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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Author interview ~ Lisa Carter

As a frequent speaker and vocalist at women’s ministry events, Lisa Carter shares her own journey of faith regarding the sufficiency of the cross and His grace in her life. Aloha Rose, a contemporary romance in the Quilts of Love series, released this month. Her debut romantic suspense novel, Carolina Reckoning released in August. She is a member of ACFW, RWA, and Sisters in Crime. She and her husband have two daughters and make their home in North Carolina. When she isn't writing, Lisa enjoys traveling to romantic locales, quilting, and researching her next exotic adventure. Visit Lisa's website and for behind-the-scenes photos, visit the Aloha Rose board on Pinterest

Lisa, what sparked the story of Aloha Rose?

Long ago, a college friend shared her struggles regarding her adoption with me. Her unanswered questions—despite a loving, adoptive home—about the most fundamental of identity issues such as who she was, where she came from, why she’d been given up for adoption, and what all this meant for the person she’d become. A void lingered inside her that she yearned to fill.
Years later, she related how she'd located her birth father in Hawaii and how a wonderful, new chapter in her life opened. Through a difficult personal journey, she and her family had come full circle.

Two days after my reunion with my college friend, my agent and Abingdon Press asked for a book proposal involving romance tied to “every quilt has a story” for the Quilts of Love series. Reflecting on my friend’s story, the seed of Aloha Rose was born. Hawaiian quilts are very different than other traditional quilts. And just like my friend’s emotional journey, Laney Carrigan in Aloha Rose and the Lokelani quilt come full circle, too.

What would you do differently if you were starting your publishing career today?

I feel that my entire career has been in God’s hands. He led; He opened doors; He closed other doors.

Maybe I’d learn to be better at Twitter? Maybe not.

Share a bit of your journey to publication.

In 2009, God laid a story upon my heart and a compulsion to write it down that wouldn’t go away. I’d written for myself, as a freelancer, and for church organizations most of my life. But during this season in my life, God literally compelled me that now was the time to get serious about my secret dream of writing down the stories swirling in my head and that these stories were to be used for His glory. I wrote the story that became my debut, Carolina Reckoning, and God led me to a person who suggested a writing conference.

I attended the conference and God led a multi-published romantic suspense author to take a mentoring interest in me. I attended several more conferences and God was always faithful in leading me one step further along the road to publication. I wrote three other manuscripts; I listened; I studied; I learned more about the craft of writing and the publishing industry. In 2011, I received the call from Abingdon Press regarding my Aloha Rose proposal. But Carolina Reckoning actually became my first published novel, releasing in August 2013. It has been a whirlwind of fun, hard work, and ministry ever since.

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

I move around a lot during the day. I start out—(this time of year) underneath a cozy, flannel quilt I made—on the couch beside the gas logs. When the power on my Mac goes, I shuffle upstairs to re-plug and recharge at my desk in my office. Later, I may shift to a loveseat in the sitting area of my office. By the time my children arrive home from school, after a daily school debriefing, I return to the downstairs sofa to do last minute, end of day stuff while dinner preparations are in process.

What would you do if you didn't write?

I taught school the majority of the time I wrote my current and upcoming releases. Now as a full-time writer, if I wasn’t writing I’d be reading and having lunch with friends. And volunteering more at church and school. And possibly—although this is debatable—actually preparing better, more nutritious meals.

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

Marketing is a necessity for an author in this age of publishing in the 21st century. But marketing and promotion eat up a significant amount of writing time. I’m still working to balance the marketing versus writing versus real-life responsibilities of being a wife and mother. Some days are better than others. Some days are more successful than others.

How do I handle it? I pray a lot. And depend on God a lot. The days I try to do it on my own are usually the failure, I’ve-let-everybody-down days.

What are your top 3 recommendations for a new writer?

Read in your genre. A lot.
Write every day.
Attend the best conference once a year you can afford.

Then what 3 things would recommend not doing?

Don’t listen to the lies of the Enemy.
Don’t listen to the nay-sayers.
Don’t give up.

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

I think a writer’s unique “voice” is God-given. Discovering your voice is often a result of trial and error. I think anyone can learn to write to a certain degree—otherwise there would be no need for English teachers and high school graduation requirements.

But one of the most encouraging things to me as a writer came from Elizabeth George—”You will be published if you possess three qualities—talent, passion, and discipline.”

