Friday, October 30, 2009

Behold the Dawn

I am happy to welcome K.M. Weiland to Joy in the Journey. This prolific young author writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in the sand hills of western Nebraska. She is the author of A Man Called Outlaw and the recently released Behold the Dawn

She blogs at Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors and AuthorCulture

Synopsis of Behold the Dawn:
Marcus Annan, a journeyer famed for his prowess on the battlefield, thought he could keep the secrets of his past buried forever. But when a mysterious crippled monk demands Annan help him find justice for the transgressions of sixteen years ago, Annan is forced to leave the tourneys and join the Third Crusade.

Wounded in battle and hunted by enemies on every side, he rescues an English noblewoman from an infidel prison camp and flees to Constantinople. But, try as he might, he cannot elude the past. Amidst the pain and grief of a war he doesn’t even believe in, he is forced at last to face long-hidden secrets and sins and to bare his soul to the mercy of a God he thought he had abandoned years ago.

The sins of a bishop.

The vengeance of a monk.

The secrets of a knight.

Excerpt from Behold the Dawn

He ran a hand over the saddle, checking the Baptist’s flat-bladed sword where it lay snug in its fastenings on the near side. “Fetch the food purse.” She had kept it near her during the night, and he hadn’t asked for it. What he had told her about having nothing to fear from him would sink in better if he stayed away from her.

He gave the cinch a final check and tossed another glance at the sky. With blessings from both the weather and the saints, he and the lady could be in Orleans within the month—if the horse held out that long. He patted the courser’s shoulder. The horse blew through his nostrils and tossed his head. He was a far cry from the bay destrier Annan had lost outside Acre, but then the bay’s stamina probably wouldn’t compare with the courser’s on a trek of this sort.

Without looking at him, Mairead handed him the heavy leather purse. “The horse should have a name.” It was the first offhand comment she had offered since he had met her two nights ago.

“I don’t name my animals.”

“Why not?”

He tightened the knot that would hold the purse to the saddlebow, then turned to where she stood fondling the courser’s dark head. Why indeed? The last animal he had named was the charger Lord William had gifted him with a few years before St. Dunstan’s. He had called the big stallion Caird. Since then, he had owned and lost countless beasts, some through the tourneys, some to pay his debts. Marek named them all, but Annan never paid him heed.

Mairead looked at him, and he straightened. “Animals without names are easier to watch die.” It was as good a reason as any.

“Oh.” Her mouth set in a firm line once more. “I see.”

She didn’t see, but he hadn’t expected her to. She had known the shelter of her father’s and then Lord William’s castles for too long; she couldn’t realize that the pain and the death that filled a man’s life were bearable only when kept at arm’s length.

She didn’t look at him until he had lifted her onto the pillion, and then her eyes met his only for a moment. But it was an unguarded moment. And in it, he sensed again a flash of pain—raw and burning—and he was reminded that perhaps Lady Mairead of Keaton was a woman who knew pain all too well.

He could guess at the cause. He could piece together the import of her fear and of Lord William’s words and of everything left unsaid in her own statements.

But, that too, like all the horses he had seen fall beneath him in battle or forfeited for melee ransom, was something he needed to leave unnamed, lest he open himself to the realization of what had been done to her. Were he ever to allow a crack to open in the mental barrier of sixteen years, that would be all the gateway his own pain and fear and anger would ever need.

He mounted, wincing at the groan of his old hip wound. Reining the horse around, he headed for the riverbank where the going would be smooth. Mairead did not brace herself with her arms around him as she had yestermorn during their escape from the prison camp.

He urged the horse into a trot to loosen its muscles. The courser stumbled, then righted itself, ears pointed ahead, hooves crunching in the pebbles.

Annan glanced to his left. By now, the stranger on the donkey should be too far away to hear them. He rubbed the horse’s rough mane with his knuckles. Let the horse hold out. It was as close to a prayer as he had come in a long time.

The lady didn’t speak until the campsite had almost disappeared around the river’s bend. “He deserves a name,” she said.

The breeze, cool and still heavy with the damp of night, slid across the thickening stubble of his cheek, whispered secrets in his ear, then blew past him to caress the countess’s long hair.

Lines knit themselves deep in his forehead. He touched the horse’s belly with his heel, and the animal leaned into a canter. “Then name him.”

Click here to see the book trailer.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Welcome Regency author Laurie Alice Eakes

Today my Encouraging Words for Writers comes from author Laurie Alice Eakes. Her first hardcover won the National Readers Choice Award for Best Regency, as well as being a finalist for Best First Book. She has also sold other books, articles, short stories, and essays. She lives in Virginia with her husband and assorted cats and dogs.

Welcome Laurie to Joy in the Journey. Thank you for using your gifts to uplift others.

"When you need encouragement, go to Under the NASV version and the field marked simply “search”, type in encourage. Just reading the verses that pop up is encouraging, from the Israelites being told to encourage Joshua, to Paul telling us to encourage one another.

The ability to encourage one another is a gift from the Holy Spirit. It’s not something I thought I was terribly good at. In fact, I often felt as though I was constantly drawing on others to encourage me. I felt like my golden retriever, who is a love sponge. “Tell me, please, please, please, that I can write, that I’ll sell, that every word I put down isn’t nonsense. Please. Please. Please!!!” Slurp. Slurp. Slurp.

The funny thing was, it didn’t work. About two minutes after the nice words came, I dropped back into the Slough of Despond into which I tumbled with each rejection, or sometimes worse, each day without word. Ironically, the despondency got worse after I’d made a couple of sales than before. Surely God wanted me to be a writer. “Look, there’s my name on that book over there.”

