Friday, January 20, 2017

Six Things I’ve Learned About the Writing Journey by Dawn Kinzer

Dawn Kinzer

As we move into a new year, I hope to grow in writing skills and in knowledge about all the moving parts in the publishing industry. We can’t know too much, can we? 

Today I’m sharing six things I’ve learned about the writing journey itself, and I hope you’ll find my words encouraging.

1. It’s important to do what feels right for us.

I once thought that I’d never self-publish. As they say . . . never say never. I’ve now become an indie author, and although that decision has brought some challenges, the rewards are many. Some of us may choose traditional publishing. Some may choose indie-publishing. Others may want to live in both worlds as a hybrid. Regardless, there are decisions to make in terms of platform, marketing, website formats, blogs, social media, etc.  

2. It’s not a race.

It doesn’t matter if critique partners are published before us. It doesn’t matter if so-and-so has released twenty books to our one. That one book published at the right time can impact lives. So, are we writing to fill up bookshelves? Or are we writing to touch people’s hearts and minds?

3. It’s never too late, and we’re never too old.

I sat at the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference five years ago wondering if it was too late for me. Talented writers half my age were signing contracts with publisher and agents, and the door hadn’t opened up for me yet. I came home from that conference filled with anxiety and a drive to work faster and push harder. 

But, I don’t believe that’s what God wants for any of us. Thankfully, with a little time, and God’s help, I chilled out and began to relax with the process. I recently turned sixty (yikes!), and I feel like I’m just getting started.

By the way, did you know that Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t publish Little House in the Big Woods until she was sixty-four? Frank McCourt published his first book, Angela’s Ashes, when he was sixty-six, and he went on to win the Pulitzer, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the L.A. Times Book Award.

4. We shouldn’t forget to enjoy the journey.

I don’t personally know what it’s like to write for the secular market, but in a field that is so competitive, Christian writers are still generous with their time, knowledge, and encouragement. The friendships I’ve made with other writers have been and continue to be priceless. That alone has made this journey so worth accepting the struggles and disappointments that come with it.

5. We’ll never arrive.

What do I mean by that? One of the things I love about writing is that it will always be challenging. I don’t think we’ll ever arrive at the point where were unable to gain additional knowledge and skills. There will always be more things to learn and more ways to improve what we do.

6. Through writing, we’re given opportunities to make a difference, and with God’s help, we can even change lives.

From my perspective—that’s pretty exciting! 

What have you learned while on your own journey?

In 1904, Hope Andrews, an aspiring fashion designer, struggles with leaving New York City. But with no job, her parents leaving the country, and an abusive ex-fiancé refusing to accept their broken engagement, Hope doesn’t have much choice but to give in to her parents’ wishes that she move far away and live with her cousin indefinitely.

Talented Benjamin Greene can’t deny his passion for painting, but guilt over a painful incident in his past keeps him from sharing his gift. Instead, he devotes much of his days to helping his younger sibling rebuild a farm inherited from a great-uncle. Only his brother is aware that Ben spends his spare time in a studio on their property.

In the small rural town of Riverton, Wisconsin, Hope and Ben can’t help but be thrown together. But as feelings for each other deepen, tension thickens over how talent should be used. Their mutual passion for art brings them together, but will it also drive them apart?

Dawn Kinzer is a freelance editor, and her own work has been has been published in the Christian Fiction Online Magazine, Backyard Friends, The One Year Life Verse Devotional,  A Joyful Heart: Experiencing the Light of His Love, and featured numerous times on the radio ministry, The Heartbeat of the Home.  She co-hosts and writes for Seriously Write. Her personal blog, The Garden of Dreams, focuses on encouraging women to find purpose and pursue their dreams in the different seasons of their lives. Sarah’s Smile is the first book in her historical romance series The Daughters of Riverton, and Hope’s Design is the second.

A mother and grandmother, Dawn lives with her husband in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Favorite things include dark chocolate, good wine, strong coffee, the mountains, family time, and Masterpiece Theatre.

