Welcome back! Today I’m finishing my interview with Darlene Franklin, author of several books in the historical romance, devotional, and  cozy mystery genres. Darlene has been writing for nearly 20 years now and had her first book published in 2005.

Darlene has been through many personal struggles as she’s been writing over the years, and  today we’ll learn how God has taken her through her journey as well as hear her advice for others who may find themselves in challenging situations.

Darlene Franklin

Darlene, how has God’s hand led you through your writing journey?

I’m usually most aware of God’s hand after the fact. For instance, when I was fretting over the lack of income since I began writing full time, I was contacted about writing two more books. And it hit me: in the seven months since I had taken that leap of faith, the number of book contracts had doubled from seven to fifteen. So I know the money will come … and God has made it clear to me that I have made the right decision.

In 2001, after a decade of writing, I wondered if I should give up. So much effort, so little to see for it. The answer I received in that period of searching was that I didn’t have to know whether God wanted me to write for the rest of my life. I only needed to know whether God wanted me to write at that time. And I had a story on my heart that I felt compelled to write (and no, it hasn’t sold.)

I know you’ve recently been through some personal struggles. What advice can you give to other writers when they find themselves in a crisis but the writing must go on?

My first book came out in 2005, my second not until 2008. Since then I have written seven more books and novellas.

During that same time period, my daughter committed suicide, I had major surgery (out of work for three months), moved out of state, and this year my mother has died.

I tell your readers that, not for sympathy, but to say it can be done! When you face challenges:

  • Use your writing as an escape. In the darkest days after my daughter’s death, I could immerse myself in the fictional world of Grace Gulch (featured in my cozy mysteries) and have fun with my wild and wacky heroine.
  • Use them to deepen your writing. After the fact, I realized that I had given two minor characters in upcoming books dementia and a stroke—issues that my mother was struggling with. And I can’t count how many devotionals I have written out of the lessons God has taught me.
  • If you can’t write … don’t. And don’t stress about it!
  • Run your manuscript past a critique group—always a good idea, but even more important when your mind keeps wandering to your personal problems.
  • Enlist the support of prayer groups such as the prayer loop on American Christian Fiction Writers.
  • Know that editors are willing to work with you on the deadline, unless you make a habit of it.

As far as how, I set daily writing goals, ones I know are achievable, and then I add in extra days (you can read more about my process at thebookdoctorbd.blogspot.com) so when a day (or a week) comes that I don’t meet my goal, I have extra time to work on the project. I schedule my priorities around that, including my quiet time, family, office job (when I still had one), church … and I’ve dropped a number of worthwhile activities.

I hope you’ve  enjoyed hearing from Darlene and her writing journey. She has a lot more to share on her blog. And, don’t forget to to stop by and leave her a comment for a chance to win a free copy of one of her books (your choice!).

Thanks for joining me in my interview with Darlene Franklin.  Later this week I’ll continue  my series of posts on primary sources and will look at how to find contemporary sources, such as experts, to interview for your story or article.

For today’s (and next Monday’s) post, I’d like to introduce you to fiction writer Darlene Franklin. Darlene has only been writing for a few years and has had some devastating personal challenges along the way, yet in that time she has written several books as well as short stories and devotionals. I talked to Darlene about her writing career as well as her advice for getting through tough times while you’re trying to write.

Here’s Darlene…

Darlene Franklin

First of all, Darlene, how did you break into writing, and how did you find your current niche?

I was fortunate to have a short devotional published after I’d been writing for two years. After that, publications were fairly few and far between until my first book, Romanian Rhapsody, came out in 2005.

As far as finding my niche, let’s just say that romance found me. At first, I wrote about personal struggles. I’ve never had much success selling personal experience stories–only a few. Then I tried my hand at fiction, a prairie romance; and I discovered my natural voice. I give the credit to God; the only insight into human love this divorced mother has comes                                               from the God who loves us!

I’ve tried a lot of genres, but romance (contemporary and historical) and devotionals seem to be the best fit. That’s been mostly a matter of trial and error.

