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, October 21, 2014


Delores E. Topliff
In life and writing, too much unremitting sameness, even of very good things, decreases our interest. Instead the juxtaposition of unlikely items together for comparison or contrast generates new deeper responses like adding the right spice to transform bland cooking. The best hero needs a human flaw, and the worst villain some endearing or redeeming quality. My recent trip to Israel provided many vignettes inviting fresh comparisons.

For example, Orthodox Jewish rabbis there wear long black coats and flat black hats. Married men of Russian background wear large expensive round fur hats made from 14 sable fur tails. All Hasidic men and boys, no matter which hat they wear, grow long curled earlocks that bounce with every step. I watched one soberly-clad rabbi grasp a young daughter by each hand as all three happily skipped down the road together unashamed. Such scenes carve a special place in memory. In the Old City, a fast walking boy maybe age 10 wearing a junior-size long black coat and flat black hat hurried through Old Jerusalem’s narrow twisting streets toward the larger modern city beyond carrying a skateboard over each shoulder. I wanted to follow him to watch.

We faced travel challenges. After our rental car's battery died and cost us four hours, our gracious bed and breakfast hostess in Arad SE of the Dead Sea tried to tell us a shortcut, but the soldier at that road checkpoint turned us back because there had been trouble. That broadly smiling khaki-clad Uzi-carrying young IDF soldier said he’s been to the U.S. three times, loves it and us, and gave us a giant chocolate bar plus four silver and red foil-wrapped chocolate hearts while thanking us for coming.

Traffic in Jerusalem, especially during high feast days, defies description. We saw twentieth century cars get stuck going opposite directions through narrow Herod’s Gate in the Old City, built in 1538. One car was driven by a woman, the other by a rabbi, necessitating a gesturing policeman, the rabbi’s young son, and many passersby on bikes, foot, some pushing baby buggies, to all give advice while measuring how near each vehicle came to scraping rock walls. The woman finally backed up.

The juxtapositions of tough tender soldiers, young Orthodox boys with a few modern trappings, and ancient gates that once knew horses, camels and donkeys now accepting sleek high-octane horsepower, are wonderful vignettes cementing people, conversations, and scenes into unforgettable places in my or readers’ hearts.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why I pay the price to go to conferences

By Jennie Atkins

            I love writer’s conferences, especially ACFW. It is a time of recharging, despite the long hours, starting before breakfast and often going long into the night. It is a time of encouragement and learning. It is a time of catching up with other writers  that I usually only connect with through Facebook and the random email.  Shown here with me are Jeanne Takenaka and Ginger Takamiya both winners of the MBT Frasier contest, 2014 and 2012 respectively.

This year was no different. But then again, it was.
The publishing industry is changing. I believe I noticed the change more this time because it had been two years since my last ACFW conference. Publishers are plunging into different formats, such as e-books. Big house publishers accept the fact that authors are now pursuing avenues to publish independently. Editors are being more and more cautious in the works they take, or markets they intend to pursue. Like most businesses, the goal is more about the possible profits than new development. I don’t blame them, having worked in high-profile corporations for more decades than I care to admit,  I understand completely. But the sad news seems to be, the day of wandering through massive book stores, taking in the scent of fresh ink, and perusing a long bookshelf containing one genre are gone.
The truth is Amazon.com has changed the face of publishing.
By no means does this mean as writers we should ditch our pens, paper, and computers and search for a different creative outlet.
It means we need to be focus on our craft and never, never settle for the status quo. Writers need to read more, study more, and learn more. They need to connect with other writers, critique groups, and seminars that teach writing skills. Yes, I've read some poorly written books, some by New York Times best-selling authors that sell. But now is the time for a new breed of writers to penetrate the market. Ones who want to put out a quality story that keeps their readers glued to the page and wanting for more from that author.
Your turn:  What was your take away from the ACFW conference or any other conference you've attended recently?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

2014 ACFW from my Perspective...

Patricia Bradley

For those of you who tuned in to see what Delores was posting about today, she's not here. She's in ISRAEL!! Go Dee! She will blog about her trip in my spot on the 14th, so don't miss it!

But I'm here, ready to tell you about the 2014 ACFW Conference in St. Louis...

First of all, I attended Thursday's Early Bird session with Christopher Vogler, learning about the Hero's Journey. Such an encouraging man! Bought the only book he brought--he didn't know it, but I was going home with that book. 

Another a-ma-zing thing about the conference was the daily Praise and Worship sessions led by the a-ma-zing Rachel Hauck. It was a perfect way to start each morning off.

This is a morning session with hands raised, praising God.

Then, I went to Michelle Lim's  class on brainstorming and boy, did she help me get past the hump where I was stuck in my WIP. Congratulations Michelle for winning the Genesis in Romantic Suspense! And to all the winners and finalists. 

