Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Say Hello to Linore Burkard for a Brand New Year at A Pen for Your Thoughts.

Linore Rose Burkard creates Inspirational Romance for the Jane Austen Soul. Her characters take you back in time to experience life and love during the Regency England era (circa 1800 - 1830). Ms. Burkard's novels include Before the Seasons Ends, The House in Grosvenor Square and, The Country House Courtship. Her stories blend Christian faith and romance with well-researched details from the Regency. Readers experience a romantic age, where England from the past comes alive and happy endings are possible for everyone!

Just a teensy hint of Linore’s newest:

Mr. Peter O Brien felt surely he had a devil plaguing him, and the devil’s name was Mr.Phillip Mornay…

SDC: Just by reading the first couple of lines of The Country House Courtship, to me, is quite intriguing and makes me want to read on. Join me, please, in welcoming this week’s author, Linore.

Before we start the process, Linore, what do you do when you are NOT writing?

LB: I’m often busy just keeping my family supplied with meals and everything else they need; cleaning, and cooking and chauffeuring—all the things moms must do. I also teach my first grader at home, and on the fun side, I like to read on my new Kindle, watch movies with the family, join my 12-yr old as we solve Nancy Drew games on the pc, and other stuff. I also love to do a couple of jigsaw puzzles every winter, or at least one big one. (And I’m very picky about them; they have to be gorgeous.)

SKC: I enjoy jigsaw puzzles too, and wish I had more time for them. It’s nice to see you TAKE the time. You look as if you are in the middle of a solid career in Regency writing. Tell the readers what brought you to Regency. And are you also published in anything else, or do you plan on working other genres into your platform? If so what?

LB: I’ve said many times that Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen were my main influences as far as writing regencies. I do have a bunch more regency novels I’d like to have published, but as for adding other genres, yes, I’ve never actually seen myself as ONLY a regency writer. I have a wide variety of manuscripts sitting in my files that I’ve started, or completed, from contemporary to children’s, to other historical time periods. In time, I expect the best of them will get published.

SDC: That will keep you even busier! How long does it take you to complete a manuscript? And how do you determine your settings?

LB: Completing a manuscript varies by book, for me. If I have a deadline, I finish by that deadline, and if that means I’m spending most of the day writing or editing to do it, then so be it. I can’t really say how long each manuscript takes as I’ve only had three published, but the last two were under six months.

SDC: Tell us about more of your unpublished work and what you plan to do with older material.

LB: Well, if I ever stop getting great ideas for new material, I’d love to go over my older stuff with my (now) better trained eyes. As I said, I have manuscripts in many stages of completion, some just about finished, or done. But the book that grabs my interest most is the new one I’m working on at any given time. Right now I’m doing a regency time-travel, and I love it.

SDC: Time-travel is going strong right now. Good idea. Since Regency deals with a short time period, what do you do to keep your stories fresh?

LB: The period is only short in terms of the “political regency.” In other words, when the Prince was actually appointed Regent. (1811-1820). But the stylistic regency is anywhere from 1800 or so to about 1830. That’s a lot of years, and I haven’t found any need to use most of them. It’s a great era, and even if you limited me to only one or two years, I could still see a lot of different stories happening in that time frame.

SDC: Thanks for explaining that, Linore. I think more need to know the details of Regency. I enjoy reading the titles to your work. How do you come up with titles and the names for your characters?

LB: Thank you, Shirley. Titles and names are strange creatures: Sometimes they come to me effortlessly, and other times I have to go through a number of discards before I settle on one. For a character, for instance, I might choose a name, but then the character becomes someone who, to me, doesn’t fit that name. So I have to find another one. Movie credits are fabulous places to find names, but I never use anyone’s first and second name as it appears in a credit. I might take one person’s first name, someone else’s last name (and make it a middle name for my character) and then another person’s last name. This can be fun, but it can also be exasperating. I’ve had books where I’ve used different names for the same character until the book is almost finished! I have to try them out sometimes, before I can tell whether they truly fit the character or not.

SDC: I should have asked you how it feels when a publisher decides to CHANGE your title after you have worked so hard to come by it. Oh, well. Maybe next time I shall. Every writer has a process that fits her or him personally. Now, it is your turn. How do you settle into your page goals, your chapter goals, your storylines, and the rest? And do you create character studies to work with?

