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Monday, August 30, 2010

Research Tips ~ Tricia Goyer

TRICIA GOYER is the award-winning author of more than a dozen novels. She lives with her husband and three children in Arkansas.

Tim Cahill once said, “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” Of course, the BEST journey is when you can take a good friend over the miles with you … and research novels in the process!
My friend and co-writer Ocieanna and I have researched and written two novels together over the last few years. Both novels started with a glimmer of an idea, two packed suitcases, and a desire to make history come to life within the pages of our novels.
Our first novel, Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie, Montana took us to Lonesome Prairie, of course, which is near Fort Benton, Montana. A month prior to our visit, we contacted the Fort Benton historical society.
TIP: Whether you travel to your research destination or not, a local historical society is a great place to find eager volunteers and great information about your novel's setting.
When we arrived at Fort Benton, we met a great volunteer, Hank, who provided information about Lonesome Prairie and helped us make copies out of research books. Hank also told us about an elderly gentleman Keith Edwards whose parents
were some of the first settlers in Lonesome Prairie. We decided to give Keith a call to see if he was available to talk.
TIP: Follow up on leads. It may seem strange calling someone out of the blue, but most of the time people love talking about their lives and sharing information.
Our interview with Keith turned out to be the highlight of the trip! At 93-years-old his mind was sharp and he told story after story about his growing up years. Many of his stories made it into the pages of our novel.
After interviewing him, we loaded Keith up in the car and drove to the former homestead site where Lonesome Prairie took place.
TIP: When researching go on-site if possible and take everything in, not only the sights but also the scents, the sounds, and the feel of the place All this will help you bring the place to life in the pages of your novel.
Because we had such a great time on our first trip Ocieanna and I were excited when we got to do it again. For Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington we traveled to Seattle to research Rosie the Riveters during WWII. We interviewed five women who had been former riveters. We also travelled to the Boeing Air and Space Museum where we received help from their research librarians.
TIP: One of the best places to find information is in periodicals of the day. Look in magazines, ads, and read advice columns from the time your book is set. Remember, it's the little details that make a big difference.
Speaking of the little details, one last benefit of researching with a co-writer is that you both come away with unique insights and perspectives. Teamwork brought our books to life … and made the journey double the fun!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Following Jesus

Anita Mellott homeschools and blogs “Words of Encouragement and Hope” at
From the Mango Tree. Her book of devotionals for homeschooling parents will be released by Judson Press in late summer 2011.

“But Peter followed him at a distance…” Matthew 26:58

The rush hour traffic inched along bumper to bumper. Though I had factored in enough time, I couldn’t help glancing at the clock on the dashboard every few minutes.

After allowing a couple of cars to enter the stream of traffic at a McDonald’s entrance, I moved in to close the gap. The nose of a beaten-up, once grey Honda Civic shot out of McDonald's and began to edge its way between our van and the SUV in front of us—space I didn’t think existed.

“What's he doing?” I gasped as I hit the brakes and my tween screamed.

Trapped, I held my breath waiting for the sickening crunch of metal on metal. My grip on the steering wheel relaxed as the car squeezed through and made a sharp turn into the next lane. I exhaled.

“That was close, Mom.” My tween’s voice broke the heavy silence.

I nodded and glanced at her in the rear view mirror.

We drove on, my mind still on the incident. "Didn't I close up the gap? Yet, it was large enough to let a car, even a tiny one sneak in.” After a few minutes, Matthew 26:58 flashed through my mind, “But Peter followed him at a distance….” New thoughts probed. “Is there a distance between Jesus and me? If I followed Him closer, would there be room for doubts and fears? How would my life—my writing and my homeschooling change—if I followed close behind?”

Life’s currents often sweep me along. Schedules, deadlines, and to-do-lists drive me, at times against my will. I begin to fall further behind my Lord. Before I know it, there’s a glaring chasm. Yet, the Master bids me to abide in Him (John 15:4). That implies a deep communion, a closeness of relationship—one that leaves no space for distance to develop.

“Lord, help me follow so close behind You that when You stop, we collide.”

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Which is Better, the Author or the Book?

Two weeks ago my husband and I were having dinner with another couple when the four of us decided we should read each other's top ten books. Before we knew it, we were making lists of books, trying to decide what book truly deserved a spot on our individual lists and what book didn't.

We made an interesting discovery. Most of our favorite books weren't written by our favorite authors. That fact shocked us. Apparently there are some authors (like Corrie Ten Boom) who I'll purchase every book of theirs that I can find, and yet not one of there books is on my top ten list—and then there are authors who wrote amazing books (like Peace Like a River or The Lovely Bones) but I've never followed up on the author's next work.

Was this just a strange phenomenon for us, or is this true for you?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Guest Blog ~ Andy Meisenheimer

What are you doing to develop your writing craft?

by Andy Meisenheimer

Hi, I’m Andy Meisenheimer. Some of you may remember me from such careers as “Acquisitions Editor at Zondervan” or writing conference appearances such as “Editor Willing to Look at Speculative Fiction”. Now you might know me as a freelance editor and writing coach, working with publishers and writers everywhere.

A few things are different when you’re working freelance—and I don’t just mean that now I have a corner office with a window and and I don’t have to beg an IT department to let me have a Mac instead of a PC. I mean: I used to have authority to speak into a writer’s work because I could also turn around and try to publish them; now I am just a guy with an opinion who might know what he’s talking about.

But one thing hasn’t changed since I joined the outside: Everyone needs an editor.

What an editor does

Once I saw on an author’s blog “everyone faces an editor”—which is like saying “everyone faces exercise” or “everyone faces vitamins and minerals” because everyone needs an editor. Not just a copyeditor, either, to keep you from homophones and missing quotation marks. Everyone needs an editor who will help them take a step back and see the manuscript from the reader’s perspective. The job I do is just as important as it was before, even if I am not a part of the acquisitions process a

In fact, I am more free now than ever to help writers become the best writers they can be, and shape their manuscript into the best manuscript it can be. I’m no longer tied to the certain needs or styles or genres that defined the house I was working for. I won’t ever say “that’s brilliant, but I can’t help you.”

Now I get to help writers develop themselves toward a new publishing future. Today’s publishing world is changing—and it’s becoming harder as a new novelist to break your way into traditional publishing. Editors aren’t looking for writers they can develop, they are looking for writers who have already developed themselves. So the question I have for you today is: what are you doing to develop yourself as a writer?

