There is nothing more pleasing than A/C in Florida in July. Makes me wonder how people survived without it back in the day. Nevertheless, we’re sitting on the front porch. The ceiling fan is spinning. The lemonade is sweating in the pitcher. And the breeze only blows when a storm is brewing. So have a seat. The rocking chairs are a plenty, and help me welcome fellow author Shelly Beach!

Hello, Shelly! Please tell us about your latest book you co-authored with Wanda Sanchez, Love Letters from the Edge: Meditations for Those Suffering from Brokenness, Trauma, and the Pain of Life. 

Love Letters from the Edge offers hope to anyone who’s been so hurt by life that they’ve wondered if God is fair or loving. It asks tough questions we ask when we feel broken and alone. More importantly, each devotional/meditation includes a love letter to the reader from God, based on God’s Word.

Why did you write this book?

Shelly Beach

I think everyone comes to a point in life where they experience a crisis or a number of crises that are so painful, so soul-searing, that they question whether or not God is really in control, whether He cares, and whether He loves us and takes care of us. People often reject God based on a response to suffering. I wrestled with these questions after a sexual assault when I was 19 and standing by and comforting one of my children after their sexual assault. I’ve also learned a great deal about how trauma and PTSD influence our healing, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Love Letters is a lament for sorrow and pain, but it is also an affirmation of God’s love for us in suffering.

What is the primary focus of your book?

God offers hope for healing from trauma and brokenness. You are not the asterisk in the Bible. God’s heart is broken for your pain, and He loves you beyond comprehension. God is at work for you in all things.

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

Hope in God. Hope that God has a future for them and that they are His unique, irreplaceable creation, gifted to the world to fulfill a heavenly mission.

How do you share Christ in your writing?

Most of my writing is drawn from experiences in my life and my walk with God. I’ve written 5 books about caregiving because that’s been a central focus of my life. I’ve also battled with some of the “Why, God?” questions stemming from painful issues like abandonment, abuse, illness, regret, and other universal topics. Life is hard, but God brings peace, purpose, and perspective to everything.

What themes do you return to again and again in your writing?

Shelly and Wanda Sanchez

Life is tough, but God is good. Suffering is an inevitable part of a sin-infested world, but Jesus carries us in our weakness and pain. Abiding in Jesus brings comfort and peace.

What ministries are you involved in, and why?

I am a national speaker with Daughters of Destiny women’s prison ministry. Daughters of Destiny is an outreach of Prison Fellowship. I present seminars and inspirational sessions on Love Letters from the Edge and PTSD in prisons across the nation.

I’m also a board member for Music for the Soul (www.musicforthesoul.org), a Christian ministry using the power of songs and stories as a bridge to hope and healing for those facing life’s most difficult issues. I was privileged to serve in an advisory role for Dignity, a caregiver project, as well as writing devotional material for MFTS.

I serve with each of these ministries because they serve people who often feel they are unfixable, unlovable, or forgotten by God. God has given me a passion for hurting people—particularly women.

Do you have a “day job” or a previous career? Does it influence what or how you write?

I worked as a junior high and high school English teacher for thirty years, then transitioned into teaching college writing. I gave up work to care for parents in failing health with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other illnesses. My family caregiving, as well as helping care for students, church family, and friends has greatly influenced my writing, as well as my own health battles.

Shelly, it’s been a pleasure having you here on my Florida front porch! If readers wish to get in touch with you or find out more about you and your writing ministry, how they may do it?

They can visit my website @ shellybeachonline.com or my blog @ shellybeachonline.wordpress.com.

Thank you, readers, for dropping by! And thank you, Shelly, for spending some time with us.

Until next time, may God bless you all, and may you bless God.

 

Kevin

www.ckevinthompson.com

 

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Greetings from the Sunny South, where the heat and humidity zap your strength and make you so thankful for air conditioning! I’m C. Kevin Thompson, and I want to welcome Dr. Richard L. Mabry, M.D. to the Christian Authors Network’s front porch! We are so glad you make house calls, Dr. Mabry. Thanks for stopping by.

