Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Is there such a thing as an over-believer?

This question was asked on one of the writing groups. My answer is NO! I believe in Jesus and the good news of the gospel with every fiber of my being. Is there such a thing as an over-communicator? Well . . . yes.

I have a young relative that was a brand new preacher. He was on fire with an unmatched evangelistic zeal. When he was speaking to potential converts you could see their eyes glaze over as he exceeded their capacity to receive information. I told him we need to learn to gauge the amount of information our intended audience is prepared to receive. He learned to read people better, to not try to get the job done in one burst of information, and be patient to match the message with the receiver.

This is particularly true when bringing a message of faith to a non-believer. What happens when that occurs? The Holy Spirit brings them under conviction. Being under conviction is difficult enough for Christians who understand what it is and often need a dose of it, but it is never a comfortable thing. Being a non-believer and coming under conviction is that much more uncomfortable when they don’t understand what is going on but do not like it. The result is usually to tune out or even to resist. Not what we are after.

It’s the same in writing, in our daily communications, sermons, any type of communication activity. We have to try to match the message with the receiver. I had a speech professor once that said we all possess a box of index cards. On those cards are written all of our life experiences, our education, our upbringing, the mistakes we have made, all the facets of our life. We formulate a communication by going through that box and putting the message together by using that box.

The problem is the message will be received by a person with another box that has a completely different set of cards, and they will use their cards, not ours, to decode the message. To the extent that we can find common ground, that is the extent that we will effectively communicate. A good communicator can match the message to the receiver, can keep from giving them more information than they are prepared to receive in one sitting.

Is there such a thing as an over-believer? No, I don’t believe it possible to love the Lord TOO much. Is there such a thing as an over-communicator? Actually that seems to happen a lot, particularly with those who are on fire for the Lord, but there is something we can do about it. And we can become more effective communicators for God by matching the message to the listener.

Hope everybody has a wonderful and productive new year with all of the blessings you can handle,


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Seek Wisdom for Sucess by Diana

As the New Year fast approaches, and our much anticipated celebration of Christ’s birth lies behind, we continue to review the principles Andy Andrews has shared with us in his book, The Travelers Gift, Seven Decisions That Determine Personal Success. Today we find our traveler in the courtroom of none other than King Solomon as he is hearing the case of the woman who stole the newborn of another mother because her child had died in the night. I remember the first time I heard the account, The injustice of it angered me- the seeming helplessness of the victim saddened me and the just return of the baby to it’s real mother thrilled me. Even as a child I recognized the incredible wisdom Solomon used in the deciding of this case. A true respect for the word of God was born in me through the re-telling.

Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all others- he was wiser than all men and his fame was known in all the surrounding nations. He wrote 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs. People came from all over the earth, even from Kings, to hear his wisdom. 1Kings 4:30,31, &34. It is no surprise that Solomon’s advice to traveler David Ponder is: Seek wisdom and the wise counsel of others. This is the same instruction recorded throughout scripture for us.

As an author, there is a constant need to seek the knowledge that will help you write with greater skill, move your plot along, make your point concisely. Fortunately we have a plethora of resources available to guide us. Many books have been written on specific topics. Character development, writing a successful proposal, how to market your newly published title, steps to cure writers block, platform building. We use various search engines, confer with Wikipedia, spend lots of time catching up on Facebook. Busy yes- as successful as we desire to be?

Seek Wisdom. She will be found. It takes discipline to hone our skills. And time set aside for this purpose. Reading this chapter led me into the book of Proverbs and I was once more impressed with the conciseness and the depth Solomon captured, often in just one or two sentences.

Proverbs 14: 23 Hard work pays off; mere talk puts no bread on the table.
Proverbs 14: 7 Escape quickly from the company of fools; they’re a waste of your time, a waste of your words.
Proverbs 15: 2 Knowledge flows like spring water from the wise; fools are leaky faucets, dripping nonsense.
Proverbs 15: 12 Know it alls don’t like being told what to do; they avoid the company of wise men and women.
Proverbs 16: 3 Put God in charge of your work, then what you have planned will take place.
Proverbs 18: 9 Slack habits and sloppy work are as bad as vandalism.
Proverbs 18: 15 Wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insight.
Proverbs 20: 13 Don’t be too fond of sleep; you’ll end up in the poorhouse. Wake up and get up: then there’ll be food on the table.
Proverbs 21: 5 Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you further behind.
Proverbs 22: 29 Observe people who are good at their work--skilled workers are always in demand and admired; they do not take a back seat to anyone.
Proverbs 24: 27 First plant your fields; then build your barn.

With so many wonderful proverbs God gave us through Solomon, on every subject matter, we are well served to seek his advice. After all, Proverbs 14: 24 instructs us-- The wise accumulate wisdom; fools get stupider by the day.

The proverbs shared with you today were from the Message Bible.

May this New Year find us seeking wisdom and direction from the one who is it's source.

From my heart to yours,


Friday, December 25, 2009

A Politically Correct Christmas Greeting

Actually, if that is what you are looking for you have come to the wrong place. Everyone at Hartline is a Bible-believing, born again Christian and above all else we believe that Christmas is a day set aside for recognizing the birth of our Lord.

Sure I know it may or may not be the exact day He was born, it’s silly to get into that argument. What is important is there is a day set aside to honor Him. It doesn’t matter if a lot of stores try to circumvent that by using “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” or if the government seems bent on getting any vestige of religion out of our country because they can’t do it. The real church of Jesus isn’t a building or a place that the government can get at, but it is in our hearts and there it is secure and above their petty efforts.

Of course I want to do everything I can to reverse these trends, but I also want them to know that their efforts are futile. Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, period, exclamation mark. Not that we don’t enjoy all of the ‘trimmings’ of the season, we do. The lights, the decorations, the brightly lit tree, and presents, did I mention presents? And how about the look on the faces of the children in anticipation of seeing what is in those brightly wrapped packages? Priceless.

Is there a big meal involved? There usually is for us, our family thinks eating and celebrating are two ways of saying the same thing. No, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the holiday as long as we first remember the real reason.