Maybe you haven’t considered professional editorial feedback—maybe because you aren’t quite sure how something like that works. But it does work; even New York Times bestselling authors have their coaches and editors they continue to work with. To get noticed in the increasingly competitive world of publishing, you have to make sure you’re presenting the best product you can. And many aspiring writers are moving past the peer critique level, the writer’s groups and online forums, and on to professional feedback.

Working with an editor

So how exactly does one work with an editor (or writing coach or manuscript consultant)—especially when you’ve hired this editor to coach you on your own dime? It turns out the dynamics aren’t all that different, as long as both have the same goal: making the manuscript the best manuscript it can be.

The editor’s goal is to help the writer see the effect of their words on the reader. The best editors, in my opinion, are there only to alert the writer—not to solve, or to suggest, or to do the creative work for the writer—but to say “this is off” or “you can do better”. Sometimes I pose a solution or suggest something, but I am always doing it as a form of “editorial surprise”—so that the writer is inspired not necessarily to use my idea but to synthesize the two, discover a new idea, a third way which is often even better than I could have imagined.

My job is to coax the best out of you.

Which can be difficult for the writer to embrace. It’s not easy to look at something you’ve crafted through so much sweat and tears and see it differently. See it for how the reader will see it. But that’s the editor’s job—to kick you in the pants and say “that’s not how it looks from out here!”

One of my authors says that when I point something out as weak, he either cuts it (knowing I’m right) or re-doubles his efforts to make it work. I think that’s a great response to editorial feedback. If your editor says “this isn’t right” then maybe it’s time to really dig in and make that thing work. Ask questions. Find out more details on what exactly it is that your editor feels isn’t quite right. The other day my four-year-old son was riding his bike in circles in the garage when I asked him to stop for a moment. He refused, riding faster and faster, and when I asked him to stop again, he begged to keep riding. Finally I said, “did you forget how to brake?” and he cried, “Yes!” Sometimes when authors press me for details, it helps us both pinpoint the problem more accurately and come up with solutions.

And don’t be afraid to push back—not stubbornly, but with curiosity. I find myself at times saying “you know what, you’re right, forget that note” when my writers, realizing that I’m on their side, counter something I say with their perspective on the topic. Because everyone, even an editor, needs an editor.

Final thoughts

Because the editor-writer relationship is so important, make sure you get a chance to sample the work that will be done on your manuscript—kind of like ice cream samples at your local creamery. Except they probably won’t be free. The editorial firm I work with has a $35 introductory critique where one of our editors reads through your first few pages—the pages that have to be good if you want to hook an agent, acquiring editor, or reader—and gives you candid, objective feedback. This way you get a taste of the editorial style of the editor you’d be working with before you make any commitments.

One of our clients recently discovered a strange phenomenon—when asked what she was doing next for her writing career, she said “I’ve hired a freelance editor.” No one could understand why she would do something like that, until she started answering, “I’ve hired a writing coach.” Suddenly: “wow, what’s a writing coach do?” She explained the editorial process on her manuscript and everyone was in awe. When I was growing up, I took piano lessons, and no one was surprised when my parents hired a piano teacher instead of a freelance musical performance consultant.

There may be small differences in titles, but the goal is the same—improving your writing and your manuscript so that you have the best chance of catching the eye of an agent, a publisher, and most importantly, a whole bunch of readers.

Andy Meisenheimer is a freelance editor, writing coach, and manuscript consultant. He is on staff at The Editorial Department, an editorial firm founded in 1980 by Renni Browne, co-author of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. He lives in Michigan with his best friends: namely, his wife, kid, and two dogs.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Long, Lonely Hours...AKA Book Signings

My Publishing Journey

I began writing the Amish story of my heart in 1999. I went to my first writers’ conference in 2002. I had a lot to learn, so I began reading books on writing, attending conferences, and working with a writing mentor, Kathy Ide. Two years later I felt as if I was ready to turn in the first chapter to a few editors.

I received wonderful feedback on my writing, even a potential offer to put me under contract if I’d write anything except Amish fiction. At the time only Beverly Lewis was writing Amish stories in trade fiction, and editors weren’t sure the market would hold strong for a second Amish author. Besides, they didn’t like the idea of a new writer following in the footsteps of such an established author.

I spent a few restless weeks deciding whether to follow the editor’s advice or stick to my Amish stories. It was a rough choice. It didn’t make sense for an unpublished writer to turn down the opportunity for a contract with a big publishing house. But after weeks of sleeplessness, I knew I had to continue with the story I’d written.

With that decision made, I made another—to pitch my story to every editor at every conference possible. Unfortunately, with one exception, the editors I spoke with were not interested in testing the market to see if it could support a second author writing Amish fiction.

In the spring of 2005, I showed my first chapter to an editor who felt my writing and story were strong enough to sell whether it had an Amish setting or not. She took the manuscript to committee, hoping her publishing house would feel as strongly about the story as she did. To my amazed delight, they offered me a contract for a three-book series.

Good Times

My debut book hit the market in the fall of 2006. It sold out within two weeks, and the popularity of the series continued to grow until

my third book hit the number thirteen spot of New York Times best-sellerlist.

But as we all know, fun times only last so long.

Not So Good Times

The marketing people in my publishing house wanted me to do some book signings. My editor braced me for what the typical book signing was like, and she gave an accurate account. But the bleak reality was even harder to deal with than I’d expected.

With the exception of friends who only came to the first signing, no one came. None. Zilch. Nada.

Is there a way to avoid this? Absolutely! When advertising your book signing, use the name Karen Kingsbury or Mary Higgins Clark. Of course that’ll cause all sorts of legal problems, but you’ll have fans lined around the block who will want to spend a few minutes with you, at least until they realize you’re not who they came to see.

So what else can be done to create a busy book signing?

Start building a Web site and newsletter as soon as possible, preferably before you’re contracted. Use every connection to readers that you can. One thing I wish I’d had up and running in time for my first book to hit the shelves was a sign-up for a newsletter. I missed a lot of interested folks that first year. But I did start one in 2007, and in addition to a regular quarterly newsletter, I now send detailed information near the time of each of my book signings. Because these readers cared enough about my writing to sign up for the newsletter, they will likely help spread the word about an upcoming book signing.

