Monday, May 3, 2010

Interview with author, Lena Nelson Dooley

I had the joy of reading LOVE FINDS YOU IN GOLDEN NEW MEXICO for endorsement and loved it. What a ride! Such great characterization and great plot twists. I can't wait for this book to release. I know that readers will love it. In the meantime, I've come up with a host of questions for Lena to answer, so let's get this show on the road!

1: Lena, what was it like, working with a new publisher (Summerside Press)?

I absolutely loved it. The people at Summerside Press welcomed me in so many warm ways. I’ve come to appreciate each of them. And the editor who did the actual work on my book was the easiest editor I’ve ever worked with. (Thank you, Ramona.) She encouraged me and helped make my words shine.

I’m so glad you had a great experience with Summerside. I’ve learned that working with a great editor can make the process much more enjoyable!

2. How did you come up with the idea of setting your most recent story in Golden, New Mexico?

I needed a place that had gold mining and area nearby for ranching. Also, the name of the town needed to have meaning in the story. I did about two days of research to find the exact town that fit what I needed. I found out that the first gold strike west of the Mississippi was actually in Golden in New Mexico Territory in 1825, which preceded both Colorado and California strikes.

I love the symbolism in your title/setting. I’m also crazy about your character descriptions in this story. They are beautifully layered

3. How did you go about choosing your characters and growing them into such complex men and women?

This was my first chance to write a long novel, so I’ve never been able to do it as I did in this book. I firmly believe that God gave me insight into each of the people, which helped the story become multi-layered. Of course, you and I both know that having a drama director background helps an author be able to dig deep into characters, revealing their feelings, desires, and regrets.

I hear ya! When you’re accustomed to working with characters on the stage, the transition to the page just seems to come naturally. Now let me ask you another question.

4. Your story begins in one city and ends in another. Tell us about that progression.

It did make for more work while I researched for the story. The heroine’s story arc takes her from Boston, where she grew up in a wealthy family to the Wild West town. The contrasting of the two cultures gave another level to the story.

5. As writers we're taught that our bad guys can't be all bad and our good guys can't be all good. How did you go about accomplishing this in your story?

Actually, in the beginning I planned for the bad guy to be all bad, but along the way, God showed me his motivation for being a villain. That changed some things in his part of the story.

And with the good guys, let’s face the fact, none of us are good all the time. I love to write realistic stories that show a character’s foibles as well.

Yes, it always comes back to goals, motivation and conflict, doesn’t it!

6. Who is your favorite character. . .and why?

I get asked this a lot. It’s almost like asking, “Which of your children do you love the most?” I loved them all, because they each had something to add to the story, even the most minor characters. But if I have to choose, I’d have to say it’s. . . see, I just can’t do it.

Perfect answer. And I totally understand.

7. What was the most intriguing thing you learned during your research for this book?

I had a quandary about how an orphan baby could be fed on a cross-country train ride. I found out a lot of interesting things about infant feeding. A Swiss doctor made an infant food formula that really gave babies what they needed. By 1890, it was available all across the United States, through the Nestle company. I found that interesting. And the baby bottles were so different from what are used today.

I always think it’s so much fun to discover “products” that were available. The Nestles formula was perfect! Now, let me switch gears. . .

8. You did a great job of "showing" the reader the town of Golden, New Mexico. What surprised you most about Golden?

Golden was a thriving town and the center of mining in that area, even after the railroad chose to go through Los Cerrillos far to the north. But when the mining died out, the town dwindled to a ghost town.

9. Your story is a lovely romance, filled with a strong inspirational thread. Can you tell us a little about the role romance has played in your own life, both in your marriage and your relationship with the Lord?

God gave me my husband when I didn’t know that I needed him. Three months and three days later, we were married. That was almost 46 years ago. Our romance has grown stronger and deeper over the years. In the same way, my intimate love of the Lord has grown stronger and deeper. I love Jesus and James more each day.

Both of those relationships (with James and with the Lord) shine through in all you do, Lena. I love hearing your stories about your sweet hubby, and your love for the Lord is the absolutely sweetest thing about you! You are a genuinely kind and loving friend, which is why I’m so delighted this book is releasing. You deserve it!

