I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Ponderers Welcome Author Angela Bell

The Ponderers welcome back our friend, Author Angela Bell, and she has big news for us!

1. Tell us a little about your journey in signing with Amanda of the McGregor agency.

I met Amanda at the 2010 ACFW conference—my very first writer’s conference where I’d be pitching my first completed novel. Leading up to the conference, I’d researched the agents attending, and Amanda was my first choice. At the end of our meeting, Amanda told me no but graciously offered to critique my first chapter. Hindsight, I realize that I was far from ready and that book entirely the wrong fit. But at the time, I was devastated. I naïvely thought once an agent or editor had told you no, it meant NO forever and ever. The. End. That’s why the following year at the 2011 conference I didn't include Amanda in my three picks for agent meeting. I figured she wouldn't want to meet with me again, especially since I was pitching the same story. My inner critic agreed with this strategy, but God apparently had other plans.

Upon arrival at the conference, I found out that I hadn't been given any of the agents I'd selected for my meeting. Instead, I'd been assigned to meet with—you guessed it—Amanda! My inner critic had a panic attack and almost drove me to cancel the meeting, but a long, prayer-filled phone call with my parents convinced me to go despite my fear. The meeting went well, and Amanda requested my full manuscript. That request turned into a highly unconventional offer to work with me on a trial basis. Two and a half years later, I ended up signing with Amanda the day before my 24th birthday! I’m so glad God had a different plan.

2. What projects are you working on at the present?

I have two projects in the works right now. I’m editing a Steampunk, suspense novel currently titled Clockwork Deception. Of all the stories I've written thus far, this one is my favorite! I've called it my discovery novel because it was while writing Clockwork Deception that I finally felt like I’d discovered my writing voice, brand, and ideal genre. Funny that it took writing three different genres to find my niche. Along with Clockwork Deception, I'm also beginning work on a novella.

3. When you were a teenager, someone once told you to forget about writing because it is too hard. How did you overcome that? What would you say to aspiring writers now?

At first, I didn’t overcome. I gave up and didn’t write for two years. I figured that since Someone was older than me and had experience in the publishing industry, they must know what they were talking about. I didn’t have a shot.

But then the desire to write wouldn’t go away. The stories wouldn’t go away. As I neared graduation and prayed about my future, the dream of becoming an author refused to die. I finally overcame when I decided to follow where I felt God was leading me—despite the difficulty. Despite the naysayers. I realized that walking in obedience with God won’t always garner people’s good opinion or meet with their approval, and that’s okay.

My advice to aspiring writers is simply to never give up. Not for a day. Not for a second. If you feel that God has called you to write, then pursue His leading with passionate diligence. Write, write, and write some more. Don’t give up after the rejection. Don’t give up because of your fear. Don’t give up when the months stretch into years and it seems like it’s never going to happen. Don’t give up when you’re exhausted and weary of trying. At just the right time you will reap a harvest of blessing if you don’t give up. (Galatians 6:9)

4. What was the most important thing you learned concerning your craft?

I've learned so much about writing in the past six years; it's hard to pick just one thing as being the most important. Conquering my Purple Prose. Learning the importance of Showing versus Telling. Grasping the concept of Subtext. More recently, how to delve deeper in my characters’ POV. Probably the most important thing I've learned concerning writing is that it's not about me. My success is ordained and determined by God, not by my level of talent or skill. Neither is my writing on me. I’m to sow seeds of diligence, hard work, and obedience, but God is responsible for the results. The harvest comes in His way, His timing, for His glory. Realizing that is both humbling and incredibly freeing.

5. Where do you get ideas for a book?

I always find this to be an awkward question because I don’t have a concrete answer. I've never gotten a story idea the same way twice! My first book (Unfinished Contemporary) was basically a fictionalized version of my life at the time. In other words, my therapy book. My second book (Completed Sci-Fi) sprang from a challenge you issued in fiction class to write something outside my comfort zone. That was my stretching book. Third book (Completed but a MESS) was a sequel to the Sci-Fi novel. My uh-oh-this-genre-isn’t-working-for-me book. Clockwork Deception developed gradually after I discovered the Steampunk genre one summer. The idea for my novella popped into my mind in the form of a plot concept while I was praying for story inspiration, and another story idea I’ve been nursing on the side was inspired by a series of dreams.

Update: Since Angela answered these questions for us, she has signed a contract with Barbour Publishing for a novella which will be included in a compilation. Here's a picture of the big moment!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Why Does a Writer Write?

Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without words, and never stops at all. ~ Emily Dickinson

As I pondered this post, I thought of all the reasons I write, and all the answers I've gotten over the years when I ask writer friends why they write.

