Latest Blog Posts for April 2014

Interview & Book Give-Away with Norma Gail, and Writing Opps for YOU!

Norma Gail - headshotWhat a joy to celebrate with Norma Gail as her debut novel, Land of My Dreams, releases TODAY from Lighthouse of the Carolinas! Be sure to leave a comment for Norma Gail and you’ll be in the drawing for a signed copy of her book!

Welcome to The Christian Writer’s Den, Norma Gail. First of all, please tell us how you started writing.

I have always had a vivid imagination, and wrote stories from childhood and all through college. My degree is in nursing, and with marriage, a job, and children, I didn’t write much for about 20 years.

When I broke my right foot and ended up in a wheelchair, I needed something to keep me occupied. Land of My Dreams is the result. I began attending writer’s conferences which helped me learn and gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of people who have helped me along the way.

I have always felt compelled to write: poetry, letters to the editor, devotionals to open the Bible study I lead, and stories for my kids about their adoptions. I wanted to see my name on a book. Never give up on your dream.

This may come as a surprise to new writers, but you and I know the writing life isn’t easy. What was the greatest problem you faced in writing this book?

It was challenging to write about a country I had only visited for two weeks and couldn’t return to for more research. It didn’t matter when I was just making up a story, but when I became serious, I needed to be accurate.

I spent hours researching, read everything I could find, watched movies and documentaries, listened to music, and made a screen-saver with over 400 photos, and a Scottish-Gaelic dictionary on-line, and also sites with slang and common terms. I found a wonderful writer and editor, through the ACFW romance loop. Amy Drown lived in Scotland and was willing to read my book for accuracy.

It must have worked because it convinced one editor I must have lived there!

Well, that’s a confirmation for sure! What do you want your readers to gain by reading your book?

Of course I want to entertain. As a Bible study leader and devotional writer, I have seen a lot of peopleNorma Gil cover struggle with trusting God when hard times come, and I have struggled myself. It is helpful to use real-life situations to illustrate biblical principles.

Good fiction can teach valuable spiritual lessons. People who would never attend a Bible study will read a novel, and they can learn how to live the Christian life. A novel is a very non-threatening way to introduce someone to the gospel or get a spiritual message across. It might open someone open up to talk about things they might not otherwise discuss.

I totally agree, Norma Gail. And I believe it applies to every area of creativity. So, how did you come up with the idea for Land of My Dreams?

Scotland has intrigued me since I discovered that one of my great grandmothers was from Scotland. My husband and I spend two weeks there for our 30th anniversary and I felt at home from the moment our plane landed in Edinburgh.

We met a woman from Phoenix who married a Scot while in the Peace Corps. It made me wonder what it would be like to transplant your life to another country. My husband’s family immigrated to the US from The Netherlands, so I knew a little about it.

I loved the green fields with their sheep and dry-stone walls. One night I dreamed about a sheep farm, and the idea began to come together.

Tell us something about the book.

Land of My Dreams is a sweet romance about two people who have been hurt by life and no longer trust in God.

Alone and betrayed, American professor, Bonny Bryant longs for a haven of peace. She accepts a position at a small Christian college in Fort William, Scotland, craving escape from her painful past. The passionate love which develops when she meets fellow professor and sheep farmer, Kieran MacDonell, is something she never anticipated.

Kieran harbors a deep anger toward God in the face of his own devastating grief. When Bonny returns to New Mexico for her best friend’s wedding, her former fiancé reenters her life. Four thousand miles away, Kieran’s loneliness draws him to an attractive former student.

How will Bonny decide between her two rivals? Can they set aside the past to make way for a future?

Land of My Dreams spans the distance between New Mexico’s high desert mountains and the misty Scottish Highlands with a timeless story of overwhelming grief, undying love, and compelling faith.

My goodness, this sounds like a book we’d all love! Thank you for sharing your story with us, Norma Gail!

And readers, remember, if you’d like to be in the drawing for a free copy of Land of My Dreams, simply leave a comment for Norma Gail and you could be the winner! But you must be sure to come back next week to find out. :-)

And for those who want to go ahead and get your own copy of Norma Gail’s book, here’s the Amazon link to Land of My Dreams. Happy reading!