Somehow I didn't get pictures of Jennifer Dornbush's class on getting your forensics right or the class on Scrivener, but they were great! The last class I took was Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck's class on Staying Published. That class sent me home fired up and ready to start writing! 

Before I was published I went to conference mainly to get requests for a proposal on my manuscripts from editors and agents. I was usually too nervous to focus on classes. Now I go to conferences to actually attend workshops, network and see old friends!  Can you tell I didn't know what to do with my left arm?

Me with Beth White and Pam Hillman

But it wasn't all work as you can see in the next photos. In the first one, I'm holding up the Arch. Aren't you glad? The other one was taken late at night from near the hotel. 

If you get a chance to go to a writer's conference, go, especially ACFW. So, what do you like best about conferences? Leave a comment and let me know!

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
Shop Amazon for my books under Patricia Bradley

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

#ACFW 2014... And No, I Wasn't There

I don’t know about you, but this past weekend separates writers into two categories.

Category One: Those soaring from the incredible experience that is the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Annual Conference.
Category Two: Me. (The full time working mom who is blessed – yes,  blessed! –to have stayed at home with my family again this year.)

For those in category one, the weekend included in-person hugs from friends and colleagues spread across the country, workshops, worship, parties, and galas. For those in category two, the weekend included watching Frozen (for the seven hundredth time), setting up a big-girl bed and dealing with the joy that is potty training a toddler.

I’ve only been to one ACFW conference, and to be honest, I was a little naïve. (Like, I actually said I was going to be the next Karen Kingsbury to a living, breathing agent, naïve). Let’s just hope when I do find myself in category one again said agent doesn’t remember me. Or maybe she will, and we’ll have a good laugh...

Either way, I’d love for those of you who were blessed to be at ACFW, or blessed to remain at home, to share some of your ACFW 2014 highlights – good, funny, frustrating, heartbreaking. Let’s rejoice with each other, laugh with each other, lift each other up, and pray for one another until 2015!
For my “ACFW 2014” highlight…the big girl bed was a smashing success!



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Good Writing Examples from the World’s All-Time Bestseller

No, it’s not the Harry Potter series. Those books would come in at a distant second.

The world’s all-time bestseller never needed promotion or a marketing campaign. In fact, many folks, even today, have suffered for the privilege to own it. One researcher estimates there are over 6 billion copies in print.

The name of this bestseller?

The Bible.

I understand that the Bible is much more than literature. It’s the living and powerful Word of God. But still, it makes sense to me that the “God-breathed” book would also contain great writing.

I’ve often taught my students that the quickest way to improve their writing is to use vivid verbs and specific nouns. So let’s take a look at the verbs and nouns in a single chapter of the world's best selling book. Here’s a quick list from Job 39.

Verbs: scorns, explores, searches, bind, harrow, flap, abandons, forgets, tramples, lifts, laughs clothe, leaps, rattles, races, scents, soars, mounts up, lodges, spies out, suck up

Nouns: mountain goats, wild donkey, wild ox, threshing floor, ostriches, plumage, snorting, quiver, spear, javelin, thunder, hawk, cliff, crag

If you’d like a quick-fix to your writing, whether fiction or non-fiction, check your verbs and nouns. Make the verbs dynamic and the nouns specific.

What others methods would you suggest for a quick remedy?

Have your ever looked at the Bible as, not only God's Word, but as great literature?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

One-Sheets...or what the Dickens is a One-Sheet

by Patricia Bradley

I ran this post back on August 7, 2012.  Since then, both of the books in the one-sheets shown here have been published. Shadows of the Past was released in February 2014 and The Brass Ring was released by Harlequin Heartwarming September 1, 2014 under the title, Matthew's Choice. Here's the link to learn more about them.

I truly believe a good one-sheet will help you to pitch your story.

August 7, 2012 

Two years ago just before the 2010 ACFW Conference, someone mentioned in one of the loops that if you were pitching to an editor or an agent, you needed a One-sheet. What the dickens was a One-sheet?
Much to my dismay, I discovered a One-sheet had LOTS of stuff on it. My photo...my bio...my pitch...the name of my book...you could hear my groan across town. So, I got to work Googling how to write One-sheets. I found Kathy Hartman's blog and it had several articles to check out. You can also check out Rachelle Gardner's website. She has a link to several author's One-sheets. Then I went to work in Publisher. You can do basically the same thing in Word, but I found a template I liked better in Publisher.
Below is a One-Sheet for a romantic Suspense.
I put the title of my book at the top, my photo and bio on the left side. My bio included my writing credentials, organizations I belong to and my contact information. Then, to the right I added a log line and brief paragraph of what the book is about, then added a photo that fits the book. On the back, I included a one-page synopsis of the book. The lines around the boxes disappear when you print the One-Sheet.

I wanted the  One-Sheet for my Romance Story to have a different feel. See below:
As you can see, I went for a whole different look. One-Sheets are fun to play around with, and while they aren't easy to make, neither are they particularly hard.

