Sandy Ward Bell grew up in upstate NY. Radio was her first love. After college, she became an announcer and promotion director. She married, had a daughter, and the art of storytelling became her new passion. She spent many years living in Augusta, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh. Today, she calls Nashville home. For more information, visit sandywardbell.com.
Becoming a writer started as a dream, an actual dream. I pulled this weird chair off a farmhouse porch, placed it smack dab into the middle of a gravel road, and sat, waiting for something exciting to happen. A male voice announced, “This is the beginning of your novel.” I woke up and started writing. Six years later that scene became the opening of my first novel, In Zoey’s Head.
Self-publishing through CreateSpace was becoming stylish in 2010, so I took that route after several rejections from traditional agents. I’m glad I did. I was in control, picking everything from cover design to font size, and my bank account wasn’t drained to empty.
Finding an honest bi-monthly, line-by-line critique group was my next blessing. Four men and three women of different ages helped me mold my second novel in half the time as the first. In honor of Jane Austen, I wrote a modern version of Mansfield Park. My Parked at the Mansfields’ has sold well in Europe thanks to faithful Janeites.
I write because I must. Characters are often buzzing in my head, demanding to have their voice’s heard through my fiction. I’ll see a fancy new nightlight and imagine that is how fairies enter our world or I’ll watch a documentary about life-like dolls and I’ll want to explain that raw emotion in words. Because novels are time consuming and concentrate on only a few characters, I decided to change it up by creating a series of short stories. Boldwas born,a collection of 14 short stories about strong women.
Self-publishing remained the best option: my daughter modeled for the cover again, I controlled pricing and eBook giveaways. Yet, that was the last time I could use CreateSpace. For my next book, I’ll be going to Kindle Direct Publishing. I don’t believe there will be much difference because they are still under the Amazon umbrella.
With my writing journey said, here is what I recommend for all future authors. 1) Find a committed critique group. The best way to learn is through mistakes. 2) Surround yourself with creative people. They will inspire you. 3) You will find time to write if you tell the world you are a writer. 4) Writer’s block does not exist. Put some words on a page and keep going. It may be crap, but you are writing. 5) Read, read, and read some more.
“Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.” J.K. Rowling.
Where to find Sandy's Books
#WhatsYourStory Featuring Jason Fort
Jason was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina. He is the oldest of three boys, and raised in a traditional, southern, conservative Christian household. He grew up with a flair for drawing pictures, but always loved a good story. He did just enough in high school to get into Erskine College, where he majored in Physical Education. Jason served as a public school teacher in PE and as a coach in several sports for several years. His interest in lifting weights led him to a brief career both full time and part time in fitness. All the while, he also worked a side job as the nicest bouncer in town…leading him to a career in law enforcement. Jason works as a training officer for a hospital police department today, but has also channeled the creative talents from drawing into writing stories. Each stop in his career path has prepared him for something more, and he weaves this life experience into his tales. But he doesn’t just write to tell a good story. He is on a mission himself, just like the main FBI agent in his first novel. John Knox began his mission in November of 2014, an FBI agent on a path to become a missionary. Jason’s mission – to reveal light in the darkness of the world around us through Christian fiction, one reader at a time.
Jason resides in the upstate of South Carolina with his lovely wife, his ultra-intelligent teenage son, and four dogs
Growing up, every now and then I used to sit down and write a poem about something happening in my life. Poetry was one of the few things I liked about English classes in school, but I wasn’t a reader. What I had going for me was that I always had something to say, as far back as I can remember (Mom and Dad called me Motor-mouth when I was around 3 years old). And poetry is what got me started as a writer in my adult life.
It was 2002, and my wife and I were set to have twins. Unfortunately, following a short trip to the beach with my in-laws, we came back to bad news in my wife’s next checkup. The doctor broke tragic news to us that one of our twin boys had passed. This was a bittersweet time for our entire family; we had lost a child we so looked forward to seeing, but we still had a little boy who stood a chance. The rest of the pregnancy was high risk, and of course had strong emotional impact on both my wife and me. It had been a while, but I wrote a poem to cope with the loss on my part, and to try to give my wife some sort of closure. Thankfully, my son Jay was born to us a few months later in the summer of 2002.
Meanwhile, that poem sparked something to life in me. I began writing more poetry. I lost a collection of poetry some time ago that I shared with people here and there back then – a collection I called Daddy’s poems, showing the first couple of years of life as a father. It was during this time of sharing poetry with the guidance counselor and librarian at the school in which I worked, that it was suggested that I try to write a book. I began taking their advice… and I wrote the beginning of one story…and another… and another. But I just couldn’t seem to finish a story. It would take the words of Stephen King, something about you’ll never make it as an author until you actually sit down and write an entire story, to get me to come to my senses. It also took time, and a short run at two careers (PE Teacher/ coach, and Wellness Director/ Personal Trainer) before my job as a training officer in law enforcement, which I hold today.
Then one night, as I checked in with a security officer when I was a police officer on night shift at a hospital, that the perfect inspiration came to me for the first story. The security officer was cleaning out the knife inventory drawer near the metal detector, and he tossed a little plastic bag aside.
“Why is this in here? It’s not a weapon,” he stated as I picked up the small baggie.
I took out the contents and held it up. It was a small golden cross; a necklace charm, but bigger than most I’d seen. I studied the cross in my hand, and an idea occurred to me.
I spoke up to the security officer, Officer Pace I believe; “No – but it could be a calling card.”
I smiled at him and walked into our substation office near the metal detector. I sat down at the computer and took a plain white piece of paper from the printer. Using a pen, I scratched out an outline of main ideas; a chronological order of events surrounding a broken man who takes revenge against a religion he hates, leaving a gold cross at the scene of each assassination of important religious figures. The Jesus Assassin was born. A few months later, I sent out attachment after attachment of the original rough version of Misguided, to agents and publishers everywhere. I received several rejection letters and e-mails. Some of this upset me; some didn’t. But the fact was that I had done it; I’d written my very first novel!
And my father was one of the most supportive people in that early part of my writing career, bragging to all his friends and family that his oldest boy had written a book. After learning a little more about the publishing world and talking to a close friend, I decided to attempt self-publishing. I published on Amazon using CreateSpace, and on December 19th, 2014, I had my first book signing. My dad invited several people, and I had friends from several circles attend. I decided to make the venue a local bar where I bounced a few years prior; the folks at Chicora Alley in Greenville, SC were more than accommodating. And Dad made a toast at the end of the evening that helped me realize one of the proudest moments in my life.
So that’s how it all started for me. That was four years ago; I’ve written five more books since then. I am steadily working on number seven. I’ve started a fictional universe that keeps expanding with every exciting dynamic character I add to pages. I’ve learned so much more about self-publishing since then. I have not ruled out traditional publishing, but self-publishing is the main path for me because I am my own man, and to quote Frank Sinatra, I can always say
regarding most of my novels: “I did it myyyyyyyyyyy way!”
When I started my Agent John Knox universe, I realized my investigators would have to move on to several stories far beyond their pursuit of the elusive Jesus Assassin. It occurred to me that it would be unique if I could figure out a way, since I was writing Christian fiction, to somehow show my agents in the FBI eventually become missionaries.
Hunting Parties, five books later, finally shows the beginnings of the works of these missionaries… and so much more.
An ex-con sits in a cell, being interrogated by a Muslim Sheikh. An assassin and his female counterpart are hunting down ISIS leaders in an attempt to change the current American landscape. A former federal agent is helping a former killer and his cousin in the mission field, and they’re not just preaching the gospel. This is just how the story starts. Hunting Parties follows the tales of several characters as they hunt for answers; answers to questions that have a direct impact on the future political climates of America and Europe. Who is holding the ex-con prisoner, and why don’t they just kill him already? What’s in store for the assassin, and the woman he is falling for? What can the armed and dangerous missionaries do about the radical Islamic onslaught that has befallen Europe? How are all the parties in question related? Find out more in this story of political and religious intrigue, where Muslims and Christians, killers and pacifists, and children and their parents are all at odds with one another. Can the Hunters all find what they seek?
Find Jason on Facebook, Youtube and Twitter along with his website
Where to Buy Hunting Parties
Bestselling Author Karen Docter writes contemporary romance with a kick of humor and heat. When she feels the need to feed the dark side, she writes romantic suspense as K.L. Docter. She's an award-winning author, a four-time Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® finalist and won the coveted Kiss of Death Romance Writers Daphne du Maurier Award Category (Series) Romantic Mystery Unpublished division.
I can pinpoint the exact moment my writing career began—cough, cough—years ago. I was reading a romance novel that wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad enough to put down. At the time, I forced myself to read through those marginal books, always hoping it would get better or I’d grow to like the characters a little bit more, at least enough to care what happens to them. Sometimes, I was rewarded. More often than not, I wasn’t. This was one of the latter. In fact, when I closed the book I was so irritated with the ending, I tossed down the book and said to my husband, “I can write a better story.”
