Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Right and the Right Way of Things? Is That How it Goes?

October continues to bring us surprises, and articles and features just a little different from the monthly norm here at A Pen for Your Thoughts. We now have another of our author contributor here  to share with you about what the average "joe" does with her time. If you, too, are an average "joe," take a few moments with me to chew on  Linore Rose Burkard's "take" on time management. Read what she has to share about how a person can get a better handle on that one thing all of us must learn.

Read on and then let us know your thoughts.

Writing and Time Management
By Linore Rose Burkard, Historical Novelist

As writers, we like to think that if we could only fall upon the "right" way to order our time, or organize that book, we'd have a lifelong success plan. For instance, when I wrote my first novel, BEFORE THE SEASON ENDS,
I did it by getting the kids into bed and then sitting up at night working. But the by the time I needed to finish my second book, THE HOUSE IN GROSVENOR SQUARE, the kids weren't as young anymore, and weren't going to bed as early. Writing at night wasn't happening. What gave me success for one book was no longer the "right" way.
Life is like that, isn't it? One year, we can drop a few pounds by going low-carb, when the following year, the
weight won't budge without adding exercise. Things change, schedules change, and it can affect how or when we write. For this reason I've used numerous time-management tools to help me get work done. I've followed methods given by experts such as
Brian Tracy, and stream-lined my day with productivity tips from Mike Hyatt.  Most of the tools I pick up here or there have proven useful in their way, and for a time, but I have yet to find one that can take the place in overall effectiveness of sheer determination. I speak only for myself,
but the very creativity that makes me a writer is the same force that prevents me from sticking to the same rules, the same schedule every day, no matter how helpful it might have been while I did. When life changes fast, it is really only your determination that can keep you productive through the changes.

Nevertheless, I encourage every writer who has difficulty focusing on a project to experiment with various time-management tools. When you find one that works, use it until it no longer fits with who you are and what you're faced with at the moment. 

Some writers find challenges useful. Next month is
NaNoWriMo, or, National Novel Writing Month. This is basically an organized writing challenge in which each participant decides their own parameters, and helps many writers kick their creative juices into gear.  It's a solid month of meeting a daily writing goal, and it's fast and furious. The very fact of its lasting only one month is what encourages many to get on board and give it a shot. 

What about you? Do you follow a hard and fast writing schedule? Do you use time-management tools? And what about NaNoWriMo? Will you be participating?
Leave a comment and let us know what works for you.  Lenore plans to select one commenter to get a free copy of her book.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Recent Buzz?

Every writers' conference is worth its weight in gold in someway or another. If you write or have a yearning in that direction, you only discover how valuable they are if you attend one.

Just heard a scoop from author, K. Dawn Byrd, who just returned from a conference herself. She shared this with those who are interested in this sort of thing, which naturally would include me. I thought you might be curious about what she picked up from this one. Check out the recent buzz about what's on the drawing board for aspiring writers and established authors.

K. Dawn Byrd

I wanted to share a few tidbits just in case anyone is interested in what's going on the secular market. Young adult is really hot. All five agents requested a young adult manuscript from me. I was told by a Barnes and Noble employee that YA is so hot that they've moved it to the power aisle and expanded from 2 full shelves to 4. Keep in mind, this is the secular market. (I'm not sure if the YA CBA market will expand as much as the ABA market has, but that would be nice.)

The buzz on paranormal is that agents are sick of looking at it and unless an author can offer something totally different, there doesn't appear to be much interest.

Apparently, romantic suspense is still alive and well. I met with one editor while at the conference and was told by other attendees that she wanted to see some of their work, but ONLY if they obtained an agent and had said agent send it to her. She requested my romantic suspense without an agent. The other attendees I chatted with had historicals and Southern Gothic.

I can't even begin to explain how much just being a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) helped me. (Unlike at the ACFW Conferences), no one I ran into at this conference had a one sheet or a sell sheet. They had no idea what they were. The agents and editor I met with were very impressed with my sheets, probably because I was the only one with them! Thank you ACFW for teaching me how to design them.

I had a wonderful time at this conference and everyone was very nice and the southern hospitality wonderful.

