Guest Feature: Life in His Hands

Only in our stillness, not in our striving, will God speak to us and reveal things we could never fully understand on our own.

Today I am featuring Jill Holler’s new devotional – Life in His Hands. Be sure to enter for a chance to win a copy at the bottom of this post!


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The hearts and souls of Christian believers long for a deep connection with God, one that goes beyond the surface and into God’s heart. They long for a purpose that transcends the fading glory of this world and touches the eternal things of God. Life in His Hands is a call to all believers to seek the heart of God through the pages of His living word and discover the abundant life of faith that functions on the full power of a sovereign, loving God.

Based upon the author’s own struggles in finding purpose and experiencing genuine faith, the devotional readings in this book are a testament to the unstoppable power of God’s word to change a person’s heart, mind, and actions. They are an authentic voice of truth and love that offers strength to those struggling to gain victory over the challenges to their faith. Readers will discover the amazing, life-giving nature of Scripture, which elevates the voice of God above all other competing voices in this world and brings peace to the soul.

Life in His Hands offers eternal substance to those seeking a deeper relationship with God and a life of purpose in a world that offers only the temporary. The longings in our hearts will never find peace and fulfillment until we trust in the unchanging words of God and the redeeming hope of Jesus Christ. Before our creation, God created a specific, purposeful plan for each of our lives, and it is not beyond our reach. Instead, is it waiting to be awakened through the power of a living, active God.

…Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us... Hebrews 12:1 NIV


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The Best Writing is Born from Anguish


Recently, I was spellbound by David Wilkerson, a well-known fire and brimstone evangelist whose message stirred my emotion, knowing he could easily bring most to their feet or their knees. Clips of his sermons are posted on You Tube. You can search for him there.

“True passion comes from anguish,” he said. His words flew into me like a fiery arrow, illuminating my past. Wilkerson’s message centered around anguish and how today’s church is void of it. He’s a big believer in, Cryin‘ Holy unto the Lord. He professes the church has gone soft, that we’re basically a bunch of babies who want to be soothed and coddled. That we no longer tarry for hours before the Lord, prostrate at the altar. That God wants to see our anguish over the state of the world and our Godless nation. Wilkerson has that pastor voice. You know what I mean? He’s learned how to wail when he speaks, allowing us to hear his heart as it breaks for the sins of mankind. And if you’ve grown up as a fundamentalist, it moves you. Even if you’ve never sat in a tent revival, I think it would move you.

Whether or not you agree with Wilkerson’s message, you have to agree that true passion is definitely born from anguish. As a writer, I believe the heartaches and hardships we experience give us plenty to talk about.

And plenty to write about …

But, let’s be clear. It’s not about anguish over a fender-bender. It’s not about a bad grade on a test. Or losing your wallet. Or a fight with your spouse.

Anguish, suffering, agony, grief, sorrow and angst … comes from a break in your spirit. A temporary disconnection with yourself and the world around you. The loss of anything dear to you creates real, gut-wrenching anguish. The kind you feel down to the soles of your feet. Buckets of tears. Nobody wants to experience it. Nobody wants to go through something like that, and I hope and pray you never do.

But if you do, what you do with that anguish, how you channel it, will determine your future in many ways. And if you’re a writer, it can propel you into another level. I’ve read books where I know, without a doubt, the writer has suffered at one point in his/her life. You can feel it in the way they put the story together. Raising the stakes isn’t so hard, because they’ve lived it.

Not a pleasant topic to blog about, but I think it needs to be said. Personally, I hope I never see another drop of anguish as long as I live. I’ve had my share. David Wilkerson can wail as long as he wants about anguish, but I never want to experience it again. Ever. It’s not a pleasant place.

However, I want you to remember if you’ve closed the door on your anguish, the memories of it … you may want to revisit that dark place again. Especially if you’re a writer. Your writing changes. Something inside you clicks and literary takes on a whole new meaning.

My passion was truly born from the sorrow, grief, and the anguish of my life. Now, I can truly say, the joy of the Lord is my strength. A scripture phrase that has almost become a cliché in Christian circles, has power and new meaning in me. At some point the tears have to stop. The river of sorrow has to trickle to nothingness. We have to move out of that place and use what we’ve learned to write the story of our life. It’s not something we want to think about, anguish, but be thankful for it. It’s made you who you are.

