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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Power in Story


I read a book this week that has had a profound effect on me. Take a moment now and ask yourself If you made an assumption after reading that first sentence. I wonder how many of you assumed it was a non-fiction book? Perhaps you were thinking C.S. Lewis or Ravi Zaccharias. I’ve read their work and yes, they had a profound effect too. But this book is a novel – The Cure by Athol Dickson. I read it while lying on a hospital bed awaiting surgery and finished it in the couple of days after, while recovering. The book drew me in, the characters capturing me to the point where I was in tears at times. I admit I was in a particularly vulnerable place as I read it, but the skill of the writing was obvious. It wasn’t just the skill of the work that wowed me. It was the message.

I don’t want to give the story or the climax away, so will just say that Mr. Dixon achieves what I believe all writers of fiction should strive for – He wraps an engaging story around truth, a truth so profound it can, and no doubt will, change lives. In my weakness I am strong. It’s a direct quote from the Apostle Paul and it is often an enigma to us. How is such a thing possible? The main character in The Cure follows a long hard road to find out but in the end there is understanding and hope. As a reader I was struck dumb by the “aha” moment in this novel and left in awe of the amazing grace of our Lord. The depth of that grace is still making me weep as I continue to ponder it. It has given me hope.

Mr. Dixon’s book has also spurred me on as a novelist. It has proven, once again, the power of story. The Cure is an example of the kind of book I want to write, the kind of book I believe all followers of Christ want to write – one that explores and reveals the truth of who we are as human beings, the deep deep love our God has for us and the relationship that is therefore available to us. The Cure has made me want to continue to hone my craft, to learn something new every day that will improve my work. Because it is through such excellence that we will gain a voice into a hurting and very lost world.

The Apostle Paul said – “And of this gospel I was appointed a herald...” (2Timothy 1:11) According to dictionary.com, to herald means - to give news or tidings of; announce; proclaim: to indicate or signal the coming of; usher in.

All of us, as writers of faith, are heralds in this way. We have pledged our lives to this purpose: to proclaim Christ, to make him known, and to signal his coming again to this earth. May we pursue excellence in that journey, not to prove our worth, but His glory.
****
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. Marcia's second novel, A Tumbled Stone was recently short listed in the contemporary fiction category of The Word Awards.

 
Abundant Rain, an ebook devotional for writers of faith can be downloaded here or from Amazon. Visit Marcia's website

 



Friday, June 28, 2013

Novel Rocket Congratulates the 2013 Christy Award Winners!



2013 Christy Award Winners & Finalists
The winning title is in bold

Contemporary Romance

The Breath of Dawn, by Kristen Heitzmann (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Lethal Legacy, by Irene Hannon (Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Wildflowers from Winter, by Katie Ganshert (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)


Contemporary Series, Sequels, and Novellas

Two Destinies, by Elizabeth Musser (David C Cook)

You Don't Know Me, by Susan May Warren (Tyndale House Publishers)

Waiting for Sunrise, by Eva Marie Everson (Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group)


Contemporary Standalone

The Air We Breathe, by Christa Parrish (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Borders of the Heart, by Chris Fabry (Tyndale House Publishers)

Not in the Heart, by Chris Fabry (Tyndale House Publishers)


First Novel

Into the Free, by Julie Cantrell (David C Cook)

Tangled Ashes, by Michèle Phoenix (Tyndale House Publishers)

Wedded to War, by Jocelyn Green (River North, an imprint of Moody Press)


Historical

Flame of Resistance, by Tracy Groot (Tyndale House Publishers)

Wedded to War, by Jocelyn Green (River North, an imprint of Moody Press)

A Wreath of Snow, by Liz Curtis Higgs (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)


Historical Romance

Against the Tide, by Elizabeth Camden (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Be Still My Soul, by Joanne Bischof (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)

Love's Reckoning, by Laura Frantz (Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group)


Suspense (4 finalists due to a tie in scoring)

Downfall, by Terri Blackstock (Zondervan, a division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

The Last Plea Bargain, by Randy Singer (Tyndale House Publishers)

