Debut author Deborah Malone riles up the rangers in Dahlonega

Deborah Malone has worked as a freelance writer and photographer, since 2001, for the historical magazine “Georgia Backroads.” She has had many articles and photographs published during this time. Her writing is featured in “Tales of the Rails” edited by Olin Jackson. She has also had a showing of her photographs at Floyd Medical Center Art Gallery as well as winning several awards. She is a current member of the Georgia Writers Association, and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She has an established blog, Butterfly Journey, where she reviews Christian Fiction.

NR: Leave a comment for Deborah and be placed in the drawing for a copy of her book. U.S. residents only, please.
The winner of the book was Aggie Villanueva.

Tell us about your new release:
“Death in Dahlonega” is about Trixie Montgomery, a magazine writer, and her friend Dee Dee Lamont. Trixie goes on assignment to Dahlonega, Ga. and takes her friend Dee Dee with her. Dee Dee stumbles across the dead body of a prominent citizen who she exchanged angry words with earlier in the day. She then becomes the number one person of interest. Trixie then sets out to keep Dee Dee from the slammer. And don’t forget Trixie’s Aunt Nana who pays Trixie a surprise visit to help her solve the crime. During the journey they both have to deal with some personal issues that they have been facing in their personal life.
How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific ‘what if’ moment?
I love to write and I love mysteries. I just put the two together. I love cozies and Anne George was one of my favorite authors. She had a wonderful sense of humor and could make me laugh out loud. I wanted to make others laugh and forget about their troubles for a little while. I couldn’t wait to write a Christian cozy.
Did anything strange or funny happen while researching or writing your book?
Yes. When I went to the Gold Museum in Dahlonega where the murder takes place, I asked the ranger to show me around. When she found out I was writing a book she called her superior and they got all riled up, afraid I was going to write about their “security” system, etc. I told them not to worry. I didn’t even know about their security system. LOL
Every novelist has a journey. How long was your road to publication? How did you find out and what went through your mind?  
I lost count, but I think it is around six years. I was expecting an answer and our power had gone out. I kept going to the library to check my email. I finally received an email from the editor at Lamp Post Publishing and I was ecstatic. I thought about all the hard work I had put into my novel and how it had finally paid off.
Do you ever bang your head against the wall from writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?
Sure do. I just write what I can. If I can write only a page at a time, then that is what I do. I tell myself if I write one page a day for a year then I have a book.
Do you consider yourself a visual writer? If so, what visuals do you use?
I like to take pictures of the area I’m writing about and go through them from time to time. I have used picture boards, too.
Novelists sometimes dig themselves into a hole over implausible plots, flat characters or a host of other problems. What’s the most difficult part of writing for you?
All of it!
How do you overcome it?
I keep on keeping on. I try to read, study, take courses, etc. I have so much more to learn. I feel like I’m only beginning.
Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy attic nook?
I’d love to say I write in my cozy attic nook, but I don’t have a cozy attic nook. Most of the time, I write with my laptop sitting in my lap while I sit on the couch. Pepe, our little dog usually keeps me company.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I have a daughter, Niki, who is disabled and I have caregivers who come in every day to help. We don’t really have a typical day. LOL I also have fibromyalgia, which affects how much I can write at a time. I can’t do much during the morning hours so I wait until evening to do my writing.
Some authors report writing 5-10 thousand words a day. Do scenes flow freely from your veins or do you have to tweeze each word out?
Unfortunately, I’m not one of those writers. I have to tweeze out each word. I just do what I can and try not to get caught up in numbers. I think the most I’ve written at a time is 3,000 words. Physically I can’t do much more than that.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard?
Don’t give up! We’ve all heard the advice to read, go to conferences, take courses, etc. But in the end what helped me was hearing stories about how other authors took years to be published, but they never gave up and it paid off.
Do you have any parting words of advice?
I wish I had some flowery words of wisdom, but I really don’t. One thing that helped me was getting a professional editor to do a final edit. I used an editor that was familiar with cozy mysteries. I think it is important they be familiar with the genre you are writing. A couple of books that really helped are: “Goal, Motivation, and Conflict” by Debra Dixon and “Write in Style” by Bobbie Christmas. And remember, don’t give up!
Death in Dahlonega
A friendly adventure turns to murder and mayhem in the north Georgia mountains. Historical writer Trixie Montgomery is asked to cover Gold Rush Days in the picturesque Georgia mountain town, Dahlonega. 
Trixie seizes the chance to mix business with pleasure and asks her best friend, Dee Dee to tag along. Their well laid plans go awry when Dee Dee is discovered standing over the lifeless body of prominent citizen, John Tatum – the very man she’d had a run in with earlier that day – holding a bloody pickax in her hands. 
Can Trixie find a way to finish her assignment and keep Dee Dee out of the slammer?