So, what’s been happening in your writing world? Tell us about your latest book, Doctor’s Dilemma.

Young surgeon Tyler Gentry thought the offer to join the Hall Group of surgeons offered the answer to his problems, but things changed when he received a 3 AM phone call that told him such a move would be hazardous to his health.

I hate getting those phone calls. Don’t you? What inspired you to write this book?

It was a continuing sequence of “what ifs” that began with something I read on the Internet. I was surprised when I learned the amount of debt a medical student accrues during his education nowadays. From that point, I began to wonder what would happen if plans for entering practice blow up in a young doctor’s face so that he finds himself scrambling for a place where he can earn enough to get himself out of debt. Then I decided to have him fall for a beautiful nurse who has no intention of ever making herself vulnerable to another man again. Stir well, and you have Doctor’s Dilemma.

Sounding a little James Bond-ish, there, Doc. Stirred, not shaken. So, why did you write this particular book?

There are two answers here. One is because I wanted to show readers that doctors are humans with problems, such as med school loans and the problem of finding a place they can put into practice what they’ve learned. They, like so many of us, let their relationship with God slide because of the pressures of life—but others can help set them back on the path, and God is right there where they left Him.

The other reason is because I, like some of my colleagues, got caught up in the changes in publishing so that my next novel didn’t get released as anticipated…and I got tired of people asking when they’d see my next book. So I released this self-published novella.

What’s your favorite scene and/or section in this book?

Honestly, it’s hard to pick just one (sort of like a parent naming a favorite child), but I particularly like the first scene. Dr. Tyler Gentry thought that, despite all the obstacles in his path, perhaps this opportunity for practice would be a dream position. Then suddenly, an anonymous phone call at 3 AM makes him think perhaps it’s going to be a nightmare.

Three-in-the-morning phone calls never start or end well, do they? So, when crafting your stories, how do you share Christ in your writing? What themes do you return to again and again?

I don’t recall that in any of my books I’ve included an altar call or laid out the plan of salvation. Instead, I show that God is always there in our everyday life. What I’ve tried to do is demonstrate that Christians aren’t immune from trouble—quite the opposite—but they are able to work through it with His help.

What would be your ideal writing place? And…what’s your actual writing place like?

I read about colleagues who like to take their laptop into Starbucks or find a cozy spot on the back porch. That won’t work for me. I sort of like what I have. My office is so small you have to step outside to change your mind, but once I walk inside I know it’s time to write. I use a laptop, connected to an external keyboard and monitor for that. And I stop working when my wife shows up at the office’s open door. I may be a writer, but some things are more important to me than getting the words down right.

Very interesting. My set up (laptop, wireless keyboard, monitor) is the same. So is my “wife in the doorway” policy. Maybe your “wide in the doorway policy” is one of them, but what is one thing about writing that you wish non-writers knew?

Non-writers want to know how to get published, thinking apparently there’s some kind of secret I’ve discovered. The only secret I know is to learn the craft, write, revise, write some more, and keep at it. I’m also asked, “When will your next book come out?” That depends on the publisher and a lot of other factors. Indie-publishing has made this go faster, but the fact is that it still takes an author a lot longer to write and edit a book than it does a reader to go through it.

Amen to that. I saw a Facebook post recently that said, “Someone can spend $5.00 on a cup of coffee that’s produced in three minutes, and feel obligated to tip the barista, while at the same time, smile and be appreciative. Yet, while holding that same cup of coffee, they’ll read a book (in the same coffee shop, I might add) and complain that the author is asking for $3.99 for an electronic version or $10.99 for a paperback version of a novel that took six months to create. #allaboutperspective 

But I digress. Tell us about your most touching moment with a reader.

I’ve had several occasions when I was about ready to give up, only to receive a message from a reader telling me how much one of my novels has meant to them. Probably the most meaningful was the email that said, in essence, “I never liked Christian fiction…until I read your books.” That kept me writing for a while.

