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Monday, November 30, 2009

A Yada/Yadah Journey by Neta Jackson

Neta Jackson’s award-winning Yada Yada books have sold well over 500,000 copies and are spawning prayer groups around the country. She and her husband, Dave, are also an award-winning writing team with over 1.5 million in sales. They live in the Chicago metropolitan area, where the Yada Yada stories are set. Learn more at

When I wrote the first Yada Yada Prayer Group novel, I was scared to death. Even though I’d been writing (and publishing) for years, this was my first crack at writing a full-length adult novel, and I wasn’t at all sure I could do it. (What??? A hundred thousand words???) I loved writing, but for years I mostly wrote articles growing out of the life journey God had us on—marriage, parenting, Christian community, racial reconciliation.

Then my husband (also a writer) and I began to write non-fiction books together, again about “issues” close to our heart, as well as doing quite a bit of coauthoring—i.e., coming alongside an expert resource person with “something to say” and offering our writing skills to bring their books to life.

And then my husband—Mr. Idea Guy—came up with the idea to write a series of historical fiction novels for young readers about great Christian heroes. We both fell in love with researching the history and storytelling! Together we wrote forty Trailblazer novels (Bethany House Publishers) for the eight-to-twelve age group, realizing the “power of story” to communicate. And fun! Writing fiction—even historical fiction—was addictive, learning how to make the characters come alive, learning how to communicate important truths in the middle of human struggles without preaching.

By this time, I was in a comfortable writing rut, content with being half of the Dave-and-Neta-Jackson writing team, letting Dave come up with the ideas and I’d jump in and off we’d go. Because the other part of me was immersed in a new adventure, a multi-cultural women’s prayer group that God was using to turn my prayer life and spiritual life upside down—or more accurately, right-side up.

And then . . .

I woke up one morning and the other side of the bed was empty. I should have known right then that my world was about to shift, because I was always the first one up! I wandered about the house . . . no Dave. But there was a note on the table. “Got a great idea for a book. Gone for a walk. Tell you when I get back.”

When Dave came back, he handed me a tiny tape recorder where he’d been talking through his idea. “Now you go for a walk and listen to this. Because you’re the one who has to write this book.”

Uh oh.

Dave’s idea: to write a novel about a fictional prayer group similar to the group of women that met in our home. He had witnessed some of the powerful stories, answers to prayer, and dynamic relationships growing out of this group and the impact these sisters had on my life. “It’d make a great story!”

Uh uh. No way. I’d never written a full-length adult novel. I liked writing for kids. I didn’t have any ambition to write novels for grown-ups. In writing circles I was considered a writer-for-youth, not a novelist—and it’s not easy to change genres. Plus I was sure my prayer group sisters would say no, too close to reality, don’t do it. But—as I’d been learning to do in our prayer group—I reluctantly prayed about it, and asked my prayer group sisters to pray about it.

God said yes.

They said yes.

Finally I said yes.

Well, at least I’d try. It would give me a chance to share some of the amazing things God was doing in my life without having to have all the “answers.” All I had to do was take my readers on a journey along with my characters, all of whom were at different places in their spiritual lives, all of whom had faults and weaknesses and wisdom and strengths—just like me and the women in my prayer group.

Looking back at the start of this journey, I feel very much like the little boy in the Gospel story who had five small loaves of bread and two small fish for his lunch. Not much for a lunch. But he gave them to Jesus . . . and whoa! Jesus multiplied them and started feeding people! Was it the little boy? No. Was it his bread and fish? No. It was Jesus, who took what little he had and did a God-thing with it.

That The Yada Yada Prayer Group became, not one, but a series of seven novels is totally a God-thing! (I was quite naïve, thinking I could put twelve feisty women in one novel and expect them to stay there!) But once you give God your “five loaves and two fish,” you never know what He’s going to do with them. I began to hear from readers who said the novels challenged them in their prayer lives and gave them a heart-hunger to worship the way the Yada Yada sisters did. And then we began to hear about “Yada Yada Prayer Groups” forming all over the States, in Canada, in Australia, and elsewhere.

I never dreamed the novels would have this kind of impact. Only God . . .

The meaning of Yada

A lot of people wonder why I named my fictional prayer group “Yada Yada.” Like you, I’d heard the expression used to mean something like, “whatever,” or “and on and on and on.” Then a friend told me that yada is actually a Hebrew word used in the Scriptures. Sure enough, it appears 944 times in the Old Testament, a root word with varying nuances, but basically meaning, “To know and be known intimately.” I began looking up the Scriptures where it appeared and came across Psalm 139, which uses the word with variations numerous times to express how intimately God knows us! And I thought, “What a fantastic name for a prayer group that wants to know God in the intimate way God knows us, and to know each other that way, too.”

And so the “Yada Yada Prayer Group” was born . . . and reborn in the real Yada Yada Prayer Groups forming in the wake of the novels, a sure sign of the hunger and thirst of many women—many of them church women—to go deeper in their relationship with Jesus, and to develop intimate relationships with other “sisters,” not simply for their own sake, but for spiritual support and digging into the Scriptures.

What genre?

But where exactly did The Yada Yada Prayer Group fit in the tidy genre boxes of the publishing industry? I thought of them as “women’s fiction,” but I began reading reviews that classified them (for better or worse) as “Chick Lit.” Chick Lit?! I’d barely heard the term before, but I certainly didn’t have “Chick Lit” in mind when I wrote the novels. The definitions I’d heard usually categorized Chick Lit as “dealing with issues affecting single working women in their twenties or thirties in a lighthearted way.” Huh? My twelve Yada Yada “sisters” were all over the map age-wise, several were over fifty, as well as the fact that my main character was married with teenagers. Humorous, yes. A lot of my readers say they laugh and cry their way through the books . . . but the issues I tackle (self-righteousness, forgiveness, racism, spiritual warfare, the lure of gangs and drugs, gambling, even dog-fighting—just to name a few) are hardly “lighthearted.”

It must be those neon colors and wild crazy socks on the covers.

But I can’t complain. A lot of readers pick up the Yada Yada novels expecting a light read, and discover that God has something deeper for them between the pages. Maybe a lot of readers who otherwise wouldn’t bother to read a book about (shhh) prayer.

But as the novels multiplied, I realized the series was actually what you might call “Episodic,” similar to Lost or other television series that continue a story over several seasons while developing multiple characters. Or “Urban Fiction,” set in the Big City, which becomes almost another character, essential to the story—unlike many other novels in the Christian market, both historical and contemporary, which are set in rural areas or small towns.