Author Kaye Dacus’s Top Five Writing Tips

Kaye Dacus is the author of the Brides of Bonneterre and Matchmakers contemporary romance series and The Ransome Trilogy, a historical romance series. She holds a Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University and is a former Vice President and long-time member of American Christian Fiction Writers. A Louisiana native, she now calls Nashville, Tennessee, home. She is currently celebrating the release of her latest title: Turnabout’s Fair Play, Book 3 of the Matchmakers series with Barbour publishing. To learn more about Kaye and her books, visit her online at kayedacus.com.

5. Story trumps craft.
My local writing group has adopted a line from Captain Barbossa from Pirates of the Caribbean when it comes to the “rules” of writing: “The code is more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.” It doesn’t matter how many writing how-to books you memorize and how skillfully you apply the rules you’ve learned from them—if you don’t have a good story, none of the rest of it matters. Yes, the guidelines of good writing are important, but don’t let your story get lost in an attempt to “follow the rules.”

Does that mean you can ignore all of the guidelines about showing vs. telling, Limited Third Person POV, using active rather than passive language, varying sentence structures, eliminating as many adverbs as possible, not using embellished dialogue tags? NO, of course not. Just like a contractor needs an architect’s blueprints to go by BEFORE building a house, you need to learn the guidelines of good writing and current accepted style before you’ll be able to express your story in writing well. So do study the craft. Just think of the guidelines as a shepherd’s crook guiding you to a wide-open, grassy meadow rather than a dogcatcher’s tight leash dragging you toward a cage.

The storyteller knows that success in writing is the intangible thread that connects the reader’s and writer’s hearts through the written word.

4. Read five published novels in your genre for every one craft book you read.
So many writers, especially new writers, get caught up in “learning the craft” and they lose sight of “writing.” You can learn more from critical reading of published novels (breaking them apart, learning how/why they work or don’t work) than you’ll ever learn from reading a how-to book.

While it’s great to read books from throughout the ages, from classics to dime novels of the late 19th/early 20th century to mid-century pulp novels to 1990s experimental fiction, it’s very important to make sure you’re reading new releases in your genre and from the publishers you’re targeting—it’s called market research (thus, you can write those purchases off come tax time!) and it’s something every writer and published author needs to do. It keeps us abreast of current trends, current styles, and what non-writing readers are out there enjoying.

3. Start something new.
To help you clear your mind of the manuscript you just finished, one of the best things you can do is start working on another story. It may not be writing—it may be collecting images of characters and settings, doing research of the time period or of the careers you want these characters to have. It may be meeting with your critique/accountability partners and brainstorming story ideas. It may be reading books you’ve determined are similar to or will give you ideas for your new idea. The important thing is to move on to something new as soon as possible. Write something new.

Don’t make the assumption that finishing one or two manuscripts is going to give you the skill-set you need to become a professional author—when being a professional author requires one to be able to churn out multiple manuscripts, one after the other after the other. For example—with three books to write each year for the last two years, I had, at best, four months to write each one. I couldn’t have done that if I hadn’t trained myself to immediately start something new upon finishing a manuscript before I was published.

By writing multiple manuscripts before you’re published, not only are you honing your skill at the craft of writing, you’re doing your internship at being a professional author.

2. Put your manuscript aside for as long as you possibly can after you finish the first draft.
You want to forget as much as possible about it before you start revisions—that way, you can be more objective about it. When we’re in the midst of writing a manuscript, we’re so close to it, we can’t see misused or missing words. We can’t see where we’ve used telling language instead of showing. We can’t see info dumps or excessive explanation or description. It isn’t until we’ve cleared the manuscript from our minds, until we’ve allowed ourselves to move on to something else for a little while, that we can begin to see the things that need to be addressed.