I’ll bet it did! On that note, what talents do you have aside from storytelling that changes the minds of readers toward Christian fiction?

When it comes to languages, I’m the epitome of the expression, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” I speak some Spanish, a bit of French and Italian, used to be fluent in German, and even learned some Portuguese when I was serving in the Azores, but I still have to look up certain words in English.

I’ve attended church for many decades, and have served a couple of times as interim music minister. I’ve read the Bible many times over, have taught High School Bible Credit years ago, yet I still learn things every time I hear my pastor preach.

Then there’s my athletic prowess. When I played baseball, I could throw a curve but couldn’t hit one. As a golfer—well, it’s nice to get out in the open air, and I occasionally hit a shot worth remembering.

That is a lot of “trades.” What do you read for pleasure, and what are you reading right now?

Most of the reading I do is fiction. I just finished Rick Acker’s latest, The Enoch Effect (great book). Currently on my nightstand is the first volume of the Harbingers cycle, written by Bill Meyers, Frank Peretti, Angie Hunt, and Alton Gansky.

Dr. Mabry, thanks so much for stopping by and chatting with us! But before you go, tell us about your next project.

My next full-length novel is Cardiac Event. The publisher and time of release haven’t been settled, but here’s a bit about it:

Cardiologist Dr. Kirk Martin continually crosses swords with Dr. Cliff Hamilton, so he is surprised when Hamilton asks him to care for him after a heart attack. When he is ready for discharge, Hamilton is found dead in his hospital bed, and Martin is suspected of murdering him.

When another doctor is found shot to death, nurse Janet Rush reminds Martin to be careful because he may be next. Can he save his own life while searching for the identity of the real murderer?

That sounds very interesting…

Thanks again for sharing with us!

Want to learn more about Dr. Mabry and his writing career? You can visit him at his website or his blog!

 

Until next time,

May God bless you, and may you bless God.

Kevin

 

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C. Kevin Thompson

Hello from the abnormally warm south! A temperature of 81 in January is hot, even by Floridian standards. Something about high pressure blocking cold fronts from getting here…. Yay! The mosquitoes will be spared!

Ugh.

Well, it’s time for another edition of Tips from the Pros! And this go ’round, let’s welcome Jackie M. Johnson to the front porch.

Hi, Jackie! Glad you could make it. So, tell us, how many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?

As an author and blogger, I write books and blog posts (mostly for women) that offer hope and encouragement to readers worldwide. Women today seem more stressed and discouraged, overworked and overwhelmed than ever. I want to offer godly wisdom and biblical advice—in a way that’s easy to understand and apply to everyday life. My books include:

  • Power Prayers for Women (a topical book with practical, biblical inspiration and prayers for every area of a woman’s life)
  • When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton Is Empty (a helpful resource for healing a relationship breakup)
  • Praying with Power When Life Gets Tough – releases January 17, 2017 (a topical book with hope-filled, encouraging stories and dynamic prayers when life is hard)

You were last featured on the CAN blog in 2013. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?

The writing life can be rewarding, but it’s not always easy. You need to have tenacity and perseverance—and a lot of passion for your writing. You will get tired and discouraged at times, but passion will fuel you with the energy you need to complete that next chapter or get that next book proposal out to your agent.

I’ve also learned how interactive the writing life can be since social media allows authors two-way communication to convey a message to an audience, grow that audience and receive feedback from readers in unprecedented ways.

What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about promotion since then?

Know your audience. Target your audience. Interact with your audience. Find out how to promote your books and author brand. There are a lot of resources out there. Being a member of CAN has been a helpful resource. Try different media and see what works most effectively for your readers. Bottom line: You are not only an author you are also a marketing person. So you need to learn how to promote your books or hire someone to do that for you.

What are the most effective means of book promotion you’ve tried?

