Category Archives: Interviews

“Interviews with authors who have a heart for writers ”

Interview & Book Give-Away with Sandra Merville Hart

Sandra Hart headshotHappy Tuesday! I’m excited to introduce my friend, Sandra Merville Hart, to you today. Sandra and I met years ago, I believe at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. And since that first conference, we keep running into each other at conferences around the southeast. That’s one of the many benefits of writing conferences–you get to make new best friends everywhere you go!

And friends, be sure to leave a comment for Sandra and you’ll be in the drawing for a free copy of her book! Let’s get started!

Welcome, Sandy. First of all, would you share the story behind your book, A Stranger on my Land? 

While researching another novel for the Civil War time period, I found fascinating books written by Union and Confederate soldiers. One of these soldiers wrote about the “Battle Above the Clouds” on Lookout Mountain. He talked about people living in caves. Women made these temporary shelters comfortable and cozy.

“How did it feel to find a wounded soldier on your property after a Civil War battle? It surely happened.” . . . “Would you walk away and leave him to die if he fought for the other side?”. . . “What if your members of your family fought for the opposite army? Does that change anything?”. . . “Suppose you help them anyway and fall in love?”

I pondered those questions and the story was born.

What started you on your writing journey?

I wanted to be a writer in elementary school. I wrote my first mystery novel while in the sixth grade, The Mystery of the Missing Diamond Ring. Unfortunately I received little encouragement. The dream died but the stories kept coming. A devotion I wrote about a choir song sparked encouraging comments, reawakening my long-forgotten dream.

I know you like to travel. Have any places you’ve traveled inspired you and ended up in your writing?

Continuously! I traveled to Chattanooga, Chickamauga, and Lookout Mountain to research A Stranger on My Land. The museums, the people, the scenery, and the history deepened the story already growing inside my imagination.

The small city of Troy, Ohio, inspired me as a book setting. “This place is so special that something needs to happen here,” was my comment to my husband. Upon discovering that something important did happen in that city’s history, an idea formed. I weaved my story and an important historical event into a novella that I hope to publish.

My creative spirit comes alive every time we drive to Gettysburg. I knew a novel idea waited for me in that important city. I found the story while visiting battlefields and walking the streets. I’m hoping to publish this novel soon. 

Sounds like you have a lot of books fighting to get onto the page! It’ll be fun to see what comes next. As a Christian writer, do you have a special verse or passage you’d like to share with our Christian Writer’s Den friends?A Stranger On My Land cover Sandra Hart

Yes, I do!

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:30-31 (NIV)

This whole chapter is filled with gems but these last two verses offer so much hope. I think I first heard a portion of this chapter quoted in a movie. It was such a powerful scene that the comfort and beauty of the words stayed with me.  

Has your writing changed your reading habits?

I love to read, but now I pay attention to how authors build tension. I notice descriptions of people and settings. In other words, reading has become another opportunity to learn the writing craft.

Who has been your greatest encourager on your writing journey?

My husband has supported me the whole way. I like to visit historic sites to discover the local history. He uses vacation time to go on research trips with me. He supports whatever I need to do. He understands that rejections break my heart and bolsters my courage to try again.

Who inspires you?

Great authors like Mark Twain inspire me.

People who face insurmountable challenges and somehow find courage to get through it inspire me.

Those who cling to their faith when it’s all they have left to cling to inspire me.

I’m inspired by a friendly smile, a warm welcome, and how good old-fashioned hospitality feeds the soul.

Inspiring people live anywhere and everywhere, if I only take time to listen.

I totally agree, Sandra. Well, our time is almost up, but before we go, would you tell us about your current writing project?

My favorite genre to write in remains inspirational historical romance. I’ve written another Civil War romance. This novel traces how historic events of an important battle fought in Gettysburg affect a seamstress who lives there and a brave Confederate soldier left behind when his army retreats.

Thank you for joining us today, Sandra! And readers, be sure to leave a comment for Sandra and you’ll be in the drawing for a free copy of her book. Don’t forget to return next week to see if you’re the winner!

Thanks for Tweeting!

Interview & #FreeBook Give-Away w/ @Sandra_M_Hart via @VondaSkelton #amwriting (Click to Tweet!)


Sandra Hart photoBio: Sandra Merville Hart is the column writer for “History in the Making” at the popular and growing site, She is Assistant Editor for where she contributes many historical articles. Her debut book, A Stranger On My Land, IRCA Finalist 2015, released in 2014. She has written for several publications and blogs. Sandra loves to find unusual facts in her historical research to use in her stories and drags her husband along on her adventures. Thankfully, he also enjoys these fact-finding missions.

To connect with Sandra:

Assistant Editor at DevoKids:

Contributing column writer for:




Sandra’s Goodreads page:



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Call for Kudos & MoGo7000 Totals and Who Won Ramona Richards’ Book?

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

It’s the 1st Tuesday of April & time to gather your good news for Kudos & MoGo7000, and to announce the reader who won Ramona’s book!


Call for Kudos!

Okay, friends, it’s time for us to celebrate YOU and celebrate EACH OTHER! After all, that’s the goal of The Christian Writer’s Den–to encourage and instruct writers.

In order to do that, I need to hear from you! It doesn’t matter how small it may seem to you or how recently it’s been, every step forward is a step that leads to the next one.

So I want to know what you’ve been up to. Have you had something exciting happen recently in your writing or speaking life? Maybe you’ve had an article published, signed a book contract, released a new book, got an agent, or started a new blog. If so, we want to hear from you. Everybody’s welcome to share.

It’s really simple, but I do ask that you contact me with the info in this format and order ONLY:

**Your name
**Your state in two-letter abbreviation
**Link to your website or blog
**Your good news
**Link to your good news, if online (online bookstore, online article, etc)

I can’t wait for us to celebrate with you!


Who Worked on Their MoGo7000 in March?

If you wrote at least 7000 new words on a book project in March, you’ll receive an entry in the drawing for the 2016 MoGo7000 $100 cash prize! It’s open to everyone who qualifies.

