Friday, September 19, 2014

It Starts with a Dream by Mary Alford


Mary Alford

Most success stories don’t happen overnight. For many, it takes years of perseverance and hard work. But our goals can only be reached when we refuse to give up on our dreams. Author Mary Alford shares how her dreams finally came true. 
~ Dawn





It Starts with a Dream
by Mary Alford

It starts with just a simple thing … the dream.

I was about seven years old when my dream began. It started when I read my first Nancy Drew mystery and knew that I wanted to create stories when I grew up. That was it. Career settled. Life put neatly into place.

If only it were that simple. Fastforward six years and then I discovered Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt and became hooked on the romantic suspense genre. I had no idea when I decided to write that I was about to embark on a dream that would last a lifetime.

In the beginning, writing was a trial and error experience for me. I confess I tried other genres in the process before I came back to my first love, inspirational romantic suspense. Some wise author once told me, write what you enjoy reading and then perfect it. In other words, if you don’t read contemporary romance, then don’t try to write it.

Fast forward again many years later. For me, my ten years of writing came down to just five minutes in the spotlight. In 2012, I entered the Speed Dating Contest that editor Emily Rodmell hosted, and I was one of the lucky ones who got an appointment to chat with Emily. On the day of the pitch, I was on vacation in Colorado. At our cabin, internet service is nonexistent. I could have given up and said, well, that’s it, better luck next time, but I didn’t. My husband and I drove into the small town of Pagosa Springs where I did the entire chat on my laptop in the parking lot of the Ace Hardware Store.

Emily was kind enough to request a synopsis, although I was so nervous she probably didn’t understand anything I told her. I promptly sent the synopsis out to her. Then she requested the first three chapters followed by the full manuscript. With each request, I tried not to get my hopes up.

In December 2012, Emily called. To this day, I can’t tell you what she said to me other than that she wanted to buy FORGOTTEN PAST for Love Inspired Suspense. It was a surreal moment. One that still hasn’t fully sunken in yet. It's a great feeling to have your dream become a reality and even greater to hold your book in your hands.         

So my advice is simple to anyone whose dream is to become a published author. Keep writing through all the bruises and tough breaks the publishing industry can dish out (did you notice I said it took me ten years of writing seriously to become a published author?). Don’t give up when life gets in the way and makes it seem like your dream is a near impossible feat to accomplish. Keep writing because if you’re a writer that’s all you can do.    


Tweetables:

It starts with just a simple thing … the dream. Click to tweet.

Keep writing through all the bruises and tough breaks the publishing industry can dish out.  Click to tweet.

Don’t give up when life gets in the way and makes it seem like your dream is a near impossible feat to accomplish. Click to tweet.




Forgotten memories.  How can you have a future if you can’t remember your past?

Two years ago, Faith McKenzie died. The woman who came back to life after a brutal attack that took her memory and the life of her best friend, Rachel Jennings, wasn’t the same person who died. Faith doesn’t recognize the woman she’s become. In fact, she doesn’t remember a single thing about her life before waking up in a hospital room in Austin, Texas and being told how close to death she’d come. Although her doctors believe the amnesia is temporary, when weeks turn into months, the detectives working her case are convinced Faith is hiding something significant about Rachel’s murder. A few days after her release from the hospital, someone begins calling Faith’s apartment. At first, it’s just a couple of random hang-ups, until one day Faith hears the words that send her running for her life.

Reviews:

Romantic Times: 4 1/2 Stars!

Fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat action and false leads make this a keeper that gets more engaging as the story progresses. Faith is a strong character who shows that, despite insurmountable odds, God is in control.

--Marion Faith Laird

Where you can purchase Forgotten Past: Amazon; Harlequin



Mary Alford is a Texan whose debut novel, FORGOTTEN PAST is now available at Love Inspired Suspense. When Mary’s not dreaming up people in dangerous situations and writing them down, she’s also a mom, wife, grandmother, avid reader, a proud geek-girl. For occasional updates and news about upcoming publications, please go to the contact form on her website: www.MaryAlford.net and subscribe to her newsletter!

You can learn more and connect with Mary here:
Twitter: @MaryAlford12



Thursday, September 18, 2014

Golden Calves and Summer Stories by Heidi Chiavaroli

Heidi Chiavaroli
As I finish up my fourth manuscript, prepare to attend the ACFW Awards Gala in St. Louis, and evaluate my summer with both my family and my writing, I feel a nagging prod to look at myself closely.

