Suzanne Hartmann's Journey to Publication  

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            Suzanne Hartmann is a homeschool mom of three and lives in the St. Louis area. When not homeschooling or writing, she enjoys scrapbooking, reading, and Bible study. PERIL: Fast Track Thriller Bk. #1 is her debut novel.
            On the editorial side, Suzanne is a contributing editor with Port Yonder Press and operates the Write This Way Critique Service. She has also written an e-book on the craft of writing, Write This Way: Take Your Writing to a New Level


While most authors write for years before they decide to get serious and seek publication, my journey began with a nudge from God to write out the stories I’d entertained myself with while I sat through my kids' violin and piano lessons and baseball and soccer practice. After questioning whether I could be having a premature mid-life crisis, followed by much prayer, I realized God was calling me to write.

So in spite of the fact that I had very little experience writing fiction (my training was mostly non-fiction), I dove into research about NASCAR, then set out to weave my stories into a novel. Once I began writing, it almost became an obsession to get all of the stories from my head into the computer—what I call a brain-dump. That became the narrative outline I followed to write the story. Essentially, it was a series of main plot points I needed to thread together. I thought of it like a dot-to-dot. The main plot points were the dots and as I wrote, I created with the lines that lead from one dot to the next.

After I finished writing the first draft, I had SO much to learn, but God was faithful and led me to some Christian writing forums, and from there to an awesome critique group (when I hadn’t even heard of such a thing even a week earlier). After spending five months doing a major revision under the guidance of my new critique partners, I felt I had polished “my baby” enough to send it out to agents.

Four months—and many rejections later—I found myself dejected and bordering on bitter. Thankfully, God sent me a wake-up call through a Bible study I had just started, and I realized I had taken my eyes off Him. Instead, I began looking to people in the publishing industry to tell me what I needed to do to improve my manuscript. Once I confessed, then turned my eyes back to God, He immediately sent two rejection letters with some hints at what I needed to do.

That led to another round of major revising and cutting the wordcount from 117,000 to 89,000 (yes, I actually cut out about 25% of the story). After that came another round of query letters and rejections. This time, however, I felt like God was leading me to wait. It was hard, but I did. Eventually, “out of the blue,” a friend offered to send a referral to her agent, Terry Burns. Although he initially rejected my manuscript, he said I could revise the first few chapters and resubmit. That was the key. He loved the new opening and offered me a contract!

It took another year and a half of waiting before OakTara offered a contract. This time the waiting was even harder because I wasn’t the only one (or even the main one) making the decisions regarding who to query. I had to put my faith in the agent God had led me to.

It feels like it’s been a long journey, but to go from never having written a novel to publication in five years, is relatively short for the publishing industry. Thankfully, God didn’t let me know at the beginning how far out of my comfort zone He was going lead me. But throughout the process, He has been faithful to lead me where I needed to go, has encouraged me when I thought I couldn’t go on, and continues to equip me as I now venture into the marketing aspect of the publishing industry.

Here’s a little about the book God nudged me to write. I pray that readers not only enjoy a good read, but will pick up on the themes of honesty and the importance of following God even when where He’s leading doesn’t make sense by human terms.

PERIL: A Fast Track Thriller:
A top-secret agent.
A high-profile assignment.
Danger at a NASCAR track.
A top secret agent with enhanced strength must use her extraordinary abilities during several high-profile assignments, from the White House to NASCAR tracks, while escorting the first Muslim king to convert to Christianity. When unwanted publicity and the attention of a NASCAR champion threatens to expose her secrets, she becomes a terrorist target with danger surrounding her on all sides.
 “Plenty of action and unexpected twists.”
Foreword by Jimmy Makar, GM of Joe Gibbs Racing

You can find Suzanne on-line at:
My Website – FastTrackThrillers 
My Blog - Write This Way
Twitter - @SuzInIL 


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In 1946, a few days before my sixth birthday, I landed in Stanleyville, The Belgian Congo. I remember the palm trees flying by as our old propeller plane taxied down the dirt runway. We stepped out into muggy heat as we crossed to the terminal.

