Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A First Sale Story - Donna Rich

Tropical Island Vows? I won? Are you sure? Okay, Donna, focus on standing, walking down the aisle without tripping, getting up the steps without falling, and getting that envelope from Rebecca Germany’s hand!

How much better could it get? I’m from Indiana, the 2010 conference was in Indiana, and I won the Heartsong Presents contract. I floated – yes, because I was so in the moment, I floated up the aisle still in unbelief, up the steps, took the hug and envelope, thanked Rebecca and promptly left the stage. What I didn’t think about was: most people say something.

So, since I was in the moment then, I want to say something now. Thank you, Les Stobbe, for taking on this new author at the Minneapolis ACFW conference. I know this is a ministry to you, to mentor new authors to the point of publication. God bless you for it. Thank you, JoAnne Simmons and Barbour for taking a chance on me. I’m going to give you my best.

Obviously, I thank God for the opportunity, because I had come to the conference fully expecting Him to answer my prayers differently. It had been a difficult year personally and physically. I had taken on many leadership roles – too many, in fact, and decided I needed to back off. I stepped down from all my positions, including those at my church, for a season. I needed not to lead for a while but follow. Any extra time I had, I spent writing.

The prayer in my heart last September was this: Lord, I want to be a witness for you. If it’s not meant to be through my writing, then please close the door tightly. Make it so I know beyond a shadow of a doubt you’ve closed it. If there’s a different path for me, show me this weekend, so I can walk away fulfilled and satisfied that you have spoken.

Isn’t He remarkable? My one encouragement to you is this: Be patient, and have hope. My agent had sent the proposal for this book to JoAnne Simmons nearly a year earlier. I figured it had made its way to the slush pile or even worse – to the wastebasket. I prepared myself not to win. Nevertheless, God answered my prayer differently than I thought he would. My debut novel, Tropical Island Vows, is scheduled for release in August 2011 through the Heartsong Presents book club.

I can’t help but think of Proverbs 13:12 when I think of how an author navigates her day-by-day ups and downs, eager for that first contract. Can you identify with this? “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Be blessed as you follow His will,

Donna L. Rich

Donna L. Rich has loved books and writing since childhood. She authors contemporary and historical romance and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and The Christian Writers Guild. Her successful genealogy research led to her membership in the Mayflower Society. Donna and her husband live in Indiana and adore their beautiful blended family of six married children, sixteen grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. You may find out more about her at

On a side note, today, my daughter turns 19. Happy Birthday, Baby Girl!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Three tips Monday

Laptop Keyboardphoto © 2008 Liam Dunn | more info (via: Wylio)
This week's three tips Monday is about the tools of the trade. There are certain things that an author can use to make their writing life go smoother. For me, there are three tools I can't imagine writing fiction without.

1. Laptop. A must. I couldn't write novels without my laptop. My handwriting is just a shade above atrocious, and I hate white out and correction tape. :)

2. My jump drive. I back up my files to my jump drive (and also email my files to myself as another precaution.)

3. The Internet. Research, book purchases, communication with editors and my agent, and connecting with readers and fellow writers. Life would be so different without on-line communications.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Friday Five

Orange slicephoto © 2003 Esther Gibbons | more info (via: Wylio)
This week's Friday Five is:

Five food combinations that I like that might be a little odd.

1. Pizza and Orange Juice. Try it. It's amazing.

2. Peanut Butter and Miracle Whip sandwich. I used to eat this when I was a kid. Haven't had it for a long time though.

3. Pork Chops and Apple Pie filling.

4. Ice Cream and Pretzels.

5. Diet Coke and Chocolate Cake.

What about you? Do you have a favorite odd food combination?

And please join me over at Lena Nelson Dooley's blog:
I'm doling out some free advice to new authors, and you can learn a little bit more about me and my newest release, Idaho Brides.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

First Time Contract - Connie Stevens

Today's guest post is from Barbour Heartsong Presents author Connie Stevens. I was thrilled to be present when Connie received her contract in Denver. What a joyous occasion!

Right off the top, let me apologize to Connie for changing the photographs. I couldn't get the ones she sent to work for the blog. But if you want to click here hopefully you can see a picture of Connie with her critique group, holding her letter of intent from Heartsong.

