Tag Archives: Cindy Sproles

Chip MacGregor: Ask the Agent, Kudos & MoGo7000 Call-Outs & Who Won Cindy Sproles’ Book?

Chip MacGregor headshot2If you’re not following agent Chip MacGregor’s blog, I have three words for you: You need to. Chip is a top-notch literary agent and president of MacGregor Literary. He works with both the Christian and general market and loves sharing his snarky-laced words of wisdom with writers. I’m telling you now, you don’t want to miss his annual Bad Poetry Contest in May–what a fun way to celebrate his birthday!

Today, I’m thrilled to share a recent question submitted to Chip’s Ask the Agent blog series. Great advice for those who are serious about writing. But watch out, you must have your humor hat on or you may not get it.

Thanks, Chip!

Excerpt from Chip MacGregor’s blog series, Ask the Agent: “What 10 editorial mistakes do most novice authors make?”

I suppose if you asked this of ten agents, you’d probably get a hundred total answers, but here are my pet peeves with newbie authors:

  • Too many exclamation points!!!
  • A proposal that has not been proof-red
  • Overpromising, as in “This proposal will sell a billion copies!”
  • FEELING A NEED TO PUT LOTS OF WORDS IN ALL CAPS.
  • Random numbering in an outline.
  • I did this, I did that, I did this other thing, I, I, I.
  • Random commas, that make no, sense.
  • A failure to understand how to properly use “quotation” marks. (Also parentheses. And their attached punctuation).
  • Failing to understand the difference between its and it’s (or there and their and they’re).
  • The manuscript is passive due to the author.

Hint for the humor impaired: There are intentional errors in that list. If you see one, don’t send me aHow Can I Find A Literary Agent cover scolding note or you’ll be banned from the blog. It’s a joke. I know you don’t get it. Just trust me – others find it funny. 

Friends, I hope you learned something about agents and what they’re NOT looking for. And if you’re a writer interested in finding out more agent answers to your questions, check out Chip’s new book, How Can I Find A Literary Agent? And 101 Other Questions Asked by Writers .

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Call-Out for Kudos…I Want to Brag on You!

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!

mogo7000 logo~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Call for MoGo7000 Totals

If you wrote at least 7000 new words on a book project in March, you can receive an entry in the drawing for the 2015 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 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 Monday). 

If you missed out on last year’s money-winning writing challenge, don’t worry, the 2015 challenge is underway! 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. Reach the goal one month and you’ll have one entry. Meet it 10 months and you’ll have 10 entries!

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

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And Who Won Cindy Sproles’ Book, Mercy’s Rain?Cindy Sproles Mercys Rain cover

The winner is…drumroll, please…

Cindy Patterson!

Congratulations, Cindy (Patterson)! I’m so happy for you and I know you’re going to love this book. Simply contact me with your snail mail address and Cindy (Sproles) will get the book right out to you. (Hmmm…could this be a Cindy conspiracy?) :-)

Well, for those of you who are not named Cindy, here’s a direct Amazon link to Mercy’s Rain. I know–and you know–you want your own copy!

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Thanks for Tweeting!

Ask Agent Chip MacGregor, Call-Outs & Cindy Sproles’ Mercy’s Rain winner. #amwriting @MacGregorLit @VondaSkelton (Click to Tweet)

Well, that does it for another 1st Tuesday. I can’t wait to see you back next week to meet another author and to celebrate our successes together!

Happy writing!

Vonda

 

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Interview & Book Give Away with Cindy Sproles, Author of Mercy’s Rain, Part 2

Cindy Sproles headshot 2I could hardly wait to share Part 2 of my interview with Cindy Sproles, author of Mercy’s Rain. You might want to start with Part 1 of my interview with Cindy Sproles.

Readers, don’t forget to leave a comment for Cindy. All commenters to both last week’s and this week’s posts will be in the drawing for a free book! Be sure to return next week to see if you’re the winner. Now, let’s gather back around the kitchen table with Cindy.

