Monday, November 30, 2009

A New Home Town

Anyone who is familiar with the Nashville area knows that Robertson and Sumner counties slam up against each other like long lost sisters at a dinner-on-the-grounds reunion. In my new series, however, which starts with December’s Field of Danger, I’ve squeezed the fictional Bell County between them. It’s a tiny place, with only three small towns—White Hills, Bell’s Springs, and the crossroads community of Caralinda.

Caralinda, while my own fictional creation, is based on the quite real town of Orlinda, Tennessee. And my heroine’s cottage homeplace is based on the home of friend (and my daughter’s caregiver/nurse) Phyllis. In fact, if you look in the upper right corner of the field road photo, you can see Phyllis' house.

While I’d always enjoyed going to Orlinda, writing Field made me fall in love with it. My family is from an equally tiny town in Alabama, so it brought back some grand memories of my childhood and buoyant reunions, including a few dinners-on-the-grounds at the home churches.

I’m often envious of the relationships that Phyllis has with her neighbors. They support and encourage her in a way that’s not often waiting for me in town. She has a home in an amazingly lovely location, complete with an oak tree in the front, a huge willow in the back - and a dog that waits for her return (that's her pup Sarah).

All of that may be one of the reasons I usually write about small towns. While I’m now a city girl, I hope I never forget the joy and beauty of living in a community where everyone knows your name.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Photograph Your Novel Settings

Thanksgiving blessings from Gail Gaymer Martin. A holiday is a strange day for me to blog, but I was assigned the date so I thought I would share one of my ideas with you. One thing that I love to do is write about real places. My seven book Loving Series was set in a fictitious town of Loving, Michigan but it was close to the real town of Grand Haven on Lake Michigan and the characters from those books often went into Grand Haven for a variety of reasons.. Since I enjoy the area so much, I spent a few days there researching for the Loving Series, and while there, I took photos. When the books were so popular, I decided to make the photos available on my website so readers could see the real places that my characters worked and visited during the seven novels.

Recently I had the pleasure of doing the same thing for a three book series set in the Monterey area of California on the central coast. The three titles were And Baby Makes Five, Garlic and Roses, and Butterfly Trees. Now Barbour Publishing has put these three novels into an anthology titled, Monterey Memories and it’s presently in stores now.

Since my nieces live in Salinas, I had visited this area many times, and while visiting there, I was inspired to write this series. But after I had written the three novels, I decided to visit again with the intention of taking photographs to put on my website for readers to enjoy the real places the characters live and visit. I had a great time putting these photos up with a sketch of the stories. Though you may not have this anthology, you might enjoy seeing the photos and hearing a little about the locations in the anthology. The link to the photos are found on my website at or you can go directly to the photo page by clicking this link:

When your favorite authors use real life settings, let them know you’d love to see photographs of the real locations. Maybe you’ll see some of your favorite novels come to life in photographs.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Coffee - French press or coffee maker?

Camy here! My husband loooooooooves his coffee, and this weekend he did an experiment.

He normally uses his espresso maker to make himself lattes, but sometimes in the afternoon, he doesn’t want to fire up the machine and instead, he’s been using a French press to make plain coffee.

However, he’s been unhappy with how his coffee tastes. He’s not using the same beans he uses for his espresso—he actually roasts his own espresso beans, believe it or not. Apparently, coffee beans are different than espresso beans, so instead of using his espresso beans to make coffee, he bought some coffee beans.

He wondered if it was the way he was making his coffee, so he brought out his single cup coffee maker from Brookstone and made a cup side by side with a cup of coffee in his French press.

Verdict: the coffee actually did taste different, but they both didn’t taste very good. He says it’s because the beans are old, and I had to argue for a few minutes to convince him that life is too short to waste on bad coffee!

He finally threw out the beans, thanks to some proactive nagging on my part.

About the French press versus coffee maker—even though it was the beans’ fault, he also thinks that the coffee maker does not produce as good a cup as the French press. Mostly because he can control how long he steeps the grains in a French press, whereas he can’t control that in the coffee maker.

