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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Last Day

Those in the know say that your product takes an average of being seen 6 times by a consumer before they will consider buying it. 

Let us help you get to that magic number that translates into a sale, but hurry, because today is the last day to reserve a slot for May. 

My debut novel, Crossing Oceans, has hit bestseller lists on three separate months, in large part because of its visibility here on this popular website that is read by tens of thousands of a very niche audience.

You can't ask for a better bang for your advertising buck.

The process couldn't be simpler. HERE's how it works. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Damsels in Distress:

Crafting a Heroine Worth Saving

By Michelle Griep

Let’s be honest, reading is an escape. The grind of life sometimes pulverizes us to such a fine dust, our only recourse is to grab a book off the shelf and slink over to the big butt chair in the corner of the family room. And when you finally leave behind your troubles, journey into the story world of a different space and time, how long will you put up with a whiny, flake of a female main character?

Probably about as long as it takes you to fling the book against the far wall.

Assuming that’s not the ideal you’re striving for as a writer, how in the world do you avoid such a violent reaction to one of your heroines?

There are a few key qualities you need to balance in your heroine to make her a damsel worthy of saving...or at least reading about.

Barbie vs. Whoopi Goldberg

Everyone wants to slap an airhead. If a character is continually clueless, any admiration you try to create via other attributes will fail. Miserably. And just as annoying is an opinionated hardhead who won’t listen to reason. The ideal heroine knows her own mind but is willing to consider other perspectives.

Varuca Salt vs. Pollyanna

Who doesn’t hear enough complaining in real life? If you make your heroine a PMS goddess, no one is going to turn the page. On the flip side, do you know anyone who never grumbles? A sassy retort, hysterically sarcastic, can add humor and realism to your character. Sprinkle these in, though. There’s a fine line between a distinctive flavor and too salty.

June Cleaver vs. Xena Warrior Princess

Doormat characters are annoying. If a heroine doesn’t respect herself, why should the reader? Neither should your gal be a bully. Strive to balance forcefulness with moments of uncertainty. Makes for a more complex character.

Paris Hilton vs. Mother Teresa

Sex crazed women prance across TV screens 24/7. Who needs to crack open a book and read about one? But if you want to make your heroine a realistic, flesh-and-blood female, she’s got to notice every now and then the male of the species. God created us as sexual beings. This is an area where the middle of the road is the safest place to write.

Nancy-Needs-A-Man vs. Gloria Steinem

If your heroine sucks the life out of the hero, it’ll deflate your story faster than a sheet of bubblewrap thrown to my kids. An over-the-top needy woman is one I personally want to strangle. However, if your heroine is completely self-sufficient, there’s no need for her to interact with or depend upon the hero, weakening the conflict potential in your story. It’s often fun and can be a successful tool to combine both these factors in your heroine. A battle between her intellect and emotions is something most women can relate to.

Juggling all these qualities creates a well-rounded and memorable female character. Sounds easy enough, but it’s difficult to keep all those balls in the air at the same time.

Especially if you bring a contemporary woman back to the past, which is what I did in my most recent novel UNDERCURRENT. Yes, you guessed it…a shameless commercial break is about to slap you upside the head.

People go missing every day. Many meet with foul play, some leave the social grid by choice, but others are never accounted for. Such is the fate of successful linguistics professor Cassie Larson. She leads a life her undergrad students hope to attain, until she tumbles into the North Sea and is sucked into a swirling vortex…and a different century.

Alarik, son of a Viking chieftain, is blamed for a murder he didn’t commit—or did he? He can’t remember. On the run, saving a half-drowned foreign woman wasn’t in his plans.

Ragnar is a converted pagan shunned by many but determined to prove his Cousin Alarik’s innocence. He didn’t count on falling in love with Cassie or the deadly presence of evil that threatens his village in Alarik’s absence.

Check out UNDERCURRENT to see how I put into practice all the qualities of the perfect damsel in distress.

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She seeks to glorify God in all that she writes—except for that teenage graffiti phase. You can find out more about Michelle at And about Undercurrent here and here.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Optimistic Voices

Like almost every child who grew up in the 1960s and 70s, I never missed the opportunity to watch The Wizard of Oz on TV. It was shown annually for almost three decades.

As a result, the movie is a part of who I am in a way no other movie ever has been or likely ever will be. The structure of the film (three acts, with a disturbance and two doorways of no return) and the model character arc observed in Dorothy (moving from discontentment to contentment) have affected my life as a storyteller.

So, I’m watching the film the other day and feel a holy nudge. It seems I still have something to learn from The Wizard of Oz.

My witch=the pitch
I am terrified by the idea of pitching my novel to an editor or agent—“I’ll get you my pretty, and your little book, too!” I suspect one of the main differences between published and unpublished authors is that those who are published have overcome the fear.

But, as Dorothy and gang finally approach the Emerald City—the seeming culmination of her quest—they are greeted by a chorus of “Optimistic Voices.”

You're out of the woods
You're out of the dark
You're out of the night
Step into the sun, step into the light

All of this merrymaking is going on and I’m thinking about my pitch. I do not feel "out of the woods." But after the movie was over, I piece together a few thoughts.

Dorothy had her friends’ help
Dorothy wouldn’t have arrived in the Emerald City without her friends. They protected her and gave her the courage to ease on down, ease on down, down her road. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my friends and critique partners who did the same for me.

Dorothy faced risks—and overcame them
Dorothy didn’t arrive in the Emerald City without surviving a few hazards.

  • She lived through a tornado. (My life has certainly swirled around me lately, as we settle, somewhat bumpily, into a new location.)

  • Sour apple trees threw fruit at her. (I’ve eaten my share of sour grapes.)

  • Someone (Cowardly Lion) who at first seemed an enemy became a friend . (Don’t get me started.)

  • Exhaustion nearly did her in until another friend (Glinda) helped her become clear-headed again. (I credit the Holy Spirit with my current clear mind regarding my writing.)

Dorothy’s end goal wasn’t the Emerald City
Though it was a grand entry, Dorothy didn’t find what she was looking for—the way home—in the city. Instead, she was forced to face, and conquer, the Wicked Witch.

And here we are, back at the nut of the problem. Facing one’s fears.

Like Dorothy, I’m finding that my experiences, though tough and at times frightening, have taught me that I do have resources within me I’ve yet to tap--and I don't need ruby slippers to access them. Oh, I may run between the turrets yet, but when I can no longer run I’ll find the gumption to douse the witch.