What, to date, has been the most rewarding part of your writing career?

Well, I love getting paid to make up stories! I also love teaching other writers. I have had a few special reader responses as well.

Talk a little about Beacon of Love and how that book came about. What was your inspiration for it?

In Beacon of Love, a doctor afraid of the water and a lighthouse keeper’s daughter fight to keep the light burning throughout a hurricane. It’s the first book of three historical romances set in Rhode Island; the three books are being repackaged this summer as Seaside Romance.

I’m a native New Englander, and in fact my parents lived on the Maine coast for almost 30 years. So when I read about a lighthouse destroyed during the Great Gale of 1816, I knew what I wanted to write about!

Where do you see yourself in the future as a writer? What goals have you developed for yourself?

My immediate goal is to have enough books in print and under contract to make a full-time living. That includes moving into writing trade-length books.

In the future, I’d like to be both a recognized writer (not necessarily best-selling, although that would be nice) and someone who helps train the next generation of writers.

Next Monday, I’ll be discussing with Darlene how God has guided her through her writing and her challenges to get her where she is today. Please stop back!

In the meantime, you can get to know Darlene better by visiting her blogsite. and, I understand she is having a book giveaway contest during the month of April for anyone who leaves a comment on her blog!

See ya next time!

For my next two posts, I’ve asked Dianne Butts  to share from her more than 20 years of writing experience on how to write query letters. Dianne has over 250 published magazine articles, so she must be doing something right! I believe she has many tips and tidbits that can get you on the right path to conquering the query!  Here’s Diane…

Dianne Butts

When I started freelancing, I found query letters very intimidating. I met writers who wouldn’t even submit to periodicals that required them. I knew that wasn’t good and would be a real detriment to my career, so I set out to master writing queries. Whether I’m a master at writing queries or not you’ll have to judge, but I know I’ve had many queries open doors for me to submit an article that was then accepted. And queries don’t intimidate me anymore.

Also, query writing is not just for magazine/periodical writers. If you want to write books, you’ll most likely need to write a query letter to open the doors for sending your book proposal. It’s not hard to tweak the suggestions below to fit your book. I hope the following points help you master query letters:

After you have a handle on what your target market wants, and after you have an idea to query about, you’ll need the following (if they apply to your project):

1.  Personal note, if appropriate.  Have you met the editor or been in contact?  If so, kindly remind the editor of where you met and what you talked about.

2.  Introduce your article or story.  Grab the editor’s attention. If you’ve already worked hard on a wonderful opening for your article, use that.

3.  Type of article.  Is it a personal experience? Interview? A how-to? Mystery fiction? Briefly indicate what category your article fits into.

4. What, specifically, is it about? Use the one-sentence thesis statement you created for your article. Tantalize, but don’t give it all away. Example, if your article contains ten points, give your top three.

5.  How is it organized? You might say, “In this article I will discuss…” and name your main points or subsections. Then, “For each section I will include one personal anecdote, a true story, and the lesson I learned.” Or, “In this article, I offer ten steps how to…”

6. Why you wrote it.  How will this article benefit readers? Finish this sentence: “Through this article I hope to…” (inspire? educate? inform?)

7. What sidebars do you have to offer? Give the title(s) and word count(s)  for any sidebars you wish to include.

8. If on theme, which one? If your article fits in with an upcoming theme the publication is planning, be sure to let the editor know.

9. If a seasonal piece, suggest when it might run.  “This Christmas piece…” Or, “Although this article could run at any time, it might work well in a May issue for Mother’s Day or a June issue for Father’s Day.” Sometimes it helps to give the editor a suggestion for where to use it. Not that the editor doesn’t know where it might fit,  but you may spark an idea he didn’t think about.

10. Your qualifications to write itNot your writing credentials, but rather, what qualifies you to write the piece. For example. if your article’s on a medical issue, do you have a medical back ground?

Be sure to stop back Monday, March 8, when Dianne will  finish her tips  for  query letter writing and offer advice on how to expertly target your query letters.

