Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sherri Wilson Johnson Interview

Please make welcome author Sherri Johnson!

Hi, Sherri! Give us a couple sentences describing what you write.
I write both Historical and Contemporary Inspirational Romance with a sprinkling of Suspense.

How would you label the overall mood of your stories:
romantic, heart-warming, heart-wrenching, suspenseful, sweet.

What is the name of your latest book? of the Meadowlark

Using any celebrity, past or present, who would you cast as your main characters?
For Rex, I would cast a young Tom Selleck or young Sam Elliott. Maybe Hugh Jackman with a beard. For Cora, I would cast Cobie Smulders from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

What is the theme of your story and how did you come to it?
Song of the Meadowlark is about starting over and second chances. I wanted to explore the idea of a woman on a quest for forgiveness (both giving and receiving) and getting lost along the way, then finding herself and so much more in the end.

A sneak peek into what you're working on right now?
I'm currently working on a romantic suspense with an Assistant D.A. as the heroine and a defense attorney as the hero. All she wants is a vacation. What she gets is a "conflict of interest" when the charming defense attorney charges into her life.

Ooooh!!! Sounds interesting. :) Describe your writing space.
I work in my daughter's former bedroom. She moved out two years ago and I took over. I sit on a comfy couch with my precious Chihuahua, Posey, by my side. My flowering cactuses sit in the windowsill and brighten the room. I am in the process of hanging framed photographs of the ocean, my true inspiration, on the walls. A cup of coffee, my Bible, and some sunshine is all I need to get me started for the day.

Do you work a "day job?"
I work from home as a freelance editor, virtual assistant, and bookkeeper for several different companies.

Is there a secret/technique you’ve found that helps with balancing the writing and working life?
I write best at night because I'm a night owl and that's when my juices start flowing. But that's also when my family is home. So I make sure to get all of my "real jobs" done before everyone comes home for the evening. If I get done early enough, I usually edit. I write in bed at night using my cell phone. I email whatever I've written to my computer and insert it into my manuscript the next morning. Writing is like playing to me most of the time. So I work hard to get the work done so I can play. Prioritizing is the key. Not wasting time on things that rob you of your creativity.

Do you blog? If so, leave us the address.

Now some fun stuff... :)

On a dream research trip, where would you go?
I would go to Italy.

What would you ask to see/experience first?

When you read, do you prefer paperback, e-book, or audio?

I don't have an eReader and since I'm on the computer all day for work and doing my writing, when I read, I like to curl up with a book, smell the ink, turn the pages. I'm old-fashioned. I hate to see real libraries disappear.

Author bio.
Sherri Wilson Johnson lives in Georgia with her husband and two children. She loves to dream of romantic places and romance in general–good, clean romance. She is a bird-watcher, loves the ocean, roller coasters, ice cream, her family and her Chihuahua, who faithfully sits by her side every day when she writes. She is represented by Les Stobbe, is a graduate of the Christian Writers Guild writing course, a blogger, virtual assistant, freelance editor and a former homeschooling mom. Sherri is the author of To Dance Once More (OakTara) and Song of the Meadowlark (OakTara) and is a columnist for Habits for a Happy Home and Choose NOW Ministries.


Book blurb.
Here is Song of the Meadowlark’s synopsis: When trusting others only leads to pain and rejection, and loving ends only in loss, what will it take to restore hope again? Shunned by the uncovered truth about her missing husband’s secret life, Cora Buchanan sets out on a road trip for home to mend her broken relationship with her parents. When her car breaks down, she’s stranded in a small Georgia town. While staying at the struggling Southern Hope Ranch, she meets little Susie O’Reilly, who unexpectedly fills a void in Cora’s heart. But Rex, Susie’s rugged cowboy father who lost his wife a year earlier, seems to go out of his way to either confront or avoid Cora. It doesn’t help her comfort level that the news continues to report missing and murdered women in the area. Cora has no idea just how close to home the crimes will hit…or how much the sweet sound of the meadowlark’s song at the ranch will impact her future.

Which of these things can readers can do to help spread the word about this book?

