“Where do you get your ideas?”

A question all too familiar to most writers, whether they are seasoned professional with a hard track record of novels multi-pubbed in many foreign languages or the aspiring writer  who has just — mistakenly– shared their aspiration to a career of full-time writing.

This is a common question for two very good reasons; 1) people are genuinely interested in how your process works or, 2) the can’t think of anything else intelligent to say to someone who makes their living as a writer.  After all, full-time author isn’t a real job, is it?

Happily or sadly, dependent on which side of the argument you fall, people do make a living at nothing but the writing.

So back to the question, where do the good ideas come from?

They are all around us.  The good ideas are in the people we know and those we don’t know, the folks we’ve grown up with and those we pass on the street.  The good ideas are everywhere if you know how to mine them out of your everyday life.

What will you do when faced with a life changing decision?  What do you think the people you know really well– your nearest and dearest do, when faced with a life altering choice?  Would they sacrifice one loved one for another?  Would they sacrifice their own life for someone else?  Or would they sacrifice another in order to live?

The choices we make on our best day as human beings is not usually the choice we offer our characters in a novel.  Those choices are much more difficult.  The things we know– or think we know about ourselves can all be called into question in our fiction.  This is what we mean when we talk about writing what we know.

In fiction we build characters who help us tell our stories, of what we think we would do– or hope we could do, or even help us tell of the better person we would like to be, if we aren’t telling the cautionary tale of  history which shows us the path others have chosen, much to their regret.

That is what fiction is all about, after all.  Telling the story.  Choosing the path for our characters, writing what we know and asking –” What if?”

So share with me, where do your good ideas come from?

Achieving your Dreams

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”

– Walt Disney

So I often wonder why more people don’t follow their dreams and write the book they say they have inside them?

Do you think it’s lack of courage?  An inability to handle the criticism that comes with putting yourself out there, naked in front of the entire world?

Or is it a painful and debilitating paralysis from a long past or possibly more recent criticism?  Unfair critique or snide, mean remarks made by those who do not have the courage to pursue their own dreams?  These are the people who often make themselves better by demeaning the efforts of others when they are too afraid to try something themselves.

Some of us, who have tender hearts understand the pain, the joy, the anger, the frustration and the longing suffered by others.  Those of us who can see beyond the surface, “No, fine, I’m okay” , understand and sometimes identify with those, weaker of heart who slink away into the background and never write another word when we don’t find the respect we need from people who claim to love an support us in these endeavors.

Criticism can and should always be constructive.  Those we ask to help us achieve our dreams, by pointing out and helping us to correct flaws in the work, are true mentors who can help us to learn and grow.  Those who do not should be ignored, or killed.

Allowing others to rip the dreams from your heart is the same as having someone stab you and leave you bleeding in filth in a back alley.  This person is not your friend, and is certainly not a good mentor.

A good mentor will not pressure you, but will help you to identify your most likely path to achieving your dreams, no matter what those dreams entail.

A proper mentor, someone with your best interest at heart will encourage, instruct, and enlighten you about whether or not you are on the true path to achieve your dreams.  And a true friend rejoices in her friends success, even while she delays enjoying her own.

Guest Blogger

We have a guest blogger today.  Help me welcome author Claire Sanders who writes for the inspirational market.

The Quakers of New Garden

by Claire Sanders

My latest publication is an inspirational romance titled “New Garden’s Inspiration”.  You can find it in “The Quakers of New Garden”, one of the Romancing America series from Barbour Books.  Three of the stories in this collection concern Quakers who lived in Indiana during the 19th century and one story is contemporary.

The heroine in my story is named Leah Wall.  Since she long ago accepted that she’d be the unmarried poor relation for the rest of her life, she’s thrilled to find out her uncle has arranged a marriage for her.  Once she’s married though, she discovers that she’s little more than a housekeeper and caregiver for her husband’s children and elderly aunt.



Writing for the Christian market has been an interesting journey.  At first, I thought this genre would be quite limiting.  After all, the publishing houses are quite clear about all the things that can’t be written about in an inspirational romance – sex, cursing, or anything that could be considered blasphemous.  Plus, my research into the genre showed many stories that leaned heavily on preaching.  What interested me more was how Christians handle the many challenges they face in life.

Once I focused on that question, story ideas flourished in my mind.  For example, I’ve always been intrigued by the story of Rachel and Leah in Genesis, chapters 29-35.  Jacob fell in love with Rachel, the younger and prettier sister.  He agreed to work for her father for seven years in exchange for the right to marry her.  But on his wedding night, he discovers he’s married Rachel’s older sister, Leah.   There are many lessons to learn from Jacob and Rachel, but the character who interested me the most was Leah.

Can you imagine how Leah felt?  She knows she’s not what Jacob wanted, and she knows she’s not as pretty as her younger sister.  But she has no choice but to participate in her father’s deceitful plan.  Many of us know the sting of rejection, but Leah could be named the Patron Saint of Rejection!

It was no accident that the heroine of “New Garden’s Inspiration” is named Leah.  I wanted to explore how a Christian woman would react to the sting of rejection.  Leah Wall was rejected by the young men of her home village, rejected by her uncle who saw her as an unwanted poor relation, and then rejected by the man she married.  How easy it would be for her to become bitter and resentful.  But the Leah of my story is neither meek nor brash.  She sticks to what is true in herself and answers each challenge in the spirit of love.

How Leah handles this less-than-happy-ever-after marriage is the basis for the story, and I hope you’ll check it out.  I would love an email from you with your thoughts.  You can always contact me through my website



HSC Contest Reviews – Duel on the Delta Contest

Duel on the Delta Contest

Presented by:

River City Romance Writers

Fees: $25

Entry: Opening 20 pages

Closed for entries:  April 15th

Winners will be notified on or around June 30th



Top prize is cash

Finalists have time to make changes to their manuscript before final round judging

Synopsis is not judged

Three first round judges

Final round judges are industry professionals


No classes offered for judges

There will be a limited number of entries admitted

No mention of how many finalists


The Good –

The top prize is $25 cash and a Duel on the Delta pin.  Who can’t use cash in this economy?

Finalists have one week to make changes before submitting for the final round judging.  Excellent!  Anything to improve a manuscript can only be a good thing.

You can send in an optional one page synopsis, but it is not judged.  The work stands on its own merits.

There are 3 first round judges.  This eliminates the chance of discrepancy scores.  Excellent!

Final round judges are all industry professionals.  They are:

Contemporary judged by Aubrey Pope of Sourcebooks

Erotic judged by Angela James of Carina Press

Historical judged by Deborah Nemeth of Carina Press

Inspirational judged by Sarah Long of Bethany House

Paranormal/Urban Fantasy judged by Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literacy Agency

Romantic Suspense judged by Liz Bass of Carina Press

Young Adult judged by Liz Pelletier of Entangled Publishing

The Bad –

The River City Romance Writers holds no classes for their judges.  I can’t stress how important it is for contests to realize the importance of having their judges trained. 

On the website it states “There will be a limited number of entries admitted”.  It does not tell what the cap is.  It states “The Duel on the Delta Contest Chair will determine the maximum number of entries based upon category volume”.  Seems logical, but how many and what is the determining factor? 

There is no indication on the website of how many finalists there are.  On the page of past winners, it looks to be anywhere from 3 to 5 finalists per category.  Very confusing.


As far as the Duel on the Delta Contest is concerned, it’s pretty average.  With a fee of $25, you get three first round judges and the chance at cash prizes!  However, the lack of training classes for the judges and the unknown amount of finalists puts a real element of concern on this writing contest.