I read your book, so I can attest to the fact that it’s not preachy. Tell us how you were able to weave a spiritual thread through Mercy’s Rain without hitting the reader over the head.

I allowed Mercy to ask the question over and over, “Why would a God who was worth a hoot, allow sucha thing?” She continually attacks God, calling Him cruel. The thread comes through love. Samuel (the preacher friend) and the Johnsons love Mercy into the hands of forgiveness. Today we spend so much time trying to PROVE God and prove we are right about God, when what we are commanded to do is LOVE. Once the seeds of love are planted, God will nurture it. The thread of the spiritual context is unconditional love, not trying to fix the person, but loving them into a place where they will allow God to fix them. Our example speaks loud. We should really pay closer attention to it.

Thank you. I needed to be reminded of that. Sounds like you’re committed to the importance of Christian fiction.  

There are Christians who think fiction is misguided. What better way to show redemption than through the eyes of a fictional character? Those characters can say, do, and feel the things we would never allow ourselves to do. People are touched by the stories. I get tickled when folks preach that Christian fiction is bad, when in the same breath they can tell you in detail the last movie they watched. Uh…99.5% of the movies they watch are…none other than fiction. At some point, we have to realize stories have changed the world, moved hearts, drawn people to Christ. There is nothing sweeter than an email from a reader who says, “I loved the story of Mercy. I’m not much on fiction, but this story forced me to stop and face my own demons.”  That is what we want to hear. Yes?

As Christians, we have a higher set of standards to adhere to when we write our fiction. The world tells us to “write where the reader is .  .  . ie, if they curse, stomp, slash or whatever, write it real in the words you would hear.” I disagree. Mercy’s story is hard. It’s filled with horrible abuse, but I never crossed the line. I did not use foul language. I did not draw every gory scene. I didn’t delve into the nastiness of rape. Instead Cindy Sproles Mercys Rain coverI wrote the emotion. When the reader felt Mercy’s agony, their own imagination wrote the graphic scenes. That drew the picture. We have a responsibility as writers to set the standards. One review in a major site said if this were a movie it would be rated R because of the topic . . . not because of the scenes written. So, we can dig down as writers and use emotion to paint a more vivid picture than nasty language or gory details. It’s much easier to write the foul language rather than challenge ourselves to dig deep into the emotion and tell the story.

I so agree! And if we have a problem with fiction or difficult topics, all we need to do is read the Bible! (Okay, now I’M the one standing on my soapbox!) You mentioned that you used the emotion of the characters to demonstrate the horror of sinful deeds. Without sharing any spoilers, what was the most emotional scene for you to write in your novel?

Oh, there are so many, but I think the burial of her baby. That said, you gotta read to find out why.

Oh yes, that was a gripping scene. One I won’t forget. My next question: Writers often desire to teach a lesson in and through their writing, but we as Christian writers also learn something. What was one thing you learned while writing Mercy’s Rain?

God constantly wears at me to be better. I’ve learned that God’s love is what heals. Even in my own life, I’ve made mistakes, had hardships, but God’s love has always healed.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?

My voice. I’m very much a mountain girl. The dialect is second nature to me. The mountain folk of Appalachia are kind, gentle, and simple people. They’re truthful. So when I launch into tellin’ you all about my kin, it ain’t so hard to picture who they was or how they lived. A man had to work hard for his earnin’s and he had to pray hard for his survival. But they ain’t a soul alive who don’t find peace on summit of the mountain. They ain’t a soul livin’ who can stand on top of that mountain and stretch his arms up, scrapin’ his fingers against the door of heaven and not see God Almighty peering through the clouds. This is the mountains. Where the breeze carries the whisper of God and trees sing His words. A body just has to stand quiet like. Still. And listen. The good Lord’ll speak when a man chooses to listen and pay Him some mind. J

Oh, I love your voice, and look forward to more opportunities to read it. What’s on the horizon for you now?