From that day, Africa has been my second home – as dear to me as my birth home in Oregon, U.S.A. As I grew up, my one desire was to “go back home” to Africa.

Our mother taught me first and second grade. Then I went to Rethy Academy, 350 miles and 10 hours’ drive from my parents. I began to learn to think for myself, to be independent and to rely on my heavenly Father.

I especially remember one moonlit night, lying on my back in my dorm room’s top bunk. Loneliness crushed my heart until I could hardly breathe. I’m alone – all, all alone! Just then a jackal began to howl not far away, and I wanted to howl with him. Tears trickled into my ears and I clapped my pillow over my head to stifle the sobs that shook my slight frame. I didn’t want the other girls in the room to hear me crying, and think I was a baby. In the stuffy darkness under the pillow, with even the moonlight cut off, God spoke to my heart as clearly as if His voice had been audible: “I’m here. You’re not alone – I am here!”

Throughout my life, God has been “here” for me. In the ups and downs, in the thick and thin, in the joys and sorrows, He has been the Solid Rock to which I’ve clung. I learned this lesson early in life because I had to be away from my parents at such a young age. God is WITH me and will help me through any issue that I face.

Kondi lives in Malawi, East Africa. She will show you much about her culture and the African way of life. Kondi is the composite of a number of Malawian girls I knew. She has poignant, tragic and funny experiences. She’s artistic, smart and loving. She’s also afraid.

Will this same promise also hold true for Kondi in Kondi’s Quest? Will God be close to her in all her troubles and her efforts to please God and her earthly father? Will she learn that living for God means He is with her – even when He seems to be distant?

It is my prayer that Kondi’s story will touch the hearts of pre-teens around the world and help them know God loves them and that they will experience His presence when they are most vulnerable and in difficult circumstances.

Sylvia Stewart, long time missionary, now resides in Oregon with her husband and cute little Papillon, Viva. She is working on a sequel to Kondi's story. You can read more about her on her website:

Find Kondi's Quest on: Amazon,  Barnes&Noble, & Christian Book

Pam Hillman ~ How Her Novella Stealing Jake Became a Full Length Book  

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When Livy O'Brien spies a young boy jostling a man walking along the boardwalk, she recognizes the act for what it is. After all, she used to be known as Light-fingered Livy. But that was before she put her past behind her and moved to the growing town of Chestnut, Illinois, where she's helping to run an orphanage. Now she'll do almost anything to protect the street kids like herself.

Sheriff's deputy Jake Russell had no idea what he was in for when he ran into Livy--literally--while chasing down a pickpocket. With a rash of robberies and a growing number of street kids in town--as well as a loan on the family farm that needs to be paid off--Jake doesn't have time to pursue a girl. Still, he can't seem to get Livy out of his mind. He wants to get to know her better . . . but Livy isn't willing to trust any man, especially not a lawman.

Interwoven throughout is a group of street kids arrested in Chicago and sold as child labor. Leading this band of ragamuffins is young Luke, a scared, determined orphan intent on rescuing his little brother at any cost.

Jake and Livy’s story started out as a novella proposal for Tyndale House Publishers several years ago, but didn’t make the cut. In hindsight, I think we can all agree that this was a good thing! I liked the premise so much that I revised it, working with the story until I had a full-length novel.

As a novella, Stealing Jake was a light-hearted love story of a former pickpocket and sheriff’s deputy sparring with (and against!) each other and ultimately falling in love. But as I built it into a full-length novel, it evolved into so much more. The gritty world of coal mining worked its way into Jake’s past, and the even grittier world of street kids in the late 1800’s into Livy’s traumatic past. And along the way, a kid named Luke took hold of my heart and wouldn’t let go.