Rare Earth, by Davis Bunn (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Submerged, by Dani Pettrey (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)


Visionary

Daughter of Light, by Morgan L. Busse (Marcher Lord Press)

Soul's Gate, by James L. Rubart (Thomas Nelson, a division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Starflower, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)


Young Adult

Child of the Mountains, by Marilyn Sue Shank (Delacorte Press, a division of Random House)

Failstate, by John W. Otte (Marcher Lord Press)

Interrupted: A Life Beyond Words, by Rachel Coker (Zondervan, a division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

When You Feel Like You've Been Left Behind in the Writing Journey


Maybe I'm the only one that's ever felt like they've been left behind in this publishing journey. It's hard to start this writing journey with friends and see them catch the next bus on their publishing route while they leave you stranded at the bus stop. 

I think it's hard to be left behind for a number of reasons:

Flow with Changing Relationships

You've built these relationships with your writing friends founded on mutual goals and status in life. You were all newbies, just starting out, sharing your rejections and encouraging each other to press on, but somehow they've start to move forward...faster. Now they're talking book contracts and editors, hobnobbing with big author friends, and well, sometimes you just feel a bit left out.

Sure, you're still pals, but not in the same way. Something has changed. They've moved on in their publishing journey, and you're still crawling behind the bus choking on fumes.

I remember having dinner with an old critique partner who started writing after me, but had since multi-published and was now a seasoned author and speaker. There were several of us, and I was the only unpublished author at the table. Everyone was friendly and wonderful, but the conversation moved to their next published book and future speaking engagements. That's when I faded into the distance. It wasn't intentional, it just happened. I had nothing to contribute to the conversation, and though I wasn't purposely left out, I felt out of place.

This feeling had nothing to do with how these authors treated me, it's just they were at a different place than I was and it was hard not being where they were. Later that night I went back to my hotel room and talked with God about how insignificant I felt and asked for a "sign" to know He still cared about me and that I was still on the right track. The next morning He gave it to me a fun, profound, and personal way.
Though you may feel like you're left behind and have nothing to contribute... take a closer look and see things from a different perspective. Then get over your "insignificant" self and keep working towards your publishing goals.

Celebrate Others Successes

I'm reminded of that song, "Smile Though Your Heart is Breaking."  Yes, I've matured since the "Why not me, whining days." I'm happy to see my writing friends move on with their careers, sign book contracts, win Christy and Carol awards, but it's still hard! I can't help but be sad that I'm still stuck in this place even though I've been told over and over again by my agent that I'm a good writer and editors like my writing, I'm still not where I want to be in my career. Even though I have a novella and full length mystery with an epublisher, I'm still straining my neck waiting for the next publishing bus to come by (and offer me a 3 book contract) and wondering if they'll have room for me.

It's hard especially when others seem to pass you by with their successes, yet what else can you do but smile and celebrate with your friends... though your heart might be breaking.

Encourage Others While Waiting For Your Turn 

Waiting your turn is hard, especially when you don't know when you'll get a turn and the rules keep changing, but what else can you do besides quit? Instead of focusing on what you don't have or unmet goals, look around and see who else is sitting at the publishing bus stop waiting, then be an encouragement to them. It's amazing how writer friends and I always seem to be in the exact opposite place emotionally and career wise. When I get a rejection, she's encouraging me and when she's ready to quit, I'm there lifting her up. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Keep Busy and Don't Be Idle

There are many other things you can do while waiting for the publishing bus to arrive. Learn the craft, build your writing resume, teach writing, and connect with others on social media and at writing conferences. Waiting is hard, but you don't have to be idle while waiting. Do something, anything to help get you closer to your publishing destination and then the time you've spent waiting, might not seem as long.

Feeling like you're left behind in this publishing journey stinks! Trust me, I know, and it's okay to feel those feeling every once and a while. But wallowing in self pity won't move you closer to where you want to be.
No one ever promised publishing would be easy! If you feel like you've been left behind in this publishing journey, you're not alone. Just look around. At one time or another, someone else has been waiting



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.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Novel Rocket congratulates the finalists for the Carol Award

The 2013 ACFW Carol Award finalists for the best in Christian fiction were announced during a press conference by the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) June 24 at ICRS in St. Louis, MO.

