Thursday, February 25, 2010

EVERYONE LOVES A GO-GETTER. JOIN ME IN WELCOMING DIANN!

If you haven't yet met DiAnn Mills, now is your chance.


     Award-winning author DiAnn Mills launched her career in 1998 with the publication of her first book. Currently she has fifty books in print and has sold 1.5 million copies.

     DiAnn believes her readers should “Expect an Adventure.” She is a fiction writer who combines an adventuresome spirit with unforgettable characters to create action-packed novels.
     Six of her titles have appeared on the CBA Bestseller List. Three of her books have won the distinction of Best Historical of the Year by Heartsong Presents. Five of her books have won placements through American Christian Fiction Writer’s Book of the Year Awards 2003 – 2008, and she is the recipient of the Inspirational Reader’s Choice award for 2005 and 2007. She was a Christy Awards finalist in 2008.
     DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope and Love, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a mentor for Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer’s Guild.
     She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. They have four adult sons and are active members of Metropolitan Baptist Church.To check out her website readers can go to www.diannmills.com

SKC: Welcome, DiAnn. What a great biography. I’m not certain if I’ve had the joy of having you here at A Pen for Your Thoughts before or not, but I’m anxious to hear about your newest book and what inspired you with this one.

DM: Danika Morales in Sworn to Protect is a Border Patrol Agent in McAllen, Texas. When news about an agent possibly leaking information to those involved in human and drug smuggling into the US, Danika sets out to prove her innocence. As she cautiously searches for who among the ranks could be the rogue, she is threatened. Who can she trust? And the one man who steals her heart could be the man who is trying to kill her.

My adult four sons one had a young man as a baby sitter who has made a career of the Border Patrol. I think keeping my sons in check was probably training ground. I’ve always been interested in the Border Patrol and the dangers involved in their chosen profession.

SKC: True experiences and the interests of our family members are all fantastic recipes for a great or potential book. I agree. How has your Christian background affected the style of writing you do?

DM: My stories have at least one character who solves his/her problems according to their faith. A Christian character reacts and responds to the happenings around him/her with this Christian worldview.
However - What is important to me is not what a Christian character says, but what he/she does to show their faith. Truth is a vital part of my stories.

SKC: I couldn't agree more. I know you stay extremely busy, DiAnn, but how disciplined are you each day with your writing schedule, and if you get off track how do you get back ON track?

DM: I’m disgustingly disciplined. I’m up before dawn, and I stop when my list and word count for the day is finished. I build into my word count for occasions when I need to get off track. Life is interruptions, so I try to be mindful of that!

SKC: A good lesson for all authors and aspiring ones as well. 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, DiAnn?

DM: I do visit other author’s websites on occasions, but again, I want to be mindful of my time. And I’m part of several email loops. Cruising the web would be a treat after my work is completed. I post to twitter and check facebook early in the morning, then leave those posts alone. Email is the biggest distraction. That takes a huge amount of discipline to limit checking those juicy tidbits to a few times during the day.

SKC: I think every writer would agree with that. Writers go through some particular trials when it comes to their craft. What is one that gets to you the most and how do you deal with it?

DM: I don’t want my characters to be cookie cutters from previous novels. Let me stress that a little more: I refuse for my characters to resemble ones in previous books. Neither do I want to use the same plot angles. I know all of the plots have been written, but when I catch myself using similar circumstances, it infuriates me. If it’s not too late, then I’ll go back and change as much as I can.

SKC: A good point of help to all. 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?

DM: 1. Always be ready to help another sincere writer.
        2. Always give the glory to God
        3. Always make sure the current wip is better written than the previous book.

SDC: Three outstanding points. Now, 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 want to ask an established writer when you meet them for the first time. Or to gain better understanding of your readers what do you like to ask them when you meet them face to face?

DM: Jeremiah 20:9. But if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.

Question for reflection to all writers: In meeting a new writer, I want to know where their heart is: how do they view their writing? In other words I want to know their passion for the craft of writing. Is it all about the writer or all about the reader.

