Wednesday, November 30, 2011

From Romance Writer to Songwriter

by Anita Mae Draper

I thought I'd change things up a bit and show you a video at the start of the post today. It's only a min and a half long, so take a peek and then I'll explain why I'm so enthused about it.

Isn't that nice? The song was written by Janet Tronstad and her friend, David White.

Janet is the author of the Dropped Stitches and Dry Creek series of books from Harlequin Love Inspired and Love Inspired Historical.

Janet Tronstad and David White (Taken from the video)

I've known Janet since 2006 when I joined the eHarlequin Community and started hanging out on the forums - specifically the writing and Steeple Hill boards. It's a great place to learn and hone the writing craft and make friends at the same time. I don't know how many of the 2,000+ eHarlequin members are published, but it's a huge percentage and they're willing to help the unpublished join them.

I received my first rejection - a 3 line form letter - back in 2007. Since I'd submitted that first manuscript to Steeple Hill Love Inspired, it was only natural for me to go looking to the Steeple Hill forum for answers. Okay, I admit... it was a lot of crying, too. But it was the only place I knew where people understood what I was feeling.

How could they reject my query and not tell me anything except that it wasn't suitable. Not suitable? I'd read over 200 Love Inspired novels by that time. Of course it was suitable! How naive I was back then. I thought it was the editor's job to tell me why my manuscript was rejected. I said on the forum, "How am I supposed to fix it if I don't know what is wrong?"

And that's when Janet stepped forward and offered to help. She said she'd give me a quick 30 min turnaround of the first three chapters of my manuscript. I jumped at the chance and emailed it to her. Within 20 mins she replied with several things she thought I was missing. The biggest one was lack of conflict, followed by goals and motivation. Yup. The big ol' GMC.

I'll always be grateful to Janet for steering me in the right direction, as well as the encouragement. She said I had potential and one of these days I'll prove she was right.

I still have much to learn however, if that last rejection is anything to go by. And one of the best ways to learn is to read from someone who's mastered the craft. Like Janet Tronstad. I believe at this time Janet has 29 books in print and I've read 24 of them. Four are sitting in my to-be-read (TBR) pile, and one (with Jillian Hart) was just released.

Last month I received my 6th rejection - my 4th from Love Inspired. And surprise! This time the editor gave me a whole slough of reasons. But instead of telling you what she thought I was lacking, I want to tell you what Janet does right and how I hope to gain insight from her writing to improve my own...

Sleigh Bells for Dry Creek, Love Inspired, Oct 2011 is #22 in Janet's long-running Dry Creek series. The cover is Christmassy, peaceful and inspiring with a western couple enjoying a sleigh ride. (You all know how much I love my sleigh rides.) Yet contrary to the cover, by the end of page one we know the stormy skies are a reflection of Wade's turbulent life. All he wants to do is rest his rodeo-worn body and dream about the girl he left behind 9 years ago whose spearmint gum scent had such an impact on him that he bought a packet of the stuff on his way out of town. The same packet he carries in his shirt pocket as a constant reminder of Amy and the possibility of a better life. Only a few pages later, Wade sees Amy, realizes she's still in town, and knows he has to explain why he stole a kiss and left without saying goodbye.

Amy was only 15 yrs old when Wade kissed her on the church steps, said he'd marry her - right before he left town. She waited for him. She turned down dates so she wouldn't betray him. She ignored the gossip and turned away from pitying looks. Until she saw the neighboring newspaper photo of a woman giving Wade a kiss along with his rodeo trophy. He'd been so close but hadn't tried to see her. Hadn't appeared to lack for company, either. That's when she knew his kiss hadn't meant anything to him and she was free to find someone else. But first love roots deep and she'd never met another man who hitched her heart like Wade.

That's all in the first chapter of Sleigh Bells for Dry Creek. I've glossed over the facts, but Janet tells it with such heart-wrenching emotion, I'm locked into the book. It's the little details like Wade keeping the packet of gum because it reminds him of her. I care that Wade doesn't know Jesus. And I empathize with Amy because she feels God has forgotten about her. I want everything in their path to be cleared away because they're hurting and the only way to happiness is if they are reconciled together and with God. Yet, the four of us have a long road ahead.