Honoring Christian fiction in a number of categories, the Carol Awards—named for Christian fiction pioneering editor Carol Johnson—listed these finalists, judged by readers, multi-published authors, retailers, and librarians.

CATEGORY
Seaside Reunion by Irene Hannon (Love Inspired * Editor: Melissa Endlich)
A Horseman’s Hope by Myra Johnson (Heartsong Presents * Editor: Rebecca Germany)
Lost Legacy by Dana Mentink (Love Inspired * Editor: Emily Rodmell)

CONTEMPORARY
Heart Echoes by Sally John (Tyndale House * Editors: Karen Watson/Stephanie Broene/Kathy Olson)
You Don’t Know Me by Susan May Warren (Tyndale House * Editors: Karen Watson/Sarah Mason)
Beyond the Storm by Carolyn Zane (Abingdon Press * Editor: Ramona Richards)

DEBUT NOVEL
Wildflowers from Winter by Katie Ganshert (Waterbrook/Multnomah * Editor: Shannon Marchese)
Proof by Jordyn Redwood (Kregel * Editor: Dawn Anderson)
A Sweethaven Summer by Courtney Walsh (Guideposts Books * Editors: Beth Adams/Rachel Meisel/Lindsay Guzzardo)

HISTORICAL
Where Lilacs Still Bloom by Jane Kirkpatrick (Waterbrook/Multnomah * Editor: Shannon Marchese)
At Every Turn by Anne Mateer (Bethany House * Editor: Charlene Patterson)
The Discovery by Dan Walsh (Revell * Editor: Andrea Doering)

HISTORICAL ROMANCE
To Whisper Her Name by Tamera Alexander (Zondervan * Editor: Sue Brower)
A Promise to Love by Serena B. Miller (Revell * Editor: Vicki Crumpton)
Short-Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer (Bethany House * Editor: Karen Schurrer)

MYSTERY/SUSPENSE/THRILLER
Downfall by Terri Blackstock (Zondervan * Editors: David Lambert/Sue Brower/Ellen Tarver)
Gone to Ground by Brandilyn Collins (B&H Publishing * Editor: Karen Ball)
The Soul Saver by Dineen Miller (Barbour Publishing * Editors: Rebecca Germany/Jamie Chavez)

NOVELLA
You’re a Charmer, Mr. Grinch by Paula Moldenhauer (Barbour Publishing * Editors: Rebecca Germany/JoAnne Simmons)
Impressed by Love by Lisa Karon Richardson (Barbour Publishing * Editor: Rebecca Germany)
A Recipe for Hope by Beth Wiseman (Thomas Nelson * Editor: Natalie Hanemann)

ROMANCE
The Accidental Bride by Denise Hunter (Thomas Nelson * Editors: Natalie Hanemann/L. B. Norton)
Saving Gideon by Amy Lillard (B&H Publishing * Editors: Julie Gwinn/Julie Carobini)
An Uncommon Grace by Serena B. Miller (Howard * Editor: Holly Halverson)

ROMANTIC SUSPENSE
Tidewater Inn by Colleen Coble (Thomas Nelson * Editor: Ami McConnell)
Saving Hope by Margaret Daley (Abingdon Press * Editor: Ramona Richards)
When a Heart Stops by Lynette Eason (Revell * Editor: Andrea Doering)

SPECULATIVE
Daughter of Light by Morgan L. Busse (Marcher Lord Press * Editor: Jeff Gerke)
Judge by R. J. Larson (Bethany House * Editors: David Long/Sarah Long)
Daystar by Kathy Tyers (Marcher Lord Press * Editor: Jeff Gerke)

YOUNG ADULT
Prophet by R.J. Larson (Bethany House * Editors: David Long/Sarah Long)
Like Moonlight at Low Tide by Nicole Quigley (Zondervan * Editor: Jacque Alberta)
The New Recruit by Jill Williamson (Marcher Lord Press * Editor: Jeff Gerke)

The ACFW press conference at ICRS also spotlighted and paid tribute to a key influence in Christian fiction, the 2013 recipient of ACFW’s Lifetime Achievement Award—author Frank Peretti. ACFW CEO Colleen Coble expressed the motivation behind selecting Peretti to receive the Lifetime Achievement honor.