First Time Contract by Connie Stevens
One of my favorite parts of the ACFW conferences has always been the awarding of the first-time contract by Barbour Publishing. The expression of utter joy on the author’s face and squeals from the critique partners have always made me want to do the happy Snoopy dance right along with them. I think as members of ACFW, whether published or not, we can relate to that exquisite kind of thrill after years of working and waiting. The anticipation of the dream coming true is what drives us to persevere.

Four months before the Denver conference in 2009, my finger hovered over the mouse and I uttered a prayer before clicking “Send”, winging my proposal off to my agent who in turn would send it to JoAnne Simmons at Heartsong Presents. Determined not to agonize over the proposal, I focused on other projects. Six weeks later, I received a phone call from my agent, Tamela Murray. We chatted about what I was working on and she made a few suggestions for me to consider. Then she said, “Someone was asking me if you were planning on going to the ACFW conference this year.” I told her I was and we talked for a few more minutes. After we hung up, I thought, “Who in the world would be asking Tamela if I was going to the conference?” The question drove me nuts for about three days, and then I just forgot about it.

On the first night of the conference at the opening session, I sat with my critique partners as Brandilyn’s traditional “Helloooo ACFW!!” rang out over the auditorium to kick off the proceedings. Just before the session closed, Becky Germany and JoAnne Simmons of Barbour Publishing took the stage. I twisted in my chair and said to my crit partners, “I just love it when they do this.” Becky announced the name of first time contract for a novella, and we all cheered for Rachael Phillips. JoAnne took the microphone and made a couple of comments about the manuscript she was about to contract. I couldn’t wait to see that joy on the face of the recipient.

Then JoAnne announced the title of the book she was contracting: LEAVE ME NEVER. My first reaction was to think, “Oh man! Now I’m going to have to think of a new title because someone else is using my title.” I didn’t hear JoAnne announce my name because my crit partners were all screaming. So my second thought was, “Why are they screaming?” It was like a slow-motion delayed reaction. I sat there dumbfounded with my mouth hanging open. Kim Sawyer pushed me from my chair and said, “Connie, it’s YOU.”

The only thing I remember about making my way to the front was hugging a bunch of people, but I really can’t remember who I hugged until Tamela Murray stood there in front of me with her arms open. Some unseen force carried me to the stage where JoAnne placed an envelope in my trembling hands. I think I said something stupid like, “I need to go call my husband!” But whatever I said, it must have been at least halfway appropriate because JoAnne and Becky were both smiling.

At the time it didn’t occur to me to thank Barbour, or ACFW, or my agent, or my crit partners . . . I do remember “Thank You, Jesus” running through my head as tried to find my way back to my seat amid more hugs, more tears, more squeals, more congratulations. I did call my husband and woke him up, but with everyone’s excited screams, he couldn’t understand what I was saying, so I held the phone out to my crit partners and they all chorused, “Connie got a contract!!” Poor guy still didn’t know what was going on.

Later that evening and in the days to follow, reality began to seep in. Understanding of how vital ACFW’s influence was in my writing journey began to flood my awareness. Gratitude filled me as I thought of the way my agent and crit partners (whom I met through ACFW) pushed me to improve my writing and refused to let me give up. God used the Barbour editors to make my dream come true.

The morning of the third day of the conference, we were singing “While I’m Waiting” in the praise and worship session. It occurred to me that somewhere in that room of 500+ people there was a person who felt the same way I had the year before. “Is this truly God’s will? Am I supposed to be pursuing publication, or am I just following my own agenda? Will my time ever come?” That person’s “time” was next year, but he/she didn’t know it yet, so I started praying for that unknown person.

My prayer continued the next day, and the day after that, and after I went home. I discovered praying for this person whose name I did not know was a sweet privilege. For an entire year, I prayed for the recipients of “next year’s contracts” without knowing their identity. At the opening session of the 2010 conference, I cried when one of those contracts went to my dear friend, Rose McCauley. When I told her I’d been praying for her for an entire year without knowing it was her, she pounced on the idea. Rose has been praying for the recipients of the 2011 contracts since last year’s conference.

Whether our prayer is one of anticipation or gratitude, or even a petition for an unknown person, communication with our heavenly Father is the GPS that guides us on this crazy journey we refer to as publishing. Right now, there is an ACFW member who has clicked “Send” and is wondering, “When will happen for me?” Maybe this year is their time.

You can find Connie online at

PS I LOVE the idea of praying for the next recipient. :)

Please give a shout out to Connie, and thank you so much, Connie, for working under the uber-tight deadline I gave you, and for such a wonderful story!