Yes, God wanted me to be a writer. What He wanted from me more, though, was to be an encouragement to writers, a teacher, a giver rather than a taker. When someone got good news, I needed to feel joyful for them with sincerity, not simply pay lip service to happiness for their good news, while my own heart sank. I had to realize that God had a special place for me in the writing community. For nearly two years, I realized that He had only given me my two sales to keep me in the field because He had a place for me amongst writers.

To say that you may not be getting that book contract you yearn to receive, doesn’t seem encouraging, especially when you can, as I could, if I’d kept them, paper your office walls with the rejections. Being a writer means being published.

No, being a writer for God means allowing Him to use you and your gifts writing. It may be the devotional that uplifts a depressed friend. It may be the blog post that gives another writer the impetus she needs to carry on with her own work for the Lord. It may be the memo that makes your boss look good. And, yes, it may be the novel that starts a new subgenre of fiction.

I want everyone who wants to be, to get published. I want to see everyone achieve her dream. More so, I want my fellow writers not to take as long as I did, to find the joy of knowing when I surrendered my day’s writing to the Lord, I truly meant it.

That is my encouragement to you. Surrender your will to be published, your will to sell more, your will to have more of an impact in the writing community or your home community, or the world, all to the Lord’s reasons for calling you to write. It’s freeing."

Post Script:

In the year since I have put serving God through my writing over writing with the sole goal of getting published, I have sold eleven more novels.

Laurie Alice Eakes, The Glassblower, December, 2009; (Editor’s Pick); The Heiress, April, 2010; The Newcomer, August, 2010; When the Snow Flies, August, 2010

Monday, October 26, 2009

NaNoWriMo--How it can help your writing

November 1-30 Thirty days and nights of literary abandon

If you’ve been around the writing circuit for very long, you know that next week marks the beginning of the annual NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. If you aren’t in the middle of a project or facing a deadline, I suggest you hop over to the website and sign up. There’s nothing like accountability to get the old juices flowing.

Has anyone tried this before? Someone challenged one of my writing groups to a similar exercise in June. It worked out perfectly for me. I was stalled at 25K words in a novel that was going nowhere. My premise was great. The key characters were hashed out. I knew where the book would end up. Yet nothing was happening. The challenge was exactly what I needed to dive in headfirst. By the end of the month I had added 52K to my original writing. The first draft of the book was complete! And guess what? It didn’t stink.

I solved all the major problems that had left me stymied up to that point. When you free yourself to just write and not worry about how it will come together, your subconscious mind has no choice but to take over.

What about you? Do you have a book idea that’s been pestering you for months but you don’t know where to go with it? Or you are too intimidated to tackle a project like a novel? Or you’ve had a few false starts but can’t get past the first fifty pages?

NANOWRIMO might be exactly what you’re looking for. You might surprise yourself. If nothing else, you will have the satisfaction of knowing you can do it. You can pump out 50K words in a relatively short amount of time and they may actually be something to build on.

Like so many other writers, I wonder why the powers that be chose November to begin writing a novel. November couldn’t be a worse time for most people to tackle something as daunting as a novel, with Thanksgiving and Black Friday and all the things that go into planning a holiday season.

But maybe that’s why they chose November. This way we can prove to ourselves that even amidst the busiest season of the year—with a little planning, discipline, and commitment—we can still write a novel. Or at least get a pretty good handle on it with 50 thousand words of a first draft.

The key is fastening your rear to the chair and staying there. The best thing about writing 50K words in a month is you don’t have time to edit. You don’t have time to second guess yourself or agonize over your hero's preoccupation with fighter jets and creating the perfect quiche. All you have time to do is pound out the scene and move on.

Quite liberating really. So take up the gauntlet. What have you got to lose? At the end of the month you can either be right where you are with your current novel, or you can have a solid first draft with the potential to become something worthy of submitting to a publisher.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Author Reaches 1.5 Million Sales Mark

THE WOODLANDS, TEXAS) On average, more than three hundred and fifty books by DiAnn Mills have been sold every day since the author released her first novel in 1998. With over forty novels, novellas, and works of nonfiction to her credit, it is not surprising that the author recently surpassed the 1.5 million sales mark.

How'd she do it and what can I learn from her achievements?

“This milestone in DiAnn’s career reflects her ability to connect with readers and build fans for her stories," says Karen Watson, Associate Publisher of Fiction at Tyndale House. "Beyond that, DiAnn is a model of professionalism and hard work for up-and-coming writers. She is a gracious woman blessed with a fun kick of imagination!”

Mills has often garnered recognition in her career, including multiple nominations for the American Christian Fiction Wrtiers Book of the Year; multiple appearances on bestseller lists, two Inspirational Readers Choice Awards, and a mention for the ECPA's highest award, the Christy. Colleagues state what lands Mills these accolades is hard work, perseverence, and the ability to write a book readers love.

"DiAnn has the ability to tell a compelling story, whether it be a romantic suspense or a historical, that just won't let the reader go. Unstinting in her research, she visits the settings she writes about and then brings them alive for us, her readers. Every DiAnn Mills book is a stimulating reading experience, which is how she has garnered so many copies sold," says Janet Grant, Founder of Books & Such Literary Agency.

Not content to merely gather accolades, Mills has plans to release several new novels in the coming months. Sworn to Protect the follow up to her March 2009 suspense novel Breach of Trust from Tyndale House Pubishing's Call of Duty Series will be in bookstores in the spring of 2010. Her historical, A Woman Called Sage from Zondervan Publishing is slated for a March 2010 release.

