Friday, July 25, 2014

Tired of Being Discouraged?

I am discouraged.

Being a published author has not turned out the way I had hoped.

First, I’m sticking with my day job. It seems the only way to make a living writing is to break out with your book and gain a television or movie contract. Let’s face it. The vast majority of us who are published will never see our book in any kind of media format. Not even an audio book!

Second, the publishing industry is in turmoil. Thanks to Amazon, ebooks dominate. While that is a good thing particularly when I want to pop open my iPad and read any of dozens of books on a whim it has changed the way readers browse. Far less readers are going to wander through the Christian fiction section of their local bookstore (assuming it hasn’t gone out of business!) and just happen upon one of our books. More of us are turning to self publishing which turns out to be mostly a scam unless you go to the right company.

Third, writing a book is no longer a joy because the real work is in the promotion and marketing. I didn’t anticipate having to spend a couple of hours a day on social media to promote my book. I’d rather spend that time writing and editing. Publishers don’t do very much to help you promote your work. They leave 99.99% of that to the author.

Fourth, Christian publishers are in jeopardy. Being Christian in today’s society is tantamount to being a leper in the time of Christ! Marketing our books to the non-believers is almost impossible. And, the believer base is shrinking. Here is what I mean by that last statement. George Barna in his book, “Seven Faith Tribes of America” states that 67% of Americans claim to be Christians. That is startling! But, when he polled them about their beliefs, this group only pays lip service to Christianity. They are NOT practicing Christians! Only 16% of Americans are practicing, “committed” Christians. Wow! That is sobering. As Christian authors we must either make our story more “worldly” and be rejected by traditional Christian publishers (which is one reason why they may be in so much trouble) or we must take the safe route and focus on that shrinking, smaller group of committed Christians. Traditional publishers just haven’t figured out how to handle this situation.

But, being so discouraged, here is what I know and what I cling to every day.

God has called me to be a creative person in His Kingdom. God has given me the opportunity to tell His Story in my own way. He has invited me to be a part of His unfolding narrative. I have to remind myself of that constantly. You know the scriptures. As a Christ follower we were never told the path would be easy and the work would be light. We were told to be diligent in hard times and to carry our cross. I will persevere. Never give in. Never give up!

God is still in control. In the midst of this chaos we call American society, God is still working. His plans will prevail. This world in which we live did not catch Him by surprise. And, that is why we must work harder to make our words reach that 67% of Americans who have lost their way and only think they have their lives sorted out. We are God’s tool to tell the ultimate Story.

Finally, Christian fiction writers have a community. We are disjointed, separated, fragmented but we are here for each other. We need to be more vocal and more supportive of each other. I simply pray for every author listed on this page every week. I read the blogs of most of the authors on this page and make comments and share links to broaden our “tribe”. Please do the same for me and for everyone else you know struggling in this industry.


I do have one bright star on my horizon. In September, my co-author Mark Sutton and I will release a new book on depression, “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression”. That is NOT the book I wanted to write. I wanted more of my Jonathan Steel demon series to come out. But, this book has the potential to change so many lives. It is God’s plan! And so, as is often the case in my life, God has a way to achieve His purpose using my gifts, talents, and skills in a way I never planned! Imagine that! His plans are greater than mine! And, His plans still include me being a published author!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What Am I Going to Write Next?

The Story Bank
              Breaking  Writer’ s Block

Our brains begin to store up images from the day we are born. By the time you’re my age, you have so many images and files, finding exactly the word or image you want it may take a few minutes. From those images and ideas stored there, we have a bank of ideas to use or all our stories.

The first place I look for images and stories to bank in personal, real-life events or conflicts. Things that happen to us, the journey we take to reach a solution to a problem or face a crisis can become the nugget we need for a story. Disappointments and failures that cause heartache can give us the emotions we need for our story.

Next I look at new events in my life and what is happening in the world around me. News events happen every day on TV and on the internet. Facebook sends us some funny stories and events. Put your own spin onto the idea.

Another source is our hobbies and interests we can use for our heroes and heroines. It can become a part of their character and distinguishes them from others.

Of course the Bible is a great story bank with love stories, battles, analogies, allegories, epic adventures.

