Monday, March 31, 2008

Pregta or Rinant

Last week I could not think of anything to post about. This week I get to post about the moon. Well, okay, not the moon, but a little statue called RITA®.

First, let me explain about the title of this blog: pregta or Rinant. I'm combining the word pregnant with the word RITA®. Four years ago, I was carrying my son Mikey. Truly, there is no way to compare the joy of being pregnant with the joy of getting a RITA® call, but there is a little bit of similarity afterwards.

Like, I'm driving to work and dodging traffic, coming to a standstill (I live in Phoenix, third largest city in the U.S.A) and suddenly I remember... I'm a RITA® finalist.

Like, I'm eating dinner, talking to my husband, trying to get my three-year-old to behave (Yes, I have an active child), and suddenly I remember... I should have ordered a salad. I have to buy a dress - hopefully in a smaller size - because I'm a RITA® finalist.

Like, I'm standing with friends, all of whom know I'm a writer but none of whom really understand the world (think church or work friends, seems all other friends ARE writers) and they ask what's new. I mention the Children's Bible Time that's starting next week, I mention only five more weeks of school, I mention our second go-round trying to get Mikey interested in Pottytraining, and I mention (and have to explain what it is) the RITA®. And, I remember... I am a RITA® finalist.

To me, being pregnant with Mikey was so amazing. I'd be driving to work and suddenly joy would just fill me. I'd put my hand on my stomach and look around at the other drivers. How could they not notice the REALLY happy motorist in their midst? I'd do the same in stores, restaurants, and in the middle of teaching a class. Each time I thought about the pregnancy, I was amazed and thankful to God all over again.

Finaling in the RITA® is affecting a bit the same way. I keep remembering and I'm amazed all over again. Of all my friends who entered, I think I expected it the least. Lisa Mondello mentioned to me that Tuesday morning that "Calls are going out." I promptly forgot. When my cell phone rang at 10:25, I was in my office five minutes away from teaching a comp class. When Jill St. John said, "I'm calling from RWA..." My first thought was, "Oh, the Desert Rose chapter is having a contest next weekend. They must have a question." Then, she said, "Your book, Pursuit of Justice, is a RITA® finalist."

I about fell over. I did make a lot of noise (apparently, according to my coworkers, a lot of noise). And, promptly I made three quick phone calls: best friend, editor, and agent.

Then I went off to teach a class to 24 students who'd never heard of the RITA®.

I am humbled by the nomination. I've always called Pursuit of Justice my lucky book. I started it about six years ago. And, every time I tried to work on it, I sold something (a novella, a prayer book, etc). Finally, when I got Steve Laube as my agent, he took the first three chapters and sold it, and I finally got to finish the thing!

So, above is what finaling for the RITA® means to me. How I feel about it.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Opening pages

When looking at the flow of the story, make sure that your opening pulls the reader into the story. Your first sentence and paragraph are very important. Many readers will judge whether to buy a book or not by reading the first page or so.

“Did anyone follow you?” Baltasar Escalante stepped out from the shadows cast by the pine trees.” Hearts on the Line, Love Inspired Suspense, June 2006 by Margaret Daley

"Move and you're dead." Maggie Somers lifted the .22 higher, trying desperately to keep her hand from shaking. "I have a gun pointed at you." Buried Secrets, Love Inspired Suspense, October 2007 by Margaret Daley

“The heat woke her. That and the silence.” Even in the Darkness, Love Inspired Suspense, January 2006 by Shirlee McCoy

“Zach Marshall instinctively ducked and yanked the steering wheel to the right after a sudden blast of gunfire rippled across the back window.” The Inn at Shadow Lake, Love Inspired Suspense, December 2006 by Janet Edgar

“‘Not my baby!’ In a split second, Lydia Sloan saw everything unfold—the black Mercedes parked in the deserted school yard, the tinted window partially lowered, her six-year-old son’s hesitation before he stepped toward the stranger’s car.” Nowhere to Hide, Love Inspired Suspense, April 2007 by Debby Giusti

“‘I didn’t want it to come to this, but you wouldn’t leave well enough alone. You just couldn’t stop snooping. You forced me to do this.” The intruder approached the figure sprawled on the floor, nudged him, then bent down and felt his pulse.” Don’t Look Back, Love Inspired Suspense, March 2008 by Margaret Daley

Not every story will start out with a dynamite first sentence, often having to do with the suspense or mystery. Some will set the scene. It could be a peaceful scene that quickly turns bad.

“Autumn looks like death, sometimes, with the bloodred leaves fading to burgundy and finally to rust and brown.” A Murder Among Friends, Love Inspired Suspense, February 2007 by Ramona Richards

“Emma St. James drove down the lane that led to her brother’s cabin on an Illinois lake. The overhanging oak and maple trees shaded the road, heightening the darkness beginning to creep over the landscape with the approach of dusk.” So Dark the Night, Love Inspired Suspense, March 2007 by Margaret Daley
Using words like shaded, darkness and creep begins to set the scene begins to be set. By the next page Emma witnesses her brother being murdered and she must run for her life.