The manuscript garnered several awards, and the attention of a few editors, but something was lacking. I knew what it was: Luke’s story. But I was afraid I couldn’t weave scenes in from his point-of-view in seamlessly. But his story, and that of his friends, demanded to be told. Finally, one night at the ACFW conference in 2008, romantic suspense author Robin Caroll helped me brainstorm ways to weave Luke into the story. I think she (Robin) was tired of hearing me gripe about it!

I loved the results, and the revised version went on to final in the 2011 RWA Golden Heart contest before being contracted by Tyndale House as one of the launch books for their Digital First Initiative program.

To celebrate the release of Stealing Jake, I’m giving away a Kindle. Deadline to enter the contest is September 30th. Go to my website for more information.

You can read more about the book on Amazon or CBD.

Award-winning author Pam Hillman writes inspirational fiction set in the turbulent times of the American West and the Gilded Age. Her debut book, Stealing Jake, won the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Genesis contest and was a finalist in Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart contest. She lives in Mississippi with her husband and family.

Connect with Pam on the web:

Preparing My Heart for Grandparenting By Lydia E. Harris  

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“Some day I’m going to write a book,” I joked with my children.

“About what?” my daughter asked, raising her eyebrows.

“I don’t know. Something from my life. God will show me.”

Years later, with the children out of the nest and time to fill, I sensed God’s nudge. “It’s time to write, Lydia.”

Now? Start something new in my fifties? Doubts surfaced, and I feared rejection. I had no formal training to write for publication. With a degree in home economics, I crafted casseroles, not stories!

After arguing with God and wondering if I had heard right, I finally accepted His call to write and began to equip myself. I joined critique groups and writers’ organizations. I read books and magazines on writing. I took a correspondence course and attended writers’ conferences.

At my first conference, the director suggested, “Start with book reviews, devotionals, or Sunday school take-home papers.” I followed her advice and began with book reviews. Writing reviews honed my skills, forced me to write tight, and gave me the perk of free books. I reslanted many of my reviews and sold them as reprints. In eighteen months, I accumulated over 100 bylines.

Soon, I branched out and wrote devotionals for a Mennonite quarterly. I also started writing a tea column, “A Cup of Tea with Lydia,” featured in The Country Register. To my delight, the column picked up steam and now reaches nearly three-quarters of a million readers in the U.S. and Canada.

I also contributed stories and articles to 15 books, including: The Write Start; For Better, For Worse; Stories for the Kindred Heart; The Power of Prayer; All is Calm, All is Bright; Christmas Wonderland; Blessed Among Women; Guideposts Extraordinary Answers to Prayer, and others.

I sensed God’s affirmation as I ventured into each new writing genre. He confirmed many times that it’s never too late to begin writing.

From the start, writers’ conferences proved essential for growth and networking with authors, editors, publishers, and agents. Each conference provided new friendships and writing opportunities. But conferences were expensive. To defray costs, I applied to teach. I’ve taught workshops on how to break into print with book reviews, how to write columns, how to get started as a writer, how to write during adversity, and others. My favorite class, “Empower Your Writing Through Prayer,” emphasizes that prayer needs to be the backbone of our writing. Although we can write words, only God can touch hearts through our words.

In 2002, I faced an unexpected crisis—a diagnosis of incurable cancer. Did this mean I was through writing? With ongoing health challenges and numerous medical appointments, I often didn’t feel like continuing. But God provided strength to write tea columns, devotionals, and a book proposal, one day at a time. I also marketed numerous reprints. To my surprise, I won a writing contest for the most submissions in a year. Writing distracted me from my illness and gave me a sense of accomplishment when I felt too sick to leave home. God’s faithfulness and comfort during trials inspired me to write articles and devotionals for others facing serious illnesses. And He continues to sustain my life.

But what about my desire to write a book? Psalm 37:4 (NIV), my lifetime verse says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I determined to focus on my responsibility: to delight myself in the Lord, knowing God would give me the desires of my heart—in His time.