For my readers, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest have proved to be the most popular social media outlets. I’ve discovered that Facebook ads are great and low cost way to grow your audience.

What are the least effective promotional activities you’ve tried?

Years, ago I sent postcards to bookstores (with a cover of the book on one side and promotional text on the other side). I didn’t have much success with that promotional effort at the time.

What’s your favorite way to connect with your readers?

Mostly, I connect with readers through my author Facebook page or on Twitter. I know a lot of people talk about building an email list, but I have not yet done that. One thing that keeps me from doing so is that I get so many emails from other companies and I don’t want to annoy others with emails I send. I think if it’s done right, and you don’t “bombard” people with email, it can be effective.

Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?

Yes. When my first book was released in 2007, the publisher had some wonderful distribution opportunities for Power Prayers for Women with Walmart and with Choice Books (who distribute to airports, grocery stores and other places). I had friends from around the country—many of whom I had not heard from for years—call to let me know that they had seen my new book in a Walmart in Michigan, or a store in Pennsylvania, or at an airport bookstore in Tampa or at a grocery store in Colorado. As a new author, I was so amazed that my first book had national appeal—and then I discovered that I also had an international audience.

I began to get letters, emails, Facebook messages and tweets from readers around the world—India, Brazil, England, Australia and other places.

I was very excited when I learned that my books would be translated into other languages. Some of them are available in Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese and soon Spanish.  It is a blessing and a joy to know that men and women all over our planet can find hope and encouragement through the books I’ve written.

What are your top tips for new authors promoting their first book?

Start early. Don’t wait until your book is published before starting to build your author platform. Consider your author brand. How do you want to be perceived as an author? Create a website. Build social media and interact regularly. Tell your website and social media audience that you have a new book “Coming Soon” (include the book cover image once you have it). Ask your publisher’s publicity staff about their plan is for promoting your book. Do a book blog tour. Guest post on blogs related to your book’s topic. Attend conferences for writers since they’re a great place to learn about marketing and promoting your book. Have a book release party in your home, at a friend’s home or a local coffeehouse. It’s a great way let your close friends, family and others be a part of the celebration (and become “word of mouth” ambassadors for your book).

Jackie, thank you so much for stopping by and telling your story.

If you wish to connect with Jackie, you can find her here:

 

Take care and keep writing!

Kevin

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Florida_Writers_Conference_2010.2Greetings from the fastest growing, snowbird production facility in the union.

I want to introduce you to our Tips From The Pros Spotlight Author, Dianne Neal Matthews! I met Dianne at the Florida Christian Writers Conference a couple of years ago. She was having connectivity issues right before a scheduled workshop, and I was able to help her (although, if memory serves, I wasn’t much help). Nevertheless, Dianne gave me a signed copy of her most recent devotional. Such a kind gesture.

Welcome, Dianne! So, tell us about your books. How many books do you have published, and what are a few of your latest titles?matthews-photo

I have four one-year devotional books published including The One Year Women of the Bible (Tyndale), Designed for Devotion: A 365-Day Journey from Genesis to Revelation (Baker Books). I recently revised my first book that Tyndale published in 2005 and made it available as On This Day: 365 Meditations on Holidays & Historical Events. I’ve also contributed to several compilation books including Mornings with Jesus (Guideposts), which I’ve been a part of since the 2012 edition.

You were last featured on the CAN blog in 2013. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?

I’ve learned how hard it is for me to write when I feel unsettled. Since the end of 2010, my husband and I have lived in four different states due to his job changes. (If I include temporary housing, we’ve had seven different zip codes over the past six years.) I’ve found it extremely difficult to develop book projects while getting used to a new location. At the same time, I’ve become more aware of the meaning and fulfillment that writing brings into my life. So I’ve renewed my commitment to developing a consistent, disciplined writing routine.

What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about promotion since then?

Each time I’ve moved, I’ve lost my local connections and contacts. So that has brought home the importance of online opportunities and social media.

womenofbible_smallWhat are the most effective means of book promotion you’ve tried?