“Grinning, Corbin Griswall whirled his reel and ran his line in, fighting the heavy pull on the other end. It had been a slow day for fishing, and the two small crappies he’d caught hadn’t put up this much of a struggle. He was panting by the time the object surfaced. Corbin started at the realization that it wasn’t a salmon he’d landed.” Stormcatcher, Love Inspired Suspense, February 2006 by Colleen Rhoads

What are some of your favorite opening lines in books?

Margaret Daley

Friday, March 28, 2008


Writing is a solitary profession. Writers spend hours upon hours alone at our computers crafting stories of romance and intrigue hoping to one day share our stories with others. Given the nature of writing, it's difficult to see how others perceive our work. Some things that help give validation to our writing is getting reader mail and doing well in a writing contest.

This week Pamela Tracy finaled in the Romance Writer's of America's RITA Contest with her book Pursuit of Justice. I remember when Pam was writing this book many years ago. I'd read the first 3 chapters and she asked if I wanted to read the rest. I said I did...when it was published. See, I knew it would be published I loved the story, loved the characters and knew it would be a book I couldn't put down. I wanted to read it like I do all my favorite books, curled up on my living room chair under a blanket, reading until the wee hours of the morning. When Pursuit of Justice came out, I know I was the first in line at my local Walmart to pull it off the shelf and buy it. It was as enjoyable as I knew it would be and I'm not surprised that it finaled in the RITAs. I'm thrilled for Pam that it did.

I have a bit of news of my own. Cradle of Secrets is a finalist in the Inspirational Category of the Colorado Award of Excellence contest. I'm in good company as Margaret Daley's book Once Upon A Family also finaled in the Award of Excellence contest.

Congratulations to both Pam and Margaret and all the other Rita Finalists!
Until next time, many blessings to you all, Lisa Mondello

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Amber Morn Review

On a beautiful Saturday morning the nationally read “Scenes and Beans” bloggers gather at Java Joint for a special celebration. Chaos erupts when three gunmen burst in and take them all hostage. One person is shot and dumped outside. Police Chief Vince Edwards must negotiate with the desperate trio…What they demand, he can’t possibly provide. But if he doesn’t, over a dozen Kanner Lake citizens will die.

Brandilyn Collins has done it again. Amber Morn rocks from the first page to the end. The pacing is tight with short chapters that pull you through – it’s so easy to think “I’ll read just one more.” And the chapters alternate between the bad guys and Scenes and Beans crew at the beginning, adding to that sense of momentum.

This book, while the fourth in the series, stands on its own. If you’ve read the other books, you’ll enjoy seeing all the characters back in action. If it’s your first foray to Kanner Lake, you haven’t missed anything that would make this book a challenge to read. And the book flows between the perspectives of all of the characters in a way that isn’t jarring.

Vince Edwards, the police chief, is placed in a horrible position throughout the book because of the notoriety he and the town have gained through the first three books. I agonized through every decision he had to make, every sentence he had to speak as if I were the one talking to the gunmen. The writing is vivid, pulling you into the emotions and thoughts of the characters to the point you can smell the stale air in the café and feel the sweat trickle down your face.

In classic Collins’ style there is a twist at the end which turns the book on its head, yet works.

This book is a keeper. And one I’ll read again. And again. And again. If you love suspense, too, go buy this book!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Congrats RITA Finalists!

Yesterday the Internet was abuzz as calls when out from Romance Writers of America to the RITA and Golden Heart finalists! Congrats to all those whose work was selected for recognition. Our own Craftie Lady Pamela Tracy finaled in the RITA with her first book, PURSUIT OF JUSTICE! Pamela, we’re so proud of you!

All of us who write for Steeple Hill are thrilled with the number of writers from our house who finaled. Congrats to Linda Goodnight, Irene Hannon, Pamela Tracy, Susan May Warren for a Tyndale House release, and Cheryl St. John in the novella category. Those of you who are members of American Fiction Writers may recognize Amy Wallace and Cindy Woodsmall who also finaled. They’re both Georgia writers and wonderful ladies. It’s thrilling to see so many fantastic writers recognized for their work!

Two of my Georgia Romance Writer friends finaled in the Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category. Karen White and Deb Smith are outstanding authors whose books are must reads! Congrats to both of them!

Another dear friend and GRW member, Connie Gillam, finaled in the Strong Romantic Elements category for the Golden Heart! Connie writes with a unique, haunting voice that always transports me to another place. Hopefully, a savvy editor will spot Connie’s writing gift and offer a contract for TO DANCE WITH MY FATHER.

The National Romance Writers Conference will be held in San Francisco this July. The gala awards ceremony ends the conference and will be extra exciting with the awesome lineup of finalists! I’ll be cheering for all of them!