I’m currently working on the next two books in the Appalachian Novel Series. I want to be a writer that listens to His call and writes the whispers He gently speaks into my ear, so we pray for good words and blessing.

Cindy Sproles booksigningAny chance you would share the first chapter of Mercy’s Rain with my friends?  

I’ll do one better. Here’s the link for the excerpt of the first three chapters of Mercy’s Rain. I hope you enjoy them and I hope you’ll take time to grab the book.

Wow, Cindy, thanks! Hey, did y’all catch that? You can click on that link and read the first three chapters of Mercy’s Rain—for FREE! So what are you waiting for?

Bio: Cindy Sproles is an author and speaker. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries and managing editor for Straight Street Books and SonRise Devotionals, imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Cindy is a conference teacher and speaker, working conferences all across the country. Her devotions are found in newspapers all over the eastern seaboard. Cindy is the executive Editor of ChristianDevotions.us and InspireAFire.com. She is the author of four devotionals and compilations and her first fiction novel, Mercy’s Rain is now available. www.CindySproles.com

Thanks for Tweeting!

You’ve never read a novel like Cindy Sproles’ Mercy’s Rain! Win a book! @CindyDevoted #BookGiveaway on @VondaSkelton #MustRead (Click to Tweet)

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

Hope to see you back on Friday!

Vonda

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Cindy Sproles, Author of Mercy’s Rain

Cindy Sproles headshot 2Wow, wow, wow. Friends, have I got an interview for you! Today’s guest is my long-time friend, author, speaker, and Christian Communicators grad, Cindy Sproles. Cindy and I met years ago at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, and she’s been a dear friend ever since. You may know Cindy as director of Writer’s Advance Boot Camp or through ChristianDevotions.us or Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, but now I introduce her a master storyteller of unforgettable fiction. I’ve never read a book like her new novel, Mercy’s Rain. Never.

There were many important aspects to discuss related to this unusual book, and with having a 5th Tuesday this month, this was the perfect time to do a two-part interview. Be sure to leave a comment for Cindy and you’ll be in the drawing for a copy of Mercy’s Rain. Then return next week for Part 2.  And yes, if you post comments both weeks, you get TWO entries! (Be sure to return April 7 to see if you’re the winner.)

Okay, let’s get started. Welcome Cindy! You have a long career writing and teaching writing. Congratulations on your debut novel! Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.

Thanks for having me. I’m a true born and raised mountain girl. Raised in the mountains of East Tennessee. I started writing seriously in my mid-40s. I always knew I wanted to write but I never afforded myself the privilege. I had a family, two jobs . . . there just didn’t seem to be time for frivolous ventures. But God piqued my interest, then called me. I listened, attended my first conference and the rest is history.

I know we didn’t talk about this, Cindy, but I want to include the back cover blurb for Mercy’s Rain so readers can get insight into the overall story. I hope you don’t mind. 

Mercy Roller was raised by a twisted father who wore the collar of a Pastor, and chose to be Jesus, judge, and jury, by his own appointment. Abused, broken and bitter, Mercy lifts the hand that takes the Pastor’s life. In one swift action, she becomes what she despises most about the Pastor. Now she seeks redemption. Can the unconditional love of a mountain preacher and his friends, guide Mercy to find peace?

Having read your book, I’m dying to know how you came up with the idea for Mercy’s Rain.

Funny what goes through your mind at 3 a.m. I had the title for Mercy’s Rain long before I had the story. But one morning I couldn’t sleep so I flipped on the television and got one of the old time, down home, spittin’ and hollerin’ preachers. It made me laugh, but I thought, “Wouldn’t he make a great bad guy?” I turned the channel and landed on a documentary (which to this day I still do not know the title of) but it was on sexual abuse in children under 7 years of age. It broke my heart. The more I thought on it the more I realized the perfect storm had formed. Mercy Roller was born.