And the most important of these? Not talent, or passion. But discipline—perseverance. The ability to keep on keeping on. Writing one word after the other. Never quitting. Never giving up.

What's the strangest or funniest experience you've had in writing?

Olivia’s story in Beneath a Navajo Moon—releasing March 2014—came to me in a dream. The whole thing in its entirety.

But being a pantser writer—I know the beginning and the end but the middle is quite murky—therefore, writing each story by the seat of my pants is a huge adventure. I’m living moment-by-moment, scene-by-scene with every character and sometimes they do the funniest/strangest/most surprising things I did not foresee.

Do you prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing? How do you feel about research?

I love research and do most of it before I ever write the first word. I love the exhilarating time when I’m crafting and creating the story. Those months of writing the first draft are enormously thrilling and rewarding to me as I see a story, theme, and pretend people’s lives come together. Editing makes it better. I view the first draft being like a great slab of stone and it’s my job to chip away past the flaws to reveal the story contained within. That’s what editing means to me.

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

I am such a visual writer. I cannot begin until I have “cast” my characters with real people faces. They cannot live and move and have their being in my mind until I do this. I collect visual settings for scenes, too. I love Scrivener and utilize the research and character functions for this purpose.

What are your writing rituals?

After getting my children off to school, I like to read over the last scene I wrote the day before to plunge myself back into the novel moment. Then, I’ll go for a walk or bike ride, allowing the stream of my unconscious to flow and work it’s magic on the chapter or scene I know I need to write that day. I get into the shower and literally and figuratively allow the stream to continue. By the time I’m ready to sit down at the computer, I’ve actually visualized entire scenes and segments of dialogue in my mind and the words “flow” onto the screen.

Do you work best under pressure or do you write at a leisurely pace??

While teaching, I had to be very disciplined to write in the 2 hour segments I would have after returning from school myself and waiting for my children to get home. I’ve learned to “salt” the creative mine while occupied with other tasks and then once seated at the computer to be ready to go with the next scene.

Sure, I love leisurely writing time. I’d written 6 complete novels before my first ever hit the shelf. I’m so thankful for that breathing space between contract and publication. Because now, its go, go, go with writing and marketing demands.

What are your thoughts on critique partners?

I participated in a critique group with a wonderful foursome of lady writers I met at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. For over a year we met once a month to critique chapters, encourage and pray for each other. I write extremely fast once I get going and my writing style benefits more from having one critique partner go over my final, best edited version manuscript.

Any final thoughts?

I hope Aloha Rose will make readers laugh. It may perhaps make you cry. But most of all, I pray Aloha Rose will warm your heart with the greatest of loves, God’s love for you.

Aloha Rose

When Laney Carrigan sets out to find her birth family, her only clue is the Hawaiian quilt in which she was found wrapped as an infant. Centering her search on the Big Island and battling fears of rejection, Laney begins a painstaking journey toward her true heritage. Kai Barnes, however, is determined to protect the people he’s come to regard as family. He thinks Laney is nothing more than a gold digger and blocks every move she makes toward her Hawaiian family. As their conflict escalates, it puts at risk the one thing that Kai and Laney both want most—a family. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Time—The Stuff Life is Made Of Five Tips on Finding More of It -- Anita Higman


Time—The Stuff Life is Made Of
Five Tips on Finding More of It

by Anita Higman

Benjamin Franklin said, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.” 

Okay, I don’t know anyone who gets up in the morning with the idea of squandering their time, and yet we all do it. At the end of the day, we wonder how all those precious hours slipped away. Where did they go? But, the time is indeed gone, and there’s no getting it back.

However, there is good news. We can train ourselves to use our time more wisely. I am not a time management expert. However, I am an author, and that has forced me to work a little smarter, since with each passing year, I’m expected to help out more and more when a book is released. That is, more participation in a publisher’s promotional efforts. More social media. More blogging. More out-of-the-box marketing. More everything.

With some tweaks, though, in my management of time, I have more hours for promotion, more time to spend with my grown kids, and even more time for refreshment, such as those empty-nester vacations. So, here are my five tips for organizing that precious thing called time. 

Tip Number 1: You’re Not Superman 

I think it’s vital to accept this truth—WE CANNOT DO EVERYTHING. It’s not humanly possible anyway. To think otherwise will only make us perpetually angry or make other people perpetually angry at us. Or we’ll be fatigued all the time or make ourselves ill trying to be super author or super anything. Also, when it comes to donating our time (even to good causes) we need to be discerning. Sometimes the word “no” is appropriate, even though it might be uncomfortable to say it. So, after we accept our limitations, and we’re able to choose our extracurricular activities wisely, we’ll automatically have more time for what’s important. 

