Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Ten Things About Writing by Jana Kelley

“Put your fingers on the keyboard and your feet flat on the floor!”

Mrs. Cohen, my high school typing teacher, made herself famous with this phrase. And sometimes, that’s precisely how you get started.

You’ve got an idea: you’ve talked about it with others, you’ve read about it, dreamed about it, and envisioned your yet-unwritten-novel selling like hotcakes. At some point (how about today?), put your fingers on the keyboard and do it. That’s what I did four years ago, when I sat down to write my first novel. Did those initial pages make it into the published version? Thank goodness, no. But I would not be holding my published novel in my hands now if I hadn’t put my fingers on the keyboard and started.

That’s the first lesson I’ve learned: Just start already!

Here are nine more things I’ve learned about writing since that day that I took my typing teacher’s advice:

1. Set a goal. It can be a daily word count, or an amount of time you plan to set aside. If you don’t set a goal, you won’t get anything done.

2. Write before checking email and social media, which are rabbit holes. If you don’t, you’ll emerge hours later, dazed and wondering what happened to your morning. Write first, then you can go down all the rabbit holes you want.

3. Keep a notebook (or several). I have a small notebook in my purse for jotting down ideas that come to me when I am away from the computer. I keep a larger one for each writing project. Those hold notes from phone calls with my editor, diagrams, sketches, and lists of things I need to research or correct.

4. If you enjoy writing you won’t run out of ideas, you’ll just start seeing more things around you as potential subjects to write about. Annie Dillard says, “Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now.”

5. Take time off. You write better after a break.

6. Let others read your work and offer their thoughts. Swallow your pride and listen to feedback. I like to have a professional editor but also beta-readers (regular folks who are willing to read my stuff and give me feedback).

7. Join groups (online or in person), competitions, clubs, or take a writing class. Be a learner.

8. Free-write. Choose a topic and then set a timer for ten minutes. Type about the topic until the timer beeps. No editing, rewriting, or stopping to think. Just type. You’ll be amazed what comes out of your head and lands on the computer screen when you give your mind and hands freedom. Try it! Free-writing is my favorite thing to do.

9. Back up your work. Back up in several places. It stinks to lose your work. Trust me.

What have you learned from your writing journey?


Jana Kelley is a Texan who hardly ever lives in Texas. Raised in Southeast Asia, Jana developed a love for cross-cultural living early in life. Her love for writing came soon after. Jana returned to Texas to attend East Texas Baptist University. She and her husband married a month after she graduated, and by their second anniversary, they lived in a remote African town. After 13 years in Africa and the Middle East, Jana, her husband, and their three boys moved to Southeast Asia where they currently live. Jana is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, a blogger, and a contributor to Voices of the Faithful by Beth Moore (Books 1 &2). She is the author of two devotional books and three novels. Jana loves to connect with her readers. You can learn more about her at

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

We Can Be Part of Something Big by Zoe M. McCarthy

My seven-year-old grandson wanted to understand what he’d heard about our presidential candidates lying. I was saddened. What thoughts, opinions, and lessons was my grandson absorbing from the hubbub about two prominent people that he should be able to respect and follow as role models?
Zoe M. McCarthy

I felt helpless. What could I do to stop all the sinfulness this and other nations are choosing, the most harmful being the turning away from God?

Then I read two short devotionals on opposite pages in Today God Wants You to Know… You Are Loved by Laura Wegner.

The first devotional offered 1 Peter 5:10-11 from The Message. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.

Ms. Wegner titled the following devotional, “You Are Part of Something Big.” She wrote: “No circumstances or person will ever be strong enough to push our God out of the way. Even His haters will ultimately bow their knee before His throne. So when the going gets tough, always remember that, in the end, God wins.”

That was a comforting reminder, but that didn’t ease my helplessness to change things for the better.

Ms. Wegner titled the opposite page, “You Can Bring Heaven to Earth.” The Scripture she chose was Matthew 6:10 from the New Living Translation. “May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” She followed the Scripture with the words below.