Question for reflection to all readers: In meeting a new reader, I want to know what book they read of mine. This opens the door to find out more about them as a person. My goal is to build a relationship that’s steps beyond the page.

SDC: I appreciate your choice of questions and look forward to the answers that come in. It has been a pleasure having you here at A Pen for Your Thoughts, DiAnn. Tell us which book you are planning to share, and then be sure to let us know where we can find you and your books on the web.

DM: My newest release is Sworn to Protect, the 2nd book in the Call of Duty series, published by Tyndale. Release date is April 1, but I should have my books before then.
     Readers can view the book trailer at www.diannmills.com. I’ll be hosting a facebook launch party soon with some great giveaways. And, please consider subscribing to my newsletter!
     Thank you so much, Shirley, for this opportunity to give back to readers. I appreciate you!

THANK YOU TOO DIANN. I'VE HAD A GREAT TIME HAVING YOU HERE.

READERS/WRITERS. Check out the Reflective Questions above, and send in your responses. I look forward to drawing a winner in the next few days! Don't forget to add your e-mail address.

Congratulations to Linda Strawn of California! Be watching for your book and THANKS a million for following A Pen for Your Thoughts!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

February brings ROBINS and We Have One Here THIS WEEK!

Join me this new February week with Robin CAROLL!

Born and raised in Louisiana, Robin Caroll is a Southern through and through. Her passion has always been to tell stories to entertain others. Robin’s books have placed/finaled in such contests as Bookseller’s Best, Book of the Year, and Reviewer’s Choice Award. When she isn’t writing, Robin spends time with her husband of twenty years, her three beautiful daughters, and their four character-filled pets at home—in the South, where else? An avid reader herself, Robin loves hearing from and chatting with other readers. Although her favorite genre to read is mystery/suspense, of course, she’ll read just about any good story. Except historicals! To learn more about this author of deep South mysteries of suspense to inspire your heart, visit Robin’s website at http://www.robincaroll.com/


SDC: Three or four things about you interested me before we even made plans to do this interview, Robin. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13, the type of books you write—mystery/suspense, and how you were given your lovely name Robin. Before we talk about other things, please tell us why that scripture has become one of your priorities, how you were drawn to your specific genre, and why you were given the name of Robin.

Robin: Thanks for having me. I’ve always been drawn to Philippians 4:13 because I’ve learned over the years that I can do NOTHING except through His power. And with His power, He strengthens me enough to get through anything. Why mystery/suspense? Because that’s what I love to read. I grew up reading Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, and the Hardy Boys before I moved on to Mary Higgins Clark in my late teens. About my name…my mother just liked it. LOL

SDC: I remember some of those well. Tell us about the influence your books and witness have been on your readers.

Robin: I hope that each of my books brings glory and honor to God. Some of the reader mail I’ve received has put me in tears of praise. For instance…one reader wrote me after reading one of my books and thanked me for showing that it was possible to reconcile with God after being angry with Him. It truly blesses me for God to use me in such a way.

SDC: Amen to that. How do you make faith, love, and hope work together in your stories?

Robin: One of the main reasons I write in the inspirational market is because I want readers to have hope when they close my book. I believe, personally, faith is born of love (for God loved us first) and that if you have love and faith, hope comes naturally. I try to weave this fundamental belief of mine into each of my books.

SDC: Ah! You are a weaver too. That's wonderful. Tell us now, if you have more than one publisher, who they are, and who you work with now. How have your publishers helped you with your writing experience?

Robin: This year, I have two books releasing from B&H Publishing—Deliver Us From Evil in February, and Fear No Evil releasing in August. I have one book releasing from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense—Dead Air, March. Each editor I’ve worked with has taught me valuable lessons. It’s truly a blessing to have such insight.

SDC: Besides your scripture about the strength you receive from Christ, what else sustains you each day, Robin?

Robin: My family is an awesome support system for me. My writing friends are beyond wonderful. I can’t imagine writing without either.