He also read that when the hot water hits the coffee grains in a coffee maker, it’s actually a few degrees lower temperature than ideal. The water is supposed to be 208 or 205, but in a coffee maker, it’s often at about 200 instead. Which supposedly contributes to an “inferior” cup.

Me? I can’t tell the difference.

How about you? Do you care about a French press cup or one from a coffee maker?

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Her novels Single Sashimi and Deadly Intent are out now. She runs the Story Sensei critique service, is a staff worker for her church youth group, and leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels every week and ponders frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for monthly giveaways!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

Hi! I'm Victoria Bylin. I write westerns for Love Inspired Historicals. My next book is "Kansas Courtship" in March 2010. It's #3 in the historical part of the "After the Storm" series.

Speaking of storms . . .

My husband and I adopted a puppy about 18 months ago. Hartley is a Jack Russell beagle mix aka a “JackaBee.” He’s a rescue dog. After we brought him home, we discovered that “Rescue Dog” is code for “As is.” He’s the sweetest dog I’ve ever had, but he’s also just plain strange.

For one thing, he’s terrified of little girls. No problem with little boys, but little girls send him trembling to the end of the leash. I’m sure he had a bad experience at an adoption. Also, for the first month or so we had him, he ran under the couch whenever someone came by the house. I’m guessing he thought he’d be taken away.

Poor Hartley was scared all the time.

Sound familiar to anyone? I think we all have moments where we’re in over our heads, where we want to hide under the couch until the scary stuff goes away. Like Hartley, we eventually come out because we know we’re loved, and we muster the faith to believe in Someone greater than ourselves.

Today my husband and I are smack in the middle of a move that’s taken an awkward turn. The builder is on the brink of missing the closing deadline for the third time. This is on top of me having had Lyme disease over the summer, my mom’s death in July, a massive job change for my husband, and a son living overseas in a country that regularly makes headlines on CNN.

I’m ready to dive under the couch, but I also worship a God who is greater than all of the headaches, the delays and the worries. My husband and I won Hartley over with Mighty Dog and patience. We just kept loving him and accepting him “as is,” and now he’s pretty much a normal dog. Still odd, but in a good way.

I’m glad God loves us the same understanding. There are good things in store, I'm sure of it. Like Hartley, my husband and I will trust and wait for Someone greater than ourselves to meet our needs. No thanks to the Mighty Dog, though. I’m looking forward to a Thanksgiving turkey!

Monday, November 23, 2009

This year Fall came to Tennessee with an explosion of color. Unusual, since our autumns tend to sneak in, turn the leaves slowly, and vanish with the first whisper of a winter wind. But this has been an extremely wet season for us, which made for great color but a short season.

The bright colors, however, brought the usual reminder of harvest and gratitude, and this year I’ve been more than blessed, even though it may not appear to some who look at my world from the outside.

In April, I lost my job, so finances are tight. But the time has allowed me to write more and investigate every possible way God can use my talent. The doors that have opened have been startling and glorious.

My daughter has been ill, but has stabilized. Sometimes folks forget that Rachel wasn’t supposed to be with us past 5 or 6 years old. She’s 22. EVERY day is a blessing, even the rough ones.

I’ve had a rough time writing my latest book due to depression. Yes, but every moment at the keyboard reminds me of the talent God gave me. The contract kept me going when I might have taken to my bed and not emerged.

Writing may be tough sometimes, but God never lets me forget that I’m on His journey. He never promised me this path would be easy; just right.

Next month, my latest book debuts, and one of my reviewers pointed out how much she liked the cover because the picture is innocent and peaceful . . . until you add the title on top of it.

Sometimes my life is exactly like that: the picture is not complete, not clear, until God adds His layer to it. Only then can we truly understand each day.

I hope each and every one of you has a blessed Thanksgiving, full of family, fun, and all the layers of the Lord.