We were watching a Christmas program and on it they asked if people could name the best and the worst Christmas. Someone said, “who could possibly do that?” I said I could. My worst Christmas was the year my brother died right at Christmas. No contest.

My best? Sitting in a candle-lit evening service on Christmas Eve and watching my kids get baptized together. Also absolutely no contest. What present did I get that year? Who knows? But I’ll never forget the sights reflected in that flickering candlelight or the smell of the pine boughs being warmed by candles in the windows or the sound of the Christmas choir all leading up to the actual baptism. No amount of ‘political correctness’ can take that away from me.

We here at Hartline wish you and yours a wonderful celebration of the birth of our Savior and we hope for you it is more than just a time to exchange gifts but a time to build precious memories that can last the year through . . . and some can last a lifetime.

Merry Christmas,

From Terry, writing on behalf of Joyce, Tamela and Diana as well as all of our individual families.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Year of the Pony

By Candy Arrington

“I’m not having a Christmas tree this year. There is no reason to go to all the fuss and trouble when I’m here alone. I don’t need a tree.”

With that declaration, the tiny, white-haired woman turned her walker with a thump, thump, thump, as she slowly pivoted her arthritic knees to follow. Her wheezy asthmatic breathing came in short gusts as she labored across the hardwood floor. Buried in her exhales was a slight whistle of a familiar tune to keep her mind off her pain.

“It just won’t seem like Christmas,” I argued.

“Christmas has never been the same since Ed died,” she countered.

Giving up for the moment, I planted a kiss on her wrinkled brow and told her good-bye. Almost as an afterthought, I asked if there was ever a Christmas in her lifetime when she asked for something and didn’t receive it.

Her brow crinkled in thought. “I asked for a pony once, when I was a young girl. I never got it.”

In the days that followed, I tried to understand why I felt it important for her to have a Christmas tree. Having nothing at all in the house to remind her of Christmas seemed too sad and depressing.

Without a tree, there was no place to put her gifts, nothing to light up the corners of her dark house. I wanted to do something to brighten her life—to give back.

In my mind, I kept coming back to the pony. She might not want a tree this year but somewhere in her child-mind was a disappointed little girl longing for a pony. I felt a smile curl my lips as an idea took shape. This year the ancient little girl would have a surprise.

I needed reinforcements if my plan were to success. Everything would have to time out perfectly. Enlisted my father’s help, we designated Christmas Eve as the appointed time. Under cover of darkness, we implemented “Operation Pony.” My father visited with her in the living room while I stealthily, although not very quietly, maneuvered things into position in her dining room. To this day, I can’t believe she didn’t realize what was going on. I like to think she didn’t know.

Maybe she only pretended for my sake.

Later, as Dad helped her down the hall, I slid the plug into the socket. The warm glow of Christmas tree lights dispelled the gloomy darkness of the room. Beneath the tree were her gifts: a doll, a top, and a wooden pony on wheels. It might not be the pony of her dreams, but it was a pony all the same.

Early Christmas morning our phone rang. She never liked to talk on the phone, calling it the “instrument”, so I was surprised to hear her voice.

“I got my pony,” she said simply. “And a Christmas tree, too. Thank you.”

That little white-haired woman was my grandmother. My memories of her are as vivid and colorful as the beautiful patchwork quilts she made.

Her influence on my life is deep and abiding, a subtle infusion of quiet hours spent together. I don’t know if by genetics, or by example, but I know her greatest strengths lie within me. I’m glad she celebrated one of her last Christmases on earth with a tree, a pony, and the joy of knowing how much I loved her.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Is The Paper Book Going by the Wayside?

Hello From the Heart readers. Today I welcome guest blogger Eddie Jones, Pencil Box Crew member and one of Diana's authors. He recently blogged in response to the question permeating the industry, Is the publishing industry in a state of demise as we know it?

The obituary of the paper book continues to draw interest but before we bury the printed word let's consider the hype and obstacles of digital delivery.

Last week at the International Coach Federation conference in Orlando Florida I watched as hundreds of attendees waited in line to have books signed by key-note speakers and conference faculty. Where do you put the author’s autograph on an e-book and does a hand written note from Sarah Palin mean as much in a Kindle as it does in a hardback?

Today I waited in line at Borders to purchase an Eagles DVD. Yes, I could have grabbed a boot-leg copy online but I value Glen, Joe and Don’s music so I was willing to pay them for their art. However, most of the customers in line cradled books. Several in fact. I checked and almost all were being bought as gift. How do you give the latest Pat Conroy novel as an e-book? Where does the bow, go?

My wife doesn’t buy books. She borrows them from the library. When publishers convert to e-books will libraries offer digital downloads and if so, how? Will my wife have to take her e-reader to the library to check out the book or will she download it from the library’s web site?

The evolving nature of consumer electronics and growing influence of the web drive expectations to dizzying heights. Disposable media, like the newspapers and magazines that end up in the recycle bucket, will migrate to the e-reader platform. Such products are ideal for e-readers. Text books, too.

But fiction and non-fiction books live beyond their publication date. Readers “participate” in a book. They paint their own scenes, adding the furniture of their lives to make the story their own. They pause mid-act to nap, exit the subway or board a plane. With non-fiction they highlight, underline and dog-ear pages for reference. E-books cluttered with hyperlinks, ads, video and sound do not enhance the reading experience. They detract from it.

Consider the browser wars that have plagued the web since its birth. Will publishers spend money to create multiple versions of its product in order to reach all types of e-readers? Or will they pick a winner and hope for the best. Few know the brand of the printing press that publishes the morning paper, but with e-publications technology will trump content.

From 1997 to 2001 the World Wide Web went from a fringe concept (prior to 1996 most companies didn’t even have a web site) to the dominant fixture in our culture. In four years the web revolutionized the media, (AOL purchased Time Warner), the recording industry, (Napster provided easy, free and illegal access to music) and the way we get our news and stay in touch. (You’ve got mail!)