Use your blog and Web site to promote your book signings. If you know of any book clubs or church libraries in the area of the upcoming book signing, notify them. If you can, offer to teach (free of charge) on a topic of interest. Whenever I’ve taught on writing and publishing or held a question and answer time about Amish life, I had great turnouts. I may not sell hundreds of books, but I enjoy that time of giving, and others enjoy learning about writing from a published author.

Offer a giveaway or sweepstakes for those who come. When my fourth book came out, I had a spur-of-the-moment book signing, and I learned that ABC Nightline was coming to it! I sent out a special announcement, and we had a wonderful turnout.

If the store you’re signing at does some kind of promotion, that may help. It may not. I had one store that did two dozen radio spots as well as newsprint ads, and twelve people showed up.

One thing I’ve done is to put small stickers on bookmarks that give the time and place of the upcoming signing and mail them or take them to the store. Although few stores will advertise for a book signing other than posting a sign in their window, most are happy to put a free bookmark inside a customer’s shopping bag.

If time and energy allow, I prepare bookmarks and get them to the store about two weeks before the signing. As far as people coming to a book signing, those special-made bookmarks seem more beneficial than radio spots. After all, people who’ve just bought books are comfortable going to that store. They can refer to the bookmark to remind them (unlike listening to a radio while traveling). And they clearly are purchasers of books.

I’ve had some great book signings and some disappointing ones. I had one signing where we expected such a great showing I brought in cases of extra books . . . and still sold out. Unfortunately, at the next signing I had, no one came.

The worst incident was when I traveled five hours to a book signing where no one showed. So I handed out bookmarks. One woman refused to take the bookmark. Before arriving home, I would log ten hours of travel time for that signing; it seemed she could at least take the free bookmark. After turning me down, she headed down the aisle and then turned back. “Hey, I recognize you. You were on ABC Nightline.”

We talked for a bit, then she went on her way—with a bookmark, but not a book.

For a humorous reality check about book signings, watch this clip.


My publicist lines up radio, television, or newspaper interviews. She’s constantly pitching ideas to newsprint and television journalists and radio hosts.

Anything she lines up requires effort on my part; sometimes only a few hours of preparation, sometimes days of travel.

But every radio, television, or newspaper spot is more than worth what it takes to participate.

Even if no one comes to the signing, just being on television, in a news article, or on the radio means that at least my name was heard or seen by some folks. I was in a beautifully written USA Today article this week. It had nothing to do with upcoming book tour, but I would have jumped through numerous hoops to get to be a part of it because many people need to hear an author’s name numerous times (some say five to seven times) before they’ll purchase that person’s book. So I see media spots as my work for an eventual payday.

I don’t expect much in immediate returns, but by faith and business savvy, I anticipate a little increase in readership for my next book, a little more with the next, and so on.

I know some authors make a big splash the first time and people stand in line for hours at their book signings, but for most of us, it’s a work-the-fields-and-expect-an-eventual-harvest deal.

If your publisher arranges for you to do a book signing and no one comes, make the best of it.

Connect with the store managers; most are wonderful to get to know. At one store, when no one showed up for my signing, I helped the stock manager move books. She seemed appreciative of my assistance. At the end of my two-hour book signing (at which I signed zero books!), I left. A few weeks later I learned that the stock manager had read my book because of my volunteer work with her, and she started bragging about me to potential book buyers.

One person she told read my book and then asked me to speak at a ladies’ function, where I connected with a lot of women who purchased my book. I gained more than 300 readers from that no-show book signing. I still hear from people (including book club leaders) who learned about me from that stock manager.

So attend book signings in faith that believes in what it does not see. If nothing else, a book signing is an opportunity for you to pray for everyone in that store or that city.

I happen to have a book-signing tour coming up. If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you. Even if you’re the only one who comes!

For my upcoming book signing info, go to

Bio: Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times best-selling author whose connection with the Amish community has been featured on ABC Nightline and on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Her ability to authentically capture the hearts of her characters comes from her real-life relationships within the Plain community. You can visit her at

The Bridge of Peace is available starting August 31, 2010. To read the first TWO chapters, go to

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Guest Blogger~Funny Lady Mary Connealy

Mary Connealy is an author, journalist and a teacher. She releases three books with Barbour this year, is a columnist for the Lyons Mirror-Sun, and an occasional book reviewer for the Sioux City Journal. She lives on a farm in Nebraska with her husband, Ivan and their four daughters, Joslyn, Wendy, Shelly and Katy.

Comedy is Serious Business.

I’ve been trying to write a blog giving advice about how to write comedy for a while and you know what?

It’s a hard, serious business.

Have you ever heard the expression, ‘The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s apathy.’

Only someone we really care about can deeply hurt us. It’s that the love is betrayed that flips a person to hate. I think of this as having your feelings open. And when you’re open, things can slip in.

Comedy is like that. It opens your feelings and then, when the reader is . . . you might say vulnerable. . .you can flip those feelings to something else. Deal with something really important, revealing, dark or heavy, through the humor.

This is a scene in Doctor in Petticoats that, I hope, opens the reader up with comedy, in a very serious situation, then once they’re vulnerable, lets me make them feel something much more powerfully than if I’d just played it straight the whole time.

It also lets me reveal a very troubled hero, but also make him sympathetic.

The set up.

A stagecoach wreck. Lots of people hurt. My heroine, Beth, needs the help of a man who, though she doesn’t know it, is a burned out Army doctor. He’s come to believe everyone he touches is harmed.

Beth has been mostly ignoring him on the stagecoach ride, but now she needs help and he’s the only one who can give it.

Doctor in Petticoats

Beth surged to her feet. “We need help over here!”

She stomped to the man’s side and, carefully considering her approach—or maybe not so carefully—she grabbed the man’s filthy flattened black Stetson off his head and swatted him with it.

“Hey!” He turned as if surprised to see her.

“I didn’t exactly sneak up on you, now did I?” She waled on him again.

He shielded his face. His once-white shirt tore up one side at his sudden movement. “Will you stop that?”

“Do I have your attention, you miserable worm?” Beth threw the hat at his head.
He held his arms over her face, the bedraggled white sleeves rolled up nearly to his elbows, and glared through his wrists at her. His eyes narrowed.