LB: I work most often with “scene” goals. In other words, I get an idea for a scene that helps move the book along, or develop a character, and then my goal is to write that scene. Sometimes in the process of fleshing out a scene, I’ll end up writing three or four scenes. That’s how it works for me. I only use chapter goals in the beginning if I’m having trouble getting started, and I only need character sheets if I don’t know a character well.

SDC: Working with chapter goals sounds like a great process for someone like me, who sometimes has problems getting off the ground. Thanks, Linore! By the way, who do you enjoy reading? And do you have a favorite scripture that keeps you going every day? If so, what is it?

LB: My reading time has really suffered since I started writing for publication, and since I’ve had five children (laugh). But I still like to read the old classics best, or non-fiction, such as Christian living books. I occasionally read and review books for other authors, but my favorite reading is 19th century stuff, or earlier, and research books.

SDC: The readers look forward to having the opportunity to win one of your books, Linore. Tell us about the book you are donating, and please share a reflection question the readers can write in to respond with.

LB: I’ll give a free copy of any of my three books. If the reader is new to me, they can get my first book since they are a series. Any of the books can be read as a stand-alone but most people prefer to read them in order, and I do think that it is more enjoyable to read them that way. It’s just more fun when you already know the characters and how they met, and so on. So, if you win a book, you can request any of the three in my Regency Series.
Before the Season Ends
The House in Grosvenor Square 
The Country House Courtship

A reflection question I’d love to hear your answers to is:

What are you most hoping for when you sit down and open a new book from a Christian author? Is it to be entertained? Is it for escapism? Is it for heart-wrenching emotion, or do you prefer a fun and enjoyable love story? If you can please try to zero in on what you MOST hope for from a new book. I’d love to hear about it. Thanks and I’ll check in and comment back when I can.

And thank you, Shirley, for having me and my books on your lovely blog.

SDC: My pleasure. Thanks for being a part of A Pen for Your Thoughts, Linore. As we close out today, please let us know where we can buy signed copies of your work.

LB: Autographed copies are available on my website: http://www.LinoreBurkard.com/books.html

GUESTS…Be sure to follow through with Linore’s great question to reflect upon. I think these are the questions all authors want to know the answer to.We look forward to hearing from you here at A Pen for Your Thoughts.
Congratulations to our winner T. Anne Adams Bivinetto of Rancho Palos Verdes, California! Be watching for Linore's book in the next few days.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

RONICA has some great gift ideas for your favorite young person!

Meet Ronica!

Ronica Stromberg is the author of a picture book, The Time-for-Bed Angel; a middle-grade mystery, The Glass Inheritance; and two novels for tweens and teens, A Shadow in the Dark and Living It Up to Live It Down. She also has stories in 18 anthologies and writes regularly for inspirational children's magazines. She enjoys reading mysteries, literature classics, children's books, and romances in her spare time.

SDC: It’s good to have you here, Ronica. What are some of your favorite themes you write about these days? Do you see them changing?

RS: My latest books, A Shadow in the Dark and Living It Up to Live It Down, just came out in the past two months, but I actually wrote them eight years ago. Both are aimed at tweens and teens. In A Shadow in the Dark, young teen Kirsten Hart keeps seeing a shadowy figure at her neighbor’s window and becomes a sleuth to discover who this girl is and why she doesn’t come out. Kirsten soon finds herself on a journey of understanding God’s purpose for every individual. She struggles with her new faith in a Heavenly Father because her earthly father has let her down so many times. In Living It Up to Live It Down, she befriends a pastor’s daughter, Sarah, as someone to lean on and learn from in the faith. But Sarah has gone astray and could use a little help herself. While the first book in this series is a mystery, the second is a more humorous “problem” novel. I find myself moving toward more humor in my writing although the books still deal with themes such as peer pressure, fitting in, and seeing God in daily life.

SDC: Both sound great and perfect for Christmas gifts for young adults. What are your plans for the Christmas holidays, Ronica?

RS: I’m of Scandinavian descent and it’s fallen to me to make the lefse (a traditional Norwegian flatbread) for my family this year. After making it, my husband, children, and I will travel to my home state, Iowa, to spend with the rest of my family. I’ll also do a book signing at my hometown’s independent bookstore and maybe take in the Christmas parade.

SDC: What a great idea. I would love to taste lefse sometime. I also love to find out what others are going to do at Christmas. But let's jump back to your books for a few moments. Do you ever get the opportunity to share yours in school settings? If so, tell us about that.

