Monday, September 26, 2011

ACFW St Louis Conference Memories...

It's Already Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas...Maybe?

I found the perfect week to share the awesome Linda Goodnight with you.

Linda Goodnight, a Winner of the CAROL as well as the RITA Award for excellence in fiction has won various other highly acclaimed awards, and her romance novels have been translated into more than a dozen languages. An avid supporter of the charity Stop Child Trafficking Now, this former nurse and teacher enjoys writing fiction that carries a message of hope and light in a sometimes dark world. Linda lives on a small farm/ranch in Oklahoma with her husband and daughter.

SKC: Welcome to A Pen for Your Thoughts, Linda. Tell us about the newest project you are working on now.

LG: I just finished up the final book in my Redemption River Series from Love Inspired.  A Feb. 2012 release, the title is THE LAST BRIDGE HOME. Here’s a little blurb:

Vet assistant and pet lover, Jilly Fairmont has been in love with her neighbor, firefighter Zak Ashford since he moved in next door. But the baseball loving Zak thinks of Jilly as his buddy. When a dying woman asks Zak to adopt her three children and his world is turned upside down, Jilly is there for him. Soon, he must choose between a long held dream and the little patchwork family he’s come to love.

SKC: Sounds very interesting! What inspired you to write your Genre and do you plan to venture out from that to anything else, and if so, what?

LG: An avid reader ever since I can remember, my taste in books is wide ranging but always seemed to have some element of romance in them.  As I began to write for publication,  I realized that I should write what I love to read, so I do!  Primarily, my books are contemporary romance, but I also love historical and women’s fiction.  In the near future, I’m hoping to venture out into those arenas as well.

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

LG: From the moment I decided to follow my dream in the late 1990’s,  I became disciplined about the writing. Today I have the luxury of writing full time so I have more time to “goof off” but  when I’m under contract, I set a page goal for each day and stick to it, no matter what else comes along to distract me. The only way to have any kind of success in this business is to be goal oriented and disciplined—even when it’s more fun to do something else!

SKC:  That is so true!  Let's move to this subject: What is your favorite room in the house and why?

LG: Last fall we built a family room onto one side of our house. The patio doors lead out into the back yard and a big plate glass window looks out toward the barn and pasture. The room is cool and quiet, the view is awesome,  and I just love being in there.

SKC: Sounds like a great place, Linda. While you are out there, or wherever you go to do this, how do you come up with the names of your heroes and heroines?

LG: It sounds weird, but my characters usually come with names. When they don’t, I have a hard time deciding. In my October release, THE CHRISTMAS CHLID, the hero is a cynical undercover  cop.  I struggled with his name and eventually asked my brilliant Facebook followers to make suggestions and then vote on their favorite for a character of his type. They came up with Kade McKendrick and I think they did a great job.

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

LG: I have learned so much and continue to learn, but I think I was most surprised to find that writing is a business that requires much more than writing a good book.  That was a hard lesson for an introvert!

SDC:   I know exactly what you mean. Which is the most difficult for you, the beginning, middle, or the end of the story and why do you think that is?

LG: The middle. Starting books is fun and easy. There’s the initial buzz of excitement over a new project and group of characters who are pushing to have their stories told. The ending is pure joy and usually comes in a rush, too, as all the bits and pieces are wrapped up and brought to a satisfying end. But the middle requires constant effort to keep the tension up, the story flowing, and to provide the kind of twists and turns that keep readers interested. It’s also the point that I, as the author, begin to wonder what made me think I could ever write this book in the first place. 

SDC:  If you could meet any author in the world who would it be and what would you want to say to them?

LG: Right now, that person would be Debbie Macomber who is going through a very painful time—her beloved son died unexpectedly and tragically.  If I met her today, I’d just hug her close and remind her that God holds her—and her son--in the palm of His wonderful, loving hand.

SDC: I understand you have a book to offer one of our visitors? Please fill us in and also let us know where people can find you.