To report your March results, please leave a comment below with your total new words written on a book project in March. (Please do not send your totals by email or through the Contact page. Totals must be left as a comment here by next Sunday). 

If you missed out on last year’s money-winning writing challenge, don’t worry, the 2016 Challenge continues! Here are the MoGo7000 Challenge rules. All you have to do is write at least 7000 NEW words on a book project in any month and you’ll receive an entry into the end-of-the-year drawing for $100.

Each month that you qualify with 7000 new words, your name goes in the “hat” for the drawing. (Actually, selects the winner.) Reach the goal one month and you’ll have one entry. Just starting out? Don’t worry! Meet it the next 9 months and you’ll have 9 entries!

So what are you waiting for? Get started now and you could have an extra $100 next year. And it doesn’t cost you a cent. :-)


Ramona Richards My Mother's Quilts coverAnd who won Ramona Richards’ book, My Mother’s Quilts: Devotions From a Legacy of Needlework

And the winner is…

Judy Taylor!

Congratulations, Judy! To receive your free copy of Ramona’s book, simply contact me with your snail mail address and Ramona will get the book right out to you!And for those who didn’t win, here’s a direct Amazon link to My Mother’s Quilts. It would make a perfect Mother’s Day gift! Don’t tell my moms, but they’re both getting a copy!~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,Vonda

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Ramona Richards – Win a Free Book!

Ramona Richards headshotWriters, I’m thrilled to introduce my long-time friend, author and speaker Ramona Richards to you! We’ve been friends like forever (I think we met at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference), and I’m honored to have her here today to share her latest book, a beautiful tribute to her mother and her quilts.

Be sure to leave a comment for Ramona and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book!

Ramona, I love, love, love your recent release of My Mother’s Quilts: Devotions from a Legacy of Needlework. It was so tender, I began tearing up the at the dedication! It’s definitely a departure from your previous books I’ve read. How did this come about?

I’ve written devotions for a long time, and I had two prior books of devotions published earlier in my career: A Moment with God for Single Parents and Secrets of Confidence. Devotion writing is one of my loves, and I’ve worked hard on the craft. Devotions are a little like children’s books: they LOOK easy to write, but there’s a definite skill involved.

After my mother died, I wanted to find a way to honor her with my writing, and the idea came when I was unpacking all the quilts I’d inherited from her. Mother was a master quilter, but she’d struggled to put her memories in writing. That’s my gift. To combine them to preserve her legacy seemed natural, almost a nudge from God.

I was still working out the details when I had the opportunity to pitch it to Worthy Publishing. They asked for a proposal right away, so I put one together in the next 24 hours and sent it to my agent. After a bit of refinement, she sent it on to Worthy.

A proposal in 24 hours? Now, that’s fast! The photographs in My Mother’s Quilts are lovely. How did theyRamona Richards My Mother's Quilts cover come about?

Another bit of God’s timing, I believe. A few years ago, I reconnected with my cousin Becky on Facebook. We hadn’t seen each other since our teens, even though our mothers had been best friends. Her grandmother was my grandmother’s sister, so some of the quilts I have are as much a part of her family. Becky’s daughter, Mary, is a professional photographer in east Tennessee. Having Mary do the photos turned out to be an astonishing gift, as Becky worked with me on the quilts, arranged for one of them to be photographed in her sister’s house, and organized a family reunion around the one quilt that’s in a museum.

The book would not be what it is without them.

I totally agree. Any advice for anyone who wants to turn their family legacy into a writing project?

Find a narrative thread or common element, and turn it into a story with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Don’t just make a list of events or a string of memories than aren’t related to each other. While each may be entertaining, the goal would be to build a whole story that honors those about whom you’re writing, to show the entirety of their lives, and not just a few entertaining moments.  

And you did that very well. So what’s next for you?

I’m working on a proposal for another quilt devotional, but I’m also finishing up another romantic suspense. I have some major editorial projects in the works. I left Abingdon in December, and I’ve been working harder than ever!

I’m glad to hear you’re staying busy with your writing and projects. How can people get in touch with you?

They can contact me through my website, Twitter, or Facebook. I’m also going to be at a number of conferences this year, including the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in May. A complete list will be on my website in a couple of weeks. I do love hearing from folks!

Thanks for joining us today, Ramona. I can’t wait to see you again at Blue Ridge. Your book truly is a tribute to your family. I know my friends are going to love it as much as I do!

And readers, if you’d like a chance to win a copy of Ramona’s book, just leave a comment for her and you’ll be in the drawing. Be sure to return next week to see if you’re the winner.


Thanks for Sharing!

My Mother’s Quilts author @RamonaRichards is giving away a copy of her new book at The Christian Writer’s Den! (Click to Tweet) Twitter: @RamonaRichards

Bio:  Ramona Richards is the author of nine books, and her devotions have appeared in such publications as Fulfilled: The NIV Devotional Bible for the Single Woman, Trusting Jesus Every Day, Wonderfully Made, Heavenly Humor for the Woman’s Soul, Heavenly Humor for the Dieter’s Soul, and several others. A writer and editor since 1981, Ramona has worked on staff or as a freelancer with more than 20 magazine and book publishers, most recently as the Senior Acquisitions Editor for Fiction and Christian Living with Abingdon Press. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Marilyn Turk

Marilyn Turk headshot 2Friends, you’re in for a special treat today as we talk with Marilyn Turk, author of Lighthouse Devotions. Marilyn and I met about 10 years ago at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and we’ve kept in touch all these years. Interestingly, her first book is about lighthouses and my first book had a lighthouse prominently featured in the story line!

Remember to leave a comment for Marilyn and you’ll be in the drawing for a free copy of her book, Lighthouse Devotions.

So, welcome, Marilyn. Let’s get started with an easy question: Have you always wanted to write a book?

No, I never even considered it until I attended writers’ conferences. I had planned to just write devotions, or maybe some magazine articles, but not a whole book! So when I attended Blue Ridge CWC several years ago, I took Susan King’s course on writing devotions, which was a wonderful course! As a result of that conference, I had some devotions published in The Upper Room. I also pitched a story idea to Jesse Florea of Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine, and he liked it! That story was published also.