Here’s the list of Inspirational Finalists:

2008 RITA for Inspirational Romance Finalists

A Touch of Grace by Linda Goodnight
Harlequin Enterprises, Steeple Hill Love Inspired - (978-0-373-87426-2)
Allison Lyons, editor

Autumn Blue by Karen Harter
Center Street, - (1-931722-61-7)
Christina Boys, editor

Pursuit of Justice by Pamela Tracy
Harlequin Enterprises, Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense - (978 0 373 44236)
Krista Stroever, editor

Rainbow's End by Irene Hannon
Harlequin Enterprises, Steeple Hill Love Inspired - (0-373-87415-4)
Melissa Endlich, editor

Ransomed Dreams by Amy Wallace
Random House Publishing, WaterBrook Multnomah - (9781590527474)
Julee Schwarzburg, editor

Splitting Harriet by Tamara Leigh
Random House Publishing, WaterBrook Multnomah - (1590529286)
Julee Schwarzburg, editor

Taming Rafe by Susan May Warren
Tyndale House Publishers, - (1414310188)
Karen Watson, editor

When the Morning Comes by Cindy Woodsmall
Random House Publishing, WaterBrook Multnomah - (9781400072934)
Shannon Hill, editor

I’m heading back to my computer to work on my next books from Steeple Hill. COUNTDOWN TO DEATH is an October 2008 release and LEGACY OF DEATH will follow in early 2009! Using many of the techniques we’ve previously talked about from Donald Maass’ WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK, I’ll try to up the stakes and make the stories better than ever. Of course, I’ll enter them in the RITA! As we know, sometimes dreams do come true!

Happy writing!

Wishing you abundant blessings!


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How to Write when Braindead

It's 9:30. I'm braindead. I probably won't dazzle you with tales of craftieness [sic]. I probably won't entice you with promises of HEA. And, I definitely won't impress you with my wittiness. Mr. Witty took off with Miss Craftie about 6:00, about the time I got home from work.

So, I'll ramble.

Best moment with a book: Roxanne's Vendetta. I read it while camping over the weekend.

Best moment with my son: All of them, but this morning's cuddle while watching The Wiggles was pretty cool.

Best moment for a friend: Our Lisa Mondello finaling in the Colorado contest!

Best moment wiht God: Saturday morning devotional in front of a camper window with only the hills and cacti and God as company.

Rambling done. Nuff said.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Just a quick note to wish everyone a happy and blessed Easter!

Roxanne and family

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Murder Series

I've started a new murder mystery/suspense series. I can't write strictly suspense nor can I write strictly a mystery. I have to mingle both of them together. I love a good puzzle, but I love the feel of a suspense so when I write I try to combine the two.
I love the creation of the book--the brainstorming, the working through the problems of the plot and characters. This is my favorite part of writing. What is your favorite part of writing?

Or as a reader what is your favorite part of a story? My favorite part of a story when I'm reading is being carrying away with a story that I don't want to put the book down to even go to bed. That is accomplished by creating a character I want to spend my time with and a plot that intrigues me. I want to see how the story unfolds and I'm sad when it ends. Have you ever closed a book and continued the characters' lives in your mind?

Take care and have a happy Easter,
Margaret Daley

Friday, March 21, 2008

My favorite heroes...

Everyone has their favorite heroes, both in books and in real life. Mine just happen to be the same. I love writing about cops and military men, which is what I'm doing for Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense right now. There's something about honor, duty, justice and standing up for what is right that is wildly appealing to me. I also happen to be married to a former marine who is now a police officer. I have a lot of inspiration in that regard.

But I also LOVE reading and writing about cowboys. Absolutely love them. My Texas Hearts series from Avalon Books featured a bunch of cowboys in all shapes, sizes and temperments. One was rough around the edges, one did the right thing even though it broke his heart and the woman he loved, one followed his dreams, and one overcame a difficult childhood to become the daddy he never had.

My heroes tend to be a little gruff, so I work hard to bring in other qualities that round them out. I like the hero who is rough around the edges but can melt like butter when he sees a baby smile and the woman who can bring him to his knees.

What is YOUR favorite hero like, both in fiction and in real life? Post here and we'll compare.

Have a wonderful Easter weekend!

Until next time, many blessings to you, Lisa Mondello

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Deadly Exposure Vulnerability

It is so exciting to hold Deadly Judgment and see the fruit of all the writing, learning, rewriting, and editing. But now -- gulp -- it's on its way out there. People can read it and love it or hate it.

I've got one friend who won't read what she calls hystericals -- known to the rest of us as historicals. So Deadly Judgment is the first book of mine she'll read. I'm glad. But I'm also a wee bit paranoid. See, she'll tell me exactly what she thinks. And that's a good thing. I need honest feedback on what works and doesn't work.