And I loved every minute of it. Janet's song has the same emotion but on a different level.

The YouTube version is only part of the song as Janet has released it as an MP3 download on Amazon. That means for 99 cents, you can download the complete version to your MP3 for your own convenient listening pleasure.

Download "Denim Sky (Montana Quilting Song & Dry Creek tribute)". If the link isn't working, go to and click on MP3 store in the left dropdown sidebar. Type in "Janet Tronstad" and this comes up, Or click here.

Read Janet's blogpost where she explains how she puts her books into song. Visit Janet's website for more info about her and her books.

Do you know of any other authors who use music to promote their books?


Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and 2 of their 4 kids. She writes stories set on the prairies of Saskatchewan, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. Anita Mae has semi-finaled in the Historical Romance category of the ACFW's 2011 Genesis contest and finaled in the Inspirational category of the 2011 Daphne du Maurier, the 2011 Fool for Love, the 2011 Duel on the Delta and 2009 Linda Howard Award of Excellence contests. You can find her at  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Tale of the Fairy Tale

by Suzie Johnson

Most children love fairy tales – the wonder of other worlds, the idea that wishes might be granted by some form of magic. Little girls, especially, are enamored of the Disney Princesses who found their origins in the fairy tale – Cinderella, Aurora, Snow White, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Mulan, Tiana, and now Rapunzel. Of course, Pocahontas is a Disney Princess as well, but hers wasn’t a fairy tale. Hers was the real deal. Many girls, even if they live a happy, normal life, dream of being a fairy-tale princess, swept away from a life of drudgery by a handsome prince.

If someone asked who wrote the first fairy tale, many would say the Brothers Grimm. Others would say Hans Christian Andersen.   Sadly, many might say Walt Disney and his crew. But the truth goes back further than Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen. It even goes back further than Charles Perrault.

Story-telling is as old as Adam and Eve. Before the advent of the printing press, storytelling was a way to pass oral histories from generation to generation. It was also a way to charm and entertain the listener. Peasants working in the fields might tell stories to pass the time; families sitting around the fire at night would be entertained by stories their father or mother would tell them. Upper-class nobility enjoyed stories as well. If a tale that originated in one village made its way to other villages, that was considered a point of pride among villagers, so it’s no little wonder that fictional tales evolved with the desire to impress listeners.

Fairy-tales of old were called magic tales, wonder tales, or wonder folktales at one time. They focused on the disadvantaged hero or heroine who overcame terrible circumstances, often by way of magic. Many featured characters (male or female) who were banished from their homes and villages, characters who were abused, poverty-stricken or cursed in some way.

As they were often filled with magic, superstition, and pagan beliefs, magic tales were not Christian-centered. Nor were they directed at or suitable for children, even though children were often part of the listening audience. They were often filled with cruelty and violence, interpreted as warnings to listeners. Priests took it upon themselves to create new versions of the tales, which were then retold and passed down. And still, these tales were not for children.

The printing press revolutionized storytelling. The first printed fairy tales were designed to amuse educated readers, who usually were among the upper-class. In France, it became popular to incorporate fairy tales into parlor games held by aristocratic women. Acting them out, retelling and inventing new tales became popular in Paris. Thus, in the 1690s, several writers published entire collections of fairy tales.

Charles Perrault is perhaps the most famous out of this group of authors, with the 1697 printing of Tales of Times Past, known more familiarly as Tales of Mother Goose. In spite of that commonly known title and conceivably friendly title, these tales still were not aimed at children. It wasn’t until the end of the eighteenth century that some publishers began to publish stories for children. Still, fairy tales were considered useless, frivolous, and even dangerous for children.

In the early nineteenth century, illustrated chapbooks with stories such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Jack the Giant Killer were printed. These soon became popular with children even though they were still considered unhealthy for their minds.  

It wasn’t until writers began to use the stories as a way of teaching moral lessons and good manners, that fairy tales were published for children. The Brothers Grimm revised their own collection of tales, first published in 1812, toning down the adult elements and adding Christian values. Still, they managed to retain the magic and wonder of the original oral tales. Eventually, parents and teachers began to accept that these stories would not damage their children’s mental well-being.