Tip Number 2: Delegate is a Beautiful Word 

What daily tasks could be delegated to other folks, either with the help of volunteers or with a bit of part-time paid assistance? For instance, I pay a webmaster to manage my website as well as some of my other online sites. My husband helps me with some of my smaller jobs that I no longer have time for. Do you know someone who can assist you, say, a few hours a week? 

Tip Number 3: Multitasking Still Works

When I watch a movie with my husband, I use that time for a potpourri of boring and time-consuming tasks, such as sewing on buttons, ironing clothes, or bleaching my teeth. I might let a clay mask dry on my face, jump on a mini-trampoline, do floor stretches, put an icepack on my back if it’s inflamed from a long day at the computer, fold laundry, or anything else I can think of to do that might otherwise consume my time unnecessarily. I admit, though, that if it’s a movie I haven’t seen yet, or a new episode of Downton Abbey, then I may sit and enjoy it, calling it a special treat. But if it’s a rerun or a movie I’ve seen before, then I pull out my various ta-do chores. 

Tip Number 4: Cook Smart

When making meatloaf or spaghetti or other dishes that freeze well, make extra, enough for several dinner-sized portions to thaw and heat on evenings when you’re out of groceries. Also, while I’m just standing there cooking and tending the evening meal, I might mull over a few manuscript page, or scribble notes on a proposal or brainstorm some book titles. 

Tip Number 5: What to do With All That Waiting! 

Right now, I’m sitting in the dentist’s office, and I’m busy writing this very article on time management while I’m waiting. I’m utilizing a personal writing tool called the Neo 2. I take this small, handy device with me when I think I might end up playing “the waiting game.” Also, if I’m standing in a long line, I sometimes read a book. There are so many possibilities. When we’re in traffic we can listen to an audio book or a CD that builds vocabulary words or that teaches a language. Try brainstorming fresh ways to use what could potentially become “lost hours” in the future. Yes, be wise with your time, because as Benjamin Franklin said, “That’s the stuff life is made of.” 


Anita Higman is a CBA best-selling and award-winning author. Among her many accolades, Higman has won the Inspirational Reader’s Choice award twice. She has written or co-authored more than 30 books, including fiction and non-fiction for adults and children, as well as plays. Higman has also been recognized for her contributions to literacy and has raised thousands of dollars with her book I Can Be Anything while serving on the board of directors of Literacy Advance of Houston.

Even though she’s written in many genres, Higman does have her favorite. “I love inspirational romance. There’s just nothing else like it for writing and reading. It naturally makes you want to curl up on an overstuffed couch and read the day away.” Her latest release is A Marriage in Middlebury

She loves good movies, exotic teas and brunch with her friends. Higman and her husband live in Houston, TX.


To keep up with Anita Higman, visit anitahigman.com, become a fan on Facebook (Author Anita Higman) or follow her on Twitter (@anitahigman).

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Being Thankful When You’re Not


Why me?

Why did I end up with a post on Thanksgiving on a website to encourage other writers? Why, when this writing season of mine has been driest I’ve experienced in years, and with my recent job hunt, threatens to be the toughest season of all? Writing a post on Thanksgiving could only mean one thing. I had to come up with some platitude of why I’m thankful for my writing journey and sound sincere, right? Well, if you’ve come to know me and my writing you know I can’t fake it. Don’t even want to try. Besides, a while ago I already mentioned what I would change about my writing journey, so being less than truthful would be, well, lying, and I have my tagline to maintain. Always Real, Sometimes Raw, Definitely Redemptive. So let’s see if I can keep with my brand and the title of this post.

Let me start by saying I’m very thankful for many things in my life. God. Family. Friends. Health. I’m even thankful for the little things like dancing and not having a full time job right now so technically I should have more time to write. I’d also be amiss if I didn’t mention my loyal critique partner who pushes me just enough, but still I’m not consistent in my writing to give him anything to do but make bitstrip cartoons of him taunting me. So it’s not that there is nothing to be thankful for, it’s about sometimes not feeling it because my focus is off.