Friday, November 20, 2009

All Good Gifts

As we approach Thanksgiving, I can't help by reflect on the multitude of blessings the Lord has given to me and my family. We have good health, our home, love, a great church family with lots of outreach to the community and world, wonderful music activities which our family loves, and we have God's gift of love and Salvation. Thanksgiving is a good time to reflect on the blessings in our lives even though we sometimes face difficulties and disappointments. But in between the bads and the goods, we can find some wonderful gifts that deserve remembering.

One of my blessings the the Steeple Hill Love Inspired editors who continue to contract my novels. This past year I've enjoyed writing the Man's Best Friend Series, and I'm grateful that my editors loved the series as well. The first book, DAD IN TRAINING, was released in September (actually hit the stores in mid-August. The series imcludes three novels about three woman who are involved with a dog shelter. The first book is Molly's story as she reaches her dream of owning a dog shelter and running her Teacher's Pet program. This program is a real middle-school program in Waterford Michigan, and Molly is a fictionalized version of a young woman named Amy Johnson. I've enjoyed the reader mail and emails telling me how much they enjoyed the first book. Each book is complete but the characters reappear in the other novels so readers can follow what's happening in their lives.

The second book in the series, GROOM IN TRAINING relesed in February 2010 but available in stores in mid-January, is Steph and her dog Fred's stories. Steph is Molly's best friend and runs a doggie day care in Molly's building that houses the shelter - Time for Paws.

I completed book three, BRIDE IN TRAINING, and it will be released in July, 2010, available in mid-June. This story is Emily's, a part-time employee at Time for Paws, and the hero will be a surprise for those who are reading the series.

I hope you enjoy this series, dedicated to our daughter who died three years ago from ovarian cancer. She taught obedience training and fostered dogs, as well as owning two border collies who were involved with agility and flyball. Brenda loved animals and I wanted to honor her with these books.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Overwhelmed with thankfulness and gratitude

Cheryl Wyatt here,

I heard a recent message on thankfulness and the teacher mentioned that there is a slight difference in gratitude and thankfulness. I don't think I ever caught what that was because I had to get up and leave the room for something important, but anyway, I woke up pondering that today.

Maybe one has more to do with choosing to be joyful despite circumstance. Maybe one has more to do with trusting God over circumstance. Gratitude might be a state of being. Thankfulness might be a minute by minute, day by day, event by event choice.

Maybe they both just have to do with remembering.

I'm not sure. I'd love to hear your take on it, whether you think there is a difference in gratitude and thankfulness...and if so, what that might be.

In the meantime, here's what I'm most thankful for today:

In God's promises
God's protection
God's provision
God's guidance
People around me who pray
My family
My home
A dog who is potty trained
I'm mostly free and clear of pain for the first time in 7 years thanks to a tissue donor.
I'm thankful for the person's choice to donate their organs and tissue
I'm thankful to remember to pray for that person's family and wonder if they know how their loved one's donated bone turned my life around.
I'm thankful for God making doctors smart enough for that kind of medical breakthrough.
I'm thankful that I have enough of everything I need and even what I want.
I'm glad that God knows what I need even more than I do.
I'm glad that God is in control.
I'm glad that I still have my mom and dad and my grandmothers.
I'm glad to be able to write for Steeple Hill and for the advice of my sister authors.
I'm glad that God is trustworthy and that he hears our prayers and know what we need even before we ask.
I'm glad that he does things for us that we don't even know we need.

I'm just glad. I could list a million things I'm thankful for and that would just be today.

For now, I'd love to hear your take on thankfulness and gratitude.

Blessings this thanksgiving season.

