Friday, January 31, 2014

Libraries Provide Writers With More Than Research Material

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I just recently moved to the Dallas, Texas area a couple months ago. You might ask if the first thing I did was eat tex-mex or buy a pair of cowboy boots. Nope. I went to the local library and filled out an application for a card.

After multiple moves over the past few years, I've learned that one of the best ways for an introverted writer to get plugged into a new community is to visit the nearest library branch. Besides the plethora of books to delve into for recreational and research purposes, there are interest group meetings, informational panels, and other events to get involved in.

Since coming to Dallas, I've been able to get involved in a vintage costume group, get research tips from fellow writers, talk with romance readers, learn new swing dance moves, and attend free workshops, ranging from writing techniques to medieval heraldry. Maybe not all of these things will be used for a book, but the camaraderie I've gained from attending these events has been invaluable.

What unique ways has the library inspired you or helped you in your writing/reading?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Rumspringa's Hope

 We are blessed to have such a wonderful cover artist who creates such beautiful covers. I have heard over and over again from readers about how the cover drew them in. I asked them to use the skyscrapers, as most of the story takes place in Philadelphia, but he added the flowers which was in a scene that I hadn't even thought of using in the cover but was a perfect addition. I am looking forward to this up and coming book. Rumspringa's Hope will be released in May 2014.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Pick Your Fiction Genre

Whether you're a reader or writer, you most likely have preferences for certain genres. I prefer reading romance, southern women's fiction, and quirky mysteries. Occasionally I enjoy a gun-slinging western as long as there's a strong romantic interest in the story.

Most of the genres can be written in either contemporary or historical times. Also, futuristic and time travel stories have been around for quite a while and have gained momentum over recent years. Publishers of Christian fiction have embraced many of these genres to provide readers what they want with a Christian worldview.

I'm sometimes asked to define genres, so I thought that might be a good thing to do here:

Romance – In a romance novel, you can expect a relationship between a man and a woman that begins early in the book and progresses as you read. There will be one or more obstacles that drive a wedge between the couple, but in the end, love conquers all. Many romances have strong secondary characters and subplots.

Fantasy and Science Fiction – Fantasy fiction involves world building of an alternate universe, often with characters that are magical or creatures with human-like traits. Science fiction typically has a setting or conflict that revolves around science or technology. Sometimes you'll find an overlapping of fantasy and science fiction, but not always. Although almost anything goes in fantasy and science fiction, readers expect consistency throughout the story or series.

Mystery and Thriller – A mystery novel involves an unknown element that isn't disclosed until the end of the book. A thriller creates excitement through suspense. In both mysteries and thrillers, the author will plant clues as the story unravels, using an amateur sleuth, detective, or someone whose life may be in danger to solve the case and to bring closure to the story.

Western – Typically set in the late 1800s, these stories have traditionally taken place in the western states. However, I've seen western-themed stories set in other states. You're likely to see ranches, saloons, jailhouses, and Native American villages. Readers know from the beginning that the good guy will win and the bad guy will get what's coming to him.

Women's Fiction – In women's fiction, the main character is almost always a woman who faces issues that are relatable to other women. The author's goal is to take readers on a journey as the character learns and develops through mistakes and missteps. The ending doesn't need to be happy, but it should have some degree of satisfaction. You'll often find romance or maybe even a touch of mystery in these books that are written for a female audience.

Mainstream Fiction – Mainstream fiction is difficult to describe because it doesn't have the constraints of a genre. Often a genre blend, you'll find a broader scope of elements that make the story seem bigger than life. These are typically the books that hit the bestseller lists.

This is a partial list because there are too many genres and subgenres to describe in a blog. Some others include Amish/Mennonite, comedy, suspense, horror, allegory, gothic, family saga, tragedy, and literary.

What genre do you prefer to read or write?

Coming Soon!

The first book (a romance) in my Uptown Belles series, Dixie Belle, will be released in May 2014. Preorder now at Amazon, and you'll be guaranteed the lowest price between now and then. Other places you can order this book include Barnes and Noble, Books a, and Cokesbury.