And despite the fire and brimstone, that’s a good thing.

Guest Post: Why Rose Chandler Johnson Writes Inspirational Southern Fiction

I’d like to welcome Rose Chandler Johnson back to the blog for a guest post on why she writes inspirational southern fiction, as well as information on her novel: My Father’s House.


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Growing up, life is idyllic for Lily Rose Cates due to one constant – her father’s love. But in her sixteenth summer, all that changes without warning. There begins Lily’s struggle to find herself and the life she’s lost. . . . Marriage promises fulfillment, but her happily-ever-after barely survives the honeymoon. Her husband’s sophisticated façade hides a brooding man with even darker secrets. When all illusions shatter, Lily must make hard choices – abandon her husband or risk losing much more than her marriage. She flees their home in Detroit and sets out on a fearful journey to a house in Georgia that her husband knows nothing about. This is one woman’s compelling tale of love and survival as she finds her way back home to who she’s meant to be . . . in her father’s house. “…had it not been for Annie Ruth, I would have ended up right there rocking on the front porch beside Mama. Annie Ruth took care of me. She and Mr. John drove up in his dusty pickup truck every morning at six o’clock. She got out and came in, bringing her life and soul into the house…We were her cherished charges, and I was like her own.” –My Father’s House


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Why I Write Inspirational Southern Fiction – Rose Chandler Johnson


As a Christian, I have a Christian world view and see the hand of God at work in our lives. I want my stories to reflect that view. As with any story I write, I not only want to give pleasure to the reader, but I also want to leave them with an overriding inspirational message or sense of hope. For my novel, My Father’s House, I wanted to write a story about a young woman with an indomitable spirit who in spite of devastating hardships, disappointments, personal loss and mistakes ultimately finds happiness. The story begins with a quote from the 23rd Psalm: Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  

Still reeling from a childhood tragedy, Lily Rose seeks to fill the hole in her heart in marriage. Sadly, she finds herself in an abusive marriage. The question is: Will she survive it? Lily Rose’s warm heart endears her to the reader who wants to know that she’s going to be all right. Told from first-person point of view, the reader takes the journey with her, but the painful experiences are not the main focus of her triumphant story. When Lily Rose reconnects with family and faith, we get a glimpse of the bright future God has in store for her. One reader wrote that the story “made my heart smile.” I’m happy to accomplish that with this story.

The setting needed to play a critical part in My Father’s House as well.  So, with my roots firmly planted in Georgia, I modelled my fictional town after so many small Southern towns, and I set in some of my love of nature. Being a Southerner, I had definite ideas about elements I needed for this story to come alive. Besides fascinating characters and a distinctive setting, there had to be a little crazy, eccentric, and some downright meanness, mixed with suspense, romance, and lots of southern charm.  If the story makes you long for dirt roads and blackberry picking, shade trees and front porch visiting, then I’ve done my job.

There’s No Social Media Like Speaking to Readers Face-to-Face



As a writer, my comfort zone, like most writers, is at home wrapped in the warm, soft blanket of creation. To create well-rounded, compelling characters, and pull them through the high stakes of their lives … there is simply no place I’d rather be.

But every so often, a writer has to get out and meet their readers. Word of mouth is truly the best way to sell books, but guess who must get that ball rolling? The writer. Once an event is booked, once you arrive on the scene, how do you size up the audience? Is the speech you have prepared the right one?

Be proactive. If you want to get an audience on your side, first you need to choose the right length of time to talk. Sometimes, even when they give you an allotted time to speak, you know after arriving, to shorten it, skip the Q & A, or change the speech entirely.

How can you make that decision? There is no fast rule here. You must learn to analyze each audience. I remember hearing that one pastor offered this silent prayer every time he stepped into the pulpit: “Lord, fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff, and nudge me when I’ve said enough.” Cute.

If you are the main event, if they came specifically to hear you speak, you possess much more latitude. But if you are the “scheduled speaker” at a business lunch, a monthly meeting, or a Mother’s Day event, if the audience didn’t come because of you, then do your homework and be prepared. Some folks in the audience, guaranteed, have never even heard of you. Unless you’re a celebrity author, you’ve got to make that group fall in love with you and want to take a piece of you home. Your book!