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Middle Gooseberry Fallsphoto © 2010 Tim Wilson | more info (via: Wylio)Since all of last week I was on vacation, I'm taking a little break from the Three Tips Monday for today's blog.

This week, my parents, my aunt and uncle and one of my little cousins were visiting from Florida, and together with them, my family and I traveled 'Up North' to Duluth and along the North Shore of Lake Superior before turning inland toward the Mesabi Iron Range.

This is a picture of Gooseberry Falls (the middle falls to be exact--there are three sets of falls.) This is a sunny day at the falls. When we were there, it was cloudy, foggy, and about 48 degrees. But we had a great walk in the woods and down along the water, enjoying each other's company.

I got to do some things on this trip that I've wanted to do on other visits Up North but have run out of time to do. One of those things was to visit Glensheen Mansion in Duluth.

glensheenphoto © 2007 Brendan Riley | more info (via: Wylio)
We had an amazing guide who took us through all 39 rooms of the mansion and up into the attics. In a tour that lasted almost three hours, we saw amazing decor (including a gold leaf gilded ceiling and hand carved alabaster light fixtures) artwork, and furnishings. Glensheen has an amazing, and even gristly history, including being the scene of a Richard Thomas/Patty Duke thriller film You'll Like My Mother, and being the scene of the murder of two women, Congdon family heiress Elizabeth and her nurse.

We had lots of adventures on this trip and had lots of 'firsts.' I took my first Vista Cruise of the Twin Ports. We toured the Greyhound Bus Museum (yep, there is one. It's in Hibbing, MN.) Saw Lake Mille Lacs, home of the Eel Pout Festival each winter. (Eel Pout is a wickedly ugly fish that they catch on the lake in the wintertime.) We went to the Mall of America, and I actually bought a clothing item. I think that was a first, as I don't usually buy anything while at the MOA. I toured the Lake County Historical Society Museum in Two Harbors, MN and the Grand Rapids Historical Society Museum in Grand Rapids, MN (during the Judy Garland Festival no less. Grand Rapids is the birthplace of Frances Ethel Gumm, aka Judy Garland.)

All in all, we had a great time. Got to see some favorite things, and got to experience lots of new things. Those are the vacations I love best.

How about you? What kind of vacation do you like best?

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Friday Five - Pizza!

This week's Friday Five is:

The five best pizza places I've ever been to.

1. Zadeos. Hands down the best pizza I've ever had. Whole wheat crust, generous toppings, and gooey cheese. Zadeos is the only pizza place in Rochester that will deliver out where we live, and I'm not complaining.

2. Big Cheese. I grew up with Big Cheese Pizza in Salina, Kansas. The only dissent in the house when someone wanted to order Big Cheese was whether to get mushrooms on the pizza or not.

3. Ann Sorensens. Actually, my place, on New Year's Day when we have a big party. Ann brings this amazingly yummy pizza roll thingy, and I have to fight my way through the crowd to get a slice.

4. Godfathers. They're pretty yummy, but they're way on the other side of Rochester, so I don't get there as much as I'd like.

5. My MIL's house. She made excellent thin crust homemade pizza.

How about you? Where's did you find the best slice?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A First Contract Story - Rhonda Gibson

Today I'd like to welcome guest blogger Rhonda Gibson, who is here to tell us her story of receiving her first contract at the ACFW Conference. Thank you, Rhonda, for sharing your story.

I’ll always remember Friday, Sept. 18, 2003, as a special time in my life. I was a new writer, excited to be at what was then known as the American Christian Romance Writers (ACRW) conference, but is now called American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).  At that time, the young organization didn’t boast a conference of 700 as it does today, but about one hundred people were in attendance. We gathered in Salon B of the Houston Airport Marriott, for a the first event of the conference, a meet- and-greet. The fact I remember the specific room shows how much this night means to me!

Who doesn’t love a meet-and-greet, Texas style? We loaded our plates with fajitas and fruit, and then mingled; chatting and laughing with people we’d grown to know and love through email. 

As I moved about the room, I visited with co-writers, Tracey V. Bateman, Janet Spaeth, and Lena Nelson Dooley. These ladies held my hand through my first book. They were patient, kind, loving and above all friends. Each assured me that our collection was good and more than likely I’d be holding a contract soon. I couldn’t wait to talk to Becky Germany and find out if this was true. I looked for Ms. Germany and never could find her in the crowd. What my friends neglected to tell me was that this night would be a night I’d never forget!