Cheryl Wyatt

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Black Friday

Hi there, Laura Scott here again, and since we’re on a holiday theme here, I thought I’d talk about something I’m not very thrilled about.
Yes, you heard me. I don’t like to shop. Actually, I should say I don’t mind shopping if I know exactly what I need and that what I need is right there on the shelf waiting for me. Nothing worse in my mind than wandering around stores, trying to come up with a great gift for some difficult to buy for family member.
The focus should be on Thanksgiving and being thankful for what we have, and I’m the first to say that’s what’s really important. But I am hearing lots of discussions on the radio and news-stations about Black Friday. You know, the day after Thanksgiving which is the official start of the shopping season.
Normally I don’t really care much about what happens on Black Friday, but this year, much like last year, the day after Thanksgiving is being used as an indication of how the economy is doing. And that subject I do care about.
My dear Mother-In-Law has already given more than her fair share contribution to the economy this past weekend. She went to a huge Boston Store sale and made five trips, yes five separate trips out to her car because she couldn’t carry everything. Whew. Now she’s a dedicated shopper.
For the first time in years, I’m actually tempted to venture out on Black Friday to do some Christmas shopping if for no other reason but to help stabilize the economy. Do you think I’m crazy? Maybe. J
So what about you? Are you a dedicated shopper like my MIL? Are you one of those who wakes up at 5 am to be the first one in the store? Or are you going to sit back, drink a cup of coffee and shop on line? Or put off shopping until Christmas Eve?
Drop in and share your thoughts. And if you are in the stores and are looking for a book to read, my Love Inspired Suspense The Thanksgiving Target is out now.
Yours in faith, Laura Scott

Monday, November 16, 2009

A New Book from Marta Perry

From Marta Perry:

I'm so delighted to announce the release this month of LEAH'S CHOICE, the first book in my Pleasant Valley Amish series, which is being published by Berkley Books. I'll still be writing my Love Inspired and Love Inspired Suspense stories, but it's exciting to venture into a new field, as well. The books for Berkley are being published in trade size, and they are longer stories then the ones I write for Love Inspired.

Here's a little about Leah's Choice:

All of Pleasant Valley seems to think the newcomer from Lancaster County would make a perfect husband for teacher Leah. After all, so few new families come to their seaparate Amish community, and few still unmarried men. Daniel Glick is a widower with three young children--clearly he's in need of a wife.

Daniel's past haunts him. Though he cannot miss the beauty in Leah's bright eyes and patient ways, he also see a reminder of his pain-filled marriage. Leah Beiler, too, has a burden to bear. Years ago, she was engaged to be married to Johnny Kile, and she was heartbroken when he decided to leave the Amish community. Since then she has immmersed herself in teaching, forgetting any hope of having her own family. When Johnny returns, seeking reconciliation, Leah must decide between two paths and rely on her faith to show the way.

Please visit me at and And if you'd like to receive a signed bookmark and my free brochure of Pennsylvania Dutch recipes, just e-mail me at

Talking Turkey

Hello! Stephanie Newton here. It's almost time for turkey. I don't know about you, but I have 22 people coming to my house for Thanksgiving. And...I really don't even know how to cook a turkey. This would be me:

Then I got to thinking about my favorite Thanksgiving memories over the years. It's not the turkey I remember. It's not even the sweet potato casserole (with marshmallows--not pecan topping) or even the cranberry sauce. It's the memory of looking around the table at each face and family and knowing that I am blessed. We're not always lucky enough to be able to spend Thanksgiving with family, but the truth is still the same. While the food is great, it's not the turkey that makes Thanksgiving my favorite holiday. It's a heart filled with thankfulness.

Stephanie Newton lives in Northwest Florida with her pastor husband and two teenagers. She gains lots of inspiration from the sugar-white sand and blue-green water of the Gulf of Mexico and the many, many strange things you see when you live at the beach. She's going to order her Thanksgiving turkey this year.

Stephanie's next book in her Emerald Coast 911 series, Smoke Screen, will hit retail shelves January 12, or will be available for order for eHarlequin on December 1.

Friday, November 13, 2009

That music in your head...

Allie Pleiter here. Ever get one of these?

earworm(EER.wurm) n. A song or tune that repeats over and over inside a person's head. Also: ear-worm, ear worm.

You know, that song you can’t get out of your head? I’ve also heard it called a “sticky tune” or a “cognitive itch”--both are highly descriptive, don’t you think?