Yes, you’re another success story that shows how to get published: Go to writing conferences and follow through by doing what you’re taught! So if you started with devotions and articles, how did you end up writing books?

Once again, the idea took root at Blue Ridge. It seemed like everyone was talking about a book they were writing and when they asked me about mine, I was stumped. Was I supposed to be writing a book? Then the genre question came up and I had no idea what that meant. But I had been doing some research about the history of my area and somehow the “What if” question came to mind and a story began to take root, which grew into a book.

And this is the first book you had published?

No, it turned into a series and I’m not finished with that yet. Meanwhile I wrote another novel, The Gilded Curse, that will be published in March by Heritage Beacon of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. The first book to be published (other than some anthologies I’ve been in) was the collection of devotions called Lighthouse Devotions.Marilyn Turks Lighthouse Devotions cover

Congratulations your newest book, The Gilded Curse! I’m looking forward to reading it when it comes out in March. But since we’re talking about Lighthouse Devotions today, would you tell us how it came about?

Blame it on Edie (Melson). Actually, it was Edie and others who encouraged writers to blog to develop their platform. And again, it was at Blue Ridge – where would I be without Blue Ridge? Anyway, at the time, I found many blogs I read to be boring unless they were about writing. Well I didn’t know enough about writing to write about, so I prayed and asked God what I should write about. My interest in lighthouses was growing and I read about them quite a bit. So God told me to write stories about lighthouses. So that’s what I did. But a funny thing happened. Each time I wrote a story, a Bible verse that related to the story came to mind. I wasn’t sure if I just put the verse in the story because I wasn’t sure if my audience would all be believers, but then I felt God say, “Why do you think I’m giving you those verses?” Since God uses the word “light” 263 times in the Bible, He must see a connection to lighthouses. So the stories became weekly devotionals. Some of the readers asked me when I was going to put them in a book, and finally I did in Lighthouse Devotions.

Sounds like you think conferences are worthwhile.

Did you notice? For me, they’ve been invaluable. Although I went to college and graduated with a degree in journalism, I never intended to have a writing career. I went on to a career in sales and marketing, but always felt I could write if I had time. But when I retired and had time, I felt very rusty and wanted to refresh my skills. Attending writers conferences introduced me to a different world, one I didn’t know existed, and one which I needed to learn a lot about. I highly recommend attending writers conferences if writers want to develop their skills, not to mention network with other writers, another very important aspect of writing. I only attend ChristiaPastor’s Shrimp and Corn Bisquen conferences now. When I first started on this journey, I attended a couple of ABA conferences also and found that I belonged in Christian publishing, where people are honest, supportive, and believers.

In fact, I feel so strongly about conferences that I wanted to expose the writers in my geographic area to their benefits, so I’m hosting one April 20-23! I’m very excited about the Blue Lake Christian Writers Retreat. We have a wonderful faculty of award-winning authors and publishing professionals. The setting is a quiet conference center in a national forest, not as grand as Blue Ridge or some of the larger conferences, but the quality of the teaching will be first-rate. I hope that writers in the Florida panhandle, Alabama and Georgia can take advantage of its proximity. For more details and registration, check out the Blue Lake Christian Writers Retreat website.

So which are you writing now, novels or devotions?

I’m writing both! After five and a half years and almost 300 posts, I still write my lighthouse blog, which is mainly nonfiction, so I still do a lot of research for it. It’s funny that I’ve been asked if I might run out of stories for it, since it’s based on real lighthouse stories. My answer is that there are hundreds of lighthouses and even more Bible verses, so I don’t think I’ll run out any time soon. And the blessings that have come from it are amazing. I’ve connected with people all over the world who are lighthouse lovers and read my blog, my devotional blog!

However, the editing and publication of The Gilded Curse has re-energized my fiction brain cells. I can’t wait to get back to my works in progress, but I also have a couple of other book ideas simmering on the backburner of my brain waiting to be developed.Marilyn Turk Guilded Curse cover

Have I told you how much I love the cover of The Gilded Curse? It’s beautiful! We only have time for one more question, so I want to know if you still write for magazines.

Only one – and a very important one near and dear to me – Guideposts magazine. I’ve been a reader and fan of the publication for many, many years, and it was a dream come true to win the 2010 Guideposts Writers contest. As a result, I’ve been writing for them ever since. And another dream came true recently. I signed a contract to write some devotions for Daily Guideposts 2017, an annual devotional book that I’ve used daily for many years and always wanted to be in.

Wow–another thing to celebrate! Thank you for being with us today and sharing your writing journey. I think we all can see that your hard work is showing!

Readers, remember to leave a comment for Marilyn and you’ll be in the drawing for a copy of her book, Lighthouse Devotions. And be sure to check back next week to see if you’re the winner!

Bio: Marilyn Turk is director of the brand new writers conference, Blue Lake Christian Writers Retreat, to be held April 20-23, 2016 in Andalusia, AL– a perfect location for writers in southern Alabama and the Gulf Coast. She has been published in Guideposts magazine, Guideposts books – A Joyful Heart and A Cup of Christmas Cheer, The Upper Room, Clubhouse Jr. Magazine, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and Lighthouse Digest magazine. Her Coastal Lights Legacy series features stories set around lighthouses. Her book, Lighthouse Devotions was published in 2015, and in March 2016, The Gilded Curse, a historical suspense novel, will be released by Heritage Beacon, an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Her weekly lighthouse blog can be found at She lives in Florida with husband Chuck and enjoys boating, fishing, tennis, and gardening when she’s not climbing lighthouses or playing with her grandsons.

Happy writing, everyone!


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Interview with Cheri Cowell – You Could Win a Free Book!

Cheri Cowell headshot (Nov 2014)What a joy to have my friend author and speaker Cheri Cowell back with us again today. After meeting at the CLASS Christian Writers Conference in New Mexico years ago, Cheri and I have been friends ever since. She’s written several books, but I’m especially excited about her latest, 365 Devotions for Peace. All it takes is one look at the headlines to know peace can be hard to find in today’s world. I have a feeling I’m not the only one ready to hear more about claiming the peace that’s offered to us.