Before the flying monkeys come to haul me off to face my fear, I’m going to listen to those optimistic voices of my friends and family once more--and I'm going to redouble my efforts to make my pitch the best it can be.

Hold onto your breath
Hold onto your heart
Hold onto your hope
March up to the gate
And bid it open.

Need help with your pitch? Come to the Writing for the Soul Conference in February and sign up for an appointment with creativity specialist, C. McNair Wilson. Registrations are open.

Michael Ehret is the Editor-in-Chief for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. He has written for newspapers and other print and online outlets. He edited several nonfiction books, was the senior editor for a faith-based financial services and insurance organization, and is the ezine editor for American Christian Fiction Writers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Point of View ~ by Angela Hunt

With almost four million copies of her books sold worldwide, Angela Hunt is the best-selling author of The Tale of Three Trees, Don’t Bet Against Me, with Deanna Favre, The Note, and The Nativity Story. Her latest release is THE FINE ART OF INSINCERITY, coming May 1 from Howard.
She and her husband make their home in Florida with mastiffs. In 2001, one of her dogs was featured on Live with Regis and Kelly as the second-largest dog in America. Visit Angie on her website and her blog, A Life in Pages.

Point of View

POV—point of view—is the topic most beginning writers want to discuss--or debate. I'm not sure why it trips up so many folks because once you get the principle imbedded in your brain, it's so . . . logical.

"Why do I have to limit my POV?" beginners ask. "John Grisham doesn't always. Nora Roberts doesn't always."

Well, when you have the track record of Grisham and Roberts, you can do whatever you like. I, for one, love the rules about POV because I've realized the power of that device. It's a really useful tool when you know how to use it.

Illustration: You have probably seen the movie Gone with the Wind. You may have read the book. If you've only seen the movie, you've missed out on the best part of the GWTW experience because books have one tremendous advantage over movies--if POV is used correctly, they can put and keep you in the mind of a character, but movies are generally omniscient because the camera sees everything.

In the movie, Rhett Butler is constantly saying, "I love ya, Scarlett." He says that in the book, too, but every time he does, Scarlett immediately attributes his words to 1) lust 2) booze or 3) manipulation. She never believes him, not for a second. And in the book, we are never in Rhett's mind, so we're not really sure what he's thinking.

At the end of the book, after Melanie dies, Scarlett has her epiphany: by golly, Rhett really does love her! She remembers all the things he's done--staying with her while Atlanta burned, coming to rescue her again and agin, spoiling her rotten--and she realizes "no man does those things for a woman unless he loves her to distraction!" (Yes, I have portions of the book memorized. Don't get me started.)

And suddenly, we, the reader, realize the Truth along with Scarlett. And we run home with her, only to find that "even the most deathless love can wear out."

Ooooohhhhh .

These same scenes are in the movie, but they're not nearly as powerful. Why? Because the movie viewer is experiencing the omniscient view, we see all, hear all, and we have limited access to Scarlett's thoughts. So when Rhett says, "I love ya, Scarlett," well, we believe him. And the tension between reality and Scarlett's belief is lost.

I've used POV to keep readers from a character's secrets, make a crazy woman's delusions seem logical, and make an intelligent woman's stupid decision seem . . . intelligent (VBG). You can, too, once you realize the power of POV.

Angela Hunt lives and delves into other people's heads from her office in Florida. Read more about her books at

The Fine Art of Insincerity

Three Southern sisters with nine marriages between them--and more looming on the horizon—travel to St. Simons Island to empty their late grandmother’s house. Ginger, the eldest, wonders if she’s the only one who hasn’t inherited what their family calls “the Grandma Gene”—the tendency to enjoy the casualness of courtship more than the intimacy of marriage. Could it be that her sisters are fated to serially marry, just like their seven-times wed grandmother, Lillian Irene Harper Winslow Goldstein Carey James Bobrinski Gordon George?

It takes a “girls only” weekend, closing up Grandma’s memory-filled beach cottage for the last time, for the sisters to unpack their family baggage, examine their relationship DNA, and discover the true legacy their much-marrying grandmother left behind.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Confused by Your Book Royalty Reports?

 by Chip MacGregor

Over the past year I've had a number of authors ask me about their royalty reports. I think there are several things to know... 
First, most publishers state in the contract they will send you a royalty report either quarterly or semi-annually. 

That report is supposed to be sent to you, and a copy to your agent. They are printed on paper and will come in the mail, but over the next couple of years everyone will be switching to online royalty reports, with automatic bank deposits to your account, rather than a paper check. (Random House is the only company doing this, but soon everyone will follow suit.) 

Second, each publishing house uses a different format, so if you've been doing books at, say, Thomas Nelson, then suddenly move to Simon & Schuster, you'll find the two reports don't look much alike. They key thing is to know what descriptions and numbers to look for. 

Those will include:
-your book's title (if you have multiple books, the report will break down sales for each title), 
-the number of units sold, 
-they type of royalty being paid (it can be "regular" or "high discount" or something else),
-the royalty rate, in terms of a percentage,
-the amount of royalty money due you in dollars and cents,
-the number of copies returned (since they will deduct those from the copies sold),
-any subrights money earned (if the publisher has sold rights to another company, for example a Spanish translation of your book), 

-the amount of unearned advance,
-the amount of the reserve being kept (the publisher is legally allowed to keep a portion back against future returns),
-and the final amount owed you as the author. 

Third, understand that some publishers clutter up their reports with all sorts of extraneous information, while others seem to offer as little as possible. Some houses will include "life to date" information (usually marked "LTD"), while others only report the current selling season. Some houses will use a contract number or ISBN to track each book, others don't. But you can cut through the red tape if you can basically answer these questions:
-How much have they already paid me in advance and royalties? (You may need to go back to your contract and your previous royalty reports to figure out that number.) 

-How many copies have I sold? (You should be able to find a number that tells you.)

-What royalty rate was I paid for those copies? (Again, that should be clear on the statement.)

-How much money did I earn this period? 

There are other questions you can ask that include more detail, but those are the basics. 

Remember that most books have escalators, so you might be paid 15% on the first ten thousand copies, then the royalty rate jumps to 17%. Each of those will usually have a separate line on the report. Also remember that retailers can return most books, which is why one report can say you sold 20,000 copies, and three months later the next report says you've only sold 17,000 copies. 