After a dozen years of writing, it was God’s time for me to write a book. Spring 2009, I signed a contract with AMG Publishers for Preparing My Heart for Grandparenting: For Grandparents at Any Stage of the Journey. I had already spent months researching the topic in the Bible and other books and had interviewed dozens of grandparents. Writing a Bible study was a new genre for me, but I claimed Joshua 1:9 to “be strong and courageous” and moved forward. I knew writing this Bible study was a God-sized project and enlisted weekly prayer support. In 36 weeks, I wrote 30 Bible study lessons, and groups of grandparents tested the lessons as I completed them. I submitted the manuscript on schedule, and nine months later, or about 18 months after I signed the contract, my book was released.

When the boxes of books arrived, my husband and I knelt beside them and dedicated them to God, asking Him to bless future generations through them. Then we took our grandkids to breakfast and celebrated with them. It seemed appropriate that during the time I wrote Preparing My Heart for Grandparenting, we also welcomed our fifth grandchild.

I thank God for His help from the beginning to the end and see this hands-on guidebook as a tool in His hands. I’m excited that it presents biblical wisdom, practical ideas, and stories and quotes from experienced grandparents. It affirms grandparents in their important role and encourages them to join their grandkids’ fan club. The book can be ordered through bookstores or online at and For more information, visit my Web site:

After my children left home about twenty years ago, I prayed that my life would count for something more. Although initially I hesitated to write for publication, now I feel privileged to partner with God and touch lives through writing. I'm eager to offer God my loaves and fishes and watch him multiply them to feed thousands of readers. During this empty-nest, retirement, grandparenting season of life, God has honored my desire and surprised me with something more—writing for Him.

Lydia has kindly offered to donate a copy of her book to one of today's commenters. In the comments below simply answer the question: How did a grandparent impact your life? Or, if you're a grandparent, share a favorite grand-parenting memory or experience.
One week from today we'll draw from the names and announce the winner! You can use the social media gadget at the top of the post to share this article with your friends so they can enter too.

Dora Hiers Picked up by White Rose after Five Years  

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“Every story has its own path to travel….”
What road are you traveling?

Have you ever thought about the roads you’ve traveled? Bumpy, windy roads. Roads filled with potholes, forks, and turns. Up mountains. Through valleys. Quiet, country roads and bustling, noisy intersections. Have you considered how few roads are actually smooth? 

I’m not one of those writers who dreamed of putting words on paper from an early age. Writing wasn’t in my career path. If I had seen it coming, I probably would have made a u-turn and headed in the opposite direction. After all, I’d spent twelve years writing and editing audit reports. Painful, excruciatingly so. You see, I’m one of those perfectionists. You know the kind.
But, I have always wanted to read, loved to read. Had to have a book in my hands. Don’t you feel lost if you don’t have four or five books lined up ready to read? Me? I have sixteen ~ shhh, don’t tell my husband.

After I dropped out of the workforce to taxi my two sons around (and to make sure one of them actually attended school, he had a slight problem with that!), God planted the “writing” seed in my heart. “Me? Write? No way,” I scoffed. I was convinced I was wrong. God didn’t want me to do something that I didn’t enjoy, did He? Surely, I was mistaken. Talk about facing a mountain.

The writing seed dug in, took root around my heart with the idea for Journey’s End, which germinated from a newspaper article about a mobster, finally convicted for his crimes years later. God watered the seed until it grew into a manuscript, even fertilized it with a stack of rejection letters and dismal contest results. God helped me to focus on the positive comments. One manuscript grew into two. Then, three.

A dear friend from Carolina Christian Writers directed me to White Rose Publishing and on New Year’s Eve in 2010, five years after I started down this crazy writing road, White Rose Publishing offered me a contract for Journey’s End, my first heart racing, God-gracing book in the Marshals of Journey Creek series.  Can you think of a better way to end one year and to begin another? Who needs fireworks? Shortly after that, my second book, Journey’s Edge, finished second in the 2010 Unpublished Beacon Contest.