One thing that has worked well has been a book signing “with a cause.” With my second book, I set up a signing at my local library in the small village in Illinois where I lived, announcing that a percentage of the profits would go to the library. After I moved to Salt Lake City, I signed books at my church and shared the profits with the youth group. These type of events catch more people’s attention, the author gets more exposure, and the recipient benefits as well. A win-win situation.

What are the least effective promotional activities you’ve tried?

My blog has been totally ineffective, but there’s a reason for that. About a year and a half ago, I switched my static website to a WordPress site, bought Michael Hyatt’s Get Noticed theme, and also purchased another man’s video training/membership designed to help people get the most out of the Get Noticed theme. I still didn’t know what to do. So I paid someone to design and set up the blog/website. She’s been finished for several months now, but it only has one post: an “Under Construction” message. Hmmm, I’m beginning to think I need to post fresh content on a regular basis in order to be effective—ya think?

What’s your favorite way to connect with your readers?

I love it when readers seek me out on my personal Facebook page. Once I accept their friend request, we start getting glimpses of each other’s personal life, “liking” and commenting, sharing prayer requests. What a great opportunity to get to know readers even though it’s not possible to meet them in person. Some readers send a private message or email, sharing intensely personal issues and struggles. These connections remind me what a privilege it is to write devotions that share God’s Word.

What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?

Several years ago a friend in another part of the country invited me to be the featured author at a Christian school’s Book Fair. Joyce and the principal went all out with promotion for this event, plastering my picture all over the place; they treated me like a rock star once I arrived. Action was slow at my table the first day, but the next day Joyce assured me that Election Day would bring in more traffic since the school served as a polling place. That morning I saw a woman striding towards me, and I got ready to greet her. Would she be thrilled to meet an author and buy an autographed book? Or would she tell me how impressed she’d been with the one she’d purchased the day before? I leaned my ear toward her to drown out the noise in the hallway and—she asked me where the restroom was. I’ve never felt like a rock star since that day, which is probably a good thing.

Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?

I’m always amazed at the emails I get from readers in other countries who have found my books. A young mom of two girls in Australia who had been feeling spiritually burned out. A woman in South Africa whose parents had given her one of my books. A man in India training himself to become a pastor by reading Christian books, including one of my devotionals. Emails from missionaries and people of all walks of life and all ages. I always think back to growing up on my family’s little cotton farm out in the sticks in west Tennessee, and I think, “Only you, God.”

What are your top tips for new authors promoting their first book?

  • Make prayer your first priority. Ask God to guide your efforts and get your book in the hands of the people He wants to read it.
  • Check out any new marketing tools, techniques, and outlets that you hear about. But don’t feel that you’re obligated to use them all. Just figure out what you most enjoy, because that’s what will probably be most effective.
  • Don’t feel like a failure when you pour energy and resources into a marketing activity and it only seems to reach a few people. Those people have friends who have friends who have friends… Besides, if God can multiply a few fish and loaves to feed thousands, He can certainly multiply those few friends into thousands if He so desires.

Dianne, I love those words, “Besides, if God can multiply a few fish and loaves to feed thousands, He can certainly multiply those few friends into thousands if He so desires.” Thank you for stopping by the old front porch!

Friends, if you wish to learn more about Dianne and her writing ministry, you can visit her @ www.DianneNealMatthews.com.

 

Until next time,

Enjoy the holidays, or in the spirit of our fore fathers, the Holy Days (don’t you live how we cheapen the meaning of the words, even in how we sell them?).

Kevin

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Florida_Writers_Conference_2010.2

Hello from the battered state of Florida. My TIPS FROM THE PROS front porch is propped up with 2 x 4s. The power was off for days, so the fridge and the freezer received a good cleaning. Our gas grill got a workout, cooking up all the thawing meat from the freezer. We lost several days of sleep and gained too many pounds to count. All in all, another day in…uh, paradise.

I do exaggerate a little, but we have to here is the land of blustery days and nights in order to keep our sanity.

Oh, by the way, the tourism industry wants me to tell you Disney is still here. The Pirates of the Caribbean have taken over the Magic Kingdom, however, so the price of rum has gone up considerably. It’s a supply and demand thing.

So, with this backdrop, it seems a little strange to be talking to someone who writes stories set in places that actually have mountains, creeks, deserts, ranches, and more. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to Margaret Brownley!margaret

Margaret, I know you’ve been doing this writer thing a long time. How many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?

I’ve published 40 books including my Rocky Creek, Last Chance Ranch, and Undercover Ladies series.  My Christmas novella Do You Hear What I Hear? will be released this month and Left at the Altar will be available November first.

You were last featured on the CAN blog in 2013. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?

It’s gotten a lot tougher. Many bookstores have closed since 2013, which means there are less sales channels.  One of the biggest problems facing writers today is discovery.  It’s hard to get noticed in this overcrowded market. One of the chief lessons I’ve learned is the importance of keeping my name out there between books.  I used to publish a book every nine months—no problem.  Readers have a shorter memory these days, probably because of being bombarded with so much stuff.  I now work to keep my name out there by filling publishing gaps with novellas or shorter stories.

What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about promotion since then?

I learned that it seems like everyone wants to promote your book for a price, but few can do it well.  Before paying money for book promotion, you have to do your homework. If the site isn’t forthcoming with metrics, it’s a waste of time and money.

That makes sense, Margaret. If they claim they can help you sell your book but have no real numbers to prove it, they’re like an editor saying he’s a good editor but doesn’t have any published titles to offer as proof. Good point. So, what are the most effective means of book promotion you’ve tried?

In terms of selling books, I find that my newsletter is the most effective.  I can actually track the number of click-throughs and watch sales spike. But there’s a trick to writing newsletters.  You have to give readers something worthwhile.  I’ve found contests helpful in getting readers to sign up for my newsletter.

leftatthealtarfinalcoverWhat are the least effective promotional activities you’ve tried?

In general, I find Facebook and Twitter to be less effective. Mainly, because I have little control over who and how many readers see my posts. I’ve paid for ads on Facebook, but the click-throughs are never as high as they are for my newsletters.

What’s your favorite way to connect with your readers?

I enjoy connecting with readers through my newsletter and blogs.  I don’t find personal blogs to be that effective.  I prefer group blogs which bring in more traffic.  I’m a regular blogger on http://www.hhhistory.com and http://petticoatsandpistols.com

What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?

This past summer I attended the Romance Writers of America conference.  To promote my Dog Days of Summer story, I made almost a thousand fleece tug toys for dogs.  These were a big hit and went the first day of the conference. Someone even tweeted that I won the “bling contest.”  It was a lot of work, but worth it.  Some even sent me photos of their dogs playing with the toys.

What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?

I don’t know if this qualifies as the funniest, but I took a bunch of my dog toys to the Librarian Meet and Greet event at the conference—and couldn’t give a single one away.  Why?  Because librarians, it seems, favor cats!

I guess that would be true. Cats are quieter, right?

Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?

Joining CAN has been a blessing in so many ways. It amazes me how dedicated members are to helping each other.

What are your top tips for new authors promoting their first book?

Promotion can be overwhelming. I would say to pick out one or, at the very most, two social media sites and learn to use them well. It’s important to track the metrics to see what works and what doesn’t.  Most important, relax and have fun.  It takes time to build a readership.

Good advice, Margaret. We want it all, and we want it now, don’t we? Sounds very Varuca Salt-ish, if you ask me. And we remember what happened to her, riiiiiiiight?

Margaret, thanks for stopping by. When you drive home, please be careful. Lots of debris in the streets. Compliments of Matthew.

 

If you wish to get to know Margaret better, stop by her website @ www.margaret-brownley.com.

 

Thanks for dropping in.

Stay safe.

Kevin

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