A program coordinator will typically suggest a specific length for your presentation, and usually it’s thirty minutes to an hour. Nod your head, appear appreciative, say thank you, then totally ignore whatever time frame they gave you.

Unless the entire program is focused on you and your books, meetings and conferences rarely stay on schedule. Technical glitches eat up time. Coffee breaks have a mysterious way of expanding. Attendees run late. Don’t assume you will get all the time you’ve been promised.

Event planners have an agenda. They think in terms of “time slots.” They need a speaker to fill their speaker slot on their schedule. Fine. But good speakers do more than fill time slots. As the invited speaker, your job is to entertain, enlighten, communicate and captivate your audience, all while selling your book(s) in the process. Tough process? You bet. But the good news, you can learn how to speak to your readers, be great at it, and have fun doing it!

Consider the place of the event. Is it inside or outside? Is it air-conditioned? Women and men? How many will attend and are the seats comfortable? It’s hard to communicate with an audience when they are uncomfortable. If you talk too long, they will tune you out. If it’s a lunch meeting, remember these folks need to get back to work. You want to give them enough time to buy your book!

What precedes your presentation? For example, if you’re scheduled to talk right after lunch, understand that lunch often runs overtime and so you might get less time to deliver your talk. Also, folks get sleepy. Don’t drag on and on. Give an interesting, quick, and to the point presentation. Talk in a friendly tone but don’t fiddle with your hair. And above all, remember to smile! Some say, “be yourself” but as a speaker you may want to spend your time as someone else! What a great excuse to do that! Crawl out of your own skin and into the skin of a well-known actor, or orator. Nobody has to know. Again, have fun!

On occasion the program director may want you to speak while the audience is eating. Try to get them to change this. People want to visit with those at their table when eating, not have to listen to a speaker. I know, crazy, but it happens.

Often a cocktail hour or a reception follows and the audience will be itching to get on with it. Not a comfortable situation to be in. But you have deal with this. Don’t just get through it, have fun with it. I’ve changed my speech several times, gearing it to the mood of the audience. If you don’t think you’re talented enough to do this, then I suggest you take a class in public speaking or join Toastmasters for a while, and learn how to manage your audience.

Always factor in a few minutes for starting late. I’ve sat in Rotary meetings that have run over, giving me a whole ten minutes to wow the room. I jump in with a quick reading, about a paragraph of my book, something funny, and talk about what will resonate with the audience. Enough to whet their appetite and buy the book. But never, ever look or sound irritated. Common sense, right? You’d be surprised.

When you arrive, are the women friendly? If it’s a mixed group, will that bother you? Do they welcome you warmly? Most do, but every once in a while you walk into a freezer. Truly, that’s when you make it a challenge. Your dog and pony show can surprise them, have them rushing to your table to buy your book after your closing remarks. Even if you’re a great speaker, be prepared for a non-responsive audience. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.

Don’t lecture. Find a coach to help you create compelling speeches about your work, research, and the book itself. Jodi Picoult is famous for her research prior to writing her novel. I’ve heard her speak on three separate occasions, and each time she spellbinds the audience with her story. I’ve also been in the audience of many other authors who put folks to sleep, or have no idea how to speak to a group. I’ve actually been quite embarrassed for them.

Allow time for someone to introduce you, and prepare that ahead of time. Make sure they have the correct bio in hand, or some interesting piece of news you would like the audience to know.

It’s okay to use your notes, walk around, or stand behind a podium. Dress for the event. Don’t overdress. And allow time for Questions and Answers. At most Book Clubs, the entire time is taken up in Q&A. It’s very informal and I love this. It’s easy, and the time goes fast.

But always, always allow time for selling your book.

Do your best. Once again, give the audience 100% and be prepared to shorten or change the speech upon your arrival. Never forget that the more you say, the less people remember. But take five minutes and read from your book. It doesn’t have to be from the first page, but make sure it’s a good part, and read in character if you can. I often turn into a Southern Fried Woman when I read. It’s just a part of me, so it’s easy. Find your niche. Know who you are as a writer and a speaker. It takes practice, hard work, and you must be fearless.


But more than anything, know your audience. If you can learn to read the faces, your success rate climbs. In invitations to speak, and in book sales. I’ve been professionally writing and speaking for well over a decade now, and I can tell you there is no social media like meeting your readers face to face.

What Do YOU Bring to the Page?



As a writer, I’ve wondered what do I offer my readers? Do I possess what it takes? What do I have to say that anybody wants to hear?


Lofty volumes of prose line many library shelves. Some deliver profound messages, soothing to the ears. Some hold you spellbound with intrigue or humor. And then some curl the hair on your neck as you quickly turn the page to discover the killer. Besides constantly polishing your knowledge of the writing craft and striving for the title of a great storyteller, there’s another element to this writing thing.


The author’s ability to share knowledge, life experiences, and enlightenments within the context of a story. To make it matter.


What have you learned or experienced in your life that you bring to the page? Many of us bring our writing degrees, our teaching degrees, our years of contributions to magazines, lit mags, newspapers, and we bring awards. Oh, so many writing awards. And, that’s wonderful. Commendable, in fact. But that’s not what I’m talking about.


To quote Dorothy Allison (one of my favorites.) She made this profound statement at the Maui Writing Conference many years ago. ” … writers come to the page for many, many reasons. In fact many of us do come in the hope of justice! We do come in the hope of balance! We do come with an agenda of love! But I’m telling you now, lots of us start with a desire for genuine revenge.”


Do you bring revenge to your written pages? Anger? Truth?


Sad woman loking at a window

“Are you saying there has to be some deep, dark reason why we write? Can’t I just write for fun?”


Of course you can, and many do. But once again, in my humble opinion, the writing that lasts for generations is written from the cobwebbed corners of a writer’s mind. Those basements and attics where the writer fears to tread, but goes anyway.


“But,” you say, “I write humor.”


Ah, yes. Dissect that humor. Much of our humor also comes from pain. You know that old cliche spoken in the midst of anger and frustration … “We’re going to laugh about this later.” Laughter through tears … it’s a powerful emotion. Take it to the page.


“Do you mean, then, write what you know?”


Not just what you know, but what you feel. What you’ve seen. What matters. The gut-wrenching moments in your life that cut deep into your heart. Write about that. Write about the scars. Who gave them to you, and how you healed, or how you still suffer from those scars. Give your character a piece of your life story that you want to share with the world. Dig out the best and worst of your memories, and include them in your stories. Write not just what you know, but what brought you out of a dark spot. What event turned you inside out, not just what made you uncomfortable. Write your passions, your desires, what moves you. Write that.


Those are the guts of a good story. Bring that to the page. 

What Were You Trying to Prove?


Every once in a while I’m asked to explain Televenge, because secular folks don’t want to be preached at, and Christians don’t want to face the darkness that exists within the church. Granted, faith is powerful, it can be exploited, but some have been crushed beneath the heels of their own pastors, and should we choose to write about it, it becomes a delicate balancing act.

It was my determination that Televenge evolve as a story about how those who abuse their position in the pulpit can over time; literally destroy those who faithfully sit in the pews week after week. I wrote it as a woman of faith, not “an angry lady jabbing at any one pastor or specific religion because a mean church hurt me once,” or someone trying to get attention. I can think of better, safer ways to call attention to myself.

For me, the gold perk of writing is working alone, months on end, in sweats and fuzzy socks with no thought of time or the way I look with no makeup. Despite what some may think, my faith sustains me daily. But I recognize that thousands have blindly followed only to have their family units, their core beliefs, and their way of life slaughtered by a “thus saith the Lord” from a man or woman in the pulpit. My biggest revelation, breaking free from my church, was that “touch not my anointed” works both ways.

dark portrait

In the end and without hesitation or apology, and regardless of denomination, Televenge uncovers the madness within the church, as well as big flamboyant pastors and their miracles. But more than that, the story embraces the healing balm of Gilead, the real faithfulness of Jesus Christ, and the peace of God that passes all understanding.

My answer to those who hesitate, don’t over analyze it. Just jump in and enjoy the story.


What it Demands


Essential to the writer is the art of reading. I’m juggling three books at the moment, each as intense as the other. I wish I could clone myself to read, write, and keep up with social media … alas, I’m not one who can find a balance to the three.

Lately, I’ve also studied how books adapt to film. Readers typically love the book more than the film, however, a film can stir interest in a particular writer. These days, I’m reading Truman Capote. He died in 1984, and yet his work is as popular as ever. Maybe because two films, “Capote” and “Infamous” have sparked interest, which is true in my case.

In the film, Infamous, Toby Jones brilliantly plays Capote and Sandra Bullock (who should’ve been nominated for an Oscar) portrays the elusive Harper Lee, childhood friend of Capote.

Harper (Bullock) made an amazing statement in the film that struck me to the core. Something I’ll never forget. She said, “I read an interview with Frank Sinatra in which he said about Judy Garland – every time she sings she dies a little. That’s how much she gave. It’s true for writers too, who hope to create something lasting. They die a little getting it right. Then the book comes out, there’s a dinner, and maybe they give you a prize, and then comes the inevitable and very American question—What’s Next? But the next thing can be so hard because now you know what it demands.”

Many writers can spit out a book every six months. I’m always amazed at that. But for some of us, writing is like opening a vein. The blood, sweat, and tears flows endlessly until the last word is written, edited, and printed. It takes a piece of our existence. I guess if you want to know why a few writers take forever to come out with the next book, you should remember what Harper Lee said … “they know what it demands.”

Interview: Janine Mendenhall

Today I am happy to share an interview with Starving Hearts author Janine Mendenhall.

Starving Hearts cover

When did you decide to become a writer? In other words, what made you actually sit down and write something?


About six years ago, vampires and werewolves–you know the ones from the Twilight series—convinced me to write!

Two of my children, who were in middle school at the time, had that irritating “everyone else gets to” complaint when I wouldn’t let them read the books. So instead of arguing, I decided to check them out myself.

Four days and 575, 710 words later, when I finished the saga, I allowed my kids to begin it.

At that point, I told myself: If Stephanie Meyers can do it, surely, I, with God’s help, can write something that will be interesting and will bring Him glorifying.

Every writer is eventually asked this question, but where do your ideas come from? Why do you write what you do?


My brain never stops working. I keep creating and exploring every single possible option in almost every situation with which I’m faced, including all choices and decisions my husband and I make in our daily lives.

It’s like planning all the contingencies one could imagine for what will happen on a two-week vacation, except I do it all the time.

Do any of you have this issue? It’s so bad I can’t drink water before I go to sleep for fear of waking up and accidently turning my brain on.

So to my husband’s great relief, writing gives my analytical mind a safe place to play with ideas without driving him crazy by telling him all the different things we have to do in order to, say for example, get to church on time.

And as far as why I write historical fiction/romance—specifically, late Georgian/early Regency—I’m fascinated by the social issues–like the slave trade–and the beautiful gowns and social customs of that era. In short: Jane Austen made me do it, and her time- period also protects me from having to write inappropriate scenes. It’s more fun to develop romantic tension by keep my couples apart, anyway.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to see where an idea takes you? How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?


It’s not so much that I use an outline or that I’ve evolved creatively. It’s more that I did what one of the greatest popular fiction writers I’ve read told me what to do, and I developed some skill in the Craft by reading books on how to do it.

It’s my belief that no matter how creative one is, if she can’t please her audience–by building romantic tension, for example, or by providing realistic characters with flaws and strengths while maintaining suspense and a quick pace–my readers will stop reading.

So I’m always trying please my readers.

I must credit Steven James, a most excellent Christian crime/thriller author, with these ideas and any success I’ve had in the above areas. Before I took his Novel Writing Intensive and studied his Story Trumps Structure, my writing was mediocre, at best.

And I continue to reexamine his teaching and push myself to be the best I can.

What is the hardest thing about the creative process of writing? If you’re a Christian, what are the challenges you believe Christian writers face now and in the future? If you would, please tell us what was hardest thing about writing your last book? How long does it typically take you to finish your book?


Christian authors, at least it seems to me, must overcome a general reputation for making characters too perfect/unrealistic and having idealized conclusions.

Life is not easy. Everyone, including Christians, doesn’t end up with a happily ever after (HEA).

This is especially interesting, yet challenging to me, because my tag line is “experience the Ultimate happily ever after.”

Yet even in that, I’m speaking of Christ and not necessarily that all of one’s problems will be solved, although I will still try to give the HEA, since I believe in it.

I don’t really know how long it takes to finish a book because I wrote Starving Hearts while I was occupied working as a full-time school counselor, a mother of five, and a wife. That took me about four years to do that and then another year and a half to go through the publishing process.

God was certainly in the midst of the whole process, but it was challenging.