RS: Oh-h-h, yes! I regularly read in schools, teach about writing, and lead workshops in which children work on improving their own writing skills. The topics I teach on are listed at my site, http://www.ronicastromberg.wordpress.com/ , under the page titled “visits, talks, presentations, and signings.” This last year I was a featured author at several literature festivals and young writers’ conferences, and I especially enjoyed that. I learn about as much as from the children as I teach.

SDC: All sound like fun. There is something special about working with children. I have always loved it too. Why don't you tell us next what your biggest plans are for 2010?

RS: I’m hoping to get back into the workforce part-time (either as an in-house editor for a corporation or government agency, as I used to be, or performing clerical work) and continue marketing my books and working on an inspirational romance and some smaller children’s projects.

SDC: You will be a busy woman! I met you when we became critique partners once. Are you still critiquing other people’s manuscripts, Ronica? How easy or hard is it to critique a story you are not enjoying?

RS: I enjoyed our critique exchange, but not every exchange goes that well. What’s most discouraging about critique exchanges is, often, you start critiquing another person’s manuscript and see right away it will never pass muster. Then you’re faced with hours of polishing on a manuscript that will likely go nowhere, and the critique you get in exchange will probably hold little value. It’s important when exchanging critiques to have a partner who’s at least as far along in the process as you. Not everyone can afford to go to conferences or take classes to improve skills, but everyone can check out books on writing from the library and learn that way. So if you get a partner who is at least studying the craft on her own, that’s someone you can work with.

I had the great fortune recently to have an award-winning, multi-published romance author critique the first three chapters of a romance I’d written. My manuscript came back with some hard-hitting critiques. I was elated. I had finally gotten answers to the question, What can I do to get to the next level? I wish I could make this romance author my critique partner permanently, but realistically, my critiques wouldn’t sufficiently pay her back. And a critique really needs to be mutually beneficial.

SDC: Thanks for giving such good advice on critiquing. I understand you will offer Living It Up to Live It Down to one of our readers. What question that relates to the Christmas season would you like to ask today?

RS: What is your favorite childhood memory of Christmas?

SDC: Perfect question for the holidays. I love hearing about people's childhood memories. I just did one at a brunch I spoke at recently which I turned it into a short devotional. While we wait for answers from others, tell us where we can find you and also your books.

RS: I keep a blog/Web site at http://www.ronicastromberg.wordpress.com/ . The publisher for my latest books is Royal Fireworks Press, and anyone can order A Shadow in the Dark and Living It Up to Live It Down from them by phone, mail, or online at http://rfwp.com/series96.htm#897 .

SDC: Thanks so much for your update, Ronica. I'm glad you came to A Pen for Your Thoughts.

Congratulations to Bethanee Bottoms of Oregon, the winner of Ronica's new book. Watch for your copy soon, Bethanee. And thanks for being a part of A Pen for Your Thoughts.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I Wonder if You've Met Nick Daniels. (You will love his question for you.)

A little about Nick:
     Nick was born in the late 1970s, in a bustling city in South America. He wrote his first short story in third grade about a explorer lost in the Amazon jungle, then discovered Jules Verne during sixth grade and was hooked into fiction for life.

     He spent the next few years reading literature classics (mostly Dostoievsky) and contemporary Latin American writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortazar, and Mario Vargas Llosa, plus every book in the library that piqued his interest.
     At age fifteen, he decided to write a novel about a woman who loses the ability to love. It remains (thankfully) unpublished.
     After graduating from journalism school, Nick moved to the United States to continue his education and write about science and faith issues. He worked as a science writer for several years until he gradually found his way back into fiction.
     Nick now lives on an island in the pacific, in what can be described as a writer's paradise.

SDC: Tell us about what you are writing now, Nick.
Nick: I’m working on an end-times thriller about a Muslim militant who goes to Jerusalem to help his Jewish childhood friend find his missing brother. It’s an explosive and controversial novel and I’m having a lot of fun writing it.

SKC: Sounds like interesting reading. How did you gain your interest in writing? Did it have anything to do with where you were raised?
Nick: I don’t remember anyone in my family being a great reader, that’s just a virus I caught myself and made me spent many days and nights devouring stories in my bed. Having so many stories in my head, I knew I could tell some of my own, and that’s how I began writing.

SDC: Great way to put it, Nick. So, after a long day of writing or doing revisions in a story what is the very first thing you do?
Nick: I usually write late at night when the kids are sleeping and the world is quiet, so when sleep is stronger than the will to write, I just turn the light off.