“You get up off the ground and help us, you worthless skunk.”

“Get away from me.” The skunk’s eyes flashed like he had rabies.

“I need help. I don’t care how hung over you are, how lazy you are or how stupid you are. Right now I need some muscle, and I know you’ve got it. Get on your feet and get over there and help us, or so help me I will rip your arm off and beat you to death with the bloody stump.”

The man’s eyes seemed to clear. Maybe she’d pierced the alcoholic fog. “I’m not drunk.”

Interesting that he hadn’t protested being called stupid or worthless or a skunk. . . what else had she called him? She’d lost track of her insults somewhere along the line.

“Oh, puh-leeze, you expect me to believe you’re this worthless without the help of whiskey?” Beth jammed her fists on her hips and straightened away from him. She had to get some air. “If that’s true then I might as well shoot you here and now. Do the whole world a favor.”

The drunk’s eyes slid from her to the writhing man. Beth had always been sensitive to others. Her ma had told her many times that was her finest gift.

Right now it felt like a curse.

Beth saw something so vulnerable and fragile in the man’s eyes that she almost regretted asking for help. It wasn’t fear or laziness or stupidity or drunkenness. It was as if Leo’s suffering ate into this man’s soul.

What horror had Alex seen to put such a look in his eyes? Beth couldn’t give him the break he so desperately needed. “I can’t do it without help. Please. We can end Leo’s suffering.”

“He’ll still hurt. Dislocated shoulders take a long time to heal.”

Beth realized what the man had just admitted. He knew something about healing.

“I. . . I can’t. I can’t help him.”

“You don’t have a choice.”

“I do.”

Beth was afraid she might have to tackle him. “I’m not giving you one.”

Alex turned, stared at her. Their eyes locked. Seconds stretched to a minute, maybe longer. Growing slowly, a sensation Beth had never felt before almost made her let go, back away. Those eyes, it was as if he was looking all the way into her soul. She felt strength drain from her as if he was drawing on reserves within her, soaking up courage like desert ground in a rainstorm.

Alex watched her, drew from her. Finally, his eyes fell shut. Beth saw tears along the rim of his lashes.

Then he started nodding. He physically changed. He seemed to grow taller, his shoulder’s squared, his chin came up. When he opened his eyes a new man was there, or maybe an old man, the man Alex Buchanan used to be before he crawled inside a bottle.

Beth could see what this was costing him. As if he paid for this courage by stripping off his skin with a razor.

He’d awakened something in her while their eyes were locked, something brand new.
“Let’s do it,” he said.

She’d never been so proud of anyone in her life.

Mary again: Any comments about comedy? What style of comedy do you like? Three Stooges? Noel Coward? Dialogue, slapstick, situational? Do you like comedy in a book or isn’t that the reading experience you go for.

Tell me the funniest book you’ve every read and if you leave a comment you’ll get your name in the drawing for a copy of Doctor in Petticoats.

Find Mary Online at: Seekerville; Petticoats & Pistoles; Her blog; or Her website

Doctor Alex Buchanan is a wanted man--a deseter from the army stalked by a bounty hunter--but he'd rather be dead than inflict any more pain on his patients. 

Beth McClellan is idealistic, believing the nursing training she received will be enough to help her serve as doctor to her home town in West Texas. 

When Alex and Beth meet in a stagecoach accident, they find that they work well together. But are his demons and her dreams too deeply rooted for either of them to pay the price required for a future together?

Monday, August 23, 2010

To Thine Own Self Be True ~ Mary Ellis

Mary Ellis is the author of A Widow's Hope, Never Far from Home, The Way to a Man's Heart, and Sarah's Christmas Miracle. She and her husband live in central Ohio, where they try to live a simpler style of life.

I’ve been thinking about the famous quote by William Shakespeare lately. There’s been much talk in the writers’ loops about rules that new writers must follow if they hope ever to be published. I jotted some of the rules down, but I still have my original list from my early days as a beginning writer: Reduce adverbs; never use –ly words. Never use passive verbs. Eliminate multiple prepositions in a row. Remove dialogue tags. And of course, let’s have no redundancies, euphemisms, petty modifiers, clich├ęs, or hyperbole. I won’t even get into the rules regarding punctuation. Many writers of various levels can benefit from looking over the list prior to a final edit of their work. I, myself, was once guilty of walking slowly instead of staggering and eating hungrily instead of devouring my fried chicken. Now I use stronger verbs to convey my meaning, and I wouldn’t think to writing something like whispered softly. But let’s be honest, sometimes a good old –ly word is just the ticket. Fellow writer, Mary Johnson, offered this marvelous example from Dick Francis’ best-selling novel, Hot Money: “I intensely disliked my father’s fifth wife, but not to the point of murder.” A lovely sentence…ly word and all, don’t you agree? To leave out the dastardly adverb would have sacrificed much. Does anyone remember the first line of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield? “I was born” is the epitome of passivity. Now I don’t put myself in Dick Francis’ league, and certainly not in Mr. Dickens’, but Ms. Johnson said it well, “In the end, the craft is there to serve the art, not vice versa.”

Another rule I read on the loop is “never use more than two POV’s in a romance.” I was midway through a short romance containing one main plot, advanced by four POV characters. I sat up straight and asked, “huh?” and then called my editor. She replied that she’d never heard of such a rule and wondered who made these things up. Before you fire off an email to me, insisting that fledging novelists need guidelines to hone their skills…I agree with you. But the list of rules should be guidelines to improve a manuscript; not laws never to be broken.

Writers who rely too much on critique partners’ or contest judges’ suggestion also scare me. I once read the comments from a contest I had entered with confusion. One judge felt “I should have better developed my hero/heroine to create empathy,” while another judge felt that “I’d spent too much time sketching characters to the detriment of the plot.” What did I learn from the two opposing viewpoints? Not too much. After I dried my tears that I hadn’t finaled in the contest, I learned that judges have subjective opinions.