Don’t forget to leave a comment and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book! Be sure to return next week to see if you’re the winner. Now, let’s get started.

Cheri, thanks for coming back to the Christian Writer’s Den today and sharing your new book with us. When I heard you had written about peace, I just knew I had to have you back, after all, it’s such a timely topic. So, tell us how this book came about.

I tell writers all the time that this business is about relationships and being where writers are–which is at writers’ conferences. I was in a conversation with an editor, just talking about writing, and I mentioned my new blog focus was going to be on the unrest in the country and the search for peace. She said, “Funny you should mention that because I’m looking for someone to write a daily devotional on the subject of peace.” You cannot underestimate the value of relationships in this industry.

So true! I’m sure most of us who’ve been doing this for any length of time have a story of something that came about through a writing relationship. But back to your book. What did you learn about the subject of peace while writing the book?

Like most things biblical, the Christian’s understanding of the subject of peace must be re-aligned with God’s definition and that definition has many facets. God’s definition is only truly understood as it is practiced–365 days a year.

So how did you go about writing 365 devotions on a single topic like peace?Cheri Cowell cover Peace

I am foremost a Bible teacher, so I begin with Scripture. There are 165 direct references to peace in the Bible and an additional 100 tangentially related. Some scriptures gave me the illustration fairly openly, but some I had to rely on inspiration from the Holy Spirit to bring the point to life. Then I followed the format for good devotional writing.

Good devotional writing does have a format. Can you share that format with us?

Sure. I learned this at writers’ conferences. A good devotional has five parts: Scripture, Illustration, Tie-in or application, Take-away, and Prayer. All of this is done in 250-300 words, making devotional writing good practice for writing tight. It forces you to measure every word, and to make good use of transitions so your devotional drives the point easily and smoothly for the reader.

As I mentioned above, 365 Devotions for Peace is not your first book published. Tell us about the others.

I actually began my writing career as an article writer, which gave me a good platform for publication. Incidentally, I still write articles and blogs because I know that writers can reach more people in magazines and online articles than with books. However, I am honored to be the author of four books: Direction: Discernment of the Decisions of Your Life, Parables and Word Pictures in the Following God Bible study series, and Living the Story: Reaching Outside the Church Walls.

Your bio says you’re a sidewalk theologian–what is that?

I like to say that in my writing and speaking you will meet a friend on the sidewalk of life who brings sound biblical answers to your questions of faith. I have a seminary degree from Asbury Seminary, but my real gift is in taking complicated theological issues and applying them to the real questions of faith ordinary people have, sharing those answers in a conversational manner. I hope reading 365 Devotions for Peace is a conversation with your own sidewalk theologian.

Do you have another book in the works?

In June, One Story, One Mission, One God releases, which is an overview of the whole Bible’s story in just 14 weeks. Many of us have only received the Bible in bits and pieces, but I want to show how the Bible is one story with the same mission about the same God from Genesis to Revelation. All of those pieces will fit together better when readers see the whole story from this birds-eye-view. I’ll be blogging about it from my website over the coming months.

Cheri Cowell Parables coverI LOVE the focus of that book! I’ll look forward to seeing it come out as well. Well, out time’s about up, so one last question. If you were to give one piece of writing advice, what would it be?

Can I share two? The first would be to write devotionals and articles so you learn good writing technique (and you reach thousands with your message). And the second piece of advice is on attending writers’ conferences. I never would have been published, either as a regular article writer or with books, if I had not developed the relationships needed to make it in this industry at conferences. It is an investment you must make.

Amen, Cheri! Those are words of advice I share every chance I get. As a matter of fact, I recently realized that every positive step in my writing journey can be traced back to a writer’s conference. Some say they can’t afford to go, but I say you can’t afford NOT to go!

I didn’t have the funds when I first started writing, either, but I made it a priority. I asked for donations to my conference fund for my birthday, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, anniversary, etc. Anything that would normally result in a gift, I asked for the donation instead. I did that for several years in order to be able to attend. It was that important.

Cheri, thank you again for being with us today. I know your words will encourage writers for years to come.

And friends, don’t forget to leave a comment for Cheri and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book. The winner will be announced next week!

Bio: Cheri Cowell, an author, speaker, and sidewalk theologian, is the author of several books including the Bible study Parables and Word Pictures. A graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary, she shares her passion to help others apply biblical principles to the sidewalk issues of life.

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,


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Interview & Book Give-Away with Delores Liesner

Photography by KHB photography

Photography by KHB photography

What a joy to close out 2015 with a visit from my friend, author Delores Liesner. We met years ago at the CLASS Christian Writers Conference and she’s been hard at work ever since. I love her publication story and her look at contemporary miracles. I hope you’ll be challenged to see the potential, too!

Be sure to leave a comment for Delores and you’ll be in the drawing for a copy of her new book, Be the Miracle.

Welcome, Delores. Let’s get started. I see you consider yourself a storyteller, yet most of your work is non-fiction. Please tell us how that came about.

Fiction was my lifeline growing up – especially if based on a true story. We moved to a new town when I was in high school and the English teacher, desperate to gain more oral reports, had made a rule the year prior that every A-graded book report would advance the student’s final score by one letter grade! Investigative conversations with older students provided a list of her favorites, and I learned how to write to the audience. The Scarlet Letter and short stories by O’Henry among others, quickly garnered 5 “A” book reports (one extra just to be safe) and I could mess around the rest of the year. I loved dramatizing the real stories of my teacher’s preferences, but, certain my life experiences would never be that exciting, I began creating fictional skits and stories for school, my own escape valve, and eventually for my children.

Then I met God, and my life-drama developed new depth. I learned how to study the Bible inductively with the Navigators. I noticed when I shared personal applications in story form, others were leaning forward, interested to hear what happened next, so I saw value to using story in lessons and articles and began getting help and advice toward publishing them.