In book one of the Uptown Belles series, sparks fly when Cissy Hillwood arrives in New York City from her Alabama hometown and meets her uncle’s fiercest competitor.

SERIES DESCRIPTION: In this fish-out-of-water contemporary romance series, three Southern belles living and working in New York City develop a friendship based on their fondness and homesickness for the South. Although they’re different from each other in many ways, they share a love for the South and faith in Christ. And they each fall victim to Cupid, one at a time and when they least expect it. At least they have each other for venting, laughing with, and…shopping.

Monday, January 20, 2014

DESTINY - My Word from the Lord for 2014

One of my best friends is Rita Booth, a missionary to Mexico. We've been friends for a long time. Several years ago, we started asking God for a word for the new year. Some years, we've received the same word. Other times, our words went together to form a more powerful message. And some times, the words didn't connect.

God gave me my word last week. It's DESTINY. You can claim this word for your own this year, if you want to. We are all people of destiny.

In Psalms 139:13-14 (NIV), we find these words:
For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

This is a representation of the DNA helix? When God created us in our mother's wombs, the strands of DNA look like something that was kitted or crocheted. As He spoke our specific DNA into being, He placed within it everything we would need for every year of our lifespan.

And He placed specific things I will need to be a woman, wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and writer and teller of stories this year. He placed the creativity and the words I need for the books I'll write, the screenplay I'll write, my speaking engagements, the people I'll meet and pray for. Everything for the destiny He has planned for me this year.

He also placed the strengths I will need to face the hard times.

But I won't be able to access those things without turning to Him. Leaning on Him and His words I will read in the Bible this year.

I want to access everything He has for me this year. The only way to do that is to abide in Him, listen to His voice, and obey Him.

That's my DESTINY  for 2014.

If you've received a word from Him for 2014, please bless me and my other blog readers by sharing your word with us. We'll all grow and connect through these words.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My Inspiration

I must confess that I’m a sucker for a good love story, and I credit my wife for my penchant for writing romantic stories. When I first met Marsha, I fell for her head-over-heels. I was incomplete at the time and didn’t know it. Afterward I felt whole, and that is the subject I like to explore in my stories—people who are incomplete finding fulfillment and wholeness in one another.

Sometimes I wonder if it might be more “manly” to write a page-turning spy thriller or a heart-stopping war saga. But when I sit down to write, love stories are what naturally come out, thanks to Marsha.

She is my biggest supporter and my toughest critic! Especially regarding my female characters’ thoughts, feelings, and actions. Sometimes Marsha laughs at my efforts, and sometimes she just rolls her eyes, but I trust her judgment implicitly and would not dare commit anything to final form without her approval. So far I have been unable to slip anything by her—I know because I keep trying. She picks me up when I get discouraged, and she keeps me grounded when I get carried away. Both of my novels are dedicated to her, as will be my third one (entitled Following Rain) when it comes out in 2015.

We’ve been married for forty years, and Marsha was then and still remains my inspiration. Thanks for the journey to date, love.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Why Do We Write?

Why do we, as writers, put ourselves through what it takes to be a published author today? For me, it’s because I can’t quit. It’s in my blood, and the stories have to come out. Half of them or even more may never see publication, but the stories have to be written.

When the story is accepted by a known publisher, our ego gets a boost, but then comes the job of editing, revising and making it into the best possible story for the reader. I love that part of the writing process. The ideas are already there, so now all I have to do is work with the editor and make them better.

Of course, with all the self-publishing options open today, it’s easier than ever to get our material out there and into hands of readers. The problem I’ve found with so many of those is that the writing could have used a good editing. Poor grammar, disconnected thoughts, and head-hopping become common in a good number of e-books published by the author.

Even if don’t always agree with an in-house editor, we know they want the best product possible for the publishing house and when we do work with them to attain that, we have a better end product. Sure, most of us would be content with just writing the story and getting it published, but so much more is involved.