It’s not a pleasant prod. More like a pointy icepick sort of prod. You know the feeling that something within your spirit needs to be addressed, but you’d rather ignore it? Rather stuff it deep inside, bury it far behind other secrets and shames you’d like to ignore—behind that half-gallon container of ice cream you ate while alone in the house, behind that argument where you lost your temper with your husband or children?

Yeah, way back there.

As I prepared to write this post, I couldn’t ignore the niggling feeling any longer. I looked for other topics, blamed my lack of creativity on the recent edits I accomplished. But the feeling couldn’t be ignored.

And I wonder if maybe I’m not alone.

This summer I gave myself a writing deadline. I wanted to submit my work to my dream agent by the beginning of September. And I did finish. Only the satisfaction wasn’t as complete as it should have been. And I realized why this week.

You see, idols are more than golden calves.

They come in a variety of forms, but to me, this summer, I made my writing into an idol. I placed it before other responsibilities, before my family, even before my God.

My summer was not incredibly peaceful and I’m ashamed to say that maybe I even knew why. This is not my first rodeo with the Writing Idol. But I kept shoving the knowing aside, burying it deeper, putting my plans and goals ahead of what—and Who—I knew to be more important than all else.

This summer is done. I can’t get it back. I can only ask for forgiveness, learn from it, and look forward. I can only fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith.

I am so thankful I don’t have to keep looking into a mirror and evaluating all my failures. Instead, I can look through the window of faith at Jesus and all He has already done for me.

It is my prayer that we would be diligent in reminding one another of this truth. As writers—and especially as Christian writers—it is easy to get caught up in our stories, in what we believe and hope they will accomplish in the name of our Savior.

I know I, too often, look to my own small efforts and feeble attempts. I forget to look through that window to where Christ has proclaimed, “It is finished!”

Thank God for His saving grace. Thank God for His ability to unearth the ugliness of my spirit and love me into true obedience.

Have you ever discovered your writing to be a golden calf? What helps you from falling into this way of thinking and believing?

****
Heidi Chiavaroli writes History Woven in Grace. She is a wife, mother, disciple, and grace-clinger. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and has finaled in the Genesis contest and My Book Therapy’s Frasier contest.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Publishing Envy by Robin Johns Grant

Like all of us who take this writing for publication life seriously, Robin Johns Grant has had her share of ups and downs, but she's looking to the right source for help. -- Sandy

Robin: I confess. My name is Robin Johns Grant and I suffer from publishing envy.

I pursued a traditional publishing contract literally for decades, and that’s when the envy first started to creep in. While I submitted and suffered rejection and waited, I read about newbie authors who seemed to land contracts with no effort at all.

Then the self-publishing explosion came along to level the playing field, and I truly believe God guided me to go indie. I came out with my first novel, Summer’s Winter, in January.

For a while, it was a blast. No, I wasn’t selling thousands or making lots of money, but I seemed to be developing momentum, and I was getting endorsements and great reviews. I was out there! Published! And then…

Even as I learned about marketing and increased my efforts, sales tanked. I feel stuck again. It’s hard not to feel like a failure.

Meanwhile, I read stories like Colleen Hoover’s. She self-published and put very little money or effort  into it. She simply decided to publish a book so she could give copies to her family. Then a popular blogger reviewed her book, she started selling like crazy. And two years later, she has had five NYT best-sellers and two books optioned for movies!

And here I go again…publishing envy.

Does it ever seem to you that when God wants to communicate with you, He sends you the same Bible verse or story from all different directions? As I’ve been experiencing my slump, over and over God has sent me the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel. You know, Elijah going against the prophets of Baal to see which one could call upon their god to bring down fire from Heaven and ignite the wood on the altar? (SPOILER ALERT: Our God wins!)

It really excites me that God is sending me this story even as I’m praying about igniting my writing career. I mean, fire from Heaven would be like what happened to Colleen Hoover, right? Instant gratification and success. Yes!

God even told Elijah to soak the altar three times with water, so the success would be even more amazing. So maybe He’s just soaking my writing career to show His glory even more when the success comes…
His glory.

This is where I need to stop myself and get real. Elijah did not win Prophet Idol on Mount Carmel, bring himself fame and fortune and a movie deal. The whole competition was not about Elijah—it was about bringing glory to God. Actually, for Elijah, brought about death threats and exhaustion, even depression, all in the service of the Lord.