I also read in the loop about one writer who presents her work to her critique group at the end of each chapter. Her fellow writers probably offer good advice on how to improve the pacing, etc., but when she finishes the manuscript, will the book still have her voice? I’m not so sure. A writer’s voice is the only thing that sets her/him apart from the thousands of other writers in the same genre. A writer gets an idea, creates a story in her mind, and sits down to tell the tale. Any advice on how to improve should come after the first draft in finished. The book might have the same theme or plot twists that have already been rehashed to death. But in a new voice, this story can come alive for a reader. Contest judges, critique partners, editors who are kind enough to offer suggestions—these people can offer great advice for improvement. But remember, they have subjective opinions. You’ll never please everyone, so you should first please yourself with the work you create.

Approaching the Last Turn

With three categories remaining, OUT OF THE SLUSH PILE, Novel Journey’s Fifteen Minutes of Fame Contest, is approaching the last turn before the home stretch.

We’re currently accepting Middle Grade/Young Adult entries, with a deadline of September 10.

The deadline for Contemporary Romance is October 10.

And entries for the final round, SciFi/Fantasy/Horror, must be received by November 10.

So if you’ve written a novel you’d love to share with the world, please send it our way! Download an entry form here, and send it with your first chapter and a synopsis to A complete description of the contest can be found here, and if you have any questions, please send them to the email address above for a prompt answer.

We look forward to the opportunity to showcase your stuff!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Necessity of Being Primed

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 -

My husband and I stared at the white-washed wall. “I guess it’s time I did something with that,” he said. The interior of the extension on our house had been finished for about a year, but the exterior wall was still just a sheet of painted plywood. “I’ll find out what I need to do the stucco today,” my husband said, with a note of determination in his voice. Succo, I thought. How hard can that be?
Later, we stood at a counter in a hardware store, listening to the detailed instructions given by a man who obviously knew what he was talking about. He helped us figure out how much stucco mud we’d need. Then he added in the mesh. “Mesh?” I asked. He nodded. “You need mesh for the stucco to stick,” he explained. “And you’ll need primer, of course.” My husband noted the jump in cost with that addition and asked if it was really necessary. The man behind the counter nodded vigorously. Apparently primer was essential. I sighed as he handed us the total. Nothing in this world is easy, I thought. Or cheap. My husband mumbled something about hiring a contractor.
Just to be sure, we called another store and asked about the process. The clerk outlined the same details and agreed with the other man’s assessment. Primer was absolutely necessary. Without preparing the surface, he explained, the process would not work.
1 Peter 1:13 talks about primer too. The author writes – “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” We are to prime ourselves, prepare ourselves, as athletes prepare for competition. The apostle is talking about focus. Just as an athlete must focus on training for the race, we must focus on Christ. We must study Him, listen to Him, conform our will to His. Why? Because, just as the primer on a wall determines the strength of what comes after, the preparation we do in our hearts and minds determines our usefulness to God. As Christian writers, this spiritual priming is absolutely necessary. Without it our words cannot give life, cannot feed our readers the way God intends.
Peter outlines how to go about the process. He says, “Obey the truth,” (v.22), “love one another deeply”(22b). He calls us to “rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander of every kind.” Easy, right? Hardly. But we have help. We have something to cling to, as stucco mud clings to mesh. 2 Peter 2:4 goes on to say, “As you come to him ...” Jesus is available to help us accomplish the priming, the preparation necessary in our lives. And the end result is worth it all as we, “like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”(2 Peter 2:5)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Author Geraldine Brooks Receives U.S. Literary Peace Prize


Celebrated chronicler of human conflict to be honored for exposing horrors of war in bestselling novels; Fiction and Nonfiction finalists to be announced in September

Brooks spent many years covering crises in the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans for the Wall Street Journal before going on to write powerful historical novels, including the 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel March. She will accept the award at a ceremony in Dayton, Ohio on November 7th, joining the ranks of past Lifetime Achievement honorees Studs Terkel, Elie Wiesel, Taylor Branch, Nicholas Kristof, and Sheryl WuDunn.

Inspired by the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords that ended the war in Bosnia, The Dayton Literary Peace Prize is the only international literary peace prize awarded in the United States. The Prize celebrates the power of literature to promote peace, social justice, and global understanding.
As part of the award, Brooks will receive a $10,000 honorarium. The ceremony will also honor recipients of the 2010 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Fiction and Nonfiction, which will be announced in September.

A native of Australia, Brooks has won worldwide acclaim for her ability to weave unwaveringly candid depictions of human conflict into stories of vivid characters caught in the throes of human events. Set in Sarajevo, her most recent work, People of the Book, is based on the true story of the Sarajevo Haggadah, a Jewish prayer book safeguarded by Muslims and Christians during five centuries of European conflict. Year of Wonders (2001) follows a seventeenth-century village torn apart by the plague, while March (2006) tells the story of a Civil War-era idealist whose beliefs are challenged by what he witnesses on the frontlines. Brooks is also the author of two nonfiction books, Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence.

"Most people are sheltered from the horrors of war, but Brooks reveals to her readers what their political leaders try to hide -- the ugly realities of conflict and its destructive effects even on those far from the frontlines,” said Sharon Rab, founder and co-chair of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation. “We are delighted to be honoring a writer whose skill, imagination, and unique background allow her to create vivid characters whose stories help people understand the vital importance of fostering peace throughout the world.”

“It’s always a thrill to have one’s work recognized, but this prize holds particular meaning to me because I covered the fighting in the Balkans as a journalist and I know what peace can mean to a civilian population that has been besieged and violated by years of war,” said Brooks. “In these times, particularly, it is good to be reminded of what was achieved at Dayton, and that it is at the table, rather than on the battlefield, that wars may be brought to an end.”

Recipients of the 2010 Dayton Literary Peace Prize will be announced in September and honored at a ceremony hosted by award-winning journalist Nick Clooney in Dayton on November 7th.