SDC: Oh, neither can I. When you are not writing, where is your favorite place to go and why? Does it often play any part in your later story writing?

Robin: I’m a homebody…prefer to be at home rather than out and about. Something about being curled up with a good book in my recliner in front of the fire is more appealing to me than a night on the town.

SDC: Sounds so good! Have you ever considered writing about a character who leaves the United States and goes elsewhere to find his or her loved one? (Or do you already have a book like that that I have missed?)

Robin: Actually, I have considered it, but for now, I’m content to write about the states as there are so many interesting settings right here, close to home.

SDC: When I am not writing, I am usually preparing for a Bible Study I teach to women each week, or else I’m working back and forth with critique partners, along with other things. Do you attend women’s bible studies of any kind? And does your interaction with others give you creativity with your writing imagination? And also what books do you read that have helped you that you would suggest for others?

Robin: I actually am attending a “Faith Group” study right now, which is co-ed at our church, and enjoy that format tremendously. One of the best Bible Studies for writers that I’ve found is WRITE HIS ANSWER.

SDC: I'll have to check that out. I understand you have two books you would like to share with one of our readers. That’s awesome. Please tell us, Robin, all about them both. And then we would like you to think of a question that the readers can reflect upon to answer. It could be about writing, reading, the Lord, or whatever. Thanks so much. (Although I draw the name at random, I still enjoy hearing the thoughts of others as I select the winners.)
Robin: The two books I’m giving away are “DEAD AIR” and “DELIVER US FROM EVIL” Let’s see….a question. Hmm. Okay, here’s one I always like to read the answer for….if you could have walked beside anyone in the Bible, besides Christ, who would it be and why?

SDC: Ah, that is a great question. Thanks. Thank you so much for being with us here at A Pen for Your Thoughts, Robin. It’s been a real pleasure having you here. Thanks for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

READERS: Be sure to answer Robin’s thoughtful question above to try to win a copy of her books! We will be selecting two winners this week.

Woo Hoo! We have our winners! Congratulations to Julie Lessman of Missouri and to Edna Tollison of South Carolina! Each of you have one one copy of Robin Caroll's book.  Thank you BOTH for following A Pen for Your Thoughts!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

SOME GREAT INSIGHTS FROM LOUISE!

Welcome to A Pen for Your Thoughts, Louise. Glad to have you here with us.

     Award-winning Florida author Louise M. Gouge writes historical fiction, calling her stories “threads of grace woven through time.” In addition to numerous other awards, Louise is the recipient of the prestigious Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award for her 2005 novel, Hannah Rose. With her great love of history and research, Louise has traveled to several of her locations to ensure the accuracy of her stories’ settings. When she isn't writing, she and her husband love to visit historical sites and museums. Her favorite Bible verse is “He shall choose our inheritance for us” (Psalm 47:4), a testimony to her belief that God has chosen a path for each believer. To seek that path and to trust His wisdom is to find the greatest happiness in life.

SKC:  Hey, Louise, I had a glance at your website and loved the phrase you had by your books, “Thread of God’s GraceWoven through Time” and I noted how you mentioned it again in your bio to us. How did you come up with your focus phrase, and how do you incorporate that focus with the books you write?

Louise:This is a great question. We know that every romance novel needs three threads that must be cleverly woven together to make a good story. Those are the plot thread, the emotional thread, and the romance thread. For Christian romance novels, there is a fourth: the spiritual thread. Each of my characters grows emotionally as the romance proceeds, but the most important thing is the way God reveals His grace to the hero and heroine in ways that resonate with my readers.

SKC: Beautiful explanation. How did you happen to choose your specific genre and why?

Louise: I’ve always loved romantic stories, ever since I read Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, which I consider the perfect romance novel. Of course I love Jane Austen, too. When I began writing, it was only natural that I would write romances because I love to see a hero and heroine grow together and have a happily ever after.

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?

