad to be rid of my old typewriter with it’s correction tape and smeary ink cartridge. But that trusty machine had one massive benefit: All it was capable of doing was getting my words onto paper. When I sat down to write, I wrote. Now, my writing instrument has become a time bandit, robbing me of precious seconds, minutes and hours. Writers, beware the virtual time warp! You sit down to write, fire up the Web, and ten minutes later your clock has moved forward three hours! Amazing, isn’t it?

10. Play Online Games. I used to visit on a regular basis. After all, even writers deserve a break now and then! I can’t even venture a guess as to how many times I entered a Boggle gameroom for “one or two rounds” and came out only when the phone rang, my honey hollered “hungry,” or I realized I needed to visit the restroom – badly – two hours later. Games are enjoyable pastimes, but even word fun like Boggle and Scrabble doesn’t qualify as writing. Play when you’re not supposed to be creating a novel.

11. Make a phone call. About the time you start to really get into the next chapter, a mental alarm goes off. You intended to call someone today – a friend or family member, a business associate, a bill collector, the winner of your latest blog contest … someone. Immediate instinct is to reach for the telephone, but don’t. Keep a notepad beside your computer. When you remember something you need to do, jot it down. Now you’ve lost ten seconds, rather than the five minutes to half an hour you’d forfeit if you made that call. It’s also helpful to keep a to-do list. Lay it out the night before. Include those calls you need to make, and slide them into their proper time slot – which is not in the middle of your writing time.

12. Take a phone call. Here’s the deal: Ignore the telephone during writing hours. Let your answering machine do what it’s there for. Return calls after you’ve written those 1,500 words or when the clock strikes whatever time you’ve set as “quitting time.” If you’re a worry wart who will be absolutely certain that last call was the local hospital with news that your 25-year-old baby finally crashed his souped-up Mustang, then do yourself a favor and put the answering machine within hearing distance. You’ll actually hear that overgrown infant asking to borrow another hundred bucks, and you can ignore him and go back to work. Most calls can wait – let them.

That’s it - my half dozen little bites of writing sustenance. I hope it’s beneficial. But why, oh why, are you reading this rather lengthy example of procrastination instead of starting that next chapter?

It’s only a matter of time….

(Ah, Delia. You hit the right note with these. And for me, especially #5. I think editing is the story of my life. Will I ever stop?)

Delia Latham
Yesterday's Promise
Adam's Wings (coming 12/2010)

Friday, October 22, 2010

What about those Zany Adventures to Fight Crime and Corruption?

I've always wondered what it was like to co-author a book. Well, Andrea Graham is here to tell us. As we look forward to learning more about both Andrea and her husband Adam, let’s take a couple of minutes to get to know who these two truly are.
Andrea: According to my publisher, “Andrea Graham is an author and poet who writes for Christ.” I haven’t written poetry in over a decade and right now the last half sounds pretentious to me even though I hope I live up to it. I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, though I’m not sure if anyone really cares my family has lived there at least four generations. Before Tales of the Dim Knight, I had a short story, “Frozen Generation,” featured in Light at the Edge of Darkness along with “Chosen of God,” which I co-authored with my husband, Adam. I studied creative writing and religion at Ashland University. I mouthed off with Christian advice and book reviews at my blog, Ask Andrea, and put out my for editor-for-hire sign along with free writing tips at . Adam and I live with our cat, Joybell, in Boise, Idaho. We are members of several writers’ groups, including ACFW and the Lost Genre Guild.

SDC: After a long day of writing or revisions in a story what is the very first thing you do?

Andrea: Attend to personal needs. Basic things like hunger and thirst go unnoticed when I’m creating. Housework or sleep come next, depending on the time of day.

SDC: What’s it like writing a book with another author?