But as each book releases, I get this jolt of nerves. I feel like Sally Field at the Oscars..."They like me, they really like me." Or -- gulp -- they hate me, they really hate me.

Writing a book is very vulnerable. I know that with each book I pour a piece of me, my experience, my life, into its pages. No, none of my books are autobiographical. Thank goodness, my life is way too boring for that. But there are still bits of me there.

What God is teaching me.

How I see the world.

How my mind works.

So as you read a book, be gentle. You can hate it -- be my guest. I know that my books will not appeal to every reader. That's why it's great to have such variety available. But my hope is you'll love my baby!

Week Ten: The Other Folks

Remember Ashley and Melanie in GONE WITH THE WIND? They were both secondary characters that played major roles in the classic Southern epic. As we’ve previously discussed, Donald Maass, in his WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK, challenges writers to create characters that stand out from the crowd. That challenge applies to secondary characters as well.

What about walk-on roles? They’re the bit parts in a movie, such as the bellboy, receptionist or the waitress. Usually they remain unnamed in books and are given little or no dialogue. We don’t have to worry about them for this discussion.

The next rung of characters has a slightly larger position within the story. They are usually named and briefly described. They help to move the story forward either by shedding light on the hero/heroine's motivation, goals, conflict or character arc. Sometimes they act as a reflection of the character or perhaps the opposite of who the character truly is.

The third rung belongs to the significant secondary characters that may carry their own subplot. They are more involved in the story with their own goals, motivation and both internal and external conflict.

Second and third rung characters should be unique—never stereotypical—and well formed, at least in the writer’s mind. While not all the information will be included in the text of the story, the writer who fully understands his secondary characters can pick and choose snippets of information, dialogue and introspection that are essential to the plot. As always, Maass wants us to step outside the box to create bigger-than-life characters who will engage the reader throughout the story.

Happy writing!

Wishing you a joyous Easter and abundant blessings!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Scene and Sequel

One of the greatest tools I’ve learned along my writing journey has been scene and sequel from Dwight Swain’s informative book Techniques of the Selling Writer.
Swain writes: Scene and Sequel: the search for a goal...the struggle to attain it. These are fictions two basic units.
When I study books that have really grabbed my attention and made me read frantically toward the end, the one thing these books all have in common are scene and sequel.
If you, as a writer haven’t bought this book and devoured it, you must! I have read my copy at least five times and have highlighted something new every time. Each time I read the book I realize another important aspect of fiction writing that I need to work on. I don’t think any writer can ever say they’ve learned all they need to. I certainly can’t. With every book, I learn something new and grow more as a writer. I hope that never stops.

Monday, March 17, 2008

What A Week!

Last week was Spring Break for me: a time to relax, get things done, and write. Not sure I did 'enough' of any of my three categories. Let's see. I did relax on Thursday night, Friday, and all of Saturday. Why? Well, I had surgury on Thursday morning. Make that, I almost had surgury on Thursday morning. During an out-patient 45 minute surgury, I had a reaction to a medication twenty minutes in and wound up spending between four and five hours in the emergency room getting introduced to morphine (No more pain, and hey, I can fly) and getting a cat scan (research for next book?). Needless to say, I slept a lot for the next few days. As for getting things done. Let's see. I did go to work on Monday to catch up. Didn't quite catch up. Brought work home and finished it last night at about 10 p.m. I would have finished it about five, but spent the evening in the emergency room with my son because - being three - he swallowed something he shouldn't. I did tally my writing for last week. A page and a half. But, since I'm not on contract, writing was not a priority.

There were some positives last week. I had two full days, just me and Mikey. We went and visited my aunt, we went for walks, we played. I'm always amazed that I can fill a day with three-year-old adventures. I read the biography of Gunther Gebel-Williams. My next book has an animal trainer in it so I'm really hitting the research.

The Fab Four, those Craftie Ladies who had LIS's out this month, did a contest, and I'm thrilled thrilled thrilled with the response. We'll be posting the winner either today or tomorrow.

Speaking of which, I hear the three year old talking to himself :) It's the best sound in the world.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Plot Bookkeeping 101

In previous blog posts, I've talked about a variety of tools and processes that make it easier to set up a whole book. Today, I'd like to talk about bookkeeping!
No...nothing with numbers. Simple tools for making sure your time line works, and so that you don't let your subplots fade into oblivion. Editors and contest judges and readers will notice! But how on earth can you keep juggling your subplots, and make sure you stay on track?

Maybe some writers have that kind of memory, but I simply can’t do it without help.
And what if you sell your manuscript, and are suddenly faced with revisions--and need to find out exactly what you had where in your huge, complete manuscript?! If the editor starts questioning time line problems, you're going to have a challenge on your hands!

Even lighter revisions are a real challenge. Just think about it....if you change something about a subplot or character---that element may have octopus tentacles throughout your entire book! So... consider using a calendar--either a hard copy, or a computer file. Jot down every chapter, every scene number in the appropriate date square, and add a very brief note about the biggest action in that scene. You would not believe how much this simple tool can help make sure that you keep your ducks in a row.