LG: I’m giving away a copy of my brand new, October release, THE CHRISTMAS CHILD to one of your blog readers.  Anyone who doesn’t win can pick up a copy at Walmart or anywhere books are sold, including  

For more information or just to say hello, visit my website and blog at or on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you so much for letting me stop by!

Thank you, too, Linda! It was great having you. Now, to our readers. Here is a question for you. Linda's book is called The Christmas Child. What is the first thing you THINK about when you enter into the Christmas SEASON! Write in, and be sure to leave your email address. I look forward to drawing your name to win Linda's book!

Congratulations to Amanda Stephan of Columbia, Tennessee! Be watching for your book.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Which Road are You on Today?

It's traveling time again for several, who are on their way to St Louis and the ACFW Christian Writers' Conference. Don't know if I'll see you there. But since we are all on the road to somewhere, I think, if you've ever had an inkling to write, or if you already do, and are now thinking of joining some writing contest, I'm sure you'll get a lot out of this great writing tip from our contributing author, Anne K. Albert.

Writing Contests and the Road to Publication

by Anne K. Albert

The road to publication can be a gauntlet of trials, tribulations, road blocks, pot holes and traps. Yet, science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein believed a writer need only do five things to achieve success.

(1) You must write

(2) You must finish what you write

(3) You must refrain from rewriting, (except to editorial order)

(4) You must put the work on the market

(5) You must keep the work on the market until it is sold

Heinlein often joked he had no qualms of sharing his “secret” with the so-called competition because most writers lack the self-discipline to complete all five steps of the process.

Years later, Robert Sawyer took the rules one step further with simple math. 
If 100 writers decide to follow Heinlein’s rules only 50 will actually do rule #1 and write.

Surprised? How many people do you know who claim that one day they’ll write a book? They need to write it now!

Let’s move onto rule #2. Finish what you write.

Again, only half will achieve that goal, leaving us with 25 of the original 100.

Rule #3 dictates you must refrain from rewriting. How many writers labor on the same manuscript for a decade? I know a few. You probably do as well.

Sawyer claims only 12.5 writers will complete this rule.

Rule #4 is putting your work on the market. Fear of rejection can be paralyzing. Fewer than 6 of the original 100 who began this challenge are brave enough to submit their work.

Rule #5 separates the authors from the writers. Only 3 will persevere and keep their work out in the market until they sell and achieve their goal.

Pretty daunting statistics, but entering writing contests can help. Seriously. They provide a perfect opportunity to follow Heinlein’s five rules. But you can do it in smaller, more manageable chunks.


(1) Contests force you to write.

You must have a story to enter a writing contest. It’s mandatory! This does not mean a complete manuscript. As few as five typed pages will do. Contests requirements vary from 5 to 50 typed pages. Start small. Five to ten pages is doable. Work your way up to ‘meatier’ contests.

(2) Contests require you to finish what you write.

Even if your submission is only five pages in length, those five pages should shine and leave the reader/judge drooling for more. Give them your best five pages.

That means no typos. No spelling mistakes. Not a single reason to pull the reader/judge out of your story. End your entry with a hook that leaves them wanting more. Never make the rookie mistake I did by submitting the first five pages, and ending in the middle of a sentence!

(3) Entering a contest forces you to refrain from rewriting.

While your entry should be free of typos, spelling and grammar mistakes, there comes a time when you just have to stop and let it go because every contest has a specific deadline. This deadline forces you to quit tweaking, editing, revising, and changing. Failure to do so could result in you not only forfeiting your entry fee, but missing an opportunity to get your manuscript read by a published author, an editor or agent.

(4) Entering a contest is like putting your work on the market.

Like agents and editors, contest judges are first and foremost impartial readers. They do not know you or your work. They will either be enthralled by your story…or not so much! What’s super about writing contests is that unlike agents and editors who generally just provide a yea or nay, contest judges will say what they think you did well, as well as how to improve your story.

This provides yet another step of the process, it’s time to take their editorial direction to heart and make the changes that will improve your story.

(5) Entering multiple contests is like keeping your work on the market until it is sold.