My heroine Mary Thorpe, is an earworm maestro. She’s created all kinds of stick-to-your-eardrums songs in her advertising career. She made a nice career out of jingle-wrangling, but the relentless marketing of Christmas started to chafe at her spirit once she came to faith. Like her masterpieces, however, Mary can’t seem to escape her musical past, even if she loves her new job as the Middleburg Community Church drama director. Her Christmas drama, combined with the kind of high-stakes drama Middleburg specializes in creating, makes for a most imperfect Christmas.

What earworms can you identify? Here, I’ll get you started...

The theme from Gilligan’s Island

The Macarena song

"We Wish You a Merry Christmas"

“I am stuck on Bandaids, cause Bandaid’s stuck on me...”

“Who lives in a pineapple under the sea...?”

“America” from West Side Story

Chime in and besige our ears...because it’s been proven that the best way to purge an with another earworm!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Greetings. Carolyne Aarsen here.

I've been taking a slow, meandering walk down memory lane the past few months. I started working on my daughter's scrapbook again. I made one for my other two children when they turned 25 and this one is the third of four. It's been a fun trip reliving memories of my children when they were younger and seeing who they've become.

My book out this month, Close to Home, from Love Inspired, is a story about a woman who would prefer not to go back into the past. Whose memories are things to be avoided, not cherished. Dodie Westerveld is a character whose story I wanted to tell ever since she showed up, for the first time, in all her irreverance in Yuletide Homecoming, the first of my Riverbend series books. Dodie has made an appearance in each one since - Finally a Family and A Family for Luke. If you've read the other books, you'll want to read her story. Find out why she stays in Riverbend. Why she seems to be happy working at odd jobs and occasionally helping out her sister in her coffee shop.

And why she would just as soon not talk to Jace Scholte. A man with his own secrets and past.

I hope you have a chance to pick up Close to Home and find out more about Riverbend and Dodie, my favourite Westerveld.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Amazing Wedding Cakes and Countdown to Yuletide Protector

Greetings from Lisa Mondello! It's been a while. I'm really excited that the COUNTDOWN has begun for the release of my new Love Inspired Suspense Yuletide Protector, which is available right now on and will be in stores in December. Romantic Times just gave YULETIDE PROTECTOR a 4 Star review and said, "...Mondello's action-packed story has a nice developing romance and a lovely heroine who learns that a home is incomplete without God."

This is a Christmas story and I adore Christmas stories so I hope you'll put it on your Christmas Book List this year.
I also wanted to talk about one of my favorite shows to watch with my daughters, Amazing Wedding Cakes and Cake Boss. Okay, I'm Italian so watching Cake Boss reminds me a little like being with my family, but me and the girls do love the creations they make and we are usually amazed by what they can do. Last weekend while taking a detour from college open houses for my oldest daughter, we stopped into AC Moore and found the goldmine of crafts to decorate cakes. The girls' creation is a first attempt at making flowers and using fondant. We're now excited enough to start talking about color and more tiers! My daughters would kill me for putting this on the blog but since they don't read my blog they're not going to find out. As soon as I can figure out how to get the picture off my phone and to my computer, I'll post it here.
Okay, I know it's nothing that the Cake Girls or Cake Boss would make, but we did have fun. If you know any tricks of the trade or things we can try to make our next cake a REAL amazing cake, let me know. And if you picked up Yuletide Protector, please let me know!
(Okay, back to struggling with getting this picture off my phone.)
Until next time, many blessings, Lisa Mondello

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pies and Dressing

I love Thanksgiving. It is a time for family and hasn’t been victim to the commercialization that Christmas has suffered. I remember the first time I tried to cook a turkey. It was okay, but my husband decided that my dressing wasn’t as good as his mother’s. Over the years, he’s assumed the job of making the dressing. And it is something my kids love. I do, too. Now making dressing is a joint venture where I cook the cornbread, peel the apples and get things ready for the ‘Master Chef’. My motto is if you want to cook it, be my guest.