Demands for a platform—serious social media involvement, which builds said platform—and my introverted nature make the marketing aspects of a writing career so complicated I’ve been reduced to tears a few times.

If anyone ever tells you that a person can still write an excellent book and word-of-mouth will take care of it from there, I would say, is terribly mistaken.

Word-of-mouth is largely social media, and if you’re behind the times or too afraid to step out and try it, as I was, your book and its message may never reach the people for whom it was designed.

Name your three biggest frustrations about the writing business.  


Ultimately it’s not so bad. I write because people, who may never hear the gospel in a church setting, might pick it up from my story or my website, and I care about them. So it’s the least I can do to reach them through my writing.

He’s also calling me to trust Him more as I learn how to do all of these new things so I’ll go along for the ride.

But the three hardest things:

  1. the technical know-how behind building a platform,

2. presenting myself as authentic and truly caring in a world filled with people marketing themselves as the same, but only seeking to sell a product, and

3. truly trusting in God’s sovereignty. (I say the words, but I keep worrying, which means I haven’t really applied my belief to my actions—still growing there.)

On the flip side, what excites you the most about the creative process?  

Words have power, and the Lord has blessed me with the ability entertain/provide an escape to a different world using them. At the same time, with Peter’s and Annette’s story, I can also encourage my friends—my readers—to grow in the faith, even if they’re faith is at level zero.

Then we can talk about it on my blog and stay connected through email and social media. It’s a great way to connect with believers and non-believers alike, no matter where they live, and life doesn’t get much more exciting for me.

What are you reading at the moment, and who are a few of your favorite authors and why?

I’m reading Loving Well by William P. Smith, Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free, and Praying Successfully by Charles Spurgeon in addition to various “how to” write books including Steven James’s book, again.

If you would like and have the time, write a paragraph or two about anything you wish.

Life is challenging. My writing career has been full of what I’ve seen as barriers and hard work, but the Lord is faithful, and He will not stop working until He achieves His purpose for, in, and through you and me.

Whether you’re in the midst of a challenge or on cloud nine, dig in to Philippians 1:6. It has been very helpful for me. In fact, maybe you’d like to commit it to memory using a song

Enjoy this—one of my favorite songs– , and then  email me.

I’d love to get to know you better.

Many blessings as you seek Him and grow.



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Starving Hearts

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Author Bio—How many titles of movies and/or books can you find in this little write up?


My interest in reading and historical gowns started when I was about eight years old and grew into a magnificent obsession with beauty and happily ever after.

Now, after a day’s work as a high school English teacher & school counselor (and when I’m not writing Book #2 in the Triangular Trade Trilogy), I lose myself somewhere in time using: Downton Abbey, Pride and Prejudice or a number of other classics like Jane Eyre and Redeeming Love.

I cry at the mention of His amazing grace, both the movie and the hymn. But that’s understandable; they are tears of joy over God’s blessings.

Those tears may also stem from being lost in Austen one too many times.

My first Christian historical fiction/romance is Starving Hearts. Never Past Hope and Perseverance are the other two books in the Triangular Trade Trilogy, and I can’t finish them soon enough.

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Interview: D.L. Koontz

Today I am happy to share with you an interview with D.L. Koontz, author of The Crossings Trilogy.

EscapingfromtheAbyss5 500x750 (3)

1.) When did you decide to become a writer? In other words, what made you actually sit down and write something?

I can’t remember a time when I did NOT want to write. My father says when I was a toddler I would climb on his lap with a book and beg him to read to me, and that I’d always say I would write one of my own one day. Then, in fifth grade, Mrs. Flamm dubbed my poem about wild horses as “brilliant.” That did it. I began writing dozens of novels…and never finished any of them.

2.) Every writer is eventually asked this question, but where do your ideas come from? Why do you write what you do?

I begin each day with a four-mile walk outdoors. There’s something wonderful in how physical activity activates and clears the mind. That’s when ideas come. I carry my iPhone, and have gotten much use in its built-in “Voice Memos” feature, to catch ideas. My work always includes elements of suspense because, really, I can’t imagine reading anything that doesn’t keep me on the edge of my seat. So, I try to do that for my readers as well.

3.) Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to see where an idea takes you? How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I’ve tried every approach. (No, seriously.) I am envious of people who can outline their stories before starting. Not me! No matter how much I think and ruminate and plot and plan my story and its characters in advance, those characters start taking over the story at a certain point and take me down paths I hadn’t anticipated. I used to laugh when other authors said that; now I get it.