Amazon released their first Kindle in November 19, 2007. Citi analyst Mark Mahaney estimates that Amazon sold 500,000 of its first e-reader. Amazon predicts it will sell 800,000 by the end of this year. In contrast, Sarah Palin's memoir, released this fall, has sold 1 million copies and HarperCollins plans to increase the print run to 2.8 million copies. That’s one book using old technology that doesn't require batteries, specialized formatting or training. The e-reader isn’t a trend. It’s a niche fad pushed with hype and hope.

I was in a Family bookstore last night picking up last minute gifts and bought myself three books for three dollars. How does one browse and make impromptu purchase like that with an e-book? E-readers may change the way we read periodicals, but it’s doubtful they will replace books.

Consumers will use e-readers to keep abreast of news, current trends and culture gossip. When it comes time to pick a book for entertainment, though, they’ll choose paper. We always have. Odds are we will for a very long time.

Thank you Eddie, I say Amen to the paper book sticking around. Of course as an agent it is in my best interest for it to do so- but long before my agent career, I have read and acquired paper books. They are my treasures, friends and counselors. This Christmas, I have wrapped many up for gifts. And the bow looked great afixed to the wrapped book.

Merry Christmas to you all.


Monday, December 21, 2009

How about booksignings?

Let me change hats and put on my author hat:

I consider book signings to be PR. They seldom produce significant sales. I generally set up a large placard announcing that I am signing books (you’d be surprised how few people “get it” if I don’t). By the time I do a signing I have tried to lead it with radio and newspaper interviews and emailed or mailed any actual contacts I have in the community. I stand pretty much the entire time greeting people at the door and giving them free bookmarks. I prefer to have them at a store that will allow me to sell backlist on consignment in addition to the current books the store has gotten. ( I also have copies of those with me in case theirs don’t get in which happens or in the happy case that they didn’t get enough and I sell out). But with all that if I cover expenses it’s a pretty good day.

Doing a program is different. I like to go to a store that will advertise that I am doing one of the programs that I offer and that I will be available to sign books afterward. These produce much better results and I’ll generally pick up some impulse buying from the store as well. But I do many more of these at libraries or schools than I do at bookstores and the results are much better. Even better still is conferences and workshops. The big conferences I often don’t sell books so as not to compete with the conference attendees. But the smaller conferences, particularly if it is a workshop where I’m presenting alone or with just a couple of people, the book sales are generally very good.

Finally I have to say there is an inverse relationship between the size of the town and the success of a booksigning or program. You’d think the bigger the better, but it just isn’t so at least my experience hasn’t been that. I often go to very small towns, and where I may just be another signing or event in a big town, in a small town I am a very rare celebrity. I’ve sold several hundred books in these cases, done multiple programs, and just in general have had a ball. I heartily encourage you to seek out and pursue opportunities to go to very small communities. In ALL cases it works best if you have a local person, hopefully as well known a local person as possible, serving as your “local chairman” and helping turn out a crowd for you. Such a person can take it VERY PERSONALLY if people do not come and I have had them sitting there running the battery down on their sell phone trying to make sure it happens. People called out in this manner almost always buy a book.

I’m busy now trying to set up school, church and library programs around the actual workshops and conferences I have scheduled. I try to work weekdays for my clients. I try to work Saturday or weekends for my own writing career.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

We woke up to beautiful snow this morning. The forecast is 3 to 8 inches. Well, we already have more than three. I cancelled my beauty shop appointment and decided to just enjoy being home today. Shopping is done, cards are mailed, the house is decorated, our ham is in the freezer, so today maybe we’ll wrap presents, and make some turkey chili. My son in Washington, DC says they are expecting 15 inches of snow. Tamela, in Manassas, VA says they already have 14 inches. Further east on the coast, the snow is far worse than Pittsburgh. We’re 250 miles from DC and about 400 from Philadelphia and the NYC area. Some people get Philly and Pittsburgh mixed up. We’re in western Pennsylvania, near the Ohio boarder.

Publishing pretty much closes down from now until after the first of the year. I got an e-mail from one editor yesterday, saying their office would be closed from 1:00 pm on December 24st until January 4th. This will probably be true of many publishers. This particular editor is taking two weeks off, beginning the 21st. Many editors save vacation time for this time of the year.

I will be checking e-mail every day, but I won’t be working in the office after the 21st. Not full-time anyway, it’s hard to stay away completely. The week between Christmas and New Years is a catch up week, hoping to clear my desk, and get rid of the “piles.” Yes, that means doing rejections. Not a fun project. We will keep the blog up most days. I’m sure all of our agents will be checking e-mail every day. Otherwise we would be overwhelmed.

Have a wonderful weekend; enjoy shopping and getting ready for Christmas. Our whole family, two sons, two daughter-in-law and one grandson, will be together on Christmas day. We are blessed. I hope you will be able to be with your families and friends. To those of you who have lost loved ones, especially this past year, I pray that the Lord will help you through this season.

May we all remember the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas,

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Are You Ready for The Holiday? by Diana

Hello From the Heart Readers. Are you ready for the holidays?

What that means to me may not be what it means to many of you. I have one child, now 21 who is no longer that keen on Christmas with all of the trimmings. He is more interested in borrowing my car and what is in the refrigerator. LOL! Many of you with school age children are busy with school activities, baking, crafting and decorating as well as planning and attending social events.Others are just trying to get through the lonely season after the loss of a loved one.

Personally I am enjoying this less hectic Christmas. Gives me more time for reflection and work. I stood in line at the post office Monday- on the busiest day of the season I later heard on the news. Figures. It was time that passed pleasantly enough as two women in front of me heard my phone conversation to my husband informing him I would not be home in time to make dinner. I suggested Grilled cheese and Tomato soup - our favorite family emergency meal. As I hung up the other gals remarked that that sounded like a great supper plan to them as well. Simple is often better at times filled with high levels of expectations.

And often times the best read for me is a small book with a simple message I can apply to my current circumstances, a help in my journey, whether work or relational. I am beginning today a series of seven blogs based on the 7 principles in the book, The Travelers Gift written by author Andy Andrews. For some who are familiar with Andy's writing you are already looking forward to revisiting this- and for the others, I hope you will be blessed by the principles Andy sets forth for our enlightenment.