Where or to whom did you go to learn about publishing, Delores?Delores Liesner Miracle book cover

First, I wrote to a fiction author I admired, and asked how one goes about getting a story or article published. She directed me to Allison Gappa Bottke, who was developing an anthology series God Allows U Turns. Allison accepted a couple of my stories, and encouraged me to attend a seminar led by Marita and Florence Littauer. That conference, including the editor, publisher and radio appointments were life changing, as was the assignment Allison gave me to find stories after nine-one-one. accepted a guest blog from one of those interviews and the following day I was on the phone hearing a story from a general at the Pentagon! I knew I could never dream up stuff this exciting and I was hooked. More conferences led me to 2010 where I met more encouragers, including Bruce Wilkinson. He inspired me to combine 31 of my miracle stories into a book.  I left the conference on a high, thinking the book could be out within a year, but the journey had just begun.

Yes, it seems all authors have experienced that reality check.  So Be the Miracle was published this August – almost 5 years from that moment of commitment.  What happened?

Life happened. I was still the guardian for my mother who lived 4 hours away, and that took quite a bit of my time. In the off hours I wrote devotionals, stories for anthologies, magazines and internet to save for a conference where I hoped to gain publishing and marketing information, and prayed a lot. I prayed about which stories to choose, and prayed about meeting the right people to help me navigate the fearsome

Delores and author/speaker Bruce Wilkinson

Delores and author/speaker Bruce Wilkinson

book proposal, and prayed about a publisher. I wrote and rewrote stories in different ways for different markets. I was blessed during that time to receive a call from an editor saying, “We are thinking of adding a column to our magazine and your name came up – would you be interested?”  That experience taught me refining stories for space and attention span, preparing me for the short-story devotional style of my book.

I blogged about the dreaded book proposal and a young friend introduced me to her friend – an experienced published author. As I was preparing my one-sheet for a conference meeting with one publisher, another’s call congratulating me for a contest win led to my contract and contact for an agent.  More amazing God HUGS (Highly Unexpected God-Surprises).

Sounds like faith played an active role in your writing journey. Is that the message your stories carry to the readers?

Delores and husband Ken

Delores and husband Ken

Yes, to activate our faith – putting hands and feet to what we believe, and to live expectantly, knowing that where we go we bring Christ, so we can expect something exciting to happen.

And after reading your book, Be the Miracle, I’m reminded that God is always orchestrating miracles . . . if only we’re focused enough to see them. Thank you for sharing your writing journey and your life of miracles with us. I pray that–as your tagline says–we’ll all be challenged to put our hands and feet to our faith.

And friends, don’t forget to leave a message for Delores and you’ll be in the drawing for a free copy of her book, Be the Miracle. Don’t forget to return next week to see if you’re the winner!


Thank you for your kind words of sympathy and encouragement in the loss of my dear father-in-love. They gave strength and peace when we needed them. Thank you, too, for your grace as I return to work again and begin the catch-up in January.

Blessings for the new year!


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Interview & Book Give-Away with Mary Scro

IMG_1347 smallerWelcome to the Christian Writer’s Den as we learn more about the writing life from author and speaker, Mary Scro…

What fun to introduce Mary Graziano Scro today. Mary and I met years ago when she attended Christian Communicators Conference and she’s been a dear friend ever since! I’m honored to share her writing journey with you today.

Be sure and leave a comment for Mary and you’ll be in the drawing for a free copy of one of her books. Don’t forget to check back next week to see if you’re the winner!

Now let’s get started. First of all, Mary, I’m always interested in hearing how authors got interested in writing.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to write…and I’ve always loved to read. There’s something about the power of the written word to teach, inspire, and entertain that wakes up the gift God put inside me. When someone reads what I’ve written and it blesses them, well, there’s nothing like it. And the same goes for me when I am inspired by the work of others.

Oh, I know what you mean. I’m so encouraged when readers say my books helped or even entertained them. But we all have writing challenges. What are a few of yours? 

One is trying too hard to “get it perfect” without editing. Many years ago, a manager asked for a one-page management summary of a huge document. A co-worker and I labored over it all day but didn’t have a thing done when the manager came back to check. Instead of being mad, she laughed and said, “You’re trying too hard. You won’t get it right the first time so just get something down on paper, then you can edit.” She nailed it!

Another area is to “write clean”: keep verbs active, don’t use too many words when fewer will do, stay to the point. I’ve had awesome help from my Word Weavers critique group in that area. And I’ve learned helpful edit techniques, such as searching for “ing” words and reading my writing out loud.

One thing I learned: we can always improve our writing…and we need to keep working at that.

Yes, it’s taken me a long time to learn that trying to make my words “pretty” before moving on gets me nowhere! Please share when and why you started blogging.Mary Scro Intentional Fitness cover

My first blog post was in May, 2013. I like the spontaneous nature of blogging – sharing what God is showing me at that moment. At first I wanted to do something so great that many would flock to my blog and I’d be famous overnight. Then I came down to earth and realized we need all the voices we can get on the internet to tell people about our awesome God. He gifted me to write, I need to steward it well and share for Him, not for me.

Along those lines, I used to get discouraged when someone posted something similar to what I just posted. Now I get excited because I realize that I heard God – He is speaking the same message to many so He can reach our different audiences.

I had to laugh when I read that you expected readers would flock to your blog and you’d be famous overnight. Sounds like we have a lot of the same tendencies! Would you tell us a little about your books, and how they came about?

The first book, Intentional Fitness: Working Out Your Salvation, started as a teaching about how to move from the world’s ways to God’s ways to grow in your faith. We grow our faith because a lost world needs Jesus, and they won’t see Him unless He’s strong in us. Our faith doesn’t just grow with time; it takes effort, choice, and obedience. I share parts of my testimony to encourage others that if I can have an awesome life with God, they can too.

The second book, Intentional Warfare: Winning the Daily Spiritual Battles, started as a teaching about spiritual warfare in a class I co-taught at my church. I didn’t know what to teach – God literally fed it to me one week at a time. Then with my co-teacher’s encouragement, I wrote a book about it. Most of the book is about becoming aware of the daily battle that is going on around us, how to fight the right enemy in God’s strength, and how to live a more God-empowered life.

