Friday, May 30, 2014

A Summer Reading Challenge

On my regular blog, A Christian Writer's World, we're starting a Summer Reading Challenge tomorrow. Come over and join us:

A Red Hot Summer Reading Challenge

Three months of reading challenge - June, July, August. Keep a list of all the books you read and list them this way:

List one will be books with covers on either sidebar of this blog. You will get 3 points for each of them you read.

List two will be the books featured on my blog that aren't in either sidebar. You will get 2 points for these.

List one will be any other book you read in these three months.

When you make your list, we want the title and author(s) of the book.

You'll be reporting on your progress at the end of each month. At the end of June and at the end of July, you can leave a comment with only the number of books read. At the end of August, we'll want your complete lists in the comments. The one who has the most points will receive a gift card to Deeper Shopping Online Christian store.

I'll be reading along with you. This is going to be fun.

Happy Reading!!!

Monday, May 26, 2014

In Memory

Thank You!

On this Memorial Day and all through this past weekend, we have honored the men and women who have given of their time, their efforts, and even their lives to protect this country and her hard won freedoms. The years for historical novels now include the years up through WWII.
For many of us, those years from 1941 through 1945 are not history found in books and research, they are a part of our lives. It’s almost eerie to pick up a book and read about the things that happened during that war and realize I’ve read about those things in the newspaper soon after they happened or saw them Life, Time, Newsweek and Saturday Evening Post magazines. Some of those pictures are printed permanently in my memory.

Wars have been fought since then with few of them being accepted as WWII was. What a time to write about for novels. The history books give us so much material to use as do personal testimonies from those who served. How far we’ve come from the God fearing nation we were during those dark days of the two world wars.

Even so, our writing can bring readers to a closer understanding of the past and show them how much it affected the way Americans thought about their country and how they relied on God to see them through those times.  No matter what era our writing covers, the ultimate goal is to show how the goodness, mercy, and grace of God overcome the evils of the world.

We read about battles of the past and realize we still have many battles before us. As Satan works to get a stronghold, we know the Man in Charge, and face those battles with courage because we know who wins the war.  

Our hearts fill with grateful thanks today for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice and for those who have served and those who still proudly serve their country today. 

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 and Love Finds Faith, the first and second books in her third series, The Homeward Journey, are 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. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Rumspringa's Hope

I am super excited about my latest release, Rumspringa's Hope!!! I've had a lot of interest in this story and it is one of, if not my favorite to write and do research on. Love the cover too!

Authors: What is the favorite story you've writen?
Readers: What book was your favorite to read?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How to Save Money so You Can Buy More Books

I recently had a conversation with someone who said she loved reading, but she couldn't afford to buy books anymore. I glanced down at her venti (large) coffee cup from Starbucks and realized where her money was going. She was willing to pay big bucks for something that probably wouldn't last an hour, and it was preventing her from several hours of enjoyment. Later I started thinking that we need to find ways to save money so we can afford to purchase books we want to read.

Remember that you don't have to cut out everything you enjoy. Just make a few small adjustments here and there, and you may not even notice. I don't want you giving up the things you love, or you'll revert back to the old spending habits that will keep you out of bookstores.