Okay, so the Yada Yada novels are hard to classify. It doesn’t matter. The cover artist, the promo people, the marketing teams—they’ve all worked hard to “get the word out” and I’m grateful. (But the best promotion in the world is word-of-mouth, and I have my readers to thank for that!)

The spin-off series: The Yada Yada House of Hope

I tried to end the Yada Yada series, I really did. But in the last two novels of the original series, I introduced a homeless shelter . . . and while volunteering at a local shelter in Chicago as part of my research, I began realizing how many amazing stories walk through its doors. And so Manna House, the fictional homeless shelter, became a primary setting for a spin-off series. I took the titles from the gospel song, “I Go to the Rock,” by the late Dottie Rambo: Where Do I Go? (Book 1), Who Do I Talk To? (Book 2)—both of which are in bookstores now—and Who Do I Lean On? (Book 3), due out in June 2010.

In the House of Hope novels, I introduce a new main character, a privileged woman living in a luxury penthouse along Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive, who stumbles (literally) over an old bag lady . . . and in “helping” the old woman get to a shelter, she discovers she’s the one who needs to find Shelter when her life falls apart. Several of the original characters from the “prayer group” series weave in and out of the new series, so faithful readers will make new friends while still on the journey with the old.

Parallel novels—what’s that?

With this new series, my husband and I are trying something new! Dave realized that one of my secondary characters—a doorman in the luxury highrise named Harry Bentley—had a story of his own. So he wrote a parallel novel titled, Harry Bentley’s Second Chance, which coexists in time and space with Book 1 of my new series (Where Do I Go?), sharing some of the same characters and some of the same events, but giving readers a glimpse into Harry’s world as an ex-cop, forced to retire because he blew the whistle on some rogue cops in the Elite Gang and Drug Unit, who discovers he has a grandson he didn’t know about . . . well, you have to read the novel. Check it out on our web site:!

I hope you will join me on the journey.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Discipleship, Evangelism, and the Aim of Christian Fiction

by Mike Duran

There is, without question, different views as to the aim of Christian fiction. On one side are those who believe Christian fiction should target Christians -- encourage them, inspire them, reinforce their values, and ultimately make them better believers. On the other side are those who believe Christian fiction should target seekers -- whet their spiritual appetite, disarm antagonism, simplify biblical themes, reinforce a biblical worldview, and leave them thinking about God, Christ, sin, and/or heaven and hell. Finally, there's those who believe that Christian fiction should do both.

Call it hair-splitting if you want, but how one answers these questions will determine how they approach, interpret, defend or critique the genre.

  • Should Christian fiction aim to disciple believers?
  • Should Christian fiction aim to evangelize seekers?
  • Should Christian fiction aim to do both?

For the most part, writers and publishers of Christian fiction seem to aim at the Church, not the world. Not long ago, celebrated Christian novelist Athol Dickson visited my website and left a comment on this post. He articulated what I think is the prevalent opinion amongst Christian novelists:

May God bless every Christian author who is trying to reach out to unbelievers, but while we are commanded to be "salt and light" to the world, evangelism also includes those who help prepare disciples. I do try to get the gospel in my novels somehow (sometimes only symbolically) but my mission is to write about Christian themes for Christian readers in the hope that I can help them become better children of the Lord. That’s the best reason to write “Christian fiction” in my opinion. (emphasis mine)

(My thanks to Athol Dickson for taking the time to leave a comment, which you can read in its entirety in the thread HERE.) I think it's accurate, as Athol suggests, to see evangelism and discipleship on the same continuum. By growing Christians and helping them reach their full potential, we in turn influence the world. In other words, the best evangelism may be in making strong disciples. So in this sense, there's reasonable rationale for aiming fiction specifically at Christians. (Of course, this hinges upon the notion that Christian fiction is, in the long run, actually making better disciples. But that's another post.)

But if Christian fiction is best understood as a ministry to believers and best functions as a tool for discipleship, it raises other questions, namely: the place of evangelism in Christian fiction. Should Christian publishers actively seek to balance out fiction aimed at believers with fiction aimed at seekers? Should Christian novelists really approach their stories as evangelistic tools? And if so, what compromises must they make to reach the secular "seeking" audience?

Interestingly enough, defining the place of evangelism and discipleship in Christian publishing has parallels to the place of evangelism and discipleship in the Christian Church.

Having pastored for over a decade, I learned that both evangelism and discipleship were necessary components of the church, and that the church suffered when one was emphasized over the other. Churches that focus on seekers and aim primarily to evangelize, potentially become theologically shallow and deficient at discipleship. On the other hand, churches that focus on Christians and aim primarily to disciple them, potentially become ingrown and deficient at evangelism. Evangelistic churches tend to be wider than they are deeper; discipling churches tend to be deeper than they are wider. One model sacrifices outreach for in-reach, and vice-versa. This is why the Church is often described as needing two wings -- a discipling wing and an evangelism wing. Without both, we cannot fly.

So you can see where I'm going with this. If the Christian Church suffers when it does not balance evangelism and discipleship, does the Christian fiction industry suffer when it neglects the same balance? In other words, by aiming primarily at believers, are we ultimately hurting ourselves? I think there's a good possibility. Let me explain.

Without an evangelistic outreach wing to the Christian fiction industry, we diminish our potential (and future) market. By targeting only Christian readers, we unnecessarily limit the boundaries of our own house, shrink our base, and fail to "impregnate" a second generation of "believing readers." Similarly, churches that concentrate on nurturing the community of believers (discipleship) to the exclusion of evangelism often become ingrown, stagnant, and out-of-touch with the culture and the needs of their community. Statistics continue to reveal that many mainline denominations are in serious decline because of this. The holy huddle guaranteed their own demise. For years, seminaries concentrated on producing students with theological expertise. Thankfully, now many of those institutions are including missions and real-world encounters as part of their curricula. In other words, failure to look outside of ourselves can be terminal. So can the same be true for the Christian fiction industry?

Furthermore, without an outreach wing of Christian fiction, we potentially insulate ourselves against the audience who needs us the most. Really, are we here just for us? Of course, the problem in reaching a non-believing or marginally-believing audience -- as it is with seeker-sensitive churches -- is how much we soften and/or simplify our message to connect with them. It's a legitimate question. In fact, this is the charge against so much "Christian worldview fiction" -- it's just not explicit enough. Yet I'd suggest these kinds of questions are inevitable, and essential. After all, when the first century church began spreading the Gospel, numerous "cultural collisions" occurred. Debates about eating pork, circumcision, slavery, meat sacrificed to idols, the role of women, cultural attachment, and interaction with heathens, were fairly common. Likewise, crafting fiction for seekers will provoke numerous theological questions. As it should.