I call myself writing and publishing in service to the Lord. So maybe instead of revving me up and promising me that I, too, can be successful and famous—with very little effort! Fire from Heaven!—God is reminding me why I write. Reminding me that at times, however we serve him, it may be exhausting and discouraging. But that just as he did with Elijah, he’ll renew us and comfort us and get us going again. (SPOILER ALERT: God takes care of Elijah in a totally cool, supernatural way. It involves ravens.)


Do you ever feel that "publishing envy" when looking at what other writers are accomplishing?

~~~~~

ROBIN JOHNS GRANT has been writing for most of her life. While waiting for her writing to pay off, she wrote and edited university publications; managed an office for a team of private investigators; and worked as a university financial aid counselor. She also did a lot of crazy fan stuff and developed fascinations with books and movies like Harry Potter and Star Wars, which helped her dream up Jeanine and Jamie for Summer's Winter.

Robin now has her best day job ever as a college librarian, which keeps her young by allowing her to hang out with students.  She lives in Georgia with her wonderful husband Dave and formerly feral feline, Mini Pearl. Robin is celebrating the release of her first novel, Summer's Winter, a romantic suspense about preacher’s daughter Jeanine and her obsession with troubled film star, Jamie. Keep up with Robin and her writing at http://www.robinjohnsgrant.com.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Writer's Avoidance, Part 1 by Jerusha Agen

Writer’s block. Everyone’s heard of it—the ultimate enemy of the writer. Or is it? With my own writing efforts (notice the word choice there), I’ve come to realize that my “writer’s block” is a lot closer to writer’s impatience and that neither is really the biggest obstacle to my writing. My nastiest nemesis is—deep breath as I admit this—avoidance. Let’s call it Writer’s Avoidance (gives it so much more dignity, don’t you think?).

At first when I started to see the symptoms of avoidance, I attributed it to the difficulties peculiar to whatever manuscript I was working on at the time. “This one’s just more challenging,” I’d say. “It’s an adaptation instead of a new story.” Or, “It’s a new genre for me, a new length for me.” The list went on until recently, when I started another manuscript in a familiar genre, and the same thing happened.

For me, the avoidance kicks in when I’m in the plotting stage. (You seat-of-the-pants writers out there may not reach the avoidance stage until later on when you lose your grip on those pants and, in a weak moment, wish you’d planned out the ride.) I’m so excited about the prospect of starting a fresh story, but when I sit down to put the plot on paper, I don’t get far before I stall. The reasons are varied, but my response is always the same: I start to avoid working on the novel. After all, I only experience feelings of failure, frustration, or downright panic when I try to make progress, so isn’t it natural to stay away? The avoidance is subconscious at first, and I take a while to admit that avoidance is what I’m actually doing.

I may be the only person who has this impractical tendency. If I am, I give you leave to laugh at my idiosyncrasies, but in case there are other creative, crazy types like me out there, I’m going to give you a checklist of symptoms so you can figure out if you’ve fallen prey to Writer’s Avoidance. (Disclaimer: People with Writer’s Avoidance may not experience all of these symptoms or the symptoms may manifest themselves in alternate ways.)
  1. You start eating a lot more chocolate and taking more snack breaks when you’re working on your manuscript.
  2. Your house begins to look like a Better Homes and Gardens feature thanks to compulsive cleaning sprees.
  3. You keep checking the clock for the approach of the nearest mealtime.
  4. Those piles of papers and old mail disappear and get organized. (How could you ever be expected to write in such a chaotic environment? Organizing really could be considered necessary to facilitate your writing.)
  5. You eat more chocolate.
  6. Facebook and Twitter (or Pinterest) become your new best friends. (You’re only on there to market your books. It’s not a waste of time when you’re furthering your career, right?)
  7. You take up walking in the middle of your usual writing time. (You’ll feel more creative if you’re healthier!)
  8. You eat more chocolate.
  9. You check your phone every ten minutes. (Your agent could be trying to reach you or your smartphone could be trying to tell you about some essential writing-related tweet that you must retweet to your followers.)