K.Dawn Byrd, Author
Queen of Hearts (April 2010) & Killing Time (August 2010)
Mistaken Identity (June 2011) & This Time for Keeps (October 2011)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Compelled to Write a Story that Could Change a Life

Our newest writing tip comes from LoRee Peery, one of our contributing authors here at A Pen for Your Thoughts, who pours out her heart to show you just how a fiction story can  bring impact on your reader. I think you will agree, she knows how to accomplish an important element needed to bring forth life into our story writing.

On Writing a Fictional Memoir
By LoRee Peery

“Write what you know” is often the first advice a writer hears.

My WIP this year has been a fictional memoir, which fits in the genre of women’s fiction. It has not been easy dredging up the memories; what I think I’ve “known” concerning the tons of speculation surrounding the unsolved homicide of my father.

Facing the emotion I’ve buried and resurrected time and again over the years was a challenge at first. I felt stuck, as though I was going around in circles more than once. The fictional characters didn’t seem “real” until I took a couple days to collage the characters and story into a scrapbook. I needed that tactile exercise.

I finally got caught up in creating a story where the characters took over, and the Lord enabled me to see events unfold through the eyes of fiction rather than my emotional memories. Along the journey, God spoke to me through His love letter (the Bible) to His children, and I treasure more than ever the path He has chosen for me.

Writing about the cold case caused me to think about how much truth I can reveal. But who’s truth? The story is my perspective, so it’s my truth. And if any of us has been around for awhile, we’ve realized that whatever we write, or see, is viewed from an individual perspective. It’s the idea that men and women see things differently. Two witnesses to the same accident, or a crime, have separate take-aways from the incident.

I don’t think I can write fiction without injecting something of real life into the story. While writing Moselle’s Insurance, flashes of my first broken heart filtered in. We have a boy with autism in the family, so coming up with Mia’s character in Rainn on My Parade wasn’t difficult. And I witnessed a scene of cruelty between a mother and her little girl in a store, the same as Geneva “saw” in that story.

The fictitious acreage in Sage and Sweetgrass was sparked by some acres that my husband and I once considered buying. I’ve camped in the woods, so coming up with a fear of a bogeyman in the dark, and a make believe cabin for Found in the Woods wasn’t hard either.

For those of us who write nonfiction, we have faulty memories when it comes to the real words spoken through conversation. Our real everyday conversations don’t read very well on the page. Fictitious words, therefore, can be sprinkled into our nonfiction for the purpose of story, through dialogue. So, even when we’re telling what we believe is the truth, we embellish with what’s made up.

My family is extensive. In telling this tale I had to deal with wondering what I dare expose, or whose toes I may step on. Even though it’s presented as fiction, readers who know my family may wonder who is who in real life.

I have peace in the knowledge I have not exposed anyone with intent to harm. I have peace knowing I was compelled to tell this story that changed so many lives. I have peace this challenge was on the path of completing who I am. I have peace in the belief the Lord will choose every one who reads my story. And I have peace in believing the only real, authentic truth of anything we question in life, is known only to God.

I’ll end with a quote from Anne Lamott in bird by bird: “To have written your version is an honorable thing to have done.”

My question for readers is this. Do you have a nagging memory that will not leave you alone? It may be meant for exploration on the page.
c 2011 LoRee Peery

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Come say hello to Nena with me!

Award-winning author, Lena Nelson Dooley, has more than 675,000 books in print. She is a member of ACFW and president of the local chapter. She recently received the Will Rogers Medallion award for western fiction.
Lena loves James, her children, grandchildren, and great grandson. She loves chocolate, cherries, chocolate-covered cherries, and spending time with friends. Travel is always on her horizon. Cruising, Galveston, the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, Mexico. One day it will be Hawaii and Australia, but probably not at the same time. Helping other authors become published really floats her boat. She has been awarded three Carol Award silver pins and received the American Christian Fiction Writers Mentor of the Year award at their national conference. The high point of her day is receiving feedback from her readers, especially her fans. And she loves chocolate, especially dark chocolate.

SKC:  I'm so excited to have you with us this week! What book or project would you like to tell us about today?

Maggie's Journey
By Lena Nelson Dooley
ISBN 978-1616383589
Realms/Charisma House
October 6, 2011
McKenna's Daughters Series, Book 1

Maggie's Journey grabs you on page one with characters and events that reflect real-life joys and heartaches that change the characters forever. Make room on your "keepers" shelf! —Loree Lough, best-selling author of 80 award-winning books, including From Ashes to Honor.

