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

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Tale of the Mystery Seed

After last February's My Book Therapy's Deep Thinkers Retreat, I found something on the ground in a Florida park. Hard, dark brown, shaped like an avocado seed--but much larger and slightly pitted. I plopped it in my suitcase and brought it home as another treasure for my grandchildren.

We couldn't identify what it was online. When it suddenly sprouted, I placed it in water. On May 7th, the sprout topped 5 inches. A month later, my mystery seed had produced an almost 3 foot long reddish-green curving vine with alternating tiny leaves.

This life form completes one clockwise rotation every 24 hours. I've warned friends that if I sit nearby at my computer too long, the mystery vine may entwine me. If I don't answer family phone calls, they are to climb my deck, peer through the patio glass, and if necessary, rescue me. Initially I was joking--but the vine keeps advancing.

I finally phoned a Florida horticultural expert. He suggested I photograph the seed/vine to send photographic evidence. And research on noxious name online that I must be sure I was not harboring. Horrors! The nasty, invasive Air Potato Vine, imported from Africa in 1905 for its pretty leaves, lives in my home.However, it flourishes wildly, overpowering everything else, and has poisonous fruit. I now have a birthday gift for my toxicologist son to display or destroy.

How does this tale relate to writing? We find original ideas anywhere, and they may be keepers--or not. We're not sure if they'll germinate, let alone what life form they'll bear. We admire, water, and perhaps call on our "plant experts," Susie or Rachel, to learn what to expect and how to safeguard our project. Do we plant, prune, train to a lattice--or handle gingerly and call the Poison Center?

When gardening years ago, I learned that though weeds may be pretty, they take up valuable space where food can grow. That's what we wish our writing to be: well cultivated, living forms providing healthy, nourishing food to help our readers grow.

Delores Topliff

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I Learned to Write From a Turtle

One summer I found myself heading north through the mountains to the heart of the Tennessee Valley. The two lane winding road normally soothed me, but I on that day I was in a funk. You know, the kind of mullygrubs that made me want to sit in the mall and stick my tongue out at everyone who passed by. Yeah, that kind of funk.

Something in the road caught my attention. I slowed as I approached. It was a turtle, right there in the middle of the highway. His bulky, clawed legs tried desperately to gain ground. As my car got closer, the turtle stuck his head and legs back inside his shell and just sat there.

Normally, I’d stop and save the little guy but, like I said, I was having a bad day. I passed by the turtle and went on to visit my grandmother and took her to lunch. I headed back south feeling good about the world again. My mind wandered as I twisted and turned through the mountains.

Suddenly I saw something in the road. No, it couldn’t be! That turtle was still in the road, right where he was when I zoomed over him with my car earlier in the day. He hadn’t moved an inch in the entire afternoon. This time I pulled over and helped him cross the road. As I drove off, I wondered what trauma he certainly endured over those hours. His fear literally paralyzed him.

When I committed to my writing career, I remembered that frightful turtle. He haunted me. Here’s what he showed me:

1) I’ll never get where I want to be unless I stick my neck out.
2) I can’t depend on everyone else to get me where I want to go.
3) Progress is slow but I have to keep moving in the direction of my goal.
4) At some point, the right person will come along and help me.

During my writing journey, there are times when I feel like that turtle. I creep along, one slow step at a time. Sometimes I get stuck and withdraw into my shell. Fortunately, the My Book Therapy Ponderers give me the courage to stick my neck out, to keep moving forward, no matter how fearful I become. I know I’ll get there.

What about you? What writing fears do you have that keep you hiding in your shell?

