Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Are You Into Winged Fairies? Or How About In a Galaxy, FAR, FAR AWAY?

Jennifer Hartz wrote and illustrated her first novel, an epic tale featuring winged fairies losing their magic wands to evil trolls, back when she was six years old. She has been a fan of fantasy and science fiction ever since. From the land of Mordor to a galaxy far, far away, Jennifer loves it all.
Born in Pittsburgh, but currently living in northeast North Carolina with her amazing husband and beautiful son, Jennifer spends her days teaching at a small private school in Norfolk, Virginia. Other than reading the Bible, Jennifer loves to read (and now write) Speculative Christian Fiction that has wonderful romantic storylines and exciting twists and turns.

The Future Savior Series is Jennifer’s first crack at a novel since the early days of fairy wand heists and she couldn’t be more thrilled with its quick success.

SDC: Before you tell us about your newest release coming, please fill us in on what got you started writing from the beginning.

Jenn: An overactive imagination coupled with an hour and a half commute!  As I made my lengthy drive, I started dreaming up different story lines until one really struck my fancy.  It became so intriguing to me that I just HAD to write it.

 SDC:  Tell us about your publishers, Jenn. How did they find you?

Jenn: Desert Breeze Publishing (www.desertbreezepublishing.com) is great! I was happy that I could query the entire series instead of just the first book since Future Savior is really one very long story broken down into five parts.  Gail Delaney, the Editor-In-Chief at Desert Breeze, has been awesome.  Not only did she mold my first novel, Future Savior: Conception, into more than I thought it could be, but she has really been like a mentor and teacher.  The community of Desert Breeze is very welcoming, helpful and friendly.  It’s simply a great place to be!

SDC:  I couldn't agree more! 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 one of your fantasy books? 

Jenn: I think that most of the people who have read Conception are Christian.  However, of the few who are not, I hope that I hooked them on an exciting storyline.  They might be familiar with the Christian elements but it hasn’t overpowered them.  I also hope that as they continue to read Christina Vaughn’s adventure they might grow in their faith just like she does.

SDC: I look forward to checking it out myself. How do you make faith, love, and hope work together in your stories?

Jenn: Even though my stories are fantasies, I try to make the characters are realistic as possible.  Just because a person has special powers, or wings, or webbed feet doesn’t mean their emotions aren’t too different from ours!  Some of my characters have great faith and some have very little.  I think that the wide variety of characters allows a reader to connect with someone in the story.

SDC: Webbed feet, huh? Why does that make me think of my ducks? I'll bet your characters are very interesting. Do you use an agentm Jenn? If so, how did you go about finding yours, and what was your criteria for selecting?

Jenn: I do not currently have an agent, but I am working on a new YA fantasy series that I’m hoping to pitch to some agents as soon as I complete it.

SDC: I wish you the best with that. What’s your favorite Bible verse or verse that has sustained you recently and why?

Jenn: 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  This one always stands out in my mind as a reminder of where I have come from.  I did not meet Christ until I was 26 and there was a lot of darkness in my past, but I am made new in Christ!  It has been amazing to watch His work unfold in my life and how much He has done for me.

SDC:  Ah, thank you so much for sharing that. You  are a teacher on the side. How does that effect your writing time?

Jenn: LOL!  Unfortunately, I think you have that backwards!  I do wish that someday I could be a full-time writer because I have so many ideas for multiple novels, but I just simply do not have the time.  Most of my writing comes in the summer.  For example, I’m hoping to complete two novels and a short story this summer.  Because of my very long commute, I have very little time to write during the school year.

SDC: I haven’t yet had the opportunity to read one of your books, as you probably noticed from what I wrote above. I hope to soon. Have you ever considered writing about a character who leaves the United States and goes elsewhere to find his or her love? (Or do you already have a book like that that I have missed?)

Jenn: Well, I guess The Future Savior Series might fall into this category!  The main character, Christina Vaughn, leaves present-day Pittsburgh and enters a completely unknown fantastical land to find her love.  Other than that, most of my novel ideas take place in the US… except for one that spiritual warfare novel idea that I have that would force the characters to travel to Europe.

SDC:  Have you ever written anything that you had to later toss? How would you describe your OLD file system of “works in progress” that you chose not to pursue?

Jenn: Not counting things that I attempted when I was a kid, The Future Savior Series is my first novel.  I do have two other WIP (works in progress) that are saved on two computer hard drives and a flash drive for me to dabble at when I have time.