Sue Brower, Exective Editor of Fiction at Zondervan Publishing is especially excited to offer Mills' next novel to readers. "DiAnn is a joy to work with and I know her fans will be captivated by Sage."

When DiAnn was asked about this milestone in her writing career, she responded with her usual graciousness. "I'm truly honored and grateful to the many readers who have made this possible. I remain committed to my goal that readers can always Expect an Adventure."


DiAnn Mills is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope and Love, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a mentor for Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer’s Guild.

DiAnn Mills is available for interview.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Add Suspense--Shake Things Up

Want to write something awesome? Read awe inspiring books. I’m currently in the middle of rewriting a manuscript I wrote way back in 2006. Ever wonder if you are growing in your craft? Go back and read something you wrote a few years ago. Don’t despair if it makes you cringe. That means you are growing, evolving, becoming better with every book, every page.

My book has lots of potential. I love the story. But alas, there are a few things missing. It’s a romantic suspense. Sadly there is little romance. Worse, there is virtually no suspense.

Back to Square One.

In order for a book to be suspense and not women’s fiction or contemporary satire, the element of suspense must be integral to the plot. The hero or heroine must be in clear and present danger. My characters are not. They learn a lot through the course of the story. They grow into more compassionate individuals. But no one is in any real danger, and the romance is minimal at best. Not good if I intend to market the book as romantic suspense.

I just finished reading a romantic suspense by a prolific writer whose books I enjoy. Throughout the course of the story, the characters kept getting deeper and deeper in trouble. Suspense mounted with each turning of the page. The villain became more twisted and brazen while the hero and heroine kept discovering new reasons to survive and renewed determination to help them reach this end.

Now I need to figure out how to incorporate these methods into my own writing. My heroine isn’t the focus of a serial killer. She doesn’t have enemies from a past life bent on silencing her. Danger must lurk behind every corner. Suspense is always fun for me. I like coming up with twisted, convoluted situations. That’s my task for today. Delete mundane passages. Insert suspense.

What about you? Do you need to up the ante for your characters? Have they become content and complacent in their circumstances. Shake things up. Insert some suspense—regardless of your genre—and see what happens.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Encouraging Words for Writers

We’ve all been told that to break into publishing, we need to write a great story, one that editors can’t put down. But we’ve also heard tales of editors who have turned down a book that went on to be a huge bestseller. No one can predict how well a book will do, but an author’s first challenge is to get past editorial and marketing committees to make that actual first sale. And the waiting period, for some of us, can be far longer than we’d ever anticipated.

In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, biblical fiction was a fading genre, and I couldn’t sell my work despite my knocking on 28 different publishers’ doors. One editor did give me the suggestion to spin my story a different way, but novice that I was, I turned her down. Sixteen years later, (and after I had finally taken that editor’s advice) the series of my heart finally sold. Today, the genre is picking up and books on King David and other biblical characters are on the rise.

But what do you do when nothing you touch turns to gold? You’ve studied the craft, you’ve written a gazillion books that are lying dormant in a file on your computer, and you’ve done all of the right things – attended writer’s conferences, networked with agents, editors, and published authors. You’ve sold smaller pieces and built your portfolio, but for reasons known only to God, you just can’t break in. Rejection hurts in any form, but if you’re like me, after years of rejection, you start to wonder if you’ve been pursing the wrong dream.

Ephesians 2:10 tells us that God has created us to do good works that He has planned in advance for us to do. If we are in Christ, dearly loved children of God, then He is working in us, and has plans for us that only we can fulfill. He’s given us gifts and talents and desires that were placed there by Him. When we understand what those gifts and talents are, it is up to us to use them. But sometimes it’s not always easy to tell the exact way in which our gifts are to be used.

Sometimes our own self will can get in the way of God’s best for us.

How do we recognize when we are being too stubborn to listen to voices of reason, maybe even God’s still small voice telling us it’s time to move on, as opposed to persevering through the fiery trials of rejection to reach the goals we believe God gave us?

If we are obeying God in the things His Word commands and seeking Him with all of our hearts, then we should ask ourselves, what is it we love to do? Do we love to write? Are stories burning within us waiting to be told? Then to obey Him, we must write those stories to the very best of our ability.

But God has not told us what He will do with those good works He’s planned for us. He has only commanded us to do them. So write the stories of your heart, then place them in His hands. And keep placing them there even when the rejections come. Keep placing them there when doubts replace hope. And in the process, keep an attitude of submission – one that says you will follow Him to publication or to a completely different pursuit. You will even follow Him into the seemingly endless place called waiting.

If God has placed a passion in our hearts to write, we can do nothing less than write the words, pen the stories, create with all our ability. Then if publication is our dream, pursue it, doing all in your power to be the best you can be. But in the end, in the midst of your perseverance and rejections, keep those stories, those dreams and desires, in an open hand. The results are up to Him.

by guest host Jill Eileen Smith
The Wives of King David Series
Michal: A Novel - ECPA Bestseller!
Abigail - Releases February 1, 2010
Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Monday, October 19, 2009

What's holding you back?

A few weeks ago I decided to reach my goal weight by Thanksgiving. I've been struggling with those last few pounds for a year now and I am determined to get keep them from following me into the New Year.

As far as my writing is concerned, there are a few other things hanging around that I believe have kept me from getting a contract from a major publishing house. One of my biggest offenders: Head hopping, according to a friend of mine who is helping me polish my latest manuscript. I have a tendency to write my story through the eyes of whoever happens to be in a particular scene. It doesn't matter if it's a key player or a one time Joe who delivers roses to our killer's next victim.