Monday, July 25, 2011


A recent situation came up causing old insecurities to rise up and pain to clutch my heart like a vise. The battle in my mind was relentless. Thought after thought, scene after scene kept replaying in my mind.
What was I going to do?
I’ve been a Christian over half my life and I’ve learned a couple of things.
#1: Speak The Word, not the situation. I need to hear the promises of God and cling to them. Hearing His Word and His promises helps me remember the results aren't up to me.
#2: Surround yourself with believers that will speak to you in truth. I went to church this past Sunday. I needed to be there. I needed the comfort of being in The House of God and of worship, and the comfort of friends that I knew would pray for me.
You know the Scripture my pastor, Jeff Hackleman, used? Second Corinthians 10:5 (KJV): Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God and bringing into captivity every thought into the obedience of Christ.
The situation kept playing over and over in my mind. Thought after thought, conversation after conversation, scenario after scenario. What I really needed to do was apply the Word and re-apply the Word every time.
The other Scripture that helped me was Isaiah 59:19 (KJV): So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in, like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.
#3 Flood. Notice the emphasis I have placed on the phrase "like a flood" in the previous verse. So often when things happen we feel like we are under the circumstances, but in reality with God on our side, we are bound for victory, one way or another!
So I encourage you, when the storms of life seem to crash against you, remember, God is raising a standard against the enemy on your behalf.
When I look at the picture above, you know what I see? My God raising a standard on my behalf.
What promises are you standing on for your life? What promises from God are your characters going to realize in their stories?
Alena Tauriainen
Proverbs 3:5&6

PS. Thanking my wonderful friend, Beth Vogt for the photo, which she took during her recent vacation in Bandon, OR.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Different Levels, Different Devils

Have you ever wondered why things seem to get harder the closer you get to success?

Maybe you've already sold a book or two or three. Yet after each success, there is a fear that it will be your last.

Perhaps you have a friend who use to support you during each brainstorming session or rewriting of your book, but lately they seem distant, even jealous at times.

Spiritual warfare comes in all shapes and sizes and at every level in life.

Joseph’s warfare, from the book of Genesis, came in the form of jealous brothers and then later a jealous husband. He was sold into slavery, falsely accused by a wayward woman, and thrown into prison. All this before he rose above to fulfill the vision God gave to him.

David's spiritual warfare came in the form of a lion and a bear before he ever met Goliath. He was elevated from a shepherd to the king's favorite, only to have the king seek to kill him. Then when he finally became king he had a whole other set of warfare problems. His own son sought his throne and his life. David lost children, wives, friends and yet, until Christ came on the scene, Israel had never know a greater king.

I heard a man, named Kevin Leal, once say, "Different levels, different devils," and that pretty much sums it up. When the Israelites moved in to take new territory they had to conquer the resident armies. That's what we have to do. Conquer the resident armies of the enemy who seek to control the area that God has called us into.

Things may have been going relatively fine before you got published and now that you just sold that book, or your ten-thousandth, ( please, Lord may it be ;) ) suddenly your children are acting up or your spouse seems out of sorts about the way things are. Maybe your friends treat you differently. Let me spell it out for you:

I-T-’S W-A-R-F-A-R-E.

That's right, the enemy is not happy. You are invading his territory with God's truth and that means war.

So what do we do?

The Bible says, "Submit yourselves to God...resist the devil and he will flee from you." (James 4:7)

Sounds easy, but it isn't always. Sometimes it means, putting writing aside for a while and spending time with a loved one. Let God have time to work on their heart. Sometimes it means a season of fasting and prayer. Asking God to know you more intimately, to search your heart (Psalms 139:23-24).

Whatever warfare you are facing, whatever it means for you, one thing is certain. It will surely mean a new submission to God in this newly revealed area of your life. (James 4:7)

As you have walked with the Lord, can you remember a time where you had to submit something to Him and came out victorious on the other side? How about a time when you didn't?

Here's some scriptures to help you during this time. Feel free to add your own:

Psalms 19:14

Psalms 139:23-24

Hebrews 12:11-17, 28

Ephesians 6:10-20

James 1:12

ginger r. takamiya

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Call Me Crazy...

Sometimes things are just crazy! For instance, right now the weather in the United States is crazy. While some of my fellow Ponderers are wilting under record-breaking high temperatures, I’m contemplating turning on my heat. Yesterday a few of my friends in Minnesota felt like it was 134 degrees due to a record high dewpoint temperature, but where I live, our high was only 69 degrees! Yes, I am thankful the nationwide heat wave is not hitting us (I really hate being hot!) but it was July before we hit eighty degrees, and we’ve only had one day in the nineties. Meanwhile, the rest of the country is suffering in triple digits. This weather is crazy!