My husband’s reply? “So, why don’t you?”
The idea took hold not only because I was confident I could write a quality romance novel—I have a Technical Journalism degree and editing experience, after all—and my brain was getting cobwebs from lack of use. Well, it felt that way to me. ☺ I’d left my challenging job in business management to stay home with the kids. We lived in the Rocky Mountains more than half an hour from civilization and I was babysitting from 6-12 kids (some after school) every day. As the only mountain mom in daycare, I was in high demand. It didn’t take me long to realize, though, that munchkins under the age of six are not great conversationalists. I needed a grown-up outlet.
I spent the next two years letting two “perfect” books drip off my fingertips in my spare time. Loving the creative process, I began to consider publication as a career. When we moved to California I joined RWA (Romance Writers of America) and that’s when I learned the single, most valuable lesson I’ve carried with me for years. Write what you know.
Everyone who’s been in the business for any length of time has heard this pat advice at least once. Thankfully, when I joined RWA, I had the good fortune of becoming critique partners with bestselling authors, Barbara Freethy (New York Times) and Melissa McClone (USA Today). The first time I brought one of my “perfect” romance novels to critique, they gently told me the premise of my book wouldn’t work based on the demands of a will that wouldn’t fly in a community property state.
Wait! My baby isn’t perfect? “But it’s fiction! Everyone knows fiction is ‘made up’!” I wailed. Maybe I didn’t sound quite that childish but their memory might be different than mine ☺.
Their response? “Our stories have to be based in facts because our readers are smart.” I’m paraphrasing but essentially it means we have to respect our readers. If we break their trust, they’ll never read us again. It’s a career killer…not to be confused with a serial killer. Lie to a reader and there won’t be a second chance or a third, the definition of a serial killer.
Ultimately, I learned that write what you know doesn’t mean you should write only from personal experience—yes, I was that naïve—because, let’s face it, most of us can’t experience everything we may want to write. I do not want to meet a serial killer like those I write in my romantic suspense! If we want to be successful authors, we need to know more than our experiences. That takes research. Lots and lots of research.
I learned my lesson at that first critique session and spent the intervening years bolstering my knowledge. My RWA chapter at the time had a library with hundreds of workshops on cassette. Yep, aging myself further! I checked out 2-4 a month and learned craft, writing techniques, publication requirements, etc.
With every book I’ve written, I’ve researched something new to add authenticity to the story. When I wrote my romantic comedy, Satin Pleasures, I researched canaries and orchids. The heroine had two canoodling canaries named Anthony and Cleopatra. Her landscaping father raised exotic orchids. Before writing my contemporary romance, Cop On Her Doorstep, I attended my city’s Citizen’s Police Academy. For the next book in the True Love In Uniform series, I talked to police officers about their professional lives and researched the heroine’s business designing stained glass. I’m learning how to make maps for the town I’ve created. For the sequel (Dead Ringer—Coming Soon) to my romantic suspense Thorne’s Thorns series, Killing Secrets, I’ve researched how the FBI works and toured a working cattle ranch.
I credit my success as a writer to that first lesson, of writing what I know. My books aren’t laden with all of my research. Sometimes it simply gives me insight into my characters or their situation. My stories have a depth I didn’t have then. It is gratifying when my readers tell me my characters are as real to them as their neighbors or family members.
My reading and writing habits have changed a lot since those early days. I haven’t the patience anymore to wind my way through stories I can’t enjoy. Life’s too short. I certainly don’t want to be one of those authors a reader tosses my book onto the table. I write what I know because they deserve the very best stories I can give them.
Cop on Her Doorstep, True Love in a Uniform
Carrie Padilla knows there’s only one thing she can do to save what is left of her family, her husband’s memory, and her heart…avoid her new neighbor at all costs.
S.W.A.T. officer Jake Stefani doesn’t count on his intriguing neighbor distracting him from his job, the passion that flares between them, or the way his heart is captured by Carrie’s fatherless son.
Jake is ready to risk everything for Carrie, body and soul. If their new love is to survive, Carrie will need to be strong enough to see Jake’s heart behind the badge, to look beyond the pain of her past, and decided that loving again is worth the risk.
Where to Buy Cop on Her Doorstep
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.