Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hallows Eve? All Saints Day? Reformation Day? Or should I say Happy Fall Y’ all!?

Since we are interested in printed words on paper and story as well- and most readers of the From the Heart blog come at this process from A Christian Worldview I thought I would share with you some of the words I have gathered from various blogs and online sources pertaining to Halloween. (which we here in America celebrate October 31st)

Halloween is the one of the oldest holidays still celebrated today and one of the most popular holidays, second only to Christmas. While millions of people celebrate Halloween without knowing its origins and myths, the history and facts of Halloween make the holiday more fascinating.

The name Halloween is a shortening of All Hallow's Eve and signifies the night before All Saints' Day. For centuries on All Saints' Day the Church celebrated the lives of Christians who went before us. And rightly so: We can learn so much from those whom the author of Hebrews calls that great cloud of witnesses. The tradition of remembering the Church triumphant dates back to the time of the first Christian martyrs.

Some people view Halloween as a time for fun, putting on costumes, trick-or-treating, and having theme parties. Others view it as a time of superstitions, ghosts, goblins and evil spirits that should be avoided at all costs. As the Christian debate goes on, celebrating Halloween is a preference that is not always viewed as participating in evil. “Halloween is not Satan's birthday," says Steve Russo, co-host of Focus on the Family's "Life on the Edge -- Live!" radio program ( and author of "Halloween: What's a Christian to Do?" Halloween is often celebrated with no reference to pagan rituals or the occult.

Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic religious festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). All of the sources I checked agree with this accounting.The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. Samhain, which was the supreme night of demonic jubilation (Oct 31st). Celts believed that on the night before the newyear, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. It was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth, both benevolent and nasty ones that caused trouble and damaged crops. They began to wear costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, to blend in with the ghouls released from their deadly prisons walking amongst them (This is the origin of Halloween masquerading as devils, imps, ogres, and other demonic creatures.) and sometimes placed lights in the windows of their houses to ward off the evil ones. These lights were often placed in carved out turnips or beets. Some cut faces in them to further scare off the demons. They would have been carried around the village boundaries or left outside the home to burn through the night. Another version says Samhain was a fire festival. Sacred bonfires were lit on the tops of hills in honor of the Gods. The townspeople would take an ember from the bonfire to their home and re-light the fire in their family hearth. The ember would usually be carried in a holder - often a turnip or gourd.

By A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. This is called syncretism. Syncretism is the attempt to reconcile disparate or contrary beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. This may involve attempts to merge several originally discrete traditions, especially in the theology and mythology of religion, and thus assert an underlying unity allowing for an inclusive approach to other faiths. (Syncretism also occurs commonly in literature, music, the representational arts and other expressions of culture).

By the 800s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 All Saints' Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. It is widely believed today that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday, a typical practice at the time. The celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in A.D. 1000, the church would make November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls', were called Hallowmas.

Others trace "trick-or-treat" to a European custom called "souling". Beggars would go from village to village begging for "soul cakes" made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors.

Traditional Halloween symbols (witches, black cats, pumpkins, candles, masks, parties and pranks) appeared in the U.S. during the late 1800's. In 1848, millions of Irish emigrants poured into America as a result of the potato famine. When the Irish emigrated to America they could not find many turnips to carve into Jack O'Lanterns but they did find an abundance of pumpkins. Pumpkins seemed to be a suitable substitute for the turnips and pumpkins have been an essential part of Halloween celebrations ever since. The holiday of Druidism found its new home on alien shores. Proudly Celtic, they kept the traditional observances.

The conversion of Celtic peoples to Christianity did not dampen their enthusiasm for the pre-Christian year-end custom of feasts, bonfires, and masks, essentially newyear's eve costume parties. The proximity to the developing Christian feasts of All Saints and All Souls resulted in an attempt to move the celebration to the evening before All Souls, when children would go door to door receiving treats for a promise of prayer for the dead of the household. This attempt to associate the Celtic remembrance of the dead with the Christian memorial ultimately failed and the celebration remained a year-end custom (by the old Celtic calendar), though Halloween remains primarily a children's feast.

Maybe Halloween just isn't for you or maybe you don't want your children coming home with bags of candy. Let's face it. Halloween isn't for everyone. With all the hooplah you may be looking for alternatives to celebrating Halloween. has a great article on 7 alternative harvest party ideas. article/2194415/halloween_alternatives_7_great_ideas.html?cat=74 Amongst their suggestions: Trunk or Treat Tailgating in the church parking lot- Weiner roasts and campfires. Throwing a Block Party, bowling or skating party, hosting a fall tea party allowing the kids to dress fancy, or scheduling a fun Hayride. suggests we celebrate Christ who through His death and resurrection conquered death and evil and suggest we use this time to educate your children of what this means to them in particular.

Hartline author Kathi Macias and well known author and Breakpoint host Chuck Colsen both have great articles on ‘Breakpoint’ (see link below) suggesting we celebrate All Saints Day. After all we do share a rich Christian heritage with a Great Cloud of Witness’. So may I encourage you all to prayerfully consider how you celebrate this day and consider a few alternatives for a change?

Have fun and Honor Him who loves us!
From my heart to yours,

Sources I viewed for this article and recommend as interesting reading material:

Friday, October 30, 2009

Interview with Joyce's client Lena Nelson Dooley

Please meet Lena Nelson Dooley, popular author, wife and mother.

Lena, you have a unique story about why you write Christian fiction. Will you share that with our readers?

When I first started writing Christian fiction, it was so my daughters could have decent fiction to read. But the more I wrote, the more I loved it. Then in 1984, God spoke to me three separate times in one week, telling me that He wanted me to write fiction. I have the long version of the story on the bottom of the main page of my web site – .

I now know that God created me to be a writer in this season of my life. He placed within me the talents and called them forth in His timing.

ACFW has been important in your life, in fact you are a charter member. You won an award a couple years ago for Mentor of the Year. How has ACFW helped your writing career?

Actually, I’m almost a charter member. I believe ACFW stated in February, and I joined in May. My membership number is 42. I love ACFW. I did sell my first book before joining, but through this organization, I have grown as a writer, learning how to fine tune my work. The online classes offered free to members are wonderful as are the national conferences where we learn as well as network with industry professionals. I actually met Joyce, my agent, at the first ACFW national conference.

I’ve become friends with authors, editors, and other agents through this organization. And we get the lowdown on what’s happening in the industry as soon as the information is available.

You are an encourager and a mentor to many authors. And you have a critique group that meets in your home. Tell us how you find time to help others so much.