I also print off an "ARC" copy (Advanced Reader copy) of every chapter, as soon as I finish it. This goes in a three-ring notebook by my keyboard, for instant reference. What does an ARC look like? Just open a novel and look at the two facing pages. I go one step further, and create this in a vertical alignment instead (portrait instead of landscape) because so many lines of dialogue are quite short, and thus I can fit even more on a single page--approximately four pages of Courier New/double space 12 point font!

The benefit? I can see those four pages at a glance, and easily catch repetitions. I can check the flow of the scene easier. I will use this to go back and write myself all sorts of notes in the margins--things to remember when I get to The End and want to start revising. I'll cross out paragraphs, circle sections and sketch in arrows--it becomes a wonderful worksheet, so I can keep plowing ahead to the end of the story and not get sidetracked with all the "fixits". I may even go through and use color-coded highlighters to track the progression of the suspense, or romance, or a subplot that isn't quite working.

To create an ARC file like this. Save you chapter with a new name--like Chapter 1-ARC. The:
1. Select "ALL"
2. Change to single space Times New Roman, 10 or 11 point.
3. Set the margins at 1.0 at the top, 0.7 on the sides, 0.5 on the bottom, and set the footer to 0.1)
4. Turn off Widows and Orphans.
5. Set columns to two, with a center gutter of .2 and click the box for a center dividing line.
There's still plenty of room to write notes in the margins, and you can plaster your pages with sticky notes, too!

It would be fun to hear about some of the handy tools you use when you write! Until next's wishing you great success with your writing!


Saturday, March 15, 2008


I'm finished with my Love Inspired Suspense for the next continuity in 2009!!!! My book is the first one in January 2009. It's called What Sarah Saw. Let me give you a hint. She saw too much. There is nothing better than finishing a book and sending it off. I had a huge smile on my face when I mailed it yesterday. You would have thought I won the lottery which would be impossible because I don't buy tickets.

But I'm already delving into my next Love Inspired Suspense called Poisoned Secrets which will be out in March 2009. It is the first in a new series about murder and mayhem. This is the best part of writing--plotting and putting together a new book. My mind is swirling with ideas and thoughts of what I'm gonna do with these characters. I find my ideas come at the oddest times. Yesterday I was driving to mail my other proposal and one popped into my mind. It was perfect for the opening. I can't wait to put it down on paper or rather up on the computer screen.

What are some scenes in suspense novels that have stuck in your mind? Or in a movie? One that has always stuck in mine was the scene from a movie with Audrey Hepburn. She was blind and someone was after her in her apartment. I knew the person was going to scare her, and I still jumped when it happened. Very suspenseful movie and I can't remember the name at the moment but I remember where I saw it--in a movie theater near campus. Wait! I think it may have been titled Wait Until Dark or something like that.

The other ladies who have a March Love Inspired Suspense book (Roxanne Rustand, Pamela Tracy, and Debby Giusti) out along with me are having a drawing for those books and a few extra goodies. The drawing is tomorrow, Sunday, so if you want to be entered in the drawing, leave your name and email in a comment on the blog.

Have a nice weekend.
Margaret Daley

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Evolution of a Book

Cara spoke about revisions yesterday. Today I'm going to talk about Author Alteration, mostly because I'm deep into mine for Her Only Protector, my August 2008 release.

Author Alterations are that last peek at your novel before it goes to press. The editor has already given you their guidance, the copyeditors have already made their changes and now it's time to proof your novel for errors. Personally, nothing bugs me more than finding mistakes in a book. Why? Because it pulls me out of the story when I find them. If it's a great story, all is forgiven when I keep reading. If not, I may put the book down for the night. That's why going through the manuscript with a fine tooth comb to make sure that everything that is in the book is what it needs to be to tell my story.

You'd think I'd be sick of my book at this stage. Let's be honest, by the time I get my AAs I've probably read the book more times than I can even count. But in truth, I find it exciting. Aside from the few changes I make, the story is in the closest form it will be before it becomes a book. I love reading through the story as the reader will. I'll read the story one more time when the book is actually in print, too. Just because.

Until next week, many blessings to you,

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Rewrites: Angst or Joy

This has been quite a week. On Monday I got to hold Deadly Exposure -- Yeehaw! And I got my cover for Sandhill is gorgeous! And I got my rewrite letter from my editor for Captive Dreams.

Also this week, writers on an eloop I'm on have been moaning about and rejoicing in rewrites. Seems writers fall into two groups: those who dance for joy when they get their rewrite letter and those who sulk, balk, and dread the same missive.

I'm not sure where I fall yet.

