Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Come Meet Cynthia Hickey

Cynthia Hickey and her husband reside in Arizona with two of their seven children. Fudge-Laced Felonies is the first in the Summer Meadows Mystery series. Books two and three are due to be released in 2009. She is currently writing a new series with the first book release the summer of 2010.

SDC: Before we start the process, Cynthia, what do you do when you are NOT writing?

CH: I am a Detention Monitor at the local elementary school. I am also a book reviewer and am constantly reading. Relaxation comes in the form of hanging out with family and making photo DVD movies.

SKC: What book or project would you like to tell us about today?

CH: My first novel, Fudge-Laced Felonies was released through Barbour’s Heartsong Presents/Mysteries in June of 2008. It is available for retail the end of January 2009. I wrote the book on a dare from a friend. Won first place in a contest, acquired an agent, and here I am. It’s been a roller-coaster of a year and I’m having a blast. It was very sad to say goodbye to my heroine, Summer Meadows with the completion of book three.

SDC: What inspired you to become a writer of inspirational books?

CH: God, plain and simple. My conscience will not allow me to write something that belies my faith or that I have to tell my grandchildren they can’t read until they’re older. Without God, I honestly believe my writing would not be.

SDC: What encourages you to continue writing?

CH: Again God, and the fact that I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s as much a part of me as breathing.

SDC: Are you in any Groups that help you in your writing? Or ministry groups online? If so, tell us about them.

CH: American Christian Fiction Writers Association has been invaluable. I’m learning every day and have made great friends.

SDC: We all know as authors the importance of not getting too puffed up about what we do. I always seem to find at least one ghastly mistake in my novels AFTER they are published, and if anything keeps me humble that does, knowing it is too late to fix what is already in print. What is the one thing that keeps you humble about being a published author, Cynthia?

CH: The fact that, if God so chose, I could lose the gift as much as having received it. My writing isn’t for my glory, but for His. One of the first people to read Fudge-Laced Felonies approached me and thanked me for writing it. Said the book came at the right time in her life. It was just what she needed.

SDC: What is your CYNTHIA secret to writing a good book?

CH: A wonderful imagination and lots of prayer!

SDC: What plans do you have for 2009?

CH: Candy-Coated Secrets and Chocolate-Covered Crime, books two and three in the Summer Meadows series are being released. I am also writing a couple of romantic suspense that I hope to get published.

Thank you so much for joining us, Cynthia! I understand you have a free book offer. Please tell the readers about it and how they can find you on the web.

CH: Summer Meadows entered church on Sunday, not to find God, but to search for a killer.While transplanting the rosebush her church's handsome Sunday school teacher, Ethan Banning inadvertently killed, Summer and Ethan discover a hidden stash of diamonds, a rusty can full of cash, and a bloody gardening glove. This discovery sets Summer and her candy-making aunt on a search for a killer.As Summer gets close to the truth, not only of the theft, but of her true feelings for Ethan, the diamond thief hatches a plan to hush the feisty sleuth.Ethan's love for Summer stays buried beneath his teasing, waiting until God tells him it is time to declare his feelings. Meanwhile, Summer's quirky and daring resolve to solve the case has him acting in a heavy-handed manner in order to protect her, and almost pushes her away.

I can be found at or contacted at
Please send in a comment for December and maybe you, too, can win a copy of this book!

Monday, October 27, 2008

What do you give thanks for?

In my story about Amethyst Rose, my heroine goes through a time when she loses nearly all she loves and those she has cared for all her life. It brings her pretty far down in her thinking about her own life and even whether it is worth it to go on.

In my contest for November, I would love to hear from you about something unique you want to give thanks for.

We all know life is, indeed, special. We all must have something for which we can look up and say, "Thanks God."

What do you have to offer? I would love to hear.

I will select a winner by random drawing to this contest the weekend following Thanksgiving. The winner will receive both a signed copy of Flame from Within to have for her or his own library or to give as a gift to a friend. And also, in that package will be a memory from our trip to Ireland.

Let me hear from you!
(artwork by Julia Bettencourt)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Please Welcome Trish Perry with Me!

Trish Perry is the author of the contemporary romantic comedies, Beach Dreams, Too Good to Be True, and The Guy I’m Not Dating (all from Harvest House). Her next novel, Sunset Beach, will release June 2009. She writes a monthly column, “Real Life is Stranger,” for Christian Fiction Online Magazine. For seven years, Trish edited Ink and the Spirit, the newsletter of Washington D.C.’s Capital Christian Writers organization (CCW), and then she turned over the reigns to keep from going nuts over too many pans in the writing fire.

Trish 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 the American Christian Fiction Writers group and Romance Writers of America. She lives in Northern Virginia with her teenaged son.

SKC: You’re all over the place, I’ve noticed, Trish! Tell us all about what you are doing, and how you got there!

TP: Am I all over the place, Shirley? I guess that’s a good thing! Having recently returned from the American Christian Fiction Writers conference and having heard many times how important word of mouth is, I would hope to be in as many places as I can. Like most writers, I’d rather just write, but much of my time is devoted to trying to develop an Internet presence, enter novel-writing contests, and that kind of thing. All with the hope of exposing people to my books. Interviews like this are a complete Godsend, Shirley, and I appreciate the exposure. You just never know who might feel led to read something you wrote—God has an amazing way of putting the right reader with the right book. I’ve heard about that often from people who happened to read one of my books without realizing it was going to be suited to their current need. I love when He does that.

How I got here: before my novels started getting published, I published numerous short stories, essays, devotionals, and poetry in Christian and general market media. It was all a matter of doing the work, submitting, learning, and networking. The more you know, and the more people you know, the greater your chances of bringing your work to fruition.

SKC: What inspired you to begin writing in the first place and what keeps you going?

TP: I didn’t notice how much I enjoyed writing until I was in college. I was well into my adult years when I finally went back to school. Although I majored in Psychology, I started taking as many creative writing classes as I could. I prayed like crazy for guidance before deciding whether to go on to grad school for Psychology or whether to write. I received my very first acceptance, for an inspirational poem in The War Cry magazine, the week I graduated. The timing of that inspired me.

Even with the thrill of publishing, some days it’s hard to keep going. Not that I don’t write every day. I just don’t always feel like writing on my current project. Deadlines help in that regard! Sometimes it just doesn’t matter if you feel like it or not—when you commit to turn in a project on a given date, there’s no such thing as “I don’t feel like it.”

And I know the Lord blesses His writers abundantly, in so many ways (and I don’t just mean His published writers).

SKC: He sure does. I believe that too. Tell us, how disciplined are you each day with your writing, and when did you begin to take it seriously, Trish?

TP: I’m always more disciplined when I’m under a deadline, Shirley, and the closer the deadline gets, the more disciplined I become. Sad, but true. I hope to improve upon that—you’d think I’d learn after three deadlines, wouldn’t you? My current deadline is December 1, so I’m writing a specific number of words, without fail every day.

I got serious about writing back in the 90s, when I felt the Lord wanted me to shift my path from Psychology to writing. I put everything I could into learning the craft and getting exposed to others in the field. And I wrote and submitted constantly and learned all about rejection.

SKC: I love to find books that help me with my craft. What are some favorite writing helps books you’ve used to help you?

TP: One of the first writing books I read was Get That Novel Started, by Donna Levin. Levin’s book convinced me I was capable of writing a novel. Albert Zuckerman’s Writing the Blockbuster Novel is excellent for learning to weave character and plot effectively. My copy of Browne & King’s Self-Editing for Fiction Writers is heavily highlighted, and I re-read the highlights before turning in any of my manuscripts. Finally, I’m currently reading James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure, which gives me a new writing idea every day I read from it.

I’m a firm believer that novelists should avidly read novels. But if you want to write well, you should always be reading a book or magazine about the craft, as well.