I consider what I do to help other authors as being a tithe of my time. Since God gave me the talents and abilities, by helping others, I’m giving back to Him and helping build the kingdom through fiction. There are a lot of people who will pick up an interesting book and read it but won’t really listen to a sermon in church. The novels illustrate how God works in our lives instead of preaching to readers.

Your blog is one of the most popular among Christian writers – give us your blog address and tell us what you offer to the writers. Why do you think it’s so popular?

Actually, the blog is really popular among readers, too. That’s what’s important. The blog is aimed at readers, introducing new books to them:

When I first started blogging, I didn’t know what I was doing, and I didn’t have more than 3 or 4 people a month come to the blog. Then I asked God if I should be blogging, and if I should what should I do. God told me to lift up other authors and promote their work, and He would promote my work.

On the blog, I interview the authors so readers can connect to them. We always give away a free copy of the book. I believe I was the first Christian blogger to do that. Readers are drawn to the free book but then they keep coming back, because they love getting to know the authors as well. I often receive messages from readers telling me how much they love my interviews.

Publishing companies and literary publicists as well as authors have recognized the power of my blog. Many of them contact me with their new releases. I have it down to a science, and it usually only takes me less than half an hour a day to maintain.

Do you think these social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are important for a writer’s career? Explain.

Yes. I am on Facebook with both a profile page and an Official Fan Page. I also have a Shoutlife page. Shoutlife is like a Christian Facebook. I’m also on Twitter.

We need to use these social networking sites to connect to readers, but as an author, I’ve learned to limit the amount of time spent on the sites, but maximize the impact.

Tell us about your current projects.

Right now, I’m finishing writing a novel for Summerside Press – Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico. I love this book, and I’m really excited about the May release.

I also have several other projects that we’re marketing right now – a women’s fiction, a three-book historical series, etc.

What do you hope people will take away from your work?

I want them to see that no matter what is happening in their lives, God is there with them. If they are fearful, He will provide them hope. If they feel unloved, He will provide love. If they don’t have a good self-image, He will show them how He sees them. If they have gotten themselves into a dark hole, there’s no pit so keep that He can’t lift them from it.

What has been the hardest hurdle you’ve had to overcome in your career?

When I first started writing novels, I really didn’t know that much about things like point of view or showing versus telling. I was a storyteller. But I’ve learned through writing and taking workshops and classes. I hope to always be learning something else about writing, since the market is always changing.

One thing that I had to learn was to realize I needed to trust God to take care of my writing career. If He wants a particular publisher to buy a manuscript, that editor will buy it.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

I love my readers. They are who I tell the stories for. I want them to be able to put a book down and smile, because even though there were tough times, the ending brought hope. I want them to love my characters so much that they seem like real people to them.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Do we think of writing as a career?

It makes a difference how we think of ourselves in how we approach our writing. If it is something we just do when it is convenient because we enjoy doing it, that’s pretty much the definition of a hobby. If we carve out the time for it and protect it, if we study and grow and improve our skills, if we attend conferences and get in critique groups, that is more like a career.

The bottom line is, we take it seriously, and a professional writer doesn’t pin all their hopes on one book. When they finish one, they move on and keep writing. I’m amazed at the number of people who keep trying to sell the same story year after year instead of moving on to a new project. A large number of writers will sell another book before they do a deal on the first one. And some never sell the first one, I know I didn’t.

A pro writer carefully targets submissions. They do the research and if they send it to an editor or agent they know they have the proper name, they know what they have been working in so they are sure they are a real possibility for a submission and not just a name pulled out of a market guide. They look at submission guidelines and are sending exactly what the person wants to receive in the manner they want to receive it. We never get a second chance to make a first impression so it is important to do things right.

A pro writer never sends anything that isn’t as ready as they can get it. The last thing we want to do is to trigger an editor into copy-edit mode, noticing the things that they would have to fix, instead of enjoying and evaluating the writing.

There are differing opinions advanced on whether a platform is important or not, but I’m getting more and more submissions returned saying “Not a bad project, but the author just doesn’t have enough platform.” Put me down on the side that says it is really vital. A pro works on improving their platform, building networking, coming up with new ways to have exposure to groups and contact points that might aid book sales. They have a good marketing plan that spells out exactly what they can do to help a publisher market the book. In today’s economy these are more than just a paragraph we have to have in a proposal.

And a pro does have a good, well formatted proposal that contains the information the person they have targeted wants to see. It contains comparables to books that are written for the same readers they hope to sell to. Not books written LIKE another writer, hopefully we are all unique, but books that help define the reader base in a way that the editor will see exactly what it is.

A hobbyist just wants to write. The professional does all of the things necessary to support and present their writing. There’s nothing wrong with being a hobbyist, but if we claim to be a professional then we need to back it up with our actions.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Here's Miggy!

Dear From the Heart Readers I want to introduce you to my dear friend and author, member of the Pencil Box Crew ( what we call my author group) Miggy Krentel. When I asked Miggy for this interview she humbly agreed to submit to it.

Miggy tell us a little about yourself

I am quite ancient. But this is what I know about me, for sure.

The 27th day of May, in the year 1921, witnessed my birth, on Staten Island New York. I had two brothers, very different, so early on I learned two sparring maneuvers. Allen ignored me so I pretended a certain nonchalance that rendered him seething but harmless. Howard, the older of the two, tantalized and teased me without mercy. We were good friends until two years ago when he died of cancer.

What are you hoping your writing will accomplish?

I hope my latent gift of writing will topple somebody’s walls and let them out and at the same time give others entrance into their own ordinary yet hapless lives. I wish with every fiber of my being that my simple writing could persuade them to be disarmingly frank and vulnerable. Only then will they find meaning in their lives. Only then will they find Jesus. Every life lived should count for something.

How are you using state-of-the-art technology in your everyday writing life?

I am writing this treatise on something called a computer which, at times, I consider state-of-the-art. However I have discovered it is not to be trusted. It is at one and the same time both helper and hindrance. And oh, how very loud my protests grow. For with every fiber of my being I know that it is basically the fault of some unseen Satanic menace sleeping at will in the Junk Mail subways and popping out at the worst paragraph.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Rarely do I feel inspired. I think I am more of a reporter spectating on not only my own life but the lives of “others”; what makes Johnny run and where is he heading? Oddly enough, I cannot know for certain.

Is there an area in your writing that you are working on developing more?

Bodily discipline, showing up for work, remaining seated until finished and listening to my inner conscience. “Be who you is, for if you is who you ain’t, then you ain’t who you is.” For when my finished literary offering is lifted up in the air for everyone to see my underbelly, much like when your car is on the pneumatic lift in the garage and everyone sees exactly what they are looking at. Then as you stand there with your hands behind your back, you will begin to notice all the extra words you have imprisoned. The unneeded adjectives, the extra words used to tell the same story all over again.