10. Lena, you've always done such a great job of showcasing the work of others on your blog and via other social networks (and we're eternally grateful). What is it like, to share about your own stories here? Is it harder to promote yourself. . .or others?

I love showcasing and promoting the work of others. Actually, that’s what God told me to do on my blog. It always feels awkward when I’m doing my own. I’ve answered the questions I’ve sent to other authors, but this way with you as guest interviewer is much better.

Trust me, I know! It’s always harder to promote yourself. That’s why I wanted to jump onboard with this one. Once readers have a chance to read this story, they will begin promoting for you! And speaking of promotion…

11. If a Hollywood director called and said, "I want to turn your book into a movie!" what would you say/do? Would you have an active role in the filming of the movie? Who would star in it?

You’re kidding, right? After jumping up and down and screaming, I’d agree wholeheartedly. I do think I’d have my agent make sure there is a clause where I could have a final approval on any screenplay. I do understand the need for screenwriters to make adjustments, but I’d want to be able to say no if they changed the story in a way that is unacceptable to my principles. If we’re dreaming here, I’d love to have Sandra Bullock as Madeline and John Schneider as Jeremiah (even though his hair is the wrong color.

12. What other projects do you have in the works?

Right now, I’m between contracts, but my agent has several proposals with editors.

13. When you were a little girl, did you ever dream you would be a multi-published author?

It never crossed my mind.

How interesting! I pegged you to be one of those little girls who knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up!

15. Is there anything you'd like to say to up-and-coming romance authors out there?

Write the stories of your heart. Network with other authors. Never stop learning about the craft. Never give up.

Amen, to that, sister. Those are “golden” words of advice!

Thanks for visiting, Lena!

Friends, you can find Lena on the web at:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Interview with Yours Truly!

Interview with Author and Writing Instructor, Janice Hanna Thompson

Janice, could you tell us a little about your new venture?

Of course! Thanks for asking. On April 20th, 2010, I debuted my new writing course “Becoming a Successful Freelance Writer” at The sole purpose of this venture is to teach struggling freelance writers how to earn money with their writing. Here’s how it will work: students can purchase one lesson (for $24.95) or all ten (for $199). They don’t have to feel compelled to buy the whole package, though they will get a package price, if they do. Each lesson will include an audio file and a video power point presentation of me teaching the lesson (available with just a click of the mouse), a corresponding audio script, a downloadable worksheet, a bonus feature, and full access to the site’s forum, where I will meet with authors for some group mentoring (at designated times). Right now there are ten lessons, but eventually those ten lessons will become ten separate categories with multiple lessons in each. For example, the current lesson on magazine article writing will eventually have multiple other lessons underneath it—all meant to teach writers how to make money writing articles. People who take these courses will have the benefit of meeting other freelancers in the forum and can also chat with me about their projects. Best of all, the site will continually grow. New, fresh material will always be available. (I’ll be recording new lessons routinely.) I’m so excited, because I know that struggling freelancers can and will learn how to make money with their writing.

What prompted you to set off on this new adventure?

For years I’ve been writing novels and non-fiction books. I’ve been so blessed to have over fifty books published, as well as dozens of magazine articles and even a movie script. It’s been quite a ride. . .and it’s not ending anytime soon! I’m currently contracted through 2011. The longer I’m in this business, however, the more I’m aware of the basic need of the average freelance author to make “better” money. Sure, many of them eventually sell books. They get advances and royalties, (though, not often in the range they had hoped). As a full-time freelancer, I’ve faced this myself. Several years ago, I found myself hollering, “Where’s the money?” I made up my mind to find as many creative ways as I could to bring in money as a freelancer. I’ve learned so much since then, and want to share what I’ve learned with others, so that they can benefit, too.

Why are you so passionate about teaching others how to make money with their writing?

I meet so many struggling writers. So many are just hoping and praying to sell a book. They pour all of their energies into that venture. Most don’t realize that they could be making money much sooner if they would explore other avenues (besides just books). The possibilities are endless. If I can share what I’ve learned about the money-making aspects of writing, then I’ve helped another struggling writer on his or her journey.

Tell us a little about your own writing.