Louise: Oh, my. Well, some books have taken a year, others four months. These days, having a day job, I take at least six months to research and write a book. It’s not any easier as time goes by because each book needs to be unique. But I love the process and wouldn’t have it any other way.

SKC: The process for a writer is half the fun, isn't it. 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?  

Louise: Because I do basic plotting, including the major turning points, before I begin a book, I don’t usually hit a wall. Sometimes I have to pause to consider how to approach a scene or chapter. For me, the best way to get back in the groove is to watch a movie I like or go shopping or anything to “change the subject.” Then I can come back to the manuscript and dig in with fresh ideas. I would advise anyone with these moments to get away and clear your mind for a while. Also, asking God’s help is essential to me.

SKC: Hmm. So much good stuff! So you are a PLOTTER and ORGANIZED! I like the way you work your way through the process. Will you add to that and tell us 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, Louise?

Louise: Without doubt, I have come to know that God is in charge of my career. I can go all out for promotions, do massive research, and write what I consider a brilliant manuscript. But God decides the success of each step, and I’m still learning to trust Him completely with it all.

SDC: I have to say AMEN to that. Okay, Louise, 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?

Louise: As a child, I loved the Black Stallion books, Ben Hur, The Robe, Demetrius and the Gladiators, and of course, Jane Eyre. The Black Stallion books had a protagonist who was brave and who never gave up. Ben Hur, The Robe and Demetrius were truly spiritual books that showed me that God cares about every person. Jane Eyre also had a spiritual message that was more subtle, but it taught me about romance. Some people call my style literary because I love the language of the old books. But that’s the style that flows from my mind and heart.

SDC: I get the most from the language of the older classics too, Louise. And the subtle romance seems to cling with the reader longer, I believe. How about when you are not reading or writing? During your free moments, what do you most enjoy doing?

Louise: Movies, museums, being with my family, watching a few, select television programs.

SDC: 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?

Louise: I love starting a new story, rewrites, the whole process. I don’t like deadlines, so I would say that the pressure grows as my deadline gets closer. No, I’ve never been disappointed at the end result of any of my books. They’re all my favorite children.

SDC: Your children. Hmm. I suppose if I called my first books MY CHILDREN, I'd have to say they needed much more discipline! But back to you. We all celebrate in one way or another at the end of our stories. How do you celebrate? And 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.

Louise: Ha! No chocolate for me. I celebrate by sleeping in for about a week! For some crazy reason, I always finish a book about the same time my teaching semester ends, so I end up with nothing to do! Bliss! Once my brain is rested, I start in on a new story.

I’m very excited about my upcoming book, The Captain’s Lady, which releases on March 16. You’ll see in this back cover copy that this story takes place during the Revolutionary War: Torn Between Love and Duty

Captain James Templeton's orders from General Washington are clear. His target: Lord Bennington, a member of George III's Privy Council. The assignment: find Bennington's war plans. The risks: the future of the East Florida Colony, Jamie's life...and his heart. In spite of the dangers of their hopeless situation, he's fallen in love with Lady Marianne Moberly, Lord Bennington's daughter.

Desperate to protect his country, Jamie carries out his orders with a heavy heart. But Marianne's persistence is a challenge he never expected. With love and faith, they must navigate troubled waters to win their future together.

This is also the book I’m going to donate to one of your readers.

SDC: Oh, I wish I could win!  Oh well. That's not the way for a host to think. Anyway, I am always grateful to the authors who come by who are willing to graciously donate a book. I thank you for being willing to share one of yours. And since this is A Pen for Your Thoughts, I always like to ask our author guests to give a thoughtful question to those that write in. If you could ask anything at all to one of your fans what would the first thing be that would come to your mind?

1. Many people tell me they would like to write a book. Here’s my advice: Go write it! THAT'S THE FIRST REFLECTION FOR YOU, FOLKS. HAVE YOU STARTED? IF SO, WHAT DID IT FOR YOU? IF NOT, WHY NOT?
That’s how I started. When my friend and I were facing the empty nest years, we were talking about what we wanted to do. I told her about a story I was thinking about, and she told me to go home and write it. I did. It turned out to be my first publishing credit, a sweet little contemporary romance (and its sequel) that I’m still proud of sixteen years later. I love my fans and hope they will continue to love my books.
(If you have been one of Louise's readers)
Please write and tell what you think! How did Louise's books affect you?
Were you pleased with the stories? Be sure to be specific.