Do you have a favorite writing “How to” book?

I dip and dab into most of my instructional books and gasp at certain sentences which seem to encapsulate the truth, but in spite of that I never read them from cover to cover and soon I forget it. SORRY.

Have you had to overcome any obstacles in your writing journey?


1. Six children of my own.

2. The founding of a residential school from the first diaper pin up to a present population of over 300

3. Care-giving for three ninety – year – old ladies; his mother, my mother and my mother’s best friend.

4. The special care for my Down’s syndrome daughter who blew out 46 candles last month

5. The shattering attack on my dear husband from Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s who died in 1996.

All these combined to nuke my allotment of time.

What are you presently working on now?

My most important thing right now is to finish my book and find someone to publish it.

The book I am writing is written with the pen of an almost ninety year old resident living on the compound of a retirement community for independent seniors. It could be called the Rights of Passage or Survival Skills 101 or Aging for Dummies. We can laugh together, weep a little, and swallow our sadness because we have taken a peek into our own future. The only good thing about getting old is that soon we will see our God. I can hardly wait. And I will see my dearest love, Paul my husband and my little baby Martha who went to be with Jesus at six months of age. I want to tell my friends” Hey, don’t give up. It’s not over yet. Live out your every breath for Him. Tell others about your Savior. They may not ever have heard the story and you may only be the one left.


I am embarked on writing a series of books (picture story books of numbers from 1 through 10) written in rhyme with cartoon-like illustrations and dedicated to absolute biblical accuracy.

They would be for the Mother Goose set to tempt them to memorize much like the “one-two-buckle your-shoe” crowd. I love to rhyme and I have finished five books already. Two of these have already been published. Unfortunately my illustrator died. These were also already produced by Word Records on 33 1/3 long playing records. There is no more time, it seems.

What led you to becoming a writer?

Honestly, I must confess that it is really not my career choice. And, regardless of that statement, I am driven to reduce each happenstance to paper, either an old lady’s folly or the perseverance of one of Diana Flegal’s Pencil Box Crew.

What I like: Scrabble and rhyming

What I don’t like: Summers – no more family vacations.

Where is home? Pennsylvania

What is my passion? Writing and telling kids’ Bible stories

If I could run a charity, it would be for: physically and mentally challenged kids.

Time is a snail, reluctant to move

Dragging each footstep

Lest change would behoove

Chaotic upheavals

Unknown to the pace

Of monotonous mankind

running its race.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Interview with Terry's Client Graham Garrison

Today I'm interviewing client Graham Garrison, Graham, your new book HeroTribute is about to hit the stands coming out from Kregel Publications. Can you tell us a little about it?

The premise in a nutshell is – a small town hero, Michael Gavin, passes away, and wants a complete stranger to give his eulogy. The stranger, newspaper reporter Wes Watkins, has less than a week to interview the people who knew Michael and figure out why he was given this assignment. Ultimately there is a message of faith that will rock Wes to his core.

Where do you get your inspiration from? For “Hero’s Tribute,”

I got a lot of my inspiration from family and friends. I was born at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, while my dad was a captain in the 82nd Airborne. One of my best friends did a tour in Iraq with the 101st Airborne. There is a resiliency in soldiers and their families that I have always wanted to explore from the outside looking in. What makes them tick? What makes them heroes? How would that reflect to their neighbors?

What do you hope people will take away from reading your book?

The first word that comes to mind is “grace.” “Hero’s Tribute” is a story about grace and the heroes that surround us and I hope that comes through in the characters and the story, especially the twist at the end.

I know you are working on a sequel to it that Kregel is considering, what other projects do you have in progress?

Yes, I really hope the sequel gets a green light because there are still some more angles to cover in the characters and their backgrounds. I’ve also completed the first draft of a supernatural thriller and mapped out three more books in what would be a series. The series takes themes from the major and minor prophets in the Old Testament and drops them in the middle of America’s Civil War. Basically, the devil takes an active role in the demise of a nation, and the books would explore ways that God would respond, based off of how he has responded in the past with the likes of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Jonah, etc.

What is the best writing advice you ever got? The worst?

Best would have to be from a college professor – Conrad Fink. He was a former AP reporter and hammered home that you have to keep working at your craft. He had an archive full of stories he said the he wished he could have written a different way or taken a different angle and it was good to realize that early on that it’s a continual process.

The worst -- well, I edit some magazines, and I’ve found that the better writers are actually the one’s less married to their prose. So, don’t make a fuss about tweaks and revisions. You have to understand that what you send to your editor won’t be exactly what you see on the printed page – it’ll be better.

Thank you Graham, and thank you blog readers for dropping by.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Interesting Developments in the World of Publishing

The latest news is the request by the ABA (American Booksellers Association) for a government investigation of price wars.

From the Publishers Weekly:

In a letter sent to the antitrust division of the Department of Justice Thursday, the board of directors of the American Booksellers Association requested that the government begin an investigation into what the organization believes is the illegal predatory pricing policies being carried out by Amazon, Wal-Mart and Target in selling 10 hardcover titles for as low as $8.98. The ABA requested a meeting with officials as soon as possible, arguing that left unchecked, the predatory pricing policies “will devastate not only the book industry, but our collective ability to remain a society where the widest range of ideas are always made available to the public.”

The letter charged that the big box retailers are using predatory pricing practices to “attempt to win control of the market for hardcover bestsellers.” By selling books below cost, Amazon, Wal-Mart and Target “are devaluing the very concept of the book. Authors and publishers, and ultimately consumers, stand to lose a great deal if this practice continues and/or grows,” the letter stated. Furthermore, the letter noted, the companies involved in the price war are not engaged primarily in selling books, yet their fight could result in the entire book industry becoming collateral damage.

The letter added that the price war over hard covers was precipitated by Amazon’s decision to price e-books at $9.99. “We believe the loss-leader pricing of digital content also bears scrutiny,” the letter stated.

The latest today is that Sears/K-Mart will not offer the books at the $8.98 or $8.99 prices that Amazon, Wal-Mart and Target are offering, however they will give a $9.00 store credit if you bring in a receipt from one of the other stores.

There has long been discord between big box stores and retail stores. The big guys buy huge amounts of books at larger discounts and sell cheaper. This hurts the bookstores. When I used to sell books to bookstores, the managers would tell me that they could go to Sam’s and buy Bibles and bestselling books cheaper there than they could from the publisher or distributor. The big box stores sell certain products at a loss to bring the consumer in to the store. They make it up on other products. A problem for the publisher is that these stores do huge returns, and returns are bad for all of us. This is why some publishers hold back certain funds, anticipating returns and the author has to wait for his/her money. The other side of the coin is this, publishers cannot exist on bookstore sales, they need the sales from the larger clients to stay in business.