SDC: I't s not always easy to concentrate when there is a bunch of noise, is it. I saw by your bio that you have a romance hiding somewhere in your files. Why do you NOT want that to be published?
Nick: It’s bad, really. That was an exercise in writing when I was in High school, and believe me, you don’t want to read it. If I knew then what I know now, it would be very different. But I enjoyed writing that one, I must say.

SDC: I'll wager we all have one of those hidden somewhere in our files! Do you write for one publisher, Nick, or do you use more?
Nick: Right now, I don’t have any commitments with just one publisher. In fact, I’m on a period between agents—ended up my contract with one, and looking for a new one.

SDC: It never hurts to keep those options open; I agree. You say you took Journalism. I did as well. Were you once planning to write as a reporter or newscaster? Was it Jules Verne that completely turned you around? How does science with faith work together in your writing?
Nick: Journalism was my profession of choice, simply because it would allow me to earn my living doing what I love, writing. For a while I thought I was going to be a TV producer and actually did some work as a screenwriter, but then decided to become a science journalist. I hated biology during High School, but in college I found myself very involved in Christian apologetics. That’s when I found a new meaning for science and how it could be used to defend the faith.
I worked as a science writer full time for more than five years but always had fiction in the back of my mind. Slowly, I began reading novels again, and working on my own. And here I am.

SDC: A great combination I think. So tell us, what excites you most about your writing experience?
Nick: Plotting. I have lots of ideas, but I enjoy sitting there and imagining how to make things worst for my characters, then start writing and finding out that many more possibilities open before me—unexpected things happen on the page and the characters begin doing their own thing. It’s a process of discovery that cannot be described, a crazy interaction between your brain, your fingers and the computer.

SDC: Sounds like you are definitely a plotter over a pantser then. I see by your bio also that you are well-read. Who else do you like reading and why? And what other books are your reading right now?
Nick: I’m always reading five or six books at a time: a book on writing, a book on Christian living or apologetics, a novel or two (of course), a research book for my work in progress, and a business/marketing book. Why these categories? A book on writing because you can never stop learning about your craft.\; novels because they are addictive; apologetics because I’m the co-host of an apologetics podcast and every week interview authors about their books (check out the podcast at www.breakingunbelief.org). And marketing, because all writers must know how to market or they will starve.
So here’s the breakdown of what I’m reading right now: Novel: Whispers by Dean Koontz;Apologetics: Unveiling Islam by Ergun Caner; Christian living: Christ the Healer by Bosworth; Research: Jerusalem and the Holy Land (Travel Guide)
I just finished The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass (Writing) and All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin (Marketing).

SDC: What a combination. But you sound a bit like me, Nick. I am usually reading all different things at the same time (or in the same period of time). There is just so much good stuff out there, and especially when it comes to research. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Nick: Take writing seriously, as you would any job. That means, get over your excuses for procrastinating and not writing and just sit down and do it. It’s the only way. You become a writer, by writing.

SDC: Great advice. Thanks. I understand you have a book you want to donate to one of our readers. Tell us about that book, and when you are finished, what reflection question would you like to ask for our readers to comment on in hopes to win your book?
    Nick: Of course. My first novel is The Gentlemen’s Conspiracy, which takes place in 1836 London, and tells the story of amateur geologist Daniel Young, who starts inquiring about his best friend’s murder and discovers a plot to overthrow the king of England. Plunged into a crisis of faith and separated from the woman he loves, Daniel must stop the killer before becoming the next victim. He soon realizes that the conspiracy not only threatens to destroy the king, but the foundation of Christianity itself.

Okay, here’s the reflection…. Psalm 11:3 says, “When the foundations are being destroyed, 
what can the righteous do?” … How do you think modern thinking is attacking the foundations of Christianity and what can we do about it?

SDC: Wonderful question for the readers to reflect on. I am looking forward to reading the comments that come in and hope you will get an opportunity to respond now and then. Thank you so much for joining us here at A Pen for Your Thoughts, Nick. Please be sure to write down where we can find you online and where your books are available.
Nick: Thanks, Shirley. Please visit my Web site at http://www.nickdanielsbooks.com/ and get a copy of my book at Amazon.com, BN.com or your local bookstore. Be blessed!