So my advice for being thankful when you’re not…


Feel
Don’t fake it until you make it just yet. Feel what you’re feeling. Write it out. Journal. Whine, gripe, and complain to safe, understanding people and get it out of your system. You’ll be surprised that when the negative emotional energy passes through your body, you’re left with peace. Which leaves room for…

Focus
It’s easy to be so focused on the big picture that you miss what’s right in front of you. You might have your life and career all mapped out. You see your destination, but if you don’t focus on your next step, the things you can control to hasten your journey, then you’ll drive yourself crazy and probably miss a few important pit stops.

Freedom
Freedom comes with a price. Examine your life and try and figure out what price you’re willing to pay for your freedom. Is it surrendering your writing to a process you might not understand? Is it working harder or smarter? Is it letting go of worry and taking things one day at a time?

I can’t guarantee if you follow my three simple steps that you’ll suddenly get all Pollyannaish, but I do think it’s a great place to start.

Your turn: How do you embrace thankfulness when you don’t feel it?




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, November 27, 2013

A REAL LIVE RED-HEADED, GREEN-EYED HEROINE?

Well, that’s Cindy Sproles in the flesh, complete with a beautiful smile, a contagious laugh, and outgoing personality. You can’t miss her. And I’m sure glad I didn’t.

I met her at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in 2004. She was a beginner, said she was scared, not sure what to do, but it sure looks like she’s done the right things.

“First,” she says, “I realized in order to write my best for God, I needed a deeper relationship with him.” She began to pray for understanding and ability. Then she put her fingers to the keyboard and focused on devotional writing. Not just occasionally. She wrote a devotion every day for four years. That’s determination!

Now, with all her other activities, she writes one devotion a week. Cindy, along with Eddie Jones, founded Christian Devotions Ministry (ChristianDevotions.us). The two of them penned He Said, She Said devotions for over seven years then collected them into the best-selling devotional titled… ta dah… He Said, She Said.

As she began to take her steps along her writing journey, one thing led to another. She learned the craft of writing devotions and began holding retreats for others wanting to write them. Her efforts did not always come easily, but typical of Cindy, she said, “When things get tough, God doesn’t call us to retreat. He calls us to advance.”

 One thing led to another and before long, The Billy Graham Training Center, The Cove, in Asheville, NC opened its doors for Cindy’s next venture. Now she is director of Writers ADVANCE! Boot Camp.

"I understand how it feels to not know the lingo or understand what to do at a conference,” she says. "So I make it my goal to help new conferees make the best of their conference time.”

She has a love for the beginner, and delights in teaching new conferees, but the Workshop also offers a strong track for advanced writers. Between the amazing venue of The Cove, to the unique format of Writers Advance, conferees walk away filled up and sent out. That’s only one facet that makes Writers ADVANCE! so special.

Registration is limited and fills quickly for this reasonably priced conference held at The Billy Graham Training Center, better known as The Cove, in the panoramic mountains of Asheville NC. The conference dates are February 21-23, 2014 and registrations can be made through www.writersadvancebootcamp.com.

 I, Yvonne Lehman, am privileged to be included among the faculty. Some others are Steven James, Lynette Eason, Mike Dellosso, Ann Tatlock, Lori Hatcher, Edie Melson, Denise Loock, Janet Roller and of course, our red-headed, green-eyed heroine who makes ADVANCE such an enjoyable, instructive, happy time for writers.

In 2011, Cindy’s collection of devotions, New Sheets, was a finalist for a Selah Award. She has a very unique, creative concept for this book. She writes: Need to change your husband? Change your sheets. Want to change jobs? Change your sheets. Long for a new life? Just change your sheets.

God uses our life experiences to shape us. When the friction of frustration chaffs the skin, God offers us respite and rest. Sleeping on worn-out sheets meant holding on to the past, but new sheets...new sheets marked a fresh start. The slate wiped clean. Crisp. Fresh. New.

With each monumental event in her life, she tossed out the old and ushered in the new with a set of fresh new sheets. From the cheapest muslin to the most expensive Egyptian cotton, she saw how God was shaping her into the woman she needed to be.

Cindy has come a long way in her writing journey. She speaks for women’s conferences and writers conferences nationwide. She is an acquisitions editor for Lighthouse Publications of the Carolinas.

In 2014 Kregel Publications will release her first novel, Where the River Begins. Cindy sounds like a heroine to me… and she’s very likeable!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Best POV ~ First Person or Third?


There's an ongoing debate over using first or third person when writing a novel. I started out writing in third person. When I had trouble starting a new project, I switched to first person and the story took off.