“Frank Peretti has been called a publishing phenomenon when listing bestseller status, longevity of titles, and numbers of books,” said Coble. “His readers, however, talk of ‘life-change,’ ‘shifts in the way I thought about prayer,’ ‘the reason this reader was moved to take up writing,’ ‘changed my life forever,’ ‘made a commitment to Christ after reading his stories,’ ‘his books aided in my walk with Jesus,’ ‘God brought healing in my life through the book,’ ‘the first work of overtly Christian fiction that actually felt genuine (those years ago when I read Peretti in high school).’”

Coble continued, “An author, thinker, and innovator whose storytelling has affected untold numbers since his books first reached bookstore shelves, Frank’s efforts continue to resonate. On behalf of readers, writers, and the publishing industry, thank you, Frank Peretti.”

Peretti and winners of the Carol Awards will be honored at the ACFW conference in Indianapolis at the award gala on Sunday night, September 15 at the Hyatt Regency. Keynote speaker for the 2013 conference is Robin Jones Gunn. Authors, aspiring authors, industry guests, and representatives from every major CBA publishing house and literary agency will gather for this premier Christian fiction conference. www.acfw.com/conference

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Why Christian Fiction Writers CAN'T Cross Over to the General Market

I left the ministry for a job in the “secular” world. And it was the best thing that ever happened to my ministry.

You see, all those years huddled around Christians, entrenched in evangelical culture, interacting mostly with those who thought like me, those who shared my beliefs, values, and terminology, those who rarely challenged my opinions or forced me to evaluate the nuances of multicultural interchange, left me out of touch with the larger world.  Leaving that cloister was a shock at first. Yet eventually, working alongside those of, sometimes, radically different religious and philosophical persuasion, was revelatory. And much needed. All those Scriptures about being Christ’s witnesses, the salt of earth, the light of the world, being wise in how we act to outsiders and making the most of every opportunity, always being ready to give an answer to those who ask us about the hope we have, and going into the world and making disciples of all nations, seemed to come to life.

In a way, the Church had insulated me against the very thing Christ had called me to do!

So when I joined the Christian fiction community, I was rather shocked to see the same insular calcification I’d witnessed in church.

  • Christians,
  • writing for Christians,
  • agented by Christians,
  • published by Christians,
  • reviewed by Christians,
  • sold in Christian book stores,
  • given Christian awards…
  • and very defensive when it came to their Christian industry.

Yikes! Didn’t these folks realize we were called and commissioned to reach the culture, not isolate ourselves from it? Had they skipped those verses about letting their light shine (which can only be done in the dark)? I mean, why worry about “how we act to outsiders” if we rarely interact with them? Weren’t we just talking to ourselves?

Literary agent Chip MacGregor touched on this in his regular Q&A column recently. He asked Is crossing over from the CBA to the general market possible? and veered this way:

…from an agent’s perspective, many faith-based writers simply don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to writing for non-Christian readers. They aren’t part of the non-faith world, they don’t hang out with non-Christian people, they don’t watch non-religious TV or listen to radio programming that’s antithetical to their beliefs. In essence, they CAN’T speak to that group, because they don’t know the language.

And then Chip goes on to illustrate this using a Christian writer who, apparently, needs to get out a little more.

I was in a meeting a few years ago with a well-known Christian personality who wanted to “write a book for the general market.” She was big news, so we were all excited… until we saw her idea. It was basically an outline drawn from the book of James, with verses to support every point. When I tried to explain to her why that book would NEVER be picked up by the general public, she didn’t understand me. “But it’s TRUTH,” she argued. “It’s GOD’S truth, and people will see that if they would pick it up and read it!” You see, she just didn’t grasp the fact that the majority of readers won’t listen to that argument… The general book culture isn’t interested in books from a strict evangelical viewpoint. Other Christians are, but the general reading public are not. And that’s an issue I face regularly with faith-based authors.
So no, for most religious writers, “crossing over” is a very, very difficult task.