Andrea: It really tests your skills at conflict management and the strength of your relationship with the person. I loved my co-author enough to marry him, and we still have creative differences sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, co-authoring can be exciting and a lot of fun. Our voices blend nicely and our strengths and weaknesses compliment each other. But for it to work, you do have to be willing to give up partial control of the manuscript to another person. That’s not for everyone.
SDC: That's great to hear, and I love how the two of you are able to stay so close through the work. I always seem to find at least one ghastly mistake in my novels after they are published. If anything keeps me humble it’s that because it is too late for me to fix what is already in print.  I know you can't speak for Adam, but I'll ask you your thought. What is the one thing that keeps you humble about being a published author?

Andrea: Personally, I’m a huge fan of Deep POV and filtering everything through the perspective of the view point character. That and showing emotion are key. A good book doesn’t tell the reader what the characters are feeling, it stirs the reader to feel what the characters are feeling. I like to take cues from method acting. To a certain extent, if you want your reader to become the character, you need to become the character first. The emotions must be real. If your view point character is scared, recall to mind a time you felt as scared as your character is and put that real painful experience in the book, safely masked in a completely fictional scenario, of course.

SDC: I appreciate reading Deep POV and creating it in my stories too. I also find that interesting how you work in the method acting aspect, Andrea. Thanks.

It’s been so great having you here with us, even if only briefly. And next time I must have Adam here to speak to him directly. I understand you both are planning to donate one of your books to a viewer of the blog. Tell us about it, why you both chose that genre, and also where people can go to find these books.
Andrea: Thanks! In Tales of the Dim Knight, mild-mannered janitor and superhero fanboy Dave Johnson gets all his wishes at once when an alien symbiot gives him supernatural powers. But what's he to do with them? Follow his zany adventures as he fights crime and corruption while trying to keep his family together and avoid being sued for copyright infringement.

Comedy is native to my co-author’s authorial voice, so parody was a natural choice, and superheros provide so many opportunities for spiritual analogy.  It should be available soon on Amazon.

SDC: We'll be watching for it. 

Andrea: At present to get a bit of preview is to go to:

SDC: Thanks so much. Your brief introduction will help us a lot. Now, if you were to meet a reader, or writer, or experienced author who came up to ask you what you’ve learned most about writing so far what would you say?

Andrea: Gosh that’s awful vague, sir/ma’am, could you narrow it down more? LOL.

Um, probably the lesson that’s been hardest to wrap my black-and-white brain around, at least, is that there are as many right ways to write a novel as there are seasoned professionals with opinions and the right to declare them as gospel. I may exaggerate slightly, but that’s a dose of humility I hope more of us learn to appreciate. 

SDC:  It would certainly open the door for conversation, wouldn't it. Now it is your turn. Someone who loves to read or write has just come up to you, Andrea. What is the first thing YOU are going to ask them?

Andrea: LOL. That depends on whether my book is out yet.

If it is, realistically, the first thing to pop out of my mouth to a reader would be along the lines of, “Have you read my book and did you like it?”

Afraid I’m an “encourage me!” junkie.

For a writer, hopefully I’d be a bit less impulsive and come up with something meaningful and preferably not so selfish. I should probably discipline myself and ask them, “What’s going on with you?” or “How can I help you?”

SDC: Okay, I give up.

Anyway, we thank you for being here with us. It’s been a pleasure having you at A Pen for Your Thoughts.
Now I have some questions to ask the viewers. Be sure to write in if you'd like your name to be added for our drawing to win this book.

To the viewers, here is your question:
If you write, how do you think co-authoring with another would test your skills at conflict management and the strength of your relationship with the person?

And to the non-writer, my question to you is this: What strengthens you the most when you are working in a team setting, or do you find yourself working better solo, and why do you think that is?

Don't forget to send in your answers. I hope to be drawing your name to go in the winner pile for a copy of Tales of the Dim Knight.

Congratulations to Caprice Hokstad of Escondido, CA. You'll be hearing from Andrea soon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"He said, She said ..." Hmm. I Wonder What That's About.