The numbers are always in flux on a book, and they'll continue to be like that until your book goes out of print and the publisher can give you a final number of "all copies sold." Also keep in mind that your contract allows for the publisher to retain a reasonable reserve against returns, and that figure can fluctuate wildly depending on when your book releases and which company you're with. 

Of course, most authors simply want to know if they've earned out their advance (and if not, how close they are to doing so). That's why authors will often hang their heads when they see a final total within brackets (for example, [$128.97] means there is still a small chunk of the advance left to earn back). On the other hand, they'll do handsprings when, out of the blue, their publisher suddenly sends them a check for a book they haven't worked on in a year. 

Fourth, you should know that there is a certain amount of trust involved in a royalty report. 

Authors and agents trust that a publishing house is reporting on the actual sales of books they've made over the past six months. There is no surefire way to check that number. BookScan can show us how many reported sales there were in retail stores, but they don't report big box stores, special markets, or CBA stores. (Most agents figure BookScan reveals about half of a book's overall sales.) 

CBA has its own reporting system, but it has seemed less than comprehensive to many in the industry. Authors like to look at their Amazon rating, but all that does is offer a comparison to other titles. So there's no perfect way to check actual sales number, other than performing an audit (something we always make sure you have the legal right to do, by inserting that wording into your book contract). 

Still, all of those methods can at least give us clues as to how the book is doing. I recently had a book show up on a bestseller list, but the royalty report showed there were hardly any copies sold -- something was clearly not right, and we contacted the publisher to get clarification. And remember that royalty reports are put together by humans, so there are going to be errors in them. It happens... and it's why you need to look over your royalty report when it shows up.  

There have been some national stories lately questioning the accounting of e-book sales. You can imagine the potential for problems when there are no hard copies to count -- we just have to take it on trust that a publisher allowed X number of downloads. Yeah, that's a potential problem... and it's why I think we're going to see more audits and some new sales reporting systems in the near future. But again, this goes back to the trust level that is required between authors and publishers. It's best not to think of the two as competing sides, but as people in a sort of business partnership -- they need each other, and they're going to do their best to be honest with one another. 

By Chip MacGregor, President of MacGregor Literary

Monday, April 25, 2011

Don't Forget

Just a reminder -- or, maybe you haven't yet heard? -- OUT OF THE SLUSH PILE, Novel Journey's Fifteen Minutes of Fame Contest, is up and running again this year.

We're currently taking entries in all categories, including and especially Historical Fiction: that is, all fiction, including romance, set in the World War II era or before.

So if you're an unpublished novelist and your masterpiece has a historical setting, we'd love to see it! Deadline for entries in this, our first category, is May 10 -- that's fourteen days from this date -- two weeks -- a mere fortnight away.

Questions? We'd love to answer them. Comments? We're itching to hear them. Suggestions? We'd be delighted to consider them. To submit any of these, as well as entry forms, first chapters and synopses, email Yvonne at

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Why Do Adults Read YA Fiction?

While the publishing industry, in most quarters, continues to slump, one genre has maintained remarkable popularity — Young Adult (YA). Why is this? One reason has to be that YA appeals to multiple demographics, like 12 to 112 year-olds. Yes, adults read YA.

In his article, Why Adults Are Reading Young Adults Fiction, Hunter Baker explores the possible reasons for this:

Why do so many adults like to read young adult fiction? I think I have the answer. I think we like to read it because it has limits. Young adult fiction has be judicious in the amount of sex and violence it contains. The descriptions can’t be quite as graphic or gratuitous. That means in order for a story to be successful, it really has to be good. A story has to have merit instead of relying on titillation of one kind or the other to succeed.

From my vantage point, Baker’s only partly right. There are plenty of good books that contain sex and/or violence. In fact, some of the YA books he mentions (like Twilight and Harry Potter), have their share of violence and sexual tension.The NY Times recently posed this question to a panel of YA authors: Why do bestselling young adult novels seem darker in theme now than in past years? The question acknowledges a growing grittiness in YA fiction, which commonly addresses issues like suicide, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, even sexual preferences. So while the absence of “graphic or gratuitous” content may bolster the popularity of some YA, I’m not sure that’s the reason adults read it.

I relate this question to a time in my life when all my reading was “serious.” Books on theology and deep literary tomes. For whatever reason, I decided to take a break from this heavy stuff and read C.S. Lewis’, Chronicles of Narnia. I’m not exaggerating when I say, it changed my life. From there I read A Wrinkle in Time, then The Hobbit. After that, it was on to George MacDonald’s Lilith and Phantastes, and his fairy tales like The Golden Key and The Princess and the Goblin. Along the way, I discovered I did not miss the “adult” books at all.

Baker writes, “…in order for a story to be successful, it really has to be good.” In other words, by parsing out “titillation of one kind or the other,” the author is able to cut to the chase, and focus on story. It makes sense. Kids have short attention spans. Thus, books aimed at Young Adults must be tighter, trimmed, and scrubbed of literary density. Simply put: YA books are easier to read.

This doesn’t mean the stories are without depth — which is one of the common misconceptions of non-YA readers. They assume that young adult lit is less sophisticated, more adolescent. However, Narnia is chock full of theological allusions. In fact, Lewis made the point of distinguishing between books aimed at the “childish” and the “childlike.” There is an assumption by some adults that YA is “childish,” an intellectual downgrade. Scripture, on the other hand, hails “child-likeness” — wonder, awe, imagination, simplicity, purity — as being almost salvific (Matt. 18:1-6). Maybe this is why Jesus taught in parables. “The Kingdom of God is like…” birds and farmers and prodigal teenagers. He distilled truth to a rudimentary form. In this sense, I wonder that one reason adults read YA fiction is because they are — in the good sense — childlike.

All that to say, adult novels often feel stuffy and pretentious, laden with stylistic devices, existential angst and nihilism, graphic or gratuitous content. Which could be one of the reasons more adults are reading YA,

If you're an adult and you read YA fiction may I ask, Why?

Mike is a monthly contributor to Novel Journey. He is represented by the rockin' Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary. Mike's debut novel, "The Resurrection," is in stores now. You can visit his website at

“Who Will Roll The Stone Away?”

"When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” (Mark 16:1-3, NIV)

“Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” I traced the words as I read Mark 16:3. At my toddler’s cries, I slid my Bible into the nightstand. But the women’s question echoed in my mind through the day.