As I said, I hate being hot, so I am relieved our weather has been much cooler than usual, but in my area we’ve traded heat for storms. It seems like we have a summer storm at least once a week. If you have arthritis or you’ve ever broken a bone, then you know how the barometric ups and downs that bring these storms can wreak havoc on your health. Because of my car accident injuries, I can predict thunder storms more accurately than weather.com! It sounds crazy, but my doctor confirms the phenomena. She pointed out how often we say we are “feeling under the weather” when we aren’t feeling well.

When I am “under the weather,” it is hard to do any of the things I normally do. I find it difficult to clean house, cook for my family, grocery shop, or do laundry.  And I especially struggle to sit at my computer and write. It can be so frustrating. My husband and sons often pick up the slack of the household chores, but writing is something they cannot do for me.

This is the part where we are all wishing I had a great list of ways to combat being too under the weather to write, but I am sorry to say I do not. I mean, we can suck it up and write through our pain. We can give our characters similar ailments and then write how bad we feel into their fictional lives.  We can load up on cold medicine or pain relievers, but I’m not sure people will want to read anything we write under the influence. Sometimes we have to admit we just can’t do it.

So, we have to find ways to deal with other things so we can get to writing. When we are not feeling 100%, we need to delegate as much of the other stuff as possible. And if I can’t delegate a household chore, then maybe it just doesn’t get done until I feel better. That’s okay. No one is going to die if the dishes stay in the sink an extra day. As far as cooking, if my family refuses to have cereal for dinner (again) I turn to my arsenal of super easy dinner recipes that turn a minimal amount of work into a fabulous meal. Breakfast for dinner is always the easiest.  My teenage sons are near professionals at scrambling eggs and cooking bacon in the microwave. I also have some favorite almost homemade options. I love the breaded chicken tenders from Costco that bake in the oven in about 30 minutes, and I serve them with a stovetop rice/stuffing/pasta option and veggies. 

What I’m trying to say here is that sometimes our housework needs to take a back seat to our writing. It is okay, I promise.  I know it sounds crazy, but sometimes delegating tasks (or leaving a chore undone) is the only way to move our WIP forward. I think we all, even those of us not dealing with health issues, need to resist allowing our writing to turn into something we do if we have leftover time at the end of the day. Your writing is important, and you need to make it a priority. To get you started, I’m going to give you my secret weapon recipe to get dinner cooking itself so you can grab an hour or two to write. It’s CRAZY easy and crazy good!

Creamy Italian Chicken 
(Serves 4…Can easily be doubled for company!)
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1 envelope dry Italian salad dressing mix (There are NINE Good Seasons flavors from which to choose! I always double this recipe, and I like to mix and match)
1/4 cup water
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 can cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
4 ounce can sliced mushroom, drained (optional)

Hot cooked rice or pasta

Place the chicken breast halves in the crock pot. Combine the Italian dressing mix and water until smooth; pour over top of chicken. Cover; cook on low for 3 hours.

Combine the cream cheese and soup until smooth and blended. Stir in mushroom pieces, if desired. Pour soup mixture over chicken. Cook another hour, or until chicken is cooked through. Serve over hot cooked rice or pasta. I like to serve this with a bright green vegetable like broccoli or frozen peas.

per serving: 374 calories, 23g fat, 7g carbohydrates, 33g protein.

Your turn: What is your favorite tool for carving out writing time?

~Heidi Larson Geis

Monday, July 18, 2011

Writing Retreat Take-Aways

I love writing retreats. Love them. Two weeks ago, I was able to attend our ACFW local chapter’s Great Lakes Getaway. Our chapter always head up to Lake Superior’s North Shore and spends a weekend soaking up writing instruction together. No matter how many retreats you attend, it seems like you always learn something new, or something strikes you in a brand new way. So today I’m going to share my top five take-aways from this year’s Great Lakes Getaway with My Book Therapy’s very own Rachel Hauck:

1. Let dialogue do the heavy lifting. Often times, the conversations my characters have are b-o-r-i-n-g, sprinkled with too much “Hi, how are you?” to maintain reader interest and tell a memorable story. Rachel taught us never to reveal a major emotion in prose, always drop it “between the quotes!”