Check above for the reflection question and do write in. We look forward to hearing from you. I hope you win the book!  And we want to congratulate Phil C of Oregon! You have just won a copy of Nick's books! Be watching for it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Have You Met Mona Yet?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reflection question: What makes a great historical novel great?

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thanksgiving and Saying thank you to our Military and Military Families

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

New Words from Missy Tippens

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

You can find Missy at http://www.missytippens.com/. And she blogs all over the place: http://www.lifewithmissy.blogspot.com/, http://www.seekerville.blogspot.com/, http://www.writingbyfaith.blogspot.com/, and http://www.craftieladiesofromance.blogspot.com/.  She’s also on Facebook, MySpace and Shoutlife, so be sure to give her a holler!

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

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

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

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

present of all—a family of her own.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shirley, thank you so much for having me!

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Vickie McDonough and that Western Flair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SDC: Where can your books be found?

VM: The easiest place to get my books is online at Christianbook.com or Amazon.com If anyone would like an autographed copy, they can email me at fictionfan1@cox.net for information. Sometimes you can find my books in Christian bookstores and occasionally at Wal-Mart.

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

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

SDC: Great Questions! Did you get that guys?

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

I’m in the process of setting up an email mailing list so that I can send out a quarterly newsletter and announce new releases. If you’d like to be on my email list, please send me a note at fictionfan1@cox.net with your email address.

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

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


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

Thursday, October 8, 2009

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

Have you had a chance to meet Winnie?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SKC: You have plenty to keep you busy then.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Come Get to Know Nancy with Me

With almost 350,000 books in print, Nancy began her book writing career with the release of her first novel, Sonoran Sunrise. (Barbour, 2001) Since then Nancy has published eight novels, three novellas, and coauthored one nonfiction book. Her book, Tucson, made the CBA bestseller list. Nancy’s books have won awards such as the Heartsong Contemporary Book of the Year, and have finaled in prestigious contests like the National Reader's Choice Contest and the Holt Medallion Contest. Nancy has also published many articles, devotions, and short stories in magazines such as Today's Christian Woman and Focus on the Family Clubhouse. Nancy is currently working on a nonfiction book for Barbour, Inspiring Thoughts for Gardeners.

SDC: Before we get going, Nancy, I noticed your theme scripture over at your blog: "Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it." Habakkuk 2:2. I love that verse. Is that the verse that keeps you going as a writer?

NF: From the first time I heard Habakkuk 2:2 after being called to write, the verse resonated in me. I want to write the vision God has for me. I want to share Him with my readers. That is my purpose. I don’t see writing books as a form of entertainment, although reading is very enjoyable. I see writing as a way to encourage my readers in their faith, and to urge them to always consider God, and His will for them.

SDC: Tell us about your publisher and the experience your experiences in working with Barbour and what you have coming out this month.

NF: This month (September 2009), my book, Painted Desert, releases. Painted Desert is a compilation of three of my previous Heartsong books, An Ostrich a Day, Picture Imperfect, and Picture This.

Barbour has been wonderful to me. I love the people there. As an example, when Rebecca Germany, editor for Heartsong books at the time, heard of a need in Barbour’s nonfiction department for authors to write a book for mothers. She gave them my name to consider. I was invited to submit, which led to my coauthoring the book, Prayers and Promises for Mothers with Rachel Quillin. Since then, I have written for several of their devotional books, something that I love to do.

All of the people that I’ve worked with at Barbour have been wonderful.

SDC: What kind of response to you receive from readers who have not yet come to know the Lord, or who have been influenced greatly by your writing?

NF: Many of my readers are already Christian. I’ve received many encouraging letters, where readers have expressed appreciation for a certain struggle my character happened to be engaged in that paralleled their life. I’ve also had many comments about the reader being encouraged to seek God more, to pray, or study His word more in their daily lives. Those letters are very refreshing.

I’ve had a few notes that brought tears to my eyes. Letters from those who were going through, or had gone through a particularly difficult time in their lives and my story helped them in some way. I can only give the thanks to God, because He gives me the words to say that will touch hearts.

SDC: How do you thread faith, love, and hope along with the reality of life work together in your stories?

NF: Faith, hope, and love are, or should be, a part of every Christian. Christianity isn’t something you can take on and off; Christianity is a way of life. I firmly believe that it doesn’t matter what work you do for God, all are important. Therefore, no matter what my characters do, as long as they end up living for God, their life will show their faith, hope, and love.