“Lord, that’s like me, isn’t it?” I whispered later that morning, thinking of the many concerns that fill my mind about almost every facet of my life. “What if the editor doesn’t like my ideas?” “Will my book sales do well?” “What about my next book?” Though the recent diagnosis of ankolysing spondylitis had brought some relief, anxieties still took hold of me whenever I had a flare-up. “What if I lose my sight?” “Will I be able to carry my toddler today?” “Can I make my deadline with stiff, weak fingers?”

Later, in the stillness of a sleeping household, I took my Bible and settled myself on a sofa downstairs. As I read the rest of Mark 16, peace anchored my heart as a few simple truths became clear:

* “But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away” (Mark 16:4).
The problems I face are no surprise to Jesus. He knows the difficulties that come my way, and He takes care of them. Though His answers may not always fit my timing, and though I may not always have an answer this side of eternity, He promises His all-sufficient grace for every trial.

* “Don’t be alarmed…” (Mark 16:6).
The message of the angel at the tomb to the women was similar to the one the angelic host gave the shepherds at Jesus’ birth: “Don’t be afraid” (Luke 2:16). It’s a message I’d do well to keep in mind. My fears, doubts and anxieties when left unchecked, cause me to stumble along the path of His will. Yet, the One who called me is also He who promises, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

* “He has risen! He is not here” (Mark 16: 6).
This is the reason I don’t need to fear no matter what comes my way. Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, is alive! He who has overcome death, sin, and all the powers of evil forever is the One who walks beside me daily, infusing me, through His Spirit, with His resurrection power.

* “But go, tell his disciples and Peter…” (Mark 16:7).
The stone is rolled away, the grave is empty, and our Lord is alive. That’s our message as writers of faith—to share what we have experienced because of Jesus.

May the resurrected One who lives forever breathe on us His Spirit and fill us with His words of hope and life that others may know Him and the power of His resurrection. To Him be glory forever!

When Anita Mellott isn’t homeschooling, she writes to encourage others. Her book, School Is Where the Home Is: 180 Devotions for Parents is available for pre-order. 
Photo courtesy of

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Best Bang For Your Advertising Buck

It costs thousands to take out an ad for one day in many trade magazines.

Advertise on Novel Journey for as little as 25.00 for an entire month.

Who reads us? A very targeted audience of tens of thousands monthly of those interested in reading and writing.

Advertise your book, your website, a conference, or anything writing-related for one month and get your second month 1/2 off.

Click HERE for details. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Book Lover Giveaway...

With much of the world going paperless, it seems even the most avid readers might be neglecting their local bookstores. With spring in full swing, Local Pages would like to offer Novel Journey readers $25 toward any bookstore found on Local Pages. The leader in local coupons, discounts, and advertising, Local Pages has a ton of shopping deals available at your fingertips.

Simply go here and type in Book Store in the search field and your city. I had 11 to choose from. Then, in your comment, add the link and mention the book store where you'd use your gift certificate.

April 30th at 11:59 p.m. ends your chance to win. On May 2nd I will come back to this post and announce (in the comment field) the randomly chosen winner. This winner will need to contact me via the instructions I will leave.

Easy $25.00 to feed a book addiction....think about those must read lists. Before it's going. Going. Gone.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

How to Write a Masterpiece

Do miracles survive after they have been scientifically explained? Can intuition still guide our choices after we understand the subconscious factors at work? Or do rational explanations for such things mean they never really existed in the first place?

If these seem like strange questions to ask at the outset of a column about writing novels, think about it this way: it is the goal of all great literature to speak of truths beyond words, but is it even possible to learn how to use words to write of things beyond words? Or does the act of learning such a mystery somehow destroy the mystery?

To answer this question we must consider how the greatest thinkers come to know the things they know. Most of modern thought falls into one of two camps when it comes to understanding how original ideas appear within the mind. These two ways of knowing can be loosely defined as the scientific and the existential.

One of the fathers of the scientific method, the philosopher Rene Descartes, believed the path to knowledge lies in the systematic abandonment of preconceived ideas, questioning and discarding everything which cannot be rigorously proven beyond all doubt, until one arrives finally at a bedrock of indisputable fact. In the end, Descartes learned the only thing he could not doubt was his own existence, so he famously said, “I think, therefore I am.”

Today, many atheists place great faith in the fact that divine existence can’t be proven by the scientific method Descartes helped to establish. Ironically, Descartes himself would not agree. He was a Christian, who went on to build a logical case for God by beginning with perhaps the most basic scientific observation of them all: “I am.”

Still, any serious novelist will sense something missing in the scientific method of knowing. Just as thirst and lust prove water and sex exist, so from the earliest cave paintings until now the human need for art proves that something lies in wait for us beyond the realm of cause and effect and logical progression. Replying to Descartes’ famous words, a novelist in pursuit of the ineffable might well say, “I write, therefore God is.”

In response to this basic flaw in the scientific method, another philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, was among the first to propose the existentialist model of knowing. The Danish philosopher famously coined the term “leap to faith” (usually misquoted as “leap of faith”). He insisted there are gaps in knowledge which cannot be bridged by human logic alone. When standing at the edge of such a gap, Kierkegaard believed one must trust pure intuition.

Like Descartes, Kierkegaard was a Christian. As such, he pointed to Abraham, who was commanded to sacrifice his son by a God who forbids human sacrifice. No systematic case could be made for Abraham’s participation in such a paradox. Only a “leap to faith” independent of rational explanations could account for it. But in spite of this lack of logic, in the end Abraham arrived at indisputable knowledge of the divine.

Unlike Descartes’ scientific method, Kierkegaard’s philosophy allows for the possibility of knowing the unknowable, a solution certain to appeal to novelists. Still, it’s not enough. Kierkegaard’s existentialism leads to risky territory. What if we leap only to find nothing there? After all, human intuition is very often wrong. Many an author who writes by the seat of the pants has arrived at an illogical cul-de-sac from which there is no escape.

To understand how these two ways of thinking influence writing, think first of novels which conform to every literary rule and contain nothing whatsoever factually mistaken. Using something akin to Descartes’ scientific method, they build their characters and plots point by point without a rational misstep, yet for all their technical perfection they lack the organic spontaneity of a great work of art, and leave us feeling only superficially engaged, distant and uninterested.