The protagonist in the story is David, an ordinary man, work-a-holic, driven to provide success for his wife and their future who suddenly finds himself out of work. After months of fruitless searching for a new job, he despairs to the point of suicide. A car accident, and we find David lying in the hospital unconscious. While unconscious- he is transported through time. ( don't ya just LOVE fiction?) Arriving at historical events, where a key figure in human history is about to affect all of our futures with his or her decision. Each of these individuals have fore knowledge of David's arrival and conclude their visit gifting him with a principle that they have employed leading to their personal success. A principle that offers a new perspective for David and perhaps for the reader.

David's first visit finds him in the presence of none other than Harry Truman. And the principle, while many of us know it and ascribe it to this man is Principle One: The Buck Stops Here. I alone am responsible for my past and therefore my own future.

So many of us get stuck at times. Re-evaluate our lives and ask how we ended up where we are now. We look around and attempt to find blame outside of ourselves. We play victim and cry out how unfair life has been.

But if we disclaim our responsibility for our present, we lose the chance of a incredibly bright future. Where we are mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, or financially, we have played a part in our present. Our thinking has brought us here. If as Andy says, The bad news is - the past was in your hands- then the good news is- your future is also. Each of us must take personal responsibility for our decisions and choices. Until we do- we will remain in our present circumstances, stalled or stuck, fearful.

The Psalmist David tells us: The Lord is close to all that call upon Him in truth. He will fulfil the desire of them that fear Him, He will also hear their cry, and will save them.

As we examine the year that is fast closing on us, let us own our decisions, and allow the Buck to Stop at our desks and PC's, laptops and beds. We do not have to be afraid of where we are- or where we are going for we know the one who holds our future. Be honest with yourself. Own what part you have played in the present scheme of things and together let us move to the next principle. We might just find ourselves refreshed and with renewed passion for the thing God has brought us to!

Only 8 days till Christmas- Jesus's Birthday! I am so glad He came, Born to Die for me and you so that we might have Life!

Principle 2 coming Dec 26th:-)
Merry Christmas, From my Heart to yours,

PS I don't think you knew that my Dad was the real Santa. did you? Shush!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Do Book Trailers Work?

Do these book trailers really do any good? There’s a big discussion going on over on one of these lists about this, on that recurs often from place to place. In the case that is being talked about the publisher wants trailers to go on a DVD the sales reps can use to go out and pitch books and in that case the answer is they will absolutely do some good. I have a friend that is in book acquisition for some bookstores and he tells me they simply do not have the time to read all the books they acquire so they depend on some trusted review sources, or sometimes the decision is made as simply as the cover and how they think it will display on the shelves and be picked up. They would look with great favor on such a DVD.

But how about your average reader? Are they swayed by trailers? Do they even see them? Who knows? Putting my writer hat on I try to build things in to various promotion sources when I can that will show me where success is coming from. After all, most of the time when we sell a book we don’t know what triggered that buying decision. Word of mouth is the most effective thing, I think most people agree on that, but how was that word of mouth promotion generated?

Does the trailer do that? Do blog tours do that? Promoting the book on various online groups, is that what makes it happen? Doing book-signings and programs and being a guest on radio or TV or getting interviewed somewhere, is that it? The answer is yes, all of the above and anything more that we can think of.

It’s great when we can decide something is definitely working so we can do more of it. It’s even good when we see something doesn’t work so we can not do it again. I did a contest with one of my books that drew no entries. That means I wasn’t out the prize for the contest as nobody won it, and just the existence and promotion of the contest may have triggered some sales, no way to tell. But on the surface the contest was a bust so I won’t do it again.

It’s called platform and while we seldom can tell what is really triggering purchases, the more of it we have the better. P T Barnum, the old circus promoter, said it. He said “I don’t care what you say about me as long as you spell my name right.” He meant all publicity is eventually good publicity. I’ve seen folks with very questionable activity in their past get elected to office. Voters didn’t remember WHY they recognized the name, they just knew it was familiar. I’d rather people be more discerning than that but it proves the point.

People buy books because they see a name they can identify with more than anything else. How did the name become familiar? It might have been that book trailer, the author may never know. Or it might have been any one of the other activities the author is doing to generate visibility. And you want to know the funny thing? The purchaser may not even know themselves why they are familiar with the name, they just are.

Like I say, the answer is “all of the above.”

Monday, December 14, 2009

You Never Know Where Love Will Find You!

Dear From the Heart reader,

It is my privilege today to introduce to you author Cerella Sechrist. Cerella lives in Pennsylvania not far from the town of Hershey where her story is set for her soon to be released title.

Cerella, your title Love Finds You in Hershey, Pennsylvania will be released February 1, 2010 by Summerside Press. Where did you get your inspiration from for this fun story?

I’m a bit of a foodie, and I used to have an obsession with the Food Network. After years of writing historical fiction, I wanted to try something different. When I started thinking about a contemporary story to tell, it didn’t take long for me to gravitate to food! And from there, the progression to desserts wasn’t too large a leap.

You must have had fun researching for this book.

Like building a recipe, I pulled a dash here and a dash there – and made many trips to nearby Hershey, Pennsylvania to visit both tourist attractions and friends. Not to mention the requisite taste-testing of chocolate!

A February release is a great time for a romantic tale to find it’s way to the shelves. I would imagine that lends itself to some fun marketing. Do you have any plans already underway?

There will be some chocolatey giveaways going on through my website ( during the month of February as well as some foodie events where you can learn to make a dessert or two. Additionally, I'll be offering some fun merchandise surrounding the book's themes of food, romance and chocolate! I encourage readers to join my Facebook page and sign up for my newsletter through the website (see all links at the end of this interview) to keep up to date with all the yummy goodness. :)

What has been the hardest part of writing your novel and how did you overcome it?

Well, desserts are a dominant theme, so the hardest part was the research. =D

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

First and foremost, I simply hope people come away feeling lighter for having read it. If it makes you laugh or smile, then it was worth the effort. Secondly, if you find a little of yourself in the story and know yourself a little better once it’s over, then so much the better. Thirdly, if it gives you an insatiable craving for chocolate…I apologize.

What new projects are you working on, are they in the same genre?