About the Dayton Literary Peace PrizeThe Dayton Literary Peace Prize honors writers whose work uses the power of literature to foster peace, social justice, and global understanding. Launched in 2006, it has already established itself as one of the world’s most prestigious literary honors, and is the only literary peace prize awarded in the United States. As an offshoot of the Dayton Peace Prize, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize awards a $10,000 cash prize each year to one fiction and one nonfiction author whose work advances peace as a solution to conflict, and leads readers to a better understanding of other cultures, peoples, religions, and political points of view. An annual lifetime achievement award is also bestowed upon a writer whose body of work reflects the Prize's mission; previous honorees include Studs Terkel, Elie Wiesel, Taylor Branch, Nicholas Kristof, and Sheryl WuDunn.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Author Nicola Furlong ~ Interviewed

Nicola Furlong survives the travails of writing by playing hockey, gardening and eating chocolate fudge. Her first mystery novel, Teed Off!, features professional golfer and coroner Riley Quinn. Her second, A Hemorrhaging of Souls, is a harrowing tale of blasphemy, insanity, suicide and murder. She has also written six novels in The Church Choir Mysteries series, a multimedia online thriller: and two how-to write e-book primers, Youdunit Whodunit! How to Write Mysteries and Self-Publish Your E-Book in Minutes!
As Quillrbiz, she also offers electronic publishing services and produces video marketing trailers for books, houses, campaigns, etc.
Nicola lives in a small seaside town on southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Click for more information .

What two or three things would you do differently if you were starting your publishing career today?

Since I'm a mystery author, I would focus on developing one series rather than having a few stand alones. I believe readers enjoy getting to know characters and to follow them and their lives through a number of novels.

What one issue makes you struggle the most as an author? How do you handle it?

The constant fear that what I'm writing may not be published. I consume vast amounts of chocolate fudge.

What is the best writing (or life) advice you have ever heard or wished you had followed? Why?

So many people say write what you know; I say write what you don't know. Your learning process will result in a more enjoyable experience for you and a more interesting novel for your readers.

Tell us a bit about your current project.

I'm working on The Sisterhood of Shepherds, a feel-good cozy, inspirational fiction series starring three adult sisters, Faith, Hope and Charly Shepherd, who hesitantly answer a personal calling to assist others in atoning for past wrongs.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work, or struggle in a particular area such as writers block or angst driven head-banging against walls? Please share some helpful overcoming hints that you’ve discovered.

I often have bouts of doubt and anxiety; however, I usually can dispel them with a energetic bike ride or a game of hockey. The main resolution is always putting my butt on the chair and fingers on the keyboard, each and every day.

What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?

Don't have a favourite source but get most of my best ideas while biking or gardening. Nothing like a lazy early summer morning strolling about the garden, deadheading, pruning and watering. A perfect setup for discovering a seed or two of creativity.

Have you ever had one of those awkward writer moments you’d like to share with us, the ones wherein you get “the look” from the normals? Example, you stand at a knife display at the sporting goods store and ask the clerk which would be the best to use to disembowel a six foot man…please do tell.

My first novel, Teed Off!, is set during a women's pro golf tournament. I thought women golfers would love to read it so flogged it at a large golf show. Sadly, my audience's main reaction was to stare at the paperback, pick it up and then remark, "Oh, it's a book," after which they would plunk it back down and disappear.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why? (Doesn't have to be one of your books or even published.)

I wrote paranormal thriller and recently enhanced its story with video, music, sound effects and photographs, turning it into a new online multi-media experience called a Quillr®. The process was a gas, involving hiring 12 actors, finding suitable locations, directing, shooting and editing 50 brief videos/scenes, organizing a fake rock concert and learning tons of new software. It's available for free at as well as an ebook at online bookstores.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

I don't understand why independent music artists and film makers are lauded for taking risks and financing their own work and enterprising indie authors are snubbed and derided for doing the same.

What is the first thing you do when you begin a new book?

Find a title; it sets everything in motion. Without it, I have a tough time moving forward.

What is the most difficult part of pulling together a book? Ex. Do you have saggy middles, soggy characters, soupy plots during your first drafts…if so, how do you shape it up?

It's all challenging but I've spent a lot of time studying authors I admire, reading a few how-to books, thinking and planning my plot points, story elements, characters, etc. Recently, I pulled together all my notes and put them into a brief published primer called Youdunit Whodunit! How to Write Mysteries. Makes starting a new crime novel a lot easier!

Have you received a particularly memorable reader response or peer honor? Please share.

I had a visit from a delightful thirteen year-old fan who enjoyed my novels in the Church Choir Mystery series. She was visiting her grandmother who lived nearby and they both came over. We sat in the garden, sipping iced tea and chatting about the series' characters but very quickly we focused on my young fan's favorite highlights: the antics of Gooseberry, the protagonist's chubby cat!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

For Love or Money

In my never-ending discussions with Christian novelists about improving the quality of what we write, I once offended a successful author by suggesting she might consider writing fewer words in order to write them better. “I am the main breadwinner in our house,” she said. “I have to write three novels a year because I have children to feed.” She seemed a little angry on that point so I let it drop, but I’ve been wondering ever since if it’s okay for a Christian to write novels for a living.

I’m not asking if it’s okay to be paid for a novel, mind you; I’m asking if it’s okay to write a novel for the important difference.

A non-Christian would probably be surprised I even ask the question, but one of the things the unbelieving world has never understood about the Jesus Way is this: God cares more about motivations than results. That’s why Jesus could point to a woman who put only two small copper coins in the temple treasury
and say, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others.” She had one motive only: to give her all to God.

Elsewhere in the
Bible Paul commands a group of slaves to work for their masters “with all your heart, as [if] working for the Lord, not for men.” That reminds me of Jesus’ famous answer to the question, “Which is the greatest commandment?” He replies with a quote from Deuteronomy (“Love the Lord your God with all your heart...”) and he adds another from Leviticus (“Love your neighbor as yourself”), thus showing us the way to love God wholeheartedly is to love our neighbor wholeheartedly. If we think of our work as an act of neighborly love (and we should) this begins to lead me toward an answer to my question. Paul and Jesus would say the way for a novelist to love “with all your heart” is to write “with all your heart.”

Does this leave room for money as a motivation? I don’t see how. It seems to me when Paul and Jesus use language like “all your heart” they mean every little bit of my heart, and to the extent I love and work for any other motivation, I fail to obey that command.

Yet, my writer friend does have children to feed, and I can’t believe the Lord wants them to go hungry. What is she to do?

Jesus answers the question
this way: “ first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” And elsewhere he says, “the worker deserves his wages.” So when Paul tells us to work with all our hearts, and when Jesus tells us to love with all our hearts, they’re not saying God expects starvation. They’re saying write for the Lord (love Him) with all your heart, and He will honor it with everything on earth you need.