SKC: I just read that book myself of James Scott Bell's. I loved it! Do you have a special Trish spot for writing, and if so where is it? How does it work with a family full of boys?

TP: Actually, I only have the one boy, my brilliant, hilarious, teenaged son. But I do have a difficult time writing when he’s home, unless he’s deep into his homework. When he’s home, we tend to share space—he’s my top priority in life, and I want that time with him. I don’t get to have him home that much longer—college looms! So we both work in the cozy space just off the kitchen, and we bounce thoughts and ideas off of each other constantly. We each have a desk and a computer, and a table for handwritten work.

I try to get the bulk of my writing done while I’m alone. I’m not one of those people who writes well in the middle of a boisterous coffee shop or with mood music playing. I’m easily distracted, and I create best when completely alone and surrounded by silence.

SKC: For some, it is difficult to have noise around. Trish, I loved the way you interviewed me by asking me about cast characters in a film in regards to my hero and heroine in my book Flame from Within. How do you come up with the names of your heroes and heroines? Do you work up character charts?

TP: Up until my third book I did character charts. But then I learned about Microsoft OneNote, which is like a notebook on your computer. Now I create visual files for each of my books, and I have a separate page for my characters. That page includes everything I need to know about each of my characters, including what they look like, their familial relationships, their history, their likes and dislikes, as well as links to where they went to college, where they met, where they frequent during the novel’s progress, that kind of thing. I almost always have OneNote open while I write, because I’m constantly using, or adding to, the information I might need to remember later in the story.

With regard to coming up with names, that varies. For the novel I’m working on now, I had a reason for my main character’s name to have to do with music, so I played with musical terms until I found the right name. And I have two Russian characters, so I used a baby-name site and a Russian-surname site for ideas. For two of my other characters, they’re twins, and I wanted one to have a softer name than the other—for them I simply sat and thought until the right feel came along.

SKC: How do you work that place in the story where sometimes a reader puts the book down and forgets to pick it back up again?

TP: Hush, Shirley! We don’t want any of those anywhere near our books, do we? Eek!

I tend to have short chapters, which isn’t deliberate, but it moves the reader along quickly. However, that also allows for plenty of stopping points, as you mention above. So I try to end my chapters with a suggestion of trouble or intrigue or a foreshadowing of some kind, to motivate the reader to turn the page.

SKC: Okay, so I shouldn't have asked that question! LOL. So , will you tell us, what you think is one of the most important things you have learned so far since becoming a published writer? (I mean besides what to do when you get to the unmentionable parts....)

TP: God is running the show. When I start to feel dried up, I realize I haven’t been starting my day with Him enough. I try to go to him, silently, every morning, but sometimes I simply forget. And I pay for it later on those days, because I need very much to aware of His constant presence and guidance in every facet of my life and my writing.

Also, I know I started writing because He drew me to it. I loved studying Psychology, and I know He drew me to that, as well. But I know that, should He ever draw me away from writing and toward something else, I’ll follow. By keeping my mind focused that way, I can be sure I’m doing His will, regardless of success or rejection. I don’t want to base my life’s work on success or rejection. I want to base it on what He wants from me.

SDC: You are so right! God IS running our show, isn't He! Trish, I want to thank you very much for crossing over the internet and joining us. Please tell us where readers can find you. I also understand you have a new book you would like to offer to one of our lucky guests. Is that right?

TP: I love visitors at my website where I have information about all of my books and links to Amazon for each. I also feature signed book give-aways every week!

And, yes, I’d love to give away a copy of my latest release,
Beach Dreams, to one of your readers, Shirley! I look forward to that.



Meet Alice Arenz, folks!

The mother of two grown daughters and grandmother of three, (Alice) A.K. Arenz has a two year degree in Office Information Systems from Northwest Missouri State University, where she also worked for several years. While with the College of Education, A.K. assisted with the college accreditation both at the national (NCATE) and state (DESE) levels. She’s found this experience and that of being Administrative Assistant to the Chair of the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems to be invaluable tools for her writing.

Since reading Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series as a child, A.K. has been creating her own stories. Her earliest publication was in the small, family-owned newspaper where her articles, essays, and poems were frequently included. From this early beginning, she honed her skills through university courses, studying Writer's Digest, how-to books on the craft, and through frequent submissions. In the mid-nineties, her writing earned her a stint with a well-known New York literary agency, and, although it failed to produce the hoped-for results, her determination to press forward eventually led her to Sheaf House.

A.K. has had poetry accepted for inclusion in various anthologies, as well as in the Maryville Daily Forum newspaper. She won an honorable mention and publication in the chapbook Look Who's Writing in Northwest Missouri, had a small article published in Family Safety & Health, and was the creator, editor, and head writer for a nationally registered fanzine.

As a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, A.K. has found the fellowship of both published and non-published members an inspiration. She has been a judge in the ACFW Book of the Year contest since 2005 and participated in judging ACFW’s 2007 Genesis contest for unpublished authors.

She lives in Missouri with her husband and two Himalayan cats. The Case of the Bouncing Grandma is her first novel.


SKC: What books or project are you working on now?

AA: I’m currently working on the second in The Bouncing Grandma Mystery Series, The Case of the Mystified M.D.

SKC: What inspired you to take up the craft of writing, Alice?

AA: The love of the written word. However, to be perfectly honest, I don’t often feel as if it is me doing the writing. I truly believe that whether I’m writing for the ABA or the CBA, it’s a calling from God.

SKC: What did you do when you received your first contract?

AA: Called my family, bounced off a few walls, called some more family, danced a jig, and called more family!

SKC: That's a kick! So tell, us, why have you chosen your particular genre?

AA: My preference in reading is mystery/suspense. This was the first time I’ve tried anything other than that. A cozy is a whole other animal.

SKC: Can you tell us something you have learned or are learning that you’d like to share with others coming in to the field?

AA: When my husband talks about my writing, he often tells people that writing the book was the easy part—everything that comes afterward is the hardest. I’ve often thought of correcting him and reminding him that facing a blank screen and filling it isn’t that easy, but have refrained from doing so. After a lot of thought, I realized that in many ways he’s right. Yes, it’s often a struggle to get the story out (I understand this as I’m going through my first writer’s block ever!), but once that story is written—even if it’s already been accepted for publication—you have a long road ahead of you with edits, re-writes, promotion, etc.

SKC: What kinds of movies do you watch to get ideas, or do you do that?

AA: I used to watch a lot of movies – don’t seem to have time anymore. Inspiration would come at different times, with different genres, etc. I love the movie Somewhere in Time, but I think it’s the music more than the movie than makes me want to write. Titanic is the same way. Then you have something totally silly and fun like What’s Up Doc? I love the slapstick and the timing.

Bottom line – I don’t really watch movies to get my ideas. The ideas just suddenly appear.

SKC: What’s your advice to other authors with how they can come up with cliff hangers?

AA: If you want to write a cliffhanger, you have to read and study them. Think about what you’ve read or seen in TV or movies. Take what you feel works, and then make it your own.

SKC: Good ideas, there. Why do so many authors have a difficult time coming up with their one-line blurbs and synopses do you think?

AA: Um . . . because it’s next to impossible to shrink a full-length, 70-100,000 word manuscript down to one-to-two pages or a single sentence. At least it is for me!

SKC: I have to agree! After you finish your present project what plans do you have, Alice?

AA: I wish I could tell you I’ve thought that far into the future, but I haven’t. Though, I do have a women’s fiction that I would like to finish and find a home for.

SKC: What a great interview! I can’t thank you enough for coming by to visit! God bless you, Alice! I understand you are offering a free copy of The Case of the Bouncing Grandma. Do you have any comments for those who write in?

AA: Thank you very much for having me, Shirley, it’s been a pleasure. God bless you and all your readers.