Currently, I’m working on a contemporary series about three sisters who are working at mending their broken relationships with each other. It’s filled with a little bit of everything: elements of humor, touches of mystery and a lot of relational drama as the three try to come to terms with their own personal betrayals and failures.

I would imagine like most authors, once people know you are writing you get a lot of advice. What is the best and worst writing advice you ever got?

The best comes from my own sister, who constantly encourages me. She’s never been afraid to tell me, “This isn’t working, and I know you can make it work. Stop procrastinating and do it right.” She’s like my personal cheerleader and drill-sergeant fused into one.

There’s been a lot of advice I may not have agreed with – but you have to take into account that different things work for different people. What may be bad advice for me might be brilliant for someone else.

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

My favorite thing right now is the digital readers – like the Amazon Kindle, which allows you to instantly download books to a personal handheld device. It allows me to carry dozens of books at my fingertips – it saves a lot of luggage space when you’re hauling reference books around!

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

I love the challenge of writing – finding my weak spots and making the effort to tighten them up. Lately, I’ve been trying to tone up particular plot details – especially that dreaded middle section where writers tend to get a little hung up on moving your characters from points B to C to D.

Cerella, I am sure you have your favorite reference books or ‘how to’s’ on the subject of writing. What books do you recommend to our readers?

For those just starting out, I highly recommend finding a used copy of “How to Write and Sell a Christian Novel” by Gilbert Morris. It’s out-of-print now but worth finding a copy to familiarize yourself with the beginner’s writing life. He offers a lot of basics to get you started.

For those who have been at it a little longer, I recommend Heather Seller’s books “Chapter after Chapter” and “Page after Page.” They appeal to novices and experts alike, but I appreciate them more now that I’ve been writing for several years.

What obstacles have you run up against in your writing journey?

I think the universal answer is…rejection. It’s certainly a lesson in humility, patience and perseverance.

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

I try to keep lots of fun content on my website that relate to my novels (soundtracks, recipes, backgrounds, merchandise, etc.) Check it frequently for updates at:

Also, join me on Facebook at: and follow my blog at

My main character, Sadie, in Love Finds You in Hershey Pennsylvania even has her own blog at:

Cerella, thank you so much for joining us here today and I hope our readers will check out your sites and your title. I have the sudden urge to go find my chocolate stash so see y’ all later…

From my heart to yours,


Friday, December 11, 2009

Interview with Terry's Client Bonnie Calhoun

Bonnie, the Madison PI series kicks off soon from Abingdon Press. I know you worked with Michelle Sutton on it, but Michelle is Tamela's client so I'll let her handle talking to her when she is ready. But you were the one that had the idea for this black and white sleuth team, weren't you? Tell me where the idea came from? And how it developed?

Yes this was my idea. I came up with this because, out of all of the Christian fiction I read I really haven't found a lot of diversity or multicultural interaction. The idea comes from my own real life. My extended family is a blending of multicultures, and my husband is white. We've been together for 28 years and between him and family interactions there is plenty of fonder to keep me writing novels until the Lord returns. This developed out of a real situation that happened long years ago in my family and with enough embellishment I have turned it into a full length novel.

The first book is called "Thicker than Sisters" - can you give us a little teaser about what to expect?

Precious Madison has a chip on her shoulder.

Olivia Baldwin is the epitome of that chip.

Bridging the crack will create a bond that can never be broken.

PI Precious Madison is tough, jaded, and judgmental, but are her street smarts enough to save sheltered heiress Olivia Baldwin from her naiveté of the real world.

A young man is murdered, and the two women are drawn into the mystery when they assume that the police write it off as a random crime. Unraveling the truth puts their lives at risk when they uncover a high-level crime organization, and another dead body that disappears before they can report it.

As the danger escalates, Precious and Olivia, learn to depend on each other for survival.

And There's a second book, "Thicker than Blood" contracted in the series and an option for more after that. What can we expect to see down the road?

In Thicker Than Sisters we see the coming of age of Precious' story and her coming to terms with her situation and her relationship with the Lord. In Thicker Than Blood we delve into the story of what has made Olivia the person that she is, and how she matures into the life-hand that has been dealt her.

Bonnie, you are the owner and publisher of the very successful Christian Fiction Online Magazine as well as for the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, how do you find time to write? How do you think these roles impact your writing career?

LOL...I find time to run the organizations and also write because I've given up on sleep. It was overated anyhow...LOL. I also have a full time day job.
I am a clothing designer and seamstress and I own my own business. I prioritize my projects at any given moment of the day, and I've learned to stay organized and within my own system, no matter how muddled it becomes. I work infinitely well under pressure. Actually over my life time I have found that I tend to thrive under pressure, so that is a plus that adds to my writing career!

What are you working on in addition to this series?

I'm working on another multicultural suspense series.

What's the best piece of writing advice you ever got? The worst?

The best writing advice:
Read Brandilyn Collins to learn how to write suspense.

The worst advice:
Ignore that looney Snowflake Method by that crazy nuclear physicist.

Anything else you'd like to take this opportunity to say?

Be true to yourself, and if you have a dream of being something.... be the best you can be and the Lord with honor your diligence.

Thanks, Bonnie

Look forward to your books coming out

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Note for Joyce

Today is Joyce's day to post a blog, but due to a power outage she can not presently do so. So many are facing weather events right now and Joyce and her family as well as others who are having such difficulties are in our thoughts and in our prayers.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Last Words You Speak…

December 8, 2009

Last night the phone rang at 7:50. I didn’t rush to answer, figuring the call was for my fifteen-year-old daughter. My husband answered and said it was my mother. I looked at the clock and realized she was calling during her favorite television program, Wheel of Fortune. I never call her during Wheel of Fortune. If the show is on at an odd time and Momma has the TV running, I can hear her tell Daddy, “Pig in a Poke,” or whatever the puzzle solution is as she divides her attention between the show and the conversation. For her to call then, I knew something terrible had happened.

Momma reported that one of my cousins, a fifteen-year-old, was in the hospital on a respirator and it didn’t look good. She told me she would keep me posted. The news was so shocking to our family that she said some of my relatives couldn’t even comprehend it. After she hung up, I couldn’t resist hugging my own daughter and thanking God we still have her.