You wear so many hats, how do you protect your personal writing time?Cindy Sproles Mercys Rain cover

Sometimes it’s hard. Between the ministry of Christian Devotions, the devotions that pour in, project management for LPC and editing, it gets testy. But I’ve learned, you make the time. And I do. When I write on my own, it’s restful for me. I do wear many hats, and I find myself not always having the sympathy for writers who whine they just don’t have time. If you love to write, and you know that is your calling – and you are serious — you make the time to be obedient and write. Folks make time for everything else. This is no exception. (I’m on my soapbox, aren’t I? Sorry.)

Was the transition from non-fiction to fiction an easy or challenging one for you?

It wasn’t hard, but it was different. I wanted to do fiction right and so I studied the fiction writers I love, Alton Gansky, Steven James, Ann Tatlock, Yvonne Lehman, Nicholas Sparks, DiAnn Mills, Francine Rivers. These folks are masters of the art. I’ve taken their classes at conferences, sucked in everything they taught, and it paid off. It was an adjustment to write fiction. I fell into all the first time fiction writers blunders, but I quickly learned. So it wasn’t hard, but it took practice. I still feel like I need practice. Fiction is a fun place to go to let go of all your inner fears, wild ideas, and imaginary friends. Just put them in a story.

Why did you choose the particular theme in Mercy’s Rain? What do you want your readers to gain from the book?

First off, Mercy’s Rain was not geared to the Christian Market. I wrote it to the secular market. There were a number of things I wanted to accomplish:

1) I wanted to thread the underlying idea of redemption and its availability to everyone. The Christian world’s television evangelists falling to sin and bearing it in a very public manner gave me an easy “in” to the secular market. That market of readers tend to call Christians hypocrites, so why not capitalize on their already established ideas? By their standards, who doesn’t love to hate a preacher?

Cindy Sproles booksigning2) I wanted to address two difficult subjects. The first to the Christian market: Worship your God Almighty, not your preacher. I’ve seen so many congregations crumble because they put their faith in the man, not God. I wanted to address this issue. Let me be clear. I don’t have a vendetta against ministers. I went to Bible College and married a minister. But I do want people to understand that preachers are men . . . men who can be equally as tempted, who can fall to sin, just like everyone else. I also want folks to know that just because they are preachers doesn’t mean they can’t have the same redemption you and I get. It’s a balance. And one that can easily tip either direction.

The other topic was one of child abuse. I was just broken-hearted to watch that documentary that morning and see infants murdered from the cruelty of their abusers. Maybe I could address it with a deep passion through the eyes of my character Mercy Roller. We see and hear about these types of abuse on a daily basis, but we choose to look the other way. I don’t want you to look the other way. I want you to be aware that these horrible things happen and it’s up to us to help find a way to stop it. I’ve had a lot of folks blast me over this subject. “How could someone who calls themselves a Christian be warped enough to write such trash?” My case in point. We don’t want to see this horrible state of affairs.

My husband and I watched a show called In an Instant this week. It was a horrible story of spousal abuse. Half way through the show I was in tears. This stuff REALLY happens. It wasn’t a figment of this poor woman’s imagination. She was nearly killed. So call me warped if you like, but Christian or not, we have to open our eyes to this and become active in working together with authorities, doctors, and support groups, to find legal and appropriate ways to combat abuse to both women and children.

3) Finally, I wanted the world to understand that Christians ask God the same questions – Why do you allow these horrible things to happen? But it is through our deeper relationship with Him that we see God is present in every situation. That’s what sets us apart. Faith, trust in the higher power of Christ. God doesn’t create the sin, but He is ever present, even when we do not see the reasons why. I feel sure God cries at the atrocities some can concoct.

My goodness, Cindy, I can’t imagine how difficult it was to go through the emotion of writing Mercy’s Rain. Thank you for your faithfulness to bring such difficult subjects to the forefront for Christian readers.