There is the chance that these promotions will not hurt the smaller stores if there are only a few titles offered at this low price. They could go to the big box stores and buy them at that price and sell them without a profit at their stores to draw people in. It would be better than paying the publisher or distributor a higher price and selling at a loss. However, if there are only a few books on the shelf, that might not work. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Here is some advice from the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) for the bookstores concerning the Christmas Season:

With more than 43% of holiday shoppers viewing price and discounts as important, according to BigResearch/National Retail Federation holiday-sales research, Christian stores must have bargain and discounted products available and promoted to achieve business success this year, according to Mike Hockett, Strata Consulting LLC president and CBA service provider.

Most Christian Bookstores are stocked with more than books. Gifts, Cards, Music and T-shirts make up a good part of their inventory. I recommend that you support your Christian Bookstores when possible. Even though on-line shopping is so easy, and I order online when I can’t get the book at my Family Christian store, we don’t want to see our bookstores got out of business. There is something so satisfying about going into a bookstore, especially for those of us who are book addicts.

Happy Shopping & blessings,


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Diana’s Christmas wish list

Plenty of Gadgets to consider for Christmas this year. Maybe you will want one of these on your list as well?

The nook $259.99

Barnes & Nobles
is claiming to have the world’s most advanced E book reader promising a better reading experience. You may check out their launch announcement at

Nook’s screen uses electronic ink, made to read as clear and crisp as a printed page. It’s full color touch screen, encourages you to bookmark, add notes and highlight passages.

Get bestsellers and new releases, your favorite newspapers, and magazines all delivered via fast and free 3G wireless, no set up required. Great ebooks are just seconds away as you tap into the vast Barnes and Noble eBookstore. Sample any eBook for free.

Choose your next eBook using nook's beautiful color touch screen, then watch it appear instantly on the easy-to-read E Ink ® display, where text appears as crisp as a printed page. Make the text bigger, and easily bookmark, highlight, and make notes as you go.

Store as many as 1,500 eBooks, newspapers, and magazines on your nook, so you'll never be without your favorites. And with an added memory card you can keep up to 17,500. eBooks download in seconds. Many bestsellers and new releases are just $9.99, and thousands of titles are free, so you can enjoy more for less.

Amazon also launched their new Kindle reader: The Kindle DX: A Complete Primer and is available now on AMAZON for $489.00

The key feature of the new Kindle DX is its size: The DX . That's nearly 4 inches larger than the current 6-inch offering and also offer magazine and newspaper download capabilities. The distinction may come down largely to the screen size: As The New York Times points out, the extra real estate could allow publications to more closely mirror their print formats, building a mix of editorial and advertising content into the space and thereby generating additional revenue.

The Kindle DX is optimized for textbooks, too. At least six schools are believed to be involved in a "pilot program" in which they'll hand out Kindles to incoming freshmen and allow them to get textbooks on the devices. Pace University, Case Western Reserve University, Reed College, Arizona State University, Princeton University, and the Darden School at the University of Virginia are the institutions that have been named.

Lots of new software features will be included in the new Kindle. Amazon's updated Kindle is said to come loaded with a build-in PDF reader and a "more fully functional Web browser" than its predecessor. The DX is also rumored to have a new function that'll allow you to create annotations within texts, in addition to the standard highlights and notes.

Have a blessed Day and Happy List Making!


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Interview with Joyce's Client Lisa Harris

I’m pleased to introduce Lisa Harris this morning. Lisa and Scott and their three children are missionaries serving in Mozambique. She works as a missionary, a homemaker, home schools her children and writes wonderful books.

Lisa, tell us about your life on the mission field as a writer.

Most of my days are filled with the same things I did while living in the States--cooking, cleaning, homework with the kids, and grocery shopping. The catch is that everything takes a whole lot longer in Mozambique. For example, there are no fast food restaurants within a couple hundred miles, so dinner is always made from scratch. And no English schools means that we now home school. On the positive side, I love having my kids involved first hand in our ministry, the flexibility to travel with my husband, and the occasional trip into the African bush to photograph the wildlife.

How do you ever find time to write?

This has become my greatest challenge lately. J It was easier when our kids were in the local school system in South Africa, but living in Mozambique has brought with it new adventures as well as challenges. I’ve had to cut back on anything extra and focus on family, ministry, and writing. There are times when I feel like I’m treading water, as most of us probably do, but I’m trying to learn to take one day at a time and enjoy my family and the life God has called us to.

You have a two book contract with Zondervan, tell us about that series.

I’m so excited about this series as it is something I’ve longed to write for a very long time. The series centers around a fictional nonprofit, medical organization called Volunteers for Hope. Each book highlights people who come to the continent to make a difference. In the process, faced with extraordinary circumstances, they will have their lives changed not only through the challenges they face as these two worlds collide, but also through their reliance on God. Book one will be released in March.

Here’s a blub about book one, Blood Ransom: Deep in the heart of Africa, two American lives are about to change forever. Natalie Sinclair and Dr. Chad Talcott want to make a difference in under-developed African villages … but they didn’t count on risking their lives in the process. Romance and adventure drive this powerful thriller about the modern-day slave trade and those who dare to challenge it.

What new project are you working on?

I’m currently working on book two in the series. Blood Covenant is about an overpopulated African refuge camp where an outbreak of measles erupts and renegade soldiers block their only way out.

You were able to come back to the States for the ACFW Conference and are now in Texas for a few months. Your husband’s uncle, who is your mentor and co-worker on the mission field came home with a brain tumor. How is he doing and how long will you be stateside?

While it’s been a trying time for the family, we’ve all been blessed by the amount of prayer support. He’s currently doing better than expected as he finishes up the last two weeks of his chemo and radiation. And while we know there is still a hard road ahead, we know God is in control. We will be in the States through mid-November as we help them work through some of the logistics of the situation.

How have you overcome obstacles in your writing and in getting your manuscripts and proposals to me and to your editors?

Without you and the blessing of the Internet, I’d never be able to accomplish what I have done. I’m able to send manuscripts over the Internet, do edits, and even belong to a critique group. And being ahead six or seven hours from my editors has also come in handy a time or two when I’m facing a tight deadline.

What words of advice and encouragement do you have for writers just starting out?

I always tell people that writing is a hard long journey, though worth it if they want to put in the time and energy it takes. You have to respond to rejections with a huge dose of tenacity, spend long hours writing at the computer alone, and never stop learning and growing in the craft. Hook up with a writing organization like American Christian Fiction Writers, join a critique group, and attend a few conferences to meet others in the business.