The entire evening created warm memories, but the highlight for me came when Rebecca Germany was called to the front of the room. There, before the group of writers flush with the excitement of the conference, , she presented me with my first contract for my story, “Love of a Lifetime,” which appeared in the novella collection, Scraps of Love, September 2004.

I was so surprised! This was a first for the conference! My heart was in my throat as I went to receive the contract that I’d waited all my life to receive. Ms. Germany was all smiles and hugs, I was speechless. At least I think I was speechless, I don’t remember what I said to her. Tracey, Janet, Lena were on the sidelines to give me hugs and congratulations.

People often ask when I got the call. I smile and say, “I didn’t. My first contract was handed to me by an angel. Rebecca Germany will always hold a special place in my heart. She was the first editor who saw how devoted I am to being a writer and she was willing to give me my first break.

The ACFW conference will always be special to me as well. For me, the ACFW conference is where my dream of being a contracted author came alive. This conference is a place where God blesses.

Since that night, Barbour Books has been my home publisher. I have written three more novellas for them and have two more scheduled for release in the next two years. I’ve also been blessed to write a Heartsong Presents stand alone title for JoAnne Simmons, at Barbour as well.

My next title, A Honey of a Christmas, will be coming out September 2011 in the anthology collection, A Biltmore Christmas.  Not only have I been blessed through my interaction with editors and fellow Christian writers, but my fans as well. Each letter and email I receive from someone who appreciates my work is a God-kissed gift. I am grateful to ACFW and to Barbour for bringing me into the fold.

Rhonda Gibson lives in New Mexico with her husband James. She has two children and two beautiful grandchildren. Reading is something she has enjoyed her whole life and writing stemmed from that love.  When she isn’t writing or reading, she enjoys gardening, card making, and playing with her dog, Sheba. She speaks at conferences and local writing groups. You can visit her at where she enjoys chatting with readers and friends online. Rhonda hopes her writing will entertain, encourage and bring others closer to God.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Three Tip Monday

Me and Rachel O.
Today's three tips for Monday are all about working with an editor. I have to say, I am so blessed to work with the editors at Barbour.  I have several editors, JoAnn Simmons, Becky Germany, Rachel Overton, and Aaron McCarver to name a few. Each one has different responsibilities regarding my manuscripts, and each one is a gem to work with.

JoAnn and Becky work more on the acquisitions end of things (at least where my manuscripts are concerned) and Rachel and Aaron work on the nitty gritty content and copy edits.

The editor/author relationship isn't something that happens overnight, and sometimes you gel better with one editor over another, but here are three tips that will make your editors eager to work with you.

1. Meet or exceed your deadlines. You're a team-member here. Deadlines aren't arbitrary. Your manuscript deadlines, editing deadlines, marketing copy deadlines and the like often signal the beginning of a long series of events and processes that have to occur to get your book from your head to readers' hands. If you miss your deadline, every other deadline along the way has to be readjusted, and the stress level goes up exponentially.

2. Be receptive. Your editors are pros. They see dozens of manuscripts, and they know the publishers readership, preferred tone, and guidelines better than you do. When they speak, your job is to listen.

3. Be a pro. You're not going to agree with every suggestion or idea your editor comes up with. You're going to have to defend some decisions you've made in the story, and you're going to have to let go of some other things. Don't whine, don't carp, and don't spread your discontent. Suck it up, respect the editor's expertise and experience, and carefully consider what needs to be changed.

If you follow these three tips, you'll be happier, and your editors will thank you. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Friday Five

Suitcasesphoto © 2010 Garry Knight | more info (via: Wylio)This week's Friday Five is:

Five things I pack when I'm going on a vacation.

1. The GPS. I got this little gizmo for Christmas, and I'm not leaving on a vacation again without it if I can help it. :)

2. My laptop. Checking out where to stay, what to see, admission prices and hours. We usually have a plan the first few days of a vacation, then we wing it.

3. A bag of medicaments. Advil, Pepto, etc. Just in case.

4. Cell phone. Just makes life so much simpler.

5. Camera. To capture all those cool moments. :)

I also leave extra room in my suitcase for books that I plan to buy. I don't know when was the last time I took a vacation and didn't buy at least one history book. :)

How about you? What's one of your 'can't leave home without it' vacation items?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Some Cool Things!