We are moving right along as we always seem to do over this way. And while you're busy visiting some of the other authors hanging around, and learning about their books, we thought you'd also enjoy taking a gander at what happens when an author uses too many tags when she or he is writing that unique piece of dialogue.

Linore is here again with a great writing tip for you and me. Let's read on.

He Said, She Said:
Using Too Many Tags in Dialogue

Writing Tip #5

by Linore Rose Burkard

When I look at portions of work by newer writers, it is common to find them doing one of two things when it comes to dialogue tags: they either use too many tags or not enough. Both tendencies adversely affect writing, make readers cringe, or tell an editor or agent to stop reading. Since we want people to KEEP reading, how we do avoid both pitfalls?

First, let's look at the problem with using too many tags (A dialogue tag is when you follow dialogue with something like "he said," "she laughed," etc.) The first rule of thumb when adding a tag is to ask yourself,

Is it Necessary?

A tag is only necessary when you need to clarify who is speaking, or to show a reaction that might otherwise be missed. If you insert tags when they are not needed, you risk using too many and this makes the writing awkward.

To tell if you are using too many tags, backtrack a paragraph or two when you're editing your work, and try the dialogue WITHOUT the tags in question. Does it still work? Still make sense? Can you easily tell who is talking? IF the answer is 'yes' to these questions, then you don't need the tag. Cut it out.

Using many tags when they're not necessary makes a work stilted; the dialogue will suffer; and the reader will groan. Don't make your reader groan!

Is Something Missing?

On the other hand, however, if you fail to give enough clues about who is speaking, this too, will make for unhappy readers. They will feel as though they're missing something, and this is frustrating. They will have to go back and try to figure out who is saying what. Ideally, when your characters are really strong, there will be occasions when you can omit a tag simply because the spoken words are so distinctly characteristic of that person, that it becomes redundant to use one. But be sure about this; use a critique partner or two to make sure. If it turns out that readers are confused, then you need a tag. Keep it in.

Is it Character-Driven?

There are occasions when it's right and good to use a tag even though the reader knows who is speaking. This may sound counter to what I said earlier, but the key here are the words, character-driven. This means that it is important for the reader, not only to know who is speaking, but to know HOW the character is saying or thinking a thing. In other words, you want to clarify an emotion that isn't perhaps altogether clear from the words alone. In some cases you may need to specify the tone of voice; or an accompanying gesture the character makes while talking.

I would caution you not to do this often, and again, use critique readers or beta readers, or an editor to take a second look when there is any question about this.

Also, be sure not to overdo it. Having a heroine who sighs heavily once or twice a chapter is probably fine; any more than that and the reader will be sighing heavily.

To emphasize the point of using too many tags, I leave you with an old poem by the humorist Franklin P. Adams. (Read it and learn!)

Monotonous Variety
(All of them from two stories in a single magazine.)

She "greeted" and he "volunteered";
     She "giggled": he "asserted";

She "queried" and he "lightly veered";

     She "drawled" and he "averted";

She "scoffed," she "laughed" and he "averred";

     He "mumbled," "parried," and "demurred."

She "languidly responded"; he

     "Incautiously assented";

Doretta "proffered lazily";

     Will "speedily invented";

She "parried," "whispered," "bade," and "mused";

     He "urged," "acknowledged," and "refused."

She "softly added"; "she alleged";

     He "consciously invited";

She "then corrected"; William "hedged";

     She "prettily recited";

She "nodded" "stormed," and "acquiesced";

     He "promised," "hastened," and "confessed."

Doretta "chided"; "cautioned" Will;

     She "voiced" and he "defended";

She "vouchsafed"; he "continued still";

     She "sneered" and he "amended";

She "smiled," she "twitted," and she "dared"

     He "scorned," "exclaimed," "pronounced," and "flared."