BIO: I live in the mountains of New Mexico with my husband of 37 years. We have two adult children and a lovely daughter-in-law. I love mountains, and enjoy tackling 4×4 trails in my Jeep. I am a former RN and homeschool/soccer mom who loves family research, history, and Scotland. My passion is leading women’s Bible studies, and I have done so for eighteen years. My devotionals, poetry have appeared at ChristianDevotions.us, the Stitches Thru Time blog, and in “The Secret Place.” I belong to American Christian Fiction Writers, FaithWriters, and the newly formed New Mexico Christian Novelists. My website, www.normagail.com, includes a weekly devotional blog, daily scriptures, poetry, and will soon have a writer’s blog.

To connect with Norma and find out more about her writings and ministry, you can email her at NormaGailwrites@gmail.com. She also has a Pinterest board for Land of My Dreams where readers can find photos that helped inspire the book: http://pinterest.com/normagailth/boards.
Website: http://www.normagail.com
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Norma-GailAuthor/725237467493500.
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7874459.Norma_Gail
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Norma_Gail
Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQbZIoC_JSE

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newspapersAnd Here Are Some Writing Opportunities I’ve Found Just For YOU!

Thanks to Edie Melson for sharing many of these opportunities with us today. Be sure to check out Edie’s award-winning writing blog, The Write Conversation!

1.  Inspire a Fire is always looking for articles. Here are Inspire a Fire submission guidelines. 

2.  Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest: You must hurry–deadline is May 1, 2014!

3.  THE DREAM QUEST ONE POETRY & WRITING CONTEST is open to anyone who loves expressing their innermost thoughts and feelings into the beautiful literary art of poetry and/or writing a story that is worth telling everyone. Guidelines: (1) Write a poem, thirty lines or fewer on any subject, form or style. And/or (2) Write a short story five pages maximum length, single or double line spacing, on any subject or theme, fiction or non-fiction. Multiple entries are accepted. Prizes: Writing First Prize is $500; Second: $250; Third: $100. Poetry First Prize: $250; Second: $125; Third: $50. Entry fees: $5 per poem/$10 per story. Postmark deadline: JULY 31, 2014. How to enter, visit: http://www.dreamquestone.com

4.  Adirondack Life: Writers’ guidelines for Adirondack Life

5.  Ladies’ Home Journal: How to write for Ladies’ Home Journal.

6.  Highlights Magazine–They’re always looking for submissions!

7.  Educational Markets for Children’s Writers: LOTS of markets listed here for children’s writers!

8.  Parents Magazine is always looking for writers

9.  Free Spirit Publishing: Their mission is to provide children and teens with the tools they need to succeed in life and to make a difference in the world. They publish high-quality nonfiction books and learning materials for children and teens, parents, educators, counselors, and others who live and work with young people.

10. Reader’s Digest: “If you are a writer and would like to submit a great article proposal, email us at articleproposals@rd.com.”

11. Go Galavanting, a magazine for women travelers. Read Submission guidelines for Go Galavanting here.

12. In Site Magazine: InSite, the bimonthly flagship publication of Christian Camp and Conference Association (CCCA), seeks to inform and inspire professionals serving in the Christian camp and conference community. InSite Magazine writers guidelines here.

So…now that you have these guidelines before you, what are you going to do about it? :-)

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Well, that does it for another day at the Christian Writer’s Den. Thanks for stopping by and sharing the joy of writing with me!

Happy writing!

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD…

Jesus carrying cross Lost Seed. dot comThree Scripted Words–Which Will You Choose?

I’ve always loved drama. From the time I was a little girl, sitting in front of a black and white TV, I knew that movies and scripts could reach down inside and grab a part of the soul that few things could ever touch.

By the time I was a teenager, I knew the power of the stage, the power of scripted words. And nothing proved it better than Frank Zeffirelli’s movie, Romeo and Juliet. The story. The costumes. The music. The words. I was captivated! I must have watched it a hundred times, and yet each time, it was as if I were seeing it afresh, anew.

My heart danced the night Romeo and Juliet danced—their faces and their lives hidden behind the masks, falling into a forbidden love. A love of good and evil.

Two sides. Two families. The Capulets and the Montagues.