What made you decide to become a Christian writer?

As a Christian I believe strongly that everything I does needs to bring glory to my Heavenly Father. And while I want my stories to entertain, I hope they encourage people spiritually as well.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Someone recently asked me how long I’d had my agent, and I was surprised when I realized that you and I have been working together for almost eight years (I’m pretty sure that’s right). I’ve been blessed with your friendship and constant encouragement through many of years of both rejections and successes. Thank you!

I thank you too, Lisa, it’s a joy to work with you. As a missionary you are special to me. I know the sacrifices and constant adjustments missionary families have to make, like the times when we’re praying that your electricity and water will stay on J Ministry is not always easy either here in the states or abroad, but it is a privilege to work for Him. I’m glad we’ve been able to be a team to get your stories published.

Here are Lisa’s current titles:
Check out her web site, her blog is and sign up for her newsletter
LOVE FINDS YOU IN REVENGE, OHIO -Summerside Press, August 2009
COLORADO CRIMES- Barbour, January 2010
BLOOD RANSOM- Zondervan, March 2010

In His service,

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Writing Lesson from the Movies

So many writers think they are through when they write the story. Actually that's when crafting the story should begin. Like a director of a movie that takes all the raw scenes that he's shot and goes into the cutting room to weave them into a movie, the writer takes the raw chapters and starts working on the pacing and the flow, engaging the reader here and picking up the pace there. This is where the writer moves scenes to push a reader at the end of a chapter into the next one, watching to see that the story doesn't slow down at a point to where the reader loses interest.

As an agent, I get over a thousand submissions a year of people wanting me to represent their work, and this is probably the greatest failing in them. The author may have a pretty good story concept, but it just doesn’t flow, it doesn’t guide the reader through it. In fact, most of them fail to get the reader off the very first page.

First page? Yes, a major portion of rejections occur right at that point, I call it the “Barnes and Noble test.” If we want to learn how manuscripts are rejected, we just need to sit in a bookstore for a while and watch the patrons. They pick up a book, read the back cover and the first page, maybe sample a little more, but those two are all that we can count on. They keep doing this until one of them pushes them off that first page and down into the book. When that happens they will usually carry it to the checkout stand.

Editors know this and judge them the same way. We can have the greatest story in the world, but if we don’t get them off that first page, it doesn’t matter. This is part of putting on that director hat and directing the book after we get the basic story written. Did you ever hear somebody tell a joke that was hilarious, then later hear someone else tell the joke using the exact same words and it bombs? The difference is delivery, the pacing and flow, knowing the timing necessary to get the laugh. George Burns told the same old tired jokes for 50 years but they were always funny, because his timing and delivery were impeccable.

We know we have to take off the writer’s hat and put on the editor’s hat to clean up a story once it is written, but that is grammar, copyediting and formatting. Too few writers change the hat the third time to put on that director’s hat, go into the cutting room and think of nothing but how to make their story flow so it pulls the readers in and then subtly guides them through it. More writers need to be doing that – no, actually, I believe all writers need to take that step.

Happy trails,


Monday, October 19, 2009

Interview with Diana's client, author Millie Samuelson

Millie, tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing journey that led you to self publish your three books and why you chose that non-traditional way of getting your words in print.

The seeds for my first book, Women of the Last Supper: “We Were There Too,” were planted decades ago in China, where I was born and raised during devastating war times. (Yes, my younger brother and I are war survivors, but our three older brothers are buried in Xian.)

Until seventh grade, my sporadic schooling was mostly by my missionary parents as we fled from place to place, seeking safety from bombs and anti-foreign-devil mobs. So during my elementary years, Dad’s pocket New Testament was often my only textbook.
I still vividly remember one day reading a lesson in the Gospels, then asking, “Daddy, why didn’t Jesus have any girl disciples?”

Dad looked at me with surprise and answered, “But of course, Jesus had girl disciples!” And he showed me some of the passages about the women who followed Jesus, and about the girl he brought back to life.

After my family escaped to Taiwan in 1951, we were able to subscribe to the Reader’s Digest. What a happy day when each new issue arrived (usually months late)! It became one of my favorite textbooks. One issue had an article about Leonardo da Vinci and his famous Milan mural depicting the Last Supper. As soon as I read it, I rushed to Dad. “Look,” I said, “why aren’t any of Jesus’ girl disciples there?”
Dad patiently explained to me that it was just an old painting, and that for some reason the painter had left out the women and the girls.

For decades, I enjoyed researching this topic, including at the Vatican and the Louvre, where there are huge ancient paintings showing women, children, and others present at the Last Supper. Then when I moved to Chesterton eleven years ago, for the first time I had a pastor willing to portray women at the Last Supper along with the twelve men disciples. After I wrote Lenten monologs for the twelve men disciples at my pastor’s request, with only a slight hesitation he agreed to twelve women monologs as well. They created quite a stir!

People soon were asking for copies of the women monolog stories. At first, my Joy Circle at church made copy machine booklets and sold them to raise money for missions. When my son Peter saw the booklets, he urged me instead to independently publish professional books using an inexpensive online-accessed printer. So my first book was also a surprise book, especially when study groups asked me to include questions and resources. My initial, timid print run of 250 books by was gone in two weeks. Now several years later, I’ve sold about 3000, mostly locally. Plus I’ve sold about 1000 of my other two books. Right now, I’m nearly out of books, and am waiting on God for my next step.

God has blessed the distribution of my self-published books through my speaking opportunities. However, I’ve been sensing for some time that God is leading me to share my stories beyond Indiana. That’s where Diana and Hartline come in! And I’m sure looking forward to the day Diana emails me the good news that a traditional publisher is offering us a contract.

Where did you get your inspiration for your book titled, Hungry River that you have rewritten and we are offering now as Dragon River?

Once I was no longer a full-time mother and teacher and academic writer, I had time and energy to work on fulfilling my novel dream! So I joined a library writing group and started attending writers conferences.

In my writing group, we wrote memoir stories. In 2000, I took a couple of these with me to the Write to Publish conference ( Wheaton, Illinois) for evaluation. Three separate staff individuals suggested I use my family’s China stories in novels. I sure hadn’t planned on that. My dream was always to write the great American novel, not a novel using tumultuous China, even though it was my motherland. But I took it as a sign from God, and today have written what will either be a trilogy or a novel with a sequel, depending on the publisher.

How did you research for this book?