The easiest way to burn out on a story—or to completely ruin it—is to smother it with attention as soon as it’s finished. Give it some breathing room. Clear your mind. Start something new. Work on other non-writing projects. Then, after a few weeks or even a few months, come back to it, and you’ll be amazed at how much more objective you are about your own writing.

1. FINISH YOUR FIRST DRAFT.
Don’t stress out about perfecting your opening hook before you have your entire story written—because until you get to the end, you don’t really know what your story is about, no matter how detailed your outline/synopsis is. It’s all well and good if you can write great openings, three to five great chapters. It’s fantastic if you can win contests with them. But if you never actually finish a manuscript, winning contests is all you’re ever going to be able to do.

How will you know if a story has enough plot, enough conflict, to sustain an entire 80–100,000-word novel unless you write the whole thing? The only way you learn how to write a novel is by writing a novel. You’ll never be a professional author if all you ever write are snippets and snatches and opening chapters.

“Finish your novel, because you learn more that way than any other. Some writers tinker over their words endlessly, perhaps fearing the end result. It might stink.

Yes, it might. But it’s the only way you’re going to get better.

Finish your novel.” (James Scott Bell, The Art of War for Writers)

Turnabout’s Fair Play


When Maureen O’Connor begins scheming to match her grandson Jamie with Flannery McNeill, the last thing she has in mind is a romance of her own. But when Jamie turns the tables and conspires with Flannery to bring Maureen and Flannery’s grandfather Kirby together, everyone’s best laid plans seem to go awry. Is Maureen willing to start a new relationship at this stage of her life? Will Jamie ever drop his veneer of self-sufficiency and succumb to true love?

When You Need To Write FAST (And Procrastination Is Not An Option)


Do you ever battle the piranha of procrastination? You know, that sharp toothed literary fish that devours your writing time?

Yeah, me neither. I start writing at 3pm every day whether I have other things to do or not. (Please, if you have conquered that smiggley little creature, e-mail me. I’d love to know the secret.)

My Dilemma

For the past two and a half months, procrastination has not been an option. On September 12th, my publisher and I decided the book I’d been writing during summer would be book two. Yep, my own personal version of Nanowrimo. But instead of 50,000 words in four weeks, I needed 96k in ten.

And not just words. Words I’d be proud of turning in. Words my editor could read in complete sentences. It seemed insurmountable.

What Helped

I built myself an Excel spreadsheet that broke down the task into Bird by Bird numbers. (See Anne Lamott’s stellar book on writing if that reference zoomed over your skull.)

Ten weeks is approximately seventy days x 1,372 words per day = 96,040.

Yeah, I know, there needs to be editing days in there too—as well as research time—so I gave myself fifty days to write the novel (1,920 words per day) and twenty days to research and edit.

My writing pace is 1,000 words per hour so I knew if I could commit two hours per day to writing, it was doable.

Not easy, but doable.

And taking my eyes off the summit and zooming in on the number of steps I needed to take up the mountain each day made a tremendous difference in my emotional state. (I turned the manuscript in this past Sunday night and made my deadline.)

Might work for you too whether your deadline is ten months or ten weeks. Procrastination be gone.

(By the way, I wrote my first novel ROOMS in six years. My second, BOOK OF DAYS took two. THE CHAIR, my third, was finished in five months. And as you know, the novel we’ve been discussing—currently titled THE NAMELESS ONE (October 2012) was complete in ten weeks. For those of you who are math savvy you realize applying the exponential timeline outlined above to my fifth novel means it’ll be written in three days. I can hardly wait.)

James L. Rubart is the best-selling, and award winning author of ROOMS, BOOK OF DAYS, and THE CHAIR. During the day he runs Barefoot Marketing, helping authors make more coin of the realm. In his free time he dirt bikes, hikes, water skis, and take photos. No, he doesn’t sleep much. He lives with his amazing wife and teenage sons in the Pacific Northwest and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman. More at www.jameslrubart.com

Does Christian Fiction Require a Warning Label? (Free Kindle Download Edition)

Is It Dishonest to Not Label “Christian Fiction”? That was the title of an article I recently posted at my personal website. It’s a hot topic among Christian writers, which bore out in the comments on that post. In the article I reference three popular CBA novels, books that were well-reviewed in the Christian market, which were then offered as free Kindle downloads, only to get blasted by reviewers for being “mislabeled” and “deceptive.” The sentiment was perfectly summed up by one angry reviewer who said:

If it’s Christian literature – JUST SAY SO!