A girl who’s been lied to her whole life…

Near her eighteenth birthday, Margaret Lenora Caine finds a chest hidden in the attic containing proof that she was adopted. The daughter of wealthy merchants in Seattle, she feels betrayed both by her real parents and by the ones who raised her.

Maggie desires a place where she belongs. But her mother’s constant criticism and reminders that she doesn't fit the mold of a young woman of their social standing have already created tension in their home. With the discovery of the family secret, all sense of her identity is lost.

When Maggie asks to visit her grandmother in Arkansas, her father agrees on the condition that she take her Aunt Georgia as a chaperone and his young partner, Charles Stanton, as protection on the journey. Will she discover who she really is and, more importantly, what truly matters most in life?

SKC:  That sounds intriguing! What inspired you to come up writing in your particular genre?

LND: I love writing historical novels. The research is so much fun, and the stories just leap from my brain onto the computer screen.

SKC: I love doing historicals for the very same reason, Lena. I also loved reading all about you on your website, and I especially enjoyed talking with you at the conference this year. What do you think it takes to write a good book? Do you have any secrets?

LND: Never start writing without spending your time with the Lord. He will put a special spark in your work.

SKC: Amen to that. Do you read other books besides inspirational? If so, how do they help you in your craft? If not, why do you think not? 

LND: Only research books. I used to read other novels, but my time is so limited, and I really miss the spiritual thread in the novels.

SKC: Please include a short excerpt of your newest book.  


Margaret Lenora Caine sat in the library of their mansion on  Beacon Hill. Because of the view of Puget Sound, which she loved, she had the brocade draperies pulled back to let the early September sunshine bathe the room with warmth. Basking in the bright light, Maggie concentrated on the sketch pad balanced on her lap. After leaning back to get the full effect of the drawing, she reached a finger to smudge the shadows between the folds of the skirt. With a neckline that revealed the shoulders, but still maintained complete modesty, this dress was her best design so far. One she planned to have Mrs. Murdock create in that dreamy, shimmery green material that came in the last shipment from China. Maggie knew silk was usually a summer fabric, but with it woven into a heavier brocade satin, it would be just right for her eighteenth birthday party. And with a few changes to the design, she could have another dress created as well.

Once again, she leaned forward and drew a furbelow around the hem, shading it carefully to show depth. The added weight of the extra fabric would help the skirt maintain its shape, providing a pleasing silhouette at any ball. She pictured herself wearing the beautiful green dress, whirling in the arms of her partner, whoever he was. Maybe someone like Charles Stanton, since she’d admired him for several years, and he was so handsome.

“Margaret, what are you doing?”

The harsh question broke Maggie’s concentration. The charcoal in her hand slipped, slashing an ugly smear across the sketch. She glanced at her mother standing in the doorway, her arms crossed over her bosom. Maggie heaved a sigh loud enough to reach the entrance, and her mother’s eyebrows arched so quickly Maggie wanted to laugh…almost, but she didn’t dare add to whatever was bothering Mother now. Her stomach began to churn, a thoroughly
uncomfortable sensation. Lately, everything she did put Mother in a bad mood.
SKC: Ooh, I like it. I'm sure it will draw a crowd your way, Lena. Tell us also about the book you selected to share with one of our viewers. Do you have any particular question you enjoying asking of a reader that helps you to better know what people want?

LND: I’m giving away a free copy of Snowbound Colorado Christmas. This novella collection is set during an actual snowstorm in Denver, Colorado in 1913. I am always glad to hear what readers like about my books.

SKC: Thank you for joining us at A Pen for Your Thoughts. 

Please send in your comments about Lena's books or any comments you have about her great excerpt. Be sure to leave an email address for me.

In a few days I will lift a name out of my magic basket! And Snowbound Colorado Christmas just might be yours!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Anyone for a taste of fantasy? Kat knows all about it...

So just what is disturbing inspirational fantasy? Let's ask Kat, and we will find out.

Kat Heckenbach is a graduate of the University of Tampa, Magna Cum Laude, B.S. in Biology. She spent several years teaching, but never in a traditional classroom–everything from Art to Algebra II—and now homeschools her two children. Her writing spans the gamut from inspirational personal essays to dark and disturbing fantasy and horror, with over forty short fiction and nonfiction credits to her name. Her debut novel, MG fantasy Finding Angel, is available in print and ebook. Enter her world at  and .