He also makes the pies. Have you ever tried to make a decent crust? I know my limits and am only happy to have someone else do it. His apple pie is what the family requests when we gather for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

On a serious note. Thanksgiving is the time we as a nation set aside to give thanks to The Almighty for His bounty to us. This year, I think we should remember all the families of the soldiers who were killed in Killeen. God’s grace is a mighty thing and He can sustain us through those dark and lonely times.

We don’t understand, but God knows our hearts and he can comfort us in ways no one can understand.

My prayers are for those grieving families.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Time of Thanksgiving

Greetings from Sandra Robbins!

It’s that time of year again. With the holidays so close, the stores are decorated for Christmas and have their merchandise ready for what they hope will translate into big sales over the next few weeks. It’s going to be interesting to see what kinds of retail figures will be posted after a year of dealing with a struggling economy.

Although I love the Christmas season, Thanksgiving is very special to me. Childhood memories of the family members who gathered around my grandmother’s table always come to mind. Many of those loved ones are gone now, but their influence lives on in those they touched.

Thanksgiving is a time of reflection, a time to stop and think about how abundantly God has blessed us all year. I know, but I often forget, that each day should be filled with joy and happiness over how richly blessed I’ve been.

In Psalms 100: 4 the Psalmist tells us to “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.”

As we approach the holiday season, I hope each of us will take time to give the praise due our wonderful Lord for His abundant blessings. Join me in pledging to do that each day of our lives and not on one holiday of the year.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My First Christmas Book!

I'm so excited to tell you my new release, my very first Christmas story, is on the shelves now! If you're a member of the book club, and get all 6 books each month, then you received yours back in September. But for those who didn't get it from the book club, I hope you'll look for it now at any store that carries Love Inspired Books (and is carrying all 6 books).

If you can't find it, see if your local bookseller will order it for you. Or check for it online. If you visit my website,, you can find links.

I actually started writing this book last December. And the idea came to me as I was writing a blog post for a new blog with a theme of The Twelve Days of Christmas. So I was already in the holiday spirit, and soon after starting it had Christmas decorations and all the trimming surrounding me.

I wonder how it would be to write one in the middle of July! :) But I guess it's pretty easy to catch the Christmas spirit any time of the year.

Here's the back cover blurb of A Forever Christmas:

Sarah Radcliffe’s quiet Christmas back in her hometown will be lost if she agrees to direct the church’s Christmas pageant. But when she meets two little boys determined to gain their father’s attention, Sarah agrees to help. Then she discovers that the dad in question is Gregory Jones, the man she loved and lost. The single dad is working himself to the bone to give his boys the Christmas of their dreams, when all they want is some family time. Time that includes a new mommy. If Sarah can learn to open her heart, she may receive the most wonderful present of all—a family of her own.

And click here to read an excerpt at!

Thanks for celebrating a new release with me today! I'd love to hear what you think about Christmas stories. If you had a copy of A Forever Christmas, would you read it now, or would you save it for closer to Christmas?? :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What I learned from over 100 rejections

I’m Renee Ryan and I want to share with you what I learned from over 100 Rejections. You see, when it comes to publishing a romance, I know a thing or two about rejection. In fact, in my ten years of pursuing publication, I’ve received every kind of rejection known to the writing community—the good kind, the bad kind, the almost-there kind, the “Dear, Loser” kind and the “Dear Author, You Don’t Rate a Salutation” kind.

I received these wonderful letters not only before I sold my first book, but after as well. I sold my first manuscript in 2001. Unfortunately, EXTREME MEASURES, a 2002 Leisure Books release, was my first and last book with that particular publisher. For five years after that initial success, I couldn’t buy attention for any of my manuscripts, and there were many! No editor was interested. No agent wanted to represent me. Bottom line, I had sold a book only to fizzle out as a one-book-wonder.

I knew it was time to rethink my career path. The rejection letters were pouring in and I couldn’t seem to stop the onslaught. I realized I had to stop chasing the all-elusive second sale and decide what I wanted to write and why I wanted to write it.