Only tell the story through the eyes of your hero and heroine, my friend told me. Occasionally you may get into the head of the villian, but do so sparingly.

I don't know if I completely agree. As a reader, I like to hear the story through conflicting viewpoints. I think it offers a greater depth into each character. But I suppose the main character is the only one the reader really cares about. Don't share the love too much.

Regardless of how much I like to head hop, I want to get this book published. Even if I don't agree with every rule and nuance, at this point in the game, I should be willing to play by their rules. What's that old saying? He who owns the game, makes the rules.

I would be well advised to remember that.

So what about you? What last few pounds are holding you back from reaching your writing goals? Do you head hop? Do you rely too heavily on adverbs and adjectives? Do you prefer to make up your rules as you go along and hope to find a publisher willing to bend her guidelines to suit your manuscript?

Here are a few tips that might help you on your journey to achieving your goals starting this beautiful October morning.

1. Never ever, ever quit! Consistency and persistency are the keys to success!
2. Thoughts become things. If you think you can do it …you can do it!
3. Join a team. Find friends who offer support, accountability and motivation for whatever your goals are.
4. Don’t just sit there. Roll up your sleeves and get to work.
5. Have written goals. Use them to create your action plan.
6. Start with one new habit and build on that.


Friday, October 16, 2009

What to do when the lights go out

When God Turned Off the Lights

Author Cec Murphey

About the Author: Award-winning writer Cecil Murphey is the author or co-author of more than 100 books, including the "New York Times" bestseller 90 Minutes in Heaven (with Don Piper) and Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (with Dr. Ben Carson). He's also the author of When Someone You Love Has Cancer and Christmas Miracles, both 2009 releases. Murphey's books have sold millions and have brought hope and encouragement to countless people around the world.

Is it possible that God would use a time of spiritual loneliness and isolation in our life as an answer to our prayer for "something more?" That's what happened with best-selling author Cecil Murphey. In When God Turned Off the Lights (Regal, September 2009), he openly shares from his journey that seemed to be stalled in darkness.

Murphey decided to write about his months of seeking God in the darkness because he suspected his situation wasn't unique. "If this happened to me, a rather ordinary believer, surely there are others out there who have wept in the isolated blackness of night and wondered if they would ever see God's smile again."

Murphey could have handled this topic as a theologian and given pages of heavy, hard-to-read advice, but he chose to write from his heart and expose it for the readers to see. He talks honestly and shares his skepticism and frustration. He asks hard questions. And he lays out the steps of healing that brought him back to the light.

When God Turned Off the Lights is a book for those of us who ask, "What's wrong with me? Why are others living in the sunlight while nothing but dark clouds and darkness envelop me?" Readers will learn:
Why God turns off the lights
Why we have to have dark nights
Why asking "why" isn't the right question
What's worse than going through the darkness
How to feel worthwhile and accepted by God

Each chapter of When God Turned Off the Lights ends with an inspirational personal quote from Cec. Here's a sampling:

Although it may seem as if God is asleep when we go through deep darkness, could it be that God is most watchful in the moments of our despair?

Could it be that moving from why to what might take us one more step closer to the light?

Our task is to hang on. We wait until God takes us off hold and deals directly with us again.

God's provision is based on unconditional love - not on my faithfulness.

What to Do When the Lights Go Out

by Cec Murphey

If you sincerely desire to follow Jesus Christ, life won't always be easy. Many times the Bible promises victory, and you may need to remind yourself that there can be no victory without struggling and overcoming obstacles.

In my book, I used the image of God turning out the lights because that was how I perceived the situation. I felt as if I walked in darkness for 18 months. We all interact differently with God, and my experience won't be the same as yours. Even so, most serious Christians have times when God seems to turn away or stops listening. And we feel alone.

Perhaps it's like the time the Israelites cried out to God for many years because of the Egyptian oppression. "God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise...and knew it was time to act" (Exodus 2:24 NLT). God hadn't forgotten, of course, but from their perspective, that's how it must have seemed. It may seem like that to you if you're going through your own form of darkness.

Here are a few suggestions to help you:

1. Ask God this simple question: "Have I knocked out the lights by my failures? Have I sinned against you? After you ask the question, listen. Give God the opportunity to speak to you.

2. Don't see this as divine punishment (unless God shows you it is), but consider the silence an act of divine love to move you forward. This is God's method to teach you and stretch you.

3. Avoid asking why. You don't need reasons and explanations--and you probably won't get them anyway. Instead, remind yourself that this temporary darkness is to prepare you for greater light.

4. Say as little as possible to your friends. Most friends will want to "fix" you or heal you and they can't. They may offer advice (often not helpful) or make you feel worse ("Are you sure everything is right between you and God?").

5. Stay with the "means of grace." That is, don't neglect worship with other believers even if you feel empty. Read your Bible even if you can't find anything meaningful.

I chose to read Lamentations and Psalms (several times, especially Lamentations) because they expressed some of the pain and despair I felt.

6. If you don't have a daily prayer time, start one. Perhaps something as short as three minutes--and do it daily. Talk honestly to God. It's all right to get angry. (Read the Psalms if you're hesitant.)

7. Remind yourself, "I am in God's hands. This is where I belong and I'll stay in the blackout until I'm ready to move forward."

8. Pray these words daily: "But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults" (Psalm 19:12 TNIV). Some versions say "secret sins." These are failures and sins of which you may not yet be aware. One of the purposes of your darkness may be to bring those hidden problems to light.