My daughter was playing her piano recital piece for me at 7:20 this morning when the phone rang.

All I could say was, “He died.”

I didn’t know him well, but I do know his parents love each other, and they loved him, just as they love their two remaining sons. I know his grandparents loved him very much. The home where he lived is one of the most spacious and lovely in town. He was a good student. By all appearances, his future was bright. But now he will no longer be able to enjoy the pleasures of life, or to give joy to others. He left the world in a matter of hours, giving those he loved no time to prepare.

Like my cousin, many people leave without a final farewell. As Christians, we know that our loved ones who have gone ahead of us are in a better place than we are, but that doesn’t fill the hole in our hearts. That’s one reason why I always try to end every departure, even if it’s only for a day, with the words “I love you” falling from my lips. For if God chooses to take a loved one of mine today, those words will be the last I will have spoken.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I'm Just Sayin Guest Blog by Jena Morrow

Guest Blogger Jena Morrow is a client of Diana's and has a book titled, Hollow coming out with Moody Publishers in May 2010 that can be pre ordered on Amazon right now.

Welcome Jena:

What I've Learned in 2009 . . .

Posted: 22 Nov 2009 01:02 PM PST

Jeans are neither my enemy nor my friend. Jeans are not meant to change my body shape, minimize my butt, or make me taller. Their sole purpose on earth is to prevent nakedness from the waist down. Period.

Perhaps the reason so many of my friends are turned off by church is because church people have done a crummy job of representing a holy God to a hurting world. And perhaps my new year’s resolution should have more to do with remedying that than with eating less carbs.

Fact: Sometimes mediocre writers get published. Fact #2: Sometimes amazingly talented writers remain overlooked by the publishing world. Fact #3: both of these things kinda stink.

It is perfectly acceptable to be 33 years old and single. Heck, it’s even okay to be 33 years old and be happy with being single. It’s also acceptable to completely change one’s mind about that, and I will be sure to keep you posted.

Drama is conflict, and conflict is necessary to good storytelling. And, as much as I have lived my life to avoid conflict at all costs, being a writer will eventually force me to embrace it.

God is more than able to open doors that no man can open, and He delights in using the foolish things (and people) of the world to humble the wise.

No matter how much of a grammar and punctuation rock star you think you are, a good editor will show you the error of your ways.

Harboring unforgiveness is like drinking poison and then waiting for the other person to die.

Kids hear and absorb everything their parents do and say. Everything.

I talk too much. I need to do something about that. I’m sure there’s a reason why God gave us all two ears and only one mouth.

Noodles must be added to homemade chicken noodle soup last.

None of us have it all together. Especially not the people who look as though they do.

People who say they don’t care what people think about them are usually desperate to have other people think they don’t care what people think about them.

When you write a memoir, always change first names to protect the innocent. Because, chances are, by the time your book is released, you will have come back into contact with every single person whom you wrote about. (Thanks, Facebook!)

Some cats like veggie burgers, celery, soy milk, and coffee. (Or, at least one does. )

For as long as Liberty is alive and living in my home, I will never again be allowed to lay on my right side. She is a left-sided cat. Period.

Imitrex doesn’t work for my headaches. Zomig doesn’t work for my headaches. Advil Migraine no longer works for my headaches. Five Hour Energy works like magic for my headaches. Live and learn.

Even if your friend has been dead for five years, you will still have moments where you completely forget this and you’ll reach for your phone to call her when a certain song comes on over the speakers in Applebee’s.

Sometimes words are overrated. It’s impossible to say the wrong thing when you simply hug someone instead of saying anything at all.

There is no joy equal to the feeling of taking someone by the hand and walking them toward Jesus. Evangelism doesn’t mean what I thought it meant. It means doing life the way Jesus did it, with boldness, tenderness, and authenticity, and presenting the truth in love. The “ministry of reconciliation” is for every believer, even those of us who have been scared to death of it.

I do not like beer, dark chocolate, or bleu cheese – and I probably never will.

I will probably never again be a coloratura soprano or a size one. And I’ll just have to deal.

Sometimes kindness shocks the heck outta people. We’ve learned not to expect it. Kindness goes further (farther? Ack!) now than it ever did, because it so obviously sets us apart from a hostile society.

And probably the MOST important thing I have learned in 2009: I still have a lot to learn.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Let’s Talk About Rejections

Some tips on getting your book proposal read.

1. One of my stock answers is: “This isn’t a good fit for our agency.” Have you researched our web site? Did you read what we’re looking for? I get several queries and/or proposals a day for Young Adult and children’s novels. We don’t do either of those categories. Under “guidelines” we list what we are looking for and the categories that we are not interested in seeing.

2. Do you know how to prepare a proposal? Again, we have proposal guidelines on our web site. We tell you exactly how we want to see a proposal. We can bend a little, but basically our guidelines reflect what editors are asking from us. When we don’t send them this way we get comments like this, “Joyce, this is not your usual style.” Then they ask us to do them over. Authors tell me that preparing the proposal is harder than writing the book and I know this is true. However, please know that it is a necessary step in getting your book published.

3. Your bio is important. Every day I get queries with only a summary of the book. I can’t make a decision without your bio and your publishing history. It’s all part of the drill.

4. The marketing comparison – we get a lot of “groaning” about this one. However, again it is essential. One editor recently asked us, “Does this author know where this book fits on the bookshelf?” In other words do you know who your audience? Very important in presenting your book to the agent and to the editor.

5. Don’t give us too much information. We need all the elements of the proposal, but we don’t need pages and pages. About the summary: for fiction, I personally prefer one to two pages. Some agents want more. For non-fiction, we need a small summary of each chapter.

6. Are you willing to complete the book? Terry recently did a survey of 175 editors and his conclusion is that the majority of editors want the book finished. We will accept a partial on non-fiction and also from published authors of fiction. However, for new authors, we need the whole book. And the editor might want the whole book finished even if you are a published author. Your agent will work with you on this.

