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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Debut author Deborah Malone riles up the rangers in Dahlonega

Deborah Malone has worked as a freelance writer and photographer, since 2001, for the historical magazine “Georgia Backroads.” She has had many articles and photographs published during this time. Her writing is featured in “Tales of the Rails” edited by Olin Jackson. She has also had a showing of her photographs at Floyd Medical Center Art Gallery as well as winning several awards. She is a current member of the Georgia Writers Association, and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She has an established blog, Butterfly Journey, where she reviews Christian Fiction.

NR: Leave a comment for Deborah and be placed in the drawing for a copy of her book. U.S. residents only, please.
The winner of the book was Aggie Villanueva.

Tell us about your new release:

“Death in Dahlonega” is about Trixie Montgomery, a magazine writer, and her friend Dee Dee Lamont. Trixie goes on assignment to Dahlonega, Ga. and takes her friend Dee Dee with her. Dee Dee stumbles across the dead body of a prominent citizen who she exchanged angry words with earlier in the day. She then becomes the number one person of interest. Trixie then sets out to keep Dee Dee from the slammer. And don’t forget Trixie’s Aunt Nana who pays Trixie a surprise visit to help her solve the crime. During the journey they both have to deal with some personal issues that they have been facing in their personal life.

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

I love to write and I love mysteries. I just put the two together. I love cozies and Anne George was one of my favorite authors. She had a wonderful sense of humor and could make me laugh out loud. I wanted to make others laugh and forget about their troubles for a little while. I couldn’t wait to write a Christian cozy.

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

Yes. When I went to the Gold Museum in Dahlonega where the murder takes place, I asked the ranger to show me around. When she found out I was writing a book she called her superior and they got all riled up, afraid I was going to write about their “security” system, etc. I told them not to worry. I didn’t even know about their security system. LOL

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

I lost count, but I think it is around six years. I was expecting an answer and our power had gone out. I kept going to the library to check my email. I finally received an email from the editor at Lamp Post Publishing and I was ecstatic. I thought about all the hard work I had put into my novel and how it had finally paid off.

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

Sure do. I just write what I can. If I can write only a page at a time, then that is what I do. I tell myself if I write one page a day for a year then I have a book.

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

I like to take pictures of the area I’m writing about and go through them from time to time. I have used picture boards, 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?

All of it!

How do you overcome it?

I keep on keeping on. I try to read, study, take courses, etc. I have so much more to learn. I feel like I’m only beginning.

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

I’d love to say I write in my cozy attic nook, but I don’t have a cozy attic nook. Most of the time, I write with my laptop sitting in my lap while I sit on the couch. Pepe, our little dog usually keeps me company.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I have a daughter, Niki, who is disabled and I have caregivers who come in every day to help. We don’t really have a typical day. LOL I also have fibromyalgia, which affects how much I can write at a time. I can’t do much during the morning hours so I wait until evening to do my writing.

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?

Unfortunately, I’m not one of those writers. I have to tweeze out each word. I just do what I can and try not to get caught up in numbers. I think the most I’ve written at a time is 3,000 words. Physically I can’t do much more than that.

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

Don’t give up! We’ve all heard the advice to read, go to conferences, take courses, etc. But in the end what helped me was hearing stories about how other authors took years to be published, but they never gave up and it paid off.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

I wish I had some flowery words of wisdom, but I really don’t. One thing that helped me was getting a professional editor to do a final edit. I used an editor that was familiar with cozy mysteries. I think it is important they be familiar with the genre you are writing. A couple of books that really helped are: “Goal, Motivation, and Conflict” by Debra Dixon and “Write in Style” by Bobbie Christmas. And remember, don’t give up!

Death in Dahlonega

A friendly adventure turns to murder and mayhem in the north Georgia mountains. Historical writer Trixie Montgomery is asked to cover Gold Rush Days in the picturesque Georgia mountain town, Dahlonega. 

Trixie seizes the chance to mix business with pleasure and asks her best friend, Dee Dee to tag along. Their well laid plans go awry when Dee Dee is discovered standing over the lifeless body of prominent citizen, John Tatum - the very man she'd had a run in with earlier that day - holding a bloody pickax in her hands. 

Can Trixie find a way to finish her assignment and keep Dee Dee out of the slammer?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Author Kaye Dacus's Top Five Writing Tips

Kaye Dacus is the author of the Brides of Bonneterre and Matchmakers contemporary romance series and The Ransome Trilogy, a historical romance series. She holds a Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University and is a former Vice President and long-time member of American Christian Fiction Writers. A Louisiana native, she now calls Nashville, Tennessee, home. She is currently celebrating the release of her latest title: Turnabout’s Fair Play, Book 3 of the Matchmakers series with Barbour publishing. To learn more about Kaye and her books, visit her online at

5. Story trumps craft.
My local writing group has adopted a line from Captain Barbossa from Pirates of the Caribbean when it comes to the “rules” of writing: “The code is more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.” It doesn’t matter how many writing how-to books you memorize and how skillfully you apply the rules you’ve learned from them—if you don’t have a good story, none of the rest of it matters. Yes, the guidelines of good writing are important, but don’t let your story get lost in an attempt to “follow the rules.”