He "waived," "believed," "explained," and "tried";

     "Commented" she; he "muttered";

She "blushed," she "dimpled," and she "sighed";

     He 'ventured" and he "stuttered";

She "spoke," "suggested," and "pursued";

     He "pleaded," "pouted," "called," and "viewed."

O syonymble writers, ye
 Whose work is so high-pricey.
 Think ye not that variety
 May haply be too spicy?
 Meseems that in an elder day
 They had a thing or two to--say.
Franklin P. Adams
PS: Did you notice that he used the word "twitted"? Nowadays, we can use that one with a completely different meaning. But no matter what words you use, strike a balance so that you don't use too many tags, or too few. Happy writing!

© 2010 Linore Rose Burkard
The House in Grosvenor Square
Before the Seasons Ends
 The Country House Courtship

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hot Tea, Some Chocolate, and a Little Time with God. What Could be Better?

We're going to talk with the tea lady, Becky Melby for a bit. Read on.

Becky Melby has been married to Bill, her high school sweetheart, for 38 years. They have four married sons and eleven fabulous grandchildren. Becky has co-authored nine books for Heartsong Presents. She is currently working on a contemporary fiction series with a historical thread for Barbour Publishing. Her favorite pastimes are spoiling grandkids and taking trips with Bill in their RV or on their Honda Gold Wing.

SDC: Welcome to A Pen for Your Thoughts! Before you tell us about your newest release, Becky, please fill us in on what keeps you going.

BM: Prayer and deadlines! I try to start every writing day in my “prayer chair.” If the morning begins with hot tea and time with God, the rest of the day goes so much smoother. I’m not an internally motivated person, so I write weekly word count goals on my calendar when I start a project. That, and a looming deadline, keep my fingers moving on the keyboard. Oh, and then there’s chocolate. . . A favorite afternoon pick-me-up is raw pumpkin seeds stirred into melted dark chocolate.

SDC: Mmm. That sounds good. While you're snacking away tell us what theme you like to run through in all your writing, if any. That, and what kind of responses you hope to receive from readers who have not yet come to know the Lord, or who have been influenced greatly by one of your books.

BM: The tagline on the Web site I share with Cathy Wienke is “Second Chance Stories.” That’s the theme I hope to weave through every story I write. God is the author of second chances. In Dream Chasers, the second book in Minnesota Moonlight, a 3-in-1 collection Cathy and I wrote for Barbour Publishing, the main character relies on God to overcome some huge fears. We were so blessed by letters from reader who felt empowered to face their own fears after reading it.

SDC: God, the author of second chances. I like that! How else do you make faith, love, and hope work together in your stories?

BM: Whether my characters are believers at the beginning of a story or not, they are all on a faith journey as they strive to overcome an obstacle or achieve a goal. Hope generally seems elusive in the early chapters, then it glimmers, and finally radiates. As I write romance, love is often what seems most hopeless to my characters. It is thrilling, as a writer, to introduce them to, or remind them of, the true Lover of our souls while orchestrating an earthly love encounter.

SDC: Yes. That's right. Tell us now about your publisher and how did you come about this company? How long ago was it?

BM: Over the course of several months in 1992-1993, Cathy and I sent out nine proposals for our first book, Beauty for Ashes. Heartsong Presents requested our full manuscript and accepted it two weeks later. We wrote three Heartsongs, then stopped writing for several years while we both homeschooled our children and were involved in other ministries. Since 2008 we’ve written six additional Heartsongs and a novella together. I’m now working on a three-book full-length series for Barbour.

SDC: What’s your favorite Bible verse or verse that has sustained you recently and why, Becky?

BM: God has recently been showing me, in so many ways, the importance of abiding in Him. John 15:4 says, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” That’s such a vital verse for a Christian writer...or a Christian anything else! We long to “do something” for the Lord, but it’s so easy to forget that we have to be with Him before we can do for Him.