At this point, some may wonder what it means to do one’s personal best in an imperfect world. Theoretically, there’s always room for improvement in any manuscript. So at the end of the day it’s the deadline that defines the level of excellence, right? And since most deadlines are established by arbitrary human decisions, who am I to tell my author friend I think three novels in one year is too many?

Again, I think we have to look to motivation. Is she writing three novels a year because she believes that is the best way to serve God? Then let her write with all her heart within the time allowed. But that is not the reason she gave. She said she did it to feed her children. Perhaps she sees her role as their provider as her main “work,” and writing as merely a means to that end. If so, she might believe compromising on the writing is okay so long as she remains true to her main responsibility. But Paul’s command leaves no room for that kind of logic. He said, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart...” The word “whatever” is universal. It applies to writing just as much as it applies to parenting.

Few of us are blessed with the talent and the situation to be able to support a family on a writer’s pay. The rest of us must work at something else and do our writing on the side. The moment may come when you are tempted to compromise your writing in order to write full time. Don’t do it. Whether you are blessed to write as your main job, or whether your job is something else, the Bible is clear: whatever you do must be done with all your heart, as if working for the Lord, and not for men. In other words, write as well as you can, or don’t write at all.

You may have to work a day job in order to write well, but if you give everything you’ve got to both the day job and the writing, if you seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness with all your heart that way, you have Jesus’ promise that everything you need in life will come.

Athol Dickson’s novels have been favorably compared to the work of Octavia Butler (Publisher’s Weekly), Daphne du Maurier (, by Cindy Crosby, Christianity Today fiction critic), and Flannery O’Connor (The New York Times). His They Shall See God was a Christy Award finalist. River Rising was selected as one of the Booklist Top Ten Christian Novels of 2006, was a Christianity Today's Best Novel of 2006 finalist, an Audie Award winner and winner of the Christy Award for best suspense novel of the year. The Cure also won a Christy Award in the suspense category. Winter Haven was a Christy Award finalist and a Romantic Times Top Pick, and Athol’s third novel to win a Christy Award, Lost Mission, is currently nominated for a Clive Staples Award. Athol lives with his wife in southern California.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Guest Blogger ~ Darlene Franklin ~ Discovering Voice

Award-winning author and speaker Darlene Franklin recently returned to cowboy country—Oklahoma. The move was prompted by her desire to be close to her son’s family; her daughter Jolene has preceded her into glory. Darlene loves music, needlework, reading and reality TV. Talia, a Lynx point Siamese cat, proudly claims Darlene as her person. Seaside Romance and Prodigal Patriot, both historical romance set in New England, became available from Barbour this summer. Visit Darlene’s blog for information on book giveaways and upcoming titles.


One question that always stumps me is this: Who do you write like? If you’re a fan of (name the author), you’ll like Darlene Franklin.

I have been to plenty of workshops on discovering my voice, but I still don’t get it. I have never tried to imitate anyone else, although I can occasionally trace the influence of other writers on my writing. For instance, on my best days, I approximate James Lee Burke’s use of setting in his novels.

Do you wonder the same thing? Who am I, as a writer? What am I supposed to write?

Today, in 2010, I have a fair grasp of the answer. I excel at writing romantic fiction and devotionals. I have tried a little of everything over my nineteen years of writing. Aside from my devotionals, I have learned that I have a better chance of selling a novel than a magazine article!

If you’re still in the process of feeling your way as a writer, here are a few lessons I learned the hard way.

--What you want to write may not be what you were meant to write. I would love to write hard-hitting nonfiction about issues I’ve dealt with. Instead, I write romantic fiction about people with difficult problems—quite different from the ones I’ve faced myself.

--Learn from your experience. What sells—not because it’s popular so much as because you write it well?

--What gets the strongest reaction from your readers?
--What do you find the easiest to write?
--Read widely in the genre you’re most interested in, to pick up the nuances.
--Work with critique partners from your genre.

You may wish to try the following writing exercise: write the same event, such as a favorite pet or your first job, as a poem, a short story, and a nonfiction essay. Or write it as a romance, a science fiction story, and as a mystery. Set it aside. Come back to a day or a week later. What reads the best? That may be your strongest genre—or at least the right genre for that story.

Oh, that question about “who do you write like”? I was most recently compared to Susan Page Davis—my critique partner and historical writer extraordinaire.

Coastal communities of old experience a test of faith when three women face fear, jealousy, and scorn as they ride the tide of romance.

Judith Morrison lives at the lighthouse her father operates on Capernaum Island. When her friend Sam Hathaway returns, will his fears of the sea keep him from reaching her in a storm?

Becca Hanham’s first day on the job as a scullery maid in Providence ends with a marriage proposal from Nash Abercrombie, a business tycoon. Is this the answer to her dreams or a preposterous scheme?

Francesca Wallingford is being pressured to enter a marriage with Count Philippe de la Croix. When Alfred Finley returns to the Newport society that once scorned him, could her choices become any more unclear?

Can true love be found even when the obstacles seem as wide as the ocean? Will God answer their prayers to bridge the gap?

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Writing Journey ~ Cara Putnam

Stars in the Night is Cara Putman’s ninth novel and tenth book. An attorney and sometimes lecturer at a Big Ten University, Putman lives in Indiana with her husband and three children. Find more information on Putman at

Writing is a journey.

Each writer’s journey is unique. Some shoot straight to the top, though if you talk to them you’ll learn there were years of hard work behind the scenes. Others start with small books, learn the craft, and slowly grow their career. Still more find their niche immediately and contentedly write there for years.

My friend Mary DeMuth in her memoir, Thin Places, challenges us to look for the Thin Places in our lives. Those moments “when we sense God intersecting our world in tangible, unmistakable ways. They are aha moments, beautiful realizations, when the Son of God bursts through the hazy fog of our monotony and shines on us afresh.”

For me, that is what the writing journey has been. Days of sitting, hands on the keyboard, tush in the chair, writing, writing, writing. Followed by moments when I can so clearly sense God’s presence and His pleasure as I write that it steals my breath. I sit back, savor the moment, and erect a stone of remembrance to carry me through the long days.

Writing is a life that is so often far beyond our control.

I control my research – kind of. Have I told you about the times God has led me to the perfect book at the perfect moment to seed my what-iffer with multitudes of potential ideas? I control my discipline. Will I sit in the chair day after day whether I feel like it? Will I meet my word count no matter how tired or uninspired I am?