SDC: Readers and visitors, please note this is a double whammy opportunity for you to reflect upon. Answer one or both of Louise's questions above. We look forward to hearing from you. If you have had the itch to write a book, we are anxious to hear your thoughts. Tell us what FINALLY got you going. Tell us what keeps you from getting on the ball. And be sure to comment to Louise's specific question regarding her book. I'll be drawing the winner's name in a few days.

To you Louise, THANKS SO MUCH for being with us. It’s been a pleasure having you here. Where can our readers find you and be able to purchase your material?

Louise: My web site is http://www.louisemgouge.com/. My books are available at http://www.cbd.com/, http://www.amazon.com/, Barnes and Noble, Borders, and Walmart. And I love to hear from my readers. Stop by my web site and drop me a line!

Congratulations to Mary E Stifflemire of Lexington, Texas. You have just been selected to win Louise's new book! Be watching in the mail for it soon! And do come back again to A Pen for Your Thoughts. We loved having you here. 

And thank you to all the rest. Keep trying. The door is always open to win a book here at the blog.  








Thursday, February 4, 2010

FROM THE SOUTHSIDE OF TOWN ~ MEET CHRISTA! AND FROM THE NORTHSIDE, WE HAVE A WINNER!

Here is a little about our newest guest, Christa.
     A true Southern woman who knows that any cook worth her gumbo always starts with a roux and who never wears white after Labor Day, Christa weaves stories of unscripted grace with threads of hope, humor, and heart. Her debut womens fiction, Walking on Broken Glass, is published by Abingdon Press. She contributes to “Exemplify” and “Afictionado”, the e-zine of American Christian Fiction Writers. Her essays have been published in Chicken Soup for the Coffee Lovers Soul, Chicken Soup for the Divorced and Recovering Soul, Cup of Comfort, and “The Ultimate Teacher”.
     Christa is the mother of five adult children, a grandmother of three, and a teacher of high school English. She and her husband Ken live in Abita Springs, Louisiana, where they and their three cats enjoy their time playing golf, anticipating retirement, and dodging hurricanes. Find more information about Christa at http://www.christaallan.com/.

SDC: Welcome Christa. Please tell us what inspiration went behind the penning of your most recent book.

Christa: The story grew from my realization that our lives don’t always follow the scripts we’ve expected. Because of that, we sometimes find ourselves frustrated, lonely, confused, angry. We think God’s abandoned us, when-ironically-we may be following God’s script for our lives. I’m a recovering alcoholic, and by God’s grace, have not had a drink for over twenty years. I invited God back into my life because of AA, not in spite of it. As I grew in my faith and in my recovery, I realized that so many Christian families suffer in silence. Alcoholism, drug, sex, or food addiction, lifestyles are all the big elephants in the room we don’t talk about. But we all know they exist. So, what’s someone to do who’s immersed in these challenges? I wanted to reassure women struggling with addiction that they’re not alone, that there’s a loving and compassion God who cares about them and His grace will be sufficient for them. I wanted to remove the fa├žade that often hinders real recovery. “Good” Christian families aren’t immune to the world, but once we admit we have a problem, we can be healed by God.

SKC: Thank you for sharing that. I know it will minister to many who read it. I also can see how it will play a great part in your writing. As a writer do you believe you are self-taught or have you learned a lot from others? And tell us about some of the authors who have given you insight on how to express your own voice or taught you the most about development of style

Christa: In high school I realized that I couldn’t sing, dance, paint, play sports, play an instrument…but I could write. Sometimes we tend to take our gifts for granted thinking that if it’s something we’re good at, then it can’t possibly be “worth” anything. So, in that sense, I believe that I-like many authors-have a certain innate propensity. It’s the gift that God gave me, and it’s my choice as to how I will develop and use it.