SDC: Dabbling is so write. When DO we have the time? I understand you have a book you would like to share with one of our readers. That is always exciting to us here at the blog. Tell us which one you are planning to donate. Also, what question would you like to have answered to help me select the winner?

Jenn: I’d like to give away Future Savior: Conception which is the first novel in this series.  Future Savior: Resurrection comes out on June 1st but a reader would really need to start at the beginning of this series.  Here’s the question:

What is the name of the main character in The Future Savior Series?

SDC: Interesting question especially for someone who hasn't yet read the book. Well, Jenn, it's been a real pleasure having you here at A Pen for Your Thoughts. As we close, please tell us where your books can be found and where our readers can look you up.

Jenn: Here are the links for purchase:
 Desert Breeze Publishing
 Barnes & Noble.com
 Books on Board
 Allromance eBooks
Borders – Sony Reader Store
And here’s where you can find me on the web:

Facebook:  Jennifer Hartz

Twitter:  JenniferLHartz


READERS: Be sure to answer Jenn's question, or at least try.  I look forward to drawing your name to win a copy of her ebook! (Don't forget to leave your email)


Friday, May 27, 2011

Have You Done it Yet?

What's the latest scoop on ebooks and ereaders, folks? Do you know?
Maybe you haven't gotten yours yet because you think...well, I don't know what you think. But read on and discover how easy it is to download a book to read at your leisure. I think you will be pleased.

Check out the little bit of info Shawna Williams has to share with us.

By Shawna Williams

A lot of people don't realize they don't need an ereader to read an ebook. Also,I always have someone say, "What if the device breaks or crashes?" It's important that they know that know their purchase is recorded and they can download the book again at no charge. I think Amazon allows this six times or so. Many don't know they can read on an iPhone or Blackberry, and that you can have the book on several devices at once.

I've also found this to be helpful. Sometimes people get really upset at the idea of print books going out of fashion. I assure them that we will still have print books. Ebooks are simply another way to read. Ebooks make the publishing model more profitable, so actually more books have a chance of finding their way to publication.

A great analogy that Michael Hyatt (CEO of Thomas Nelson) uses is that print books will become like candles over time. The candle industry is still booming. People love them for the ambience and they make great gifts, but we don't use them to light our homes any more. This is how he sees the ebook/print book thing unfolding.

Thanks for that, Shawna.

How about you? What is your experience with reading books electronically, or downloading them to your computer, or Kindle, or Nook, or wherever?

When you get a chance, drop us a line. We would love to hear what YOU have to say.

In the meantime, happy reading in whatever way you choose to read that next sizzling novel.

(You can find and read about Shawna and her books here:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Forgetting About Our Personal Problems, Hangups, and Circumstances to Remember and Honor Others...

In just a few days we will be taking our special moments to fly our flags, honor, not only the soldiers all over America, as we commemorate those who died while in military service for us, but also honor our family members and loved ones who once were part of our lives, and are now not here.

That's what Memorial Day is all about. Hopefully, that's why we all celebrate that day.
It's so important to forget about those personal problems and hangups we carry on our backs, and rather, consider others for a change. Don't you think? 

I think about the War Between the States and all those who died back then. Because that was such a memorable time, to me, perhaps it's why I wrote my second novel, Flame from Within, so much of it about that time.

I think about World War I and II, as I remember to honor my dad nnd many of his friends, who died back then and before.

I think about all the wars that have taken place since that time. So many.  Too many. Do I put them to mind as much as I should? I know God does.

Another special thought about Memorial Day and the days that lead up to it, is that it begins to mark the start of our SUMMER months. Yet, this is a difficult year for many across the United States and even the world. With Japan, with Joplin, Missouri, with the flooding going on in the midwest, with so many times of difficulties so very many are having. Are we considering them right now, and the many they have lost recently?

Let's let Memorial Season be a time when we think of others over ourselves. Shall we?
This week I decided to bring you author, Penny Monetti. Take a moment to read her thoughts.

Penny Monetti is an author, motivational speaker, and member of the Advanced Writer’s and Speakers Association (AWSA).  She dynamically encourages families to grab and enjoy life’s fleeting moments in conjunction with her first book, “Choose to Dance: A Mother Daughter Guide to Tackling Life’s Tough Issues.”  She and her husband, Lt Colonel Tony Monetti, B-2 stealth bomber pilot, inspire audiences nation wide as they encourage military families to trust in an almighty God-against all odds through their newly released book, “Called to Serve: Encouragement, Support, and Inspiration for Military Families.” Penny works as a nurse and is certified through the American Academy of Christian Counselors to counsel trauma and crisis victims, specifically combat veterans and their families living with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She is the founder of Connected Hearts, an organization which assists needy and homeless children, and Big Brothers Big Sisters in Johnson County, Missouri, where she resides. She is president of Called to Serve Ministry (calledtoserveministry.com), an internet resource and support tool for military families and patriotic Americans. She co-owns a popular Italian restaurant, Monettis (monettis.com), and her greatest accomplishment is raising three amazing children-still in progress.