After the editing and galley are all done, we have to think ahead to marketing that book and getting people to buy it. After all, we do want to see those royalties come in. Still, that’s work and not really something most writers enjoy doing. Social media, writing friends, writing loops, and a web presence make this a little easier, but it’s still work.

 If all I had to do was sit at a desk and tell the stories in my head and heart then send them to the editor, I’d be a happy camper, but it takes all the other “stuff” to make the story worth the time and effort of the editor and the publishing team.

With all that is required as well as expected of a writer today, why do you still do what you do? What is it in you that keeps you churning out the stories?

Martha Rogers is a free-lance writer and the author of the Winds Across the Prairie and Seasons of the Heart series as well as the novella, Key to Her Heart in River Walk Christmas and Not on the Menu in Sugar and Grits. Love Stays True, the first book in her third series, The Homeward Journey, is now available. She was named Writer of the Year at the Texas Christian Writers Conference in 2009 and is a member of ACFW and writes the weekly Verse of the Week for the ACFW Loop. In addition to fiction, Martha has contributed to compilations by Wayne Holmes, Debra White-Smith and Karen O’ Connor as well as various devotion books. Martha is a frequent speaker for writing workshops and the Texas Christian Writers Conference. She is a retired teacher and lives in Houston with her husband, Rex. Their favorite pastime is spending time with their nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Tips for Readers

Last time I posted on this blog, I had a list of tips for fiction writers. Now it's readers' turn. You might think that all you need to do to be a good reader is read a lot of books, but you can make the experience even stronger and more enjoyable by broadening the scope of the book.

Here are a few tips:
  • Have a "keeper" shelf where you put books you'll want to read again later. You might even want to use Post-It notes to mark your favorite scenes.
  • Is there a book that you absolutely love? Whether the book changed your life in some way or simply provided an enjoyable reading experience, find a way to let the author know. Most traditionally published books have the address of the publishing house in the front matter. Send a letter there and request to have it forwarded to the author. You can also do a Google search on the author and send something through his or her website. Most of us have ways we can be contacted online. My website is You can click the "contact" button at the top and send me a message or email me.
  • Look for other books by this author. Chances are if you like the one you just read, you'll enjoy others on his or her backlist.
  • Get on the author's mailing list and follow his or her blog.
  • Send a "friend" request and follow the author on social media. If the author has a professional page on Facebook, click the "like" button. You can be one of the first to discover new releases.
  • When you're with friends, discuss the book and share what you like about it.
  • Review and rate the book on Amazon,, Barnes and Noble, and other websites that sell books. This lets other readers (and sometimes authors) know what you like or don't like.
  • Share your thoughts about the book on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media to keep the experience going.
  • Talk to your local bookseller and librarian about how much you enjoyed the book. They might be able to refer you to others that are similar, and they'll be on alert to possibly stock more by this author.
  • Ask your bookseller or librarian about hosting a book signing by this author and be one of the first to arrive. You'll have a chance to chat with the author, and you might score a bookmark or other promotional material.
  • If you're in a book group, consider involving the author through Skype or other video chat service.
  • Host the author on your personal blog. Most authors enjoy doing this, and if your timing is right, you might even receive a free review copy of that person's next book.
A side benefit of making contact with an author is the possibility of becoming friends. Although it doesn't always happen, it can, and both of you will benefit. Although I'm an author, I'm still a fan of other writers, and I'm delighted to now be friends with many of them.

Here's a picture of me with Cherie Burbach, someone I've known online for quite a while but finally got to meet in person this past September. We became online friends after letting each other know how much we appreciated the other's writing. The cool thing about our face-to-face meeting was that we'd emailed and chatted so much, we just picked right up where we left off with our last conversation. 

Current nonfiction author and future fiction author Cherie Burbach and me at the ACFW Conference - I LOVE her writing!

I'm sure other readers and authors have some great suggestions to add. What do you do to enhance your reading experience?