So, when you’re bored, another thing to do is to look around for story ideas. What’s behind that store clerk’s attitude, smile, or frown.

Places you go and people you see can also be a catalyst for a story idea.


And my all time favorite is to play the “what if” game with people and events. 

So, where do your ideas come from? 
Posted by Martha Rogers


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

27 Things to do When You're Bored

Now that I've created the title for this post, I have to admit that I can't remember a time when I was bored. I've always been a reader, and there's always something to read – a book, magazine, text message, cereal box, or road signs. But I've heard enough people claim to be bored, so I thought I'd make some suggestions to keep you from yawning.

  1. Read any book by Lena Nelson Dooley.
  2. Rearrange your furniture.
  3. Read a book written by Martha Rogers.
  4. Clean out a closet.
  5. Read a book by Brandi Boddie.
  6. Send notes to all your friends, thanking them for being there for you.
  7. Read a Beth Shriver book.
  8. Weather permitting, spread a blanket in your yard, lie down on the grass, and study the clouds. If there are no clouds, take a nap.
  9. Read a Darrel Nelson book.
  10. Create a bucket list and start working on it.
  11. Read a book by Bruce Hennigan.
  12. Organize a pet party for the neighborhood cats and dogs.
  13. Read one of Mike Duran's books.
  14. Bake a batch of cookies and bring them to someone who needs cheering up.
  15. Read any book by Greg Mitchell.
  16. Go to a public park, sit on a bench, and make up stories about the people who pass by.
  17. Read one of Mike Dellosso's books.
  18. Paint an old piece of furniture and find a place in your home or yard to display it.
  19. Read a book by Linda Rios Brook.
  20. Give yourself a makeover.
  21. Read something by Conlan Brown.
  22. Mow your neighbor's lawn.
  23. Read poetry by Cherie Burbach.
  24. Go to the local community center and sign up for a class.
  25. Write a blog post about what to do when you're bored.
  26. Wash and wax your car.
  27. Find a comfortable spot in your house or yard and read my latest book, Dixie Belle.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Fourth of July! Celebrate Independence Day!

Today is the 4th of July – Independence Day! A day filled with fireworks, picnics, and parades. The day when you need to forget about work and go outside and play in honor of this wonderful country. 
Photo courtesy of Ladyheart/Morguefile.com

You've probably already made plans for the day, but if not, find a parade and either join it or watch it. Call all your friends and meet them at a park for a barbecue. Watch the fireworks and just have a wonderful time! 

Here are some web articles you might enjoy reading:


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Fault in Our . . .

Gloom, despair, and agony on meDeep, dark depression, excessive miseryIf it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at allGloom, despair, and agony on me

You don’t have to look far to realize we live in a dark, depressing, hopeless culture. I just thought the 70s were bad! Some of us remember what it was like to live with the following possible fates hanging over our heads:

Being drafted and sent to Vietnam
Local race riot burns half the city
Local war protest leads to death of young protesters
Make love, not war and God is Dead!
One button push away from mutual nuclear annihilation
Waters so polluted that dead fish are washing up on the lake shore
A president who has to resign after claiming “I am not a crook!”


I could go on, but you get the point. Many people think things are really bad right now. I get so depressed just trying to watch any news feed whether on television or on the internet. Our country is bereft of hope!

This is where we as Christian authors can make a difference. I just finished reading “The Fault In Our Stars”. My 27 year old daughter who battles epilepsy doesn’t read books. But, she picked up this book and read it from cover to cover and then took her mother to see the movie. She asked that I read the book.

It is well written, fast flowing, and character driven. Perhaps you have read it. If you haven’t, and you are interested in reaching the “millennial” generation then you have to read this book. It is filled with angst, sarcasm, narcissism, brutal honesty, doubts galore about God and fate and destiny, and is just downright depressing. The ending is ultimately, sort of, redemptive.

I remember watching “Love Story” along with millions of other Americans who stood in line to see a movie that changed the face of American cinema. Everyone scratched their heads when they heard the phrase, “Love means never having to say your sorry.” (I love Ryan O’Neal’s reply to Barbra Streisand in the comedy ‘What’s Up, Doc?’ when she quoted this phrase to him in the final airplane scene. O’Neal said, ‘That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard’.) It was the “Fault” of its day. No one today remembers it!