Here are some cost savers that shouldn't be painful and may bring more joy than your old habits:
  • Bring your own mug. It's much less expensive to brew your own coffee and pour it into a travel mug than it is to purchase it at an expensive coffee shop. If you crave the ambiance of the shop and the flavor of coffee brewed by someone else, cut back to a once-a-week treat.
  • Bring your lunch to work a couple days a week. Brown bagging is one of the most cost effective ways to save money. If you typically eat out every single day at lunch, you probably don't even realize how much money you're spending. Try preparing something for dinner that can be microwaved in the break room at work. You might discover some extra cash at the end of the week…and you may even start a trend among your coworkers. A bonus is that you'll have time left over from not having to walk or drive to the restaurant, wait in line, and wait to be served.
  • Stay away from vending machines. If you must have snacks throughout the day, bring your own in zip-lock bags.
  • Bottle your own water. What was a trend 20 years ago is now considered wasteful and bad for the environment. Purchase a sports bottle that you can fill with water from the cooler throughout the day. You'll save money and keep a boatload of plastic out of the landfill.
  • Comparison shop for cable or satellite TV. You may discover that you're overpaying for services and stations that you don't use.
  • Plan meals a week in advance. Pull out your local grocery store's sale paper, make a list before your weekly grocery-shopping trip, and only use coupons for things you use. This can help cut back on impulse spending or purchasing something just because you have a coupon for it.
  • Go to a matinee. If you're a movie buff, cut the price by going at a time when the tickets are less expensive.
  • Turn off the lights. When you leave a room, make a habit of turning off all things that use electricity.
  • Shop your closet. Before you rush out to buy a new outfit, see if there's a way to repurpose something in your closet. Perhaps you have a suit that can be split up to create a whole new ensemble with other pieces. For example, if you have a black suit, you can wear the jacket with other slacks, skirts, and dresses. The pants can be worn with that shell and cardigan you purchased last season. Dress it up with something from your jewelry box, and you'll have a whole new outfit.
  • Invite friends over. Instead of meeting your pals somewhere for dinner, invite them to your house for a potluck and game night. You might discover that it's just as much fun, and everyone will save on entertainment. This might even become a regular event for you and your pals.
  • Have a spa night in. Load up on some of your favorite products – facial masks, bubble bath, and manicure products. Put on some soothing music and pamper yourself. The products most likely cost less than one spa session, and you'll have enough to use the next time you need a little TLC.
  • Have a garage sale. Purge everything you don't need or want by having a garage sale. This requires energy, but if you get the neighbors to participate, you'll have more traffic and a chance of selling more of your unwanted stuff that takes up space in your home.
  • Volunteer with your family. This is a multipurpose activity that will teach your children the value of doing something good for the community, making good use of time, and saving money by not spending lavishly on something that doesn't bring long-term happiness.
  • Stay healthy. Eat foods that nourish your body and only treat yourself to junk food on rare occasions. Go for long walks after a big meal and try to find ways to comfort yourself that don't involve spending money.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Beware the Tongue!

Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. James 3: 6-8

The email caught me by surprise. Someone wanted to review one of my early books for their blog. Naively, I sent a copy of the book at my own expense to the reviewer. I don’t know what I was expecting. Surely he would like my book. There was even a chance he would love my book.

Three weeks later, he sent me an email saying he had posted his review. I eagerly went to his blog and read his review. I was stunned. He panned my book calling it “at best an honest effort”. I had given the man a free book and paid for the shipping and he repaid my kindness with a negative post?

Stop just a minute, I told myself. Do you want someone to pay you lip service or do you want the honest truth? After all, it is just his opinion and if you can’t stand the heat, Bruce, get out of the kitchen. When working with my editor, Andy Meisenheimer, on my first book with Realms, I recall receiving his six pages of suggestions. Six pages! As I read through them, my heart almost stopped. In order to make this book even reasonably good, I would have to practically rewrite the entire manuscript! What was I doing? Who was I to try and become a published author?

For a couple of days, I went into a deep, dark funk and for the hundredth time in my life tried to give up writing. But, towards the end of that time, I reread the suggestions and tried to have a change in perspective. Suppose I could make these changes? What if he is correct? As I considered the changes he wanted me to make, it suddenly occurred to me that the format for the edited manuscript closely matched my very first rough draft. In the intervening years, my original manuscript had changed so many times, I had forgotten what its original gestation was like. I retrieved that original rough draft and I was amazed at what I read. Here in my very first effort was a manuscript very similar to what would become the final manuscript with my editor’s suggestions put in place! My first instinct had been right!

When I made this realization, I suddenly found a passion and a zeal for my original story that gave me the energy to completely rewrite the manuscript with my editor’s suggestions in mind. And, this brings me back to the verse above. Recently, someone very close to me made some hurtful, bitter remarks. Accusations were thrown at me that stung, no, stabbed my heart. For two days, I could hardly think trying to understand why someone would say such hateful things. I could not have scripted an exchange for a manuscript harsher than this reality!

It reminded me how dangerous is the human tongue. One word spoken at the wrong moment can change the course of someone’s life. And, not necessarily for the better. I wonder how many would-be-authors dropped away from their craft because of a bitter review or a harsh word? How many potential best selling authors moved away from their passion and left behind an empty chasm in the world of literature?

Constructive criticism is essential in order for us to continually improve. But, that criticism can be placed in the proper light. I could have taken my editor’s suggestions and, indeed, given up. But, the passion to write is so powerful within me; so overwhelming I could not give up. Instead, I chose to learn from someone who, it turns out, is wiser than I am. Now, that book reviewer, I’m not sure. The question we need to ask about book reviews is: How reliable of a critic is a book reviewer? Have they reviewed many books and if so, do their reviews contain constructive criticism? Or, do they just rant? I live by many principles and one of them is: don’t complain to me about a problem unless you have already considered at least one solution.