7. Did you remember to put your contact information on the cover page, and yes, a cover page is necessary. Also, don’t forget to put a header on each page, using the “insert” button and please, number the pages. Amazing how many proposals we get without contact information and without the pages numbered. Even if we love the manuscript, we can’t contact the author because we don’t know who to contact. The e-mail or the envelope has gotten separated from the proposal, more than likely.

These are just a few tips, if you have questions please ask us. We are caring agents and it is not easy for us to reject your work. Sometimes, it’s simply not what we are looking for, other times we don’t know of anyone who is looking for your particular project. Let me point out that we get far more rejections than you do, because we have close to 200 clients. Some days we’ll get several rejections. I hate to tell an author their book is rejected. We hurt along with you. It’s one of my least favorite parts of my job.

Right now I’m looking for romance, romance, romance, either contemporary or historical. My personal favorite genre is romantic suspense and almost any kind of a mystery/suspense. However, this genre is a little hard to sell at this time. Amish is hot, whether contemporary or historical. Who knows how long this will last, it’s anybody’s guess. Thomas Nelson told me “we don’t want any dead bodies, we want lighter stories.” Mystery does not do well at Revell. Harvest House and WaterBrook are willing to look at mystery, but the book needs to be completed. Bethany’s specialty is romance, historical and contemporary. We are willing to look at women’s fiction. Bottom line is this, in spite of anything I’ve said we will always look at stellar writing in any category. Send us your very best work in a well done proposal.

I’m wishing you the best. Don’t get discouraged; remember selling anything takes persistence and consistence. If you are called to write, put your trust in God and keep writing.

One last word, publishing kind of dies this time of year. People are taking vacations, getting ready for Christmas. It will pick up in January 2010.



Saturday, December 5, 2009

Being a Christian Writer in a Changing World

We are living in the end times. The wildly popular Left Behind series put this on everyone’s minds. But they are a work of fiction and believers have varying opinions on what part of the books is true or not true, whether things will work as they depicted it or not. However we feel about it most believers think that we are living in that time.

The Apostles worked feverishly because they were concerned that they could not get their work done before Jesus returned for them. They expected it not only within their lifetime but lived with an immediate expectation of the event. I believe that is actually what God has in mind for all of us, to live our lives as though he’ll be back at any time.

There are many, many people who do not believe in the second coming. They say we’ve been looking for it for two thousand years and it has never happened so it isn’t going to happen. You know I’ve lived over 60 years and have never been run over by a train, but does that mean it can’t happen tomorrow?

Others do believe it, know what the Book of Revelations says and since they feel they can’t do anything to change things are just content to wait for it. We could do that, but is it what God wants us to do? Or does he want us to do what the Apostles did and work feverishly to get our work done before we are called home? I think we all know the answer to that one.

So how do we do it? If we are a writer and want to use those skills for the Lord, how do we go about it? I believe there are two ways to write for the Lord, to decide we are going to do it in which case it is an offering, or to be called to do it in which case it is a divine assignment and an obligation.

I know some people believe all Christian writers have been called but I’m afraid I don’t believe that any more than I believe that everybody who would like to preach has been called by God to do so. But let me quickly say I have no argument with those who believe otherwise and have no compulsion to have them see it my way. I’m just saying what I believe.

I wrestled with this myself. I decided I wanted to use my faith in my writing, but was it a calling or an offering? To tell you the truth I really didn’t want the obligation of it being a calling. The testimony on the process that I went through deciding what God wanted me to do is in the writing testimony at my website Let me just say I felt I was only a fiction writer, and it couldn’t be that I was being called to do it. Then my instructor smiled and said, “Yes, you’re only a fiction writer, and Jesus only told parables.”

I got the message.

Then I learned the next big difference between the two. If it was an offering, then it would be made out of my own skill and ability. If God was assigning me the task, He would see that my ability, skill and even character was molded to fit the requirements. Every time I stalled out in my writing, a sermon, Sunday school, Bible study or something else would provide EXACTLY what I needed, and I would be underway again.

Then came doubt. It wasn't going as fast as it should. If God wanted this, shouldn't it be happening faster? Bigger? Surely I had misunderstood the call.


No, all things in God's time. Look at how long it took Him to prepare Moses, Abraham, the Apostles, even how long Jesus himself was prepared before he began his ministry. All the figures of the Bible were prepared before God used them.
Who did I think I was that I thought I could just start writing and have immediate success? I realized patience was all-important particularly if it was a calling and not an offering.

Waiting, that’s a tough one.

If it were up to us, we'd lay out the whole plan so we could see every tiny aspect. We'd most likely disagree with parts of it, want to change a lot of it, and oh yes, have a back-up plan ready in case God's plan and His timing didn't work. Perhaps that's why God doesn't show us the whole thing at once. He knows we'd want to get our own ideas and our own timing involved.

Then I discovered that callings change. I came to realize that the first book in my Mysterious Ways series was a calling but the other two in the series were offerings. I have no problem with that. A sincere offering I’m sure is well received and blessed, but God was not in them in the same way that He was in the first one.
My calling changed. I started feeling led to work as an agent, to help others get their words out where they will serve the Lord. Even though I continue to write, I started feeling I could have more impact by helping get more content out there. I turned my attention to that and specifically to helping new writers get published for the first time. I can’t afford to represent ALL new writers of course, but I have had some success at it.

So that’s my pathway here. How about other Christian writers? I think we all have to go through a vetting process of finding out what God really wants from us and then try to decide the best way to get it done.

If in fact we are in end times and we all want to use our talents to the best of our abilities to serve the Lord then it behooves us to prepare ourselves as best as we can, constantly work to perfect our craft while we wait on God’s perfect timing. The time may indeed be short and if it is, we all want to be about the Father’s business when it comes.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Splash of Serenity

I would like to introduce to our From the Heart readers, Elaine W. Miller, published author and public speaker and a member of The Pencil Box Crew.

So our readers can get to know you better – tell us a little about yourself Elaine.

I’m a small-town girl with a big-time love for Jesus. When I was 32 years old I stood at my kitchen window and prayed, Jesus, I give my life to you. Do with me whatever you please. He pleased to do a lot.

For over 20 years I’ve been a retreat speaker, seminar teacher, and Bible study leader. My husband and I share a wonderful life and ministry together. We have developed and taught 10 marriage retreats and we travel annually to Europe as Pastoral Care Couple to missionaries in Bosnia.

Three married children and seven grandchildren fill my heart with love and laughter and illustrations for my writing and speaking.

I live in a parsonage that overlooks a lake on the edge of the Adirondack Mountains in beautiful upstate New York. Life is good.

Do you have a personal mission statement? I have heard it recommended to authors by writing mentors and I do think it helps to have one.

I agree. My purpose is to share the hope of Christ through writing and speaking by leading unbelievers into a relationship with Jesus Christ and guiding believers into a deeper walk with Him.

Splashes of Serenity: Bathtime Reflections for Drained Wives is one of your published titles. Can you tell us what it offers the drained wife or author or agent?

Hope! What your marriage is today is not what it will be next year or the next. For many the worse comes before the better. They lose hope and give up and throw in the towel too soon for too little reason. I Corinthians 13 says, “Love… never stops hoping….” I encourage husbands and wives to never stop hoping, to hold on, to be true to their vows, and to allow God time to work in their marriage.

Did this title get birthed from personal trials or weariness?

Oh, yes! I packed my husband’s bags three times the first year of our marriage. Next year we will celebrate our 40th anniversary! Yea, God!!! I shudder to think what my life would have been like had I successfully ended our marriage. I almost threw away the dearest person in the world to me. Why? Because I looked to Dan to fulfill needs that only God could fill. That is an expectation that drains the life out of a husband and a wife and a marriage.

I know you have had some fun presenting this title to groups. What are some of the creative ways you have promoted your books?

The titles are Splashes of Serenity: Bathtime Reflections for Drained Moms and Splashes of Serenity: Bathtime Reflections for Drained Wives. Because of the bath time theme, I’ve been tempted to show up for an event in a fluffy bathrobe. I suspect I’d sell more books—at least I’d get more attention. Some book store managers had fun with the bath theme by putting a real bathtub inside and outside their stores. I drew the line at signing books while sitting in the tub, though. A pretty basket filled with complimentary bubble bath beads (supplied by me with permission of the store manager) was a draw to my book table and created conversation, laughs, and book sales. I always gave the store manager a bubble bath bead, a scented candle, and a thank you note encouraging her to have a splash of serenity after her busy day. They really appreciated it and many invited me to return anytime for a book signing.

Splashes of Serenity are lovely hard-cover gift books with color photography. So, I took my books to gift shops, florists, gift basket shops, and bath stores. Many of them ordered the books for their store and some ordered the books for themselves.

The most exciting sale happened at Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. During a 45 minute lay over, I passed the time by visiting Borders Bookstore. The cashier asked if I needed help. I (jokingly) said, “Oh, I was just seeing if you are selling my book.” Of course I had my books with me and showed them to him. Turns out, he was the buyer for Borders at Dulles Airport. He got right on the computer and ordered my books for the airport Borders Stores. I was flying before I got on the airplane.

This story continued a year later when I received an e-mail from a mom in Montana who asked me to send my book to her friend whose 5 year old daughter died. She had read Drained Moms and thought it would be perfect for her friend. Curious, I asked her where she bought my book. She replied, “Dulles Airport.” I cried and said to myself, that’s why I write books.

I carry my books with me wherever I go because I never know when I might meet a drained mom or a drained wife.

What type of feedback have you received from your readers?

It is amazing what God can do through a book. I love to give books as presents because I know they can change lives.

At a Barnes & Nobel book signing a woman came to my table and never made eye contact with me. She picked up my book and just read for about 10 minutes. Then she looked up and said, “I have every intention of leaving my husband, but first I am going to read this book.” I prayed for her marriage as she left my table with book in hand.

During a writer’s conference a woman bought a book and then came back and bought five more. She said her husband had been sick for years. Five of her friends were encouraging her to end her marriage. After reading my book, she decided to stay with him. She bought copies for her five friends so they would understand why. She said, “I want to remain true to the marriage vows I made to God and to my husband. What if he is better in five years and I’m gone? No. I love him and I am staying with him.”

I received an e-mail from a dear mother who said she had two babies in Heaven and one in a crib. She lived in fear that God would take her third baby. After reading my book for Drained Moms, she had peace. She thanked me for writing it saying she had had her first good nights sleep in months.

There are more stories, but I need to stop somewhere. I think my books minister to real people because they are true stories of real-life situations and the hope that comes when we trust God to work through the most difficult times.

What was toughest about your publishing journey and do you have any advice for other authors out there?

There are those voices (real and imaginary) that laugh at you and say, You’ll never be published. No one will ever read this. Well, if we don’t write, that certainly will be true.

God spoke to my heart during a sermon on the parable of the talents. He said, What good are all those writings doing buried in your file cabinet if no one reads them? I knew then that I was to write a book, much to my surprise! God uses people, the life they live, the words they say, and the books they write to change lives. Let Him use you. Don’t bury your talent.

Any favorite ‘How To’ book you would like to recommend or any discipline that you have found to be useful?

I like the classic On Writing Well by William Zinsser. I read it every year.

Do you have any hobbies other than writing that you pursue? Or do you consider your writing more of a job than a hobby?

Writing and speaking are my passions. I suppose it is a job, but I enjoy it so much, it seems more like a hobby. Writing relaxes me as well as invigorates me; which, I think, is the purpose of a hobby. My children tell me that I get grumpy if I don’t write. So, perhaps it’s an obsession or an addiction. Whatever, I love it and I have no plans to retire. So, I guess it isn’t a job.

Hobbies? Can my hubby be my hobby? I certainly like pursuing him. We enjoy golfing, hiking, skiing, and kayaking Adirondack waters together.

Before we say goodbye and allow you to get back to your writing, tell the reader where they might find out more about you.

My website is I am Elaine W. Miller on Face book and Twitter. My blog address is I love hearing from people, so e-mail me at Thanks for the interview, Diana. I pray the Lord blesses. Keep writing, writers! No one else can tell your story.

Elaine and I pray splashes of serenity are in your near future.

From my heart to yours,