SKC.     Welcome Kat. Before we start talking about you as a writer, let’s discuss who you are away while away from your computer. Tell us a little about you. Who is this lady next door?

KH.     I’m a homeschool mom of two kids and married to an engineer. Before the kids came along I was assistant direct of and taught upper-level math at Sylvan Learning Center. And before that, I attended the University of Tampa where I earned a B.S. in Biology. Before that, if you’d known me, you probably wouldn’t believe any of the above. I grew up with plans to be an artist and never have kids.

SKC.   Woops! Sounds like a few changes took place.  Tell us about your new book

KH.     Finding Angel is a middle grade fantasy about a girl named Angel. She was found wandering, with amnesia at the age of six and taken in by a foster family. They love her, and she loves them, but something inside her can’t seem to accept her place there. She is enamored by all things fantasy, and dreams of story book magic being real. Then, at the age of 13, she meets Gregor, who saves her life with magic, and soon learns the truth about who she is and where she’s from—and her role in a prophecy that is directly related to the madman who set her fate in motion.

SKC.   A fantasy sounds perfect for that age group, but also a lot of older readers I've spoken to.  What was your inspiration for this book?

KH.     I’ve always loved fantasy novels, and much like Angel, when I was young I would have loved to find out I was actually from someplace where magic is real. I was naturally drawn to the idea of writing exactly the kind of adventure I would have liked to read about when I was a kid.

SKC.    I would have to agree. How long does it take you (on average) to write a book, from first word to putting it in the publisher’s hands?

KH.     Well, this is my first book. It took me three months to write the first draft. But it was four years before it was finally published. I spent the years in-between working on my craft, editing and rewriting, and building my credentials. I accumulated over 40 short story credits during that time, both fiction and non-fiction, in online magazines, print magazines, and print anthologies. Many of those stories are actually companion stories to Finding Angel.

SKC.  Three months. That's great. I have never been able to say that. It takes me forever. So what’s next for you? Can you talk about what you’re working on now?

KH.     The sequel to Finding Angel, of course J. I plan on this being a trilogy, with a fourth book serving as a prequel. I know—how completely fantasy of me to do that :P. I honestly didn’t plan it that way in the beginning, but the story grew as I wrote Finding Angel.

I’m also working on a completely unrelated novel that would qualify as a paranormal thriller.

SKC.   I'll be curious to hear about that too!  What do you enjoy most about writing? Least?

KH.     Most—brainstorming story ideas. That passionate scribbling as the ideas flow. Figuring out how the plot elements will tie together, and who the main character will be.

           Least—trying to get myself to write when my muse is being uncooperative.  

SKC.     Maybe that uncooperative muse is what is wrong with me. Where do you get your ideas?

KH.      Honestly, a lot of my short story ideas just plop into my head out of nowhere. Once I’m into a story, though, the ideas for details can come from just about anywhere.

SKC: Thank you for being with us, Kat. And thank you for offering to share one of your books with one of our readers. We enjoyed your visit, and look forward to reading your book.
         Is there anything you'd like to ask one of our readers?

KH: In my novel each of the characters has a Talent—a magic ability stronger than all their other magic, such as being able to Transform one natural substance into another, or Controlling the weather, or Angel’s ability to Find objects anywhere in the world. If you could choose a Talent, what would it be?

SKC: Thanks. That's a great question to ask. Be sure to let us know here where we can find you and also where we can locate your books.

       Finding Angel
       My Facebook page:

       My books can be found in print and ebook online at
       Barnes & Noble (
       Smashwords (

Congratulations to Brenda B. Hill of Warner Robins, Georgia. You just won Finding Angel! Watch for it in the mail soon.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Do You Ever Feel Like You are in over Your Head? Talk to Beth.

Elizabeth Goddard is the award-winning author of seven contemporary romance novels and two novellas, including a romantic mystery, The Camera Never Lies—a 2011 Carol Award winner. Elizabeth is a member of ACFW and has served as a board member in her local RWA chapter. She is a 7th generation Texan who lives in East Texas with her husband and four children. She and her family recently spent five years in Oregon, which serves as the setting for several of her novels, including Oregon Outback, releasing with Barbour Publishing in Spring 2012.  

SKC:  Welcome here, Beth. What books or project are you working on now?