The letter I got for Captive Dreams is my shortest to date. I'm taking that as a sign that maybe, just maybe, I'm improving with each book. At the same time, I'm finding an interesting thing. Because the letter was so short, I'm really combing the book as I go through it. Maybe subconsciously I'm convinced the editor missed something -- though one of the comments was to look for places to smooth the transitions.

This book was pure work for me. Canteen Dreams was a breeze to write...merging of passions. Sandhill Dreams was work but a I loved the story. Deadly Exposure was nothing short of tons of work, but I really wanted to see this story through. Captive Dreams I hated. Until about one week before I turned it in. Then I thought there might be something worth redeeming in the book.

Now as I read it with some distance...I'm enjoying it. Even as I find ways to improve it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


MIA: MISSING IN ATLANTA hit the bookstores yesterday! I was working on pages that needed to get to my editor so I didn’t have a chance to check the shelves in my local area. Today I’ll do a little shopping. It’s always a thrill to see my book displayed on the racks. Inevitably I get a “pinch me I must be dreaming” feeling!

My debut Love Inspired Suspense, NOWHERE TO HIDE, was released last April. I’m a month short of my first year of publication and my third book is out—maybe I’m doing something right! Usually I think of all the things I haven’t been able to accomplish so, in this case, it’s nice to focus on the positive.

God has blessed my writing, and I continue to be filled with gratitude. I pray everyday for my readers and all the members of my Cross My Heart Prayer Team (go to my Website, to learn more), which means I’m praying for YOU. If you’re also a writer working hard to be published, my prayer is that you, too, will know the joy of seeing your book in print.

Working through Donald Maass’ WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK is an excellent tool for all of us to use to hone our craft. I just wrote the first three chapters for a new book that will be out in early 2009, currently titled, LEGACY OF DEATH. Keeping Maass’ tips in mind helped me tighten my writing and create a fast-paced beginning for the new manuscript.

This week’s lesson focuses on our characters’ internal thoughts, which should reveal who they are on a deeper level. As writers, we need to ensure our heroes and heroines grapple with pertinent issues that strike a cord with those who read our work. So cut the fluff and zone in on core principles, universal truths and moral dilemmas that engage readers, whether contest judges, editors looking to buy a manuscript or customers in the bookstore.

Happy writing!

Wishing you abundant blessings!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Keeping Track

I'm knee deep in writing the fourth book of The McClain’s: Bound by Honor, Faith and Love. And I realized that I hadn't done a time line for the book. So I got out paper and pencil, drew a straight line and marked off the days starting with the Tuesday that the story begins and then wrote under each day what events would take place. I realized I had a couple of events out of order, so I rearranged those. Good thing I hadn't gotten to them in the writing yet.
Keeping track of all the pesky details can drive a person crazy. Each writer has different ways of organizing their details. I've heard some use sticky notes or index cards. There's a new phenomena, or maybe not so new but new to me, called storyboarding. I just can’t seem to get motivated to get that organized.
I do a penciled flow charts and a penciled timeline and write in the margins on my synopsis. I like the flexibility of using a pencil because I can erase anything that doesn’t work or move things around. Even though I plot my books as much as possible upfront, I can still maintain some room for new scenes or new directions and using the flowchart helps me see what choices my characters can make.
My next book will be book 6 of the Without A Trace continuity, titled Her Last Chance. Talk about trying to keep track of details! Continuities are rife with all sorts of tidbits that need to be interwoven through each story and keeping them all straight takes all of the authors working together, which is what makes continuities so much fun and challenging. And I like a challenge. That’s probably why I write.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Radio...Book Release... and More!

This morning I was a guest on Steve Bonenberger's radio program. What fun. This is my third radio experience. I was a guest on Bookchat about seven years ago. Then, I actually did the voice on a radio commercial. Then, today, another author opportunity. First, Cara (waving at Thursday's Craftie Lady)alerted us to the opportunity. Then, I sent an email letting Steve know I was willing. He wrote back with a date (today) and time (10 a.m.). Date: good. Time: not so good. Steve is Pacific time: Pam is Mountain time, and not just any Mountain time. Arizona is the only state (Indiana used to help out but no more) that never changes its time. My first thought was that when it was 8 a.m. here, it would be 10 a.m. there. Steve, then, offered his opinion using guy speak. Finally, we figured out when it's 10 there; it's 10 here. :) Go figure. Steve also sent questions. I called this morning - got through - and we began. I received a minute to tell about me. Guess I'm not boring; I wanted more than a minute. We did defining moment: Think Montgomery Wards, computer area, promise to mother. We did developing ideas (Yikes, I'm a SOTPs writer - developing really isn't a word I'm comfortable with). We did my current book (Yeah! It releases tomorrow). We did ACFW, my next project, and finally a message to America (I really don't have a message except have fun and be real while you're writing). All in all, Steve made it really easy and enjoyable. He has the kind of voice and manner that puts a guest at ease.