How about you? Have you been hurt or discouraged by a review? How do you handle criticism and rejection?

Check out my latest book in the Chronicles of Jonathan Steel, "The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos" at

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Do a Books Awards Make You Want to Buy It? - Lena Nelson Dooley

You readers may not know that starting in January and continuing through most of the first half of the year is contest season for books. In 2014, the books released in 2013 are in the contests. And winners are announced a lot of different ways. I've been blessed to have received awards with several of my books. Three books had already been finalists in contests before I was a winner.

Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico, was awarded the Will Rogers Medallion for Excellence in Western Media for Fiction.

Maggie's Journey, book one in my McKenna's Daughters series, received the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference Selah Award for Historical Fiction.

Mary's Blessing, book two in the series, was a Selah Award Finalist for Historical Romance.

Catherine's Pursuit, book three in the series, has already been awarded the NTRWA Carolyn Readers Choice Award for Inspirational novel.

It also is one of three finalists in the CAN Golden Scroll Award for Novel of the Year. The winners will be announced in Atlanta, Georgia, in June.

These are exciting times for an author. But what does all this mean to a reader?

If you see a gold sticker on a book announcing an award, or read about a book receiving an award, does it make you want to read it? I'd really like to know.

Answer this question in the comments, and next Saturday, I'll choose a winner to receive a copy of Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico. Even winners in foreign countries are eligible to receive an ecopy of the book.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Writing What We Know

By Martha Rogers

We’ve all heard the advice to write what we know, but if we truly wrote about real life and what happens as we know it, some of it would be unbelievable for our readers. What makes for a great inspirational article or book on life situations doesn’t always translate well to fiction. Things happen in rapid fire succession in some families, and those events upset the lives of all involved.

In the late 1990’s both my parents were in the hospital at the same time in a different city than where I lived. Living out of town was enough of a hardship, but my parents were divorced and not on the best terms. My sister took care of them in the hospital until our dad went home. The things that happened in those five months before my dad passed away would make a reader’s head swim.

If we take writing what we know as writing from the emotions we’ve experienced as well as our own relationship with God, we draw our readers into our stories more deeply. My first published article was about my brother and how our relationship was re-established after he was convicted of sexual crimes and sent to prison. Forgiving him was difficult, but with God’s constant nudging and assurance of peace, I did forgive him. God worked on him in prison, and my brother became a Christian. He is not the same man he was thirty years ago, and he will be released next week after serving his full time.

That experience of forgiving my brother became the crux of the story for Spring Hope. My hero went through the same difficulties I had in forgiving. I poured my own emotions into his character until he had the same revelation I did.

When we can transfer our own spiritual experiences into our characters and create a story to which our readers can relate, we can touch their lives and hearts. In doing so, perhaps they will draw closer to our Lord.

 Martha Rogers is a free-lance writer and was named Writer of the Year at the Texas Christian Writers Conference in 2009 and writes a weekly devotional for ACFW. Martha and her husband Rex live in Houston where they enjoy spending time with their grandchildren.  A former English and Home Economics teacher, Martha loves to cook and experimenting with recipes and loves scrapbooking when she has time. She has written two series, Winds Across the Prairie and Seasons of the Heart as well as several other novels and novellas. Love Stays True, the first book in her new series, The Homeward Journey, released in May, 2013 and book 2, Love Finds Faith, in February 2014

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What is Your Book Really About?

As an author, I often ponder the deeper theme of whatever story I'm writing – sometimes before I write it but just as often after I'm deeply into the book. Most of my books have been sweet love stories or women's fiction with a community of characters that I think readers will relate to, but there's generally something else going on that provides the conflict keeping the hero and heroine apart or the main character from getting what she wants. In my longer books, I sometimes have a secondary romance or subplot that highlights something readers need to know about my main characters.

Here are some examples:

For the Love of Pete is set in the fictional town of Bloomfield, where the garden club's main goal is to reach a population of 10,000, and they will stop at nothing to get there. Currently populated by quirky characters and a talkative bird, some of the activities will have readers raising their eyebrows. The heroine of this story becomes the subject of do-gooders who want to help her get over her grief and at the same time grow the community. But first, they have to convince her that her "collections" are merely things she's using to fill the void in her heart.