That's when I realized POV isn't a matter of style or voice. The story dictates how it wants to be told.

I love how the "rules" on first/third person are changing. I've seen novels with the protagonist in first person and the other POV characters in third person. What truly matters is a well-written story that's mesmerizing.

The best story is intimate

Deep POV can be as nearly intimate as first person. That's because deep POV means more than simply showing the scene from that character's perspective. It means staying completely true to his/her view of everything. You can't slip and tell something the character can't possibly know.

Nor can you write a scene in a manner untrue to the POV character's personality or backstory.

What does that mean? It means not showing other characters as they truly are, but only as the POV character thinks they are. If your protagonist, we'll call her Nancy, had a run-in with a bully in the 1st grade, and this bully was a brown-eyed blonde named Julie, then Nancy is going to have a natural aversion to any brown-eyed blonde named Julie. Instant conflict, especially if your character Julie is a sweet woman who only wants to be friends.

It also means staying true to only what the POV character's knowledge. Whether you're writing historical or contemporary, resist imparting any information the character wouldn't or couldn't possibly know. In historical writing, that would also mean the words they used.

One of my critique partners used a word I thought was too modern for her character. I looked it up in the etymology dictionary and discovered the word had its origin about 10 years prior to the story. BUT ... did that mean the character would know it? This was 1838. No Internet or Google. However, the character's father was an educator, so I realized she could very well have known the word. I didn't suggest a change.
 
One of the best books I've ever read for staying true to the character's knowledge is Jessica Dotta's Born of Persuasion.  Written in first person, Dotta stays true to her protagonist's worldview. She never tells the reader anything the protagonist doesn't know, so through much of the novel, the reader isn't always sure who some of the characters really are.

There's mystery attached, simply by resisting the urge to let the reader know what's really happening. It brings your reader totally inside the POV character's head, allowing the reader to experience the novel, not merely read it.

And isn't that the goal? Hey, nobody ever said writing a novel is easy. Being an author ain't for wimps.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Myth of Daily Word Count

#wordcount -- That's the Twitter hashtag for writers wishing to chronicle their cumulative daily word count. It's not surprising such a hashtag exists. After all, setting a daily word count has become one of those near non-negotiable writing rules. Usually, that number is 1,000 words, give or take, with an appropriate "off day" here or there. Thanks to "professionals," seminars, and how-to books, the Daily Word Count has become etched in stone, so to speak, as a necessary writerly discipline.

It's led to all kinds of "helpful" tools, like free apps to track your daily word count, tips for achieving your daily word count, and even ways to DOUBLE your word count. Hooray!

Confession: I've never adhered to a daily word count for myself. Despite this, I've managed to complete three full-length novels (one as-yet unpublished), a short story anthology, and a novella. Not to mention publish well-over 1,100 blog articles. All while working outside the home 40 hours a week.

Of course, this may be evidence that I'm OCD. However, I'd like to think it just exposes the squishiness of the daily word count advice.
This is not to suggest that setting yourself a goal and working to achieve it is wrong. At its essence, this is what the Daily Word Count is supposed to do -- prod you toward completion. Which is good. But like any "rule," it can become a shadow of the original intent and shackle writers to the "letter of the law" rather than the "spirit of the law." Not to mention, it doesn't always respect or incorporate the uniqueness of our individual personalities and stations in life.

Here's three things I've used to replace the Daily Word Count mantra in my reperatoire, which have made my writing more fluid and fun.

#1 -- Focus on the number of projects you complete rather than daily word count. Perhaps it's just me. Heck, it might just be hair-splitting. But looking at the big picture helps me better navigate the day-to-day. This probably doesn't work for everybody. In my case, it allows for flexibility (which is key to my own creativity), rather than the "tyranny" of having to adhere to a regiment. Obviously, if you're not "completing" ANYTHING, a daily word count might be good for you. I've personally found it's better to focus on completing projects rather than choking out a predetermined number of words.

#2 -- Respect your station in life. Let's face it, much of the professional advice out there is aimed at someone who's pursuing a full-time writing career. In that case, having a daily word count makes sense. However, for those of us who work outside the home, raise children, care for a sick family member, etc., the Daily Word Count can seem a ball and chain. Sometime in 2011, while struggling to meet the deadline for my second novel, I experienced some weird health issues, one landing me in Urgent Care. This is embarrassing to admit, but it was diagnosed as stress related. It scared me, and led me to reevaluate my approach to writing. Bottom line: I had to give myself permission to NOT write. Not only was this refreshing, it improved the time that I DID write. Likewise, respecting your station in life, whether calling, career, or short-term circumstance, can be important to a realistic writing schedule.