Long story short, I decided to reconcile my faith with my writing. I focused on my God, my family and my craft as a writer (in that order). As I type this I am finishing my sixth contracted manuscript for the Steeple Hill Love Inspired line. I can safely say the dry spell is over. At least for now, but I know my success could vanish at anytime. There isn’t a single day that I take my return to publishing for granted. I know how quickly it can fade.

So, what did I learn from all the rejection letters? I learned to focus on what I could control and leave the rest to the Lord. I started taking positive action steps that I could control. Here are my top ten steps for “staying the course” in the face of rejection (in any endeavor).

STEP ONE: Persist. Sounds simple, I know. But the only way to guarantee success is to keep at your pursuit. The only way to guarantee failure is to stop going for the goal. Never, never give up. Success could be just around the corner. It may take seven, ten, twenty years and 100 or more rejections, but so what? It’s all about the journey anyway. Trust me on this.

STEP TWO: Focus on what you’re doing right, not what you’re doing wrong. Do not go to the negative. Ever. Stay positive. Write down every success you have, no matter how small. Every step counts.

STEP THREE: Redefine rejection. Try thinking of it as information from the source. You just received important feedback from a professional. Besides, that rejection is just one person’s opinion. Nothing more, nothing less. Reframe your thinking right now!

STEP FOUR: Compare yourself only to yourself. If you try to keep up with your friends and/or your rivals you will only make yourself crazy. Let’s face it; there will always be someone more successful than you. Their success is not an indicator of your potential. Focus on your career and your success. Period.

STEP FIVE: Learn from other creative pursuits. You can learn a lot about your craft by studying others, especially the masters. And don’t keep within your own field. The broader you study, the stronger your skills will become.

STEP SIX: Turn off the internal editor. Make this your new motto: DON’T GET IT right GET IT done. You can always go back and fix. You can’t work on something not yet created.

STEP SEVEN: Live your life. Turn off that television and get out of the house. I know this seems like a basic step, but it’s so important. How can you work with or for people if you aren’t interacting with, well, people? Study mannerisms, study speech patterns, study how strangers interact with one another. Become a student of human nature. Airports are a great place for this. You’ll be surprised what you can learn by mingling with the real world.

STEP EIGHT: SUBMIT, SUBMIT, SUBMIT. You can’t get feedback if you aren’t submitting. Need I say more?

STEP NINE: Hone your craft! My personal favorite and the one step we can completely control on our own. Successful people share one common trait: they never adopt the attitude that “they have arrived”. Each new project is an open challenge to take their skills to the next level. They are constantly learning new techniques. Are you? Make a commitment to find out where your skills are out of balance (and, yes, everyone has areas that need honing). Commit to improving the weakest part.

STEP TEN: Finish projects. You can’t be successful with only half-finished projects lying around. You can’t hone your craft by merely attending a workshop or reading a book written by an expert. You must practice, practice, practice.

There you have it. Ten steps you can control.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

When your book imitates life

When my agent called last spring to tell me I was being asked to join a new Love Inspired continuity, the only word out of my mouth was, “No.”

I had recently finished my book for the Without a Trace continuity and I was struggling with a looming deadline for my own difficult suspense book, Speed Trap. To my tired, stressed brain it didn’t seem possible to take on a new project.

My agent said, “Pat, wait until you hear what this series is about. It’s the story of a small Kansas town recovering from a tornado.”

Now, how was I going to pass that up? I’m a born and bred Kansas gal. I knew the second I heard the storyline that I had to be in this series.

The terrible tornado at Greensburg, Kansas was still fresh in my mind. I had friends with family there and I knew about the ongoing struggle the town was facing to recover. I’m a nurse and I helped in the ER the night the Andover tornado struck that town just fifteen miles from here. I will never forget the stories of the survivors and the desperate faces of people searching for loved ones.

My daughter’s workplace and my grandson’s school were both heavily damaged in the Haysville tornado. It cut a half-mile wide swath through Haysville, Kansas and into Wichita only four blocks from my daughter’s home. She and my seven-year-old grandson huddled in the basement and listened to the deadly roar passing by them. I get chills just thinking about how bad it could have been.