As usual, I appreciate Chip’s candor. His observation that Christian authors’ inability to speak to the “world” is a direct result of them not being enough IN the world, is incredibly important. So in many ways, the CBA is reflective of our insular evangelical culture. But sadly, I’ve learned that this is an observation many Christian authors bristle against.

Christian authors CAN’T speak to general market readers because they don’t know their language.


And the reason is because we’re too busy talking to ourselves.

In the “secular” world, you don’t have the luxury of demanding that everyone watches their language, dresses appropriately, minds their theological Ps and Qs, and follows the Gospel program. In the “real world,” the impetus for “adjusting” is on us. We are the ones who need to season our conversation with salt and be wise in how we reach and speak to “outsiders.” However, as Christians, writing to Christians, published by Christians, speaking in Christianese, we never have to worry about that.

In a way, Christian fiction culture has insulated us against the very thing Christ had called us to do!

Your thoughts? 
 

* * *

Mike Duran is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket, and is represented by the rockin' Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary. Mike's novels include The TellingThe Resurrection, an ebook novella, Winterland, and his newly released short story anthology Subterranea. You can visit his website at www.mikeduran.com.

Psssst! Have You Heard...

...about our contest?

Although the 2013 flight of Novel Rocket's Launch Pad Contest: Boosting You Out of the Slush Pile took off earlier this year, there's still time for you to get on board.

Maybe.

If you're an unpublished novelistif you've completed a manuscript in the Middle Grade/Young Adult, Romance, or Speculative Fiction genresyou can join the ranks of other writers who have received a boost by participating in this event.

Interested? Check out the official rules at the Launch Pad tab. Questions? Contact us at NovelRocketContest@gmail.com.

Ready to play? Download the entry form here. Pay the entry fee using the PayPal button at the bottom of the Launch Pad tab. Then, following those Official Rules we talked about, email us your entry form, the first 3-4000 words of your manuscript, and the story's synopsis. If you're like most of our entrants, you'll think it's worth your while!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Deanne Gist's Musical Tribute - Show Vs. Tell


Words, Words, Words. I’m So Sick of Words!
by Bestselling Author Deeanne Gist

Remember that song from My Fair Lady?

Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words!
I hear words all day through;
First from him, now from you!
Is that all you blighters can do?

Don’t talk of stars burning above;
If you’re in love, Show me!”

That’s the song I force myself to focus on when I’m writing. Because, honestly, if I had my druthers, I’d rather tell. It’s so much easier.

“Tell me no dreams filled with desire.
If you’re on fire, Show me!”

But when I try to “show” the reader, what’s my first instinct? To rely on clichés.

“Here we are together in the middle of the night!
Don’t talk of spring! Just hold me tight!
Anyone who has ever been in love’ll tell you that
This is no time for a chat!”

And, sadly, our readers are no different than Eliza Doolittle in this respect. They don’t want to read a story, they want to experience it. And the best way to accomplish this is by evoking emotion.

I know. Easier said than done. Still, we writers have a toolbox. And if we forage around in it, we’ll find a very powerful tool. It is the one Eliza is so adamant about: Let’s see some action!

A great example of this can be found in Jane Yolen’s, Sleeping Ugly. It’s a children’s book about a princess who is pretty on the outside and ugly on the inside. Watch how Yolen uses a show-don’t-tell technique to convey the princess’s inner qualities.

TELLING: Princess Miserella was mean.
SHOWING: Princess Miserella liked stepping on dogs. She kicked kittens. She threw pies in the cook’s face. And she never—not even once—said thank you or please.

Don’t you just love that? Showing is so much more powerful because it causes feelings within us to bubble up. That is our character’s single most important function: To cause the reader to feel.

When I read about a princess who steps on dogs and kicks kittens, it calls up feelings of hostility and outrage. It is so unheroic that I take an immediate dislike to her.

