Wednesday, March 22, 2017

When Inspiration Requires Assembly by Hillary Manton Lodge

Sometimes, the ideas just don't come and we're stuck. Panic time, right? Maybe not. Read Hillary Manton Lodge's advice for those times when those ideas stop flowing. -- Sandy

Hillary: As writers, we have a complicated relationship with inspiration.

If ideas didn’t come to us, we wouldn’t write – it’s as simple as that. But ideas don’t tend to arrive fully formed and realized. Instead, they show up on the doorstep in a series of boxes and without instructions. If you’re adapting a work, you’ve at least got instructions, but not in modern English, and at any rate, what’s the fun in following the rules?

All of this idea assembly is grand until you need to reach for the next piece of the puzzle and it’s nowhere to be found.

It’s a place I found myself last week, as I began working on a new project. I’d just wrapped up copy edits on my new release, Jane of Austin, and after hammering away at the nitpicky stuff, was ready to get back to making something new.

But the new idea was still a logistical puzzle, and when the answers didn’t pop instantaneously into my head, I began to flail. I need to schedule a brainstorming session, I thought at first. I wonder if Writer A would have an idea.

And then I stopped. And took a breath.

I’ve written seven books. Five have been released, a sixth out in June. This whole book idea thing? Not my first rodeo. And yet my brain is quick to hit the panic button.

Here’s the thing – these ideas? They’re mine. They show up on my brain’s doorstep. And sooner or later, I figure out what to do with them. Every time.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m deeply indebted to the brainstorming help I’ve received over the years. My second and fifth novels, in particular, benefited from story-loving people willing to come play make-believe with me. But right now, it’s early days. I have the time to let my brain relax and get back into the habit of making things.

So I took a walk, and rather than slip into panic that the pieces weren’t coming together, I looked at the trees and their baby leaves, and let my thought wander. I considered one idea, discarded it, and tried another, like a jigsaw puzzle of a big blue sky.

And after a while? The right pieces fit into place. I came up with solutions that I loved. And once I had the framework, I could chat about it with a friend who could see where I was going with it and spin it out just a little further.

So writers – here’s the challenge. Call in the reserves if you must, but see if you can hold out until the end of the process, when you’re tired. Enjoy the beginning, and hold it close. You’ve learned the craft, so trust your brain. Trust the creative mind the Lord has gifted to you. Give your mind a chance to play, and enjoy it when it takes you somewhere extraordinary.

Do you have a secret for opening those creative doors in your mind?


Hillary Manton Lodge is the author of the critically acclaimed Two Blue Doors series and the Plain and Simple duet. Jane of Austin is her sixth novel.

A storyteller at heart, in her free time she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, graphic design, and finding new walking trails. She resides outside of Memphis, Tennessee with her husband and two pups.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Cool, Calm, and Connected by Zoe M. McCarthy

Because one of my accountability partners prayerfully chooses a guiding word each year, I decided that was a good idea. It didn’t take much prayer to discern my word.
Zoe M. McCarthy

I’m an insomniac. My teeth ache from grinding them together when I do sleep. My problem is not that I’m a big worrier. I’ve learned to respect God’s command not to worry. But I feel like I’m always behind and need more time, especially with three books in progress with three publishers and traveling to BSF Bible study two hours away and spending Monday nights in NC. I’ve asked God to help me be more efficient so I have time to chill. I’m tired of treating my teeth with the strongest version of Sensodyne.

So, my word for this year is calm. In January, I stopped asking God to help me be more efficient. I asked Him to help me learn how to be calm. I knew the answer had to be my next step in learning how to abide in Jesus. I wasn’t surprised when I sensed He called me to honor the Sabbath.

My Sabbath before I was called to calmness: Rise early and go up to my office, and after working on my personal Bible study and prayer, get an hour in on writing the Bible study I teach on Wednesdays and maybe fit in some writing tasks. Go to Sunday school and church. Fit in some blogging or writing work if John watches sports on TV in the afternoon. Plan my week and work while John attends the Sunday evening Bible study. Motive: make my workweek easier by getting ahead.

On my Sabbath now, I don’t do any of my writing, blogging, or platform work. I’ve joined John at the Sunday night Bible study. I decided to trust God and watch how he orchestrates my days so I get more work done in six days than I did in seven. Most of all, I’ve found honoring the Sabbath has been a learning process.

At first, I needed to implement an attitude change. I was also going through the motions without connecting much with God. I was enjoying the rest part too much! Then during my preparation to teach the Wednesday Bible study, God showed me that I could do good for others on the Sabbath as Jesus did. Now, during my Sabbath day, I write notes to people needing encouragement and enjoy activities that show others my love.

