Friday, December 9, 2016

The Writer as the Forever Learner by Gigi Devine Murfitt

Gigi  Devine Murfitt

One of the things I love about writing is that I’ll continue to be challenged no matter where I am on my journey.  There will always be more to learn and ways to improve.  Author Gigi Murfitt understands the importance of gleaning knowledge about our craft, and she shares some of the ways she’s been able to do that herself. Enjoy! ~ Dawn

The Writer as the Forever Learner

My desire to write started many moons ago. I've been taking writing classes and attending conferences for more than ten years. I published my first article, A Devine Christmas Thank You, on the front page of a Montana newspaper as an assignment for an online class. Thus, began my publishing journey.

As a forever learner, I’m always looking for ways to improve my writing craft. There are classes available online and at our community colleges. Initially I took classes on location at Cascadia Community College in Bothell, WA. I also studied in the Jerry Jenkins Write for the Soul Apprenticeship Program. Although that program is no longer offered, Jerry offers some great classes on his website.

Education to Go offers a variety of writing related classes for a little over one-hundred dollars. Udemy is another place to find online writing classes. If you watch their sales, you can get some good deals. I snagged a few classes for $5.00 each during their Black Friday sale.

I'd have to say one class changed my life. It was a Writer’s Digest University online class. It involved writing seven-thousand words per week for five weeks.  I critiqued the other students’ assignments and anxiously waited for them to critique mine. It was intense.

At the time, I was drafting my memoir. In this manuscript, I wanted to convey the hope I have found in Christ during many different trials my family faced over the years. The instructor informed me after my first assignment that I made Christianity sound too easy. When she asked me why I kept going back to my volatile college boyfriend, I told her I really didn't know. She advised me to take time to learn why or my story would not help my reader.

After I finish the class, I started on a quest to journal the difficult seasons of my journey. Using the feeling word lists from my counselor, I dug into the emotion and the “why” of many chapters that had formed my story. I'd have to admit this was the most challenging summer of my life as I worked through the emotional baggage I had stuffed to move beyond the pain.

In the process of getting my story out on paper, the true healing began. Since then, I can write more intimately and clearly about the things that have formed me and helped my relationship with Christ. I learned to allow the Lord to help me process the broken places in my soul.

My prayer for you is to lean in and listen as you write. The Lord might have a message about something you have chosen to leave out of your story. I hope you can take some of the writing classes mentioned above.

In future articles, I will share more of my writing as a healing journey and keep you informed of classes I have found helpful.

 (Gigi will be back on January 13!)

There is no better way to process your thoughts and connect with your inner self than to journal. This helps to experience the blessing of clarity and peace in your life.

In our busy days, we often forget to stop and reflect. Just Journal is the perfect place to give voice to your thoughts and imagination or release the negative hurts you may experience. It includes:

  • Lined writing pages to record your thoughts, hopes, and dreams
  • Space to draw or doodle or mind map plans, goals, and ideas
  • Journal theme ideas and word lists to help kick start your journal writing
  • Inspirational quotes throughout

This journal can also be a place to celebrate small steps or big victories as you walk out your days. No matter what you put into this journal, it will become that priceless non-judgmental friend.

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.

You can connect with Gigi and learn more about her work by visiting the following sites:


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Don't Let Go by Dora Hiers

Call ASAP. Bad news about Bruiser.
We’d caught WiFi during an excursion into a Spanish medieval city, the third day into our cruise. Just a snatch. Long enough to read our son’s frantic message.
Bruiser, our almost thirteen-year-old golden retriever, was staying at “the resort.” Twelve duplex cabins, sporting indoor sleeping quarters and a private outdoor patio for each of the twenty-four camper dogs, surrounded a lake blanketing acres of land. Fresh air and plenty of space for the dogs to move, drastically different from the typical cramped indoor kennels where Bruiser once chewed all the fur from his tail. The kennel workers adored him and he loved visiting, never came home with a naked tail, so we drove the four hour round trip for years without complaint.
On a sunny afternoon while napping on his outdoor patio, our beloved pet slipped into eternity. No warning signs. He still took mile-long walks. Still scarfed down his food as if he wouldn’t get another meal. Still trudged up the stairs every night for bed. Just a few months ago, the vet pronounced him in great health for his age. 
He died in his happy place. But I wasn’t ready.
I expected to be there for him. To give him a hug and tell him what a good boy he was. To scratch his ears and rub his smooth belly, to tell him how much we loved him and how much joy and laughter he brought into our lives. 
No more stink eye when his food dish wasn't filled on time. No more warning dinner guests not to leave their napkin on their lap because the sneak would circle the table in stealth mode, then swipe a napkin or snag food from a hand, lightning-quick. No more huffs of frustration when we told him to go back to sleep, that it wasn't time to wake up yet. 
Bruiser grew up as a playmate to our two sons, then considered himself an only child when they moved on. He was my fierce protector, yet the big lug cowered in our walk-in shower during thunderstorms and fireworks. Wherever we went, he wanted to go too, and two-thirds of the back seat belonged to him, didn’t matter if someone was already sitting in that spot. And elevators? Forget it! The first time he rode in one, he landed, belly on the floor, all four legs stretched out, and we never enticed him into another one. Bruiser was full of personality.
One day I will be able to think about Bruiser with a smile. But not now. Not when I miss him so much and the pain from the loss still aches. When I dropped him off at the resort and called his name, he galloped back for another hug. If I’d have known that would be our last, I’d have held on tight, not let go. I’ll always remember and cherish that sweet, joyful doggie face.
Something, as writers, we’d like readers to do, right? To cherish our characters. To remember our stories long after they turn the last page. So how do we accomplish that? 
Craft our characters with loads of personality. Just like our beloved Bruiser, our characters need traits that readers identify with, predicaments that they relate to, and a journey that they won’t be ready or willing to leave. 
Make our characters laugh and cry and feel like real people, and those ornery characters who wrangled us away from the path we intended for them will tug ambivalent readers right into the pages of your book.
Hug your reader and don’t let go. You don’t know how long they’ll be with you, so give readers plenty of “aww” moments, scenes that’ll grip them and make them hang on tight for the entire ride. When the journey’s over, hopefully those characters you spent hours crafting, those stories you poured your whole heart into, that message you prayed over, will connect with a reader and remain with them long after the last page. 
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you.

Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.” Matthew 5:4 (The Message)

I’d love to know the last book that stayed with you and why?


Blurb for Christmas on Mistletoe Mountain:

A snow storm. A warm cozy fire. Two hearts that desperately need grace and healing and a Christmas miracle. 
After college, Kane Kirkland returned home to Mistletoe Mountain a changed man, fifty pounds lighter and a new Christian. Six years later, with a successful real estate career and a fresh boost of confidence, all he wants for Christmas is a chance at love with longtime crush Sydney. Something happened to his friend while he was away. Something dark and life-altering ripped the joy from her spirit. And he intends to find out what…
After a disastrous relationship unraveled Sydney Camden’s life, broken and devastated, she gave up all hope for her happily-ever-after. Those silly fantasies belonged only in romance novels, not in real life. Besides, who has time for love? Her life is crazy busy caring for a disabled father and volunteering at Grace Nest, a home for pregnant teens. But then Kane turns up the heat. The gentle giant has always attracted her, but the idea of loving and losing her friend terrifies her. Because when he learns about her hidden sin, surely he’ll vanish from her life forever. 
A snowstorm forces them together and unleashes their fears. Kane worries if Syd still sees him as the overweight kid from their past and questions whether a future together is God’s will or his most treasured dream. Syd wrestles the demon of lies as she relives horrendous memories. 
Grace Nest…where broken hearts heal, chains are loosened, and hope is restored. Where love finds its way home during Christmas.
Purchase Link:

Bio: Dora believes that a person should love what they do or choose to do something else. She’s doing exactly what makes her heart sing, and considers every day a gift. When she takes a break from cranking out heart racing, God-gracing romances, Dora adores reading, chowing down on her hubby’s lip-smacking home-smoked ribs, and sipping coffee on a mountain cabin deck. Life’s too short to be stuck in traffic, to drink bad coffee, or to read books with a sad ending. Dora and her real life hero make their home in North Carolina, but with a world full of amazing places to explore, that’s only a landing point.

Come hang out with Dora on Fiction Faith & Foodies, TwitterFacebook, Pinterest and Instagram. She loves hearing from reader friends at Dora also writes sweet romance that sizzles under the pen name, Tori Kayson.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

My Top Five Secrets of Success by Susan Sleeman

In our writing, we learn as we go, but isn't it great to get an idea of what to expect from someone who's been there, like author Susan Sleeman? -- Sandy

Susan: I have been writing for fifteen years now and have over twenty five books published. Along the way I have learned so much about writing and the publishing business that I would have loved to know before I started. So I thought I’d share my five secrets to a successful writing career.

1. Think like a professional writer
Attitude is critical for success. If you believe you are a writer, you will do the things necessary to become a published writer. Think of your writing as a small business. The only way a business gets off the ground is with a lot of work, determination, and dedication. The success to your new business is setting aside regular time where you commit to write no matter what. So set aside that time. Set a word count goal and write, write, write.

2. Accept constructive criticism and grow from it
Don’t be unteachable. Evaluate the comments and opinions offered on your WIP with an unbiased outlook. Use the comments that will make your WIP better and let the other ones go. After all, not only will it help you grow as a writer, but it will prepare you for edits and negative reviews once you’re published.

3. Read in the genre you’re hoping to publish
Look for best-sellers in your genre and read them. You certainly don’t want to copy the books you read, but reading will give you a flavor for what a publisher is looking for and even more importantly what readers are buying. Analyze the book. Look for pacing, structure, character arcs, and an overall feel of the book.

4. Persevere.
Don’t quit. If you haven’t already wanted to quit, you will at some point along the journey. That’s natural. Even when you’re published, there are days when you ask if this career is worth it. But if you REALLY want to be a writer, you have to work through your emotions and keep writing.

5. Know when to move on
There are times when the WIP that you dearly love, just isn’t going to be picked up by a traditional publisher, yet you keep trying to perfect it in hopes it will sell. You edit it more, polish the proposal more, and so on. This takes up your writing time and your focus, but more importantly, it keeps you from writing something new. Know when to put this book aside (or indie-publish it), but stop trying to perfect the book. It’s okay to let go, move on, and start something new.

What other tips or advice have you've received from someone with more experience? What is something you wish you would have known before committing to a writing career?


SUSAN SLEEMAN is a bestselling and award-winning author of inspirational/Christian and clean-read romantic suspense books. In addition to writing, Susan also hosts the popular website Susan currently lives in Oregon, but has had the pleasure of living in nine states. Her husband is a retired church music director and they have two beautiful daughters, a very special son-in-law, and an adorable grandson.
To learn more about Susan stop by any of these locations on the web.
Her Website -
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Review Site -

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne by Laura V. Hilton

My last blog post ended with these words: 
Laura V. Hilto

Paul reminds us that despite the bad things, the sad things, the storms in life, that we can find something to be thankful for.

Those of you who are facing the holidays without loved ones, for whatever reason, let's focus on the blessings that God has provided.

If you still have family nearby, hug them and tell them you love them.

And those of you who are separated from your loved ones, you’re in my prayers.

That is how I ended my last blog post. 

We live in a time of unthankfulness and ungratefulness. Christmas is coming, and while it’s my favorite holiday season, all you have to do is go to the store to see the greed and the selfishness. People have lost all semblance of kindness and like in the movie “Christmas with the Kranks” will fight for that last spiral ham and sell items you don’t need at outrageous prices. 

My preacher husband says in his messages quite often: “How much is enough? Just a little bit more.”

When I wrote my last blog post, I was anticipating Christmas day without my Coastie. We were planning on celebrating late, so maybe my Coastie could get a few days off and fly home. We are still hoping for that. He has his flights booked, but the needs of the Coast Guard come first. And the weather might factor in. Will he be here? We shall see. 

At the beginning of this year, God gave me a verse. First time He has ever done so for me, and I wondered why other people got a “word from  the Lord” and I didn’t. Was I the wrong religion? Maybe conservative Baptists didn’t get words from God about what they needed to know for the incoming year. But this year, He gave me a verse. 

Not just a word. A verse. 

“Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded you: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper whithersoever you go.” (Joshua 1:7 revised Laura version)

Be strong and very courageous. 

That told me all I need to know about this year. And it was hard. Hard. HARD. I hope I can claim to be strong and very courageous, but I have cried so much this year my eyes have sprung leaks and start dripping water without warning or reason. 

My baby boy (who is so not a baby) joined the Coast Guard. Went to boot camp and is now at his first station (on the other end of the country from me). 

My oldest son has continued to break my mama heart over and over this year. From getting arrested on my birthday last year (but released without booking because he wasn’t who they wanted but happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time), to moving out to live with druggies three times, but then coming home with, “I learned my lesson,” to the call I got yesterday. He’s in jail. This time booked for multiple charges. Court date is in mid-January. I can’t bail him out. I have no money. And even if I did have the money, did he learn his lesson? I don’t know. It will either break him or make him worse. I’m hoping it will break him. He called while we were at church today, begging me to get him out of there, and he cried. It made me cry.

I would be thankful if both my boys were around the Christmas tree this year, but they won’t be. One because he is serving our country, one because he’s serving time. 
In this season of Advent, looking for the coming King, I am going to choose to find the blessings. To be thankful in the little things. My Coastie is becoming a man, and so far he is making wise choices. He has found a good Bible-believing church and is active in missions outreach with it. 

My non-Coastie had a first offense—and nobody lost their life as a result of his bad decisions. And maybe, (please, God, please) this will be the wake-up call he needs to get his life on the right track. To turn back to God. 

My oldest daughter—who is not a problem child—is going off to college in January. I have high hopes for her future there. While I will miss her like crazy, I am thankful she chose to go where she did, for reasons I will hold near and dear, just in case... 

Merry Christmas – to you and yours. 

Those of you who are facing the holidays without loved ones, for whatever reason, let's focus on the blessings that God has provided.

If you still have family nearby, hug them and tell them you love them.

And those of you who are separated from your loved ones, you’re in my prayers. I would appreciate prayers, too. 
About the Author
Award winning author, Laura Hilton, her husband, Steve, and three of their children make their home in Arkansas. She is a pastor’s wife, a stay-at-home mom, and home-schools. Laura is also a breast cancer survivor. Laura also has two adult children.

Her publishing credits include three books in the Amish of Seymour series from Whitaker House: Patchwork Dreams, A Harvest of Hearts (winner of the 2012 Clash of the Titles Award in two categories), and Promised to Another. The Amish of Webster County series, Healing Love (finalist for the 2013 Christian Retail Awards). Surrendered Love and Awakened Love followed by her first Christmas novel, A White Christmas in Webster County, as well as a three book Amish series withWhitaker House, The Amish of Jamesport series, The Snow Globe, The Postcard, and The Bird House in September 2015. See below for information on Laura's latest, The Amish Firefighter. Other credits include Swept Away from Abingdon Press. Laura is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and a professional book reviewer.

Connect with Laura
visit her blogs: &
Twitter: or @Laura_V_Hilton

Amish Firefighter
by Laura V. Hilton

A Beautiful Young Woman Banished from Home
Abigail Stutzman thought it was bad enough being dropped at the nearest bus station and sent to live several states away with some relatives she'd never heard about, much less met. But now, just a week after her arrival in Jamesport, Missouri, she finds herself at the scene of a barn fire. An intentional barn fire. And all fingers are pointed at her. She's desperate to prove her innocence and protect her reputation, but nobody's making that easy to do. And God certainly doesn't seem willing to help.

A Brave Firefighter with an Agenda of His Own

Sam Miller is in the process of turning over a new leaf. Determined to atone for the follies of his past, he is a volunteer firefighter, an EMT, and a doctor-in-training. When local barn fires escalate, everyone suspects arson. And since the Miller family are among the victims, no one is more determined to see the perpetrators brought to justice than Sam.

A Kindled Flame Neither One Could Have AnticipatedWhen their paths first cross, at the site of a barn burning, the emotional intensity rivals the warmth of the flames. Soon, they must decide whether this fire is one they should feed or extinguish. And they'll discover that the truth can prove more dangerous than a blazing inferno.