Now, let’s have a look at Plain Jane (who is plain on the outside, but pretty on the inside). In this scene, Jane has earned three wishes from the fairy godmother and Princess Miserella is none too happy about it:

“The princess stamped her foot.

‘Do that again,’ said the fairy, taking a pine wand from her pocket, ‘and I’ll turn your foot to stone.’

Miserella stamped her foot again. It turned to stone.

Plain Jane sighed. ‘My first wish is that you change her foot back.’”

After reading this, my heart immediately went awwwww. I like this girl. I like her a lot and I’m going to root for her the entire rest of the book.

I hesitate to break this down even further, but the truth is, we’re trying to get our readers to judge our characters. I know. Not exactly a friendly mission, but there it is. And neither you nor I can restrain ourselves. When we read a passage presented in the right way, we pronounce judgment on that character and, if the author is very skillful, the passage will draw a physical response from us. The whole reason we laugh, cry, tense up, swoon, bite our nails, or feel our pulse began to race is because the author has engaged us. The author has wielded her show-don’t-tell tool and evoked our emotions.

Like all rules, there needs to be a balance. If we attempt to maintain a high level of emotion all the way through the book, the reader will be too exhausted to enjoy it. So, balance the peaks with some quiet valleys. But even in a restful state, we have feelings.

“Don’t wait until wrinkles and lines
Pop out all over my brow,
Shooooooooow me now!”

Leave a comment for your chance to win* a copy of Deeanne’s brand new release, It Happened at the Fair.


Entrants must have a valid mailing address within the continental USA.


 Deeanne Gist—known to her family, friends, and fans as Dee—has rocketed up the bestseller lists and captivated readers everywhere with her original historical and contemporary romances. A favorite among readers and reviewers alike, her popular titles include A Bride Most Begrudging, A Bride in the Bargain, and Maid to Match. Her latest book, It Happened at the Fair (releasing April 2013), is her ninth published novel.
A popular speaker, Gist’s presentations have been featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and in other publications. The Wall Street Journal’s accompanying online video was the most watched video on the FrontPageWSJ.com website for several days following their feature.
Gist has a background in education and journalism. Her credits include People, Parents, Parenting, Family Fun, Houston Chronicle and Orlando Sentinel. She is also the creator of I Did It!®, a parenting line of products. Gist lives in Houston, Texas with her husband of thirty years. The couple has four grown children. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Stephanie Landsem ~ a Visual Writer


Stephanie Landsem writes historical fiction because she loves adventure in far-off times and places. In real life, she’s explored ancient ruins, medieval castles, and majestic cathedrals around the world. Stephanie is equally happy at home in Minnesota with her husband, four children, and three fat cats.  When she’s not writing, she’s feeding the ravenous horde, avoiding housework, and dreaming about her next adventure—whether it be in person or on the page.

Some say a writer is born and others say anyone can learn. What say you?

Both. Some people are born with a love for words, others with a love for movement, numbers, or other gifts. Those of us that love words have to learn how to use them effectively. If you want to write, it’s not enough to know a well-turned sentence when you see one. It takes diligence to be able to use those words we love to craft a plot, characters, and ultimately a gripping story.

Was there a specific 'what if' moment that sparked your latest release story?

Yes, I was sitting in church, listening to the gospel reading from John about the Samaritan woman at the well. I started by wondering about her, then about the people around her. I wondered what effect five husbands would have had on a daughter. The name of her daughter, Mara, which means bitter, came to me, and I knew that I wanted to write Mara’s story.

Do you have a full or part time day job? If so, how do you balance your writing time with family and work?

I have four children ages 19 down to 12, and I’m lucky that I don’t work outside the home. Just keeping food in the house is a full time job! I try hard every day to balance work and family. Some days I manage better than other days. With one book releasing, another in editing, and another due in 9 months, I often feel like I’m twirling several plates in the air and wondering which one will come crashing down. Thankfully, I have a great husband who helps out and those four kids are learning to cook and clean like pros.

Did anything unusual or funny happen while researching or writing this book?