All this to say, I believe there is a fundamental confusion among Christian authors as to the exact aim of Christian fiction. Is it evangelism, discipleship, or both? Either way, at this stage, I think we're flying on one wing.


Anita Mellott writes to encourage others on their journey of life. With a background in journalism and mass communications, she has worked for more than ten years as a writer/editor in the nonprofit world. She balances homeschooling and the call to write, and blogs at From the Mango Tree (

I stood at the kitchen counter sorting through the mail. My heart beat a little faster as I saw the return address on one of the envelopes. As I skimmed its contents, my heart sank. I opened two more envelopes to rejections.

I had hit the jackpot that week with a total of four rejection letters. In the few months since I had lost my job of 13 years, my stack of rejection letters was growing. Sure that God had called me to write, I decided I would take time to pursue my writing dreams. But was I really supposed to be writing?

“It’s a tough market out there,” my husband said.

“Writing isn’t for the faint-hearted,” a critique partner comforted. “You need to get up and keep going.” I preferred to lick my wounds. I was tired of knocking on doors only to have them slammed in my face. So I continued to enjoy my pity party.

Several weeks later, in my morning quiet time I read, “The blessing of the Lord makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it” (Proverbs 10:22).

“What are your blessings?” I felt a soft whisper in my heart.

“None,” was my immediate, grumpy reaction.

And then, it seemed like an invisible hand began to etch on my heart: health. The joy of being home with my kids. Time with my children. Homeschooling. My toddler scrambling up on my lap and nestling against my chest. My tween sharing her e-mails and IM conversations with me. A job for my husband. Being able to pursue my writing dream. A supportive family. Caring critique partners...

I bowed my head, tears pricking the back of my eyes. “Lord, forgive me, please. Truly there is no sorrow with your blessings.”

Saturday, November 28, 2009

How Do You Type?

When someone asks if they can use my computer, it cracks me up to see how they respond to my keyboard.

Out of the 26 letters of the alphabet, only 14 can be still be viewed. The others have been rubbed away from frequent typing. Forget trying to find a vowel, they were the first letters that went.

Yesterday I noticed that the letters "a," "s," and "l" are wrinkled. They look sort of like they've been poorly shrink wrapped. Did I wear down the keys? I have no idea how that happened.

Thankfully the markers on "f" and "j" haven't worn away. In high-school I took a class on how to use an electric typewriter. Thank goodness for Word . . that's all I have to say. I've never used a typewriter since, but I learned to touch type.

Most writers I know touch type as well, though I've met a few who don't.

How about you?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Words For Your Consideration...

Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.

William Shakespeare

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Author Interview ~ James David Jordan

From his office on the 36th floor of a Dallas skyscraper, James David Jordan counsels clients and prepares cases for court as a business attorney with the Texas law firm of Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr, P.C. The Dallas Business Journal has named him one of the six most influential leaders in the Dallas/Fort Worth legal community as well as one of the top fifteen business defense attorneys in Dallas/Fort Worth. He has also been chosen by his peers for inclusion in Woodward/White’s Best Lawyers in America and Key Professional Media’s Texas Super Lawyers.


But James is not just an attorney. Several years ago, he set out to write a book of lessons for an adult Sunday school class. He soon found himself embellishing the Bible stories with details that he thought could, or should, have happened. Concerned that the Lord might not view a University of Missouri journalism degree as sufficient qualification to edit His work, James decided that the more prudent approach was to weave the stories into novels that would encourage readers to explore and grow in their faith.


The first fruit of his efforts was the well-received Something That Lasts, a novel about a family’s struggle with faith in the face of adultery, scandal, and tragedy. His sophomore offering, Forsaken, released last fall, posed a challenging question: what would it take for you to renounce your faith in Christ? “I had always been intrigued by the idea that God expects us to love Him more than anything, including our families,” James muses. “And I always thought of that in the context of my own children. That’s what led to the dilemma that I made the focal point of Forsaken: what if we had to choose, literally, between God and our own children?”


Jordan's latest release, Double Cross (October 2009), is the sequel to Forsaken. Again, Taylor Pasbury is faced with a series of difficult situations and learns an important personal and spiritual lesson about sacrifices—most can never be earned. “This is where Taylor comes to grips with the sacrifice her father made to save her from being raped when she was seventeen,” Jordan says. Double Cross also introduces Taylor's long lost mother, a quirky woman with a past of her own. I think readers will enjoy her.”


A minister’s son who grew up in Alton, Illinois, James attended the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, then went on to earn an MBA and law degree from the University of Illinois. James joined Munsch Hardt in 1986 after practicing with a major Chicago law firm. From 1998 through 2005, he served as Munsch Hardt’s chairman and CEO. As litigation counsel of choice for numerous major corporations, he has represented companies ranking among the nation’s leaders in the fields of telecommunications, hospitality, restaurants, computer services, software development, financial services, engineering, and manufacturing.


James is on the Board of Directors of Christian Community Action, an organization that assists needy families in the Dallas/Fort Worth community. An avid baseball fan, he lives with his wife and two teenage children in the Dallas suburbs.

Welcome to Novel Journey! Why don't you start by telling us a little bit about your latest release:

Double Cross is an action-packed story that provides thrilling twists and turns as well as a thought-provoking look at the personal and spiritual struggles of characters who are as complex as they are flawed. Ultimately, it’s a story of self-examination that describes Taylor Pasbury’s journey toward the conclusion that some sacrifices can never be earned.

Double Cross is your third novel, but writing is not your full time job. You are a successful business attorney. Tell us how and why you started writing.

I’ve always enjoyed writing and always considered it a challenge to write a novel and get it published. Like most beginning writers, I was naïve and didn’t know how much I didn’t know about writing. I knew that when I did write, I wanted to write about life’s "big" issue which, at least in my mind, is faith.

How much of your inspiration for writing novels comes from your true life experiences as an attorney?

Very little really. I don’t want to write about work because it would be too much like being at work. Writing and sports are what I do to get a break from being an attorney.

Your latest book is a follow-up to Forsaken in which your main characters were presented with what seems an almost impossible dilemma. Can you share what that situation was and why you chose to address this thought-provoking topic for your book?

In Forsaken, a famous televangelist is forced to decide between his faith and his daughter’s life. It’s a dilemma that is perfect for a Christian suspense thriller. I chose it because of the Bible verse that says that if we don’t love Jesus more than our family members, we’re not worthy of him. That’s a tough rule, and I wanted to explore what it would be like to be faced with that choice.