Dianne Butts has written for over 50 different Christian print magazines and seventeen books. If you’d like to learn more about writing query letters, consider Dianne’s pamphlet, “Conquering the Dreaded Query Letter,” available for $3.95 plus shipping at http://www.dianneebutts.com/conquering_the_dreaded_query_letter.htm.

Dianne also offers a free, monthly e-zine for writers, Dianne E. Butts About Writing. Subscribe at  her website, www.DianneEButts.com. And, be sure to follow Dianne’s adventures and challenges in self-publishing her book at www.DeliverMeBook.blogspot.com.

Today, I’d like to finish up my interview with writer, Dianne Butts, who’s been sharing from her expertise on writing query letters. Here’s Dianne…

Here are the final six pieces of information to include when writing queries:

11. The proposed length given in word count. If you’re querying a book, you could state word count or pages. Make sure your length is within the word count accepted by the publication/publisher.

12. Which rights are you offering? It is assumed you are offering first rights unless you state otherwise.  If your piece has been published before, and/or if you are offering the piece elsewhere at the same time, be sure to mention that it is a reprint and/or a simultaneous submission.

13. When it will be completed. Say, “I can send the article within two weeks of your request…” or whatever you can do. Give yourself plenty of time–writing always seems to take longer than we writers think it will!

14.   Your writing credits.  If you don’t have any publishing credits yet, you need not draw attention to that. If you have been published, give the editor an idea of how often and list a few of your finest credits.

15. Ask if you can send the manuscript.  “May I send you ‘Conquering the Dreaded Query Letter’?”

16. Close. Thank the editor for his or her time and consideration. You can say you look forward to hearing from them.

Other things to keep in mind when you query:

Keep your query to one page (even if sending by e-mail). In rare occasions you might go over one page, but chances are whatever you’re writing right now is not one of those rare occasions! Condense and edit your letter down to one page. (Without messing with the margins or font size!)  If you can’t edit your letter to one page, it may say to the editor that you can’t write concisely,  follow directions, or write to word counts.

When targeting your query letters:

Study the entry for the publication or publisher in a market guide, obtain the writers’ guidelines, and study sample copies of the periodical or the publisher’s catalog (often it’s online). Make sure what you want to send “fits” the publication/publisher. It’s glaringly obvious when writers don’t do this. Don’t submit to a market you’ve never seen or haven’t yet studied their guidelines, copies, or catalogs.

Doing your homework in this area will prove to the publisher that you have thoughtfully considered where you are sending your work, and will instantly put you above most of the submissions they receive.

Dianne Butts has written for over 50 different Christian print magazines and seventeen books. If you’d like to learn more about writing query letters, consider Dianne’s pamphlet, “Conquering the Dreaded Query Letter,” available for $3.95 plus shipping at http://www.dianneebutts.com/conquering_the_dreaded_query_letter.htm.

Dianne also offers a free, monthly e-zine for writers, Dianne E. Butts About Writing. Subscribe at  her website, www.DianneEButts.com. And, be sure to follow Dianne’s adventures and challenges in self-publishing her book at www.DeliverMeBook.blogspot.com.

Today, I’d like to feature children’s author, Nancy I. Sanders. Nancy’s latest book, America’s Black Founders, has just hit the shelves…just in time for Black History Month.

Nancy is finishing up a virtual tour for her new book, and I am privileged to be a part of it. You can check out the tour here, and learn more about Nancy here.

When talking with Nancy, I focused on one aspect of her book, which was the many activities she had to incorporate.

Renee: Your new book, America’s Black Founders, features 21 activities. What significance are these activities to this era in history, and how did you go about writing them?

Nancy I. Sanders

Nancy: Each activity holds significance surrounding the history of America’s Black Founding Fathers and Mothers. For instance, there’s a recipe for Pepper Pot Soup. This was a hearty dish that George Washington requested be cooked for the troops at Valley Forge.  There were many black troops who suffered along with the other patriots at Valley Forge that winter, so this is a dish they probably ate.