Word of mouth, reviews,

Blog posts,

Tweets/Facebook posts,

Like the author's Facebook page, follow on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Goodreads,

If you win/buy a copy, post a pic with the book,

Repin book quotes or cover art from the author on,

Recommend to a library or book club, or start one with this book!

All of the above.
But definitely "Like" my author's Facebook page, follow me on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ (as Sherri Wilson Johnson), and Goodreads!

Thank you for this opportunity to share about my writing!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Writers Conference Preparedness

I had a smashing time at my first writers conference last weekend! 

Part of the reason for that is in the preparation. 

In this post I've compiled some tips I gleaned from online and from my recent personal experience for your convenience. (This post is for anyone who is wondering what I wondered before I went.) :)

First, let me say, if you've never considered attending a writers conference, consider it. The thrill and sense of community, not to mention motivational speeches and workshops on craft, are enough to produce a long-lasting writing wave at the very least, and will provide you with tools for continued success.

With my first writer's conference fresh in mind, I give you 3 things that helped me. 
What to Pack. 
What to Know. 
What to Do. 

--If anyone has anything to add to this list, please, for the sake of all writers everywhere, list it in the comments below. :)

To Pack:
  • folder
  • one-sheet with your info, hook, blurb, and writing credits
  • notebook and a pen that writes (usually these are provided at registration)
  • just enough clothes (hauling unnecessary luggage is no fun), but bring a sweater since conference rooms can be cold
  • an empty bag for the books you will buy
  • earplugs and sleeping mask (if you have a roomie)
  • Poo-Pourri toilet spray (self explanatory) -- Inexpensive DIY recipe here.
  • letter-size envelope to keep others' business cards in
  • business cards
  • blank slips of paper for getting info from those who don't have biz cards
  • camera
  • granola bar or your favorite energy snack
  • tissues (you never know)
  • comfortable shoes -- you'll do a lot of walking
  • conference schedule, with desired workshops highlighted and room numbers noted
  • book of short devotionals
  • a sense of humor (carefully remove the chip from your shoulder and leave it at home)
  • a smile -- it can do wonders to make YOU feel better and others around you
  • moxie

To Know:
  • Know Your Expectations. Make a list of what you want to get out of the conference. For example: Pitch to agent, Meet new authors, Learn more about writing historicals, Get so-and-so to sign his/her book.
  • Know which workshops or agent/editor appointments you want to attend ahead of time. 
  • Know what you will say when you meet someone new: "What do you write?" "What kind of book do you love to edit?" "What kind of writers do you like to represent?" 
  • Know that your plans can change for the better. (I never intended to pitch anything last weekend, but the opportunity opened, and I now have two requests for more. Yay!)
  • Know that a little courtesy and consideration of others will get you a long way and open even more doors for connection and networking.

To Do:
  • Keep an "After Conference To Do" list.
  • Pray. Pray that you'll meet the right people. That you'll say the right things. That you'll be an encourager.
  • Check around the corner before you ask where the stairs are. (Harken to the voice of experience.) 
  • Be Helpful.
  • Write down any special instructions from an agent or editor you want to submit to, you may forget to in the next three seconds. This may seem elementary, but I'm convinced the human capacity for forgetfulness multiplies by like twelve hundred at a writers conference. :)
  • A digression from the second point, Don't be afraid to ask the "stupid" questions. :) People may laugh, but they were new once, too.
  • Enjoy yourself. 
A conference is a business opportunity, but it's also a time to get away from day-to-day stresses and be a part of that distinct, misunderstood tribe of wonderful, wordy lit-snobs, who still think "the book was better than the movie" and know the pen to be more powerful than a pistol, who thrive on creativity, the smell of new paper, coffee and chocolate. So for a few short days, enjoy being surrounded by writer-kind. :)

My late night after-conference snack. (Oh, yes. Pack snacks.)

Literary Agent Sally Apokedak

Mr. Hayse Boyd, teaching on "How to Research and Write Local History."

Editor Fay Lamb. She gave me a hug when we met!