SKC: A pleasure! How can readers reach you to learn more about you and possibly purchase your work?

AA: To learn more about me, you can visit my Web site at or The Case of the Bouncing Grandma is available in bookstores and online at,,,, and other online bookstores.


Monday, September 29, 2008

A VERY Interesting Story! Come visit with Dee Owen

Hi Dee. Please tell us about the author of your newest book.

My mum's name was:
Marjorie Grace Patricia Bridget Owen born on September 11th 1911 in England and endured the bombardment of World War II. As far as we know, she was born out-of-wedlock with an Irish Lord for a father and a Russian princess as her mother.

Although her life before working is somewhat sketchy, her career, as a major London department store clothing buyer, was long and interesting. Members of the Royal family were amongst some of her more famous clients.

Marjorie found time to write many short stories and four novels ranging from romance to mystery. She did not attempt to publish any of her writings.

We can only surmise that she wrote for the joy and did not wish to seek any recognition or fame.

Marjorie passed away on March 28th 2004, after a very full life, at the age of ninety-three.

Mum had told my husband, Mike that she had written a couple of stories and let him read them some years ago. She expressed no interest in having them published at that time.

He was never aware of the amount that she had written until she passed away. Mike, being an only child and having no Aunts or Uncles, is the sole heir to Marjorie’s estate. He discovered the box full of Mum’s writings on clearing her flat in England and took them back to the USA.

As an avid reader, I, Dee (her daughter-in-law) became fascinated with Mum’s stories and books. All her writings were hand written on legal size paper or note books and on both sides of the paper.

I began reading some of the short stories (there are fifty plus). After reading a few, I was hooked and decided to attempt the monumental task of transcribing them to computer.

Mum’s writing was not the easiest to read, however, I set myself the challenge and was going to follow through. At first, Mike assisted with the ‘translation’ of Mum’s hand writing. At times we became frustrated with each other and Mum.

After a couple of stories, I became an expert, reading Mum’s writing and even improving my own typing skills and speed. As yet, I have not completed the task, with a few more stories to go and two novels, after three years of work. I decided to see if my opinion about Mum’s writing skills were correct and began submitting several of the short stories for publishing.

Several of Mum’s stories were accepted for publishing by online magazines and were published without pay. But exposure is important. A small success spurred me to try for bigger things.

The first book of Mum’s was published on March 15th 2008. “Ladies of Class” by Vintage Romance Publishing. Both Mike and I are really happy and hope that the book will be a success and lead to further books and stories being published.

Our blog for Mum’s writings is The website is

SDC: How interesting, Dee! Tell us now about your book. I haven’t read it yet.

DO: In the book Ladies of Class, Richard Hayward’s promotion and move from the big city life to the sleepy town of Burshill, England, has been shattered. Sir John Bury needs a murder solved. Clues take him from Burshill to California, Paris and London and back in time. As the story progresses the plot thickens. Richard Hayward's reputation as the youngest officer to be promoted to Detective Chief Inspector precedes him. Richard hoped his recent transfer and move to Burshill would allow him a quiet convalescence from a broken leg. But his peace was soon to be disturbed by a phone call from Sir John Bury, the Chief Constable.

A murder had been committed that night and Richard's ability to solve crimes, in spite of his unconventional methods, were needed before his duties officially began.

The results of his investigations and travels, in search of clues and answers to the apparently senseless murders are surprising. Several ladies of a particular ‘class’ become part of the inquiry. As the facts begin to unfold, they not only amaze Richard, himself and the community of Burshill, but extends all the way to the top brass of Scotland Yard. In the face of adversity, Richard manages to outwit the criminal and emerges triumphant

SDC: You have a pen name. Tell us how you selected Marjorie.

DO: Well, (as you saw by the bio) I didn’t write the book! It was written by my husband’s mother, Marjorie, who passed away at the age of 93

SKC: Why mystery?

DO: Mum was an avid reader and liked murder mystery stories.

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

DO: Well, I did several rounds of edits on Mum’s book, with much advice from our publisher. The first thing I would do, is jump in the pool and swim a few laps!

SDC: How long have you been writing, Dee?

DO: We’re really not sure how long Mum wrote for. When she passed on, we found the four novels and fifty plus short stories she’d written. Reading them, leads me to believe that she started writing in the late ‘40’s early 50’s.

SDC: How do you encourage other authors who get rejection slips?

DO: Keep on trying! With Mum’s work, I started with submitting her short stories to online magazines for free. Then someone suggested I should try to get one of her books published. I did and had quite a few rejections, but kept persisting and now its published!

SDC: Do you think you will move from a small press publisher to the larger ones, and what made you decide to choose Vintage?

DO: Vintage Romance were looking for books with historical content. Ladies of Class goes back in time to pre – World War 11, so I think that was one of the reasons I tried them. If LOC sells well, Mum wrote a sequel and I would like for VR to publish it. I think the larger publisher’s are a bit too competitive for me! If things went well with two books…who knows. I may have to hire a ghost writer!

SDC: What advice do you have for other aspiring authors coming into the field of writing?

DO: Trust yourself. Have confidence in your writing. Write from the heart.

SDC: What excites you most about your writing experience?

DO: The thing that has and still excites me about the process of having Mum’s works published is, just that, seeing her name recognized, seeing and touching the first book in print, the whole experience and ongoing!

SDC: What other books are your reading right now?

DO: At the moment I reading for my Certificate of education units to maintain my Educational Therapist status. Neurophsyiologic basis of language and other research.

SDC: Have you begun anything new since the project you just finished?

DO: No. Just waiting to see how LOC sells before attacking the sequel!

Thank you so much for joining us, Dee! This was a very interesting interview!

For anyone interested in winning a copy of Dee's book, please drop us a comment here! We would love to hear from you and will be selecting our winner in a couple of weeks.

People can purchase a copy of Dee's book by clicking on and/or going to Dee Owen's website, which is listed under authors.


Friday, September 26, 2008

I See God in the Simple Things (Coming in January!)

I thought you might be interested in what's coming out this January! For the next few months I will share a little reflection you might find in my new devotional I See God in the Simple Things!

I hope you will enjoy. Please feel free to comment.

Strawberries in the Stew Pot

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God,
to them who are the called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28

Trials and those unadorned and dreadful-appearing days often get me down, and sometimes, I am unable to pull myself back up.
My yellow-feathered young rooster, Blondie, went through his own kind of trial and dread when my four ornery New Hampshire Red cockerels, my barnyard bullies, severely attacked him one day. (I dubbed them my wild Strawberries back when they were feisty chicks.)
Not only did they squish Blondie into the fence, leaving feathers flying and blood sprouting from his tender wattles, they also plucked at his eyes with their beaks and stretched his neck until it looked as if it was about to twist right off.
Poor baby! My Blondie boy, out there having himself a Blondie day.
I remember running to my rooster’s rescue, scooping him up, and holding him tightly to my chest, as I rearranged his feathers and reassured him as best I could. I was there to protect him, I thought, so I whispered softly, “Blondie, you’ll be all right. I’m here now.”
Do you ever have Blondie kinds of days when you feel as if you are being spiritually or physically squished, maybe plucked and stretched beyond measure?
The Lord never fails to come running, to offer His reassurance and to turn those unpleasant circumstances into good ones. He has a way of showing us how we can survive even the most difficult trial.

One big squish for me was my discovery of breast cancer, which naturally followed with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. I thought that horrendous trial would never end, but I got through it.
Another continual plucking, which has grated on my nerves since I was aged sixteen, would have to be my chronic seizure disorder, and the medication upon which I must totally depend. After all these years, I still find myself wondering if I will ever come to accept that plaguing thorn in my side.
Paul’s words from the thirty-seventh verse of chapter eight in his letter to the Romans deal with that for me.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God,
to them who are the called according to His purpose.
What shall we then say to these things?
If God be for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8:28, 31

The Lord Jesus Christ knows what I go through. He knows what you are going through right now, too. He and the Father talk about our circumstances all the time, making plans on how they can make our crises into blessings worth remembering.
I believe God holds us extra tightly during those times when we feel bullied the most, regardless of whether it is a spiritual matter, a physical limitation, or even an emotional distress.
The promise Paul wrote in the thirty-seventh verse of that same chapter I keep posted in almost every room of my house just to help me remember.