Perhaps we will all be quoting lines such as “Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.” or “Maybe 'okay' will be our 'always”. What the book offers to our young generation is an affirmation of their current state of existence. I attended Hutchmoot 2012, a Christian artist gathering in September, 2012. Out of the 180 attendees I was probably one out of the only 5 people attending over the age of 32. I sat in a room filled with over 60 young adults listening to Jason Gray and Eric Peters talking about “Recovery Through Song”: their journey out of depression through their music. I was stunned when almost every young adult in the room raised their hand to affirm they were depressed! In my Bible study group, there are several couples like us who have children in the twenties. Everyone one of us has a child who is battling depression!

I don’t have time or space to go into the reasons this generation is so depressed. (I do cover that in my upcoming book, “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression” coming out from B&H Publishing in September).

Last night, I talked to my daughter who is struggling with depression. How does she cope? With creativity. She draws and illustrates. This is her escape and her therapy. I have fought depression since my teenage years and my escape is through writing.

Here is my plea to those of us who are blessed enough to have a platform with our books. We need to write works that speak to this generation of young adults who are trying desperately to exist in a postmodern, relativistic, Godless society. We can be the voice or real encouragement and hope. We can offer encouraging books with our own promise of a God who became flesh and walked among us. The message, the Good News, of Christ is transformative and has been lost in the cacophony of works trying to find a way to instill hope in this generation. “The Fault In Our Stars” tries; it really tries. But it also defaults to a typical position that says there may or may not be a God BUT the “universe” is trying to speak to us and help us through this mess.


One thing the book did get right. Love is the key to overcoming most of our problems. Love for each other. Love for our enemies. Love for God. Love for our sister or our brother. We need the world to know and to see through our stories that this idea originated with Christ. It is not an old story that has been forgotten. It is a story for us today — Good News that the Kingdom is at hand and we can be a part of the Kingdom of God. NOT the kingdom of nihilism.

Friday, June 27, 2014

MY LAST POST ON THIS BLOG - Lena Nelson Dooley

I have really enjoyed being a part of this blog. And I've loved hearing from you readers. But many new things are happening in my writing life, and I'm having to simplify the other things I'm involved with.

Before I go, I want to share some fun new things from this week. James and I flew out last Saturday to go to Atlanta, Georgia. My latest novel, Catherine's Pursuit, was one of three finalists for the CAN Golden Scrolls Awards contest for Novel of the Year. I count being a finalist for this award a great honor.

The Golden Scrolls Awards Banquet was held early Sunday afternoon. James and I were seated with some very interesting people, and we enjoyed sharing a meal and visiting with them.

I was awarded the Golden Scroll Award for Third Place in Novel of the Year. Here's a picture of me with the award.


Several of the CAN Golden Scroll awards were displayed on this table at the big Jubilee Celebration that afternoon and evening. My award is the second from the left with my book and bookmarks in front of it.


Here I am with many of the different Golden Scrolls Award winners. Jerry B Jenkins, to the left of center on the front row was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award. I never thought I'd be in a picture with winners that include him. What an honor.

James and I stayed at the Omni Hotel. CNN's International Headquarters are in a section of that hotel. Here's the view from out balcony.


We don't watch a lot of CNN programming, but we did find the building interesting. And there was a CNN food court where we ate most of the time we were in Atlanta.

I hope you will keep looking for my books and letting me what you think about them. 

Lena Nelson Dooley

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Spirit of the Amish



I wanted to share my latest story, Loves Abundant Harvest. Once again the Cover Artist has captured a perfect cover for this character. We are fortunate to enjoy these eye catching pictures. This character has been through a lot of mistreatment and has become distant, so the despondent look on her face is appropriate, as do the protective arms across her chest.  

What covers attract you?

What is your favorite?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Getting in Touch With My Roots

I have taken a break from writing fiction over the past few months to concentrate on writing a paper on a history of my hometown of Raymond, Alberta, and the surrounding area. Every town has a story, of course, but the little prairie town of Raymond is special to me because it's where I grew up and where I continue to live. My wife and I raised our children here and have many special friends. When the TV show "Everybody Loves Raymond" was at the height of its popularity, T-shirts with the logo on it began popping up around town. A bit egocentric, yes, but it was always worth a chuckle to see our community pride manifest on what appeared to be an international level.