Friends, I hope you’ll return next week to see the conclusion of this interview as we see more of the hows and whys Cindy wrote Mercy’s Rain as she did.

AND there’ll be a special gift for everyone who returns next week–you don’t want to miss it!

Thanks for Tweeting!

I’m sorry but Twitter and/or ClickToTweet are on the blink this morning, so here’s a Tweet you can copy and paste into Twitter, if you would, please. Thank you!

You’ve never read a novel like Cindy Sproles’ Mercy’s Rain! @CindyDevoted #BookGiveaway @VondaSkelton #MustRead http://bit.ly/1ELi2tB

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Writing the Best You Can by Cindy Sproles, and Who Won the Writer’s Block Blocks?

Photo courtesy of DavidCastillo/FreeDigitalPhoto.net

Today I’m sharing a post from Cindy Sproles, faculty member at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, co-founder and executive editor of Christian Devotions Ministries and ChristianDevotions.us, and much more. Be sure to read her bio below. But today, I want to share her experience and sage advice for those seeking critiques at Blue Ridge next week, as well as for all of us who are writing and submitting.

Writing The Best You Can by Cindy Sproles

“This is what I see needs a little tweaking.” I twisted the paper around so the author could see.

“What? Tweaking?”

“Yes, did my accent throw you? I’m a Tennessee gal. Sometimes folks don’t understand my accent.” I chuckled and pointed to the first remark on the page.

“I’ve worked on this. It’s done. I didn’t pay for it to be torn apart.”

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Author & Speaker Cindy Sproles

Many of you already know my dear friend, Cindy Sproles, editor of ChristianDevotions.us. As a matter of fact, many of you have been published by her! You can read Cindy’s full bio below, but today I’m thrilled to introduce her newly released book, New Sheets.

Be sure to leave a comment for Cindy and you’ll be in the drawing for a free copy of her book! (And don’t forget to check back next week to see if you’re the winner!)

First, let’s get started by telling us about your new release, New Sheets – Thirty Days to Refine You into the Woman You Can Be.

New Sheets is a thirty-day devotional/inspirational book. The truth is it took thirty years for God to refine me into the woman I knew I could be. And by the way, I’m still being refined.

When I went through a divorce and moved back to my home, I came back with more than I left. I returned to Tennessee with two boys under the age of three and a broken heart. It took years to look through the rough times and find the good. But I came at it with the mindset, “God has a plan. I’m gonna learn.”

New Sheets were the flames of the fire I walked through. It was the defining and refining moments when God taught me.

I hope New Sheets will be one of those books women lay next to their bed and refer back to through their lives. If one woman can step over my broken rung because of the book, then it’s done its job.

New Sheets is a unique title. Tell our readers the story behind the book.

I’m excited about New Sheets. I came up with the idea for it in 1984, but every time I tried to write it, I found I wasn’t “seasoned enough.” I wasn’t aged enough, hadn’t matured enough, to write it with authority and hindsight.

I’d gone through a divorce, moved back to Tennessee with my two babies to start over. I brought only what we could move in a 6 ft. section of a semi. I had no car, no money and no job. But we (the boys and I) had one another and once we got to Tennessee, we had my family.

At first I kept a journal to help me through the rough spots of divorce. Then one night I turned down the comforter and realized I was still sleeping with the man who’d divorced me…or at least sleeping with his memories on the same bed sheets I’d had while we were married. No wonder I cried every night and couldn’t sleep.

It was time for something new. A new start. I couldn’t afford a shopping spree…I could barely buy groceries! But I saved quarters in a mason jar until I had enough money to go to Wal-Mart and buy a set of sheets. The brown and pink paisley set in the bottom of the sales bin was scary, but they were new. Crisp. Wrinkle-free. They were cheap muslin, kinda scratchy, but to me they were like silk. And when I put them on the bed it was like a new page in my life.