Next, I realized, besides intercessory prayer and completing my study questions for the BSF Bible study, I needed to sit with Jesus for a while. I now use a devotional to start the conversation.

So, in two and a half months, what has keeping a Sabbath done for my calmness? It’s still a work in progress, but I’ve been sleeping well, and my teeth don’t ache. I still sometimes feel I need more time, but in spending quality time with Jesus—time connecting with the Lord other than studying the Bible and praying intercessory prayers—I believe the pressure will decrease and calmness will be part of my new nature. And, my Sabbath day is becoming precious.

What might be your word for this year?

Prayerfully choose a word for the year to help you become the person God has called you to be. 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. Her first novel is Calculated Risk. She has two more contemporary romances and a nonfiction book to help writers ready their manuscripts coming out soon. 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:

Calculated Risk

Calculated Risk
by Zoe M. McCarth
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:

Monday, March 20, 2017

If You Build It, Will They Come? By Marianne Evans

Marianne Evans
The idea gained traction about four or five years ago: Publish books, then, revisit your back list and offer older titles at a discount, or for free, to better enable new readers to ‘take a chance’ on you as an author, to hopefully enjoy your work, and purchase new releases at full price.

Today the idea of free or deep-discounted books is becoming the norm rather than the exception to a degree that I’m starting to wonder if the CBA isn’t causing itself to implode. In a quest for interest/reach/reader loyalty are we giving away sustainability?

Like many others, I’m broken hearted by the news that Family Christian is closing its doors. I’m broken hearted by the fact that the Christian market—not just for books, but any variety of retail merchandise, is dying a slow, painful death. I’ve had four signings at my local Family Christian over the years and I treasured the store’s support. I couldn’t get my books on shelves, or even do signings, at Barnes and Noble or Books-A-Million. Meanwhile, Family Christian welcomed me with open arms and the results were mutually beneficial.

Now, that avenue has come to an end; yet another pathway closed to Christian authors (and retailers) who are being squeezed into non-existence.

The idea behind my post today? That we need to support one another. From the pocket book. For the record, I’m all about freebies. I’m all about sale prices on great merchandise, like Christian books for example. I’ve taken advantage of many a bargain and discovered awesome new authors at the result. However, I’ve concluded that I need to dig deeper than that and support our industry by purchasing goods at a price and in a manner which creates sustainability. I need to hold to the truth that the effort authors (in this case) and other Christian retailers put into their businesses is worthy of patronage and financial compensation. If not, these ministries will perish.

In Jesus’s day, his followers existed, and then survived, by banding together, by forming a community and supporting one another. Today is no different. If we want to survive, we must live in a spirit of mutual viability.

And so, I’m eager to know: What are your perceptions on the current ‘state of the Christian industry?’ Any thoughts about ways to stem the backward slide of store closures, lack of exposure and sinking sales? Blessings, friends, and see you next month!
Marianne Evans is an award-winning author of Christian romance and fiction. Her hope is to spread the faith-affirming message of God’s love through the stories He prompts her to create. Devotion, earned the Bookseller’s Best Award as well as the Heart of Excellence Award. Hearts Communion earned a win for Best Romance from the Christian Small Publisher's Association. She is also a two-time recipient of the Selah Award, Then & Now for Best Contemporary Romance and Finding Home for Best Novella. Marianne is a lifelong resident of Michigan and an active member of Romance Writers of America, most notably the Greater Detroit Chapter where she served two terms as President.

Amy Monarch is a tireless volunteer at the Dupont Rescue and Recovery Center, an establishment for the destitute founded by her mother. There, Amy has kept her identity a carefully guarded secret. She is actually Princess Amelia Marguerite Louise DeLaGrande of Remeth. Working at Dupont offers the opportunity to serve in blessed disguise.

Fresh into a promising career in commercial real estate brokerage, Patrick Sawyer returns to the picturesque isle of Remeth intending to reconnect with his collegiate study abroad friends and figure out 'what's next' in his life. Since his father's passing, the world he knows leaves him uninspired. He volunteers at Dupont during his visit and becomes enchanted by Amy.

But Amelia is trapped within a silken web. When she reveals who she is, Patrick pulls back. He's not interested in royalty--at all--but how can she ever break free? How can she find a way to service and God's plan for her life? Most of all, how can she reconcile the call she feels toward a remarkable man who may be 'common,' yet is 'uncommon' when it comes to matters of the heart?

Friday, March 17, 2017

Writing as an Act of Courage by Gigi Devine Murfitt

Gigi Devine Murfitt
It’s not easy being a writer. Sometimes, it’s even a bit scary. So, what do you do? We’re here to help, and today Gigi Devine Murfitt shares four important tips to hold on to when those nerves kick in.  
 ~ Dawn

Writing as an Act 
of Courage

Greetings Writing Friend,

I have not met a writer yet who didn’t say it took courage to put pen to paper and tell their story. After all, it is scary to wonder what your critique partners or best friends or potential readers will say about the piece of writing you share.

“If we had to say what writing is, we would have to define it essentially as an act of courage.” Cynthia Ozick

I remember creating a children’s book for my high school freshman English class. This teacher, Mr. Crnich, loved the red pen and always gave feedback on my work. I had a lot of fun writing my story of a sweet little bunny who permanently scarred his bunny ear when a rose thorn poked a hole in it. He had to learn to live with looking different. I loved my little story and it took great courage to turn it in. Especially because I don’t consider myself an artist and I illustrated it myself.

Had we not had that assignment, I may never have thought of myself as a storyteller. But the encouragement from Mr. Crnich gave me the courage to see myself as a writer. defines courage as “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery."

I often think of the cowardly lion from The Wizard of Oz when I think about overcoming courage to write one of my stories.

What did he do to gain the courage to approach the wizard?

  1. He admitted he was scared.
  2. He surrounded himself with encouraging people.
  3. He used positive self-talk.
  4. He was afraid, but he did it anyway.

When I was writing my first book, Caregiver’s Devotions to Go, I was afraid. Did I really have thirty stories to tell? Would the editor like them? Would anyone read my book?

Here is what I did to get through to the end.

  1. I admitted I was scared. I asked for prayer to help with my fear.
  2. I met weekly with my friend and mentor, Cheryl Penn, and we talked about devotional ideas. I read her my work and she helped me polish the prose.
  3. I reminded myself that my stories matter and sharing them would help others.
  4. When I wanted to quit, I pressed on and wrote anyway.

Just today, I received a note in the mail from a reader.

Dear Gigi,

Please send me one more. I hope this money is enough. I saw you at Philipsburg, Montana where I bought three at the After Five group. My mom, Frances Glynn, Carol Bowen and I all love the book.

It’s the best spiritual book I’ve ever read and I’ve never been much of a reader. Carol has read it several times. 

I don’t have internet so that is why I’m writing you.

With Love, Thank you, Sandra R. Matesich

If you are looking for courage in your writing, let me know and I will pray with you. I’d like to suggest a book that might help. It is called. The Courage to Write [How Writers Transcend Fear] by Ralph Keyes – author of The Writer’s Book of Hope.

May God Bless you with the courage to write that next sentence.

Bless you,
Gigi Devine Murfitt

Caregivers’ Devotions to Go is for young moms, grandmothers, adult children and many others given the charge of caring for another person. It offers encouragement for a difficult task and gives both professional and family caregivers a breath of fresh air to continue the assignment God has given them.

The Scriptures and stories in this book encourage the caregiver as they receive a blessing from the Lord for having a servant's heart. It helps caregivers know they are not alone in the task set before them. It uses Scripture to help the caregiver see those in their care through the eyes of God—as fearfully and wonderfully made individuals.

Gigi Devine Murfitt writes and speaks about some of life’s most challenging topics. Raised in a single parent home with nine siblings, and the mother of Gabe whose story of being born with three-inch arms has inspired millions, she has served as coach, encourager and support to many throughout her life. Sought out by those facing all kinds of hardships, her passion for over forty years has been going deeper with God by journaling to connect the events of her life with the promises of his Word.

Connect with Gigi and learn more about her work by visiting the following sites:


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Staying Motivated by Rachel J. Good

We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand — and melting like a snowflake. Let us use it before it is too late.”    ~Marie Beynon Ray  
As snow falls here in the Northeast, blanketing us with white so deep we have no choice but to stay inside, it’s a good time to ponder our goals. Back in January, when the year was new and shiny, many of us made resolutions. Often by now, we’re off track, and all those promises we made to ourselves seem even farther from reach because we’ve also lost our motivation. The passion that birthed those resolutions has long since died. And that makes it easy to forget our dreams and plans, to let the pressing details of everyday life keep us stuck. 
We have so many commitments, we have little time to squeeze in the things that are dear to our hearts. Perhaps an emotional or physical crisis is draining our time and energy. Once this is over, we tell ourselves we’ll make time for writing. But before that difficulty passes, another takes its place, and soon we’re spending all our time dealing with emergencies. We shelve our dreams, but it’s “only for now,” we promise ourselves. We’ll get back to it someday, but soon a few days stretches into weeks, months, or even years. 
So how do we stay motivated once reality has set in, and we’re not finding time for our writing or other important projects?
One of my favorite pieces of advice is to look back for motivation and forward for inspiration. Planning and dreaming can inspire us to move ahead, but looking back can be valuable to see how far we’ve come. I’ve found it’s often the perfect solution to getting unstuck.
The key to looking back is not to beat yourself up over uncompleted projects, but to remember your past successes. Even if it seems these have been few or nonexistent, reframe your past from a positive perspective.
For many years, my only progress consisted of stacks of rejection letters, half-finished manuscripts, and a brain full of ideas. Although I put in work, I didn’t feel a real sense of accomplishment. Now I wish I could go back and appreciate those achievements, because if it weren’t for those years of drudgery and disappointment, I wouldn’t be published today.
So wherever you are on your journey (whether in writing or other pursuits), honor the hard work you’ve put in — even if it didn’t bring the rewards you hoped. Find a way to keep track of what you’ve done and celebrate the small milestones along the way. Rejection letters indicate you’ve been submitting, partially finished manuscripts prove you’ve been writing, doodles in your sketchbook show you’ve been drawing. Yes, you may not have gotten as far as you’d hoped, but rather than looking at where you expected to be, rejoice in how far you’ve come. You’ve made progress, and that’s the most important thing.
Another way to look back is to ask yourself what you wish you’d accomplished at the end of your life. So many times, we forgo the important things for the petty. How valuable are the activities taking up your time each day? Would you rather spend your time sweeping dust bunnies in the guest bedroom or touching lives with an important message? Thinking in terms of an eternal perspective can also be motivating.
And as the quote (and the Bible) reminds us, we have no guarantee of tomorrow; the only time we have allotted is now. This point was driven home to me this week when a beloved writer I know lost her battle with cancer. Although those of us who knew her mourn her loss, we’re grateful for the books she’s left behind – books that still have the power to change lives for years or even generations to come. What about you? Are you waiting for someday? If God has given you a message to share, do it now. Don’t put it off until it’s too late.
Inspirational author Rachel J. Good writes life-changing, heart-tugging novels of faith, hope, and forgiveness. She is the author of several Amish series in print or forthcoming – Sisters & Friends series, Hearts of Amish Country series, and Love & Promises series – as well as the Amish Quilts Coloring Books. She also writes the contemporary inspirational series, Hope Chapel, and the first novella in that series, Angels Unaware, recently released. Her March release, Buried Secrets, is on blog tour with Celebrate Lit. You can connect with Rachel on Facebook and her website.



Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Motivation in Writing and Life by Terri Reed

As writers, we all have different reasons for doing what we do. Today, author Terri Reed provides insight into what keeps her creating. -- Sandy

Terri: Motivation is defined as the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way. The general desire or willingness of someone to do something. Motivation is a buzzword in the writing world. Our characters must be motivated to act. If the characters are going through the story acting without proper motivation, the characters become unbelievable and unsympathetic.

Dwight Swain in his book Techniques of the Selling Writer says a story is a succession of Motivation-Reaction-Action units.

Motivating stimulus comes from outside the focal character, she then reacts (internally/emotionally) and then acts (physical action or speech). This chain forms a link to create a pattern that moves the story forward.

This same pattern can be played out in our real lives. Every action we take is motivated by something that causes a reaction that then prompts us to act.

This seems like such a simple concept in theory. The temperature drops, my body feels cold, I turn up the heat.

But what motivates the creative person? Why does a painter paint? A baker bake? A writer write?

I can’t speak to the painter or the baker because I am neither. But I can talk about my motivations for writing. Each author comes to the task of writing with different motivations. It’s important to know what motivates you as a writer. To then use that motivation to keep writing.

As a child making up stories that I told only to myself was a way of coping with the chaos surrounding me. Stories were safe because they came from within me. I could control what happened in the stories I told myself. I wasn’t alone in the stories and I felt powerful, much different than I felt in the real world. I should tell you I wasn’t physically abused or neglected as a child. But there was chaos just the same. My parents fought. I was alone in my room most of the time to escape the fighting. I was picked on at school for the way I looked. I don’t tell you this for sympathy but to show the motivating factors from outside myself that I reacted to by withdrawing into isolation. The only action I felt safe with was to create stories for myself. Then I started journaling on the advice of my church group counselor who most likely saw my pain. Journaling was a huge outlet for me for many years. I poured out my angst on to the pages of many diaries.

But the stories in my head never left. Characters would swim to the surface wanting to be let out. In junior high and high school my English teachers encouraged my writing. In college I took a creative writing class and the professor’s encouragement to pursue writing dug deep into me and wouldn’t let go. But I didn’t have the self-confidence to try. It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I found the courage to pursue this dream of being a writer.

At first I was motivated by the need to be creative. I needed an outlet for the ideas and characters in my head. Then I wrote to prove I could do it. I wanted to accomplish something that I didn’t feel I could do.

Now, having written many books over many years, I’ve realized my motivations are more complicated. I write to work out issues in my life. I write to help support my family. I write because if I stop I fear I’ll disappear. I write for the joy of the journey which is hard work but so rewarding when I finish a story. And I keep writing to have an impact on others--this motivation came later as I began receiving reader mail where the readers were touched, encouraged and their faith strengthened by a story.

What motivates you as a writer? 


Terri Reed’s romance and romantic suspense novels have appeared on Publisher’s Weekly top 25, Nielsen’s Bookscan top 100 and featured in USA Today, Christian Fiction Magazine and Romantic Times Magazine, finaled in RWA’s RITA contest, National Reader’s Choice Award contest, ACFW’s The Carol Award contest. Contact Terri @ or P.O. Box 19555 Portland, OR 97224

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Do You Have Imposter Syndrome? By Marie Wells Coutu

Marie Wells Coutu
Viola Davis, who just won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, says she suffers from “Imposter Syndrome.” Maybe you do, too.

Yes, it’s a real thing. According to Wikipedia, the term is applied to “high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud.’” Whether Davis has been officially diagnosed or not, I’m not sure.

But I am sure that a lot of us authors suffer from this syndrome to some extent, even if we don’t have a “clinical” diagnosis.

You see, we know that God has called us to write. He has given us more story ideas than we can use in a lifetime. He has provided us with the ability to put words together in a cohesive way, to create characters that come alive on the page, to describe settings and action in ways that enable readers to “be there.” And maybe He has even blessed us with an agent and/or a publisher.

But when a friend or reader says, “How do you write a book?” we don’t have a good answer. And worst of all, we’re afraid the next book we write (or the one we’re working on now) will be lousy.

We are afraid of being “found out,” that people will realize we’ve been faking it all along. That we really don’t know what we’re doing.

Can you relate?

Or maybe we’re writing intense stories with great emotional and spiritual depth, but personally feel like God is far away. We can reveal the internal battles of our characters but can’t admit our own struggles.

Is there a cure for Imposter Syndrome?

Absolutely. You may not find it in the secular journals, but you can find it in the Bible. I think King David suffered from Imposter Syndrome at times, especially when he had sinned. But turn to Psalm 139, where he says:

Every day of my life was recorded in your book before one of them had taken place. How precious are your thoughts concerning me, O God! (v. 16-17, GW)

David’s solution was to remember that God had made him and knew every aspect of his life. Not only did God know him, but He had “precious thoughts” of him.

And God has “precious thoughts” about you, too. You are not a fraud. If you are writing because of God’s calling on your life, He has given you the ability you need.

So when you feel inadequate or worry that your writing career will end when people realize you’ve been faking it, pull out Psalm 139 and read it. Over and over, until it sinks in.

Then keep writing.
About the Author

Marie Wells Coutu’s novels often deal with characters who suffer from Imposter Syndrome. At least, they worry that if their secrets are discovered, their lives will change drastically.

The Secret Heart
by Marie Wells Coutu

Her latest release, The Secret Heart, is a modern reimagining of Bathsheba and David’s story, featuring the governor and first lady of Tennessee. Keeping their secret is destroying their marriage, but revealing it could mean the end of any political career. Find out more at, visit Marie’s website at where she shares devotional thoughts regularly, or follow her on Facebook at Marie Wells Coutu, Author.

The Secret Heart

Beautiful Shawna Moore married Hunter Wilson, the governor of Tennessee, after a whirlwind romance, only six weeks following her first husband’s death in Iraq. Now, she wonders if the governor loved her at all or only hoped to avoid a scandal.

An investigative reporter—and friend of Shawna’s—is asking questions. If he discovers the truth about Shawna’s baby, Hunter’s chances for reelection could be ruined. But keeping the secret is destroying their marriage. Will Shawna convince Hunter to choose his family and drop out of politics, or will he continue to put his career first?

For a sneak peek, download the first chapter here. You can also read Angie's review of The Secret Heart here: The Secret Heart - An Innovative Retelling.