Yes. One of my characters turned into a completely different person on me. When I first started writing The Well, Shem was just a wayward Samaritan with a chip on his shoulder. But as I continued to do some research into Samaritan history and what Biblical scholars say about Samaritans, I discovered something surprising. This bit of research completely changed the way I looked at Shem and took his story in an entirely new direction. I won’t say any more, but you’ll understand when you read the book.

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

I’m a very visual person. I need to see things in print to learn them, and I love to see historical places in person to really get the feel for them. Unfortunately, I’ve never been to the Holy Land. I use lots of pictures, most of them are on The Well board on Pinterest. To get an idea of my upcoming books, The Thief, you can look check out this board.

Are you a plotter, a pantster, or somewhere in between?

When I wrote The Well, I didn’t even know the difference between a plotter and a pantser. With my second book, The Thief, I tried a little bit of both, but I think for my third book I’ll turn to the dark side: I’ll be plotting it all out before I ever put a word on the page.

Have you discovered some secret that has helped your process for writing?

Don’t despair. It always looks terrible right after you write it. Sometimes, I just want to highlight the whole chapter and hit delete. But it never fails that the next day, when I look at it again it isn’t nearly so bad. Sometimes, there are even bright little nuggets of gold that I hadn’t seen before.

What are your thoughts on critique partners?

I don’t know what I’d do without them. I have several and they have saved my life and my sanity. After a book or two, they know your weak spots better than you do and point them out with gentle but brutal honesty.

Do you prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing?

I’d have to say I like editing a better. As I mentioned, I write a terrible first draft. I wouldn’t let my critiquers, my best friend, or even my mother read my first draft. It’s that bad. But when I sit down to it again, at least I have something to work with, even if I must completely rework a page and it ends up looking nothing at all like what I began with.

What's the most difficult part of writing for you ~ plotting, setting, characterization?

Setting. When I first wrote The Well, I hardly described anything. After doing all my research, I could picture the places in the story so well that I just completely forgot to describe them. My first readers said they couldn’t SEE the story. I looked at it again and realized that they were right. Now, I’m careful to describe the setting before jumping into action and dialogue, which are my favorite parts to write.

What's your strength in writing (characterization, setting as character, description, etc)?

Since The Well is my first book, I’m still not sure what my strength is. I do know that I’m most comfortable writing what I like to read. So, I’d rather write a sword fight, a chase scene, or an argument than describe a scenic vista or delve into my characters thoughts.

Did you have any surprising discoveries while writing this book?

By the time I turned the final draft of The Well in to my editors at Howard Books, I felt like I never wanted to see that book again! I knew it backwards, forwards, and sideways. So when I got the final line edits a couple months later, I was sure that reading through the whole book again would make me crazy. Surprisingly, that wasn’t so. By a few pages in, I remembered how much I liked Mara and Shem and was glad to see them again. I actually enjoyed reading it that last time.

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

My husband worked at home while I was writing The Well. He’s an extrovert, I’m an introvert. He talks a lot and listens to music, I like complete quiet. Therefore, The Well was written mostly at my public library or in the car while I waited for kids. But, about a year ago, my husband started working in town and I got a whole office just for me! It’s lovely and quiet and has plenty of room for bookshelves, a big desk, and a lovely couch for napping . . . I mean, for reclining while I do my research. This is the winter view from my office.

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

There’s just no other way than BIC HOK. Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard. It’s the only way to get it done. Then revise, revise, revise.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

Eating half a pound of peanut butter M&Ms won’t actually help you get that scene written. Trust me on that.

The Well

Could he be the one we’ve been waiting for?

For the women of the Samaritan village of Sychar, the well is a place of blessing—the place where they gather to draw their water and share their lives—but not for Mara. Shunned for the many sins of her mother, Nava, Mara struggles against the constant threats of starvation or exile.

Mara and Nava’s lives are forever changed with the arrival of two men: Shem, a mysterious young man from Caesarea, and  Jesus, a Jewish teacher. Nava is transformed by Jesus, but his teachings come to late and she is stoned by the unforgiving villagers. Desperate to save her dying mother, Mara and Shem embark on a journey to seek Jesus’ help—a journey that brings unexpected love and unimaginable heartbreak.