Love Finds You in Treasure Island appears to be a simple romance set in Treasure Island, Florida. If you look past the surface, my heroine's family is so messed up she doesn't have any idea how a normal relationship should be. Her mother is a free spirit who doesn't know who the fathers of either of her daughters are, and she left her older daughter (the heroine) in charge of raising her younger daughter. The hero's mother has Parkinson's, and his dad is in the early stages of Alzheimer's. The youngest of three siblings, the hero is the only one who feels an intense responsibility for his parents, so he smothers them. They want him to back off and enjoy life more, so when they see the opportunity to match-make, they do. This book is filled with a hodge-podge of messy relationships that we all experience in life.

Pretty Is as Pretty Does (book #1), Bless Her Heart (book #2), and Tickled Pink (book #3) in the Class Reunion series are all stories set in the fictional town of Piney Point, Mississippi. At first glance, it appears that these are stories about a bunch of southern people getting ready for their 10, 15, and 20 year reunions. If you look a little deeper, you're likely to find yourself peering into the depths of the lives of your former classmates, teachers…and maybe even yourself in these characters. Priscilla is the overachiever who thinks she knows what she wants in life, but once she gets it, something changes. Laura is that girl who has always volunteered for everything, insists on doing everything without help, and then complains because no one else can do anything as well as she can. Her alcoholic husband and unmanageable young'uns further complicate her life, but she doesn't do anything to change things. Trudy is the town beauty queen and "Miss Everything" who seems to have it all, while in reality, she is just as insecure as everyone else…or in some cases, more so. Tim makes no bones about the fact that he's in love with Priscilla, but after she pushes him away one too many times, he considers the fact that he's wasted years pursuing something that will never happen. And then there's Celeste the wallflower who has a makeover and doesn't know what to do with her newfound beauty. Things aren't always as they seem.

In Love Finds You on Christmas Morning, my novella "Deck the Halls" is a historical story about a rich man and poor woman whose attraction to each other seems impossible. He loves the fact that she's willing to work hard for her family and that her faith isn't compromised by the fact that she doesn't have the luxuries he's able to enjoy. She thinks he's nice, but her pride gets in the way of following her heart, until she has a heart-to-heart chat with his mother. That's when she sees God's hand in her life. It doesn't really matter how many or how few material possessions you have as long as you have faith in the Lord.

Dixie Belle, the first book in my Uptown Belles series that has just been released, is a story about a young, fresh-faced woman from the South moving to New York City. Yes, she meets a man she's attracted to, but unfortunately, he's also her uncle's main competitor. She can't betray her mother's brother who provided a safety net when she needed one, so it appears impossible to follow her heart with the only decent guy she's ever met. But is he really that wonderful? If her uncle's judgment is correct, he's worse than the guy who threatened her back home. At some point, she has to figure out who to trust and how to trust him. The problem is, her judgment hasn't always been that great.

Writers, what is the theme of your latest book?
Readers, do you know the theme of the last book you read?

I want to wish all moms a very happy Mother's Day. If you're blessed to still have your mom with you, treat her to something nice - dinner out, a home-cooked meal, a tea party, a massage, or whatever makes her smile. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Why I Can't Not Write!

There is a memory I cherish of a young boy, age 8, walking across a dusty, hot playground. I was that boy and I led a single file line of my classmates towards a small, wood framed house perched on the back corner of our elementary school property in rural Blanchard, Louisiana. It was an old house with worn wooden steps and only one door and one window. As I walked up the stairs, my heart raced and my hand trembled. I opened the old, wooden door and a warm, redolent breeze flowed over me. From inside this house the fragrance of paper and ink and glue; the very blood of books filled my nostrils and I sighed in utter contentment. Here was the universe: here was magic and fantasy; here were worlds and geographies for me to explore; here were men and women and children from the past and all their brave and terrible deeds; here were Books.

In the corner sitting behind a wooden desk was a slight woman with short, dark hair and a ready smile. Mrs. Asbhy stood up and motioned to a nearby shelf of our local branch of the Shreve Memorial Library.

“Bruce, I found a special book for you. You should try it. It is science fiction.”

