Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Farewell, Welcome, and Updates!

Today I want to share some news from the Founder of The Book Doctor, Sandi Rog. I know you've all been following her progress in her battle against cancer. We also have some exciting news about a new addition to the Book Doctor. 

News from Sandi

Many of you already know of this, but on November 1, 2010, the very day my debut novel THE MASTER'S WALL was released, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 T-cell Lymphoma: cancer. Since then, I've been undergoing the fight of my life, but not without the support of my family, church family, friends, schools, and the ACFW family. Truly, the prayers and support have rocked our world! 

Well, I'm now nearing the final battle. I'm in the hospital getting ready to undergo a bone marrow transplant. I've completed three days of totally body radiation, and just finished my last round of chemo today. Without the donor's bone marrow, I won't survive. The donor's bone marrow will arrive on the 24th (this Tuesday) and will be injected into my body (much like getting blood). Please pray for my donor. We haven't met, but I know he's in a lot of pain with the injections he has to take to produce more blood (all this for a complete stranger; it's amazing!). 

Anyway, I just wanted some extra prayers coming my way during this time. I likely won't have much energy in the upcoming weeks as my body will be at war within itself. The new marrow is supposed to grow and wipe out my old marrow, and in effect, tackle the cancer. Please pray it only takes out the cancer and nothing of "me." There's a chance it could attack my skin, gut, or liver. 

It's a scary time, and I have four children counting on this to work (17, 14, 11 and 3). My husband is using time off to be with me during my difficult times (he's also able to work from the hospital most times), and his parents are in town from Holland to help out at the house with the kids. My sister will be with me during my worst of times next week.

In the meantime, my second book galleys are being proofed. I sent them on to my editor, Wendy Chorot, to proof them. I just can't do it. I pray I'll have the strength to read the ARCs once those are released, and Lord willing, I won't find anything major that needs fixing! :-) It's rather ironic that this story is to release after/during all I've been through. You can read the book jacket description of it on my last blog entry and see the cover. In the meantime, I'll share the foreward with you below, which gives better insight into just how deep this story goes. I thought the foreward was very touching, and it might give you all an idea of what this road has been like for me.

Love you all, and thank you so much for your prayers. If you'd like to share this with other prayer groups or blogs, please do! ALL the prayers I can get mean everything to me! EVERYTHING!

Love in Him,


Farewell and Welcome
I know everyone has been blessed by Darlene Franklin's time with the Book Doctor. We're excited about her new opportunities, but she will be missed! 

Today, I want to introduce a new addition to The Book Doctor family, Pam Zollman. Pam and I have become friends through the years and I greatly admire and respect her. She's a gifted writer and an amazing editor. I'll post her full bio next week, but she's written over 40 books and is a former editor with Highlights for Children. 

Monday, May 23, 2011


Eighteen months ago, Sandi Rog honored me by inviting me to join the staff at the Book Doctor. I have been privileged to share my experience as a multi-published author, my heart as a struggling Christian writer, and my expertise in various aspects of writing with you, my fellow writers.

During this same time, God opened the doors wide for my writing. I currently have four books under contract to write; three of them are 80,000 words. I have become a grandmother twice over; and my health has gone downhill.

So the time has come to evaluate my activities and unfortunately, I will say goodbye to The Book Doctor.

Thanks to all of you who have made this such a memorable experience.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Writing Advice

When someone asks me what I do or where I work, I always hesitate to mention that I’m a writer. Not because I’m ashamed of it or think I’m not worthy to be called a writer, but because it often leads to some frustrating conversations. Let me see if any of you can relate to some of my experiences. 

  • “I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Can you help me?”
  • “I have a book I’ve written. Can you send it to a publisher for me?”
  • “I used to write in high school, maybe you could look at a few things and tell me what you think.”
  • “I’ve been through (you fill in the blank) and want to write a book about it. Can you tell me how to get it published?” 

Don’t get me wrong, there’ s nothing inherently wrong with these questions, the problem comes when I answer them. I’ve found that most people don’t really want to hear the truth – they want a shortcut to fame and fortune, not the truth. 

  • There’s no shortcut to becoming a professional writer. It takes time and commitment.
  • I don’t have an inside track into getting your book published.
  • If I take the time to look at your samples, I’ll tell you the truth and that may not be what you really want.
  • It’s hard to sell a memoir or personal experience story.  

There are no shortcuts to becoming a master at your craft and writing is no different. Even exceptional talent needs time and experience to hone it into brilliance. Occasionally I come across someone who’s willing to put in the time and really learn about the craft of writing. Those individuals are a joy and I love taking time to help them.

How do you answer those who want help on the path to writing? How do we tell the truth without killing the dream?

Monday, May 9, 2011


One of my writing friends says "How do you create a likeable heroine--one who isn't sickeningly sweet?"

I will confess, I find some of the heroines in Christian fiction "sickeningly sweet" and their so-called problems laughable. In the early days of Christian fiction, this seemed to be the norm and not the exception. Thankfully, that trend has changed.

"But it's still true in romance."

Well--yes. We want a heroine we can root for and romances must end in "happily ever after" or not be a romance.

Well--no. I have written numerous novels for Heartsong Presents. As a Christian romance book club, some of their stories are simple stories well told of a man and a woman falling in love.

Some are much more. I remember one story (to my shame, I don't recall the title or author) that dealt with rape. Another, Dear John, introduced me to author Kim Vogel Sawyer--and a series that dealt with downs syndrome, alcoholism, and ex-cons. My own heroines have run lighthouses, worked in a Romanian orphanage, fought for women's suffrage, among other problems.

Consider the following characters from the secular world: Scarlet O'Hara; Miss Marple; Mary Poppins; Kinsey Millhone; Brenda Leigh Johnson; Ziva David; Alicia Florrick; Mary Richards; Emily Pollifax.

Each of those names conjure up images of unforgettable women. These women have unlikeable qualities. Ziva used to kill people for a living; Scarlet is completely self-centered. They also have weaknesses. Brenda Leigh sneaks chocolate whenever she can.

But they are strong, and we root for them--in spite of their less than sweet personalities.
What makes a heroine likeable? Why do we care about what happens? How about these ideas for starters:

  • She has weaknesses that we can identify with.

  • She faces opposition.

  • She cares for other people.

  • She takes risk to help others.

  • She is strong (different ways for different heroines)

  • She is real--her responses to life ring true

  • She is persistent

  • She's an independent thinker

Who are some of your favorite heroines? What qualities appeal to you?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Make Your Bad Guys Better

One common mistake I see when I’m editing fiction is a lack of depth for the characters—particularly the antagonist. The days of the dark villain twirling his mustache are long gone. Readers expect the author to deliver a bad guy who is complex and understandable. We may love to hate the antagonist, but we also want to know why he’s the way he is. Below are some quick tips to help you begin to sculpt such a character.

  • Know your villain’s backstory. Your antagonist may think destroying the world is a credible option and that’s fine—but the reader needs to understand why.
  • Find something good within your antagonist. As I mentioned above, readers demand complex characters, and I character who is all good—or all bad, is a cliché. Give your villain a few good points and you’ll craft a more compelling story.
  • Allow your villain some face time. We've all read novels where the villain is some faceless, evil mastermind. But, especially in first novels, it’s better to let the reader see the villain with some POV (point of view) scenes. You don’t have to reveal all, but don’t neglect him.
  • Give your villain the advantage. Yes, we all want the hero to succeed, but a story where it’s obvious the he can overcome the villain isn't much of a story. It robs the reader of tension and fails to deliver strong conflict.
  • Let your hero find something within the villain to admire. I know it sounds risky, but again, this will add complexity and depth to your novel. It will also give your hero more internal conflict.

 Now it’s your turn. What are some things you love to hate about villains in your favorite stories?