  10. Yeah. More chocolate.

Any of these symptoms sound familiar? Please share! And join me next Tuesday to find out how we can end avoidance.

Angie here - what do YOU do to avoid writing? Is one of the above your favorite (like the ones involving chocolate)? Leave a comment below and join the conversation.

Click to Tweet
Jerusha Agen is a lifelong lover of story--a passion that has led her to a B.A. in English and a highly varied career. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Jerusha is the author of the Sisters Redeemed Series, which includes the titles This Dance, This Shadow, and This Redeemer. Jerusha co-authored the e-books A Ruby Christmas and A Dozen Apologies from Write Integrity Press. Jerusha is also a screenwriter, and several of her original scripts have been produced as films. In addition, Jerusha is a film critic, with reviews featured at the website, www.RedeemerReviews.com

LINKS:
Website: www.SDGwords.com

Twitter (@SDGwords): https://twitter.com/sdgwords 
Facebook (Jerusha Agen - SDG Words): https://www.facebook.com/JerushaAgenSdgWords 


Not all prisons have bars. Charlotte Davis should know—she’s lived in one for years. She can handle getting slapped around by her boyfriend, Tommy, and even being forced to do things she would never choose, but when Tommy turns on her 10-year-old daughter, Charlotte must try to escape. With nowhere else to turn, Charlotte runs to the stranger her dying mother believed would help her. Looking only for shelter or cash, Charlotte finds a family she longs to call her own and a gentle man she could learn to love. But if Tommy catches up with Charlotte, these strangers could discover the truth about her. 

Will they send her back to Tommy? Or can a Father’s love set her free?

Monday, September 15, 2014

In the Baking of the Bread

Marianne Evans
My family has this thing about fresh-baked, hand-made onion bread. It’s a household staple passed down from my grandma, to my mom, and now, to me. I love being the one to carry on the tradition of baking bread because, as I’ve often joked with my kids, it’s a sure-fire way to get them to pay a visit, and I turn into a genuine rock star when I give them a loaf to take home.

Besides, is there a more beautiful aroma than that of baking bread? For me, when wisps of onion-zested steam carry through the kitchen, I know I’m home—not just in a logistical sense, but in an emotional sense that stems straight from the heart.

But just like the process of creating one of those heart-tugging, engaging books that grace store shelves and e-readers everywhere, my bread doesn’t just conveniently materialize into those four delicious loaves. Making bread from scratch requires time, patience, and yes, even some physical effort. It’s a commitment.




The way I see it, creating the proposal for my book is like mixing the opening ingredients: the yeast, sugar and warm water. My goal is to activate, and coax that combination into a healthy rise…think plotline and character development. Next, I turn that story into words. That’s the elbow grease. That’s the mixing of flour, the kneading, the pushes and palm presses that stretch and form the dough into something that, given just a bit more patience and refinement, will become something cohesive...and delicious.

But we’re not done yet. There’s the rising—and the baking. In my writing world, that’s like the process of editing, proof reading, all the final details that lead to the production of a finished and worthy product. I’ve learned writing, like bread baking, is all about layers and the way each step in the road, each component of creation, is vital to the overall result.

Because after that comes the reward. Upon removal from the oven, when I see those golden brown loaves laid out on a cooling rack, my heart always quickens. Warmth and tantalizing scents fill the air; there’s a visible promise of nourishment.



Within the pages of my stories, I hope readers find moments to savor, moments that leave them feeling full and in some small way satisfied. I savor the continuity of the creative process just as much as I love that process and flavors of fresh-baked bread. Both are hard-earned but fantastic treats.

And the time spent? It’s so worth it – on a number of levels.

What’s your treat? What’s the gift you share that connects you to others? I’d love to hear about it, and pray for your mission!



Tweetables!

Baking bread & the layers of writing!

Effort equals results...in bread baking, and writing!