2. Don’t rehash what the reader already knows. Don’t hang on to a plot point too long to make sure the reader gets it, or to boost word count. Move the story forward. My heroine shouldn’t spend thirty pages pondering whether she’ll accept the hero’s dinner invitation!

3. Set opposite goals for the hero and heroine. This ups the tension, ups the stakes, and provides opportunities for a good conflict or argument. (A classic rule, I know, but sometimes I overlook this one!)

4. Don’t quit. Press on and enjoy the journey. Just because you don’t final in a contest or get yet another rejection letter doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Persevere.

I promised you five, right? Well, usually the final morning of our retreat consists of a devotional time that we can relate to our writing life. And this year Rachel reminded me about the heart of God.

5. There is a you-sized hole in God’s heart that He allows of Himself. He doesn’t receive your love the same way he receives someone else’s. You are his favorite one, so bring him joy in the way only you can.

Your turn: what are some of the best tips you’ve ever learned at a writing retreat?

Now write on, and bring God joy!

Amy Lindberg

Friday, July 15, 2011

My Life is a Romance Novel

By Roxanne Sherwood
I am a “happily ever after” kind of gal. But life is unpredictable. Events are often out of my control and don’t always turn out the way I want them to. This coffee mug, given to me by my dear friend, Elizabeth, pretty much sums up my life, though I’m a bit older than the typical romantic heroine.

1. The Setup (or the Hook)

Four years ago, my family suffered a tragic loss. On my twin daughters’ 17th birthday, my wonderful husband, Jack, had a heart attack. He was only 45 and seemed in perfect health, but he didn’t survive. I was left to raise seven children, ages 1-20, on my own.

I’d been the most important person in the world to Jack Sherwood, but now I wasn’t number one on anyone’s speed dial. I didn’t want to go through life alone, but the odds of remarrying were not in my favor. I heard, “With seven kids, no one would ever marry you.” Or “I can’t picture you with anyone but Jack.” I was happy with the lifestyle choices I’d made with my husband to have a large family and to homeschool, but I worried they’d seem insignificant to anyone else. What had I been doing my entire adult life that anyone else would think was worthwhile? When a friend said, “God gave me a dream that you’ll remarry,” it was hard to believe.

2. Inciting Incident (often called “The Meet”, though in my case, we didn’t physically meet yet.)

I heard a high school classmate in Florida, Steve, had lost his wife after a long battle with cancer, so I sent my condolences. A month later, he replied. After another month passed, I asked how he was coping. Though he was grieving, his sense of humor made me laugh. We began emailing, then Facebook chatting, and finally he called. His sexy voice had me at “hello.” God began knitting our hearts together.

3. The Turning Point

We hadn’t actually met, but Steve said he really, really liked me. I felt the same. Giddy. Dying to meet him. Finally, he flew to Texas for a couple of days. Our feelings were real. He returned home and we continued talking for several hours a night. In the beginning, I was sure we’d eventually run out of things to discuss. But we didn’t. Steve swears I could read the phone book to him and he’d find it interesting.

4. Raising the Stakes

Steve made an extensive commitment to someone in my family who was in a serious crisis, yet I wasn’t positive about my relationship with him because of the long distance. Was I now committed more than I’d intended?

5. Second Turning Point

A friend had been trying to fix me up with another widower for a year, and he finally asked me out. He was local, which was extremely appealing to me. He had the same family background. He was everything I thought I wanted. Only it turned out who I really wanted was Steve.

6. The Dark Moment

Steve hinted he wanted to propose during his next visit. Though I loved him, I had to choose to physically break up my family by leaving college-aged children behind and to relocate with my younger children to marry him. People were quick to remind me how children are meant to leave home. But they usually only go one at a time and “home” doesn’t usually leave them first. Going off to college is a gradual “leaving.” This would be sudden and permanent. Plus, my children were very close after the loss of their father. My younger boys would gain a wonderful new dad but would lose daily contact with their older siblings.