You can connect and learn more about Dawn and her work by visiting these online sites: Author Website, Dawn’s Blog, Goodreads, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

What’s in Your Character’s Past? by Kathryn Spurgeon

Every created character has a past. Whatever situation they are placed in by the writer, their response is affected by a prior event(s). Finding and relaying that event is key to developing well-rounded, thought-provoking characters. 

How do we, as writers, find the past events that influence our characters? Instead of starting with the past event, let’s start with the present and go backward.

1. Present Event. A novel cannot be called a true novel without conflict and action. Put your character in an awkward, frightful, or embarrassing situation. If the character does not respond with passion, then you have the wrong event. Try again.

2. Emotion. A character is like a make-believe manikin. The reader wants to see him or her come to life and step off the platform. A touchy event should cause a character’s emotions to ignite or explode: anger, jealousy, bitterness, etc. For the reader’s sake, be specific, describe that feeling even if it is inside the character’s head.

3. Flaw. According to “The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writers Guide to Character Flaws,” by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglish, this negative, out-of-control, unreasonable emotion reveals the character’s flaw. Every true-to-life character must have a flaw. If a flaw is not portrayed, then we create one-dimensional characters, less-than-human flat people, or manikins.

4. Lie. A negative response, a flaw, reveals what the character believes. So from the emotional explosion, delve into the reason for the disagreeable response. Why did the character react this certain way? What was the specific lie that caused them to respond so drastically? What was the character thinking? What was the belief?

5. Past Event. Every flaw, every lie, is connected to something in the character’s past, a time when that character first began believing this specific belief. Nail it down. What event could have happened to make the character believe this way? There’s your back story.

A simple example: I counseled a woman who got angry each time her husband tried to help her do anything. Throwing-dishes-kind-of-angry. That’s the negative emotion. What was her character flaw? She could not control her feelings when anyone made her feel stupid or helpless. The lie? She really believed she was stupid and had to hide that fact from others. The past event? Her father belittled her each time she brought home a poor grade, one time locking her in the closet for a ‘C’.  No matter if this is a college professor, the belief that she is stupid will affect her today.

Each character is unique, so there is not one systematic, concrete answer as to why a character responds a certain way.

Now as Christians, we have insight others may not have. We know Satan is the author of lies, all lies. And he uses these lies to destroy lives. So here we have it. Most of a character’s problems stem from a lie believed, which began during some particular event in his or her past. That lie is not truth. Therefore, the lie, the negative response, can be changed by helping the character believe the truth about that past event. We have God on the side of truth helping this poor, angry character, develop into a godlier person.

That could be our story line. Helping our characters change by believing the truth instead of the lie. That development may take the length of the book, but the change should be eye-opening.

For our angry professor, it could mean she realizes her father’s actions were yes, offensive and wrongly administered, but they were also meant to stir her to better grades. The past does not change, but the understanding of the past changes. In this case, the event had nothing to do with her intellect.

Re-think your characters, and discover what could have happened in their past that makes them respond negatively in the present.

An award winning author, Kathryn Spurgeon has published three books and over a hundred stories and articles. She is on the Writing Team at Henderson Hills Baptist Church, which has published eight compilations books. She holds a BBA from the University of Oklahoma and pursued Creative Writing at the University of Central Oklahoma. Kathryn and her husband, Bill, have six children and twelve grandchildren and love to help international students in Edmond, Oklahoma.

Kathryn Spurgeon’s Christian historical novel A Promise to Break: Love, Faith, and Politics in the 1930s, is based on a true story.

SIBYL TRIMBLE, a banker's daughter, promises her father to follow his Socialist beliefs. Then she meets FREMONT POPE, a handsome, down-on-his-luck hobo, and sees life on the poor side of town. The more she gets to know Fremont, the more she learns about God. Will she choose to follow what she has learned or fulfill her promise?
"Exceptionally well written, making it a consistently compelling read from beginning to end." James Cox, Editor-in-Chief, Midwest Book Review
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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What would make you a success? by Lisa Karon Richardson

Success means different things to different people. Today, author Lisa Karon Richardson gives her experience with finding the meaning of success. Maybe you can relate. -- Sandy

Lisa: To be honest I can’t tell you how to be successful. Success is a subjective measure, and I’m learning that every time I think I’ve achieved it, I pounce, only to find that my celebration was premature.