Does that mean you can ignore all of the guidelines about showing vs. telling, Limited Third Person POV, using active rather than passive language, varying sentence structures, eliminating as many adverbs as possible, not using embellished dialogue tags? NO, of course not. Just like a contractor needs an architect’s blueprints to go by BEFORE building a house, you need to learn the guidelines of good writing and current accepted style before you’ll be able to express your story in writing well. So do study the craft. Just think of the guidelines as a shepherd’s crook guiding you to a wide-open, grassy meadow rather than a dogcatcher’s tight leash dragging you toward a cage.

The storyteller knows that success in writing is the intangible thread that connects the reader’s and writer’s hearts through the written word.

4. Read five published novels in your genre for every one craft book you read.
So many writers, especially new writers, get caught up in “learning the craft” and they lose sight of “writing.” You can learn more from critical reading of published novels (breaking them apart, learning how/why they work or don’t work) than you’ll ever learn from reading a how-to book.

While it’s great to read books from throughout the ages, from classics to dime novels of the late 19th/early 20th century to mid-century pulp novels to 1990s experimental fiction, it’s very important to make sure you’re reading new releases in your genre and from the publishers you’re targeting—it’s called market research (thus, you can write those purchases off come tax time!) and it’s something every writer and published author needs to do. It keeps us abreast of current trends, current styles, and what non-writing readers are out there enjoying.

3. Start something new.
To help you clear your mind of the manuscript you just finished, one of the best things you can do is start working on another story. It may not be writing—it may be collecting images of characters and settings, doing research of the time period or of the careers you want these characters to have. It may be meeting with your critique/accountability partners and brainstorming story ideas. It may be reading books you’ve determined are similar to or will give you ideas for your new idea. The important thing is to move on to something new as soon as possible. Write something new.

Don’t make the assumption that finishing one or two manuscripts is going to give you the skill-set you need to become a professional author—when being a professional author requires one to be able to churn out multiple manuscripts, one after the other after the other. For example—with three books to write each year for the last two years, I had, at best, four months to write each one. I couldn’t have done that if I hadn’t trained myself to immediately start something new upon finishing a manuscript before I was published.

By writing multiple manuscripts before you’re published, not only are you honing your skill at the craft of writing, you’re doing your internship at being a professional author.

2. Put your manuscript aside for as long as you possibly can after you finish the first draft.
You want to forget as much as possible about it before you start revisions—that way, you can be more objective about it. When we’re in the midst of writing a manuscript, we’re so close to it, we can’t see misused or missing words. We can’t see where we’ve used telling language instead of showing. We can’t see info dumps or excessive explanation or description. It isn’t until we’ve cleared the manuscript from our minds, until we’ve allowed ourselves to move on to something else for a little while, that we can begin to see the things that need to be addressed.

The easiest way to burn out on a story—or to completely ruin it—is to smother it with attention as soon as it’s finished. Give it some breathing room. Clear your mind. Start something new. Work on other non-writing projects. Then, after a few weeks or even a few months, come back to it, and you’ll be amazed at how much more objective you are about your own writing.

Don’t stress out about perfecting your opening hook before you have your entire story written—because until you get to the end, you don’t really know what your story is about, no matter how detailed your outline/synopsis is. It’s all well and good if you can write great openings, three to five great chapters. It’s fantastic if you can win contests with them. But if you never actually finish a manuscript, winning contests is all you’re ever going to be able to do.

How will you know if a story has enough plot, enough conflict, to sustain an entire 80–100,000-word novel unless you write the whole thing? The only way you learn how to write a novel is by writing a novel. You’ll never be a professional author if all you ever write are snippets and snatches and opening chapters.

“Finish your novel, because you learn more that way than any other. Some writers tinker over their words endlessly, perhaps fearing the end result. It might stink.

Yes, it might. But it’s the only way you’re going to get better.

Finish your novel." (James Scott Bell, The Art of War for Writers)

Turnabout's Fair Play

When Maureen O’Connor begins scheming to match her grandson Jamie with Flannery McNeill, the last thing she has in mind is a romance of her own. But when Jamie turns the tables and conspires with Flannery to bring Maureen and Flannery’s grandfather Kirby together, everyone’s best laid plans seem to go awry. Is Maureen willing to start a new relationship at this stage of her life? Will Jamie ever drop his veneer of self-sufficiency and succumb to true love?

When You Need To Write FAST (And Procrastination Is Not An Option)

Do you ever battle the piranha of procrastination? You know, that sharp toothed literary fish that devours your writing time?

Yeah, me neither. I start writing at 3pm every day whether I have other things to do or not. (Please, if you have conquered that smiggley little creature, e-mail me. I’d love to know the secret.)

My Dilemma

For the past two and a half months, procrastination has not been an option. On September 12th, my publisher and I decided the book I’d been writing during summer would be book two. Yep, my own personal version of Nanowrimo. But instead of 50,000 words in four weeks, I needed 96k in ten.

And not just words. Words I’d be proud of turning in. Words my editor could read in complete sentences. It seemed insurmountable.