7. The Happily Ever After (or the Resolution)

When God brings someone perfect into your life, you should grab “happily ever after” with both hands. So I did. Steve isn’t perfect, but he’s God's gift and the perfect man for me—and the perfect dad for my three young boys. Plus, he still makes me laugh every day.

(And he even brought chocolate while I was writing this and provided the photos for this post!)

Steve and I married on June 18th and are living Happily Ever After!

Just for fun, here’s a little musical tribute written by Ponderer Heidi Geis. (Anyone who watched television from 1969-1974 or one of the many reruns of this show will know the tune.)

Here's the story of a lovely lady
Who is bringing up 7 truly awesome kids.
All of them have sunny smiles, like their mother,
The youngest one is five.
Here's the story, of a man named Stephen,
Who is busy with one boy of his own,
They are two men, living life together,
Yet they seem all alone.
Till the one day when the lady met this fellow
And they knew it was much more than a hunch,
That this group must somehow form a family.
That's the way they all became the Gra-ay Bunch.
That's the way they all became the Gra-ay Bunch.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

If change is good for us, then why is it so painful?

Most humans are resistant to change. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. How many times have you heard that one?
That's because even during the times we choose to change, we can experience heart wrenching pain, regret, fear, and depression.
I have felt those very emotions of late. Although the move to Nevada is exactly what my husband and I have dreamed about for decades, the move has not been without the pain of separation, the regret of doing things differently, the fear of the unknown, and depression that crept in and took over because of being overloaded and overwhelmed.
So why do we need change if it’s so painful? Why do our characters?
Because although change creates temporary pain it will, if we let it, produce lasting character traits and have a positive effect on our lives. Humans are meant to grow, overcome, and achieve.
If as toddlers, we gave up the first time we fell, wouldn’t we still be laying around like infants?
As Christians, God challenges to search out inner motives, actions, and attitudes that affect our hearts. We are purified like gold, creating spiritual maturity and wisdom. The experience we gained can be used to help others going through similar circumstances.
Like us, our characters need to grow. They need to conquer their fears, overcome their shortcomings, and move on. They’ve got to exhibit the best of what we call the human spirit.

They need to realize the risk of standing still is greater than the risk of changing. Even if it means breaking apart from their comfort zones, leaving the people they identified with, walk away from their safe place. They need to believe their new ideas, although not proven, can be sound even if it means crossing into that black moment of their life.
Suzie once told me I was “too nice” to my characters. Without the challenges, without the need to overcome, our writing is flat, boring, life less. Making our writing too easy to put down!
A quote by Richard Bach states: What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.
Let your characters dwell in the shade of adversity, like the caterpillar. Let them go through the challenges that threaten everything they believe in, even their very life. Then let them fly!
In less than a week, a moving van will arrive at our new home, followed by my husband whom I’ve only seen one time since Easter. Needless to say, I’m flying!
Jennie Atkins

Monday, July 11, 2011

How Does that Make You Feel?

While working on my doctorate degree, the notorious question I was taught to ask my mental health clients was, "How does that make you feel?" Professors drilled into my head that the traumatic event was not really the focus. I needed to peel back the layers to find out how the event emotionally impacted the client.

Little did I know that training was preparing me to be a novelist. That training taught me that even if I write the most suspenseful scene, if the reader is not emotionally connecting with what they're reading, they won't turn the page.

I've learned to pose that question to my characters while writing them into a scene. As the bullets are flying around them or they're kicking their cheating bo to the curb, I stop and have a conversation with them.

"So tell me, how does that make you feel?"

Know what? They'll tell you! Your characters are just itching to spew out all manner of emotional reactions to the mess you just got them in. They might even hurl insults at you. After all, you could have written them into a wonderful vacation on the beach in Mexico. Instead, you put them in this horrible situation.

In those times when I cannot provoke an emotional response from my characters, I know immediately the event really isn't that important to them. I need to reconsider. Did I miss something? Do I really need this scene? If it is necessary, what could I change to push my character's buttons?