Published author Elisabeth Jane Kitchens!

My new friend (and fellow pastor's daughter) Heather.
Me, Heather, and my sweet distant cousin and award-winning author Pam Hillman, who I met in person for the first time. You know you're in the South when a writer's conference turns into a family reunion. ;)

Heather, award-winning author Patricia Hickman and me..."Me?""I?"... Oh, whatever

I met "Doris Day!" ;)
The winner of last week's give away, Nancy Kimball's Chasing the Lion, is Heather Day Gilbert. Congrats, Heather!!! :)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Writer's World Blog Tour

My Photo

Hey, y'all! I have been invited to participate in the world blog tour by my sweet, dynamic writer-friend, Amber Schamel. Her blog post went up last week at

Amber and I met online through the ACFW critique loop a couple years ago (How has it been that long????). Amber has traveled extensively throughout the United States, Europe, and the Holy Land. She writes biblical and historical fiction with a gift for immersing her readers in the setting and teaching while entertaining.




For this blog, I was given four questions to answer: 

1. What are you working on? 
Right now, I'm finishing the last copy-editing pass on my novel Heart of Valor before I start querying and working on the second in the seriess. 
My premise for Heart of Valor is, What if the prodigal son had come home to find his father already dead, his family farm set to auction, and his childhood sweetheart planning to marry his brother who stayed behind? What if this story was set in 19th century Mississippi? 

Here's the blurb:

            Leaving her took all he had. Winning her back will take more than he’s got.

            In 1878, America’s first “Great Depression” tightens its lingering fist. The Civil War blockades have long ago ripped the roots of King Cotton from the South, and moonshine floods in to fill the economic gap. The Temperance movement is purging the nation city by city, but somehow it overlooks the little town of Charity Creek, Mississippi.
A struggling new Christian, Blane Roeper leaves his Tennessee logging job and heads home to Mississippi to beg his family’s forgiveness…and his sweetheart’s. Instead, he finds his father dead and the family farm set to auction. After everything he’s done, will God listen to his plea for help?
           Temperance activist Valor Hill listens well. As a child, she listened helplessly to her best friend’s cries when the girl’s drunken father beat her. Later she listened when neighbors said her first love Blane would never return. When the best doctor in three counties gave her no hope of having children. When the preacher said God always has a plan.
But her heart refused to listen.
Now six years later, her goal to rid the town of liquor comes second only to her heart’s foremost desire of taking in Blane’s orphan sister as her own child. To do that she needs a husband, so Valor pursues the attention of the last bachelor in town—Blane’s brother.
Blane’s return rekindles more than Valor’s anger, but she vows to show him she’s moved on with her life. When Blane’s brother is injured in a strange accident, the local saloon owner’s veiled threats against Valor grow increasingly suspicious. Can Blane conquer old fears to save the farm and win back his lady in time? Or will he forever relinquish a heart of valor?

2. How does your work differ from others in its genre?
This story has a suspense thread darker than some historical romances, but also a humorous side. I wanted to present a broad spectrum of emotion through scenes based on experiences these characters might have lived, since we face many of the same issues today. Each author has his or her own voice and past experiences to bring to their work. With this novel, I drew from a personal experience when my hometown began dividing over the issue of alcohol. As a result, there are several humorous, sad, enraging and encouraging situations in the story inspired by real life events.

3. Why do you write what you do? 
There is so much in our world--and in ourselves--that discourages and beats us down.
My goal is to encourage fellow Christians through fiction and offer a Christ-honoring form of reading entertainment.
Also, we learn from others' experiences, whether heart-warming or heartbreaking, and draw hope from the well that others have digged. Hope in the knowledge that we are not alone in our pain, love, joy, anger or surprise.  
With Christian fiction, I am able to share those deeply personal moments through a medium that protects the innocent...or not so innocent. This particular story has themes of forgiving one's self and trusting God for the future. A major subplot works through issues of alcohol abuse, temptation and domestic violence. I wrote this novel to offer hope.  