Following something more like Kierkegaard’s approach, the plots and characters of other novels flow naturally from the author’s stream of consciousness, every syllable an artistically inspired choice, yet the story somehow lacks a basis in reality which leaves us bored and subtly annoyed at the author’s self-indulgence.

It seems neither Descartes nor Kierkegaard will do alone. Neither science, nor intuition. What we need, somehow, is both. To write of truths which transcend words, we need a way to leap instinctively into the unknowable without landing in the midst of nothing.

"A new idea comes suddenly and in a rather intuitive way. That means it is not reached by conscious logical conclusions. But, thinking it through afterwards, you can always discover the reasons which have led you unconsciously to your guess and you will find a logical way to justify it. Intuition is nothing but the outcome of earlier intellectual experience." (Albert Einstein)

In studying this quote, especially the last sentence, one might assume Einstein believed “intellectual experience” is more important than intuition. One might assume Einstein pursued the secrets of the universe only in terms of coldly scientific methodology. But in another place he also said:

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

Clearly, Einstein and Kierkegaard had much in common, but as the consummate scientist Einstein also owed much to Descartes. No mere scientist could have made the leap to faith it took to think as Einstein did about time and space. No mere artist could have found a way to explain such thoughts to others. Somehow, Einstein knew with a kind of knowing that included both pure intuition and pure logic.

Returning to his first quote above, we can see how he did it. Read that first quote again as if it is a kind of loop in which the final thought feeds back up to the beginning.

New ideas first appear as if from out of nowhere, then looking back on it we find they were the logical result of other ideas which had already come before, but those prior ideas also appeared as if from out of nowhere, until looking back on them we found they too were the logical result of other ideas . . . and so on and on and on. Each intuitive “leap to faith” fuels fresh ideas which stand the test of scientific method and join the growing pantheon of knowledge, which in turn fuels new intuitive leaps, which lead to more ideas, which lead to more knowledge, which leads to new intuitive leaps.

Philosophers call this model “tacit knowledge.” The concept was first proposed by a scientist-turned-philosopher named Michael Polanyi, who befriended Einstein and exchanged letters with him off and on for over 20 years. (I learned about Polanyi from my friend, Dr. Jeff Tacklind.) Polanyi believed there is a way to know what we do not know.

His basic idea is that intuition and intellect are not two different ways of thinking, but rather two halves of a single process, which can work synergistically to produce great advances in objectively verifiable knowledge if we will only step back and allow the process to unfold.

This brings us to the first of two important facts about the greatest novelists in the world. For most of them it is not Descartes’ way or Kierkegaard’s way, but both, together, in cooperation.

Even once a novelist understands this concept it remains difficult to hold those two halves of the thought process in mental balance. Most of us focus too completely on the scientific or on the existentialist side of the process. We thereby become mired in uninspired thinking on the one hand, or else unreasonable thinking on the other. Our writing may be technically proficient, but we see no truth beyond the words, or else we glimpse deep truth but fail to speak it well. So how did Einstein manage to avoid this trap?

With the help of music, as it turns out.

Few people realize Einstein was a lifelong musician, a good violinist, passionately devoted to the classics. According to his son, Hans Albert, he turned to his music, “Whenever he felt that he had come to the end of the road or into a difficult situation in his work . . . [and] that would usually resolve all his difficulties."

We find a clue to how music helped Einstein overcome logical problems in something he once said about Mozart, who was his favorite composer. According to the great physicist, Mozart’s music “was so pure that it seemed to have been ever-present in the universe, waiting to be discovered by the master."

This is a very important observation for a novelist, because it is just as true that Einstein’s famous Special Theory of Relativity was also “ever-present in the universe, waiting to be discovered.” And if E=mc2 and “The Marriage of Figaro” were both always there, waiting for someone to apply the tacit way of knowing to discover them, might the same be true of a great story?

In other words, what if we thought of writing not as a creative act, but as a process of discovery? This is the second clue to how a masterpiece is written, a way of thinking common to the greatest novelists.

There are scientifically verifiable realities which support this approach. Harmonics, for example, is the fundamental basis for the pleasure we receive from music, but harmonics was not created by musicians. It has always existed. It’s present when a winter wind blows hard through naked branches. It’s present when frogs croak by the riverside and crickets chirp in the grass. Harmonics is the purity of certain waves of sound which have existed as long as the universe, awaiting discovery by musicians such as Mozart. (Thanks to another friend, Rev. Brad Coleman, for pointing this out to me.)

Similarly, the Golden Mean, also known as the Golden Ratio, or Divine Ratio, is a shape defined by a specific set of proportions—a ratio of width to height—known to produce a sense of pleasure and harmony in human observers. The Golden Mean is found in the measurements of the Parthenon’s facade for example, arguably one of the most widely imitated and pleasantly proportioned buildings in existence. It’s found in the Great Pyramids and the facade of Notre Dame Cathedral. Leonardo da Vinci used it to compose his famous paintings of the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. It has been used (consciously and subconsciously) in works by Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrandt, and countless others.

But as with harmonics (and E=mc2) the ancient Egyptians and Greeks didn’t invent this ratio. They only discovered it. The Golden Mean already existed in the pattern of a sunflower’s seeds spiraling from the center as it unfolds, in the way a nautilus shell grows, and even in the whirling shape of galaxies. Like the number Pi, the decimals of the Golden Ratio seem to have no end. As a great physicist once said of a great musician’s work, the Golden Mean was ever-present in the universe, waiting to be discovered.

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” (Michelangelo)

So this is how it works; this is what the greatest philosopher/theologians and scientists have in common with the greatest novelists: they all realize truth is not created; it already exists on levels beyond words. They seek the pre-existing truth like bold explorers on a voyage of discovery. They seek it through intuitive “leaps to faith” within their hearts, or spirits, or subconscious minds, which function in an awe-inspiring place beyond rules and preconceptions. Then, when part of the truth is discovered, they press into it further, using technical skills gained through countless hours of pragmatic study and hard-won experience, and in so doing, they stake it out and point to it in ways they can grasp logically. Then the great ones set out after truth again, seeking yet another intuitive leap ahead, springing on from the territory only just discovered.

Thus the existential and the scientific methods come together in all great masterpieces of human thought, including novels. Thus what is not known is known. Thus the unwritable is written. And thus are miracles explained, yet they remain miraculous.