…in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
Romans 8:37

By the way, I should tell you. Those four wild Strawberries of mine, in due time, lost their bully status when they became the tender dark and white meat in my dumpling pot, and Blondie, after that, happily became chief fowl ruler of the entire chicken yard.
Remember this. With the help of God, those unfortunate Blondie days and the wild Strawberry experiences that come against all of us will one day end up in the proverbial strawberry fields forever. I hope you believe that too.

I know you can think of a time or two when the Lord has done just that for you. He has such a wonderful way of coming through.

Come Meet Vickie McDonough With Me!

SDC.Welcome to A Pen for Your Thoughts, Vickie! Tell us a little about yourself first.

VM. I’m an Oklahoma native, a wife of 32 years, and mother to 4 boys. I have a sweet daughter-in-law and an energetic two-year-old granddaughter. I’ve been writing for seven and a half years now.

SDC. Does where you come from or where you live now work into any of your writings?

VM. Definitely. Having grown up in Oklahoma, I’m familiar with the state’s unique history. I have a whole series set in the years just before statehood called Oklahoma Brides. This book is a re-release of three Heartsong novels compiled into one book. It’s about brave women and tough men who carve out a life when times were difficult.

SDC. Who are your favorite characters in the book that are coming out now and why?

VM. Mariah Lansing aka Drew Dixon from Wild At Heart is a woman who writes dime novels. She’s spunky but a bit na├»ve. When a rancher challenges her to get her facts straight about the West, she accepts his offer to visit his ranch in North Dakota. But he’s expecting a man, not a woman who draws trouble like flies on a horse.

SDC. I love your original titles. They in themselves draw my interest to read your books. How do you come up with them, or are they chosen for you?

VM. I’m fortunate to work with a publisher that usually lets me keep the titles I’ve selected. My titles generally evolve from a line in the story or something that encompasses the overall idea of the book. With The Bounty Hunter and the Bride, I got the title idea first and wrote a story to go with it.

SDC. What made you decide to write in your genre and what advantage do you see in the reading audience you have? How do you respond to them when they write to you?

VM. I chose to write Christian romances because that’s what I read. I especially love historicals with cowboys and horses. I grew up watching all those cowboy shows of the late sixties, and my heroes have always been cowboys and lawmen. So it was just natural for me to write about them when I started out. Although I’ve now written a couple of contemporaries, my favorite genre is still historical romance.

I love it when readers write to me. I haven’t gotten all that many letters, but I try to respond to each one I do get.

SDC. What pleases you the most about your writing experience?

VM. It’s hard to narrow down. I’ve been in awe of how God has directed my career and the doors He’s opened for me. I never saw that coming, but am very grateful. The thing I think that has pleased me the most is all the wonderful friends I’ve made along the way. My writing buddies are some of my closest friends now. Another perk is that I’ve gotten to travel to writers conferences all over the U.S.

SDC. This is one of my favorite questions to receive from those who interview me, and to give to others. If you were to turn your newest story into a film, who would you want to be the heroine and hero?

VM. In Wild At Heart, the hero, Adam McFarland, is a rancher who loves to draw. Because of something that happened, he gave up his drawing but he sorely misses it. He’s a bit moody because of it. I’d like Christian Bale to play him in a movie. For the spunky heroine, Reese Witherspoon would be perfect.

SDC. Sounds fun! What other genres or subgenres might you tackle if any?

VM: I have a novella set in Ireland, and two contemporaries. I also have a story, Spinning Out of Control, which is set in Virginia in 1804, but for the most part, my books are set in the late 1800s.

SDC. What kinds of books do you like to read besides these?

VM. I like to read just about any historical setting except for Regencies. I enjoy suspense, but not mysteries as much. It doesn’t matter really. If it’s a good Christian fiction book with a sweet romance and a faith message, I’ll like it.

And finally from Shirley: THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US, VICKIE. I understand you want to give out a book to one of our fortunate readers who writes in. Which one will you offer? And where can people come visit you and find out how to get your present books as well as your upcoming releases?

VM. I’m delighted to give one of your readers a copy of one of my books. How about letting it be their choice of any book on my website, as long as I still have copies of it?

SDC: Sounds great to me!

VM. Guests are welcome to visit my website: to find out more about my books.

You can order most of my books from or or they can get autographed copies by emailing me at

Thanks so much for allowing me to be a guest on your blog.

From Shirley: Guests! Please drop a comment to Vickie! I know she will love to hear from you here at A Pen for Your Thoughts!

Monday, September 1, 2008

New Winner selected! Try again for October!

Congratulations to our two OCTOBER Flame from Within signed copy contest winners! Hope you enjoy the book, Cheryl Shryack of Yakima, Washington!

October signed book contest has now begun! Drop me a comment or email me at with your name and email and the state you live in for an opportunity to now win my Signed Book! Also included will be a bookmark and a magnet. For the month of October I will be giving out two books!

Thanks and blessings to you, Shirley
To order your own copy, please click picture below.

A Visit with Teryl! Come and say hello!

Welcome Teryl:

Teryl: Thanks for having me—it’s an honor!

SDC: Tell us about yourself!

Teryl: I was born in Texas, raised in PA and remain a Gemini in personality too. I am fortunate to have published an inspirational Regency romance (A Sensible Match), a play (Good Friday Grace) and curriculum (lots of stuff at Group Publishing). My day job is as Director of Adult Ministries at my church, but my most important 24/7 “work” is as Mom. I have a degree in Elementary Education, but have focused on inspirational writing in all genres at this point of my life.

SKC: Before you tell us about your writing, we’d like to know what you do when you aren’t sitting at your computer! In other words, what are your hobbies, loves, things like that?

TC: I love to read of course. But I am also a big fan of creative problem solving (reading about/creating inventions or ideas). I sometimes work on origami, curriculum and plays. I have also been trying to learn more about moviemaking, music and art to enhance the “write” side of life. I like to teach, horseback ride and make fun of reality tv in my spare time.

SKC: Now, Teryl, will you tell us about the book you have out or the newest project you are working on now?

TC: A Sensible Match, my first novel, is based on the idea of whether a part time Good Samaritan can pick and choose whom to love as well as whom to show charity. I’ve been out doing the book talks and signings and enjoying the status of “real” writer from this blessing.

I recently finished the sequel/companion to A Sensible Match. This book follows Abby’s sister to Bath and describes her (literal) pursuit of romance. Courting Constance asks if you can “make” someone love you and the results of the answer to that question. It has been a blast to write because Constance is so funny. For example, her attempt to serenade her chosen conquest with a flutist fails with the mistaken hiring of a bagpiper. It was a joy to make all her attempts to impress backfire, because I actually did use some of the “wooing” ideas on my poor spouse and was fortunate that they worked!

SKC: What inspired you to begin writing in the first place and what keeps you going?

TC: I think God inspires everyone with ideas; we just have to be intentionally looking for and using them. I’ve been writing or telling stories since I was at least in first grade that I can remember. I keep going by getting excited to see where the story takes me because I am as much a reader of my own stories sometimes as those that might read it later.

SKC: How do you come up with some of your dialogue in your book, Teryl, to keep it realistic with each character?

TC: I daydream it as if it’s a play happening in front of me. I also use some techniques from playwriting such as “plants” (foreshadowing) or surprise twists (have the dialogue not follow the expected route). I often give each character a catch phrase to help keep them separate as individuals too.