1884 temperance illustration
1884 temperance illustration
Library of Congress

4. How does your writing process work?
Once I brainstorm a loose plot line based on a story idea I've prayed over, I put the turning points in an Excel spreadsheet, then fill in the remaining cells with one sentence descriptions of scenes that will get the characters will get from one plot point to the next. The story usually changes along the way and scenes grow more cohesive. Once the draft is down, I set the story aside for a bit and catch up on some reading while I plot the next story. Then I go back and use self-editing tools I've learned from blogs and online classes. On my first novel, it has taken about 8 substantive editing passes to get the story logical. :) Then I print out the MS for a line edit. I actually woke up last night in the wee hours when a logistics problem popped in my head, so things are still coming to me that need to be changed, though I'm mainly checking for grammar at this point. After 8 or 9 passes, I'm definitely excited to start working on another story soon and there are plenty in the pipeline. :)

I've "tagged" three sweet friends, who will answer these questions on their blogs next week on the 16th. Be sure and check them out!


Heather ManningHeather Manning writes swashbuckling historical romance. Her first novel, published when she was just 16 (wow!) -- Swept to Sea, reminds me of MaryLu Tyndall's work. It's an excellent first novel for anyone, whether 16 or 60! She has won multiple competitions for her writing with “Nextgen Writers” and placed first in some writing contests with the “Go Teen Writers” blog and is a proud member of ACFW. She lives in Missouri where she attends high school, acts in community theatre, eats donuts and reads every Inspirational Historical Romance she can get her hands on. Check out her blog here:

Courtney Phillips writes inspirational contemporary romantic fiction about the lives of quirky Southerners in need of God's grace and mercy. She often surprises me with a particular turn of phrase when I'm reading her work, and I think, "That's so me!" She has a gift for writing characters readers relate to and tackling deep subjects with grace and humor. Be sure to catch her answers to these questions next week at

Photo taken by Sweet Simplicity Photography

Sara Ella's favorite stories are about young adult heroines who have some sort of flaw, whether it be external, internal, or both. She loves redeemed villains and fairy tales with a twist. If she's not working on her novel, you can find her catching up on Once Upon a Time or reading books checked out from the YA section of her library. It’s her dream and desire to reach teens (and anyone who enjoys YA) through writing stories about true love and inner beauty. She has an awesome website, so be sure to check out more than just her blog:

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Nancy Kimball Interview

Hi, all! I'm so excited to have Nancy Kimball of the Fiction Hero Feature blog with us today! She is sharing about her new release, Chasing the Lion.

Nancy, is there a certain type of scene that's harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Sorrow?
Ha! I have not been asked that before, Natalie. Once I’ve seen a scene in my head, especially if the characters in it are fully mature in the creative process, it is pretty easy for me to write it whatever it is. What was easy to write but difficult to make the decision to include in Chasing the Lion was a particular love scene.

"See the scene." I love that. That's a lot like my writing process. 
Wait. Love scene???  Do tell. ;)
I know, I know but let me explain! LOL. Don't freak out, we didn’t go all fifty shades of gladiator or anything. That is SO not me or my writing. There was a scene in my head that occurred between two chapters that was very special to me and the characters it involved. In later drafts and revisions, I continued to leave it in my head because that’s where it belonged and it was never my intent to include it in the finished novel. But it began to eat at me that if I never actually wrote it, then for my characters, it essentially never happened. I felt that I owed it to them to write it out. (I get that sounds crazy, but not to fellow authors I hope.) So I wrote the scene. And as I did, I laughed, I wept, I discovered something about both of them I didn’t know before, and chose carefully where I shut the door to give them their privacy before reentering the scene. Then I shared it with my writing partner.

She stunned me when she said I had to include it in the book. Stunned because she is a more conservative reader than most and because I was pretty clear I had zero intention of putting it in the novel. But she wouldn’t let it go (which is why I love her because she is a tireless champion of me and my work). So eventually she got her way, and the only thing I changed was closing the door to give them their privacy a paragraph sooner. Because I will never publish anything I wouldn’t be completely comfortable reading aloud to my entire church. I’m grateful now that we included it, for reasons that only a reader who has read Chasing the Lion can fully appreciate.