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

NF: I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I felt called to write, and try to get published in 1995. I didn’t try very hard that year, but in December, I sold my first short devotional. From that time, I began to write more, and realized I needed to learn how to write and publish. I wrote many articles and short stories in the next few years. My first book, Sonoran Sunrise, came out in January 2001.

SDC: Right now as I ask these question, I have a candle lit at the corner of my desk. Just the scent gets my creative juices flowing, but I have a difficult time sitting in this lonely office for two long at a time before I have to go say hello to my husband. Does a room or special place or thing play any part in your story writing and how?

NF: If I had a scented candle burning on my desk, I would be sneezing so often, I couldn’t write.  I began writing when my youngest daughter was only two-years-old. I’ve always had an open door policy with my five children. They know when I’m writing, but they also know they can interrupt, if it’s important. Of course, what’s important to a young child, or even a teenager, may not be as important to me, but I always try to be there for them, because they are important. Due to this policy, I’ve learned to write faster, and get into the story quicker, than I might have otherwise. I do have times when I shut the door to my room, and everyone is supposed to leave me alone, but that never works.  However, they have learned that they might have to ask me a question more than once as I pull myself out of the story. (They’ve also learned that when I’m driving, or walking through a store, talking to myself, I’m usually talking to a character, and they shouldn’t be too embarrassed.)

SDC: I notice you are a faithful Calvary Chapelite. (smile). My husband pastured at two small Calvary Chapels for 14 years. Now he works and teaches in more of a support roll in the ministry but we don’t have a CC nearby. How does your family and the ministry with your church correspond with your time to write and do research for writing?

NF: When I first began to write, I realized that God had to come first, then my family. I always pray about ministry, and whether God is calling me to serve in a certain area. Last year, my Pastor’s wife asked me to take over the ladies Bible study in our church. At first, I didn’t think there was any way I could do this, but as I prayed God removed obstacles, and showed me this was His will. I write my own lessons, and we delve deep into each verse. Does this take away from my writing time? Yes. Do I care? No, because the first day I taught the study, and every time since, I’ve known this was what God wanted.

I might be able to write more books, or do more research, if I didn’t homeschool, or if I backed away from the ministry areas in church, but I would not be right with God. I feel it’s very important to do the work God has prepared for me. (Eph. 2:10) I am very content with this, although there are times when the characters are doing interesting things in my head, that it’s hard not to ignore everything else.

SDC: What question would you like one of our viewers to answer to help me select the winner of your newest book coming out?

NF: Many people express awe that I’m a writer. I tell them my work is no more important than anyone else’s, as long as we do what God has for us to do. What work are you doing for God, and how long have you done this?

SDC: It’s been a real pleasure having you here at A Pen for Your Thoughts, Nancy. Please include your URL and where people can find your books.

My books can be ordered through www.christianbook.com, www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, or any online book outlet. Painted Desert is available now at most book stores.

READERS: Be sure to answer Nancy’s question above to try to win a copy of her book!

Many congratulations to Edwina Cowgill of Newnan, Georgia way! We hope you enjoy the story, Edwina, and thanks so much for taking part!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I'll Never Forget Such a Time...

What a joy it was meeting so many wonderful authors and aspiring authors at the conference... also having the opportunity to learn, to be a part, and to take part in the family atmosphere of what it's like to be together with others writing for the same reason--for the glory of God.

It's interesting how you can meet someone you've never met before in person, but when you do, it's as if you've known
them for years.

The lady in white over to the left here gave a wonderful devotion one morning. I'll bet you know who she is!

And if you look around at some of these pictures, you just might see yourself!

The love shown at ACFW is unmistakably different from any worldly writer's group I've been a part of.

The adorable lady you see standing at my right above was my roommate MELANIE, a kinder person you can never meet.

The sweet young woman you see at the bottom of my group of pictures was one of our servers, and what an adorable and wonderful person she was.

Not only did Min cry when I took her picture, she took the time to tell our table how much she loved our group, how much she loved the Lord, and how much she loved heaven. What a joy!

I have more pictures if you are interested. Drop me a line and I'll send you some in email.

If you haven't yet added yourself to this wonderful group, please pray about doing so in the days ahead. You won't be sorry. If the Lord opens a door for you to get to a conference, don't let it pass you by.

In the meantime, enjoy some of the pictures above that I was blessed enough to get from this year's conference.

Feel free to copy and take to your own site if you like.
Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.