Athol Dickson's novels transcend description with a literary style that blends magical realism, suspense, and a strong sense of spirituality. Critics have compared his work to such diverse authors as Octavia Butler (Publisher's Weekly) and Flannery O'Connor (The New York Times). One of his novels is an Audie Award winner and three have won Christy Awards including his most recent novel, Lost Mission. His next story, The Opposite Of Art, is about pride, passion, and death as a spiritual pursuit. Look for it in September, 2011. Athol lives with his wife in southern California.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Got a Cover!

I've shared a little of the difficulties of writing my sophomore novel, Dry as Rain here on Novel Journey. I've had so many rewrites I thought I'd go bald from ripping my hair out (going from a third person story half from the wife-s pov and half from the husband's... to a first person novel all from the husband's pov for starters.)

This was a tough one. But at long last, it is now available for pre-order on Amazon and B&N. . . and we have a cover!

Just wanted to share the good news. In an author's life, this is one of the big moments. Can't wait to hold it!

Dry as Rain 

From the bestselling author of Crossing Oceans comes a powerfully moving story that tests the limits of love’s forgiveness. Like many marriages, Eric and Kyra Yoshida’s has fallen apart slowly, one lost dream and misunderstanding at a time, until the ultimate betrayal finally pushes them beyond reconciliation. 

Just when it looks like forgive and forget is no longer an option, a car accident gives Eric the second chance of a lifetime. A concussion causes his wife to forget details of her life, including the chasm between them. No one knows when—or if—Kyra’s memory will return, but Eric seizes the opportunity to win back the woman he’s never stopped loving.

Sherry Kyle ~ Delivered with Love

Sherry Kyle is a graduate of Biola University with a degree in Communications, and a minor in Bible. She is the author of The Christian Girl’s Guide to Style (Legacy Press, 2010) and Delivered with Love (Abingdon Press, 2011). Sherry and her husband have four children, three biological and one by adoption. When she isn't writing, she enjoys jazz concerts, watching movies, reading and spending time with her family and friends. She lives in California. You can find her on the web at:

Tell us about your new release.

Delivered with Love is about a young woman who discovers an old love letter in the glove compartment of her inherited 1972 Volkswagen. After losing her job as a waitress and kicked out of her sister’s home, Claire James leaves her life in Los Angeles and drives up the coast to the small town of Capitola, California to find the writer of the letter.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?

I enjoy writing stories of self-discovery with romance and a hint of mystery. Once I decided to set the story in the small coastal town of Capitola, which is a character in itself, I let my imagination go and asked myself the ‘what if’ questions. I specifically remember a day when I was vacuuming and Claire’s story unfolded as I cleaned. Agatha Christie said, "The best time for planning a book is 
when you're doing the dishes.” I agree. There’s something to physical labor that gets the creative juices flowing.

Did anything strange or funny happen while researching or writing your book?

When I visited The Bridal Veil, a wedding shop, as part of my research, the owner of the store hugged me tight and said, “I’ve been here forty years and no one has ever put my shop in a book.” She wants to host a book signing! Wouldn’t that be fun?

Every novelist has a journey. How long was your road to publication? How did you find out and what went through your mind?

My road to publication started by writing children’s books. My first book, co-authored and illustrated with my daughter Brittany, is titled My Special Someone about the adoption of my youngest daughter from foster care. I started writing women’s fiction in 2007. Surprisingly, Delivered with Love is my first novel.

I’ve had some wonderful mentors along the way and I can’t say enough about Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference and American Christian Fiction Writers. I found out Delivered with Love was going to be published by a phone message. I listened to it several times to make sure I heard it correctly and ran around the house screaming. My poor kids didn’t know what was happening!

Do you ever bang your head against the wall from writer's block? If so, how do you overcome it?

I usually don’t have writer’s block. In fact, I have too many ideas floating around in my head.

Do you consider yourself a visual writer? If so, what visuals do you use?

I’m a very visual person. I like to find pictures of my characters and look at them while I write as well as act out movements or facial expressions. I have a vivid imagination and want my readers to use theirs too.

Novelists sometimes dig themselves into a hole over implausible plots, flat characters or a host of other problems. What's the most difficult part of writing for you?

Funny you should mention implausible plots . . . an area I constantly work on. While some may view Delivered with Love as having unlikely circumstances, others have told me they really enjoy a book that focuses on “coincidences” only a loving God could orchestrate. We all have them every day and if we open our eyes and hearts, He can use them to draw us closer to Him!

How do you overcome it?

I need to make sure my imagination doesn’t get away from me. I’m also part of a critique group who will tell me when I’ve gone too far.

Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy attic nook?

A year ago we had a shed built specifically for my writing. It’s a small space, only 8 1/2’ X 9’, but perfect for my needs. We put in insulation, drywall, and Pergo floors and furnished it with a new desk, bookshelves and a love seat. I need a lot of natural light, so we also included a skylight, big windows, and a French door. I absolutely love it! I also have a MacBook Air laptop and have been known to go to a coffeehouse when I need to be around people.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Once I get my husband and four children out the door for school, I check my e-mail and go on Facebook while I eat breakfast. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I post a blog on my website, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I go to Zumba at my church. On a good day, I’m in my office until the kids need to be picked up from school. Once they’re home I call it quits, but there are some days when I keep going. On those days, my husband picks up pizza or burritos for dinner. I try to write every day, but sometimes life takes over.

Some authors report writing 5-10 thousand words a day. Do scenes flow freely from your veins or do you have to tweeze each word out?

I envy writers who can write 5-10 thousand words a day. I’m definitely not one of them. I tend to edit as I write, which is not the best way to add to my word count, so I guess you can say I’m a tweezer. My goal is to write 1,000 words a day or two chapters per week.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard?

“Don’t edit as you write.” LOL! Instead, let the story flow freely and rewrite later. I’d love to master that one.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

Pray before you put your hands on the keyboard. I truly believe Philippians 4:13, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

Thank you so much for having me on Novel Journey! What a blessing.

Delivered with Love

An old love letter found in the glove compartment of a young woman's inherited 1972 Volkswagen propels her to leave her life in Los Angeles and go to the small town of Capitola, California. There her dream of finding the writer of the letter leads her on an unexpected journey that changes her life forever.

