Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Today Matters by Emily Conrad

Emily Conrad
The nature of publishing gives writers years and years to dream about what will happen “someday.” 

Someday, we’ll get THE call. 

Someday, these stories will touch lives.

Someday, our books will be on shelves.

In the meantime, there are no adoring crowds. No packed conference rooms hoping to learn from us. Other than comments from critique partners (usually more aimed at improving the writing than praising it) and a couple notes on the blog or some much-appreciated retweets or shares, all is quiet.

In my home, between bursts of thought that result in clicking keys, I hear the clock tick and my old pit bull snoring on the living room rug. 

Novelists are trained to expect this. Publication takes a long time (as does reaching career goals beyond that first step). So we keep posting and writing and working like each action is a penny in a bank that will someday amount to something.
But each penny has value. Every word does, too. 

Though anticipation, goals, and improvement are all good, let’s not spend so much effort striving for someday that today’s significance gets lost in the bustle. 

Many of us write because we believe God wants to use us, but as we follow him, he is using us. Already. Today.

Regardless of our platform size or our agented/unagented, published/unpublished status, today matters for today’s sake.

Today, God will use our gifts. 

Today, we are commissioned to follow Jesus. 

Today, we can speak hope into someone else’s discouragement whether it’s through a blog post or a card to a friend or a comment on social media. 

There is a meaning and value to all this writing. It’s not about platforms or numbers. It’s not about best seller lists or advances. It’s about being available to God, following Him, and seeing where that leads. 

Actually, I know where it leads. It leads to people’s hearts. As writers, no matter where we are in our careers, we have been blessed with a gift that allows us to be that one voice of hope to that one person who needs it.

Because to the one person who needs it? That means so much more than any words could convey. 

Here I am, Lord. Send me. You can have my someday. All I ask is You give me words for today.

What is God nudging you to write today? How have you been touched by words someone wrote recently?

Tweetable: Don’t let today’s significance gets lost in the bustle of striving for someday via @novelwritergirl

About the Author
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Emily Conrad is a wife and writer who lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two rescue dogs. Her debut women’s fiction novel is underway with Pelican Book Group. Emily loves Jesus and enjoys summer road trips to the mountains. You can connect with her on social media and at EmilyConradAuthor.com.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Shine Your Light by Mary Manners

Shine Your Light

by Mary Manners

“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”
~Proverbs 12:25~
The water cooler at work is a popular place where we can catch up on the latest news—and the latest gossip. Sometimes we worry…is a coworker more popular? Did someone else get that promotion we were vying for? Or, perhaps, we witnessed co-workers in some activity outside work that appeared to be less-than-honorable, and we’re just checking our facts with others.
Did you know that each of us has a light that shines straight from our heart, but that sometimes that light needs a little boost...a bit of polish? Wisdom and experience have taught me that harsh words and gossip drain energy from the light and act as an anchor to the soul. When we focus on the negative, we are weighed down as if that very anchor is attached to our hearts…dragging others into the depths of darkness right along with us. I have made a conscious effort to shine my light and share kindness with others. It costs nothing to offer a smile or a kind greeting to a passerby, and you never know how such a gesture might brighten another's day. 
So, consider this...do your words and gestures lift up others or drag them to the depths of despair? Is your time at the water cooler spent sharing God’s love as you shine your light, or filling others with fear, apprehension, and darkness?
From this day forward, make an active effort to spread kindness and good cheer. Turn your anchor into a life raft that shines with the very light of your heart…one word, one smile, and one gesture at a time.
With a father known as the town drunk and a mother who fled when he was only six, Ryder learned early on that the world can be a cold, unforgiving place. Only two people in his life have ever understood him:  "Mama" Stallings and sweet Ali Maclaren. But after a tragic accident, guilt chases Ryder from the town that's labeled him trouble, and from Ali.
Seven years later Ryder returns after Mama Stallings's death and finds that Ali is considering marriage to a man with a mean streak he masterfully hides from all but Ryder, a man who'll do whatever's necessary to remove Ryder from Willow Lake, and Ali's life, forever.
Can Ali find a way to forgive Ryder and can Ryder forgive himself before another tragedy occurs?
Mary Manners is an award-winning romance author who lives along the beautiful shores of Jax Beach with her husband, Tim. She loves her toes in the sand, running, flavored coffee and cotton candy sunsets followed by starlit nights.
Mary believes everyone has a story to tell, and she enjoys sharing hers. She writes inspirational romances of all lengths, from short stories to novels—something for everyone.
Learn more about Mary Manners at her website: www.MaryMannersRomance.com.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Write the Crazy Book! by Kara Isaac

Kara Issac

There are times when we might be tempted to focus on writing what’s currently “hot” in the market. But maybe . . . there are times when we need to take a few risks, as proven by author Kara Issac’s story.  ~ Dawn

Write the Crazy Book!