     I’ve always been a voracious reader, and I truly my writing benefitted, and still does, from reading. In fact, as a high school teacher, I’ve noticed that reciprocal connection more than even. My strongest writers are my most enthusiastic readers. That being said, I think it’s crucial that we expose ourselves in reading to authors whose work we admire and aspire to. I’m not sure there’s enough space to talk about writers who have influenced me! A few: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Lisa Samson, Harper Lee, William Faulkner, Mary DeMuth. . .

SKC: William Faulkner was one of my favorites early on. Reading played a great part in my life as well to draw me in to becoming a writer. What about when you are in the middle of a project. Let's go there. When you are in the middle of series and deadlines does it cramp your creativity, or enhance it, and in what way?

Christa: Deadlines force me to write on demand, so I spend far less time “obsessing” over what I write. Sometimes, the creativity is sacrificed for expediency.

SKC: I receive a lot of different angles on how well to approach a deadline. Thanks for sharing yours. After the deadline comes and your books are out, how would you say your readers are responding to your work so far? What are some of the comments you have received that have blessed you or taught you where you need improvement, Christa? 

Christa: When I saw the review form Publisher’s Weekly waiting in my email, I almost didn’t want to read it! But it was surprisingly positive, and my publisher (Abingdon), even used a snippet from it on my cover. Leah’s story seems to have resonated with readers, and that was my greatest prayer— that her story would bring people hope. Also, readers appreciate that her story, though gritty and real, is told with a degree of wit.

SKC:  That's great for we don't always receive that positive response. Or at least we are never sure what to expect. How difficult it is for you to keep up a website and blog on a regular basis to promote your work?

Christa: Exceedingly! I’m drowning in paperwork between the papers I need to grade for school, the online class I’m teaching, keeping up my social networking, marketing, and writing!

SKC: I bear witness. But I'll bet, from the way you've answered these questions thus far, even that has been an boost to keep you going. Who would you say is the most inspiring character in the book you have coming out soon and why?

Christa: Leah, the main character, continues in the responses and reviews I’ve received to be the most inspiring. Publisher’s Weekly said, “Leah is fascinating, complicated, and above all funny.” She finds the strength to start the journey to wholeness even when all the odds seem against her.

SKC: Leah sounds like an intriguing character. Tell us about more about the book you hope to share with one of our readers.

Christa: Leah's Thornton's life, like her Southern Living home, has great curb appeal. But a paralyzing encounter with a can of frozen apple juice in the supermarket shatters the fa├žade, forcing her to admit that all is not as it appears. When her best friend gets in Leah's face about her refusal to deal with her life, Leah is forced to make an agonizing decision. Can she sacrifice what she wants to get what she needs? Joy, sadness, and pain converge, testing Leah's commitment to her marriage, her motherhood, and her faith.

SKC: That's a good taste. Thanks, Christa. As I mentioned in our e-mails back and forth, I like to have the guest authors send out a thought-provoking question to our readers. Will you do that for us too? If you were to ask a question to readers today about anything, what would it be?

Christa: [Here it is]  What topics don’t you find in Christian fiction that you want to read?

SDC: Thanks Christa. And to our guests, please take the time to answer the above question if you are interested in winning a copy of Christa's book.  Names will be drawn at random. Please don't forget to include your e-mail address. If I can't locate you I always have to draw another name.

And to Christa, I can’t thank you enough for coming by to visit. I look forward to the opportunity I shall make for myself to read some of your work soon. As we close, please let our readers know where they can locate you or your books.

Christa: Thanks for hosting me here. I appreciate the opportunity. Readers can find my book at Cokesbury, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, and other online venues.

Congratulations to our winner! You are going to love the book, Casey Herringshaw of Burns, Oregon. Be watching for your book in the days ahead.
And THANK YOU for coming to A Pen for Your Thoughts.