What Helped

I built myself an Excel spreadsheet that broke down the task into Bird by Bird numbers. (See Anne Lamott’s stellar book on writing if that reference zoomed over your skull.)

Ten weeks is approximately seventy days x 1,372 words per day = 96,040.

Yeah, I know, there needs to be editing days in there too—as well as research time—so I gave myself fifty days to write the novel (1,920 words per day) and twenty days to research and edit.

My writing pace is 1,000 words per hour so I knew if I could commit two hours per day to writing, it was doable.

Not easy, but doable.

And taking my eyes off the summit and zooming in on the number of steps I needed to take up the mountain each day made a tremendous difference in my emotional state. (I turned the manuscript in this past Sunday night and made my deadline.)

Might work for you too whether your deadline is ten months or ten weeks. Procrastination be gone.

(By the way, I wrote my first novel ROOMS in six years. My second, BOOK OF DAYS took two. THE CHAIR, my third, was finished in five months. And as you know, the novel we’ve been discussing—currently titled THE NAMELESS ONE (October 2012) was complete in ten weeks. For those of you who are math savvy you realize applying the exponential timeline outlined above to my fifth novel means it'll be written in three days. I can hardly wait.)

James L. Rubart is the best-selling, and award winning author of ROOMS, BOOK OF DAYS, and THE CHAIR. During the day he runs Barefoot Marketing, helping authors make more coin of the realm. In his free time he dirt bikes, hikes, water skis, and take photos. No, he doesn’t sleep much. He lives with his amazing wife and teenage sons in the Pacific Northwest and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman. More at

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Does Christian Fiction Require a Warning Label? (Free Kindle Download Edition)

Is It Dishonest to Not Label "Christian Fiction"? That was the title of an article I recently posted at my personal website. It's a hot topic among Christian writers, which bore out in the comments on that post. In the article I reference three popular CBA novels, books that were well-reviewed in the Christian market, which were then offered as free Kindle downloads, only to get blasted by reviewers for being "mislabeled" and "deceptive." The sentiment was perfectly summed up by one angry reviewer who said:

If it’s Christian literature – JUST SAY SO!

Question: Do the reviewers have a point? Are we Christians trying to "trick" people into reading our stuff? And is this the real reason behind these negative reviews? Could there be, as some suggest, a built-in bias against Christian fiction that taints the review system? Or maybe we Christian authors are the ones getting unfair treatment, huh?

Whatever your answer, I happen to believe this controversy is a perfect window into the world the Christian fiction community has created. I mean, haven't we brought this on ourselves? Christian fiction was forged as an alternative to secular, general market fiction. We demand certain themes, certain messages, be evident in our stories. So is it a surprise that when our "message" is spotted, some people get pissed?

the same system that allows readers to indiscriminately hand out five-star reviews, allows readers to indiscriminately hand out one-star reviews. Thus, reviewers have a right to pan my book simply because it's Christian fiction. So what? Some reviewers will give my book five stars simply because it IS Christian fiction. I’ve been saying all along that we Christian writers get too cozy with the five-star reviews. We feel we're obligated to give them and, as a result, we feel we deserve to receive them. Is it any wonder we get our feelings hurt when someone rips our previously hailed five-star wonder? If we weren’t so beholden to five-star ratings, perhaps we wouldn’t be as dismayed by one-star beat-downs.

Seriously, I think we would do well to shut up and listen to our detractors, rather than huff our way back to the country club. Sure, there's blowhards and blockheads who have no agenda other than slamming anything religious. But not all our detractors are cretins. Take for instance this comment from a reader of the aforementioned post (you can read the entire comment HERE):

I think it’s wrong to mislabel or omit important information about ANY book, Christian or not. I’m a Christian, but sometimes I don’t WANT to read Christian fiction. (And, even within the genre, I don’t like books that make me feel preached to.) Just like any customer, I should be able to tell enough from a book’s description and category/genre that I know, before I buy, what I’m getting.

Fwiw- I have contacted Amazon numerous times, complaining about the way their search options and book descriptions fall short and make it difficult for the shopper to find what s/he is searching for–forcing us to wade through pages of listings and book descriptions–and still it isn’t clear. There should be a way to weed out what one doesn’t want from the search. The technology exists, they are simply not employing it.

I don’t think rating systems (like for movies) would work for books. They’re too varied. But listing things like: ‘This book contains foul language, violence and graphic sex’ or ‘This book contains scripture references, aspects/acts of personal faith and strong Christian themes.’ would cut way down on bad reviews from readers who feel deceived, or–at the very least–poorly informed.

I mean, can you really blame them? How would you feel if you thought you were buying a wholesome book and got a twisted tale of erotica? At the end of the day, its boils down to one, basic problem–the customer spending their hard-earned money and not getting what s/he thought s/he was getting.

Amazon does have avenues for challenging reviews, and I think readers should think twice about giving a 1-star when it’s Amazon they’re upset with and not the author. But why not avoid the bad reviews in the first place, by simply being honest about the book’s content upfront?
I appreciate the tone of this commenter. Not everyone who pans a free Kindle download does so simply because they are anti-Christian. Some do so on the grounds that they just don't like what Christian fiction has become.