~~~~~




Marianne’s new series, Sisters in Spirit, has released from Pelican Book Group! This prelude to the new imprint Pure Amore is available at Pelican Book Group and at book retailers nationwide! Pure Amore is a subscription service featuring Christian romances centered on the concept of mutual purity and abstinence that doesn’t surrender one moment of the thrill to be found when two people fall in love!

You can check out Aileen’s Song, Book 1 of Sisters in Spirit at: http://www.pelicanbookgroup.com/sis/

And here’s more information about Pure Amore: http://pure.pelicanbookgroup.com/

Happy reading!

~~~~~

Marianne Evans is a multi-award-winning author of over twenty Christian romance and fiction novels. Her hope is to spread the faith-affirming message of God’s love through the stories He prompts her to create. Readers laud her work as: ‘Riveting.’ ‘Realistic and true to heart.’ ‘Compelling.’ Devotion, earned the prestigious Bookseller’s Best Award from Greater Detroit RWA as well the Heart of Excellence Award from Ancient City Romance Authors. She also earned wins for Best Romance of 2012 from the Christian Small Publisher's Association and the Selah award for best Novella of 2013. Happily married and the mother of two, Marianne is a lifelong resident of Michigan who is active in a number of a number of Romance Writers of America chapters, most notably the Greater Detroit Chapter where she served two terms as President.

Connect with Marianne at: www.marianneevans.com

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ane Mulligan’s Journey to Publication



Ane Mulligan
I’ve known Ane Mulligan through American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) for years, so although we’re not close friends, I was thrilled when she received her first contract. Ane has given so much to the writing community by hours of volunteering, her association with Novel Rocket, and overall support. It’s a joy to celebrate the release of her debut novel with her. 
~ Dawn




 
Ane Mulligan’s Journey to Publication

My journey to publication hasn't been short or easy. In 2003, the hubs told me to write a book. I quickly realized that was God's call, because as soon as Hubs said it, God turned on a light and an idea dropped into my otherwise empty mind.

I found an online Christian critique group, who told me plainly I had a lot to learn. What an understatement. POV? Never heard the term. Omniscient? That's what God was. Show don't tell? How do I tell a story without telling? Yikes!

I spent the next three years writing and growing. In 2006, an editor took my manuscript to committee. While I waited for the result, expecting a contract naturally, I got an agent, but the editorial committee said no. Then, God called my agent into ministry.

I was discouraged and cried out to God, asking—okay, whining—why wasn't I getting published? I knew God called me to write. Stories bubbled in my mind all the time. I needed a sign. Then, an editor told me I'd learned the craft, giving me the encouragement to keep working.

I signed with my second agent, and in 2010, she called to say my manuscript was going to pub board. Yippee! Pub board loved it, but their slate that quarter was full, so the editor was going to hold it for the next one. Only she retired before that and her computer hard drive was wiped clean. I was lost in cyber oblivion. Then my agent retired.

Do you see a pattern here? Once again, I whined. And God said, "Wait. Trust me." He didn't offer me another choice, so I chose to trust. He gave me a new agent after some specific prayer, and soon, we received an offer for a 2-book contract.

But once again, God said no and we turned it down. By this time, I began to wonder if I'd ever publish. Yes, that was my goal, but if God had something different for me, I was fine with it.

Then, in August of 2013, nearly eleven years after I began this journey, my agent called me to tell me we had an offer from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. And my heart quickened. All right, God! This was it. This time, He said, "Yes."

There are two things I've learned during this journey. Never ever give up, and God must be part of the equation. He has a time and place for each of us.

I believe people let down their guard when they think they're being entertained. Through fiction, I can entertain readers. Through fiction, I can present seeds of God's truth. Then when they least expect it, the story can reach out, touch their hearts, and change them. And isn't that why we write?




Tweetables:

Two things Ane Mulligan learned during her journey to publication—never ever give up, and God must be part of the equation. Click to tweet.

Through fiction, we can entertain readers—through fiction, we can present seeds of God’s truth. Click to tweet.

Through fiction, we can entertain readers. Then when they least expect it, our stories can reach out, touch hearts, and change people. Click to tweet.





With a friend like Claire, you need a gurney, a mop, and a guardian angel.

Everybody in the small town of Chapel Springs, Georgia, knows best friends Claire and Patsy. It's impossible not to, what with Claire's zany antics and Patsy's self-appointed mission to keep her friend out of trouble. And trouble abounds. Chapel Springs has grown dilapidated and the tourist trade has slackened. With their livelihoods threatened, they join forces to revitalize the town. No one could have guessed the real issue needing restoration is personal.

With their marriages as much in need of restoration as the town, Claire and Patsy embark on a mission of mishaps and miscommunication, determined to restore warmth to Chapel Springs —and their lives. That is if they can convince their husbands and the town council, led by two curmudgeons who would prefer to see Chapel Springs left in the fifties and closed to traffic.




While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, Ane has worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that's a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. President of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband, her chef son, and two dogs of Biblical proportion. You can find Ane on her Southern-fried Fiction website, Google+, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and Pinterest.