Wow! Thank you, God, for not giving up on me! For walking hand-in-hand with me on this crazy exciting journey and for filling my heart with joy!

What is your own journey like? Curvy? Full of potholes? Are you facing a mountain? Don’t give up! When you open the mailbox or email to a rejection, cry, rant, and stop writing for a while. Then, look at the rejection again with a fresh perspective. Pick out the constructive ideas on how to make your writing stronger and better and dig back in. Because the feeling is ever so sweet when you get that affirmative email or phone call…

Whatever road you’re on, my prayer is that God blesses your journey! Journey's End can be found at

Journey to Riverbend by Henry McLaughlin  

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The story came to me as an image of a man standing on a ridge looking down on a small town. It triggered the question, why is he there? I wrote the first chapter in the mid-1990s. At that time, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. (Some might say I still don’t). I dabbled in it more than I actually wrote. I estimate I wrote the first chapter fifteen times before getting serious about writing approximately six or seven years ago. When you’re a procrastinating perfectionist like me, dabbling is about as deep as I could go.
Then in 2002, I had a significant experience. I went in for heart surgery and received, for no extra charge, a double dose of complications on the side which nearly sent me to heaven. I didn’t have an out-of-body experience, probably because I was too medicated to realize it. When they finally moved me from ICU to a regular floor, the ICU nurse referred to me as their “miracle patient.” I am blessed with a praying wife, Linda, who wouldn’t quit and who wouldn’t let me quit either.
In late 2005, I found an ad for Christian Writers Guild in a magazine. If I was going to be serious about writing, I needed to do something significant, make a meaningful commitment of my time, open myself up to criticism. Over the next five years, I completed CWG’s Apprentice, Journeyman, and Craftsman courses.
In 2006, I attended my first writers’ conference, North Texas Christian Writers, near my home. I began attending a local writer’s group and opening myself to be critiqued.
The Father has blessed me in this experience by helping me to receive criticism without personalizing it, to develop a thick skin as Jerry Jenkins calls it. This is in itself another miracle.
2009 was the breakthrough year for me in many ways. I focused on rewriting my novel. I attended two fiction mentoring clinics with DiAnn Mills. I attended the Writing for the Soul conference, the North Texas Christian Writers conference, the ACFW conference and the Ridgecrest Writers Retreat. I was exposed to and inspired by excellent faculty who had a profound influence on me. People like Brandilyn Collins, Steven James, Angela Hunt, Doc Hensley, Mary DeMuth and many others. I dug into my local and on line critique groups.
Under the Lord’s direction, I entered my novel into a contest sponsored by the Christian Writers Guild and Tyndale House.
In early November,2009, I was informed I was one of 10 semifinalists for the award. Later in November, they announced the four finalists. I wasn’t among them but I was humbled and honored to make the semifinals.
In February 2010, I attended the writers conference sponsored by the Christian Writers Guild. On the first night, Jerry B. Jenkins started to announce the contest winner but first said a mistake was made: There were actually five finalists for the award, not four, and read my name. While I was still absorbing that information, he announced my book as the winner. The prize: $20,000 and a publishing contract with Tyndale House. God’s favor and grace opened the door for this to happen. My part was to obey His call to the best of my ability. God is faithful and blesses and rewards when we are faithful to His plan.
Once the contract was signed, we began the editing process. I worked with Tyndale staff under the leadership of Stephanie Broene and a free lance editor, Anne Christian Buchanan, Tyndale assigned to the project. The editing process was intense but it was a pleasure to work with professionals dedicated to having the book be the best it could be. The process was a learning experience in meeting deadlines, working as a team, and burying ego. I know it helped me develop as a professional writer and gave me lessons I will carry with me as I pursue this career.