When I was unpublished the goal was: get published. The validation I get from having that contract will mean I’m a success. But then I got my first contract for a novella. I was thrilled at the opportunity to see my name on a cover… But the cover also had the names of other people. I wanted a cover with just my name. The bar had moved.

After that I got a short novel published, just my name was on the cover—but the story was only 45K words long. I was really hoping to be published in trade length fiction. God blessed me with a three-book series contract which I got to write with one of my best friends. Once again, a great opportunity and I was so thrilled and felt blessed to have been given it. I’m proud of what we did with those stories. But then… well they didn’t sell so well. And we all know what that means—those sales numbers will haunt me forever. I’ll never get another contract. There I was multi-published in trade length fiction and I was feeling like more of a failure than I did before I was published. Maybe it would all be fixed if I could get my very own trade length story with just my name on the cover. Surely then, the accolades would come. I was not afraid to put in the hard work of marketing. Whatever it took. And then that dream came true. And you know what. The book didn’t sell. My pride insists that I add that it got great reviews, but for some reason it didn’t sell.

If my life was only a search for the arbitrary “success” I would probably have given up last year. But God has been working on me and I’ve learned something. God has not called us to what the world would define as “success”. (Although some people are tested by success.) Rather He has called us to live a life of significance.

What’s the difference? Success is about self. Significance is about others. Success asks everyone to admire it. Significance asks how it can serve. Success says “I’ll do what God asks but only if I can see how it benefits me.” Significance says “I’ll do what God asks regardless of how it hurts.” Success is fleeting. Significance is eternal.

Chasing success will never satisfy us. There will always be another award to win. There will always be someone who has better sales. It’s an aggravating way to live and a miserable way by which to measure our self worth.

What if, this year, instead of chasing success we began to look instead for significance? How would we go about that? Perhaps it means putting more of our authentic selves in our writing. It might look like surrendering our plans for our novel, and trusting God to get it into the hands of the ones who need it. I know it would look a lot more like we trust Him with our future. We can rejoice with the author who got a contract even when we didn’t. We can help an author who is a step or two behind us on the journey. We can encourage someone who’s hurting.

You can make a difference in the world. God’s got a plan for you. Your words could be written simply for one person—they may never get published, and yet, they could change everything for that one. How is that NOT success? Even if you never make a dime as a writer, you have value as a child of God and your significance is measured not in sales figures, but in your willingness to heed His voice.

Have you ever looked at your writing life and doubted your success? Has that idea of success changed over the years?


Influenced by books like The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, Lisa Karon Richardson’s early stories were heavy on boarding schools and creepy houses. Now, even though she’s (mostly) grown-up she still loves a healthy dash of adventure in any story she creates, even her real-life story. She’s been a missionary to the Seychelles and Gabon and now that she and her husband are back in America, they are tackling a new adventure, starting a daughter-work church in a new city while raising a family. She has published several novels and novellas. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Are We Only Looking for a Healing Miracle? by Zoe M. McCarthy

In studying and teaching the Gospel of John this year, I’ve learned to look at people suffering from long-lasting conditions differently. I see many as strong, heroic, and doing their Father’s work.

Familiar Joni Eareckson Tada has progressively suffered quadriplegia, chronic pain, and breast cancer. Actually, I don’t think suffer is the right word. The more correct word is used. She has learned to use the physical attacks on her to do her Father’s work. She has received the bonus of a much closer relationship with her Lord.

In the article in Christianity Today, “Joni Eareckson Tada on Something Greater than Healing” by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Joni relates, “In John 14, Jesus says, ‘Anyone who has faith in me will do … even greater things than these.’ We tend to think Jesus was talking about miracles, as if Jesus were saying, ‘Hey guys, look at these miracles! One day, you’ll do many more miracles than me!’