4.) What is the hardest thing about the creative process of writing? If you’re a Christian, what are the challenges you believe Christian writers face now and in the future? If you would, please tell us what was hardest thing about writing your last book? How long does it typically take you to finish your book?

I am a Christian writer, and I’ll tackle the last two questions. Due to work, family, our farm, book promotion, many pets, etc., it takes me about a year to write and finish a book. I find the hardest thing is to review my work objectively. By the time I’m done, I’ll have read the early-written parts several dozen times, and if it doesn’t “grab” me, then I begin to wonder if it’s terrible or if I’m just tired of reading it. That’s when panic sets in.

5.) Name your three biggest frustrations about the writing business.

  1. Marketing
  2. Marketing
  3. Marketing
  4. May I list a 4th? – The “Thou Shall Not” rules assigned to Christian fiction.

6.) On the flip side, what excites you the most about the creative process?

I can’t name just one! Creating my own worlds. Developing characters I would both love and loathe in real life. Weaving words together – I’ve always marveled that the dictionary holds within it every book I’ve ever read, and the ones I haven’t written yet! It’s all in how those words are strung together. Isn’t that amazing? Finally, best of all, hearing from readers—I LOVE that.

7.) What are you reading at the moment, and who are a few of your favorite authors and why?

Kate Morton, Thomas H. Cook, Frank Peretti, and Susanna Kearsley. Two reasons: 1. Their work challenges me to do even better; and 2. They provide more depth and description (and adverbs!) than we seem to be allowed to do in the Christian market.

8.) If you would like and have the time, write a paragraph or two about anything you wish.

I write novels that blend historical intrigue and modern-day suspense with romance and a touch of supernatural. Try to find that category at your favorite book store! And therein is my first challenge in marketing. Outlets, retailers, marketers, all want to neatly place books into cozy and convenient little subject headings, but a book, like real life, is always so much more multi-dimensional.

Then too, I am a history buff, but happy living in contemporary times. As a result, I like to marry the past and present together in my writing. Some authors use time travel to accomplish that feat; generally taking a modern gal into the past. My trilogy does the opposite, bringing the past into the present, by way of souls that lived a long time ago, but who come into the life of my young protagonist. As a result, it was relegated to the category of “paranormal,” which is discouraging (and a no-no for many Christians) because it implies spooky and ghoulish, but the books are more poignant and inspirational than that. Honestly, the trilogy began with a historic building and the thought, “What if these walls could talk?” The series answers that question as it takes the protagonist on an incredible journey to make peace with God and her faith about the deaths of her family.

Check out D.L.’s “Crossings Trilogy” below  –

See the trailer here 

Crossing into the Mystic

Edging through the Darkness

Escaping from the Abyss

DL KoontzWith her B.A. in journalism and her M.A. in corporate public relations, DL Koontz spent years in four glamorous cities hiding her early fiction ideas, first on journalists’ notebooks where she detailed hard-news interviews, then on laptops as a management consultant and college instructor. She now lives with her husband in rural Georgia on a cattle ranch, where she divides her time between writing and endlessly “going to town” for supplies. She has one son and one step-daughter.

You can visit her website here or give her a like on Facebook.

Interview: Sandra Merville Hart

Today on the blog I am happy to interview fellow Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas author Sandra Merville Hart!

1.) When did you decide to become a writer? 

I wanted to be a writer in elementary school. I wrote my first mystery novel while in the sixth grade, The Mystery of the Missing Diamond Ring. Unfortunately, I received little encouragement. The dream died but the stories kept coming.

Encouraging comments about a devotion I wrote reawakened my long-forgotten dream. I prayed over the decision to quit my job and pursue writing for a year while everything continuously guided me to write. Quitting my job was a leap of faith.

2.) Where do your ideas come from? Why do you write what you do?

I find ideas in unusual places. If I search for inspiration, it always comes from unexpected sources.

I write historical novels so visits to museums, historic towns, quaint villages, and vintage stores inspire me. I once visited a small city that captivated me. Research revealed a significant historic event which I used in a novella that I hope to publish.

I knew a story awaited me in Gettysburg. I visited the battlefields and museums but didn’t find it there. I walked the streets of town and discovered how my story wove together.