I think I see a theme here with the word “intentional.” Want to share about that?

My passion is to see Christians take responsibility for growing their faith – to talk, act, and live differently than people who don’t know Jesus. We need to be more than good people who do good things, we need to be supernatural people whose God works miracles in and through us. Most of my writing is about obedience and what amazing things God can do in our lives…and conversely, how we give our enemy, the devil, power when we try to go our own way.

Walking with Jesus is not about where we are in our journey, it’s about the direction we’re headed and our willingness to lay down our way for God’s. When we do, oh, what a glorious life!

Mary Scro Intentional Warfare coverAmen, sister! Thank you so much for being with us and sharing your story, Mary. I know your experience will be helpful for writers out there.

Friends, be sure to leave a comment and next week you could win a copy of Mary’s book. Just check back next Tuesday to see if you’re the winner!

Bio: Mary Graziano Scro, a graduate of Christian Communicators Conference, is an inspirational author, speaker, and blogger who intuitively weaves analogies and personal testimony with practical biblical teaching. Whether in person or at the keyboard, Mary loves sharing what God has done in her life to encourage others in their own walks with the Lord. Mary’s books, Intentional Fitness and Intentional Warfare, are available through Vox Dei Publishing, and she has more projects in the works. She lives in Virginia with her husband Don, her parents, two cats, a dog, and occasional rogue bears who raid the bird feeder.

You can reach Mary through:

Facebook: Life Is Not A Formula
Twitter: @marygscro
LinkedIn: Mary Graziano Scro
Blogs: Life Is Not A Formula (Mary’s website) at
Vox Dei Publishing blog at
Almost an Author, WARFARE! Column at


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Interview & Book Give-Away with Cindy Patterson

Cindy Patterson headshotHappy 4th Tuesday! I’m excited to share my friend, Cindy Patterson, with you today.

Cindy and I met years ago when I spoke at her church and we’ve kept in touch through the years of writing and taking breaks and writing again. Yes, even though I have a love/hate relationship with technology, right now I’m thankful God allowed us to stay in touch through the demon/angel.

Cindy is not only the author of Broken Butterfly, but she actually wrote several novels through our MoGo7000 Monthly Challenge AND she was our very first winner of the $100 prize in the 2011 MoGo7000 Challenge! As you can see, Cindy is proof that MoGo7000 can help you finish your book. :-)

Be sure to leave a comment for Cindy and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book. Now, let’s get started.

Welcome, Cindy. First of all, I’d love to know what inspired you to write your first book.

You know that point when you reach the end of a really good novel and the depressing feeling that settles over you with an ache making you want more? I had to have that “more,” so I created my own characters, my own story.

In this story, I wanted to give a glimpse of how God can use brokenness and make it whole. I also wanted to share a remarkable love story and to give hope.

We know that writing is one thing, but when did you first consider yourself a writer?

I’m so glad you asked me that question. It was you, Vonda, who first told me I was a writer. You were speaking at my church quite a few years ago and I couldn’t wait to meet you. At the time, I still didn’t feel like a writer, but I headed home with all the tips and resources you gave me and I began this whirlwind of a life and have loved every minute of it. And I know without a doubt, God appointed that brief meeting between you and me.

He sure did! Thank you for letting me know of my small part in your journey. And now, here you are, encouraging and influencing other writers! Speaking of other writers, we’re always interested in knowing who are pantsers and who are plotters. Do you have a specific writing style?

I’m a pantser. No organization whatsoever. I sit down and start pounding at the keys and the words flow like a scene from a movie. Of course, there’s a lot of editing, cutting, and sometimes rearranging to be done after the first draft and even the second, and third. Sometimes I want to try the more organized form of writing to see how that works for me. I may even do that with my next novel. I’m always up for a new challenge.

My three published novels were plotted and it worked well for me. But I’ve just started another novel and for the first time I’m having trouble figuring out the story line. I think I need some inspiration! Do you have something that inspires you while you write?

Music. Reading. The last light of the setting sun filtering through the woods behind my house. Jesus.

I love your title, Broken Butterfly. How is this story special to you?Broken Butterfly Cover (1)

The characters of Broken Butterfly came to me in a very weird dream. I have a lot of those, but this one in particular would not leave me alone until I started their story. It’s hard to pinpoint how this story is special to me without giving too much away, but I will say this, I could not do any of this without God’s help. And in this book in particular, He gave me the twist that brought Broken Butterfly full circle and I remember that moment as if it happened yesterday.

Wow, what a gift that was to you! I have weird dreams, too, but mine have never been insights for a new book! I love your cover, too. Who designed it?

The cover of this book had been in my head for years. I knew I wouldn’t find a pre-made cover that would fit exactly what I was looking for. I needed a young lady, fitting Mallory’s description, who also had a butterfly and dragonfly tattoo visible on her ankle. So, I chose my oldest son’s fiancĂ©, Madison Robinson, to model for me. Her uncle, Mike Parrish, of Tar River Photography, took the picture. The tattoo holds great significance in the story. You’ll have to read to find out why. ;)

Is there a message in this novel that you want readers to grasp?

I want my readers to connect with my characters and to remember them long after they put the book down. The world needs more Faith, Hope, and Love. This is a clean romance that stirs the heart. The reader is at peace seeing Mallory triumph over her struggles and the reader is empowered to overcome his or her own challenges in life.

Also, domestic abuse is a living, breathing reality for many and I wanted to bring that to light, hoping someone feeling trapped would find the courage to escape, and to ultimately find hope in Jesus.

We’re running out of time, but I’d like to know what writing tip you would offer other writers.

Embrace meaningful relationships with other writers. Don’t compare your success to others. God has His specific plan for you in His own perfect time. Encourage each other and promote not only yourself but those around you. And finally, never stop learning.

Wise words, Cindy. Before we go, would you give us a peek into your current project?

I’m currently working with an editor on Chasing Paradise, the prequel to Broken Butterfly.