You know the story. Romeo and Juliet fall in love, secretly marry, and spend one night together. The next day, Romeo kills Juliet’s cousin in a battle between their families, and then must escape to save his own life. Unaware of his daughter’s marriage to Romeo, Juliet’s father decrees she will marry another man.

Juliet is afraid to reveal the truth, so she meets with the priest and together they devise a plan that will allow the couple to be together forever. It is a fail-proof plan. With the help of a sleeping potion, Juliet will feign death, and Romeo will return to the city and retrieve her from the tomb. They will escape to live their life of love together, and no one will ever know the truth. A messenger is sent to deliver the fail-proof, scripted plan to Romeo.

But before the messenger reaches him, Romeo hears the terrible news that his beloved wife has died. So he devises his own plan—to join her in death. He mounts his horse and takes off for the city. But Juliet’s messenger and Romeo pass each other in the night. The grieving husband continues toward death, unaware of the truth.

It is a fateful mistake.

Romeo arrives, locates the tomb and—thinking his true love is dead—drinks his own poison in an effort to join her. Death comes quickly and Romeo falls across his wife’s body. Moments later, Juliet awakens to find her Romeo dead. Unable to imagine life without her husband, she tries to drink from Romeo’s vial, but finds it empty. She eagerly kisses her still-warm Romeo, hoping to find poison on his lips. When she finds none, she grabs his sword and thrusts it into her own body.

Her blood drips to the ground.

I sat there in the theater, my eyes glued to the screen, my body jerking with the sobs of emotion—unable to see the images through the tears filling my eyes and streaming down my face. My heart was broken for the two lovers, the two innocents who were merely on opposite sides of a battle, a battle they hadn’t chosen.

Joint funerals unite the city. The music and visuals carry us through the pain and agony.

Two families. Two sides. Joined in grief. Good and evil, exposed in death.

A voice cries from the screen:

“All . . . are . . . punished!”

Three scripted words, spoken to bring the emotion of the story to one pivotal moment. It works. I grieve, along with the Capulets and the Montagues. I can hardly stand it.

And it’s only a movie.

But two thousand years ago, there was another script, another drama. Two families. Two sides. Good andjesus holding cross lost seed dot com evil. God and Satan.

Jesus knew the story by heart because before time began, He had sat down with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and the three of Them wrote the script . . . scene by scene, line by line, word by word.

Directed by the words of the prophets, the story unfolds. The cast—often without their knowledge—follows the plan and brings the story to its pre-ordained conclusion. No actors. No lines to learn, no songs to sing. Because this time, it’s real.

And the story—although a script—is true.

But this drama wasn’t written to generate emotion; it was written to bring freedom and new life for all mankind. The only way to unite a holy God and unholy man was through the sacrifice of a perfect, sinless lamb—Jesus. He would have to die.

No sleeping potion to feign death. No escape from the Father’s decree. Sin required a blood sacrifice . . . and Jesus willingly signed up for the part. After all, He was the only One Who qualified.

His blood fell to the ground.

But the story doesn’t end there. Because from the cross, at the height of His suffering, Jesus cried the three words scripted thousands of years before:

“It . . . is . . . finished!”

Three words, spoken to bring the sin of man to one pivotal moment. It works. I grieve, along with the sinners and the saved. I can hardly stand it.

Jesus, the sinless Grace-giver, received no grace that dark and mournful day. But because of His sacrifice, we—an unholy people—are united with a holy God.

We simply choose which script, which three little words, we want to follow: “All are punished” . . . or . . . “It is finished.”

Jesus is God’s Son.

            We are sinners.

            We can’t be good enough to get to heaven on our own.

            We need a Savior.

            That Savior is Jesus.

            He is the sacrifice for our sin.

            He took the punishment we deserve.

            It . . .  is . . . finished!

Three powerful, little words that changed eternity.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

I pray God’s blessing as we celebrate our Risen Lord!

Vonda

(Images courtesy of LostSeed.com)

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Planning is Not a Dirty Word: 5 Tips to Being a More Productive Writer by Susan Sleeman, & Kudos, MoGo, & a Free Book!

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/koratmember

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/koratmember

Yep, It’s April 15: A Great Day to Have Author Susan Sleeman Talk About PLANNING (And we’re NOT talking about taxes!)