“Have you ever thought about writing a book set in New Zealand about the Lord of the Rings movies?” It was a writers’ conference in late 2013 and the question had just been posed by an editor who was considering two of my manuscripts. Needless to say, neither of them had anything to do with hobbits.

“Um, no,” was my ineloquent reply, and I hoped my face didn’t show exactly what I thought of the idea. In my head I was thinking: New Zealand? Lord of the Rings?Are you serious? In the seven years I’d been serious about writing, there was one piece of advice I’d been given repeatedly. American audiences aren’t interested in international locations. And now one of my dream editors was suggesting I not only take my writing back home but add in orcs and elves? It was one of the craziest things I’d ever heard.

The next thought that flashed into my head was as unexpected as her question. A disillusioned tour guide and a failed entrepreneur. A week later, I flew home, where I fully intended to let the crazy idea die and start working on something that might actually sell. But it wouldn’t. The characters named themselves Jackson and Allie. An American and a New Zealander. Their unwanted backstory started finding crevices in my mind to fill. And so, after a few weeks, I emailed my agent, Chip MacGregor, to see what he thought.

Much to my shock, he came back thinking it was a great idea with lots of potential if I did it right. The whole world had officially gone crazy, and because I was five months pregnant and had no other sparkling ideas for a new story, I decided to join them.  

Six months later, I finished the manuscript. A fun, quirky romantic comedy about second chances that was mostly written in a haze of sleep deprivation. In the interim, the publishing house where that original editor worked had stopped acquiring contemporary romances. I was convinced I had written 90,000 words that were predestined to gather dust in my agent’s collection of unsold manuscripts before he’d even read it.

I asked him no questions about what happened to it from there because I didn’t want him to have to tell me every editor he’d pitched it to had turned him down.

Three months later, he told me a publisher was interested. But I didn’t let myself dare to really hope. I had been to so many editorial committees and publishing boards—including getting an offer from a publisher only for it to get pulled when they decided to review their entire fiction line—that allowing real hope to take hold felt foolish.

In December 2014, Howard Books made an offer and it finally sank in. Where Chip had pitched two commercially appealing manuscripts that fit within all the boundaries for what we knew publishers were looking for, God had chosen the crazy book that I had predetermined was never going to fly to be the one that opened the publishing door.

So now I say go write that crazy book that breaks all the rules you’ve been told for success but has lodged its way into your heart and won’t let go. You never know where it might take you.

A disgraced scholar running from her past and an entrepreneur chasing his future find themselves thrown together—and fall in love—on a Tolkien tour of New Zealand.

Allison Shire (yes, like where the Hobbits live) is a disgraced academic who is done with love. Her belief in “happily ever after” ended the day she discovered her husband was still married to a wife she knew nothing about. Jackson Gregory was on the cusp of making it big. Then his girlfriend left him and took his most guarded commercial secrets with her. To make matters worse, the Iowa farm that has been in his family for generations is facing foreclosure. Determined to save his parents from financial ruin, he’ll do whatever it takes to convince his wealthy great-uncle to invest in his next scheme, which means accompanying him to the bottom of the world to spend three weeks pretending to be a die-hard Lord of the Rings fan, even though he knows nothing about the stories.

When Allison leads the group through the famous sites of the Tolkien movies, she and Jackson start to see each other differently, and as they keep getting thrown together on the tour, they find themselves drawn to each other. Neither expected to fall in love again, but can they find a way beyond their regrets to take a chance on the one thing they’re not looking for?

Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand. When she's not working her day job as a public servant, chasing around a ninja preschooler and his feisty toddler sister, she spends her time writing horribly bad first drafts and wishing you could get Double Stuf Oreos in New Zealand. Her sophomore romantic comedy, Can’t Help Falling, is another crazy book about how an antique shop, a wardrobe, and a mysterious teacup bring two C.S. Lewis fans together in a snowy and picturesque Oxford, England and was named an RT Reviews Top Pick for October. She loves to connect on her website, on Facebook at Kara Isaac - Author and Twitter @KaraIsaac

Thursday, October 20, 2016


It wasn’t until my first novel, A Vow to Cherish, was made into a movie, that I understood why the “show, don’t tell” rule of writing is so very important. Had I known then what I know now, I would have written my first novel very differently—much more visually. Since getting the opportunity to read the screenplay of “my” movie, and learning more about scriptwriting at some of the conferences I’ve attended, I’ve discovered ways to apply film techniques and thus make my novels more “cinematic”—and hopefully, more likely to someday be turned into movies! Here are just a few of the techniques filmmakers employ to keep viewers engaged. These methods can easily be adapted for the written page to create a novel that will have your story playing like a movie in your readers’ minds!
1. Jump cuts and fade outs. Don't feel like you have to wrap every scene up in a nice bow. It's perfectly fine to jump into a scene in the middle of action already in progress (without knowing what kind of car your characters drove to get there). It's also fine—even preferred—to end a scene in the middle of the action and simply JUMP to the next scene. You don't always need a closed door or a good-bye to the phone call.
2. Cliffhanger. A good way to keep your readers turning pages is to end your scenes in the middle of action. Force the reader to turn the page to find out what you left him hanging not knowing. Just be sure you SHOW that cliffhanger instead of telling about it. Don't say: Little did he know it would be their last night together. Instead: The doorbell startled him. He pushed back the curtain to see a police car parked in the snowy driveway, its emergency lights eerily dimmed.  
3. Dissolve. In a similar way, you can end one scene and transition to the next by taking a visual element from the first scene and using it in the next. For example, in the story of Snow White, you might zoom in on the deadly apple as the wicked stepmother poisons it, then open the next scene with a close-up of the apple in Snow White's hand as she brings it to her mouth. Dissolves work especially well in comedy where a character says, “Oh, Harvey would never do that." And of course, the next scene opens with Harvey doing exactly that.
4. Zooms. If the movie camera zooms in on an object, you can bet that object will play a significant role in the story later. By taking your writer’s "camera" and describing a close-up of an object or action, you give it the same importance as an object zoomed in on in a movie.
5. Lighting. Describing the light in your scene—bright and sunny, hazy, moonlit, etc.—not only gives the reader a visual image to picture, but also sets the mood, or creates a metaphor for good/evil, happiness/depression, etc.
6. Establishing shot. In film, an establishing shot is a long or wide-angle shot opening a scene to show the audience the locale/setting (or era, weather, time of day, etc.). In writing, sometimes this type of opening is written in omniscient point of view, and the author then zooms in on a more specific point in the setting—inside a house, for instance. This is a great way to paint the big picture. Just remember: today’s readers don't have the patience for more than a paragraph or two of description.
7. Background music. You can create a wonderful mood for your scene by helping the reader hear the music that would be the soundtrack if your novel were a movie. Have your character flip on the radio or play a musical instrument. Have her always singing or humming or whistling. Have music from a grocery store waft to the character's ears. The reader will hear those songs in her mind and your story will be so much richer for it.
DEBORAH RANEY's first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched her writing career after twenty happy years as a stay-at-home mom. She recently completed a five-book series, the The Chicory Inn Novels, for Abingdon Press and is working on a new series for Gilead Publishers. Deb and her husband, Ken Raney, recently traded small-town life in Kansas––the setting of many of Deb's novels––for life in the (relatively) big city of Wichita. They love traveling to visit four children and seven grandchildren who all live much too far away. Visit Deb on the Web at www.deborahraney.com.



Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Balance Between Suspense and Romance by Marji Laine

We're in a period where romantic suspense novels are hot. So what do they require? Balance, for one thing. Author Marji Laine shares her thoughts. -- Sandy

Marji: Most publishers will spell out that a romantic suspense novel must be equal parts romance and suspense. That’s an easy thing to say, but not always easy to put into action. Either genre can make a complete story without the other, but they are so much better together. However, when the intensity of either the romance or the suspense begins to amp up, it’s hard to weave in the other element.

At the beginning of a romantic suspense, the romance usually takes a back seat. Before there is a “they,” there is a “she,” and she’s most often in trouble. Desperate. Frightened. Sometimes in survival mode from the first chapter. Or the first page. Or the first few words. As the action begins to roll, there’s no time for romance

My own book, COUNTER POINT is a little different. The action begins on HIS side of the story, a desperate chase through a jungle in southern Mexico. My heroine doesn’t realize her danger until her hero returns to their small town from his failed mission. But even in this case, the romance isn’t evident before the danger becomes critical.

The romance begins, even in the midst of the action: the chemistry, the attraction. I love it when characters, in deadly situations, think romantic thoughts and then fuss at themselves for getting distracted

But then romance is a great distraction! Between each jarring attack or last minute escape, the romance peeks in again. Thoughts, looks, laughs will ignite the sparks into a palpable connection. At that point in the story, the romance is as gripping as the suspense. Well done, the readers are as much awaiting the ultimate vulnerability of the romance as they are the revelation of the culprit and the unraveling of the mystery.

And if the story is done really well, the readers will have at least half of the book to anticipate the delicious ending.

Is romantic suspense your genre of choice? Do you have a formula for making sure you balance the romance and the danger?


Marji writes what she loves to read: mystery, suspense, and romance all with a deep thread of faith and hope. A home-schooling mom of four, she's nearing retirement with her youngests, twins, in their senior year. In addition to her writing and editing, she is also the high school coordinator and web designer of a large co-op, and works at her church as the children's music director, a teacher in the Sunday youth classes, an assistant in the youth choir and an alto in the adult choir. AND, she has just begun her newest career as Executive Director at Write Integrity Press and Pix-N-Pens.

COUNTER POINT (e-book) is available at 40% off this month as a pre-order special. AND anyone who orders it and contacts Marji (freebookforpreorder@gmail.com) with the receipt by October 30, 2016 will receive another book, an e-collection of short romances, for free.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Writing from Your Pressure Cooker Life by Zoe M. McCarthy

Zoe M. McCarthy
I read Stephanie Rische’s interview “Beth Moore’s Novel Approach to Loving People” published in Today’s Christian Living (November 2016).

In the article, Moore talked about how she’d like to write like Jan Karon, but nothing in her life was like Karon’s books. She had to be true to being someone who’d been victimized.

Many of us have come from what I call pressure cookers. That’s a home or family like a pressure cooker. People inside are abusers and victims. Abusers pressure the victims with verbal, physical, or sexual abuse. Depending on how high the pressure setting is, victims have their gumption and identity cooked to some level of vulnerability.

Moore gave an encouraging statement about victims who feel like they’re up against something that can’t be fixed: “The truth is, sometimes there isn’t a way back. But with Jesus, there is a way forward.” After her pressure cooker past, Moore wants her writing to let others know how wonderful the Lord is.

One stride forward for Bible study writer Beth Moore is a novel she has written. She believes God prompted her to step out of her comfort zone, but even in writing fiction, she had to be true to her vulnerability.

This made me think about how my past has affected my writing.

I enjoy romantic suspense, so it seemed natural to write it. In the three inspirational romantic suspense novels I wrote, I couldn’t seem to get the balance right. In one, the romance and the suspense were good, but the inspiration was lacking. In another the suspense and inspiration were good, but the romance was bland. In the third … You get my drift.

Also, in those novels, my writer’s voice never showed up.

Writing from the Pressure Cooker’s Steam

I think often writers are called to write with God from the vulnerabilities in our lives—either from how we learned to manage the pressure or how we traveled through it and came out of the cooker.

Besides other pressures I grew up under, we moved about every two years, inside and outside of the US. I let out the steam from my pressure cooker by being witty and funny around others. (I had to make friends fast before we moved again!) I used humor to entice people to accept me.

In writing my fifth book, which was published, I let go of my preconceived notions about what I was to write. The words poured out in my writer’s voice. The book was an inspirational contemporary romance full of humor, sass, and tenderness.

In hindsight, I believe God first wanted me to learn about Him, then He wanted me to learn to write through the four rejected novels, and finally He wanted me to write with Him from what my pressure cooker past gave me.

Maybe you have been called to write from how you handled what was inside your pressure cooker. Maybe you write comedy, fairytales, or fantasy.

Writing from the Pressure Cooker’s Process

I think some writers are guided to write with God directly from their tumbled lives. Through non-fiction or fiction, they stay true and show others how to find hope.

Perhaps God has called you to write from your vulnerable state like Moore, because that’s what will help your readers most. You may write women’s fiction or devotionals giving hope.

How has God directed you to use your pressure cooker life in your writing?

God can release the lid on your pressure cooker so, through writing, you can help others. 
Click to tweet.

About the Author
Zoe M. McCarthy believes the little-known fact that opposites distract. Thus, she spins Christian contemporary romances entangling extreme opposites. Her tagline is Distraction to Attraction, Magnetic Romances Between Opposites. Christian Fiction Online Magazine published two of her short stories. Zoe self-published two books of contemporary Christian short stories. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She enjoys leading workshops on the craft of writing; speaking about her faith; planning fun events for her 5 grandchildren; and exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains, where she lives with her husband, John. 

Learn more about Zoe M. McCarthy at her website: http://zoemmccarthy.com

Calculated Risk
Calculated Risk
by Zoe M. McCarthy

What happens when an analytical numbers man meets a mercurial marketing Rep? Romance is a calculated risk…

Jilted by the latest of her father’s choices of “real men,” Cisney Baldwin rashly accepts an invitation to spend Thanksgiving weekend with a sympathetic colleague and his family. Nick LeCrone is a man too much her opposite to interest her and too mild-mannered to make her overbearing father’s “list.” Now, Cisney fears Nick wants to take advantage of her vulnerable state over the holiday. Boy, is she wrong.

Nick wants little to do with Cisney. She drives him crazy with all her sticky notes and quirks. He extended an invitation because he felt sorry for her. Now he’s stuck, and to make matters worse, his family thinks she’s his perfect match. He’ll do what he can to keep his distance, but there’s just one problem—he’s starting to believe Cisney’s magnetism is stronger than he can resist.

Purchase links for Calculated Risk: http://zoemmccarthy.com/books