Starting with my Nelson grandparents, my family has been closely associated with China and Taiwan for over a century, so our experiences are an important part of my research. I have what I call my China boxes. They are filled with memoirs, letters, photos, articles, scrapbooks, and artifacts dating back to 1892 when my Swedish-born grandparents first went to China as single missionaries. They romanced there and were married in Shanghai in 1895. My grandfather was a prolific writer – in Swedish and Chinese. Fortunately, when my father retired from missionary service and settled in the U.S., he translated most of Grandpa’s writings into English, for Dad was equally fluent in all three languages. I also have stacks of writings from my parents and other relatives, and my own observations.

I’m an avid reader, so my research also includes hundreds of books and other resources about China, as well as recent trips to China and discussions with Chinese people. A few excellent authors are Pearl Buck, Lin Yutang, Han Suyin, Lisa See, Amy Tan, Gus Lee, Jonathan D. Spence, David Aikman, Jung Chang, and Lisa Huang Fleischman. Plus many, many more.

What do you hope people will take away from reading your novel?

That’s interesting to ponder! I often pray God will speak to each reader in a personal and encouraging way through the somewhat fictional story inspired by my family’s true story. Based on the steady, affirming feedback I receive (often email from people I don’t know), God is answering that prayer.
What new projects are you working on?

In my Last Supper series, I’m writing the stories for Children of the Last Supper: “We Were There Listening.” I’ve selected six children likely present at the Last Supper, including Jesus’ youngest sister and one of Peter’s children.
I’m also working at completing my China novels. I expect to be finished in a few months. As I mentioned earlier, there will either be two or three novels. My work in progress is titled Jade Cross.

What is your all time favorite writing ‘How To’ book? One that you would like to recommend to other authors.

Years ago, I bought a copy of Penelope J. Stokes’ Writing & Selling the Christian Novel when it was still in bound manuscript form. As soon as it came out in paperback (Writer’s Digest Books), I bought another copy. I consider it my first and most important novel-writing guide. (But keep in mind, I taught reading and writing about novels for years. So I’m sure I learned something from that.)

Where can people find out more about you and your writing?

My website is
I welcome new FaceBook friends. On FB, I’m Millie Nelson Samuelson.
My books are available from or from me at

Friday, October 16, 2009

Interview with Terry's Client Tammy Barley

Continuing in my series of featuring clients and their new titles, today I talk to Tammy Barley about her new title Love's Rescue From Whitaker House:

Tammy, your new "Love's Rescue" has gotten off to a terrific launch and isgoing into a second printing in only a month. You have to be ecstatic aboutthat. It's the first book in a three book "Sierra Chronicles" series fromWhitaker House. Tell us about them:
I am ecstatic about that, and just as ecstatic to see that Love’s Rescue was recently #11 on’s historical fiction best seller list—hugely exciting. Even better are the wonderful comments and reviews I’ve received from readers, that they felt they were right there in the story, in the Sierra Nevadas, in 1863 (and best of all—countless readers have said they can’t wait for the next book)! Yes, it’s very exciting. Here are a few quick blurbs about Love’s Rescue and the next two books:

Book One: Love’s Rescue
A Dividing Conflict
In 1863, the War Between the States is dividing more than a nation. To escape the conflict, Jessica Hale and her family flee their Kentucky home and head for Nevada Territory. Her brother, Ambrose, committed to the Confederates, rejoins his Kentucky militia and is disowned by his father. But the worst is yet to come.

A Heroic Kidnapper
When Unionists presume the family to be Confederate sympathizers, they set a devastating fire to their home. All alone and then “kidnapped” by cattleman Jake Bennett, Jessica is taken to a ranch deep in the Sierra Nevada wilderness. Can she overcome her resentment toward Jake for failing to save her family?

The Depths of Love
When Jake launches a plan to help Jessica’s brother escape from prison camp, she sees him for the honest, good-hearted Christian man that he is and now knows the depth of his love for her. Through the lingering smoke and smoldering ashes from her ruined home and murdered family, will Jessica see a future with Jake?

Book Two: Hope's Promise
Jake and Jessica Bennett learn there was more to her parents’ deaths than they knew, and both the ranch and Jessica are in danger. Now they must quickly find the murderer . . . and discover for themselves how far they will go for love.

Book Three: Faith's Reward
Jake and Jessica are expecting a child while their hope of surviving land redistribution laws grows dim. Worse, Jessica’s inheritance has disappeared from the bank, and turns up in the hands of a man funding Union sympathizers in a personal war against Southerners. To stop it Jessica must confront her greatest fear, and Jake will be forced to risk the lives of Jessica and their unborn child.

You had quite a book launch, can you tell us about it?
LOL—Quite a book launch it was!

I worked a few angles with the book launch to bring about the most benefit possible with the event. First, my church, which has a K-8 school, is struggling financially. So several weeks before the launch, I spoke to the congregation—in an 1863 blue calico hoop skirt like my main character wears—and told them I wanted to throw the 19th century book launch at the church as a means to draw more people to the church and school, and hopefully help it financially.
So several members helped to throw an unforgettable event, and contributed a hundred or more 19th century antiques related to the various settings and characters in the book—cowboy, Civil War, Western Indians, the Shaker people—and in addition I provided interactive displays to reflect the characters and their daily life. I met folks and signed books in 1863 costume at a turn-of-the-century rolltop desk. My daughter, in prairie costume, demonstrated traditional Paiute basket weaving and invited folks to smell smudge sticks and healing teas from Sierran plants and trees and to guess whether the dried bundles were juniper, cedar, sage, sweetgrass, Douglas fir, and so on. One of my sons wore cowboy attire and demonstrated cowboy leather braiding and invited folks to handle various pelts and guess the animals—rabbit, river otter, red squirrel, coyote, raccoon, buffalo. My other son dressed as a cowboy-turned-Civil War soldier since his namesake did exactly that in the book, and manned the Civil War trivia display and the Shaker display. Women served homemade lemonade, cookies, and fudge brownies. Of everyone who came, about a dozen were unchurched or did not attend church regularly, but who enjoyed historical fiction.

The second angle I worked was to benefit The Hope Children’s Mission in beautiful Catemaco, Veracruz, Mexico that I support, and the president and vice president of the mission were on hand to chat with folks.So I finished the day 200 books lighter, and a number of people who bought books read them within a day or two and liked them so much that I had to make a special trip to church to sell them more; they want to give copies to family and friends as gifts. One of the guests also invited me to be guest speaker at a biannual country club fundraiser for women who need assistance to go to college to become teachers, which I’ll be doing in December.