3.)Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to see where an idea takes you? How has your writing evolved? 

When I first began writing, I wrote chapter outlines before starting the novel. I needed the structure. These days I know the beginning and the end with a vague idea of the middle. The latter method turns out more creatively for me. I pray over my stories and the second method allows freedom for constantly unexpected twists and turns.

4.) What are the challenges that you, as a Christian writer, face now and in the future? 

I hate that small Christian bookstores are disappearing. They struggle to compete with larger bookstore chains and Amazon. This avenue for Christian book sales is decreasing.

Having spent countless hours browsing the shelves as a reader, I don’t want to see bookstores close. The ones that survive seem to diversify and also sell novelties, DVDs, etc. Bookstores with comfy chairs and/or a coffee shop are so inviting, like a good book.

5.) What is the hardest thing about writing your last book?

My last book was set in 1863 Gettysburg, beginning five days before the famous Civil War battle. This book challenged me to be as historically accurate as possible, so I constantly stopped to verify facts in my copious notes and library books. History drove the action in my story; my characters walked a difficult road.

I worked hard to maintain historical authenticity, but my emotions further challenged me. I ached for my characters. I experienced the battle, the occupied town, the fear, the suspicion, and the devastating loss with them.

Writing this novel changed me.

6.) How long does it typically take you to finish your book?

This depends on how much research the novel requires. I finished one novella in two weeks. My Gettysburg novel took about fifteen months.

7.) Name your three biggest frustrations about the writing business.

I try not to focus on the negatives but this question demands it.

’ve already touched on one of them. I hate that online booksellers like Amazon have run many bookstores out of business. Because the online seller doesn’t pay for shelf space in a physical location, Amazon dramatically lowers prices to attract customers.

The second frustration is that booksellers don’t keep unsold books on their shelves very long. Sometimes they only sell them a month before returning unsold products to publishers.

The third frustration hinges on the second: publishers or authors pay the shipping cost for the unsold returned books. Royalties paid in advance when the books went to the bookstore must be reversed.

It’s a tough profession.

8.) On the flip side, what excites you most about the creative process?

I love allowing my imagination to soar beyond my dreams. My desire is to take readers to a place they’ve never been to spend time with characters they love.

9.) What are you reading at the moment, and who are a few of your favorite authors?

I write historical fiction and articles and spend most of my time reading nonfiction. My current task is writing articles for my blog, Historical Nibbles, so I’m studying old cookbooks and trying the recipes. Fun!

I love reading Yvonne Lehman’s books. She has over fifty published novels. The last one I read was Hearts that Survive about the Titanic. I’ve learned so much from her.

I love how Ann Tatlock weaves a story together. Kim Vogel Sawyer’s My Heart Remembers has stayed with me since reading it a few years ago. I’ve also enjoyed Eva Marie Everson, Alton Gansky, Eddie Jones, and Marianne Jordan, to name of few. I have a stack as high as my windowsill of fiction novels that I can’t wait to read.

10.) What is the story behind your book A Stranger on My Land? 

While researching another novel for the Civil War time period, I found fascinating books written by Union and Confederate soldiers. One of these soldiers wrote about the “Battle Above the Clouds” on Lookout Mountain. He talked about people living in caves. Women made these temporary shelters comfortable and cozy.

How did it feel to find a wounded soldier on your property after a Civil War battle? It surely happened. Would you walk away and leave him to die if he fought for the other side? What if your members of your family fought for the opposite army? Does that change anything? Suppose you help them anyway and fall in love?

I pondered these questions and the story was born.


Stranger in My Strange Land

About Sandra:

Sandra Merville Hart is the column writer for “History in the Making” at the popular and growing site, She is Assistant Editor for where she contributes many historical articles. Her debut book, A Stranger On My Land, IRCA Finalist 2015, released in 2014. She has written for several publications and blogs. Sandra loves to find unusual facts in her historical research to use in her stories and drags her husband along on her adventures. Thankfully, he also enjoys these fact-finding missions.

Buy her Civil War Romance – A Stranger on My Land – here!

Visit Sandra Around the Web:

Assistant Editor at DevoKids| Contributing column writer at Almost an Author| Facebook| Twitter| PinterestSandra’s Goodreads page| Google+| Sandra’s blog|