On the other hand, does Christian fiction really require a warning label? If it does, then we better start labeling every piece of ideologically-driven fiction: feminist fiction, atheist fiction, humanist fiction, etc., etc. I mean, c'mon. A warning label? Nevertheless, I believe it would help if we Christian authors and readers drew a deep breath, took a step back, and asked if this vehemence against our stories isn't part of our own doing.

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 and his novella, "Winterland," is available in e-book formats. You can visit his website at

Choosing Thankfulness

Offer to God the sacrifice of thanksgiving… (Psalm 50:14; Amplified Bible)

Photo: graur razvan inonut;
As pain seared my lower back and right leg, I clutched the edge of the nightstand. Will this disease cripple me, I wondered as I lowered myself back on the bed. Though the recent diagnosis of Ankloysing Spondylitis had helped understand the inflammation that attacked my eyes, fingers, hands, back and lungs, I daily struggled with its degenerative nature. How much is enough, Lord?

“Choose thankfulness.” The two words that I had sensed should be my motto through this journey of pain and illness lodged themselves in my heart. I shook my head. How do I choose thankfulness when I could hardly see or walk? Several minutes later when I couldn’t shake those two words, I sighed and stood up. With one hand holding my back and the other gripping the dresser and then the wall for support, I hobbled toward the staircase. “Lord, thank you for my family…and for all who lift me up in prayer. Thanks for the many friends who stand ready to help at a moment’s notice. Thank you for good doctors and insurance… And thank you that despite the pain I can still get around.”

By the time I reached the bottom of the staircase, I had gained a new perspective. Sometimes giving thanks is difficult, even painful. Though my sacrifice of thanksgiving doesn’t alter my circumstances, it sparks within me the ability to see God’s hand in the valley, helping me embrace each day and treasure what I do have. It transforms moments when wistfulness hovers on regret about simple things that I once could do with ease—cooking, cleaning, driving, reading, typing—into gratitude for what I had and opportunities to bless those who step in to serve my family and me. In Jesus, there’s always something for which to give thanks.

So I’m purposing to choose thankfulness through this journey no matter what each day brings because the One who is sovereign walks with me, and He has become my salvation.

Anita Mellott writes to encourage others. She has more than ten years of experience as a writer/editor in the nonprofit world. School Is Where the Home Is, her book of devotionals for homeschooling parents is available at major bookstores and on-line.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

D. Barkley Briggs: The Hidden Lands of Karac Tor

Today an interview with Dean Barkley Briggs who has worked in radio, marketing, and new product development. He also pastored for eleven years. After losing his wife at age 36, Briggs decided to create a heroic journey that his four sons could relate to. Thus was born a new and paradoxical genre: semi-autobiographical fantasy. The Song of Unmaking is the third of five books set in the Hidden Lands of Karac Tor. Briggs has since remarried a beautiful widow named Jeanie and now has eight amazing kids.

Sally: Thanks for stopping by, Dean. Tell me about your latest release.
D. Barkley Briggs: The Song of Unmaking is book three in my five book series, The Legends of Karac Tor. The crisis in the land has sort of reached critical mass. The sense of doom is heavy (there’s a reason book four is called The Ravaged Realm!) But there’s also these little glimmers of hope. The Barlow brothers are gaining more and more power and confidence. Old Champions are stirring. A king has returned. And, in spite of heavy losses, or perhaps because of them, a greater music is discovered, even greater than the Song of Unmaking. By the end, many, many things will have changed forever in The Hidden Lands. This is the book after which there is truly no going back. It’s like the old Dodge Ram commercials: This changes everything.
Sally: Speaking of things that change everything, let me back up a minute. What happened to cause such a long space between books one and two of your Legends of Karac Tor series?
D. Barkley Briggs:I signed with Navpress for a three book fantasy series. The first book, The Book of Names, hit the market right as the economy was collapsing. A few months later, Navpress cancelled their entire fiction line. I had no choice but to let the series die, and no time, and no agent to help me resurrect it. Two years later, AMG picked up my original vision, which included five books, not three, and committed to an aggressive release schedule. So the first three books all released in 2011, within about a 7 month span. I’m now hard at work on The Ravaged Realm which should release mid-2012.
Sally: So you had five book in mind all along. Did you set out to write the series with an overarching theme in mind?
D. Barkley Briggs:I definitely have a trail of themes that are meaningful to me both personally, and also as father to eight kids (ranging from 11 to age 21). Those themes include: identity, finding your place and mission in the world, the glories and pains of friendship, overcoming despair, living with courage in spite of great obstacles, perseverance, sacrifice. In varying degrees, those things are very alive to me at this stage of my life. But I want to wrap up all the sober and "real" stuff in this great, distracting fantasy adventure. Hopefully, I pull it off!
Sally: I'm eager to see you pull it off. I loved the Barlow brother after I read the first book and I'm looking forward to catching up with them and seeing where you take them. But back to the themes for a minute. You have these themes in mind, but what about your Christian faith? Do you weave in Christian pictures on purpose or do you let your faith seep into you stories?  
D. Barkley Briggs:I love how Donita K. Paul recently put it: the story’s on top, with my faith moving like still waters deep underneath. Sometimes it’s more explicit than that, but I really think preachiness cheapens a story, and actually makes it far less “effective”—if such a crude term could be used—in reflecting the King I serve. My faith is hardly hidden, but remember, the series is a fantasy story, not a Bible tract.
Sally: Name one YA book that you think all children should read, besides one you've written, and why do you think all children should read it? 
D. Barkley Briggs: I absolutely love The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper. It’s not Christian, per se, but it has clear Good vs. Evil, and such high and noble themes, and such well-developed writing, with teens given a set of clear and ancient redemptive missions. It deeply affected my sense of self as a young Christian.
Sally: High and noble themes are important if we want our books to last, I think. But how do we break in to begin with? What advice can you give to unpublished writers that will help them understand what elements make an editor fall for a story?
D. Barkley Briggs: In the end, it’s kind of like what matters most in real estate. Only three things: location, location, location. In writing, it’s: perseverance, perseverance, perseverance. But that’s really on the writer’s side, and your question was on the editor’s side. In that case, I would place most of my emphasis on two things: 1) Timing (see perseverance, above). 2) Quality of writing. And here, I distinguish quality of writing from things like plotting, genre, trendiness, mechanical proficiency, etc. If you persevere, you’ll finally find your moment, and when you do, the quality of writing must somehow sing to the editor’s heart. It should capture them. Editors are readers who love the written word, but they get a slush pile of swill all day. Give them wine and they’ll beg for more.
Sally: Ooh. Wine as opposed to slush pile swill. I like that. But if I can press you a bit more: What do you think is most important--conflict, characters, or voice/prose? What should we work on first, or can they not be separated?  
D. Barkley Briggs: Wonderful question! But I think the answer is going to vary greatly based on the writer, their genre and many other factors. And frankly, I would not trust someone who claimed to have a universal answer to that question. There is definitely methodology and sequence, much as there is for a person hoping to draw water from a well. But the particular order of events is a matter of the priorities and personality of that author, not that formula. In the end, what we want is a refreshing drink, not a lesson on water drawing. So whatever most moves the author to give me the drink, to draw it out of themselves, is really all I care about. For me, it’s voice/prose first, then character, then conflict.
Sally: And I would also have said that voice/prose was first for you. You have a lovely way of giving descriptions in your books--a poetic bent. Where did that come from? 
D. Barkley Briggs: First of all, thank you. In formula driven markets, it would be easy to resort to a “Git ‘R Done” mentality in writing, but far and away my greatest joy is weaving a sense of lyricism into my stories. I used to paint, so maybe it’s a crossover thing. I try to bring a painterly approach to my writing.
Sally: And you take those pains even in the books you give children. Thanks for that.  The children deserve that, I think. Why did you move from writing for adults to children?
D. Barkley Briggs: I wrote two medical thrillers in 1999 and 2001 that I’m quite proud of, though they’re out of print now. But as a genre, fantasy has always been my first love. When I have time, that’s what I read. Beyond that, really, I challenge the notion that I’ve written YA fiction. These may be useful marketing terms, but I think they’re sometimes a bit arbitrary and unhelpful, not to mention inaccurate, since I probably have as many adults who enjoy my series as teens. I don’t like the idea of “dumbing down” for the youth market. I simply have young protagonists. It’s fantasy fiction, period...packaged as YA. 
Sally: Ah, I see. I think that I thought you'd written them for your sons so I assumed they were written for children. But many children are reading Lord of the Rings at the age of twelve, of course. I hadn't thought about that. Thanks for clearing that up.
O.K. tell me one thing you know now that you wish you still didn't know?
D. Barkley Briggs: If you haven’t lost anyone dear to you, this may sound maudlin. But I truly wish I didn’t know that stricken, helpless look in my children’s eyes, to learn that death had entered their family. 
Sally: I'm sorry for your loss. And for your children's pain. My children were twelve and thirteen when they lost their father, so understand that it's not an easy time. Thank God that he is willing to carry us through these hard, hard times. Speaking of your children, do they read your books? Do they offer critique? Do they give you fodder for the books (with or without knowing it)?
D. Barkley Briggs: Fodder, definitely. Constantly, really! My older ones actually offer some really valuable insights and critiques, too. It’s interesting using your kids in the guts of the story, and then hearing them reflect on that. 
Sally: Very cool! Dean, thanks so much for taking time to answer my questions. Before you go, please tell us about your contest in which we can win a bunch of books and a Kindle Fire. We only have a few days left in which to enter, so tell us how to do that, please.
D. Barkley Briggs: It’s a great contest, and pretty simple to enter. Simply upload a photo of yourself with one of my books, and you’re entered to win 48 of today’s best Christian fantasy novels, including several personal favorites as a bonus (including the Susan Cooper series I recommended earlier). Plus, the Grand Prize includes a free Kindle Fire, all in time for Christmas. Enter at
So, off you go. Enter that contest! 

is represented by Reclaim Management. Her short works have been published in various magazines,including Highlights for Children, she blogs about young adult novels at, and she'd be thrilled if you would go over there and check out a sample of one of her YA manuscripts The Button Girl

Thursday, November 24, 2011

It Was a Black and Blasé Friday ~ Kelly Klepfer

It was a Black and Blasé Friday...
Kelly Klepfer

Chances are if you are reading this post on Black Friday you’ve opted not to join the insanity of the biggest shopping day of the year. Or you’ve bagged your bargains and are currently glassy-eyed and completely powered by caffeine and sugar. Or possibly, you had every intention of hunting with the drooling pack but just emerged from your pumpkin pie/turkey stupor.

So why would you be reading Novel Rocket on Black Friday? For inspiration? Out of habit? Boredom? Realistically, if you fall into two of the above categories, you are not going to be able to write anything of value, including a grocery list.

Even so, if you can focus your bleary eyes, you can accomplish something writerly for the day.

This is a great day to check out an on-line bookseller for the how-to book you’ve had your eye on. You could score a pre-cyber Monday sweet deal from the comfort of your computer chair. If that is not a big enough accomplishment then…

Maybe you need to check in with some blogs you’ve been putting off reading. Bookmark them if nothing else, or subscribe by email so you can at least manage them and remember they are out there. Here's a cool book mark tool .

If you feel ambitious, surf for your favorite writer’s conference and make a plan to attend the next one. Whether you need to adjust your budget to save, look for flight info, or figure out your calendar, today might be a great time to take care of the first step.

Get to know your characters a little better. What would they do on Black Friday? What was their Thanksgiving holiday like? Did they have one?

Use your caffeine and sugar mania or turkey lethargy to spin a unique plot twist. Do you have characters stuck in a rut? Would a family emotional drama unstick them? Use the emotions that often develop while trying to merge family of origin with current, real life. I’m pretty sure the only Normal Rockwell Thanksgiving in America is the one he painted decades ago.

Go to Netflix or Hulu and watch a few episodes of television shows you wouldn’t normally watch. Can you learn anything from timing, writing, dialogue, situations, drama, plotting or cliff hangers that can give you ideas for a new story or a new twist? People are still people with stuff and issues and family members, no matter what century you write in. Can you find something useable to add some zip to your creativity?

Maybe just reading this, shutting down the computer and curling up in your Snuggie is enough work for the day. Give yourself permission to relax and rest. After all, your feast-fueled, sleep deprived dreams may give you some great book ideas.

Having Been Ungrateful …

The Novel Rocket team has been thinking about thankfulness and what a proper response to Thanksgiving might be. Perhaps our thoughts can be boiled down to one statement by Rocketeer Michelle Griep, author of Undercurrent: “I’m thankful God’s in charge of this nuthouse, not me.”

Okay, we’re done. What else is there to say? Go eat your turkey.

But, if you’re still reading, we wouldn’t want you to feel cheated.

Gina Holmes, President and founder of Novel Rocket and the bestselling and award-winning author of Crossing Oceans and Dry as Rain:

Having been poor, I’m thankful for food in the cupboard, toilet paper in the bathroom, a mortgage that’s up-to-date, a car that runs and gas to run it.

Having been lonely, I’m thankful for a husband who adores, me, children who are the joy of my life, and two dogs who live to give me love.

Having been sick, I’m thankful for my health. Having lost people who were dear to me, I’m thankful for family and friends I still have. Having been depressed, I’m thankful for the joy of watching my children laugh, my husband celebrate a victory, my parents and siblings share stories and smiles.

Having been a terrible writer, I’m thankful for critique partners who slashed my work, how-to books and conferences that taught me well, and great literature.

I’m thankful the years of writing were not in vain; that the elusive writing contract finally came and that I was signed with a publisher I never would have seen for myself but realize now was the perfect choice. I’m thankful for an agent who is also a friend and genuinely cares about me, not just my career.

I’m thankful too for Novel Rocket, and this amazing team of contributors. . . and all that God has blessed us with over the years. The readers and writers we’ve been able to connect with because of it. And I’m thankful for the new faith-based website we’ve started because of God’s prompting, God has already done amazing things through it!

Ane Mulligan, VP of Novel Rocket:

I’m thankful for many things, but two stand out: Our wonderful Novel Rocket team members. Because of them, I don’t have to tax my few remaining brain cells posting so many days. That gives me the time I need to search for my lost marbles, which I need to keep my characters from running amok.

I’m thankful my son grew up with a love of cooking, became a gourmet, and now works for a 5-star chef. Of course, that means my previously-appreciated culinary skills are now looked upon with scorn.

Okay, maybe three stand out: I’m thankful for my wonderful critique partners. Without them, my words would fall flat.

Yvonne Anderson, author of Story in the Stars and coordinator of the Novel Rocket writing contest:

I’m thankful the Lord gave me a story to share with the world. The old, old story of Jesus and His love is the only one worth telling. First, what a blessing to know it—and to be commissioned to tell it besides! Glory!

Ronie Kendig, author of the military thriller series, The Discarded Heroes, which includes Book 4, Firethorn, coming in January 2012.

This year has been crazy-busy! Looking back two things of immense beauty stand out to me: 1) God’s gifting me to write and then letting me do this thing that—when expectations are laid at His feet—is so incredibly fun and thrilling. 2) He has filled my life with some amazing friends who encourage me, support me, and challenge me to be a better person, Christian, and writer. I am a blessed girl.

Marcia Lee Laycock, author of Abundant Rain: Inspirational Words for Writers of Faith a collection of devotionals originally published on Novel Rocket.

I’m thankful for a God who stays close even when we don’t know it.

James L. Rubart, author of Rooms, Book of Days, and The Chair.

Having an amazing, beautiful, supportive wife? Score. Having two stellar, handsome, smart, sons who follow Jesus? Double score. Makes me incredibly grateful.

Gina Conroy, president and founder of Writer...Interrupted where she mentors busy writers.

I’m thankful I get mistaken for Gina Holmes all the time! I’m hoping one day it will actually pay off—in contracts, book sales, royalty checks...”

Kelly Klepfer, senior editor of Novel Rocket who owns and runs the blog, Novel Reviews.

I’m grateful for the basic things like the air I breathe, my near-dear ones, the taste of produce I grew and nurtured, and that the sun rises every day and with it, new mercies.

Anita Mellott, whose School Is Where the Home Is: 180 Devotions for Parents is a unique blend of biblical and practical inspiration for each home school day.

I’m grateful God is bigger than my problems and that His grace carries me through the valleys.

Michael Ehret, editor-in-chief of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and editor of American Christian Fiction Writer’s ezine, Afictionado.

I live an amazingly blessed life with my wife of 30 years. We have three children who make our hearts smile. I get to play with words for a living—and in ways I could never have imagined, but that God had planned for me from the beginning of time (Psalm 139).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Debut author Rose McCauley is a Christmas belle

Rose McCauley has been writing for over ten years and has been published in several non-fiction anthologies and devotionals. A retired schoolteacher who has been happily married to her college sweetheart for 43 years, she is also mother to three grown children and their spouses, and grandmother to three lovely, lively kids! You can reach her through her website or blog at, and if you visit her blog this week, you can find out about a  free giveaway.

Rose, tell us about your new release:

Christmas Belles of Georgia is an anthology pubbed by Barbour Publishing. It is the story of four quadruplets who are adopted at birth but who are reunited on their 25th birthday. 

How did you come up with this story?

Jeanie Smith Cash is the author who came up with the overall idea and asked me, and two others, to join her. We each wrote the story of one sister.

Was there a specific 'what if' moment?

I did ask myself “what if a former spoiled rich kid meets up with a guy she treated horribly years ago? Is there a chance for them?”

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

I enjoyed doing online and telephone research with a couple of business owners in Monticello GA, the town where the story is set, and plan to visit and hold a booksigning there this fall and stay in the same Bed and Breakfast where my heroine stayed.

Every novelist has a journey. How long was your road to publication?

Over 10 years.

How did you find out and what went through your mind?

My contract was announced at the 2010 ACFW conference in Indianapolis in front of over 600 other writers. My roommate, Jennifer Johnson, stood up and cheered before I realized Becky Germany, editor at Barbour had called my name! Jen and I had just talked that morning after I read my Bible and devotional, and I told her God was still telling me to wait! She already knew about my contract, but managed to keep it from me on the 4-hour drive to conference and the first day and night of conference until my name was called.

Do you ever bang your head against the wall from writer's block?

No, that would hurt!

If so, how do you overcome it?

I usually do something else for awhile. Take a walk, read, scrapbook, anything to let my mind go off in another direction for a while so it can subconsciously work on the problem and its solution.

Do you consider yourself a visual writer?

I am not a very visual person. I do not see scenes in my head like so many writers/readers do (wish I did—sounds like fun!), but since becoming a writer I have trained myself to be more observant.

If so, what visuals do you use?

Sometimes I look for pictures in magazines of people and settings to help me describe them more realistically.

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?

The hard part for me about plotting is making the situation go from bad to worse!

How do you overcome it?

I don’t like conflict in my own life, so have had to learn to make my characters go through conflicts and heartaches to make the story more interesting and to teach those characters the lessons they need to learn!

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

In a corner of my dining room. My desk and computer are bookended by a filing cabinet and printer on the left and a floor to ceiling bookcase on the right.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Like most women, I don’t have a typical day since I have a husband, three children and three grandchildren who seem to need wife/mom/mimi’s help quite often! After breakfast, I always start my day with Bible reading and prayer while drinking two cups of green tea with lemon juice or lemon balm.

I sometimes substitute teach or help my daughter in her dental office, but If I get the luxury of staying home all day with my characters it depends on what stage of writing I am in. During the beginning stages, I interview my characters, brainstorm ideas for the book (sometimes alone, sometimes with friends online or in person), and jot down some important scene points. If I am working on the first draft, I read over the last scene I wrote the day before then write till lunch, and continue after lunch. Sometime during the day I will walk for about an hour either alone or with my husband or a friend. This can be a great time for thinking or talking out ideas with them.