9. Ask God, "What do you want me to learn from this experience?" You may not get an answer, but it's still a good question. Continue to ask--even after the lights go back on again. If you're open, you will learn more about yourself and also about God.

10. As you receive "light" about yourself while walking in darkness, remind yourself, God has always known and still loves me.

Tale of Tails with a Thirst for Verse

This morning I am happy to welcome award winning author James E. Tate to Joy in the Journey.

Tale of Tails with a Thirst for Verse is a "...Heartwarming book about life, love, God, nature, science, and family."A fun read." --SRD

A cross between William J. Bennett’s Book of Virtues (for prose), and both Ogden Nash and Robert Frost (for verse), the book works well for something to cuddle with or a thoughtful gift.

The first part of the book’s title was taken from this excerpt: “If you find a tail with a dog attached / say hi, and pat its head / If to the tail a Rottweiler’s latched / better nothing’s said.”

You’ll learn how to handle a talkative caller with, Rx for Phone Fatigue, “If the caller won’t quit / and you’re having a fit / to get off the phone / and you know it’s no use / to make an excuse / just ask for a loan!”

Another short poem describes the foibles of a prevaricator, titled, Never Applaud a Fraud, “No accolades for the man so sly / as to avoid some blame by telling a lie / but he earns respect if he takes reprove / and the risk of shame by telling the truth.” More serious is an inspirational poem: Finding Jesus, “When your heart feels a tug / and your soul wants to worship / and you feel a certain longing / deep within your spirit / just kneel in prayer / you’ll find Jesus there.”

Essays and articles fill nearly half of the book. Reflect on this snippet from, Magnificent Creation.

“Consider for a moment, the genetic attributes of the body, the gene pool from which we are made, and we become aware that our bodies are marvelous creations.” Another excerpt: “Thanks to aids such as the electron microscope, scientists have found a microcosm so complex it defies the greatest minds to unravel. Each DNA cell is one thousandth of an inch in diameter, containing fifty thousand genes to a cell! I suppose we can compare the makeup of our bodies to the complexity of the vast universe itself.”

For those that love intrigue, check out the story, A Sound in the Night and see how a boy, left at home alone with his sick dog handles mysterious noises in the night.

These and many more are carefully selected works from over 40 years of my writings covering life, love, God, nature, science and family. A book that’s different.

If you like to read about life, romance, pets and wildlife, religious and secular, this book is for you. It depicts varied subjects regarding fantasy, space travel, prehistoric creatures, Christmas stories, Bible characters, and much more.

See for more information.

Learn more about James and his writing journey on his blog.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Faint not in doing good

Promotion comes neither from the east or the west, not from the south. But God is the judge: he puts down one and sets up another.
Psalm 75: 6-7

Some days while I’m writing and the words flow like a stream after a spring rain, it’s easy to believe I have a special calling on my life. I am set apart for God’s use. He has a big purpose for me. My writing is meant to touch hearts and change lives.

Then I get word from my agent that another publishing house passed on my work. I log onto one of my writing groups and I hear of a multi-published author who just got a contract for three more books with a fantastic advance, and I come crashing to the ground.

What’s the deal? What am I doing wrong? When will God show me favor? I'm not typically a jealous person, but it's hard to rejoice over another's success when we've had nothing but rejection for months, or perhaps years on end.

Several times in the last few weeks I’ve talked to people, many of them writers, who are disheartened about the loss of a job or cut in pay or yet another rejection from a publishing house. It is easy to ask; “Why not me? I know I have a calling on my life. I’ve read published works that are ten times worse than mine. Why is So-and-so blessed and I'm not?”

You will drive yourself crazy trying to wrap your head around these questions. We won’t always understand why things happen the way they do, whether with writing or promotion at work or in relationships. The only thing we can do in times of trial and doubt is to keep doing well. Keep applying yourself at work. Keep growing in your craft. Use the downtime in your writing to read and study the markets.

Faint not in doing good. It will happen as long as we keep working, keep submitting, keep growing, and most importantly, keep the faith that God is bigger than we are and he has a plan for each life he put on earth.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Folklore and the contemporary novel

This weekend my husband and I traveled out to the country to participate in an arts and crafts fair. I’m not a very crafty person. I crochet and make a few things that find a small market everywhere I go, but I won’t get rich this way. The main reason I set up is to sell my books. If you have a book and a free weekend in the fall, you may consider these venues. Most people show up at these events ready to spend money. And many will agree an autographed book makes a unique and fun gift.

It also helps if you live locally. Anything within a hundred miles is considered local as far as I’m concerned. Even though this one wasn’t far from home, I met readers who had never heard of me. Visibility is the goal here. So this weekend we enjoyed the fall foliage during our trip into the hills of southern Ohio. Selling a box or two of books was just the icing on the cake.

But the biggest benefits by far from this craft fair and many others like it were the tidbits of local folklore I picked up. Fascinating stories I’d never heard before that would make great additions to my books. One story in particular was a book in itself. Writers live for these moments.

I always warn people never to say anything in front of me they don’t want to end up in a book someday. What goes into my ears now belongs to me to do with as I please. So the next time a reader wants to bend your ear about anything, don’t pass it up. You may end up with an idea for the next bestseller.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Interactive Fiction Series for Girls

Barbour Releases New Interactive Fiction Series for Girls

I learned of this unique and exciting idea through an email sent to the American Christian Fiction Writers group, and I’m thrilled to bring it to your attention today. I’m sure after you read about it, you’ll be excited as I am. Especially if you have a young woman in your life.

