Author Tamela Hancock Murray

Christian Romance — Fact or Fiction?

In response to a recent blog post, “A Matter of Taste,”  a reader asked what I would say if someone claimed there is no such thing as Christian romance.

In fact, I have been confronted with this question before. At a Christian writers’ conference a few years ago, a woman told me in a snide manner that romance is a “fantasy” and walked away before I could respond. I felt especially sad that the woman was no doubt a fellow Christian, but it sounded like it had come from a jaded secularist. I believe this woman’s attitude reflects her own experience rather than the state of Christian publishing. True, not all real life endings are happy, and Christian romance novels traditionally end with the premise that the couple will enjoy a bright future. That is the hope and promise these books offer. Indeed, isn’t that the hope and promise of weddings in real life?

The Lord never promised Christians perfect unions. My heart aches for anyone in a miserable marriage. Hurt people hurt people, so no amount of convincing will change some minds about romance. But God is bigger than any situation, and He heals willing hearts.

Inspiration

Yet to dismiss Christian romance as a fantasy is wrong, in my view. When I wrote my own Christian romance novels, my husband inspired the best elements in my heroes. My heroines were not modeled upon myself, but on women I admire. I gave my heroines qualities I wish I had in bounty. I felt uplifted as I wrote my stories. Judging from the fan mail, those stories connected with readers as well. Other authors receive heartwarming fan mail by the bagful, so I know God is using Christian romance novels to touch lives.

In Real Life…

As for real life? My husband and I have the advantage of great examples. All four sets of grandparents demonstrated “till death do us part.” Three sets celebrated their 50th wedding anniversaries. Our family demonstrates that the Lord is a God of second chances, too. My husband’s mother is the child of her mother’s second marriage, as she was widowed young. My mother-in-law always speaks of how her parents encouraged her and her brother to be active in church. She ended up marrying the youth pastor who moved to town from the Midwest!

Both sets of our parents have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversaries. They are still devoted to each other. Though we aren’t perfect, my husband and I have tried to emulate their models. We make time for one another every day. We are individuals, but have cultivated the same interests so we enjoy doing the same things. We look forward to spending time together. We are devoted to each other. To me, that is the key word: devotion. How can you not feel romantic toward your mate when you are both devoted to one another?

Your turn:

What do you do to make your Christian marriage a Christian romance? Share your best ideas and stories!

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Reasons I am Thankful Today and Every Day

I try to live in a spirit of gratitude every day, but this holiday is a chance to spend more time meditating upon a few specific reasons to be thankful. I hope you’ll read over this list slowly and think about your own life.

1.) God the Father.

2.) Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord.

3.) My devoted, loving, and godly husband, John.

5.) Our beautiful daughters, Jill and Ann.

6.) That all four of our parents are still in good health.

7.) Extended family and friends.

8.) That I have a great boss and an interesting, challenging job I believe in and enjoy.

9.) The wonderful writers and other publishing professionals I work with.

10.) To live in America.

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Fun Words

I don’t usually stay up late enough to watch Conan O’Brien but awhile back I caught a show during which he campaigned to bring back use of the word thrice.

Thrice. Indeed, a fun word.

Yesterday Karen wrote about beautiful words so well that today I thought we could play with words and look at those that are entertaining. I’d like to suggest some other fun words that I think just aren’t used enough.

Slapdash

Because I’d rather negotiate contracts, send out proposals, and encourage writers, I employ a slapdash approach to housekeeping.

Draconian

While Steve Laube is draconian regarding book proposals, cooperative writers are rewarded with praise and contracts.

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A Matter of Taste

I always enjoy reading comments on our blog posts. Recently a reader posted a provocative question:

In this time of great emotional upheaval, instability, and unrest, aren’t we ready for something more solid and inspiring than just different types of romance novels?

Those of you familiar with my career know that I am the author of many romance novels and stories — and Bible trivia books!

And while I represent a variety of authors in fiction and nonfiction, my list is weighted heavily to romantic stories. I do realize that not everyone has the same taste — nor should we.

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Study the Market


What is the best way to find out what is successful in the current market?