SKC: What are some favorite writing helps books you’ve used, to help you in your craft?

TC: I am not traditional—I love the creativity books to help me write such as Caffeine for the Mind, IdeaSpotting and A Whack on the Side of the Head. If I use writing books at all, I try to focus on unusual ones to get unique ideas such as Save the Cat! (Screenwriting), Word Magic, Secrets of Comedy Writing and that neat writing book by Patrick McManus (Deer on a Bicycle).

SKC: How do you settle in on creating your settings? Your backgrounds? Creating your color schemes?

TC: I try to choose an interesting place that hasn’t been done to death but has some meaning to me—whether in its beauty, in the story structure/theme or even in my own background. Settings are something I am still working on, because I usually “hear” my stories instead of envision them. Some writers can see the story as they write, but my characters talk to me so I feel a stronger connection to the dialogue and getting the voices right. I guess my “radio writing” is due to starting in plays first, but historical fiction demands that setting is just as much a character as any other in the story.

SKC: How do you come up with the names of your heroes and heroines?

TC: In A Sensible Match I used symbolism—Abby doesn’t want to be a preacher’s wife (hence the humor in her name) and Edwin is her dueling counterpart (and foreshadows with his name). Some of the people have last names of actual places in the Cotswolds as a tribute to the place while some of my favorite authors’ names are snuck in with some inside jokes due to the characters they play. In some other books I’ve used baby name books to get the right “meaning” to a name or I’ve used street and place names as a personal tribute, but I have to admit some names just come to me.

SKC: Sometimes writers have a difficult time with their sagging middles. Do you have any point in your novel when you come to a stand still? If so, what do you do to boost yourself? To get going again? To get out of that lull that sometimes comes?

TC: Every once in a while I “paint myself” into a corner by not always following the outline or by letting my characters take over and run wild. Then I may ask my kids for help (creative outsourcing of ideas) or skip over the writer’s block to write a scene I’ve been waiting to do and then come back to the problem (which is then easier to chip away at from the backside). Usually these ways help or brainstorming it out will do the trick. (Oh, and if the kids do come up with the “best” idea —the one I actually use—they do get a royalty payment!)

SKC: What do you think is one of the most important things you have learned so far since becoming a published writer?

TC: There’s never enough time to promote your book or thank the readers who do it for you and second, all writing skills are needed to be successful, not just the ability to tell a good story.

SDC: What is the most difficult for you, the beginning or the end of the story?

TC: The beginning of a story is harder. I love good endings so often I have the title and direction of a book first; it’s just hard for me to pick the best place to start the adventure. You set the tone or hook with the start, so it really matters where the characters are and what they do first.

SDC: What were some of your favorite books as a child? And did they have any effects on how you write today?

TC: I loved everything—folktales, horse stories (Walter Farley), mysteries (Encyclopedia Brown) and humor (O. Henry, Twain). These influenced my books today by helping me know the heart of the story—the characters. In my teens I read Georgette Heyer and Louis L’amour which taught me a great deal about dialogue, research and how to fall in love with a specific time and place.

SDC: You and I write for the ABA, which has given us the opportunity to reach out to a different audience many times. Is there a reason you chose this market, specifically, and will you spread your wings further in the future or do you plan to stay over here?

TC: ABA--(American Booksellers Association). I intend to be a “Roaring Lamb”, writing inspirational things that can also be marketed successfully in the secular sector—so I hope to write for many audiences. My goal is to write several different types of stories so that I stay out of a rut, develop name recognition and can market to various readership niches.

SDC: What is next on the horizon for you in your writing?

TC: I have a western still out under consideration and Courting Constance under consideration as well. This fall I will work on a sci-fi book that is “historical” and I hope to get another play in to Contemporary Drama Service. I’d love to work on a book with my daughter after these are completed and I have to go over my son’s screenplay when he’s done too.

You may contact Teryl directly at

To win a signed copy of Teryl's debut novel, leave your comment with an email address. We will contact the winner in a couple of weeks!

A Visit with S. Dionne Moore

Join me as we come together with Sandra Moore, debut author, who will be sharing with us and has asked her heroine to join in on the conversation as well! Also, leave your comment for a chance to win a free signed book!

S. Dionne Moore is a bunion-free supermom who resides in PA with her husband and daughter. They are all busy guarding their socks as watching where they step as they welcome the addition of a tiny, very unhousebroken, sock-loving Maltipoo named Rebel. She writes between running to the door and saying, with a fervent prayer in her heart, “Want to go outside? Let’s go outside.”

SDC: So you are a debut author, Sandra! Congratulations! Tell us how you got where you are today, the title of your novel, its publisher, and its release date.

SM: Well I got where I am at present because I spent last Monday packing everything up in suitcases and toting things to the car—yeah, we just moved. Again. We’re finishing our forever home and hope to make the final move by October 1, 2008. What a day that will be!

Until then, why don’t I tell you what you really want to know? J My very first book, a cozy mystery by Barbour Publishing, entitled Murder on the Ol’ Bunions, released in April 2008 and will release to retail stores this fall.

SDC: What is your book about and how did you come up with the idea for it?

SM: Oh dear. The doorbell is ringing. Hold on a bit.

What a treat! LaTisha just arrived and is practically pushing me out of the way so she can answer these questions.

LaTisha: Murder on the Ol’ Bunions is about me trying to figure out who killed my ex-boss, Marion Peters. About walked myself silly talking to people because the list of suspects wasn’t short, I can tell you that. Lot’s of people in Marion’s little black book. And the part about coming up with the idea? They say write what you know, so I got my friend here, S. Dionne Moore, to sit herself down long enough and peck away on the keyboard as I told my story.

SDC: Which character in your novel was the most difficult to flesh out and why?

LaTisha: I talked to S. Dionne so much about Maple Gap that she knew us all real good before even starting the story. When she got stuck trying to get a character right, we talked about it until it came out the way I wanted it to sound.

SDC: How do you plan to build and grow your audience and fans?

LaTisha: Feed ‘em and they’ll grow. Trust me on that.

SM: I think she means the book, LaTisha. How will we market the book?

LaTisha: We? Honey, I leave all that stuff to you. I’ve got grandbabies to visit and love on.

SM: LaTisha has agreed to make guest appearances on blogs and, uh, interviews, so I’m hoping people will love getting to know her better that way. I’ve done several interviews and have plans to do a tour with the Christian Blog Alliance in September, as well as an interview with Anne McDonald and guest blog on Novel Journey. I’ll also do some booksignings this fall.

SDC: If you were to take your heroine to church with you how would she be received the way she’s portrayed in the beginning of your story?

SM: LaTisha went to make herself a mocha. I always have her favorite mix on hand. J LaTisha’s got a little problem with pride-

LaTisha: I saw what you just typed!

SM: But her biggest struggle in the story is dealing with Empty Nest Syndrome. After seven children, the last one off to college a couple of months before Marion is murdered, LaTisha is planning a huge Easter dinner, but her children start canceling on her, which deepens her frustration and melancholy. Of course she does come to grips with it, filling the void with her schooling and solving her first murder. So I think her inner struggles are normal and natural. She exudes a warmth that draw people to her and help them overlook her, uh, eccentricities.

SDC: Would most women be drawn to your hero immediately or is it possible they would be irritated by him and why?

LaTisha: What kind of question is that? Honey, Hardy’s all mine. He’s my milk chocolate baby and you better be remembering that.

SM: Hardy is the most easy-going, gentle-spirited man you’ll ever meet.
LaTisha: *Hmph*

SM: I’ve had several readers say how much they love him. LaTisha and Hardy balance each other, and they’re the best example of how a mature married couple interacts that I can think of.

SDC: What is the first thing you think about when you rise in the morning?

LaTisha: What I’m going to cook that’ll get Hardy’s old bones up off that bed.