Double Cross continues the story of Taylor Pasbury. Tell us about Taylor and what makes her tick.

Taylor was raised by her father, a former Special Forces officer, after her mother ran out when she was a child. Taylor knows how to take care of herself and did stints on a Dallas SWAT team and in the Secret Service before opening her own security agency. She’s the person you want next to you in a crisis, but she is terribly insecure on a personal level which makes her attractively vulnerable. Her father was murdered when she was seventeen, and she’s been adrift. She’s not someone anyone would describe as a religious person which makes her an interesting narrator for a novel with a Christian theme.

You have a knack for weaving deep spiritual truths into intriguing story lines. What’s the secret to making a spiritual point without creating a plot that seems too contrived?

The trick is to find a story idea in which the characters would naturally be expected to think about spiritual angles. Let’s face it. Despite what the popular press and Hollywood would like us to believe, the average person in this country does think about spiritual issues—not necessarily daily or even regularly—but not just rarely, either. Some events in life naturally focus the ordinary American’s mind on the spiritual. Even people who don’t consider themselves religious are generally willing to consider spiritual issues as long as they’re not presented as part of an evangelical bludgeoning.

This book deals a lot with abandonment. Was there anything in your own life or in the lives of others around you that made you take on this difficult subject?

Perhaps, but Double Cross is not a book about me or about anyone I know. My characters tend to be composites, with characteristics of many different people I’ve met.

In Forsaken, Taylor Pasbury deals with the pain of losing her father. In Double Cross, she is set alongside her eccentric mother. What do you hope comes across to readers through Taylor’s relationship with her mother?

In many ways Taylor’s mother is remarkably self-absorbed, but Taylor comes to understand, at least to an extent, why it is so difficult for her mother to give unconditional love. She also learns some important things about how faith and forgiveness work. Most importantly, she learns that grace can never be earned.

Taylor, like so many young adult women, has difficulty finding men that she can trust. Talk about the connection between a young woman’s relationship to her father, and how that translates to her relationship with other men. Is there a connection there that you hope will penetrate your readers?

First, I don’t pretend to have any unique insight with respect to a twenty-nine-year-old woman’s dating relationships. I didn’t even understand that when I was twenty-nine myself. But I do know that Taylor is hyper-critical of men, perhaps because she believes that none of them can measure up to her father (who made a terrible sacrifice for her when she was young). She has difficulty identifying a good man, even when he’s right in front of her. Like many young women, I think, she’s attracted to the bad boys. For Taylor, part of dealing with the many problems her background has created for her is learning that there are some good men out there if she’ll just cut them some slack.

You write about characters who are very flawed and sometimes self-destructive. Why have you chosen to present a message of faith through such messy characters?

I don’t think anyone gets much out of reading about religious super heroes. We’ve all got our faults and our problems, and Christians don’t have to be perfect people. In many ways, I almost think God likes us better when we don’t try to act so perfect and instead acknowledge our own flaws.

Is this the end of the road for Taylor Pasbury, or will we see her again?

Right now, it looks as if Taylor is going to appear again in a Michael Crichton-style techno thriller. She is going to walk the border line between science and religion when she's hired to protect an orphan boy who has a baffling ability that causes a lot of powerful world players to want to get their hands on him. I just need to find the time to write it.

Double Cross by James David Jordan

B&H Publishing Group October 2009

ISBN: 978-08054-4754-5/softcover/302 pages/$14.99

Visit the author’s website to view the trailer

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Guest Blogger ~ Gail Gaymer Martin

Themes: Give Your Fiction Purpose

Readers remember some novels long after they read them, and one of reasons is the theme or, in Christian fiction, the message that the story leaves with the reader. When working on your novel, ask yourself these questions: What will happen, and why does it matter? What will the characters learn and how will they grow? How will this novel make a difference in a reader’s life? If your story does not make a difference, if it doesn't matter, then why write it? How can it serve the reader?

Consider first non-fiction. Can you imagine reading a book that didn’t have a point. Non-fiction focuses on a topic or theme. It has a purpose. Fiction is no difference. Your purpose could be to point out the foibles of the human condition. It could be to dramatize how love can cause a mother to give her life for their child. A novel can be a story that focuses on good verses evil and dramatize the power of good. A novel can show the power of love. It can illustrate how we are not alone, that others share our fears, worries, or sinfulness.

When a novelist begins to write a book, he has an idea. It may begin with characterization, then action and maybe settting, but if it doesn’t have direction or purpose, it falls flat. Think of Gone With The Wind without the backdrop of the Civil War. How long would it be remembered?

As an author of Christian fiction, my purpose is focused on a Bible verse that sums up a major idea in the book. Proverbs 16: 9 reads: In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. A book with this focus might be about someone who has made a life plan— a career, a goal, success, fame, an accomplishment—but things happen, and the character realizes to reach that goal, he may have to give up something else equally important. He must make choices and weigh decisions. As he mulls over this problem, he might realize that the Lord has plans for him far beyond his understanding. And the God’s plans meet his need and not his want. The struggle between needs and wants is a lesson we all must learn.

Developing the theme can be done in many ways. Give characters the situation that bring the struggle to life. Create a subplot that also demonstrates the battle of making wise choices and the influence of the Lord or the lack of influence and what that means to the characters involved. Create backstory that brings this theme to life and show how it affects the present in a positive or negative way. Devise a setting that pulls at the issue, the guides the character into making bad choices so that he suffers the repercussion of taking the wrong path. Create a tempting choice at one end of the road and a less attractive option in the other and follow the struggle of a character to make the right decision.

Theme cannot be blatant. It must weave through your novel like a fine golden thread woven in a tapestry. It adds beauty and meaning but doesn’t jar or destroy the total design. Theme will be seen as the character journeys from the beginning to the end and will impact the depth and quality of the novel.

I know this works because of reader mail. Letter after letter reveals how my novels have made a difference in someone’s life. The readers tell me what they learned about themselves or about someone else. They tell me how they found an answer to a question or how they realize they need to ask questions about their life. They walk away with something that has made a difference.

Though you might not write Christian fiction, you can, writing any genre, sum up in a sentence what the major theme or purpose of your novel seems to be---good wins over evil, love is worth fighting for, lies tangle lives, gossip begets gossip, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and laughter can heal. You can think of many more. These themes work for romance, thriller, women's fiction, western, or any genre.

When you begin your novel, ask what you want the reader to take away when she finishes. If you can’t answer the question, this could be the reason your story hasn’t made an impact on an agent or editor. It may be why a reader enjoys it for the moment and can’t remember the title or what it was about a week later. Write so that you make an impact on your readers, and you will have written a memorable story that makes a difference in their lives.