So after that, every new turn in my life brought a new set of sheets. I’d throw out the worn ones and turn the corner with a set of new ones. To this day, I send new sheets to friends who’ve gone through major devastating life changes.

Each set of new sheets marked a time in my life where God stoked the fire under me, hung me over the flame and refined me like silver. By the time I hit my 50’s I could look over the prior thirty years and say with confidence…“I’ve matured. Refined. Learned.” Hence the book.

We know a little about Christian Devotions. Tell us why your and your ministry partner have dedicated so much time to new authors.

Christian Devotions is really the brainchild of my ministry partner, Eddie Jones. The long and short of it was God impressed ChristianDevotions.com on Eddie’s heart, but the ChristianDevotions.com domain name was already taken, so he purchased ChristianDevotions.us. God’s timing is perfect because the .us is what we are…all our writers, editors, designers, hosts are us. Not Eddie and Cindy, but us as in a family. It was perfect!

I was already writing devotions so Eddie asked me to populate the site with my devotions. I did, but then realized Eddie wasn’t writing on his own site, so I pitched He Said, She Said devotions to him and those devotions actually launched the readership of the site.

We stepped out on faith, started attending conferences and inviting writers to have their first shot at publication. We’d been on the receiving end of rejection letters and we’d sat at conferences and read through some of the awesome material that was rejected. So we asked God, “Can we make a difference? Can we help others shine?” God said yes and Christian Devotions began to flourish.

Then in the middle of the economy crashing, God called us to open a traditional publishing company. Other publishers called us crazy, but we said yes, believing that when times are hard, God doesn’t tell His people to retreat. He tells us to ADVANCE. That became our battle cry.

Our writers feel they were called to a writing ministry. And we’ve seen the more we help, the more God allows us to help. It’s a joy to publish their devotions and now their books. Our reward is in seeing those authors come to us and thank us. We always reply, “Don’t thank us…thank God. We’re just the vessel.” Christian Devotions is a 501c3 non-profit. We tithe a portion of every dollar given to the ministry because it is what God calls us to do.

You’re published in newspapers and also in a couple of compilations, and you and Eddie Jones have the He Said, She Said book, but New Sheets is your first solo book. How does that feel?

Honestly, I’m excited, like a giddy 6-year-old in a 54-year-old body. When I saw the book cover, I was brought to tears. It’s been a long time coming. Not because of learning to write, but because of God teaching me about the rough spots in life, so I could teach others.

From the time I was in elementary school I took second place in everything. When I got to high school, my track coach nick-named me Consistently Second Cindy and it stuck. So for me to have a solo book is like crossing the finish line for the first time…as a winner.

Any closing advice?

Writing advice…hum…the Little Engine that Could. The process is hard and as the economy grows tighter and tighter, publishers choose fewer authors. Many close up shop and quit. But God didn’t call His people (His writers) to retreat when battle loomed, He calls us to ADVANCE! So advance. Practice. Chug, chug, chug just like the little engine.

Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Rejoice in all things.” Learning to rejoice in every situation takes skill and faith. That’s where God refines us. So thank God and then buy yourself a set of new sheets when the storm is over. It’s a fresh start, new, crisp, and comfortable. New Sheets…new day…new start.

Bio: Cindy Sproles is editor and co-founder of Christian Devotions Ministries and co-director of Writers ADVANCE Boot Camp. As the co-author of the popular He Said, She Said devotions and book, her devotions are published widely in newspapers throughout the eastern United States. Cindy is a teacher at Christian Writers Conferences, a graduate of Christian Communicators Conference, a speaker for women’s conferences and retreats, as well as a contributor to CBN.com. The mother of four lives in the mountains of East Tennessee with her husband and one son. Visit Cindy at www.christiandevotions.us or a www.cindysproles.com.

Thanks for joining us, Cindy. And friends, don’t forget to leave a comment and you might win a book!

Blessings,
Vonda

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