Claire James, age twenty-three, is ready to make it on her own. When she's fired from her job as a waitress and subsequently kicked out of her sister's home, she sees it as an opportunity to start over. But even before moving, a thirty-five-year-old love letter written to her mother keeps Claire stuck in the past. Michael Thompson, a middle-aged real estate agent, wants to keep the past where it belongs--at least until his grown daughter is married. But, then a young woman comes to town...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

When God Puts You in the Sidecar

My husband is a motorcycle enthusiast. So far he hasn’t gone out and bought one, but whenever he likes one he sees on the road he’ll point it out and say, “Nice bike,” then look at me to gauge my reaction. We were sitting at a stoplight not long ago and a shiny motorcycle pulled up beside us. It had a sidecar attached.

“There you go,” Spence said.

I laughed, imagining what it would be like to ride in such a little appendage. “I think I’d rather be on the bike with you,” I said, “or better yet, on one of my own.” Sidecars are for kids, I thought. You don’t have any control in a sidecar; you just have to hang on and try to enjoy the ride.

But now it seems God has put me in a sidecar for a time. I’ve just been diagnosed with cancer and suddenly my life is not mine to control. Doctors are telling me what will happen, when and where I will go. I don’t really want to experience any of what they’re telling me I will go through. But I have no choice. All I can do is hang on and find ways to cope with the ride.

In the book of John, Jesus tells the apostle Peter about a time when the same thing would happen to him. “I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:18-19)

I don’t know exactly what lies ahead for me. I’m hopeful that this cancer can be eradicated and I’ll go on with my life, publish my next book and continue to enjoy all the blessings God has showered on me for so long. I’m praying my time in the sidecar will be short. But perhaps God has another plan. In the meantime, I take encouragement from those few words, “by which Peter would glorify God.” What happened to him was not in vain. It had a purpose. The events of our lives all have purpose and are meant to bring glory to God. We have agency in that, by his grace and mercy – we can choose to hunker down and cling to the sidecar in fear, or we can sit tall and trust the driver.

Perhaps God will give me the privilege of bringing Him glory through words of encouragement to others going through this same journey. Perhaps He’ll even allow me to continue to write about it. Or perhaps it will just be Him and me. That will be enough. Jesus is always enough.

And I’m spurred on too, by the next words Jesus spoke. “Follow me!” That’s a path Peter tried hard to take, one that changed him into a man of God, a leader of men. It’s a path that leads to “a spacious place,” (Ps. 18:19), where God’s presence is evident, to the joy that comes in understanding God’s undying love and the peace that makes us lean into the wind and relish every moment on this earth – even moments in the sidecar.

“but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me” (Psalm 18:18-19).

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Novel Journey Named Again!

We're thrilled to share the news that Novel Journey was once again named as one of Writers Digest's 101 best websites for writers.

Thanks to the Novel Journey team for their dedication to excellence and for sharing their wisdom as a way to give back to the writing world, and to you, our readers, and thank you  to the many writers who grace us with their presence and share their insight. We owe this honor to you!

Congratulations everyone!

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For as little as $50.00, you can advertise your book right here on our popular website without even designing an ad. We just need your book cover and where you want us to link it to--Amazon, CBD, Books A Million, Barnes and Noble, your website, wherever.

Why here?

Did you know that Novel Journey reaches tens of thousands a month interested in books? Through RSS subscriptions , blog "followers" sites, daily readers who actually click on the site to read, and syndications of other writer/reader sites who reblog our posts, we reach a large niche audience of those who are interested in writing, fiction, reading and everything publishing related.

Created in 2005, we have been awarded the Writers Digests Best Web-Sites for Writers twice, among other blogger awards and are among the best known and respected in the industry.

Why not make 2011 the year you break away from the masses?

Whether you're an author trying to reach a broader audience of readers, a website trying to launch, or offering a writing/publishing/marketing related service, let us be part of your success story.

Click the above picture for prices. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Author Antoinette van Heugten ~ Interviewed

A former international trial lawyer, Antoinette van Heugten’s first novel, Saving Max (Mira Books/Harlequin, October 2010, $14.95), follows a single mother whose teenage son has Asperger’s syndrome and becomes the primary suspect in a gruesome murder case. More than just a heart-pounding thriller, Saving Max is based on her real life experience as the mother of two autistic children.

Antoinette received both her undergraduate degree and law degree from the University of Texas in Austin, Texas. During her 15-year career as a trial lawyer, she practiced all over the world, in locations such as Scandinavia, Germany and the Netherlands to Houston, her hometown.

Antoinette resides in Fredericksburg, Texas, with her husband, a former prominent oil and gas lawyer.

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

I would have started sooner! I would have made sure that instead of just being thrilled to find an agent to represent me, I’d have made sure that he or she would really “get” the book and help me with my vision of what I wanted it to be.

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

Starting a new novel always seems fraught with insecurity. I seem to go through the same process every time: Is this idea good enough? Am I passionate about writing it? It all seems overwhelming until I finally get a good outline and just start writing.

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

The best advice I have ever read is from Stephen King’s book On Writing. Although I’m not a fan of his novels, he said one thing that always resonated with me: get into that chair and write every single day. It doesn’t matter what you write or how bad it is. Don’t stop until you get into the flow and something good happens.

What one issue ignites your passion? Does your passion fuel your writing? What would you do with your life if you didn't write?

I am passionate about relationships between family members: mothers/sons or daughters; troubled family relationships, autism and children’s emotional and psychological issues. I also love to kill people on paper, so there has to be a thriller aspect to the plot! I’ve already done what I would do if I didn’t write. I was an international attorney for many years. It was a great career, but if I’d known what fun it is to be an author, I may have chosen differently.

Tell us a bit about your current project.

I am writing a book about an American woman who comes home one day and finds her mother murdered by an assassin’s bullet. After the funeral, she discovers two sets of wartime identification papers: one shows that they were in the Dutch resistance during World War II; the other shows that they were Dutch Nazis during the war. There is also evidence that her father killed a Jewish man and was tried in absentia for his crime – the sentence was death. The woman goes to the Netherlands to find out the truth and then discovers that she is now also a target of an assassin.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication? Or to narrow it down further what’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

I wish I had been able to have the agent I have now when I submitted my manuscript. My first agent did not understand the novel and I spent two years rewriting it pursuant to her suggestions rather than following my gut instincts. The book didn’t get published until I found my current agent, Al Zuckerman, who then worked with me for another two years – which has been a wonderful experience. Having an agent or editor who is so immersed in the process has been invaluable to me.

What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?

I like to read newspapers and magazines for interesting ideas, but most of them spring from my rather twisted imagination.