Are you working on anything besides delivering the series?
I also work as a ghostwriter and editor and assist with fiction, biographies, and business and self-help books. It’s been a doubly exciting time for me, because one of my clients, John Wolfram, was the first Navy UDT/SEAL in the water to rescue Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins after their first, historic moonwalk. Since the nation just celebrated the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, John was interviewed by Fox News, CBS, The Weather Channel, and many other networks and newspapers, and a radio interview of him aired from more than 640 K-Love Radio station affiliates across the U.S., spotlighting his book, Splashdown: The Rescue of a Navy Frogman, which I assisted with. John is now a world missionary, so it’s great to see how God is touching lives through Christian books.

Aside from that and continuing work on The Sierra Chronicles, I’m also planning my next historical fiction series.

What is the best writing advice you've ever gotten? The worst?
Best: Write what you love, and your books will find their audience.

Worst: Do everything your way no matter what agents or publishers say (I instantly disregarded this “advice”). Fact: the publishing industry has standards for a purpose; following them gives you the greatest chance for success.

What would you like to use this opportunity to say to people?
One—Believe, and you will achieve.

Two—As a promotion to introduce readers to Love’s Rescue, I’m sponsoring a vacation giveaway—Read Love’s Rescue for a chance to win a one-week western guest ranch resort vacation for two to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado! (For details and to enter, visit The drawing is Valentine’s Day 2010.

Unbelievably, though about 1000 copies of Love’s Rescue are selling each week, only thirty—30—people have remembered to enter to win the vacation to date—a one-week all-inclusive mountain resort vacation for two. That means each entrant’s odds of winning are 1 in 30 (not one in 30,000; 1 in 30). Anyone want to win a vacation of a lifetime?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thomas Nelson’s Self-Publishing announcement

Michael Hyatt surprised the publishing world with his announcement about their new self-publishing program and about using their imprint name, WestBow. Some authors are worried that this will give hurt the credibility of the already published books under that imprint. Both Michael Hyatt and Rachelle Gardner have interesting blogs on this whole subject of self-publishing and the WestBow imprint. Michael explained that Thomas Nelson didn’t think about the effect it would have on their published authors, but simply used the name because they have thousands of dollars invested in the rights to that name. My opinion is that it will not hurt the previous authors’ sales or reputations.

Self-Publishing has been around for many years in various forms. Some publishers have had a co-publishing agreement with some of their authors. The authors would buy 5,000 books which would help cover the costs of producing the book. The books were edited by their editors and the book covers were done by their graphic artists. This worked well with people in ministry who sold books when they traveled and spoke in churches or offered their books on their radio or television programs. If people were not speakers then they could easily have 5,000 books in their garages and that wasn’t a good thing. Marketing has always been the answer to selling books. It still is, even with major royalty publishers. Our clients who speak and promote their books are the ones who sell books and pay back their advances.

After I started Hartline Marketing I was asked by Spring Arbor, the largest Christian distributor at that time, to become a vendor with them. They asked me to take people who had small companies with 10 or less books and others who had self-published books under the umbrella of Hartline Marketing and help them market their books. Since I was an independent sales rep I could just include these books in my sales presentations for my larger publishers. We created co-op ads and placed them in magazines and in Spring Arbor’s and other distributor’s marketing packets. The program worked well until Spring Arbor was sold to Ingram. I don’t know of anyone who offers this service to self-publishers at this time.

I helped WinePress Publishing get their books into Spring Arbor’s system at that time. WinePress was one of the leaders in CBA in combining some marketing with self-publishing. Xulon was one of the next ones. Tate Publishing is another one. These companies get the books into the distributors and into some bookstores. However, Bookstores sales are not easy, buyers want bestsellers on their shelves. Again, the bulk of the marketing was and is on the shoulders of the authors, as it still is today.

Strang has their Creation House imprint, which is self-publishing; they call it co-publishing. Creation House was Strang’s first publishing imprint when they began publishing books. Much like Thomas Nelson they used an imprint they had already used. Thomas Nelson is a respected publisher and if you want to self-publish, their program looks good. Go to the WestBow web site and check it out. Programs run from $999.00 to $6,499.00.

We’ll talk about this more later – it’s time to say so long for now.

In Him,

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Interview with Diana's client Doug Varrieur

From the Heart readers I am thrilled to introduce you all to Doug Varrieur. As a personal testimony of the effectiveness of his program, I went down three jean sizes (12 (almost a 14) to a large 6) in just three months. The renewed energy I feel and the continual thanks I receive from my knees tell me this is my new life program. I received Doug’s book and shortly after, sat one evening and read it all the way through. I knew immediately it was a book that the average reader would find refreshing. His book reads like a great novel and the recipes it contains are simple to prepare yet hugely satisfying. When my Dad, who is a diabetic read Doug’s book, he said. ‘Kitten (yes my Dad calls me his kittenJ) this book should be in all the schools across this nation’. I am thinking my Dad is a prophet J.

Doug, tell our readers a bit about yourself and your soon to be published book.

Doug Varrieur, author and businessman. Doug’s personal credo; “help all around you and all will be well” A devoted family man, Doug has been blessed with three great kids, a wonderful grand son and his loving wife Sherri.

My book FAT TO SKINNY Fast and Easy! is helping people all over the world lose weight, balance blood sugar and reverse type two diabetes. FAT TO SKINNY became a success story in short order and was quickly picked up by Sterling Publishing Company, NY, NY

When does your title hit the book stores?

The book will be featured in the Barnes and Nobles “New Year New You” program in January 2010 with great expectations. It will also be available in all book stores and book seller web sites.

How did you research for this book? Where do you get your inspiration?

I was sick of being a fat guy; nothing I did seemed to work.
It was time to get control of it so I devoted all my time to finding the answers and developed my own program.

What are you hoping your writing to accomplish?

I would like to cure obesity and type two diabetes in every human being in need that I can reach worldwide. I have the answers and I won’t rest until I’ve made a major dent in the problem.

How are you using state-of-the-art technology in your everyday writing life?

I like the social networks, Face Book, My Space, You Tube. These give me the opportunity to talk to many people who need my help. Computers have taken the place of the trusted Underwood and open all doors for each of us. The world is a VERY small place with the internet.

Is there an area in your writing that you are working on developing more?

I can now use three fingers when I type, I’m shooting for four J

Have you had to overcome any obstacles in your writing journey?

The FAT TO SKINNY manuscript was rejected by 56 agents and publishers over a period of 90 days. As all of you know, that’s very disheartening. I self published because I thought they were all idiots for not seeing the magic of the book….then came Diana J

What is the most important thing on your current ‘To Do ‘ list?