Something I have discovered is how my love for my home town has crept into my writing. I have written at least three novels that are set in a fictional town named Reunion, which I realize is really Raymond. And locals who have read the novels have come up to me and indicated they recognized Raymond as the setting. I have even written and performed three songs about Raymond, Alberta. The songs fit in perfectly with the curriculum at the elementary school where I taught for twenty-five years. It was rewarding to teach the songs to my students and then go "on tour" and share them with the other classes in the school.

So whether it's writing books or writing songs, I have been significantly influenced by my roots. And the research paper I just finished has reminded me of just how much of a small-town prairie boy I am and will remain. You may take the boy out of the town, but . . .

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Thankful for My Writer Pals

I'm thankful for the friends I've made through ACFW, RWA, and About.com. In most jobs, there's an office with a water cooler, coffee station, and break room. Freelance writers and novelists don't have a physical place where we can connect, unless we spend time (and money) at a coffee shop. I like Starbuck's as much as the next person, but I'm not one who can get much done with so many interesting things going on around me.

So I'm happy to have my writer pals to communicate with online and at conferences. Every now and then we're able to find other opportunities to get together in person, but that's not so easy since we're spread out all over the world.

I'm a big fan of all of these writers because they can do something I never will be able to: Tell stories in their unique author voices. Even my agent Tamela Hancock Murray is a writer, and I was a fan of hers long before we became friends and business associates.

I cherish the laughter and tears I've shared with these wonderful friends. It's impossible to read one of Sandie's books without smiling. Julie Pollitt has some wonderful articles online, and one of these days readers will be able to enjoy her fiction as well. Cherie Burbach knows how to be a good friend, and she shares her knowledge with readers through Friendship.About.com. Trish Perry, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, Sandie Bricker, and I enjoyed writing devotions for the Delight Yourself in the Lord...Even on Bad Hair Days collection. Unfortunately, we lost Diann last year after her long battle with cancer. Lena Nelson Dooley has always been an encourager, and (shh, don't tell anyone) we acted like silly teenagers in the Mall of America a few years ago. Martha Rogers, Kathi Macias, and Jenness Walker were my neighbors in the fictional town of Bloomfield. I met Becky Waters (author of Breathing on her Own) when she did a blog interview in Tampa. We hit it off quickly and chatted about all kinds of things not even closely related to our books.

Here are some of the people I've had the good fortune to meet through our writing.

Sandie Bricker and me at a hospital event

Good friend and Web writer Julie Pollitt

Close friend and agent Tamela Hancock Murray

Good friend Cherie Burbach (Friendship Expert with About.com)


Friends and fellow "Bad Hair" authors Trish Perry, Kristin
Billerbeck, me, Diann Hunt, and Sandie Bricker
Bloomfield authors Jenness Walker, me, Kathi Macias, and Martha Rogers

Author and blogger Becky Waters

Pals - Lena Nelson Dooley and Martha Rogers





I have met so many more people whose pictures I can't find in the humongous album in my computer. There's a great one of the "Be Still" authors Loree Lough, Andrea Boeshaar, Sandie Bricker, and me floating around somewhere, but after a long search, I finally gave up. In the future, I'll do a better job of labeling photos rather than rely on the numbers my computer assigns.

Writers, have you met other writers you'll be friends with for life?
Readers, have you become friends with writers and enjoyed the journey together?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

RUE - Resist the Urge to Explain

I am sitting on the balcony overlooking the beach trying to get through a wonderful story, Andrew Peterson's fourth book in the Wingfeather Saga and this is why I'm a day late. Being on vacation, I've watched the reruns of two of my favorite shows from BBC, Sherlock and Doctor Who. I'd like to share a post from back in January in the aftermath of the showing of the third season of Sherlock and the 50th Anniversary special, "The Day of the Doctor".

If you have never seen the BBC production of Sherlock and you are an avid reader or even interested in good, solid writing, then shame on you! I watched the final episode in season 3 and wept, screamed with delight, shouted with shock, and almost fell out of my chair in the final five minutes! Such is the sheer wonder of watching any show from the Mark Gatiss/Steven Moffat team responsible for the modern adaptation of Sherlock and the past three seasons of Doctor Who.