But so much extends far beyond my control.

I can’t control the editors. I can’t control what their line needs at that moment. Or how my books and ideas will mesh with theirs.

I can’t control readers. Will they resonate with my writing? My stories? Will they catch the vision and spread the word?

I can’t control the timing. That the right publisher will like my book at the moment they have an opening for a book in my genre. But God does.

Stars in the Night was an idea that had begun to percolate in my mind. I’d written two World War II series and was actively looking for my next setting. My husband, a huge World War II history buff, and I were kicking ideas around, and I’d decided Hollywood was probably the next place for me. I’d gone to the library and gotten a stack of research books when I got the call. An editor I knew but had never worked with wanted to know if I might be interested in a new line they were starting. As we talked, I got so excited. And then she emailed me their guidelines, which listed that Hollywood was a location they were interested in setting books.

Only God could have known ahead of time. But because I followed His prompting I was ready to run with an idea. As Brennan Manning puts it in his book Ruthless Trust, “When the appropriate time comes, only the disciple with an unflinching trust in God will dare to risk.”

So while the writing journey can be nerve-wrecking, especially for someone who likes to control her destiny, I can rest and trust in the One who loves me and cares for me. All the while keeping my mind and heart open for the next idea while writing the current one.

In the process, this life is filled with Thin Places, where God’s love and presence transcends my life.

Innocents Abroad

Five months ago, I took temporary leave from my youth librarian position to be a nanny in eastern Europe. Navigating the Russian version of Blogger is tricky, but I've managed.

What hasn't been so easy is living without new releases. While I still
hear about outstanding children and young adult novels from enthusiastic readers, I can only drool until September, when I fly home. Those of you in America at this very moment, however... a trip to the library might be in order.

A contemporary retelling of
Jane Eyre, the hugely anticipated Hunger Games wrap, a Newbery sequel, a Newbery buzz book, historical, steam-punk, fantasy, drama, authors new and old and much beloved. I give you:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What it’s All About

We slipped quietly down the stairs and toward the front door while our host slept in his living room, propped up in his electric chair. It had been a good few days, visiting with him in his home, often chatting well into the wee hours of the morning, in spite of his ill health. He was one of my husband’s closest friends, a man who had shared some of his deep struggles and most guarded secrets with us.

He told us about his disturbing childhood. Memories of his abusive father still plagued him and long-ago wrongs still held him in their grip. “I think I was about twelve years old when I made the vow,” he confided. “After one of the beatings, I swore I’d never cry again, not in front of him, not in front of anyone, not for any reason.”

He told us how he’d prayed in recent days that some day, somehow, he’d be able to break that vow, but to date, he had not discovered a way.

I helped my husband pack our belongings into the car, then pulled a copy of my novel, One Smooth Stone, out of a box in the trunk. I wrote a note on the front page and slipped back into the house. As I placed it on the counter where our friend would find it when he woke, I said a short prayer. Let this do it, Lord. Let this break the bondage on his heart.

A few days later I decided to check my e-mail in a hotel room. I saw his name and opened his message first. He said he had started to read the book immediately, and “couldn't put it down, it was such good reading .... you accomplished something that I haven't been able to achieve for years and years. I cried often while reading it. … the tears flowed ... at long last, the tears flowed.”

I shouted out loud and read the email to my husband, my tears flowing freely as I praised God.

There have been times when I’ve been frustrated at the low sales of One Smooth Stone, the failed marketing strategies, and the small number of people the book has reached. But then someone like our friend reads it and God’s Spirit moves. Then all the failures and seeming lack of success fades into the streaming glory of His purposes, and I remember what writing as a Christian is really all about.

And all I can do is shout, Hallelujah!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Author/Songwriter/Performer Sandi Patty ~ Interviewed

Sandi Patty has amassed more awards than any other female vocalist in contemporary Christian music history. She has been inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, received five Grammy ® Awards, three RIAA-certified platinum and five gold recordings. Yet it is Sandi’s down-to-earth style and strong common sense that has endeared her to Women of Faith audiences across the country, the largest women’s conference of any kind in the world. The author of six books including Falling Forward and Layers, she has also appeared on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade, The Today Show and more.

Share a bit about your journey from music to writing.

I’ve always tried to share my story through my songs so in a way telling my story has always been what has motivated my music. It has been an easy and natural transition to takes these stories and share them in writings as well.

Would you say celebrity has helped you as a writer or hindered you? And how?

I honestly feel that age and life experience has helped me in being a writer. You can’t share your story until you have a story. There are many “pages” of my story that I would love to rip out and only share the good moments. But I guess it is the good along with the bad that make it a real life story.

How did songwriting/singing/performing prepare you to write a non-fiction book offering transparent personal information?

The process in choosing songs through out the years has basically been the same. I’ve always tried to choose songs that help me share what God is doing in my life. I don’t write songs myself so I’ve had to rely on others to help me share their story. Transitioning to writing books is more of just an elaboration on what God has done, is doing, and what he continues to do in my life. And I’ve, good or bad, have a lot of life stuff to share.

What would you say to those who judge a book by it's cover rather than the content?

I would say I understand. It’s easy for all of us to make quick assessments. But, oh, we miss so much if we stop there. We are cheating ourselves if don’t explore the content of each person’s character.

What has been your greatest, most fulfilling moment during your long, award-laden career? Why?

In my career, it would simply have to be the fulfillment of still being able to share my story and it encourage others who listen or who read about it. In my personal life, it would most definitely have to be seeing how God is at work in each of my kids lives. To see them each surrender to His will for them and for them to be actively pursuing a relationship with Him. That is the MOST fulfilling.

What advice would you give to a songwriter/performer who would like to write a book or an author who would like to write songs/perform?

The best advice I have to offer is not what people want to hear. That is simply, “bloom where you are planted”. I heard someone say the other day, “David didn’t head out to fight a giant. He simply brought lunch”. I really love that. What that says to me is show up with all you have been given to do today. If that’s the worship band, or church choir, or school teacher then be the best one you can be. Keep a journal if writing is what you want to do. Be TODAY, all God wants you to be. Let God worry about tomorrow.

What would you like our readers to take away from this interview?

I would love each reader to know that today, on this day, God is at work in your life. Just do the next right thing, today, and God is already in tomorrow working for our good.