Barbour Books Uhrichsville, OH—Written specifically for tween girls faced with difficult decisions and lots of peer pressure, the new Scenarios series debuts with Truth or Dare and All That Glitters by Nicole O’Dell in August 2009. Lessons of right and wrong are put to the test when readers use their own decision making abilities in an eye-opening but safe way. Each book follows a character up to the point where she has to make an important, life-changing decision—then it’s the reader’s turn to choose!

In Truth or Dare, Lindsay Martin is faced with a tough choice: Does she give in to peer pressure and make her friends happy or does she do what she knows is right—even if it means losing her friends forever? All That Glitters finds Drew Daniels with popularity and a cute boyfriend—everything she thought she wanted. But now she’s faced with choosing between pleasing her boyfriend and doing what’s right. Tween readers make the choices in these interactive stories and discover how the consequences change Lindsay’s and Drew’s lives. Both books include a contract and prayer at the end to remind the reader of the importance of making godly decisions.

Truth or Dare by Nicole O’Dell. August 2009. $7.97. 192 pages.
ISBN 978-1-60260-399-8.

All That Glitters by Nicole O’Dell. August 2009. $7.97. 192 pages.
ISBN 978-1-60260-400-1.

Author Bio:
Nicole O’Dell lives in Illinois with her husband and six children, three of whom are triplets. With a heart for young girls and a special passion for the relationship between mothers and daughters as they approach the teen years, Nicole created the Scenarios: Interactive Fiction for Girls series to help girls develop sound decision making skills. Her writing also includes devotionals and Bible studies for women of all ages.

Nicole, I am so happy to have you here on Joy in the Journey to talk about this project with Barbour. Can you first tell us a little about yourself?

My husband is Wil O’Dell, and I’m a mother of six kids. They range in age from 17 all way down to my infant triplets. I work from home with all of my kiddos underfoot, which presents challenges of its own but has also been a huge blessing. The past two years have been interesting, to say the least. I spent several months on bed rest while I carried the triplets. Then, I was in the hospital for six weeks. I actually submitted the finished manuscripts for Truth or Dare and All that Glitters from my hospital bed just days before I welcomed my three little angels. Phew!

Triplets! I'm impressed. I get distracted by my two dogs. May I ask when did you discover your love for writing?

When I was in the fourth grade, I entered a district-wide literary contest. I had to take a blank, white, hardcover book and write a story with illustrations to fill it. My book, The Girl on the Runaway Pogo-Stick, took first place. It was printed and placed in the school libraries in my district. I was hooked from that moment. I remember the process of writing that book. I was sitting on my bedroom floor (with green, shag carpeting, of course) leaning against the side of my bed. As I was writing about the girl bouncing her way through town, passing all of the businesses and waving hello to various townspeople, I realized that she'd need to pass them in reverse order on the way home. Something in me clicked, and I realized that things like that didn't just happen by accident in books; someone did it on purpose. Suddenly, I wanted to be that person—the one who made things happen and told the story.

How did you break in to the publishing world?

It took me a long time to actually attempt any kind of formal publishing. I mainly took classes and wrote for myself through those many years. Finally, a few years ago, I dabbled with a few queries for some ideas that I now see were never going to work—and they didn't. But, once I had an idea that I couldn't let go of (Scenarios) and a far better understanding of how the industry works, I gave it a real try. I actually only sent out one query for the Scenarios series. That query eventually led to a two-book contract, and here we are ready to release those two books, with the third and fourth books already in the works and slated for release in May 2010

What drew you to the YA market?

Fear! Seriously. When I was a young girl, my mom was my hero. I really believed that she could do anything and that she knew everything. Somehow, when I entered my early teen years, that all changed. I became angry and really gave her a hard time. I regret much of those years now that I see the truth of them. My mom is now my very best friend; I wish I had known then what I know now and just how temporary all of that angst and confusion really was. Ever since I had my daughters, I have feared those years. My parenting has really been shaped by my desire to avoid as much of that destruction as possible. My heart’s desire is to reach hormonal, confused, pre-teen girls, protecting them from themselves, and their families from the confusion that can ensue as the girls face those life changes.

Tell us a little about your novels...

In the Scenarios series, each main character is faced with many choices and moral dilemmas. Eventually, they find that their choices have led them into a situation that requires them to make a very difficult and potentially life-altering moral decision. When the story has fully unfolded, and the main character arrives at that moment of truth, the reader makes the big decision for her and then turns to the corresponding section in the book where the resulting circumstances unfold. This places the responsibility for those decisions squarely on the reader’s shoulders, in hopes that she will learn from her personal experience as she lives it through the eyes of the book's character. She will learn the importance of good decisions as well as the truth about forgiveness and grace. Even when poor choices are made, the redemptive power of Christ is evident as forgiveness is sought, offered and received.

How can we find you on the web?

My Web site is There, you can find my blogs—one is a blog about my writing career, and it actually offers a lot of tips and insight into the publishing industry for people trying to get started; the other is just a personal family blog. You’ll also find links to me on Facebook and Twitter. And, I’m excited to announce we have launched a Web site for teen girls at the same time as the release of the first two Scenarios books. It is a fun, interactive and insightful place for teens that meets them where they are.

There will be awesome product reviews with giveaways, a blog, lots of advice and insight into the teen world and plenty of spiritual guidance mingled in. Girls can sign up now for reminder mailings by e-mailing me at

What are your goals for the future?

More than anything, I hope to grow this ministry for teen girls. I have a real passion for them and for the mother/daughter relationship as it approaches and weathers the teen years. I believe that our enemy seeks to destroy the family, and one of the ways he does that is by affecting teenagers through temptations and emotions that they aren’t ready to face. It seems that mothers and daughters often have the most difficult time during those years. On the horizon, I have speaking events and outreaches where I intend to bring a message of hope and promise to women and girls who are facing those difficult years.

If someone would like to book you for an author event or a speaking engagement, how can they reach you?

They can contact me through my website:or email me.

Lastly, how can we meet you? Where can we come see you?

You can find out all about my upcoming events at my Web site. AIf you’d be interested in hosting a speaking event, please e-mail me. I hope you do take the time to come on out and meet me at one of my events! You can also find me on Facebook or at

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Writing Doldrums

Ever get stuck? You don't know what to write. You stare at the screen
and your mind is just as blank as it is. Then, you don't want to
write. Been there, done that. More times than I care to remember.

It's like being trapped in the doldrums. That's an area near the
equator that sometimes becomes deceptively calm. It's literally the
calm before the storm. Because that is where and when hurricanes are
often spawned.

Sometimes our lives seem peaceful, but there's a storm brewing. And
if we don't get moving and get out of it's path, we may be devastated.

Now, I don't want to be overly dramatic, but I want to relate this to
our writing. At times it's a chore. Let's face it (to borrow a line
from "A League of Their Own"), "If it were easy, everybody'd be doin'
it." But writing isn't easy and sometimes it's just hard work.

Too often when we encounter a problem we think we must do more, try
harder, pray more, read our Bibles more, be more diligent at church (or in a writers group), or fast. (Now this guy's gone to meddling!) But
what if the answer, the solution we need, isn't about us, what we do?
What if the answer is about what we don't do? What if what we need is
simply to rely more on God? Of course we must do our part, but what
if there's something we're missing?

I challenge us to consider what novelist Jack Cavanaugh calls the God
Factor. I'm going to write, despite my busy schedule. Despite not
knowing everything I could know about "the market." Despite the fact
that I know I could improve my work if I edit it one more time. And
I'm going to submit something before the end of the year. And I'm
going to trust God to take my five loaves and two fish and do what is
humanly impossible. I'm going to trust him to fill my vessels, not a
few. I'm going to write, and submit my work, and trust God for a
harvest, for fruit, for something I can't even imagine.

I hope you'll do the same. And as Chuck Nolan in "Cast Away" said, "I
know what I have to do now.... Because tomorrow the sun will rise.
Who knows what the tide could bring?"

Don't be afraid of success.

Posted courtesy of Jeff Adams. Visit Jeff's blog to hear more encouraging and eye opening words. You may also visit and follow the links. The first url is interactive for comments, the second has lots more stuff.

Monday, October 05, 2009

What writers can learn from friendly turkeys and family reunions

Our neighbors have a pet turkey. Turkeys make better pets than you might think. This one is rather amusing to watch. He pecks around the yard, talking and garbling and intent on making friends with everything in sight. Unfortunately my dogs are not nearly as congenial with him as he is with them.

The other day while trying to enjoy a leisurely walk with the dogs, the turkey caught sight of us and ran out to greet us. While he saw potential friends, my dogs saw an early Thanksgiving dinner. As my husband and I tried to deter the turkey and keep my Lab from latching her jaws around his straggly turkey neck, my fingers became entangled in the retractable leash. If you’ve ever used a retractable leash, you know why they come with labels warning against getting your legs or fingers near the rope. The fingers of my left hand are seared top to bottom with rope burns that made writing nearly impossible all weekend.

The pain has subsided for the most part and I have mobility back in my digits. But Saturday and Sunday were a wash as far as accomplishing much with my writing. Losing a weekend writing and figuring out how to someday work a turkey encounter into a novel made me realize once again how inspiration can strike at the most unlikely times.

Sometimes a writer need go no farther than his front yard for ideas. Saturday before the turkey attack, we attended a family reunion. A niece talked with me about whether or not her boyfriend would propose and what she would say if he did. She loves the guy, and is pretty sure he’s the one, but what if she’s wrong. A husband and wife spent the whole time sniping at each other and drawing unwanted attention. I overheard a conversation about a cousin who disappeared about forty years ago. The family finally tracked her down in another state a decade or so back. She has children of her own and a life none of us know anything about. She emphatically stated she did not want contact from anyone in the family. Someone whispered about rumors of “incest” and knowing glances were passed around the table. The conversation quickly shifted to layoffs and unemployment and of family members who had died since the last reunion.

I’ve heard it said the best way to repair the sagging middle of a novel is to throw in a dead body. Since that scenario doesn’t work for every piece of fiction, you may want to pay attention to what the old folks talk about at the next reunion, wedding, or funeral. Or just walk your dogs around the neighborhood and see what kind of exotic pet captures their attention.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Amish Peace

“Available October 2009 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Amish Wisdom for Modern Life: Suzanne Woods Fisher shares the real-life stories of the Amish, with insights to find lasting peace in our lives.

Take a look around you. Everyone is rushing around with endless to-do lists and back-to-back deadlines, barely able to catch a breath. Everyone, that is, except the Amish. Living on the outskirts of modernity, the Amish are icons for a simpler life and a slower pace. It’s this allure—something of a sanctuary, suspended in time—that draws millions of tourists to travel to Amish country every year.

“The Amish are the only people I have ever known who seem to have a handle on inner peace,” says Suzanne Woods Fisher. Fisher recently published Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World, in which she explores the tranquility that marks their lives.

“It’s easy to get distracted by the buggies and beards and bonnets,” she says. “From the outside, the Amish can seem quaint and old-fashioned. But there’s much we can learn from them.” She would know because she’s spent most of her life alongside these people: Her relatives are members of the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church, which shares similar values to the Amish.

Interviewing dozens of Amish for her book to gain a deeper understanding of their steadfast peace, Fisher got a closer look into the daily struggles and triumphs of the Amish. She shares these touching, real-life stories in the pages of Amish Peace.
For example, she got to know some of the Amish families who lost children in the West Nickel Mines School shooting. Even in the face of that kind of tragedy, she saw how the Amish community found calm by trusting in God’s sovereignty.

“We just have to keep going on,” remarked one Amish woman whose family members were among the victims. “People think we’re perfect, but we’re not. Yet we can’t dwell on what happened. We have to leave it in God’s hands.” That fundamental belief also enabled them to extend incredible, almost immediate forgiveness to the gunman and his family.

Through her conversations and interactions with the Amish, she looks at how their enduring peace is rooted in their appreciation for five key elements: simplicity, time, community, forgiveness and their faith. Whether it’s living with only necessities, spending time with family or learning that the world is larger than our feeble understanding, those attitudes provide the framework that allows them to find solace in spite of life’s unpredictable circumstances.

“We don’t have to ‘go Amish’ to find true peace,” Fisher says. “Instead, we can learn from the example they’ve set and incorporate some of their lessons into our own lives. That’s what Amish Peace is all about—being inspired by the best of the Amish way of life.”

"Suzanne has captured the calm spirit of the Amish community.
She offers us a glimpse into a world of peace, serenity, and
total commitment to family and God.

This book just might change the way you live your life." — Glenda Lehman Ervin, vice president, marketing, Lehman’s

"Fisher plants the reader inside Amish living rooms, barns, kitchens, and schoolhouses while distilling the best of what Plain life has to offer. Heartening and helpful." — Erik Wesner, author, Simple Success: How the Amish Do Business and Amish America blog

"As one who has experienced peace firsthand from a wonderful Amish family, I see the recent flurry of writing about the Amish as welcome to our hurting nation. Read Amish Peace and you will not only learn about this unique subculture, but you will also be inspired to live a life of peace." — Joel Kime, pastor, Faith Church, Lancaster, PA

Suzanne Woods Fisher’s interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, W. D. Benedict, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Benedict left the colony, amicably, and eventually became publisher of Christianity Today magazine. Suzanne’s work has appeared in many magazines, including Today’s Christian Woman, Worldwide Challenge, ParentLife, Christian Parenting Today, Marriage Partnership, and many others. She has contributed to several nonfiction books and is the author of three novels. Fisher lives in California.

Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life. They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet.


For more information, visit

Friday, October 02, 2009

Writing Devotions for Encouragement and Publication

If you are an author in search of speaking and networking venues, you need to check out your local libraries. They have been supportive of my writing ministry since way back in the day when I first got started and no one else wanted to listen to me. The best thing about participating in these events is meeting some wonderful, inspiring individuals who truly love the printed word. One such person is Penny McGinnis. Today I am pleased and thrilled to have Penny here at Joy in the Journey to talk about her own writing.

Since she possesses such an encouraging and gentle spirit, I suppose it's only natural that she began writing and emailing devotions for family and friends three years ago. Since then she has written and published poetry in magazines, articles for newspapers and websites and many book reviews. She's here to tell us about getting started and what she's learned along the way.

Penny, can you tell us why you began the email devotion ministry?

For years I have known that God gifted me to be an encourager. When my children started leaving home, I wanted a way to encourage them through God’s word, and I hoped by sending the devotions to friends and family, they would also find encouragement in the midst of the sadness and negativity of the world. The devotions also proved to be a great avenue for me to keep writing.

So you write to encourage?

Yes, with so much sad news in the world, I feel led by God to bring light and positive words to each reader. It seems like each day when I wake up, I think the day holds great promise full of positive ideas and thoughts, and then little by little the positive gets chipped away by sad news, negative attitudes, and general frustration with life. I know I’m not alone in this, so I want to remind my readers of Jesus and his glorious grace and the promise of hope.

How have you grown from writing the devotions?

Writing one every week, helps me stay in God’s word. I can’t write the devotions without seeking God’s guidance and knowing what he has to say. I find myself digging deeper into the Bible to discover what truth I can share with others. I also enjoy the responses and confirmations I receive back. Together I grow with my readers as we discover how God works in our lives.

You still send devotions each week and you’ve added a blog where you post your devotions; tell me about that.

Yes, I post my devotions, book reviews that mostly focus on Christian fiction and non-fiction, and my other inspirational writings. You can find my blog at I chose to create a blog with the hope that I could send encouraging thoughts to more people. As a reader, I also wanted a place to post book reviews and other random thoughts. From working in an academic library, I’ve learned that embracing newer technologies like blogging and Facebook creates another avenue for spreading God’s word.

Do you have any plans for pursuing publication of your writings in print form?

I would love to write devotions for either magazines or in book form. I currently have one idea I am thinking about for a devotional book and I’ve submitted articles to a few magazines. As you know, finding a publisher is tough. I’m praying about where God wants me to go with this.

What motivates you to continue writing devotions every week?

My appreciation to God for his grace and forgiveness and my desire to tell more people about Jesus’ sacrifice, keeps me writing. It’s not about me; it’s about my Savior. Only by God’s grace do I rise each morning and face the day knowing that I am free.
Penny McGinnis

To learn more about Penny's writing and her devotion ministry, visit her blog where you can sign up to receive her weekly devotions.

To read her book reviews, visit Penny's Picks