Susan Page Davis on her Ladies Shooting Club Series  

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The Blacksmith’s Bravery—third and final book in my Ladies’ Shooting Club series—released November 1. I’m thrilled to see this one on the shelves and a little sad to be leaving the fictional town of Fergus, Idaho behind.
                When I first thought of this series, I wanted to write about a group of strong women who supported each other physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I wanted them to do something usually perceived as a man’s province. That wasn’t hard in the 1880s setting. My ladies wanted to learn to shoot.
                A murder in their town drew the women together out of fear at first. Widow Libby Adams, owner of the emporium, approached Gert Dooley, sister of the town’s gunsmith. She asked Gert to teach her to shoot her late husband’s pistol so that she could protect herself and her store. A rancher’s wife heard them shooting and asked if she could join them. Then the saloon owner, Bitsy Shepard, heard about it, and asked to tag along.
Gert and Libby were faced with some decisions. They could have said no and let it go at that, but they saw women who feared for their children and their own lives—women who had no men to protect them or who felt vulnerable when their men were off tending to their ranches or businesses. Some women were friendless and outcasts of society. Libby and Gert decided to welcome all women into their circle and to teach them all to shoot safely.
Their kindness and generosity brought them much more than they’d imagined. Women in the Shooting Club found friendships and wise counsel in addition to marksmanship.
Of course this upset the men in Fergus. They wanted their women at home in the kitchen, not out shooting up their stock of ammunition. In the first book, the club nearly tore the town apart. But by book 3, things have calmed down a little and most of the citizens have accepted the ladies’ newfound skill as an asset.
In keeping with the theme of the series, in the Blacksmith’s Bravery, saloon girl Vashti Edwards wants to take a further step into a man’s world. She wants to drive a stagecoach. Blacksmith Griffin Bane, who runs the stage line, wouldn’t consider himself intolerant. He just can’t imagine hiring a woman to drive stage. That’s plain crazy. He resists Vashti’s pleas to give her a chance, but finally allows her a toehold because of her shooting skill. She rides shotgun with an older, experienced driver on the Silver City run, and then gets him to teach her the fine points of handling a six-horse hitch.
When Vashti earns her spot on the driver’s box, a new problem arises. A gang of robbers has targeted the local stagecoach line. Once again, the Ladies’ Shooting Club is called upon to face down the outlaws.
I loved writing this series from start to finish. A research trip into the mountains of Idaho was a highlight. I learned so much—like how dangerous those mountain roads are, and how big crickets can get! The writing was spread over about a year for the three books. They stand alone, but as a trilogy they give the reader a full picture of life in this little mining town. The characters carry through from book to book, and you’ll see the romances blossom in fulfillment as you read on.
After the first book (The Sheriff’s Surrender) I received a few comments that the romance moved too slowly. I feel it’s realistic, and Gert and her sheriff do work through their issues and get to the altar in the second book. Her brother Hiram, the shy gunsmith, overcomes his extreme timidity with women and lets his feelings be known in The Gunsmith’s Gallantry. Again you see the fruition of this romance in the next book, while Vashti and Griffin are beginning theirs. I believe I married off four couples in this series, and hinted at a future for another pair. This is historical romance with a dash of mystery and suspense, and a spoonful of growing faith. But it’s not “passion at first sight.” Most of my romantic pairs in the series have known each other for years before acting on their attraction. But their relationships are as solid as the mountains they live in.
If you’d like to read more about this series and my other books, come visit me at Every month I give away a few books there (use the “Enter the Contest” form—I won’t use your address for anything else). I’d love to see you there. Right now I’m working on a new Prairie series about an Englishwoman who goes west to find her uncle. Look for the Prairie Dreams series next fall.
Susan Page Davis

Susan will give one copy of The Blacksmith's Bravery to a commenter on this post. Of all her books, tell Susan which one was your favorite and why. If you haven't read any of her books, that's okay, comment on why you would like to win this one. The drawing will be held on Monday the 22nd. Please be sure to include your email address if it isn't available in your profile.