As I mentioned above, I’ve written just about everything! Most of my writing is for the Christian market, so my stories have a clear faith element. Lately I’ve been writing romantic comedies, (most recently the “Weddings by Bella” series), but I also enjoy writing mysteries, kid’s stories, historicals and more. I continue to write magazine articles, because they provide a great financial supplement. I’m also very excited about my many write-for-hire projects, because a huge chunk of my income comes from those. To learn more about my books visit my author site at Books can be ordered directly from the site.

What has it been like, supporting yourself full-time as a freelancer? Is there really money to be made?

As I mentioned, there was a time (back in 2007) when I wasn’t sure I could do it. At that time, I hadn’t set any real goals for myself. That all changed in the fall of 2007 when I began to strategize about the future of my writing. Instead of worrying about the challenges I faced, I got busy and put together a plan. I began to look for non-traditional ways to earn money with my writing. . .and it worked! That’s not to say I’ve “arrived,” but I have managed to support myself full-time from that point till now.

I would think that the writing industry would be very competitive. Why do you want to see others succeed? Aren’t you shooting yourself in the foot when you hand off potential freelance jobs to other authors?

The writing industry is competitive, but that doesn’t mean I am! Sure, I want to make a name for myself, (most writers do), but I’m equally as interested in training up other writers to be the best they can be. Why? I believe that Christian writers have been called by the Lord to spread His love through their writing. How will they get the word out if someone doesn’t show them the ropes? I love to see others succeed because we’re all one big happy family and we care about each other.

I know that you worked for several years as a writing teacher at a school of the arts. Could you share a little more about that?

From 1996 – 2001 I taught creative writing at a Houston area school of the arts that catered primarily to home-school students. What a blast I had! (Truly, these were some of the best years of my life.) Several of my students traveled with me to national writing conferences (like Mount Hermon and ACFW), and a few went on to be published in various genres. My students will tell you that I was the most creative teacher on the block. I was always looking for a new, fresh way to teach the writing craft. My writing lessons have been compiled into a text, which I titled, “Creative Writing for the Christian Student.” It is available to freelance writing course participants. I love stirring up the creative gifts in my students! I hope that shows in these lessons!

If you could list one of the biggest frustrations that freelance writers face, what would that be?

The biggest frustration of all is this: Some markets don’t want to pay. This is especially true when it comes to the Internet. It’s so challenging to make a living when you can’t figure out who pays and who doesn’t! But that’s why I created this course! There are so many markets that do pay, and many of them are relatively untapped. Freelancers can earn money. . .they just have to discover where the money is! (And I plan to help them in that journey!)

You’ve said there’s money to be made. . .but where? What avenues are available to freelancers?

At, students will explore multiple areas where they can earn money with their writing. Lessons include:

· Setting Career Goals

· Magazine Article Writing

· Write for Hire Work

· Marketing and Public Relations

· Becoming a Public Speaker

· Becoming a Creative Writing Teacher

· Making Money as an Editor

· Writing and Selling the Non-Fiction Book

· Writing and Selling the Novel

Secrets From the World of the Pros

Each lesson will cover a host of possibilities and will give real, practical suggestions.

You’ve mentioned other lessons that aren’t yet available. Could you share a few here?

Sure! Each of the ten topics listed above will eventually become its own course (with multiple lessons in each). I’ll be heading back into the recording studio soon to cover the topic of magazine articles more thoroughly. I’ll also record lessons covering all aspects of fiction writing. We’ll talk about passive vs. active writing, plotting, characterization, and much more. I’ve also got a host of lessons coming up related to non-fiction books. We’ll delve into specific topics related to write-for-hire work (my favorite!) and will share a host of lessons on marketing and PR. Hang on for the ride! Participants in these various courses will get the tools they need to work as a pro in the industry.

How, exactly, will these courses work?

When participants sign up and pay, they will be granted access to the “inner sanctum” of the site, where they can view the various components of the lessons, (the audio file, audio script, worksheet, power point and forum). I would suggest folks start with the first lesson (Setting Goals) and go from there. They can print up a copy of the worksheet and follow along with the audio and power point presentation. Then, at a designated time, participants can meet with me in the forum to discuss the topic at hand. I love the fact that this is all so user-friendly and participants can work at their own pace.