SDC: A wonderfully inspiring verse for so many of us. Thanks. I understand you have a book you would like to share with one of our readers if we receive enough responders. Tell us which one you are planning to donate and a little about it. Also, what question would you like one of our viewers to answer to help me select the winner?

BM: I had the wonderful privilege of writing a novella in a Christmas collection with Cynthia Ruchti, Eileen Key, and Rachael Phillips. They are now good buddies, not simply writing partners. All four stories in A Door County Christmas take place in the picturesque and touristy “thumb” of Wisconsin. In my story, Christmas Crazy, Jillian Galloway thinks she’s come to Door County to enjoy the fall colors and do publicity for her uncle’s comedy dinner theater. But a storm and a betrayal have left the theater in dire straits. Jillian rolls up her sleeves to save the day, but finds she can’t proceed without the help of a knee-weakening handsome Brazilian she’s been warned not to trust. Two eccentric actors and an odd-ball director help create comedic scenes on and off stage.

SDC: Sounds great. And that question for our viewers? 

Becky: Have you, like Jillian, ever experienced a disappointment that turned out to be an amazing blessing?

SDC: Oh, we ought to get some interesting answers with this one. Let us know where we can reach you and where we can find your books, please Becky. We have greatly appreciated having you here at A Pen for Your Thoughts!

BM: Thank you so much for this opportunity, Shirley. Great questions! And thank you to your followers who took the time to stop by. Come and visit my blog: , Web site:, or stop by and meet the characters of A Door County Christmas on their own blog:  My books are available from Amazon, CBD, and Barnes and Noble. A Door County Christmas is available at Wal-mart and Sam’s Club.

READERS: Be sure to answer Becky question above to try to win a copy of her book! See the question above.

Congratulations to Brenda B. Hill of Warner Robins, GA.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Whose that Guy She's Not Dating? An Interview With Trish Perry.

We welcome the lovely Trish here. You won't want to miss this.

Trish: Thanks for having me, Shirley!

So who is Trish? Nothing less than the famous Award-winning novelist. Trish Perry has written The Perfect Blend (2010), Sunset Beach (2009), Beach Dreams (2008), Too Good to Be True (2007), and The Guy I’m Not Dating (2006), all for Harvest House Publishers. (Now, that's a busy lady!)
Her monthly column, “Real Life is Stranger,” appeared in Christian Fiction Online Magazine during its inaugural year. She was editor of Ink and the Spirit, the newsletter of Washington D.C.’s Capital Christian Writers organization (CCW), for seven years.
Before her novels, Perry published numerous short stories, essays, devotionals, and poetry in Christian and general market media. She will release several new books in 2011.

And where does she get the time? I ask you.
Perry holds a B.A. in Psychology, was a 1980s stockbroker, and held positions at the Securities and Exchange Commission and in several Washington law firms. She serves on the Board of Directors of CCW and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. She invites you to visit her at

SKC: Whew! It's great hearing all about you, Trish. It’s good to have you back here at A Pen for Your Thoughts. I know besides writing, you stay busy with your blog too. How did you come up with your blog’s focus, and how do you incorporate that focus with the books you write?

Trish: I decided very soon after I started my blog that readers would get sick to death of my constant rambling and would prefer more variety than that. So I let other authors do most of the rambling for me. I’m hopeful that, while readers visit to learn about some of the best Christian authors today, they’ll take a look at my books as well.

SKC: And what a great way to look at things. LET OTHERS DO THE WORK!  (smile) How did you happen to choose your specific genre and why? And do you ever consider changing genres?

Trish: Actually, my first book was in a different genre. It was a supernatural story. I wrote it because that was the story God put on my heart first. But it had some terribly dark elements to it. By the time I finished it, I was eager to write a romantic comedy. That turned out to be a better fit for my voice. I’ve been offered the chance to write in other genres and probably will at some point (if God has future contracts in store for me). But so far the romantic comedy contracts have been the ones I’ve pursued and won.