And, yes! Broken Lullaby hits the shelves tomorrow. The four Craftie ladies would love to do a giveaway. Simple respond to our posts this week (Pam, Roxanne, Margaret, and Debby), we'll keep track of names. Then, we'll announce a winner. The winner will not only receive a book from each of us, but probably a bonus or two (think earlier books, think trinket that goes along with the book).

So, read, write, post to our blog, and think about YOUR radio interview.

Sunday, March 9, 2008 did it get here so soon? And now we are well into the month, and I can hardly believe that, either. One good thing is that there's hope of seeing spring soon, after having one snow storm or ice storm after another. Three more inches and we'll set an all-time record for snow here, I've heard.
Cara mentioned the ACFW conference, and I just wanted to add my "Amen!" to all of the positive things she said. I attended my first ACFW national conference last fall, and even before it started, the hum of excitement was palpable on the ACFW loop. I soon found out why. It was a beautifully run conference with fabulous speakers, and there were many opportunities to chat with the various editors and agents throughout the conference--not just at special appointments. Even better, there was such a positive, Christian sense of fellowship and caring throughout every single day! I'm already counting the days until this year's conference begins.

Many thanks to Cara and all of the ACFW members who are working so hard to make this year's conference a fantastic experience for everyone who attends!
Roxanne Rustand

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Don't Look Back

That's the title of my March Love Inspired Suspense on the shelves right now, but truthfully you could take the title of this blog two different ways. One you could say don't let the past rule your present and future in your life. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in what we have done that we don't look toward what we can do. We let past mistakes hamper what we do. In Don't Look Back this happens to my hero who has allowed his guilt to interfere in really living. Jameson King has shut himself off from the delights of what it means to be alive. Cassie Winters gets under his skin and forces him to reassess his life--not an easy task for anyone.

Whereas for Cassie, she needs to look back into the past to find answers to what happened to her brother. The past is where she can learn the truth of his murder. However, the journey isn't a pleasant one and it stirs up a lot of buried secrets, putting hers and Jameson's lives in danger.

Romantic Times' reviewer, Robin Taylor, has this to say about Don't Look Back: "Ten years ago, college student Cassie Winters had a crush on one of her professors. Now Cassie and Dr. Jameson King are embroiled in the search for her brother's killer. Time spend together cements a bone-deep connection in Margaret Daley's Don't Look Back. This murder mystery is tensely written, especially with Jameson's past clouding
his present--and quite possibly his future."

If you would like to read an excerpt, I have one posted on my Web site .

So have you ever had moments when you HAD to look back to come up with a solution to a present problem? Or, have you ever HAD to forget the past in order to move on in your life?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Happily Ever Afters

I read a story the other day about a couple in their mid 90s. They'd been high school sweethearts and were married for over 75 years. In later years the husband had been put in a nursing home because he was sickly and his now elderly children couldn't care for him the way he needed. The wife lived with one of the children and every day, without fail, they brought her to the nursing home to visit her sweetheart. She was active and in good health for a woman in her 90s. Then one morning she just didn't wake up.

The couples children knew that their father would know immediately if they showed up at the nursing home without their mother. They talked about it and all decided to go to tell their father together that their mother had passed. Surprisingly, he took the news well. They visited for an hour and then went home. An hour or two later, they got a call from the nursing home that their father had passed. The same day as the mother.

Why am I telling you this story? Well, in truth, I've read this story in the paper several times. While I'm always a little sad when reading it, I always end up feeling uplifted by what this couple represents. They lived a lifetime together completely in love and committed to one another. That's what I write about. Or at least, I try to write about, love and commitment. We all know that eventually God will take us when he is ready. But for this couple, two people who probably didn't know which fingers were whose when they held hands because their life was so entwined, He took them on the same day after a sharing a lifetime together. Sure, they probably had weathered many storms, but in the end they were as one.

I'll admit I'm a bit of a sap. After all I do write romance because I believe in the power of love. And every time I see my father's aunt and uncle who, like the people in this story, have been married over 75 years and still dance cheek to cheek on the dance floor like sweethearts, I'm reminded that true love and commitment really happens to those who believe.

Until next time, many blessings to you,

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Should I Attend a Conference

I'm in Minneapolis today for pre-conference meetings for the balance of the week. As a board member of ACFW, I get to see the previews of what the September conference will look like. Hold on to your hats, folks, it's going to be another great one!

But if you're an aspiring author, why should you make the effort and spend the money to attend a conference? Here are just a few of my thoughts:

1) You get to meet people (editors, agents, published authors, other writers) who can mentor you, encourage you, challenge you, etc. Writing can be very solitary, so spending time with others who are on the same journey is priceless.

2) You'll learn craft from pros. These same editors, authors, and published authors will share their tips and craft with you. I have learned so much that pushes me to be a better writer at each conference.

3) Fellowship with other writers. They'll get you. They'll understand about characters talking to you. Plots that won't let go. The pain and joy of putting a story on paper.