In one of my blog posts, I mentioned what I consider the smartest science fiction television episode of modern times, “Blink!” written by Steven Moffat. As a writer of Christian speculative fiction, I truly appreciate smart, clever writing. Too often, our modern writers over explain things or, worse, never explain anything leaving you hanging in an eternal limbo of unanswered questions.

Recently, Steven Moffat came under criticism for his stories containing “plot holes”. Hmmm. Plot holes? Reading between the lines, unanswered questions. Here is what he had to say about his “plot holes”.

“I think people have come to think a plot hole is something which isn’t explained on screen. A plot hole is actually something that can’t be explained. — Sometimes you expect the audience to put two and two together for themselves. For Sherlock, and indeed Doctor Who, I’ve always made the assumption that the audience is clever.”


Ah, are you are clever reader? Or, do you prefer for the author to spell everything out in great detail?

In the business, we authors use the acronym, RUE. Resist the Urge to Explain! You see this rule violated with increasing frequency. I call it the tyranny of “as you know”. The new show, “Intelligence” abandoned subtlety for blanket exposition and was quickly cancelled. Things are explained to the audience because we are so stupid, we might not get it. Many lines of dialogue can be prefaced with “As you know, so and so has this computer chip implanted in his head which gives him the ability to . . . .” This bleeds into another staple of writing, “Show, don’t tell”. A “clever” writer shows the facts we need to know instead of spelling them out.

In the recent third season of “Sherlock” viewers (spoilers ahead — don’t read this paragraph if you have NOT seen season 2) waited for TWO years to find out how Sherlock survived his demise at the end of season 2. Great debates raged online. In my home, my daughter and her best friend and I watched the episode three times and came up with our own theory. Now, the lazy writer would have started off this new season with a quick and dirty explanation of how Sherlock survived. Instead, we are treated with numerous live action replays of some of these “theories” in what is some of the most clever sequences ever. In fact, the viewer doesn’t learn about the truth until near the end of the episode and it is an integral part of the unfolding story of Watson’s reunion with a supposedly dead Sherlock.

Plot holes? I think not. I was engaged. I was a part of the process. It was hard. It was tedious. But, it was fun!!! And, as a reader, the best books make me carry part of the load. The best written stories make me work along side the author in solving the “plot holes”. “Lost” has received great criticism for its finale. But, if you watched the show, you realized it was addictive and compelling. For the entire run of the series, fans formed theories and ideas. The reason the finale was not satisfying is because the hype over the finale (like the new Star Wars movies back in 1999) could never satisfy all of the various theories floated by fans.

Steven Moffat recently ended the 50 year run of Doctor Who with his own “trilogy” and the story he wrote changed the entire direction of the show for the next 50 years. Theories were abundant on the internet and in homes around the world. My own family was rife with theories. My son and his wife had their own theories that were, to me, quite exotic and bizarre. The point of all of this is that we were ENGAGED. These supposed “plot holes” served to pull us into the story. We worked hard for months leading up to the finale trilogy realize that the excellent writing of Steven Moffat would go in a direction we could never have seen and also, instead of disappointing us, it would leave us supremely satisfied. And, that was the results for us when the credits rolled at the end of “The Name of the Doctor”, “The Day of the Doctor”, and “The Time of the Doctor”. We have forgotten the joy of anticipation!

We need “plot holes”. We need writing that engages the reader or the viewer. In a culture where answers are just a text away; where information flows through our brains like “c**p through a goose” as Patton once said; where choices are endless and we live in a whirlwind of instant gratification it is comforting to know that clever and skillful creative minds out there still value the “plot hole”. As for me, I want to work to solve the problem of the story; I want to step into the world created by the writer and be just as stymied and stumped as the protagonist. In short, I want to be IN the story, not sitting back just observing. I want to enjoy the journey just as much as the destination.

So, keep on resisting the urge to explain. Continue to show, don’t tell. And, you will have a rapt and grateful audience!



Remember, my own three books in the “Chronicles of Jonathan Steel” complete the first trilogy in my thirteen book series and are available at 11tdemon.com for a special price right now. Check them out and see if I was successful with RUE and Show, Don’t Tell!