SKC: How long does it take you to complete a book? Are some more difficult than others and do you find it becomes easier with each new book, or more difficult and why?

Trish: I take as long as I’m given, to be honest. If I have one book contract and six months, I’ll take six months. But I’ve had three book contracts in that time frame as well. I’m very deadline driven! I do think some elements get easier with practice, but I’m always learning something new about how to make novels better, so I don’t think I’ll ever consider the job easy sailing.

SKC: When you mentioned "deadline driven" I thought of working for a stockbroker and I could picture it perfectly.
Do you have any point in your novel writing when you come to a stand still? If so, what do you do to get yourself going again? If not, what is your advice to someone who does have more than a few “stand still” moments?

Trish: I come to a stand still nearly every day with my writing. I seldom have a day when I sit down at the computer and just flow all day long. I get restless, I seek distraction, and I don’t want to put the first word down because I’m not sure what the best first word will be. The cool thing about writing regularly is you learn to ignore that stand still. Just start writing, even if you don’t know whether or not you’ll keep what you write. You’d be surprised at how much of what you write is worthwhile.

SKC: What do you think is one of the most important things you have learned so far since becoming a published writer that coincides with your spiritual walk?

Trish: I’ve learned not to worry anymore about the next contract. And that’s most definitely not because I assume I’ll get one. The reason that lesson ties in with my spiritual walk is that know the first contract I ever got was a gift from Him after I simply surrendered the entire writing gig to Him. And we’re talking hours after I surrendered. I give my writing to Him every morning before I even begin my day. So if I never get another contract, I’m at peace that His will doesn’t include future books. If His will does include contracts, my worrying about them isn’t going to change a thing.

SDC: Such a wise way to look at things, Trish. Now, let's jump to another subject. If you were a reader as a child, how did your reading habits affect your writing style today? And what were a few of your favorite stories as you grew up?

Trish: The first book I remember reading was My Father’s Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett. And Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink. I loved those books. I honestly can’t remember many more impressions until I was around 13 or 14 and read The Catcher in the Rye. Quite a scandalous book for a young girl, but the conversational style of Salinger’s writing made a definite impression on me. I think I have a bit of that conversational style about my writing, although I never set out to make it that way.

SDC: Thank you. So let's move on. During your free moments, what do you most enjoy doing? And who with?

Trish: I love to get together with girlfriends and enjoy good food and each other’s company and laughter. I enjoy watching good films and reading good books. I love spending time with my kids and my grandson, but I’m an empty nester now, so that happens far less often than I would like. Such is life!

SDC: Especially when we have the time, huh.
I know I keep changing the subject, but now let me ask you this.
When do you sense the greatest pressure with writing? Do you find it is at the beginning of a new manuscript – during the rewrites – or when your book is about to come out? As a follow up, have you ever been disappointed at the end result?

Trish: Most definitely I sense the greatest pressure at the beginning. Once I get started, the story is constantly visiting me--forming in my head while I grocery shop, giving me snippets of dialogue while I’m in the shower, ricocheting random ideas off of things I see on the news or on the TV or even other books. But getting started, out of thin air? Torture. I pray like a wild woman.

SDC: I can almost see you writing a story called "Like a Wild Woman."  Can't you? We all celebrate in one way or another at the end of our stories. How do you celebrate? After you share with us, please tell us all about the book soon to be released and the book you are planning to donate to one of our readers.

Trish: I don’t have an official way of celebrating when I finish. The thing is, I don’t deprive myself of much while I write. So there isn’t anything I lack when the job is done. Time, maybe. I do take some time between projects, even if I have a deadline bearing down on me. Otherwise I’d implode. No doubt about that.

Here’s the blurb about my new release, The Perfect Blend:

Steph Vandergrift left everything to elope with Middleburg attorney Rick Manfred, who then stood her up at the altar. Too embarrassed to return home, Steph hopes to earn enough to get by until she can decide what to do next. Tea Shop owner Milly Jewel hires her and appreciates the extra help at the tea shop.