Here's a picture of my son in one of our local Wal-Mart stores, and he's holding a copy of Idaho Brides! SQUEE!!
 My father called this morning to tell me that he'd seen a copy in a Wal-Mart he was shopping at in Valley Center, Kansas.

A friend of mine said she purchased a copy at her local Barnes & Noble in Virginia.
And here's the lovely and sweet Keli Gwyn holding a copy she discovered at her local Wal-mart in California. Thank you so much, Keli, for hunting up the book and sending the picture!

And I just received cover art for my next Heartsong release, titled Light to My Path. The lantern in the snow is so PERFECT for the story! I'm thrilled with this cover art, and I hope the readers will be, too.

I also had a very good writing day, thanks in part to T. Anne Adams who challenged me to a little #1k1hr on Twitter. I had been really laboring with the writing today, but after she invited me to join her in a word blitz, the story really picked up pace and I wrote 3K words today. Yay! Only a few thousand more words to finish the first novella in the Sagebrush Knights collection. :)

Tomorrow, I think I'm going to spin by B&N at the mall and Christian Book & Gift to see if they have copies of Idaho Brides. :)

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

First Contract Memories

For the next few weeks, I'm going to be hosting some guest bloggers who all have one thing in common. They have all been awarded their first writing contract at the ACFW Conference. Every year, Barbour Publishing offers a contract to a new writer during one of the general sessions.

In 2008, I was blessed to be the recipient of one of those contracts. You can read my story HERE.

You can read the story from my editor, JoAnne Simmons' perspective HERE.

The announcement of those contracts is soooo exciting. A real highlight of the conference.

So, I hope you'll return here to read some of these fun stories and live a little vicariously through them.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Three Tips for Monday

Redphoto © 2006 Crystal | more info (via: Wylio)Today's three tips for Monday centers around critiques. Critiques can be so helpful when we want to take our writing to the next level, when we need an objective set of eyes.

Good critiques are worth their weight in chocolate. But how do we go about finding a good critique?

Here are three possibilities:

1. Pay for one. There are many critique services out there. One caveat. Get referrals. Do your homework. Anyone can hang out a shingle and say they're a critique service, but not everyone has the expertise you're looking for. See if you can submit a sample for critique before you pay to have an entire novel worked on. And be sure exactly what the price will be. Is it by the page or by time?

2. Contests. Search out reputable contests that offer at least two judges for your entry. Some, like the ACFW Genesis contest offer three first round judges. If your manuscript makes it into the second round, you get three more judges. That's a lot of critiques for the price.

3. Critique partners. This one can be tricky. I've been in some really good critique groups and I've been in some...well, not so good ones. The key here is to make sure you all understand what you're looking for in a critique, and that you can trust each other's motives. The last thing you need is a critique partner with a vendetta, or one that knows everything, and can dish it out but can't/won't take it. One great place to find critique partners is through blogs. Form relationships with bloggers who are on this writing journey with you, and when you find one you sync with, explore the idea of trading critiques. Again, be clear on expectations.

I have two great crit partners who are so savvy and don't let me get away with anything. A big shout out to Georgiana Daniels and Katie Ganshert.

Do you have a critique partner/group? Care to give a shout out here?

Friday, June 03, 2011

The Friday Five

Hand over mouthphoto © 2007 Melissa Wiese | more info (via: Wylio)This week's Friday Five is:

Five things you won't hear me say:

1. Sure wish the sun came up earlier. I love to get up early.

2. What? No more bathrooms to clean? Rats!

3. I think I'm over my reading addiction. No more books for me.

4. History museums...meh. I'm so done with that phase.

5. Not ANOTHER romantic mushy movie!

What about you? What wouldn't you ever say?

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Exciting News!

I'm so excited! I received news this past week that the first two stories in the Idaho Brides have been licensed by Thorndike Large Print Press! Clara and the Cowboy and Lily and the Lawman will come out in hardback in July and August of this year. Isn't that cool????

One of the things that I find so exciting about this (aside from the fact that it's cooler than the antarctic...) is that one of my all-time favorite authors, the late, great Essie Summers, also had many of her stories optioned by Thorndike Press. I have two of her works in large-print, because that was the only way I could get them.
I really like the cover art for these books. And I love the fact that new readers will be able to enjoy these titles.

Hopefully, the third book in the series, Maggie and the Maverick, will be available through Thorndike soon.

So, are you familiar with Thorndike Press? And have you had any good news lately? Share so we can all celebrate!