If you have any questions, leave them in the comment box with your email addy.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

If Tomorrow Never Comes

By Jennie Atkins
Every morning we crawl out of bed and wonder what to do with our day—fold a load of clothes, rush off to our dreaded day job, or jot an email to a friend.  We go to sleep each night expecting the next day and the days following to be there just as they always have been.

But what if they aren’t? Or what if our life has changed drastically as in the life of my oldest son, Toby, who finds himself confined to life in a wheel chair?  What would we do then? How would we feel? Would we look back and say we’ve done all we could for our families? For God? There is a song by Garth Brooks called If Tomorrow Never Comes that looks at a life changed.  It asks the question: If I never wake up in the morning, would she ever doubt the way I feel about her in my heart?

It is a poignant look backwards before facing the circumstances of the future.  Will our family know we loved them beyond measure? Will our friends know how much we cherish their friendships? Will our neighbors know we cared?

I am so guilty of living my life by a to-do list, so you could say this post is mostly for me.  I want to get the next chapter done on my WIP, I need to weed and water my garden, and I need to prepare for my next day at work. I often ask myself, when have I called a friend on a whim? Or stopped to help a neighbor in need? Or, just spend time extra time with God?

Each day is a gift. A quote from Amelia Barr reads—Time is a very precious gift of God; so precious that it’s only given to us moment by moment.

How are you spending your next moments?

I leave you with the words to the chorus of Garth Brook’s song:

If tomorrow never comes
Will she know how much I loved her
Did I try in every way to show her every day
That she's my only one
And if my time on earth were through
And she must face the world without me
Is the love I gave her in the past
Gonna be enough to last
If tomorrow never comes

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Patricia Bradley’s doubleheader book launch

Being friends with Pat Trainum, writing as Patricia Bradley, is one more thing I owe to MBT (It’s unlikely we’d have met otherwise). She remembers me from Deep Thinkers, Melbourne. I sat next to her at Deep Thinkers, Clearwater and was impressed with her deep peaceful spirit. She asked me location questions about the Pacific Northwest, where I’m from, for Shadows of the Past, and we’ve stayed in touch. Soon she was off and running with multiple publications. I’m learning lots from her, and celebrating her current nearly doubleheader book release, Matthew’s Choice, Harlequin, released yesterday, September 1st, and A Promise to Protect, Revell, October 1st.  Thank you, Pat, for answering some questions for us today.

How does it feel to be an author birthing multiple book, especially in different genres?
It's quite challenging, and I felt very pregnant with some of the emotional ups and downs that accompany giving birth to two stories. :-) The difference in writing romance for the general market and romantic suspense for the Christian market is not all that different because the romance is full of godly principles...I just didn't include scripture. And romance without a suspense thread was quite different for me. I didn't think I could write straight romance, but felt God was leading me to write the story, so I told him He'd have to help me. And He did. It was a lot of fun.

I know sometimes even you do not know who the villain is until the end. And that your editor loves that you keep her guessing, too.
Pat: That’s especially true with A Promise to Protect. I got to the reveal chapter, wrote about a half page and said, "Nope, wrong person." Then I went back and started over with another person. 

What has been your biggest surprise in your writing journey?
That it took so long. Thirty-four years. And then all of a sudden it has exploded, first with the four-book deal with Revell, then the two-book deal with Harlequin Heartwarming and now another four-book deal with Revell—cold cases set in Memphis. And Harlequin has asked me to propose more books for them. 

Why do you think it took so long? (Pat has seriously studied and practiced craft.)
A couple of reasons. I had no one to teach me craft, so I kept making the same mistakes over and over. The other reason—it wasn't God's timing. So learn craft and get feedback on your writing, either from critique partners, or through contests, or even paid critiques. That's what I did after meeting Susan May Warren and she changed my writing life. I took what I learned and applied it. Three years after meeting Susan and attending writing retreats, I landed an agent and a contract. I would like to add one last piece of advice for unpublished writers? Don’t give up. What if I had given up after year thirty-three?

Here is a blurb from my upcoming release, A Promise to Protect: Acting Sheriff Ben Logan hasn’t heard from Leigh Somerall in a very long time, but it doesn’t mean he can get her—or their whirlwind romance of ten years ago—out of his head. When she calls out of the blue it is with a strange request to protect her brother, Tony. But when Tony dies just days later, Ben is charged with a different task—protecting Leigh and her nine-year-old son, TJ, from the killers. But how can Ben keep an eye on Leigh if she’s doing everything in her power to avoid him? And could the secret that Leigh is keeping change Ben’s life forever?

Amazon and B&N only have e-copies of the book. To order a paperback copy of Matthew's Choice, go to Harlequin's website: www,harlequin.com/storeitem.html?iid=53665&cid=3302#  

Congratulations, Pat, and thank you for your encouragement to other writers. 

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!