Also appreciative of Steph is Kendall James, one of the kindest, most eligible bachelors in the area. But by the time Steph feels able to consider dating again, her run-away fiancé returns and tries to win her back. Steph is wary, but she and Rick always blended so well.

Christie Burnham, the frank-talking equestrian from whom Steph rents a room, and her frillier sister Liz become fast friends and confidantes to Steph. Between the two sisters, there isn't much any man is going to pull over on Middleburg's newest bachelorette and tea shop employee.

SDC: Oh, I like the way that sounds. I am always grateful to the authors who come by who are willing to graciously donate a book. And since this is A Pen for Your Thoughts, if you could ask anything at all to one of your fans that you’ve never asked before what would the first thing be that would come to your mind?

Trish: What’s a subject you wish someone would write a novel about? If you were to read the back cover of a novel, what one topic or character type would cause you to grab that book and take it home?

SDC: THANKS SO MUCH, Trish! It’s been a pleasure having you here. Where can our readers find you and be able to purchase your material?

Trish: My site/blog address is  (and I have giveaways every week, too!). My book is available through bookstores and at all of the online sites. Here are some of the links:

Thanks, Shirley!

AWESOME INTERVIEW. See the question above from Trish? Write in your comments,and one of you will be selected to win her book. We look forward to hearing from you.

Woo Hoo! Many congrats to Sandy Elzie of McDonough, GA. You just won a copy of Trish's new book! You're going to love it, I'm sure. BLESSINGS, Shirley

Friday, October 1, 2010

"The rumors (in a community) that fly" ... can certainly be fascinating enough to write a book! That's what Jill tells us.

Welcome, Jill! It’s great to have you with us again to talk about your life and your new release.  I’ve had the joy of having you here at A Pen for Your Thoughts a good while back.

Jill Elizabeth Nelson writes what she likes to read—tales of adventure seasoned with romance, humor, and faith, earning her the tagline: Endless Adventure, Timeless Truth. She was delightfully astonished this year to receive the prestigious Carol Award in the Short Contemporary Suspense category for her 2009 release, Evidence of Murder. Jill speaks regularly at conferences, writer’s groups, library associations, and civic and church groups. When teaching classes for writers, she delights in bringing the Ahah! moment to her students as they make a new skill their own. Jill and her husband live in rural Minnesota where they raised four children and are currently enjoying their first grandchild. Visit Jill on the web at .

SKC: What inspired you to write this book Jill?

JN: I had an inner hankering to write a story that explored the dynamics of small town life when crisis strikes. The rumors that fly and the polarization of community opinion are fascinating, as is the power struggle between the haves and the have-nots in a rural setting. All of these elements are a part of my background and upbringing, making it natural to weave into the plot of Legacy of Lies.

SKC: How has your Christian background affected the style of writing you do?

JN: My faith has everything to do with everything in my life. I don’t separate my relationship with God from my dealings in the world. I’m one of His ambassadors on planet Earth. Writing, to me, is a calling and a ministry, and I intend to pursue it with the excellence that only He can supply. God loves people, and my books are intended to bless the people He loves. 

SKC: You stay busy doing one thing during the day then writing at night. What do you do when you get off track how do you get back ON track?

JN: Everyone has a unique approach to writing. Some people like to whip out a first draft and then go back and fill in the details. Others write volumes and then go back and trim. The approach that works for me is to reread and edit at least a chapter, if not more, before I arrive at where I left off the night before. That process gets me back into the story and results in a “first draft” that has actually been edited several times, which saves on the revisions later.

SKC: How often do you visit other authors’ blogs, and what do you learn from going about the web? Do you ever get distracted by the web?

JN: To tell you the truth, I’m not much of a blog reader. I barely have time to read a book for pleasure now and then. This voracious reader has become a voracious writer! The web can become a distraction, that’s for sure. Information and entertainment is so readily available. Even research can lead to time-consuming rabbit trails. Staying on task and focused is a challenge I’m sure most writers face.