What event/person has most changed you as a writer? How?

I would have to say that my son has changed me most as a writer and a person. He has Asperger’s – high functioning autism – and bearing the pain he experienced when he was a young child trying to cope with not only autism, but other disorders, broke my heart and yet made me his strongest advocate. Those experiences we shared became the basis for my first novel, SAVING MAX. Today he is a shining example of what dedication and commitment as a parent – and his unbelievable efforts – can do for a person. He is my knight in shining armor.

What gives you the greatest writer buzz, makes the trip worth the hassles (besides coffee or other substances, or course )?

The greatest buzz for me is to look at a completed manuscript, put a rubber band around it and send it off to my agent and publisher. It’s better than the publicity, good reviews and acclaim. It’s that perfect moment when I know I’m spending my life doing what I’ve always wanted to do.

Describe your special or favorite writing spot.

I sit at a huge, old Dutch desk that belonged to my parents. It’s in my bedroom, which is also quite large. There is nothing on the table except for candles, a vase of flowers and a stack of blank paper. I have three dogs: a great Dane named Phoebe and two Yorkies, one of whom is only two pounds. She sits on my lap while I write and the other ones sleep. It’s the perfect atmosphere for me.

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

I clear my desk and writing room of everything that had anything to do with the last book. I am compulsive about my writing box, so of course I have to organize all my pens, shop heavily at Office Depot for writing materials, clear my desktop to only reflect research and drafts of the new novel and – finally – I light about four candles (who knows why), sit in my chair, and start writing. I know every author has their own peculiar ways that they get themselves into writing. I guess I’m fortunate that I don’t find it necessary to sacrifice a rooster or eat jars of pickles while I put together the first chapter!

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?

I always hated outlines when it came to novels. I thought it hampered my creativity and didn’t let characters develop naturally as the plot unfolded. My agent asked me to try it and it has been a good experience. It ensure that the plot is tight, makes you think about precisely who your characters are and how they fit (or don’t) into the core of the novel, and generally makes writing the book a cinch because you’ve already thought it through in your head.

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

My novel doesn’t come out until October, 2010 and at this writing (September 2010) I’ve gotten at least fifty reviews, about 85% of which have been very favorable. It gives me an enormous thrill that people and book clubs have asked for, read and reviewed the book – as well as their comments. My favorite response is when a reader says that he or she couldn’t put the book down and stayed up until 2 a.m. to finish it!

Parting words? Anything you wish we would’ve asked because you’ve got the perfect answer?

Why do you keep writing?

Because I can’t stop.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Why You Shouldn't Give up as a Novelist. Really.

When Chuck Colson reviewed my novel Daisy Chain on Breakpoint, I rejoiced. But did you know there's a bigger story behind this? One that God orchestrated and bookended perfectly?

At the beginning of 2000 while we laughed in retrospect about Y2K, I wrote a letter to Chuck Colson, thanking him for his and Nancy Pearcey's book How Now Shall We Live. I also shared that I felt God was calling me to write, and I sent him some of my work. (I shudder to think of that now, but this was before I knew better.) He wrote me a wonderful letter dated April 14, 2000. Most of it centered around the book and his gratitude for my comments. He signed it, but then wrote something else in his own hand. I have included it above. It reads: "Keep writing. God will honor your faithfulness."

I kept the letter, sometimes pulling it out to remind me that God would honor my diligent pursuit of Him as I endeavored to write.

A month later, I heard one of Breakpoint's broadcasts. It so moved me, I ordered the transcript. Dated May 23, 2000, the title of Chuck's message was "Uncle Tom's Cabin: The Power of Story." In it he wrote, "I know that when it comes to learning moral lessons, I've often been much more affected by works of fiction than by abstract theological discourses." He continues, "Uncle Tom's Cabin is a reminder that one of the reasons we read fiction is because fiction helps train the moral imagination."

That transcript changed my life. It initiated a seed of desire I'd temporarily planted in the soil of my dreams. I knew I wanted to write stories--but not just stories for the sake of spinning a tale. No, I wanted to write stories that changed hearts, lives, nations. I wanted to expose evil for what it was, yet shine God's white-hot light in the midst of that evil, proving His preeminence and the significant power of His redemption.

So I wrote.

And wrote.

I joined critique groups, attended conferences, met self-imposed deadlines, striving to hone the craft and become a writer who weaves words skillfully.

I finished my first novel, but it didn't find a publishing home. Then an agent signed me for representation. I wrote parenting books while the stories inside wouldn't let go of me--it's as if they'd finally rooted deep in the soil, and their roots tendrilled through me. I wrote Watching the Tree Limbs and Wishing on Dandelions, exposing the evil of sexual abuse and the redemptive hand of God in those impossible situations. Those books found a home at NavPress.

I started teaching writing at conferences around the nation, toting my Breakpoint transcript with me, an evangelist for the power of story.

And then my sixth book Daisy Chain hit the shelves--a Zondervan title that pulled back the curtain of a shattered home (though it looks spot-on perfect from the outside) and exposes the destructiveness of family secrets. Two more novels followed that book, all centering on the family and secrets.

With that in mind, imagine the joy I felt when I heard Daisy Chain's praise on Breakpoint. God had, in a very real way, fulfilled Chuck's words:

Keep writing. God will honor your faithfulness.

And how did He do it? By using the same man's voice who penned those words. Consider this part of the transcript:

I’m not a big fan of “message” books,
where the writer neglects his or her craft
and just concentrates on pushing an agenda.
But Mary DeMuth is not that kind of writer.
Her books are beautifully and sensitively written,
and her characters are realistic and well-developed.
She has a true gift for showing how God’s light
can penetrate even the darkest of situations,
and start to turn lives around.
Even her villains are not beyond the reach of God’s grace.

I cried when I heard the broadcast--one of those holy moments where I glimpsed heaven and reveled in God's sovereign plan. I did keep writing. God did honor my faithfulness.

For those of you who have heard God's call to some great mission (whether it be writing, or ministering to widows, or painting masterpieces, or baking bread for neighbors), don't despair. Hold on to the words spoken over you. Remember this verse: "Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all" (1 Timothy 4:14-15).

Simply put: don't give up.

Don't neglect to exercise the gifts God has given you.

Don't despise small beginnings.

Be patient for God's plan to unfold.

Mary DeMuth is the author of 12-ish books. Find out more at