Dad in Training

How is Brent Runyan supposed to reach his troubled nephew? The workaholic businessman knows nothing about providing a real home to the orphaned boy who needs him so much. Special education teacher Molly Manning thinks the answer is threefold: love, time--and a dog. But Brent can barely let his nephew into his heart, let alone a golden retriever. With his tragic past, Brent knows what can happen when you love anything: you can lose it. Until Molly asks this dad-in-training to start with the basics by letting her stay...forever.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Death Knell of Great Writing

In 1998, Gina Holmes began her career penning articles and short stories. In 2005 she founded Novel Journey. She holds degrees in science and nursing and currently resides with her husband and children in Southern Virginia. Her debut novel, Crossing Oceans, is set to release April, 2010 with Tyndale House Publishers. To learn more about her, visit:

My husband, Adam, is an incredibly handsome and wonderful country boy who is forever offering to fix me up a "mess" of squirrels.

I've never taken him up on that oh-so-tempting offer, but his small-town southern vernacular amuses me to no end. He is Dixie through and through. He suwanee's instead of swears, says "cat mess" when he really means "bull sh**", and every female is "darlin'", whether she's darling or not.

He's a great help to me when I'm writing, able to give me feedback when I need it. He's not afraid to tell me something's not quite right or when he thinks it's brilliant. The one thing he isn't able to help me with is finding the right phrase or word.

Why not?

He suffers from a common ailment that many others share—laryngitis. He’s forever losing his voice and no amount of antibiotics or chicken soup can help him.

What I mean is he's a good ol' country boy, like I said, and talks that way, but when he's trying to help me write, he suddenly becomes writerly, and being writerly is the death knell of great writing.

For example, I was working on a novel that was set in a country town much like the one he grew up in. I naturally figured he’d be a huge help, but when I would ask him: what would you say if someone was making you angry? I expected him to say something like, "You're making me hotter than a Baptist's knee," or something along the lines of the way he really speaks. Instead, what I got was something like: Your inconsideration for the indiscretions I have beseeched... blah blah blah.

Um . . . When has he ever talked that way? Never. But it happens every time I ask him to help. He suddenly loses his natural voice to become what he thinks sounds impressive and worthy of fine literature.

He’s not alone.

Still struggling to find your voice? The cure is simple enough—write the way you talk. Give your stuff to friends and ask them if you're writing the way you talk. If you're not, write like the child you used to be. Chances are that's still, deep down, who you are.

It wasn’t until my fifth novel, that I finally find my voice. For me that took becoming so comfortable in the craft of writing that I no longer had anything to prove and finally began to just tell the story.

Another thing that’s helped refine my voice is reading my stuff out loud. Anything that doesn't sound natural, conversational or flow smoothly, I edit until it does.
I'm sure I'm doing a horrible job at explaining myself, but reading this piece, and the others I write, do you get a sense of my personality? I hope so. That's my natural voice.

Once you find your natural voice, writing becomes faster, easier, more natural, and more enjoyable to read.

A great book that helped me understand voice is "Finding Your Voice" by Les Edgarton.
It may not completely cure your laryngitis, but it will, at the very least, help you clear your throat

Available for preorder on Amazon Dec. 2010
In stores, May 1, 2010

Nothing deepens a stream like a good rain . . . or makes it harder to cross.

Jenny Lucas swore she’d never go home again. But life has a way of upending even the best-laid plans. Now, years after she left, she and her five-year-old daughter must return to her sleepy North Carolina town to face the ghosts she left behind. They welcome her in the form of her oxygen tank-toting grandmother, her stoic and distant father, and David, Isabella’s dad . . . who doesn’t yet know he has a daughter.

As Jenny navigates the rough and unknown waters of her new reality, the unforgettable story that unfolds is a testament to the power of love to change everything—to heal old hurts, to bring new beginnings . . . even to overcome the impossible.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Get Your MS Out of the Slush Pile

Just a reminder about our new awards program, OUT OF THE SLUSH PILE, Novel Journey’s Fifteen Minutes of Fame Contest. If you haven’t already made plans to enter, please check out the details.

Please note, the submission date for the first phase, Historical Fiction, is coming up soon (December 10). Email your submissions, or any questions you may have about the contest, to NovelJourneyContest

We look forward to seeing your entry!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Matter of Timing

Marcia Laycock is a pastor's wife and mother of three grown daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone, and has published two devotional books, Spur of the Moment, and Focused Reflections. Visit her website -

Last week I watched two full grown geese land on a small pond across from my home. It was quite funny to watch, because the pond was frozen. The geese gracefully flapped their wings and extended their feet, anticipating the landing, but when they touched down they skidded sideways and plopped down unceremoniously on their bottoms. When they recovered they stomped about, seeming indignant.

When I saw them stomping around on the ice it made me think of those times when I’ve been impatient with God’s timing. It often seems that He isn’t in sync. with my estimation of when things should happen. Give me patience, Lord. Right now!

But His timing is always perfect. When my new novel, One Smooth Stone won the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award, I was thrilled that it would soon be in print. Then I discovered that the word, ‘soon’ is relative. There was a delay because the publisher wanted a certain editor to work with me, and she was busy with other projects. Then there was a bit of miscommunication and I was waiting for her while she was waiting for me to get in touch. Then, when it was finally begun, the editing process took time. But finally my publisher told me the books were ready to ship. I waited - impatiently - for them to arrive on my doorstep. The book launch was to be held on the first night of a writers’ conference and, of course, I wanted the books in hand for that event. I was thankful when they arrived, safe and sound, a few days before the scheduled launch.

I remember lifting the first book out of the box. I knew exactly where it was going. I gave it to my friend – I’ll call her Barb.

Barb has had a hard life – her husband left her with four small children to raise and no resources. The family struggled through. Then one of Barb’s daughters, I’ll call her Lucy, was raped when she was a teenager. Though Barb managed to hold on to her faith in Christ, Lucy has been bitter and angry with God ever since. The day after my books arrived, Barb gave that copy of One Smooth Stone to Lucy. A few days later she got a phone call.

Lucy told her that she had had no intention of reading the book – she’d thought, oh yeah, there goes Mom with the religious stuff again. But that next day she got the flu and the only thing she had in the house to read was my book. So she picked it up and started to read. She said she couldn’t put it down. When she called her mom she was in tears because she said that after reading the book, she finally believed God does still love her, in spite of everything.

The timing was perfect. God’s timing. Not mine. Next time I get impatient I’ll try and remember how ridiculous those geese looked, stomping around on solid ice.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Author Interview ~ Marci Alborghetti

Marci Alborghetti is the author of over ten books, including a Season in the South and How to Pray When You Think You Can’t. Alborghetti and her husband, Charlie, divide their time between New London, Connecticut, and Sausalito, California.

What new project is coming out that you would like to tell us about?

My new novel, The Christmas Glass, will be released in October. The story moves from Italy in WWII to America in the year 2000, following the lives of several families. Each family has come into possession of one piece of a
collection of hand-blown glass Christmas ornaments. The novel tells
their stories, how they come apart and sometimes come together.

Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been
writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard
and what went through your head.

The Christmas Glass is my 12th book, second novel. I've been writing all
my life, motivated by a five dollar gift certificate I won in fourth grade
for an essay on Halloween. The gift certificate was for a quirky bookstore,
and I can still remember spending an hour in that dark, little store making
my selections and driving my mother nuts. The Christmas Glass is published
by Guideposts Books and is my second book with them. But it was not an easy
contract to get, simply because while the first book did well, it was a different type of book. The Christmas Glass required a slight leap of faith for them, and when I got the call that I'd be getting a contract, I was as thrilled as I'd been with my very first contract. This book had been in my head for years.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

Of course! Anyone who doesn't isn't really writing, they're reciting on

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication?

Seeking publication in the current environment is a nightmare. So, where
I might have been more choosy in the past, today I'm happy to get a
proposal in and a contract even if the terms are less than ideal. Mistakes I've
made in the past include assuming publishers know how to market; approaching
the wrong person, even if it was the right publisher; thinking that if I was
simply a good writer everything would fall into place; being too naive
about the business.

What's the best advice you¹ve heard on writing/publication?

Research publishers and make sure you have a possible match, in other
words, that they publish your kind of manuscript; and then, find someone you can
connect with there, or your work is likely to sit at the bottom of a

How do you craft a plot?

Usually based on one small idea. For example, the plot of The Christmas
Glass was formed around the idea of these 12 Christmas ornaments. I'd
been reading about the village in Germany where glass ornaments were made in
the late 19 century, and how they were made, and from thinking about that,
the plot came together.

Do you begin writing with a synopsis in hand, or do you write as
the ideas come to you?

No synopsis, but I'm hugely reliant on my outline, which becomes longer
and more detailed as ideas come to me before and while writing.

What's something you wish you¹d known earlier that might have
saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

It sounds cynical, but I'd have to say: don't believe the deal is done
untilyou're holding the signed contract in your hand. And even then keep your
eyes open. So much can go wrong in the process of getting published.
Several times I've been very close to a contract, and the editor I was
working with moved on or quit. Something as simple as that can scotch
the whole deal.

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you¹ve gone
through in your writing career you are willing to share?

Only one?!! Three years ago I was working closely with an international
publisher with a house in America on a book called One God, Three Faiths.
It explored what Christianity, Islam, and Judaism had in common based on
their scriptures: the New Testament, the Qur'an, the Torah. The book
was meant to be accessible to the average reader - not necessarily the
theological academic. The book was to be published in America, and then
later, probably Canada and Europe. After a year's worth of work with a
very small advance and praise and assurances all the way, they decided to pull
the book because it was too controversial. I was heartbroken!

How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?

The only way to learn to write is to read. Everything. Good writing
teaches you how to write well. Bad writing teaches you how not to write.
Great writing makes you cry with envy and hope.

What piece of writing have you done that you¹re particularly proudof and why?

I'm extremely proud of The Christmas Glass because it is entertaining,
but also deals with the issue of family and what that means in an honest,
funny way. And I think it is a good read, which means a lot to me. I'm also
very proud of a book of short fiction, called The Jesus Women, which tells the
stories of 12 women who encountered Jesus. They speak to the reader in
their own voices and through their own perspectives. I love that book.

What is your best advice on maintaining a good editor-author

Be courteous, be respectful, be professional, and make it clear that you
expect the same treatment from them. If you like the person, let that
show, but never let down your professional guard.

How many drafts to you edit before submitting to your editor?

I edit as I go, so it's hard to say. I probably edit each chapter once,and
then the whole mss once.

We often hear how important it is to write a good query letter to
whet the appetite of an editor. What tips can you offer to help
other writer pen a good query?

To be honest, I've never had a book picked up off a query letter. I
think the quality of the proposal is more important, and of course, having
someone to send it to. I seldom send a proposal without having called or
contacted the editor and getting their OK.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of

Ten minutes ago. Twenty minutes from now.

How much marketing/publicity do you do? Any advice in this area?

This is now most of the job. Seriously. The writing is the best part,
but if you are not prepared to strenuously promote your work, your chances of
success are nil to none. First, try to find a publisher who is willing
to diligently market your book. Good luck with that! If you have an
aggressive "marketing" publisher, simply ask what they want you to do and
do it. If not, do as much as you possibly can yourself. Set up book
signings, and not just at bookstores, but with any group or event that is a match
for your book. Go to fairs, festivals, churches, libraries, etc. Contact
newspapers and journals and see if they will announce/review your
publication. Reach out to every friend and acquaintance. Start an
e-newsletter. Consider every possible angle in promoting your book, and
then follow up on it.

Have you received a particularly memorable reader response?

Yes, that's the best part of this. Writing is a way to touch people, to
entertain them, to help, maybe to change their lives. This is why I do

My second book, Freedom From Fear; Overcoming Anxiety Through Faith, was
a sometimes funny, sometimes intense book of anecdotes on how people deal
with stess and anxiety, particularly through their relationship with God. As
a result of a book talk, I was asked to facilitate a group for people
living with anxiety and depression. One man who eventually came to the group
had not been able to leave his home and immediate neighborhood for months
because of a head injury that had all but destroyed his body and spirit.
He read the book, and we spoke, and he started attending the group. He is
now working with the Red Cross in emergency areas. When I think of him, I
feel like I could quit now and be happy.

Parting words?

But, of course, I don't quit.

The Winner of Christmas Homecoming is...

Diana! Congratulations. Your book is on its way.

Guest Blog ~ Zig Ziglar ~ Life is Change

Life is change. On March 7, 2007, my life changed completely with one, simple, misplaced step. Some would say it changed for the worse, and by human standards they would be entirely right...

...By human standards my fall down the stairs and the vertigo and brain injury that resulted in my short-term memory loss would seem to dictate an end to my long and much-loved career, but I'm here to tell you that, even with its problems, my life is more inspiring, more intriguing, and more fulfilling than ever...

...I'm doing the best I can with what I have and enjoying it in the process. When I get out on the golf course, which is seldom, and tee the ball up and hit it 125 yards, I don't say, “Oh, I used to hit this ball three hundred yards!” I'm just grateful that I can hit it as far as I can and am still able to get out there and enjoy playing. In my lifetime I've had one hole in one. I'll doubt that I'll ever make another one, but I have had that one, and it was a joyous occasion ! Incidentally, since my fall my putting has improved – so there is an unexpected perk!

Because I'm eighty-two years old, I figure getting to sit down while I deliver my message is a perk as well. It was not difficult for me to accept this change, because the message is so much more important than how the message is delivered. If the message has reality in it, makes sense, and is helpful, then whether I'm sitting or standing, shouting or whispering, if the message is valid and sincerely believed, I am still able to make contributions to other people's lives.

Excerpts from Page 7 and 40 of EMBRACE THE STRUGGLE: Living Life on Life's Terms (Howard Books/Simon & Schuster, October 2009.


ZIG ZIGLAR is a bestselling author with more than three million books in print. He is the president of Zig Ziglar Corporation and has motivated the sales forces of multinational corporations and thousands of individuals. One of the leading stars of the "positive thinking" movement, he is the author of bestsellers See You At the Top, Secrets of Closing the Sale, Success and Self-Image, 5 Steps to Successful Selling, How to Be a Winner, Selling 101, and How to Get What You Want.

JULIE ZIGLAR NORMAN is Zig and Jean Ziglar's third born and youngest daughter. Julie has co-authored Embrace the Struggle with her father, and their dynamic on-stage relationship has inspired more than 100,000 people in audiences all across America. Julia lives in Alvord, Texas, with her husband, Jim, three cats, three dogs, three horses, and one box turtle.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Guest Blogger ~ Elizabeth Ludwig

Elizabeth Ludwig’s first novel, Where the Truth Lies, which she co-authored with Janelle Mowery, was released in spring of 2008 from Heartsong Presents: Mysteries, an imprint of Barbour Publishing. This was followed in 2009 by “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” part of a Christmas anthology collection called Christmas Homecoming, also from Barbour Publishing.

Books two and three of Elizabeth’s mystery series, Died in the Wool, and A Black Die Affair, respectively, are slated for release in 2010 from Barbour Publishing. Also in 2010, her first full-length historical novel Love Finds You in Calico, California will be released from Summerside Press.

In 2008, Elizabeth was named the IWA Writer of the Year for her work on Where the Truth Lies. Elizabeth is an accomplished speaker and dramatist, having performed before audiences of 1500 and more. She works fulltime, and currently lives with her husband and two children in Texas.

Critique Boutique by Elizabeth Ludwig
Being a freelance editor has afforded me ample opportunities to see the kind of mistakes new and aspiring authors make—some not so serious, some fatal.

What do I mean by fatal? These are the kind of mistakes that get your manuscript rejected. In an effort to help you steer clear of the rejection pile, I’m going to list a few of the more common errors, along with a few helpful hints on how you can avoid making them again and again.

The biggest mistake I see involves Point of View (POV for short). New authors, especially, make the mistake of thinking their writing should emulate what they see on TV—scenes hopping from one to the next, jumping from one character’s viewpoint to another, sometimes in the same paragraph, etc. In a nutshell, POV is what one character thinks, feels, sees, hears, and smells. A general rule of thumb is to stay inside one character’s POV for the duration of a scene, only changing into a different POV after you have inserted a section or chapter break. After each paragraph, ask yourself, is this something my POV character can physically know or think? If the answer is no, check for a POV slip. Editors want to know that you have a firm grasp and understanding of POV.

Plot and structure holes are the second most common error I see. Think of your favorite movie. What did you like about it? Most likely, it involved a main character who sets out to achieve one major event or goal. Many things happen along the way, but the goal remains the same. From start to finish, the viewer is left wondering whether or not the main character will accomplish their goal. Take, for example, one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride. In it, two characters, a boy and a girl, are separated from each other by circumstances neither of them can control. From the point of their separation on, the viewer wonders if they will somehow find their way back to each other. Events strive to keep them apart, but always, they struggle to come back together until the film’s final resolution.

Plotting is a difficult concept to grasp, which is why having a timeline is so beneficial. Before you even begin writing, I suggest you sit down and write yourself a detailed timeline, always keeping in mind who your main character is and what they hope to accomplish. This way, your story never strays far from the original plot.

A third major problem is the use of passive voice as opposed to active voice. Passive voice involves past tense and the main character viewing or observing events as they happen. Active voice is more immediate and involves the main character actually doing or saying something. Editors watch for the use of active voice, which is why grasping this concept is so important. Key word indicators to passive voice are ‘was’ and ‘had’ in all of their forms. Look at the following example:

Passive: She was glad to see him.
Active: She squealed with delight at the sight of him.

Both examples say she is happy to see him, but one involves immediacy and action.

Lastly, be sure to check your manuscript for things like word/phrase repetition, use of adverbs (or ly words, as I like to say), and incorrect punctuation and grammar. Mechanics are important in your writing, and editors want to know that you’ve taken the time to learn basic techniques before they go deeper to check for a good story with a strong plot. If you’re not certain on the rules, invest in a good book—the Chicago Manual of Style for example, or consider having your work professionally edited. As someone who has reaped the benefits of having gone this route, I can tell you the things you will learn far outweigh the cost, and you’ll be able to take those tools with you and apply them to every future work.

And that’s it! Still have some specific editing questions you've always wanted to ask? Fire away, and I'll do my best to answer them all. As a special holiday bonus, anyone who leaves a comment or asks an editing question will be entered to win a copy of my Christmas anthology, Christmas Homecoming, from Barbour Publishing.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Novel Idea with Angela Hunt & Robin Jones Gunn

A Novel Idea is a wonderful collection of teachings on the craft of fiction writing by the members of ChiLibris. It's virtually a writers’ conference in a book. Today, Novel Journey is pleased to have Angela Hunt and Robin Jones Gunn with us.

Welcome, ladies. First, please tell our readers how this book came to be.

Angie: The book began in my car, actually. Robin and I had just driven to my house after ICRS and she began to tell me about her work with Media Associates International. She was musing about how nice it’d be to have articles on the craft of writing for foreign writing students, and I said we had lots of writer friends, so maybe some of them would be willing to contribute an article or two. Then one idea led to another, and soon we’d come up with the notion that we should collect these articles into a book . . . long story short, we ended up with far more articles than we could use! (We have lots of writer friends!)

Robin: I’d li
ke to add that neither Angie nor I expected the sort of response we received once we put the word out to our combined circles of writer friends. We were asking them to give away their trade secrets and receive no compensation but our hearty thanks. As Angie said, Tyndale Publishers received far more than they needed for this book. Such generosity! We are thrilled with how the final book turned out. I hadn’t seen it until my copy arrived last week. I spent several hours in my favorite chair with a cup of tea and read every page. I learned new things that are helping me with my current project. This book is a treasure for writers at every stage of their career. And all the proceeds go to MAI ( to assist in training writers around the world.

How did it come together?
Who oversaw the project?

Angie: At the beginning I collected names, but once Janet Grant volunteered to agent the
project, I knew I could relax. Tyndale House contracted the book, and we were happy to turn everything over to Jan Stob, our editor at Tyndale.

So many topics were covered in A Novel Idea. How were those subjects chosen and how were the authors chosen? At first we let authors choose the topics they wanted to write about, knowing that writers tend to have strong opinions on subjects they’re passionate about. As the work on the book drew to a close, our editorial team contacted specific writers to help cover a few basic subjects that had been left untouched.

Robin: I had to include this photo just for fun. We took this in Angie’s office late at night after the idea for “A Novel Idea” was hatched. The two of us were composing an email inviting writers to contribute to the project. Since it was late and since we were a bit punchy, Babe, one of Angie’s enormous dogs had to come see why we were laughing so much.

Have your writing friends done other projects like this?

As a matter of fact, we have. Several years ago we published The Story Tellers’ Collection, Volumes 1 and 2, both published by Multnomah. The royalties for those books go to benefit the Jesus Film Project and Prison Fellowship, respectively. Then we published What the Wind Picked Up, and royalties from that project benefit Samaritan’s Purse. The royalties for A Novel Idea will go to Media Associates International, to train Christian writers overseas.

Robin, while we have you, can you tell us how you think the YA market has changed since your Christy Miller books? Do you have any thoughts for writers interested in writing for this genre?

Over the last few years I’ve become more of a consumer than a researching writer in the YA market because I have a 13 year-old niece who has gone through a horrible stretch of life. She reads my books over and over for what she calls the “happy feelings” and “hope” and a “clear picture of God’s love for me”. But when I gave her Lisa Samson’s Hollywood Nobody she said she felt she could relate more to the main character since her parents are recently divorced and she’s trying to figure out where she fits.

The longings of a teenage girl don’t change from generation to generation. The ways that writers explore those coming of age adjustments change in sync with popular culture.

For instance, what if I told you I was reading a story about a girl who moves to a new town where she is trying to fit in and make new friends. She meets this out-of-the-ordinary guy and is drawn to him but doesn’t want to give in to her strong feelings for him. Complications come. Misunderstandings create conflicts. The main character is vulnerable and yet strong. She’s someone I’d like to have as a real friend.

Based on that summary would you assume I was reading a Christy Miller book? Anne of Green Gables? Twilight? Or am I reading about Jacob’s daughter, Dinah in the book of Genesis?

This is why I say the premise of what makes a YA story relatable and compelling has not changed throughout the generations. Only the surrounding elements of the story change in tune with popular culture.

Now, as a Christian, how do I craft tales that are relatable to young women and are “in the world but not of it”? I like how The Message paraphrases Philippians 4:8 “Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”

One final thought on writing YA novels that keep selling is that the characters are what make us remember the YA stories for the rest of our lives. I was surprised and thrilled when the third Katie Weldon book, Coming Attractions ended up on the ECPA as well as CBA best-sellers list in August and September. Why would a story about a girl in college fan so much interest? The mail coming in told me that readers simply love Katie as a character and wanted to find out what happened next.

What can we expect to see from you in the near future?

More novels and some non-fiction as well. Writers are told to “write about what you know.” I agree. However, as I’m about to enter the third decade of my adventure as a writer, I’ve added another piece of advice to myself: “write about what you love.”

With that in mind, I’ve begun a new three-book series with Howard Publishing called the Hideaway series. Each book is about a woman who needs to “come apart” just as her life begins to come apart. In real life I love seeing women get their heart back after life has dealt them a crushing blow. I love seeing strength and courage and joy flowing back into a woman who a bruised spirit. That sums up the sort of characters I’m writing about now.

The working title for the first novel is Under a Maui Moon and is of course, set on the island of Maui. Once again, I’m writing about what I love.

Angie, your brand is "Expect the unexpected" and you write in numerous genres. I know publishers want new authors to stick with one genre. Have you always bounced around, or did you wait until you had your audience built?

In my early years I wrote historical romance—because that’s what the market wanted. Then I was encouraged to write the stories burning within me, and I’ve been “unexpected” ever since. I always wonder if I’m alienating readers by “bouncing around,” but I have to be true to my gifts. I recently took a poll of over 1,000 of my readers, and the thing they like BEST about my books is that “unexpected” quality. I doubt I’ll be settling down any time soon

What can we expect to see next from you? In December, my first (and only) legal thriller releases—except, of course, it’s a legal thriller with an unexpected twist. It’s called Let Darkness Come, from Mira. I’m thrilled with it, so thanks for asking.

Ane for NJ: I had the opportunity to review A Novel Idea, and it's a wonderful handbook for writers of all levels. I highly recommend it.

Christy-Award winner Angela Hunt writes for readers who have learned to expect the unexpected in novels from this versatile author. With nearly four million copies of her books sold worldwide, she is the best-selling author of more than 100 works ranging from picture books (The Tale of Three Trees) to nonfiction books, to novels.

Three-time Christy winner Robin Jones Gunn has four million books sold worldwide. She's a frequent key-note speaker at various events and serves on the Board of Directors for Media Associates International and Jerry Jenkin’s Christian Writer’s Guild.

Tyndale House Publishers is pleased to announce the release of A Novel Idea: Best Advice on Writing Inspirational Fiction, a compilation from a collection of premiere Christian authors including Jerry Jenkins, Karen Kingsbury, Francine Rivers, Randy Alcorn, Robin Jones Gunn, Angela Hunt, and many other beloved authors, that answers many questions budding writers or seasoned pros may ask.

In this guide to fiction writing you will find tips for writers block, how to market your writing, and personal stories from the authors who have been through it all before. This valuable guide also contains tips on plotting, dialogue, point of view, characterization, marketing, social networking, and more!
Sidebars on:
- The need for conflict
- Creating characters, not constructing them
- Authentic dialogue
- Research
- A characters “aha” moment
- And much more!

All proceeds will benefit MAI (Media Associates International), an international organization whose goal is to help fledging writers and publishers produce Christian literature that is culturally relevant.