SKC: Every writer goes through some particular trial when it comes to their craft. And I know you’re buried in mysteries. What is one that gets to you the most and how do you deal with it?

JN: Since I’m not a detailed advance plotter, I occasionally paint myself into a corner, plot-wise. I hit my knees in those moments and somehow fresh inspiration faithfully comes—often offering a terrific twist I never would have discovered any other way.

SKC: What do you think is one of the most important things you have learned so far in your years of living about life since becoming a published writer?

JN: Don’t stress about promotion. What little dab I can do to get my work out there, I do as faithfully as I can, but the Lord is my main promoter. He opens doors that no one else can access. I have so much on my plate with family, church, and a full time job, besides writing books. It doesn’t pay to stress over something over which I have such minimal control. Word of mouth is the best advertisement anyway; and that should happen naturally if I keep putting out books that capture people’s hearts.

SDC: You have some books now out of print. I do as well. Have you ever considered bringing those back for the joy of your readers, and if so will you rewrite or will you try to sell them, as is?

JN: I sure have thought about it. When rights revert to me, I hope to revise and reissue. Technology is making this option more and more possible and affordable to authors. And yes, I would do some rewriting. I hope I never stop growing as a writer so that I can look back and see how previous works can be improved.

SDC: Tell us that one scripture that keeps you going each day. And then, since you are so kind to offer a copy of your book to one of our viewers, what is one of the first questions you would want to ask one of the viewers here that involves something mysterious that you could perhaps make use of in a future story?

JN: Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I say rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (Phil. 4: 4 – 5) This scripture is in my preset postscript at the bottom of my emails. Fabulous nuggets of advice for any and every situation. I have Philippians 4: 4 – 8 committed to memory and mentally recite those verses often. Such a comfort!

Hmmm. Now a question that involves a mystery. Let me lay some groundwork first. The mind is often a mysterious creature. Our spirits are created anew in the image of God when we receive Jesus as our Savior, but the mind must be RE-newed. Here lies the battlefield—how we think, which in turn directly affects our emotions, which ultimately leads to actions based on how we think and feel. So let me ask you, and perhaps your answers will help me devise a plot to a new story: What fatal flaw in thinking may have led to outrageous crimes like the workplace and campus shootings that have so horrified us in recent years? How can a Christian writer portray such a character accurately and yet compassionately?

SDC: Wow! Those are great questions to reflect upon and ponder for future comments. Thanks. It has been a pleasure having you here at A Pen for Your Thoughts, Jill. Tell us more about the book you are donating. And also, where can all of us find you and your books on the web?

JN: Here’s a taste to whet your appetite for Legacy of Lies:

Secrets Buried Deep!

Evidence from a decades-old murder is the last thing Nicole Keller-Mattson expected to find in her grandmother’s back yard, but the finger-pointing and accusations leveled at her family came as no surprise. Everyone in Ellington is eager to blame the Kellers—but after an attack leaves Nicole’s grandmother in a coma, only Nicole can clear the family name. With the assistance of police chief Rich Hendricks, she stands a chance of solving the mystery . . . if she’s willing to accept Rich’s help. Nicole lost her policeman husband in the line of duty—getting close to another cop is too painful. But keeping her distance could be deadly.

My books are available by a simple click-through from my web site: .

Thanks for hosting me here, Shirley. It’s been an awesome pleasure!

SKC: And thank YOU. And now to the viewers. See the questions above? Take a few moments to think about what Jill is asking, and then be sure to send us your thoughtful answers.  We look forward to hearing from you. And I hope I draw your name. (Be sure to leave your email address.)

Congratulations to Barb Shelton of Arlington, Texas. You have just won Jill's new book. Be watching for it.  And thank you so much for following A Pen for Your Thoughts.