“The thing that Jesus was doing wasn't necessarily the miracles. He was giving the gospel; he was advancing his kingdom; he was reclaiming the earth as rightfully his. When Jesus gave that promise, he was saying, ‘I'm giving you a job to do, my Father and I want the gospel to go forth, and I promise you’ll have everything you need to get that job done, and you’ll do an even better job than me.’ Jesus ministered for three years, and at the end, he had a handful of disciples who half-believed in him. After Jesus went to heaven and the Holy Spirit came down – my goodness, Peter preaches one sermon and thousands believe. That’s the greater thing that God wants us to do.”

Joni goes on to list the types of medical persons who ask her the tough questions about her illnesses and her faith. She is delighted at the chance to answer their questions.

Perhaps you are thinking, “Well that’s the convictions of one celebrity invalid. Many other Christians don’t see their suffering that way.” That’s true, but I am seeing more and more who do.

Take friend John for example. After a diagnosis of MS, he went about his Father’s work. From his wheelchair, he has become a Christian lay speaker, gives the children’s message in church, and he and his wife deliver shawls and pray with suffering people in the community. What an example of hope for children and adults. He says he has enjoyed a much deeper relationship with the Lord since the onset of his illness, and that he’s thankful that God healed him from a recent serious fall so he can continue to serve his Lord.

Before I thought of these two examples, God showed me how Jesus used healing miracles as signs to reveal that He is the Lord who came to save people from their sins. Some examples are: healing the man at the Sheep Gate pool, the royal official’s son, and the man born blind. Jesus was faithfully doing His Father’s work. Although Jesus compassionately healed, calling people to faith, change, and doing His Father’s work as disciples was his priority.

The Lord Jesus was full of joy after leading the Samaritan woman and her townspeople to faith in Him. He told His disciples that doing His Father’s will was his food (John 4:34). Doing our Father’s work will fill us with joy too.

Today’s Upper Room devotion spoke of how we are to embrace what God is doing in our lives. As Jesus told the church in Philadelphia in Revelation 3, God has placed before us open doors of opportunity that no one can shut. No matter what our condition is, we don’t want to miss those opportunities. Paul understood this. He said: “But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.” (Philippians 3:13)

Whatever God has called us to do is powerful work. He gives us the miracle of His power to do His work.

Are you suffering from a “thorn in your side” or something more debilitating? Can you be about your Father’s work, even if you’re only able to offer intercessory prayers for others?

Are We Only Looking for a Healing Miracle? Click to Tweet.


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

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, January 16, 2017

Your Christian Fiction Writing Matters! By Carrie Fancett Pagels

Hi, friends! Marianne here, offering a hug of welcome to my friend and writing compatriot, Carrie Fancett Pagels! I asked Carrie to guest post this month, and she's got a great topic in hand: Your Writing Matters! (who doesn't need that kind of affirmation every once in a while, right?)

Carrie, take it away!!


Carrie Fancett Pagels
If you’re like me, you want to read a story that has a strong faith element and leaves you feeling encouraged. There will be a HEA (happy ever after) and the hero and/or the heroine will have overcome something difficult, with God’s help.  So when I began writing books, these were the elements I wanted in my stories!

Secular books left me feeling like something missing. And there was! Usually faith elements were missing or, if included, were not part of the story arc.  And that didn’t feel right. After all, my life is based on faith so why would I want to read a story where that is missing? So my stories have faith essential to the plot.

I was so grateful to my best friend, Libbie Cornett, when she pointed me in the direction of the Thoenes and Janette Oke, some twenty-five years ago or so. I found their books at the local library but the titles were limited. Then Libbie put a CBD (Christian Book Distributors) catalog into my hot little hands! Inside were all kinds of fiction stories! Christian Book Heaven should have been the name of the organization!

If you’re a Christian fiction author who is discouraged, remember, your writing matters. It gives Christian readers the opportunity to read material that uplifts, encourages, and affirms faith in their lives.  One of the guests at a Facebook party for our launch of My Heart Belongs series by Barbour made the comment that she was so grateful that CBA authors took the time, the energy, the creativity that they had and used that to create fiction books to bless readers with! She recognized there is a cost involved, just as there is in any type of ministry, in this case ministry through Christian fiction.

My prayer for authors and readers – May God bless you and show you the direction in which to go and put people around you to help you on the journey He has planned for you!

What do you wish Christian fiction authors knew?


Carrie Fancett Pagels is a Tired Old Mommy whose RA took her from her career of 25 years as a psychologist. An ECPA bestselling and award-winning author, Carrie has had ten books published in the past several years. She has three upcoming releases in 2017, with Barbour, including a novel of her Yooper woman’s heart – My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island: Maude’s Mooring. You can check out Carrie’s stories at her website


Meet nine men and women whose competitive goals take them to state and county fairs between 1889 and 1930. From baking pie to polishing pigs, from sculpting butter to stitching quilts, everyone has something to prove to themselves and their communities. But in going for the blue ribbon, will nine women miss the greatest prize of all—the devoted heart of a godly man?

Friday, January 13, 2017

Eight Steps to Your Best Writing Year by Gigi Devine Murfitt

Gigi Devine Murfitt

Author Gigi Devine Murfitt is back to share some tips that will help us reach our writing goals in 2017. Which one needs to be at the top of your list? 
~ Dawn

Eight Steps to Your Best Writing Year

In my last post, I shared about a few classes that helped me as a writer. One such course is Michael Hyatt’s class he offers each year. It is called Five Days to Your Best Year Ever.

Michael is the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing. When the company was merged, he left to launch his book, Platform-Get Noticed in a Noisy World, and his own business for intentional leadership where he mentors thousands of writer’s just like you.

I participated in this class in 2014 and 2016, and it helped me to start my year with clear writing and personal goals. The class is only offered in the late fall and closes in early January. Hopefully, if you didn’t participate, you can join at the end of 2017.

From Michael’s experience in the writing and corporate world, he suggests the following to set yourself up for a great year.

1. Reflect on the past year. As I reviewed my journals from the prior year, I found several potential writing ideas to add to my ever-growing list. I saw some changes that needed to take place and set them as goals for the New Year.

2. Keep a positive attitude.  It is important not to focus on what you did not accomplish in the prior year, but to learn from it and move into the New Year with a new perspective.

3. Express Gratitude. Gratitude helps with staying positive. I have a gratitude journal that helps me track the things I’m grateful for. Think about what you are thankful for in your writing life.

4. Eliminate the Excess. Is there something in your life that is not positively contributing to your writing life? Maybe it’s time to make some changes.

5. Set smart goals. If you set a clear vision that is specific and measurable, you are more likely to be successful. Focus on why you want to achieve that goal. When we know the why, the how and when fall into place

6. Break your goals down to manageable pieces. Perhaps you can break your goals into tasks for each month or quarter. This will help you focus while you accomplish small bits of the big goal.

7. Schedule your year. Seeing the tasks of each goal on a calendar will increase your chances of getting finishing them. This process also protects your time.

8. Include time to unplug. Be sure to schedule down time throughout the year to recharge. Put this time for God, family and fun on your calendar as you prepare for your year.

A look at this list can be overwhelming. But just as our articles are broken into paragraphs and paragraphs into sentences and sentences into words, breaking down our writing goals will provide a map to get to the end destination.

If you don’t already subscribe to Michael’s blog, I highly suggest you do. It is rich with helpful tools for writing and life.

Bless you in this New Year with goals to make it your best.

Journal of Gratitude

Recording moments of gratitude is a very beneficial process to better health. This Gratitude Journal is the perfect place to record daily blessings.

Dr. Robert A Emmons, Ph.D. is the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. As professor, at the University of California, Davis. he says that, “Gratitude has the power to heal, to energize, and to change lives.”

Albert Schweitzer said, “Gratitude is the secret to life.”

Brian Tracy said, “Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.”

Recording your gratitude is a relatively easy process. Take time to jot a blessing in the morning and again, at night. Or write two or three entries each day. Make it your own and watch how it improves your day.

The blessings for generations to come will fill the pages of this journal as you take time to write each day. Bless you on your gratitude journey.


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: