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Monday, April 29, 2013

Interview with Author Sharon Srock

Today we welcome author Sharon Srock. Sharon Srock lives with her husband, Larry, and two dogs in Rural Oklahoma. She is a mother, grandmother, and Sunday School teacher. Sharon has one and three-quarters jobs and writes in her spare time. Her favorite hobby is traveling with her grandchildren. She is a member of the ACFW and currently serves as treasurer for her local chapter. Sharon’s debut novel, The Women of Valley View: Callie released in October 2012. The second in the series, The Women of Valley View: Terri releases in April 2013.

Why do you write? 

Seems to be a God thing. I never “dreamed of being a writer”. It took me by as much surprise as anyone. I’m a pretty goal driven person, but with 2 jobs other than the writing, my life was already busy. I’ve never pursued anything with the single minded do-it-yesterday mindset that the writing has produced.

 Why do you write in this genre?

We’ll have to blame God for that as well. These are the stories that are in my heart. When I started on the first book, I didn’t know that “women’s fiction” was a genre. I’d never read anything like what I was writing. I’ve read some very good women’s fiction since then, but it still is not my genre of choice when I go book shopping. I tend to lean more to romantic suspense, and courtroom drama. Can’t imagine writing either of those. Is that weird?

Tell us about your new release

Despite a bustling day care center and a new foster child, Terri Hayes hungers for a family of her own. Then a plumbing mishap leaves her homeless and questioning God’s plan. Steve Evans’s gracious offer of his basement apartment as a temporary solution is an answered prayer. Steve is a successful writer and a good father, but Terri is horrified when Steve’s book research leads him to a harsh confrontation with the parents of her foster child.  She needs to distance herself from Steve, but her efforts fall short as his two scheming daughters plot to make Terri their new stepmother.

Will harsh words and sneaky plans drive Kelsey’s family further apart and put a wedge between Terri and Steve? Or does God have another plan in store? 

Where did you get your inspiration for this character? 

When I started the first book I wanted my characters to appeal to a wide range of women. Callie was mid fifties, and a working woman. Karla was 60 and newly retired. Pam was my 40 year old, on her second marriage and still raising her family. Terri was 29, single, and longing for a husband and family. When Steve Evans came along, A successful single Hunk…it was just a match made in heaven.

If you could visit anyone of your characters who would it be and why?

That’s like asking a mother which of her children is her favorite. The answer is going to vary from one day to the next. All of my women have good and bad traits. Right this second I’d choose Samantha, but that’s just for now and driven by the fact that I’m writing her story and would love to be in her head better.

How do you balance your writing time with family and any other work you do?

 s I mentioned, I have two paying jobs, I have a husband, daughters, and  grands and great grands. They all like a hunk of my time on occasion. I write in lunch and break time snatches, a lot on weekends, and I try to work in some after work bits and pieces as well. My husband is pretty good with a fend-for-yourself night if I really need time at the computer. Example: Last Friday night was Terri’s facebook launch party. Friday is our weekly night out, but he left me at the computer, undisturbed for 3 hours, brought me food and drink, and cleaned up the kitchen after I crawled into bed.

Is there anything you would change about your writing journey?

I wish I had started earlier. I knew 25 years ago that this is what God called me to do. The best and worst part about being a writer...Best, finally feeling like I've found my place in God's plan. Worst--the never ending waiting. I'm not a good waiter.

Is there anything else in life you’re passionate about? Other hobbies you’d like to pursue someday? 

Right now I’m into traveling. About 9 years ago my husband decided he didn’t care for vacations much. I started taking each of my grandchildren on a special trip, just me and them, working my down from oldest to youngest .We’ve been to Hawaii, The Grand Canyon, Cozumel, Disney, and several cruises. This year is my last grandchild trip. My youngest granddaughter and I are taking a Bahamas cruise and spending a couple of days at Disney. God has truly blessed me with the desires of my heart in allowing me to do this for each of them. The memories we’ve made are one of my treasured possessions. Next year the adult vacations start. My eldest daughter, a friend, and I are doing an Alaskan cruise.

Thanks so much for joining us!

Connect with Sharon here:

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Marveling at Jesus

Let’s really marvel at Jesus this week. Let’s marvel at the fact that Jesus changed how the world expresses compassion, that he shaped education, revolutionized art and changed political theory. In him, we find hope and the one and only path to God.

For centuries, people lived distinctly divided lives. Identity remained defined by the group into which each person was born or married. Then Jesus taught people about God, himself, and the Holy Spirit that would reside within them after his death, and he gave them a new way to define themselves. Jesus presented an idea of community that no one had ever seen. In this community, all manner of people, wealthy or poor, Gentile or Jew, slave or free, were welcome.
Think of all the dissimilar people that Jesus brought together! People like C.S. Lewis, Bono, Joel Osteen, Denzel Washington, and Tim Tebow; all of them united because of one man—Jesus Christ!
We are all one body united in Christ. As sinners and broken people, whether we are black or white, Asian or German, tall or short, single or married, parents or children, hip or nerdy, new believers or spiritual authorities, we are one community. Only one thing matters: Our identity is found in Jesus Christ, and he lives in all of us. Jesus brought us all together. He gave us hope through community. Who else could do that?

One of the most predominant principles shared in most westernized societies is the right of citizens to obtain an education. From about five years of age until around age eighteen, it is expected that children will attend school and be taught the knowledge, skills, customs and values necessary to shape them into productive members of society. This has become such a common occurrence that it’s pretty much taken for granted. But it wasn’t always so.

The life and teachings of Jesus would radically alter the “status quo” of education being a privilege only for the elite and would shape the foundation of education. Jesus, the ultimate Teacher of all time, set the precedence for making no distinction between fishermen, women, rich, poor, outcasts, young or old. His classroom was on mountaintops, in boats, synagogues, roadways and private homes. He taught one-on-one, in small and large groups, both privately and publically. He used methods that everyone could understand through parables, stories and everyday life occurrences and examples.

Jesus revealed to us the mysteries of God; of His immeasurable truth, love, mercy and grace. Through his teachings, Jesus gives us the hope of a relationship with God and his death on the cross. His burial and resurrection make that relationship a certainty. 

In Mark 3:17, Jesus taught that we are to follow the rules laid down by government while still surrendering to God all that belongs to God...which, of course, is everything else. In his time, Jesus’ statement was an abomination because he pointed out that, while government is an important element in our lives, there is also another realm, a second and ultimate authority by which we are governed. The Pharisees realized that, under this man’s reign, their dominion could be profoundly limited, and they were having none of it! But even by killing him, they couldn’t change what Jesus had set into motion.

From that time until now, disciples of Christ have been standing on these precepts. When it came time for our forefathers to design a governing document for this new world, they purposefully based it on the teachings of Jesus Christ: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and have been endowed by their Creator with certain rights…”
Jesus was also the architect of our global concepts toward human rights and dignity. He delivered a fresh perspective, and Galatians 3 reported that, in Christ Jesus, there is no longer a    distinction between people, and that we are all one our servanthood to him. In this election year, it’s important to remember that this powerful perspective grew sturdy legs throughout political history. Martin Luther King, in fact, was inspired by scripture at The Mall in Washington, D.C. when he began to quote the Book of Amos and    ultimately moved forward to declare to the gathering crowd: “I have a dream...that one day…”

  # # #

Sandra D. Bricker is a best-selling and award-winning author of laugh-out-loud romantic comedy for the Christian market. Her most recent book, Always the Baker Finally the Bride is the final novel in the Another Emma Rae Creation series from Abingdon Press Fiction. Check out her website at 

Sandie leads a team of writers in creating the Living It Out daily Bible study for CedarCreek Church. Today's devotion is borrowed from the Living It Out study on HOPE. If you enjoyed it, feel free to check out the daily studies by e-mail or audio podcast by clicking HERE.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Five Reasons I Reject Manuscripts

It's apparent the writer hasn't actually read books in the genres in which she is writing. 

If you have ever been tempted to think, "My first love is horror, but I'll write sunny children's picture books because I heard an agent say that was the hot market now," slap some sense into yourself, please.

I've had writers tell me they have never read a YA book, but they are writing YA because YA sells. The same goes for romance. They don't like romance—they think it's rather silly and they are sure they can write a silly romance in two weeks with one hand tied behind their backs.

Hear me: When you hold genre books in disdain but figure you'll knock out a few to support yourself while you work on your literary novel, it will show in your writing. I'm not saying you can't write a romance while you work on your 800-page fantasy. I'm saying if you want to write romance, you need to read and understand romance.

The writing is full of grammatical errors.

Has anyone ever read your stuff and thought that English was your second language?

I hate to write this because I am sure that tomorrow or next week, I'll be scanning this very post and I'll find typos and/or other errors. Every time I get snarky about someone else's shortcomings, God allows me to fall flat on my face. Nevertheless, I have to say it: If you can't write well, in a technical sense, you need to hire an editor. Pay attention to your crit partners, learn from the things they mark, and if you still can't figure out how to stop switching between present and past tense, hire an editor.

 The writing feels wooden.

Vary your sentences. While writing, you should vary your sentences. Before sending a proposal to an agent or editor, read over your manuscript, checking to see if you've varied your sentence structure. Varied sentences make the work more interesting to read.

And...slavishly following rules makes our writing feel wooden, too. 

Too much showing.

He went to the car. He opened the door. He sat in the driver's seat. He turned the key in the ignition. The engine roared to life.

This is the kind of writing we get when we pay too much attention to the rule about showing instead of telling.  

Just tell me he hopped into the car and sped out of the drive. I don't need to see him turn the key—I know how to start a car. Don't describe the expressions on a person's face or the feelings of despair in his gut so often. Sometimes it's OK to say she was happy instead of painting the wide smile that filled her face like the sun coming over the mountains.

 I don't care about what happens to the characters.

If the writing is clean and flows well, I still will reject a story if I don't care about the characters.

I don't mean to say I dislike the characters so I turn the books down. It's that I don’t like or dislike them. I simply don't care about them one way or the other.

This is kind of a personal thing.

For me to care about a character, she must be vulnerable, smart, and conflicted. She also must be willing to act to make her life better. A character with a good sense of humor is attractive to me. And a character that is humble. I really love characters that are generous and suffering unjustly. Give me Cinderella, any day. Sweet and hardworking, and her troubles were not of her own making. She's been wronged and I want to see her get her own back.

But I don't think we're all attracted to the same characters. I could not read Gone With the Wind, but look at how many people cared about what happened to Scarlett.

What about you? What makes you automatically reject a book and what attracts you to a character? 

photo credit: davemc500hats via photopin cc

Sally Apokedak
Sally Apokedak is an associate agent with the Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency. She's in the process of of building a dynamite list of authors. She is also active in the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Friday, April 26, 2013

We're Thrilled to Announce: TWO Rocketeers Sign New Book Contracts

Novel Rocket's own Michelle Griep signed a contract with David C. Cook Publishing for A Heart Deceived and ... Edie Melson signed a two-book contract with Thomas Nelson.


Writing Advice You Should ALWAYS Follow

by Edie Melson

Several weeks ago I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about Writing Advice You Should NEVER Follow. Today I want to share writing advice you should always follow. Now, like ninety-nine percent of publishing rules, take these with a grain of salt. Writing is rarely a one-size-fits-all proposition.

1. Keep a regular schedule. Notice a said REGULAR schedule, not normal (and I didn’t say write every day). Your schedule may be writing on the bus everyday to work, or from midnight to 2 a.m. or even only on the weekend. Whatever works best for you, stick with it. Small bites are the best way to devour a huge task.

2. Don’t stop learning. Even if this weren’t an industry that’s ever changing, you’d still need to keep honing your skills. I don’t care who you are, or how long you’ve been writing, you never arrive.

3. Plug into a supportive team. You’ve often heard that writing is a solitary pursuit. Yes…and no. The act of putting words on paper is rarely a team sport. But producing publishable work is not. It takes a good support system to help you cover all the bases.

4. Build your platform BEFORE you get published. Yep, you read that right. So many writers put off building their social media networks until they sign with an agent or a publisher. I’m telling you that’s too late. Start building now and you’ll find yourself more attractive to editors and agents.

5. Don’t let the voices in your head derail your progress. As a whole, we writers are an insecure bunch. And most of our insecurity starts in our minds. We convince ourselves to fail before we even get started good. Who am I fooling, I can’t write. That editor/agent didn’t mean it when he said to send him a proposal. I don’t know why I bother, none of this is any good. Any of these sound familiar?

6. Learn the rules so you know how to break them effectively. Part of developing as a writer is knowing when to break the rules. It’s hard to do if you don’t know them to begin with. For example, you’ll hear the advice to get rid of repeated words. In most cases that’ good advice, but there are instances when you’ll want to repeat a word for emphasis.

7. Don’t EVER talk bad about anyone in the industry. Publishing is a small family, and people move around a lot. An agent at this company today, may be at a different company next year. The person sitting next to you at a conference, could be your editor. You get the idea.

8. Take critique, but don’t let it silence your voice. It’s important to develop a tough skin in this business. That means learning from tough critiques. BUT and this is vital, remember that a critique is just someone’s opinion. If you incorporate every critique into your WIP you’ll lose that distinctive thing called voice. This means sometimes throwing out advice from people you trust, and breaking some rules.

9. Write what you love. It's tempting to try to follow what's popular, but it rarely works out well. Life's short, spend it doing something you love.

10. Don’t quit. I’ve been around this business a long time. I’ve learned that while talent is good, perseverance will get you a whole lot farther. You’re going to have bad days, bad weeks, even bad months, but that’s still no reason to quit.

I’ve given you my best advice. Now I’d like to hear from you. What is the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

Edie Melson is the author of four books, a freelance writer and editor with years of experience in the publishing industry. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, as well as a popular faculty member at numerous others. She’s also the social media columnist for Southern Writers Magazine and social media mentor for My Book Therapy. Connect with her through Twitter,  Facebook, and her popular blog for writers,

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Taking the Suspense Out of Mystery Writing

When I started my first suspense about eight years ago, I didn’t know the difference between writing a mystery and a suspense. I went back and forth from a strong mystery thread to a strong suspense thread. Half way through and several rejections later, it soon became clear that I was confused. So I shelved that book and to this day it remains, waiting to be dusted off and restarted. Since then I’ve published two mysteries. Looking back on my first suspense novel, I see the problems and understand my genre confusion. I think a lot of new mystery/suspense writers may be confused as well. Hopefully, I can help clear things up and send you on your way to writing a strong mystery or suspense.

The first thing to realize is that there is a distinct difference in writing a mystery and a suspense. Knowing the differences in both genres and the expectations of the readers will help you craft the best novel possible and satisfy the readers of each genre. Mystery readers want an intellectual puzzle to solve while suspense lovers want to be taken on a rollercoaster ride of emotion. It’s that simple. The primary question mystery readers want answered is “Who did it?” In a suspense, the reader wants to know “Will the hero survive?”

In a mystery, the hero is in control and processes and understands information those around him can’t. The crime he is trying to solve is usually outside his personal life, and it’s up to the hero to connect all the clues into one complete puzzle to find the culprit. Traditionally, the mystery detective doesn’t undergo much character growth, but with modern mysteries that has changed. In the course of unraveling the crime, today’s amateur sleuth may undergoes an inner transformation by solving their own personal problems in the course of the mystery. But the core of the mystery is still the sleuth solving a mystery outside of her own personal situation.

In a suspense, the story is about the hero and his transformation to becoming a true hero. He is not the calm sleuth of the mystery novels who analyzes clues to solve the crime. Instead, the suspense hero is thrown around by life threatening circumstances, experiences emotional ups and downs, and is unable to control his fate.

Now that we know the difference between the two genres, let’s talk about some basics of mystery and suspense writing. We’ve already established that mystery readers are looking for a puzzle to solve. The thrill for the mystery reader is the tension which is created from discovering missing information and clues, then piecing them together to solve the crime.

In a mystery, the main crime happens off stage before the book starts or at the very start of the book, and the reader must stay two steps behind the detective. Why? Remember the reader wants a puzzle to solve. By having them stay two steps behind the detective it gives them the opportunity to solve the crime before the sleuth does. One of the cardinal rules of mystery writing is the writer needs to play fair with the reader. That means they must allow the reader to investigate along with the detective by discovering clues when the detective does.

Knowing how to drop clues without being too obvious is the trick of mystery writing. We want our readers to get to the end and think, “I should have seen it coming!” But writers need to avoid making the mystery too difficult that there’s no possible way the reader could solve it.

In a suspense, the reader is looking for an emotional rollercoaster ride which is created by supplying the reader with information and allowing them to see the danger. Tension is created when the reader is two steps ahead of the hero. The reader sees a clear and present danger to the hero, a danger the hero doesn’t see coming.

The thrill for the reader comes when the hero is buffeted by fate and waivers from trust and safety to suspicion and calm, then back again, several times through the course of the novel. The key to a good suspense is upping the stakes for the hero until character growth is achieved. In the end, the suspense hero will realize he’s journeyed through a perilous situation, learned new coping skills, and survived.

Of course, there’s a lot more to writing the mystery and suspense, but knowing about your hero and the nature of the crime can help you determine what direction you should take your story and how to please your audience.

Can you write a story that has both mystery and suspense? Yes, but know which genre is dominant. Mysteries can have suspense elements and suspense novels can have mystery threads, but readers of both genres have specific expectations. Knowing those reader expectations is the key to writing a successful mystery or suspense. Mystery readers want a puzzle to solve. Suspense readers want an emotional rollercoaster ride. Fail to meet those expectations and you let the reader down.

Gina Conroy is founder of Writer...Interrupted and is still learning how to balance a career with raising a family. Represented by Chip MacGregor, she finds time to write fun, quirky mysteries in between carpooling and ballroom dancing . Her first mystery Cherry Blossom Capers, released from Barbour Publishing in January 2012, and Digging Up Death is available now.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

THE PASSIONATE PEN - by Christine Lindsay

Christine Lindsay writes inspirational historical novels with big love stories, and she is proud of her Irish roots. Her great grandfather and grandfather worked as riveters in the Belfast shipyard, and one of the ships they helped build was the Titanic. Another ancestor served in the British Cavalry in India, seeding Christine’s long-time fascination with the British Raj and became the stimulus for her series Twilight of the British Raj, and her debut novel, SHADOWED IN SILK. Her current release CAPTURED BY MOONLIGHT is Book 2 of that series.


I started drafting my article for Novel Rocket on the following, and then decided to scratch it out: What’s a writer to do? Work for years to get noticed by a top-notch agent, then a big Christian publisher? Self publish? Send your manuscripts to smaller presses? The new consensus is that all of these choices are good to develop a writer’s career. But most especially write for the market.

Thing is—the above is an excellent topic, but it’s been done by experts. So today, I’m going to tell you instead about my passionate pen. Because I’ve seen God do more with my passion than in what seems to work for the market.

But we have to look first at what your goal is—what do you consider success? What is your passion? Do you want God to pave the way for your ministry/career, or are you out there to be the next Francine Rivers? I say this with all love and respect because Francine Rivers is a lovely, Godly writer, and I’m a huge, huge fan. If you ask anyone who reads Christian books they will mention her Mark of the Lion series as the greatest in Christian fiction, and in many ways Francine’s novels busted out the whole genre of Christian fiction. But Francine also sold a lot—a lot—of books. She’s famous.

So here’s my question to you—do you want to sell books like Francine Rivers?

Or do you want to be like Francine Rivers, the author with “The Purified Pen”?

A number of years ago I read an article written by Francine Rivers in the Charles Stanley monthly devotional magazine In Touch. My dog-eared copy of that article—which I cannot locate at the moment but I’m sure is in a box of old books somewhere—has stayed in my mind for years.

In that article, Francine talked about her romance writing career up to the point where she felt God calling her to purify her pen and write for Him. She also spoke of how she and her husband would wake up around 5 a.m. each day and start things off by reading the Bible and praying together.

It’s amazing how some things stick in your head. All these years after reading that devotional article, I continue to think so often about how early Francine Rivers gets up in the morning to start her devotions with the Lord. But this passion on her part to put God first is my measure of a successful author. God called this humble woman to a specific path of work, and she responded in love and obedience.
What is God calling you to do?

Write Christian novels?

Have a successful ministry/career?

Or is He calling you to love Him? And if you love Him, are you doing what He asked? Are you feeding His sheep? Feeding His lambs?

These thoughts are on my mind a great deal these days. With my second book out I was eligible to join Christian Authors Network, and I’m learning so much about marketing from a bunch of awesome, talented, but oh-so-generous, authors. I’m making friends with people left right and center through Book Club Network, another bunch of truly lovely Christian people who want to promote Christian Fiction. I’m a long time member of ACFW and am currently judging the Genesis. Also I’m working about 80% of my time on marketing, so there’s little time left to actually write the next book.
Whew. Stop. I’m running out of breath just talking about all that.

It’s time to be still . . . and know that He is God. What is God calling me to do? What is my passion?
As I take time to be quiet and listen, to truly love Him, I turn around and find that He has helped me with the marketing in some aspect I could never have imagined. I’m not a big name out there. I still don’t make any money. After I do my taxes I’m still in the red as an author. But I’m at peace.

It doesn’t matter if I sell as many books as our beloved Francine Rivers. Maybe I only sell one, and that one book leads a soul to Christ. That would be a treasure greater than all the book sales in the world.
I’ve even said a number of times in my prayers, “Lord, if you were to make me the next secular blockbuster novelist, and I earned millions, and failed to obey You, it would all be worthless.”

And, Francine Rivers may blush when she reads this, but it’s true. I’ve even said to the Lord, “If You made me the next Francine Rivers in becoming a great Christian author—a noble aspiration—and I had a line of books that preached the gospel message, and I failed to love You first, even that would be worthless.”

Thank you, Francine Rivers, for being such an inspiration to so many. Thank you for being obedient to our God, and for being such a good example to Christian writers everywhere.

Our passion must be our love of God. Don’t let our wonderful ministries (maybe the very thing He’s called you to do) come between you and Him. Don’t let the passion for your work overshadow the passion for your God.

He may even ask you one day, “Put down your pen, dear one, and pick up another tool for another kind of work.”

Do you love Him enough to obey, to give up your passion to write? Don’t worry, whatever He calls you to do, you can be sure He will provide the passion.

And if He wants you to keep writing, let your pen become purified like Francine River’s, and let it become a passionate pen for Christ.

Captured by Moonlight

Prisoners to their own broken dreams…

After a daring rescue goes awry, Laine Harkness and her friend Eshana flee to the tropical south of India…and headlong into their respective pasts.

Laine takes a nursing position at a plantation in the jungle, only to discover that her former fiancĂ© is the owner…but fun-loving Laine refuses to let Adam crush her heart like he had years ago.

Eshana, captured by her traditional uncle and forced once more into the harsh Hindu customs of mourning, doubts freedom will ever be hers again, much less the forbidden love that had begun to flower.

Amid cyclones, epidemics, and clashing faiths, will the love of the True Master give hope to these searching hearts?