  •  I can't not write
  • The stories just have to come out
  • It's what God wants me to do
  • To tell a story
  • Because I have these characters in my head telling me their stories

And these are just a few. I can also state a few things that are not reasons writers write. 
  • For the money - if I take all the hours I've spent writing, I figure I may make a quarter an hour. Maybe. 
  • Fame
  • Prestige
  • Book signings
The four mentioned above are perks to writing sometimes, but I don't think any serious writer ever started writing for those reasons. No, I think most writers write because they love to tell stories, and not just any story but stories of hope. Writers want their words to make a difference in this world. 

Once I received an email from a reader who said she struggled with the same thing my heroine struggled with, and reading about how my heroine dealt with the problem helped her. And not just her, but because she now had closure, her whole family was going to be better off. I couldn't keep from crying. 

And my heart sang with the words: That's why I write.

If you are a writer, leave a comment, telling why you write. If you are a reader, have you ever read a book that helped you deal with something in your life?
Patricia Bradley
Follow me on Twitter: @PTBradley1
Follow me on FaceBook: www.facebook.com/patriciabradleyauthor

Shadows of the Past - Revell February 2014 
A Promise To Protect - Revell October 2014
Matthew's Choice - Heartwarming September 2014
Google Patricia Bradley for my books

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Words of our Heart

By Jennie Atkins

I was flying back from Alaska last month and we were going over a large inland lake.  I could see a boat in the middle, its wake visible from where I was 30,000 feet plus above the ground. I could see where the boat had traveled the length of the lake, its wake visible from the air, even if the swell of the waves had already dissipated on top.

It made me think about how much our lives and the choices we make affect those around us. How long after we’ve made a decision, is the wake of that choice is still churning—creating a ripple effect in the lives of others.

As a writer, my words have an impact on my readers and hopefully will continue to do so in the years to come. What I put on Facebook and twitter, will be there f-o-r-e-v-e-r.  What I put out online stays online, for anyone to see today, tomorrow, and next year, if they dig deep enough.

I want to be one of God’s instruments, used to spread his word.  But the responsibility comes with a heavy load. I often ask myself if I am truly honoring God. And, I am ashamed to admit that I often mess up.

Psalm 19:14 states:  May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

My words might be on paper, and the meditation of my heart may go forth in my stories. I pray they are God’s words and that I let Him guide my message.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Life's flotsam and jetsam

A recent blog from Israel was titled, “Ride the waves home," and that applies to life and writing. The author wrote that nothing can threaten a person’s bond with God more than going through a tragedy that may drive us further from Him, but that sometimes enduring hard times is the very thing that carries us home to Him.

There’s truth to that analogy. Rip tides sweep objects and lives away from shore. And things drift far in deep mid-ocean. But because of earth’s spin, waves eventually bring objects home to nearest westward coasts.

A recent wonderful visit with my siblings on Oregon’s Coast underlined this when we saw items not there on any previous visits. Large black barrels stood along shore to collect debris beachcombers are finding that’s just arriving from Japan’s March 11, 2011 Fukushima event. Those containers added glowing radioactive reality to what had been simple barefoot beach strolls before.

The stuff washing in is called flotsam or jetsam. Flotsam is wreckage or cargo afloat after ships sink. Jetsam is unwanted goods thrown overboard and washed ashore, especially material discarded to lighten vessels. Everything wrecked or cast aside eventually reaches shore to be re-evaluated and kept. Or tossed aside forever, and both terms apply to life and characters in fiction.

If we let go of things we should have held onto, God gives fresh opportunity to find its use now. If damaging old habits wash in and reappear, His black barrels are there to receive debris and take it away.

What about you? What have waves brought home that you once discarded but find valuable now? Or what had wrecked and sunk that you’re thrilled to rediscover and incorporate into life now?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Teeny Flowers

Can you hold this, Mommy?

My baby, already two and a half, is getting to the age where she has "treasures." Packing to go to daycare in the morning is quite the production. As I'm busy packing actual necessities like her lunch, she's busy bringing me trinkets for safekeeping.

By the time we depart, I've got at least two "guys" (stuffed animals), a couple of books, a Mardi Gras necklace, keychain flashlight, two hair clips, spare bandaid, Minnie Mouse ears and a plastic strawberry stuffed into my already overflowing purse. Even when I don't think it's possible to fit another guy, I can't let her down when she trusts me to guard her treasures. It's part of my job. What's important to her is important to me.

When we were playing outside last week, she came scampering over with the teeniest flower I've ever seen. "Can you hold this, Mommy? We cannot lose it." Besides the fact that it was microscopic, there's nothing particularly special about it. Except it's hers.