If you could tell beginning freelancers one thing, what would it be?

Don’t give up. Keep going and keep looking for creative ways to make money. Examine new markets. Learn all you can about the industry. Become friends with editors. The potential for money-making is there, but much of it is relational.

Why do you feel so strongly about stirring up the gifts?

There’s a scripture I love where the apostle Paul speaks to his young protégé, Timothy: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” (II Timothy 1:6 NIV) The King James version uses the words “stir up the gift” instead of “fan into flame the gift.” The idea is the same. Gifts need stirring and fanning. As a published author, I make it my goal to “stir the gifts” of those hoping to be published (or hoping to be published in more markets). I know that these lessons will stir people up. I could sense it as I recorded them. Changing lives. . .and encouraging writers. . .what could be better?

I understand you won the 2008 American Christian Fiction Writers “Mentor of the Year” award. Could you tell us more about that? What role does mentoring play in your life and how will you incorporate mentoring into your online writing courses?

I have a theory about mentoring. I believe that everyone should have someone they’re mentoring and someone they’re being mentored by. If we ever think we’re too “big” to be mentored, we’re in trouble! And it’s imperative that we pour into the lives of those who are learning the writing craft, especially if we’re published and/or doing well in the industry. I’m tickled that I received the ACFW Mentor of the Year award. I can think of nothing better to be remembered for than mentoring others, to be quite honest. Writing books is great, sure. And getting my name out there is fun, too. But if I don’t mentor. . .if I don’t pass along what I’ve learned, then my writing is nothing but selfish pleasure. I don’t ever want to be known as a selfish author. I want to be known as a giver and an encourager. My prayer is that people who take this course will see my heart for all writers to succeed and earn money doing what they love!

Janice, where else can people find you on the web?

My freelance writing courses site:

My book-related website: www.janiceathompson

My blog:

My facebook page:

My facebook reader’s page:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

ANNOUNCEMENT: My Freelance Writing Courses Site Is Ready to Roll!

Hello, writing friends,

I'm so excited! I've been sitting on this news for a couple of months. As most of you know, I'm a teacher at heart. Years ago, I taught creative writing and drama at a Houston area school of the arts. And from the time my first book was released in 2000, I've made the rounds from writing group to writing group, teaching the craft. I've even had the pleasure of teaching at conferences. And my courses have been available in .doc form for a while now. However, today's announcement tops everything I've done in the past (as it relates to my courses). As I debut this new site:, I realize that I'm stepping off in a new direction. The purpose of this site is to show people how to make MONEY writing. Yep. Money.

If you've been trying to figure out a way to earn money as a freelancer, the ten courses on this site will be perfect for you. They are available for purchase as individual lessons (at 24.95 each) or you can buy the whole package for $199. Here's a list of the lessons:
  • Setting Career Goals
  • Magazine Article Writing
  • Write for Hire Work
  • Marketing and Public Relations
  • Becoming a Public Speaker
  • Becoming a Creative Writing Teacher
  • Making Money as an Editor
  • Writing and Selling the Non-Fiction Book
  • Writing and Selling the Novel
  • Secrets from the World of the Pros
Each lesson comes with an audio file of me teaching the lesson, an audio script (so you can follow along), a worksheet, a bonus feature and access to the site's forum, where we'll meet up at pre-arranged times to talk about the lessons. In essence, you won't just be signing up for courses. You'll be getting some serious one-on-one time with me, as well. (We'll call it forum mentoring!)

There's money to be made as a writer. I've been working as a full-time freelancer for years, and I've learned so much. What I've learned, I want to share with others. Please prayerfully consider signing on to take these lessons. They will open your eyes to a whole new world of income-making possibilities.

Oh, and one more thing. . .the list of courses will grow over time. Each of these ten lessons will become its own topic, and there will be sub-lessons. (I'll be in the studio recording on a continual basis, so there will always be an influx of fresh material.)

Sound intriguing? Go to and sign up for my newsletter to learn more. Then, dive in! Learn what it takes to make money with your writing! If you're interested in sharing the news on your facebook site or blog, please feel free to share the youtube video link:

Friday, April 16, 2010

Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?