I knew about tornados. I accepted Steeple Hill’s offer and jumped in with both feet to brainstorm with the great authors in this series. I was the only Kansas author, but not the only one who’d been affected by these violent storms. I have to say kudos to Steeple Hill for assembling such a wonderful group of writers.

Only a few weeks into the project, something happened that almost made me quit the series. A tornado once more hit close to home for me. 60% of the town of Chapman, Kansas was wiped away in five minutes on June 11th, 2008. I attended high school in Chapman and two of my brothers live in the community, although thankfully not in the town itself. The eerie part of this whole terrible scenario was how closely Chapman and the damage there resembled the fictitious town of High Plains in our series.

More than half of Chapman was gone. More than half of High Plains was destroyed.
Chapman is located some thirty miles outside of Manhattan, Kansas, the same as the town in our story. The first settlement was made at Chapman in the 1860’s when a mill was started there. Again, the same as in High Plains. Chapman is built on the north side of the river. The tornado was an EF-3. The church my brother’s attend was spared except for a few broken windows. All the same as the storyline we had been given to write.

I’m telling you it was eerie, but at least no unidenitfied toddler was found wandering alone.

Suddenly, I had a dilemma on my hands. Should I stay in the series and have friends and family think I was profiting from their tragedy or should I step aside and give my place to another writer? It was a small dilemma compared to having your house and all you own blow away, but it was real for me.

In the end, after receiving some wonderful encouragement from my fellow authors and my editor, I agreed to stay in the project. They convinced me it was my job to show everyone how caring and resilient the people of Kansas truly are. My thanks to Val Hanson, Annie Jones, Brenda Minton, Carolyne Aarsen and Kathryn Springer. I’ll never forget working with them.

After that, the book almost wrote itself. It was the easiest and the most fun I’ve ever had writing a story. The characters came alive in my mind and I was sorry when, The End, appeared on my computer screen. What a great journey and what a great blessing this project turned out to be.
A Family for Thanksgiving is available now. It's the 5th book in the After the Storm series. I hope everyone enjoys it and all the books as much as I did.

Please keep the people of Chapman, Kansas in your prayers as they continue to rebuild their town.

Monday, November 2, 2009

My office

By Margaret Daley

When I set up my office years ago, I put a lot of thought into its layout and furniture. I wanted something that inspired me and was comfortable. After all, I was going to spend hours and hours in that room. I spend more time in my office than any room in my house—even my bedroom. Okay, that may read that I’m a workaholic and I probably am but I have everything I need at my fingertips.

My office walls are painted hot pink with white trim. I didn’t know how I was going to like hot pink and thought if it didn’t work out I could paint over it. But I love the walls. I find the color is invigorating, and I haven’t grown tired of the hot pink yet. In fact, the color has grown on me.

Over the years I began collecting flamingoes. I love animals and flamingoes are hot pink. What better accent than that in my office! Now I have so many—from a giant six-foot stuffed flamingo to a Christmas tree with mostly flamingo ornaments on it. The tree is up year round. And if my cats leave the tree alone, the ornaments stay on it.

When I published my first book in 1981, my husband starting framing my books to hang on the wall. Now I have over sixty on the walls in my office. When I get discouraged, I can look at what I’ve accomplished in almost thirty years in the business.

My office is my getaway where I can go to dream up stories to entertain readers. I usually read books for pleasure even in my office. I have a couch that is quite comfortable. I have been known to fall asleep on it.

I have a book out this month from Love Inspired called Together for the Holidays. In the story, a single mother with a traumatic past, Lisa Morgan only wants to raise her son with love and values. But lately the boy is struggling. When his basketball coach becomes a reluctant role model, Lisa is relieved. Until she learns that David Russell is also a cop. She's not ready to share her past—or her heart. And neither is the world-weary detective. Yet as Christmas comes closer, the true meaning of the holiday brings them together in ways they never dared dream.

Next month I have a Love Inspired Suspense out called Christmas Peril, a two in one story with Debby Giusti.