#3 -- Distinguish between cranking out words and honing ideas. No amount of words will make a bad idea better. I'm one of those oddball Plotters who needs to know where I'm going before I start up the car. As a result, I often write in fits and starts. When I reach a place in a manuscript with a plot hiccup or hole, I CANNOT just keep plowing forward. Sometimes, I must give myself a break from word count production to let an idea gestate or to do some research. Perhaps this is simply the difference between writing and editing. I tend to blur those lines either way. Point is, sometimes it's not about getting words on a page, but honing ideas, characters, and plot elements.

As Pablo Picasso said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” The bottom line issue is that writers write. You MUST get words on a page, inspiration must find you working, whether it's by following a daily word count or ad-libbing. If adhering to a daily word count is not working for you, you might consider stepping back from your writing. Maybe it's time to look at the bigger picture, readjust to your station in life, or simply give yourself the freedom to hone the story as opposed to bulking it up.

* * *

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, follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

ONCE BURNED by Cynthia Ruchti

My seven-year-old grandson bragged that he now knows how to make a grilled cheese sandwich all by himself. And was eager to prove it to me.

So while I was roasting a ham and boiling potatoes to mash, he dragged a footstool to the stove, got out the proper pan, found a butter knife for the cow-sized slather of butter he used on the bread he'd found in the lazy susan, and prepped his sandwich.

He was careful and knew all the safety rules. But just as I snapped this picture, he made a mistake. He tried to straighten the cheese. His thumb brushed the edge of the pan and burned his tender skin.



Like most of us, he tried to ignore it. But the sting was insistent. So was I. I insisted we use the burn spray and tend to his small but distinct minor burn. He insisted on finishing his cooking project as soon as the thumb was doctored.

"Okay," he said, "now I need a spatula."

I watched as he carefully flipped the sandwich, watched as he bravely pressed on past his stinging thumb, watched as he grew up a little. I watched too as he presented his finished product--a perfectly browned grilled cheese sandwich…and a wide smile with one tooth missing.

His thumb will heal. And he'll make more grilled cheese sandwiches, undeterred by the set-back.

Are we adults as tenacious?

If once burned by a friendship, do we shake it off and try again with that same friend? Once burned by a church, an employer, a business deal, a purchase...?

Do we shy away from the hard things that sting us in the process of learning? Or do we press through because that's how a person learns how to make grilled cheese?

Some authors experience a stinging disappointment with a publisher, or a marketing fail, or a string of contest entries that don't even final, or a book signing that afforded a lot of time to make conversation with the store staff and no book sales, and their reaction is resistance to try again. They assume the sting signaled failure, a reason to give up trying.

But persistence despite difficulties is where our growth lies.

The Apostle Paul expressed it this way: "We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we aren't crushed. We are confused, but we aren't depressed. We are harassed, but we aren't abandoned. We are knocked down, but we aren't knocked out," II Corinthians 4:8-9 CEB.

The conclusion of that passage of Scripture includes this life lesson that seems especially fitting for those of us who wrestle to turn stories into books for the sake of the readers who will find their own story hidden in the pages. "All these things are for your benefit. As grace increases to benefit more and more people, it will cause gratitude to increase, which results in God's glory (4:15).

How sad it would have been if my grandson had let a blister on his thumb stop his cooking career. Today, grilled cheese. Tomorrow, spaghetti.

Today might mean a negative review. Tomorrow might bring a deep heart-to-heart connection with a reader…if we persevere.



Cynthia Ruchti looks back on decades of preparation for her current work as an author and speaker who tells stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark. Her latest releases are When the Morning Glory Blooms (novel, Abingdon Press Fiction), Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People's Choices (nonfiction, Abingdon Press Christian Living), and Mornings With Jesus 2014 (devotions, Guideposts). You can connect with her at www.cynthiaruchti.com or www.facebook.com/CynthiaRuchtiReaderPage.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Library Journal Names Their Picks for Best Christian Fiction of 2013