I thought that subject line might grab your attention! With so many different things happening in my life (deadline for a novel, my new writing courses, book reviews and so on, I'm afraid I'm going to overlook the people who make all of this possible: you!

Yes, this is celebrate YOU, the READER, day. I've been wracking my brain, trying to figure out what I can do to bless you. Pray for you, sure! I do! I pray God's blessings on each and every one. But I want to do more.

How about this. . .I'm going to write you a poem. Now, mind you, I'm no poet. Still, I'm going to give this my best shot. Let's make it a haiku.

My faithful readers
Blessing, encouraging, kind
God's precious gift, all

That's how I feel about you! You are a gift to me. When I'm bleary-eyed, facing a deadline, you lift my spirits! When I'm biting my nails, wondering what you'll think of my next book, you respond with love and encouragement. When I'm trying my hand at new ventures (writing courses, etc.) you send me, "You can do it!" notes. Oh, how you keep me going.

In so many ways I feel like Moses. When he grew weary in battle, those around him lifted his arms. You, my dear readers and friends, are my arm lifters. And I wish I could give you more than a poem. For today, I suppose that will have to do. That, and a sincere, "Thank you!" from my heart to yours!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Funny Business

Hello, everyone! Thanks for stopping by. We have a fun topic today, so I hope you'll kick your shoes off and stay awhile!

Some of my readers have asked, "Why do you write humor?" It's a good question. My first response would probably be, "Because it comes naturally," or maybe, "Because that's what I feel called to write."

Humor writing is tough stuff. Sometimes we writers sit behind our computers, pecking away at the keys, hoping that our words will make others laugh. We don't actually know (until the book releases, often) if the humor element works. Talk about scary business! And, hey. . .it's just as important for a writer to maintain a sense of humor about things, as a reader! After all, we need our spirits lifted, too!

With that in mind, I want to share a little bit about humor writing.

“Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.” - Bill Cosby

Humor writing comes naturally to some authors. Others have to work hard to be funny. (Sounds funny, doesn’t it. . .working hard to be funny?) I’m one of those who came into the world with an overactive funny bone. Oh, it occasionally gives me trouble. Life’s woes kick in and my funny bone gets arthritic. It locks up. Whenever that happens, I trip myself on purpose, just to loosen it back up again. (Hey, a girl can only go so long without laughter!)

So, what does this have to do with writing? Everything!

So, what makes a story funny? Here are a few tips to creating a tale that will tickle the funny bone:

Create unique characters: Think of your favorite sitcom. For me, Everybody Love Raymond is near the top of the list. Why did I love that show so much? The characters were (individually) hysterical. Each one had his/her own quirks. And those quirks got them into (and out of) jams. When you set out to write a comedy, create a cast of characters that you absolutely love. Don’t just focus on one or two. Choose at least three characters in your story who really have that extra “zing.” Characters that readers will remember for years to come. In my “Weddings by Bella” series, I created several funny characters (and boy, have I heard from readers about them). These characters include Aunt Rosa, Uncle Laz, Bella and the trio of “sisters” from Splendora Texas. These wacky people will stay with me for the rest of my life! I think some of my readers have adopted them, as well.

Exaggeration: If your character is tall, make him really tall. Chubby? Make her exceptionally chubby. Nervous? Make him overly anxious. Claustrophobic? Carry it a bit further than the norm. Does she like to wear lipstick? Make it Pollyanna Pink or Ruby Red. Give that character an exaggerated “sticking point” that readers will remember. And, exaggerate plotline highs and lows, as well. Is she in a valley? Make it a deep one. Is he on the mountaintop? Give him the experience of a lifetime.

Situational comedy: Spend time watching for humorous moments in your own life. What “situations” get you giggly? Think about placing your characters in a “situation” that will play out in a humorous way. By way of example, let’s look at I Love Lucy. Did we really find it believable that a housewife would take a job in a chocolate factory and end up shoving candies down her blouse? Um, probably not. Did we laugh like hyenas when the episode aired? You betcha! I Love Lucy was the perfect example of a situational comedy. Week after week we waited to see what “situation” our gal would end up in. We empathized with her (this is very important) and we thought she was a little kooky. In short, we saw a little of ourselves in her.