When Hans Christian Andersen published his tales, humor and Christian values combined with plot to the delight of young and old. Translations almost immediately spread across Europe and America. From that point on, many writers sought to spin versions suitable for children.

Even today, more than three hundred years after the first printed fairy tales, these stories – though often different from the original versions – live in our hearts and imaginations, and serve as a continuous source of influence on books and movie scripts.

Do you have a favorite fairy tale? Do you prefer the Disneyfied version, or some other version?

Do you enjoy retelling of fairy tales, such as the Melanie Dickerson’s The Healer’s Apprentice and The Merchant’s Daughter?  

Have you watched the new television show called Once Upon A Time? If so, what do you think of it?

Suzie Johnson and her husband are celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary today! Suzie writes inspirational novels, both contemporary and historical, is a member of ACFW, RWA, and is a cancer registrar at her local hospital. She lives with her husband and naughty little cat on an island in the Pacific Northwest, and is the mother of a wonderful young man who makes her proud every day. You can visit her blog, Suzie's Writing Place at

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Casting Crowns

 By Susanne Dietze

In the center, around the throne (of God), were four living creatures….Day and night they never stop saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives forever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”  Revelation 4:6b, 8b-11

My kids bring home certificates from school every so often. Unlike when I was a kid (a statement that makes my kids’ eyes glaze over), my children receive an award for just about any achievement you can think of: participation in Jog-A-Thons, knitting in an after school program, and for being responsible enough to turn in homework. All worthy things, to be sure.

Some parents believe that honoring kids for their participation boosts self-esteem, especially for kids who aren’t necessarily tops in academics or sports. Others insist our kids receive too many accolades, fostering a sense of entitlement. Our generation didn’t receive a ribbon for participation, after all.

I see both sides, but that last bit is certainly true for me. I remember the first time I won something: a cake decorating contest in sixth grade. That blue ribbon, now faded purple and permanently bent, still sits in my top dresser drawer. It was just a little prize in a little contest, but I still feel a silly thrill of awe when I look at it.

I've since added a few more treasures to my metaphoric “trophy drawer,” things I poured myself into and for which, by God’s amazing grace, I was allowed to receive recognition, like a recommendation letter or a contest final.

I’m humbled by those treasures, but I’m also aware that anything good in my life came about because God allowed it, and He deserves to receive credit, praise, and glory for the things He's given to me, whether they're gifts or achievements. Our crowns, if you will.

“Holy, Holy, Holy,” is my favorite hymn. I love to imagine being in heaven, singing it to the God who lives forever and ever, who created me and in whom I have my being. I love to imagine what it will look like when, as the hymn says,

All the saints adore thee, casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea.

The same image comes from my favorite Charles Wesley hymn, “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.”

…(we are) changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love and praise.

Our crowns will represent a lot of things, perhaps, too many for me to discuss now. But I think they’ll at least partially symbolize all we’ve been given: our talents and abilities and achievements, big and small. And all will be laid at God's feet.

Too often I focus only on laying my suffering, sin, troubles, and flaws at the foot of His throne. He wants us to, of course.  One of the reasons Jesus died and rose again was so we could approach God and cast our cares on Him.

But He also deserves glory for all He’s done in and through us. You are a one-of-a-kind, talented, precious, gifted, beautiful person created by the God of all power, ability, love, and grace. You have a crown in heaven that no doubt outshines this one, the Imperial State Crown of Great Britain with its 140-carat ruby.

This Thanksgiving weekend, perhaps it’s appropriate to practice casting our crowns—big and small—before Him and lose ourselves in “wonder, love, and praise.”

What were you thankful for this Thanksgiving? Like me, do you ever imagine heaven?

Susanne Dietze has written historical-set love stories since she was in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she writes in the hope that her historical romances will encourage and entertain others to the glory of God. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne loves fancy-schmancy tea parties, travel, and spending time with family and friends. Her work has finaled in the Genesis Contest, the Gotcha! Contest, and the Touched By Love Contest. You can visit her on her personal blog, Tea and a Good Book,

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