Since receiving my first contract I am still learning to juggle writing with edits, galleys and marketing—setting up booksignings, doing interviews, blogging.

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 wish! I have a very creative 10-year-old granddaughter who tells me stories faster than I can type them, but I usually type a while and sit and ponder awhile, then type some more then erase some…then repeat this sequence over and over. I once did a Book-in-a-Month challenge and wrote over 50,000 words, so I have had a few 5000 words writing days, but more generally it is around 2,000 to 3,000 words in a day. Then there are the editing days when you erase more words than you write. Hard to do, but it usually makes the story better!

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

BICHOK-bottom in chair, hands on keys. No matter how creative you are or how well you write, if you don’t sit down and do it, that book will never get published!

Do you have any parting words of advice?

I would encourage all fiction writers to join ACFW. The online classes and loop are chock-full of great info. Also attend conferences for the classes and for the encouragement and joy of being around other writers!

And a big thank you to my friend Ane who has encouraged me and so many others every step of this writing journey! Your contagious smile and bubbly personality has gladdened our friendship as well as this interview with joy and delight. May God richly bless you in all your writing for Him! Rose

Surprised by Life—and Love—at Christmas

Four letters are mailed from Monticello, a small antebellum town in Georgia. Sisters once, now heirs to a historic plantation, each young woman must come to terms with the circumstances of her birth. . . .

When she learns in a letter she’s adopted, Holly feels betrayed by her parents—and she books a flight out of Missouri immediately. Will she ever be able to love again?

Raised in a wealthy, loveless home, Carol rushes to Monticello from college in Atlanta when she receives her letter. She’s searching for family, but finds instead a boy she once mistreated. Will he remember her? . . .forgive her?

In one year, Starr has lost her parents, boyfriend, and job, so she’s sure her letter is more bad news. When the attorney flies to California to offer proof, Starr takes a second look—at the message and the man.

Noelle always knew she was adopted—and she’s always loved the foreman on her father’s Texas ranch too. But he’s so distant. . .perhaps a trip to Georgia is the break in life she needs.

Will the sisters receive a traditional Christmas gift. . .of love?

Monday, November 21, 2011

10 Publicity Books You Should Own

Not all of these books seem obvious. How to Win Friends and Influence people &
The Tipping Point may not seem like publicity books, but trust me, they are all part of what it takes to get your work discovered.

1. Publicize Your Book (Updated): An Insider's Guide to Getting Your Book the Attention It Deserves (Jacqueline Deval)

2. Plug Your Book! Online Book Marketing for Authors, Book Publicity through Social Networking (Steve Weber)

3. 1001 Ways to Market Your Books: 1001 Ways to Market Your Books: For Authors and Publishers (John Kremer)

4. The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't (Carolyn Howard-Johnson)

5. Guerrilla Marketing for Writers: 100 No-Cost, Low-Cost Weapons for Selling Your Work (Multiple authors)

6. Social Media Marketing for Writers: How To Blog, Tweet, & Peep Your Way Onto Amazon's Best Seller's List (Edie Melson) E-book

7. Jump Start Your Book Sales: A Money-Making Guide for Authors, Independent Publishers and Small Presses (Marilyn Ross)

8. The Savvy Author's Guide to Book Publicity (Lissa Warren)

9. How to Win Friends & Influence People (Dale Carnegie)

10. The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving and Contentment

"The voice of the special rebels and prophets, recommending discontent, should, as I have said, sound now and then suddenly, like a trumpet. But the voices of the saints and sages, recommending contentment, should sound unceasingly, like the sea." – G.K. Chesterton

Contentment - an elusive quality, and, for many, one that seems to fly in the face of our modern culture, in which we are ever urged to ambition and the accumulation of status symbols like new cars and bigger houses, bigger advances and better royalty percentages. Some would perhaps argue that contentment is a vice, not a virtue. Yet the scriptures advise that we seek it. The apostle Paul even goes as far as to say that “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6). He says he has “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…” (Phil.4:12).

I suspect a good part of that secret is being thankful. I suspect being thankful is the key to a lot of things in our lives.

I once spoke at a women's retreat in a tiny town in Alaska. There were over 200 women there from all across the state and the Yukon. Friday night was testimony time. One woman in particular touched me as she shared how her entire family had died, one by one, of Tuberculosis. When she was taken to hospital she knew she was dying but asked God to heal her. She said God responded in these words, "Give thanks before you receive." So she did. She lay in her bed for hours, through the night, thanking him for her life. Then she got out of bed, something she hadn't been able to do for days. When the doctor came that morning she told him she was healed. They took x-rays. Then they took them again. Then they sent her home.

"Give thanks before you receive." We do it before meals; why not do it before everything? Before getting out of bed, give thanks; before driving to work, give thanks; before writing your next novel, give thanks; before signing that new book contract, give thanks.

I suspect such a routine would indeed result in great contentment and great gain, perhaps in more ways than we could imagine.

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever." (Psalm 107:1)


Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor's wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone and also has two devotional books in print. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. The sequel to One Smooth Stone will be released in 2011. Abundant Rain, a collection of devotionals for writers has just been released here. Visit Marcia's website