That one question we used to joke about in college has forced me to emotionally hook my characters and my readers into what's happening with my plot. The emotion causes them to turn page after page, to connect with the characters, and to get to the last page without wanting to hurl the story against the wall.

You can do that too. So, how does that make you feel?

Reba J. Hoffman

photo by theswedish/stockxchng.com

Friday, July 8, 2011

Supporting Characters...and [shudder] calculus.

Three things I'll never forget about my high school pre-calc teacher:

1) How he only had half a thumb on one hand.

2) The way he always sang his way into the classroom.

3) The "good effort" he wrote on pretty much every test I took that semester.

Uh, yeah, “good effort.” Translation: “Obviously you have no clue what you’re doing, but I can tell by the number of eraser marks you tried. You really did.”

Truthfully, getting good grades always came pretty easily for me. Don’t know why. I’m no Einstein – though, sometimes on humid days my hair probably resembles his. But I never really struggled in school…

Until pre-calc. Seriously, unit after unit, I just couldn’t wrap my brain around…whatever it was I was supposed to be wrapping my brain around. See, even now, I can’t think of a single pre-calc concept to offer as proof that I actually took the class. Think, Mr. Rogers in a boxing ring. That's how un-adept I was at the subject. (And I love cardigan sweaters, too, so the metaphor works on more than one level!)

And my teacher? He knew it. He caught my blank stares, completely saw through my fake nods of understanding when I’d stay after class for help. But here’s a fourth thing I’ll never forget about him:

I’ll never forget the day he looked me in the eye and said, “Melissa, don’t take calculus next year.”

I think I did a simultaneous sigh-and-laugh thing that came out a snort. “Gotcha, you’re saying I’m not smart enough.”

“No,” he replied. “I’m saying you’re not a math person. You’re creative. You’re a writer. So don’t go banging your head, trying to grasp something not meant for you. Be who you are.”

His words, heavy with wisdom, deserve unpacking in a blog post all their own. But today, as I look back, I realize what an amazing “supporting character” that teacher was in my life story at that time.  He didn’t show up on every “page.” His only “scene" was a meager 45 minutes a few times a week. But as he impacted one aspect of my life – my academic life – he enriched my overall life story.

Supporting characters in our WIPs need to do the same thing. Whether they show up in 12 scenes or 40, whether they’re tied into the main plot, a subplot or layer, they need to add to the entire story. In many cases, they will fill a hole in a main character’s life, play a role vital to the lead’s journey.

Or they may do the opposite of what my teacher did. They may contribute to the lead's undoing. They may stand in the way of the hero’s noble quest, rip apart the heroine’s greatest dream, propel the POV character into the blackest of black moments.

Either way, when well-written these supporting characters add depth and dimension to our stories and especially to our hero/heroines.

Probably I should end this blog post here. Or list some well-known, well-written or well-played supporting characters. Or provide tips for writing supporting characters.

Instead, I can’t help but come full circle and reflect for a moment: I have so many incredible “supporting characters” in my life. Some are constant – like my family and best friends. Others, like my pre-calc teacher, show up only for a season. But each one contributes to my life story in their own, unique way.

And I have to ask myself, in whose life am I a supporting character? And how could I be a more active, intentional supporting character in the lives of those around me?

How easy it is to think of myself only as the main character in my own story. But oh how the landscape of our lives broaden when we see ourselves as a supporting character in dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of lives. That's a story I want to live.

Let’s chat! Who is one of your favorite supporting characters in any book or movie? And for those feeling reflective: Who has been a supporting character in your life? In whose life do you want to fulfill a supporting role?

Melissa Tagg

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Interview With Ronie Kendig, Author of Discarded Heroes series

I'm thrilled to have my friend and fabulous author Ronie Kendig as a MBT Ponderers guest today. I met Ronie online through ACFW. Her sweet spirit and transparency shine in her novels that will grip your heart and not let go.