“God wants you to be a part of His work on earth. He longs for you to exercise your faith in His will. This is because God has included us in His plans through our prayers. Our prayers enable us to access God in heaven. What a privilege!

If you want something from heaven to come to earth, pray. Entreat God to make it happen.”

I believe in prayer. So, I turned up the heat in prayer for our country and other nations, for Christians, for my church, and for Jesus’ great commission*. Also, I can be a role model for my grandchildren and others, so I pray about that too. I am part of something big.

How are you part of something big?

*“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

About the Author
A full-time writer and speaker, Zoe M. McCarthy, author of Gift of the Magpie and Calculated Risk, writes contemporary Christian romances involving tenderness and humor. Believing that opposites distract, Zoe creates heroes and heroines who learn to embrace their differences. When she’s not writing, Zoe enjoys her five grandchildren, teaching Bible studies, leading workshops on writing, knitting and crocheting shawls for a prayer shawl ministry, gardening, and canoeing. She lives with her husband in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Zoe blogs regularly at

Gift of the Magpie

Gift of the Magpie by Zoe M. McCarthy
Amanda Larrowe’s lack of trust sabotages her relationships. The English teacher and award-winning author of middle-grade adventure books for boys has shut off communication with friends and family to meet her January 2 book deadline. Now, in the deepest snow accumulation Richmond, Virginia has experienced in years, Camden Lancaster moves in across the street. After ten years, her heart still smarts from the humiliating aftermath of their perfect high school Valentine’s Day date. He may have transformed into a handsome, amiable man, but his likeability doesn’t instill trust in Amanda’s heart. When Cam doesn’t recognize her on their first two encounters, she thinks it’s safe to be his fair-weather neighbor. Boy, is she wrong.

Purchase link for Gift of the Magpie:

Monday, September 18, 2017

Weight Lifting by Marianne Evans

Marianne Evans
We’re going through an exercise at my 9 to 5 workplace that’s transforming our company from being paper-driven to being more streamlined, and paperless. It’s amazing how much stuff built, then tagged along with me over the seventeen-year span of my career.

It occurs to me. Maybe ‘weight lifting’ opportunities like this are a way for God to speak to me not just about the material objects I’ve accumulated, but about the way ‘weight lifting’ can also have a profound impact on me as a writer.

This summer has been one unlike any I’ve ever experienced. It featured deep sorrow and heartache when we suddenly and unexpectedly lost a precious family member, my brother-in-law, John. It featured the joy of renewal when my sister, Mary and I, went to Italy afterward. Mary was his wife, and together we laughed and cried and bonded over…writing! God has called her to create a book describing her journey through grief and into an even deeper faith in Christ and she’s using a teaching grant she won to accomplish that goal. I’m honored she asked for my input and guidance.

The following month I attended Romance Writers of America’s national conference in Orlando, Florida. I received enthusiastic responses from an editor and agent on my book pitch. Great news, yes, but terrifying as well. A one-month deadline had to be strictly enforced. Praise to God alone, I made it.

In the meantime…

I took the trip of a lifetime with my daughter to London and Paris (like I said, a summer unlike any other). We prowled the city streets, savored every sight, every shared moment, and I came away invigorated to create.

But where was the time, the energy to do so? I felt weighted down, and overwhelmed, by everything I’d experienced over the past several months and unsure how to center myself and focus.

I prayed—hard—because I was on overload. That's when change happened. Once I went still, and lifted away everything that was holding me back from my writing, I could laser-focus, and sink back into my stories. The result? The words are pouring out of me—again, praise to God alone. Trimming my life to two goals lifted the stress away. I had to say ‘no’ a few times, but with purpose and commitment to what I long to accomplish as an author. There’s no guilt in that. Nothing for which to apologize. The process is ongoing, however, and something to which I dedicate myself each time I sit down to write.

How about you? Are you facing a similar challenge? What discipline are you using to overcome? What things—be they material or psychological—are you moving past so that you can share your stories with the world? I’m eager to hear, and am praying for blessings on your journey, friends!

The Fairytale by Marianne Evans
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?


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. Readers laude her work as “Riveting,” “Realistic and true to heart,” “Compelling.” Her Christian fiction debut, Devotion, earned the Bookseller’s Best Award as well as the Heart of Excellence Award. Her follow-up novel, Forgiveness, earned Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year honors as did her book Hearts Communion. She is also a two-time recipient of the Selah Award for her books Then & Now and Finding Home. 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. You can connect with Marianne at  

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Best Advice I Can Offer by Anne Patrick

Anne Patrick
We can all learn from each other as we experience the highs and lows of the writing life. Author Anne Patrick has gained some insight, and today she shares encouragement for the rough days, as well as tips for success. ~ Dawn

The Best Advice 
I Can Offer

The best piece of advice I can offer to a new or budding author is to never give up. There are a lot of ups and downs in the craft and there will be times you may want to throw in the towel, but don’t. Sooner or later the door will open for you and you’ll find your groove. Undoubtedly, the best book I’ve read about the craft is Stephen King’s book On Writing. He may not be your cup of tea, but he offers some great advice.

My journey, like most others in the field, has been a bumpy ride. There was even a time where I quit writing for a couple of years because I became so frustrated with rejections and what not. I did have a few offers, but their percentages were ridiculous to what I could make self-publishing, so I decided to take this route. 

I’ve no regrets. I’m not saying self-publishing is for everyone. Some prefer working with large publishers. I'm somewhat of a control freak, so this route is best for me. The most important thing about self-publishing is making sure your book is the best it can be. Hire an editor and use professional book covers. If you can, line up some good beta readers who will give you honest feedback. Personally, I prefer using long time readers.

Another important thing to remember right from the start is not everyone is going to like your work. Sooner or later you will get that dreaded one-star review. I admit I’ve gotten a few. If it’s an honest critique, learn from it. If it’s not, brush it off. You’re going to need tough skin in this business. Whether the critiques come from editors or readers, don’t let it get you down. Make the corrections, if need be, and move on! 

Something that helps me to move past those pesky and, sometimes, scathing reviews, is I keep a folder with emails from readers and editors as a source of inspiration. You’d be surprised at how well it works to boost your confidence. 

Sometimes I have to remind myself I’m not on this journey for fame, fortune or notoriety.  God has given me this wonderful gift for a purpose and I want to use it in a way that pleases Him. In this day and age, that is often hard to do. Keep your chin up though and remember Philippians 4:13 (NLT). “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Let Him walk before you and you’ll never lose your way.

God bless!
Anne Patrick

Detective Gwen Jamison has the highest closure rate in her division, but when a string of armed robberies turn deadly she must race against the clock to find the sole witness that can end the carnage. Standing in her way is a cold-blooded killer who she fears has murdered before.

Lieutenant Ian McKean knew he would have his hands full when he took over leadership of the detectives unit. He wasn't prepared for the headstrong Detective Jamison, though, who quickly becomes a thorn in his side.

If they can stop butting heads long enough they might realize they are more alike than either imagined.

Anne Patrick is the author of more than a dozen novels of Romance, Mayhem & Faith including the award-winning and best-selling Fire and Ash and Out of the Darkness. When she isn't working on her next novel she enjoys spending time with family and friends. A former Oklahoma native, she now resides in Kansas.

To learn more and connect with Anne, please visit:

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Art of Over Committing by Terri Weldon

Throughout the years I’ve tried my hand at a number of things, some I mastered, and many I didn’t. But there is one thing I’ve learned to excel at – over committing. Hmm, I don’t think I’m hearing anyone cheering.  Don’t feel bad, it doesn’t make me happy either. In fact, it’s been known to cause me a great deal of stress, something none of us needs added to our lives. 
So why do I do it? Well, all the things I committed to were worthwhile, even fun. And doesn’t Proverbs 6:9 say, “How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? When wilt thou arise out of they sleep?” Yep, it does. The problem with me quoting that verse is I was guilty of finding a Bible verse to justify my actions. Not smart. 

To live a healthy, well balanced life we have to make choices. My day job is a necessity, so I have to allocate a huge chunk of my time to the job. That means I can’t commit to so many evening activities that I can’t function at work or I end up sick from lack of rest.

Writing is dear to my heart. If I’m going to commit to being an author then I have to choose other activities to give up. That’s a real problem for me. I want it all. Do I sound like a two-year-old? Trust me, I’ve acted like one from time to time. 

Recently, I’ve come to the realization that I have to prioritize. Pick out the things that are nearest to my heart, the things God wants me to do, and start letting the rest go. Yeah, it is hard and if you were to ask the people closest to me how I’m doing at not over committing, well, they’d probably laugh.

I feel like I’m doing better. At least now I realize it is a problem. With that realization also came an awareness that by committing to so many “good” things that I never spent time on the things I love the most. That was an eye opener. So let me leave you with a different verse, Proverbs 16:9, “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.” Spend your time wisely, my friends.

If you have tips for keep balance in your life I hope you’ll leave a comment and share your wisdom with me. Trust me, I can use all the help I can get!

Pastor Jacob Thompson is in need of a director for the living nativity program and veterinarian Molly Kincaid offers to take on the job. The task involves far more than Molly bargained for, nonetheless she’d do anything to help out the man she secretly loves – even sew costumes or cast eight-year-old Wesley Simpson as an angel.
Jacob’s daughter Emma longs to have a mommy of her own, but the widowed pastor has vowed to never remarry, and isn’t ready to open his heart to love again. Molly dreams of filling the void in both their lives, but fears she lacks the necessary qualities to be a pastor’s wife.
As Molly and Jacob work together on the living nativity, their feelings for one another grow. Will Molly realize she is just what Jacob and Emma need in their lives? Can Jacob be released from his grief stricken promise? Could this unlikely duo prove to be a match made in heaven?

Terri Weldon is a lead analyst by day and an award winning author by night. Her novella The Christmas Bride Wore Boots won the best novella category in the 2016 Lyra Awards. She enjoys traveling, gardening, reading, spending time with her family, and shopping for shoes. One of her favorite pastimes is volunteering as the librarian at her church. It allows her to shop for books and spend someone else’s money! Plus, she has the great joy of introducing people to Christian fiction. She lives with her family in the Heartland of the United States. Terri has two adorable Westies – Crosby and Nolly Grace. Terri is a member of ACFW and RWA. She is a member of the Seriously Write Team ( Readers can connect with Terri at
The Matchmakers
The Christmas Bride Wore Boots
Mistletoe Magic

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Public Speaking? Me? by Sandra Ardoin

I’d known since my first book released that I needed to prepare something for an occasion of public speaking. At the least, I needed to prepare some possible topics. Well, since no one beat down my door with invitations, I kept putting it off.


I got the call in mid-July. It came from a woman who had asked me years ago to speak to her small church group of about eight other ladies, which I did. That was before I began writing novels. It was my first time to formally speaking to a gathering of strangers about my writing experiences for denominational publications. I shook like dog on its way to the vet, but I guess it went well enough. However, it was my last time to stand in front of others and talk.


She was looking for an August speaker for a different group. Of course, I said yes to a wonderful opportunity for this shy introvert to hone those skills that authors need.


She told me I’d be expected to speak about my writing career for forty-five minutes. Forty-five minutes? How was I to fill forty-five minutes? Honestly, it’s not as hard as one might think. And if I can stand behind a microphone and rattle on in a somewhat coherent manner, believe me, anyone can, but it takes organization and time.

Here’s how I did it:

  • I brainstormed three different themes and included quotes from others that served as examples of those themes. Once my opening was set (a few minutes for an invitation thank you and a little personal information about myself), I could use it for any topic. I included a bit of humor in that opening, hoping that when my audience laughed, it would help relax me. It worked. 
  • After choosing my approach, I wrote my talk out word-for-word, typing it in a 16-point font that could be easily read. Then I practiced—alone and out loud—timing it as I went. I tweaked it and practiced again. You know that forty-five minutes? In the end, I had to whittle it down! I sent it to my tablet and practiced until I could speak without stumbling or constantly looking at my script.
  • I intended to use that tablet while speaking, but needed a backup—just in case. My talk turned out to be twenty-four pages long, and I didn’t want to fumble with that much paper. Once I was certain I knew what I would say, I typed up a 4-page outline of my points (again, in 16-point font) and printed it. 
  • One of the surprises I received that day was being interrupted for questions. That was okay. It allowed me to ad lib a little and put me more at ease—like a conversation. So, depending on where you speak, be prepared for such surprises. 
  • As I spoke, I could pick out those who were interested in what I had to say and a couple who were just “there.” Even so, I was careful to spread my eye contact across the room. 
All in all, it went well, and I drove home without crying. Of course, it helps to have an audience willing to put the speaker at ease.


I have a speech all ready to go for the next time someone asks me to talk about my writing!

What tips do you have for surviving a public speaking event?


Sandra Ardoin engages readers with page-turning stories of love and faith. She’s the author of the heartwarming novella, The Yuletide Angel, and the award-winning novel, A Reluctant Melody. Rarely out of reach of a book, she's also an armchair sports enthusiast, country music listener, and seldom says no to eating out. 

Visit her at Subscribe to receive updates and specials. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and BookBub.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Art and Science of Reviewing By Marie Wells Coutu

Marie Wells Coutu
As an author, I know the importance of reviews. As a reader, others’ reviews help me determine which books to spend my money and time on.

So I try to post reviews of the books I read, especially novels. Thanks to Amazon, if I’m reading on my Kindle, I get a reminder and it’s easy to write the review as soon as I’ve finished.

But here’s the thing: how good should a book be to rate five stars?

Does five mean I loved the book and found nothing wrong? Do three stars mean it was only “so-so”? Will I hurt the author if I give her book four stars? (This especially concerns me if she’s an acquaintance.) On the other hand, if all my reviews are 5 stars, do I lose credibility as a reviewer?

Recently, I finished a book that I really enjoyed and couldn’t put down. But there were a couple scenes where I was momentarily pulled out of the story. In one, for example, there was a severe thunderstorm and a car accident where the heroine was injured. Yet when the police and the hero arrived, everyone stood around talking while the victim was loaded into the ambulance—with no reference to rain, water, or the storm having passed. As a writer, I couldn’t help but notice the omission. But was it serious enough to downgrade my rating?

In the end, I asked myself the following questions before deciding on the rating I’d give:

  • Did I enjoy reading the book in spite of the minor deficiencies?
  • Are there similar deficiencies throughout the novel, or did they occur in only one or two spots?
  • Would the average reader notice these weaknesses, or did it bother me because I’m also an author?
  • Could I recommend the book to a friend (because, after all, that’s what a rating is—a recommendation)?
  • With the exception of the “problem” spots, is the book well-written, are the characters well-developed and is the story believable?
Based on my answers to these questions, I chose to give the book a favorable review. Since I know the author, I could address my concerns with her privately, but I decided a public review is not the place to point out minor—some might say “petty”--weaknesses.

I’ve read other novels where there were so many “issues” that I could not enjoy the book and thus could not rate it higher than a 2. In those cases, I chose not to post a review. Mother taught me, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

But I’m curious. What’s your approach for reviews? How far do you go to provide an honest review without damaging the author’s overall rating, ego, and potentially your friendship?

The Secret Heart
by Marie Wells Coutu
About the Author
Marie Wells Coutu retired in 2013 from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. She now spends her time writing fiction—when she’s not busy having fun with her husband or with their four grandchildren. She has written three novels for Write Integrity Press, including the award-winning For Such a Moment and Thirsting for More. Her most recent book, The Secret Heart, released in February. She is working on a historical novel set in western Kentucky, near where she grew up.

Marie is a regular contributor to Seriously WriteFor more posts by Marie, click here.