Library Journal--Best Books 2013: Christian Fiction

2013bbWebChrisFicb Best Books 2013: Christian Fiction
See all of LJ’s 2013 Bests
Blackstock, Terri. Truth Stained Lies. Zondervan. (Moonlighter, Bk. 1). ISBN 9780310283133. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780310289333.Fan favorite Blackstock launches another suspenseful series with a crime blogger determined to prove her brother innocent of murder. “Crisp prose, an engaging story, and brisk pacing make this thriller another home run.” (LJ 2/15/13)
Carr, Patrick W. A Cast of Stones. Bethany. (Staff & the Sword, Bk. 1). ISBN 9780764210433. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781441261021.A drunkard, a priest, and their companions flee assassins as the medieval fantasy world they inhabit faces opposition to the ascension of a new king. This series debut by a promising CF author is a winner. (LJ 2/15/13)
Holmes, Gina. Wings of Glass. Tyndale House. ISBN 9781414366418. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781414381923.A girl marries for true love, but her Prince Charming turns into an abusive beast. Holmes’s novel “deftly [portrays] an abusive relationship in a way that will help readers understand why battered women don’t immediately leave their abusers.” (LJ 2/15/13)
Lee, Tosca. Iscariot: A Novel of Judas. Howard: S.& S. ISBN 9781451683769. $22.99; ebk. ISBN 9781451683943.With a fresh, sympathetic re­interpretation of a familiar biblical character, Lee steps out of coauthor Ted Dekker’s shadow to examine Judas Iscariot’s life from childhood through his years as a disciple and to his fateful decision to betray Jesus and its aftermath. (LJ 2/15/13)
Petersheim, Jolina. The Outcast. Tyndale House. ISBN 9781414379340. pap. $13.99; ebk. ISBN 9781414386058.When a single woman in an Old Order Mennonite community becomes pregnant, she is shunned for keeping the father’s name secret. Petersheim makes an outstanding debut with this original and inspirational retelling of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. (LJ 6/15/13)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Debut Novelist Amy Matayo—Forget the Excuses and Follow Your Dreams!

by Edie Melson


Today I’m excited to introduce debut novelist, Amy Matayo. Her first book, The Wedding Game, just released on November 16.


Cannon James has a plan: Sign on as a contestant for his father’s new reality show, marry a blonde hand-picked by the producers, and walk away two million dollars richer. It’s all been arranged. Easy. Clean. No regrets. Until Ellie McAllister ruins everything by winning the viewer’s vote. Now he has to convince America that he’s head over heels in love with her. Not easy to do since she’s a walking disaster.

Ellie McAllister has her own problems. She needs money, and she needs it now. Despite her parent’s objections and her belief that marriage is sacred, she signs on to The Wedding Game…and wins. Now she’s married to a guy she can’t stand, and if she wants her hands on the money, she has six months to make voters believe she loves him. Not easy to do since he’s the most arrogant man in America.

It doesn’t take long for Ellie and Cannon to realize they’ve made a mess of things…even less time for their feelings for one another to change. But is it too late for them? More importantly, can the worst decision they've ever made actually become one of the best?

NR: I first met Amy first during ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) 2012. She had just won the Genesis Contest in the Contemporary Romance category, for this specific book. How fun is that? 

Amy, can you give us a little background on your writing journey?

Amy: Well, I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl—maybe nine or ten—when I began pinning silly songs about angst and love (songs filled with heartbreak and longing, which I had absolutely no experience in but decided to write anyway—who knows why?). It’s an absolute mystery to me why none of those songs were ever picked up by a major record label.

When that career track didn’t work out, I moved on to writing short stories, poems, and anything else that popped into my mind. Eventually I wound up working at DaySpring Cards, where I worked as a writer and editor for seven years.

It wasn’t until five years ago that I began writing my first novel. Becoming an author had been my dream forever, but it took years for me to stop coming up with excuses not to start.

NR: I hear a lot of writers say that the first book they’ve written isn’t the first book published. Has that been the case for you or was The Wedding Game your first novel?

Amy: Haha no. The Wedding Game was my fourth book to write. I’ve written seven in all, and two others will release next year. On that note, the first two books I wrote will never see the light of day.

NR: You and I are both represented by Literary Agent, Jessica Kirkland, of the Blythe Daniel Agency. How did you meet your agent?

Amy: Well, that’s an interesting story. I spent years querying agents—have a shoebox full of over a hundred rejection letters to prove it. In 2012 I entered The Wedding Game in the ACFW Genesis contest, and it finaled in the Contemporary Romance category. One day while at work, I opened my email and saw one a subject line that read “Literary Representation.” With my heart pounding, I opened it and discovered that she had seen my book on the lists of finalists and was interested in the subject. She requested the full, and in only a couple of weeks I had an agent. A non-traditional way of going about it, but we work really well together.