SDC: After you get this debut novel off the ground, where do you go next?

SM: Polly Dent Loses Grip is the title for LaTisha’s second book, which we’re editing now.

SDC: Every writer struggles about something. What do you struggle with in your writing?

SM: *eyeing LaTisha* Characters who want to take over the story?

LaTisha: I think you’re biggest struggle is dangling modifiers and how you use prepositions to end sentences with. Then there’s those times I’ve had to explain the terminology used in my police science courses.

SDC: Where can readers find out about you or your writing online? Please include the link for purchasing your book!

SM: My Website is You can purchase my book through my Website under BOOKS. There’s a link that will take you to the order page to join the Heartsong Presents: Mysteries! club and a phone number if you want to order a single title.

I also run frequent contests. Currently the contest is answering the questions: “What’s that draped on the arm of the chair on the cover of Murder on the Ol’ Bunions?”

I’m also a columnist for Novel Journey, posting a new author interview every Tuesday.

Thank you so much Sandra, for sharing a little something about yourself at A Pen for Your Thoughts.

Sandra is offering a signed book to the fortunate winner. Send in your comments and an email address where we can contact you. We will let you know in a couple of weeks!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Visit with Leanna Ellis

Winner of the National Readers’ Choice Award and Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Award, Leanna Ellis writes women’s fiction for B&H Publishing. Her latest book, Lookin’ Back, Texas will be released September 2008. Visit her website at

SDC. We’re anxious to hear all about you, Leanna in reference to why you chose the interesting subject manner you chose for your books!

LE Thanks for having me, Shirley! It’s nice to be here.

SDC: Describe your book coming out and if you have time, we would love to hear about some of the others, as well.

LE My second book for B&H Publishing (which is actually my 14th published novel) is called Lookin’ Back, Texas. It’s about a devoted wife and mother who must return to her hometown of Luckenbach, Texas to help her mother plan her father’s funeral. Trouble is – he isn’t dead! And neither are the secrets she buried there years ago.

The first of my women’s fiction titles was the launch book for B&H Publishing Group called Elvis Takes a Back Seat. It came out last January and I’ll be giving away a free copy here on your site. It’s about a young widow who determines to fulfill her husband’s last request by hauling a three foot bust of Elvis strapped in the back seat of a vintage Cadillac from Texas to Memphis to return it to its rightful owner. The road trip with her eccentric aunt, who knew the King of Rock n’ Roll, and a temperamental teen, hits roadblocks and detours as the three women uncover pieces of their own past along with the bust’s mysterious history. The discoveries change the course of their lives forever.

SDC. What kind of audience are you writing for or do your books fit any age group?

LE I mostly write for women but I’ve had letters from male readers, too. I don’t think my books are aimed at a particular age. Usually I have characters of all ages in my books, so there’s always a character a reader can hopefully relate to.

SDC What do you enjoy the most about your writing experience?

LE I love having written. Actually, I love the creative process. I love when a character knocks on my sub-conscious and begins to tell me his or her story. I love the excitement that generates. I love when dialogue between characters just won’t stop in my head until I go write it down. I love finishing that first draft. But then I love digging back in and strengthening the story. But there’s nothing quite like holding that baby for the first time and opening the cover to find my words printed on the page.

SDC What irks you the most about your writing experience?

LE Irks me? Hmmm. Sometimes the writing business is frustrating for new writers and experienced writers. Your favorite editor leaves. Or has a baby. The market changes. The book you love doesn’t sell as well as you had hoped. All sorts of things can happen that make the writer feel out of control. And maybe that’s the lesson we’re to learn. We ultimately have no control in such a subjective business. We have to really lean on the Lord.

SKC: What inspires you to keep going?

LE Oh, I’m a fairly determined type of gal. But I do have to just stop and pray and ask the Lord what He wants me to do. What is His plan? But all sorts of things inspire me, from answered prayers to new ideas to reading about folks who have reached their dreams. We all have dreams and they’re important to God.

SDC: Do you personally promote your book and name, or do you leave it to your publisher and what do you feel is the best way for you to get known by the public?

LE I’m not very good at tooting my own horn. That’s probably the hardest aspect of the writing biz for me. Thankfully, my publisher is very proactive. But I maintain a website, attend signings, speaking engagements, answer emails from readers, do interviews, etc... I think ultimately the best promotion is a good book for readers.

SDC: So many of us, as authors, spend a lot of time reading. What books do you have on your nightstand and in your reading room that you are working your way through? And do you have any you recommend to us?

LE I usually have two to five books that I’m reading at the same time. I know … crazy. Or so my hubby thinks. J Some of my favorite books are: To Kill a Mockingbird, A Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillippa Gregory, Francine River’s Redeeming Love, Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Lives of Bees, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, The Kite Runner by Kahaled Hosseini. Stop me! I could go on and on about some great books I’ve read. I love talking about books!

SDC What is the latest thing you learned about writing that you would like to share with us?

LE I’m constantly reading books about writing. I’ve been reading James Scott Bell’s latest on revision. His book on Scene and Structure is excellent. Often I reread books I’ve had on my shelves for years. But recently I bought the dvd of Chris Vogler and Michael Hague on the inner and outer Hero’s Journey. Fabulous. I also really like to purchase the cds at conferences I attend so I can hear other writers who I may or may not get to hear in person.

SDC: Where can we come visit you and pick up one of your books today?

LE You can find me at any bookstore like Barnes and Noble, Lifeway Christian Stores, Books a Million, Borders or online at, Crossings and On my website, I have a schedule of upcoming events. Hope to see you there!

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR sharing with us, Leanna. THIS WAS INDEED AN HONOR and blessing!

Thanks for having me, Shirley! It was my pleasure.



A Visit with LA Linda Krueger

MEET LA (Linda)! I was born and raised in San Diego, California. After my husband and I got married we were moved to Jacksonville, Florida, compliments of the United States Navy. We now live in the northwoods of Wisconsin with our son and two cats. When I was growing up I always thought it would be great to have “real” seasons that change and now I have them!

SKC: Tell us about the book you have out or any newest project you are working on.

LK: Terror By Night is a Christian thriller that takes place in Southern California. Here’s what I have posted about it on my website:

Something sinister is going on in the beautiful beach town of Santa Juanita, California, but not even the target of the plot knows what's really happening. Naomi Thompson suddenly feels as though she is living in the nightmare that has terrified her since childhood. With her life crumbling around her, Naomi begins searching for answers, but will those answers bring her the peace she so desperately craves? Ultimately Naomi must make a choice that will change her life forever, but with her decisions being influenced by unseen powers, will she make the right choice?

Find out in L.A. Krueger's latest Christian thriller, Terror By Night, as you step behind the veil between the reality we know and the unseen spiritual reality that surrounds us.

The sequel to Terror By Night is in the works. I thought I had it mapped out, but the characters had different ideas and I’m in the process of reworking it. The working title for it is In The Secret Place. I do know that in it we will see the consequences of the decisions that Naomi made in Terror By Night, as well as some very surprising turns of events for she and her husband Mark. I can’t wait to get it done!

SKC: Both sound interesting! What else do you write?

LK: My first book is a humorous autobiography about my experience as a Navy wife. It’s called When Will My Ship Come In? The Misadventures of a Navy Wife. I also write articles for my website, Under The Shadow Of His Wing (, which are commentary and Biblical studies. I also try to keep up with my three blogs -,,

SKC: What inspired you to begin writing in the first place, Linda, and what keeps you going?

LK: When I was in the second grade I wrote my first book. It was very short and bound in construction paper covered cardboard. It was also completely plagiarized from an episode of Outer Limits, but it was enough to get me hooked on the idea of writing. As I grew up I wrote lots of poetry, but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I really thought of becoming a real, live, published author. The thing that keeps me going is really the plots and the characters themselves. Once an idea or a character gets in my head I simply must do something with it. I must have at least eight different book projects in various stages of completion at the moment. I honestly don’t know what it would be like not to write.