Ronie grew up an Army brat and married a veteran. Together, she and her husband have four children, a Golden Retriever, and a Maltese Menace. She has a B.S. in Psychology, speaks to various groups, volunteers with the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and mentors new writers. Rapid-Fire Fiction, her brand, is exemplified through her novels. Dead Reckoning, a spy thriller, and the military thriller series, The Discarded Heroes, which includes Nightshade (Retailer’s Choice Award finalist & IRCA Romantic Suspense finalist), Digitalis,Wolfsbane, and Firethorn (January 2012). Ronie can be found at www.roniekendig.com or www.discardedheroes.com

As the wife of a former Marine, I love military romances. When I learned Ronie was writing this series, I was excited to read them. I was not disappointed.

I've been an influencer for Ronie's Discarded Heroes series. Each novel is action-packed with flawed characters who showcase God's redeeming grace. I've loved each one of them, but I have to admit Wolfsbane, the third book in the series, is my favorite so far. I finished it way past my bedtime, but the lack of sleep was so worth it.

 In Wolfsbane, Dani and Canyon burrowed their way in my heart. Ronie uses them to show people--yes, even Christians--make mistakes and poor choices. But those choices have lasting consequences. I appreciated the edginess in this novel and the way Ronie handled it with sensitivity and grace.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy getting to know Ronie and her novels a little better.

What inspired the Discarded Heroes series?
Real life. Watching the marriage of a Navy SEAL fall apart because of his anger and inability to manage it. Nothing like watching a beautiful family crumble despite prayers and efforts to save it. Seeing that, watching the news of suicides, my heart broke…then engaged in an effort to simply be a voice for those who often don’t speak up for themselves to get help.

In your eyes, what defines a hero? 
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A hero is no braver than an ordinary person, but he is braver five minutes longer.” To me, that’s a hero—someone who doesn’t give up, despite the pressure or fears.

How have your life experiences influenced your writing?
Greatly! I am who I am because of those experiences and those seep into my writing in an organic way. Chuck Holton (author, editor, adventure reporter) told me once that he learns about an author by reading their books. It sounds common sense, but it goes deep—your values, your histories layer thickly into your writing. I can’t imagine it not.

You wrote while homeschooling your children, earning your psychology degree, and moving a couple of times. How did you manage to juggle all of your obligations and still write?
I just pressed on. Oh man, did I feel like quitting—a LOT, but as my husband kept saying to me,” What’s there to quit to?” He’d make me angry when he said that, but only because he was right! :-D Giving up accomplishes nothing. I don’t want to go backward, so I am pushing onward.

Writing and marketing go hand in hand these days. What marketing techniques have worked for you? What would you suggest for newly published authors to get their books out there?
Many years ago in counseling, I was a basket case and felt like a complete failure. It’s then that my pastor explained I had unrealistic expectations of myself. I demanded perfection (Ha! Haven’t’ gotten close to that by a mile).

I think that many new writers—myself included—fall into that trap, or are shoved into it by the industry. We want to succeed, we want to see our books hit bestsellers lists, final and win contests, but what happens when all that doesn’t happen. I had a writing break down shortly after my first book released. I’d *killed* myself trying to market it, and the efforts seemed like a failure. *I* felt like a failure. Again, I had unrealistic expectations.

It took me a while to realize that success is out of my control. I can only do the best that I can do, write the best story I can write, but the rest is completely up to God.

One tidbit of advice: the best thing for any writer to do is establish an online/social media presence. And I don’t mean throw into everyone’s face every review, every status point. Be real. Be YOU! Readers want to connect with the AUTHOR. It’s fine to post a great review, but not every review. Show people you are real, share how you burned the chocolate chip cookies or how the new puppy makes you feel really old (LOL Ahem, speaking from experience here…).

What other page-turning fiction can readers expect to enjoy soon?
Firethorn, Discarded Heroes #4, will release January 2012—and THEN!! I am so excited for August, because the first in my military war dog series, TRINITY, will release. I think that’s going to be a fantastic series (if I do say so myself). Loads of fun and lots of barks, er, action.

Ronie, thanks again for being our guest! I am looking forward to reading Firethorn and Trinity. Ronie is hosting a contest on her blog to kick off the launch of Wolfsbane. Visit her blog for more details.

Your turn: Have you read one of Ronie's books? If so, who is your favorite character? Why? If you haven't, run to your nearest bookstore and pick up a copy. You won't be disappointed! 