4) You'll meet God. The praise & worship times are like water to a thirsty soul. I have encountered God in ways I never expected during the ACFW conferences. And now I go expecting to meet Him. He never disappoints.

I've only attended the ACFW conference, but hear good things about other conferences, too. So as you consider how to build your writing, look seriously at attending a conference this year. It can make a huge difference in your journey.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


MIA: MISSING IN ATLANTA will hit bookstores next week! The photo was taken to announce a booksigning in my local area, on March 13th. Karen Duncan, standing on the right, owns Omega Books and always hosts events that are fun for customers and writers alike.

MIA is the story of a U.S. Army Captain’s search for a missing girlfriend he met while on R&R in Atlanta. I wrote the novel when my son was deployed for his second tour in Iraq and dedicated the book to the brave men and women in uniform.

To support our troops, I’m donating free copies of my book to military personnel in the name of each customer who buys MIA at the March 13th signing. The books will be distributed to soldiers traveling through Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta, and the customers will be invited to inscribe personal messages to the soldiers.

When I talked to the major who works at the airport, he was thrilled with the idea and said hundreds of soldiers—often as many as 700--pass through Hartsfield-Jackson each day. Many of them have hours to kill between flights. Hopefully, they’ll enjoy having a book to read along with the good wishes of people who appreciate the sacrifices they make so our country can remain free.

God bless our military and God bless the USA!

Wishing you abundant blessings!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Interesting Settings

One of the parts of writing that I find interesting is researching the setting of a book. I'm currently working on next December's release Double Threat Christmas and one of the places in my story is a NYPD Precinct. Well, after much cruising through cyberspace, I found the most amazing pictures of the outside of a real precinct on the upper Eastside of Manhattan that I'm going to pattern my setting after. And then amazingly enough I found and bought a book about this same precinct titled Behind the scenes of NYC's most high powered police station. I'm so excited. Now when I write scenes in this setting I can actually 'see' what I'm describing. I love it!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Broken Lullaby

Well, it's March, and Broken Lullaby should be hitting the shelves any day now. It represents quite a few milestones for me. One, it's the first book I consider to be editor heavy. I rewrote this puppy twice. And, it's the first book to be a Top Pick from Romantic Times. Romantic Times is the only review I really look at. Oh, I google, and giggles, and do search for my name and book, but the only review I consider as 'big time' is the Romantic Time's one. I wonder if this is because Romantic Times has been around the longest? I wonder if this is because Harlequin sends my book to them? Being a Top Pick was a goal of mine. Gee, now I get to make a new goal. So, hmmm, what should be my next goal? And, btw, who (or who else?) gives the review that you consider the most important?

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Pacing in a Suspense

What is it you like about a suspense? What makes you keeping turning the pages? I would love to get readers input in on this.

Pacing (cliffhangers):

Pacing is important to any story but even more so for a suspense. Fast pacing keeps the reader turning the page. A short time line is usually best in a suspense. When you have long descriptive sections, that will slow the pacing. Short sentences will speed up the pacing.

Another aspect of pacing and keeping the reader turning the pages is using cliffhangers at the end of scenes and especially at the end of chapters. You don’t want a person putting your book down if possible. One of the nicest compliments I can receive is when someone says they stayed up all night reading my book or didn’t do anything all day because they couldn’t put my book down.

One of the ways I create a cliffhanger is to stop the scene in the middle of the action or at a pivotal place, possibly right before a crucial decision is made.

“A sound behind her caused her to hug her purse closer to her and hurry her pace. She had taken only two steps before arms locked around her middle and yanked her off her feet.” Heart of the Amazon, LIS, January 2007 by Margaret Daley—end of chapter one

“After taking her key out of her purse, she had started to fit it into the lock when she noticed her door was slightly ajar. Her hand reaching forward, trembling as she snatched it back.
‘I know I locked my door. I always do.’
Mr. Slader shouldered her out of the way. ‘Stay back.’” Heart of the Amazon—end of chapter two
“She grabbed for her yellow satin robe that had been torn in several places but was still wearable. The sounds were coming from Mr. Slader’s room. The thought he was in trouble prodded her forward without really thinking through what she was doing.” Heart of the Amazon—end of chapter three

“She lurched for it, her fingers almost clasping onto it. But with her body too far over the edge of the canoe, Kate tumbled into the river, plunging headfirst into its warm, murky depths. She opened her mouth to scream and swallowed a mouthful of the dirty water.” Heart of the Amazon—end of chapter four
“Her legs aching from squatting, she shifted, intending to kneel instead. As she glanced down, fear shook her foundation. She opened her mouth to scream.” Heart of the Amazon—end of chapter

As you can see with the cliffhangers I shared with you, you stop in the middle of a pivotal part of the suspense scene. It’s hard not to read the next page to see what happened if you do a cliffhanger right. Before your reader knows it, she has read the whole book and has stayed up too late. Now that is pacing!

Margaret Daley