Question: Do the reviewers have a point? Are we Christians trying to “trick” people into reading our stuff? And is this the real reason behind these negative reviews? Could there be, as some suggest, a built-in bias against Christian fiction that taints the review system? Or maybe we Christian authors are the ones getting unfair treatment, huh?

Whatever your answer, I happen to believe this controversy is a perfect window into the world the Christian fiction community has created. I mean, haven’t we brought this on ourselves? Christian fiction was forged as an alternative to secular, general market fiction. We demand certain themes, certain messages, be evident in our stories. So is it a surprise that when our “message” is spotted, some people get pissed?

Furthermore, the same system that allows readers to indiscriminately hand out five-star reviews, allows readers to indiscriminately hand out one-star reviews. Thus, reviewers have a right to pan my book simply because it’s Christian fiction. So what? Some reviewers will give my book five stars simply because it IS Christian fiction. I’ve been saying all along that we Christian writers get too cozy with the five-star reviews. We feel we’re obligated to give them and, as a result, we feel we deserve to receive them. Is it any wonder we get our feelings hurt when someone rips our previously hailed five-star wonder? If we weren’t so beholden to five-star ratings, perhaps we wouldn’t be as dismayed by one-star beat-downs.

Seriously, I think we would do well to shut up and listen to our detractors, rather than huff our way back to the country club. Sure, there’s blowhards and blockheads who have no agenda other than slamming anything religious. But not all our detractors are cretins. Take for instance this comment from a reader of the aforementioned post (you can read the entire comment HERE):

I think it’s wrong to mislabel or omit important information about ANY book, Christian or not. I’m a Christian, but sometimes I don’t WANT to read Christian fiction. (And, even within the genre, I don’t like books that make me feel preached to.) Just like any customer, I should be able to tell enough from a book’s description and category/genre that I know, before I buy, what I’m getting.

Fwiw- I have contacted Amazon numerous times, complaining about the way their search options and book descriptions fall short and make it difficult for the shopper to find what s/he is searching for–forcing us to wade through pages of listings and book descriptions–and still it isn’t clear. There should be a way to weed out what one doesn’t want from the search. The technology exists, they are simply not employing it.

I don’t think rating systems (like for movies) would work for books. They’re too varied. But listing things like: ‘This book contains foul language, violence and graphic sex’ or ‘This book contains scripture references, aspects/acts of personal faith and strong Christian themes.’ would cut way down on bad reviews from readers who feel deceived, or–at the very least–poorly informed.

I mean, can you really blame them? How would you feel if you thought you were buying a wholesome book and got a twisted tale of erotica? At the end of the day, its boils down to one, basic problem–the customer spending their hard-earned money and not getting what s/he thought s/he was getting.

Amazon does have avenues for challenging reviews, and I think readers should think twice about giving a 1-star when it’s Amazon they’re upset with and not the author. But why not avoid the bad reviews in the first place, by simply being honest about the book’s content upfront?

I appreciate the tone of this commenter. Not everyone who pans a free Kindle download does so simply because they are anti-Christian. Some do so on the grounds that they just don’t like what Christian fiction has become.

On the other hand, does Christian fiction really require a warning label? If it does, then we better start labeling every piece of ideologically-driven fiction: feminist fiction, atheist fiction, humanist fiction, etc., etc. I mean, c’mon. A warning label? Nevertheless, I believe it would help if we Christian authors and readers drew a deep breath, took a step back, and asked if this vehemence against our stories isn’t part of our own doing.

Mike is a monthly contributor to Novel Journey. He is represented by the rockin’ Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary. Mike’s debut novel, “The Resurrection,” is in stores now and his novella, “Winterland,” is available in e-book formats. You can visit his website at www.mikeduran.com.