Family togetherness, storm tracking, mountain hiking, skydiving, her new Bernese mountain puppy, and digging in the dirt to plant flowers feeds her passion for life. 

Penny writes: America is not only graced with the dedication and service of active duty and reserve military service men and women, but is equally blessed with their military spouses and families courageously serving from the home front. We recognize your daily sacrifices and thank you for heeding your "Call to Serve" our great country.

 Excerpt of her book: "During military life, home-front spouses experience separations of many varieties, causing a roller coaster of emotions. You feel pride that your loved one is serving but may resent that you are left at home with all the responsibilities. Then you feel guilty for feeling resentful. Emotions left unattended can take a marriage through dangerous twists. ...I knew that resentment injures relationships, so I hauled my dirt to the ultimate cleaner of emotional filth-the Lord."

Military life is difficult, but it doesn't have to overwhelm you. In Called to Serve, the Monettis share stories form their more than twenty-three years of military experience and offer biblical advice for combating the top stressors of warriors and their families from a unique spouse/warrior perspective.

A Happy and Blessed MEMORIAL DAY to You All

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

None of Us Should Forget

Since Memorial Day is just a hop, skip, and jump away, I decided to make certain I brought emphasis to the importance of this time of year, here at my blog. Everything about this Memorial Season touches my heart deeply.

I often wonder how often many of us think about just why we take this time to have our barbecues and picnics and little vacations away from the reality of life. 

Let me ask you.
Do you have someone you are thinking about at this time of year especially? Are you getting ready to bring honor and memory to someone who perhaps has gone before you for a very special purpose? It's so easy to forget how so many gave their lives for our ability to live in freedom.
So let's not.

This week and next week, we are going to bring some attention to the writings of two special authors, who have gone out of their ways to write about love, compassion, life-decisions, and the military, for the same reason I find this time of year so special. I hope you will be as blessed as I am to share in this memorable time.

Our first author to share with you is Catherine West.

 Educated in Bermuda, England and Canada, Catherine holds a degree in English from the University of Toronto. When she's not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or tending to her roses and orchids. Catherine and her husband live on the beautiful island of Bermuda, with their two college-aged children. Catherine is a member of Romance Writers of America, and American Christian Fiction Writers. Catherine's debut novel Yesterday's Tomorrow, released March 15th, through Oak Tara Publishers.

Website: http://www.catherinejwest.com
OakTara Website: http://www.oaktara.com
Blog: http://www.catherinewestblog.blogspot.com
Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVQUMRlYhkM

A Vietnam special just for us...

Yesterday's Tomorrow

Independent, career-driven journalist Kristin Taylor wants two things: to honor her father's memory by becoming an award-winning overseas correspondent and to keep tabs on her only brother, Teddy, who signed up for the war against their mother's wishes. Brilliant photographer Luke Maddox, silent and tumultous battle until, in an unexpected twist, they're forced to work together. Ambushed by love, they must decide whether or not to set aside their own private agendas for the hope of tomorrow that has captured their hearts.
Drop us a note and tell us what YOU have planned for Memorial Day this year and WHY you celebrate this day at your house. We would love to hear from you.

We also hope you'll take a few minutes to drop by Catherine's blog too. She is holding a great competition I'm sure you'll want to get in on. Her link is listed below

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Are you ready to get hooked?

It's time to go fishing for more ideas that will help the aspiring writer and also encourage the author to continue tossing out her line. Guest contributor, Delia Latham has some good stuff to share with us for the next few days that's all about that. Be sure to write in and let her know your thoughts too.

Hook Me!
By Delia Latham

If it had eyes, they’d be watching me. Reproachful. Accusing.

It’s a book, for heaven’s sake—a simple, ordinary, inanimate object without sight or voice. And yet it chides me for neglecting a duty…back pedaling on a promise. I feel its sightless stare each time I’m within five feet of it.

Here’s the weird thing: I love to read. If I pick the book up and read it, it will stop taunting me. So why not just do that, and eliminate all the unpleasantness of avoiding a lifeless object?

The problem is, I did pick it up and start reading. This particular novel didn’t grab my attention from the word “go.” As much as I love to read, that much, at least, is necessary. If a writer doesn’t hook me from the beginning and pull me in so deeply that I can’t put the book down, I will put it down, and I won’t ever pick it back up.

Except…I made a promise to read and review this book. So I have to open it again, and I know it won’t be a pleasure read. “Plowing” is hard work. If I must “plow” through a book, I’ve defeated my purpose in reading, which is pleasure, escape, entertainment and relaxation. I want to lose myself in the story, preferably from the very first sentence, and not have to think about the fact that I’m reading. I want to become a part of that fictional world, and forget the real one exists, at least for the duration of that novel. If the author fails to absorb me into his or her tale that thoroughly, then I am constantly reminded of my existence outside the book, and I will return to it, leaving the fictional world on the shelf.

As writers, we have a duty to capture our readers and allow them to submerge themselves completely in our stories. Anything less, and we have failed them on some level. We held out a tempting carrot and jerked it away when they reached for it. That’s not cool.

We cater to readers, not farmers, so don’t expect them to plow through an entire book. Pull them into your story, and do it from the first paragraph—the first word, whenever possible.

This can be done through dialogue or action. It can be done through narrative, but the author must have a specific “knack” for hooking a reader to accomplish it successfully.

So let’s discuss that. What is a hook?

Look it up in a thesaurus, and you’ll find alternate words like “fasten” and “catch.” Which pretty much says it all. We need to capture a reader’s attention (catch) and hold it in place (fasten). That’s what a hook will do.

I could have started this article with something like, “I know books don’t have eyes, but this one sure seems to be watching me.” But the opening sentence I used hopefully left you wondering what would be watching me if it had eyes. And why would the looks be reproachful and accusing? It’s that curiosity that made you read on. And if you’re still reading, apparently I’ve held your attention—at least this far.

An opening word/sentence/paragraph should:

  • Capture attention
  • Arouse curiosity
  • Activate interest
Let’s use the infamous “bad” opening line, “It was a dark and stormy night” for dissection. Exactly why is this considered a horrible opening?

Think about it. What kind of response do those words invoke in you? I can only speak for myself, but for me, they elicit a big yawn and a, “So what?”

The author could have said the same thing without saying it. (Show, don’t tell.)

Ex. 1: 

No moon. No light. Stygian darkness shrouded the night, broken only by jagged streaks of lightning and angry booms of thunder.

Better? Well, somewhat. You know it was a dark and stormy night, and I didn’t just tell you that. But talking about the weather simply isn’t a great hook. It doesn’t leave the reader thinking, “Oooh, what’s going on?” She isn’t hooked into reading further.

First lines need to give at least some indication of what’s going on in the storyline at that moment—some kind of action, not the setting. Surely we could improve on the above example. Let’s try something else.

Ex. 2:

Camy screamed and fell to her knees. Her arms flew up to shield her head as a bolt of lightning crackled past her ear. A fraction of a second later, a tree burst into flame a hundred yards further down the road. Fire lit up the moonless night, and Camy shuddered. “Way too close for comfort,” she muttered, then hunched her shoulders against the driving rain and plodded on down the road.

Now we’re getting somewhere. The reader should be feeling a bit of concern for Camy, and wondering why she’s on foot in the middle of a storm.

Ex. 3:

“Ai-yi-yi! Too close for comfort!” Camy pulled the hood of her soaked jacket up over her head and peered into the momentarily Stygian darkness of a moonless night. It wouldn’t stay that way for long. Angry bolts of electricity zipped across the sky every minute or two, followed by deep, booming rolls of thunder she felt all the way through her shivering frame. Being on foot in the middle of this storm was like asking to be fried alive.

This is a personal preference, but starting with dialogue works best for me almost every time. It brings the reader immediately into some kind of action. It also introduces a human being into the storyline right away, getting an immediate edge on forming a bond between the character and the reader.

I’m sure you can come up with even better substitutes for “It was a dark and stormy night.” Try it, it’s a great writing exercise.

Better yet, let’s do it here, it’ll be fun! Give us a first line (not necessarily the one I used) that doesn’t work for you, then re-write it. (No need to mention the title or author of the work.)

I’ll be back to check on you, but first, I have some plowing to do….

copyright 2011
Delia Latham

Okay, it's your turn. Come on over. Have a seat, and tell us how will you do it? Let's see those first lines!