This is a good question because while as an author, you don’t want to chase the market, you also don’t want to write books that are so far off from the current market that they have no chance of selling. First and foremost, marketing advice from any source assumes that authors submit their best, most polished, highest quality work. Just because vampire novels enjoy popularity now, doesn’t mean publishers will acquire just any novel with a vampire. The novel must sparkle to sell to a publisher and then to readers. I don’t recommend chasing nonfiction trends either, because one or two popular authors can quickly saturate the market on any given topic. Or as Steve Laube says, “If you are asking what’s hot…you are too late.” Although some topics are evergreen, as a rule the market can only absorb so many books on a topic. Writing about a tangent of a popular topic won’t help because then the book is in danger of being too narrow to sell to a large audience. It’s then a niche of a niche.

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Writing Contests: Panacea or Waste?

At a recent conference, a lovely writer who had finaled in a contest but wasn’t chosen as the winner asked if she could still submit a proposal to me. I told her “Yes! Of course!”

Her question brought to mind the role contests play in a writer’s career. I’m asked questions about contests at least once a month. I’ll try to answer two key questions here.

Should I Enter?

When considering whether to enter a contest, think about your career goals. Does the contest make sense for the type of book you write? A quick look at past winners may give you a clue as to the value of the particular contest for you.

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Conference Proposal Requests

The recent ACFW conference (attended by nearly 700 writers and industry professionals) has writers, agents, and editors in overdrive as we all attempt to follow up on conference proposal requests. Writers are working feverishly to get proposals to editors. Some are thinking, “Surely the editor who seemed so excited about my proposal is checking email at least once or twice a day looking for it. I must, must, must get the proposal out today!”

Not so fast

Our word is our bond, and we feel responsible when we promise to submit a proposal as soon as we can. Accountability is to be commended. Editors and agents appreciate conscientious writers. However, most of us are looking for a writer’s proposal under certain conditions, and those conditions are usually quite urgent in the careers of writers already established with us. From my perspective, conference requests are different. Here are a few examples:

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Loving to Laugh


At least once a week I’m asked if romantic comedy is currently marketable. While sometimes this category seems hot and then cold, I’d say that sharp, witty, well-executed romantic comedy can find a good home no matter what the publishing season. Note that I take the adjectives I used seriously. This is not a category that most writers can whip off with little effort. Successful writers of romantic comedy are gifted with the ability to find humor in everyday situations and the talent to share that humor in an entertaining way. The writing must fly like a magic carpet. The reader is looking for a fun story.
One successful writer of romantic comedy is Gail Sattler. Here is a great tip from Gail:

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One-Sheets versus Queries


A recent post inspired an excellent question. “Is a one-sheet the same as a query?”

Yes and no. There is some overlap, but the differences are significant.

A one-sheet gives writers a document for talking points about a project at a conference. The one-sheet can help authors be sure they convey the information they want to the editor or agent without forgetting anything critical. In turn, the one-sheet gives the editor or agent a memo of sorts to recall your pitch after the conference. This is one reason why an author photo is essential. Otherwise, the one-sheet includes information such as the book theme and brief plot summary, contact information, and sometimes another visual to make the page pop. One-sheets are often colorful and intended to grab attention. However, they are only a tool. The author’s professionalism and talent are key.

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A Matter of Perspective

During a recent visit to my local bank, I produced a document bearing the Virginia State seal. The banker commented on how terrible the seal is for men.

What an odd thing to say!

Mrs. Judith Gue taught third grade at the small private school I attended in a bucolic part of Virginia. Mrs. Gue was a plump woman who favored silk dresses, kept a paddle on her desk as an unspoken and ever-present threat, smoked cigarettes like a fiend and had also taught my mother. She relished the first story in the Virginia history book, about how Sir Walter Raleigh covered a mud puddle with his cloak so his queen’s feet would not be sullied. Pride filled her voice when she shows us the seal, speaking of “Victory over Tyrants” for our great state. The woman depicted is the Roman Goddess Virtus, the goddess of virtue, and the defeated man is a tyrant. I have my doubts that the men responsible for the seal, designed in 1776, were raging feminists.

I said to the banker, “You’re not a native, are you?”

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