I remember reading that scene, Nancy. It was beautiful, tactfully written, and showed Christ-like love in the characters' actions.

What were some of the other challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing this story to life?
Well it was my first novel, so goodness did I have so much to learn once I typed “The End” and thought it was finished. The craft of fiction in all its intricacies was a pretty brutal learning curve over the next two years, LOL. But the most difficult challenge was psychological, especially when it came to researching lion attacks. This is when the internet can be your best friend and your worst enemy.

I spent three days reading about and watching videos of actual lion versus human attacks, several of which resulted in the death of the victim and/or the lion. To say that I was “messed up” for a while is a pretty big understatement. I had nightmares for two days because I had breached that line in the author mind between fact and fiction. Being forced to confront that graphic and brutal reality wouldn’t let me shut the door on it as fiction like I can in my story world and writing. As hard as it is to say, if I had the choice to do it over, I would still have done the research complete with film. Though it was pretty traumatizing, it helped me to accurately portray that story element. Thankfully the choice I did have was how much explicitness I would bring to the page, so that I could deliver my story as it needed to be told but without any readers having nightmares. By all accounts I was successful there, which is a blessing.

That sounds really intense, Nancy. Can you give us an insight into your main character, Jonathan?
No. I’m being perfectly serious. There really is no explaining him. The reader either chooses to embark on his journey, or they don’t. Those that do find themselves changed by his story, and that’s the best insight I can give.

I finished reading Jonathan's story a couple days ago and can see how you would say that. I'm amazed at the depth of these true-to-life characters and their story.  

Are there misconceptions that people have about your book?  If so, explain.
Well, I think there are the potential for a few. First, we’re self-published. If that surprises you, it makes my day, LOL. As more and more authors embrace the possibilities of Indie publishing and do it well, I hope the quality concerns typically associated with a self-published novel will one day be just a memory.

Second, that Chasing the Lion is all message. At its core, this book is the hero’s journey, and I told that story first and foremost. The faith elements worked themselves in because I don’t know how else to give my characters comfort and hope than from the same truths that have brought me comfort and hope. (I heard that first from cross-over author Amy Harmon.) Believe me, with what Jonathan must endure, the things that scar him inside and out, eventually there is nowhere else to go but to Jesus. As I find so often in my own life, that’s where we should have started in the first place.

Check out the book trailer and hear the AWESOME voice she has narrating the audio book!!!

Author, avid reader, and shameless hero addict, Nancy Kimball loves books, Ancient Rome and all things gladiator. She makes her home in Houston, Texas and is the former president of her local American Christian Fiction Writers chapter, Writers on the Storm. Her industry accolades include a two-time ACFW Genesis finalist (Chasing the Lion – 2012 / Unseen Love – 2013), and a Romance Writers of America Lonestar finalist in the Inspirational Category (Adrift No More – 2013). In 2012, her best friend and critique partner bestowed Nancy with the nickname "Phoenix" after hearing her personal testimony. Nancy loved the name and adopted the Phoenix symbol to embody her life verse, Ezekiel 36:33-36. It later came to represent her brand, Fiction from the Ashes, symbolizing stories of characters that rise from brokenness to victory.
She interacts regularly with readers on Facebook and with other fiction hero lovers at Fiction Hero Features.

Okay, everybody. I'm bursting at the seams, here. Nancy has offered an e-book copy of Chasing the Lion for a giveaway!!!!! Leave your email address in a comment in the following format to be entered: jonathan (at) lionkiller (dot) com.

Even if you don't win in the giveaway, I encourage you to buy the book. ***This is the best fiction book I've read in years. Read it, people. 
I will remember these characters forever. Nancy's world-building skills are phenomenal. Also, this is a great book to share the gospel with someone who doesn't know Christ. It's historical fiction at its finest, with a gospel witness at the core. I can't recommend this story enough, because it magnifies Jesus, simple as that.

Winner of the last giveaway, Brandon Vaughan's memoir, is Elaine Manders, chosen by