The Rule of Three. Why do you suppose so many jokes begin with the words, “Three nuns walked into a bar,” or “Three men were on a boat,” (etc.) There’s something about the number three, isn’t there! It’s the “This, this, then THAT!” effect. Work in threes and your audience will love you!

Slapstick: Think of Larry, Mo and Curly. Sure, their antics got a little old after awhile, but you get the idea. “Physical” comedy (tripping over things, physical gags, etc.) has always had its place in humor writing. Use these events sparingly, but don’t rule them out.

Pacing: There’s much to be said about the placement of words, phrases and inflections. Pacing it truly everything in comedy. In many respects, it is learned by trial and error. If you aren’t sure something is working, run it by your critique partners. See if they’re tickled by your words.

Living the Life: Let humor lead the way! In my own life, I find that being funny on the page is easier when I’m truly walking through life with a joyous attitude. It’s not always easy (and life often intervenes, threatening to remove any hint of humor), but for those who live a life of faith, it is possible. The Bible is loaded with all sorts of great scriptures about joy. Check out this verse: "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones." (Proverbs 17:22) When we transfer our “merry heart” to the page, then we’re sharing the joy with our readers. Is there any greater honor?

That's it for now, writers! Go forth and giggle!

Monday, April 12, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Scattered Petals

Hi everyone! Yes, it's true! I'm actually posting book reviews on this site. I'll continue to post them on my Double Booked review site for a while, but eventually most of my writing-related posts will now shift to this site.

I'm thrilled to be able to review a book for a fellow Revell author. Though I've never met Amanda Cabot in person, I received her book as a gift.

I wasn't asked to review it, but decide I'd do so, anyway, because I really liked it! Here's the synopsis:

Longing for adventure, Priscilla Morton leaves Boston and heads for Texas, never dreaming that the adventure she seeks will leave her badly injured and her parents dead. Priscilla is determined to rebuild her life and make a home for herself in the beautiful Hill Country. But the bandits who took her parents' lives also destroyed her hope for the future. Ranch foreman Zachary Webster knows what the future holds for him, and it's not a woman like Priscilla. She deserves a cultured East Coast gentleman, not a cowboy who's haunted by memories of his mistakes. The best thing he can do is leave her alone. When necessity draws them together, Priscilla and Zach begin to forge a life that, like the scattered petals of her childhood, is filled with promise. But then the past intrudes, threatening their very existence.

As I said, I've never met Amanda before, but her book has certainly won me over. In many ways, it reminded me of Jeanette Oke's classic, "Love Comes Softly." The premise is similar, only with a huge twist. My heart really went out to the heroine, who faced overwhelming obstacles early on in the story. This is truly a tale of triumph and courage. It touches the heartstrings. I highly recommend this book to women who are dealing with issues of forgiveness. It will soften your heart, for sure.

Nicely done, Amanda!

Friday, April 9, 2010

To Plot. . .or Not?

Hi y'all! I'm leaving today for a writer's conference in Marshall, Texas, where I'll be teaching on plotting. I'm a firm believer in plotting my novels, but I know not all people feel the same. Some people do a better job flying by the seat of their pants. I believe it's truly possible to do both - minimal plotting and SOTP (seat of the pants) writing, too! Even though I plot my novels, the characters are always doing and saying unexpected things, and I'm always open to re-direction, should the Spirit move.

So, here's a question for you writers out there: Do you write by the seat of your pants, or do you plot? What works best for you?

And here's a question for the readers in our midst: When you're reading a book, can you tell if it's poorly plotted or not? Do you ever get to the middle of end of a book and end up frustrated because it seems to be going nowhere (or worse. . .seems to be contrived)?

As I said, I love to plot, but I also love the freedom of following my characters as they lead the way. so, let's talk about it!

Oh, and just a quick reminder. . .this is the last day to enter the drawing to win a free copy of "It Had to be You" (my new "Weddings by Bella" book). To enter, go to Monday's post (April 5th) and leave a comment sharing your favorite scene from one of the first two books.

Happy weekend, everyone! Please pray for traveling mercies as I head up to Marshall Texas, and then on to Daisy, Oklahoma, where I'm researching for a book project! And look for a HUGE announcement from me in a few days. God is up to all sorts of cool things in my writing life!