Feel like you’re drowning in tax advice? Don’t worry, we’re not going to talk about the IRS. No, no, no! We’re going to talk about IMPORTANT stuff, like planning our novels! And that’s something all us novelists need to hear.

I’m thrilled to have Susan Sleeman with us today as she shares her five tips to being more productive as a writer. Be sure to read her bio below, but let me tell you that Susan is an award-winning and award-nominated author, so if she speaks, I think we should all be listening!

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Parting Words From The WORD…

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Hello. My name is Vonda, and I am a procrastinator.

But even though I admit to being a procrastinator, being terribly unorganized, and having difficulty staying focused, that doesn’t mean I’m lazy or that I don’t get anything done.

The truth is I’ve tried goal setting, pep talks, berating myself, making schedules, setting timers, and turning off social media. But still, at the end of the day I often have little to show for all the great plans I had at the beginning of it.

I have to admit, the repeated frustration with all the real life interruptions has now encased me in procrastinator mode. I mean, why should I even try to work on that book-of-my-heart? My plans will just be interrupted anyway.

Besides, I’ve always said I couldn’t write in short segments. I’m a block-out-a-big-chunk-of-focused-time kind of writer.

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Michelle Cox; Who Won The Writing Sisters’ Book? and Kudos & MoGo7000 Call-Out

Michelle Cox headshotAs you can see, today is a busy day. And it’s all my fault. Last week, I completely forgot to ask for your Kudos and MoGo7000 totals! So today, in addition to an awesome interview with the multi-talented Michelle Cox, our triple duty day will also cover call-outs, and a book winner!

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First Up–Michelle Cox Shares Her Amazing Journey with Her Book, Blog, and Screenplay, Just 18 Summers®!

Yes, you read right. My brilliant friend, Michelle Cox, got a great idea, the Lord multiplied her vision, and now she has all kinds of stuff going on! Read on to hear how a simple comment from her pastor kicked off an avalanche of opportunities!

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Parting Words From The WORD…

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

As Christians, we are held to a higher standard. After all, we must strive to shine the light of Jesus in every situation for the sake of the gospel, regardless of what happens. It’s often a difficult standard to uphold.

A friend of mine, a Christian speaker and writer, had such an experience this past week. She was attacked publicly for something that occurred through no fault of her own. She was innocent of any wrongdoing.

It would have been easy–and even acceptable–for her to stand her ground. She could have listened to the world as it encouraged her to defend herself and stand up for her rights.

But she didn’t. Instead, she took on the image and mind of Christ, a humble servant willing to suffer loss.

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10 Tips to Finding an Agent by Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers & Who Won Bethany Jett’s Book?

Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers headshotToday is April Fool’s Day, but there are no tricks here at The Christian Writer’s Den! Instead, I’m thrilled to offer a treat, 10 Tips to Finding an Agent, from author-sisters (for real) Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers, a drawing for their new book, AND a free book from Bethany Jett!

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Be sure to read Betsy’s and Laurie’s bio and book info below, but I’m excited to go ahead and tell you they have a new book, The Shepherd’s Song: A Story of Second Chances, released a few weeks ago by Howard Books. Yay! I’ve read this book and I can say it opened my eyes to the power of God’s Word to change hearts around the world.

In celebration of their new book, Betsy and Laurie are giving away a free book AND sharing some agent secrets with us! Just leave a tip you’d like to share or a word of encouragement for the Writing Sisters, and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book. Just be sure to check back next week to see if you’re the winner.

And now, here are Betsy’s and Laurie’s 10 Tips to Finding an Agent. These are tips no one told them, but they’re sharing them with you today!

10 Tips to Finding an Agent 

by Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers

After twenty years of writing for children we felt called to make a change. We had not needed an agent before. Twenty years ago you could still have a manuscript read by a publisher without an agent, especially in the world of children’s books. Once we had a relationship with a publishing house we didn’t feel the need. Now that we were writing an adult book, The Shepherd’s Song, and we were writing about our faith – the rules had changed. We needed an agent – but how could we find the right one?

Here are some things we learned about finding an agent on our quest to write and publish The Shepherd’s Song.