Another activity encourages students to “pen a patriotic poem.” This activity is included in the book because of Lemuel Haynes, a black minuteman who marched with his company from Granville, Massachusetts, to join the Siege of Boston. Lemuel Haynes and his company camped outside of Boston.

While there, he was so moved by the account of the battle of Lexington that he wrote a stirring ballad about the event, called, “The Battle of Lexington.” His handwritten poem from 1776 is still in existence today! I located the poem and included the image of it in my book. I encourage students to follow Lemuel Hayne’s example and write a poem themselves to honor a great moment in history.

My book, America’s Black Founders, is part of a series of books called the “For Kids” series from Chicago Review Press. Most books in this series have 21 activities in them—that’s one of the characteristics that sets this series apart. The activities in this series must be of significant historic value. They’re referred to as “historic-based activities.”

I researched historical sites and explored the types of activities they did with students visiting their sites. I’ve written a number of activities for other books of mine. Usually, once I determine an activity has value, I’ll do it myself. Even though the step-by-step process to make these historic-based activities might not be exactly how they were made, the process is “based” on the real activity, and students “feel” like they’re making something real.

I often take a lot of pictures of each step of making the activity. For instance, when I stitched together a fanner, or basket used to winnow rice, I took photos of starting the fanner, making knots, and adding rows to the basket. I took photos of the fanner on a table for each stage of the process. I also took photos of holding the fanner and the needle in my hands to actually show students how they should hold it.

When I submitted my manuscript, I also submitted all these photographs. Many publishers ask for these photographs when activities are featured with a manuscript, so now I just automatically take the photographs when I make the sample activities and submit them. The publishers are always grateful to have them!

Be sure to stop by Nancy’s web site to check out all of her numerous children’s books.

Last week I introduced you to author Monica Cane, who has become an expert of sorts in regards to self-publishing. In an effort to publish and market her own books, she has completed extensive research and learned many of the ins and outs of the self-publishing world. Today, Monica will continue her post by telling us about her most recent self-publishing experience.

Monica Cane

With my most recent manuscript, Fresh Inspiration, I went a step further in the self-publishing process.  I visited Lulu.com and found that I was able to put my manuscript together into a lovely book format by simply downloading the script into one of Lulu’s many templates.  I then was given the option to choose the font style and format I liked best and create the cover design by following Lulu’s prompts.  I used a clear nature photo that I had on my home computer,  and I have to say, it came out beautifully.

I literally did everything myself in regards to putting together my book. The most exciting part was that it didn’t cost me anything to create – only my time, which, of course, I didn’t mind investing.  Once my book was complete online, Lulu gave me the option to assign my book an ISBN number so it could be sold online.  I couldn’t believe how simple it was and how rewarding it felt knowing I had a hand in every aspect of creating the book—for free!

Sure, with self-publishing, ALL the marketing is on the author, but as the author, if you really believe in what you have written, you’ll want to share your book with others however you can throughout your lifetime.

My favorite author, Frances J. Roberts, sold over 1.5 million copies of her book Come Away My Beloved. The interesting part was that she self-published the book over 40 years ago, and she just kept sharing it with friends and family and whoever came her way.  Word of mouth travels quickly, and over time she sold so many copies of her self-published book that a traditional publisher offered to pick it up and publish it for her to reach an even broader audience through major bookstores.

Her book is now listed as a classic, but it started out as one person writing a manuscript, self-publishing it, then slowly but surely marketing and selling what she believed in. Self- publishing isn’t for everyone, but it is definitely something worth looking into if you’ve tried traditional publishers and have had little to no success or just believe you could sell your book as well as a traditional publisher could.  If you really believe in the manuscript you have written, self-publishing is a wonderful way to begin sharing your book with others.

If you’ve ever considered self-publishing a book, be diligent and do your homework. It seems the players in the self-publishing world are growing exponentially nowadays. You want to make sure to find a publisher that can best meet your needs and your budget.

If you have any questions about self-publishing, Monica would love to help you. Don’t hesitate to contact her at A Breath of Inspiration.