Her insistence I keep her treasures safe has me pondering the things I bring to God for safekeeping. The dream of a published novel, my hope for more children, a simple prayer to make it through the day. Big things, to me. Yet, from Gods's eternal, sovereign perspective, these things must seem like teeny flowers. But just as I cherish being entrusted with that little piece of my daughter's heart, I know God treasures my trusting Him with the details of my life.

What hopes, dreams, goals and ambitions have you entrusted to God recently?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Great (or Horrible) Question

Novelists often ask “what if?”  It kick-starts brainstorming and stirs creativity at every stage of their writing. It can even lead to the idea for a book.

  • What if the host of a TV cooking show can’t really cook? (Rachel Hauck’s book Dining with Joy)
  • What if a Psychology professor and criminal profiler can solve any crime except for the one she most wants since it touches her family? (Patricia Bradley’s Shadows of the Past)
  • What if the star of a popular syndicated radio show gives advice romance even though she’s never had a date? (Susan May Warren’s My Foolish Heart)
  • What if the bride-to-be in an unguarded moment kisses the groom’s brother? (Beth Vogt’s Wish You Were Here)

Yes, writers love those “what if” questions that pop up in their heads—even if they keep us awake at night.

But recently I had a “what if” question raise it’s ugly head when I least wanted it.

My dearest friend from childhood (I’m talking about the one who’s like a sister), had to undergo a surgery. The day of her operation, I walked about the house cleaning since I could not sit still. Every time I thought about her, I whispered a prayer.

At one point during the day, a thought entered my head so strongly that it was almost like an audible voice. “What if she doesn’t make it?”

Thankfully, as quickly as I thought it, I recognized its source: the devil. Jesus never asked “what if” questions to raise a doubt or a fright. He made verily-I-say-unto-you statements to give assurance. He said, “Truly, truly.” His questions made folks pause and consider, not panic.

(I’m pleased to report that my dear friend is now recovering nicely at home.)

Have you ever had the experience of The Old Deceiver asking you a “what if” question?

Do you have a “what if” idea for a book or did you find one in a book you recently read? Please share!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Come meet Sandra Orchard...And the winner is....Delores Topliff!!

I’m a happily married to a man who is very supportive of my writing, although he hasn’t actually read more than a few paragraphs of it. I’m the mother of three wonderful children that I thoroughly enjoyed homeschooling on our little hobby farm. My two youngest still live at home and my youngest daughter is a freelance writer and aspiring novelist so we have a lot of fun commiserating together when plots don’t work and celebrating when they do. My eldest daughter is married and I’ve now become one of those grandmothers. You know the kind I mean. The ones who have a gazillion pictures and shamelessly dote on them every chance they get.

I’ve been writing full-time since signing my first contract in 2010 and am currently drafting my tenth contracted novel. I write for Revell and Love Inspired Suspense, and do a bit of freelance content editing and speaking/teaching. I also do bookkeeping (since I did major in Math at university). And when it can’t be avoided any longer, I clean the house. Before I took up writing, most of my spare time was spent renovating our old farmhouse, so I’ve always had a good excuse for dust bunnies. 

What is your story about?
This is the second book in a three-part series, and although each book has a standalone mystery, the romance and a suspense arcs the three books, so I highly recommend reading them in order to avoid spoilers. In this novel, herbal researcher, Kate Adams returns, and caught inadvertently passing counterfeit money while buying groceries for her elderly neighbor, she lands in the middle of another one of Detective Tom Parker’s investigations. Determined to prove her neighbor’s innocence, Kate stumbles into a pit of intrigue that is far deeper than a two-bit counterfeit operation–and that strikes too close to home for comfort. As family secrets come to light, her world–and her budding romance with Tom–begin to crumble. To Kate, it’s clear that she won’t be safe until she uncovers all of Port Aster’s secrets. But is it too late for her and Tom?
Here’s what Booklist had to say in their review:

“Orchard infuses romance with suspense and keeps the excitement coming page after page.  Readers will love the ever-deepening mystery as Kate extends her investigation and finds herself and her long-dead father tangled up in an international corporate conspiracy.”

Do you have a favorite scene in the book? If so, can you tell us a bit about it?

Yes, The opening scene. This is the second book in my Port Aster Secrets series and hero and heroine haven’t seen each other for a while. It was fun to write this “reunion” in which she’s been caught counterfeiting and he’s the officer called in. His reaction: “If you wanted to see me, you could have just called.”
Since the store security guard who made the call doesn’t know their history and believes she is a thief, I had a lot of fun with the subtext of their conversation throughout the scene.

Where did you get the inspiration for your story?
There is a lot of stuff happening in the story. One reviewer counted at least 4. But the opening mystery was inspired by a counterfeit $5 bill that turned up in the offering at my neighbor’s Ladies’ Missionary Meeting.

