From the Front Seat of a Roller Coaster

I love roller coasters.

Ones quick as cheetahs and tall as Minneapolis’ sky scrapers. I love coasters with hairpin turns and rolling corkscrews. Ones that fling you upside down and plunge you through shadowy tunnels.

Can you think of anything more suited to an aspiring writer?

My roller coaster ride as a writer began simply enough.

ANDERSON, BRENDA_20I grew up on a dairy farm in Minnesota—the best possible place to grow a family—as the third of seven children. I was raised to appreciate the physical work of tossing bales and chasing cows, and then relax in hushed moments under skies lit with dancing northern lights.

My daughter says I was spoiled. Perhaps I was. We had a sledding hill, all to ourselves, right across the county road. We had a private skating rink—a pond surrounded by rolling fields of corn, wheat, and hay. Hay lofts were fertile ground for imagination. We built hay forts, swung like Tarzan from one pile of hay to another. We even pretended we were rock stars, singing and dancing among the bales to Grease.

Amidst all that, I always wanted to write. Whether working, walking with my German shepherd, or biking over sloping hills, stories continuously meandered through my head. Some even stayed.

But, I always knew, writing would never pay the bills. I believed writing was only a dream, and I needed to live in reality.

So, I enrolled in college and eventually received my degree in Literature/Communications. I found a job, married a beautiful man (we recently celebrated our 22nd Anniversary), had three children (who’ve since blossomed into teenagers) and accepted the full-time job of mothering. A position with no salary, but plenty of hugs and “I love you” benefits.

Then the children all went to school. I had a choice: get a job at the new bookstore in town, and actually get paid for working with books … or listen to that unending voice in my head telling me to record this story that lived in my thoughts.

I listened.

Four months later I had fulfilled a dream by completing a novel. Right then, I could have jumped off the writing roller coaster, and I would have been happy.

But, again, God had other ideas. He nudged me to attend conferences, read writing books, and join groups. I edited, revised, and within two years, completed two additional manuscripts.

At conferences, agents/editors/published authors consistently tell me I write well. Some say my stories won’t sell, while others say “someone will birth this story.” (Actual quote) I’ve been told my characters are too messed up, that they all need counseling, they should never get together, and that I should rewrite my story and take out all the problems. (ouch) The next person says, I will be published someday.  Help!

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably ridden this same coaster.

S4010049 - CopyThe neat thing about roller coasters is that, though they never travel a straight path, they do eventually arrive at the station. It may not seem like you’ll reach your destination when you’re plunging down into a lightless tunnel of rejection and hurtful criticism, but if you’re on the track God chose for you, I guarantee you’ll climb out of that hole. The ride always leads back to the light, and that’s exactly where I’m heading.

As I said, I love roller coasters, and I choose not to get off this roller coaster of writing.

Since I’m staying on, I may as well take the front seat.

A Bit of a Different Bird…

In such a group of diverse and talented women, I feel a slight bit out of place.  That’s nothing new, and doesn’t deter me one bit, but you should probably know what you’re in for.  I’m not like everyone else…well, maybe I am in some ways.

I’m an author.  A writer.  A mom. A hard-headed, strong-willed child of Jesus.  I’ve always known that I would be most of these things.  I started writing (plays of all things) when I was a child.  As the child of a career Navy man, I spent a lot of time traveling, which meant a lot of time sitting still, coming up with ways to occupy my mind.

The first thing that I remember writing was plays for the kids in my neighborhood while we were stationed on the military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  A limited open space with limited amounts of activities leaves kids finding creative ways to fill their time.  I don’t remember now what the plays were even about, but I wrote them and the kids from the neighborhood put them on.   It was fun.

My career didn’t really take hold for many years after that. I wanted to be a writer, but I was cautioned over and over again that it wasn’t possible to make a living as a writer, and as a strong young woman I needed to have a career.  Remember how I said I’m hard-headed?  That’s really an understatement.  The only thing I wanted more than to be a writer was to be a wife and Mom.

This is where my life takes on a path of my own. I started my family young. For a while, I devoted my life to my family, spending time writing only for myself and for a long time.  Eventually, I came back to that other dream.  Thankfully my (then) husband could support our family, so I was able to stay home with my two kids after a while.  I found myself with a bit of time on my hands and started “playing” with writing again.

It wasn’t until I caught a lucky break from a good friend that needed some help that I really began to realize my dream.  Well, sorta.  My friend needed a technology writer and the work I did with her started me on a path that lead me deep into techno-reality.  My first published piece (incidentally NOT technology) was published in 1994.  That break into technology came in 1998.

Since then, I’ve written well over a thousand articles, mostly technology.  Taught hundreds of technology courses online.  And written 19 books; all technology.  But my heart longs for something more.  I’ve always seen myself writing fiction.  And since I found my way back to Jesus a few years ago (that’s another VERY long story) the desire to write Christian fiction (and non-fiction, too) has been the leading force behind my career.  I’m still not published in these areas, but I trust when God is ready I will be, too.

Life recently has taken a strange turn. I’m divorced.  My daughter lives with me; my son lives with his Dad.  And the economy really stinks.  And when the economy stinks, technology usually takes the hit the hardest. So, the writing I’ve been doing to support myself and my daughter for several years is suddenly not enough. I had to take a full-time job.

It was tough.  When I dreamed of having a family, I never dreamed I’d be a single Mom leaving her teenage daughter alone until she got home from work.  I thought I would always be a stay-at-home Mom.  It felt a lot like failure.

Then things started to happen.  Suddenly, I’m writing for Christian venues.  I’m a regular contributor to Bay Area Christian Family magazine. Other opportunities have come up.  I’ve even got a book proposal for Christian singles making the rounds.  God is closing one door, but there are windows opening in every direction.

So, I am a bit of a different bird.  I’ve come to my Christian writing career from a completely different direction than my friends here.  But I’m as excited as they are to learn, to grow, and to let God use my talents for His purpose.  And I’m truly looking forward to the adventure that He has set before me.

Hello From The Heart Of Dixie

Kim here to start off the new week and the next round of introductions. To steal a line from the beloved Minnie Pearl… I’m just so proud to be here.

Growing up in an ink spot of a town in Alabama, I was surrounded by a family of storytellers. And every one of those stories – no matter how funny or sad – was wrapped in a warm blanket of humor. Those stories sparked my imagination. So, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been writing similar stories in my head.

While I created storylines for music videos starring Barbie and Ken a good half dozen years before anyone had ever heard of MTV, my real passion for writing was sparked in Mrs. Shellhorse’s fifth grade Language Arts class. She had a box of story starters meant to provide entertainment to fill the minutes between spelling tests and grammar worksheets. But for me, those little index cards were the match that lit the flame of a passion that is still very much alive twenty-nine years later.

Of course, sometimes, the flame of such a passion dies down to a smoldering ember. Reality pushes aside childhood dreams. Although my high school guidance counselor would beg to differ, I knew writing wouldn’t put money in my pocket. Instead, I followed in my mother’s footsteps – a degree in Special Education.images

Oh, I veered off course slightly. My degree was in Special Education for the Hearing Impaired. Still, chalk dust was in my blood…until I did my student teaching. That was a real system flushing experience. But since that was the last thing an education major does before graduation, what was a girl to do?

Yep. You guessed it. Graduate school and a Master’s degree in audiology. Then a career as an audiologist. Still, through it all, the fire for writing still smoldered.

The ember burst into flame again when I stumbled across romancefanfiction.net. Along with a renewed passion came some of the best cheerleaders and friends an Alabama girl could wish for. Four ladies – an Iowan, two Canadians and a Kentuckian – who have held my hand, dried my tears and celebrated the smallest glimmer of inspiration for a story to the biggies – like obtaining a doctorate in audiology (AuD.) while working full time as a pediatric audiologist and writing in snippets of time in between – all through the vastness of cyberspace.

So there you have it. The story of an unpublished contemporary romance southern writer who tries to wrap her stories in a warm blanket of humor. I am humbled that the newbie I am gets to be a part of such a fantastic journey along with the rest of you. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for all of us. And, like I said at the beginning, I’m just so proud to be here.

A Line (or two) from Linda

Funny thing, being a writer. Like the Reading Rainbow show I watched when my kids were younger — you can go anywhere, do anything, become anyone. The funniest thing about me being a writer is that I stumbled upon it quite by accident. I saw a book at a yard sale titled, 25 Careers Women Can Do From Home, or some such thing. I flipped through its yellowed and torn pages, stopping at the chapter on writing. I went to the library, picked up a few books on learning to write, and that evening told my husband I’d decided to become a writer and I figured that within two years, we could both quit our jobs. I was serious.

That was about 15 years ago. We’re both still working, and I’m still learning the craft. I sometimes think I probably could have transitioned to full-time writing by now had I just settled on one type, but to me the writing world is like a roving dessert cart. How can I possibly pick just one? (Lorna’s suggestion that we share what “type” of writing we do made me smile.)

My first foray into the field stemmed from my days as a newspaper typesetter. I almost instantly got promoted to copy-editor (I blame my grammar-nazi father for that), and within weeks began submitting my own copy to the editor. The next thing I knew, I held the title “Sports Writer.” To date, sports writing has been some of the most fun I’ve had in my wordsmithing work.

Magazine articles came next. I still write for a few statewide periodicals but have actually attained a few national bylines. One of my biggest thrills in my hope of becoming the next Marjorie Holmes was the day I received a rejection letter from Woman’s Day on original letterhead, signed in ink — my first non-form-letter rejection. I danced around the room waving the letter around.

Somewhere shortly after that I had a heart-to-heart talk with my mother, which resulted in my first book, The Prodigal Daughter. The book begat a speaking career, and I still speak to groups from time to time either about reconciling relationships or various writing topics.

During the book-writing process, a friend of mine introduced me to what was then called American Christian Romance Writers, an off-shoot of American Christian Writers. The group has evolved into American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and now has nearly 2000 members. I may hold the record as the longest standing member who is not yet published in fiction. It’s that lack of focus thing again, although I have completed a novel (an inspirational historical romance) and am currently working up a proposal to pitch it.

linda and dave barry_2My true writing love, though, is humor. If the writing fairy stopped by my house right now and waved her wand, I’d wish to be transformed into a columnist. The next Erma Bombeck or maybe Dave Barry but with less sarcasm. (I’ve actually had my picture taken with him as well as with Erma’s daughter — that should count for something!)

My humor columns are nearly as diverse as the rest of my writing career has been, and include topics such as Overweight & Underorganized, Navigationally Challenged, To Insanity and Beyond, and Think Outside the Beltway (political commentary). Betsy_Bombeck_and_Linda

It would be a dream come true to have a collection of columns published some day. That nearly happened last year, but sadly, when the economy tanked, so did my would-be agent’s hopes of selling the project, which merited me yet another very nice rejection letter. Such is the life of a writer.

Although it makes my husband crazy, today I no longer worry whether or not my words will be published, which may be why many of them aren’t. I just write what I’m thinking at the time and post much of it on my blog. I hope you’ll stop by there sometime and say “hey!”

From The Great Canadian North

I have to admit I’m a bit nervous to follow into the steps of those amazing women.  I’m Marlene, also known as Marlo (my pen name, but also a nickname my hubby gave me long ago), but I’m mostly known as “mom.”

Growing up in a small French Canadian town, I daydreamed stories while living a relatively quiet life. All changed the day I met a wonderful, navy officer who simply couldn’t make the distinction between a romantic proposal and a military ultimatum.  Twenty-seven years later, he still maintains that “Honey, I’m being posted on the east coast, so you either marry me or we stop seeing each other” belongs in the romantic category.  I wonder how that line would fly in one of my stories.

Thinking back, I’m sure God had a good laugh at the impetuous teenage girl who couldn’t speak a word of English, but thought that love could conquer it all.  Over the years, many obstacles were thrown on my path, but God never failed to open a window every time a door closed.  As we moved every three years, I learned English, earned a business degree and welcomed a new family addition, child or pet, at each new posting.  Two daughters, a son, a bird, two rabbits, a fish and a dog later, we’re ready to welcome our first son-in-law into our midst.  These days, the idea that I need to find a mother-of-the-bride dress that doesn’t make me look like I’m eighty years old is enough to send me into frenzy.

With such a background, how did I end up writing romantic suspense?  I thank (and blame) my overactive imagination, the “memorable” adventures I lived as a mother and military wife, the bad surgery I suffered and the subsequent long recovery I endured.  There were just so many things I could do while bedridden and browsing the net on my new laptop was one of them.  Online, I stumbled onto the same site as Lorna, romancefanfiction.net, where I met aspiring authors and began my writing journey.

Over the following years, I learned the craft, often by trial and errors.  Then my Scuba-Diverdaughter introduced me to the mysterious underwater world of scuba diving and my first story, Salvaged, was born.  I entered contests, sent Salvaged to publishers, received rejection letters.  When I didn’t think I’d go anywhere, a dear friend emailed me a link to a contest sponsored by a brand new electronic publishing house.  I had never heard of Sapphire Blue Publishing.  I knew nothing about electronic books.  The contest ended that week.  They only wanted to read the first four and the last four pages of my book.  Eight pages!  They based their pre-selection on eight pages!  I thought I didn’t stand a chance and I ignored the email.  A few days later, the contest email popped on my screen again.  Not sure if it were a computer glitch or a sign, but I sent my book.  A month later, I was offered a two-year contract, and in Sept 2008, Salvaged was published.

pic1To be honest, I didn’t set out to publish an electronic book.  That wasn’t the path I was pursuing, but that’s the window that opened, and I’m forever grateful for the experience I gained working with my Sapphire Blue editors.

If you’re looking for me, veer north and keep driving long and far.  I’m the lone scribbler plotting her next romantic suspense under the northern lights.

Once upon a time…

… in the land of Boondocks there lived a little girl who dreamed in stories. Living among the corn fields and pasturelands miles from any neighbors, she created her own world of make-believe. She saw fairies disguised as butterflies and wood nymphs in the synchronized sway of the fields in the wind. Her best friend was an imaginary one named Pinkie and her favorite pet was a pony named Tinkerbell. That little girl was me, Dawn Ford.

            Being the youngest of four children and the only girl, I had a lot of time to daydream and pretend. My paper dolls and Barbies were my characters and I would play a scene time and again differently until I came up with just the right story line. By the fourth grade social groups became established and I was left outside of the circles with the others who were different or odd. I took to escaping reality into the stories in my head. That summer I had a dream that is still as real to me now as it was then. It is the basis for the manuscript I am currently working on about a girl and a magical traveling bubble.

            As you can tell, one of my favorite genres is fantasy. Some of my favorite stories are The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Lord of the Rings and in the past few years the Harry Potter series. Romance comes in very close and it can be any romance as long as it has good angst. There is a certain magic in those pages that draws me in time and again. That is the fire that burns within me to impart my own tale of what could be if only you just believe in that magic. Dawn's rainbow    

 I have been married 21 years this September to my high school sweetheart, John. He puts up with me and my head in the clouds way of living. My life continues to be full of testosterone with our 3 sons, Austin who is 20, Dylan who is 17 and Colton who will be 9 shortly (as he continually reminds me.). I have lived in the heartland all of my life, mostly in Iowa and Nebraska. John and I work with the outreach programs of our church and I am involved with the women’s ministries as well as writing women’s studies.

            I could not have made the leap of faith to actually writing without the support of the best friend I could have ever asked for, Lori (Lorna) Seilstad. She believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself and gave me the confidence to put pen to paper. She made me realize that dreaming in stories was not a sign of insanity but of creativity. It is amazing that God put us together and I am eternally grateful that He did. She also introduced me to the ACFW last year which has proven to be invaluable as I grow into this role as writer.

            I strive to do His good will in all that I write with the hopes that it will be something worthy of an audience. Romans 8:28 is a promise I hold near and dear, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called to His purpose.” Luckily, I am funnier on paper than in person and I can’t wait to go on this fantastical journey with you.

The Story of My Life

Hi, Shannon here. I’m so excited to be a blogger. A year ago, I didn’t know what a blog was.

I grew up near Chicago, Illinois and Atlanta, Georgia. At twelve, my parents moved me to their childhood home and my birthplace, extremely rural Arkansas. I hated everything country, especially cows and chickens, and planned to move back to Georgia after graduation. Then I met my husband-to-be in the tenth grade. When I saw him, I thought, that’s the man I’ll marry. My home state grew on me and I worked as a hairdresser, bank clerk, and accounts receivable clerk.

After sixteen and a half-years of marriage, I got pregnant. Talk about life-changing. For the better. My husband and I recently celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary. I’m always the oldest mom in my son’s class, but I like to think, the wisest. These days, in between the care and feeding of my seven-year-old son, my pastor husband, our church family, and our pets, I write.

Home is our rural Arkansas zoo with a chocolate lab, two charcoal gray cats, and a red dragonfish. Each critter has its own domain, so no one gets eaten. My son recently had a silver rabbit, but he was messier than we expected. So, my husband offered our son an Ipod instead. The rabbit went to a new home and I miss the little guy.

womanwithbooks At thirty, I finally figured out the story in my head was a book and promptly vowed to write it, if I ever got a computer. Four years later, my father-in-law gave me his old desktop. I hooked up the dinosaur and started writing. 75,000 badly-written words later, I had a great plot. Several editors said so, out of fifty-two rejections.

Not one to rest on my laurels, I wrote another novel. I heard about conferences and writing books. Read a book on how to write? Why, when I can just write? Another fifty-two rejections on book two. Book three only received nine and an acceptance from a Print On Demand publisher.

I opted not to pay for an editor, so it was badly-written, didn’t sell, and the publisher didn’t accept the sequel. Since it had a cliffhanger ending, I apologize to those one-hundred-eight readers who never got the rest of the story. If it makes you feel any better, it was badly-written too. But, it must have been a great plot since people still ask about the never-to-be sequel.

Could I be going about this writing thing wrong? I finally attended writer’s conferences, read books on writing, and joined two writers’ groups. I discovered American Christian Fiction Writers, and attended three of their conferences. I joined the organization, and applied for an amazing critique group: Lorna, Brenda, and Jerri. God surely put us together as we each excel and struggle in different areas. Linda has taught me new stuff just in the last few weeks.

 waterfall001After nine years of writing, learning, and praying, God rewarded me with a three book deal with Heartsong Presents. White Roses will launch the series in the book club in May 2010 and in stores six to nine months later. I’m currently working on book two. All three stories are set in Romance and Rose Bud, real-life, rural Arkansas towns.

Since I love to read contemporary romance and women’s fiction, writing these genres seemed like a no-brainer. Always inspirational because I don’t know how anyone could have happily-ever-after without God.

Now that you know a little about me, I hope my future posts will be inspiring and uplifting, with an occasional giggle thrown in.

Click on the title of this post to leave a reply.

It all started like this…

Hi, Lorna here with the first official Inkspirational Messages blog post.

It’s an exciting day for all ten of us as we embark on this new blogging journey, but I dare say most of us would be more comfortable putting characters through new experiences than living them ourselves. Still, I am reminded that “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.” Believe me when I say, I hang onto that verse every day knowing I can’t do it alone.

Since in our first two weeks of posts each us bloggers will be introducing ourselves, here’s a little about myself.

For as long as I can remember, I loved writing. I even dreamed in plots. I also grew up attending antique auctions nearly every weekend, so history was as much a part of my life as chores on our farm in Iowa, reading books, and playing with Barbies.

So, writing historical romances fit perfectly. Times may change, the style of clothes, the way we speak, but the common threads that unite us remain the same. Couples fall in love. Injustices happen. We fight for what we believe in. We struggle. We endure. We grow.

rings 8-16-09After graduating from college with a secondary education degree, I met and married the love of my life, David. God had written our love story, and I knew from the moment we met he was the one. It was not love at first sight by any means, but I was so sure he was “it” that I wrote in my diary I’d met the man I would marry. We pledged our hearts to one another two and half years later. We’ll be married twenty years this February.

daycare 8-16-09

I taught high school English until my oldest child was born. After that, I began my career as a professional wiper. As a daycare provider, I wiped noses, counter tops, tiny tushes, tears, and scraped knees. I have the rare distinction of being able to say I have potty- trained approximately twenty children.

David and I have three children. Our son is 17 and a senior this year. Our two daughters are 15 and 10. As my kids got older and less in need of my constant supervision, I started pursuing my first love again—writing. I found a great way to rediscover that love was by writing fanfiction at romancefanfiction.net.

Along with that, I worked as a freelance graphic designer, wedding coordinator, cookie baker, and 4-H leader. David and I also work in youth ministry, and teach youth and adult Bible classes.

floweroncar 8-16-09This last year, God fulfilled one of my greatest dreams when I was offered a three-book contract with Revell. The first book, an inspirational historical romance, currently titled Summer of Truth, will be out a year from now. The next two will follow in the subsequent summers.

To all of the writers here, books have played an important role in our lives. My tastes are eclectic. From Shakespeare to science fiction, I can enjoy a lot of genres. Currently, I read a lot of historicals and mysteries. A book with good pacing, great characters, and a page-turning plot will win me as a fan every time.

Dear friend, thank you for stopping by. I hope whenever you visit Inkspirational Messages, your spirit will be lifted, and you’ll feel the friendship of the ten women gathered here.

We’d love to hear from you. To make a comment, please click on this post’s title.

Welcome to Inkspirational Messages!

Inkspirational Messages is a blog made up of ten unpublished, contracted, and newly published Christian writers. We have all joined forces on our publication journey to encourage one another and our readers.

Faith is our inspiration for this group blog. We celebrate all that motivates us as writers and as His children. Besides author interviews, book features, and giveaways, here you will also find posts that will brighten your day, lift your spirit, and tickle your soul.

So, grab a cup of coffee, bookmark us as one of your favorites, and join us everyday for some fun.