Thank you for joining us today and sharing your wisdom and insight into writing. And readers, remember to leave a comment for Cindy and you’ll be in the drawing for her book. Be sure to return next week to see if you’re the winner!

Thanks for Tweeting!

MoGo7000 $100 winner Cindy Patterson shares writing advice. Win a #free book! #amwriting #pubtips (Click to Tweet)

Cindy Patterson memeBio: Cindy Patterson lives in North Carolina with her wonderful husband and three amazing children. Her passions include Jesus, homeschooling, writing, and drama ministry. You’ll find her at any given time with her family on a baseball field watching her youngest son play, as her oldest son and husband coach from the sideline. You can also find her watching her daughter dance, tucked away reading, or cooking when she’s not writing. She’s a member of ACFW.

Here’s where you can find Cindy:

Direct Amazon link to Broken Butterfly

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Yvonne Ortega, and Who Won Kathy Carlton Willis’ Book?

Yvonne Ortega headshotWelcome to the Christian Writer’s Den 5th Tuesday as we welcome author and speaker, Yvonne Ortega!

Yvonne and I go way back to 2005 or so when we first met through the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA). In 2011 she attended the NCompass Writing Retreats that Edie Melson and I were leading at the time (before life got so crazy that we had to discontinue it). Then in 2012, she attended Christian Communicators Conference. During that time, she was cranking out books and blog posts, while also providing counseling in many areas of need.

Since then, God has continued to use her in powerful ways to reach those who need to hear the Good News of the love, grace, and mercy of our Lord. She has gone on to get even more training and as you’ll see, is now training others! But one of the things I love the most about Yvonne is her often-stated goal, “To reach millions for Jesus in my lifetime.” Wow. Can you see why I’m excited about sharing her latest book with you?

Be sure to leave a comment for Yvonne and you’ll be in the drawing for a free copy of her latest book, Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward.

So let’s get started! Welcome, Yvonne. First of all, I’d like you to tell my friends a little about yourself.

I’m a small-town gal who enjoys the beach and music—everything from country western to classical music. Mention travel, and I’ll pack my bags right away. I watch comedies and laugh until my sides hurt.

As I’ve already mentioned, you’re a professional speaker and an author. How did you get interested in this line of work and ministry?

As a child, I gathered the neighborhood kids to play school. I was the teacher. Mama took me to the library weekly until I could go on my own. I would get lost in a book and forget to eat if it weren’t for Mama’s dinnertime call. I liked the smell and feel of paper and composition books and wrote stories. At thirteen, I submitted my first letter to the editor of the local newspaper.

After a diagnosis of breast cancer fourteen and a half years ago, I cried out to God through journaling. After lots of rewrites, I wrote my first book, Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer. I had to speak in order to market and publicize the book.

That led me to speaker training, and now I’m a World Class Certified Speaking Coach.

What led you to write your second book?

Prior to breast cancer, I had gone through a domestic violence marriage, divorce, and single parenting. After breast cancer, I had four car accidents in seven years. None were my fault, but I suffered injuries and damage to my car. Six years ago, my only child unexpectedly passed away following surgery. Each crisis forced me to my knees in prayer and to the Bible for answers. God showered me with his love, Yvonne Ortega book cover 2compassion, and faithfulness.

After the divorce, I became a Licensed Professional Counselor and became involved in Women’s Ministry. I met many hurting women who didn’t know they could move from broken to beautiful with God’s help. That’s how my latest book, Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward, came about. Passion drives me to share the message of these life lessons with women worldwide. Hurting people don’t need to give up. They can move forward and lead a productive, joyful life beyond measure.

What words of wisdom do you have for women who want to write about their painful past?

  • Make sure you’re ready to write about your painful past without an emotional, physical, or spiritual collapse. Take your time to heal. Ask God to show you when you can tackle the trauma of your past. He will show you.
  • Have you forgiven those who hurt you? God says in 1 Peter 3:9, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.” I struggled to forgive my ex-husband. With God’s help, I’m no longer a prisoner of the past. Your readers want to know you aren’t either.
  • Acknowledge your pain and loss and admit you still grieve. I lost my mother before Mother’s Day and my only child three days after in the same year. Their birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Mother’s Day trigger the pain. They’re in heaven, but I can’t call or visit them and can’t send them a card or a gift. They can’t call or visit me, or send me a card or gift either. That hurts.
  • If you present yourself as Wonder Woman, your readers can’t identify with you. And you can’t minister to them. Acknowledge both your strengths and weaknesses.
  • In writing about your painful past, you answer a divine call. You minister to those you write and speak for. Your writing cannot be therapeutic journaling. There is a place for therapeutic journaling, but not for publication. For publication, include application, application, and more application. Have Scriptures, prayers, resources, links, quotations, etc. for the readers. Answer the question, “What’s in it for them?”

Your advice is right on target! Where can readers find your book?

Moving from Broken to Beautiful is available as a paperback and an ebook on Amazon and other online booksellers.

Do you have another book in progress?

I’m thrilled to say I’m halfway through writing a book on forgiveness.

Awesome, Yvonne! I didn’t know that! Thank you for joining us today. I pray God continues to bless you as you bless others.

And readers, don’t forget to leave a comment for Yvonne and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book. Be sure to return next week to see if you’re the winner.

Yvonne Ortega book cover 1Readers, you can contact Yvonne through:

Her website:

Her blog: On the homepage of her website

Twitter: @yvonneortega1

Facebook: Yvonne Ortega

Facebook Community Page: Yvonne Ortega

To contact Yvonne about a speaking event, please visit her website or contact her directly at

Bio: Yvonne Ortega is a World Class Certified Speaking Coach, an international speaker, author of Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward and Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer and a contributing author to two anthologies. She has taught at major Christian writing conferences in the USA. Yvonne has been interviewed on radio and TV programs including Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk, the Harvest Show, 100 Huntley Street, and Marnie’s Friends. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and has taught Precept Bible Studies and in Bible Study Fellowship. Yvonne currently serves on the Advisory Board for Christians in Recovery. She served as the Regional Speaker Trainer of Virginia for more than three years and on the board of Kairos Prison Ministry. Subscribe to her newsletter and free weekly devotion at


And who won Kathy Carlton Willis’ book, Grin with Grace?Grin-With-Grace_cover

The winner is:

Jean Wilund!