What are you working on now?
I’m finishing the edits on the final installment in the Port Aster Secrets series, Desperate Measures, which promises to finally uncover everyone’s secrets. I’m also writing my next Love Inspired Suspense, a paramedic story featuring the cousin of the heroes in Perilous Waters (April 2014) and Identity Withheld (Nov 2014).

Where can readers connect with you?
I’m active on Facebook at: http://www.Facebook.com/SandraOrchard and would love it if you’d “like” my page!

And although I’m taking a break for the summer, I blog on Mondays at http://www.SandraOrchard.com/blog and a bit of nosing around on the site will provide lots of things of interest to both readers and writers, including bonus features for all of my novels.

Readers are also invited to subscribe to my newsletter at: http://bit.ly/OrchardNews for news of new releases, giveaways and subscriber exclusive short stories.

Where can readers buy your book?
You can ask for it at your favorite bookstore or find it online at all the major stores. At the moment it is on sale for an especially low price in E-format. The best prices I’ve found are at Amazon and CBD.com (for Epub format which works on Nook and Kobo).

Last but not least, apart from writing, what is your favorite creative outlet?
Since taking up writing, most of my former creative outlets, which included every kind of craft you could imagine from knitting and sewing to cross-stich and jewelry making and painting, have sat untouched. So probably my most creative outlet is keeping my young grandchildren entertained.  You knew I had to come back to them, didn’t you?

So, readers, what is your favorite creative outlet? Leave a comment for a chance to win Blind Trust.
Must reside in US or Canada and be at least 18 years old. Winner will be announced Monday, July 21st.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Dreaded Phone Call

By Jennie Atkins

As mothers, we always fear the possibility of receiving the “dreaded” phone call—our child is in trouble or has been in an accident and is hurt, or worse.
My call came Sunday May 25th right after dinner. My oldest son, Toby, the one I affectionately call “My Adrenaline Kid” had been in a horrific accident while in a motocross race in Anchorage, Alaska.
I think I always knew I would get one of those calls concerning him, but prayed I never would. I say this because Toby has been riding a dirt bike since he was five years old. Every year he got faster, every jump took him higher, every race more competitive, every stunt more aggressive than the last.  Yes, the picture shown here is him, flying through the air on his dirt bike about a week prior to his accident.
When the phone rang, the look on my husband’s face after answering the call told me what I had always feared. And since then we’ve learned the chances of Toby walking again are solely in God’s hands.
Some would curse God, but how can I when I raised him to reach for the sky? Some would ask God why Toby had been left in such a state.  I instead thank God because it could have been worse, so much worse.
God’s hands have been in everything. He is in control and will sustain us through the good times—and the bad.  He is our provider, our caretaker, our savior.
The Bible tells us in Philippians 4:19, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”
I write this to you today as an encouragement. No matter what life brings, God is there for you.  When you get the dreaded phone call, unexpected news, or face issues of life and death.  God is there. He is walking beside you, carrying your burdens for you. He WILL supply your every need.  He is just one word away…Jesus.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Ingredients to lasting fame

Delores E. Topliff
Born Frederick Austerlitz, in Omaha, Nebraska (1899). Fred Astaire started dancing when he was four. By age six, he formed an act with his sister, Adele, which became a popular in vaudeville. When she retired, Astaire made a screen test. The movie executive wrote, "Can't act, can't sing. Balding. Can dance a little." But Astaire appeared in Dancing Lady (1933), starring Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, and the Three Stooges. He's famous for movies he made with dancing partner Ginger Rogers: classics like The Gay Divorcée (1934), Top Hat (1935), and Swing Time (1936).
He said: "The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it's considered to be your style." He worked hard and became famous. Sticktoitivity, otherwise known as hard work, is essential to fame.
Next let’s look at the Three Stooges. When I was 17, I was asked to make arrangements for our high school's graduation banquet. I went to Vancouver, Washington's best hotel and pushed the elevator button. When the elevator opened, I encountered the Three Stooges, who were appearing there nightly that week. At around 4 p.m., they were coming up from the basement cocktail lounge, and got off on the second floor, while I rode to the business office on the third. In our brief time together, I did not think to request their autograph. Instead I noticed that they looked old, sad, tired--not funny. When we reached their floor, the elevator door opened, closed again, and they were gone. That was one of my earliest encounters with fame. I’m not sure it changed me, except to make me wish that if I ever accomplished fame, it would be the kind I could be proud of.
What about you? Share an interesting or funny encounter you've had with the famous or infamous. Or offer your definition of fame. Tell us what you most wish to be famous for.

Final assignment? Have a great week!