NR: I know you’re recovering from the first week of your book launch, can you share some highlights and maybe something you’d have done differently during your career?

Amy: One thing I would do differently is time management. I am the world’s worst procrastinator. A lot of sleepless nights might have been avoided if I could learn to pace myself a little better.

As for highlights—just seeing my book release has been the biggest one. It’s a little weird to see your book release...almost like watching it happen to someone else. But it’s fun!

NR: I know you have other books in line to release. Can you give us a hint of what’s to come?

Amy: Love Gone Wild is a sort-of sequel to The Wedding Game. It’s also reality-show based and takes place in the Alaskan wilderness—a Survivor-type scenario.  And then later next year will come Sway, a New Adult romance that intersperses a political theme of separation of church and state.

NR: Final question, if you could travel back in time, what would you share with your earlier self to encourage her on the writing journey?

I would tell myself to start earlier! I’ve had this dream my whole life and with it came a list of excuses why the timing was all wrong. I would also tell myself to write what I want to write without following a strict set of guidelines. For me, it’s the only way to be creative.


Amy Matayo graduated from John Brown University with a degree in Journalism. Afterwards, she went to work at DaySpring Cards, where she worked for seven years. After the birth of her first child, she became a freelance writer for David C. Cook before pursuing novel writing full time. 

As the mother of four children with a husband immersed in political life, Amy has very little free time, preferring to spend that time enjoying intellectual pursuits such as: watching television with her feet propped up, watching movies with a bucket of popcorn, and watching her laundry pile high—with no desire to do it.

Connect with Amy through her website, www.AmyMatayo.com, Twitter and Facebook.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Are You Ready For Success?

Tamela Hancock Murray has been an agent for over 12 years. A bestselling, award-winning author of twenty novels, novellas, and nonfiction books, Tamela brings the perspective of a working writer to her role as a literary agent. As an agent she represents many top authors and continues to develop new talent. She earned her BA with honors in Journalism from Lynchburg College in Virginia. Today she enjoys living in Northern Virginia with her family. She can often be found reading books on her Kindle.

Are You Ready For Success? 

Here are just a few concerns I’ve seen from various published authors:
1.) I’m nervous about my advance. What if I don’t earn out? Steve Laube wrote a post called The Myth of the Unearned Advance. Do publishers make mistakes and give some authors advances that are too large? Yes, but earning out is likely because publishers know how to calculate their expenses and estimate expected sales of a book. If you do earn a big advance, don’t spend it all at once. In other words don’t act as if the windfall income will be normal and consistent. Careful planning of your finances is always prudent.
2.) Some people who were my friends when I was struggling don’t seem to be as friendly now. It’s easy to cry on each others’ shoulders when everyone’s unpublished but everything changes when someone in your group finds success. Bottom line: If your talent is spotted before your friends’, be a good mentor and support for them. If you are slow to be recognized while your friends sail by you, re-read this article for an idea of what they may be facing. Continue to support them and learn from being associated with a published author.
3.) I have a deadline. And here come the final proofs, which are due on Monday. And I have to write three articles for my blog tour. And… Be ready for a packed schedule. It happens to every successful author. Book deadlines will change your life for the better, but meeting them will be an adjustment. Plan out your schedule and otherwise be prepared to adjust your life accordingly.
4.) The edits are much, much more intense than I thought they would be. I think I’m going to cry. Go ahead. Cry. Then get to work. Your editor and publisher is partnering with you. Be grateful they care enough to make your book the best it can be.
5.) The edits on Book 1 have caused rewrites on most of Book 2 and Book 3. This is taking much more time than I thought. Will I have to ask for a deadline extension on my next book? And will that have a domino effect on the other books? You won’t be the first or last author to have this happen. Don’t worry. Since the editor has seen the requested changes, she shouldn’t be surprised when you ask for the extension. But if you can meet your deadlines, by all means do so, and with your best work.
6.) What if I fail? Put in your best effort at all times. Then if your book does fail, you will know it’s not because you didn’t make your best effort. Spend no time on regrets. Instead, plan with your agent on how to move forward. With God, nothing is impossible.
Your turn:
What makes you most nervous about the prospect of success?
What are some other issues you’ve seen published writers face? What was the solution?

What tips would you offer a successful author?