She handed me the book and on the cover were the words “Tunnel in the Sky” by Robert Heinlein. On the cover, an image of a young man, probably 12 stepping through an open doorway onto an alien world beckoned me to follow. I had just held my first science fiction book. I devoured it in one day crouched in the hot cab of my father’s old green truck at the end of our driveway along a major highway in Blanchard. In the back of the truck were watermelons. A sign on the windshield advertised them for fifty cents. No one stopped on the lonely highway but I didn’t care. I was transported to another world where young people had to survive in a hostile environment after they were accidentally sent on a field trip to a planet no one knew existed and then forgotten. The doorway to my school library opened and I stepped into a new world of adventure as I inhaled book after book. But, as the school year came to a close, I realized the tunnel would soon be blocked and the doorway sealed. Living miles away in the isolated countryside I would not have access to the library. I would have no new books to read.

Growing up on a 62 acre farm of mostly pasture and wooded forest, I had no playmates. I was born late in my parents’ life much to the dismay of my brother and two sisters who could not stand the idea that their “mature” mother was “pregnant”! By the time I was a young boy, my sisters had married and moved away and my brother was raising his own family on the same property. For years my nephews were too young to play games and I spent my time wandering through the pastures and piney woods creating stories and playing out scenarios filled with monsters and aliens and creatures of the night. My imagination was fired by books. My sister, Sue taught me to read when I was five. My parents read voraciously. My mother loved romance novels. My father was a huge fan of Zane Grey and his westerns. I read some children’s books, but these small, childish stories did not fill my heart with the adventure I longed for.

One day while re-reading one of my few Superman comic books in my father’s truck, I heard a roaring noise. Over the far hill a huge vehicle lumbered through ripples of heat down the hot asphalt highway. It pulled into my driveway and behind the huge steering wheel sat the diminutive Mrs. Ashby. On the side of the vehicle were the words, “Shreve Memorial Library Bookmobile.” The library had come to me!

Mrs. Ashby had brought the universe to my house! I will always remember that moment as the door opened and the tunnel yawned deep and long into the world of Imagination. I hopped out of the truck, my comic forgotten and stood on the edge of forever. Mrs. Asbhy smiled and waved her hand toward the interior.

“I have some special books for you, Bruce. Welcome aboard.” With tears in my eyes, I walked up the stairs into the hot interior of every tomorrow; of infinite worlds and possibilities. It was then, I knew I wanted to take all the stories I played out each day; all the stories I had heard from my parents and relatives; all the stories I whispered out loud to myself as I fell asleep each night — yes, all of them — and write them down so I could keep them forever in books!

On my 11th birthday I asked for a portable typewriter. I wanted to write.
I wanted to be published. I wanted to be an author! While my friends at school asked for the latest toy or a new baseball glove or football or basketball, I wanted a blank page and a way to put these stories down in permanent format. I wrote my first short story at age 13 for a creative writing class in the eighth grade. It was a shock to learn there was a school topic called “creative writing”! In the ninth grade, I spent six weeks writing everything from haiku to essays. I still have one of my favorite short stories from that year with the most inspiring words I had ever received. My ninth grade teacher, Mrs. Griswold wrote in huge, red letters across the top of the first page, “Publish! Publish!” That year I wrote a simple poem inspired by the poem Ozymandias. In my senior year, that poem would win first place in the state of Louisiana.

My senior year I was elected as the Student Council President and was faced with something my parents and siblings never had to consider. Being the number one student in my class, I could have had any scholarship in the state. But, my parents never told me to try out for scholarships. My high school counselor called me into her office in January of my senior year. She scolded me for not applying for scholarships as the best were already gone. I had no idea what she was talking about. I thought you just went to college. It never dawned on me I had to find one and apply to one and then figure out how to pay for it! I told her I wanted to be a writer and she just shook her head. No money in writing, she said. You need to find a real job and write on the side and maybe one day break into the publishing market. She found me a meager scholarship to Northwestern University in central Louisiana, well known for its “humanities”. When I left her office, I realized how cloistered and naive this country boy was. I had a lot to learn.

Little did I know that just weeks ahead, there would be a huge change in my life and great and wondrous things would happen. You can find out more about this at my blog.

One last thought from C. S. Lewis, author of the Narnia Chronicles. On a midnight stroll through a garden in England, C. S. Lewis confronted his atheism at the request of his dear friend, J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien had tried to persuade Lewis to renounce his atheism and embrace Christianity and his final argument stated what Lewis lacked was imagination. After becoming a devout Christian and writing numerous books defending the truthfulness of the Christian faith, Lewis said, “Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.”

Imagine that! Why do you write? What motivates you to sit before a blank page and fill it up with story?

For more information on how to order books in the Chronicles of Jonathan Steel including my latest book, “The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos” use this link.