  1. Pray. Throughout the process of writing the book we prayed for the “team” and waited with expectation to see what special people God would draft for us. In our 20 years of publishing we had never had an agent. Now as we moved into writing a book for adults we needed representation. We had no idea how to find the right person. We started with prayer.
  2. Don’t count on the 15 minute pitch. Relationships take time. We don’t know very many writers who found their agents during the pitch. We didn’t. The pitches were important for us. Getting our one sheet together and honing our description of the book was valuable. Seeing the reaction across the table to the way we presented the book was also helpful.
  3. Emailing your unrequested proposal is really a long shot. Everyone is overwhelmed with email and submissions. Think about building face-to-face relationships at conferences instead.
  4. Silence means No. We looked for God to open doors and close doors. Sometimes He worked through silence. “But she said she would get back to us in 6 weeks.” It took us a while to realize that the silence was a rejection.
  5. Nos can be helpful. No is an important part of shaping your book. With every no comes a chance to improve the book.
  6. Wait for the right person. You can say “no” too. Along the path to finding an agent we had some opportunities. One agent offered to consider representing us if we changed genres and wrote something more mainstream. We had to learn to wait and be true to the work that God had given us.
  7. Don’t be desperate. God called you to write and he has a plan for your book. Being desperate makes us take control of the process and make mistakes.
  8. Others writers want to help you in the search. We found our agent at a lunch for 700 people. A writing friend who had an agent saw him coming toward the table and moved over a seat to let him sit by us. That act of generosity changed our career.
  9. Be ready – always – in every situation. We got caught a few times without sample chapters when we didn’t expect to be asked for them.
  10. Keep your eyes open. Pray and watch. You never know when that moment will come.

When we least expected it our moment came. Greg Johnson from WordServe Literary sat down at our Betsy Duffey The Shepherd Song covertable. We connected and when he asked for our sales figures we had them. When he asked to see a one sheet we had it.

He asked to read the book and we sent it the day we got home. The next Monday we signed with WordServe. Not long after that he placed The Shepherd’s Song at Howard Books. But that’s another story.

Please share what you have learned along the way –

Betsy and Laurie
www.WritingSisters.com

Friends, don’t forget to leave a comment and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book from Betsy and Laurie. Be sure to check back next week to see if you’re the winner!

Back cover copy from The Shepherd’s Song: Follow the incredible journey of one piece of paper—a copy of Psalm 23—as it travels around the world, linking lives and hearts with its simple but beautiful message. Shortly before a tragic car accident, Kate McConnell wrote down the powerful words of Psalm 23 on a piece of paper for her wayward son. Just before she loses consciousness, Kate wonders if she’s done enough with her life and prays, “Please, let my life count.” Unbeknownst to Kate, her handwritten copy of Psalm 23 soon begins a remarkable journey around the world. Eventually, Kate’s paper makes it back to its starting place, and she discovers the unexpected ways that God changes lives, even through the smallest gestures. With beautiful prose evocative of master storyteller Andy Andrews’s The Butterfly Effect, this story will touch your heart and remind you of the ways God works through us to reach beyond what we can imagine.

Bio: The Writing Sisters, Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers, were born into a writing family, and began critiquing manuscripts at an early age for their mother, Newbery winner Betsy Byars. They went on to become authors of more than thirty-five children’s novels. Their first book for adults is  The Shepherd’s Song, Howard Books, March 2014. You can reach Betsy and Laurie at www.WritingSisters.com or www.facebook.com/WritingSisters. And here’s a direct Amazon link to The Shepherd’s Song: A Story of Second Chances.

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Bethany Jett cover Cinderella RuleAnd Who Won Bethany Jett’s Book, The Cinderella Rule?

Congratulations goes to Maureen Hager! I’m so happy for you, Maureen!

Please contact me with your mailing address and Bethany will get your book right out to you.

And readers, I know you want your own copies to give to teen and pre-teen girls in your realm of influence, so here’s a direct Amazon link to The Cinderella: A Young Woman’s Guide to Happily Ever After.

And if you’re a youth leader, remember, this would make a great book for your girls’ small group study.

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So that does it for another Tuesday at The Christian Writer’s Den where we encourage, educate, and promote writers. I’ll look forward to seeing you Friday. :-)

Happy writing!

Vonda

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