SKC: How disciplined are you each day with your writing, Linda, and when did you begin to take it seriously?

LK: I try to do some writing every day, but at this point my priorities have been changed a bit. We homeschool our son, so his education has to come first. That means that I don’t get to write as much as I’d like to, but I do keep my hand in it. I’ve got a large notebook where I keep my story ideas and notes. It’s very important that I be able to jot these things down as they come to me otherwise I’d either drive myself crazy trying to remember them or they’d float off and be lost forever.

I think I honestly started to take my writing seriously after my mother passed away in 1996. I had written before then and knew that I really loved to write, but there was something about losing my mom that woke me up. She had always said that I should write a book. I only wish she had been alive when I was published. I also knew that I had stories to tell and things to share and that I had been given a wonderful gift to be able to communicate. I didn’t want to waste that gift – and I knew if I didn’t get those words out and on paper I’d burst!

SKC: What are some favorite writing you use in the way of books you have used, to help you in your craft?

LK: When I first decided that I wanted to write I did a lot of reading. I read books in the same genre that I wanted to write. I learned from both the books that were well written and from those that were poorly written. I also read a lot of Writer’s Digest magazine and took one of their correspondence courses on novel writing.

SKC: What do you when you are not writing?

LK: Think about it! Just kidding. I’m the main educator of our son and that takes priority over just about everything else. Homeschooling sounds like fun, and it really is, but it’s a huge responsibility. If I think about it too much it can be really daunting.

I love working with digital graphics and have recently begun making digital scrapbook pages for our family. We’ve had two boxes filled with photographs following us around for years. Now I can finally do something constructive with them, as well as with all of the digital photos we have. I love the creativity in it. I also love to work on cross-stitch, knitting, and crocheting. I’m an avid reader and love to listen to music, too.

SKC: How do you come up with the names of your heroes and heroines, and your other characters?

LK: Well, some of the names were just there. It’s almost like meeting someone for the first time. They have a life complete with name and baggage. When I need a name I’ll sometimes scan through a baby name book. Meanings of names are important to me, so I like to make sure that the name would fit with the character’s character. For the angels in my novel, some of them I just knew their names, but for others I actually scanned through the Bible and found names that sounded good for them.

SKC: Do you run a theme through your stories and how do you go about working it in?

LK: I never really thought about that before, but I suppose that there really is a theme running through Terror By Night. It would be one of good versus evil, right versus wrong. Since it wasn’t really a conscious thought on my part I couldn’t really say how I worked it in to the story. Rather it is the meat of the story so it naturally runs through the story.

SKC: What do you think is one of the most important things you have learned so far since becoming a published writer?

LK Writing the book is the easy part. It’s the business side of writing – marketing and publicity – that’s really tough. I’m very thankful that my husband, Dan, is very supportive and is willing to help me out with it a lot. I’d be just happy as a clam writing, writing, writing, never having to think about “business!”

SDC: What is the most difficult for you, the beginning, the middle, or the end of the story?

LK.: Yes! Honestly, I think that whatever part of the story I’m in is the most difficult for me at that moment. In starting a story you want to make sure you have a good opening to grab your reader’s attention, so that’s very important. In the middle you need to make sure that you don’t lose your reader by slacking off too much and coasting to the end. And with the ending, you need to wrap things up sufficiently so that your reader feels satisfied – even if you plan on writing a sequel. Each book, whether it is a single work or part of a series, needs to be able to stand on its own.

SDC: What is next on the horizon for you?

LK: I have a number of articles lined up to write for that I’m very excited about. I just need to get my research wrapped up for those. And I really do feel like I’m zeroing in on the direction for In The Secret Place, which is very exciting for me. Now all I need is about another 24 hours in a day and I’ll be all set!

LAKrueger’s Books –
Books can be purchased directly from her website, or through Barnes & Noble –

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Too Hot to Think...or Breathe!

Yesterday was a difficult day! The soaring temperature rose to 109 degrees here in Brookings, a record for this area, and higher than it's been in the last 75 years! The day before that it was 103!

On the day before, old lowly me was sitting here in my parlor-office writing away--faithful to my daily routine (as best I could be in the state I was in), and trying to stay on task until my own designated temporary quitting time, which is around 3-ish. That's when Brit Hume comes on the Fox channel down here in Southern Oregon. Sure, it was a measly 103 degrees, but I got so sick from the heat I almost fainted. (Some people call that a near heatstroke.) Only prayer got me back to myself by late that evening.

Well this hotter night, we were preparing to have guests over for our regular Tuesday night Bible Study. But by the time 7:00 came around...oh, my! It was probably over 95 degrees just in our livingroom. Even with fans going in a couple of rooms and all the doors and windows going, and all of us drinking iced tea and V-8s, and whatever else we could find around the house with ice, we still nearly suffocated by the time it was over and everyone returned home at 8:30.

At least I wasn't sick again the second night. But I sure felt sorry for my two wonderful dogs, Heidi (0ur Border Collie) and Eli (our Aussie). And man, did I pain for my sweet chickens in their chicken house! They have to be closed in at night because of the critters out and about. Then, there was my three cats, Allie, Ben, and Arabelle. (Oh, wow! How would you like to be a bundle of fur at a time like that?)

Back to my story....

After everyone returned to their homes, my husband decided to take the dogs on their one final walk for the day, you know, so dogs can do what they do.... And thankfully it was a simple narrow walk which wouldn't take much time. (I never did teach them how know, do what dogs must do, at least not in the two powder rooms inside our house.)

Well, I can tell you now, it was a big mistake...him taking those dogs out on an exerted walk in that kind of heat. Just like me working too long in the hot parlor the day before.

After they returned and our little Eli (who had never experienced a heat wave like we were having) started acting very strange, and the next thing we knew he was down on the ground stiffening up and going into convulsions. The poor guy was having a heatstroke!

I watched the little guy suffering and jumped off the porch, my husband following me, and we immediately turned on the hose and started washing him down. (It would have been the second time in the evening we had washed our Eli down to cool him off.)

He continued with his seizure, and having extreme difficulty breathing, and I ran into the house to look for our dog medical book while Tom continued washing him down and talking to him. I was looking high and low for that dumb old thing to make sure we were indeed, doing the right thing!

Naturally, in times like this, it would figure I could not find it anywhere!

So, I got on my knees and just started praying for the Lord to intervene as we had to do the night before for me, and asked the Lord to please bring our little dog back to us! What else could I do?

I so believe in the power of prayer and that my God can do all things!

When I returned to the front of the house I slowly watched and helped as little Eli (short for Elijah) started returning to us. But he was so disoriented we had no idea if he'd gotten brain damaged in the circumstance or not.

Since I can relate to a seizure situation (I have a seizure disorder myself which I must control by daily medication) I figured Eli probably needed nothing less than sleep and relaxation after what he'd been through. (Not that in the past my family has had to get the hose and water me down because of it, I mean, if I happened to miss a med and have a seizure of some kind! But who knows...maybe they have wanted to turn the hose on me!)

Anyway, I was right. (No, not about the hose on me)

Eli just needed to be dried with a towel and layed at my feet in the livingroom with the fan closer to him so he could rest for the remainder of the night.

I do know the importance of staying on task just like I'd been doing the day before...and yet, because I did and wasn't considering the situation, I over-exerted myself and made myself sick. (Perhaps I should have thought about that.)

The dogs (and Tom) were used to staying on task too, by taking that walk. And yet, they should have reconsidered the situation by looking around at the elements. (Tom should have.)

Thankfully, once again, prayer brought things into perspective. God showed us in no uncertain terms that regardless of how much of a narrow road any of us are on, as we do what we are accustomed to doing, there are times when we should use a little more common sense (which he gave us in the first place).