Huh? It’s true. On average most writers achieve publication after completing 4 or 5 manuscripts. That’s how a writer learns to write. Trial and error. Word after word.

In the meantime, enter contests. They’re a great opportunity for an unpubbed writer to build writing credits. Winning a contest can move you out of the slush pile and directly onto an editor or agent’s desk.

Happy writing!
copyright 2011 - Anne K Albert

 Anne K. Albert writes stories that chill the spine, warm the heart and soothe the soul…all with a delightful touch of humor. Visit her website << >>, blog << >> or on Facebook. << >>

By the way. Which road are YOU on today?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bringing the Best to You

New things are happening at A Pen for Your Thoughts. We like to think up these things, not just to keep us all busy,  but because we like to bring the best to you.

I'm pleased to announce, our new resident Book Reviewer is Author Jennifer Slattery, who will be journaling her occasional book reviews of some of the books she's reading from out there in readerville. This month Jennifer is sharing her first review here of Diana Prusik's book, DELIVERY, E-book 212, from Tyndale House Publishers.
What Jennifer has to say.

By Diana Prusik
Ebook 212
Tyndale House Publishers
Back Cover:

Livi finds new purpose in her troubled life when she joins her family's small-town florist shop. There, the strong and wacky Wilson's Florist gang monitors the pulse of Mount Helicon, where customers carry stories even the local newspaper does not contain.   Tales of birth and death, sickness and sorrow, love and betrayal, and even forgiveness—Livi hears them all. Privy to some of the community's deepest secrets, she sometimes wishes she didn't know so much, especially when news arrives that a dear family friend is dead. Faced with servicing his funeral, she is blasted with painful memories she's struggled for decades to ignore. Soon, guilt and grief over childhood and adult tragedies close in. Instead of turning to loved ones or God for comfort, she leans on alcohol, her long-time clandestine companion—but secrets rarely escape the close-knit flower shop crew, who makes Livi's business its own. Fumbling through life's challenges together, the Wilson gang often delivers more than flowers, yet when Livi needs delivery, can the bonds of faith and friendship dissolve her defenses?
Delivery was one of the better books I’ve read this year, presenting the perfect balance of light-hearted humor and intensity. The characters were unique enough to prevent predictability, without hindering my attachment to them or ability to empathize with them.

Initially, I was drawn to Livi, a confused and hurting young woman struggling to make sense of her world and the loss of her brother. However, by the end of the novel, I’d fallen in love with Jake, a man who embodied true, forever-love.

After the loss of her brother, Livi slips into a world of alcoholism, distrust, and bitterness. For much of the novel, she runs from God and withdraws from the love of her co-workers. Yet, no matter how hard Livi tries to free herself from their love, they remain constant and by her side.

The close-knit atmosphere Diana created in the flower shop most of the story is centered in evoked a warm feeling of nostalgia within me and reminded me of the effectiveness of committed friendship.
I also enjoyed the frequent change of tones throughout the novel. Just when I thought my heart would break, Diana Prusik plunged me into a lighter scene that managed to produce a few authentic laugh-out-loud moments. Then, when I least expected it—Bam!—the intensity changed, and I found myself fighting tears once again.

This novel was one that will stay with me on many levels, reminding me to cherish the relationships I have, refusing to let them go without a fight.

 Jennifer Slattery is a novelist, publicist, and freelance writer living in the Midwest with her husband of sixteen years and their thirteen year old daughter. She’s the marketing manager for the literary website, Clash of the Titles and writes for Christ to the World Ministries, the Christian Pulse and Samie Sisters. She’s also written or numerous other publications and websites and has placed in numerous writing contests. You can find out more about her and her writing at her devotional website: Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud  (

If you have also read Delivery,  please drop us a comment. We welcome your thoughts about this book too.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

It's All About the Good Old Days...Isn't It?

We don't often get writing tips that take us into the western scene. But I love a good western now and then. I imagine many of you do too.