BJ I just turned in Oregon Outback, a four-in-one novella collection that releases next Spring. I have a spring deadline for Extreme Maneuvers, my next Love Inspired Suspense, and I'm also working on my third Heartsong in my Redwood Coast series, Hearts in the Mist.
(Here is the blurb of my present book.) Secrets Under The Ice

Casey Wilkes didn’t realize her simple human-interest story would put her life at risk—again. After fleeing her home and journalism job in Portland, she wanted to live under the radar for a while. But when her interviewee starts dodging her questions, her reporter instincts kick in and she finds herself in over her head…

Homeland security agent Jesse Mitchell has been undercover as an ice sculptor for months, trying to infiltrate a smuggling ring. He wants to avoid trouble, and that’s just what Casey brings. Now someone has a target set on Casey. Saving her could blow his cover, but leaving her unprotected endangers him even more—especially his heart.
SKC:  What special something inspired you to come up writing for your particular sub-genre?  Tell us about the circumstances.

BG I don’t think there was any magic moment that this happened. I’ve always loved suspenseful, action adventure novels, whether reading Bode Thoene’s historical—they always include suspense too—or romance. It’s interesting to see how things have evolved though because I didn’t set up to specifically write romantic suspense.

SKC:  I enjoy suspenses too, but I haven't yet given writing one a try. How long had you been writing before you got your first contract?    

BG Started writing in 2001, or rather learning the craft as I wrote. I didn’t get the call from JoAnn Simmons (email) until right after the ACFW conference in 2006. I think if I had submitted more that news might have come sooner, but I really didn’t feel confident about my work until that point.

SKC:  Every author has learned something during her writing career, whether it's a short one or long one. What advice do you have for other new authors coming into the field of writing?

BG It’s 90 percent persistence, and talent is good too! But seriously, the best thing you can do is get plugged in at a writer’s conference. That has made all the difference in the world for my writing career.

SKC:    Sometimes inspirational writers have a hard time being accepted in the outside of CBA.  What are your thoughts about inspirational writers writing Crossover Stories?   

BG  That’s a big can of worms.You sure you want me to open that? The opinions on that topic  vary widely. Bottom line, I believe if God calls you to write crossover then that is where you should go. I don’t think anyone would dispute that.

SKC:  It all boils down to being obedient to God's will, doesn't it. What is your weakest point of writing and how do you overcome it?

BG I have a hard time getting the story started. I think a good set up makes for a better story in the end, but today’s reader wants to be wowed in the first paragraph. That’s easy to understand, considering our culture. The funny thing is you always hear about the sagging middle—it’s quite the opposite for me. I’m slow to start and I struggle to end but my middle is great. I overcome it by constantly working on it. One big thing is to simply cut out the first five pages, or sometimes even the first chapter.

SKC:  I find myelf doing that constantly. My beginnings are the most difficult to get off the ground. Tell us what gets you started on those first five pages of a brand new story.

BG That’s always something I have to mull over and then eventually, I might even go back and rewrite. I enjoy some form of adventure for a good start—that’s how I’m overcoming my weakness lately. For instance, in Oregon Outback—in the first story, my character jumps off a cliff. She’s hang-gliding. Just thinking about how fun that would be gets me pumped for the writing.

SKC:  That's what you REALLY call a cliff hanger! What is your best advice to a writer preparing her or his synopses?

BG Just write. Synopses are tough for all of us.

SKC:  I haven't found too many authors who enjoy them. That's for certain. After you finish your present project, what plans do you have, Beth?

BG Why my next project, of course. I’m hoping to sell the next two books in series to Love Inspired Suspense. The first book, Extreme Maneuvers is about a Learjet repo man who recovers a plane and discovers the kidnapped daughter of a Colombian drug lord.

SKC: We appreciate that you are willing to donate a book. Please give our readers something to reflect about as a reader, and I will draw the name of the winner from our answers.

BG What is your favorite story setting to read about or write about, if you are an author, and why?

SKC Thank you so much for taking some time with us here at A Pen for Your Thoughts, Beth. It's a pleasure having you here.

You can visit Beth at her website over at

Don't forget to drop in and share your responses to Beth's question. Be sure to leave your email address if you want to be included in the drawing. I will be drawing that name in a few days.

Congratulations to Lisa Hasz of Lindale, TX. Your book is on its way!