I'm so glad we have Him to go to when we don't always think quite straight.

Can you think of a situation where you didn't use YOUR common sense and something happened because of it, and God had to pull you through?

Perhaps not. But maybe you have.

What was your situation?

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Visit with Amber Miller

BIO: Amber Miller is an author and freelance web site designer who lives with her husband in beautiful Colorado Springs. They don’t have any children yet, but they do have a vivacious puppy named Roxie, who is half Border Collie and half Flat-Haired Retriever. Already nearing 65 pounds, she keeps them on their toes. And with her penchant for rising at 6am on the dot, Roxie is giving Amber and her husband a good taste of what it’s like to be parents.

Amber has sold four books to the Heartsong Presents line of Barbour Publishing with the promise of two more before the end of the year. She is currently pursuing an expansion into trade-length historical fiction as well. Other writing credits include several writing articles for various publications, five short stories with Romancing the Christian Heart, and nine contributions to the book, 101 Ways to Romance Your Marriage. A born-again Christian since the age of seven, her faith in Christ has often sustained her through difficult experiences. She seeks to share that with others through her writing.

Read more about her at her web site:

SKC: What books or project are you working on now?

Tiff: Presently, I have a deadline in July for the first book in a new series set in Detroit Michigan during the Industrial Revolution. Books 2 and 3 aren’t due until December and April, respectively. Once book 1 is complete, I will be polishing two trade-length historicals for an editor who has requested them and two agents who would like to take a look at my work for possible representation. We’ll see where God leads.

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

Tiff: I have been a member of the Heartsong Presents book club since its inception. I’ve always loved reading romances and the fact that I can find some without the bodice-ripping scenes or details appeals to me even more. Romance is so much more than sex and physical affection. I’m thrilled and honored that I have a chance to share my own stories with this book club and add to the collection that thousands of members enjoy every month.

SKC: What other pennames do you write under and why?

Tiff: None other than Amber Miller. It’s my middle name and maiden name, and I use it because I was published before I got married. I chose Amber rather than Tiffany because of some preconceived notions about the type of person a “Tiffany” is. Not as many these days recall Tiffany’s Jewelry in New York City, or Tiffany lamps and crystal or even the classic movie with Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The first thought in most minds these days is a blonde ditz. I didn’t want anyone avoiding my books because of any stigmas. Besides, now I can say I suffer from a split personality. J

SKC: How long had you been writing before you got your first contract?

Tiff: I’ve actually been writing all of my life, but I didn’t seriously pursue a writing career until 2002 when fellow author Tracie Peterson encouraged me to join ACFW. From that point forward, I studied everything I could and worked on my craft as much as possible. I had a handful of short stories published and enjoyed success with a few writing articles along the way, as well as contributions to books. Then, finally, in December of 2006, I sold my first novel.

SKC: What advice do you have for other new authors coming into the field of writing?

Tiff: Writing is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of hard work, determination, patience, perseverance and faith. And it won’t happen overnight. You have to maintain a teachable spirit and be open to constructive criticism, no matter how far along in your writing journey you get. In the end, the rewards far outweigh all the sweat and tears you shed along the way. Most importantly, if you feel this is the path for you, never give up!

SKC: 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?

Tiff: What a great question! There was a time when this statement was 100% true; however, with the rise of Christian fiction and more and more hitting bestseller lists, I see this gap decreasing between the two sub-cultures. If an author has achieved success in the Christian market but feels called to take his/her stories to the general market, I don’t see a problem with it. I do caution an author to not compromise his/her beliefs when writing that novel, and it will become increasingly difficult to do with input from an editor who wants faith references removed or acknowledgement of God kept at a minimum.

Authors like Jan Karon, Debbie Macomber and Karen Kingsbury are consistently on the general market top seller lists. Francine Rivers, Linda Windsor and others wrote for the general market before crossing over to the inspirational. And all of them have enjoyed great success on both sides. As long as the inspirational writer doesn’t compromise the underlying foundation of faith, if he/she is called to broaden the spectrum, I say go for it! The more who are reached by the gospel message, the better.

SKC: Questions many authors are often asked are how they deal with writer's block. How do you overcome it?

Tiff: For me, the blocks occur often, but they don’t usually last long. I might draw a blank for five minutes or so, but I can get going again not long after that. If I’m completely stuck and cannot find a way to move the scene in front of me along, then I jump to another scene and leave a marker in my manuscript to come back to that scene once I’ve filled in spots further along in the story. Oftentimes, the act of writing something that will happen in the near future gives me the incentive and inspiration I need to jumpstart the scene that had me stuck before.

I am by no means a stickler to writing a book in order. Movie and TV producers don’t film them in order. Why should I write a book from start to finish without jumping around to work on what’s flowing the best?

SKC: The magic of the first five pages… Tell us what gets you started on those first five pages of a brand new story.

Tiff: For me, it’s the excitement of a new set of characters and a new story. I am known for jumping right into the action or conversation from the first line. I don’t take a lot of time to set up the story or the background. That comes as the story progresses. And since I’m primarily an intuitive writer, exploring this new story with new characters and new situations becomes an adventure for me. I get an idea in my mind on where to start, and start typing. The characters and the story take it from there.

SKC: How do you schedule your writing time throughout the week in between family time?

Tiff: I find that if I set a goal and don’t meet it for whatever reason, it makes me feel like I’ve failed, and that’s the quickest way for me to lose my motivation. So, I simply make a goal to write every day, even if it’s just 2-300 words. I don’t often stop at that, though, as once I get rolling, the words flow.

On a deadline, though, I divide the days I have left by the words I need to write and do everything I can to meet that goal. I don’t have much of a choice, otherwise.

For family time, right now, it’s just my husband and me. We’re trying to start a family with children though, so I’ll no doubt have a different answer when that time comes! Since I work from home, I have no trouble getting a little writing done along with keeping the house clean and preparing meals, running errands and working on my web design client sites.

One thing I’ve noticed is I tend to take care of errands and client work in the AM and writing in the afternoon or late at night. It doesn’t always work this way, but that’s the most common routine. This allows me to share breakfast and dinners with my husband and still have quality time to myself to take care of everything else.

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?

Tiff: I’m one of those who cringe, as I don’t like planning out a story in detail before I start writing. So, I keep it generic, blocking out the number of chapters and perhaps 1-2 sentences for each scene in a chapter. For my romances, this ends up being 1-2 sentences for the hero and the heroine in each chapter of the synopsis.

So many authors have taught workshops and presented outlines and guidelines for writing a strong synopsis. Linda Windsor comes to mind, and you can contact her through her web site for the guidelines she has available. ( Gail Martin has a blog on writing (, and Mary DeMuth does as well ( All of these have fantastic information for writers and links to other sites as well.

SKC: What do you do during the waiting period when editors are looking over your manuscripts?

Tiff: At the start, before I was published, I spent a lot of time twiddling my thumbs and writing articles or studying the craft. Now, with deadlines, I usually have at least 1 or 2 projects going at once. So, the time spent waiting to hear back often passes quickly for me. It’s happened that I’ve received edits or responses back and thought it was a fast turn-around when in fact it might have been several weeks or a couple of months.

For the most part, though, once I send something out, I make note of the date and where I’ve sent it, then get to work on another project.

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

Tiff: As I mentioned above, I have two more books in this series after the first book is done. But, immediately after my deadline, I’ll be polishing two manuscripts and getting them ready for the ACFW national conference in September. Summers are hard times to send anything to editors or agents, so I’m going to wait until the fall when their schedules open up a bit more.

I long to branch into trade-length fiction, so that will be a primary focus once this current book is done.

Thank you for asking me to participate!


To visit Amber and check out her books more closely, go to

Your comments are welcome!