I'm pleased to say that Linda Ford, one of our author contributors here at A Pen for Your Thoughts, has just the thing to tell us, if we enjoy reading or writing prairie style or western romances.
Linda has already published 26 books and now has six more scheduled for release in the months ahead  (a very busy lady, indeed). She writes historical romances mostly prairie and western romances. Besides the six more scheduled for release, she has  three more under contract. Go for it, Linda!

Conquering the West by the Way We Write
Linda Ford
I love writing about historical settings, especially the pioneers, settlers, and those who conquered the west. One lovely thing about writing in this time frame is the research. It’s recent enough to find remnants of the lives and experiences of the people I want to write about and it’s fun doing so. I've taken road trips to various places where I poke through museums, visit historic buildings, and generally transport myself into a different time, a different place. I collect books on pioneering history. I'm in awe of some of the recorded stories of men and women conquering the challenges of their world. Of course not everyone agrees it is an appealing time period. I once had a letter from an elderly lady who insisted there was nothing romantic about the good old days. But I feel the circumstances tended to bring out a degree of strength we perhaps don't need quite so much in our modern day. Imagine facing a winter without adequate heat or worse, adequate food, or being the first white woman to venture across the prairies. Picture coping with illness and injury by relying on your own resources. Talk about strong characters.

When it Comes to the Heroines

Heroines faced constraints of their society, sometimes unable to own property, not free to decide who they would marry, or where they would live, and often treated as a piece of property, yet they found ways to impact their environment while maintaining a sense of humor...these are my kind of heroines. Strong yet sweet, idealistic as well as practical. One comment by my editor in the margin of an edited manuscript indicates the type of heroine that suits these stories. I have the heroine standing up to a man who is trying to control her. the editor says, "Yeah. You tell him."

And What about the Heroes?

The heroes, too, are shaped by their environment and the dictates of their society. A man was a man and had a job to do. And yet they had a soft side, especially when it came to their own heroine. How fun to take such a man and show him the joy of revealing that soft side because these stories are, above all, rich romances.
I feel I am uniquely equipped to write western and historical romances. If you share some of these experiences you might be too.
These aren’t essential but I certainly have found them helpful.

1.     Spend a few years of childhood living in a bunkhouse much like the pioneers would have used. That’s what I did with my parents when I was about 6 years old. No conveniences at all. We roughed it but at the time I didn’t know we were roughing it. I thought it was a great adventure.
2.     Live in the back corner of nowhere so we were the last people in the civilized world to get modern, electricity, piped in water, sewer.
3.     Have a father who liked to visit museums and tell stories about pioneers.
4.     Date and marry a man who lives to watch westerns. And of course, as a good wife (and with only one TV in the house) I spent many hours watching them too.
5.     Live in an era when Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and Big Valley were the mainstays of prime time TV.
6.     Live in a red-necked part of the country where guys wear Wranglers and attend rodeos on weekends.
7.     Love reading anything and everything which meant I read Zane Grey and fell in love with his heroes, his heroines and his settings.
What do we really Need?

But seriously, if we intend to write westerns there are a few things I believe we need as writers:
1.     The ability to develop a strong sense of setting. Rich details interwoven into the fabric of the story should place the reader right there.
2.     An understanding of the constraints and restrictions of the culture. Yes, young women who got pregnant out of wedlock faced incredibly shame and were often sent away to ‘visit an aunt.’ Those children were called bastards as if the circumstances of their birth marked them. And yes, prejudice existed openly and was even sanctioned.
3.     A willingness to research—visit museums and archives, read books--journals and first-hand experiences are especially helpful. Search the internet for details. It amazes me what you can find if you dig hard enough and deep enough.
4.     I think, above all, we must have sympathy and compassion for the restrictions and challenges of the time. If we think those people were stupid or ignorant for living as they did, or accepting the restrictions, we won’t give them the credit they deserve for being brave, noble and just plain heroic.
If you have questions or suggestions as to what I could talk about in future columns, please let me know. Do you want to know specifics on research, writing in the particular time period. . .research books I know and love? Do you want to know my writing process? (So do I.) Do you want to know what courses and how-to-books I recommend? All of the above? None of the above?
Until next time. . .write on.

© September 2011
Linda Ford
coming in October