Finishing this interview J… no just kidding. The FAT TO SKINNY Low Sugar Low Carb Cookbook (350 pages) The FAT TO SKINNY Low Sugar Low Carb Product Guide (175 pages) and The FAT TO SKINNY Sugar and Carb Counter (115 pages) are all within sight of finalization, it’s been a busy summer.

What has been the hardest part of writing your book?

That finger thing again, just keep on pecking awayJ.

What do you hope people will take away from reading your book?

I hope people see the simplicity of weight loss and good health. I hope people find their answers to a longer and healthier life by following my lead.

What new projects are you working on?

FAT TO SKINNY Low Sugar Low Carb Cookbook

FAT TO SKINNY Low Sugar Low Carb Product Guide

FAT TO SKINNY Sugar and Carb Counter

Marketing programs for FAT TO SKINNY Fast and Easy!

A Televised Celebrity Cooking Show

Where can people find out more about you and your writing? The programs and speaking that you do?

Facebook and My Space, search- Doug Varrieur

To contact Doug directly

Monday, October 12, 2009

Interview with Joyce's Client Dorothy Clark

I’d like to introduce my client, Dorothy Clark. Dottie and I have been on this publishing journey together since November 2002. She has published exclusively for Steeple Hill and has done six books for them. Her first book, Hosea’s Bride was published in 2004 and sold 270,000 copies. Even though Hosea’s Bride was a contemporary story, her expertise is writing Historical Fiction. She recently won two awards: the National Readers’ Choice Award, Inspirational, for Family of the Heart and best short historical for this title in the ACFW Book of the Year contest. Soon we will be negotiating for a new 2 or 3 book contract with Steeple Hill, which makes us both happy.

Dorothy, you have a unique attitude about writing books. Tell us how you feel about your writing and how you get your plots and stories.

Because of the way I became a writer, I feel my writing is a calling, a ministry for the Lord. The books I write are His books, not mine. And I trust Him to do with them what He will. I get my plots and stories from Him; sometimes as an answer to prayer, and other times as a lovely, unexpected gift. I do not write stories that do not come from Him. Once I submit the story, I listen carefully to my editors and work with them to make the books the best they can be. My editors at Steeple Hill have never asked me to change or delete any of the spiritual truth in the books. I'm blessed the Lord led me to Steeple Hill.

From the beginning you’ve wanted to write for Steeple Hill, why is that?

For each book, I pray the Lord will give me the message of truth He desires to share. And that the book will bear "fruit" for Him. Steeple Hill (Inspirational arm of Harlequin) has huge distribution—they are the largest romance publisher in the world, and that distribution embraces both the secular and the Christian markets. I want to share God's love with those who do not yet know Him. I believe that is why the Lord placed me with Steeple Hill.

What led you to the career choice of becoming an author?

It was not my choice. I was sitting in church one Sunday when a visiting pastor said, "The Lord would have you write down everything He gives you." I was excited because I thought it had to do with my teaching in a Christian school. A couple weeks later a sentence about a woman holding on to the sideboard of a wagon came into my head. I ignored it, but it did not go away. So, one day I wrote it down. That act of obedience opened a floodgate. Words poured into my head. I wrote them down as fast as I could. By the end of three pages I realized I was writing a story! That story became my first published historical, Beauty for Ashes. I've been writing ever since. So, one word of advice...don't ever assume you know what God is going to do. I had no idea...

How do you do the research for your books?

When possible, I travel to the place where the story is located to learn about the locale. Since I write historicals things are very different than when my stories take place, but the land, rivers, mountains, etc. are the same. And I buy books. I do use the internet when necessary, but I prefer a book in my hand. The information I need for my historicals does not change, and with a book I learn more than only the specific bit of information I was seeking.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Well, let's see...I am a wife, mother and grandmother. I love God, my family, America, and happy endings. Oh, and potato chips. Forget the candy, give me something salty and crunchy! I do not like unhappy stories, and do not read them for entertainment. If I want unhappy, all I have to do is listen to the news.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently writing the third book in a series of four historicals based on the, now adult, daughters in my first two historicals, Beauty for Ashes and Joy for Mourning. The first two books are titled Family of the Heart and The Law and Miss Mary.

What has been the hardest part of writing your books?
Finding the time to write. Life happens...

What do you hope people will take away from your books?

A warm, satisfied feeling. A wish that the book had been longer. And a deeper sense of God's love for them.

What is the best writing advice you ever got?

Well, my agent, a very savvy lady, once told me, "Keep doing what you're doing. It works!" Sound familiar, Joyce? It turns out she was right. The worst? I have no answer for this one. I live in the hills, there are not many people around to give me advice.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Only one thing, about writing or life in general—If God speaks, be obedient. You never know where He will lead you...

Thank you Dorothy – it is a blessing to work with you.

Until next time,

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Standing out from the crowd!

When we talk promotion having something to set us out from the crowd is a good thing. Authors often do promotional events and book signings in costume or use various promotional items to attract attention and draw readers to them. I like western wear, but when doing promotional events or when going to a conference I dress a little more flashy than usual for the same reason, so people will remember me and to draw people to me at a signing.

It’s a tried and true principle, just watch ads on television. When we want people to remember us it is a good thing to stand out. But is it always a good thing?

Not when submitting a proposal. I get proposals on colored paper or with huge type on the cover, maybe bound or with fancy covers. Anything to attract attention. This is NOT where we want to attract attention.

On Chip MacGreagor’s blog he was talking about people making exorbitant claims about their book. They were trying to stand out verbally. Doing things in a book proposal to stand out raises flags from the very beginning. Such things shout from the rooftop, “I am a newbie!”

We can’t hide the fact that we are a new or unpublished writer if that is the case, but the goal is not to advertise it. The goal is to have the person evaluating the proposal run across it after they are favorably impressed and be surprised with the professionalism of the presentation for a new writer.

So what’s the goal? The goal is not to stand out but to have our proposal look exactly like the carefully polished proposal of someone who has been doing it for years. The goal is to have the writing as polished and ready as we can make it, to look at the submission guidelines to make sure we are pitching the right person then to send them exactly what they want precisely how they wish to receive it. I have people argue with me about what I ask to see. Would you think that is more or less likely to make me look at something other than what I’ve asked to see?

Our Agency submission guidelines are at and to help make sure the manuscript itself is ready to go I’ve even posted a checklist on “is it ready to submit?” on my own website at and in the bookstore at that website I even offer a little ebook on “Pitch and Promote like a Pro” to walk someone through the process step by step. So, with us doing all we can to help make a very professional proposal and pitch, why do so many still feel like the best thing to do is stand out from the crowd? To that newbie trying to make the cut I say, “stand out in your promotion, make your writing stand out with the quality, but your proposal is not the place to stand out.”