Congratulations, Jean! All you need to do is contact me with your snail mail address and Kathy will get your book right out to you!

And for you who didn’t win, here’s your direct Amazon link to Grin with Grace. I know you want your own copy so you’ll be able to grin through the tough times, too!


Friends, I don’t know if you noticed, but both of these books are about how to get through those tough times in life. I didn’t plan this, but apparently God did! I hope you find that both of these books encourage you and lift you up through the human lessons and the supernatural love, grace, and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Grace and peace be your in abundance,


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Interview & Book Give-Away with Kathy Carlton Willis and Who Won Edie Melson’s Book?

Kathy Carlton Willis ImageIt’s a joy to introduce my friend, Kathy Carlton Willis, to you!

Kathy and I have been friends for many years and have seen many changes in the writing world. But one thing remains constant: The secret to getting your work published is to write well! And that’s exactly what Kathy did with her latest book, Grin with Grace. What a joy to share this new book with you!

Leave a comment for Kathy and you’ll be in the drawing for a free copy of Grin with Grace! Be sure to check back next week to see if you’re the winner. Now, let’s get started!

Welcome, Kathy! Let’s begin by letting you tell my friends a little bit about yourself.

I’m a flawed pastor’s wife on the search for grace. I’ve discovered a lot about God, others and myself along the way. I dote on my Boston Terrier, Jazzy, and love to find the humor in any given situation—even the trials. I’ve laughed. A lot. Grace (and Jazzy) have a lot to do with the ability to grin even when I’d rather groan or grit my teeth.

Will you share how you began your speaking and writing ministry?

I guess we can blame my profusion of words on my Mom. She says I pretty much came out of the womb talking, and soon after she helped me discover our public library. I’ve always been a words girl and started writing when I started writing—and haven’t looked back!

How did you come up with Grin with Grace?

All through my husband’s time in church ministry—over thirty years now—I’ve learned the importance of grinning with grace. So often, when I felt backed into a corner by a not-so-well-meaning church member, I found a way to bite my tongue: I told myself to grin with grace. It became my go-to phrase.

To organize the book, I searched for the word grace in Scripture and combined the results into different categories. I discovered how God blesses us with His grace, and the ways grace impacts our relationships with Him and others. Since life is more bearable with laughter, humorous transparency is woven into the fabric of this study. Hence—Grin with Grace.

I know from my own experience that God often qualifies us as authors by allowing us to gain life experience before we write on the topic. What happened to prepare you for writing Grin with Grace?

While writing this series, I dealt with multiple health issues, surgeries, cancer, and hospitalizations. At the same time, I moved to a different town and dove in to a new church ministry with my husband. Very little in life seemed familiar or comfortable. But God infused grace into each challenge and turned them into opportunities.

What will readers discover in Grin with Grace?Grin-With-Grace_cover

Grace isn’t meant to be hoarded. Once God blesses us with grace, we are then recruited to be instruments of His grace to others. Grin with Grace tells stories of real-life grace and gives suggestions for creating new grace moments for others. Learn how to become a Grace agent.

What are some of the events you have planned to go along with your Grin with Grace book? Event planners are welcome to contact me to find out more about these programs: Grace Gal Pal’s Night Out, Grin with Grace Banquet, Tea or Brunch, and the Grin with Grace Retreat.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

If you’re serious about obtaining the writing goals God’s given you, then you have to act like the CEO of your own company and do the work of writing. If you treat it as a hobbyist, you will get hobby-like results. But when you treat it like a business, the industry will take you seriously. Take the time to do it right the first time rather than getting in a hurry. Ask yourself: “Am I in love with the idea of being a writer, or am I in love with actually writing?”

(Vonda here: Kathy didn’t tell you, so I will. Kathy also has a writers group she coaches called WordGirls. It’s a group customized to the needs of the members, and involves a variety of services: webinars, private Facebook discussion group, one-on-one coaching, critiques, weekend getaways, downloadable tutorials, monthly newsletter and more. Their next event is in Kentucky later in October. Contact Kathy if you’d like to hear more about WordGirls.)

Where can readers find your book?

Grin with Grace is published by AMG Publishing and can be found or requested anywhere books are sold.

So what’s on the horizon? Do you have another book in progress?

The next book in the Grin With…Bible Study Series is Grin with Joy. It’s set to release around March, 2016. I also have a book for speakers that released this year titled Speaker to Speaker: The Essential Speaker’s Companion.

Thank you for being with us today, Kathy. You gave us all a lot to think about and work on.

And friends, don’t forget to leave a comment for Kathy and you’ll be in the drawing for a free copy of her book!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00025]Readers, you can contact Kathy through:
Her website:
Her Grin with Kathy Blog:
Twitter: @KCWComm
Facebook: Kathy Carlton Willis
Facebook Groups: Grin with Kathy and Speaker to Speaker
To contact Kathy, please email her at:

Bio: Kathy Carlton Willis writes and speaks with a balance of funny and faith—whimsy and wisdom. Not many funny girls also have Bible degrees! Kathy’s a pastor’s wife, which gives her plenty of opportunities to grin with grace. She shines the light on issues that hold women back and inspires their own lightbulb moments. Almost a thousand of Kathy’s articles have been published in books, magazines, newspapers and online publications. Kathy’s tagline describes her best: Light & Lively: His Reflection/Her Laughter. Kathy lives with her pastor/husband, Russ, in Rockdale, Texas.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Connections cover

Who won Edie Melson’s book, Connections: Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers?

And the winner is…

Rene` Diane Aube!

Congratulations, Rene`! Just contact me with your mailing address and your book will be on it’s way!


Thanks for Tweeting!

Can you grin through the gook of life? Grace can’t be hoarded! #Free book #amwriting @KCWComm via @VondaSkelton (Click to Tweet)

Happy writing!


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