Lisa Jordan

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth of July-Happy Birthday!

Today is my sister’s birthday. Fooled you, didn’t I? You thought I was going to say something about it being this country’s birthday. And I am. But first my sister.
For several years after my sister was born—on the 4th of July—I got upset on her birthday. Everyone celebrated her birthday. They took off work, had picnics, went swimming, shot fireworks. They had fun. Not just a few people, but everyone. Invariably, I would compare her day to mine.
No one even remembered mine ... one month after Christmas. No party, no presents, except one from mom and dad, and it was usually small since they were still paying Santa. No swimming, either, as it was the dead of winter. It never even snowed on my birthday. I didn’t like my sister very much when her birthday rolled around.
On my sister’s third birthday, I’d had it. I pitched a royal tantrum. Which only succeeded in getting me into trouble, but my mom, bless her heart, figured out what was going on. She explained to me that everyone wasn’t celebrating Barbara’s birthday, they were celebrating the birth of our country (You’d think I would’ve figured it out myself, but hey, I was just 7). I finally got the big picture, but there for a while, I had a really good pity party going on. I had believed a lie.
Just like the characters in my book. When I wrote about the lie my heroine believes, I dug out those feelings from my past—the hurt, the anger, the sense of not being important—and gave them to my character.
As writers we have a huge cache of life experiences to draw from. Some are painful, some are exhilarating, but they are there, waiting for us to tap into. It’s from our own lives that we breathe life into our characters.
Happy Birthday, Barbara!
And Happy Birthday, America! Thank you to the God-fearing men who took a stand 235 years ago and formed this country. And thank you to the God-fearing men and women who take a stand today to keep us One Nation Under God ...
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea

Pat Trainum
@bradleypt on Twitter
I asked God to teach me patience and He gave me a book to write

Photo by Corinth Rose www.corinthrose.wordpress.com blog

Friday, July 1, 2011

Three Reasons Why Writers Conferences are Important for Beginning Writers

And smile! Having fun at the 2010 ACFW conference.
"Is it really important that I go to writers conferences?"

A relatively new writer asked me that question. My answer? Yes!

I understood why she asked the question. She didn't have a completed manuscript--not even close. And the idea of putting a book proposal together for the work-in-progress (WIP)?? Forget about it.

So, reading between the lines, her question was: If I don't have a book to pitch, why should I pay big bucks for air fare and a hotel room and conference registration? It's a waste of time and money, right?


Let's be honest: Writers conferences are expensive. Air fare, a hotel room, and conference registration can easily hit the $800+ range--and increase from there if you add on the early bird teaching session or if you buy the CDs of the conference or indulge in the book store goodies.Notice I didn't mention any pre-conference clothes buying spree . . .

So if you're not going to take advantage of editor and/or agent appointments and pitch your bestseller-to-be, why go?  I'll give you three reasons:

  1. You need to learn the culture of the writing world. Writers have their own language--and I'm not talking about the voices of the characters in their heads. We talk about our work-in-progress (WIP), our voice (there's that word "voice" again and it means something completely different!), point of view (POV), hooks, black moments, inciting incidents . . .  and I haven't even mentioned social media and marketing. Attending writers conferences allows you to immerse yourself in the writing world. You get to hang out with other writers--people who understand you. People who know more than you--and can teach you. And people who know less than you. Imagine that. Maybe you can help someone else.
  2. You need to hone your craft. Every writer needs to strive to be a better writer. This is one goal that never goes away. Writers conferences are a wealth of information with workshops taught by experts on topics like dialogue, building tension in your story, managing the muddle in the middle, how to handle the financial realities of being a writer, developing believable characters--the list goes on and on.
  3. You need to network. Writers need to push away from their computers and connect with real live people. Networking isn't using another person for your gain. Conferences are a fun way to meet other people, to build relationships. Introduce yourself. Not sure what to say? "So, what do you write?" is a great conversation starter. Bring business cards and hand 'em out--and make sure you ask for others' cards. 
What about you? What would you say to a new writer if she asked you about writers conferences?

Recommended conferences: